Why I Love the Commies

04 May

… and you should too.

Not all the commies, of course. That’s like saying you should love all the Hindu right wing nutjobs in the world rather than just a selected few like Balasaheb Thackeray who are completely geniustastic at coming up with nifty ideas like digging up the cricket pitch in a city where they have nothing to lose on the eve of an international match to give vent to their patriotism. You know, it’s been years but I still think about that stunt sometimes. Simple, cheap, effective and sannu ki!That’s some good shit right there.

But what’s there to love in, say, Praveen Togadia? Does he dig up cricket pitches? Can he draw bad cartoons? Own a throne? Does he appear on national TV in his pajamas, drink in hand? Pffft! Talk about boring.

Similarly, communists in places where they have actual power – what’s to love? They send you to gulags, take away your money, shatter your family, build nuclear weapons, and such. Have you seen Ninotchka? Anybody that happy to buy a pair of silk stockings did not just get off the boat from Utopia. The best they can hope for is a bit part in a James Bond movie. Where they’ll be totally upstaged by some hot girl in a bikini. Really, what’s the point?

But the Indian communist is a commie to love.

The dress – Okay, so all the men look George Fernandes (who I think is actually a socialist but runs around with a whole bunch of communists from what I remember and anyway dresses like them so according to my calculations he counts and since this is my blog and I’m doing the writing, I get to decide) although the younger set seem to be tapping Fab India (which I love, by the way, in case you ever want to buy me gifts).

But the women! I don’t know where they get those handloom sarees but they’re absolutely to die for. Not that I would ever wear them because all cotton sarees have an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate my bottom and if I can resist peer pressure and stay off the weed for fear of what the munchies were going to do to significant bits of my person, I think I can stay off the cotton saree.

Erm… TMI? Just sayin’ – commie style has its drawbacks too. Even if Brinda Karat makes me wish my forehead too resembled a football field so I could wear a giant bindi like that.

The talk – Have you heard them? They’re absolutely miraculous. It’s like half of them are stuck in the 1950s and are fully engaged in the Cold War while the rest never graduated from freshman year of college. Take any five communist politicians you know (or however many you know although this only really works if you know more than one) and imagine them in the most annoying Anthropology / History / Politics / Philosophy class you ever took. Don’t they fit right in?

I guess I should also mention that this only works if you went to a liberal arts college. Otherwise, just take my word for it.

The downside, however, is when they get over it. Not all of them do but some come out on the other side and there is nothing sadder than an ex-Communist. I’ve met a few and they pretty much broke my heart. They seem so defeated and cynical like life has just been one long disappointment and their kids grew up to be cannibals. I’m talking of the older ones, of course, not the super-annoying Communist-for-this-semester kids from college.

The power – They have none. That’s something to love right there. But what happens when they do have power? Well, some pretty fantastic stuff like this thing called “nokku kooli” in Kerala:

Worker’s unions have crossed all limits by making it a practice to demand money for work they are not doing. They call it ‘nokku kooli’, or wages for (just) looking on… The government eventually saw the ludicrous aspect of it—state industry minister Elamaram Kareem, himself a trade unionist, intervened and stopped it. There is no guarantee, though, that it won’t be revived.

You know what made that paragraph for me? The use of the word “eventually”. Love it!

Actually, I would like to start an International Nokku Kooli Movement. It would allow those of us with a lot of curiosity and not enough skill to observe the jobs that interest us and turn it into a full time career. Like auditing a class, except in real life and you’d get paid for it. Dream job, totally.

The sentiment – Religious people pretty much have the rest of the world beat when it comes to taking offense except in one specific scenario: when America says something. No, wait – didn’t the jihadis win that round? Well, okay but the commies come in a respectable second! Take for instance this latest “controversy” surrounding President Bush’s remarks about the global food crisis. Here’s what he said:

So, for example, just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That’s bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population…And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.

When deconstructed from Bush-lingo, you realize that he’s actually talking about a rather complex problem centered around food politics within the United States. And if you dug deep enough you’d know he (or perhaps somebody in his administration) understands that this is connected to the power crisis and America’s attempt to turn to biofuel. Taken at face value, however, you’d think he was asking China and India to eat less and starve more. But why would you take Bush’s words at face value after seven years of hearing him speak?

Unless you’re an Indian politician and a communist in particular. In which case, Christmas came early. As long as somebody cares.

The by-products – They make interesting movies. If you’re not watching Bengali and Malayalee movies, especially of the vintage Communist era from the 50s to the 70s, you’re missing out.


Posted by on May 4, 2008 in Personal, Politics


23 responses to “Why I Love the Commies

  1. narendra shenoy

    May 4, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    This post is completely brilliant! Loved especially the “nokku kooli” part and the “eventually”! And the style statements!

    By the way, there is a sort of “nokku kooli” prevalent in industry. It’s called consulting.

  2. Anonymi

    May 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    All this, plus their awesome ability to come up with unforgettable one liners. Like when the USS Nimitz was anchored off the Chennai coast, it took a commie to go, “Nuclear ship, America ship, we won’t allow it on Indian soil!”

    You’ve got to love ’em!

  3. Tanay

    May 5, 2008 at 12:33 am

    cool one, fabindia lover 🙂

    one more point to add, if i get this one correct, apart from the sartorial styles, the speech punch bag and the sentiment.

    can i add to the list of by-products in addition to the movies, which i guess would have died after doordarshan lost its charm is ‘communist tea’. thats what my friends call it, its just the tea stew sans milk, which i have seen is more common in kerala and west bengal. do you buy that?

  4. Amey

    May 5, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    International Nokku Kooli Movement… I second that. It trumps any other dream job, hands down. I mean, for everything else, you need to “work” 😦

  5. dipali

    May 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Its bloody frustrating when you have to pay the nokku kooli guys for not moving your worldly goods to the sixth floor! Only in Kerala……..
    In Bengal of course the Biharis do the actual hard labour.
    Both states have crazy unions. God bless the Commies:)

  6. Prasanth

    May 6, 2008 at 2:39 am

    Another one is a tendency to get completely battered in News Shows, especially when the audience is your typically yuppie crowd. Other political parties always take care to send their young/charismatic figures while the Communists often send solid but completely uninspiring(to the abovementioned audience) figures who lose all crowd support within 5 mins.

  7. Amrita

    May 6, 2008 at 11:31 am

    NS – I want to be a consultant! I can consult on things like “The Effect of Office Snacks on Employee Morale”. I think I’d be really good.

    Anonymi – lolz, I actually find it touching the way I did when my ancient int’l relns prof would venture on a mild joke in the middle of an interminable lecture.

    Tanay – that sounds absolutely vile 🙂 I like my tea strong, sweet and milky.

    Amey – you and I should set up a consulting firm of some kind!

    Dipali – I didnt know you lived in Kerala 🙂 my feelings for trade unionism are so mixed, i’m thoroughly confused as to how I feel about them. The nokku kooli however is on a plane of its own.

    Prasanth – that is actually a really good point. I wonder why they never send anyone personable? Because I have to admit Yechury and Karat are pretty middle aged and their ideas drive me batty but they’re actually people I would enjoy talking with which I cant say of a lot of politicians. And I don;t know anybody younger than them in the communist movements who appeal to me in that way. Hmmm.

  8. dipali

    May 7, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Lived there from 1995 to 2001. Still have a flat in Kochi, and some good friends there. Guess I’m an honorary Mallu:)

  9. Amrita

    May 7, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    wow, learn something new huh 🙂

  10. Nikhil Narayanan

    May 8, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Earlier,I had a small leaning towards the left.
    Now, I have started abhorring politicians of all hues in Kerala.
    Kerala is a the best example of how education/literacy can be harmful.
    Everybody has an opinion on everything.The print/electronic media makes sure that the people are aware of the happenings around.
    So opinions simmer protests,hartals,strikes.

    How I wish the missionaries and other religious groups never did the splendid job of making the people literate(even on their rights and duties)…..

  11. Gagan

    May 8, 2008 at 5:51 am

    Seems like I’m always offering the pardesi perspective, off topic but it’s all i have 🙂

    I have some uncles in the uk who are I would fairly say trapped in around 1955. Stalin is god and the revolution is just forestalled for now. of course, they own a lot of property and drive BMW’s ( one of them for sure at least) So, I guess they’re well adjusted.
    I’m a capitalist by conditioning but I think i would like to read a lot of those guys cos they’re influential. Doris lessing said as hollow as it turned out to be her own marxist leanings had her thinking for the first time in terms of the interconnection of events and history. Hitchens is a still an unabashed trotskyite as I have heard said are the millitant neo-cons. Reading that stuff is probaly good to get the perspective for yourself without just accepting the prejudices and then return to the usual liberal dreams, of healthcare for all and pragmatism in other things

  12. Gopi

    May 8, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Totally agree with Nikhil above….
    Its this whole “I am aware” attitude thats the root cause of the strikes and hartals prevalent in Kerala.

  13. Prasanth

    May 8, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Hmm…I think your comment is as much a reflection on the mainstream media as on the Left. The MSM lionizes a certain kind of politician- smart,savvy, capable of sound bytes. It also loves another kind–the ones it can indirectly ridicule, the ones that, to them, represent the dirty underside of India, the cow-belt, the corrupt badlands of Indian politics. The Left, in its attempt to be the “organization(s) with a difference”, tries to ensure that its leaders/workers do not confirm to either of these brands.Thus the disconnect. Karat, for instance, is notoriously reticent and everyone(more or less) follows the leader.

  14. aparnavs

    May 8, 2008 at 9:48 am

    The joys of wearing fabIndia!! I have a feeling most of the commis are commis so that can get to wear all the cool cotton stuff. And about George Fernandes, I beg to differ. Apart from his Khadi outfits, he neither has the sound bytes nor the cool demeanor to be a commie I think.

  15. dodo

    May 8, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    George Fernandez a communist!!! hmmm……….news to me

  16. Amrita

    May 9, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Nikhil (and Gopi) – I’ve never been inclined towards an ism but I have to admit the Left has thrown up ideas that are a lot more interesting to me than the Right. However, I disagree that it is literacy or an abundance of opinions that is the problem — it is actually a lack of them on the political level that has harmed us, inside and outside Kerala, more. Malayalees might be the most opinionated people on the planet but their governments have all basically followed one direction and it has led to the stagnation we’re currently seeing. This is a greater Communist problem as I say below but in Kerala, communism had such a strong grasp on popular sentiment that it seems to have extended its grasp on to government in general.
    Thanks for the linkage btw. 🙂

    Gagan – well, who’s complaining? 😀 Esp coz I’m in the same boat! My fave English lit prof was a Leftist of the LSE variety (the kind that would stand in line and raise a stink about South African fruits when Apartheid was in place) and I remember her saying that to understand modern lit one had to have a grasp on political lit. I think its one of the smartest bits of advice I’ve been offered.

    Prasanth – I think that makes sense. But I have to wonder what that means for the Communists in the future as India turns more and more aggressively urban and young. I don’t know whether I’m happy that there isn’t a numero uno Communist or whether I’m more disturbed that this argues that they’re stuck in a time warp. Because in all seriousness I really do think the people who vote for them are a block that needs to be heard or at least examined.

    Aparnavs – lolz, its the cloth jhola that keeps me away. Not for love or money will I walk around like the dukhi atma the jhola hints at.

    Dodo – socialist 🙂 Don’t let the NDA convenor thing fool you. He has always been a pretty radical Left sort of person and is actually a really nice man who was pretty brilliant once upon a time. He just gets screwed over all the time.

  17. sirensongs

    May 9, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    funny stuff! 😉 Thanks…..glad to see commiedom going out of ishstyle in India.

  18. M

    May 9, 2008 at 12:42 pm


    Had to post a frivolous comment – those saris – one of the Indian news channels had a segment recently about how, with elections around the corner in India, “Khadi was cool” again – they had interviews of people in various Khadi Bhandars, and yes, some of the clothes displayed were lovely! So there you go – go check out Khadi Bhandar!

    I don’t like Fabindia much myself – overpriced stuff, that fades horribly on one wash! They do fit decently, and their whites are decent.


  19. Overated Outcast

    May 12, 2008 at 1:05 am

    If we didn’t have commies and right wing fundamentalists our lives would be so dull. These people have a “certain” enriching effect, don’t they? And who would we make fun off? There are only sooo many jokes about Sonia Gandhi and Arjun Singh.
    😛 😛

  20. Amrita

    May 12, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    SS – oh no, whatever gave you that idea? it’s actually coming more into ishtyle through the phormoola!

    M – I have heard these rumors about Khadi but unless they’re talking khadi silk I really have my doubts! That thing weighs a ton and itches like crazy. I cant even wear wool so khadi is pretty much a stretch. and hey, nothing frivolous about what goes on the person! 😀 I love the Fabindia whites! their kurtas are to die for. to the point where my mom has banned me from buying any more of their whites. try soaking the colors in a cold brine solution for the first wash. it’ll still fade but it wont bleed as much or fade as quickly. and of course, like vampires, direct sunlight is the kiss of death. the joys of going organic.

    OO – this is what I’m saying! Sonia and Arjun singh are on a trip of their own though. Arjun singh having set out quite a few years earlier. guy needs to call it a day.

  21. Sagarika

    May 13, 2008 at 1:12 am


    I was over at brangan’s blog reading his Halla Bol review (yes, I’m reading all his reviews in reverse chronological order, for some reason) and your miniblogging there fascinated me enough to trackback here. This post is such a tongue-in-cheek piece of writing – you kick some serious political butt!! I’ll keep an eye on this space.

  22. Amrita

    May 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Hi Sagarika – welcome to the blog 🙂 I’m surprised you actually wanted to come over after I left that mini thesis on Rangan’s! And yes, I’ve done the same before – made my way through his old reviews 🙂

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