Archive for the ‘India’ Category

This entire controversy over bringing back the Kohinoor is something I just cannot understand. What purpose will it serve except provide a grand ego trip for some politicians who have nothing better to do and other misguided souls who believe thumping their chests is more important than thinking about where their next meal is coming from? Aren’t there enough treasures in this country, which we can admire? When we can’t even look after them, we want the Kohinoor? And I have been hearing this for a long, long time.

Look at the manner in which we have let our own ancient treasures go to seed. Visit the Taj Mahal and see its decay. Go to any monument and see the manner in which it has been vandalised. I can name a thousand of them. From the mosques in Kashmir to the temples in Mahabalipuram, everywhere you can see how much we ‘care’ for these priceless treasures. That’s one aspect, and then there’s the other aspect, much more critical.

IMG_20160430_102641I mean, really people, I want to ask the two families who I see asleep on the pavement every day during my walks in the morning, whether they have even heard of the Kohinoor, and if they have, do they think it will get them a roof over their heads, instead of the torn tarpaulin cover they use to protect themselves from the vagaries of nature?

Does the Kohinoor have some powers that will halve India’s poverty magically the day it lands in this country? The last time I saw a precious stone exhibit any magical powers was in the Indiana Jones movies. Will chauvinistic and greedy Indian families stop beating and burning their daughters-in-law for dowry? Will girls stop being gang-raped? Will husbands and men, in general, stop thinking that power over women is at the end of their arm? Will it stop little girls from being killed because there are a burden?

This country’s leaders don’t have the courage to get back Gilgit from Pakistan and Aksai Chin from the Chinese; they don’t have the guts to take on Pakistan or the Chinese on any international fora, nor stop intrusions over the border; they can’t even guarantee peace with our neighbours, and they want to get back the Kohinoor?

They cheat, loot, and steal from the treasury of this country and when they get caught they cry that they are being victimised because of their caste and their religion. And when even that fails, they instigate riots over temples and mosques, and caste and religion. They create controversies over meat, beef and pork or whatever we eat and drink, and fool the gullible.

Can the politician first stop people from burning buses and trains over reservations? Oh yes, reservations. There might soon come a day when our country’s lawmakers might have to amend the country’s Constitution and rename India as a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC, RESERVED REPUBLIC.

We sing paeans to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at every street corner, but do we care to practice in letter and spirit what he wrote in the Constitution, and what he REALLY wanted to provide for every citizen of this country? Instead, we read between the lines and twist his words to suit our convenience.

The Indian politician is like the United Nations. He can only talk. And like the UN, he has failed to deliver on his promise of a just and peaceful society where every citizen is guaranteed two square meals, the clothes on his back and a roof over his head. Has he even tried to give the poorest Indian the basic necessities of life? Can he guarantee jobs for millions of hopeful Indians? Has the politician, since 1947, been able to “assure its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and promote fraternity among them”? The answer is a big NO. So, when the politician realises that talking won’t work, he drums up a controversy because he believes that is the best way to divert people’s attention from the real issues. That explains the ruckus over the Kohinoor.

What I need is the price of petrol to be halved; the price of a home to be affordable; the food I eat to be cheaper than it is now; and the roads I travel on, built well because I pay for them in taxes. I want power and water without having to beg for them or commit suicide for them. Can the politician guarantee me that first? Until then, who the hell wants the Kohinoor?


On some mornings when I drive my son to school, at most traffic intersections I see young men and women selling lemons and a green chilly tied to a string. I’ve never bought one and don’t intend to, but I see others around me, doing that and then tying it in the front of their cars under the chassis. I’ve always wondered how that can ward off evil. But then, I always think, it’s their beliefs, so who am I to judge them. But what if I had?

Isn’t that why Narendra Dabholkar, the founder president of the Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, was gunned down? Unlike me and many others, he fought against the ills of superstition, black magic, blind faith, and a lot else. He tried to change the way we think of these ills and paid for it with his life.

We live in a country where people worship anything that bears even a faint resemblance to Him, in his various forms. Over two decades ago, Ganesh idols began to ‘drink’ milk and suddenly everyone was feeding milk by the gallons to the idols. I am sure if Lord Ganesh, himself, had descended on Earth, he would have disapproved of the sheer wastage in his name. But do we dare protest against blind faith?

Remember the time we saw Ramayana (or Ramayan) and Mahabharat on television screens across the country? People would bathe, pray and sit with folded hands before and during the entire episode. These were celluloid characters created by a film maker who had a finger on the pulse of a myopic audience. I have nothing against such serials. By all means let’s watch it. Even I did, because for me, it was mythology brought on the screen and I enjoyed it. But I don’t think I ever took a shower before the serial.

Some of the actors who played leading roles in those serials even won elections because people thought they were voting for Ram and Sita who would deliver them from all evil, give them Ram Rajya. So many decades later the halos have disappeared and those actors have moved on. But as a nation, we are still where we were then – no Ram or Rajya in sight – only Sonia and Manmohan Raj, where petrol is 80 bucks, cooking gas is 400 and onions until recently was 80!

Then there was the film titled Jai Santoshi Maa, which ran to packed houses, where women of all ages danced, sang bhajans, distributed prasad and prayed loudly in theatres during the movie. The lady who played Santoshi Maa, became a household name and people touched her feet wherever she went. If nothing else, it really showed how intelligent we were.

When she was alive, and even after her death, there was a concerted movement by her well wishers to canonise Mother Teresa. There is no denying the fact that the Mother along with her Missionaries of Charity has done tremendous work for the poor, the dying and the downtrodden, first in Kolkata and then all over the country and the world. I believe the jury is still out on this one.

However, while faith, rightly or wrongly, may motivate millions, there is another segment of people, that believes, the only way to stifle opposition or dissent is with blows or bullets. Sadly, it is our leaders who refuse to discourage these things, for fear of a backlash. The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, has been stalled by politicians in the State Assembly for many years. It is vote-bank politics at its worst.

Some ministers have been gunning for the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, which has been spearheading the movement against these ills. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has promised to get the bill passed. Let’s see when that will happen. One hopes it will be before another Narendra Dabholkar is felled by the gun of another intolerant Indian.

(A truncated version of this piece appeared on the editorial page of the Sakal Times today)
Around six months ago, the people were disillusioned. There seemed to be a ‘disconnect’ between the government and the citizens; corruption cases were popping out of the woodwork and politicians of all hues stood accused in various scams. Names of everyone from the prime minister to the lowest-ranked bureaucrat were being muddied, and just no one seemed to be in control at the helm.

Into this mess came Anna Hazare with his simple call, “Let’s end the corruption around us”. His simplicity and his earnestness struck a chord. After all, why would a retired army driver/villager-turned-social activist step into stem the rot of something that, for all practical purposes, seemed beyond any redemption? Wasn’t he better off in his village, Ralegan Siddhi, which he had reformed and transformed?

So when Hazare launched his anti-corruption movement the people suddenly found the outlet to voice their angst. His small bunch of supporters became a crowd and then a movement. People believed that someone finally had the guts to grasp the bull by the horns. And the politicians were worried. Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament that week mirrored the disgust of the people. There was excitement and hope in the air. People believed that the government was finally listening to them.

The government began in earnest to go after Team Anna. Their PR machinery went into overdrive digging up all the dirt they could find. The financial dealings of the NGOs run by members of Hazare’s core group were being questioned; Arvind Kejriwal was slapped with notices by the IT department; But the dirt just wasn’t sticking. Team Anna was in control.

Now six months later, the script seems to have gone awry. The first rumblings began when Team Anna talked about campaigning against the government in the various by-polls. A lot of people thought it was the wrong move. He was deviating from his focus on corruption, it was felt. Some members of his core group distanced themselves from the movement, others quit. Soon after, Kejriwal paid back the Rs 9 lakh, that he owed the government with the explanation that he was doing so under duress. Not everyone was convinced.

Then Kiran Bedi was accused of making full cash claims on air tickets she was entitled to at a concession. She admitted she had, and offered to pay back, but the damage was done. Soon fingers were again being pointed at the Trusts being run by some members of Team Anna. Prashant Bhushan put his foot in his mouth when he spoke of the need for a referendum on Kashmir, which angered many. Recently Hazare’s blogger, who quit the team, claimed that people close to the activist were using him to further their own interests. It seemed to a lot of us that Team Anna was exceeding its brief – that of tackling corruption.

The latest scandal to hit them has been one, again involving Ms. Bedi. This time she has been accused of receiving huge donations to impart free computer training to children and families of BSF, CISF, ITBP, CRPF and police personnel under the banner of her trust ‘India Vision Foundation’, which, it is alleged, she never did. She has denied the allegations. Unfortunately, now the dirt is beginning to stick.

People know Hazare is an honest man, but they are beginning to questioning the honesty of some of his team. Secondly, is personal honesty and integrity enough to tackle issues of national importance? It’s also obvious that the government machinery is in overdrive to ensure that anything and everything unpleasant about Hazare and his team is made public. With their backs already pinned to the wall, can Team Anna take the fight to the government on the issue of corruption and the lok pal bill, when they themselves now stand sullied? Let’s hope for the sake of the lakhs who believe in Anna Hazare, they can.

“If you see a tiger at Ranthambhore you’ll be lucky,” were the words we heard from a lot of people, before we left for our holiday. Now whether that was supposed to be sarcasm or sheer honesty, I don’t know. But with the dwindling numbers of tigers being hotly debated, we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit of both in that comment.

I was hoping and praying that the visit to Ranthambhore would not be a repeat of the one to Dandeli Tiger Reserve where we didn’t spot one big cat and had to be satisfied with deer and bison! So when we set off from Chittorgarh that morning, it was with a silent prayer! Once we reached the highway, we were on our way to Kota from where we would be driving to Sawai Madhopur, which hosts the Ranthambhore wildlife sanctuary, another home to the fast dwindling species of the striped cat.

On the highway, what we realised once we had gone a little over 100 kms was that we had not spotted a petrol pump since we left Chittorgarh. I guess we never realised that because we were once again on a dream of a road, all the way to the outskirts of Kota. Off the NH 76, once we were on the outskirts of Kota, we travelled on a dirt road for around 15 kms till we reached Kota town from where we took the road to Sawai Madhopur.

After checking in to RTDC’s Vinayak, a quick lunch and a siesta we were driven to the Ranthambhore Wildlife Sanctuary, where we hoped to see the elusive tiger. After a fruitless search of over an hour, during which I nodded off, we landed up at a watering hole. Suddenly there was a hush, because just 15 feet away from us was this magnificent striped cat, lolling in the pond. It looked at us and then turned its face away disdainfully. Our Canter moved closer to the animal and we were worried it might walk off, but it stayed put. For close to 20 minutes we were clicking away.

Then it emerged from the water, gave us another look and sauntered off into the thicket, marked its territory by raising it hind leg (!) and disappeared. It was then that everyone broke into excited chatter. When there are just 1400 odd tigers left in the country and around 38 in Ranthambhore, we considered ourselves lucky to have spotted one. Before we left we were to see one more, but not so up close.

But as far the tigers go, once was never enough and the next morning we set off again. This time there were a lot of fresh pugmarks our forest guide saw but no tiger. I decided I had had enough, so stayed back in the hotel. My wife and son set off again in the afternoon for some more tiger spotting. They got lucky, because in another zone, across the lake, a tigress oblivious to the humans observing her, was playfully slapping a monkey around! They saw a herd of deer too.

But tigers are not all that we experienced. There’s a hotel in Sawai Madhopur which gave us the creeps. The night before we left Sawai, we decided to have dinner out and drove to the hotel. The gates of the hotel were closed and when we were allowed in, we had to drive in pitch darkness towards the hotel. On the way we saw a Nilgai running alongside our car and got quite excited.

As we drove up the winding road, I saw the silhouette of the hotel and it sent a shiver down my spine. It reminded me of Norman Bates’ Motel in Psycho. It was enveloped in darkness, and there were no lights outside or in the hotel. We pushed our way into the Reception area, and stood there also in the dark waiting for someone to greet us. Someone was talking on the phone in a room and he just stared at us, refusing to get up. Then we saw a tired looking, old man come shuffling along to meet us.

“Do you have a restaurant?” we asked and were shown a room again enveloped in darkness.
“Can we get something to eat?” was our next question.
“If you order the food, we’ll make it,” said the old man very mournfully as he advanced toward us.
We turned and fled.
“You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave…”

Back at our hotel, we narrated our experience to the manager and he laughed loudly. He told us about a friend of his who wanted to celebrate his wedding anniversary at ‘Bates Motel’. The manager tried his best to dissuade the friend but the chap was adamant. So he booked a room. The friend and his wife checked in one evening and were out of there in 30 minutes flat, terrified of the dark, and the absence of any guests. Of course, during season time, you wouldn’t find a room here or in any of the hole-in-the-wall ‘hotels’ we saw in this little town.

No tigers, but lots of monkeying around...

The hotel manager told us another interesting story about how tourism was the only means of survival for the people of this town. According to him there were more Maruti Gypsys in Sawai Madhopur than at an Army Command post! The villagers competed with each to buy these vehicles, not realising that fewer vehicles meant more trips to the Sanctuary for each of them and more business. Since the government did not allow more than 20 vehicles at one time into the jungle and each trip took three hours, most of the guides could only make two trips a day. So, the 150 odd vehicles usually had to wait for more three to four days before getting a second chance to take tourists into the sanctuary. Since most of the vehicles had been purchased on loans so, unknown to outsiders, a majority of the guides were living a hand-to-mouth existence.

During the off season they struggled to make ends meet and to make up for their losses, they charged exorbitantly during season time. Since these safaris were booked online these guides blocked the seats and literally sold them on the black market for anything from Rs 1000/- upwards depending on the demand. Hotels chains like the Oberois, where guests paid almost Rs 50,000 a day would have to shell out a whopping amount for the safaris. Interestingly enough, we were told that off season was the perfect time to see tigers! We paid Rs 4500/- for three trips into the Sanctuary during off season, so I guess we were lucky!

Interestingly, this misconception also helped them when it came to finding a suitable match for their sons! Outsiders seeing four Gypsys parked outside a house thought the family must be really rich and readily gave their daughters in marriage! Reality struck home later, but by then it was too late. Mixing with the rich tourists – both Indian and foreigners – also made these guides look at life through rose-tinted glasses – which, in the long run hit them hard.

It was an eye-opener for us on how these forest guides survived the cut throat competition. We left Ranthambhore the next day for Ajmer.

I know this issue is going to upset a few of my Kashmiri friends, but this is something I’ve felt strongly about.

Point # 1: Why, every few years, do we undertake this entire charade about talks with Pakistan when we have no intention of handing over Kashmir or even talking about it? It seems a good way to waste public money and tell the world that we are doing something, when in reality we have no intention of doing anything at all. More important is the fact that the Pakistanis have no intention of talking peace with us and only wish to discuss Kashmir, because the existence of their political set up and the Army depends on it. Let go off Kashmir and they have no issue. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg story.

Point # 2: Do you care about Kashmir or what happens to it? Frankly, I don’t. Kashmir is today a gangrenous wound that continues to fester and because of which the country is bleeding massively. We have poured in crores of rupees into the State for the past 60 years. Our soldiers along with civilians die there every day. So, there are mistakes by the security forces too. What would you expect if you had to live with the fear that each day could be your last? You would get a jumpy too if you didn’t really know whether something that’s sticking out from under the shawl of the homegrown terrorist is a stick or an AK 56.

And what do the people from the State, who hate India, do? They set off bomb blasts and hold rallies in which they wave Pakistani flags and condemn the “Indian occupation of their State.” See what’s been happening there for the past few days…strikes, shutdown, terror strikes. Do we need all this? In my book they are a bunch of ingrates who should be left to fend for themselves. It’s time India too adopted the “you’re either with us or against us” policy against the Kashmiri who wants freedom from India. I have no sympathy for the Kashmiri who turns a gun against the soldier of the Indian Army or a civilian.

It’s a bit like my feelings for Bihar. I was born there, but I have very little sympathy for the people of that State – at least for those who still live there. They can blame the corrupt bureaucracy and even more corrupt political system, but why didn’t they do anything about it? And this is not something that’s been happening in the last decade or two. It has been this way since Independence. I should know… my father was a part of the political system there once upon a time. And he had the same opinion.

But, coming back to Kashmir, they live off India, they feed off India, and then they vilify India. So why not put the money to better use elsewhere? And screw all the sentimental crap about it being a heaven on earth. Right now, Kashmir is anything but heaven and will remain that way till kingdom come, unless one of the two things happen – we let go off Kashmir or Pakistan ceases to exist. I know which solution a lot of Indians would prefer, but I don’t see that happening.

And once we can administer some strong medicine to the gangrenous wound called Kashmir let’s turn our attention to the irritant called PoK. Call me a warmonger, but after the latest threat by the terror groups telling sportspersons not to travel to India for any of the events planned, I think it’s time to give it back with interest. I am no hawk, or someone in khakhi shorts waving a saffron flag, but I do think the time for talk and social niceties is over.

I believe we’ve turned the other cheek long enough, tolerated the violence, the bomb blasts, the Ajmal Kasabs and Lakhvis of this world long enough too. Let’s give them a taste of their own medicine. So what will happen? Collateral damage, more bomb blasts, more deaths on this side? So be it. If they can set off blasts in India and send in terror groups into Kashmir, why can’t we hit them, where it hurts the most? Can this government look beyond vote-bank politics for a change. And can they also stop this charade about talks? I don’t think anyone’s interested anymore…

A long time ago Mohinder Amarnath called the selectors a bunch of jokers. I think that epithet can now be used for some sections of the media. Now that India is out of the T20, the ‘experts’ in the media have started pointing out skipper Dhoni’s mistakes. So why did he send Jadeja before Yuvraj? Why did he give Ishant the extra over. Why did he send in Raina? etc etc.

The way the Indian media has handled the Sehwag issue and now India’s exit from the Cup, has shown that they have neither the maturity nor the experience to wield a pen or a microphone.
Maybe, Dhoni should have consulted the experts in the press box before he went for the toss. Maybe he should do so from now on? After all, these clowns who sit in the press box obviously believe they know more about the game than those 11 guys out there on the field.
What would these ‘jokers’ have said if Jadeja had spanked a quickfire 50 in 22 balls or Ishant had sent a couple of England batsman back the pavillion in that one over? Then Dhoni would have been called the master strategist who takes bold decisions!
The basic problem is that Dhoni has shown contempt for the media and that is what some people can’t stomach. If he, like a former skipper in recent times, had his own favourites in the media, they would have ensured that he got away clean.
I don’t know what you think, but to me, it looks like a lot of these upstarts who call themselves cricket correspondents, don’t know their d— from their elbow, leave alone a full toss from a yorker.
To me the real villain of the piece was Harbhajan Singh who bowled the most irresponsible last over I’ve seen in a long time. The two wickets he got were worth zilch, because he bowled two wides, which cost India the match in the final analysis. Even people like Praveen Kumar and Joginder Singh have bowled better last overs in this format of the game than Harbhajan.
Getting hit by a batsman in the final overs is something no bowler can help. But bowling wides in the last over is gross negligence and when it comes from a senior like Harbhajan, who is looking to fill the shoes of Anil Kumble, it is unforgivable.