Category Archives: Politics

The unfairness of the advantage


I know for most of the people in the not northern part of India, the Gujjar agitation means nothing. Just another group fighting for another cause. Especially because it will not really affect you and me, and our living. Or so we think. The current agitation is because the Rajasthan High Court has put a stay on a reservation granted to them about 3-4 years ago, as a part of caste politics. It has asked for quantifiable proof that it is a ‘backward community’. Indeed, if we are getting technical, I want to know what is a backward community and how can I become a part of it.

A few years ago when the Gujjar agitation has started and they were burning down buses in Delhi, it was affecting in my life. And, at that point, someone had taken the pains to explain to me what they were demanding. The community, based in Rajasthan, I understand was demanding a 1% blanket reservation in all jobs, college seats and wherever else reservations were used. This was over and above the already 50% of reservations we already have for all kinds of backward communities in India. That is what the court stayed.

The person explaining the fight to me also found it necessary to explain that Gujjars were a rich community, at least in the cities. A lot of the law enforcement in Delhi and UP consist of the Gujjar community. So money certainly was not a requirement. Being categorised backward was perhaps.

That got me thinking. About really affluent Dalits, who are well educated and make 6 and 7 figure salaries and whose parents have worked in cushy government jobs (maybe due to the reservation, I do not know)… do their children still need reservation? And if they are benefiting from the reservations, why aren’t the deserving Dalits, back in villages benefiting? And if these affluent city folks are successful and educated, why this crutch of a certificate?

The Gujjars you see lying across the tracks protesting the stay- are they the ones to benefit if the reservation is back on track? Or will all the cops of Delhi stand to gain? Making it only a victory in principle for people who perhaps actually need the reservation.

Isn’t that what we hoped education would do? Stop them feeling the need for an edge over the disadvantage? Give the equal platform and bring them to par? But now it seems to succeed you need to be of a backward caste. That’s an advantage the common man won’t give away for the money and success of it while the politician will not want to take away, lest he lose his vote.

And at the end of it all, two-three generations after Independence, there are still huge cities and towns of people who do not get to use the advantage they have had while the so-called meritorious or earlier know as upper caste, today look for ways to fake a ‘backward caste’ certificate.

Yes, of course, I am a Brahmin and wouldn’t be complaining about the advantage if I had it (I think). But my being a brahmin is just because my father was so why should that decide who or what I am and what opportunities I am entitled to? If I can prove my worth, I should be eligible. So what if I am Dalit or a Gujjar? You have the marks/ abilities/ qualities, you get the job, seat etc. But today good marks or skills make me eligible for half the available opportunities, all because of my surname. But I guess that is the argument that was used for reservations in the first place.

‘Women’ issues


I met a potential producer-cum-director recently. Who thought the ultimate manner in which to interest me for his project was to say it is a woman-centric project.

“Really,” I say. “What is the subject?”

“Woman-centric,” he says emphatically.

“But which woman-centric subject are you exactly referring to,” I further prod.

“Please read this madam,” he says and hands me am A-4 size paper.

The woman is bold, and centre of this movie.” It says. “She is mother nature, the mother and all other roles wrapped into one. She is a strong woman and will be lead in this film.” And similar other platitudes.

So I hand the paper back and go back to what I was originally saying. “I am not really a film person and won’t be able to help you.”

” But madam, it is woman-oriented,” he plaintively exclaims.

“But you are not telling which women’s issue..” , I say.

“You may steal my story so I cannot tell you the story,” he says. That I understand, up to a point.

“Well.. it’s about rape, hunger, motherhood and poverty.. it’s a ground-breaking film.. with a strong woman character..” he adds.

“That really says nothing..” I say, trying to end this futile conversation..

He lets it go.. starts talking possible cast. I am suggesting women who I think can play strong characters.. Nandita Das?

“No Madam, she is old now. How will I sell my movie if she is in it?” His reply.

My expression tells him it’s the wrong reply.

“It will be a festival film, no? We won’t be able to afford her plus she already has Bawandar.”, he backtracks.

My eyes have glazed over. I now get what most of film maker friends say when they say that the real film industry has to still catch up with the rest of the world.

Remember when


I am a Bhopali.

I met someone a few months ago who had just recently joined Dow Chemicals as an employee at the BKC Office in Mumbai. My first reaction was a Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

She actually turned around and said, “You know until I joined this place, I had no idea about this incident. Even now, only when the protests happen, I  realise it’s a big thing.”

So, people, there are other people out there who have forgotten or don’t have a clue about it (how is that even possible merits another discussion)

Remember them. The Victims. The Injustice. Remember that help is still to find it’s way to this place.

Like I read somewhere on Twitter, 1984 was quite the year for events that shaped the course of things in the years to come.

While you are remembering, it’s worth reading this book too.

You gotta have faith


Books I have read recently have only convinced me how faith is what you derive out of any particular word, book or symbol. Anything can give you faith and it has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It can have  signs, it can be rituals, it can be meditation or it can be gazing into a big tomb of a book.

If you have faith, it doesn’t matter where it helps you from. Which also means the books really had nothing to do with it. It’s how I chose to interpret what I read. Since books forms such an important part of my life, it made complete sense that cementing of faith had to come from a combination of them.

I’ve read a varied series in the last few months and each one left me awed —  for all different reasons.

book cover_EGThe first was – Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book had taken the world by storm and in my experience, most such books can be full of hokum.

While this book talks about one journey one woman makes, it doesn’t necessarily have translate into a lifestyle solution, ‘now available on the shelf’, for the reader. Which is what I think the book aimed for.

The book starts off well (but I have a sneaking feeling I loved the beginning only because the gastronomic treat the first section is). It’s very easily divided. Italy, the first part of her journey, where she lives for a few months to learn to speak the language better. Pray, when she comes to India to discover herself  (I know!) and Love, when she lives in Indonesia with a healer for a focus that seemed blurred.

It’s only when you reach Pray section, the second phase, you realise her epiphany-laden journey  may or may not continue in the same vein, for you, the reader. This part is based in India and I had to fight against my innate objections of India being typecast as a place to come and ‘discover your true being’. Thankfully the book does not classify the whole of India but only that ashram, as the very place to achieve oneness.

At this point in the book I remember thinking it takes very little to go from a non-believer to a believer. She thinks she knows what she wants and yet her body tells her of other things she needs.  It’s a painful time for her. But it’s faith that keeps her going. Not faith in any one person or one philosophy. Just faith that she needs to get from one point to another.

It told me how a path of ‘getting better’ does not necessarily mean improvement or ease of method. It was like something made complete sense after that. It did not mean I need to go into an ashram but it meant believe in what you want, your actions will reflect what you believe in, therefore a self-fulling prophecy.

The third part in Indonesia was the blurriest to me. It spoke about love. It spoke about generic love and spoke about the need for love and for some reason, there was no resonance. It ends just like it starts, with no apparent focus. But that’s the best part. The open-endedness of the whole journey. Allowing any reader to go on it, and come away with what you are seeking.

book cover_BBThe second book to partially alter my thinking stream was Bill Bryson’s A short History of Nearly Everything. (As an aside, this is how textbooks should be written).

It’s a book  that, among other things, makes you aware of your scale. How big or small or important or insignificant you are.

How are there are *so* many things you still have no clue about and how there are stranger phenomenons that have to happen to convince you of your reason to be.

Last few days, even weeks,  I have been going through a faith upheaval as it were. Nothing I say or thought matched my actions. And I wondered what was teaching me a lesson.

I lamented the lack of an obvious focus and need to prove myself. Like I heard in a bad movie some days ago, I stopped betting on myself. Suddenly, after an argument yesterday, it became clear. I had vaguely formed my milestones but that argument cemented it. It was the change faith had shown me but I was refusing to accept it.

Now how I reach the other end of the milestone is another matter altogether. But that’s where a third, unrelated book comes in. The third book was the Book of Ram by Devdutt Patnaik. I was reading the book in continuum to understand Sita better but did get a different takeaway.

The books says: “According to AdhyatmaRamayana, Ravan is our ego, that part of us that is constantly seeking external validation. Having submitted to adharma, our ego has abducted Sita, our mind. That is why we constantly seek to dominate the world around us and that is why we do not accept it for what it is.

We have to rescue Sita. We have to unleash the power of Hanuman, our intellect, cross the sea of life, overpower Ravan, burn his golden Lanka and reunite Sita and Ram, who await discovery within us.”

This emphatic conclusion of the book is reminscent of that one powerful line from one song of Swades:

मन से  रावण  जो  निकाले, राम उसके मन में है.