Anuja Chauhan http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan.rss en Mon Feb 14 18:21:14 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html shivling-is-omnipresent <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/18/shivling-is-omnipresent.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/6/18/50-Shivling-is-omnipresent-new.jpg" /> <p>Seeing the righteous wrath being whipped up currently to protest the ‘insult’ to Lord Shiva and to his symbol—the shivling—it seems a bit surreal that, back in 1978, a half-clothed and fully-Muslim Zeenat Aman could enter a temple, lovingly bump foreheads with a shivling, caress it, kiss it, and bathe it in milk while singing ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ and outrage absolutely nobody. Instead the film was a superhit, everybody agreed that Raj Kapoor had wrung the performance of a lifetime from Aman and Filmfare awards were handed out for music direction and cinematography.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A spoilsport called Laxman from Himachal Pradesh did come forward to protest the ‘obscenity’ but the Supreme Court, specifically Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, found merit in the contention of the filmmaker and quashed the prosecution observing that, “The Censor Board, alive to its public duty, shall not play to the gallery. Nor shall it restrain aesthetic expression and progressive art through obsolete norms and grandma inhibition, when the world is wheeling forward to glimpse the beauty of creation in its myriad manifestations and liberal horizons. A happy balance is to be maintained.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ah well, obsolete norms and grandma inhibition have the bit between their teeth now. Liberal horizons and happy balance have gone to pot, and the simple observation that a lot of things can look like shivlings, including traffic dividers, the dome of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and yes, even the fountain inside the Gyanvapi Mosque wazukhana, got BJP cadres so ‘hurt and outraged’ that they ‘could not control’ and resorted to obnoxious snarling, taunts, sneers and finally, rampant bulldozery. Which is just not very Hindu of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, tolerance is the essence of Hinduism. It is essentially a you-do-you faith. Hindus see divinity everywhere and in everything. My mother, for example, used to collect pebbles at every riverbank picnic, and dreamily declare that an oblong pebble was a shivling, a dotted one ‘had a teeka’, and that a black pebble with a white circle around it was a ‘janeau-dhaari’ (sacred thread wearer.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact the correct Hindu response to ‘Umm, a lot of things look like shivlings’ would be ‘Yes, indeed!’ Because the shivling is omnipresent, just like the God it represents. It is a symbol that repeats endlessly though creation—from dripping stalagmites like the one in Amarnath, to the shape of a simple glowing flame. But this stance, while totally in tune with the Supreme Court’s 1978 ruling to ‘glimpse the beauty of creation in its myriad manifestations’ is at dissonance with current propaganda which says that the need of the hour is not education or employment or sanitation but ‘restoring Hindu pride’ which it seems, can only be achieved by razing all mosques to the dust and building temples over them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, in Kangana Ranaut’s inconvenient words, “Mahadev ko koi structure ki zaroorat nahi hai, woh toh Kashi ke kan kan mein main.” (Shiva doesn’t need a temple in Kashi, he is manifest in every single particle of Kashi.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because unlike the God of the Abrahamic faiths ( ‘I am a jealous God, you shall have no other Gods before me’) Shiva is chill. He is deeply secure, unfond of flattery and stuffy indoor spaces, and much partial to simplicity, serene lakesides and fresh mountain air. Once upon a time, we Hindus used to be as secure and tolerant as our Gods. We did not proselytise Gods, we did not dub non-Hindus infidels, we knew our system had flaws. We still have that gene somewhere—which is why a film like Bhool Bhulaiya 2, which pokes fun at crooked Brahmin priests is a huge hit today, while the prissy Samrat Prithviraj is a big fat flop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now we are actively copying the worst traits of Islam! Far, far better to be Hindu and see shivlings in everything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/18/shivling-is-omnipresent.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/18/shivling-is-omnipresent.html Sat Jun 18 11:05:20 IST 2022 when-a-lotus-rises-it-partially-obscures-mud-it-is-blooming-above-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/03/when-a-lotus-rises-it-partially-obscures-mud-it-is-blooming-above-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/6/3/37-The-lotus-distraction-new.jpg" /> <p>Well, a clean chit has finally been issued, and it is quite clear now that Aryan Khan’s arrest was just a lotus. One in a series of eyeball-grabbing luridly hot-pink lotuses that have been blooming steadily for years now in the metaphorical mud (or muck, if you prefer a more exact translation for keechard mein kamal)—which is our national narrative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, when a lotus rises to bloom, it partially obscures the mud it is blooming above. Its showy pink petals distract and soothe our eyes, and overall, it creates the illusion that the mud underneath is good—even aesthetic—or best of all, not there at all. The power of the optics it creates can be gauged by the fact that all of us would drive through miles of sludgy scenery without comment, but throw even one showy pink lotus into the mix and suddenly there is a squealing of brakes, exclamations of delight, and a collective reaching for cellphones to immediately click, hashtag and upload—#lotus! #India! #nature! #beauty @pure #peace! #goddess #divine #unspoilt #blest!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At any given point, there is always at least one waxy pink lotus floating like a highly-coloured helium balloon above the sludgy brown muck that is our society and system of governance. Aryan’s particular lotus radiated the mesmeric trishul-pronged message that:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1.) The offspring of Love Jihad are drug-addicted scum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2.) Our Hindu-rashtra NCB is impartial, efficient and fearless.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>3.) Something is actually being done about the shockingly widespread consumption and abuse of narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances in our country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ah, well, that lotus has withered now, and we can all see the mud for what it is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sushant Singh Rajput hatyakaand, as the news channels insist on calling it, was the lotus that preceded Aryan’s. Less exotic but disarmingly earthy, it beamed a tragic but seductive three-pronged message too:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1.) The reason why you haven’t made it in life is because the rich and the successful are conspiring to block you from shining.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2.) It is like you always suspected—beautiful women are materialistic and evil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>3.) You don’t have to finish your engineering degree to make it in life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rhea and Shouvik Chakraborty’s lawyers are demanding a fresh probe into their NCB case now, so hopefully that lotus will soon wither away too. But don’t worry—we have still got plenty of blooms to look forward to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the trusty Trouble-at-the-Border Lotus, which blooms every so often in our national sludge, mostly during election season, to reiterate that Muslim-means-Pakistani-and-Pakistani-means-evil and that only a ‘strong’ PM can keep our nation together during this hour of crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Or the sudden-and-strange-national-drive lotus. Like, say, demonetisation, which flowered abruptly on our television screens to reassure us that corruption, black money and all our economic woes were being addressed in one decisive game-changing move, except they actually were not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the many wonders of the lotus is that its seeds can lie dormant for decades, even centuries, the oldest recorded lotus germination being from 1,300-year-old seeds recovered from a dry lakebed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which brings us to the good ol’ temple-beneath-the-mosque lotus, rising yet again, this time not in Ayodhya, but not very far away, in Varanasi, above the squelchy goo of our once-pluralistic Hinduism, to tell us (yet again!) that everything is the Muslim’s fault and the only way to restore this pride is to raze all mosques to the ground, which only this government has the guts to do, so I have got to support this government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Waxy, mesmeric and poisonously pink, this one is set for a nice long flowering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/03/when-a-lotus-rises-it-partially-obscures-mud-it-is-blooming-above-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/06/03/when-a-lotus-rises-it-partially-obscures-mud-it-is-blooming-above-anuja-chauhan.html Fri Jun 03 11:46:21 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-the-hate-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-is-getting <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/20/anuja-chauhan-on-the-hate-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-is-getting.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/5/20/62-A-still-from-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-new.jpg" /> <p>Slightly bemused with the amount of hate Zoya Akhtar’s teaser for the Netflix films, The Archies, has been getting. I found it, to use my daughter’s phrase, ‘nice only’. As in, so many meticulously styled, impossibly beautiful young things, bathed in vintage-y Instagram filters—each one placed into the aesthetic frames as carefully as a pastry chef places marzipan roses onto a three layered wedding cake—and going forth (presumably) to do the things kids did in the 1960s—attend school, obsess over crushes, eat ice-cream, play music, ‘go steady’, picnic, and perhaps solve a crime.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s not to like?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lots apparently. Comments range from they look too fake, too rich, too fair, too westernised, to ‘they don’t look like the Archies I read and loved’, to ‘I hate the Archies, they gave me an inferiority complex when I was a child’, ‘why can’t some Indian comics Like Doga or Amar Chitra Katha be adapted instead’, to ‘Oh God, not that ancient poor-good-Betty verses rich-evil-Veronica trope again’, to the inevitable rants against privilege and nepotism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Personally, I think that somebody at Netflix has been very savvy. They’ve managed to draw up a Venn diagram that includes almost every age-group and socio-economic category. All Zoya Akhtar fans, plus old folks around the world who read and loved the Archies growing up, plus old desis who are Amitabh Bachchan/Sridevi/Shah Rukh Khan fans and are curious to see how their next-gen turned out, plus young desi kids who follow these star-kids on social media, plus indie music fans who would love Gully Boy and Dots music, plus young kids around the globe who’re drawn in by the slick, international styling of the show. It’s really quite a coup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On top of that, they’ve dodged all accusations of being trope-y and repetitive because they’re cleverly serving us old wine in an old bottle only. We can’t complain that The Archies is a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai rip-off because um...Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was an Archies ripoff, complete with Anupam Kher as Mr Weatherbee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Tina and Anjali warring over Rahul then, to Rajkumari Indumati and Chutki fighting over Chota Bheem even today, a bajillion Bettys and Veronicas compete for a bajillion Archies in our movies on a regular basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The people objecting to the film are the people who’ve had absolutely no issues with biased content like The Kashmir Files or toxic fare like Kabir Singh—or the about-to-be-released Prithviraj, which features Akshay Kumar, 54, playing a boy-king in his early twenties, romancing an actress who is 30 years his junior. Which honestly to me is far more problematic than Suhana Khan deciding to follow her (self-made) father into his profession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most ironic bit is that The Archies is being trolled—both by the right-wingers and the woke youth brigade—for being ‘fake’ and ‘unrelatable’. The film does not reflect the reality of India, and the kids in it are some kind of self-centered la-la-landers who aren’t concerned or affected by the problems that plague Indian society. To which I would say:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1.) Um, wait for the trailer maybe?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>2.) Aren’t our political masters always telling protesting teenagers ‘don’t get side-lined by all this activism-shactivism and politics-wolitics! A dutiful, patriotic child is one who goes to school, keeps his head down and his nose clean.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is exactly what the kids in the show are doing! I’m in awe of their noses actually—so chiseled and clean—not a blackhead or a visible pore in sight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Toh phir problem kya hai?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/20/anuja-chauhan-on-the-hate-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-is-getting.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/20/anuja-chauhan-on-the-hate-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-is-getting.html Sun May 22 11:47:17 IST 2022 i-cant-chill-when-fabric-of-india-is-in-extreme-pain-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/06/i-cant-chill-when-fabric-of-india-is-in-extreme-pain-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/5/6/28-No-gain-from-this-pain-new.jpg" /> <p>Anand Bakshi wrote such darling lyrics for the playful Tiger Hunt song in Mr. Natwarlal (1979). The song features Amitabh Bachchan as a famed hunter, telling a gang of wide-eyed pahadi children all about his encounter with a mighty tiger on a dark Tuesday night in the jungle many moons ago—and everybody’s favourite deity Hanuman ji has a starring role in the story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the song, Bachchan jumps about on one leg, in a playful affectionate tribute to the monkey-god, and chants the Hanuman Chalisa to gather up his courage and keep fear at bay. The children (and his love interest, played by an incandescent Rekha) are charmed, even though the story ends with the hunter being eaten up whole by the ‘shameless’ tiger.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hanuman ji has always been a popular character, much beloved for providing a bit of lighter entertainment in the otherwise fairly sombre tale, which is the Ramleela, and he was showcased in a similar vein in 2015’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But 2022’s Hanuman is stern and humourless, and stickers on cars everywhere show him in full battle mode, with a face which is half in dark shadow and half an angry red. This, presumably, is the Hanuman to whom Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (appallingly) recited the Hanuman Chalisa when challenged by a journalist to ‘prove his Hinduness’ in the thick of an electoral battle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so we find ourselves at a place today where the comforting, courage bestowing Hanuman Chalisa has been completely weaponised and is being chanted not to dispel fear, but to create it, most recently outside Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s house.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just our beloved Hanuman ji and his chalisa which has been weaponised. Everything has become loaded nowadays. Food, clothes, language, movies, festivities, cricketers, flowers have all been bulldozed into a neat, reductionist, false binary called Hindu and Muslim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The islamophobia has become so everyday and so normalised that increasingly one is considered a party-pooper for pointing it out, or even a ‘hypocrite’ because ‘of course you hate the ‘Ems’ (Muslims) as much as I do but you’re just doing naatak (drama) because you want attention, and because you want people to think ki you’re a ‘goody goody.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(I’ve personally had somebody say that to me.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While shouting out your hate is praised for being honest and even brave, as if ‘coming out of the closet’ about your islamophobia is as celebratory and cathartic as coming out as gay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s a sick world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And I know ranting about it can be counter-productive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hey, I have just returned from an extended sojourn abroad, where the NRIs start rolling their eyes and sidling away like smokers being lectured on the evils of nicotine whenever anybody says anything about how the secular fabric of the republic is being ripped apart as brutally as Dushasana on a daily basis in Modi’s India. They know it is happening, and they know it is going to be harmful in the long run, but they do not want to hear about it and ‘spoil’ the ‘party mood.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so they say things like ‘let’s just keep it light ya’ or ‘accha, tell me some Bollywood gossip’ or ‘oho, you’re becoming too shrill. Just chill.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But just like the ministry of health keeps issuing its anti-tobacco messaging, nevertheless, it is the duty of concerned citizens to consistently keep issuing our anti-hate messaging too, even though we get scoffed at for being joyless wet blankets raining on this vile, orgiastic ‘Republic’ Day parade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People get ‘shrill’ when they are in extreme pain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fabric of our secular nation is in extreme pain. So sorry, but I cannot just ‘chill.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/06/i-cant-chill-when-fabric-of-india-is-in-extreme-pain-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/05/06/i-cant-chill-when-fabric-of-india-is-in-extreme-pain-anuja-chauhan.html Fri May 06 14:35:54 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-small-alia-bhatt-small-wedding <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/04/22/anuja-chauhan-on-small-alia-bhatt-small-wedding.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/4/22/62-Alia-Bhatt-and-Ranbir-Kapoor-new.jpg" /> <p>It is a bewildering and unfair world. Russia continues to brutalise Ukraine and hog the headlines, while ‘lesser’ conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Palestine remain largely ignored. Will Smith slaps a host at the Oscars and still remains eligible to participate and win next year. And in India we are in the middle of a particularly ugly month, with fasting Muslims being baited and humiliated constantly with the clear aim of making them lash out in retaliation so hysterical hashtags like #hindulivesindanger can trend yet again on Twitter—which is itself busy consuming poison pills to dodge a hostile takeover by Elon Musk who, I am naively hoping, wants to acquire it with the noble goal of just shutting down the whole damn shitshow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is why I spent most of last week zoning out and happily consuming images of Alia Bhatt in her wedding clothes, the way I usually consume videos of fat-fat puppies learning how to walk, or videos of gurgling babies having their ribs tickled.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is so wholesome, na, Alia. Intelligent and hardworking, too. And yes, her family is full of biggish producer-directors but so is Uday Chopra’s, so it’s not like all her success and fame is because of nepotism only. And she is short—just like most of us Indian girls, which makes her so much more likeable. And though I don’t fully approve of this old man she is marrying I am willing to go along with it because well, this world would be a much better place if we would all just tolerate our children’s choices and live and let live. I do hope she does not change her surname though—but again, it is none of my beeswax.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the main reason why I am feeling so fond of Alia right now is that, along with being physically small, she has also had a small wedding. Like, really small. So small that the only Ambanis she invited were what’s-his-name and Shloka.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not only was it a small wedding, it was also a home wedding. In the home garden, upon the home balcony. No Rajasthani fort. No Tuscan Valley. No Cirque-du-Soleil. No fifty elephants blowing rose petals from their fifty trumpets or stamping ghunghroos with their two hundred feet. Simple make-up. Traditional flowers. No vulgar excesses—and therefore, most importantly, no pressure on all of us regular folk with children of marriageable age to go sourcing how to have-what-she’s-having but at a cheaper price (i.e. after mortgaging our homes and selling both our kidneys.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The tradition of small weddings especially during times of adversity is a long one. Back in the day, Princess Elizabeth used ration coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress. She also did her own make-up. Indira Gandhi got married from her father’s home in Allahabad, wearing a pale pink sari, woven out of cotton yarn that her father had spun on a charkha while in jail. (Imagine, the Ambanis could have just draped their brides in the first sari ever loomed at Vimal and called it quits!)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course it can be argued that Alia and Ranbir live larger-than-life lives every single day, so for them, a small simple ceremony feels unique and meaningful. But the rest of us live simple lives every day, and so the urge to splash out like a celebrity during a wedding is natural, even correct.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then there is the argument that expensive weddings help revive crafts and support craftspeople—which is a valid one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I guess I am making a case for the simple splash-out. A Goldilocks celebration—neither obnoxiously big (like the proposed Ram Mandir or the statue of Sardar Patel) nor ignominiously small (like the Congress party’s chances of winning anything.) In a world where over-the-top has thankfully gone from being a descriptor of weddings to a definition of streaming platforms, it is a happy new trend and worth embracing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/04/22/anuja-chauhan-on-small-alia-bhatt-small-wedding.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/04/22/anuja-chauhan-on-small-alia-bhatt-small-wedding.html Fri Apr 22 11:13:52 IST 2022 hijab-ban-will-backfire <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/24/hijab-ban-will-backfire.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/2/24/31-Hijab-ban-will-backfire-new.jpg" /> <p>In the last Olympics, the Norway handball team defied federation rules and paid a hefty fine so that they could play in cycling shorts, rather than the bikini bottoms which are the uniform for women’s handball. The Norway squad found the mandated attire sexualising, demeaning and impractical.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similar issues came up with regard to the full length bodysuit versus the skimpy leotard in women’s gymnastics, with many contestants preferring the feeling of security and support the extra coverage provides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several Muslim women won medals while wearing a hijab at Tokyo, and wear whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable seems to the rule that is slowly emerging.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surely, what is good enough for the Olympics should be good enough for a secular democracy. But, as recent events in Karnataka show, it is clearly not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, I am not a fan of the hijab. I do not see why girls should be forced to swelter inside one during the summer heat. But I am not a fan of people telling other people what they can or cannot wear either. And policing women’s attire seems to have gone from favourite sport to full-time occupation in a state which, to use Gauri Lankesh’s prophetic words, “is unfortunately and irreversibly hurtling towards its new position as the Gujarat of the south”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Weird and wacky experiments are being conducted in what has come to be called India’s hindutva laboratory, on a daily basis, with ‘leaders’ like Anantkumar Hegde and Pramod Muthalik rising from the muggy, temple-dotted bowels of coastal Karnataka and spreading their noxious brand of poison nationwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After coming down on Hindu girls in pubs in Mangaluru and Bengaluru in the past for “wearing sleeveless, smoking and talking to boys”, especially on Valentine’s Day, these sinister doctors from the hindutva lab have now zoomed in on a garment which up till now was totally innocuous and completely accepted in mainstream society—as accepted as an auntie ji’s mangalsutra or a sardar ji’s pagdi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has been an aid to lovers’ meetings and all sorts of gentle skulduggery and sneaking around in many rom-com movies over the years, it has been openly defied in entirely non-controversial hit songs like 1975’s ‘Pardah hai pardah’. We see flowery ones and lacy ones and jet black ones billowing about on our streets all the time and feel nothing but affection or exasperation, but now the hindutva labs are trying to relaunch them as something sinister and divisive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a stupid move, and it will backfire.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because people have now figured out that if girls stop wearing hijabs to school, it will not benefit the nation. Just like a new temple or a new statue or a new name for an old stadium will not benefit the nation. These things do not make the GDP go up, they do not make unemployment, air pollution and deforestation go down, nor do they cause Rs15 lakh to magically transfer into bank accounts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only thing that will happen is that Muslims will have their noses rubbed into the mud (yet again) and many conservative Muslim families, who currently allow their girls and women to go out to study or work as long as they wear a hijab, will forbid them this financial and educational independence. Which is actually detrimental to the cause of nation-building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Essentially, voters have finally recognised Hindu-Muslim polarisation for the cheap, fake trick it is. In Uttar Pradesh, 23-year-old Neha Singh Rathore and her ‘UP mein ka ba’ rap has taken the BJP’s big budget campaign apart with her head modestly covered and her ghoonghat firmly in place. And the girls of Karnataka will do the same with their hijabs intact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/24/hijab-ban-will-backfire.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/24/hijab-ban-will-backfire.html Thu Feb 24 15:56:38 IST 2022 bingo-s-the-word-writes-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/10/bingo-s-the-word-writes-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/2/10/13-Bingo-the-word-new.jpg" /> <p>It is crazy how Wordle has united the literate world. So much so that it can safely be re-christened Worldle. People of every nationality, age-group and mother tongue are bonding over a simple little word game created by Welsh software engineer Josh Wardle, 36, during the lockdown as a gift for his 32-year-old girlfriend because he knew she loved word games.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Awww!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps it is this purity of motive that has made the little game such a big hit. Josh Wardle had not been trying desperately to ‘go viral’ or be ‘catchy’ or ‘on trend’ when he came up with his guess-the-five-letter-word-in-six-tries challenge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like Rick Riordan had not been trying to write the next bestseller when he wrote Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus. He had just been trying to bond with his seven-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and borderline dyslexia. So, just off the top of his head, he made up a 12-year-old hero dealing with these very same issues, who was also the son of Poseidon the Ocean God and a human woman. His son loved Percy Jackson, so did more than 20 million people who bought the book worldwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Very similar is the story of Georgette Heyer’s breakout novel, The Black Moth, the romantic tale of a Georgian-era duke who was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards and became an outlawed highwayman. She wrote it at the age of 17 to amuse her convalescing younger brother, and ended up amusing millions of readers for over seven decades now. How Alice In Wonderland came to be written is also somewhat similar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These examples are all personal favourites, of course, but the list of works of art and science that came to be, simply because of what I am calling an innocent motivation, is a long and extremely distinguished one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, the human brain can think of amazing things when it is not frantically straining to crack the next big thing, Shark Tank style, or obsessed with identifying a gap and filling it, and is just focused on having fun.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What helps the fun is that Wordle is not trying to either steal your data or get you addicted. It asks you no intrusive questions and it keeps things classy by offering you a new puzzle only once a day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, it is just the sort of chill, none-of-my-beeswax, non-stalkerish person everybody wants to date.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, we, as Indians, also love the fact that the Mumtaz Mahal who inspired this Taj Mahal is an Indian named Palak Shah. We have immediately claimed bragging rights on her, of course, and made Josh into a honorary brother-in-law of sorts—right up there with Nick Jonas and Shoaib Malik and Boris Johnson.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then there is the share option—a marvel of neat synopsising which shows the arc of the sender’s entire attempt clearly and concisely, yet does not issue any spoilers—thus immediately motivating the recipient to have a bash at that day’s Wordle, too. These days, when every shared forward is either a weird conspiracy theory or a hate-filled, racist rant, it is so nice to get something so uncontroversial yet smart in one’s inbox.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We live in a world that is both intensely polarised as well a hyper-localised—and playing Wordle gives us that vital sense of belonging to a larger global community which we all crave. It unites us all upon a low-friction, genuinely level playing field where literacy is the only required qualification. We need more Wordles urgently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/10/bingo-s-the-word-writes-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/02/10/bingo-s-the-word-writes-anuja-chauhan.html Mon Feb 14 18:21:57 IST 2022 beneath-india-gate-is-the-primest-sweetest-spot-our-martyrs-deserve-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/27/beneath-india-gate-is-the-primest-sweetest-spot-our-martyrs-deserve-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/1/27/23-Light-almost-out-of-sight-new.jpg" /> <p>So, the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame no longer burns beneath the India Gate in what is unarguably the heart of the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi. The stark, evocative memorial—four flames leaping around the rifle and helmet of the unknown soldier—had been a place of succour and pilgrimage for the families and comrades of our martyrs for five decades, a destination for all visiting heads of state, the location of many civil society protests, including the Nirbhaya rape case, as well as the setting of iconic love ballads to the nation like ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’ from 2006’s angsty, stirringly patriotic Rang De Basanti, a film btw, that would never find financing or a censor certificate today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spokespersons of the current dispensation have been calling the Amar Jawan Jyoti ‘makeshift’ and ‘cheap’ and hailing the new arrangement as ‘grand’ and ‘worthy’. Let us put aside the quibble that nothing could be more cheap or makeshift than a hologram projection of a statue of a major national hero on his 125th birth anniversary and focus on the fact that this argument seems vaguely reminiscent of the glib lines trotted out by corporates who grab prime land from under the feet of slum dwellers in return for pukka housing elsewhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To anybody who thinks the defence services are not being short-changed, and that the National War Memorial is only 400 metres away, I would say, umm, remember when you were a child and in a group dance? You knew, in your bones, which position was front and centre. You were bursting with pride if you were occupying it, and if you were not, you were drawing comfort from the fact that you were just two places away from it, or just behind it, and dying of mortification if you were tucked into a corner, almost out of sight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Well, beneath the India Gate is front and centre. Beneath the India Gate is the primest, sweetest spot that our martyrs deserve. And it has just been snatched away from the defence services and given to God-alone-knows who or what—only time and the architects of the new Central Vista will tell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What I find utterly bewildering is the fact that the India Gate is a war memorial anyway—an iconic, globally renowned one in fact, so why not just construct concentric circles around it, and low walls to engrave more names and more wars instead of building a whole new memorial and starting a whole new flame just a little distance away? The whole thing baffles logic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The services have kept a more or less stiff upper lip about the whole business like they’ve been doing about the state of their weaponry, kits, pensions, privileges, and the ban on foreign-made-Indian liquor in the Army canteens. This is the price one pays for being at the receiving end of toxic patriotism—which places soldiers on pedestals so they can never do anything as human as object or protest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chalo, at least the entire transfer was handled admirably. The tame media was tutored to emphasise, repeatedly and soothingly, that the eternal flame had been ‘merged, not extinguished’ and the PM, his joint chief, and the three chiefs of staff all showed up and saluted with grave reverence as the ‘shifting’ was done. The opposition, if there was any from the families of martyrs whose faith and deeply felt beliefs dictated that the current location was the correct one, was quickly suppressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What a pity that all this reasonable thinking, practicality, understanding, and full-on government backing is never demonstrated when the matter of the statue of Ram Lalla crops up. Just think, perhaps it could have been shifted about just a wee bit to a more consensual location in just such a respectful, reverential government-supervised way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/27/beneath-india-gate-is-the-primest-sweetest-spot-our-martyrs-deserve-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/27/beneath-india-gate-is-the-primest-sweetest-spot-our-martyrs-deserve-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Jan 27 15:29:09 IST 2022 did-pm-president-discuss-genocide-call-against-200-million-indians-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/15/did-pm-president-discuss-genocide-call-against-200-million-indians-asks-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2022/1/15/68-PM-not-bogeyman-new.jpg" /> <p>Pardon me if the words “stuck on a flyover for over 15 minutes” do not fill me with concern and horror. They fill me with gratitude and a sense of “arrey wah, not bad ya, I have been in so much worse”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But then, of course, I am just aam janta and not the head of the government of India. It is my heaven-ordained dharma to stew in jams for hours on end, in a non-bullet proof car, with no crack security detail and a bursting bladder, that too without muttering about feeling unsafe or any “security breach”, because otherwise I could be called an anti-national and told to go to Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As an ordinary citizen, that too of Karnataka, I am used to paying the highest road tax in the land and routinely being stranded in the most ghastly of traffic. Also, the roads have potholes so gaping that I swear they are security breaches in themselves because they could very well be underground tunnels leading all the way to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anyway, patriotic and well-educated folk everywhere shamed me immediately for trivialising what they said was a grave security risk (the over 15-minute hold-up). They said it was all a Khalistani-Congressi conspiracy and a high-level inquiry should be launched asap and that heads should roll. Well, I guess that does make it a grave security issue—for the officers whose heads will roll, at least.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, Modiji’s security detail should be flawless at all times, but I have started to wonder if the office of prime minister is swiftly becoming what my daughter’s junior school math teacher used to call a hauwa. She said a lot of children were so scared of mathematics that they had turned it into a big fat hauwa (i.e., bogey or monster). One does not argue with a hauwa, or question it, or ask it to be accountable in any way, or make it wait for over 15 minutes. One just freezes in fear at the sight of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Could I just point out, here, that the prime minister of the Netherlands cycles to work whenever the weather is good? And that many MPs in the United Kingdom ride the tube to work? Also, that in 1973, Atal Bihari Vajpayee rode to Parliament in an open bullock cart to protest the rise in fuel prices? And that in 1967 Indira Gandhi continued to address a rally in Bhubaneswar even after the crowd started stone pelting, and when one hit her square in the face, she paused only to wipe her bloody nose with a handkerchief and calmly continued to speak?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in 2022 India, we seem bent on hauwa-fying our highest offices. They are unquestioned and unquestionable. We have spent an estimated Rs8,400 crore on purchasing and retrofitting two highly customised B777 aircraft for our prime minister, president and vice-president. Several crores on a new custom-built Mercedes-Benz S650 Pullman Guard armoured vehicle. And Rs200 billion on the Central Vista project that includes all-new fortified residences for the PM and other VVIPS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps we are striving for American levels of security here and that is laudable. But in the US, all former presidents and their families are provided with the highest level of security for life. It is not downgraded arbitrarily—like what happened in the case of the Gandhi family or Dr Manmohan Singh’s family. So, what are we aiming for exactly?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, perhaps Modiji does venture out incognito. Maybe he does it online and is not a hauwa at all, but marvellously in touch with the common people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But all we got to hear about is how many BJP netas chanted mantras for Modiji’s longevity. And, how the prime minister met the president and discussed the unsafe situation. One could not help wondering if the topic of how unsafe the 200 million Indians who were recently openly threatened by a genocide must be feeling came up while the two great men were conversing. I sincerely hope it did.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/15/did-pm-president-discuss-genocide-call-against-200-million-indians-asks-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2022/01/15/did-pm-president-discuss-genocide-call-against-200-million-indians-asks-anuja-chauhan.html Sun Jan 16 10:48:00 IST 2022 modis-new-looks-pm-needs-to-have-the-best-head-of-hair-possible-says-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/19/modis-new-looks-pm-needs-to-have-the-best-head-of-hair-possible-says-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/12/19/134-Modi-bhaskaran-illustration-new.jpg" /> <p>I would call this the year of the big trim. When it began, our PM had long-flowing locks and beard, ala Robi babu, with a godlike aura and all-powerful image to match, as it ends, he appears to have been (kind of) been trimmed down to size. The trimming happened slowly, unobtrusively, almost as if it was hoping not to be noticed, not unlike how the price of fuel and other daily essentials moved, slowly, also hoping not to be noticed, but in the opposite direction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why did Modiji go in for a trim? Did he think his flowing locks would look a trifle incongruous when he alighted from his new Rs4,500 crore plane in the US to talk about big-big, important-important, world-stage type things? Or did Yogiji’s macho, monastic buzz-cut make him feel his styling was a little hairy-fairy? As he does not give news conferences we can only guess—but who can decode the workings of his mighty mind?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some stylists had opined that the long locks were part of his pandemic look—he was so busy rushing about, doing things at the frontlines and saving the day that he did not have the time to get a haircut only! (Which is a little puzzling because then how did he have the time to get his locks so lovingly shampooed and combed out?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So perhaps then, the hajamat was provided to him, against his will, by any number of amateur yet enthusiastic coiffeurs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vir Das certainly had a go at the scissors—what with his oversmart, anti-national I-come-from-two-Indias act at the Kennedy Centre. ‘I come from an India where every time we get information, we are always available to care for the PM but we can’t seem to get information on PMCARES.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(Or on PM’s hairs, for that matter.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the farmers, who have been doing some pretty heavy scissor and clip over comb work on Modiji’s head right through the year. The Chinese have been chipping away pretty stolidly and may be responsible for the pretty feathery detailing at the nape of the mighty man’s neck.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course the real short-back-and-sides trim was provided by Trinamool Congress head Mamata Bannerjee, who seems to have internalised Brutus’s maxim from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser. ‘There is a tide, in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’ She seems to have grabbed the shears with a vengeance and hacked away with more force than finesse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Luckily, this finesse was provided by Bollywood, and the dogged huddle of supporters around Aryan Khan, who stepped in to provide a sharp, elegant edge to the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there was the second coronavirus wave, which added a grim, tonsured element to the whole situation. And while the media mostly seemed to find absolutely nothing wrong with Modiji’s long locks (they find absolutely nothing wrong with anything he says or does, actually) a small band of intrepid reporters—both local and international—did have a bit of a go with the shearing scissors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, no good grooming ritual is complete without a shagun contribution from the home team, and Varun Gandhi has been providing that with increasing dedication through the year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, many hands made light work, with the result that what we have before us at the eve of the new year 2022, is a not a shawl-draped sage, dreamily caressing swans, but a no-nonsense waist-coated man of action! Which is what a PM ought to be. (A PM also ought to be non-partisan and secular and consistent and answerable to the citizenry who elected him, but I will take what I can get.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Any hairdresser worth his revitalising serum will tell you that a good, judicious trimming rejuvenates the hair. Makes it stronger, thicker, lusher and more lustrous. As head of our government, Modiji needs to have the best head of hair possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All in all, I approve of the new look. I strongly urge Modiji to tip everybody well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/19/modis-new-looks-pm-needs-to-have-the-best-head-of-hair-possible-says-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/19/modis-new-looks-pm-needs-to-have-the-best-head-of-hair-possible-says-anuja-chauhan.html Sun Dec 19 12:36:50 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-83-trailer-makes-her-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/04/anuja-chauhan-writes-83-trailer-makes-her-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/12/4/55-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s-new.jpg" /> <p>Still have goosebumps from watching the trailer of Kabir Khan’s ’83. I have seen it four times already, and every time I watch, I am 12 again, experiencing that miraculous final unfold with my entire family in the living room of my grandfather’s old house, all of us huddled around our pot-bellied Weston TV with our hearts in our mouths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a classic David versus Golaith story, the cheeky underdog daring to take on the undisputed world champion, a battle for recognition on the world stage, or as a dialogue in the trailer puts it, ‘thirty-five years ago, we won our independence, but we have yet to win respect, captain.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I watch the young Kapil Dev speak his halting English and pace as lithely as a large cat across the screen, I muse that the 1980s seem like such a better, purer decade now. When we were proud of winning our independence, and did not seem to think it was given to us as ‘alms.’ When there was propaganda on TV, to be sure, but only of the benign ‘mile sur mera tumhara, toh sur bane hamara’ (when your song meets my song, then together, we create our song) national integration variety. When we kept the big boy nations on their toes with the non-aligned movement and had an actual, coherent foreign policy. When we had actively absorbed and fully bought the message of those iconic works of creative terrorism—Julie, Bobby, Zanjeer and Amar Akbar Anthony.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>’83 is not the only Bollywood offering that seems to be indulging in big-time 1980s nostalgia, by the way. It is of course the most ambitious and expensive, but we have already seen heart-warming little shows like Yeh Meri Family on The Viral Fever, Yeh Unn Dino ki Baat Hai on Sony, Scam 92, the Harshad Mehta Story on Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar’s Dil Bekaraar and many more. Remixes of hit songs from the 1980s and early 1990s are back with a bang—along with lots of science and sports bio-pics set in that period.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then there seems to be a fair amount of love for old-school shows, too. When the big general entertainment channels, unable to shoot in the thick of the pandemic and at their wits end to keep ratings high, started showing Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan (1987) on prime time, people tuned in to watch it in droves. Internationally, Friends (which began in 1994) had a huge viewership for its reunion, and locally, the show is always in the most popular lists on Netflix India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why is this happening? If the achche din (good days) have genuinely arrived, if we are living in the best of times, and if we really did ‘win our independence’ in 2014, then, to mangle the song lyric ‘why the hell are we so sad?’ Why are we all going about wearing flared pants, and leg-warmers, and getting all senti about the good old 1980s? Why isn’t the smooth, beefy, nationalistic 2021 ka Akshay Kumar making our hearts go ‘tip-tip’ the way he did when he was skinnier and hairier in 1994? Is it just the usual, cyclical nostalgia that every generation feels as they age? Or was there really something special about the 1980s?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I watch the ’83 trailer for the fifth time, and as Kapil Dev lopes down the pitch, and green and orange gulal blooms across the screen in an exact proportion of fifty-fifty, and Indian fans of every faith chant India-India together, I get goosebumps again, of course. But I also feel an aching pang, for what our India was before it got taken over by the tukde tukde gang.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/04/anuja-chauhan-writes-83-trailer-makes-her-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/12/04/anuja-chauhan-writes-83-trailer-makes-her-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s.html Sat Dec 04 12:08:07 IST 2021 propaganda-machines-say-hindutva-and-hinduism-are-the-same-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/20/propaganda-machines-say-hindutva-and-hinduism-are-the-same-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/11/20/48-The-volatile-tva-of-Hindutva-new.jpg" /> <p>My name is Chauhan and I am not a tva-rorist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s that, you may ask?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Well, as the White Knight said to Alice in Through the Looking Glass, it’s my own invention. Or rather, my own word, to describe the folks who like to end the old, familiar sub-continental word ‘Hindu’ not with ‘ism’ which sounds so soft-fade and perhaps even wimpy, but with a hard bitten-off, explosive ‘tva!’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hindutva!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hinduism evokes Mahatma Gandhi and a gentle, inclusive, peace-loving, you-do-you, banks-of-the-Sindhu faith, with a huge, diverse pantheon of gods and goddesses and a divine Param Aatmaa who ignites all living creatures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And hindutva?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Utter the word correctly, and it will cause goosebumps to rise along your arms, blood to flush your cheeks, a sense of purpose to flood your enervated brain, and a quickening in the nether regions of your body.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yup, it has good fascist phonetics, hindutva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maybe Salman Khurshid went a little overboard when he compared it to radical Islamist groups, but like any evil Bollywood stepmother worth her salt would tell you ‘dekh rahe ho apni ladli ke lakshan?’ (‘Are you noticing your little one’s budding tendencies/traits/symptoms?’) Hindutva has all the ‘lakshans’ of Taliban/ISIS. The right-wingers can deny it till they’re as blue in the face as Lord Rama himself, but Hindutva is Taliban-Lite, as well as IS-Lite.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The telling people in great detail what to wear, what to eat, what to think, whom to love/reproduce with, coupled with brutal physical chastisements---murder, rape, lynching, burning---if these rules are not followed rigidly. It’s all there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hindutva worships blood and machismo, hindutva coaxes blood-red 165 crore flowers like Sooryavanshi to bloom, in which three Hindu supercops play judge, jury and executioner to Muslim criminals in the climax. (Hearing director Rohit Shetty compare the multi-starrer’s climax to that of Amar Akbar Anthony’s made me laugh out loud. Surely it must have struck his mind that if he had to make the point that there are ‘good’ Muslims as well as ‘bad’ ones, then it would’ve been much less complicated to name his hero not Veer Sooryavanshi, but Vatan Sulaiman?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is why it’s so scary that a massive propaganda machine is glibly trying to persuade us, on a daily basis, that hindutva and Hinduism, are essentially Natha Singh and Prem Singh, one and the same thing. And that it is every Hindu’s core duty and dharma to follow this one true faith.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the fact of the matter is that, just like the evil goblin in the Grimms Fairy Tale, who steals a real baby and replaces it stealthily with a pig, our real Hinduism (purged by our founding fathers of the scourge of untouchabilty and the caste system)&nbsp;has basically been #MoneyHeisted out of our arms and replaced with this gross, dross, tva thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul Gandhi has recently started calling this cheap trick out, but who knows how long he’ll stick to his guns. Or to anything really.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So it is up to the Indian Hindus now. Just like we demand that Indian Muslims distance themselves from crazy fringe organisations and ‘prove’ their patriotism, just like we insist Indian Sikhs stomp out the separatists from their ranks, just like we want Indian Christians to stress health and education over proselytisation, so too we must demand that all loyal Indian Hindus prove their patriotism by culling the tva-rorists from their ranks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, if getting a country to rally behind one religion and one religion only were the secret to success, then by now Pakistan would’ve been a paradise for all practising Muslims. But it isn’t.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Plain vanilla Hindus are never gonna be good enough for the hindutva brigade. Because hindutva wants not just for a Congress-mukt Bharat, or a minority-mukt Bharat. What hindutva hungers for is a Hinduism-mukt Bharat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/20/propaganda-machines-say-hindutva-and-hinduism-are-the-same-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/20/propaganda-machines-say-hindutva-and-hinduism-are-the-same-anuja-chauhan.html Fri Nov 26 14:30:49 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-decodes-rightwing-outrage-over-sabyasachi-new-ad <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/06/anuja-chauhan-decodes-rightwing-outrage-over-sabyasachi-new-ad.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/11/6/140-The-gaze-and-the-malaise-new.jpg" /> <p>Why exactly is this BJP gent what’s-his-name so triggered by Sabyasachi’s mangalsutra ad? To me, the controversial image on the designer’s Instagram—of a kohl-eyed, caramel-complexioned Indian woman, with a mangalsutra dangling upon her ample, black-bra-encased bosom—is one that I have seen about a bajillion times in my life. I have been squished against mangalsutra-festooned bosoms like that on the Delhi metro, I’ve wept against them at funerals, that same familiar topography has peeped out at me from behind computer keyboards and sewing machines and mehendi cones, versions of that woman nurse babies, sell second-hand books, or fan the coals under corn-cobs in busy markets all over India on a daily basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is a regular desi married lady, caught at a time of day when she is relaxing and perhaps feeling a little sexy, posed along with her legally wedded husband. Why is she now, suddenly obscene? And threatening? And un-Hindu?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What are the objectors objecting to exactly?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that she is blatantly brown? Or undeniably large? Not westernised looking—thin, fair, quasi-Caucasian, and therefore, reassuringly othered?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is the problem that she could be your wife, your mother, your sister, your colleague?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In which case is it not good that she’s proudly flaunting one of the symbols of matrimony, a bona-fide suhaag ki nishaani (marital symbol), made famous by Bollywood, along with the do-chukti sindoor (two pinches of vermillion), the red and white chooda (bangles), the green glass bangles? Or even the Winona Forever tattoo that Johnny Depp got when he was engaged to Winona Ryder (and had to philosophically correct to Wino Forever when they broke up?) You know, the good stuff, that feminists froth against, saying women should not be made to wear dog-tags that set them apart as ‘snagged,’ 'taken’, ‘property of so-and-so’, a black and gold beaded sign that reads ‘sold’ in every one of our 22 national languages?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surely then, the lady in the Sabyasachi ad is a good Hindu lady?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike say, me. I do have a mangalsutra—placed right reverentially around my neck by my Roman Catholic husband during our Arya-Samaji marriage ceremony. But I do not wear it, or the wedding ring he placed upon my finger during the church ceremony the next day either, citing the ‘sold’ sticker metaphor. (My husband says this metaphor is rubbish. He has worn his ring for 27 years and never taken it off. I tell him that maybe he keeps forgetting that he is married and so he needs a ring to remind him, but I do not, because I remember.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why are the right-wingers upset with this good Hindu lady, who unlike snarky feminists like me, is so out and proud about her mangalsutra? They should be lauding the international mainstreaming and celebration of such an image!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the problem with the lady in the ad is not her mangalsutra or her bra or her oomphy caramel flesh, but the fact that she has got that famous Sabyasachi gaze going on. She is looking right into camera, and calmly owning the fact that ya, once she is done nursing babies or selling corncob or typing up the boss’s reports, she is a sexual being, deserving of desire, and satisfaction, somebody with a brain, and with agency, somebody with the right to withhold or grant consent upon the marital bed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is what is getting the right wingers’ knickers into a twist. The blurring of good girl/bad girl, of mangalsutra/Kamasutra, of homely traditional girl/chaalu modern girl, the acknowledgement of the fact that every woman is both.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because once the traditional everywoman is allowed to look, with that direct, untroubled gaze into a major designer’s camera, and to have desires, and a voice, and upward mobility, then all hell will break lose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/06/anuja-chauhan-decodes-rightwing-outrage-over-sabyasachi-new-ad.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/11/06/anuja-chauhan-decodes-rightwing-outrage-over-sabyasachi-new-ad.html Sat Nov 06 11:12:16 IST 2021 what-are-we-going-to-do-about-india--about-to-syndrome-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/22/what-are-we-going-to-do-about-india--about-to-syndrome-asks-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/10/22/70-About-to-ery-is-the-new-whataboutery-new.jpg" /> <p>Recently, Virat Kohli put out a tweet asking people to stay tuned as he was about to share some tips on how to celebrate a meaningful Diwali. Immediately, the bhakts were all over him like a bad rash. “Bhaunk mat, Kohli (do not bark, Kohli)” started trending before you could say 'troll, baby, troll'; it was assumed he was “about to” ask people not to indulge in the ancient and sanskari Hindu tradition of lighting firecrackers, and pictures of the IPL finale were shared to prove what a hypocrite he was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Putting aside minor quibbles—like um, we are the third most polluted country in the world, or were there any fireworks back in the day when Ram and Sita walked the Earth, or are most crackers not made-in-China and therefore unpatriotic or uh, the IPL happened in Dubai so why blame Kohli—let us get to the most problematic bit first. How did the trolls know what Virat was about to say? Because he has not even said it, yet!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui had not even made a single joke, anti-national or otherwise, when he was arrested on New Year’s Eve, on the charge that he was “about to” make anti-national jokes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like Aryan Khan was arrested because he was “about to” smoke up the 6g of charas found in Arbaaz Merchant’s possession. Just like the film Padmaavat was banned before a single bhakt had even seen it because it was “about to” show a dream sequence featuring Alauddin Khilji and the Rajput queen, which was repugnant to Hindus. (There was no such scene in the film.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Or, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was detained before she could enter Lakhimpur because she was “about to” indulge in political opportunism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This “about to” syndrome is disturbingly reminiscent of several cases in the United States when police officers “thought the perp was drawing a gun and was ‘about to’ shoot, so I shot him before he could shoot me” when actually the African-American man had just been pulling out his phone. Reaching for a more dramatic example involving the US, the pre-emptive strikes on Iraq also happened because it had and was “about to” use weapons of mass destruction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, this about-to-ness is massively selective. Indian women with creepy stalkers either online or on the ground, who fear that they are about to be raped, are routinely told by a callous or (badly trained) police that, 'Oho, it has not happened yet, na? Come back after it happens.'</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The flip side of this whole 'about-to-ery' is that the citizenry is now paralysed with fright. Fabindia, a solid, highly respected, 60-year-old brand, has just retracted an ad campaign hours after the obnoxious Tejasvi Surya declared the headline Jashn-e-Riwaaz too Urdu-sounding for a festive collection and therefore upsetting Hindu sentiments. I assume Fabindia blinked because they feared Surya’s troll army was “about to” trash their stores and harass their employees. I wish they had stuck to their guns, and shown more spine in the face of this plainly ludicrous charge, like Manyavar did when its Kanyadaan ad was trolled. But like Tanishq last year, they caved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cycle is clearly one of intimidation and fear. Bollywood, once the fountainhead from whence sprung irreverent, syncretic, universally-loved blockbusters like Amar Akbar Anthony, Bombay, Jodhaa Akbar, PK, My Name is Khan and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, is obediently pooping out regressive, jingoistic turds on a regular basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think it is safe to say that our most cherished institutions and ideals have gone beyond “about to” be destroyed to actually destroyed. What are we going to do about it?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/22/what-are-we-going-to-do-about-india--about-to-syndrome-asks-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/22/what-are-we-going-to-do-about-india--about-to-syndrome-asks-anuja-chauhan.html Fri Oct 22 17:17:07 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-on-the-national-tit-for-tat-policy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/07/anuja-chauhan-on-the-national-tit-for-tat-policy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/10/7/34-policy-new.jpg" /> <p>A couple of day ago we were fortunate enough to have the honourable chief minister of Haryana take time out of his busy schedule to explain to us simps— in an endearingly candid, matter-of-fact, patient and grandfatherly manner—that the meaning of effective governance is that every tat must immediately be countered with a tit.</p> <p>What is a tat, you ask? Let me explain.</p> <p>Whenever farmers, or tribals, or young dalit girls, or student activists, or actors, or megastar-sons-who-happen-to-be-Muslim aggravate the powers that be in any way, that constitutes a tat.&nbsp;</p> <p>To further explain:</p> <p>1) Peacefully agitating to have the three farm bills revoked</p> <p>2) Urging a crowd to chant ‘Hindustan-Zindabad Pakistan-Zindabad’</p> <p>3) Asking higher caste employers for a two rupee increase in salary</p> <p>4) Standing silently by at a JNU rally&nbsp;</p> <p>5) Organising oxygen cylinders or transport for stranded migrant labourers during the pandemic</p> <p>6) Being delectably good-looking as well as the product of an unapologetic love-jihad union&nbsp;</p> <p>And when you provoke the status quo with one such cheeky ‘tat’, then it is the duty of good governance to immediately, proactively and conscientiously arrange a ‘tit’ for you in return.</p> <p>Tits, by definition, are mightier that tats. Tits can range from summary detainment on vague charges, burning of movie halls showing your film, investigation of your tax returns, <i>lathi</i> charges, gunfire, rape and murder of you or your loved ones, and mowing-down-by-Thar-or-Fortuner.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Some sticklers are maintaining that the mowing down of four farmers in Lakhimpur, allegedly by the younger son of Union minister Ajay Mishra Teni, is in itself a sort of ‘tat,’ deserving of a severely reprimanding ‘tit’ from the Yogi government. Teni must resign and his son must be tried for murder and drunken driving and inciting violence, they demand. They are also saying foolish things like the ministers of both UP and Haryana be pulled up for making hate-inciting speeches against the protesters.&nbsp;</p> <p>But these simpletons do not understand the sophisticated subtlety of <i>sathe sathyam samarcharet </i>(That’s fancy BJP speak for tit-for-tat.)</p> <p>Some noobs are also naively asking why the Narcotics Control Bureau feels that being in the company of people in possession of 13 grams of cocaine and 21 grams of charas is a huge ‘tat’, but being in possession of 3,000kg of heroin, which the Mundra Port was found to be last week, is not. They are even wondering why every mention of Aryan in the news is proceeded by the words ‘Shah Rukh Khan’s son’, but barely any mention of Mundra Port begins with the information ‘Adani-owned.’ Or even why nobody is investigating why so many ships are being caught with mega hauls of heroin off the coast of Gujarat? This, when the whole nation was demanding a clean-up of ‘drug culture’ post Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide last year?</p> <p>And if it is ‘nepotism culture’ we want to tame, and ‘radical reform’ we want to embrace, ask these noobs, what’s stopping the Yogi government from simply passing a law that disallows any family from monopolising a top post like CM for more than two full terms? Wouldn’t that be a more effective ‘tat’ to nepotism instead of making weird rules forbidding people with more than two children from holding govt jobs or standing for elections?</p> <p>But clearly such silly people cannot be allowed to mess with the all-important business of administering tits. In these trying times, when offspring are being so troublesome, we must impose our trust solely in our two large-chested, childless bachelors Modi ji and Yogi ji.</p> <p>Some say they do not give a sh*t, but everybody agrees that they know how to give a tit.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/07/anuja-chauhan-on-the-national-tit-for-tat-policy.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/10/07/anuja-chauhan-on-the-national-tit-for-tat-policy.html Thu Oct 07 15:54:41 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-on-govts-paperwork-diktat-to-sonu-sood <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/23/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-govts-paperwork-diktat-to-sonu-sood.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/9/23/49-Sood-new.jpg" /> <p>I have just returned from the fifth edition of the Ooty Lit Fest, held every year in the picturesque Raj-era Nilgiris Library in Ootacamund. The organisers did a brilliant job, and topped the whole thing off by awarding a lifetime achievement award to historian Ramachandra Guha, who in his acceptance speech said many interesting things, and in answer to a question from the audience, remarked (ironically) that the current regime considers only one NGO desirable in India—the RSS.</p> <p>No wonder taxmen have been visiting Sonu Sood’s office! The actor-turned activist had found a place in the hearts of ordinary citizens and popular culture, thanks to his generosity and pro-activeness. He helped stranded migrant workers find their way back home in the cruel summer of 2020, and organised medication and treatment during the second wave. The same man is currently being investigated for income tax fraud.</p> <p>Your steely-muscled-tender-hearted hero has feet of clay and is an opportunist with political ambitions, seems to be the conclusion this government-approved persecution is meant to make us draw.</p> <p>A similar thing happened in August 2017 when 63 children, sick with acute encephalitis syndrome, died in one single day at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College. The tragedy happened because piped oxygen was turned off by the supplier, which in turn happened because of non-payment of dues in spite of repeated pleas and reminders by the supplier, which in turn happened because approvals were not given by the Yogi Adityanath government. In the middle of this ghastly tragedy, one name had shot into the limelight, of a Dr Kafeel Khan, whose generosity and pro-activeness in that time of crisis was reported in glowing terms by the press.</p> <p>The backlash was swift. Dr Khan was besmirched and demonised overnight. He was charged with dereliction of duty and running a private practice, and a non-bailable warrant was issued in his name. Four years later, he and his family are still being persecuted.</p> <p>The ‘crime’ both men have committed is the same. And it is a grave one. They have made the government look bad.</p> <p>We do not believe in sharing the screen, GoI is quite clearly telling Sood. We believe only in single-hero, single-screen blockbusters with no uppity best-supporting role aspirants trying to steal the limelight or save the day. So, if medicines, or food, or aid is supplied by anybody else, it can bloody well just pile up on the tarmac. Anything that reaches our people should have only one photo printed on it.</p> <p>It is also ironic that GoI’s diktat to Sood is that his paperwork should be as transparent as the shirts he wore in <i>Happy New Year</i>, but the workings of the PM CARES Fund (a fund we never even needed by the way, because we had a Prime Minister's National Relief Fund already) can be entirely opaque. And audited only by SARC and associates, headed by one Sunil Kumar Gupta who had a clear fondness for the BJP/RSS.</p> <p>See I am not saying that Sood, or Dr Khan, or Greenpeace or the Missionaries of Charity, or anybody else, is above the law and should not be thoroughly audited by unbiased parties. But this <i>twada kutta</i> Tommy, <i>sada kutta kutta</i> attitude sucks big time. And has GoI really achieved such a high level of efficiency that it can afford to take this you-stick-to-your-job-and-let-us-do-ours stance with do-gooders from other fields?</p> <p>I think not.</p> <p>Come on, GoI, don't be so insecure. Sure, Sood can rock a sleeveless vest. But only one man in India has a 56-inch chest.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/23/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-govts-paperwork-diktat-to-sonu-sood.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/23/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-govts-paperwork-diktat-to-sonu-sood.html Thu Sep 23 16:54:44 IST 2021 why-are-we-vilifying-gurnam-singh-chaduni-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/09/why-are-we-vilifying-gurnam-singh-chaduni-asks-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/9/9/39-aspirants-web.jpg" /> <p>I love the name this new traders' party from Punjab has given itself—Bhartiya Arthik Party. One, because it commits to focussing on the economy and that is really the need of the hour, and two, because it abbreviates to BAP. The punchlines just write themselves, from <i>rishte mein hum tumhaare BAP lagte hain</i> to <i>BAP ka raj hai kya</i>, a question which can finally be answered in the affirmative if they come to power.&nbsp;</p> <p>But why are we vilifying Gurnam Singh Chaduni for (sort of) saying that he (or farmers in general) should join politics? Why are we, as a nation, so suspicious of people who come right out and say that? Why is that considered so dirty and so tainting? Why do we only respect reluctant politicians, like Rajiv Gandhi, ‘who would rather have been a pilot’, and Sonia Gandhi ‘who said power is poison’, or Manmohan Singh, ‘who was only doing his duty’. While making people like Pranab Mukherjee or Rajesh Pilot, both with healthy credentials and a healthy amount of hunger for the top jobs, feel ashamed of their forthrightness?</p> <p>Of course, a small, initial show of reluctance is only good manners. Nobody wants to be the despo aunty who seizes a plate the moment the buffet is declared open, but I would look with deep suspicion at somebody who does not want the job only! I mean, would you hire a driver who says he does not want to drive? Or a cook who says he despises cooking?</p> <p>Honestly, the most refreshing thing about Narendra Modi seven years ago was that he seemed so keen to sink his teeth into the job, and how he woke up at 5am every day and was such a <i>karmayogi</i> and all, but now even he is growing his beard and claiming to be a <i>fakir</i> with a <i>jhola</i> on his shoulder and no attachment to his post!</p> <p>In the US, it is standard parental practice to encourage kids to dream of being president. 'You, baby girl,' parents tell their child with stars in their eyes, 'you could be the leader of the free world!' But, here in India, it works differently. Just like no little girl ever dreams of becoming a prostitute when she grows up, circumstances align to make her one, no little girl dreams of being prime minister either.&nbsp;</p> <p>So, if circumstances are aligning to make Chaduni a politician, then let him aspire to become one, na!&nbsp;</p> <p>Give him the backing and the votes. Stop slamming him like we slammed Arvind Kejriwal. Or Kanhaiya Kumar. Or any other newbie on the block who sought to answer that wretched question: ‘If not Modi, who?’</p> <p>Strugglers are respected in Bollywood. Aspirants are respected in the engineering and civil services. Contestants who come to audition are respected at <i>Indian Idol</i>. In the corporate world, outside-the-box recruitment is a big trend. Getting in people from creative fields, or the armed forces, or with engineering backgrounds, can work out really well.&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, a farmer like Chaduni, with all his domain expertise may be a boon to many ministries if he makes a lateral entry into politics.&nbsp;</p> <p>If we are tired of the same old set menu of entitled dynasts and hate-mongers, then we need to urgently smoothen the way for new people to take on the job. We have got to stop acting like judgey old Brutus, and bumping off our fledgling Caesars because they are maybe ‘too ambitious.’&nbsp;</p> <p>And political aspirants, please stop being so coy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Politics is not Tinder. Or Shaadi.com. You do not need to pretend that your friends (or mummy-daddy) made your profile without your knowledge. Step up and claim it as your own.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/09/why-are-we-vilifying-gurnam-singh-chaduni-asks-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/09/09/why-are-we-vilifying-gurnam-singh-chaduni-asks-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Sep 09 19:02:26 IST 2021 right-to-be-forgotten-does-not-seem-very-legit-opines-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/26/right-to-be-forgotten-does-not-seem-very-legit-opines-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/8/26/73-forgotten-new.jpg" /> <p>So my kids invoked their ‘Right to be Forgotten’ in an argument today. They said that it was distressing (to them) and cruel (of me) to rake up embarrassing stuff they had done when they were younger and use it against them in intellectual arguments. (‘Oh, so now that you are all grown up and woke, you think Kabir Singh is rapey and regressive—but when you were 11 years old, you thought creepy vampire Edward Cullen was the ultimate dreamboat!’)&nbsp;</p> <p>I had never heard of a ‘Right to be Forgotten’, but apparently, it is a thing in several countries in the Global North and might very well become a thing down here, too, what with several people including a<i> Bigg Boss</i> winner, Ashutosh Kaushik, invoking it recently while asking for old digital data of him drunk-driving without a helmet to be removed from all online platforms, because it is causing him distress, and because it is dated, irrelevant and no longer useful. Another petitioner, Jorawar Singh Mundy, named in a drugs possession charge and later absolved, said that the information of his arrest comes up whenever potential employers conduct an online search on him and is preventing him from getting employed. As he was absolved of all charges in the case, he would like the courts to order to have the data expunged, or at least de-linked from popular search engines such as Google.&nbsp;</p> <p>It sounds totally reasonable, doesn’t it? Especially if we factor in the vast number of&nbsp;young women whose modesty has been outraged by images of them being leaked onto the internet non-consensually.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the precedent it sets is a worrying one.&nbsp;</p> <p>Because if we rule that somebody has been absolved of all charges, all records of him/her being charged at all must be erased, then how do we identify and keep track of potential offenders? What about if there is substantial evidence to show that the charged person used bribery or influence to get off the hook? Would it then be correct to rule that once somebody has been clean-chitted (of say, running over pedestrians, murdering a woman, inciting hatred, demolishing a monument,) we must act as if he was never chitted at all?&nbsp;</p> <p>I am sure all of us have done things that we would dearly love to have scrubbed clean from public memory. Making bad fashion choices, dancing to 'jungalee' while drunk, cheating on our loved ones, losing our tempers and resorting to physical violence, failing to come through during a big sporting event, showing cowardice, losing a war—the list spans a spectrum from the personal to the national, from the comic to the tragic.</p> <p>But the answer is not to ‘forget’ that this was real and shameful, and that it once happened. Forgetting is denial, forgetting is refusing to face up to the past, and if one does not face up to, and confront the past, then one cannot possibly learn from it.</p> <p>The only way distressing data can be conclusively ‘erased’ or ‘forgotten’ or most importantly, forgiven, on the internet, is if one creates enough new data that shows up on the search engine results above the old stuff, thus drowning it out. Look no further than Monica Lewinsky to learn how to do this like a boss.</p> <p>Sure, a special case should be made for non-consensual data that outrages the modesty of women and children—and men as well—but as to everything else, the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ does not seem very legit to me, especially in these air-brushed times. Better, far better to remember the unvarnished truth completely, empathetically, and well.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/26/right-to-be-forgotten-does-not-seem-very-legit-opines-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/26/right-to-be-forgotten-does-not-seem-very-legit-opines-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Aug 26 15:41:32 IST 2021 neeraj-chopra-proves-hindu-men-are-as-alpha-as-men-from-others-faiths-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/12/neeraj-chopra-proves-hindu-men-are-as-alpha-as-men-from-others-faiths-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/8/12/116-uncleji-new.jpg" /> <p>A cute, balding little uncleji is the new face of terror. Perhaps you have seen the viral video? Bug-eyed with anger and hopping agitatedly, this middle-aged Rumpelstiltskin repeatedly demands that young journalist Anmol Pritam say ‘Jai Shri Ram’.</p> <p>The diminutive Pritam steadfastly replies that he will say it if his heart feels like saying it, but nobody can make him say it forcibly.</p> <p>Which makes uncleji puff up with outrage and accusingly bellow ‘Hawwwww! Jihadeeee! Boooooo! Jihadeee!’ in a manner which is so reminiscent of a kindergarten playground that it actually makes you laugh.</p> <p>Except that uncleji is standing at the head of a violent, two-hundred strong crowd, which had spent the day raising hateful, anti-Muslim slogans, at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, totally unmindful of all Covid-19 guidelines with their faces as flagrantly unmasked as their hate.</p> <p>Kudos to Pritam for guarding the LoC of democracy so doggedly. If Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had had the integrity to give a similar reply when asked to recite the Hanuman Chalisa one-and-a-half year ago, perhaps his city-state would not be in such a sorry state today.</p> <p>Hanuman Chalisa, Vande Matram, Bharat Mata ki Jai, Jai Shri Ram, even the national anthem, the list of mandated mantras one has to chant and stand up for is bloating by the day in these days of warped, toxic pseudo-patriotism. The loony fringe has gone mainstream, and this latest loony uncleji, with his more-than-passing resemblance to R.K. Laxman’s common man, symbolises the situation perfectly.</p> <p>Btw, uncleji and his merry mob were out there agitating for a uniform civil code and the population control bill—because they have been brainwashed into believing that there is an army of macho Muslim alphas running amuck, love-jihading and procreating like crazy, all in a bid to boot effete Hindu men out of home and hearth.</p> <p>If I was a Hindu man, I would honestly be offended. Because hello, Hindu men are as alpha as men from any other faith. Look at Prithviraj Kapoor, spawner of a gorgeous dynasty! Look at Dara Singh, surely the machoest of them all! Look at Dharmendra Deol, arguably the best-looking man India has ever produced, father of six and husband of two (one of them a sitting BJP MP.) And look at Neeraj Chopra, the god-like golden boy we are all currently celebrating!</p> <p>See, any demographic expert will tell you that population explosion is really not an issue anymore. It is the slowest it has been in the last 70 years and will continue to reduce. And, yes, Muslims have more children than Hindus but that is because they are poorer and less educated. So, what we really have to do is improve their quality of life!</p> <p>But that does not suit the Hindutva narrative which seeks to explain away the paucity of both jobs and wives by blaming Muslims for it.</p> <p>When actually, there are no jobs because the economy sucks, and there are no wives because, maybe:</p> <p>1. Nobody wants to marry an unemployed Jai-Shri-Ramer.</p> <p>2. There are fewer Hindu girls anyway, because the Hindu gender ratio is worse than the gender ratio amongst Muslims and Christians.</p> <p>The point I am trying to make is that if you really want people to chant your slogan, from the heart, do not hate on others, just make your cause inspiring, exciting and aspirational.</p> <p>After all, nobody ordered us to stand up for the national anthem when Chopra won the gold medal. We all leapt up spontaneously to celebrate the much-awaited, hard-won victory! To paraphrase Pritam’s words ‘our hearts compelled us to stand up and sing, so we stood up and sang’.</p> <p>When was the last time you made our heart feel like that about your slogan, uncleji?</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/12/neeraj-chopra-proves-hindu-men-are-as-alpha-as-men-from-others-faiths-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/08/12/neeraj-chopra-proves-hindu-men-are-as-alpha-as-men-from-others-faiths-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Aug 12 16:09:59 IST 2021 take-your-eyes-off-women-athletes-all-you-morons-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/29/take-your-eyes-off-women-athletes-all-you-morons-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/7/29/mirabai-1.jpg" /> <p>WhatsApp university forwards are always obnoxious. But some are first-amongst-equals, or obnoxious-est. And the one that claimed that honour, this fortnight, was something that did the rounds right after Mirabai Chanu’s incredible silver-winning performance at the Tokyo Olympics.</p> <p>It basically stated (in chaste Hindi, and Devanagari script) that Chanu, Mary Kom and Manika Batra all have male coaches and managers, whom they trust, respect and obey without question, and that should be a lesson to all womenkind—that if you trust, respect and obey the men in your life, then you, too, will achieve worldwide fame and glory.</p> <p>For the men who would immediately respond, hey don’t get mad, it’s just a joke, where’s your sense of humour, I would reply: well, for one thing, Larry Nassar.</p> <p>This sexual predator and paedophile is currently serving a 176-year-sentence for abusing more than 300 girls and women, many of them while their parents were in the room, while he was the US gymnastics team doctor. He could get away with this abuse because those girls and their families trusted, respected and obeyed him without question.</p> <p>If a Nassar can run amuck in the US, imagine (without any toxic pseudo-nationalism, please) what sort of returns a policy of blindly trusting, respecting and obeying would reap in India. And, why aren’t we even considering the possibility that maybe our girl athletes performed well because they happened to be more disciplined, dedicated and focused than their male counterparts? Just like they perform better in the class twelve board exams year after year after year? If it comes to that, how come we couldn’t even make a movie on the triumphs of the Phogat sisters without dragging her Bappu into it? Why, whenever our women perform well, do we immediately rush to reassure our men, that it’s okay, they only did it because the men in their lives (to quote Rahul Bose’s infamous dialogue from <i>Dil Dhadakne Do</i>) allowed them to?</p> <p>Women athletes are forced into tiny, sexualised bikini bottoms to play strenuous sport like beach handball, while their male counterparts get to chill in comfy shorts and tank tops. Handball is played in the sand. Sand is notorious for getting into crevices. How are bikini bottoms even a practical option? But when the Norwegian contingent flouted this rule, and opted for shorts that provide better comfort they were fined €1,500 each. Presumably for the crime of depriving male viewers a view of their bottoms.</p> <p>The German women gymnasts, who feel more comfortable with their bottoms not hanging out of their suits to be ogled at, and so opted for ankle length leotards like their male counterparts, also faced flak.</p> <p>Organisers routinely pitch into Serena Williams for her catsuits, her tutus and her on-court wardrobe choices. Some object when the clothes are too revealing, some object when they’re not. It seems like the officials and the male viewers just can’t seem to stop telling women athletes what to wear.</p> <p>Why can’t they just focus on the sport instead? When a girl is risking everything, her spinal cord, her career, her nation’s hopes, when she is flying without a safety net, attempting to execute a freaking Produnova like Dipa Karmakar, say—running full tilt toward the table, launching herself into the air and flipping three times before her feet hit the mat—do you really want to be the moron marvelling at how cute her bottom looks? Or the moron claiming she achieved all this just because her coach possesses a pair of testicles?</p> <p>Citius, Altius, Fortius translates as Faster, Higher, Stronger. Not Prettier, Nakeder, Obedienter.</p> <p><b><a href="mailto:editor@theweek.in">editor@theweek.in</a></b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/29/take-your-eyes-off-women-athletes-all-you-morons-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/29/take-your-eyes-off-women-athletes-all-you-morons-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Jul 29 17:21:41 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-hopes-off-field-tears-on-the-faces-of-our-boys-will-soon-be-normalised <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/15/anuja-chauhan-hopes-off-field-tears-on-the-faces-of-our-boys-will-soon-be-normalised.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/7/15/126-Normalise-the-male-tears-new.jpg" /> <p>I am not sure where the tradition comes from, but tears after failure have been de rigueur and socially sanctioned in sport since at least the Iliad, when Greek warrior Diomedes unabashedly wept over losing a chariot race. And thank God for that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because what would we do if our champions did not miss a few penalty kicks? What would we do if every once in a while, these undisputed, alpha superheroes did not stand there, heartbroken, weeping and publicly defeated, before a crowd of millions? What would we tell our children then?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How would we put across the message to boys that it is okay to cry if they had not seen Bukayo Saka, 19, sobbing and being comforted on the sweaty manly chests of his teammates, even as Gianluigi Donnarumma, 22, was raised aloft on the shoulders of his?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When footballers go out there to take (or face) penalty kicks under tremendous pressure, they are not just taking one for their country or their club—they are taking one for everybody in the whole world, and especially, they are taking one for all young boys and men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And when they miss, they reassure us that it is okay to fail. And it is okay to cry after you fail. And that life goes on after the ‘epic fail’ and there will be many more opportunities, many more joys, many more learnings to come in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Honestly, Virat Kohli’s dud score of one run in two consecutive World Cup semi-finals has provided me with more motivational fodder while giving pep-talks to my kids, than any of his victories have. I mean if Virat can fail, and that too so spectacularly, then surely you, little twelve-year-old who fluffed your notes during your piano-performance, are allowed to cut yourself some slack?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Virat ruined it for us mommies who want our boys to be in touch with their emotions by being all stoic after these infamous dismissals, but if we rewind slightly, he did weep in 2012, when he was the youngest player on India’s T20 world cup squad. As soon as South Africa crossed the 121-run mark, which ensured India’s failure, tears welled up in Virat’s eyes, causing girls all over India to surge to their feet and let out a long, screeching cry in unison, ‘Aww, how cute’, even as their mothers grabbed their younger brothers and said, ‘Look, Virat is crying. He’s in touch with his emotions, you can be, too.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But no other sport gets the pathos, the beauty and the dignity of failing after trying your hardest as right as football does. Because those kids try their darndest. There is nothing half-assed about their effort, they really go all out, and they do it with full theatrics, and all the bells and whistles, and raw, nautanki-saala elan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a world full of blasé, insouciant young men and boys, who feel they have to be chill, and underplayed and world-weary all the time, the enthusiasm, the sheer lack of chill and the unabashed wearing of your heart on your sleeve that football spotlights every time these big tournaments happen is gorgeously refreshing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, because of some inexplicable rule of male etiquette that I cannot quite grasp, it is not okay to weep like this when your grandma dies, or your old dog has to be put to sleep. Or when you become a father. Or when you get made redundant at work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These events, though admittedly tragic, are somehow not as devastating as a missed penalty kick.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so, me and all the other mommies continue to live in hope of a day when off-field tears on the faces of our boys will finally be normalised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, weep no more, Saka. You may have been blocked by Donnarumma, but you sure scored over grandma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/15/anuja-chauhan-hopes-off-field-tears-on-the-faces-of-our-boys-will-soon-be-normalised.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/15/anuja-chauhan-hopes-off-field-tears-on-the-faces-of-our-boys-will-soon-be-normalised.html Thu Jul 15 16:55:50 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-on-how-the-modi-govt-is-gaslighting-us <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/01/anuja-chauhan-on-how-the-modi-govt-is-gaslighting-us.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/7/1/27-gaslighting-new.jpg" /> <p>Am I mad?’ A friend asked me recently. ‘I was on the road, my mother was gasping for breath, we drove in a rented ambulance from hospital to hospital, and there was no oxygen to be had for love or money or influence. It was a complete nightmare. Her saturation dipped to the forties as we stood by helplessly, and then... she just... died. And now the Centre is saying that the recent oxygen shortage in Delhi was exaggerated, over-reported, over-hyped, a figment of our collective imagination, basically! They’re saying it never happened. So am I crazy or what?’</p> <p>My friend is not crazy. To say we imagined the recent oxygen crisis is a clear case of gaslighting.&nbsp;</p> <p>The evocative phrase, which originates from the eponymous 1944 film <i>Gaslight</i>, in which a husband with his eye on his wife’s priceless jewellery tries to convince her that very real incidents—footsteps in the night, letters in the attic, stolen brooches, overheard whispers, and the flickering of the gaslight lamps on the street outside their home—are all happening exclusively inside her ‘fevered’ imagination and that she is therefore going insane. Gaslighting has become a popular term to describe how unscrupulous people in toxic relationships often manipulate their hapless partners.</p> <p>Now, if this film had been set in 2021, the wife (played exquisitely by Ingrid Bergman) could have easily just taken a video of the gaslight flickering in the streetlamps and shared it on her social media with the question, ‘Peeps, is the light inside the gas lamps flickering or am I imagining it? A few hundred ‘yays’ would have reassured her of her sanity.</p> <p>But what if she had been met with a few thousand ‘nays?’ And comments like ‘Are you mad, Ingrid?&nbsp; ‘The gaslight is as steady as can be.’ ‘How dare you question your husband, your lord and protector?’ ‘You’re an anti-national, anti-social traitor who deserves to be raped.’</p> <p>Ingrid’s loneliness and grief would have multiplied to a paralysing degree.</p> <p>The grief and the pain of the people who have lost their loved ones in the second wave cannot be denied—in Delhi or anywhere else. Building makeshift walls around crematoriums is not going to make it go away. Slapping court cases on people who report on oxygen shortages is not going to make it go away. ‘Managing the fallout’ is not going to make it go away.</p> <p>It is what it is.&nbsp;An undeniable f**k-up.</p> <p>Trying to say we dreamed it up is a piece of callous effrontery that GOI cannot be allowed to get away with.</p> <p>Honestly, I cannot recall any other regime that attempts to put the blame and the responsibility on its voting republic as squarely and as shamelessly as this one does. We do not make any sacrifices, we do not contribute to the correct relief funds, we do too-much-democracy, we rumour-monger, we fall in love with Muslims and end up dead in suitcases, we get involved in politics instead of focusing on our studies, we have vaccine hesitancy, we read the wrong newspapers. We do not meekly accept that our double masks are also double gags, basically.</p> <p><i>Gaslight</i> ends with the wife finally wresting back her agency and her freedom once she discovers that everything she thought happened did actually happen, and that she is 100 per cent sane and her husband is the evil one who deserves to be put away for a long time.</p> <p>Hopefully, our tormenters are headed towards the same sweet finish.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/01/anuja-chauhan-on-how-the-modi-govt-is-gaslighting-us.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/07/01/anuja-chauhan-on-how-the-modi-govt-is-gaslighting-us.html Thu Jul 01 17:58:14 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-on-embittered-misogynistic-hate-filled-bunch-of-hincels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/17/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-embittered-misogynistic-hate-filled-bunch-of-hincels.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/6/17/55-hincels-new.jpg" /> <p>The film <i>Joker</i> made the phrase ‘incel’ mainstream. These are apparently mostly white, cis-gender men, who are involuntarily celibate (hence the term incel)—because the women they would like to get with (allegedly) will not have them because they are ugly/poor/weak/un-charming/scary/damaged in some manner that immediately sets off red flags in the female mind.</p> <p>Incels tend to congregate in dark seedy corners of the internet, applauding or fantasising about mass shootings of the sort that have become infamous in the US. Their hate is mostly directed at the ‘popular crowd’—pretty girls who date successful men, muscular jocks who score with the pretty girls, rich immigrants' kids who seem to have it all. It is an embittered, misogynistic, hate-filled bunch of white men mostly, and I really thought they had nothing to do with us till I realised we have been breeding a bunch of horny, embittered incels right here in India.</p> <p>I would like to call them ‘hincels’.</p> <p>These are a similarly sad bunch of Hindu upper caste men, who seem to fear and hate the ‘Muslim alpha male’, as popularised by our three superhero Khans—and are particularly paranoid about ‘love jihad’ by Muslims, or men from what they perceive to be a ‘lower’ caste.</p> <p>Currently, our ‘hincels’ have got their khaki knickers in a twist because Kareena Kapoor Khan—a pure, <i>gori</i> Punjabi Hindu girl, who committed the cardinal sin of marrying a handsome Muslim ex-royal (himself the product of a love jihad by a Muslim alpha upon a Hindu heroine)—is being considered for the role of Sita in a mega production of the <i>Ramayan.</i></p> <p>How dare she dream of playing Sita is the main objection, swiftly followed by how dare she demand Rs12 crore for playing Sita? Never mind that the reassuringly all-Hindu Hrithik Roshan, who is being approached to play Ravana, reportedly earned Rs48 crore for his last outing, War. Or that Mahesh Babu, tipped to play Ram, charges Rs20 crore to Rs25 crore for a film.</p> <p>Kareena, being a female, and married to a Muslim to boot, should apparently beg to play Sita for free and be grateful for the opportunity. Her asking for Rs12 crore is a ‘crime against humanity’, thunder the ‘hincels’ who have clearly never heard the phrase ‘closing the gender wage gap’ or ‘equal pay for equal work.’</p> <p>The ‘hincels’ then go on to say that the only role Kareena is fit to play in the <i>Ramayan</i> is Shurpanakha, and that Kangana Ranaut would make a better Sita. Uh, are they not aware that Kangana routinely flexes about being ‘the highest paid female star in India?’ And that is something that has endeared her to a lot of her female fans?</p> <p>Perhaps, the problem is that our ‘hincels’ are involuntarily unemployed as well as involuntarily celibate. So the reality of a gorgeous Hindu girl marrying a gorgeous Muslim alpha male and then going on to earn a damn good living for herself gets them all kinds of butt-hurt.</p> <p>Which is sort of understandable, if you have got some pity to spare, but I do not. Because we are living in a system where a pack of shady property developers are able to boost the price of land in Ram Janmabhoomi by a good Rs16 crore in half-an-hour without any questions being asked, because piety has no price, but Kareena’s price to play Sita must be bargained down to the minimum!</p> <p>That is the way the ‘hincels’ roll in <i>hamara</i> hindutva ‘hindia’.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/17/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-embittered-misogynistic-hate-filled-bunch-of-hincels.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/17/anuja-chauhan-writes-on-embittered-misogynistic-hate-filled-bunch-of-hincels.html Thu Jun 17 19:29:32 IST 2021 our-pm-is-acting-like-a-spoilt-child--writes-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/03/our-pm-is-acting-like-a-spoilt-child--writes-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/6/3/53-history-new.jpg" /> <p>What times we are living in. The spokesperson of one political party just called the spokesperson of another political party a <i>gandi naali ka keeda</i> on national television. Loosely translated, that is a gutter-insect. She did not even sound particularly angry when she said it. She was all just super dismissive, and like oye, <i>gandi naali ke keede, chup kar</i> (Shut up, gutter-insect).</p> <p>One decade ago, language this un-parliamentary would have caused a national outrage. Now? It just trended briefly on Twitter.</p> <p>These are days of complete free-fall. Language, etiquette, institutions, law, order, method and protocol have all deteriorated entirely. Nothing works. Nobody is either responsible or answerable. Our PM is so upset at losing an election that he is waging a petty battle over real and imagined slights by an overworked chief minister who is just trying to do her job. Internationally, we are a laughing stock and a cautionary tale and we do not know where we stand on Israel-Palestine. Internally, our states are in revolt and our Centre is collapsing like a badly cooked cake.</p> <p>And a country that once did a stellar job of bringing the demons of leprosy, polio, TB and HIV-AIDS to heel does not possess the institutional memory to remember what we did right then, or how to repeat it now. Because all that happened during the ‘60 years of Congress misrule’, and therefore must be utterly stamped out and obliterated, just like the Babri Masjid was.</p> <p>And so, a swarm of zealous kar-sevaks has descended on the Central Vista, that much despised, metaphorical Babri Masjid representing the old, secular, Congressi India. It has to be destroyed by the believers and a shiny new, obscenely expensive Modi Mandir has to rise in its place—a Modi Mandir so opulent that it will shut the mouths of us infidels forever. GOI evangelists will probably tell us that the cost of this monstrosity will be justified (just like the Statue of Unity) by the earnings from tourism, which will be so much that we will all get a direct transfer of Rs15 lakh into our personal accounts in one year itself. The fact that the thing looks like a spoilt child’s birthday cake and not a single architect or designer of any repute has anything good to say about it is immaterial, because our PM is acting like a spoilt child on the issue.</p> <p>What is really ironic is that nothing ever gets discussed or debated anymore anyway! The farm bills were bulldozed through Parliament, nobody was consulted on demonetisation, or Kashmir or anything else. Last year, Parliament sat for just 33 days in all. So, if everything is anyway being decided by just three-four people why do we even need a new parliament?</p> <p>Besides we are Indians. We are famous for ‘adjusting’. So even if we have more representatives than we had at the time of independence, why cannot they all just... sit a little closer together in the old parliament itself and save us a cool Rs20,000 crore, huh?</p> <p>See, unity-in-diversity, and our old Central Vista are absolutely core to the idea of India. When our multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-regional Republic Day parade marches down the Central Vista every year, it celebrates order, method, institutions, protocol, our collective learning as a nation, and sanity itself.</p> <p>But these are insane times, I guess. In these insane times, people who use language as un-parliamentary as didi-o-didi and <i>gandi naali ka keeda</i> get to spread out in a fancy new parliament. While the corpses of the corona-dead pile up in shallow graves all along the Holy Ganga, awaiting the monsoon, so they can float down the river, reducing it to a gutter, and all of us to culpable insects.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/03/our-pm-is-acting-like-a-spoilt-child--writes-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/06/03/our-pm-is-acting-like-a-spoilt-child--writes-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Jun 03 15:27:10 IST 2021 it-is-time-to-reincarnate-the-congress--anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/20/it-is-time-to-reincarnate-the-congress--anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/5/20/congress-new.jpg" /> <p>I think it is safe to say that in India we don’t throw away anything. A T-shirt bought for the eldest child in the family will be worn by her, then by her younger brother, then by her younger sister, then by the 20 litre Bisleri bottle in the kitchen to keep it cool, then by the family dog, then will finally be cut down to squares to clean the window panes. Ditto any piece of furniture or electric gadgetry. We down-cycle and up-cycle all the time—Horlicks bottles, having done the job of growing our children into taller, stronger and sharper versions of themselves, serve for decades in the kitchen, holding haldi, ghee or various kinds of dals.</p> <p>Biscuit tins hold money, threads or medicines. Army wives grow money-plant and nasturtium in ammunition boxes; we ripen mangoes in the cardboard box our mixer-grinder came home in; why, even our gods took the body of a child they had decapitated in anger, placed the head of a dead elephant on it, and made it as good as new again!</p> <p>My mother-in-law once even, with infinite patience, deflated the balloons we ordered for my daughter’s birthday party, then blew them up and reused them again, for my other daughter’s party, six whole months later. Maybe it’s the Hindu belief in reincarnation that inspires us. We believe that nothing is beyond rescuing, that nothing is totally a lost cause. And that, with a bit of ingenuity, a minor financial investment, a lick of paint, and a kiss of love, nothing need ever be thrown away, and that everything can have a rebirth.</p> <p>It is with this kindly, non-judgemental eye, this goal of taking dross and lovingly and ingeniously<br> polishing it into gold, that we need to take a hard look at the biggest piece of non-performative, rust-encrusted junk in our national backyard today—the Congress party. A lot of erstwhile Modi supporters, utterly embarrassed by how we’ve been made to look like yokels, buffoons and savages on the international stage, and appalled at the callousness, incompetence, arrogance, opportunism and utter disregard for the rule of law displayed by GoI on an almost daily basis, have finally started muttering about choosing the NOTA option come 2024. But NOTA isn’t going to cut it, folks. Much as we dislike the thought, we’re going to have to pull the INC out from the dustbin of history where we had deservedly chucked it, and try and make something of it, all over again. Perhaps with a good, clean, close-shave (the very thought of a beard makes one shudder nowadays!), some energy-boosting pills, some injections of commitment, some focus and concentration tablets, and a good deworming regimen to get rid of all lingering arrogance, the president-presumptive of the INC could be considered for the top job. Or maybe one of the 23 dissidents could do it instead.</p> <p>Just like my mother once bought a metre of pretty gold-spangled tissue to fashion a lehenga for, and rejuvenate the mojo of, a bald, naked, one-eyed doll who had lost all its clothes after a dog chewed on it and left it in the gutter, we could bring in experts from the fields of economics, health and education as consultants and advisers to pep up the lacklustre squad.</p> <p>Of course we would have to be very vigilant and monitor the workings of this unlikely, resuscitated, patchwork beast carefully—just like my father used to monitor the ragged tyres on his second-hand ambassador, switching the back tyres to the front and the front to the back repeatedly—so that none of them ever got complacent or corrupt.</p> <p>NOTA is really not an option.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b><br> </p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/20/it-is-time-to-reincarnate-the-congress--anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/20/it-is-time-to-reincarnate-the-congress--anuja-chauhan.html Thu May 20 16:31:28 IST 2021 india-is-rallying-around-true-originals-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/06/india-is-rallying-around-true-originals-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/5/6/70-Pantomime-of-fakes-new.jpg" /> <p>During her golden phase, Kangana Ranaut symbolised talent, blunt-speak, and being self-made in a way few actresses before her ever did. And before she was booted off Twitter (and correctly so) for openly inciting genocide, she contributed many piquant phrases to the national lexicon, my favourite being ‘sasti copy’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It means ‘not the real thing’, or ‘fake’ or ‘cheap imitation’, and she used it mostly to take derisive digs at Taapsee Pannu—for no other reason that I can fathom except perhaps for the fact that she has curly hair, like Kangana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now Taapsee is a fine actress, and I am sure she is not losing any sleep over the sasti copy tag. But I know a lot of people who should.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because Kangana did get one thing right.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a whole lotta sasti copies out there. In fact, it is a full-blown epidemic. Oh, they have got the optics down pat—they look like the real thing and they dress like the real thing, but they are as close to the real thing as muddy water is to Coca-Cola. Because sporting long white hair, a long white beard, lugging around a peacock and being mistaken for Robi Babu is something a toddler can childishly hope to do for a fancy dress competition—but not a grown adult, and not for a state election. Because where is the loving compassion, where is the towering talent, where is the refined mind and the Nobel prize for literature?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, a short mop of hair, an aquiline nose and a sari from your grandmother’s cupboard cannot transform you into the iron lady of India. Because where are the balls of steel, where is the sheer force of personality, where is the canny intelligence that enforced obedience up and down the party-line?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slinking about sinisterly, sporting a tilak and stroking your stubble does not make you Chanakya, it just makes you a one-trick pony who sets minorities against majorities. Tonsuring your head and wearing orange robes does not turn you into a ‘yogi.’ It just turns you into a sinister sort of wannabe, a mere imposter mouthing borrowed lines, a sad loser duplicate instead of an incandescent, shining star.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sense of being trapped in a nightmare that we are all feeling nowadays is a direct result of all these placeholder, sasti copy types currently running amuck on our national stage. A government that is not really a government. An opposition that is not really an opposition. Journalists who are not really journalists. Ditto election commissioners. Ditto cops. Ditto lawmakers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are sasti copies of vaccines in the market. Sasti copies of remdesivir in the veins of our loved ones. Sasti copies of oxygen that bring not healing but death. Fake sympathy, fake measures, fake concern are being fed to us by GoI. There are fake national awards being handed out. (In the year of Thappad, Sir and Chhapaak, the award for best female actress went to Kangana in Panga, really?) There is even a fake new central vista being built, which, in spite of its Rs20,000 crore price tag, is still gonna be just a cheap copy of the real thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In such an environment, anything original, true to itself, and not a sort of sick parody feels like a breath of pure oxygen to poisoned, labouring lungs. And that is why India is rallying around the steady leadership of Pinarayi Vijayan and the fierce, dogged individuality of Mamata Banerjee. These are true originals. Not insincere imitations who have succumbed to theatrics and rabid pandering, and have lost themselves and what they once stood for and, therefore, no longer mean anything to anyone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Kangana, who is sasti copy of the Kangana she used to be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/06/india-is-rallying-around-true-originals-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/05/06/india-is-rallying-around-true-originals-anuja-chauhan.html Thu May 06 15:10:16 IST 2021 act-more-responsibly-with-your-money-likes-remotes-and-votes-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/22/act-more-responsibly-with-your-money-likes-remotes-and-votes-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/4/22/49-choices-new.jpg" /> <p>Damn Facebook’s ‘Memories’ feature. The last thing I want to do is look back and remember what I was doing exactly one year ago. Because one year ago, I was full of bubbly optimism, a veritable Pollyanna, down but not out, determinedly seeing silver linings on every cloud, thanking God for the slower days, the chance to smell the flowers, the fact that my empty nest was full of children again, and that we were all baking banana bread together.</p> <p>One year on, the children are all still here, and we have all gone bananas. The pandemic did not end when 2020 did, so all the people who called it an annus horribilis have had to reluctantly admit that it was not the year that was the real pain in the anus. The real pain, which is not going to go away anytime soon, vaccine or no vaccine, is the choices we made, and continue to make as a voting citizenry.</p> <p>Because we vote, not just once in five years, but on a daily basis. We vote with our money, with our TV remotes, with the thumbs-up icon on YouTube, the pretty heart icon on Instagram and Twitter, and the forward feature on WhatsApp.</p> <p>Every time we shell out money to buy tickets to a regressive film full of toxic masculinity, we create an atmosphere that condones incidents like #Kathua, #Hathras #Unnao and #Mahoba. Every time we make a hate-mongering news channel the most watched on television, we encourage our “leaders” to indulge in even more outrageous, hate-mongering, sh#t stirring and performative behaviour.</p> <p>Every time we “ooh” and “aah” over the birth of a celebrity baby, we bring more clueless, drunk-on-privilege kids like Tanmay Fadnavis into the world.</p> <p>Every time we abandon logic and make a mindless, jingoistic film full of toxic, “Hindu” pseudo-patriotism cross the 0100 crore mark, or cheer at the building of a 182m tall Statue of Unity, we become directly complicit in the oppression of minorities, students and farmers.</p> <p>Every time we leap up to defend our leaders for no other reason than the fact that they are our leaders, we pump them full of hubris and encourage to think that it is perfectly fine for them to hold massive, unmasked rallies while fining regular folk for letting their mask slip a centimetre below their nostrils while riding alone in their own cars with the windows up.</p> <p>And, every time we let the zeal of the “faithful” carry the day, like looking the other way when mosques are knocked down, riots created, temple donations extorted, menstruating women kept out of temples or captain of our cricket team viciously trolled for asking people not to burn crackers on Diwali, we directly create this Titanic-sized blunder. We create this criminally-moronic Shahi Snan at the Maha Kumbh, where the highest-elected leaders of the land act like buffoonish villains from a 1970s potboiler, ignoring the raging pandemic, and effectively telling 31 lakh devotees, “Mona darling, <i>tum nahati raho</i> ( you carry on bathing)”.</p> <p>Agreed, that yes, sitting locked down in our homes with our face masks on, there is not much we can do physically. But we are not entirely helpless. We can refuse to let the little things slide. To not “uff, let it go, na” because it is just a film/personal opinion/newspaper article. To call out double standards and hypocrisy and discrimination without hesitation. Vote more responsibly with our money, our ‘likes’, our remotes and eventually, with our votes.</p> <p>So that this time next year, when the Facebook ‘Memories’ come back to haunt us, we will be able to look at them and think, yes, we are in a better place now.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/22/act-more-responsibly-with-your-money-likes-remotes-and-votes-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/22/act-more-responsibly-with-your-money-likes-remotes-and-votes-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Apr 22 17:17:01 IST 2021 bjp-cannot-be-allowed-to-dumb-down-and-weaponise-hinduism-says-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/08/bjp-cannot-be-allowed-to-dumb-down-and-weaponise-hinduism-says-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/4/8/spectrum-new.jpg" /> <p>It seems like every day there is a new colloquialism for us oldies to learn. Like “finish”, for example, is the cool young people’s new word for reaching your uh, climactic peak. At the end of an intimate session, it is now de rigueur for your partner to tenderly murmur, “Did you finish?” Which is why I now find it wildly amusing to watch perspiring people bellow, “I haven’t finished!”, “If I could just finish?”,&nbsp;“Let me FINISH!”, on the nightly news channel panel discussions.</p> <p>There is “beef” and “hook-up” and “judgy” and “cringe”. There are also more weighty terms like gaslighting, and mansplaining and cultural appropriation. But the term I was instantly appreciative of the moment I heard it, for the void it manages to fill, is “spectrum”.</p> <p>A spectrum is a continuum stretching from one binary to another, a sort of sliding scale that includes all positions in between. I first heard the term in connection with autism, but now I see it being used to define so many things we earlier thought of as black and white. So, gender is a spectrum, stretching from “masculine” to “feminine”. Sexuality is a spectrum, too, and includes everything from heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual to asexual, and all the places in between. More and more relationships, too, seem to exist on a spectrum, and include all those messy, nebulous spaces that Facebook dubbed “it is complicated” and Chetan Bhagat called “Half-Girlfriend”.&nbsp;</p> <p>Spectrum also chimes in with another phenomenon that has been cropping up recently. Hyphenation. Not just as a surname or a place of origin—like Chopra-Jonas, say, or American-Desi—but also as a personal descriptor on sites like LinkedIn. It is now increasingly common for people to straddle two or even three or multiple identities at once—actor-activist, billionaire-politician, lawyer-writer-life coach and so on.&nbsp;</p> <p>Both hyphenation and spectrum subvert the neat, binary labelling that fascists feel comfortable around. They prefer for people to stay in their boxes—labelled Jew! Gypsy! Homosexual! Aryan!&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Or, closer home—Hindu! Minority! Anti-national!&nbsp;</p> <p>Actresses should just dance, and not have so many opinions. Farmers should just grow what they are told to grow and never demand their rights. Hindus should just donate to the Ram Temple and vote for the bearded one. Because if we are left free to explore and grow, we may discover the biggest secret of all—that Hinduism is also a spectrum.</p> <p>With not just Lord Ram as the principal deity, but a pantheon of 33 million gods and goddesses, and calibrated all the way&nbsp;from the harsh laws of the Manusmriti to the breezy ‘you-do-you, bro’ enshrined in our Constitution (stripped of the evils of the caste system).</p> <p>Shirdi Sai baba and his&nbsp;<i>sab ka maalik ek</i>&nbsp;belief are on that spectrum. Durga Mata is on that spectrum. <i>Bhang</i>-smoking Shiv&nbsp;<i>bhakts</i>&nbsp;are on that spectrum. So are beef-eaters, and menstruating women who dare to enter temples. So are chief ministers with the&nbsp;gotra&nbsp;Shandilya.</p> <p>Come election season, a lot of liberal leaders, like Atishi Marlena, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, or now Mamata Banerjee, have played what has come to be called “the Hindu card”. And while there is a lot of tut-tutting on the news channels and a lot of gloating in the BJP about how she has “blinked”, and had to speak “their language”, I am happy every time liberal leaders flex their Hindu creds. The BJP cannot be allowed to appropriate, dumb down and weaponise Hinduism. It belongs to everybody on the spectrum.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To me, the story of how Mamata Banerjee, despite being born into the ghastly binds of her “Shandilya&nbsp;gotra”, rose to a belief in&nbsp;Ma, Mati, Manush&nbsp;(Mother, Motherland and People) is a classic Hindu journey of a soul finding salvation.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/08/bjp-cannot-be-allowed-to-dumb-down-and-weaponise-hinduism-says-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/04/08/bjp-cannot-be-allowed-to-dumb-down-and-weaponise-hinduism-says-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Apr 08 17:43:08 IST 2021 ashoka-university-should-take-some-tough-calls-says-anuja-chauhan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/25/ashoka-university-should-take-some-tough-calls-says-anuja-chauhan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/3/25/45-ashoka-new.jpg" /> <p>Ashoka, a liberal arts university at par with the best in the world, has been blooming in an improbable, air-conditioned bubble in the middle of the bemused Haryana heartland, for quite a few years now. I heard about it first on the lit-fest circuit in Jaipur, where several writers and translators I really respect spoke about it in glowing terms. So did the headmaster of my daughter’s school in Bengaluru.</p> <p>And so, a year later (in spite of my Stephenian husband’s misgivings) we became Ashoka parents. Our younger daughter is an alumna (class of 2019), and our son is currently an undergrad, half way through his second year. We found the fees astronomical by Delhi University standards, but still only a tiny fraction of what one would pay for such universities abroad. The kids are razor sharp and fairly representative of all economic strata (48 per cent of them are on financial aid), and the professors, drawn from the best universities from across the world, are almost maniacal about interdisciplinary learning. Every student, no matter what his/her major, is taught to study every situation from multi-dimensional lenses—political, sociological, economic, biological, historic, philosophical....</p> <p>There is also a mandatory course called introduction to critical thinking, which teaches a lot of good little boys and girls exactly that—to be critical, to analyse, and to challenge.</p> <p>Every time we would drive back from the dreaming spires (or rather the gleaming blocks) of Ashoka, we would discuss how the cocky kids cocooned in there are in some ways very (in fact unusually!) aware of what is going on in the country, but at the same time, also curiously detached from it. Or perhaps, immune is a better word. It is like they seem to think that yes, the liberal space is shrinking dangerously outside, but things are never gonna get shrinky in here.</p> <p>And now suddenly, they have.</p> <p>Ashoka’s smug, academic La La land has been hit with by the cement truck of another kind of a lala land. The moneybags who fund the place have flexed, and the citadel is consequently teeter-tottering. Statement upon statement, each one more agonised and more impeccably composed than the last, is making it to the news as the dons attempt to finesse the fact that their founders/funders crudely commanded their shiniest intellectual superstar to pull his political punches, causing him to toss his (metaphorical) curls and dash off a letter of resignation.</p> <p>Naturally, the students are all stirred up. They are denouncing the moneybags roundly, boycotting classes, but are showing up in large numbers to attend their chosen hero Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s final lectures. Using the critical thinking they have been taught, they are turning upon the institution that taught it to them.</p> <p>Watching all the hand-wringing the chancellor and his team are now indulging in I am tempted to eye-roll and wonder, did they really think that what is happening at JNU, and IIMC, and FTII, and DU and the IIMs, would not happen, eventually, at Ashoka?</p> <p>To quote Harry Styles’ broody ballad, ‘Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times.’</p> <p>Now, I truly believe that Ashoka, just like the institutions named above, is a special place. It has been created with a lot of passion, and a lot of purity. It has done a great job in the short time it has been around, and their students are proof of it.</p> <p>But if it really wants to stand true to its avowed, entirely laudable, and urgently needed mission of ‘providing India a truly world-class liberal arts education, in an atmosphere of complete academic autonomy and intellectual fearlessness’, then it is going to have to stop pussy-footing about. It should exhibit some of that rust-resistant, enduring iron the emperor it has named itself for put into his pillars, and take some tough calls.</p> <p>Or sink into intellectual (if not financial) insignificance.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/25/ashoka-university-should-take-some-tough-calls-says-anuja-chauhan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/25/ashoka-university-should-take-some-tough-calls-says-anuja-chauhan.html Thu Mar 25 16:00:26 IST 2021 castles-desi-cliches <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/10/castles-desi-cliches.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/3/10/castle-new.jpg" /> <p>So cute how all of America is shocked and speechless because an unnamed member of the British royal family expressed concern over how brown/black Harry and Meghan’s baby could potentially look. In India, nobody would be in the least surprised at such an un-woke, tone-deaf “concern”, especially coming from a member of the older generation. Because the first question our oldies ask upon learning about the birth of a new baby is, “Is it a boy or a girl?” And the second is, well, “Is it fair or dark?” The imputation, quite clearly, is that the order of preference goes thus: 1) Fair boy; 2) dark boy; 3) fair girl; 4) dark girl. Hmm...could the Windsors just be Walias, or Wadias, or Warsis under the skin?</p> <p>Then there is the dismissive treatment they reportedly dished out to the new <i>bahu</i> when she came to them saying she is worried she has mental health issues and is contemplating suicide. A mixture of “stiff-upper-lip”, “get-a-grip” and “stop making excuses” that would do any old-school, desi parent proud.</p> <p>There are also reports of the two sisters-in-law (or co-sisters as we call it in <i>namma</i> south India) being at war with each other over issues as inconsequential as the famous <i>rasode-mein-kaun-tha</i>. The vapid factoid that Kate Middleton wanted the six flower girls at the Harry-Meghan wedding to wear lady-like tights under their darling little bell-shaped frocks, while Meghan preferred for them to be all Bohemian and bare-legged. (A good tabloid headline could have been ‘Meghan: Naked Ambition!’ Or ‘Kate: Tight Control!’) Truly an issue worthy of a one-hour episode on any leading desi daily soap opera. You know, with all those dramatic freeze frames, triple cuts and sword-blades-slicing-through-the-air sound effects. So damningly desi!</p> <p>These ladies have also been accused of “setting brother against brother” and “making” their husbands fight―like the two grown men have no shared history, or bond, or minds of their own, and can be moved like pawns by their scheming “commoner” wives. That is a desi trope if ever I saw one.</p> <p>And finally, there is this whole deal with threatening to disinherit a whole, entire son simply because he wants to have a love marriage with a woman from a different, “inferior” community. Talk about <i>Mughal-E-Azam Redux</i>. Or <i>Bobby 2021</i>. Or <i>Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Revisited</i>. But with homelier looking leads, of course. Because let us face it, William is no Shah Rukh and the Queen (God save her) is no Prithviraj.</p> <p>Add to that the entire joint-family ensemble cast, headed by a sweet old grandparent―in the “Ba” or “Bauji” tradition, and a chock-full of evil stepmothers, randy uncles, opportunistic hangers-on, compromised in-laws and muzzled out-laws, all of which could so easily be played out in an overdecorated haveli in Ahmedabad or Amritsar. Swap the Corgi dogs and the horses for goats and buffaloes, change the scones to samosas, the English breakfast tea to masala chai, and what you have got is something Sooraj Barjatya could have directed without even stirring out of his mirror-work embellished razai.</p> <p>Still, it cannot be denied that they have managed to grab global headlines with this rich-people non-issue.</p> <p>Could we all be better occupied discussing something more significant? Of course. But with the pandemic continuing, and so many worrying “internal issues of India” to deal with, it is so restful to give one’s brain a gossipy little break by discussing all the tea the Windsors have been spilling.</p> <p>It is just so low-key hilarious that they have got their collective knickers in a twist because their pristinely white royal house has been “tainted” with a bit of lowly brown. Do they not realise they are the biggest brown cliché that can ever be?</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/10/castles-desi-cliches.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/03/10/castles-desi-cliches.html Wed Mar 10 19:16:44 IST 2021 in-the-beard-we-trust <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/02/11/in-the-beard-we-trust.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/2/11/53-beard-new.jpg" /> <p>I must confess I am hypnotised by ‘the beard’. It was always faultlessly groomed and very dapper, but in the past year, irrigated perhaps by the copious sweat and tears its owner has shed in the service of the nation, it has grown both in lushness and lustre. Today it shimmers with a saintly Gandalf/Dumbledore/Guru Nanak/Valmiki/Chhatrapati Shivaji/Obi-Wan Kenobi/Robi Babu-like gravitas, which immediately disarms the beholder, and floods him/her with a sense of reverent reassurance. All must be well with the nation when ‘the bearded one’ is in charge.</p> <p>Thus have people been mesmerised in the past by the optics of Indira Gandhi’s iconic white streak, by Mahatma Gandhi’s naked, emaciated chest, by Bhagat Singh’s handlebar moustache, by M.F. Husain’s bare feet, and by the elaborate bindis of many a television serial vamp.</p> <p>Coupled with an impressive collection of flowing shawls and elegantly cut long kurtas, ‘the beard’ persuades all to fold their hands and bow before its luminescence. It is a beard that elicits a flood of obedient #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda tweets from our highest achievers and celebrities without even asking for them. A beard that looks only slightly (and even handsomely!) ruffled by the winds of international criticism. A beard that has attained so much stature that it can openly scoff at a peaceful protest―that time-honoured right of all citizens of our democratic republic and the very weapon that won us our independence―and dub everybody exercising it “parasites” and “<i>andolan jeevis</i>”. (A nice word that could be the new “Chowkidaar”―somebody must already be printing T-shirts with it emblazoned across the chest in shiny pink and gold glitter.)</p> <p>We just saw ‘the beard’ in full, glorious action in the Rajya Sabha, where during a garrulous, grandfatherly speech, it silently semaphored the message that unlike the rich farmers and opportunists seeking to mislead the poor farmers, ‘the bearded one’ is genuinely on their team. Do not worry about A2 and FL, it signalled wordlessly, <i>main hoon na</i>, I will C2 everything!</p> <p>I must confess that after watching ‘the beard’ beam out this message in the Rajya Sabha, I was fully convinced. Especially as the opposition has never seemed more clueless, petulant, self-righteous and opportunistic.</p> <p>Inconveniently though, the farmers are proving to be much harder to convince. They are unimpressed with the rhetorical “MSP was there, MSP is there and MSP will always be there” reassurance, and are demanding something a little more concrete and cast-iron―not the concrete that has been poured into the borders and studded with cast-iron spikes to keep them out of the national capital, but an unqualified, categorical, written-down bit of legislation. That guarantees them various things, but most importantly, that guarantees them the M.S. Swaminathan Report definition of minimum support price, i.e. comprehensive cost (or C2) + 50 per cent of C2.</p> <p>The BJP came into power in Haryana in 2014 by promising exactly this to the farmers of the state. But one year later threw up its hands saying the Swaminathan report MSP recommendations were impossible to implement. And, two years later, claimed it had already implemented them! So, maybe the farmers’ demand to have things debated, and written down, is justified.</p> <p>Now, any hairstylist worth his/her salt will tell you that the key to cultivating a thick, glossy mane (both on your head and on your face) is primarily nourishment to the roots. Nourishment in a vegetarian diet comes from things which are grown by farmers.</p> <p>Do not bite the hand that feeds your beard would be a good cautionary aphorism then, for the bearded one to consider.</p> <p>Otherwise, the conflict could become an extremely hairy one.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/02/11/in-the-beard-we-trust.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/02/11/in-the-beard-we-trust.html Thu Feb 11 16:43:03 IST 2021 who-rained-on-whose-parade <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/28/who-rained-on-whose-parade.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/1/28/31-parade-new.jpg" /> <p>It is called hijack marketing. You know, like back in the 1990s when Coca Cola paid millions to be the official sponsor of the ICC World Cup and Sachin Tendulkar sauntered into the the frame, chugged from a blue can and cheekily said ‘Pepsi, Nothing official about it’ and stole everybody’s hearts? Or, like those videos that go viral nowadays, of a best man proposing to his girlfriend while making the bridal toast that is supposed to be in honour of the bride and groom. Or, like grumpy Bernie Sanders in his <i>dadaji</i> mittens stealing the limelight from Lady Gaga in her huge, poofy red skirt, and everybody else at Joe Biden’s inauguration.</p> <p>At least that is what it was supposed to be. The farmers’ parade, I mean. It was supposed to steal the thunder of the official 72nd Republic Day parade (which was already looking pretty non-thundery, to be honest... because no chief guest, shorter route and all those masks). Not to mention an entirely unenthused looking VIP audience, sitting slumped and unsmiling in their spaced apart chairs (I mean, would it have killed them to at least look upwards when Group Captain Harkirat Singh, Shaurya Chakra awardee, whizzed over their heads, risking his life performing death-defying aerobatics in the new Rafale aircraft? C’mon, aunties and uncles, you don’t see that every day, even in your Lutyens <i>banglas</i>!)</p> <p>I, for one, was all ready to be wooed and wowed. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan is my favorite patriotic slogan and this January 26 seemed to be promising me all that and more. Except that things started to go horribly wrong.</p> <p>Somewhere along the way, the hijackers got highjacked. Or so they claim. Marketeers far wilier than themselves infiltrated their ranks and sought to overthrow their agenda and destroy the goodwill they have built up over two months through peaceful, disciplined protest.</p> <p>Such are the perils of hijack marketing! Frankly, the farmer groups should have seen it coming and been better prepared.</p> <p>Anyway, their claim has not been proven yet. The only thing we can say for sure, as the sun sets on our 72nd Republic Day, is that the visuals on our screens are invoking a horrible sense of deja-vu.</p> <p>An angry mob running amuck as its leaders stand by, helpless and ignored. Police unable to prevail. Ant-like figures swarming up the rounded curves of Islamic domes, silhouetted against the sun. Chaos and anarchy.</p> <p>But while, in 1992, the day ended with the razing of a 16th century masjid and left behind wounds that have still not healed, today our <i>tiranga</i> still continues to flutter triumphantly from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Yes, a few Sikh flags seem to be nibbling at its toes (or, as some of the farmers put it, paying obeisance at its feet), but whatever. And to the people who say no religious flag should have been displayed at the Red Fort at all today, I say yes, and no Ram temple should have been displayed in the tableau of Uttar Pradesh either.</p> <p>One farmer has died tragically and it is reported accidently, and many police folk have been injured. But almost miraculously, the genie seems to have been put back, somewhat sloppily, into its bottle. The bulk of the tractors seem to have retreated. This is no small feat and a testimony to the discipline of both the farmers and the Delhi Police.</p> <p>The farmers’ cause is valid. The laws they are fighting are cruel and unfair. They have the support of all of us. Now all they need to do is stay as icy cool as the Delhi winter, and not let opportunistic marketeers hijack their agenda.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/28/who-rained-on-whose-parade.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/28/who-rained-on-whose-parade.html Thu Jan 28 16:06:32 IST 2021 thank-you-america <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/14/thank-you-america.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2021/1/14/69-america-news.jpg" /> <p>Regular readers of this column may remember the four desi stray puppies (Happy, Kali, Rani and Cola) whom my family and I have been fostering since last October. I had reached out to everybody I knew and used every platform I have access to (Facebook, Instagram, school and college groups, this column) to find somebody who would give them a loving home. And the response was universally zero, zip, zilch, nada.</p> <p>And then suddenly, miraculously, help came from a source I least expected. From the east coast of the United States of America, people started writing to my sister (who is Boston-based, and fosters for the organisation Rescue Without Borders) that they would love to adopt a rescue puppy from India and that they would be happy to pay a hefty adoption fee to cover the cost of the puppy’s travel and medical bills!</p> <p>These people humbly filled out what I can only describe as an extremely nosy application form designed by Rescue Without Borders (‘Is your home owned or rented? How did your last pet die? Where will your pet stay when you travel?’), and mailed my sister repeatedly and anxiously for updates on when the puppies would be arriving.</p> <p>And now Happy, Rani, Kali and Cola are spending their days running about happily in my sister’s backyard in Boston, discussing whether they prefer the family with the two-acre fenced yard in Cape Cod, or the family in the Catskills with seven speckled hens, or the single writer lady by the River Charles with miles of walkways just outside her door.</p> <p>Oh, and when it starts to snow, they run into her warm house, jump onto her couch, and watch the news on the telly with great interest.</p> <p>They are puzzled by the fact that America is trying to impeach its head of state, just for “incitement of insurrection”. Surely, that is entirely reasonable? Ask the Bengaluru-born puppies. Do all heads of state not incite violence and cause insurrection? We thought it is part of their job description! How very unpatriotic of these people to raise their voice against their head of state. Do they not know that a head-of-state is the <i>mai-baap</i>, the top dog, all-powerful and unquestionable, more powerful than a mere Constitution, and the concept of democracy, and the founding fathers’ ideologies?</p> <p>They are even more astonished by the fact that this movement is cutting across party lines, that not only the Democrats but a growing number of Republicans are agreeing that Donald Trump is unfit for office and needs to be tossed into the dustbin of history, asap.</p> <p>Firstly, dustbins are good places, say the puppies, we have found some amazingly tasty morsels inside dustbins, and secondly, it is unheard of for different parties to agree on anything. That is like one of the basic tenets of politics in a dog-eat-dog world.</p> <p>They are also very concerned by the fact that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch and Reddit have had the gumption to ban a serving head of state from their platforms. As dogs, they understand the importance of a rigidly maintained social hierarchy, where the alpha rules with an iron fist and nobody gives him any lip, or everybody gets hurt, “real baddd”.</p> <p>I did try to tell them, on our last Zoom call, that perhaps the “hoomans” of America know what they are doing. They adopted you, after all, I pointed out. Maybe their systems of governance and checks and balances are better and more robust than what we have here, back in India?</p> <p>Maybe, finally, America is setting a good example for us, and for every other democracy enamoured of “strong” leadership to follow.</p> <p>The puppies have agreed to listen to the news more carefully. And I, in my finally-puppy-free home, for once have nothing but admiration and gratitude in my heart for America.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/14/thank-you-america.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2021/01/14/thank-you-america.html Thu Jan 14 13:48:16 IST 2021 the-black-duke-and-dalit-kings <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/31/the-black-duke-and-dalit-kings.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/12/31/75-bridgerton-new.jpg" /> <p>Netflix’s Christmas Day release <i>Bridgerton</i>, a historical romance series set in 1803, has created quite a stir by casting a black actor in the role of the wealthy, immensely privileged Duke of Hastings—something that is entirely period-incorrect and wildly improbable. In doing so, the show is following the example set by the superhit musical <i>Hamilton</i> that cast black actors in the roles of several of America’s founding fathers. The logic for such casting is not so much colour blindness (casting the best actors in the parts regardless of ethnicity) but colour-awareness—casting persons of colour in order to give young viewers role models to aspire to. And not let historicals become a way of covertly celebrating the ‘good old days’ when white people called all the shots, and people of colour could only be either slaves or criminals. (This is something we are seeing a lot of in Indian historicals nowadays, which, in the name of period-correctness, seems to be full of demonised Muslim invaders, patriotic Hindu kings who kowtow to wise, sacred-thread wearing Brahmins, docile women who know their place in society, and mute dalits.)</p> <p>Of course, I see how the <i>Bridgerton</i> kind of casting can be problematic, especially in a country like ours where huge swathes of people are still uneducated, uninformed or only hazily informed about our history and mythologies. We tend to take our movies as gospel truth, especially the so-called ‘biopics’. I even know of some schools that are screening these films during their history and civics periods.</p> <p>And so we have collectively swallowed the notion that when Milkha Singh was running the 400 metre race in the Olympics in 1960, he was traumatised by flashbacks of the partition in 1947, and so it was really the fault of the British and Muslims that he ended up coming fourth. We fully believe that Allauddin Khilji ate raw meat with his bare hands, that Sanjay Dutt once hilariously put a toilet seat around the neck of his girlfriend instead of a mangalsutra, that Bal Narendra sold tea to soldiers heading to the war front, and more recently, that Princess Diana used to roller-skate down the corridors of Buckingham Palace listening to ‘Duran Duran’, and that this Christmas Eve, Anurag Kashyap kidnapped Anil Kapoor’s daughter.</p> <p>Internationally, Netflix’s series <i>The Crown</i> has been accused of wildly misrepresenting the lives of the British royal family and passing off tabloid gossip as history. <i>The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel</i> and <i>The Queen’s Gambit</i>, both very popular Netflix shows, also take liberties with historical accuracy, imagining a female stand-up comic and a female chess prodigy during an era when no such person existed.</p> <p>Purists argue that narratives like this get in the way of genuine introspection. In the Milkha example, for instance, why did he end up coming fourth, really? What were the shortcomings in his training, his gear, his preparation? How can we, as a nation with sporting ambitions, improve upon that? Which is valid, I guess.</p> <p>But then again, we live in a world where fact blurs with fiction constantly. We are all about ‘display pictures’ and ‘cover photos’ and faking it. So everything is up for re-representation, really.</p> <p>And sometimes, the sight of a handsome black duke riding about all Wakanda-like, clicking his fingers to summon white manservants to do his bidding can be more empowering and more of a course-corrector than an in-depth documentary into the evils of slavery.</p> <p>If our ‘historicals’ are gonna be inaccurate in any case, why can’t we make them so, in a good and empowering way? I am all for handsome black dukes in the 1800s. And sassy female chess grandmasters and stand-up comics in the nineteen fifties. Netflix, now just give us a hot dalit king and a shudra dynasty or two.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/31/the-black-duke-and-dalit-kings.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/31/the-black-duke-and-dalit-kings.html Thu Dec 31 11:32:59 IST 2020 look-whos-surprised <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/17/look-whos-surprised.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/12/17/surprised-new.jpg" /> <p>Why does the GoI always insist on acting so coy? Like, with information? Why don’t they ever just <i>tell</i>&nbsp;us before they pull a major piece of legislation out of a hat? Seriously, they remind me a little of those over-enthu, slightly obsessive boyfriends who always want to throw surprise parties for you on your birthday. You're walking around all chill and clueless, humming a little song perhaps, and <i>bam</i>, they leap out from behind the sofa holding a cake you never asked for, blazing with candles, dripping wax all over your clean floor, and bellow <i>SURPRIISSSSE </i>so loudly that you die of a heart attack.</p> <p><br> Right now, it is our farmers who are in danger of dying of a heart attack. Last year, pretty much on these dates exactly, it was our minorities. A little before that, it was the much-put-upon Kashmiris. And before that, of course, it was all of us, reeling wildly in shock as GoI, beaming from ear to ear, leapt out and brandished a two-tiered cake at us, the lower one iced ‘Demonetisation’ and the upper, ‘GST’.</p> <p><br> ‘Isn’t it <i>pretty</i>?’ they chortled. ‘Aren’t you <i>happy</i>? C’mon, let’s all sing Bharat Mata Ki Jai and blow its candles out! Lol, don’t be afraid of this big knife we’re holding! We’re not going to <i>slit your throat with it! So funny!</i>’</p> <p><br> And just like the toxic boyfriend, they sulk if you don’t like the surprise. Sometimes they get nasty. They call you ungrateful. Like, look at us busting Rs20,000 crore on giving New Delhi this amazing new Central Vista, and you are so ungrateful you don’t even like it! What do you mean we should have asked you what sort of new Central Vista you wanted, or if you wanted a new Central Vista at all? What do you mean <i>you won’t pay for it</i>? How ungrateful! You think this is some sort of democracy? Just say thank you nicely, and suck it up, okay?</p> <p><br> The reason why toxic boyfriends love throwing surprise parties is that they are control freaks. They like to micro-manage everything, while keeping their ‘loved’ one in the dark, high-handedly avoiding all debate and discussion and the seeking of consent, and after the party, hogging all the credit for being so loving and sensitive and proactive. While a genuinely loving boyfriend may actually surprise his partner with something she wants, a sociopath will generally give her what is good for <i>him,</i>&nbsp;not her.<br> Which leads one to suspect that the reason why our government holds its cards so close to its chest is similar. They don’t want us to know <i>ki choli ki peechay kya hai</i>. They don’t want debate and discussion. They don’t want Nobel Prize winners in Economics or (God forbid!) actual farmers weighing in on these issues and confusing everybody. They don’t want ‘too much of a democracy’. Just fait accompli after fait accompli.</p> <p><br> But the farmers don’t seem to have gotten this memo. They are persisting in calmly but very firmly rejecting GoI’s three lavishly decorated cakes, one iced Minimum Support Price <i>ka</i>&nbsp;The End, one iced Legal Recourse <i>ka</i>&nbsp;The End, and one iced Hoarding and Stockpiling. Your surprise cakes are poisoned, they are saying politely. We won’t eat them. Because if we do, <i>we'll</i>&nbsp;be the new cake. And the people who will blow our candles out, and eat us up, are Big Business.</p> <p><br> I don’t know, but there is something about the look in their eyes. They have sowed their crops, packed up enough food to see them through the winter, and come to town to settle in for the long haul. Maybe this time, the surprise givers will end up being surprised themselves.<br> </p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/17/look-whos-surprised.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/17/look-whos-surprised.html Thu Dec 17 16:53:11 IST 2020 anything-for-karan-uncle <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/03/anything-for-karan-uncle.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/12/3/71-bollywood-wives-new.jpg" /> <p>Imagine a show called the Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Husbands. Starring (just off the top of my head) Zaheer Khan, Siddharth Roy Kapoor and Anand Ahuja. Where they talk a little about cricket, movie production and the shoe-making industry, and a lot about what they wear, where they party and with whom, while swearing that they are going to put aside their entire career till their children (to be) are grown, because you know, career-shareer <i>toh theek hai</i>, but my kids need me and you know, fatherhood comes first. We get lots of shots of them walking in slow motion, wearing sunglasses, and partying, and in the end, Virat Kohli/Nick Jonas/Anil Ambani shows up and they all fawn at him, give him a king-like throne to sit on, and get teary-eyed about how he was always there for them through their hardest times.</p> <p>The mind boggles, right? Because, OMG, everybody knows that Bollywood husbands are not just husbands, ya. They are their own person first, with their own independent career and identity. Whereas in the new Netflix show <i>The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives</i> (produced by Karan Johar’s ‘Dharmatic’ productions) Bollywood wives are clearly just... wives. Being the wife of a dud member of a star family and the mother of a (potential) future star, is their only identity and symbol of success. To do the ladies justice, and to use with-it lingo, they try to ‘own’ this badge as unapologetically and as sassily as they can, but there is no forgetting the fact that, to quote the obnoxious Kabir Singh from the movie <i>Kabir Singh</i>, “You had no <i>aukaat</i> in this college before you became my girlfriend.”</p> <p>To make things worse, one does not feel anything for them. And this is not because their problems are rich people problems. I think we would all concede that a rich girl starving herself, like Princess Diana is currently doing in Season 4 of <i>The Crown</i>, suffers as much as a poor girl starving in poverty in a third world country. But the dilemmas the wives face in <i>FLBW</i> are so trite that one simply cannot be moved by them. It is a world so vacuous that when the daughter of one of the wives is asked why she chose to wear red to a debutante ball in Paris (don’t even ask) she artlessly confides “so that everybody will look at me”, where a certain wife is considered edgy and out-there because she repeatedly says “a......” and “f...”, and where nobody speaks in Hindi except to their domestic staff but everybody wants their children to make it big in the Hindi movies.</p> <p>In Margaret Atwood’s <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i>, the women are named after their keepers. Fred’s handmaid is Offred, Glen’s handmaid is Ofglen and Warren’s is Ofwarren. Bearing children for these men is literally their entire identity, and this is so eerily reminiscent of <i>FLBW</i>, where the wives are clearly hoping to be the next Pinky Roshan or Lalli Dhawan―and that the children they have birthed, all of whom have ‘proven’ DNA in their veins, are going to be the next superstar.</p> <p>If one puts feminist quibbles aside, there is something quite fascinating about this bloody, no-holds-barred battle for succession. Frankly, I lost track of the Kapoor and Khan spawn as I watched; there seem to be dozens of south Bombay <i>shehzadas</i> and<i> shehzadis</i>, all first cousins and childhood friends―and all hoping to be launched by Karan uncle. (This probably explains why their machinating mamas did this vapid show in the first place.)</p> <p>Unfortunately, the show captures none of these Game of Throne-ish undercurrents and stays determinedly superficial.</p> <p>They say every country gets the leaders it deserves. Also, the entertainment it deserves. As <i>FLBW</i> tops Netflix India, beating out <i>Ludo</i>, <i>Mismatched</i> and the Emmy award-winning <i>Delhi Crime</i>, it says less about the wives and more about us as a country.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/03/anything-for-karan-uncle.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/12/03/anything-for-karan-uncle.html Thu Dec 03 14:32:47 IST 2020 time-for-a-pup-talk <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/19/time-for-a-pup-talk.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/11/19/92-pup.jpg" /> <p>Did you know Donald Trump was the first POTUS in 120 years to not own a dog? And when this was pointed out to him, he said he was “too busy to own a dog”, and “how would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?” and that getting one now just to “pander to the public” would be “phony”.</p> <p>Donald dislikes dogs. And the feeling appears to be mutual. In her memoir, <i>Raising Trump</i>, his ex-wife Ivana says that her dog Chappie barked and growled every time the future president tried to approach him.</p> <p>Today, large swathes of the American public are looking forward to the arrival of Major and Champ (Joe Biden’s dogs) into the White House with greater joy than they are hailing the arrival of Joe Biden himself. They seem to think that a person who does not love dogs is a person who is not to be trusted, and I, for one, cannot help wondering if they have a point.</p> <p>Nehru loved his golden retrievers. Rabindranath Tagore was very fond of Lalu, his stray dog. Ambedkar cried “like a bereaved mother” at the death of his doggo. Rahul Gandhi has a bright-eyed little dog called Pidi, who has often been called more intelligent than his master. The recent wildly popular web series <i>Pataal Lok</i> made the point that people who are kind to stray dogs are good people, even if they may also be hitmen and murderers. It is a documented fact that pictures of young men holding a puppy get many more right swipes on Tinder than pictures of young men holding a protein shake or a baby, though less than pictures of a young man holding the keys to an expensive car.</p> <p>The logic seems to be that just as dogs can sniff out drugs and other illicit substances, they can sniff out duplicity, cruelty and assholery in human beings, and so basically, “dog-approved” is a verification everybody should strive for.</p> <p>Okay, time for me to confess that I am harping on about dogs today because I am anxious to get the three stray girl puppies I am fostering adopted into good homes.</p> <p>This litter of three girls used to be a litter of six. I had a flurry of inquiries and a choice of many candidates to take home the boy pups, but once all three of them were gone, inquiries have abruptly and very definitely dried up. Nobody wants a girl pup, even though the neutering surgery costs only Rs4,000 in a good clinic, and even though the girls are as intelligent and as alert as, if not more than, the boys. It is such a depressing glimpse into the vice-like grip patriarchy has on our country, limited not just to uneducated or rural folk, but flourishing among the educated middle classes, and the super-privileged as well.</p> <p>And so, I feel Modiji should strike a blow for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign and come forward to adopt my Rani, Kali or Cola himself. They are all fully local and very vocal, so they can be the mascots of his Vocal for Local campaign, too. Besides, the “dog-approved” verification (so much cooler than the Obama-approved validation everybody is currently clamouring for) will give him a lot of added political clout. The fact that he picked them over all the glamorous Siberian huskies and German shepherds he could adopt will underline the fact that <i>desi</i> design and <i>desi</i> engineering are best suited to <i>desi</i> terrain.</p> <p>Modiji, do think about it. A lovely girl doggo to liven up your lonely, fakir-ish home. A warm welcome when you return to 7, Lok Kalyan Marg after a hard day’s work. The thrill of knowing you are loved, unconditionally and always, just for the person you are!</p> <p>And, if Modiji cannot come through, folks, you please do? Write to me @theweeklive, and take home a gorgeous <i>desi</i> girl.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/19/time-for-a-pup-talk.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/19/time-for-a-pup-talk.html Thu Nov 19 17:04:26 IST 2020 root-for-your-roots <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/06/root-for-your-roots.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/11/6/64-Root-for-your-roots-new.jpg" /> <p>I like to believe I am broadminded and inclusive and tolerant of everything except intolerance. Regular readers of this column may recall how I have often praised Manyaawar’s Har tyohaar India ka tyohaar (every festival is India’s festival) campaign for its large-hearted embracing of all joyful occasions regardless of religious origin. But there’s one festival, celebrated with increasing gusto year on year in India, which seriously makes me roll my eyes and groan out loud. Halloween.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not even particularly ashamed to admit that this American import brings out the ranting, raving Ram Sena Bhakt in me. Indian kids, living in India, clueless of the origins of All Souls’ Day and All Hallows’ Eve, running around ringing doorbells, dressed as witches and spooks and bats out of hell, demanding candy with great entitlement in faux American accents. Of course they don’t dress as Vikram, or Betaal, or Stree, or a Chudail with feet turned the wrong way, because OMG that would be so weird—all of them are properly attired as zombies or mummies or vampires or something else sufficiently western and therefore reassuringly cool.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first time a caboodle of such kids showed up at my doorstep about ten years ago, I asked them what exactly they were celebrating and none of them had a clue. One sassy specimen dressed as a spider tried to shame me by flipping the question back at me crowing ‘Haw, auntie, you don’t know what is a Halloween?’ So I told him Halloween was the ghost of his recently dead grandmother returning to visit the family and was he ready to feel her fingers stroking his hair in the dark at 3am, and that shut him up good. Then I gave them all some batashas and told them to leave.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why does it get me so worked up? It’s just kids being kids, isn’t it? And ya, sometimes I even agree with the school-moms’ WhatsApp groups that Holi can get rowdy and unhygienic, and Ram Leela dress-ups have been totally appropriated by hardcore Bhakt types, and if you send your kids out to collect eidi (or Ganpati chanda or Lohri goodies) who knows what people might say to them, and so let’s just roll with Halloween (or St. Patricks Day, or even freaking Cinco de Mayo) because it’s cute and harmless and non-controversial and Instagram-friendly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But I think it goes deeper than that. Pardon my sweeping generalisations but I think a majority of these candy-eating little ghouls and vampire-bats with their clocks set to Pacific time are soon going to take their SATs and run off to expensive colleges abroad. Then they will post Black Lives Matter hashtags on Instagram, while remaining entirely clueless about say, Dalit Lives Matter. Which sucks because they’re sitting right on top of the privilege pyramid and could do so much to help the people below them. And it also sucks because these are children cut off from their roots and it is love and pride for our roots that eventually give us wings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so ends my prosy little Manoj Kumar rant. Celebrate every festival of the world, if you like. Heck, Indians even ‘celebrated’ Corona with thali-bangings and band-baajaa! But don’t shudder and abandon our glorious, colourful, eminently Instagram worthy desi festivals to the loony fringe. If you think they’re regressive or polluting, reform them, reinvent them and reclaim them. Even ghastly old Karva Chauth may become less of a pill if both spouses keep it together. Or must we wait for a New Yorker to discover that, and then sell it to us like turmeric latte?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/06/root-for-your-roots.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/11/06/root-for-your-roots.html Fri Nov 06 16:34:46 IST 2020 canning-the-goosebumps <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/22/canning-the-goosebumps.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/10/22/60-Canning-the-goosebumps-new.jpg" /> <p><i>Carnation Milk is the best in the land,</i></p> <p><i>Here I stand with a can in my hand,</i></p> <p><i>No t*ts to pull, no hay to pitch,</i></p> <p><i>Just punch a hole in the sunnovabitch!</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This slogan for Carnation Milk, dating back to the early 1900s, is a classic example of first-wave advertising. In a simple, folksy style, it promises only nourishment and rest—needs which sit at the very base of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchically stacked pyramid of needs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the early 1900s, that was enough to get the job done. But today, we live in far more complicated times. Products in our overcrowded marketplace can no longer appeal to just the brain or just the stomach of their targeted consumer; they must vie for a share of the heart or even of the soul. Cos, that is where the feels and the goosebumps are. And, where the feels and the goosebumps are, Nike and Apple and Dove will tell you, is where the big money is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, milk advertising can no longer be just about having no cow t*ts to pull. It can no longer even just croon “doodh doodh doodh doodh, doodh hai wonderful, pee sakte hain roz glassful,” like the immensely popular Operation Flood ad did in the nineties. It must reach higher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amul met with this challenge by dialing up patriotism and the need to succeed. They showcased folks from different regions and religions of India all knocking back their glassfuls of milk in their own inimitable style and forging ahead purposefully to create a united India powered by Amul Milk, to a kickass jingle that went, “Aagey badhta hai India, Amul Doodh peeta hai India”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bajaj gave us Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer, Hamara Bajaj. Mountain Dew spoke loftily about vanquishing not thirst but fear. Manyavar recently had Virat Kohli enthusing about how Hume toh bas khushi ka bahaana chahiye yaar, har tyohaar, India ka Tyohaar, and showcased every festival from Christmas to Eid to Gurpurab to Holi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year Surf Excel showed a young Hindu girl shielding her younger Muslim friend from getting splattered by Holi balloons, so he could reach the mosque in clean clothes to say his namaz. The ad concluded that if getting dirty helps others, then Dirt is Good. A commendable, higher-ground, inclusive message nobody can object to, surely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But India has now become a country that objects to absolutely everything. This style of higher-ground advertising has now been condemned as “creative terrorism” by millions of right-wing trolls and Kangana Ranaut. And, Tanishq has had its knuckles sharply slapped for daring to show a Muslim family being nice to their Hindu daughter-in-law, and gifting her with a Tanishq gold set during her Godh Bharai ceremony.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aukaat mein raho, the ad frat has sternly been told. Stick to your brief. Stay in your little idiot box. Talk about dirt removal and thirst-quenching, and cut and carat. No more lectures in acceptance, forgiveness and loving-kindness, and challenging of narrow thinking by detergents and dairy products and jewellers, please. No more thought-leadership, basically. No more battle for the heart of India. The heart of India must belong only to Ram, nobody else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Where earlier, we were somehow investing in the exciting idea of a sparkling, progressive, large-hearted and pluralistic India, we are now just buying a gold necklace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our rulers are mandating advertising sans the feels and the goosebumps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Heck, they are mandating life without the feels and the goosebumps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Are we really gonna let them sell us that?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/22/canning-the-goosebumps.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/22/canning-the-goosebumps.html Thu Oct 22 16:43:58 IST 2020 demolishing-the-hathras-girl <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/09/demolishing-the-hathras-girl.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/10/9/hathras-new.jpg" /> <p>So the august courts have concluded that the Babri Masjid pretty much fell down by itself. The hefty amount of photographic and audio-video evidence that the CBI submitted was dismissed because it “could have been tampered with”. The accused were acquitted because “nobody saw them making any hand gestures or in any other way exhorting the crowd to break down the mosque”. The fact that they were right there, sitting on a stage and watching as the demolition happened is not proof of anything apparently. There is a lot of focus on the “noise” and the “dust” that prevented anybody present from quite comprehending what was going on. And so, for lack of evidence, everybody has been declared blameless and squeaky clean, and BJP cadres across the nation celebrated with laddoos.</p> <p>Give the propaganda makers a few years and they will have us swearing that it was Lord Ram himself who made the hand gesture that caused an earthquake to happen at the disputed site at the very moment the <i>kar seva</i> was being performed, and it was the consequent shifting and rumbling of the mighty tectonic plates that did the evil mosque in. (In fact, I am willing to bet good money that that will be the climax of the much-touted Kangana Ranaut directorial <i>Ayodhya</i>, set to release any time around a big election. So cinematically appealing and so much fresher and goose-bumpier than the other, always available but slightly bleh option, i.e., a Pakistani conspiracy.)</p> <p>Of course, the verdict is an obscenity. What is equally obscene is that #Hathras is starting to look ominously like our new #Babri.</p> <p>Attacked for merely existing, the Hathras rape victim, too, was knocked to the ground, violated, reduced to rubble and left for dead. Clear proof and a dying declaration are being negated as we watch, and loved ones are being brutally arm-twisted and muzzled. Worried perhaps, that the eye of the international press is on India post #BLM and about a new and growing awareness of the plight of dalits, and determined that Hathras should not become as big as Nirbhaya, the UP government has hired a fancy public relations firm to put out a version saying there was no rape at all! A damaging “alleged” is being tacked on to every mention of rape to snip the “false binary” between Hathras and Nirbhaya. Anonymous WhatsApp messages are assuring us cosily that the death was an honour killing carried out by the victim’s own family because she was infatuated with high-caste boys.</p> <p>And, it is working. A sweet old lady in a white lace dupatta confided quite earnestly to me in my yoga class that the girl’s own mother had strangled her, broken her spinal cord and inserted a rod up her vagina. The sweet old lady had read all about it on her phone.</p> <p>Following a policy of throw-everything-you-can-and-hope-it-sticks—again reminiscent of the Babri model—a line is also being trotted out about how the girl’s family are the tools of a shadowy foreign power that wants to destabilise UP and unleash a civil war statewide, because it is so jealous of the developmental leaps (LOL!) UP has made under Yogi Adityanath.</p> <p>That will probably work too.</p> <p>Going forward, we can expect more denials, more delays, more demonising of the victim and her family, and better strategy and spin than what is currently on display at the IPL.</p> <p>To use current parlance, Hathras is being cancelled. Just like the Babri Masjid demolition was cancelled. With a wave of its all-powerful and super-expensive PR brush, the Adityanath government is whitewashing the whole gruesome incident just in time for Diwali. Because if you do not whitewash, Lakshmi<i>ji</i> cannot be enticed into entering your home and blessing you with prosperity, <i>na</i>.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/09/demolishing-the-hathras-girl.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/10/09/demolishing-the-hathras-girl.html Fri Oct 09 16:10:26 IST 2020 weed-ing-out-the-liberal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/25/weed-ing-out-the-liberal.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/9/25/21-Weed-ing-out-the-liberal-new.jpg" /> <p>So bhang is the new beef. It is evil, depraved and anti-national, and you can be arrested/assaulted on the spot, no questions asked, for consuming it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never mind that Zeenat Aman made bhang/marijuana/cannabis/weed the epitome of rebellion in 1971’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna; that Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz mainstreamed it from edgy #hippiecool to wholesome #honeymoongoals with 1974’s ‘Jai Shiv Shankar’, shot in Gulmarg in a Shiva temple no less; that Amitabh Bachchan took it down to every street and mohalla in 1978’s Don with the lyrics ‘Bhang ka rang jama ho chakachak, phir lo paan chabaye’ from the super-hit ‘Khai ke paan Banaras wala’ (Banaras, of course, being our venerated prime minister’s constituency); that the line ‘Mary-Jane ka ek packet’ in the iconic ‘Meri laundry ka ek bill’ song from 2008’s Rock On!! is a wink-and-nudge reference to the open consumption of marijuana in colleges; that Amish Tripathi’s first and best novel The Immortals of Meluha from his bestselling Shiva trilogy has Lord Shiva taking a long drag from a marijuana bong in his introductory scene; and that even a channel as prissy and sanskari as Star Plus showed Arnav and Khushi, the iconic super-couple from 2012’s Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon? finally confessing their love for each other while stoned on the happy, liberating hit of Holi bhang.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cannabis is practically prasad for heaven’s sake; it is the air that hangs over Manasarovar lake, it has clearly proven medicinal and pain-relieving benefits, it features in the Atharva Veda’s list of five most holy plants, and although the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 prohibits the production, sale and consumption of certain parts of the plant, the leaves are an exception.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So why is the GOI bent on demonising it?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Well firstly, Lord Shiva is not too popular with the hindutva types. He is too much of an outlier, too broad-minded, too unworldly or ‘bhola’. He mixes with all kinds of lowlife (his wedding procession famously comprised of demons, apparitions, witches and ghouls who cannot be plotted into the meticulously hierarchical caste and class system) and unlike the poster gods of muscular Hinduism, Ram (famous for abandoning his spouse) and Krishna (famous for being polyamorous), he loves, respects and is fiercely loyal to his wife and is therefore a natural ally of the #SmashThePatriarchy army fighting for #JusticeForRhea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, it is always good to have something to hit liberals on the head with, especially now that homosexuality has been de-criminalised. Students, poets, writers, filmmakers, vocal creative people who disturb the nationalistic narrative with subversive babble about free speech, unity in diversity and democracy can now be gagged and suppressed for being stoners, if nothing else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thirdly, wild speculation, crackdowns and witch-hunting of Bollywood A-listers for using marijuana (and other drugs) provides great circus-style entertainment on our news channels and feeds the schadenfreude-need of the masses (who have nothing to celebrate nowadays apart from the misery of others, preferably those who are richer, from a different religion, or more privileged than themselves.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And finally, and most importantly, it diverts attention from the real issues, like the high-handed passing of two farmers bills in Parliament, without any discussion or voting or probing by a parliamentary committee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of the day, cannabis is as good or as bad as alcohol or cigarettes—cheaper than ciggies and less fattening than booze (which is perhaps why it is popular with celebrities.) Overindulgence in any kind of intoxicant is eventually bad for you, but surely, in a reasonable society, adults should have the right to choose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But reason isn’t really in vogue these days. What is in vogue is stoning the stoners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/25/weed-ing-out-the-liberal.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/25/weed-ing-out-the-liberal.html Fri Sep 25 17:14:19 IST 2020 let-look-to-our-aukaat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/11/let-look-to-our-aukaat.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/9/11/57-Rhea-Chakraborty-new.jpg" /> <p>So, in one of the new, ever-plummeting lows that have taken over our national discourse, the Bihar Police has sneered at Rhea Chakraborty for not possessing any aukaat. To be exact, Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey has stated: ‘What is her aukaat that she dares to question the Chief Minister of Bihar?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Rhea, wracked with grief, weakened by badgering and as caught up in the circus as the next Indian, proudly replies, “My aukaat is that Sushant Singh Rajput—whom everybody claims to love—loved me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sweet, I suppose. Very sound-bitey, and Kabir Singh-ki-girlfriend-ish. But, incorrect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because, no, Rhea, you do not need to be loved by Sushant Singh Rajput or any other major movie star to possess aukaat (an obnoxious, very north-Indian word, impossible to translate into English, but loosely meaning social status/power/wealth)—this is still a democracy and your aukaat as an Indian citizen and a human being is enough for you to question the chief minister of Bihar, or the prime minister of India or the Supreme Court of the country for that matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In today’s gangland style Kalyug, aukaat has become who we are loved by, or protected by, or in whose ‘camp’ we are. And as Rhea’s aukaat provider, ie, Sushant, is unfortunately dead, she is mobbed and grabbed and vilified every time she steps out of her house, a mere girlfriend in a nation where every man, woman and child is acting like a shrill, betrayed housewife, a shiny, helpless pawn in a much larger game of distract and misrule in a misogynistic story that is rapidly becoming about Mumbai versus Bihar—even as the economy spirals downwards, Kashmir continues to bleed, Ladakh is endangered, and all national institutions go slowly to hell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are crazy times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so the hour has come, ladies and gentleman, for all of us to look to our aukaat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How much do we have? How do we assert it, protect it and project it?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would urge all of you to take Kangana Ranaut as your role model. Here is a middle-class outsider who has earned some hefty aukaat! From being a defiant nobody who toed nobody’s line but her own, she has gone to being an obedient somebody who loyally toes the GOI line, and for her pains, she has been awarded with Y-plus security. (Because, you know, of all the death threats she has been getting.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is that you say? Swara Bhasker, Barkha Dutt and Rana Ayyub all get rape and death threats on a daily basis? Perhaps more than Kangana does? Yes, but clearly they are neither loved by somebody important, nor protected by a powerful camp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hmmm… now I am starting to wonder if aukaat equals Y+/Z+ security. Maybe stepping out of a vehicle surrounded by a posse of heavily armed and uniformed guards is what it means to signal that one is important. I mean, look how much aukaat the Gandhis have lost ever since they were stripped of all their fancy security!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maybe, like the recent story in the Economist about billionaires paying to have a herd of skimpily-clad elite supermodels accompany them to every party so that they look all sexy and happening, the thing to do now, to have aukaat in India, is to hire a posse of sunglass-wearing, buff and tough security guards dressed all in black, and take them with you wherever you go, preferably with Yo-Yo Honey Singh or Badshah songs playing from portable speakers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like, walk into your PTA meeting surrounded by them, or go to get milk from the Mother Dairy booth surrounded by them, or saunter into your boss’s cabin surrounded with them. Heads will turn, whispers will fly, your aukaat will be magically enhanced. And you will create so much employment, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a clear win-win. Do it for Mother India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/11/let-look-to-our-aukaat.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/09/11/let-look-to-our-aukaat.html Fri Sep 11 18:20:11 IST 2020 learn-from-prashant-bhushan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/27/learn-from-prashant-bhushan.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/8/27/prashant-bhushan-new.jpg" /> <p>I do not know about you guys, but ‘a visible and full-time Congress president’ sounds like a damn fine thing to me. (I would have thrown in ‘accountable’, too, but I am greedy like that.) In fact the whole letter, signed by 23 legit, long-standing party men and women—which addressed the issues of uncertainty over leadership, drift in the party, ideological vagueness, delay in organisational appointments and the absence of free and frank discussions—sounded like pretty much what the doctor ordered for the ailing party.</p> <p>Of course, resentment and low-key rebellion have been simmering in the Congress pot longer than meat and rice in a dough-sealed <i>dum pukth handi, </i>but this is the first time the seal was actually broken, the steam released and a heart, <i>jigar</i> and kidney biryani that bared the soul of suffering party workers everywhere was humbly and reverentially offered up to the ‘high command.’</p> <p>Which is why it sucks that all it seems to have given said high command is a bad case of constipation. The Oliver Twists who were demanding a little ‘more’ have magnanimously and glacially been told that no ill-will will be harboured against them (why would something so obvious even have to be stated in a healthy and vigorous democracy?). And pathetically grateful for this reassurance, they have dropped their guns, back-tracked hastily erasing their own footprints while swearing total and complete loyalty, and the status quo, or rather status comatose, has been clamped down again—but only for another six months, we are told.</p> <p>And every voter seeking a viable option to the BJP has again been left mystified and wondering why in a nation that seems to condemn nepotism as ferociously as India—just look at all the uproar around the death of Sushant Singh Rajput!—the Congress insists on remaining tongue-tied and slavish before its leadership. So just like a disappointed mother who compares and contrasts her children unfavourably with the neighbour’s children (you know the whole ‘Sharma <i>ji ke bete ko dekho’</i> tactic) I would urge the ex-rebels from the Congress camp to look at, and be shamed by, the stellar example being set by Bhushan <i>ji ka beta</i>, Prashant.</p> <p>Here is a man who knows how to:</p> <p>1) Call out misrule and miscarriage of justice for what it is.</p> <p>2) Stoutly stick to his guns when the going gets stormy.</p> <p>I mean just look at the tweet he put out: “When historians in the future look back at the last six years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the SC in this destruction, and more particularly the role of the last four CJIs.”</p> <p>That is telling it with total and devastating clarity, and without even seeking the support of 22 other signatories to give himself a warm feeling.</p> <p>And when he was hauled up for contempt of the Supreme Court and asked to apologise he stoutly said, “If I retract a statement before this court that I otherwise believe to be true, and offer an insincere apology, that in my eyes would amount to the contempt of my conscience and of an institution I hold in highest esteem.”</p> <p><i>Wah</i>, Bhushan <i>ji-ke-bete, waah</i>. Matlab, I did not know legalese could be lyrical, but surely these revolutionary, gently rebuking words are sweeter than any lines penned by Rumi or Gulzar. I would put them in the ICSE English poetry syllabus and teach them to all Indian children if I could. And, of course make them compulsory study material for all Congress Working Committee members before their next ‘meeting’.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/27/learn-from-prashant-bhushan.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/27/learn-from-prashant-bhushan.html Thu Aug 27 16:32:40 IST 2020 a-lesson-soaked-with-sweat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/13/a-lesson-soaked-with-sweat.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/8/13/sweat-new.jpg" /> <p>We are all snobs, at the end of the day. If we pride ourselves on being entirely unaffected by caste, wealth or religion, chances are that we may sneer at bad pronunciation. If we mingle freely and without judgment with people of all faiths and origin, and we are chill with bad grammar or intellectual ignorance, then perhaps we are the sort who look with pitying non-comprehension at people who are overweight or unfit.</p> <p>Or, maybe we are beauty-snobs. Or brand-snobs, or grammar snobs, or travel snobs, or grad-school snobs, or animal-lover/vegan snobs, or literary snobs, or handloom snobs, or single-malt snobs—the varieties are endless.</p> <p>Of course, the things you love, and the things you do, do not define the individual you are. They fuel great college rivalries, good-natured competition and sparkling party conversation. Snobbery can be constructive and aspirational. But when it tips over into wilful misunderstanding, prejudice and bigotry, then we have a problem.</p> <p>A couple of years ago, I was at a party where a young stylist, known for her work in various Bollywood productions happened to say to me, “Oh, you work out at a public gym? Oh, but you are from Bangalore, na! So lucky! I would love to join a Gold’s Gym or a Fitness First or whatever, because I hate working out alone. But bro, here in Bombay, I just cannot. There is,” she gave a delicate little shudder, “TV actor sweat all over the machines and it just makes me want to throw up.”</p> <p>I came back with something weak like, “Wow, that is pretty bitchy, even for a fashion designer!”(a remark that reveals a lot of my prejudices), and we both laughed and sipped our wine and moved on to talking about something else. But when the news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death came out, this cruel little exchange came back to haunt me.</p> <p>It is stupid to look down at TV talent, because TV has given us not just Shah Rukh Khan, Ayushmann Khurrana (<i>Roadies</i>) and Arijit Singh (<i>Fame Gurukul</i>), but also Smriti Irani, the giant slayer of Amethi, who took down a fourth-generation political superstar from his home bastion. TV discoveries (of both genders) are just as goodlooking, charming and hot as the ones on the big screen, and not one-tenth as pampered and fussy besides.</p> <p>It is stupid to look down at TV talent when my 72-year-old housekeeper, whenever she is asked which movie she would like to see, invariably answers “Maanav ki picture dekhni hai (I want to see Maanav’s movie), which, of course, is Sushant’s character’s name in <i>Pavitra Rishta</i>—the show that made him wildly popular all across north India for six whole years. And, that is why all the big Bollywood stars, in spite of all their snobbery, show up meekly at Kapil Sharma’s <i>Comedy Nights with Kapil </i>when they have a film to promote.</p> <p>Probably the stylist I met had memories of costumes being returned to her after an over-extended, eighteen-hour, non-AC shift, damp and heavy with hardworking sweat? Of course, that would never happen on a shoot with a top star, for whom four copies of the same costume would have been stitched, so he could remain daisy-fresh right through his contract-mandated, fully air-conditioned, eight-hour shift.</p> <p>The crux of Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film, <i>Parasite</i>, is the smell of rancid sweat. It is what sets the rich people apart from the poor folk, and it is the rich man’s fastidious, involuntary, almost imperceptible wince at the whiff of the poor man’s sweat that tips the poor man over into stabbing the rich man to death in the climax.</p> <p>Nowadays, of course, Covid-19 has made everybody’s sweat a big no-no, Amitabh Bachchan downwards. It has proved that blockbuster sweat, at the end of the day, is just the same as TV actor sweat. And that both can be equally tainted, or equally talented.</p> <p>Perhaps that is a little lesson all of us snobs should sit back and absorb.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/13/a-lesson-soaked-with-sweat.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/08/13/a-lesson-soaked-with-sweat.html Thu Aug 13 14:04:53 IST 2020 the-cheerleader-effect <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/30/the-cheerleader-effect.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/7/30/71-cheerleader-new.jpg" /> <p>Everybody loves a boy band. From the Beatles, to Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men, to BTS and One Direction who made the hashtag #10yearsof1D trend just a few days ago, we love the freshness, energy and sheer frisson they bring into our jaded lives. There is just something about the combined impact created by a grouping of four or five comely youths, with freshly broken voices, tousled hair and eager eyes (seemingly) seeking true love, that creates a veritable pheromone storm in the bosoms of women everywhere. Girls want them, boys want to be them and everybody across the board is quite comprehensively enchanted.</p> <p>Of course, the cheerleader effect, also known as the group attractiveness effect—a cognitive bias which causes people to think individuals are more attractive when they are in a group—has a major role to play here. The term was first coined by that fictional “high-functioning-sociopath” Barney Stinson on the show <i>How I Met Your Mother</i>. Canny, womanising Barney pointed out knowledgeably to his more naïve friends that women (like cheerleaders) always look more attractive in a group, but when separated out, and met one-on-one, cease to look as attractive.</p> <p>Like a grouping of scatter cushions on a couch, if you are into home décor. Or a group of fighter planes flying in formation, if you are into the action stuff. Anyway, the point I am trying to make here is that record producer and media personality Simon Cowell knew what he was doing when he picked out a motley crew of ordinary-ish British lads with strong singing voices and put them together to create hysteria and history with One Direction ten years ago, and that Rahul Gandhi is looking pretty sad now that he has been separated from Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia—and they are cutting a pretty sorry figure on their own, too. Rumours of Milind Deora and Jitin Prasada getting itchy feet are not helping either.</p> <p>See, if you are a very strong talent, you do not need a boy band. They then fade into the background to become merely your accompanists— like Bruce Springsteen and the E street band, for example. Or Indira Gandhi and the sycophants. Or Narendra Modi and the Pink Lotus Gang. But if the group is greater than the sum of its parts, and nobody is a stand-out performer on their own, then it makes sense to stick with the band. Ditch it, and you end up in obscurity or, to paraphrase a One D superhit, you end up feeling “so low, since you went solo, hole in the middle of your heart like a polo”.</p> <p>Rahul—the Harry Styles of the Congress Party Boy Band, if you will—put out a solo album recently, namely, his China videos. They seem vaguely reminiscent of Harry Styles’s first solo ballad, the overproduced, world-weary-ish ‘stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times’, ie, hardcore Harry fans felt vindicated in their belief that Harry was the talent that powered One D, but everybody else on the planet was left pretty much unshaken.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Sachin and Jyotiraditya are prowling around radiating a sort of sullen, wronged Zayn Malik vibe, all broody angst and enigmatic utterances, intermittently belting out Sufi-style wails and romancing beautiful women, and wondering why their life has been reduced to just “f#@king and fighting on, it’s a paradise and it’s a war zone”.</p> <p>I was never a groupie of the Congress Party Boy Band, but I did dig a couple of their early hits. My advice to them would be to put their petulance and egos aside, kiss and make up and reunite as a band. Sure, they are older, and stouter, and staler, but they are definitely better together. None of them are going to create history on their own.</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/30/the-cheerleader-effect.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/30/the-cheerleader-effect.html Thu Jul 30 14:55:53 IST 2020 shameful-disgusting-forcefulness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/16/shameful-disgusting-forcefulness.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/7/16/forcefulness-new.jpg" /> <p>This week one Shubham Mishra, who I have never heard of before—unleashed a vile diatribe against a stand-up comic called Agrima Joshua—who I had never heard of before either, for daring to poke fun at Shivaji—who, of course, we have all heard of.</p> <p>Agrima’s video, posted in 2019, is quite amusing, and anybody with even a modicum of intelligence and impartiality will grasp that she is not poking fun at Shivaji, but at the self-styled Shivaji <i>bhakts</i> on Quora. Anyway, such are the political and social realities on the ground today, that once her video caught the eye and the ire of the moral police, she took it down at once, and issued an unconditional apology.</p> <p>But this was not enough to appease Shubham, who released a video describing graphically how he would rape Agrima, in language so violent and hate-filled that it has given me nightmares. Shubham has over three lakh followers on Instagram, and the video has over 25.4 K likes. Which means that over 25,000 people watched this man describing how he would violate this young woman anally with his c**k, which would ram through her body like a snake till it emerged from her mouth and shut her up forever, and when they had finished watching, they pressed the red little heart that on Instagram connotes ‘like.’ Essentially, they all said, ya Shubham, go for it, we’re with you, <i>hum tumhare saath hain</i>.</p> <p>Thankfully, the real police stepped in and arrested the moral policer, who deleted his post, and put up a more cowed video, muttering that he never said anything about raping anyone, and how he respects women. This filthy piece of doublespeak, in which he continues to heap subdued hate on Agrima, has more than five lakh likes on YouTube already.</p> <p>I’ve no idea why people like Shubham zero in on people like Agrima—is it because she is attractive, and English speaking and earns a decent living, because she is on a stage with lipstick on, airing her political opinions, and not behind a kitchen counter swathed in a <i>ghoonghat</i>, silently rolling out <i>theplas</i>? Are they doing it to be popular? Or powerful? Do they really revere Shivaji so much? &nbsp;I am not clear, but the one thing that stands out quite clearly when you go through his feed is the desperate need to project forcefulness. This person thinks people respect that kind of macho, dominating figure, that adopting that persona is gonna make his life bloom with bright-red little hearts all the way.</p> <p>Another incident of brute force unfolded horribly in Tamil Nadu recently. Father and son duo Jayaraj and Bennix were arrested by the police and beaten so savagely for an entire weekend for the crime of keeping their mobile spare parts shop open 15 minutes past the curfew deadline, that they died in lock-up. Their family were then ordered to take the bodies home, and instructed to bring ‘dark lungis’ with them­—to hide the multiple fractures and the rectal bleeding the abuse had caused.</p> <p>Apart from the sheer impunity on display, again, what stood out was the brutality overkill. And we are seeing it everywhere. Whether in the shooting down of Vikas Dubey, or in the tone of our popular TV news anchors, what we are increasingly seeing everywhere (except re: China) is a romancing and a fetishising of the tough, vigilante-ish, dominatrix persona.</p> <p>Donald Trump summed up this thinking well when he told his governors how they should handle the #BLM protestors: ‘You must dominate. You’re gonna have to dominate, or you’re gonna look like a bunch of jerks.’</p> <p>In a world growing increasingly chaotic, with all systems compromised and all institutions crumbling, sometimes, people who project a superficial, toxic kind of toughness can appear to have all the answers. But here is the thing.</p> <p>They never do.</p> <p>editor@theweek.in</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/16/shameful-disgusting-forcefulness.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/07/16/shameful-disgusting-forcefulness.html Thu Jul 16 16:22:45 IST 2020 the-spectacle-that-life-is <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/18/the-spectacle-that-life-is.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/6/18/spectacle-new.jpg" /> <p>Remember the good old days when you did not have to prove you loved your country by chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai every time somebody asked you to? When standing up for the national anthem was optional? Something you did voluntarily, out of love, and not with one eye on the other people in the movie theatre who may record a video of you sitting it out and report you to the cops? Remember the good old days when chief ministers did not have to recite the Hanuman Chalisa to appease the media and prove they were true believers? When fans did not zoom aggressively into the social media photographs of movie stars, discover a cross in their <i>pooja ghar</i>, and immediately call them out for being a ‘fake’ Hindu?</p> <p>Remember when you could get married without the whole world wanting to know the price and brand of your lehenga, and the number and quality of hors d’oeuvres you served and to whom? Remember when a national disaster, like a flood or a pandemic, was a time for the nation to unite and hunker down to fight it together, instead of an excuse to extort money from various celebrities, corporates or religious institutions?</p> <p>When charity was not some sort of open, vulgar competition? With in-favour celebrities like Akshay Kumar flexing about the 025 crore he donated to the (slightly questionable) PM Cares fund and basically throwing down a gauntlet to other celebrities to donate loudly and visibly to the same fund too, or be torn apart by trolls and rabid media with Twitter hastags like #AjmerSharifPaiseNikaal and #SRKproveyourlove? Remember a time when the tragic suicide of a handsome young star at the top of his game could be mourned by the people who were close to him in peace and privacy, without photographs of his corpse going viral on social media, and trolls and the press breathing down their necks badgering them to put out a public profession of their grief?</p> <p>As I write this, people are aggressively bullying and castigating people from the industry for not looking sad enough at the news of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, or looking too hypocritically sad and being two-faced fakers or whatever, while in the same breath speaking glibly about mental health and the importance of kindness and<br> empathy!</p> <p>Do they not realize that it is precisely this sort of relentless scrutiny that drives people to take such extreme steps in the first place? Grief used to be a private thing. Charity used to be a private thing. Religion used to be a private thing. Love used to be a private thing.</p> <p>But not any longer. Now, everything is spectacle, everything is a performance, the world is the coliseum and we all spend our lives sometimes hissing from the stands, and sometimes fighting in the ring. When everything is externalised, then inevitably, the core gets hollowed out. When we have one eye on our ‘performance’ and one eye on our highly judgmental, and mostly hostile ‘audience’, it is inevitable that we will begin to feel less, and to be less authentic as human beings.</p> <p>As a writer, I know that a sense of audience kills all spontaneity. The moment somebody stands behind me and starts to read what I am writing on my laptop, I freeze and start worrying about what they will think of me, and have to shut the lid quickly. This is what all of us are doing to ourselves every day. Not just celebrities, but even little teenage girls who have just, very excitedly and hopefully, opened their Insta or TikTok accounts. We are all constantly self-censoring, deleting real bits and pieces of our lives that we think are not good enough, surrendering to the society of the spectacle, and shutting down the lids on our inner living, breathing, authentic selves. It is death by collective suicide, a sort of Johar-of-the-soul, and it has to stop.</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/18/the-spectacle-that-life-is.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/18/the-spectacle-that-life-is.html Mon Jun 22 08:22:45 IST 2020 poor-Indian-lives-matter <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/04/poor-Indian-lives-matter.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/6/4/Poor-Indian-lives.jpg" /> <p>My daughter came to me really triggered a couple of days ago. (That is current youth-speak for being upset, btw). She said she has a beef (i.e. issues, or a bone to pick with, nothing to do with eating cows) with most of her contemporaries on Instagram because they are all so shook (i.e. shaken/upset) by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the state police in Minneapolis.</p> <p>And, I am like accha, why? Because is it not good that your friends are aware and vocal about such a ghastly incident, an incident that may go on to be bigger than the Rodney King incident back in the early 1990s?</p> <p>And now suddenly, she has a beef with me, too. “Why do you know who Rodney King is?” she demands.</p> <p>I say something about it being a big story back then, when I was young and her age-ish.</p> <p>“Were you not all caught up in the Mandal Commission agitation then?” she demands next. “Why do you even remember Rodney King?”</p> <p>I explain that I had been really ambivalent on the Mandal issue; girls from my college (Miranda House, Delhi University) had agitated against the implementation of the report. They had gone to the Boat Club lawns with boot-polish kits, and offered to polish the shoes of passersby, to symbolically demonstrate that this would be the only job regular, non-reservation kids would get after graduation, as candidates from the reserved castes would grab all the creamy layer white-collar jobs. I had found this problematic on many levels, and so had not joined in these protests, even though it had all seemed like a lot of fun and a general atmosphere of revolution had prevailed in the college corridors and so on.</p> <p>She is slightly mollified. But only slightly. “What about the Babri Masjid demolition? What did you do then?”</p> <p>“And, I have to confess that I had not ‘done’ anything then either. I had just started working in advertising, and so had spent that December writing headline options for a combined print advertisement for the Christmas and New Year Celebrations at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bhikaji Cama Place. I had been particularly proud of ‘25th ko Mother Mary, 31st ko Bloody Mary!’ The client had bombed it though.”</p> <p>She looks at me witheringly. Very ashamed, I lower my gaze.</p> <p>“And, yet, you remember Rodney King.”</p> <p>In my defense, I say that I remember the Babri Masjid demolition, too. I just had had no platform on which to register my protest, those days. “You are lucky,” I conclude. “So, what exactly do you find so triggering about your friends’ Insta stories?”</p> <p>“Do you know who Arvina Khatun is?” she counter-questions.</p> <p>“No,” I admit.</p> <p>“She is the dead lady on the railway station. The one with the baby playing by her side, in that video that just went viral. Do you know how many of my so-called ‘woke’ friends made an Insta story on her? None! Or, on the migrant workers walking home, and dying on the train tracks? Or on the police beating up poor women with lathis in the name of doing their duty? None! So, according to them, American black lives matter, and poor Indian lives do not!”</p> <p>The point she seems to be making is that her “liberal”, privileged friends live in India, but set their clocks to Eastern Standard Time or whatever. At this point I tell her that her slang is very Americanised too, but she waves this aside as a frivolous point.</p> <p>Maybe, these kids feel safer criticising the American government than they feel criticising their own, I suggest. “Because here there could be a backlash, na.”</p> <p>But she does not even think it is that.</p> <p>“Poor Indian deaths are just not considered cool, mamma,” she tells me bitterly. “It is as simple as that. Nobody gafs (i.e. gives a f#@%).”</p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/04/poor-Indian-lives-matter.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/06/04/poor-Indian-lives-matter.html Thu Jun 04 15:59:00 IST 2020 taking-bus-11-home <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/22/taking-bus-11-home.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/5/22/57-Taking-bus-11--home-new.jpg" /> <p>My grandmother had a rather charming description for pedestrian travel. If she wanted to go some place, and my grandfather would rue the cost of petrol involved in ferrying her there in the car, she would retort, very airily, “Theek hai, phir hum gyaarah number ki bus le lenge (Okay then, we will take the number 11 bus).”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Named for one’s two legs, the number 11 bus is a popular mode of travel in our country. For poorer people, it is often the only bus they can actually afford. Unlike the rich, who strap on Fitbits to obsessively count the number of steps they take in a day, poor people think nothing of walking a few kilometres to and from their workplaces daily. Nor do schoolchildren. People who live in north India are used to the annual influx of Kanwariyas—Shiva bhakts—who travel on foot from villages to the source of the Ganga to collect and carry home its holy water as an act of piety. Gandhiji iconised walking during the 384km-long Dandi March. Refugees walked with all their belongings on their backs during the partition. The logic of the walker is that if all else fails, and there is no other option, I will bloody well walk for it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And therein lies the nub—all else has failed and there is no other option. For my grandmother, taking the #11 bus was an assertion of independence and self-sufficiency, but for the crores of poor Indians walking thousands of kilometres to their hometowns and villages, it is a defiant, double middle finger salute to the power structures that would deny them their liberty, emotions, mobility, nutrition, security and their very humanity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so we have a situation where a callous, clueless government and an elite bunch of banana-bread bakers sit out the quarantine on their privileged butts, while out there in real life, crores of poor people walk 1,000-plus kilometres to their homes, blistering their soles and birthing their babies on the dusty highways, getting crushed by goods trains one day or electrocuted by dangling wires on another.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is so ironic that our prime minister and his finance minister—the thin-lipped lady who thinks talking to these long-distance walkers is “troubling them and wasting their time” (as if the whole freaking lockdown with no prior planning or provision was not troubling them or wasting their time!)—have dubbed their Lays Magic Masala (maximum air, minimum potato) Rs20 lakh crore package atmanirbhar, that is self-reliant. It is clear that if anybody wants to get out of this shit-fest alive, they should rely on nobody but their own self. No 56-inch chested superhero is gonna ride on a lotus-festooned golden chariot and save them. It is not an election rally after all! If it were, there would be buses for the poor folk, and an orange tee and packed meals and Rs500 a day. If it were a Kanwar yatra, there would be string beds and showers and music and dancing as well! But it is not. And so it is just going to have to be one foot in front of another, the camaraderie of other grindingly poor folk on the road, and the erratic, undependable kindness of the banana-bread bakers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked why they were not waiting a few days to take a bus or train, as these services are being reopened, the walkers just shook their heads. They have learnt the hard lesson well. A regime, marked by incompetence, callousness, bombast and hate, cannot be counted upon to deliver anything but more misery and a dilution of labour laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Have no expectations and you will not be disappointed. It is all about atmanirbharta now. Every man for himself and God for all. And a #11 bus ride home, or to hell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/22/taking-bus-11-home.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/22/taking-bus-11-home.html Fri May 22 16:54:20 IST 2020 behind-boislockerroom <a href="http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/08/behind-boislockerroom.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/opinion/columns/anuja-chauhan/images/2020/5/8/64-Behind-boislockerroom-new.jpg" /> <p>Bade bade deshon mein aisi choti choti baaten hoti rehti hain. In big-big countries, these small-small things keep happening. I am not sure what exactly Shah Rukh Khan’s character meant when he kept repeating this line in DDLJ (1995). He was probably going for a breezy, man-of-the-world larger picture vibe in order to impress the sheltered girl he had fallen for. But I find it so horribly apt for all the ghastly things that keep happening repeatedly in our country, no, all countries, and which we tend to let slide because there is, you know, larger stuff going on. Like we have a pandemic to fight, and the enemies of hindutva to battle, and a new central vista for Rajpath to build, and stuff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But here is the thing: The little stuff is all mixed up ­­with the big stuff; it is both the fallout and the cause of the big stuff; and if we ignore it, it will snowball into the big-big stuff of tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This week, all the moms in the richer schools in Delhi are shook because some young girls have revealed an Instagram chat group called #boislockerroom, which has several hundred members and which exists basically to rate, discuss, dehumanise, and share nudes and morphed photos of attractive girls who go to the same schools as the boys. They have also come up with a list of ‘Girls we would like to Rape’ with the names of 20 underage Delhi schoolgirls on it.All the girls on this list ( I have known one of them since she was a baby) are attractive and active on Instagram—that is, they are “proud” and “uppity” and “flexing” on their hotness, and therefore need to be taken down by the self-appointed, morally-righteous ones on #boislockerroom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is really getting to me is all these Delhi moms shaking their head and wondering, where did we go wrong, how did this happen?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Did they really think that all the filth that goes down on Twitter, the relentless, misogynistic unchecked trolling of any woman with an opinion, be it Mahua Moitra, Smriti Irani, Gauri Lankesh, Kangana Ranaut, Swara Bhasker, Payal Rohatgi, Sonia Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Sania Mirza or Rana Ayyub—calling them randi (prostitute), kutiya (bitch), bar dancer—would have no fallout on the plastic young minds of our children?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Did they really think that when a man who is followed by the prime minister of India rolls his eyes at the assassination of a respected journalist and tweets t­­­hat all the puppies are crying because the bitch is dead, that our children would not be listening and learning?Did we really think when Neha Dhupia gets viciously trolled for telling a man on Roadies that he cannot hit his girlfriend even if she cheats on him with four guys, that our children would not be listening and learning?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And do they really think that the obnoxious, violent, self-righteous language that Arnab Goswami used against Sonia Gandhi recently is OK? That repeatedly invoking her maiden name and ordering her to go back to Italy and demonising her parents and her home, and basically acting like a nasty old mother-in-law from some creepy TV serial is OK?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why the hell should Sonia Gandhi go back to Italy? Or, back to the kitchen? Or, back to the periphery, which is where Arnab and his paymasters clearly think women belong? Every time we normalise this language of violence and degradation, every time we let this shit slide, we are contributing to the hateful misogyny that is flourishing openly in our country. A boys-will-be-boys culture of rape-rap lyrics and item numbers, of selective, opportunistic outrage, where Jai Sita Ram has morphed into Jai Shri Ram and Sita has been reduced to a meek, complicit handmaiden, and all the Shurpanakhas get their noses cut off for daring to be bold. It is all one. It is all connected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>editor@theweek.in</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/08/behind-boislockerroom.html http://www.theweek.in/columns/anuja-chauhan/2020/05/08/behind-boislockerroom.html Fri May 08 17:31:25 IST 2020