Of Cabbages and Kings

June 6, 2011

Friends, irresponsible countrymen: spare me your fears

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 12:49 pm

For too long I have been watching this little circus around the Lok Pal Bill. First I tried the ostrich trick – bury your head in sand and may be all the silly noisy folk’ll go away. Given that the Indian media has the attention-span of a fruit fly, it was worth a shot. And it very nearly worked too until this silly Ramdev man marched up in a swirl of saffron robes. So since all this irritates me at multiple levels, I’m going to indulge in a ranting fit.

Every person I know, every single person, who is a Lok Pal fundamentalist has two things in common with the rest of the faithful that gather around this cause. One is that none of the lot of them have read a word about democracy or governance. Yes,  and for all their very vocal espousing of their cause, they are even more persistent in their ignorance. None of the lot of them can be bothered to learn the basics about the subject that is their so-called-passion. Instead, they watch NDTV open-mouthed and read newspapers well-known for a complete disregard for truth and research, and sitting on their plush couches, they work themselves up into a righteous and beautifully compressed rage. Oh yes, I forgot – they also read some blogs by people who would be better placed to design a funky website than to explain the difference between a liberal and pluralist democracy.

The other thing they have in common with each other is that they have absolutely no issues paying bribes. Sorry, let me phrase that correctly. Yes, they do resent parting with their precious money, but they will gladly part with it to get what they want rather than inconvenience themselves a little by doing the right thing (which is to avoid paying the bribe and fight for their rights/ gracefully give up what they are not entitled to as may be applicable). Very interesting moral position isn’t it? They seem to think that corruption without two people (like clapping with one hand) is what is going on in this country. That the problem lies solely in the hands accepting the bribes. Confront these people about their own contribution to corruption and they will always throw up their hands and say they ‘had no choice’.

So here we have a nation full of whiny middle-class babies. When they want candy or a driving license or a passport or to be excused from a traffic violation – they are happy to whip out their wallets and get instant gratification. But they don’t like that their pennies are going to the big bully. Suggest that they keep their precious pennies and help exert pressure for good government by refusing to pay a bribe, and they will giggle and tell you that you are ‘too idealistic’ and that they are ‘realists’. But here they are. all these realists, all up in arms against the corruption that they routinely encourage rather than inconvenience themselves even a little by exercising a little self-restraint on a regular basis.

It would be much to easy to wave off these spoilt babies saying that they are not in the best moral position to throw tantrums about corruption. But regardless of who raises it, corruption is inarguably a bad thing. No one would argue with that. The only trouble here is that the spoilt babies  are not content with pointing out that there is a problem. They want it solved their own silly way (“I want the same biscuit my sister ate Mommy, bring it back!). And here’s the thing about solutions that come from all our nation’s spoilt babies. They are solutions designed by people who have plenty of demands to make of their country but who don’t don’t want to work or take any responsibility for the solution.  They are unhappy when the big bad world intrudes and they just want someone to shut it away so that they can go back to playing with their expensive shiny toys. The Lok Pal is in essence a product of this sort of thinking (or lack thereof).

We already have a democratic structure. We already have laws on corruption. And we already have the Right to Information. Use these three together and it offers us the perfect (democratic) way to put a stop to corruption. The next time an officer refuses you a passport try to record a request for a bribe, try to RTI the basis for rejection/ delay, try to RTI the number of passports issued and the basis on which he delays/ rejects some while expediting others. Use that information and make a fuss. That is how a system is fixed. Every time it falters, some notices and tweaks it a little.

Do you even know who your democratic representatives are? Find out. Find out everything about them. Find out everything about their opponents. Run for office if you have to. If you are not the right person for the position (and yes, you do need to know something about governance for this also) find someone who is right – fund them, help them, campaign for them. Be involved. Do some work to get yourself a good representative. And don’t be silly and use this to install your friend who gave you a free laptop in a position of power (yes yes, don’t all the spoilt babies love their ‘high connections’) – find the right person for the job. That person could be the person who drives your car or the person who washes your clothes. If your judgment is flawed, which it probably is, start reading. Give yourself the education you never got because our education system is as messed up as our government.

This silly Lok Pal thing is an invitation for crooks. No one with any common sense would set up a committee full of despots that have over-arching power over everyone and accountability to no one. We already have one of those. It is called the Supreme Court and look what’s happening there. Fortunately since there is some amount of training, some basis of selection and some flak to take after, there is also some measure of restraint. So there are judges with integrity and they do us a world of good.

Dear Anna Hazare and dear civil society, with all due respect, you are complete idiots. You were correct in saying that corruption is a problem that we need to tackle. And that is indeed a wake up call that is necessary. You were very very wrong in gathering all the spoilt babies and to throw mass-tantrums insisting that we find you all a new mommy. Grow up. This is a democracy. You don’t get a mommy. You have to be your own mommy. If you do want to create an all powerful despotic institution that will take all the power out of your hands (and the responsibility off your shoulders) darlings, the right word for what you are asking for is ‘monarchy’. Yes – go read the political science text books. That is exactly what you want. When they said that democracy was ‘by the people’, they didn’t mean other people, they meant you. So if there is corruption in our system, it is because you put it there, and it will not go away unless you take it away.

So stop making this tiresome noise, sit up and take some responsibility you twats. Step one – stop paying bribes. Step two – Stop being lazy and take action against people who ask for bribes. Step three – go read about democracy and what you can do to help it work. Step four – get involved and build the democracy you would like to see in this country. And yes, it will take many many years and that is a good thing. Part of growing up is understanding that anything worth getting takes a lot of work and a lot of time.


June 10, 2010


India is outraged about the injustice of the recent Bhopal tragedy related judgment this week. I gave up on the Indian news channels years ago but I am pretty certain that if I ever did get round to gritting my teeth and switching the television on, I would see Barkha Dutt and her colleagues all breathless and worked up about how the judiciary has wronged the Bhopal victims. And they should be. The senior management of the company that killed 25,000 people (and the numbers will grow as long as the poison remains in the earth and water in the region) gets a measly 2 years in prison. Chairman Mr. Mahindra seems to have had a successful career and is CEO of a Mahindra company. For an amount which is probably far less than their fortnightly expenditure, they are all out on bail.

The man primarily responsible? Warren Anderson is living it up in his $900,000 home in the Hamptons and is whizzing around in a Cadillac. He does not like being asked about the Bhopal victims.

Just so we’re clear, the primary damage in this case was done over twenty years ago. But both then and now, this case says terrible terrible things about the world. Apart from the corruption or utter foolishness of Indian politicians and the lack of courage shown by the Supreme Court (judge who was later rewarded with a glamourous post-retirement positions) is the utter and complete callousness demonstrated by the people who were, and still are, in a position to do something. Shame on you Mr. Obama. And shame on you, ‘free’ American press.

Someone told me that all this sordid Bhopal stuff isn’t really Obama’s problem, and that he is morally justified in shielding mass murderer Anderson. When educated people start talking about 25,000 deaths in terms of bureaucratic errors, it gets fairly apparent that the education system, the media all other institutions that influence public morality are beginning to putrefy.

Concentration camps were everybody’s problem. Slavery was everybody’s problem. Genocide is everybody’s problem. Terrorism is everybody’s problem. Mass killing of human beings is and has always been everybody’s problem.

This is where I would usually start talking about the UN Charter, human rights treaties, extradition and suchlike. All of that, though it does exist, just builds on an idea. And that idea was best expressed by John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee

March 14, 2010

Jeanette Winterson: I wanted to use myself as fiction and fact

Wonderful article in classic Winterson-style.


When I published Oranges I was 25. Mrs Winterson said bitterly: “It’s the first time I have had to order a book in a false name.” So I knew I had won the story war between us, even though the name that I am known by, Jeanette Winterson, is itself a cover story for the other person, named but not known, the other self who was put in the crib by one mother and lifted out again, in a new version, by another mother.

What else could I be but a fiction writer?

Read the rest at the Times website.

August 19, 2009

Javed on Jaswant and Jinnah

Jaswant Singh explained that Jinnah had two fears of Gandhi’s style of mass politics. First, ‘if mass movement was introduced into India than the minorities in India could be threatened and we could have Hindu-Muslim riots as a consequence.’ Second, ‘this would result in bringing religion into Indian politics and he (Jinnah) didn’t want that.’

Jaswant Singh pointed out that Jinnah’s fears were shared by Annie Besant and added that events had shown that both were correct.

An excellent piece by Javed Naqvi. Read the whole thing here.

March 26, 2009

Vinod Mehta interview

Filed under: Across the Universe — Chinmayi @ 5:38 pm

The media is in our faces all the time. Some of us know the stories of the Wall Street Journal and Rupert Murdoch and suchlike, many know about Google but aside from general raving and ranting there seems little that takes a good cold look at the Indian media – what is ought to do, what it does and what it is compelled to do. 

I missed this interview when it was actually published two years ago but luckily, Tehelka has pulled its excellent interview with Vinod Mehta out again. For someone who read Outlook in its heyday, and wondered at the strange sex-obsessed issues that came out from time to time, and wondering why it suddenly hushed up, and wondered what it is like to sell news in our glitz-obsessed country, it was a revelation.

February 9, 2009

Pink Chaddis!

Can I just say that I am very very proud of Bangaloreans? Valentine’s day will be a riot apparently…shenanigans which have never been seen on the streets before are to be performed in public on the 14th. Plenty of love (in the form of pink panties) is to be sent to Grinch Muthalik. 

Anyone whose heart aches for this unfortunate kill-joy of a man, please do join the pink chaddi movement and send him a nice neon-bright token of your affection. Hats of to the Consotium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women for its Pink Chaddi movement.pink1

February 7, 2009

Rant: Muthalik, Macaulay and monkeys

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: — Chinmayi @ 2:15 am

I am sure that most people have notice this utterly silly man by now what with all his charging about like some sort of lunatic crossed with Batman crossed with a mechanical doll that reels off fraud sadhu speeches. For those (who like me) are given to ignoring the news for significant stretches of time: Pramod Muthalik is a man that thinks he can change Karnataka into Maharashtra. He intends to crawl about Karnataka with ” a priest, a turmeric stub and a mangal sutra” so that he can pounce on “couples being together in public and expressing their love”, drag them off to the nearest temple and get them married to eachother. This confidence appears to be based on his recent moments of fame courtesy of this attack on a pub in Mangalore in which his goons apparently attacked women at the pub viciously to ‘save them’ from western culture. 

This man is hilarious at so many levels. According to him what the girls were doing in the pub was not right according to Indian culture and tradition, and the attack was justified because the perpatrators first complained to the police about the pubbing but  no official action was taken. The Penal Code, Mr. Muthalik, you forgot the Indian Penal Code…the police enforce Macaulay’s law not Muthalik’s law, and they’re not going to prevent girls from drinking any more than they’re going to pull off your silly moustache if I file a complaint about its lack of aesthetic appeal. 

Comparable to dear Mr. Muthalik is NDTV (which is getting pretty good with the slapstick entertainment these days): NDTV promptly convened a self-righteous episode (yes episode – it is practically a drama series) of the Big Fight which was executed with what is becoming typical NDTV panache, meaning that a gang of partially educated school kids might easily come up with a more nuanced and well executed performance. Defending the fundamentalists, they had one chap from the Ram Sena, one lawyer and perhaps a couple of others. Arguing for the other side were a bunch of politicians and a social worker, and guess what…they were all female! They proceeded to have the silliest discussion I ever saw. All the conservatives unshamedly asserted that women oughtn’t drink – one chap even attempted to use the constitution in support of this position. The Ram Sena representative discussing Mangalore as ‘we’ spoke such a thick North Indian accent that it is tempting to conclude that he took a crash course in English simply to be able to supervise his guerilla operations in Karnataka. The liberals while insisting that they were pro-choice, defensively announced that they didn’t approve of drinking. One of those irritating self righteous girls who parrots everything Mama ever taught her popped out of the audience to announce that one person’s alchohol affects everybody else, as if everybody that has ever had a glass of wine promptly drove into a school bus straight after.

I’d have loved to go to that show  – to uncork a bottle of champagne on air in celebration of my freedom to drink it, and to offer it around. I’d expel anybody that didn’t take a sip from the show: anyone that hasn’t ever tried alchohol is hardly in a position to pontificate on its effects. I’d offer the host half the bottle of wine to cool his badly directed zeal for a perfectly good cause and give him a list of articulate people that he might have invited to his show.

So did the Muthalik calculate correctly? I wonder, I really wonder… 

As for the Ram Sena monkeys, people say that there’s no point in them trying all this in a state like Karnataka. People rage, people rant and in an increasingly disturbing trend towards random counterproductive reaction, people refuse to vote. I don’t know… any state foolish enough to get itself a BJP government may well be foolish enough to be bullied by morons. Mumbai has at least as many intellectuals and activists as Karnataka does but it lives in the thrall of the Shiv Sena.

January 26, 2009

A fundamentalist Octogenarian Obama

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Tags: , , , , — Chinmayi @ 1:21 am

As I watch the young president prance about with that delightful fresh young energy about him and give speeches and orders that hold in them all the enlightened liberalism that this man brings to the office after his years as an academic, I am forced to recall another man far far away who hopes to convince people that he is India’s Obama. He is (virunlently) of the majority religion and is from one of the dominant castes. He is eighty and the last time he decided to emulate somebody, he apparently chose Hitler

This news article is old but I still giggle every time I think about it.

January 21, 2009

My American friend X came over today. X is of Indian origin and American sympathies. She loves butter and hates ghee. She starts many of her sentences with “America mein…”, and she has the usual distaste for arranged marriage and community centric living which to her are the defining characteristics of what might easily have been her country. X is a living breathing pity in many ways. She has travelled the world but never read a book*. She has grown up in America but in pursuit of ‘qualifications’, did not look for an education. She mouths the usual platitudes about Obama but would not take time to cast her vote for him. X is a pity because although her parents knew enough to move to a prosperous country and to grow wealthy in it, enough to shower their daughters with affection and to help them mingle in the new country, they did not know enough to use their wealth to purchase a different life for their children – the sort of life that moves beyond the pursuit of wealth for its own sake… one in which people understands things bigger than themselves and the boxes that they live in. 

But I think that the world may have changed a little today. My professor saw fit to interupt class and project the inaugural speech of that man who has been the symbol of a better world, so that we wouldn’t miss what is likely to turn into defining moment in history. As I type this, I can imagine gnarled and shaking hands moving over a keyboard decades later and tapping out my memories of this day.

Perhaps this man, with the popularity of a rock-star, and education and promise that truly befits a leader…perhaps this man who has found a way to reach the hundreds of people in front of him as well as thousands around the world, like myself and like X who hang on his every word…perhaps this man who has learned to tell the world what he knows instead of merely mouthing to it what it would like to hear…perhaps he will change the way that some people think. Not all people, but many people?

Today, he said “the success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.” If everybody who heard him understood him, I have faith that the world really will change. If not X, perhaps X’s daughter will learn the joy of studying something fascinating, and working towards something constructive…building a community not just a house in the posh part of town.

*okay that is an exaggeration. But she’s never even heard of P.G. Wodehouse!

January 8, 2009

Beautiful short film (Cannes award winner)

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , — Chinmayi @ 2:46 am
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