Archive for December, 2010

The other day one of my female colleagues came up to me and demanded my attention. Skulking behind her was this teenaged student who was in low waist jeans and a rather short top, from under which peeked her belly button!

The colleague’s query: “Do you believe the student is dressed appropriately? Should she be penalised?” Behind her, I could see some of the student’s friends imploring me to side with them! I gave my colleague both opinions – personal and professional. While she was okay with my professional opinion, that the student should be penalised for flouting the rules, she wasn’t too pleased with my personal opinion – a shrug of the shoulders!

Here’s a teenager who wants to dress the way everyone else does today, and I see nothing wrong in that. But yes, if a rule is a rule, the student should be taken to task. My take, when she has all the time after college to walk around in anything she wants to, why not just follow the rules while in college? I know some people will say media schools should not have such restrictions. Maybe, but the rule is there and until someone decides to scrap it, we have to follow it. There’s no point fretting and fuming.

The colleague’s next question: Would you allow your daughter to dress like ‘this’? When my answer was again a shrug of the shoulders, she got even more perturbed. She expected me to agree with her and I wasn’t going to. I have no problem with people who ascribe to such views, but please don’t expect me to do the same or have such an attitude.

My sister-in-law believes we (my wife and I) have ‘spoilt’ her 18-year-old daughter by buying clothes that her mother considers bold. So now when we want to buy the kid some clothes, her mother tags along, just to make sure we don’t lead her astray!

Like, this dear friend in Delhi who’s rather good-looking and I don’t know if she knows it. She’s tall, dusky and attractive, and every time she steps out she makes heads turn. When I was in Delhi this time and we were strolling around the Capital’s markets or travelling by the Metro, I was amused watching the guys and the girls giving her admiring glances!

While on our way to dinner at Big Chill in Khan Market, we walked past this bunch of guys, one of whom put his hand to his heart and just rolled his eyes when he saw her! I don’t know if she even noticed, but I did and wanted to laugh!

The day she walked into the newspaper office, where I worked, to meet the Editor-in-Chief at my request, around 15 years ago, all the men stopped working and stood up to get a good look at her! I had to dampen their interest by telling them that she was seeing someone. She still is. And I’ve never seen her dress in anything outrageous or revealing to grab attention. She doesn’t need to. And that’s my point.

Which brings me to why, I thought of this subject. I was on Facebook and among the people who are on my list are some female students of mine who announce that they are in a “relationship” with each other! I am pretty sure they aren’t but there is a shock value in that! And today’s teenagers love to shock – whether it’s the language, dress or manner in which they conduct themselves!

So, while I have no issues with people who want to shock, I do wonder whether there is a need to trivialise serious and very personal issues like sexual orientation. And then, they should remember, once it’s on the Internet, it’s in the public domain and open to misuse. What may be done in fun today, may not seem as funny tomorrow.


(With due apologies to the sage Confucius)….We live in depressing times. You might smile as you read that Saina Nehwal has won another badminton tournament or India has beaten New Zealand in cricket or that Bhupathi and Paes have reunited. But the story next to these is all about a certain Raja and the 2G scam. And the one next to that one is a point-by-point rebuttal by one industry captain to accusations by another. Below that is a story on the hillside project that is suddenly in rocky terrain. And somewhere on the inside pages there are reports of generals who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar and journalists being accused of being fixers and lobbyists.

The smile has by now vanished. Even the most die-hard optimist must feel a little cynical about the state of the nation. Is there even a semblance of a government in place? Rule of law seems to have disappeared. It’s almost as if the country is floundering like a rudderless ship in stormy waters. No one is in control and no one really seems to care. That Parliament hasn’t functioned these past three weeks is of little or no consequence. It’s not governance that is the priority. It’s who blinks first, that is. It’s not about nailing the guilty. It’s about deflecting the blame away from oneself.

No one cares how many crores of the tax-payers’ money goes up in smoke. No one cares how many farmers commit suicide because unseasonal rains destroyed crops; No one cares how many died in terrorist violence. No one cares that industry captains with their own agendas, backed surreptitiously by their political benefactors, are indulging in a public slanging match. No one cares that people have died in bomb blasts and instead they blame each other. No one cares that the country is being sold to the highest bidder for thirty pieces of silver by pimps and charlatans in white pyjama, kurta, dhoti or business suits. And the ones who care have no voice.

Politics is being played out over a hillside project and a multi-storey building. Crores of rupees have already been paid by bankers and private investors into the projects. Suddenly everything about the project is illegal – so says the ministry. Tax-payers have put in their life’s savings to own a piece of prime property at this hillside haven, in the hope that they can spend their retirement away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Suddenly they can see their savings disappearing downhill. It’s the same story with a multi-storey building and land deals across the country.

Everyone’s asking the ministers why they and the governments before theirs approved the project if they knew it was illegal. Surely they knew that. After all, the projects weren’t conceived or executed with the wave of a magic wand. Can someone just run a bulldozer over multi-crore housing projects, without a thought for the investors and residents? Anyone who is anyone is on the take – from ministers, local goons, to politicians, to so-called environmental activists to NGOs – all with their own agenda. Does anyone care? Is it an ethical, moral, legal or political issue?

Parliamentarians, who are supposed to be squatting on the benches inside the august house, have been squatting outside raising slogans. And, for what? Just a little one-upmanship and a few hundred crores wasted in public money. It’s been three weeks since they last met to discuss the problems plaguing the country and its people. They’ve been extremely busy doing nothing. When they aren’t protesting, they are spending crores chartering private planes to attend weddings of politician’s kids. How do they manage to get the money to indulge in such pleasures? No one’s asking.

To add to the gloom are reports of Indian army officers involved in cases of corruption, nepotism and sexual harassment. This is the one institution you believed was above all that. Not anymore. I remember a colonel, whose flat I had taken on rent in 1994, because we didn’t have a place of our own. When I met him for the first time he laughed derisively when I told him that so far only the army was ‘clean’. “They make money even on spectacle frames.” That was in 1994.

In the midst of all this mayhem, the government has quietly increased the price of fuel. It’s a good way to make up for the losses they have forced on us. Who says they aren’t working?

So another important Indian official got frisked at some US airport. The Yanks probably thought she had an AK-56 hidden in the folds of her sari! But jokes aside, at least she got frisked. In India try frisking your own MPs and bureaucrats and the next thing you know the Airport Manager will be transferred to Tinsukhia.

I remember the outcry by MPs and bureaucrats when it was suggested that they all be frisked at airports. What’s the harm? If they are carrying firearms they can declare it. And like the rule states, it will be handed back to them once the aircraft reaches the destination. But it does make one wonder why they refuse to be frisked –especially when they and returning with their spouse from sojourns abroad.

I’ll agree that the US airports do stretch things a bit at times – like when they made Defence Minister George Fernandes undergo a strip search and patted down former president APJ Abdul Kalam. But sometimes an advanced state of paranoia is a good thing. The US has, by and large, managed to avoid any major terrorist attack after 26/11, unlike here where we wait for an incident to happen and then make a lot of noise, point fingers at the whole world and generally flounder around. At most places there isn’t security worth its name.

Every time I read about a bomb blast somewhere in the country I realise how helpless we are when it comes to protecting ourselves. While politicians get z+ security the common people are left to fend for themselves. Look at what happened in Varanasi. A bomb went off and, somebody died because the police were goofing off on the job – which is nothing new when it comes to the UP Police. But instead of doing something, Mayawatiji says the Centre should give her the kind of security that Mumbai got after 26/11! Then the Centre blames UP, and the chief minister throws it right back. In all the buck-passing the people who suffer are mere statistics.

Take even Pune, German Bakery was reduced to rubble two years ago, but it hasn’t really changed anything here, has it? At one of the biggest malls in Pune the security apparatus is a joke. At this place two people – one who slides a mirror under the car and the other who opens your boot and gives it a cursory look- are what we have in terms of security. Where is the thorough check that is required?

Hundreds of people flock to the mall every day and the damage in terms of lives and property can well be imagined if some nut-case decides to do something. Yet is the Pune Police or even the authorities at the mall bothered? The cops will shrug it off with the words that security inside the mall is not their concern, and the Mall owners will say they are doing all they can. But is that enough? So often, we’ve parked our car in the parking lot at the mall and stepped across the road to do some shopping.

A colleague told me this rather interesting story and I think it fits perfectly into the bureaucratic bungling which we see when a terrorist attack takes place. She was in Delhi in 2001 with students on a study tour when terrorists struck Parliament House. The Capital was suddenly under siege so the lady decided to visit George Fernandes, who was a friend of her father’s and also the defence minister.

When she reached his house she informed the security personnel who informed Fernandes. The minister called her and the kids in, but, surprisingly, his security refused to allow them in! Since this was the day after the Parliament attack they were adamant that no one would be allowed in even without the required approval, even though the minister had no objection, since guarding him inside his house was their responsibility.

The security personnel then told the lady that she could meet Fernandes when he drove out of his bungalow. Once the minister left the bungalow, he would step out of the car and meet them. The lady then posed the classic question: What if, when Fernandes steps out of the car, someone waiting across the road shot at him?

The security officer’s answer left her speechless. “That’s not our problem. Our jurisdiction ends the minute he steps out of the gate. If something happens after he leaves his residence, that’s the responsibility of the commandos protecting him.”