Of Cabbages and Kings

December 30, 2008

The wretched silliness that is politics

Filed under: Across the Universe, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:54 am

As most of the world may have noticed, instead of working together at controlling the terrorism that clearly affects them both, India and Pakistan are squabbling away: allegations, denials, name-calling, grandiose demands, arresting eachothers’ citizens, concentration of armies on the borders, veiled and direct threats…the works.

The most interesting perspective that I have seen so far on what appears to be mystifyingly childish behaviour on part of both countries is Kuldip Nayar’s in ‘As things get messier’:

“Like Bhutto, Zardari assumed that he had all power. But he found that this was not so when the government first declared it would send the ISI chief to Delhi after having acceded to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s request in the wake of the Mumbai blasts and then was not able to do so. What should he have done? Admitted his helplessness in public? No ruler does. He could have resigned but Pakistan does not have a tradition of doing so. Knowing all this, Mukherjee should have refrained from asking who rules in Pakistan. This has further exposed the Zardari government. But then New Delhi’s problem is that it is under a lot of pressure to act after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. Yet, India might have strengthened Zardari if it had not posed the question that Mukherjee did… Zardari’s embarrassment is understandable. It is apparent that he came to know about the attack on Mumbai only after it had taken place.”

And there we are…with what appears to be an upcoming war on our hands, with the media in each country convincing everybody that the other country is an utterly unreasonable and dangerous security threat, more murdering as though the death-toll of the past few years has not been quite enough and (as I suspect is usual) it is all so that a few politicians can save face.

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December 29, 2008

The Original Blonde

Filed under: Across the Universe, Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 12:03 am

My mother refused to buy me a Barbie when I was little – she had ideological issues with it. American cartoons had however taught me to idealise blonde hair and blue eyes and despite my mother’s efforts to protect me from stereotypes, I craved the doll.

All my friends had two or three Barbies and when we sat around re-doing the dolls’ hair or making up stories through which we walked our respective dolls, I always had a borrowed Barbie (since my other dolls were too large and clumsy to fit into a Barbie-game).  So when my cousin gave me her Barbie (as my mother watched in helplessly), I was delighted.

I lavished more attention on this doll than on all the others in my closet and was very particular about her grooming. So if it took my other dolls over three weeks to acquire bald heads, Barbie received her first haircut within days of being in my custody. With all my toddler-energy to expend, and my reluctance to part with the doll, my favourite game involved tossing Barbie up in the air repeatedly. The inevitable landing-mishap happened and Barbie lost a leg. Tears were shed and Mona, a petite dark-haired doll, was offered to me as consolation for Barbie’s missing leg (and I suspect in an effort to wean me away from Barbie). Mona was made welcome but regular attempts were made to fix poor Barbie’s leg, and I continued to live in her thrall until I learned to roller skate. 

What is it about Barbie? I know that for me it was a combination of reasons – all my friends had Barbies and obsessed with them endlessly; the doll was better made than all my dolls (with hinges for its limbs and suchlike); and it looked like all the fairy princesses in the cartoons I watched and the stories I read. The fact that Barbie was more anatomically accurate than my other dolls also appealed to me though I was innocent of the world’s obsession with the hour-glass figure until I went to college. 

Barbie turns 50 next year. Here’s a little debate on the pros and cons of the doll that most little girls want.

December 28, 2008

Why defend a terrorist

Filed under: Law — Tags: , , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 12:59 am

The reasoning is similar to why a murderer is entitled to a defence lawyer. With people using brute force to try and prevent defence lawyers from representing the captured Kasab, the issue looms its head again. And again, I offer you borrowed words:

” So important is the right of an accused to have the services of a lawyer that the Constitution-makers were not satisfied with the rights created by the successive Codes of Criminal Procedure. The Constitution-makers introduced it in the chapter on Fundamental Rights so that no tyrannical regime could curtail or destroy it. Article 22 declares that no accused shall be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice…A lawyer worthy of his robes has no option in such a situation…

‘From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practice, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end. If the advocate refuses to defend from what he may think of the charge or of the defence, he assumes the character of the Judge; nay, he assumes it before the hour of judgement; and in proportion to his rank and reputation puts the heavy influence of perhaps a mistaken opinion into the scale against the accused in whose favour the benevolent principle of English law makes all assumptions, and which commands the very Judge to be his Counsel’ [Quoting Erskine]”

From Witch? Yes. Hunt? No by Ram Jethmalani

December 27, 2008

Christmas music!

Filed under: Music, Personal — Chinmayi @ 1:53 am

is something I look forward to every winter. I hobbled over to Westminister Abbey this year and shivered for an hour in their long queue so that I could hear the choir sing on Christmas eve. I even braved the man at the gate who was refusing to hand the programmes out to non-whites on the presumption that we were all tourists, and (instead of stomping off in a huff as I would normally be inclined to do in such a situation) coerced a programme out of him. The music was beautiful but I heard very little of it. I was treated instead to the squabbling/ bawling/ whining of two small children who clearly would have preferred an evening in the park to the crowded old church and whose parents were so happy to sit down for a bit (even through the portions where the ceremony required us all to stand) that they could not muster the energy to walk over to kids and encourage them to amuse themselves in less boisterous ways.

The next day I made it up to myself with a day full of music. For those who haven’t discovered the joys of BBC radio yet, this is a great time to start. Some of my favourites:

Johnnie Walker offers lovely Christmas related classic rock

Alan Titchmarsh for eclectic classical/ semi-classical (though he’s managed to throw in pop this time)

Chris Walker for drivetime rock

– And for those who like the popular sing-a-long carols, the Phil Spector Christmas album show

[Most of these shows will be available on air through this week after which the content will change]

Confessions

Filed under: Across the Universe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:24 am

The better half and I were discussing the non-exclusiveness of our profession recently. People leave doctors to medicine, researchers to biotechnology and engineers to electronics but everybody has an opinion on the law. While this is certainly a desirable tendency in a democracy, the opinions come shaded, colour-coded almost, according to how informed the opiner is. And this applies to both lawyers and “lay-people” (the nasty patronising epithet that lawyers are taught to use for non-lawyers in law schools so they can feel a little more special) – a badly informed lawyer will come up with exactly the same kind of silly nonsense as anybody else…which does the beg the question of what the lot of us spend all our time studying but I’m going to swerve around that little issue today and move on to my pitch for the day.

One very popular demand in post-attack-on-Mumbai India is for admission of confessions as evidence. A confession is not admissable as evidence in India* and everybody is upset that although the media has tried and convicted the sole captured terrorist avaliable after the attacks, and his confession has been publicised, the confession cannot be submitted to the judiciary. A grand and colourful contradiction is emerging as a result – on one hand, everybody is grumbling about the ineptness of our investigation agencies and on the other is encouraging this ineptness by insisting that they should be permit to toture so-called confessions out of random people and admit these documents as evidence in courts in lieu of doing the spade work to come up with anything else at all that points towards the guilt of the accused. While I always thought the non-admissability of confessions as an important safeguard against abuse of the criminal justice system, I did not know of its history until I read ‘Under pain of death‘.

That people are thinking about the law is an encouraging sign for the democracy. That they are thinking of it in the silly dramatic and superficial way that the media encourages – that your opinion matters but you needn’t trouble to work enough to make it an educated opinion – is not. In the spirit of encouranging opinions – educated opinion – I offer you ‘Under pain of death‘ as something to mull over before leaping into the Confessions As Evidence debate.

*except for parts pertaining to physical evidence that was discovered as a result of the confession. So if a confession mentions the location of the murder weapon, and the weapon is found at that location, that part of the confession would be admissable, but a confession that simply admits to the murder would not count for anything.

December 19, 2008

Dresden

Filed under: I saw this — Chinmayi @ 11:06 pm

germany-and-shuba-mudgal-130A Christmas market.

Something I saw in Vienna

Filed under: I saw this — Chinmayi @ 11:01 pm

Vienna!

December 9, 2008

India and Pakistan

Filed under: Random musing — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 2:45 am

are good neighbours here in London. S., the Pakistani next door, is full of marvellous stories. She will play beautiful Urdu poetry set to music for me well after midnight and make buckets of delicious biryani for her friends fairly regularly. If she refuses to wear sleeveless clothes or so much as sniff alchohol, she is full of jokes about how easy it is for a Pakistani woman to get a scholarship thanks to the patronising attitude of the West and she is mocking of the hypocrisy of a country where the people who ban alchohol are known to have the best collection of it.

When Mumbai was attacked, we talked about it in the kitchen – S was sympathetic while I was anxious, and I was indignant on her behalf when she told me of someone who had suggested that she should bear some of the responsibility for the incident. Characteristically, she grinned and said that even if the violence did come out of Pakistan, it was very unlikely that the political leader had any control over it. 

S. invited me for her Eid feast today. We played some table tennis and suddenly realised that the pairs across the table from eachother had inadvertantly formed into Indians versus Pakistanis. And the laughter of the evening is something that I will always remember.  A mock war was carried out – with the Pakistanis accusing Indians of targeting their soft corners and their women, and the Indian accusing the Pakistanis of infiltration. Every platitude ever offered by either country’s government was hurled across the table to be incinerated in the laughter. And I caught myself hoping that the world will never change so much that it no longer holds any place for such a table tennis match.

December 2, 2008

Barkha Dutt Entertainments

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , , , — Chinmayi @ 10:25 pm

otherwise titled ‘We the People’ claims to be a talk show. The hostess has a careful selection of people calibrated to attract the very maximum of the wrong kind of attention – politicians, television personalities, “page 3” people…all what are known as ‘big names’ along with a sprinkling of victims and supposed experts/ intellectuals meant to provide some amount of legitimacy. Many of her invitees tend not to know anything at all about the subjects on which they hold forth. Those that seem like they are headed towards saying something remotely coherent never actually get there since Barkha Dutt invariably cuts them off. 

I usually find her show very entertaining, and pray as I watch it that nobody actually takes the tripe she spews to be any more than tripe. The latest show however degenerated into stupidity that was incredible even by Barkha Dutt standards, and which was particularly obnoxious given her blatant attempt to cash in on a major tragedy. I do not expect anyone to watch the whole thing (although if you do, you will be treated to Simi Garewal’s enthusiastic suggestion that the solution to the crisis is to carpet bomb the LTTE, and to be as scary as the USA was post 9/11, and another gentleman who insisted that we are ‘gonna’ stop paying taxes and that is the solution) but if you move over to the last bit, you will find it concludes with Simi Garewal insisting that the problem with the country was that if you stuck your head out of the back of the Four Seasons, you would see Pakistani flags flying on the slums behind. The audience, to its great credit, erupted. There’s School Ma’rm Barkha Dutt wagging her finger at all the naughty children and tells them that she is ashamed of them, instead of directing her admonitions to her ill-informed incendiery guest. The show closes with Barkha Dutt asking dramatically for observation of silence to show case her tom-toming conjured passion for the issue, and then going on to ruin any gravity that the silence may have had, by refusing to let her audience frame what the silence is for. [see the video]

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