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I Con June 24, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in beauty, Bollywood, india, People, Politics, Racism, Random, Writing.
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They are young. They are successful. They are articulate. They are icons.

Sonam Kapoor, the effervescent and nonchalantly retro-charmer of a girl and John Abraham epitomising bulging muscles and quiet dignity both endorse ‘fairness creams’.

Why would 2 seemingly intelligent people of this generation who spout socially conscious sentences at every journalistic intrusion do this? The obvious answer is money. That ancient temptation that has scorched us has beaten us once again.

And yet we tut tut ad nauseum at the attacks in Australia and anywhere else. When city bred youth, ironically in a profession that pays obeisance only at the altar of beauty thereby revealing its illusory transience, cannot take a stance against a skin whitening cream, what hope do we have from people who we say are mired in centuries old superstition.

Endorsing colas is almost divine.


Cruel… June 19, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in Cinema, Cricket, crime, india, Mass Media, Media, People, t20 world cup, victim, viewership.
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…every which way.

A man allegedly rapes a woman working at his house. The channels go berserk calling her a ‘naukrani’ or ‘naukar. The heinous allegation almost being mitigated by the social position and of the girl and the nomenclature of her profession.  The media of the biggest democracy in the world doesn’t extend basic courtesies to victims of crime. In this case however they extended the same to both parties. For so long considered the repository of all things promiscuous – the film actor now has proved that he or she is indeed a vile, licentious animal that preys.

The perpetrator of this crime – Shiney Ahuja had to strangely be barefoot. That is the rule in India. An accused can’t wear shoes. What do shoes and guilt have in common? No idea. Anyways he still has to be chargesheeted, the case fought and the sentence delivered – a long way from now, some years probably – but why can’t he wear a shoe or a chappal for that matter.

India’s loss at the T20 World Cup. Another instance of the mob fury. Cricket is a sport. Cricketers are not gods. You win some and you lose some based on your strategy. Like petulant schoolboys with no emotional anchor finding solace in somebody else’s victory, they came out on the streets and burned the captain’s effigy.

It is not the mob alone that is to blame. It is the incessant analysis and counter – analysis, by ‘I-know-better-than-you’ ex-cricketers, who have to justify their payments, who hype the match and then impute reasons where there are none.  The self-feeding hype machinery of all media has to strike a balance between reporting responsibly and viewership targets.

Round 2 – Manmohan May 28, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in Election, Government, india, Opinion, People, Politics, Thoughts, Writing.
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I before you

I come before you – in the family, in the queue at Andheri or at the theater. I just hate to stand in the line and await my turn. I miss those wonderful days when I just jumped the line and did what I felt like – just like my favourite Sarkaar.

After all to repress is to regress. I spit frequently sitting in my car and auto. I After all, what are a few diseases. They make us stronger – unlike those whiny white or black Europeans weaned on cleanliness.

You think I am all of warts. I am religious – doesn’t that count? I pray day in day out and dump the garbage in the nearby Arabian Sea. Once it was clean, now its black, no make that soot black. God’s will I say. Kalyug at the corner.

I am a large – hearted person you see. I’ll show you. I love my religion and my caste also. People from ‘my’ region are treated with respect when they visit my house. People who pray ‘my’ god fare even better. All my friends eat what I like. Makes for a harmonious dinner table experience. We even – oh let it be. I am not like that.

I am an extremely fair person. After I hoard for myself and my family I distribute largesse to people who are faithful, who fawn and touch my feet. I like these customs – that make people bend down and touch my feet. Such powerful feelings of love overcome me then I cannot tell you. I write poems and scripts based on these.

Karan Johar was right. I correct myself, is right. Its all about loving one’s family – blindly. The country can go up in smoke but my family should be the 1st. In cabinet births, in getting plane and train tickets, in coming out of jail at the earliest, in getting admission to a school or college, lineage is all.

Karunanidhi – the DMK supreme is a man of many quarters. He doesn’t believe in God, has a sense of humor by asking whether Ram and his monkey cohorts were holding engineering diplomas while constructing the bridge to Lanka, writes poems and scripts. You get the picture. He goes on to blackmail the nation and its people for a full week after the elections. Why? Because his blood are not in the cabinet. Or people who suck up to him.

They bargained hard and cost the nation dear. What is 10 days you say? Government formation is as big a task as winning the election. It is but natural for allies to seek their pound of flesh. So not having a working government when a cyclone is marauding through a part of the country is par for the course. Post victory when the entire country is looking for signs of stability and positive cues in times of recession one party goes for the jugular.

By standing firm Manmohan Singh has carried on from his electoral victory in Round 1. Don’t take me for granted – is the message. Respect me, respect the verdict and lets set an example – that the nation is waiting from us. Let us chart a new path. Let us at least try – young and old. The answer as one minstrel said is…

Shoe Prank Redemption April 7, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in india, India Elections 2009, justice, Opinion, People, Politics, protest, Random, violence.
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Jarnail Singh threw a shoe. Should he, a journalist, thought of his professional code first and foremost, repressed his anger and carried on reporting in a non-partisan manner? This is being ad nauseum on all the TV channels. Most ardently by Barkha and Arnab. Barkha, it seems, takes it as a personal affront – so zealously she guards her rarefied code. Arnab, artistically stuttering, goes with the flow of the arguments of his esteemed guests.

Jarnail Singh might not want to be a hero, but unwittingly, he has. 25 years and still counting and no justice. Enough for a reasonable man or a woman to feel angry, depressed, sad, waver, lose focus, feel helpless and uncared for, decide to take the one step that will define him perhaps for the rest of his life, stake everything on that one moment that one might later regret and yet steel oneself and do it because…he was just a man

Long live the protest of the individual soul.

India Votes – 2009; Hate Works March 28, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in development, hate, india, Indian Elections 2009, Indian Political parties, People, Policies, Politics, Society.
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It’s been a long time since I have keyed words to the screen. Lots has happened. The Indian elections are at hand. A great spectacle of nonsense. Why you might ask is the greatest exercise in democracy summarily being dismissed as nonsense. The aspirations of a billion people, 1/6th of the entire world will be dumped in ballot boxes. Isn’t that a reason to celebrate? Not any more. I am running out of patience.

I made a Facebook group a month or so ago called ‘Reveal the Manifesto’. 1 person a friend has joined it till today. Nobody else was interested in the group the purpose of which was to discuss the strange practice of Indian political parties – leaving old alliances and stitching new ones on perceived gains; to buffer against anti-incumbency; to have a better bargaining power etc and what not. And not releasing the MANIFESTO.

Where was the MANIFESTO I wondered? Nowhere. Some 2 weeks later the Congress released its please – all manifesto. Nobody debated it.

Because we are discussing the hate speech of Varun Gandhi. The entire 2009 elections seems to be about this 1 speech. It is indeed bizarre that no political party wants to change the discourse. The allegations and counter-allegations serve all political parties. One is the secular bandwagon and the other is the right wing. Nobody wants to say, O.K lets discuss policies, plans and vision for the country. Why? Because nobody has a vision and a plan.

Accusation, Spin and Propaganda – these are the 3 pillars of the current electoral process.

BJP: He is a weak prime minister. In fact, he is not.

Congress: He is not capable, hates people

Commies: we hate all.

BSP: make me the Prime Minister

The others, the regional parties are in it to get a better bargain later on. I am of course exaggerating. The state elections some time back were fought on ground realities and didn’t fall prey to any national wave. Even Sheila Dixit, won right after the 26th November 2008 assault on Mumbi after which security became the only talking point.

So what has happened? What has shifted since then? Nothing much.

Hate is a powerful tool. Shiv Sena, MNS, BJP, CPI(M), Congress all have blood on their hands. Old blood, new blood…we all have blood on our hands. So…lets all obfuscate and fool the public. Lets rail against each other. The public blinded will not go and vote. That lag will be covered by bogus voting. We will all win some seats. Oh we are falling short. Lets buy some people like us who are corrupt. There in the expensive resorts funded by rich capitalists we shall all get naked, swim in champagne and cheap liquor, fatten our outstation bank accounts and come back and reclaim our virginity – the media is by our side.

Why can’t we debate about health, education, development, rights, equity, environment, women’s rights, children’s rights, peace…are these invalid. Is growth, safety and equality not saleable? Are we blind as a nation? And it is not an urban – rural divide. There are more right wingers you will meet in a Mumbai local than in the fields of the hinterland.

I will not vote. And if you think by not voting I am not a part of the system you are wrong.

The Obama Lesson November 11, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in brand, Elections, india, Mass Media, Media, Opinion, People, World.
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Finally Obama won. I was as excited as anybody else; rooting for him and spending hours, mainly online, checking up on the election news, gossip and trends.

I discovered a lot of new things.

  1. The Huffington Post – the blog-stop of preference of the liberals. Great articles and even funnier and acerbic comments.

  1. The Campaign – how are campaigns run? This question was superbly demonstrated by the Obama camp. I am not even in America, so have missed out on 95% of the audio and visual ammunition that was deployed by both the camps. But some things were as clear as day. Obama knew what his message was. McCain didn’t. Obama was all strategy whereas McCain was only tactics. Obama was positive and McCain relied too heavily on the negative. Obama spoke to all of America whereas McCain spoke only to his constituency. This campaign should be the Bible for all future campaigns (with the same set of dynamics of course)

  1. New Media – the internet probably has never played such a huge role in any political campaign before. Each and every move of both the campaigns was stripped in minutes – TV seemed snail mail. Fact checking became a national obsession and the constant negatives and lies from the McCain camp were revealed to all in a matter of minutes – must have cost a lot of votes for the republicans.

  1. Democracy via Funding – of the people, by the people, for the people. The Obama camp’s use of new media to increase awareness and to raise funds. The small contributions from the millions that enabled Obama to take the battle right into the red states. People came forward, gave money to the person they believed should be the man for the job and eventually hope to reap the benefits. Grass root mobilization at its finest.

  1. Brand – who or what is Brand Obama? Is it limited to the American shores? I think it goes a bit beyond. Hope, change, a break from the past…the keywords of his campaign are relevant in many a place around the world – especially India. How he performs from the 21st or January 2009 will make, unmake or enhance what has been an awe – inspiring performance – of intellectual rigour, grace under pressure and vision.

  1. McCain / Palin – Beavis and Butthead would have been better in the White House and Palin would have put the RSS to shame.

  1. Tina Fey – I want all her performances. Obama should thank Ms Fey’s impersonations which brought into relief Palin’s ignorance and made many a fence sitter decide where the vote should or shouldn’t go.

  1. Sub Prime / Economy – finally understood what the sub – prime crisis was. How it paved the way for the collapse of banks and the death of venture capitalism. The pitfalls of free – market economy and unregulated capitalism. Is India listening?

Rage Takeaway October 21, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in india, Mumbai, Opinion, People, Personal, Random, Rants, violence, World.
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I will never name my son Raj. You will say what if I have a daughter? Same with her. No Raj for her too. The name has begun to symbolize all that I hate. All – powerful men and women of achievement who succumb to his blackmail. They have to call him ‘my elder brother’ so that his goons don’t break a screen or break my car. Their reasons are understandable – crores are riding on your films and better to buckle than be idealistic. Same with the regular types – let me earn my rupee for the day, we say and we move on.

Seriously this chap makes me pray for the worst. Every day, afternoon, evening and night Raj and his cronies sup with fear, vandalism, abuse, hate. Doesn’t matter who the person is or people are. If you happen to be a non-Maharashtrian and poor then you are done for properly. If you are a bit lucky, then also it doesn’t mean shit. You are sucking good old Maharashtra dry.

No. It is Mumbai stupid. Mumbai the rich Kamadhenu cow that the entire nation is using and abusing. Who gives a **&^# about 50 kms from Mumbai. And I being a proud Maratha have to stop this. Stop these uncouth north Indians from entering my pious land of slums. We who have fought the Mughals will face fellow Hindus too in this god ordained battle to restore all jobs, prosperity, apartments, the salt in the sea, the fishes in the sea, the autos and taxis to the Maharashtrians.

And why does the government not call his bluff? Simple. VOTES. They know that the electorate that is eligible to vote and is unemployed will flock to the MNS. So let us just make honest noises. Don’t want to be seen as being too friendly to the outsider. Make token gestures – arrest, produce in court, night at thana, few warnings and public consciousness being too bothered with everyday survival this nuisance will be relegated to the backburner.

The carrot and the stick – after all he is not a murderer. He doesn’t attack. Some over zealous chap whose father was sacked from his job in the late 70’s is venting his anger. But you don’t see that. Being a patriot of good old ‘M’ (the state’s name is too long) he is just concerned. Runs in his family. Similar to the old roaring uncle. The sun has changed spots. What will happen if the family becomes cultured and abandons violence? Who will pay us – respects…what else did you think? And what will happen to Hinduism? What will happen to us?

We need him and his goons. You see they come in handy. After all, all parties get violent. Violence is a fundamental right. A democracy works because it allows people to express their anger, angst for you intellectuals in a positive manner – on buses, on people, on public and private property.

You will understand his importance 20 years from now. How he saved Bombay sorry Mumbai. From pan chewing north Indians, from beef eating Muslims, from fish eating Bengalis, from roti lovers of Punjab…you see Mumbai is India’s New York. Did You know that they speak 103 languages in New York? The entire world is represented in the Big Apple. New York doesn’t need America or the world.

Similarly my friend…

Orissa’s Shame October 15, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in india, Opinion, orissa, People, Personal, Politics, Random, violence, World, Writing.
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It is 6 o clock in the evening. There are journalists outside the Chief Minister’s office + the regular posse of cops, bureaucrats, hangers on.

Secretary: sir, there have been more killings.

CM Naveen Patnaik: where?

Secretary: all over.

Naveen Patnaik: all over?

Secretary: yes sir.

Naveen Patnaik: you mean all over India or all over Orissa?

Secretary: Orissa sir.

Naveen Patnaik: ummm


Secretary: the center has also…

Naveen Patnaik: the CENTER?

Secretary: Delhi, New Delhi…they are worried.

Naveen Patnaik: so am I. So am I, but what to do? We are doing our best. Aren’t we?

Secretary: yes sir, of course sir.

Naveen Patnaik: but people of Orissa…they are very emotional. They are fighters too. Didn’t we fight Ashoka, the mighty? We made him realize the futility of war, didn’t we?

Secretary: yes sir, of course sir.

Naveen Patnaik: we are a peaceful state. Always was, is and will be. This is an aberation. Will go away.

Secretary: Sir, it’s been more than a month.

Naveen Patnaik: some things take time. You see…people love and people hate. People do good things and people do bad things. Everything is a phase. As the Buddha said ‘this too shall pass’.

Secretary: sir, what if they dismiss the government, impose the President’s rule?

Naveen Patnaik: they? Oh, your Center? No, no not so easy. Elections are around. What if there is more killing after they dismiss me? Will they take the blame? No.

Secretary: you have a point there sir.

Naveen Patnaik: stay calm Mr. Secretary. Nothing should ruffle us. Stay put is the Mantra. You know, when my father, the great Biju took the plane into Indonesia, there was death flying all around him,but he was calm, super-calm. I have got that gene from him. Nothing disturbs me. Did I cry when he died? No. Did I cry after the floods? Again No. Did I cry after the cyclone? No. Focus is very important. Leaders don’t cry. What will the people think? Weak he is, they will say, and abuse me. So, no wishy washy for me. NEVER


Secretary: so sir, what do we do?

Naveen Patnaik: nothing, stay put.

Secretary: the press. It’s waiting outside.

Naveen Patnaik: they’ll go. They have news to cover. We stay put.

Mr.X in Bombay October 6, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Bombay, education, india, Mumbai, Opinion, People, Personal, Random.
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Mr. X in Bombay

Hindu. Age – 55 or thereabouts. Occupation – auto driver. Hailing from – Uttar Pradesh in North India.

I met Mr. X a fortnight back. I had finished work and was looking for an auto when he stopped. I was accompanied by a colleague. We traveled a bit and as is the custom ended up cursing the traffic and bad driving habits of the majority. He too chipped in.

We stopped at a signal. This being the festival season various ceremonial arches have erupted all over Bombay. Each sponsored by a local politician, small – time firm or in some cases by MNC’s who want to be in the good books of the local goons.

Mr. X said something – an English word and then said – ‘good that its written in Hindi. Previously all English was Greek to us. It is India and we should use Hindi or even Marathi would do. After all, the script is the same, with some local variations.’

He was basically supportive of the recent MNS agitation to have signboards in Marathi. Whereas MNSs’ activism is purely parochial and not based on utilitarian objectives, Mr. X’s reasoning was purely functional. We can read the language so it should be in the language that most will understand. I agreed.

We moved on. More smoke, more horns, more jams. Mr. X who came to Bombay some 20 years back started complaining about the bad traffic and the reasons for it. He gave his detailed plan – which flyover would best reduce congestion; which future routes should be concentrated on; which routes are of no use etc.

Indians love politics and so in response to my colleague’s question about which political party he would favour he had this to say – if it is local, then it is the candidate with whom he shared some level of intimacy – either personal or with policies.

If it was the national election then what mattered was – will the party representing the candidate be able to win majority at the center? Who wants repeated election, he asked me. After all, elections cost us money. I agreed. Stability is what I am looking for, he added. He also threw light on the politics of development – how a politician can dump his or her core base and still win elections. Fascinating I thought.

All this while it was Mr. X who was talking.

I got an entry with his statement that even the US is abandoning Pakistan. He asked me if it is true. I told him about the recent Marriott bombing, which he had missed; he knew about the Yemeni bomb blast tough. I gave my side of the Waziristan problem and how the Taliban and the Al Qaida are messing with Pakistan.

Education – he said. They should read books and see the world. It will change them, said Mr. X.

One of those things… October 1, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in custom, Funny, india, People, strange, World.
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Imagine the state of the nation when

Nobody, okay, that’s hyperbole, but most don’t trust the CBI, the Cops, the IB and the judiciary.

Most don’t trust the politicians.

Most don’t trust people of the other religion. (again an exaggeration, I agree, but it’s not way off the mark)

Most don’t trust people of other regions

Most don’t trust the other sex

Most don’t trust the rich

Most don’t trust the poor

And yet we meet each other every day. Do business. Abuse. Eat. Celebrate. Riot. Condemn. Pontificate. Sleep and Forget.