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.

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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 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)

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 

Oct 022016
 

As a culture, one of our hallmarks, is the ability to deify, build rituals, but lose the essence, of the great men and women, who walked before us.

We build temples, and take their words as cast in stone. We create rituals, and we create new Gods. But, the leanings are lost. We bring them out once a year, dust them out, offer them flowers, prayers, talk about their values in our life, and then get on with other stuff. And, it is rinse and repeat, every single year.

Today is Gandhi Jayanti, “Dry Day” as Munnabhai said famously in the film. And, it is the day every major leader, industrialist, actor, celebrity, talks about Gandhi and his impact on their life. Gandhi would have been amused. For all his failings, his sense of humour was intact (and before i get trolled for saying he had faults, it is something he readily accepted)>

 

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everytime i read this, i am struck by how apt this is. I wonder if it was like this in his era, or is it unique to ours.

May 032016
 

I have begun thinking about loss and grief, and coping with grief, a lot in the last one year. Also, about acceptance, and coming to terms with grief. It isn’t that one doesn’t misses the person who is gone (in my case, my father) , one does intensely. But, the death was natural, the natural destination of a life well lived. He went surrounded by loved ones, with memories of a, more or less, happiness and laughter filled life, and today it is possible to remember him with a smile. In a way, acceptance is also because you expect your parents to precede you in death. It is the natural way of things.

I have often wondered, at the kind of grief that one has to cope with, if it is a parent mourning the loss of their child. It is not really the natural order of things.  Many years ago, i had written about putrashoka, the grief one feels at the loss of a child. There are many kinds of losses, and many kinds of grief.

Two days ago, a person I knew and worked with, not even 30 years old died. At that age, it can only be an unexpected death. My heart goes out to her parents. What does one even say at a time like this.