calamur

Nov 282016
 

Sometime last year, I figured one thing about my life. That my brain was going to rust, metaphorically speaking, if I didn’t do things apart from work. A news role, placed serious dampeners on my meeting interesting people, and doing interesting things – both of which i did extensively in my earlier life. Everything i did, i tried to bring back to the work space – how does it fit here, or there – and my personal space, and interests were getting squeezed. And, i had begun chaffing (at myself).

One of the things i do enjoy is photography. And, walking around Mumbai and just shooting buildings, street life, and life in general, was something i toyed with. But, I have tremendous capacity for personal inertia — do nothing apart from have a happy thought. The thought of the photo walk made me so happy, and a few weeks passed by without me doing too much about it. It was also a bad time for me personally and professionally. The reasons don’t matter – all i know was that i felt like i was in an Indiana Jones film, and the walls were closing in on me (very rapidly).

It was at this time, i came across Khaki Tours (via a kind soul on twitter, when i asked about walks around mumbai). And, i have been attending a fair few walks since i first discovered the group.

My love for history, my love for my city, and my love for photography – have all gotten satisfied – on these trips.

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This is from the first walk at Gamdevi – literally the village goddess. Gamdevi as an area of Mumbai, is brimming with history. It is the seat of Mani Bhavan – the Gandhi Museum. There is the Theosophical Society in the area. It is also the seat of modern Hindustani music. IT is also where the Indian National Congress was born, where the Quit India Movement was launched, and where many progressive men (and in those days it was men) decided that they wanted to help their fellow countrymen to not just gain independence, but also help them to become equal.

Right now, like the rest of Mumbai, there is a tussle in progress. Vertical Growth or conservation of heritage. There is a lot of brown heritage in the area. The Goregaonkars and the Rauts who helped build the city. The old temples and homes. Unfortunately, it is not seen as heritage.

theosophical-society

And, one of the things I do really like about this particular walk, is the focus on the Indian part of it. Indians who helped build this city. Indians from all over India.

There is a lot more to gamdevi than two photos and 5 lines – but, i did mention the inertia part. I have my notes. I have my photos. But, i have to still put them together. I did a series of other walks – the Banganga Walk, the Parel Walk, the Bhuleshwar walk — all of them not just great fun, but extremely informative and engrossing.

Bharat Gothoskar, whose brain child this is, loves the city. And, that comes through during the walk. This isn’t about dry numbers and dates, and events. This is about exciting human beings, who pushed the limits of their era, to succeed. Recently, Bharat and Khaki tours have moved beyond the walkabouts, and added an open jeep ride to the menu. Saturday, last week, i went on an Urban Safari (it is called that) that took us on a Fort Ride.

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From the steps of the Asiatic, the journey begins that takes us through the last 150 or so years of history. From the Opium traders, to the modern bankers. That part of Mumbai is quite fantastic. If this is your kind of thing, the do look out for the walks, and the rides.  The story of Bombay (as it was then) is quite something. She is quite a character, our city … 🙂

 

Nov 272016
 
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My absolutely favourite piece of music. Bhimsen Joshi the most masterful rendition of Miyan Ki Todi.
The bada khayal is the single most enticing piece of music I have heard. Change Nainon Waali… It is almost as though he is enticing the beautiful eyed one — and, i am guessing here, it is the Devi, to him. 
and, then the absolutely jubilant Aeri Maayi aaj Shubh Mangal Gao. She heard his music, and came to him. And, the joy in his voice of attaining her. 
This is bhakti rasa at it’s peak – you don’t know where the human ends, and the divine begins.
Everytime I hear this piece, my heart sings with joy.
This is part of the Siddhi collection – possibly the finest collection of his live concert performances.
#SundayMorningListening

Listen to this interview of Pt Bhimsen Joshi with Shekhar Suman …

 

Nov 062016
 

From yesterday’s news, this

Police at Kankroli in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan have registered a first information report against Hindi film actress Rakhi Sawant on charges of indulging in obscenity by wearing a dress with the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi printed all over it. …. The FIR has cited offences under several sections of Indian Penal Code and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and the police have launched investigation.

From a few days earlier

The pub, located in Oberoi Mall, had a church-themed decor–Bible quotes and stained-glass paintings–that Christian activists found ‘blasphemous’ and protested against. As the protests took a serious turn, the pub’s management pulled down the decor to appease the infuriated Christian community…..filed an FIR at Dindoshi police station under Section 295A.

These are just the one’s i can easily find. There are more. Lots more. Many of my fellow citizens like being offended at things that they see and hear in the media, or experience in real life. Films, books, bar decor, clothes, people, photographs and more. Each week, i am amazed at people dedicated to finding offence at everyday things, then having the energy to act on that ‘feeling of offence’ … go to a cop station, file a FIR, talk to cameras, post on social media about the sense of being offended – create tiny little communities of the offended. And, keep those communities together till, nurturing the ‘sense of being offended’.

I am afraid, that while these people are exercising their constitutional rights – to being offended (section 295 of the IPC deals with this), the system is letting them down, by getting the same over worked criminal justice system, that is overloaded with completely mundane things like murder, rape, domestic violence, robbery etc.

Section 295, for the not normally offended, is this

Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

 

Which just about covers everything from the Good Lord Almighty (in any religion) to your favourite film star, your favourite animal, colour, hill, drink — anything you hold to be sacred. For example, i won’t be terribly surprised if one day, the association of Old Monk and Thumps Up drinkers, gets offended at Old Monk and Pepsi drinkers, and accuse them of offending deep held beliefs and practices.

The police, i believe, are not particularly adept at handling touching feeling subjects like offence. They are trained for other things — evidence, people, paperwork, etc etc. Loading them with abstract tenses, not to mention belief sets, is just beyond their remit. And, they will fail, and in doing so deprive justice for those who have been offended.

Therefore, i would humbly suggest the setting up of a new department, that can both investigate, question, and adjudicate on offended feelings. The newly created Department of Offended Feelings will also be staffed by pass outs of the administrative service. And, here i propose a special exam — the IOS exams– the indian offence service exams. There can be lateral entry from distantly related wings of political parties, from people used to protesting ‘being offended’. Students unions, trade unions, and stone pelters can be given special consideration.

This does two things — one is it reduces the pressure on the police to investigate ‘hurt feelings’ and lets them finish their more mundane tasks, ie, fight crime; and second – more importantly – it opens up a new avenue of employment. If the government chose to charge per complaint investigated, it could be a self sustaining model. More over, i see an entire business ecosystem grow around the department of offended feelings– social media activation, ground events, social networking and even dating sites — imagine being able to bond over being offended.

It just requires all of us to marginally shift gears and think about the possibilities. What we need to realise is that people being offended is hear to stay. People whining about being offended is only going to grow. And people, bonding on ‘being offended’ is possibly the new killer app. Given that ‘offended feelings’ is a growing market, it is about time that the Government took proactive action and set up this new department.

 

 

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(image, from here)

Nov 052016
 

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Sultan of Delhi by Arnab Ray, Aka the Great Bong, is a racy and gripping read about a boy who starts with nothing, and rises all the way to the top of his game.

The story starts with a today, and keeps going back and forth to multiple yesterdays – and, most of these yesterdays are a part and parcel of the history of the sub continent. And, in charting the story of the main character around the historical moments – Partition, the creation of Bangladesh, Emergency, the story becomes as much a story of the changing face of India post independence, as it is of Arjun Bhatia

The story is that of Arjun Bhatia, one of the millions who came across to Delhi from Western Punjab in 1947 – with nothing but a bit of gold in his pocket and the burning desire never ever to be helpless again. Arjun, in this period has not yet hit his teens, but has to grow up fast to survive. He has to be parent to his father – who is in deep shock after the events of the partition that led to his wife and other sons being killed (Arjun’s mother and brothers). As Arjun tells his father, during a meltdown

 It’s not that I don’t love you, daddy, it’s that I don’t respect you. It’s just that I don’t respect your opinions. Because I don’t respect fools. Fools are the most dangerous people in the world. They get others killed.

As Arjun makes a life in Delhi, the story charts his growth from a mechanic to a gun runner, and a gun runner to a legit businessman, who makes his way in the corridors of power. Arjun is relentless in his rise to the top. His marriage of convenience – to inherit a going concern, that later settles into companionship – is as important to him; as the love of his life Nayantara – the widow of a man he kills. He is meticulous in his plotting his path ascension – a ruthless drive that is reminiscent of Michael Corleone – the two fold desire to protect your family, and be at the top.  It is a dangerous game, and Arjun makes his fair share of enemies. In one of the best face offs in the book (and there are a few), Arjun has a line, that possibly not just defines him and his way of doing business, but also the essential tussle in Delhi – between the English speaking ‘elite’ and the Hindi speaking ‘new elite’.

Yeh madarchod-behenchod ka sheher hai, angrezi gaali se kisko darwayenge?

While it is a story of Arjun and his rise to being the Sultan of Delhi, it is also the story of the way business is conducted in modern India. It is also the story of families and how they define you. The son who judged his father as a fool, is now judging his sons as the same. You can sense his slight impatience at how long it takes for the next generation to get a point, that he has known instinctively.

The book is racy, the characters are real. They speak real. They sound real. You know about people like them. And, yet it is a story that is unique in it’s ambition. As Ray recounts the story of Arjun Bhatia over a 60 year period, the non linear narrative of jumping between time frames – each revealing a little more about Arjun – keeps you hooked.  The flashbacks move the story forward, they aren’t just there for the sake of ideal curiosity. The use of hindi is natural, as is the use of English. And, that is one of the things I really enjoyed about the Sultan of Delhi, is the way it flowed.

I also give full compliments to whoever edited this – because if i had material that spanned 60 years, i would not be able to write such a tight book.

I am hoping there is a sequel. I want to know what happens with the characters, next 🙂

Oct 232016
 

…. but, it is one of the sharpest pieces of writing on what ails America, and the Trump phenomenon. Such precision is devastating.

If the prospect of a female President represents a departure in the history of American politics, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the real-estate mogul and Republican nominee, does, too—a chilling one. He is manifestly unqualified and unfit for office. Trained in the arts of real-estate promotion and reality television, he exhibits scant interest in or familiarity with policy. He favors conspiracy theory and fantasy, deriving his knowledge from the darker recesses of the Internet and “the shows.” He has never held office or otherwise served his country, never acceded to the authority of competing visions and democratic resolutions.

If you thought that  being discriminatory, bigoted, and dogmatic, weren’t bad enough as characteristics, there is more …

It is not merely narcissism that leads him to speak about grabbing women’s genitals or to endorse the “Lock Her Up!” chants directed at his opponent. It is his temperamental authoritarianism—a trait echoed in his admiration of Vladimir Putin. …

The consistencies of Trump’s character are matched by the inconsistencies of his policy positions. Every politician is allowed to change his or her mind, but Trump abuses the privilege. His reversals on issues as fundamental as first-strike nuclear policy and our obligations to nato reflect not so much a thought process as the blunderings of ignorance.

I actually thought, when i read about Trump’s candidacy, that it must have been an evolved joke. And, when i realised it was not (a joke) , i began paying a bit more attention to what was going on. It is that kind of horrific fascination when you are about to see a terrible car accident. the conspiracy theorist part of me wonders if Bill Clinton planted the seed of running for presidency in this man’s head, the many times that they played golf.  If so, it would be two birds with one stone (maybe even 3) = Hilary as President, a devastated Republican Party, and Democrats in Congress.

 The combination of free-form opportunism, heroic self-regard, blithe contempt for expertise, and an airy sense of infallibility has contributed to Trump’s profound estrangement from the truth. He said that he saw “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the attacks of 9/11. When he was told that this never happened, he repeated the claim, mocked the disabled reporter who exposed it—a grotesque antic captured on video—and then denied having done so. He maintained that he saw a picture of Ted Cruz’s father “having breakfast with Lee Harvey Oswald”; no such picture exists. He boasted of conversations with Putin that never occurred; he said that Putin had not invaded Ukraine. He described climate change as a Chinese-perpetrated hoax, then said that he hadn’t. Day and night, Trump assembles and distributes these murky innuendos and outright lies through his Twitter account.

But, in the United States, as elsewhere, there is a backlash from, what i call, the “formerly privileged’ .  People who have been the backbone of the formerly left wing parties. Union members, workers, people who are seeing their futures rapidly diminishing with the onslaught of outsourcing of work to other countries, as well as the influx of cheaper labour into their own lands. But this is not just about jobs. It is about other things to. It is about equality – it is the resentment that some have about those who were servants and chattel, who can deal with them on equal basis. We are seeing this across the world.

We are in the midst of a people’s revolt, a great debate concerning income inequality, the “hollowing” of the middle, globalization’s winners and losers. If the tribune whom the voters of the Republican Party have chosen is a false one, we cannot dismiss the message because we deplore the messenger. The white working-class voters who form the core of Trump’s support—and who were once a Democratic constituency—should not have their anxieties and suffering written off. Their struggle with economic abandonment and an incomplete health-care system demands airing, understanding, and political solutions.

Oh, and they talk about Hilary Clinton too.

Read the full piece, here