Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to create a perfect controversy


I present to you the world's shortest and most accurate instruction manual.

1. Get on Twitter
2. Hang around for a while.
3. Unleash a bold tweet. (Preferably involving a celeb)

     Because Shashi Tharoor had one, Rajeev Masand had one, and even li'l Sonam Kapoor had one, I also wanted a controversy of my own.  So, on one fine Twitter day, I woke up and expressed my desire thus: "Wants to 'jackass' someone and create a Twitter outrage. Are you game? Are you a celebrity?" [For those who are completely at a loss for context, film journo Rajeev Masand called Akshay Kumar a 'jackass' and faced the film fraternity's wrath].
     But since I am no Angelina Jolie with people lining up to fulfill every desire of mine, no outrages occurred. 
     So I hung around and observed and revised those textbooks on 'No Publicity is Bad Publicity' and 'How to Copy-Paste Self to Page 3'. Every lesson in the science of eyeball grabbing ended with one axiom: If you want to be famous, create a controversy'. Thanks to Twitter, it is now as easy as 1-2-3 (read manual above).
     Unless you're the kind who wears a suit in his shower or protects his tweets, your thoughts are as naked on Twitter as any web baby. And thanks to the power of retweets, rallying and bullying come nice and easy.
    I took my third bold step on a Friday, which happened to be the birth anniversary of our freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad. I noticed a few tweets about how shameful it was that our media wasn't dedicating any airtime to him and how disgraceful it was that the media should be interested in Shah Rukh Khan's moves. Scold. Scold. Scold.
     Because it struck me as purist and childish, I ventured to boldly say what no one has said before. "Do only textbook heroes deserve worship? Why is Azad greater than, say SRK?"
     And then came the fireworks! Before I knew what was happening, my philo-logical question snowballed (shitballed is more like it) in to a miniature hate campaign. 
     "How can you compare the two? This is a shock!" said one.
     "Are you insane? How could you compare a great freedom fighter to a film star?", said another.
     "Shah Rukh Khan is a pornstar and dances at weddings for cash. How can you compare him to Azad?" said a particularly malicious one.
     "You are pathetic! You can't compare the two. Take back your words, now!" said yet another, seething with rage.
     From doubt to shock to malice to anger to condescension to patronising pity to insults to virtual blows, I saw it all in a matter of minutes. And because my genda-skin hasn't bloomed completely yet, I recoiled. I mumbled an apology of sorts and ran as far as my tweets could carry me. And I learned one thing. Twitter is no place for the profound. 140 characters are too little to make big philosophical propositions. The treatises are best kept for blogs. And so I will make mine here (and remember, this is MY blog. We play by MY rules). I will answer those bitter Twitter questions the way I meant to.
     The biggest objection of them purists was my comparison. I said, in essence, that Shah Rukh Khan is like Chandrashekhar Azad. Before you scream 'How???' in disbelief, I'll interject, 'How not?' 
      Let's dissect your shock to shreds with some pure reasoning. With all due respect to the martyr, let's keep emotions - patriotic and otherwise - aside. Let's discuss fundamentals. Let's throw your faux morality into the dustbin for a while.  
     Every era has a right to worship its heroes; and if more people in India care about SRK's toilet habits than what Azad did in the yellow pages of history, it makes perfect sense. We've all learnt that in our standard five textbooks anyway.    
     Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is a movie superstar. We live in the age of TRPs. So, if you think the media should 'waste' its precious airtime on Azad, you're effing stupid. Just as nationalist newspapers back then wouldn't waste column space on a movie star. You may be a nationalist, idealist, purist and all that jazz, but wake up to the way the world whirls. It all boils down to the money, honey.
    OK, if money is too shallow for you, how about purpose? SRK works in the movies for fame and (pardon the redundancy) money. Azad worked to free his country. Both act/ed in ways that pleased their soul; that met the purpose of their life. We all live and die for what pleases us most. It could be fame or it could be freedom. To each his own, right?
    Now, for the question of contributions. Azad did a lot for his country. SRK is doing a lot for his country too - only the domains are different. We all play the parts we are destined for.
     What about means, you may ask. Azad died fighting for the freedom of his nation. SRK dances in weddings for money. Yes. True. Also, we all try to earn our keep. Only the denominations differ.
    They are both human beings, I say. The comparison is fair. "Hah! Tomorrow you may compare Azad to Kasab on that scale, then!" you smirk. "I totally will," I say. They are the same; if a government and the law of a land are made judges. Azad, pretty much, committed the same crimes against the British Indian government as Kasab did against the Indian government. They both committed murder. They both killed human beings. They both were motivated by passions justified to them. The end result is the same: a death sentence.       
     You can call Kasab a murderer, Azad a martyr and SRK a money mongering male whore, whatever. Your tags only depend on which side of the story you are on. Who are you and I to decide whether the use of this temporary shell of human flesh in this way or that, is good or bad? Nothing is absolute. Time and context changes all definitions. It makes a hero of a villain and a villain of a hero. 
     I rest my case.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A prayer for the ordinary


     Empathy is not for real. There is no way you can really know where and how bad the wearer's shoe is pinching him. But if you've had your share of bites, you might just recognise the pain. And when another's pain drives you to tears, you can be sure, a bite has left a mark somewhere...

     I've always been pro-adoption. Supporting 'nurture' over 'nature', I've always believed in the virtue of giving an orphan a home. But I would have to admit that a certain Angelina Jolie-like glamour was part of the fine print. Also, the idea of having a perfect, ready-made, toilet-trained child fit my definition of 'easy'.
     Then I hit upon this blog ( I can't believe I didn't save the link)... An impossibly chubby Chinese baby's picture caught my eye and as I read one post after another, I realised how she was the centre of the universe for one American couple. Living in an orphanage in far-off China, this baby already had her parents-to-be wrapped around her little finger. The earnestness of every waiting moment of the 'expectant' mother makes you want to push the clock forth too.   
     Joanna (the blog's author) is a simple, beautiful and strong woman, who is spending every waking moment of her life counting down to the day her adopted daughter Mackenzie will come home to her.
     Mackenzie is a Chinese orphan with a butterball face, a complicated medical condition of the heart and one missing ear. 
     So much for my perfect, ready-made baby's idea. Why would someone choose a child with problems? I suppose you learn to be magnanimous when you've been through your share of problems and more.
     Joanna has been through the agony of not being able to have a child of her own. I have too, albeit for six short (and unimaginably long) months. When my body refused to do its duties, my world and my identity came crumbling down. For all my fancy life and style, I could not overcome my biological purpose. My self-worth plunged at the thought of being 'barren'. What was the point of being a woman? The thought pushed me into the shadow of depression and threatened to swallow every joy I'd ever known. No consolations or distractions helped. Thankfully, medications did, and Jishnu happened.
     But Joanna wasn't blessed that way. Through days and months and years of trying to conceive and failing, she must have grappled with the worst kind of pain a woman can feel. A sense of betrayal by destiny, God and her own body may have darkened her days. But the desire to be a mother kept the love in her heart alive. She and her husband decided to adopt a baby who would finally complete their lives. 
      Joanna's blog paints a pretty picture of her hopes for a new beginning. She's now lovingly laying out each brick of her dream of motherhood. She will make a great mother because she knows what it is worth.
     Biological mothers, by that scale, may always fall behind. Yes, I rejoiced and I thanked God for the best gift ever when I conceived; but it became a thing for granted, as all things do. It is difficult to keep counting the blessings when you live in a country of teeming millions, have a huge belly and its discomforts and subsequently spend endless, sleepless nights marching along the feed-pee-poop parade.
     But each time you come across a story of someone's naught, you say a silent prayer for being ordinary. You thank God for a child of your own, who is in perfect health and whose place in your life is not subject to others' permissions. After all, it isn't your shoe that's a misfit and it isn't you who is getting bitten.

Friday, July 09, 2010

From a biased, paranoid Hindu's perspective

(Image courtesy:


      I see beard, I think terrorist. 
      That is the truth of the matter, and the crux of all that follows.
      Perhaps beginning with a disclaimer would have been wiser. But hey, better late than never. All ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and represent no other - living or dead...or maybe they do. But just as a point, this is just a rant, no offence  meant. (And please remind me NOT to apply for any jobs for the post of disclaimer writer)
      Mumbai, my new home, has a lot of things I don't like. Monsoons and Muslims lead the race. Why monsoons? Because they suck. And why Muslims? Uh...they suck too. For starters, the mosque joined at the hip with the building I live in is the bane of my life. That mullah/maulvi/maulana, or whatever it is that they are called, screeching azaans five friggin times in a day beginning at 5 effing 'O clock! (Are you guys sure Mr Allah wakes up that early?)
     Secondly, a huge procession of them topiwalas, with their band-baajas, is passing from right under my house just when I'm trying to put baby to sleep. Aaaaaargh!
     'So what?', you may ask. 'Don't you know Ganeshotsav's right around the corner.'   Sigh. I know, I know. When I point a finger at them, the other three point right back at me. Yet, a biased Hindu that I am, I will leave no chance to find fault with them Greens - however flimsy the grounds. 
     Yes, I have an MA, I am liberal enough to smoke before my in-laws, I broke rules and married a Christian, but I cannot get myself to behave 'normally' with a Muslim colleague - just because he sports a beard. If I didn't look at him, or looked only neck down, he could be a buddy. He wears jeans, he talks cool, he even brings French toast for dabba! But he will never be my friend because he is an Ansari and not an Adhikari.
     Frankly, I don't know much about Muslims. My GK about that huge part of the world community is restricted to the Khans of Bollywood, Mughal history, Biryani, the Taj Mahal, and some stray words like Mecca, Haji, Talaaq and what have you. But sadly, the stronger repertoire consists of words like terrorist, Al-Qaeda, Osama, Sharia, stoning, bombing, killing, many wives, many-er kids, uneducated and dangerously provocative. 
     With any newspaper on any given day throwing up names like Javed and Farid and Aslam and Mohammad in almost all crime stories, my beliefs only get stronger. This, with years of hate conditioning, a separatist, collective consciousness and lack of exposure has left me with little choice of perspective. Funny, how I've learnt to not learn the lessons in secularism.
     But I've tried. I've tried to read and understand, in vain, about Islam, reveled in the exquisite arts that Muslims are masters of, gorged on the most delectable of Mughlai cuisines, but the prejudice refuses to budge. One white skull cap or one black burkha is all it takes for me to clench my jaw, cringe my nose and generally get all worked up. My personal walls go right up.
     I'll probably never be able to accept a Muslim as a normal, living, breathing human being. To me, they'll always remain 'they', 'the others', 'the minority'. (Heaven help me if I ever have to live out of India.) 
     It must be difficult to unbelong, thus. It must be one heck of a curse to live with preconceived and wrong notions about yourself. It must be extraordinarily tough to have to prove yourself at every step of the way, just because you are not what most others are. Viren (my Catholic husband) says I'll never understand what it feels like to be a 'minority'. Perhaps I won't. Perhaps I will. Jishnu is supposed to be raised as a Catholic. The thought scares me to no end. It terrifies me to think of all the unfair burdens he may have to live with...
     May the world have fewer people like me. :(