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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Russian and the Princess

“I would like to stay in this country and be a part of it,” said the Russian absently throwing a stone at a passing taxi driver.
“I don’t think you are very welcome,” I said as we ran for our lives to his hired house near the beach.
“Of course I am very welcome,” he said, “I am Russian and we Russians have lots of money and we Russians pay our way.”
“Like everyone else, you are okay in small doses,” I said, throwing my weight along with his against the door that was being pushed open by a crowd of angry taxi-drivers.
“Nonsense, we are here for the long haul,” he said. “Go anywhere and you will see we are practically one with the people. They welcome us with open arms. We don’t even have to learn the local language. The locals have learned Russian.”
“That’s only because the locals want your business, but I admit, I am amazed at how they can speak Russian even in department stores in Panjim,” I said.
“In time we will turn Goa into another of our Federal Districts, who knows, next we will turn all of India into a Federal District of Russia. We have eight Federal Districts. Goa and then India will be our ninth. We have begun putting up signboards and notices all over parts of the beach belt that we would like for Russians only,” he said listening to the police sirens getting closer and closer.
“If you keep annoying the locals, by flinging stones on them, abusing them and attacking them, you will be deported,” I said.
“That will never happen, because we already have lots of martyrs here in Goa,” he said, “lots of Russians have already died in Goa.”
“Not lots, only a few,” I said.
“Well the police understand our plan and clearly they are duly respectful of it,” he said, opening the door to the sub-inspector who looked severely at him.
“What is all this nonsense,” asked the PSI. “Why did you throw a stone at these men?”
“I did not throw a stone at them. It slipped from my fingers and they began chasing me,” he told the PSI.
“Tell these Russians to get out of Goa, we don’t want them!” chorused the taxi-drivers.
“Apologize to them at once, or I’ll put you inside,” said the cop.
“Ok, I will apologize,” snapped the Russian.
“There you are then,” said the cop, “now shoo all of you. Go home.”
“See? The police understand,” said the Russian with a pleased smile. “But don’t worry, I have a plan.”
“You cannot have a plan. You can come here for your winter holidays, but you must go back to Russia,” I said.
“I shall do this legally,” he said. “I will contract a marriage of convenience.”
“That used to happen with drug peddling foreigners marrying fisher-folk daughters so that they could come and go as they pleased,” I said.
“The problem with having a Goan wife here is that my actual wife will object and Russian wives can object very strongly. My plan has my actual wife’s blessings,” he said.
“A marriage of convenience is still a marriage,” I said, “Your wife can sue you for bigamy.”
“She won’t mind this,” he said. “I propose to marry the River Princess. I see her everyday. She will soon be able to apply for citizenship and get a ration card and voter’s ID. She comes with her own patch of land on a sand bank off the beach. She is strong and not very old. And she doesn’t roam around all over the place. She sits still. She doesn’t even need any maintenance. She will make a good and convenient wife.”
“I never heard such nonsense in my life,” I said.
“Just wait and see. I am already writing out an application for her hand in marriage and giving it to Anil Salgaoncar with copies to the Chief Minister, the Governor and the Tourism Minister. They are so desperate to get her off their hands, but they want to keep her in the same spot. They will give her to me with their blessings. It’s a win-win situation. And I can begin the process for turning this place into the ninth Federal District of Russia.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stupidity of terrorism

Bear with me here. I was reading the stories of five of the victims of the German Bakery bomb blast in Pune. A boy invited his sister and three of her friends to celebrate his promotion over a celebratory snack fest at German Bakery. The five friends selected a table and sat down. The bag with the bomb was under their table. It killed all five. They were all below 23. They were bright and beautiful and had already begun to take on the world.

They will be bitterly grieved by their families and friends for years to come. The rest of us will forget them within a week. We will continue going to German Bakery to buy some of their famous goodies once the premises are repaired. Life will carry on. People will be jumpy for a while and then settle down to the rhythm of life. So what is the point of blowing up people who have nothing to do with Kashmir or Palestine or Afghanistan or Islam. How will the death of five youngsters and four others and 33 injured victims help the cause of the Al Qaeda or whichever morons perpetrated this obscenity?

The point of terrorism is to spread terror towards a specific end. The plan is to chase intruders out of your land. Here the terrorists are the intruders. Their home is far away. The purpose of terrorism is to spread terror; to keep the enemy in a perpetual state of fear; to destroy any quality of life their target may aspire to.

It cannot work in India.

It cannot work because our sheer numbers are impossible for any group of crazies to wipe out. Even if you blow up ten trains on 10 days in Mumbai, huge crowds will still rush onto the remaining trains, hanging by their fingertips if required to get to work. Terrorists don’t seem to realize that the fear of having no money is greater than the fear of bombs.

We need money for housing, food, clothing, education, health, entertainment. We can get that only by going to work everyday. It’s not a question of being “resilient”. We cannot miss a day of work and that’s why we step out of our homes eagerly every morning and don’t even feel grateful when our heads touch our pillows at night. We take it as a matter of course.

What about the rest of us elsewhere in the country? Can they convert the entire country to Islam? Goa is proof that forced conversion does not work. The Portuguese tried to convert tiny Goa to Christianity. It did not work. Remember, Goa was even tinier in area at that time.

So why do they waste so much time, money and effort on a futile exercise? These deaths and maimings are merely drops in the ocean of pain that India has suffered over the centuries at the hands of invaders unafraid of showing their faces. They say Al Qaeda is being funded by Saudi Arabia, aided by China, by Pakistan, by the CIA of the United States of America. It seems such a waste of time and effort.

There are families in Mumbai who “sell” their sons for anything from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to militant recruiters. Their sons are sent off to Pakistan where they are brainwashed and trained to kill the infidel, even if it includes friends and neighbours.

Even the David Headley exercise was to my mind a total waste of money. There was no need to send him, unless he brought money with him to spread around his colleagues in the country. Al Qaeda has sleeper cells in India. They have the Indian Mujhahideen to do the leg work. It does not take much knowledge or effort to place a packet of explosives at any soft target like a restaurant or train or festival. No one bothers when the metal detectors bleep at railway stations. So what is the point? We Indians are already so neurotic, we have so many fears, we jump at so many shadows, terrorists should know that even if we die, we will survive. Life goes on, regardless of death. I wish the handlers of these purveyors of death were among the two-and-a-half people who read this column. If you know anyone please send them this cutting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Class Distinctions

There’s a Mr Moneybags with dubious sources of income who is one of the most pious people I have ever met. His wrist is covered with sacred red threads which never seem to fade, or maybe he gets his threads renewed with every new visit to a temple. There is also a Mrs Pauper who wears ragged dirty dresses three sizes too large for her slight frame, who is most devout. She spends most of her time praying before roadside crosses and in churches. I know both of them rather well and the similarity of thought, word and deed is startling.

When Mr Moneybags speaks to me, he speaks of good things. He talks of all the good deeds he has done. He had helped get his neighbour’s daughter a job in the police force. He had given money to a boy who broke his leg in three places to tide him over until he could work again. He had just finished one pilgrimage and was planning to go on another as soon as he finished some pending work.

When his employees talk to me, they only speak bad things about Mr Moneybags. He is tight-fisted, mean minded, mean spirited and had a gang of goons on his payroll who could do anything from stoning your house to attacking you with swords and sticks. He ate like a pig and drank like a fish, got into a drunken rage and had a thing for very young women.

Mrs Pauper generally wept when she spoke to me. If she was not weeping, she was sighing. She too would speak of good things like how she was struggling to give her family a good life through honest means. That she did not have money but she had God on her side.

When her neighbours speak about her, they talk about how she has a filthy tongue in her head, how she abuses them regularly, poisons their domestic animals and birds, how she throws filth in front of their homes. They spoke of how she didn’t have money to feed her family, but she had enough to drink herself into a violent rage every day.

And it struck me that both the very rich and the very poor have so much in common. Both rich and poor get a huge amount of freebies. Both belong to privileged sections of society. Mr Moneybags is wooed by the powerful with an eye to his wealth. Mrs Pauper is wooed by the powerful with an eye to her vote. A simple enough concept since using wealth to buy votes leads to more power to the powerful.

Mr Moneybags is not in politics; he owns politicians; he dictates policy. Mrs Pauper just has to ask her MLA to allow her to build an extra couple of rooms on a precarious slope. He makes the necessary calls and even builds a retaining wall so that her house and those of her neighbours don’t slide down the hill.

The very rich and very poor can break the laws with impunity. They don’t even bother to laugh at CRZ rules; they just build their homes, sprawling or simple and get on with life as they know it secure in the knowledge that no one can touch them.

They are dangerous enemies since both resort to extra-judicial activities to sort out issues they may have with others. They think nothing of publicly harassing, abusing or killing an enemy.

Their moral standards (or lack thereof) are similar. Crimes of passion, murders of paramours and spouses are common with both classes. And yet they are so devout.

Laws, morals, ethics and moderation fall to the lot of the middle class. They cannot afford to break the law because they have too much built up through hard work, to lose. As piety is the armour of the rich and poor, respectability is the armour of the middle-class.

The middle class moves in a never ending bourgeois dance between the two other classes. Moving forward always trying to catch up with the very rich. Always looking over their shoulder at the poor, terrified that they will slip backwards into poverty if they don’t work hard enough. Seems like such a waste of time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why I didn’t get a Padmashri

Time heals all. I have only just begun to get over my shock and disillusion at not finding my name in the list of Padmashri awardees. Like Santa Claus I read the list and checked it twice. If you have been wondering why you too were left out of the list, I have given the matter some thought and here are my findings.

It is really unfair, I mean come on, the Padmashris are like the runt of the litter, right at the bottom of the Awardian Barrel. They are practically giving them away. 81 of them. Surely they could have included my name. Or yours. They have people like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan cosmetics model, actress and Bachchan bahu; and Saif Ali Khan chargesheeted for slaughtering two blackbucks along with Salman Khan. The charges were dropped.

Next from the Awardian barrel comes the Padma Bushan. 43 were awarded this year. These are reserved for the big guns like Sant Singh Chatwal who has reportedly defrauded many millions of dollars from Indian and American banks, declared bankruptcy even while living a luxurious life and jet-setting with the rich and famous. They say he was even arrested by the CBI and escaped.

After that we have the Padma Vibhushan which was won by 6 people. Last, the grand-daddy of them all – the Bharat Ratna which was not awarded this year.

So how come I didn’t get the Padma Shri?

I didn’t get it because first of all I don’t know the President Mrs. Pratibha Patil. But they tell me, even if I knew her, I would not get the Padma Shri because it is the government which tells her who she should give it to. I don’t know anyone important at the Centre. I know Francisco Sardinha slightly, but he is too busy fighting for dhirio and battling one fighting bull Churchill Alemao. I know Sripad Naik slightly too, but he is too gentle and anyway no one would listen to him, even though he could speak to the President in Marathi.

I did not get the Padma Shri because quite foolishly, I am not married into the Bachchan family, neither am I a beauty queen or an actress.

It may have helped if I had the sense to be an ex-militant. The ‘ex’ is important, because if I were in counter insurgency and got my old militant buddies eliminated I may have found my name in the Padma Shri list like Ghulam Mohammed Mir of Jammu and Kashmir.

Like a fool I love animals and have nothing but admiration for the endangered black buck, but obviously I keep company with the wrong kind of friends. If I had picnicked with Salman Khan and shot and killed black bucks, right now I may have been having parties thrown in my honour for being a Padma Shri.

The worst thing I did not do was I did not lobby. Lobbying is of the essence I am told. You have to go forward and put yourself out there. You have to first tell your state government that you deserve the Padma Shri and that you want it, you need it and you have-ta, have-ta have it. If they ignore you, you have to go to the media and promote yourself and lobby again with the government. Then you have to lobby with the central government.

Ah well January 26 has come and gone. I have taken stock and have decided I shall initiate a new tradition. If you can ask for an award and then protest about not getting it despite asking for it, then why not give yourself an award. It would totally cut out the middle man.

To this end I am awarding myself an award of my own. I think I shall call it the Chakram Award. It is totally exclusive. I will be the only recipient. More exclusive than the Bharat Ratna too since there were no winners this year. No point in inviting the media because anyway they won’t come since I have no colour in my life. I will present them with a fait accompli also known as the press note. Like I said. Instead of going through all the hassle of lobbying for an award, ’twould be far simpler to give one to oneself. Chakram, here I come.