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Showing posts from May, 2022

Gender discrimination in the womb

One of the many mothers and daughters in India discarded by families because the woman gave birth to a girl child.  7000 girls are killed in their mothers’ wombs every day in India, according to various estimates. 63 million women were never born in India because of this phenomenon of female foeticide. Killing the girl in the mother’s womb became common in India from the time the technology for sex determination of foetuses arrived. In this country of Himalayan paradoxes, women get odes composed to their gloriousness on the one hand, and they are driven to the worst possible edges of survival on the other. In which country will you find so many goddesses? And that too fire-spitting goddesses like Kali and graceful killers like Durga! There is so much empowerment of women in India’s divine milieu. Why is the story on the ground just the reverse? Why is there so much discrimination against women in the country? “India is the only large country where more girls die than boys,” says

Modi dominates the week again

Media Watch India Today has dedicated almost the entire issue [dated 6 June 2022] to Mr Narendra Modi who is completing eight years in power at the Centre. It has outdone last week’s Open in singing Modi’s panegyrics. Modi has taken India a long way, according to the periodical, with an unmatched vision. He revoked Article 370, the Supreme Court issued the verdict in favour of the Ayodhya Temple, and the Citizenship Act was amended. Modi took the country forward by leaps and bounds in economy, home affairs, foreign affairs, roads and infrastructure, defence, industries, sports, and so on. Privatisation of Public Sector Units is seen by India Today as a “radical long-term goal that will fortify the metabolism of the Indian economy.” India Today is of the view that Modi tided the country over many a disastrous hurdle like the pandemic which saw the largest exodus within the country after the Partition and the economic woes caused by the Ukraine War. Aroon Purie, the editor, adds j

Inheritors of Lord Rama’s guilt

“if Ram Rajya comes, we will completely ban the Urdu language,” says the BJP’s Telangana state chief B S Kumar. Only Urdu? That was the first question which arose in my mind. Kumar’s party has been demolishing mosques and churches in order to construct temples for Lord Rama. It has been killing people who are supposedly enemies of Lord Rama. Some people were lucky to escape death by the skin of their teeth. People’s dresses, food, languages, cultures, and so on are being assaulted for the sake of Lord Rama. Anyone who knows Rama will also know that the Lord must be wondering how some people who claim to be his fans or devotees have come to imagine him as such a bloodthirsty monster. He must be longing to run away along with the hundreds of thousands of Indians who have chosen to leave India permanently and settle down in better countries. In April 2014, a month before Modi became India’s Prime Minister, I wrote a story titled Sarayu’s Sorrow . Lord Rama sits on the bank of the

Wrong priorities

Media Watch The Week this time chooses to give us some “life lessons” from a few successful Indians one of whom is Narayana Murthy. According to Murthy, a country like India where poverty is a glaring problem, the government’s chief concern should be job creation. But the government does not create jobs. It is only private entrepreneurs who can do that. The government should provide “incentivising environment” to the entrepreneurs. India seems to be more interested in entertaining the citizens with history’s blunders. The Gyanvapi mosque dominated the country’s politics last week. Mosques and temples are consuming India’s energy and time with no productive output whatever. When prices of essential things are reaching the skies and life is becoming an ordeal, it is easy to divert people’s attention using some red herring or a wild goose chase. India now seems to be specialising in red herrings and wild geese.  India Today The India Today’s Big Story this week is on Gyanvapi. Th

Laughter dies in a country of jokers

Last year India arrested a stand-up comic for a joke that he didn’t tell. The Time reported that Munawar Iqbal Faruqui was all set to enter the best year of his life hitherto with subscription to his YouTube channel crossing 500,000. On the evening of the New Year’s day in 2021, a group of nationalists put an end to Faruqui’s jokes. Soon he was arrested by the police for a joke that he didn’t crack. They said he would crack jokes that might hurt Hindu sentiments! Faruqui is not the only comic who has been arrested in Modi’s India. From Vir Das to Tanmay Bhatt , quite a few comedians have landed in trouble for the crime of possessing a sense of humour. Laughter is banished from nationalist India. The latest is a letter written by a Press Information Bureau official to the editor of the Deccan Herald for the newspaper’s subtle sense of humour. The following image speaks for itself.  The loss of laughter is the biggest calamity that can befall a nation, I think. There are too

The snake around your neck

“Wow!” I said to myself as I read the last line of a 573-page Malayalam novel, Ghathakan (Killer ) by K R Meera. Since most readers of this blog don’t/can’t read Malayalam, I won’t write a review but deal with one of its major themes which I found irresistible. Wealth is the ultimate value or virtue in today’s world. Meera’s novel which is a detective story on the one hand and brilliant literature on the other shows how money has come to rule all of us – our politicians and ascetics and the whole lot of us. Interestingly, the novel opens with the infamous demonetisation of 8 Nov 2016. A week after that catastrophe which our Prime Minister hurled at a nation of a billion plus citizens, the protagonist of the novel is attacked by a killer. Satyapriya, the 44-year-old protagonist, is determined to find out why someone wants to kill her. The quest takes her on an arduous and excruciating journey into her past and the pasts of many people including her father, a child abuser. Demoneti


  I’m halfway through K R Meera’s Malayalam novel, Ghathakan (Killer ). The narrator-protagonist compares life to an onion with endless peels. “The onion’s politics is to toss acid to your eyes. Its ideology is the burning sensation in the eyes. Our tears are its message.” As I read the theme of the latest Indispire Edition, #gossip , the onion’s politics rushed to my mind. Gossip is more like an onion than life is. You can peel it endlessly. You can feel its acid in your heart. Its scalds carry intoxicating delights. Quite a lot of the informal human communication – conversations, in simple words – is little more than gossip. Essentially there is nothing wrong in that. People love to talk about their colleagues at workplace, other relatives when they meet at family functions, or neighbours when they are in the home-premises. That’s quite natural, I guess. Life is after all a series of tightrope walks between you and another human being associated with you. It’s only natural that w

The other side of sedition

Media Watch The sedition law got much media attention in the past week, thanks to the Supreme Court’s freezing of the colonial law. Not one newspaper or magazine that I read supports the sedition law. Every one of them welcomes and appreciates the SC’s interim order. Writing in the Hindustan Times of 13 May, former judge of the SC, Deepak Gupta, asserts in no uncertain terms that the “sedition law has no place in a democracy.” Who wants to retain such an antiquated law? Those who are afraid of criticism do. Stifling criticism is to create a police state, argues Gupta. Certain restrictions are required when it comes to freedom of expression. No nation can afford to compromise its security, foreign relationships, public order, decency and morality. But putting charges of sedition on people who criticise the government’s policies is to invite troubles. Gupta quotes Mahatma Gandhi who was arrested for sedition by the British. “Affection (for the government or country) cannot be manu

Maxima and Minima

Close to my heart Small things can make me indecently happy or sad. An old friend once compared my mood swings to the maxima-minima graph of a mathematical function. “You are either on the top or at the bottom,” he said like a concerned friend. That was long ago, some time in the 80s. Four decades later, I still remain the same. Painfully aware of the maxima and minima of my mood swings. Helplessly aware. Because they are not under my control. Some things are in your blood. You have to live with them. A friend of Maggie had arranged the adoption of one of my kittens two days back. Today she told Maggie that the kitten was only crying all the time without eating or drinking anything. That was enough for my mood to hit the bottom. “Tell her to return the kitten immediately,” I told Maggie. “I’ll pick it up from their place.” I couldn’t bear the thought of that little creature wandering around looking for its mother and siblings crying all the while.   Maggie knows when I’m serious. A

Exotic India

Media Watch This week’s Open magazine is a treat with a difference. For a change, it takes us away from our murky politics to some exotic places in various parts of the country. The lead article belongs to Madhulika Liddle, and it is about Old Delhi. We get a brief history of Old Delhi – Shahjahanabad and its inimitable architecture. We can encounter “the cows, the goats, the dogs, the seething humanity” of Chandni Chowk. Look at the flowers piled outside the Gauri Shankar Mandir. Breathe in the fragrances of the spices at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest spice market. Unlike in the olden days, now there are a lot of other wares on sale too: clothes, jewellery, electrical goods and spectacles. The author communicates the spirit of the 17 th century as she takes us to certain places like the Khazanchi Haveli. A few of the other articles in the issue take us to some places of religious interest such as the Buddhist caves in Western Maharashtra, Buddhist sites in Sikkim (and Thailand

Clowns on Trapezes

Maggie and I went to watch Jumbo Circus yesterday. The shows – 3 daily – were going on for a month and they were coming to an end in two days. “It’s a dying art,” I told Maggie. “Let’s encourage the troupe by taking two front seat tickets.” Maggie agreed. “Don’t expect much,” I warned her on the way. The show didn’t disappoint us though it had none of the glory that circuses had in yonder years. There was no live band with scintillating music in the background. There were no animals except a few birds and dogs. The entire troupe consisted of just about a score artistes and a few backstage crew. All of them looked weary and listless. Even when they tried to smile at the end of their performance, the smiles came out warped. There wasn’t much to cheer them, I guess; most of the chairs remained vacant in the huge tent. The juggler missed his balls too often. The acrobats on cycles lost balance occasionally. The rest was as great as it could be in the given situation with a shrunken a

When citizens seek death

‘ Guj’s Muslim fishermen seek mass euthanasia .’ The headline in today’s New Indian Express is rather unnerving. The issue raises two questions. (1) Is the government meant only for a particular community of people? (2) Can euthanasia be permitted? Whose India? India has a Prime Minister who revelled in making statements against a particular community while he was a chief minister. When he became the PM, he stopped making such public utterances which were not only crude but also subhuman. But his attitude towards that community hasn’t undergone any improvement. In fact, he seems to think that India is meant only for one particular community. Mr Modi loves to travel all over the world and suggest solutions to international problems and environmental disasters. But back home, he is as parochial as a dog in its alley. This is the reason why the Muslim fishermen in Gujarat, Modi’s own state, seek death. They know that their future is bleak as long as Modi’s party remains in power. A

Under the Mistletoe - Review

Book Review Title: Under the Mistletoe & Other Stories Author: Manali Desai Manali Desai’s stories have a unique quality. They carry the salt tangs and sweet flavours of life effortlessly. The sweet smiles of love mingle with the sobs of loss and grief just like in life. There is longing and there is fulfilment too. Santa Claus is always there somewhere in the background with his graciousness and twinkling stars. Yes, these are Christmas stories. All twelve of them in this anthology. There are six poems too, again with the Christmas carols echoing in the background. Writing ultra-realistic stories which charm the reader delightfully requires a touch of genius. That’s all the more true when the stories revolve round a particular theme or season like Christmas. The author of this anthology possesses that genius. She can bring a few very ordinary staff of an institution together in a Christmas celebration and weave a fantastic romantic tale with an inimitable twist at the end.

Bulldozer Politics

Media Watch The latest issue of Frontline magazine focuses on the bulldozer politics that has taken India captive. More than half of the magazine is dedicated to the topic: Bulldozing the idea of India . R Vijaya Shankar sets the tone in the editorial by asserting that the problem in India is not Muslim appeasement as alleged by the right wing. It is “the majoritarian bigots who are appeased by allowing them to hound Muslims, attacking their places of worship, bulldozing their residences and means of livelihood, their cultural symbols, their food and sartorial choices.” The present India is the culmination of the century-old project founded on the concept of cultural nationalism by Savarkar in 1923, before Jinnah ever proposed a separate nation for Muslims. In the lead story , ‘Bulldozing the idea of India,’ Venkitesh Ramakrishnan argues that the bulldozer has now become “a hideous symbol of communal aggression.” It was first employed in UP to withstand the challenges posed by SP