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Monthly Archives: November 2007

Butter Thief?!

Why would anybody want to eat handfuls of butter?

There is a painting in my parents’ home that I have coveted ever since I was a kid. When I was little, I’d beg my mom to let me hang it up in my room. She refused and I can’t say I blame her: it really is far too pretty to be wasted on my bedroom, which I guard like Fort Knox when I’m in residence. And once I left home and abandoned it to the fate of guest room-ship there really was no point shifting it onto one of my walls. If guests want to see something pretty, let them look out the window. Besides, Ma bought that painting in the first place because she felt as strongly about it as I do. And as she lives there year around and I don’t – checkmate.

“It’s a Baby Krishna painting,” I tried to explain my obsession with it to a friend. “You know, the classic pose? The cute baby one? Makhan chor? Where he’s all adorably chubby and crawling up to a pot of fresh butter and dipping his fist into it?”

Wait, hold on – what? My friend was saying something in reply but there was a sudden buzz in my ears, drowning her out. Dipping his fist into a pot of fresh butter? Who eats handfuls of butter, fresh or not? I’ve had freshly churned butter and yes, it’s very nice but would I want to eat pots of it? No. Do I like it enough to steal pots of it? Um, no. Did I like it enough to court the nickname, Makhan Chor? I don’t think so!

Butter Thief? Butter Thief?! Who the hell likes butter enough to get the moniker Butter Thief?

All these years I never thought about it. It was just a cutesy name for Krishna, and call me a silly girl but I do like Him a lot. Hindus tend to have very personal feelings about their favorite deities and we often talk of them like they were our favorite cousins or something, so the whole “Butter Thief” thing was on par with, say, my brother who really liked this one fried banana dish so much that he’d constantly be asking everyone to make it for him until my cousin nicknamed him after his favorite food. You’d think going to boarding school where your cool older cousin’s friends called you Fried Banana Dish would be traumatising enough to throw him off that food item for the rest of his life but no – he still loves it. Now that’s some serious love. And yet, I’ve never heard that my brother went raiding somebody’s house for some bananas.

But apparently Krishna loved butter so much, he actually stole it from other people’s homes when he couldn’t get a fix at home. What exactly am I missing here?

It has to be either an ancient cultural thing or an allegory of some sort, surely. I’d ask Ma but I’m afraid she’ll sign me up for classes of some kind and my poor body is still recovering from the last set of lessons she bought me as a “gift”.

Now I understand He grew up in some sort of rural community dedicated to cowherding so it makes sense that everyone around him was making butter because it’s not like ancient India was known for its cheese or refrigeration, is it? This was also pre-pasteurization so there’s that to be considered. And there’s only so much milk you can drink without bringing it all back up. Besides which, not everybody actually enjoys drinking milk, which I personally find strange (it’s yummy, it’s healthy, it goes great with chocolate whether hot or cold – what’s not to like?) but it’s not for me to judge.

But what exactly were they doing with all that butter? I don’t think anybody ever explained that to me. All this time I’ve sort of imagined that they did what we’d do these days with it (sell it to the co-op!) but now that I think about it, the White Revolution (relax, this is the food kind) only took place a couple of decades ago.

So did they sell it or did they all have a butter addiction? Because if you’ve seen those paintings of Krishna sneaking in to steal some butter, there’re pots and pots of the stuff. Their food must have been drowning in it!

Butter! Butter! Butter! Butter flavored milk! Butter flavored veggies! Butter flavored toothpaste! Butter! Butter! Butter! It makes everything… better.

The heart disease in that district must have been through the roof. Maybe that’s why Yasoda was always mad when Krishna stole the butter. How happy would you be if your kid developed a butter addiction? You come home from work and there’s little Munnu Punnu sitting on the couch, watching TV and munching on a stick of butter. Ew! Butter breath baby!

But maybe it was about economics as well. Even if they didn’t have currency back then (did they?), they must have had some sort of barter system and it can’t have been going well if the day’s butter was getting gobbled up by some kid with an outsize appetite.

Which is another thing I don’t get. All through the stories, Krishna seems pretty aware of the fact that he’s actually a divinity and not some mortal kid. So he must remember what he used to eat in his regular guise, right? Ambrosia, which has always gotten pretty good press. Add two plus two: does ambrosia taste like butter? Oh my God, is that why I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter will keep you alive longer? Are we buying the food of the Gods in a little plastic tub for less than five bucks?

Being a God isn’t what it used to be, huh?

I thought maybe this is some sort of representation of the eat butter-get fat-look rich formula. You know, “child of an eating-drinking home”, which sounds sort of terrifying in translation (you have a home that likes to snack? On what? Flesh and blood?) until you realize it’s just Indian code for “fat” or rather “not poor”. The only problem here is that once Krishna grows up, he apparently went into butter rehab and never steals any again. Of course, he was king so maybe he could now afford all the butter he wanted. I say tomato, you say tomahto; I say chocolate eclairs, you say butter.

But the other intriguing theory I read was that “Butter Thief” was a reference to Krishna’s more famous role as “Love Thief”. I need to read more about this angle because the memory of my childhood is now staring at me like I was a mad person.

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26 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2007 in Life

 

Monica Pradhan’s The Hindi Bindi Club

I’ve been reading long enough to be extremely wary of books whose back covers proclaim this one is just like that other massive bestseller that everyone has read and/or been raving about. You know the kind – “The Man in the Nun’s Costume”, which is just like The Da Vinci Code or “Wizard Boy Takes Manhattan”, which is just like Harry Potter. And then you pick it up and find out that it’s apparently publicists’ code for “this close to plagiarism” or “bookstores will stock in the same section as”. Either way, it generally does not end well for the reader.

So I was a little wary of Monica Pradhan’s alleged desi answer to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, which is a book that every emotional teenager should read. Seriously. I’ve re-read it since I reached adulthood and it’s good but it wasn’t the lifechanging book it was throughout my teens. I even loved the movie is how much I loved the book!

But every once in a while, you’re handed an exception to the rule. The Hindi Bindi Club is that book.

If, like me, you’re one of those people who’ve close family members who migrated to the United States in the 1960s, then perhaps you’ve heard many of the same stories that I have about racism, loneliness, culture shock, food, religion, independence, pay, opportunity, bringing up children in an alien environment, the American Dream, the Indian longing… They were the ones that Went Before and the tales they sent back of America continues to color our perception of that country in India today. But as far as I know – and do suggest a few names and titles if you know different – Jhumpa Lahiri’s work was the first time I really heard the voice of that generation.

But since then, we’ve seen other Indian American voices emerge and Monica Pradhan’s effort is a welcome addition to that number. The Hindi Bindi Club is about six Indian American women who lead successful, productive, seemingly perfect lives in one way or the other, in one culture or the other, but things are – to fall back on cliche – rarely as they seem.

Meenal Deshpande, Saroj Chawla and Uma McGuinness have been best friends for decades; their daughters Kiran, Preity and Rani are less so. Each family wears its many successes on its sleeve and buries its secrets deep. At some level they’re all tropes of one kind or the other – Meenal is the perfect lady of the house but she’s just received a wake up call, daughter Kiran is a physician making her own way in the world but struggling with her needs and identity; Saroj is a Partition-survivor who needs to make peace with her past and deal with her prejudices, while daughter Preity struggles to keep up appearances in spite of being, as Kiran disparagingly remarks, a prototype “Indian Barbie”; Uma has the perfect husband and the perfect rocket scientist-turned-artist daughter (!) but she and Rani both have to make their peace with the circle of life and the horrid secrets of Uma’s past.

At times the answers come too pat, situations resolve too easily, things fall into place and there’s always a knight in shining armor somewhere around the corner with a sitar in one hand and a dead Korean-American wife to smooth things over. But you forgive this book its lapses because you recognize and care about these women.

At its heart, this is a story about the immigrant experience and how it changes people and families. Sujatha over at Blogpourri was writing about this issue just the other day and it’s interesting to read the many voices that have responded both to her and the article in question (Shobha Narayanan’s Return to India) and to contrast it to this book. The newbies and oldies, it’s the process of actually putting down roots in another land – something that becomes inevitable once you have kids – that remains at the center of the immigrant debate.

But if you don’t know a single person who’s ever so much as moved out of his or her neighborhood, The Hindi Bindi Club is a great read as a mother-daughter, female bonding novel. That sounds like male readers are not welcome but I’d say it’s the opposite. If you want to know why your significant other has such a complex relationship with her mother, then this is a good place to start. Things in this book have a tendency to end happily in the teeth of much opposition but that’s hardly a drawback for most people, especially if it’s just the opposite in your real life.

And if none of the above appeals to you, buy the darn thing for its recipes. They sound yummy and somebody ought to cook me something for this review. 😛

Excerpt:

I’ve never been an angel like her Perfect Preity. Just ask my parents, who live to compare me with such exemplary role models. “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?” So-and-so was most often Preity Chawla. The only reason I wouldn’t call her a Mama’s Girl is the fact she ’s a Daddy’s Girl, too.

 

Rani, on the other hand, was just as close to her parents without the nauseating perfection. She was my saving grace, a foil to Miss Goody Two-Shoes, especially during her goth stage. WiBBy, I called her. Weirdo in Black. I could always counter Preity’s shining example with Rani’s, though this seldom appeased my mother, who attributed all of Rani’s transgressions, as she saw them, to having an American father.

 

“This is what happens when we compromise our values,” she would say, though never directly to Uma Auntie, the one who committed the alleged compromising in marrying Patrick Uncle. Theirs was a “love match.” Gasp!

 

[snip]

 

I remember when Rani first brought her then-boyfriend home from college for the holidays, something none of us ever dared: introducing a boyfriend/girlfriend to the Indian friends circle. The aunties and uncles still hadn’t recovered from her turning down Stanford for Berkeley (blamed on the American-heathen influence of Patrick Uncle, naturally) when she announced to a kitchen full of bug-eyed aunties, “He’s a computer geek, but he ’s my geek, and I’m crazy about him.” Judging from their reactions, you would have thought she said, “That’s right! He ’s great in the sack!”

 

Never have I seen a group of women more in need of an economy-sized bottle of Valium. (Note: I wasn’t around to see my mom tell the aunties about Anthony and me.)

 
13 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2007 in Books, Entertainment, Review

 

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Malay Tamils Want Brits to Pay

This is one of the best stories I’ve heard in a while.

To go back in time a bit, if you were paying attention to world events in the 1990s, then you might remember Anwar Ibrahim, a Malaysian politician and former deputy prime minister who was jailed on charges of corruption and sodomy. Ibrahim, a Muslim who is married with children, called it a bullshit political move instigated by his boss and one time mentor, Mahatthir bin Mohammed. Nevertheless, he got sent to jail and that was that.

This was my first view of Malaysia other than the tales of economic progress (nurtured, incidentally, by Ibrahim who also served as Financial Minister and thus came into conflict with Mohammad who kickstarted the process) brought home by my father. Then, a few years later, I was making my way through VS Naipaul’s books and thus came upon Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey and subsequently, Beyond Belief:Islamic Excursions Amongst Converted Peoples.

I know, right? Naipaul! How could you ever trust anything he’s written, especially about Islam? But here’s the thing about Naipaul – he has an absolute genius for zeroing in on things that bother him and following that thread to its very end without care or concern for such things as feelings or political correctness. It is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness as a writer. It is hardly unusual for nonfiction novels or travelogues to focus on the experience of the author rather than the experiences of the subject (duh!) but Naipaul and his prose are pretty darn special in that the latter is somehow able to illuminate the darkest recesses of the former’s mind with no attempt at sensationalism, letting the content do the heavy lifting instead. So even if you disagree with everything he has to say or believes in, it is impossible to argue that he uses his prose simply as a tool of his bigotry – it is too carefully structured and well thought out for that.

Coming back to Malaysia, these two books were my second insight into Malaysia (amongst other countries but that’s another story). Even if you separate Naipaul’s interpretation of events he describes in his books, there are signs that something is bubbling beneath the surface. For a long time after that – nothing. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to think about Malaysia apart from the odd news report, notes from my cousin who moved there and perhaps an account like this one.

But now comes this: Malaysia’s ethnic Indians, particularly those of Tamil origin who’re descendants of indentured laborers sent roughly 150 years ago by the British to what was then a colony of the Empire, are protesting racial discrimination. Malaysia, a Malay majority state with significant population of Chinese- and Indian-origin settlers, has faced these sort of allegations before. And rapid Islamization hasn’t helped any:

Analysts said that although they had long been a silent minority, many ethnic Indians have become radicalised by the increasing “Islamisation” of Malaysia, which minorities see as undermining their rights. The destruction of hundreds of Hindu temples in recent years, sometimes with bulldozers moving in even as devotees were praying, has also caused intense anger.

“The Indians have become alienated and that has basically transformed the nature of resistance,” said political analyst P Ramasamy, noting that ethnic Indian professionals were well represented at the protest.
“The character of struggle has changed. It has taken on a Hindu form — Hinduism versus Islam. And this is something that should not have taken place in a multi-racial society.”

While no two sources seem to agree on an exact figure, the number of protesters has been pegged somewhere between 5000 (BBC) and 20,000 (Time). But the best bit about this story is that the Malay Indians know who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs: Britain. The organizers of this particular rally, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), have already filed suit in London against Britain for its role in their troubles:

“For over a decade we have been appealing to the government for help to alleviate our poverty but all our appeals had fell on deaf ears,” says Uthayakumar Ponnusamy, Hindraf’s legal adviser. “The British brought us here, exploited us for 150 years and left us to the mercy of a Malay Muslim government. They should compensate us now.”

The amount asked in damages? Only $4 trillion. That’s trillion with a t. But wait, the best is yet to come – Hindraf says it can’t afford to fight the case so it’d like the Queen to pick up the tab, please. In fact, they were on their way to present the Queen with their demand – “THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND — THE SYMBOL OF JUSTICE, WE STILL HAVE HOPE ON YOU” proclaimed placards – at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur when things turned nasty.

You just gotta love it!

While it’s highly unlikely the “symbol of justice” whose predecessors authorized the oh-so-just relocation of those Indians’ ancestors to Malaysia will lift a finger in their defense, this case does bring up a couple of interesting points.

1. If the British allow this case to be filed, what does this mean for the rest of the former Empire? Can you imagine the floodgates this will open?

2. Friends turned bitter foes, the DMK and the BJP might suddenly be in the same boat. The DMK is, of course, exercised over the Tamil aspect of the issue while I fully expect some profound statement from the BJP about the Hindu part of it. Not that anyone in Malaysia has asked anything of either of these two groups yet.

3. The example Malaysia sets: here is a country that has seen rapid economic progress, has a multicultural identity of which it is very proud, a stable nation that is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary of Independence. But thanks to an affirmative policy that services the majority and it’s policies that favor one religion above others, here’s Hindraf (which is apparently “inspired” by Hindu right wing parties in India) jockeying for their rights. Makes you think doesn’t it? Although if you’re on the right, I’m sure it makes you think thoughts completely different from mine. :mrgreen:

 
12 Comments

Posted by on November 27, 2007 in Politics

 

Stats = People

There’s nothing like a road trip to clog the sinus and clear the head. I don’t know about you but I am quite capable of seeing a certain thing everyday without quite grasping the idea behind it until one fine day it slams into me with all the grace of an obese elephant taking a tumble off a twenty foot wall. Take blog stats for example.

You can’t get away from those things if you’re a blogger and especially so if you’re WP, as I am. They show up every time you log into your account, after all. But it wasn’t until I was on the road this weekend that its true significance came home to me. Roads are hypnotic that way – hopefully you’re not the one doing the driving while it happens, but there’s something about hurtling down a stretch of smoothened tar and gravel in a dinky metal box that makes you analyze the nitty gritties of life.

A hundred miles or so from my comfy home, the thought suddenly came to me that those numbers that pop up in my box every day correspond to real, live people.

Call me simple if you like, but …. WHAT?!

Now I’m obviously not insane or brick stupid so I’ve always recognized this little factoid but I don’t think I ever quite understood it. In my head, IndieQuill is actually read by about ten or so people who regularly comment with a couple of extra people who come by once in a while and the occasional visitor who drops in thanks to the kindness/ many mysteries of Google Search. The rest of the numbers that show up on my dashboard are – dare I say it? – just numbers.

I should really have left it at that but somehow I found myself thinking that I now understand why so many people down the ages have committed mass murder. Yeah, I know – that was quite a leap I made there but it’s true. Consider:If you’re killing one person or two or a number that you can count on your hand, basically, you have to exert yourself personally. Even if you’re a serial killer, you have to go out there and presumably kill in ones and twos or perhaps threes, whatever. Point is, you have direct contact with your victims. Now, if you were me, you’d ask – what about snipers? That’s not a close contact kill. And you’d be right, except snipers have to concentrate on their prey and pick them off individually. If that’s not personal involvement, I don’t know what is.

But now imagine you’re the despot of some country and you’re sending people to the gas chamber for the fun of it or because the sun wasn’t sufficiently warm enough when you woke up this morning or because your mommy discovered the body of the “girlfriend” leaking blood and brain matter all over the bedroom carpet and ticked you off – make up your own reason because I can get pretty grisly here. Okay, so you’re sending millions to their death.

You don’t know them. Nobody knows a million people. Well, Tila Tequila maybe but just look where that gets you. According to The Tipping Point, the maximum number of intimate friends a human being is likely to have is below 150. 150, for some reason, is our magic number. I’d think that goes double for people you send to their deaths, wouldn’t you?

So it’s not like Stalin personally knew the millions he sent to their death in the gulags although he might have known a few key people. People became numbers. One hundred, ten thousand, fifty three thousand, one hundred and ninety seven thousand, three point seven six million. Faceless hordes.

So much for murderers. How about bloggers?

I’d say it’s a bit more complex. I don’t think of you guys as less than human or want to crush you under my boot heel or anything of that sort. It’s like I had tunnel vision and while a few of you came out clear and distinct, the lurkers just faded into the background and I never saw you.

Until now. And now that I have, I feel a bit strange.

I don’t really think of audience when I write the blog but now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know what to say. This is the blogging equivalent of a group of nosy aunties plonking themselves in front of you and saying, “Well, go on, what do you have to say?”

*crickets chirp*

This is, of course, ridiculous. I think I’ve straddled the line between private and public quite well these past few months and there’s nothing on this blog that I wish I hadn’t put up or am ashamed of. And if you met me in real life, my opinions would be just the same and I’d be just as opinionated and I wouldn’t necessarily expect you to fall in line with them.

So what’s the problem? Perhaps it’s just expanding my consciousness to fit in those extra people. Growing pains in a way. I’m already getting over it, I think.

But first, I just wanted to say I don’t know who you are or why you never say anything, but hello there.  🙂

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 26, 2007 in Personal

 

Incredibly Dumb Celeb News

This Friday I bring you stuff that you just can’t make up:

Bollywood’s very own Karan Johar is making an animated version of his hit hit debut feature Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Full length animation will apparently have “animals in lead roles”. Name of the movie? Kootchie Kootchie Hota Hai. From “loving your parents” to loving your animals, it’s all in the game. Barf.

Now I don’t usually discuss celebrity children on this blog (crosses a line, I think) but talking of barf, do you know The Naked Chef? Jamie Oliver? So, he somehow landed an interview with Angelina Jolie and by way of small talk asked her how her biological daughter was doing. Innocuous, wouldn’t you say? It would have been if he hadn’t called the kid “Piloh Shitt”.

Not. Making. This. Up.

Who’s that lovely lady next to Lindsay Lohan? Why, that’s her sister Alli. Her thirteen year old sister Alli. To think I used to get creeped out by websites counting down to when so-and-so girl is going to turn “legal”. Above is a comparison run by UsWeekly of the two sisters at the same age: 13.

13!!!!!

Could it be a month without some Anand Jon news? I don’t think so. After being set a $2.1 million bail by a Los Angeles court on charges of rape, sodomy and other sexual assaults on girls/women aged 14 and up, Jon is now wanted in New York to face an additional 40 charges. Once he’s done there, Texas and Florida might have certain things to discuss with him. So it’s 94 charges thus far and counting.

And last but not least, Heidi Klum. In all fairness, if I looked like her, I’d probably be tempted to say nyah-nyah-nyah in similar fashion. :mrgreen:

 
7 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2007 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Video

 

Phone Lapse

I don’t know what happened.

There used to be a time when I could talk to my friends all day, every day at school, then come home, pick up the phone and talk the whole evening away to those same friends. No subject was taboo or too little to be discussed. We’d conference call so nobody felt left out. And when we ran out of things to say, we’d park ourselves in front of the TV and channel surf for something interesting to talk about.

You know this blog? Well, multiply it by a hundred or so with a lot more personal information thrown in. That’s what it was like. All day. Every day. On the phone.

The phone was an essential ingredient of the entire exercise. It allowed us to multitask while we gabbed and it did so without hurting anybody’s feelings. I mean, if you and I were having a conversation and, say, I suddenly brought out a bottle of nail polish, you’d either think I was incredibly rude or wonder if it was part of some convoluted seduction routine engineered just so to show off my lovely feet. Whereas it could well be that my nails just needed some polish.

Actually, come to think of it, I think I did once paint my feet at a party but there were extenuating circumstances and yes, my nails really did need a coat of paint. Immediately. Anyway, nobody noticed. :mrgreen:

But as I was saying, now imagine that same scenario but with a phone. Do you know I’m painting my nails? No. So does it bother you? I don’t think so. Similarly, you can fix yourself a sandwich, do your homework, watch TV, listen to music, flip through a magazine, maybe even sit through a parental lecture with a phone attached to your ear and nobody has to know.

Please note, the last depends upon the type of parent involved. In my household it remains a fond dream but theoretically, it could work. Try at your own risk.

Anyway, so then something happened. I don’t know what caused it but all of a sudden I couldn’t stand being on the phone for longer than a couple of minutes at a time.

I guess this is not such a big problem for people who live isolated lives but the thing here is, I don’t. I have the sort of parents who call me everyday no matter where I am or what I’m doing to just check in and shoot the breeze (you think I’m exaggerating but that’s because you don’t know them so I forgive you); I have friends who can talk for hours about absolutely nothing at all and when they’re unable to use their voice, they’ll send long, detailed text messages about nothing in particular (dude, it’s an art! I asked my fingers to try some of that action and they told me to fuck off); I even attract chatty telemarketers.

[Okay, so the last is a problem that I have created for myself but listen, I know people who used to do that stuff part time and I just can’t bring myself to be rude to them when I know the lives they lead for all the glory of a minimum wage. I’ll hang up on them but never rudely. And I won’t hide from you that that approach has been known to backfire.]

So… phones. Can’t stand them. Two minutes into the conversation, I really want to hang up. Really, really want to hang up. This never happens face to face or through any other medium. I have not lost the ability to sit down and talk for hours or IM. But the phone? Is no longer my friend.

And when you add the fact that I’m a born procrastinator (could be a fancy way of saying I’m incredibly lazy), you can just imagine the communication breakdown. Especially since we live in an age when everybody seems to be attached at the hip to their phone. Seriously, this phone dependency has long passed mere addiction stage.

But consider this – I had this horrible moment a few years ago when I kept postponing a phone call that I meant to make and that person died while I was trying to psyche myself into placing that call. I felt like scum. She wasn’t sitting by the phone, waiting for my call or anything, but she was a wonderful lady who’d been pretty sweet to me as a child and I liked her very much. She was in my city and the least I could have done was call her up a time or two. It would have been the polite, kind… nice thing to do.

But I didn’t. And she died. It was not a cause-and-effect situation. Still, I didn’t make the effort when it might have counted. So did I learn my lesson?

What do you think? I learnt it for about a second and then I went back to my wicked ways.

However, this week I received two phone calls and I enjoyed them very much. They both lasted an hour each and were about this, that and the other. Nothing very important. Just old friends, calling to see if I was still alive or if I’d crawled under a rock somewhere and died of peaceful neglect. It inspired me to call another friend and see how he was doing. And then another friend.

So am I over my phone phobia? Not really. But it was nice to get in touch with people and just hang. And do my nails.

Happy Thanksgiving. Go call a friend.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on November 22, 2007 in Life, Personal

 

Calcutta Riots – Part One

Telegraph, UK

Inquilab zindabad!” (Long live the revolution!) is a cry that you can hear in season and out season across India, especially the bits with a strong Communist presence. There are usually long, slightly bedraggled lines of men and women somewhat dis-spiritedly marching along, calling for violent change with all the enthusiasm of a traveling salesman confronted with a client who allows his bulldog to do all the talking.

In the nation’s capital, for example, one set of dedicated protesters – following different causes – have all been making the trip to stand outside Parliament for decades without pause. They usually begin their march from NDA convener (is he still that?) George Fernandes’ house. For all I know, they shifted their starting point to his Lutyens bungalow when he got his Cabinet berth.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the word “revolt” in the Indian sense of it, is by and large an eccentricity more than anything else. I highly doubt that the people who dutifully and periodically register their support for a revolution on the streets of India do so with any actual hope of participating in one. And if they do, they might want to stock up on some vitamin and iron supplements because from the looks of them, they need it.

There are, of course, groups that actually resort to violent struggle. We call them naxals and to the citizen at large they remain beyond the pale while the government deems them terrorists. Interestingly, you can trace their roots back to West Bengal.

So much for a quick context. Now we have the current state of affairs in Calcutta – a city that is experiencing mob and riot scenes that it hasn’t experienced since Partition, I daresay. The violence was apparently kicked off when the All India Minority Forum apparently organized a peaceful protest against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen’s continued presence in India. The Forum felt Muslim sentiments were being disrespected by the authorities. This then bled into public resentment of the whole Rizwanur incident where a young Muslim man by the name of Rizwanur Rahman was allegedly murdered by his (very rich) Hindu father-in-law who may have subsequently bribed the police to cover it up.

Added to this very bad Hindi film were a whole bunch of terrible actors who are a lot more interested in blaming each other and can agree on only one thing – that the people who began pelting the police with stones and acid and other jolly things were dedicated troublemaking no-goodniks – and we almost don’t need to introduce the Nandigram bit.

What Nandigram bit?

Well, you must have noticed that there’s been a bit of bother in that general area? Reports of violence, rape, illegal police action, villagers evacuated and other goings on? Even if all that’s news to you, can you have missed this priceless pic of Mamata Banerjee leading from the front while riding pillion on some random dude’s bike? Another thing you may have missed? A large part (majority?) of Nandigram is populated by… Muslims. Ka-ching!

To recap, we now have the following causes for the riots in Calcutta – Taslima Nasreen, Rizwanur Rahman, Nandigram, CPM cadres, AIMF loons and assorted troublemakers out to just have a bit of a dust up. The army has been called in and at 50 policemen and civilians have been injured. Fun and games in the city of joy, etc etc.

Also read: Shreyashi Dastidar in The Telegraph

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 21, 2007 in News, Politics