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Monthly Archives: August 2011

I like the way people in Madras deal with the loss of a loved one. As against the common norm of burying oneself in sorrow and gloom, they believe in giving the departed soul a grand send off.
The first time I landed here in ’99, I was pretty aghast on seeing the scenes – of drum rolls, dancing, dappaankoothu and the merry amidst a couple of grieving inconsolable members of the family. On one such occasion, I went up and asked one of them this obvious query that was lingering in my mind for time immemorial, “Why celebrate death??“. And that’s when someone said that this was their way of showing gratitude for the departed soul – by celebrating their life and appreciating their time spent amidst family & friends.
And this sounded more like the memorial services of the west where they make sure, you celebrate the life, that was. Awesome, isn’t it?
PS: Last post from Madras & India. Next stop: Lisbon, Portugal.

Times of India reports:

Vidya Balan has never exposed as much – but in the first look of “The Dirty Picture“, inspired by late southern sex icon Silk Smitha’s life, she has painted a perfect picture in an itsy-bitsy red blouse matched with luscious red lipstick. 

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Silk Smitha was quite a rage (a softcore goddess) as far as the south indian cinema industry was concerned, back in the 80’s. Largely unnoticed among family audiences thanks to her ultra sensual appeal. And “Silk” as she was known to her fans, was some sort of a refreshing change from the rusty old Jayabharathi’ and Unnimary’ in this department. She died young – a tragic death, the reasons of which are still not clear.
Now when the ultimate symbol of desire descends down to play the ultimate object of desire, this is what I call a cinema lover’ delight.
On boarding an auto-rickshaw in Madras, the most common scent that you are witness to is the auto driver cribbing about how less he is being paid for this particular trip. Reasons are usually attributed to the rising “petrol” prices. The other day, I got the same quirk from a nice looking gentlemen and I asked if his auto ran on petrol or on diesel. And he never spoke for the remainder of the journey.
Something really vague happened today when we boarded the auto on Mount Road to head to Broadway for getting back home. This man, looked old, must have been in his 60’s. He did not complain or brag on how less we were paying him and instead shot off into conversation mode, which is very unlikely unless you are in Kozhikkode or Palakkad in Kerala. To my knowledge they have the most talkative auto drivers who can speak anything from small talk to politics and the nuances of it.
So this man…, he started off in the usual political fashion lauding our amma for her decision to convert the secretariat-to-be into a multi-speciality hospital. To which I nodded in agreement. And then he went on to the metro rail project, whose construction has been going about in the recent past. He was critical of the fact that the authorities had taken away a part of the road, but he couldn’t see any work being done on them. This was more like my zone for small talk and I told him that the construction had already commenced and it is an underground section along the Mount Road.
The lights went red and upon hearing my response, he instantly turned back, looked at me and said, ” Are you crazy?? How can they run trains underground?? How will you reach the station? How will you board the train??” I thought it better to stick to my claim and told him that would be the case, atleast this time around. And I showed him one of those entry and exit ways proposed and he was startled. The poor man could not digest the fact that when so much of space was available above ground level, there we were, going below it. By now, the idea had sunk into his head and he went on to say that this was the first time he had heard of something similar and opined, “No one had ever thought that trains could be run underground also”, in obvious reference to this master stroke of amma. “First the hospital, now the metro rail, WOW..
Though the bubble of admiration was broken when I quite casually remarked that all these decisions are/were not made by her. There are always a panel of experts who work on these aspects to bring about a solution and that she, as the chief minister merely brings it out in the public. On hearing this, he retorted, “Apdi naa avanga amma illa saar, summa!!” (Then she is not amma sir, just another human being.), with a look of disgust and disbelief . He did not speak for the rest of the journey, lost in thoughts. In a matter of 10 minutes, his faith had gone for a toss. The auto meandered into Broadway and I bid goodbye to our man, who acknowledged the conversation with a smile, quite an unusual way to deboard an auto-rickshaw.

As has been the order of this day, half a dozen debates have raged on my own profile on Facebook branding me to be quite shallow in my thoughts, anti-national, traitor,anything and everything. Contrary to popular belief, I am neither Anti-Jan Lokpal neither am I being pro- government. But I certainly have reservations to the manner in which the so called civil society led by Anna Hazare has been working towards the anti-corruption drive.

India against Corruption, however contentious enough it may sound with regards to its funding sources is a great beginning on this regard. Though being a realist, I am of the opinion that trying to get a democratic setup under siege by hunger strikes and massive show of strengths is certainly not the way to make sure you have your say in it. The elected government setup however bad its performance has been, is elected through a democratic process of voting by the citizens of India. Precisely the reason why I feel, they are obligated enough to douse the fire and bring in a solution. We are not in favour of parallel- governments motivated by individuals, who dictate terms to the administrative and political setup how things are run in this country. Add to this, the rather aggressive tone in which the anti-corruption drive is taking place, one fears that the nation is on the brink of anarchy.

There are indeed strong repercussions that one is to witness, if  the government makes yet another mistake as what transpired in the earlier cases of CWG,2G and Air India. As such, their days stand numbered.

Cynical voices have been on the rise ever since Anna Hazare came about with his I-am-going-to-go-on-a-hunger-strike-drama, which somehow seems to have dwindling number of takers as the days pass by. What started as a fast-unto-death later got modified into an indefinite fast (I still do not understand the difference between the two) as was clarified by Kiran Bedi and he has kept almost all of his followers on the brink of suspense as to when he shall really be coming out of Tihar.
When all the conditions imposed by Team Anna were more or less agreed upon by the Delhi Police, one wonders why is there a delay on his part to go ahead with his plans, come out of Tihar and proceed to Ramlila grounds.My sentiments were echoed by a septuagenarian, Hema Raghvan on the Hindu and I sense she has a point here:
Read along: 
[Source: The Hindu]

Dear Shri Anna Hazareji,I am a septuagenarian like you. Like you, I fight for principles and fight, following the Gandhian way of satyagraha. But you may not include me as a member of ‘civil society’ as we differ in the means to be adopted to secure the ideal ends.Gandhiji never resorted to coercion to have his way. He never used fasting to blunt his opponent to accept his views and ideals. He never abused the British whose rule he fought against (except for one odd remark about a ‘gutter inspector’). But you call the Prime Minister a ‘liar’ because he has accepted the Cabinet decision not to include the Prime Minister within the purview of the Lokpal.Dr. Singh is a team leader and does not impose his views on his Cabinet. This is functioning in the true spirit of democracy where the collective wisdom of the majority is respected as against one’s own personal views. Did Gandhiji ever tell the British: “Come on, jail me,” when he went on fast. No, because he did not want to deny the British government its right to action. Aren’t you whipping up mob hysteria and anger just because the government has not accepted six out of your 40 clauses? Do you mean to say that there can be only your thinking and there shall be no alternative? Your silence about the mining scam in Karnataka is baffling. But you choose to vent your righteous ire on the Prime Minister and his government!You say you are not against democracy but against the government. The government, elected by the people can be thrown out at the next hustings. This is democracy. If you are in favour of democracy, why are you against a democratically-elected government that is given a mandate of just five years to govern?You did a yeoman service, pushing the government to table the Lokpal Bill in this monsoon session. But you cannot say that ‘it should be my team’s version and nothing else.’ You want to bring all three main pillars of democracy — the legislative, the executive and the judiciary — under the jurisdiction of the Lokpal to function as an effective single pillar for deciding on crime and punishment. The dance of democracy unleashed by you and your team has every danger of destroying our democracy.(The writer’s email is: hema.vr@hotmail.com)