Monthly Archives: December 2008

Not a nice reflection to see…

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Among the different complexes that plague me, a frequent one is imagining (even wishing) I could end my life. To my mind, it is the solution to most (if not all) of the problems that plague me, and sometimes, as a result, my family

I, of course, don’t have any kind of himmat to do anything physically damaging to myself. It’s probably another fear that prevents me from actually leaping off a roof,  slitting my wrists or swallowing a palmful of pills.

And, to quickly digress, I do seem to have a morbid fascination for death, especially the violent kinds. Driving down a road at top speed, I have more than once wanted to ram the car onto the oncoming vehicle or standing at the edge of terrace and wondered what would go through my head if I just took a step off the ledge ( I can’t even peer down thanks to a fear of heights).

I wonder about the crash and the boom and the bang and the sounds and would I feel pain and would I pray in those last moments or would I just be panicking. The week after the terror attacks, when there were rumours circulating that some terrorists did get away, I would wonder what would I do if I came face to face with a gun-toting one? A strange calm would descend on me thinking that he would do to me, what I obviously could not.

There is strange escape hatch I create, I notice, even as I think of it and some one once told me, if I haven’t done it, I never will. I am not depressed enough. 🙂

But coming back to this post, some years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes and tried to adapt and accept and improve my quality of life. But honestly I don’t think I have really successfully managed. Mostly because I didn’t care enough about myself to give a sh*& about my sugar levels or about what kind of long-term damage it could do to me.

Somewhere along the way I thought yes this was the way. All I needed to do was binge. Even once in a way. That would surely end it for me. Again I didn’t  want to do anything directly.

But then yesterday I received a gift from a friend and I realised what the hell was I was doing. Like in everything else, I wanted to just walk away from this. Not take responsibility. Not be accountable. Her gift made me snap out of this fugue state that I seem to be in. Seeing the book made me cry.

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What Our Anger Has To Say About Us

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CITY CITY BANG BANG
What our anger has to say about us
Santosh Desai

Looking back on the whole array of reactions to the horrific events in Mumbai, there is one particular statement that stands out. Not because it was silly and offensive, which it undeniably was, but because it was, well so peculiar and as it turns out, twistedly perceptive. I am referring to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s crack about women wearing lipstick and powder, who abuse politicians and the democratic process. What was strange about Naqvi’s statement was that it made gratuitously, in response to an unrelated question, apart from which it went on to defend the presence of Ram Gopal Varma as part of Vilasrao Deshmukh’s entourage, dismissing it as a trivial incident. Now, why would a senior BJP leader feel the need to lash out at protesters instead of the government and, in fact, end up defending a rival politician?
Naqvi’s reaction reveals an underlying faultline that runs through the terrorism narrative, one that separates the enabled India from the rest of the country. The politicians live in both worlds and in stressful times such as these give away their real feelings about the world of lipstick and powder. It underscores that while we focus on the contempt the educated class has for the politician, the reverse is equally true. In the eyes of a politician like Naqvi, the elite are nothing but a pampered, self-indulgent lot of disconnected people, cozying up to politicians in times of need and cursing them otherwise.
And while one can find many reasons to disagree with Naqvi and his ilk, going by last fortnight’s performance, perhaps there is something legitimate about his contempt. The anger we saw on the streets and which news channels were quick to glorify, reeked for the most part, of a petulant sense of entitlement. Fear made us speak our minds and reveal how little we carry there. For instance, a lot of people warmed to the idea that we should stop paying our taxes till something is done and that Mumbai’s taxes should be used for Mumbai. The notion that taxes are a form of entitlement which allow higher privileges for those who pay more reveals the underlying mental model at work here. The rich pay more, and like it happens in the market, should therefore get more. Now that we pay more taxes, let us flash our platinum cards and have the valet park our cars.
The endless articles that spoke of the Taj as an icon of Mumbai, which apparently dandled the authors on its demure knees while tenderly feeding them pate de foie gras do so without a trace of self-consciousness. For anyone to believe
that Mumbai can be encapsulated by a five-star hotel, no matter how old and how gracious, can only be a staggering act of self-deception. Just as to believe that Mumbai is represented by Shobhaa De, Alyque Padamsee, Prahalad Kakkar and sundry filmstars.
And yet, who can argue that if there was a reason to get angry, it was now. In the eyes of the street-hardened politician, the protests may seem effete, with their ‘Yes We Can’ evocations, references to 9/11 and their candlelight vigils, not to mention the banners with smart lines and carefully chosen fonts. For a class that is unused to the language of protest, imitation was the easiest way out. In a media-driven world, every cause can in the end start resembling an advertising campaign. We are seeing this literally, celebrities jumping in, and publications using the anger of the citizens as a promotional plank.
The dilemma of the elite is that for the first time it is really afraid and angry and for the first time there is very little it can do about it. For the truth is that so far, while politicians wielded power, the Taj-is-my-second-home class could always have its way. A well-chosen favour here, a discreet word dropped in the right ear there and the wheels would turn, however squeakily. This is one time, however, when there are no short cuts. We can rail at the politicians, and we can rave and rant and scream incoherent prescriptions on television shows, we can fantasize about carpet bombing a nuclear-enabled Pakistan, but we know that there are no final answers available to terrorism, or for that matter to politicians.
In a larger sense, the helplessness felt by the affluent, educated class comes from the knowledge that none of its concerns really matter. If there was any doubt about that, the recent Assembly election results establish that Electorate India doesn’t share Market India’s concerns about terrorism. Or for that matter, about any of the things that people on talk shows seem to endlessly talk about.
Market India cannot win this war. The political system is stacked against it. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi knows this and thus he gloats. Democracy is a way of addressing the largest concerns of the largest number of people. If Market India wants its concerns addressed it must align with the rest of India. Only if it is electorally integrated with the mainland, will its concerns have any value. Otherwise it can keep fantasising about Ratan Tata running the country one day and keep dreaming up new slogans. And worry about using the right font.

TOI, Mumbai, 15.12.08

Can’t stop thinking…

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Often, while discussing Godhra riots of 2002, I get confrontational. “Just because the person (s) accused is Hindu, you are more offended/upset/outraged etc etc” And just like any argument with me, when confronted with forceful talk, I retreat. But I have always wondered why Godhra affected me more than any other instance of communal riots.

Was it because often people speak of Narendra Modi being the perfect candidate for a PM? “He may have killed people but look how Gujarat has prospered? Why not India?”

Was it because I heard of an elderly couple, whose hospitality I had enjoyed, having to be shuffled out of their homes in the middle of night?

Or was it because this was the only communal riot that happened while I was in a newsroom?

I don’t know.

Or maybe on some fundamental level it could be because I am Hindu and hated that someone killed innocent people using my religion as a guise?

Why did I start thinking of Godhra?

Can a great tragedy like this get us to see how foolish are the trivialities that we let ourselves get preoccupied with?

I mean renaming things. I mean kicking out the north Indian. I mean the insistence on one language in Government communications. I mean plenty more.

Did any of these things keep us secure last week?

Am tempted to do what I usually do — head-in-the-sand syndrome.

Perhaps not this time.

Be the change you want to see

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Yes, I know there is a lot of anger. Yes, I know you need a place to put it. Yes, I know, for many, words are an outlet. And yes, I know its just your opinion but could we please stick to topic at hand?

We need change. Do you know what that is? It isn’t signing up for peace marches and candle vigils. Yes those candles are very soothing indeed, but having a candles sputtering on badly-littered pavements and roads on Carter Road, at Gateway, on Marine Drive and in many other sundry parks and roads, isn’t change, it’s just a nuisance. Be proud of your city, scrape those pools of wax before you end your vigil. How many of you’ll actually did that?

Marches are fantastic but they also need a follow up. Like someone said on one of the numerous stories popping up on the internet, where is the messiah? We, as a terror-struck community, are desperately looking for someone to turn to.

Can you be that person? Even one per cent towards that goal? Not bribe. Ever. Stop others from doing so. Stop littering. Stop others from doing so. Be aware of your rights? Use them well? Use the weapon we have called RTI? Small things like when someone honks too much or jumps a light or parks wrong or jumps a place in a queue at the multiplex or refuses to let some hapless guard check his or her handbag because he or she is getting late for a movie or…. the list is endless.. I could go on and on…

You want change? Next time there is an election, go out and vote. Or get registered, that’s a start. On my chat list, I asked a random 10-12 people if they vote: only one said yes and she doesn’t even belong to Mumbai’s electoral lists. Some very matter-of-factly said, “No, out of choice.” You can’t be so matter of fact about your vote getting wasted. It’s like freedom, a lot of people fought to get a right to vote and women had a longer fight to get there. I guess, until you lose that right, you won’t know what you have lost. And, as my uncle told me when I was in college, you have no right to criticise the government if you did not vote. Even if all candidates are bad, not voting cannot be the answer. Accountability is another matter. How to make your elected leaders accountable is probably another post, for a time when the red haze from in front of my eyes has disappeared.

And you there, who has been sending me random mails from why Fair & Lovely is responsible for this state of the country to how cricketers should be transported in BEST buses instead of NSG personnel to all those other opinions which are all so verbose, get a life. Have the guts to actually do something, rather than spam my inbox.

Or start a blog and send the link, much easier.

Some more who say similar things.