Archive for April, 2010

Before Partition, when my mother was in Lahore, she taught at the Hans Raj Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, where there was a student called Uma Sood, who was very popular because of her looks. When Partition was announced, my mother managed to get out of Lahore and came to work in Meerut, from where she would frequently dash off to Delhi to meet cousins and friends.

Years later when she was strolling around Connaught Place in Delhi, she saw a huge crowd outside one of the shops and asked the reason. She heard that “famous film actor Kamini Kaushal” was in the shop and everyone was waiting to catch a glimpse of her and maybe get an autograph. My mother too stood in the line waiting to see Ms Kaushal. When the film star came out of the shop, she was rushing towards her car, when she caught sight of my mother.

She rushed up to her, hugged her and asked, “Ms. Menon what are you doing here?”

Always the one for a quick repartee, my mother wisecracked, “Waiting to see Kamini Kaushal, who was Uma Sood when I was teaching her in Lahore.” They both had a good laugh and chatted for a few minutes before Ms Kaushal left and my mother continued her walkabout around CP.

I was reminded of this incident when I saw the calendar designed by the SIMC 2012 UG students, sitting at my desk. After seeing their handiwork, I know this for sure, that this is a really talented bunch of kids – not just these two, but the entire bunch. I am sure they’ll make a success of their lives. I have seen them perform on stage and they are quite simply amazing. And the ones who are taking it easy should kick themselves hard and clamber aboard, lest they get left!

Sometimes, I wonder why I take a personal interest in their future. But then I know it’s probably because, along with the SIMC 2011 PG batch, to which I taught a few subjects, this SIMC 2012 UG batch is one I took the entire journalism course with. Sometimes people and situations grow on you and you love it. Just like some people you meet who want to make you throw up, and the bitching and bullshit you encounter every day and desperately try to avoid.

The wonderful thing about kids (whether they are your own or someone else’s) is that they can make you forget everything – pain, troubles, pressures – and can overwhelm you with their affection, refreshing candour and enthusiasm. Whenever I meet students at the various campuses the warmth and affection from students overwhelms me. Like the use of the word f**k. As kids when we used the word, we ensured there were there were no elders within earshot. Today, even when I’m around, it rolls off the tongues of my students so easily, that it doesn’t seem like an expletive anymore. It makes me wonder what the fuss was all about earlier!

Once students from one of the institutes took me to the disco and I think they were surprised to see this greybeard shake a leg for a good part of three hours! On one occasion, another one of them screamed when she saw me approaching, ran up and hugged me! When I mentioned the incident to a 23-year-old student, she said, if someone her age had done that, there would have been a book written on it! Thank the Lord, for uncomplicated 18 year-olds!

So, here are a few pages of the desk calendar conceptualised and designed by the talented Shaan and Jay Dantara, with help from Mehernaz Jila and Nandan Sharalaya. The students who posed for the desk calendar are Urvi Bhanushali, Vibhuti Happa, Sanyukta Iyer, Trisha Satra, Akanksha Arya, Apoorva Sridhar, Nikita Gupta, Tejaswini Naik, Shaan, Pragya Singh and Ananditaa Iyer Singh.

The calendar sits on my desk at Lavale, autographed by Shaan and Jay. I just wish the others who graced each month had signed each page too!


The problem with Akismet…

Posted: April 21, 2010 in blogging
Tags: ,

Ever since I moved from Blogspot to WordPress, I’ve noticed that I’m getting very few comments on my posts. There could be two good reasons for that. One could be that people are not aware I’ve moved and so think that I, like a million other bloggers who start enthusiastically, have now decided to call it a day. And two, is that they don’t think my posts aren’t worth reading anymore!

There is a third, and possibly more plausible reason that I discovered recently. It’s called Akismet. It’s a software that blocks spam and while it supposedly does a great job, it also blocks a lot of comments that bloggers like me who are on WordPress get. I’ve just noticed that 17 spam comments have been blocked.

These could be from my friends, or could also be those “Increase your…in six weeks” etc. apart from the Viagra advertisements, which I don’t need. But how do I know? Since I can’t read them I have no clue who they are from – from those who follow my blog or just the spammers. Going through the Akismet site I realise that any comments that say “nice blog” “well said” “what crap” etc. are automatically shunted into an invisible spam bin which bloggers have no access to!

So, I’m just being positive and telling all those of you who wish to comment on my blog – just be a little expansive with your comments and not end it two words! Unless my posts are only worth two words. Then your comments are better off in spam! But if it still doesn’t appear then blame me. Until then, blame Akismet or your Kismet. Cheers!!

P.S. Any help on how to solve this problem, will be most welcome!!

So who let the dogs out? Did you notice how the Income tax department jumped to do their master’s bidding the day Tharoor was accused of doing a few underhand things to get his pals the IPl franchise? Will the government call off the I-T guys, now that Tharoor has quit and Modi is also being sidelined? I don’t think so.

Looks like the BCCI and IPL will have to pay a heavy price for unwittingly getting involved in a sordid game of knots and crosses between a few powerful politicians, who have their own agenda. And the media is busy publishing stories planted by ‘interested’ parties, while going around in circles, like a dog chasing its own tail.

Let’s face it, Tharoor presented his head to his critics on a platter. The Congress claims they heard him out and would obviously like us to believe that they didn’t believe him. Is that really the truth? Has the Congress edged him out just to keep some regional politicians quiet, while they plan their next move?

This whole Tharoor issue, seems to me, a case of inflated egos and attempts at one-upmanship between two or three powerful politicians, all hell-bent on hurting each other’s interests, because one decides the other is now expendable. So word gets around that such a plan is being hatched and some politicians decided to scuttle it.

Mark my words, but six months from now, will emerge the news that Tharoor was as a clean as a whistle, because by then the political drama would have reached its logical conclusion. So they’ll say he recommended his girl friend for a place on the Kochi franchise. So big deal? Why did Lalit Modi accept? After all, he struts around with the pompous sounding title of ‘Commissioner.’ Why didn’t he just tell Tharoor to pipe down, or tell his erstwhile boss Sharad Pawar to lean on him?

Doesn’t it seem strange that Sharad Pawar is backing Modi, when in reality he should have been supporting an MP, who is a member of his alliance partner? What’s the guarantee that some smart politician didn’t offer pay the moon to move the IPL out of Kochi to a city of his choice, Ahmedabad, Kanpur… wherever, because of his business interests there.

I think for Modi and the BCCI, their woes are just beginning. Something tell me they will be taught a lesson. They’re going to be brought to their knees, made examples of, because someone in power wants to teach someone else a lesson. Either that or the powers-that-be will call a truce, kiss and make up, and completely ignore the collateral damage, their little ego battle has caused – the reputation of Indian cricket. That’s politics, and you still think it’s cricket?

I wonder, if in a fit of rage, Lalit Modi called Shashi Tharoor “Faale Manhoof!”

The war of the tweeters has entered the political arena. And now that the politicians have stepped in to the IPL circus we can expect some fun and games and the inevitable scapegoat. I am afraid the articulate and genteel Tharoor is being fattened for the sacrifice – if not now then sometime in the future.

Remember the IPL commercial aired before the IPL, with a politician wondering whether he would get a ticket, and his dumb followers swearing revenge if he didn’t? Does it remind you of the BJP’s ‘spin meisters’ and the others in the opposition screaming for Tharoor’s blood? I am pretty sure a majority of them don’t even know what the controversy is about. Just like the time they made a big noise about Jaswant Singh’s book without even having read it.

Going by Tharoor’s ‘clarification’ in the press, what he says seems pretty logical. So what if he tried to use his influence to get Kochi an IPL ticket? Pray tell me what are Krish Srikkanth, N Srinivasan and other well-known faces doing in the IPL franchisees. Look at the manner in which the Indian T 20 team was selected for the World Cup. Didn’t the IPL owners have a say in selections? The selectors can go blue in the face protesting that selections were clean, but some of the choices did raise eyebrows. So, till it is proved in a court of law that Tharoor is a liar and a cheat, I am going to give him the benefit of doubt.

Somehow I’ve liked neither Mr Modi nor his lisping tongue from the time he appeared on the scene from his home state of Rajasthan. He bears a striking resemblance to Jagmohan Dalmiya (erstwhile head honcho of Indian cricket and in his time cricket’s most powerful administrator), if only for the manner in which he has made money for the Indian cricket board. The similarity ends there.

In spite of all of Jaggu’s dada’s sometimes dubious style of functioning, I admired him because he gave the impression that he put Indian cricket and its players above all else, when it came to taking on the establishment (Read ICC and its supporters among the White cricketing nations). No one dared to tangle with Dalmiya and even a person as mild mannered as John Wright said he was relieved that Dalmiya was at the helm when Mike Denness allegedly called Tendulkar a cheat in South Africa. Wright didn’t believe anyone else could have taken on the ICC and shown them their place. It was an incident that virtually threatened to split the cricket world. But Dalmiya refused to back down until Tendulkar was reinstated and cleared off the charges.

But Modi, somehow, looks the type who’ll sell Indian cricket to the highest bidder, which is what he has been doing successfully these past three seasons. He reminds me of Kaa the boa constrictor in Jungle Book. I can visualise him lisping his way through “Trust in me”. Would you trust Mr Modi?

I always tell my students to be careful when they post things on social networking sites, because you never know when it could come back to haunt them. Of course, there are times when it does throw up things that are interesting too. Like last night.
I happened to be trawling the worldwide web looking for nothing in particular, when on a whim, I typed my father’s name in the window and clicked enter. On a whim, because I hadn’t thought of him in years, not since my mother passed away in 2003.
The relationship we (my brother and I) had with our father had been a pretty tumultuous one – my brother more than me, because while I lived with my mother since I was five or so, he stayed with my father. I guess both of us have never really forgiven my father for leaving my mother to fend for herself and her children, until he decided to take my brother along with him to Patna. Whether he did this out of some sympathy or sense of duty, I’ll never know.
I knew my father had been a lot of things like barrister, freedom fighter, lecturer and editor, but to read everything about him has left me completely stunned. My mother had never told me in details about his exploits. If she did, I was probably too young to realise the import of such things.
Anyway back to the present. So what popped up on google took me completely by surprise. It was a pretty impressive profile of my father, which I never knew existed. I was reading about things I never knew or ever heard from anyone. Call it a coincidence, but the places he stayed and worked in during his lifetime, I had unknowingly stayed and worked in as well. Then there was his career as a journalist, which was infinitely much more impressive than mine will ever be.
Then there was his career as a lecturer, teaching Law and Commerce at the Law and Commerce Colleges, respectively, in Patna, when he quit politics. I had heard from people he had taught that there were no empty chairs during his lectures and that his students kissed the ground he walked on.
I remember an incident that happened in Pune, when father came to see us. He was accompanied by a young man. When I asked him why he was there, the youngster said “Jayaprakash Narayanji told us that after his death, we should look after your father.” That left me quite unmoved, because in my book, as a husband and father he had failed. When father told me that he along with JP and others had written the Constitution of the Janata Party, headed by Morarji Desai, I caustically remarked that the experiment was then surely going to fail.
When he died at Darbhanga in 1994, neither my brother nor I went for the funeral. My mother cried when she heard the news, and I remember my brother and me telling her that she was shedding tears for a man who had deserted her and his children, when they most needed him. We had shut him out of our lives since then, to the extent that we had even given away the inherited family property to another one of our step-sisters. We wanted nothing to do with anything connected to him.
Seeing the profile on Google brought back a lot of memories. Had we (the family) misjudged him? I don’t know how my brother feels, but I think I am willing to let go off the past. I think it’s time to move on, tell my son that despite all his flaws and his philandering ways, his grandfather was a remarkable man. In his own small way, he had done his duty for his country and for his people, even though he had failed his extended family. But I guess we can’t all be perfect.

Big B, Congress and its long-term memory loss!

Posted: April 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

I, like millions of others in this country, and probably the world, would love to know what has soured the relationship between the Gandhis and the Bachchans. Something really earth-shaking must have happened for best friends to become sworn enemies. Or was it just a silly misunderstanding that only became worse because of ego problems? The answer lies with the aggrieved parties and neither is willing to talk. So we should ideally leave it at that and expect the warring parties to try to sort things out or maintain a discreet silence.

Stop for a minute and think about what the implications are for the Bachchans if they were to take on the Gandhis –harassment through income-tax raids, police cases, boycotts and the below-the-belt-hits, of the kind they have been receiving recently. For them, maybe silence is the most viable option. But, what about India’s first family? It’s really for the Gandhis, with the entire government machinery behind them, to set the record straight. But it seems to suit them to keep the embers of the controversy burning and allow their sycophants (calling them spokespersons of the party, would be denigrating the post), to target the Bachchans and conduct this entire smear campaign.

Take the latest incident involving Abhishek and the removal of his video from the Earth Day event. Could the organisers have done that without a nudge from the powers-to-be, looking to ingratiate themselves to 10, Janpath? Frankly, it’s such petty-minded behaviour. Look at the way the government machinery swung into action when My Name is Khan was made a target by the Shiv Sena. Did personal equations play a role in ensuring that the film’s opening was not disturbed? Others, including the Bachchans, have had similar problems with political parties, how come the government didn’t do anything then?

Moreover, when queries like the one raised against Amitabh come from a party that looked the other way during the 1984 riots, it amounts to just sanctimonious yammering. How come they suffer memory loss when that comes up? I am no saffron-waving Hindu fanatic, but I think the Congress is adept at bending the rules when it comes to savings its skin. Remember Mr Clean in his squeaky voice telling all of us on national television in 1984, even as Sikhs were bring pulled out of their homes in Delhi and elsewhere and set on fire by Congress party goons, “Bhagat ji kehte hain, ki jab ek bada pedh girai, to dharti hilti hain.” Here was a prime minister actually justifying the massacre of innocents and calling it an aberration. Twenty-six years later, it took a shoe flung at the Home Minister, for the Congress to wake up from its slumber and realise that were in deeper shit than they thought.

The Bachchans, meanwhile have maintained a studied silence, and except for the occasional comment, have emerged smelling of roses. For a man who managed a career successfully for over 40 years, playing the aggrieved party mustn’t be too difficult for Amitabh. He should, actually, feel flattered that various politicians and parties have to use his name to garner some cheap publicity!