Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rahul Factor...much ado about nothing

Personally I find Rahul's visit to campuses in Kerala very heart-warming...and amusing too. I mean its a good thing students in Kerala got a chance to interact with a person of such stature – he is probably the future Prime Minister of India. But why did he come? He obviously didn't visit the colleges to spread messages on national integration or the ahimsa messages of that Big G. But rather to conduct the organizational election for KSU. Now that’s funny – considering such a thing hasn’t occurred for the past 16 years. Now that’s some democracy! Some big leaders chose – some ‘kutty’ leaders get chosen. Just like that. So the real reason why Rahul came spending crores of rupees was for his organization.

And for the girls who swooned on the scent of his foreign perfume – that perfume was gifted by his Latin American girlfriend. Yea the one he was spotted with during his New Year backwater fantasy trip to Kumarakom in Kerala a couple of years ago. The same girl who was later detained at the Boston Airport for illegally carrying huge sums of dollars. Never heard of this? Hail the subservient media tycoons. Again personally I have nothing against an unmarried couple living together – I am all for it. But how come our staunch conservative society (read grand old political parties) has nothing to say against the ‘immorality’ of the young Gandhi surprises me – be it about girlfriends or wasting precious tax-payers’ money. Guess that happens when your mummy happens to be the most powerful political person in the country. Sigh!

My consolation? He is 39 years old. Not that young.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big Fearful Neighbor

A couple of years back I had attended an Air Force interview in Mysore. After a grueling session lasting 5 days they declared me (along with many others) not good enough to be an Air Force officer. Even months after that I would smirk and say “Let the next war with China come. Then these fools at the Air Force will rue not taking me when they get beaten black and blue by the Chinese.”

My self-loathing apart, these days after every war of words between India and China, I fear if my prediction will come true. If a war comes can India truly beat China? The Chinese army is definitely much superior to ours in numbers as well as technology. But even more than the might of armies – what about the nation as a whole? Ours is such a diversified land and people compared to China whose people, more or less can be defined as indigenous. They all even look so much alike. We, on the other hand, are unified only in playing the blame game.

We were defeated once. Make no mistake – there was nothing to be proud of in that war. China unilaterally declared a ceasefire after kicking our ass (not the Biblical ass, the other one - literally). So in midst of our efforts of trying to provoke the bigger, fearful neighbor everyone just ask themselves – are we ready?

Okay – maybe war maybe a long way away. And, yes, maybe I am being pessimistic. But if a war does come ultimately what will help us survive will be our unity rather than the military strength. For sooner or later we will have to resolve all our disputes, border issues and all. I am not raising a war-cry. All I am saying is we have to be prepared.

As for the rest - Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kannur Election – Meddling in State Affairs

After the controversial governor decision in the Lavalin case, another contentious decision has been made against the LDF-ruled state government in Kerala – The Central Election Commission has asked to remove the Collector of Kannur following complaints of fraud and irregularities in the voters list.

What has personally troubled me even more than the decision to remove the present collector has been that the EC suggested two names in the panel to be forwarded to them for selecting the new collector. Now while it is true that IAS officers are in effect central government officers this is unabashed meddling in the affairs of the state. The action by EC raises way too many questions - How did the Election Commission come up with these two names? What are the criteria decided by the EC for an IAS officer to be ‘honest’? Is the EC monitoring the IAS officers inn the state? What right do they have for that? Did the Central Government interfere in this matter? Or rather, did the Chief Election Commissioner, who is notoriously famous for his pro-Congress sympathies, just obey the Congress high-command – and suggest the names that were recommended by the state congress leaders?

Moreover the EC has not made clear the reasons for asking to remove the Collector. If there are irregularities in the voters list how is it the collectors fault? Do any of us go to the collector to get our names in the electoral list? Was it because he slapped a case against a Congress MP and asked to take action against a Central minister for violating the poll code?

The action taken by the CEC is dubious, to say the very least. There is no doubt that outside political influence has played a significant part in this decision.

When did the EC cease being an independent body and turn into political puppet?

Pakistan - The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

pakistan I hate to join the chorus from all over the world, especially from India, but here goes – “Pakistan is now reaping what they have sown!”

They have sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.

Pakistan has launched a full scale attack against the Taliban in South Waziristan after a spate of recent terrorist attacks shook the very foundations of the Pakistani establishment. For years Pakistan has been the hot bed for training and grooming terrorists who are then send to attack other nations, mostly India.

And now the chicken has come home to roost. When Pakistan started trying to appease the US by taking nominal action against Taliban sympathizers, the terrorists have struck back with venom. These attacks have, perhaps for the very first time, has shaken the Pakistan military’s belief that these Mujahideen were always under their indirect control. Pakistan has hundreds of training camps, many of them under the guises of Madrasas or other educational institutes. They always took care to select and train uneducated youth to send on suicide missions – promising them Heaven with their martyrdom. Pakistan governments took aid from several countries and used them to supply terrorists with sophisticated weapons.

I am not rejoicing in Pakistan’s plight. But its high time the world took notice of the double-faced game Pakistan has been playing and now they will. Hopefully Pakistan will also realize its mistake and start on a new path of redemption. Unfortunately its not as easy or simple as it sounds. The unholy alliance of religion and politics has always been Pakistan’s bane – and the powerful conservative elements within the Pakistani military and government are too well entrenched to be chased out in a whiff.

India should not turn its back on its estranged brother now. This is the time India can help the most – hopefully. Time heals everything. Perhaps one day people from India and Pakistan can be brothers again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kovalam Literary Festival 2009

anuja chauhan Yesterday (Oct 9th) I went for the final day of the Kovalam Literary Festival 2009 held at the Taj Green Cove in Kovalam. I was accompanying my journalist friend, who was doing an interview for The Hindu newspaper, as a photographer.

When we entered a question answer session with Om Puri, the famous Bollywood actor, was going on. He easily won the hearts of everyone there with his friendly tone and witty remarks. An interesting remark made by a freelance writer from the North East (I couldn’t catch her name or place) impressed him – the fact that the North East was neglected in mainstream cinema and the people from those parts were portrayed either as tribals or as terrorists. Om Puri acknowledged this fact and said he would try to influence his friends on this matter. He later came down and talked to her and introduced his wife who, as he said, too had 'chinky' eyes which he ‘loved very much’.

Next was a reading by Chandrakanta Murarsingh, a Korobok poet from Tripura. His poems showed images of violence and referred to the changes that were taking place in Tripura. As his English was bad I had a hard time following what he said. He seemed like a nice person though.

This was followed with readings by different upcoming writers – Ira Trivedi, Mathew Menacherry, Anuja Chauhan and Palaash Mehrotra. Ira Trivedi is a former Miss India contestant and so, goes without saying, is very beautiful. But I wouldn’t say the same about her writing. Or rather, about her language. It seemed pretty ordinary. She read excerpts from her novel ‘What Would You Do to Save the World’. I guess most of it is based from her experiences, bitter ones, in the world of modeling and fashion shows. She also read from a book she is working on. I found many statements very silly – especially the ones surrounding a cell – yes a cell in the body which had fallen ‘sick’. So this cell had to realize that it couldn’t exist alone and should love the other cells and only then could it survive. Or something to that effect. Maybe I didn’t get the context correctly but I couldn’t help giggling. But I was touched when she said she had spent months with a kid who had fatal pancreatic cancer and her writing was based on that experience. I hope you do justice to her Ira.

Next was Mathew Menacherry, grandson of M P Paul who was a well-known literary critic in Kerala, who read from his first novel ‘Arrack in the Afternoon’. I loved this guy. He is settled in Bombay and calls himself a salesman. He was quite frank about his drinking (same pinch here) and ‘exotic’ life. He was very funny and quite cool. And at the end he even said sorry if he had offended any sensibilities. One lady, a half-Malayalee, wanted to know if the fact that he was a Malayalee was the reason for him drinking since ‘weren’t most Malayalees chronic drinkers.’ Mathew stoutly defended our honour (the whole bunch of male – drinking –pretending to know nothing about it – malayalees) and said it wasn’t so.

Finally came the damsel Anuja Chauhan with her book ‘The Zoya Factor’. She was easily the most popular writer around there as she was very easygoing and accessible. She promptly sat with folded legs on the chair, as if she was sitting on the ground talking to children, and her book was quite amusing. I would later be proved right when I bet with my reporter friend that her book would be the most selling one below in the lobby. She works in the advertising field and was the creator behind many famous captions including ‘Oye Bubbly’and ‘Dil maange more’. She faced very few questions. I guess this was since her book wasn’t on serious issues. It was about a girl who was born on the exact moment India won the world cup in 1983 and becomes sort of a lucky charm to the present (imaginary) cricket team.

The final writer before lunch break was Palash Mehrotra with his short story collection ‘The Eunuch Park’ which had, as suggested by the title, lots of soft porn and sexuality. Just the thing you look for in literary and film festivals. I admit it does take a lot of courage to write on these topics. However what surprised me was that he denied there was anything from his experiences in the stories. The ‘serious’ audience liked his writing and as a foreigner pointed out his was the only one so far that was different from the earlier writers who all followed a writing style that could be said as ‘filmy’. The unfortunate thing was someone had muttered ‘lunch’ during his session and almost all the audience which included a lot of students walked out. There were only a handful of people left in the hall by the time he finished. That was bad management by the organizers. They shouldn’t let such things happen. I hope Palash didn’t feel that it was due to his reading!

Then lunch break was formally announced to the 20 of us who were still remaining in the hall, all who I bet were sitting in the hope of free lunch coupons, and finally my friend got her interview

I wanted to sit and hear the rest of the sessions but unfortunately my office where I had my regular job called with threats of firing me (again!) if I didn’t get there within half an hour and so I had to reluctantly leave this beautiful place with the beautiful scenery and beautiful people (beautiful inside and outside) who wrote beautifully for all us beautiful people.