Anuja Chauhan en Wed Nov 02 11:32:54 IST 2022 this-womens-day-let-us-chuck-out-being-liked-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In an all all-time low, after appearing on a panel discussion titled—‘From thigh-gaps to gender pay-gaps’—sponsored by a luxury lifestyle brand on International Women’s Day, in which I cockily felt I had rather wiped the floor with my male opponent, I found out that he had been paid three times the amount I had been.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Perhaps he was compensated for throwing the match,” my husband reasoned. “A sort of hardship allowance, as it were. I mean, it is not fun to be the sole male in a panel like that on women’s day! All the women gang up on you and attack you like you’re the ruddy patriarchy personified. You end up looking like quite a chump. He must have negotiated a chump allowance. Don’t worry about it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But I’m the real chump here,” I replied, “Where is my chump allowance?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The key word here is not chump, but negotiate,” sniffed my daughter, “He got that much money simply because he asked for it. Meanwhile, you just smiled and accepted whatever they offered. That’s the trouble with you Gen X types. You guys always doubt your worth.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I pointed out to her that calling me ‘guys’ wasn’t very feminist of her, but she told me not to digress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not entirely unrelated to this conversation is the curious case of Saraswati, my cleaner, and Rajanna, my gardener. Rajanna in typical entitled male fashion complained loudly about his low salary, his hungry children and negotiated a 40 per cent salary hike for himself. Meanwhile, Saraswati with downcast lashes, declared herself “satisfied with whatever Amma saw fit to pay her,” then quietly tucked a pair of my carelessly discarded gold earrings into her bosom, and made off with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reason why women are so crap at negotiating—and also the reason why my demure sweet Saraswati found it preferable to embrace a life of petty crime than ask me for a pay rise—is that women worry about being liked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to my daughter, my trouble is that my mother made ‘being liked’ the number one item on my list of Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs). So did almost all the mothers of her generation. And so, me and my friends like to be liked. We have been taught early to not rock the boat and to “maintain good relations with everyone”. We are reared to be comfortable when everybody approves of us and is fond of us. It is somehow more feminine to be universally liked—like a new daughter-in-law in a Sooraj Barjatya movie—a sweet, playful, unselfish presence that brings sustenance and happiness and comfort into the room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(Saraswati got me six ragi laddoos for Maha Shivratri, by the way, one day before the CCTV footage revealed her theft.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the moment we step up and ask for something the establishment considers too big for us—a bigger role, a salary hike, Hillary Clinton asking to be POTUS, say, or Priyanka Chopra Jonas asking to be more than just a Bollywood heroine or the love interest of a famous star—we become unlikable. There is a reason why Royal Stag’s ‘It’s Your Life, Make it Large’ has never featured a female celebrity—(Priyanka would be the perfect casting for the brand, wouldn’t she, with the way her career has just burgeoned and burgeoned, like the prize money in an episode of KBC!) It is because while the patriarchy has taught all men to blindly pick ‘the one with the big t**s’, nobody has taught anybody to pick ‘the one with the big ambition’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women who ask for more are ‘difficult’ and ‘hard to slot’. They make people uncomfortable. And that, because they are women, makes them uncomfortable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This Women’s Day, let us embrace that discomfort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let us chuck out ‘being liked’ from the KRA list. And pencil in ‘being respected’ instead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun Mar 05 13:53:48 IST 2023 wpl-will-bring-girl-jock-charisma-under-the-mainstream-sun-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A decade and a half after the IPL was launched, we finally have a WPL. How lovely it will be to see talented, strong, young women from all over the world take centre stage at the Brabourne and DY Patil Stadiums and compete fiercely for the honour of being the winner of the inaugural edition—and also, how refreshing. Because while we Indians have (slowly) got used to seeing young women command the white-hot spotlight, we never see them doing so without high heels, make-up, designer clothes and fancy hair styling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Older women, sure—we have many fiery ladies in the public eye who are no-nonsense and business-like—from Mamata Banerjee and Smriti Irani to Farah Khan and Zoya Akhtar. But not young women. Young women in the spotlight in India are usually there because of their beauty creds—as pageant winners, models or actresses. Yes, there are some content creators, athletes and reality show contestants in the mix, but it is a small number. And even the actresses who do what Bollywood increasingly likes to call ‘bad-ass’ roles in the movies, fall into the rut of being just highly groomed and supremely photo-worthy in their promotional appearances, leaving most of the talking to their (usually baseball-capped and casually attired) male co-stars or directors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in a glossy, high-buzz event like the WPL, all of India will be held in thrall, perhaps for the first time, by young women walking, not on a red carpet, but across a dusty pitch. Girls dressed in tracksuits with their hair in ponytails, sweaty girls, focused girls, grim-faced girls, flinging their arms and legs about, falling down, springing up, spitting and grinning and passing the Bechdel test gloriously (unless they are standing in a huddle and secretly bitching about a male umpire).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>(Cadbury in an ahead-of-its-time ad that featured a gender reversal of its iconic dancing-on-the-pitch-to-celebrate-a-six-by-your-batter-partner ad, captured this development in our zeitgeist.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having lived in a girls boarding school right through high school, I have seen the charisma of the girl jock close up. These girls are calm, strong, natural leaders. They command respect and love effortlessly. And now finally, this girl-jock charisma is finding its place under the mainstream sun.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Best of all, it will not be a girl, or a few girls. It will be gangs of girls—with bench strengths of 15 to 18. Not pitched against each other, like in a beauty contest, but (to use the phrase Gatorade and Serena Williams made immortal) #sistersinsweat who rise or fall together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, this team bonding will be captured with full drama and larger-than-lifeness by the reliable IPL PR machine. And it will go a long way in erasing centuries of patriarchy-sponsored girl-on-girl hate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seeing how huge the IPL has become since its first innings in 2008, it is fair to say that the WPL will have an equally meteoric rise. Our girl children are gonna be spoilt for choice as far as role-models go. Our boy children, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was Gloria Steinem who said, “We are slowly becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Successful, respected, kind, strong, fit, funny, good in bed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As an eternal optimist, I am now hoping that men will return the compliment and slowly start becoming the women they wanted to marry. Delightful, deliciously well-groomed creatures who provide nourishment and succour, who cook like a dream and parent like guardian angels. Cheerleaders and support givers, whipper-uppers of hot cups of teas and chilled cocktails alike.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After all, the nicest thing about that Cadbury ad—after the batswoman hitting the six, of course—was how supportive her boy friend was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Feb 17 14:53:49 IST 2023 how-pathaan-has-brought-back-bollywood <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Back in the day we used to have proper, old school grandmothers. The sort of grandmothers poet Maithili Sharan Gupt invoked in his popular poem “Ma Keh Ek Kahani (Mother, tell me a story”.) Being grandmothers was their sole job and it was a vital one. They were matriarchs who presided over massive joint families—the repository of the family’s traditions, history and culture, dishing out food for the body, and spiritual succour for the soul on a daily basis. At night, they bought a tray of steel glasses full of warm milk out into the courtyard and sat in the middle of a ring of grandchildren’s beds and told them stories. Everybody agreed that this was their most important (and loved) task.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No offence to anybody’s dadi (father’s mother) but (almost) all children agree that a nani (mother’s mother) is the real deal. Perhaps, because they tend to be younger, and also because a mother is typically more relaxed around her own mother, which causes her children to be similarly more relaxed, too. Even in Gupt’s poem, the second line, which is the mother’s playful response to her son’s request is, ‘beta samajh liya kya toone mujko apni nani?’ (Son, have you mistaken me for my mother?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Needless to say nanis like that exist only in daily TV serials today. IRL nanis are multi-taskers with a vengeance, they have careers, friends, fitness routines, and no longer have so many grandchildren (my nani had 21!) that being a grandmother can be justified as a fulltime job. We live in a world where children, especially those belonging to busy parents living in cities far from their hometowns either in India or abroad, typically do not go back to their grandparents’ homes during their summer vacations any more. And so, during festivals, weddings or long holidays—times during which an old school nani would have taken centrestage, we yield that space to ‘Family Entertainers’ instead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like it or not, these family entertainers from the film industry have been subbing as our maternal grandmothers for many, many generations now. NRI kids and desi kids alike have routinely been piled into one bedroom during the festive season and left in the nourishing arms of Indian cinema. For our vast and widely spread diaspora they are our common reference points, our shared history and geneaology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The houses of Chopra and Bhansali and Dharma are our nanis. Salim Khan is our nani. Javed Akhtar is our nani. And, of course, Sooraj Barjatya is the officially crowned nani-of-the-nation—we all saw India’s most powerful family swing to “Wah Wah Ram Ji” in a viral video at Anant Ambani’s engagement recently. Also, sorry to spoil the sexy vibe he is currently shipping, but Shah Rukh Khan is also our most beloved nani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Largely speaking, cinema-nani have taught us well. She has taught us the correct songs to sing at weddings, funerals and every occasion in between. She has shown us heroism, villiany and the road to redemption. She has brought alive mother-love, humour, romance, patriotism and brotherhood. These are all excellent values.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, if she comes up with something problematic (she tends to get patriarchal and crude sometimes) then parental guidance is always on hand to fix things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, recently, an attempt has been made to make us forget this much-loved grandmother of ours and everything she has taught us. A sinister step-grandmother succubus has been bought in and is trying to woo us with her weird, poison-laced tales and divisive narratives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, thankfully, Shah Rukh’s Pathaan, to use a phrase made infamous by Rajiv Gandhi many moons ago, has stepped in and literally made us ‘remember our maternal grandmother’ (Pathaan ne humko apni nani yaad dila di hai).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have missed you, grandma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Feb 03 13:12:11 IST 2023 why-be-afraid-of-porn-and-sex <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The litfest season is on in full swing and this time there seem to be a lot of young people attending. Some are attending because they are genuine readers and hope to be writers one day, while others are just (to use the youthspeak of the day) CV-slutting. That is, they are volunteering because they want a certificate or a letter of recco from the litfest organisers to pad up their curriculum vitae or their LinkedIn bio.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of these younglings had only one thing to say to me. ‘Your books are unreal. Your romance is like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the G spot. It doesn’t f*^%$ing exist! You and your ilk have ruined my life by setting unrealistic expectations.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, taken in the right spirit (I was taking vodka) this was a great conversation-opener. So I waded right in with, ‘Okay, if we’re talking unrealistic expectations, then what about porn? Isn’t that unrealistic?’ Things got suddenly and surprisingly serious after that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, I am a porn virgin. My entire porn viewing is just one-two minute clip seen about twenty-seven years ago featuring three (two ladies, one gent) very blonde Swedes with poor muscle tone. It was both arousing and repellent and I never went back for more. But, then, again, it wasn’t easy for me to. I would have had to source a store that sold the stuff, be judged by the store keeper, wait to be alone in the house with the VCR and so on and so forth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, kids as young as eight and 10 (yes, they’re starting that young) can access the hardest-core of stuff with just a single tap of a cell phone button. They don’t even need to type anything into a search bar, once they’ve visited the sites, they get reminders constantly. It is the equivalent of my naked flabby Swedes showing up and doing a come-hither dance as I type in this article, and not stopping the dance till my lust overcomes my revulsion and I succumb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Make no mistake, pornography is stalking our children with as much dedication as polio, small-pox and cholera used to stalk them back in the pre-inoculation days. It is as virulent, as omnipresent and just as destructive to human life. The only difference is that Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar are not going to be appearing on your TV in films sponsored by the ministry of health and family welfare (mental health division) urging you to protect your children from pornography anytime soon. Because we’re sanskari, na.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking to the kids at the litfest, glancing at some of the stomach-churningly detailed and wide-ranging ‘menus’ they showed me so casually on the internet, I figured that longterm sustained watching of pornography is neither ‘naughty’ nor ‘freedom of choice’. It is addictive, alienating, distorting and in the final analysis damaging, because it makes it impossible for the addict to function in a wholesome, real-life sexual setting, or in any real life setting generally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today’s youth (and children) are all trench veterans of a massively violent and almost entirely untalked war for mental health. With their parents in a state of either total denial or total ignorance, they survive it mostly by just being watching out for each other. Their generals are social influencers like Leeza Mangaldas or filmmakers like Paromita Vohra, who discuss such matters frankly, matter-of-factly and without judgment on the internet. Some of these kids are in therapy. And almost none of them are talking to their parents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you want a close, communicative relationship with your child, rise above your embarrassment, educate yourself a bit, and talk honestly to your child about porn. And sex. And romance, too, if you like. No, they’re never too young for the topic. And no, they’re never too old either.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Jan 21 14:40:47 IST 2023 finding-our-inner-messi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Heroism is alive and well. Fairytale finishes are alive and well. In a world full of fillers and filters and faux-reality like Moving in with Malaika and Keeping up with the Kardashians, drama in real life is alive and well. And in a climate of hate, negativity, cancel culture and divisiveness, good-old happiness, positivity and human warmth is alive and well. We all saw it, and felt it, and were touched by the 24-karat magic of it as it unfolded live on our screens from the Lusail Stadium.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, at the Kolkata International Film Festival, Shah Rukh Khan shared the popularly accepted theory that negativity increases social media consumption, and thereby increases its commercial value. Which means basically that most people are more likely to click on a news article about a ghastly, grisly human tragedy (for example, husband kills children and wife, before turning gun on self) than an article about a triumph of the human spirit (autorickshaw driver’s daughter clears medical entrance). And so, if a news network wants to make more money, it makes sense for them to cover and run negative stories all the time. This negativity-sells theory is correct, but only up to a point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact of the matter is that it is much easier to slap together a crude, eyeball-grabby, no-brainer negativity-filled story that panders to the current political climate than create something with nuance, depth, genuine wit and universal appeal. The latter is more expensive, more time-consuming, trickier to pull off and requires actual talent and hard work. And that is the real reason why half these weird movies—the ones Amitabh Bachchan seemed to be condemning from the same dais—are being made in the first place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So yes, crass negativity sells, but a well-written, well-directed and authentic film on a tiny budget can sell even better. And therefore a so-called ‘hit’ like The Kashmir Files (2022), starring Anupam Kher, will be forgotten in a year, but his Khosla ka Ghosla (2006)—one of the rare Bollywood films that bucked the trend by being remade in Tamil and Kannada, instead of vice versa—will be a classic forever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming back to the FIFA final, what a celebration of positivity! So seductive that it sucked in people with absolutely no skin in the game, and no interest in football whatsoever, and didn’t let them move from their seats till the game was done. The delicious fact that it pitted two of the game’s greats, one rising, one long-reigning, who play for the same club against one another. The victors so deserving and so long denied; the vanquished pumping out a historic hat trick, not in the mood to surrender even an inch! Ballads should and will be written about the epic battle, the sweat, the tears, the shirtless swagger, the hands going to up the heavens in thanksgiving... ballads that will send dopamine coursing through the veins of the most negative of folk, inspire us all, and render the entire planet sunnier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Toxic aunties of all genders can carp about the black-and-gold bisht that was draped onto Leo Messi when he claimed the trophy, but again, let’s focus on the positives here. The robe was an honour, a sort of coronation or knighting. Messi looked ‘awwww’some in it as he stroked the bald head of the World Cup trophy like it was his fourth-born, and it made him stand out a little in the team photos, in the manner in which a Hindi movie hero stands out from among the rest of the dancers during a song routine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So yes, Shah Rukh was correct when he said negativity is click-baity, but positivity can be click-baity, too. We just need to find our inner Messi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Dec 24 11:21:18 IST 2022 apathy-to-injustice-in-our-nation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I am guessing that by now everybody has seen the viral video of the young Muslim student from Manipal Institute of Technology objecting to his professor “jokingly” calling him “Kasab” in the classroom. The appalled college, alma mater of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and a host of other global luminaries, immediately issued a statement of apology, and ordered a probe into the incident. On social media, the young student was mostly applauded for the stand he took, but I could not get over the entire row of (male) students sitting in front of him in that elite classroom. All of them were looking ahead stolidly, with their heads in their hands, doing an amazingly lifelike imitation of the three monkeys who can see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing. ‘I’m outta here.’ Their body language seemed to say, ‘include me out’ and ‘do not wanna get involved, boss’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were a lot of depressing things in that video—the young boy’s anguish, anger and disheartenment, the teacher’s weak apology and befuddlement at being called out for something as ‘normalised’ and ‘innocent’ as casual Islamophobia, the sniggers of the off-camera students, but the most depressing (and dangerous) thing in the clip is that row of indifferent young backs and averted young gazes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because if the youth of a nation are choosing to keep their noses clean, their opinions non-controversial and their CVs well scrubbed of any controversy, then where are we even headed, as a nation?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which brings me to the other controversial opinion airer of the fortnight—Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid. Several scenes of his Golden Bear winning film, Synonyms, are so reminiscent of the resolutely turned backs and averted gazes of the Manipal students. In his official capacity as the jury chairman of the International Film Festival of India, Lapid stated that he and his entire jury were “disturbed and shocked by The Kashmir Files, a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact that this has got the RW knickers in such a red-hot-chilli-pepper twist tells us what a mela of monkeys our entire arts and culture scene has become.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And our diplomatic scene as well. Because the Israeli ambassador is now openly moaning on Twitter that while Lapid will go back home smugly thinking that he was “bold” and “made a statement”, the embassy will have to deal with the “implications” and the “state of their DM boxes” following this display of ‘bravery’ which basically means that the ambassador is petrified of being trolled by the bhakt brigade, i.e. the ambassador is basically a grown-up version of those boys in the Manipal classroom, sitting with their heads down, and their backs turned resolutely away from the madness that surrounds us all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, the babus are scrambling around, trying to establish whose idea it was to invite this loose cannon Lapid, who has publicly stated, several times, that “it is an artist’s duty to bite the hand that feeds him” to IFFI? And appoint him as jury chairman, no less? Was he the cheapest? The most jobless? Or did nobody do any homework? Meanwhile, we have also got to worry about where-where in which-which international festival The Kashmir Files has been entered, and who-who could potentially take a dump on it. Which is problematic because knowing how ‘extra’ we are, we must have entered it everywhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Damn. This need for global validation and shiny, blingy international awards will be the downfall of<br> us all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I know. We should forget about all ‘artistic and prestigious’, and simply start the world’s first International Propaganda Festival. The IPFI. Awards will be handed out to whoever best amplifies the government’s agenda. Instead of a golden peacock, we shall hand out a golden parrot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Dec 03 10:43:13 IST 2022 how-to-help-rid-our-nation-of-monsters-like-aftab-poonawalla <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The grisly murder of Shraddha Walkar by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala is much too worrying and important to be dumbed down to a mindless #LoveJihad hate-tag, left to trend with hysterical dreariness on an increasingly unreliable and unravelling Twitterscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are serious issues involved here. And none of them have to do with your sanskari daughter dating cute Muslim boys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is the Bumble angle for one. Our young people are increasingly meeting each other through anonymous dating apps, with minimal checking, accountability or verification, like there would be when you meet the old fashioned way, through a network of friends, or colleagues or family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the trending new philosophy of friends-are-the-new-family, which is nice and all, but when taken too far, effectively, means that kids actively set up barriers to stay both emotionally and physically distant from their parents, opting to confide in real or virtual friends instead. Meaning they willingly check themselves into a virtual Lord of the Flies type island where immature kids judge immature kids, and get to be jury and executioners as well. The only clear rule here seems to be a complete omerta against parents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the kind of content that is being streamed today. Aftab’s modus operendi was supposedly inspired by the gruesome show Dexter, which most of our kids consume without batting an eyelid, while chowing down on their dal-chawal-green-veg nowadays. Violence, strangulation, dismemberment, it is all par for the course on House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Attack on Titans, Thar, Paatal Lok, Delhi Crime, any number of Playstation games. And, I have not even got to the pornography yet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not saying that watching OTT shows will turn your child into a sick monster, but it will definitely desensitise him/her. And if your child already has a fascination for sick content, it will empower, feed and advance this sickness, like it clearly did in Aftab’s case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The word ‘sick’ is now the latest urban slang for ‘cool’, and I feel that is extremely telling. Then there is the polarising, fear-mongering political policies now in play, which scream other = monster from every rooftop, and pressurise even reasonable parents to behave utterly hysterical and close-minded on the subject of their child dating anybody from a faith other than their own. This makes it impossible for children to confide in their parents, and pushes them to alienate themselves and run away from home into the arms of this forbidden (and hence exciting) new love they have ‘found’ all by themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It really is tragic that at a time when Ayushmann Khurrana is getting stupendously wealthy making film after film featuring the great Indian middle-class accepting homosexual love, transexual love, lavender marriages, older women getting pregnant, male virility, sperm donation and what not, a backer cannot be found to make a similar film normalising simple, inter-religious love?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Please let us not, in the name of justice, settle for countless memes of Hindu women folded up into really small suitcases and refrigerators by their evil Muslim lovers—memes that degrade and commodify Hindu women brutally—and are not particularly complimentary to Hindu men either, if you think about it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let us side-step that communal trap, and demand a genuinely introspective, diagnostic probe into the reasons why Shraddha died. That is what will help rid our nation of monsters like this Aftab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun Nov 20 11:27:11 IST 2022 how-rahul-is-demonstrating-qualities-that-his-critics-claim-he-lacks <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Two images have really caught my eye, recently. Rishi Sunak’s washboard abs in his tucked-in office shirts, and Rahul Gandhi sprinting spontaneously and without any signs of fatigue against a trio of young boys during the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Both reveal a long-term, sustained commitment to fitness, the kind that can’t be faked by staged photo-ops or cunning photoshop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A nation likes to feel its leaders are fit. It reassures the populance, makes them feel like they are in capable, disciplined hands. A leader who wakes up early, watches what he eats (and drinks), spends time outdoors, and can do any number of push-ups, both one-handed and two-handed, is clearly in control of his body and mind. This clean, wholesome fitness is a huge part of the cult around leaders like Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the late Queen Elizabeth II. They ride bicycles, walk dogs, ski, box, swim and run.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is Vladimir Putin who has taken the fit leader archetype to dizzying new heights. Often photographed riding horses with a gold chain glinting alluringly against his smooth bare chest, he is also been clicked shirtless with a rifle, shirtless while fishing in a mountain stream, shirtless while swimming the butterfly stroke, you get the picture. It is all part of his macho, man-of-action image, and when sniggered at by other G7 leaders, he has retorted that, “You would look disgusting, shirtless,” which, let us face it (and not to fat/flab shame anyone) is an argument that carries some weight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even Putin must bow before the mightiest of them all—North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, who once, jaw-droppingly, climbed the 8,500 foot Mt. Paektu, while it was fully covered in snow and he was fully covered in an ankle length trenchcoat and immaculately shined leather shoes. The official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported that, “His eyes reflected the strong beams of the gifted great person seeing in the majestic spirit of Mount Paektu the appearance of a powerful socialist nation which dynamically advances full of vigour without vacillation at any raving dirty wind on the planet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our Modi ji is no slouch either. He congratulates all our athletes on Twitter. He watches their biopics, meets them, and asks them what their mothers give them to eat. Why, if you tune into the BJP’s official YouTube channel, you can enjoy any number of episodes of the animated series yoga with Modi where a muscular, and extremely flexible cartoon with Modi ji’s face on it performs the most difficult of asanas with ease and a beatific smile.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming back to Rahul, his critics have been sneering that all he will prove by walking 3,750km, is that he is a good walker. So what?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are being deliberately disingenuous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fitness is important. Putin knows that. Sunak knows that. Even the North Koreans know that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By marching doughtily from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, 24km a day, for 150 days, through sun, hail, rain and probably snow, with a beard growing bushier and more Modi-esque by the minute, and media attention and public interest snowballing with every step he takes, Rahul is demonstrating the very discipline, accessibility, charisma and complete commitment that his critics claim he lacks.</p> <p>Rahul is not merely trying to flex his fitness. He is trying to prove that he is fit enough for the top job. It is a point he may very well end up proving.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun Nov 06 13:14:34 IST 2022 congress-president-mallikarjun-kharge-future-plans-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Congress has achieved the impossible. It has managed to lose an election in which both the candidates were from the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don’t get me wrong—holding a democratic election to decide the next party president was a rare, refreshing and brave move by the party. It made them appear suddenly younger and sexier to the general public—who have no vote in this election, but are definitely keen to see the upholders of democracy practise a little of that within their own internal structure in a clean, transparent manner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seen from the point-of-view of providing the general public some entertainment, the clash could have played out like a celebrity tennis match—Hrithik Roshan vs Salman Khan perhaps, where the big boys come out to play and a damn good time is had by all spectators. But what ended up happening was Hrithik Roshan vs Alia Bhatt. And to make things worse, there were strong rumours that Hrithik was so scared of Alia that he sneakily pumped himself full of steroids.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, the big boys (and girls, if there are any left) of the Congress should have had the courage, and the commitment to democracy that Shashi Tharoor clearly has, to throw themselves heart and soul into a genuinely even contest. Ashok Gehlot could have contested instead of wriggling out, Digvijaya Singh could have contested instead of namby-pambying about it. Hey, it is a friendly contest between colleagues—there are no losers here and democracy is the only winner and our workers will be invigorated by watching us jousting about, right?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I guess not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, we can draw some consolation from the fact that an election was held, at all. Of course the only reason it was held was because Tharoor was good sport enough to not withdraw in the face of likely defeat, and take it squarely on the chin instead. And he has definitely emerged as the first amongst losers. His 11.95 per cent vote share is more than any losing candidate has ever managed to get in an election for INC president, with Sharad Pawar in the runner’s up spot with a share of 11.9 back in 1997.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And the Congress finally has its first non-Gandhi president after more than two decades. Mallikarjun Kharge is a career politician, an MLA nine times over; a Gandhi loyalist, yes, but also a heavyweight in his own right and fully qualified to lead the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And the election process is addictive. Now that a precedent has been set, perhaps the INC will hold internal elections regularly, and at every level—after every general election. Hey, perhaps, even other parties will eventually be pressured to follow suit. Which is all good. Internal elections are sort of like deworming for dogs—they need to be done frequently in order to keep the body healthy and functioning and effective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now it is up to the Congressis who voted in Kharge to ask some hard questions of their elected leader on what his plans are for the party, going forward. Certainly the party is looking more dynamic than it has for ages, with the Bharat Jodo Yatra gathering more momentum every day. Perhaps, a Kharge-the-pragmatist and Rahul-the-idealist partnership is slowly emerging (a faint echo of the Nehru-Gandhiji model.) We have to wait and watch.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After casting his vote, Tharoor declared, “The revival of the Congress starts today.” As usual he was both catchy and correct. It remains to be seen, however, if this ‘revival’ is going to be a brahmastra of a beginning or a damp squib of a dawn.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Oct 21 15:28:30 IST 2022 dont-tear-us-apart-anuja-chauhan-on-garba-row <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Would somebody just sit Nupur J. Sharma down, play her Virat Kohli’s Maanyawar’s ‘Har tyohaar, India ka tyohaar’ ad on loop, and tell her that she is fighting a losing battle? We are Indians. We love all our festivals. We like to dance the garba in whirling circles, play with colors on Holi, watch out for the moon eagerly on both Eid and Karwa Chauth, and attend midnight mass on Christmas eve. We adore backless mirrorwork cholis, parsi borders, Kanjeevaram silks, Kashmiri crewelwork, Farshi salwars and Luckhnavi chikankari. We love kada prasad, biryani, plum cake and farsan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Dil Chahta Hai, Aamir Khan famously said of himself and his two besties “hum cake khaane ke liye kahin bhi pahunch jaate hain” (we will gatecrash any place for cake) and that can be extended, to all of us, into, we will gatecrash any place to celebrate. We are not faking it because we were “brainwashed by decades of the Congress party’s politics of appeasement”. If we were, then Jodha Akbar would not have been a super-duper hit. Our very soul is syncretic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most popular song at every garba pandal that I have ever been to, for the last 20 years has been ‘Dholi taro dhol baaje’. The effect is electric every time it plays—people rush to the floor in droves, whirling and clapping. Nobody ever stops to consider that it has been composed by a Muslim music director and features a Muslim actor. Salman Khan clearly had a blast dancing to it, and did a superb job, besides. He is an intrinsic part of ‘Dholi taro’, and it is India’s #1 garba song. (Except for ‘Chogada tara’, perhaps, which features a Muslim actress, is co-written by a Muslim lyricist, and is produced again by Salman Khan.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And so it is laughable for Sharma to rule that Muslims may not join in and dance the garba till “you do ghar waapsi and submit to maa.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, many of our favouurite sufi hymns or quawaalis (‘Khwaja mere khwaja’, ‘Kun faya kun’, ‘Parda hai parda’, and countless others) feature a Hindu hero.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact of the matter is that Indian culture is a rich tapestry of different faiths and traditions and peoples, a fabric that has evolved over centuries, which cannot now be torn apart and segregated into airless, airtight boxes by hate-mongers hoping to grab prime-time eyeballs by advocating a weird, sick policy of religious apartheid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, festivals, all over the world, are not just about faith or religion. They are also, very significantly, about community and celebration. And because in India we have such a wealth of faiths and traditions, we have managed, over the years, to perfect an intuitive, self-regulated system where people of other faiths fall back respectfully during the religious part of any celebration, but surge forward enthusiastically to join in when the festivities begin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, hosting people of other faiths during ones festive celebrations adds a certain extra zing to the whole tyohaar—you seek information about the significance of various rituals so you can explain it better to your visitors, you draw more intricate rangoli patterns than you otherwise would have, you put on your best ‘guest manners.’ It makes you proud of your identity in the nicest possible way, it creates a spirit of good-natured, healthy competitiveness and you score reciprocatory invites. What’s not to like?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no doubting the fact that this time of year, when the nip of winter and the thrill of festivity kicks in, is a time all Indians look forward to eagerly. The hate-mongers want it to become a time of stress and strife. But India, and ‘Dholi taro dhol baaje’ will not let them prevail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Oct 08 16:52:01 IST 2022 killing-stray-dogs-will-only-worsen-situation-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>For decades now, private citizens and civic authorities have jibbed against the banning of the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ solution regarding the street dogs menace. That is, if there are too many nasty noisy mongrels running amuck, just round them up, drive them far away, and release them in a place from where they can never find their way back to your township.</p> <p>It is quite humane, they say. We are not killing them, after all. (Um, the only reasons you aren’t killing them left, right and centre is that the Constitution, which has a strong focus on animal compassion, clearly states no culling. And any issue regarding street dogs can be taken up only at the Supreme Court.)</p> <p>But the Animal Welfare Board of India argues that it is entirely counter-productive to move stray dogs from their established territory. This is because when a pack of dogs is suddenly shifted from one area to another, the dogs that already live in that area attack the newly arrived pack, and there are ferocious territorial fights, the ripples of which are felt through entire cities, and which can lead to humans getting bitten, too. Meanwhile, in the area that has just been made empty, new packs immediately move in. Also, the government’s India’s anti-rabies programme goes for a total toss, because it is crucial to the success of the programme that dogs remain in their own areas to be systematically covered and vaccinated every year.</p> <p>This is why, under Central law as laid out in The Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001, it is illegal for any individual, college, resident welfare association or estate management to relocate stray dogs. Instead, it is mandated that all stray dogs that belong to one area should be captured, vaccinated, neutered, clipped on one ear to show that they have been neutered, and returned to the same area from where they were picked up.</p> <p>The department recommends that ordinary citizens then befriend these dogs, feed them regularly, and start thinking of them by their correct title, which is community dogs. As animals that are protective of their particular locality and the humans who live there—and sound an alarm if any intruders, human or canine, try to sneak in on their space.</p> <p>Over time, if meticulously followed, this system delivers smaller dog populations, less barking and fighting amongst the dogs, fewer biting incidents, zero rabies and fewer burglaries.</p> <p>Unfortunately, nobody seems to be thinking in the long term. It’s all about now, today, ego satiation, having the last word. Which means that constant, vicious fights break out on colony WhatsApp groups, the new Kurukshetras and Haldighatis of our times, with bitterly feuding factions barking both for and against dog-feeding in a manner that would make real <i>galli-ka-kuttas</i> drop their jaws in admiration.</p> <p>Recently, fuel was added to this constantly raging fire by a fake news report that the Supreme Court had passed an order to the effect that people who feed street dogs would be liable for all expenses and consequences if a street dog they fed bit anybody. Even though it was immediately debunked and subsequently retracted, people continued to share it, quote it and drive community dogs out of their established spaces on the strength of it.</p> <p>See, Hansel-and-Gretelling the dogs (or straight out killing them, by mass-scale, brutal, vigilante culling) will only end in hyper-violent, territorial packs of dogs everywhere, spiralling hostility between man and animal, more bites, more rabies, sick, weak puppies at every side, garbage, filth and rats. What we really need to do is ensure civic authorities remove the garbage properly, and follow the mandated animal birth control measures. The next Supreme Court hearing is on September 28.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;"></b><br> </p> Sun Sep 25 11:57:10 IST 2022 gen-z-is-not-avoiding-responsibilities-it-is-just-being-careful <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Two honourable justices of the Kerala High Court have rued today’s ‘use-and-throw’ culture in a judgment chastising all those who would expand the word ‘WIFE’ as ‘Worry Invited For Ever’ substituting the old concept of ‘Wise Investment For Ever.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dismissing a plea to be released from his wife of ten years, with whom he has three daughters, the honourable justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and Sophy Thomas told a cheating husband that ‘mere quarrels, ordinary wear and tear of matrimonial relationships or casual outbursts of some emotional feelings cannot be treated as cruelties warranting a divorce’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two-member bench sternly observed that marriage was not ‘a mere ritual or empty ceremony for licensing the sexual urge of the parties,’ and concluded most thunderously that the husband could not seek the assistance of the courts to escape his existing marriage and get his new, “unholy alliance” legalised.’ In a way, they sort-of echoed what the remarkably sorted (and recently divorced) Samantha Ruth Prabhu told Karan Johar on his love-it-or-hate-it-cannot-ignore-it show Koffee with Karan—’You have portrayed marriage to be K3G, when in reality marriage is KGF.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is definitely true that in India today, no other institution is being as rigorously examined, renegotiated and re-imagined as marriage is. We see this manifested in hit films like Thappad and Darlings and in well-adjusted celebrity families with any numbers of stepchildren, half-siblings and step parents like the (Pataudi) Khans and the (Boney/Pankaj) Kapoors. The consistently top-ranking daily prime-time show on Indian television for the past two years remains the sensitive and fiercely feminist Anupama, which follows the journey of a middle-aged housewife who finds out her husband has been cheating on her for the past eight years, and seeks to deal with this devastating revelation with her sanity and self-respect intact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it is perhaps not correct for the older generation to dismiss today’s young people’s attitude as ‘use and throw’. Because really, the freshest ground reality seems to be that Gen Z, particularly post-pandemic, is loath to throw anything away. Reinventing, sharing and thrift shopping have all seen a huge upswing in their era—a trend manifested in Kim Kardashian wearing not some brand new, obscenely expensive dress to the Met Gala this year, but just a humble hand-me-down—Marilyn Monroe’s iconic 1962 nude silk, Happy-Birthday-Mr President gown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Because really, why stitch a new dress when there’s a perfectly good one out there already? Why make more babies, when there are tonnes of them to spare on this overloaded planet anyway? Why buy when you can rent, why pay the whole tab when you could share the load of everything from workspace to Ubers to indeed, long-term partners?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This generation, faced with an overabundance of bewildering choices, seems to be reacting not so much by ‘using-and-throwing’, as by sharing. The glib word ‘polyamorous’ is being thrown around a lot nowadays, as is ‘serial monogamy’. Which is all okay, I guess. Any strong institution can survive—indeed it should ideally undergo—vigorous reform and revision, a sort-of spiritual deworming, if you will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The thing the judges got absolutely right—and which everybody’s favourite Sima aunty stresses so much upon in Indian Matchmaking—is that you have to adjust. Adjusting, tolerance and resilience are key to surviving any long-term relationship. This is the bit today’s kids have an issue with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Still, my hope is that all this dithering around and trying-on-of-pants-before- buying-them means that when young people do eventually marry it is an informed, well considered, mature decision. And that they take marriage extremely seriously—more seriously than all of us oldies who tamely got married after two weeks of giddy courtship ever did.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Sep 10 12:09:40 IST 2022 freeing-bilkis-bano-case-convicts-shows-indias-heartless-indifference <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Forgiveness follows from repentance. When a mother disciplines a child, she does it so the child can mull over his/her actions, confess, apologise, and move on to a better place. That is good, constructive closure. That is what a good correctional system of the state seeks to do for all criminals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If there is no repentance, there should be no forgiveness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even Manu Sharma, the intoxicated-on-power son of a Congress neta, who was running amuck in those long-past hazy days of the Congress era, publicly expressed regret in an interview for the obscenely entitled act of shooting celebrity bartender Jessica Lal dead because she wouldn’t serve him a drink after the bar had closed. And even after he had served his 15 year-sentence and consistently displayed good behaviour, he was released only after Jessica’s sister, Sabrina Lal, said in a letter to the welfare office of Tihar jail that she had no objection to his release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film No One Killed Jessica was released in 2011. Its unflinching portrayal of Manu, his powerful politician father and his doting mother was approved without a single cut by the Censor Board of Film Certification under the Congress government. Jessica’s faith (Christianity) was a total non-issue in the entire incident. No Congress workers came forward to #boycott the film or protest that Manu Sharma was a Brahmin, and therefore had good sanskaars. At the 57th Filmfare Awards, the film was nominated in four categories and won one award.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compare and contrast that with what is happening around us today. Acting in a manner that lays bare their heartless indifference to the agony of the women in the heinous Nirbhaya, Unnao, Hathras, Kathua gang-rape cases, the courts, the civil servants, and the state and Union governments of the day saw fit to allow the eleven gang-rapists and mass-murderers in the Bilkis Bano case to walk free on our 75th Independence Day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Um... did they all—miraculously—show collective improved behaviour? Like all eleven of them?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yeah, apparently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Was Bilkis asked if she was good with their release?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No, of course not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So did they write to her, plead revengeful anger, the ‘fog of war’, temporary insanity, or religious brainwashing? Did they apologise for smashing her three-year-old daughter’s head on the ground? Did they help her get the house she was promised in the final judgment but never got?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So did they at least slink quietly out of jail looking properly ashamed of themselves? No. They were received by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, garlanded, fed sweets and seated upon a platform like they were heroes. It was even suggested that they never committed the crime at all!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And as surely as gangrene follows an open wound, a few days after their release, former BJP MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja boasted openly that “we have told our people to kill anyone involved in cow slaughter. We will get them bail and acquittal. We have done it for five people already”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, in a classic example of the doublespeak-theatrics that has come to define these times, he was booked for a hate speech, two days later. But the chilling message had been sent out, and received, loud and clear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It feels like we are living in the first half of Sholay basically. Where Gabbars break out of jails and go snarling back to the homes of the men who had them put away, and extract a bloody revenge. That is what the optics seem to suggest anyway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are just a few weeks away from Gandhi Jayanti, and sure as lotuses are lotuses, the top Twitter trend of that day is once again going to be not #fatherofthenation, but #NathuRamGodseZindabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have become assassin worshippers now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, no commercial Bollywood studio is developing a film titled ‘No one Raped Bilkis’. They see no market for it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Aug 27 11:41:55 IST 2022 true-patriotism-doesnt-demand-flag-as-proof <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>All hail the birthday girl! Mother India is turning 75 and we, the loyal citizens, have been instructed to show our love and fealty by changing our display pictures to a picture of the national flag. We are also being urged to fly a tiranga from our rooftops. It is not mandatory, of course, so no presh. Except that there sort of is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now if you are the kind of person who immediately gets your back up if you are told what to do (obviously this doesn’t include entirely reasonable instructions like keeping your seatbelt on, or wearing a mask and so on), then you are in exalted company. Mohan Bhagwat and the RSS are yet to fly the tiranga from their DPs, with a senior functionary huffily stating, “We don’t take any decision under anyone’s pressure. If the display pic of our official Twitter handle has to be changed, it will be in due course of time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For once, I am in complete agreement with the RSS. I have flown the tiranga from my car, my house and my cubicle on August 15 in the past. (Mostly because excited little kiddies sell them at street lights and the whole interaction feels so festive and lovely.) Sometimes I have changed my DP, too. Doing so as a joyous spontaneous show of patriotism is one thing, and doing so out of a grim sense of duty is another—the latter has a non-consensual reek to it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, then, nowadays, we are getting told what to do a lot. Cancel this cricketer, donate to that relief fund, agree to X tax, surrender Y subsidy, avoid those people, worship this particular deity, boycott such and such film... Of course, these are things I may very well do all by myself (the Laal Singh Chaddha trailer looks seriously yawn-worthy) but you cannot take away my constitutional right to watch a crappy film if I want to. Or, not fly a national flag from my rooftop if I would rather not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am not a clueless child of mother India, I am a tax-paying, grown-ass citizen of the Republic of India. In Jane Austen’s Emma, George Knightley famously tells Emma, when she questions him on why he hasn’t shown his emotions for her more openly, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”I suspect a lot of Indians are like inarticulate George. Creatures of a simpler, more austere time. Soul-sisters perhaps of Cordelia, youngest daughter of King Lear, who upset her father by telling him that she loved him like she loved salt in her food. The flattery-loving old man preferred the fanciful, performative protestations of love made by her older sisters Goneril and Regan—both of whom tossed him out on his ass once they had got hold of all his money, leaving it to Cordelia to pick up his pieces and look after him, just like Salman Khan in Baghban. I suspect that a lot of genuine Indian patriots are watching appalled as Lear’s two older daughters take over the national discourse and taint our tiranga by turning it into the new bhagwa jhanda, appropriating it for toxic, one-tone jingoism on Twitter handles that spew hate and disunity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maybe, this August 15, these Indians will stick to the older, simpler tradition of just flying kites from the terrace, while listening to the old black and white deshbhakti ke geet. Because true love doesn’t demand a flag as proof. True love just is. Or, maybe, they will decide to not surrender the tiranga to the Gonerils and the Regans, and fly it from their rooftops anyway. Either way, they have the right to choose. That is what independence is all about. Isn’t it?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sat Aug 13 11:36:51 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-nudes-and-their-meaning <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Why exactly has Ranveer Singh shed all his clothes, slicked himself with oil, and lain himself down into that curiously defenceless, needy, side-sprawl upon a Turkish rug for Paper magazine? It can’t be for media attention—because he gets enough of that already. It can’t be for money (though maybe that pricey sea-facing quadraplex in Bandra took the shirt of his back). It isn’t for PETA or any other ‘good cause’, which is usually the ‘reason’ most male celebrities give to justify their risque photo-shoots. It just is. Take it or leave it (Um, lawsuits about hurting female sentiments and outraging female modesty be damned, most girls and women are happy to take it.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a performer and as a personality, Ranveer is known to push the envelope. He does so with focussed, almost messianic zeal—as though it were his self-appointed moral duty to bring light and airiness to a stodgy, atrophied society. To release that which is repressed, to express that which is suppressed, to subvert that which is pompously inflated. And so, to a society fed on rigid, macho images of masculinity—clenched jaws, flexed torsos, shoulders, chest, back, arms, and abs—Ranveer blithely offers a fluidly curving butt cheek, a length of hairy thigh and calf, bare feet, relaxed body langauge, and soft, vulnerable eyes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paper magazine has positioned his nudes as a tribute to Burt Reynolds’s famous 1972 centrefold in Cosmopolitan magazine, but to me, that soft curve of side-butt is more reminiscent of an earlier era—John Lennon’s iconic cover for Rolling Stone magazine, shot by Anne Liebovitz, where he posed naked in a foetal position next to a fully-clothed Yoko Ono, on the day that he was assassinated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the years many powerful, subversive statements have been made by artists as varying as Lady Gaga and Shakti Kapoor with their bodies—about objectification, the media circus and the male gaze.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes the nudity is a slutwalk style act of defiance against societal norms. Sometimes, as in the case of several female celebrities who share non-photoshooped nude images of their pregnant and postpartum bodies, it can be an act of self-affirmation, done for the exquisite relief that comes with baring and even celebrating ones flaws with others in the same position as themselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes, in the case of top Olympians and athletes, it is about celebrating and strutting the hard work and sacrifice they have put into their bodies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At times—like when the mothers of Manipur demonstrated naked with a banner that said, ‘Indian Army rape us’—it is a political statement. (Hmm, is Ranveer turning around, pulling down his pants, and irreverently mooning our solemn Hindu Rashtra?)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes it is about becoming entirely defenseless and allowing total access, by removing the last and final barrier between viewer and viewee, and proving you love your audience as much as they love you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naturists—the folks who used to be called nudists in less politically correct times—believe that casual, everyday nudity helps people shed their inhibitions and hang-ups—and cultivate a healthy attitude to the environment, the planet and sex.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Ranveer, I suspect it’s a case of pretty much all-of-the-above.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See, in the final analysis, nudity is not really as much about titillation as it is about power. Both the beggar on the roadside and the supermodel on the catwalk can be described as bhoonkha-nanga (starving-naked). But one of them has power and one does not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Here, Ranveer surrenders his (considerable) power and makes a present of it to the viewer. Good for him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And as far as my female sentiments go, what’s hurting them is not #ranveernudepics but the fact that he consistently gets paid more than his equally talented wife. How about filing a case against that?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Sun Jul 31 11:56:46 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-branding-cues-political-parties-can-take-from-cola-gutkha-ads <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>I remember meeting Pakistani music artist Ali Zafar about ten years ago, and being utterly scandalised when he breezily confided that, ‘best way is to endorse Pepsi for one year, then Coca Cola for the next year. Keep everybody happy, including yourself.’ Being a trench fighter in the cola wars of the 1990s and early 2000s, I was naive enough to expect brand loyalty from brand endorsers.</p> <p>In those decades, Pepsi was synonymous with Shah Rukh Khan, ThumsUp with Salman, and Coke with Aamir. When I went out to shoot my Pepsi ads with SRK, Saif Ali Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, several leading ladies, and most of India’s leading cricketers, I used to feel like a righteous Jedi locked in a holy war against the forces of the Dark.</p> <p>Today of course, things have gotten so surreal that they make me feel like I’m stuck in the Upside Down from <i>Stranger Things</i>. Shah Rukh, in a makeover reminiscent of a teenage pop princess turning badass twerker, has gone from squeaky clean boy-next-door to snarly, smirky ThumsUp chugging ‘man.’ Salman, meanwhile, has surrendered the ‘grow-up to ThumsUp’ space to become a sort of weird, eternal man—child who drinks Pepsi and avoids matrimony.</p> <p>Some Cola endorsers have given up on the category itself. In 2014, speaking at IIM Ahmedabad, Bachchan claimed to have stopped endorsing Pepsi because a young girl in Jaipur ‘called it poison, and that troubled him’. PepsiCo was mystified by this statement as his contract with them had come to its natural conclusion several years ago. Perhaps it was a case of you-didn’t-dump-me-I-dumped-you. Who knows?</p> <p>Putting aside colas, but sticking with the ethics of brand endorsements, we come to the curious case of Akshay Kumar and Vimal Elaichi. I am not very sure why the brand’s marketers added yet another endorser to perform that weird two fingered <i>aadab</i> along with Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh (surely it hints at the fact that star power doesn’t translate into wins for the brand?) But in their wisdom they went ahead and signed Akshay. He immediately faced a backlash for surrogate-advertising tobacco, apologised to his fans, said he would donate his entire endorsement fee to ‘a worthy cause’—but added that the ads featuring him would continue to run for the entire endorsement term. Which kind of defeats the purpose of not using his fame to influence young minds into trying out unhealthy, cancer-causing products. Oh, and by the way, we are still waiting to hear what the ‘worthy cause’ is.</p> <p>So does such fickle brand-hopping affect a star’s popularity?</p> <p>The simple answer is no—on the contrary, in today’s cynical world, stars are openly admired for ‘scamming the system’, for being savvy enough to play both sides, for having their cake and eating it, too. The person for whom respect is lost (in the long run) is for the brand that is desperate enough to still hanker after these star associations. A point that needs to be pondered by Cola and <i>gutkha</i> brands, but more importantly, by political parties today. The more MPs and MLAs jump ship from hither to thither in the full blaze of the media spotlight, the more reluctant admiration the voter will have for their rockstar-ishness, and the lesser they will respect the parties that are falling all over themselves to pander to them thus.</p> <p>If a party wants to retain the voter’s respect, it should respect its loyal cadres, reward them with plum posts so that they do not get disgruntled, and focus on being true to its core values.</p> <p>Otherwise our political system will collapse into a space where party names and symbols are redundant—a churning mosh-pit of greedy petulant rockstars and their hustlers, all jumping up and down demanding treats, and achieving for the nation, nothing at all.</p> Sun Jul 17 17:18:12 IST 2022 agnipath-is-a-bum-deal-says-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The intention is obvious from the name itself. By plumping for a catchy, Bollywood-esque name like Agnipath and an over-compensating, machismo-soaked title like Agniveer, the ministry of defence has made it patently clear that its new recruitment scheme is neither solid, substantial nor sensible, but just cheap tinsel, hollow semantics and insincere sexiness, the euphoria of clearing which will last just about as long as the high derived from watching an item number from an average Hindi film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Otherwise the ministry would have just stuck with the simple, much loved, and unquestioningly respected title fauji.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See for a fauji, the fauj is his whole life. It clasps him in a strong, secure, whole-hearted bear-hug, and he embraces it back with all his heart and soul. It is something he is willing to lay down his life for. A deal for life. A marriage, if you will.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But this tawdry, proposed Agnipath scheme turns gilt-edged spouse material like the Indian Fauj into a toxic first boyfriend—the kind who makes you leap through hoops and walk through fire to prove your love is true, yet still tosses you aside after four years with a small present of money and a gas-lighting speech about how your time together had enriched you and made you a better person whom so many more far-worthier-than-he people will be thrilled to sleep with. (It’s a bum deal, boys and girls. Much more ‘Chikni Chameli’ than Agnipath, frankly.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is no surprise though. From the shifting of the Amar Jawan Jyoti flame from its pride of place beneath the canopy of the India Gate, to the vanishing of Indian-made-foreign-liquor brands from the shelves of the CSD canteens, it is pretty clear that today’s regime holds its defence forces in cheap regard. Or wait, no. Actually, their attitude can perhaps best be described as a mixture of gawking awe, rank envy, and open resentment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No wonder there has been such a powerful—and entirely organic—backlash from young boys and men to Agnipath. So powerful in fact, that some suggest that a whole new three-ring circus has been prodded to bloom in Maharashtra to get the Twitterati to talk about something else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Others point triumphantly at the fact that the IAF has already received 56,960 applications to the Agnipath scheme within three days of the link going live, but with the ministry of defence clearly stating that this is the only way in which aspirants can apply for jobs below the rank of commissioned officers, what else do you even expect in a nation whose number one issue is rampant unemployment?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fact remains that the defence services as well as the young men who aspire to join them, are (literally) being short-changed. Our troubled society will have to absorb an influx of disgruntled, newly unemployed young men with military training and an itch to live up to the toxic-masculine title of Agniveer, every year. Meanwhile, our defence forces will have to keep letting go of young men whom they have spent four years training, to start from scratch with rookies again!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, this regime takes unholy glee in messing with trusted, long-functioning institutions like the Planning Commission, Article 370, the thousand rupee note, the Babri masjid, the MSP and the farm laws, the Supreme Court of India, the Central Vista, the RTI, the CVC, the BCCI, the Delhi Gymkhana Club, and God alone know what else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But surely an institution as vital as our armed forces could have been spared such stupid tinkering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b></b></p> Fri Jul 01 11:42:59 IST 2022 shivling-is-omnipresent <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Sat Jun 18 11:05:20 IST 2022 when-a-lotus-rises-it-partially-obscures-mud-it-is-blooming-above-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Fri Jun 03 11:46:21 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-the-hate-zoya-akhtars-the-archies-is-getting <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Sun May 22 11:47:17 IST 2022 i-cant-chill-when-fabric-of-india-is-in-extreme-pain-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Fri May 06 14:35:54 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-small-alia-bhatt-small-wedding <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Fri Apr 22 11:13:52 IST 2022 hijab-ban-will-backfire <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Feb 24 15:56:38 IST 2022 bingo-s-the-word-writes-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Mon Feb 14 18:21:57 IST 2022 beneath-india-gate-is-the-primest-sweetest-spot-our-martyrs-deserve-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Jan 27 15:29:09 IST 2022 did-pm-president-discuss-genocide-call-against-200-million-indians-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> 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=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Sun Dec 19 12:36:50 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-83-trailer-makes-her-wistful-about-the-80s-and-90s <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Sat Dec 04 12:08:07 IST 2021 propaganda-machines-say-hindutva-and-hinduism-are-the-same-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Fri Nov 26 14:30:49 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-decodes-rightwing-outrage-over-sabyasachi-new-ad <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Sat Nov 06 11:12:16 IST 2021 what-are-we-going-to-do-about-india--about-to-syndrome-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Fri Oct 22 17:17:07 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-on-the-national-tit-for-tat-policy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Oct 07 15:54:41 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-on-govts-paperwork-diktat-to-sonu-sood <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Sep 23 16:54:44 IST 2021 why-are-we-vilifying-gurnam-singh-chaduni-asks-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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 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></b></p> Thu Sep 09 19:02:26 IST 2021 right-to-be-forgotten-does-not-seem-very-legit-opines-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> 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=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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> Thu Aug 12 16:09:59 IST 2021 take-your-eyes-off-women-athletes-all-you-morons-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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=""></a></b></p> 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=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Jul 15 16:55:50 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-on-how-the-modi-govt-is-gaslighting-us <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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> Thu Jul 01 17:58:14 IST 2021 anuja-chauhan-writes-on-embittered-misogynistic-hate-filled-bunch-of-hincels <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Jun 17 19:29:32 IST 2021 our-pm-is-acting-like-a-spoilt-child--writes-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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> Thu Jun 03 15:27:10 IST 2021 it-is-time-to-reincarnate-the-congress--anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b><br> </p> Thu May 20 16:31:28 IST 2021 india-is-rallying-around-true-originals-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu May 06 15:10:16 IST 2021 act-more-responsibly-with-your-money-likes-remotes-and-votes-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Apr 22 17:17:01 IST 2021 bjp-cannot-be-allowed-to-dumb-down-and-weaponise-hinduism-says-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Apr 08 17:43:08 IST 2021 ashoka-university-should-take-some-tough-calls-says-anuja-chauhan <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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> Thu Mar 25 16:00:26 IST 2021 castles-desi-cliches <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Wed Mar 10 19:16:44 IST 2021 in-the-beard-we-trust <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Feb 11 16:43:03 IST 2021 who-rained-on-whose-parade <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <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></b></p> Thu Jan 28 16:06:32 IST 2021