Monday, December 31, 2012

India Bleeds

The Preamble to our Constitution reads:

‘We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

The Preamble explicitly highlights Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as the basis of our constitution. I remember in school - it was mandatory for us to learn the Preamble verbatim. I always took pride in knowing the Preamble by heart. With so many un-consitutional incidents happening year-after-year, I cannot be sure about that 'pride' anymore. 

As India bleeds today, I wonder how our freedom fighters would have felt had any of them been around to witness this state of affairs! We have a judiciary but no independence of judiciary for extreme crimes like rape, that continues to be a 'baillable offence'.

The police, law courts, or politicians never have any deadline for completing any work they undertake. Isn't that appalling? We, as the 'aam janta' have dates to go and cast our votes, dates to register for our voter IDs, dates to submit our electricity bills and dates to file our income tax. There is heavy penalty if we dont meet the deadlines.

But when it comes to the government:
1. No dates to build better roads
2. No dates to punish criminals
3. No dates to punish corrupt politicians
4. No dates to hang terrorists
5. NO PENALTY if they dont make or meet deadlines. Safety and security of the nation is always LAST PRIORITY.

WHY THIS DIFFERENCE when we are all part of the same country and look up to the same Indian Constitution? 

The latest incident which has shaken all of us is the gruesome crime in Delhi. The crime took place on December 16; the victim suffered for a fortnight and breathed her last on December 29. The media is all over the place. The Delhi protesters have shown tremendous courage and are contunuing their fight for justice braving all odds. They have inspired us in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Jammu, Chennai and many other cities. The youth is protesting and voicing their opinion all across the country. It is a matter of grief and a cause of protest for each and every one of us.

BUT, the government has done NOTHING. They are planning to implement better laws in February 2013. WHY WAIT TILL FEBRUARY? WILL IT TAKE ONE MONTH to make stricter laws? Even if February, why is there no concrete date? Does that mean people continue to commit such ghastly crimes till new laws come up? Is that the excuse the police or government will give if another such crime is attempted? Even when this incident is so fresh in our minds, perverts in many parts of the country have the guts to continue committing crime against women. And government officials say, 'we need to think'! What were they doing all these years? When are these THINK TANKS going to act?

While the news channels have started displaying pictures of the criminals of the Delhi brutality- the government has made no effort to name them or share details. Why are we protecting the criminals? When I open the newspaper everyday, there are headlines like " 16 year old raped" or "42 year old gangraped in village" etc. Why can't it be written as "3 drunken goons named X, Y, Z commit rape in a village"? Why don't we focus on the criminals instead of further victimising the victim?

In the Delhi case, the criminals Ram Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh and Akshay Singh (Thakur) are the culprits. I still dont know the name of the 6th offender. I hope we have a law whereby we can expose identities of criminals as soon as the police arrests them. If they have the guts to commit such a heinous crime, dont we have the courage to name them? 

The Delhi case has acted as a catalyst- an eye opener for common people like us. However, this has also turned into a war between the government and the people. The police are safeguarding the government from the public! If the government continues to ignore the people of India – mobocracy will take over democracy in no time.

As we come to the end of 2012, India continues to bleed. The youth in the country are not willing to wait anymore. We have had enough!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Being Salman :)

What is it about Salman Khan that has suddenly caught the fancy of the crowd? He was never a hero of the masses if I look back to the 90s. Girls loved him in each generation and that is a process that will not end abruptly. But this 'new' Salman avtaar that has surfaced since his blockbuster 'Wanted' (2009) is incredible. From a romantic hero, he has developed into this angry young man who is very different from the other 'angry young men' we have watched in movies over the decades. That's what makes Salman Khan and his recent movies unique. People enjoy his style, his eccentricities, his charm, and his genuineness. Besides, his good looks and well, good looks...take care of everything else.  

I have never written a film review for a Salman Khan movie. Reason: Being an ardent admirer of the person he is, I would feel bad to write a review if I didn't like the movie. But Dabangg 2 is a movie I recently watched and totally loved :). So the writing follows.

Dabangg 2 is a thorough Bollywood action drama. I would watch it again and many people I know have already gone for a 'repeat watch'. Interestingly, the movie has a good storyline and adheres to a script. Unlike its prequel, this movie has more rhythm and meat. There is never a moment of boredom. Good music, great action, dollops of humour and natural acting will keep you entertained for 2 hours and 10 minutes. Dabangg 2 is a complete entertainer and full credit to Arbaaz Khan for this directorial debut.

The charactertisations in this movie are meaningful and the script highlights a very interesting social angle too - in several scenes. There are no cliches or stereo-types even though the setting we are talking about is semi-urban. We traverse through the roads of Kanpur and meet the goons there. The cops are at their best trying to control corrupt politicians and the senior police officials are indolent and slow. So the story is not a new one. But the treatment is. There is a constant hint towards social progress throughout the movie. It is very subtle and doesnt take away from the movie's main genre- action. But the 'progress' theme is intelligently blended in the main story. 

For instance, when Makkhi's (Arbaaz) wife (Mahi Gill) informs him of her decision to take up a job - Makkhi doesnt discourage her. She explains why it is significant. The way in which this important message about the economic contribution of women in society is conveyed to the single screen masses through a simple conversation between the couple is commendable! There are also instances where Chulbul Pandey (Salman) tells his wife (Sonakshi) that she doesnt need to come running every time he calls just because he is the husband! Usually we see the opposite in commercial 'masala' Hindi cinema. To add a scene like this in a 'mass appeal' cinema is a good gesture on the part of the director to convey a 'social equality' message to the audience. Usually in 'angry young men' movies - we have instances of boys having an upper hand and the girls playing the 'damsel in distress'. But here again, Dabangg 2 conveys a subtle social message of women empowerment.

It doesnt end here. There is a scene where Chulbul Pandey talks to his father (Vinod Khanna) about life insurance planning. Applaud applaud!

Oh yes - one more thing - the charity angle. It's funny but then that's how a Chulbul Pandey movie should be :). So when Robinhood cop Salman cracks a case, all the money that is recovered either goes to the poor or is deposited in the Chulbul Pandey fund, which again works for the upliftment of the poor. Good thinking by the writer/director.

For a movie which is targeted at the masses and expected to be a nonsense action-packed 3 hours entertainer, Dabangg upsets its critics. It is not just a great action movie that can boast of excellent onscreen chemistry between the primary characters; it also successfully portays an evolved 'angry young man'. This man is angry for the right reasons. He makes good use of his muscle power. People not just respect him, they love him and want to hang out with him. That is the true success of Dabangg. It has a tremendous connect.

Please go watch Dabangg if you haven't. If the above reasons weren't enough, here are a few more: Salman Khan rocks anyway; Sonakshi Sinha looks fabulous and scores full marks on acting too. Vinod Khanna, Arbaaz Khan, Mahi Gill and of course the villain Baccha bhai - the entire star cast contribute handsomely to this very enjoyable movie. The 'fevicol' song could have been avoided though.

You will enjoy this movie even if you are not a Salman Khan fan. But if you love him, you definitely have an edge ;)

Happy Birthday to you Salman!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The height of tolerance!

' These perverts should be hanged till death'

'Oh no, that won't help. Life imprisonment of 20 years should be the minimum punishment. Rather, I'd say something gruesome should be done with the rapists.'

The above is an extract from a conversation between two friends. As India is discussing the heinous rape in New Delhi that has shocked India once again, some pervert in some part of this country is committing this ghastly crime for the 'n-th' time. I can feel a shiver down my spine even to think of such a beastly act. How ironical that my last blog was about celebrating 'International Girl Child's Day'.

Respect for women is not in-built in our social system. We are trained to respect the 'goddess' and 'mother India'. But the matter gets diluted when we have 'real' people in front of us to deal with. 'Ideal sons and daughters' come alive only in Bollywood blockbusters. Children who see their mothers being beaten up by their fathers more than often grow up to repeat the same actions- the sons beat their mothers, wives and daughters.

What are we doing to prevent such cowardly acts and atrocious crimes?


Instead of getting justice for the victim, we are asking our women not to travel alone at night. Worse, we teach them to ignore eve-teasers; if we react - the consequence won't be good for the woman! If we lodge a police complaint, our policeman asks us 'Madam, aap itni raat ko akele sadak pe kya kar rahi thi?' (Madam, what were you doing alone on the streets at night!).
We - as in a select section of people in the society are protesting against such crimes through protest marches, media discussions, newspaper reports, blog posts et al. But we are still awaiting ACTION and REACTION from the government and our law courts. Instead of discussing the victim, why can't the government or media flash photographs of the criminals everywhere and publicly humiliate them? Why can't there be fast-track courts to close these cases quickly?

We are a very tolerant society. We tolerate corrupt politicians, we tolerate rape, we tolerate female foeticide, we tolerate child abuse, we tolerate cruelty against animals...and more ! Corruption has invaded each one of us and we fail to 'think beyond' what we tolerate. So do we end up tolerating everything? Of course we don't. We fight back when a vegetable vendor doesn't give us a 5 rupee discount, we scream when the cab driver doesnt have a 'change' to return, we growl when a trans-gender person comes begging for some money. And of course we don't tolerate bad employees and bad bosses. We can go to any extremes to get rid of them to make our lives better.

When it comes to social issues- serious ones like this- we don't interfere in other people's business! We expect the police to take action and the government to act- none of which usually happens. Political connections win all battles. And victims? Well they continue to be victimized. We read it in the papers and then forget it next day.

We want criminals to be brutally punished for atrocities against women!
Why can't we give Taliban-ish punishments to the perverts- chop off their hands and legs? Or beat them up brutally and keep them inside a cage with a hungry hyena? Not a lion or tiger- but a hungry, ravaneous hyena- a real violent one. The public should beat them up brutally and then cage them along with a hungry hyena. While the hyena eats up one of the culprits bit-by bit, the other perverted men should be chained outside the cage awaiting their turn to be the hyena's next prey. I've heard that only spotted hyenas are man eaters. Hope we can find a good number of them in India.

What happens in reality?

Gangrape victims are treated as outcasts in our society. People are more interested in discussing the victims rather than the culprits. Why did the victim go out alone or what was she doing on the 'unsafe' road in the dead of the night or 'oh she was drunk' ?- are loose comments which people make to boost their ego and to justify their survival in a 'horribly tolerant' society.

Teach them when they are young 

When a son is born in the family, teach him to respect his mother, his sister, and his friend. Don't ask him to protect them. Ask him to behave himself so that the women in his family feel comfortable in his presence. Every school should create awareness about these crimes among young boys. Don't train your girls to be ladylike and fragile. Teach your boys to behave like gentlemen.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Literary Fe(a)st...

The Times Literary Carnival | December 2012

I don’t know if I should call it a Literary Fest or a literary feast! The last three days have been a one-of-a-kind experience for me. I missed out on the festival last year but more than made up for it this year. Each year the Times of India organizes this festival in Mumbai. The ambience at Mehboob Studios was super-awesome. The fact that every second person you bump into is either a scholar, historian, author, poet, film-maker or litterateur, made this an invigorating experience!
My boss was kind enough to give me a day-off as the Carnival started on a Friday!

Day 1

On the first day the session I enjoyed the most was the conversation between literary stalwart Anita Desai and her award-winning daughter Kiran Desai. Chikki Sarkar- Publisher, Penguin India was the moderator of the show. What I really liked about the Desai duo was their simplicity and commitment. When they spoke- one could understand their commitment to writing and the earnestness in their dedication to their work.

Anita Desai confessed to being a loner. She beautifully explained that no matter how social a life a writer leads, s/he would have to delve deep within and shut doors to the outside world while penning their thoughts. It is a private affair and their was so much earnestness in the way she conveyed this! It made me think – is this the reason I am not able to write as much as I always wanted to? Am I not finding my lone corner? The answer was – No, I have just been lazy.

Anyway.. shifting to Kiran Desai. She is another exemplary icon. Kiran was even more soft-spoken than her mother. Both of them spoke very less and I wondered how they expressed themselves so well when they wrote. They have written so much! So one more lesson learned is – speak less, write more.

Kiran Desai also went on to explain that disciplining oneself as a writer is not easy. I mean, writing around 6 hours a day, spending some more hours reading the drafts.. and doing that for months.. or rather years together… that’s not easy. It’s funny but ‘reading’ is far more interesting than ‘writing’. But again, the joy of writing can only be experienced by a writer! The happiness you feel after completing a chapter after months of struggle – the reader wouldn’t understand that. But as long as the writing has evoked an emotion in the reader’s mind (happiness, sadness for instance) – it is a job well done. Kiran mentioned that she shows her work drafts to her mother before sending to the editor. If she sent it to too many people and took their views and start implementing their thoughts – she would never be able to complete her work. Thought provoking! Anita on the other hand mentioned that she recently started sharing her final drafts with her daughter. Otherwise, she never shared them with anyone but the editor. Her writing is her private world and she likes keeping it that way till it becomes ‘public’.

Day 1 of the Carnival was very interesting and inspiring. For one, it brought me back to this blog of mine which I have been neglecting for quite some time now.

I also attended Katherine Boo’s session earlier. There was so much happening in all the venues that I didn’t know which one to pick and which to drop. Besides, authors were available at the coffee shops outside to interact with the audience. That was another nice experience too. It’s always good to talk to authors, and meeting legends like Anita Desai – made me a very happy soul today.

There was a session with Sania Mirza, one with noted historian Ramachandra Guha and several others illuminating literati.

I wanted to stay back for Usha Uttup’s show in the evening too. But hanging around at Mehboob studio all alone all day – I wanted to rush back home when I still had some energy left and write a bit.

Day 2

It’s just growing better. For me, today’s main attraction was the talk show of the script writers Anusha Rizvi, Urmi Juvekar and Juhi Chaturvedi. I wanted to hear Juhi especially as Vicky Donor is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed. She wasn’t able to make it to the Fest unfortunately. But Anusha and Urmi more than made for her absence. The former is the writer-director of Peepli Live and the latter wrote Shanghai. The ladies’ points of views were sharp and effective. The moderator posed a question similar to what was asked to the Desais yesterday – are authors lonely soles? They both agreed- unless authors carve out their own lonely zone and build a fort round it, they can never settle down and nurse their ideas and express them in words. So, being lonely or rather spending time alone is very important.

I also managed to peep inside the other auditorium overflowing with people – William Dalrymple was presenting Mughal paintings and rulers there. I suddenly remembered my days at How I cherished reading Dalrymple and writing short reviews of his books! This was surely a 'history' day for me as soon after this, Dr. Ramachandra Guha was launching his new book at the Carnival. Noted historian and prolific writer, Dr. Guha’s writing is bound to move you. I don’t know if this is a history student speaking but the way Dr. Guha paints India and makes history relevant to the current day is exemplary. He is a great presenter and his oratory kept the audience engaged till the end. We didnt get a place to sit - the auditorium was packed! 

After this past-paced session, we needed a lunch break. After 1.5 hours- we were back at Mehboob Studios. William Dalrymple’s session on India and Afghanistan – 1839-42 was a thought-provoking session. A result of the scholar’s research over multiple years, the presentation and book launch saw a full-house.

But to me- the best part of today was the session called ‘Mythology to PowerPoint’- Business and Mythology. The speakers were Devdutt Pattnaik and Santosh Desai. It was a brilliant session and especially for people like us – who are an integral part of the corporate world. Pattnaik’s sense of wit set the floor roaring with laughter. His logic and the brilliance with which he made mythology relevant to current Indian economics and polity was astonishing! It’s as simple as – asking someone in a meeting – would you prefer a Ram (follow rules) or a Krishna (break rules). He clearly established in less than an hour how our master epics are a part of our lives and how changing the society cannot happen unless ‘we’ change ourselves. The institution (non-living thing) cannot change if we (living beings) are rigid with our thought-process. He was duly accompanied, supported and challenged by Santosh Desai. When the session got over, we thought it should have continued for some more time.

There was fun and comedy – with Ranbir Shorey and Vinay Pathak reading sessions. Nandita Das was also present in another talk-show. The Mehboob studio lawn was constantly hosting one workshop after the other- some for children and some for all. The whole experience was very inspiring and mood-uplifitng. For once, I was back to my college days where we were surrounded with debates, cultural activities, literary fests, music contests and so on.

I am soo looking forward to the final day tomorrow. I have been missing the evening sessions which generally have a live performance by a rock-group/band or noted musicians/singers. But I get tired and after the day- I feel like running home and penning down my experience. So am happy.

Day 3

Day 3 was a delight too. I ended up attending a session which was unexpected. At 9.30am, it was Arvind Kejriwal in conversation with Arnab Goswami. Am not sure why this session was a part of the Literary Carnival – perhaps to pull the crowd. And it did! The turnout for this event was massive. I hadn’t seen so many people in any other auditorium in the last few days. Kejriwal spoke like a winner and the crowd responded to everything he said. Whether I agree with his ideals and school of thought or not is a different question altogether. But he was a crowd puller for sure- and very motivating when he spoke. Loved the session.

This 2 hour session ate into the next session’s time. The next one was equally interesting. It was a discussion between Barkha Dutt and Chetan Bhagat on ‘What today’s youth want-Naukri and Chhokri’. Mind-blowing session! The auditorium was overflowing with youngsters. On the other hand, a lot of senior citizens attended the session too, which was very heartening. These two youth icons pepped up the spirits of the audience and people laughed and laughed when Bhagat spoke. His sense of comic timing is amazing and I was very happy to be part of this one.

There were more. Javed Akhtar and  Prasoon Joshi in conversation; another auditorium hosting Mira Nair. There was Suketu Mehta’s slot too and one more by Devdutt Patnaik. The session on graphic novels was a novel concept. We attended as many as we could and retired very happy and content at the end of the day. It was a long extended weekend very happily spent.

I look forward to more such festivals going forward. There was no glamor or glitterati here. One would see illustrious authors, thoughtful filmmakers, newbie writers, acclaimed historians, popular journalists, established publishers – all finding a common forum at this Carnival. There was no queuing up or paying money to meet your favorite stars. Authors were available to chat at the lounges and coffee shops. The ambience was pleasant, peaceful and inspiring. This is the kind of milieu every author and writer wants to be part of.