Sunday, 6 November 2016

Random musings

14122016All of us may not have forgotten the recent spate of violence in Kashmir and how it was played up by different organisations and people with their vested interests. Burhan Wani, said to be a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant was killed by the security forces in an encounter on 8 July this year. His killing  triggered a long spell of  unrest in Kashmir, necessitating imposition of curfew across the valley for more than three months at a stretch.
 News reports mention that the Jammu and Kashmir government has now cleared ex-gratia payment for the next of kin of 17 people who were killed in various militancy-related incidents in the Valley,  over a period of time . It is very interesting to note that the list of those killed include Khalid Muzaffar , the brother of Burhan Wani .   Khalid Muzaffar was killed on 13th April 2015 by the army in the forests of Tral. Army termed Khalid a militant and said he was killed in an encounter. But his family and the villagers of Tral disagreed. The father of the deceased, Muzaffar Ahmad Wani at that time said his son was “tortured to death” because his younger brother Burhan Wani is a militant. Terming the death as a custodial killing , he had questioned “If my son was killed in an encounter then why his body didn’t bear a bullet wound ?”
 The killing of many youths by the armed forces in Kashmir has often been mired in controversies because the nature of these so called encounters. Rightly or wrongly, there has always been the suspicion of foul play and the arbitrary extra judicial nature of such deaths have been stressed time and again by various Human rights organisations , Kashmiris as well as many non-Kashmiri Indians. On the other side there are quite a significant number of people who justify these “encounters” as the only solution against terrorism. We may remember how the Kashmir incident raised a groundswell of patriotism and nationalism earlier this year among Indians , when they were not busy with their preoccupation of exchanging  or withdrawing currency notes from Banks and ATMs across the country. The ruling party BJP, true to its platform of nationalism tried to build up a wave of support for itself by using the difficulties faced by the armed forces in containing the terrorism in Kashmir. Anybody feeling any sympathy with the Kashmiris or trying to put the actions of the armed forces in the proper perspective was immediately dubbed as anti national.
 Therefore it is very strange that The J&K Government , of which BJP is a part has taken the decision to compensate the family of a “terrorist” killed by an Army “encounter”.  Let us consider the facts1.      The act of paying compensation itself is an acknowledgement that the killing of the deceased Khalid Muzaffar by the army was a mistake and gross abuse of fundamental and human rights .
2.      The BJP being a partner of the coalition government in J&K  cannot evade the responsibility of being a party to this decision of paying compensation to the kin  of a “terrorist”.
3.      If Khalid was really a terrorist then what is the effect of such compensation on the morale of the armed forces engaged in fighting terrorists in J&K ?
4.      If Khalid was not a terrorist then what action has been taken against the armed forces personnel who were responsible for the alleged “custodial death”.
5.      Does the BJP support the J&K government’s decision of paying compensation and accept that Khalid was not a terrorist ?
6.      If it does support the J&K Government’s decision, then does it condemn the action by the armed forces and will the Defence minister order an enquiry into the incident ?
7.      If it does not support the J&K government’s decision then why does it continue as a partner in the government ?
8.      Why doesn’t the Central Government dissolve the J&K government for showing sympathy to the terrorists ?
 Those who are ambivalent or maintain their neutrality in all matters , I ask them – If this is not the example of political expediency then what is ? Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds has always been the credo of BJP and its leaders. Do you still believe in this government ? Are you sure that in a given situation the armed forces will not mete out the same treatment to your own family member if they are given such wide ranging powers?  Do you realise that the BJP and its government is lying and fooling us with their every action that they try to package as a great thing for the nation. If you have a small amount of consciousness left in you please protest, in your own way against such duplicity . Call their bluff. There are many BJP supporting Bhakts  whose heart bleed at the tiniest barb aimed at the wrong doing of the armed forces or the BJP government. There are diehard nationalists who keep no stones unturned in their efforts to label, vilify , attack and suggest stringent punishments for people like me whom they dub as anti-nationals . These are great patriots whose sole aim of life is to prove and project the greatness of only one person who is otherwise busy projecting himself. Will these worthies please come forward and give their considered views on the subject matter, without trivialising, without bringing in extraneous references to people and parties and without invoking the last seven decades. Because, I am sick of your diversionary tactics and limited premise of discussion which only  showcases your intellectual deprivation. 


#ChoRamaswamy Death of a person at the ripe old age of 82 and after a spell of debilitating  ill health may probably a welcome relief . Our scriptures also tells us not to mourn for a life lived to its full.  But this death needs to be mourned. For Cho Ramaswamy was a towering intellect and thought leader of our times. Comedy, satire and sarcasm  has always been the best form of feedback on the society, its politics, rulers and people. Cho was perhaps one of the best, if not the best purveyor of this art. The sheer range of his creative talent itself is wide and all encompassing. The words that he used were as much  acidic as  sharp was his pen. And he did not spare anybody. That was his speciality.

Perhaps the Tamil speaking people  will be in a better position to have felt his total personality . We the non Tamil speaking people could only get glimpses of his razor sharp brain and witty humour through his articles, statements and interviews and of course the occasional cartoon on the front page of Tughlaq .  His defiance and the subsequent persecution during Emergency of 1975 will always be remembered. His publication Tughlaq was stopped and when  the publication resumed after the first two weeks of emergency, the issue was published with a black front cover.

Just imagine – he has been active an actor, comedian, editor, political satirist, playwright ,  dialogue writer, film director and lawyer for over five decades. I can only wonder with awe at the vast creative and intellectual power that he  was endowed with.  Personally I may not have liked many of his associations, philosophy or viewpoint but feel sad on hearing the news of his death. I don’t know whether the funny looking man with a bald pate believed in after life, soul or spiritual things. But let him rest in peace. It will be very difficult to get another one like him.  


#Justsaying. The preamble on the RBI website says - To regulate the issue of Bank notes and the keeping of reserves with a view to securing monetary stability in India and generally to operate the currency and credit system of the country to its advantage”. Please don't laugh after reading this. 

#Randomthoughts. Yesterday I was dwelling upon the inevitability of death in a serious vein. Today,two separate news items that I read in the newspaper makes me continue with the intriguing subject, though in a lesser serious vein.
The first report says that a man in Chennai , who was walking on the railway tracks, tried to save himself from an approaching train by jumping into the river. He got stuck in the slushy mud and died.
The second item mentions a man in Pune who jumped into a tiger's enclosure at a zoo , probably trying to kill himself. The tiger had just finished a full meal . So the animal did nothing and the man lives.
All these may sound like scenes out of the movie Final Destination and it's many sequels. But I think these examples prove that our lives are entwined with that nebulous something called fate. Otherwise, it is very difficult to explain why a person, eager to die, continues to live and those who want to live have to die.
A case in point may be the demise of the great Fidel Castro, who died at the ripe old age of 90 due to geriatric reasons. It is said that there were more than 200 attempts on his life made by the USA. Well, I can't verify that but it appears true to me. Even if we take that there were two attempts made by the most powerful state apparatus on the head of state of a small neighbouring country , it sounds quite a remarkable feat that he survived them and lived upto his senile , bedridden days of old age and died a natural death.
Closer home, we have the examples of our ex PM Shri Vajpayee and ex Defence minister Shri Fernandes still carrying on , away from the prying eyes at advanced stages of their lives. They are supposed to be in very bad shape. But they continue to live. Then consider another politician Shri Priya ranjan Das munshi who has been in a vegetative state for about a decade or more. Maybe good health care is helping them to survive. Maybe it will sound brutally impolite to wish them relief from their bedridden existence. But the bottom line is that their time has not yet come.
Personally I know of quite a few number of such cases where people continue to live, somewhat interminably. On the flip side I also know of so many deaths which were sudden and out of the blue. Often I have thought how it would be if the life, in obvious misery, could be supplanted to the one who could have more use for it. But that is only a wishful thought , nothing more.
Maybe our lives are part of puzzles which complete other lives. We may not be aware of it but there is a sense of completeness that others feel in our presence. So we live. In misery or in glory ,we are just witness to whatever that happens.


#Randomthoughts The unpredictability and the inevitability of life is perhaps best reflected in its antithesis, death . So everytime that we experience a death from a little too close,it makes us a little more mature in our thoughts.
All these thoughts came to me while I was at a crematorium today for the last rites of a friend's wife.Sometimes death gives us an insight into life. As the fire was lit to the pyre by her son , the sobbing daughter and the forlorn husband made me realise that even as the central point of their lives may be missing from now on, they have to live. Because life prevails over death inspite of its inevitability.


#Randomthoughts The food habits which we have in India presently is largely influenced by the foreign invasions and colonial rule that we were subjected to. The diehard nationalist puritanical Bhakt may not even be aware that most of the common vegetables that (s)he swears by, has its own story. These food items have slowly integrated themselves with the soil, habits, culture of our land and have now become indistinguishable. Farmers who produce them are not aware about their foreign origins. Actually, with the rampant use of hybrid and genetically modified seeds, it will be very difficult to single out fruits ,vegetables and plants that are originally from this land. And this may be true for all countries; not only limited to us.

So sometimes, I find it very amusing to see certain food items being offered as Prasad during religious functions and suddenly the question that comes to my mind is – What were the fruits and vegetables that Rama would have eaten during his exile along with Sita and Lakshman.  Now there are some people who believe that Rama was indeed a historical figure and also designate a certain place as his birthplace.  But strangely they will not be  able to answer to questions about the dress, food, lifestyle of that period. All that we have as records are mythical literary creations. Based on myths  if someone has a religious affinity, I don’t mind. Frankly, I am not bothered too unless someone forces me to believe that it is authentic history.

Coming back to the subject of foreign influences on food, how many of us are really aware that the fruit named “Sitaphal” or custard apple probably has nothing to do with Sita because it was introduced to India by the Portugese , that too from South America.  The Portugese that way were  great believers of cross breeding , be it plants, animals or humans.  They have spread the seeds all across the world and have changed the course of culture, dress and food habits across the globe. The Indian housewife who cannot think of cooking without Potato and Tomato must know that even five hundred years back, these vegetables were not to be found in our country. They are again imports from South America by the Portugese. Actually the Spanish and Portugese influences had brought exotic South American flora to our country. Take Papaya for instance or chillies , for that matter.  Now that brings another doubt to my mind.  When we say Chillies are an import from South America , do we factor in  Bhoot Jalokia of Assam or Dalle of Darjeeling . Are these varieties also imported? Do we have any authentic proof on their ancestory ?

That way, sabudana or cassava seeds that is used by many religious people as a substitute for Anna (Grain food) during pujas too is another import. Our Tea, Coffee and Tobacco industries are all based on agriculture of such foreign influences. The only Desi weed we should be proud of is Ganja (Marijuana) . Bam Bhole . At least there is reference of Ganjika seva by Lord Shiva. See,  that’s the reason I like this God as the best.

So the next time some fraud Baba , Doctor or beauty specialist prescribe you treatment through herbal naturopathy, be sure that they know their job and the plant or fruit is listed in old scriptures. And basically don’t have too much hang-ups about Swadeshi type theories. We are a melting pot of cross bred habits, food , plants, flowers, languages, races, culture and that is the only way to progress ; rather than being tied to something specific. The Batata in the Vada and the loaf of Pav are both Videshi but the Swadeshi Manus is ready to fight for the local identity of Vada Pav. So strangely surreal !!!


"We are going towards a new economic independence. In this battle for economic independence, the person who stands with Modiji for the next 50 days will become a soldier in this battle, and the one who does not stand with the PM will be against this country." “

"Now, you have to decide whether you want to become a soldier in the battle for economic freedom or whether you want to become a 'desh virodhak' (those against the country)."

"We all should stand with Modiji for the next 50 days and win this decisive battle against black money.”


There are so many type of plants and trees around us; so many type of birds. I only know the names of a few. My ignorance is larger than my ego.


I have a strong feeling that the decision on scrapping currency notes of Rs 500& 1000 will soon be "Rolled back","Extended" or "Amended" after a "Review". The only thing which they are waiting for is some face saver event to happen.Which ,if it happens will actually be a shame. Because all said and done, this fracas which have ensued could have been well avoided with some careful planning and coordination.
This is a lesson for everybody to realise what happens when the decision makers get blinded by the need to satisfy their ego and the narcissistic propaganda to prove their superiority over others. The reverse inferiority complex. This also emphasises the requirement of independent institutions who can speak out their mind and curb the irrational exuberance of supporters. The role of RBI in advising the government properly in this whole issue is suspect. Whether their recommendations are paid heed to is another matter altogether.
Personally speaking and contrary to what some people may like to believe, as a citizen of the country I do support any government initiative to curb the menace of black money and corruption. Like I had supported the "Swatchh Bharat" and "Yoga day" initiatives before this . Sadly the implementation of both those programs have proved that they have been each an exercise in hype, only. That took about two years to realise. These programs were insincere efforts to get publicity and then put the onus on the people to carry it forward and take governmental credit for public participation. But the currency demonetisation has proved to be a shoddy work and unplanned, hurried implementation of a good idea. Within two days, the realisation has set in that it is a botched job.
If I speak about myself - I come from a middle class family. My father and grandfather were employed in private service, like me. So do my son. All our family income for these four generations have been earned without corruption or unaccounted means. Maybe we have abetted corruption and black money in the system by a trifle, if we consider the sundry bribes paid in cash without insisting for a receipt. Neither do we ever had a large amount of cash stashed in our homes, firstly because we never had so much of it and more importantly, we have always enjoyed a good credit in the market due to our steady income from service. So scrapping of notes had not bothered us earlier nor has it been an inconvenience this time too.
And we are also theoretically and primarily not affected too much by the scarcity of currency notes because perhaps we live on the right side of the digital divide. Living in a metropolis, that too a designated "smart city" (by the way, another hype), I really do not have to bother about paying in cash other than the rickshaw fares for local travel, if I do not want to drive, that is. Today I found to my pleasant surprise that the local fishseller Pilu is also accepting credit cards as a form of payment. That nearly seals it.
So I am not touched at all by the decision immediately. I have no reasons to complain. Then why am I cribbing? I am cribbing because I know that this happy happy facade is all sham. I am cribbing because I can understand what actually the problem is and what may happen if the situation continues like this. On one hand you do not have enough notes in denomination of 100 to cope up with the cash requirement of people . On the other hand the supply of notes of Rs 2000 is hampered by a technical glitch which will take some time to get over. Meanwhile most of the population are on the other side of digital divide. Maybe more will join me to usher in a cashless society after this fracas. But that will take time.
It would be only a matter of three months for this scheme with proper planning.and above all good intention. But instead, it has made the next three weeks a bleak challenge for the entire country. Therefore, the question arises - who is responsible for such a gaffe? The decision was made public by the head of the government in a sudden announcement and since then there has been justifications, arbitrary decisions,brazen defiance, emotional rhetoric and tepid platitudes by the government and its officials. They know very well that they are stuck and they are trying to get a way out.
In cricket parlance, this is like preparing a turning track for the opposition and then getting bowled out for a paltry total while facing unheralded spinners. Before the spin they rely on spins the situation out of control they need to do something about it.

Fifty days will be too long a time which people may want to give.


#RandomThoughts Today the 14th November is a Bank holiday . And in the literal sense it is a well deserved one for the bank employees in branches after the harrowing time they had during the last few days of madness triggered by shoddy implementation of a lofty idea. Their travails are not finished yet because from tomorrow they will again have to take up their positions and face the fire. They have already foregone their holidays on Saturday and Sunday preceding this holiday today and maybe this will be the template for the whole of this month.
Let us have full sympathy for them but also not get carried away in eulogizing them to the moon because they will get compensatory leaves, overtime, tiffin allowance and other such things to soften them and motivate for the extra effort they are putting in. But for that they must thank the unions and collective bargaining which was instrumental in formulating different laws to take care of workmen against firmaans by the powers to be.
The reason why Bank's and stock exchanges are closed today is ostensibly due to Guru Nanak Jayanti. Of all the religious figures, this man holds a special place in my heart because of the message of love, unity, piety and fellowship he preached. Perhaps he never wanted to establish a different religion which his 10th successor did. He was a simple person and preached against the dogmas of established religions. I see him more as a social reformer. The Sikh religion may have appropriated him but he remains a figure who can inspire all,even atheists.
Guru Nanak's birthday like many other saints, historical and mythical personalities of India is celebrated on the basis of the lunar calendar. In some places, this day with the full moon night is also celebrated as Ras Purnima. This festival is related to the Hindu mythology and commemorates the communion of Lord Krishna with his Gopinis. Shorn of physical motifs the festival is actually the celebration of love, in a myriad ways. It also establishes the importance of platonic relations between man and woman beyond the boundaries of social union or physical intimacy. That is how I look at it. Strictly a personal view by myself.
The night of Ras Purnima is magical and will breed love in the hearts of even the unromantic. The weather, the clear sky and the fullness of the moon all come together to play on the senses and induce the feelings of longing. The materialistic USA have typically robbed the soft, lilting and romantic aspect with their interpretation of the Super Moon as if it is a merchandise like the biggest Pizza or hamburger to gulp down. But I dedicate this night to all the romantic feelings and to all those who inspired them in me. Like Krishna, I would like to be with all the Gopinis and share the eternal love with them .
One important memory of Ras Purnima will always be my brief stay at Coochbehar in 1987 with a brand new scooter and a new wife with one year of married life. It was a mad, mad time of exploration all around and within, too. There is a big fair called Ras Mela which is an annual event in Coochbehar, starting on Ras Purnima. How we enjoyed the fair and how simple was our life then . I would like to visit Coochbehar at least once again in life on Ras Purnima.
The children are also having fun today. Children's day has always been special in our lives. The joy of being a child is the most which we can feel. Perhaps the reason for all the strife we experience all around us because we have all lost our child like qualities of innocence, questioning and playfulness as we grew up into adults. The best we can probably do is to reclaim the child in us, even for a day at least. Hope we can make the world a better place to live for the children.
And finally, the Uncle; the much celebrated Jawaharlal Nehru, whose birthday is marked on our calendars as the Children's day. Presently, he is a much maligned name by the pygmies who can never reach his stature as a wise statesman and a complete human being with follies and frailties. His elite background will always be pointed by the people who want to bring him down from the pedestal. Half truths, blatant lies, innuendos and obscene interest with his personal life has not been able to obliterate the fact that he was indeed a colossus. And the values of liberalism, secularism and socialism that has stood by us for seven decades would never have been possible without him. Homage to the architect of modern India.

#Onceuponatime.  Sometimes it all comes back to me in rushes of memory.  The winter days , the courtyard , the well , the charpoy . Sitting with the back towards the sun with the head covered with a gamchha. Reading a book or the old newspaper , listening to cricket commentary on the transistor radio  , eating sweet and sour pickles or just dozing off .
And the afternoons when after lunch , all of us would gather together to soak in the sun and have those small pieces of guava with salt. Sometimes we played Ludo or simple card games.   The womenfolk used to do a lot of knitting those days.  Balls of wool , knitting pins , half finished sweaters were a standard sight . And as the sun weakened , we would play those games with  strange names which children no longer play . King king , Ice spice, Saat gotti , chor police , Kiska patta , gilli danda , Antol goli and so many others , I don't even remember.
As the winter evenings fell, our lawns lit up for badminton which my uncles and their friends played . We would try to complete our homeworks swiftly to join them as spectators. And sometimes we even managed a chance to play . That was the height of achievement for us . But Wednesday evenings were for Binaca geetmala . Nothing else mattered.
Those days will perhaps  never come back . If I could ever sit on a time machine and get back there ; at the same place , the same people and the same age , I would never want to come back . Oh, how I wish I could stay there, forever.

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