Frankly, I am getting tired of people droning on about standing in bank queues and the time they have to waste, and all the wonderful or terrible people they meet. What the fuck were you doing when there were no ATMs? Did God come down on Earth to dole out cash to you? I think one of the biggest crimes any government committed in the last 70 years was the launching of ATMs. It made us lazy, it made us impatient, and most of all it made us forget the pain of standing in queues.

In the last three weeks I have been reading about people allegedly dropping dead in bank queues because they’ve forgotten what it was like to stand in a queue. And I use the world ‘allegedly’ deliberately. I am sure there are genuine cases too, and it’s sad, but I am sure by the time things are back to normal the number of deaths will come down to single digits, and many of those too, this sexed up media will realise, were unrelated to standing in a queue. Maybe, we should shut down ATMs every few months to let people live a more realistic life of the 1970s and 1980s where they stood in bank queues that sometimes stretched to the street outside. I know there are problems. It is a mind-boggling exercise which could not have been done any other way. There have been problems many un-anticipated. I am sure, in hindsight, even the government realises the process could have been better planned. I am sure villagers are the hardest hit, but to make it a doomsday scenario is stretching the truth a lot. And in this one has to blame sections of the media who are deliberately misreporting to create a panic. If the villagers are having problems the state and district administration should approach the centre and make arrangements to disburse funds. The problem is when bankers, government officials and politicians are themselves are corrupt, who do you trust? I know of labourers who have bank accounts opened in their name all of a sudden, with funds being deposited in them. Since when did one need to deposit Rs 50,000 in a savings bank account, when one can maintain a zero balance?

And I’ll be honest, my family too felt the sudden shortage of cash with banks running short, and wondering how we spend the old denominations. Fortunately, all three of use debit cards and wire transfers. Maybe it’s called being smart. I also connected to Paytm and have never been more relieved, because I have to carry even less cash around now.  I too had problems with my account in a co-operative bank. I waited for the problem to ease, and when it didn’t because they were giving only Rs 2,000, I wired money from there into the nationalised bank account I have and withdrew Rs 20,000. We cut down our expenses, saved enough last month to ensure we could pay the maids on December 1. So stop cribbing so much, and move on. I did.

I also know that the entire country cannot go cashless and neither is the government forcing you to. But can those who want to, do so, instead of having to read planted reports by a subjective media demonising the plan? Indians are so gullible that they believe anything and that is what the media is hoping it can achieve in its efforts to ensure this plan fails. This country is littered with stories of idiotic Indians falling for a con. Look at the way people fall for the dumbest trick around – the spam mail telling you that you have won millions of dollars. Or someone claiming to be from a bank asking for your ATM card and pin. The fact that the government has to release commercials on TV channels telling people not to fall for it should tell us what a bunch of idiots we are.

Which brings me to this whole engineered controversy about demonetisation being a waste of time, money and energy, because black money will not go away. It is bizarre. No, black money won’t go away. If it did, we would all be living in Utopia. Let’s face it, a thief will remain a thief. He will find new ways to break the law. Years ago, when we moved to Gurgaon, I went to buy a lock. I told the shopkeeper I wanted a big lock for the front door and he smiled and said “Taala sharifon ke liye hota hain, choron ke liye nahin” (Locks are meant for the honest (to tell them you’re not home), not for thieves). I mean, the police put up traffic lights, road dividers and lanes, in the hope that we will follow traffic rules. But some people think they are above the law. We can only make laws tougher. And it’s not like all the people who had black money got away. We are reading about sacks full of money being discovered and the arrest of bank officials who have been helping the unscrupulous change their currency.

As for the opposition politicians who are protesting the loudest, it’s obvious they’ve been hit the hardest. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stolen their ideas, reinvented them to suit his party, and put paid to their plans, they are hell-bent on getting rid of him. That is why people like Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, and now Mamata Banerjee, are indulging in hysterics. In which country did you hear of a state being taken over by the army, when there is a civilian government at the centre in power? You have to be a complete imbecile to come up with such an absurd fantasy. Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of TRP politics, conveniently forgetting that he too was doing just that with his khat sabhas and the farce of standing in a bank queue to withdraw Rs 4,000. Doesn’t he know there is a bank and an ATM in Parliament House? Oh, but how would he, he is hardly there.

If this is the way Rahul, Kejriwal, Mamata and the rest intend to push forward their candidacy to replace Modi in 2019, then Modi can be sure of another two terms as prime minister. Also, we don’t need comedy shows on TV channels anymore, these political stand-up comics will do just fine as replacements.

As a tax payer I am happy even if 2 per cent of the crooks in this country are nailed. I would consider it worth every minute I spend in a bank queue.

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I am happy that I was proved wrong, at least on one count. I had said to my friends that India would not carry out surgical strikes against Pakistan because of US and Chinese pressure.

What happened today across the Line of Control (LoC) may not have been war, but to Indians, at least those who believe in the Indian nation, and not those who think Pakistan is their homeland, it has been a cathartic experience and as good as a victory in war. It was virtually a case of crossing the Laxman Rekha to avenge the deaths of the countless soldiers and innocent civilians who had lost their lives in Jammu and Kashmir and around the country in terrorist attacks, bomb blasts. The imaginary line was finally breached, all thanks to this government and our brave soldiers.

Even in 1999 during the Kargil war, Indians seethed when Atal Bihari Vajpayee told then US president Bill Clinton that the Indian forces would not cross the LoC. Since then, Indians have lived with a sense of helplessness as Pakistan continued to send in terrorists, weapons, fake currency and drugs with impunity and the Indian Army could not cross the LoC and could not target terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), because of ‘international’ (read USA) pressure. Worse, our hands were tied by some countries who were worried about their interests in Pakistan, and a fear that things could spiral out of control because Pakistan was as good as a rogue nuclear state. The question they need to ask is “who made them a rogue state?” Not India definitely.

But in the last couple of years even the Americans were fed up with the Pakistanis, who they believed was an ally in their so-called war on terror. The Pakistanis had started to behave as if they were now a law unto themselves. Secondly, every terror attack anywhere in the world somehow had a Pakistani link. I guess even in the US the mood against the Pakistanis was turning and they were now being viewed as a global terror hub and a nation of double-crossers, who were taking the money the Americans were giving them and using it to fund acts of terror against its neighbours, especially India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

But coming to this surgical strike itself, the elation and relief one feels cannot be explained. The Loc that stood like some foreboding hoodoo that we were afraid to cross holds no fears for the Indian forces anymore. The message India has sent out is that if the need arises the army will do it again.

What is interesting is that the two countries India was worried about have so far been completely silent on the surgical strikes. The Americans have said nothing and the Chinese have asked India and Pakistan to scale down the tension. But after this incident even they will be forced to accept that after the Uri killings the Indian establishment had finally lost its patience. That lack of confidence of the Chinese in the Pakistani establishment in this incident must have shaken the latter the most, and now they are busy falling over each other to contradict themselves. Have fun, people.

Which begs the question, why didn’t the earlier Indian governments have the courage to do what Narendra Modi’s government did today? I think, besides Indira Gandhi, the rest were stuck in some sort of time warp, a desire to avoid war at all costs, and a psychological fear that a desperate Pakistan could use their nuclear weapons. There is another reason much bigger than all these that politicians feared – losing the next election and losing their vote bank.

Well, I am glad Mr Modi had no such compulsions. Some of the voters and liberals, with their misplaced sense of self-righteousness and outrage (over something that happened 16 years, and for which no court in the land has held Mr Modi responsible) would anyway not vote for him, but he was confident that a huge number of Indians were backing him, and they were looking to him to act against the Pakistanis in every and any way possible – militarily and diplomatically. And he did.


From the day he became prime minister over two years ago, Narendra Modi has been saying, whether in India or anywhere else in the world, “We want peace with Pakistan”. He gave the Pakistanis a really long rope. I think this week the rope just reached its end. And I, for one, am thrilled to bits.

I am delighted to see that finally some Indian prime minister, instead of worrying about whether his actions will jeopardise his prime ministership or his Lok Sabha seat, has had the courage to bring the issue of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir out in the open. I am also glad he has told Pakistan, “Enough about talks on Kashmir, from now on we only discuss Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Ladakh.”

All these years, thanks to the stupidity and pusillanimity of our politicians, we have been letting those murderous Pakistanis gloat in this belief that they can dictate terms on Kashmir. Some of our politicians have given the Pakistanis the impression that we are scared of their supposed nuclear capabilities and fear a war, which, of course, the Pakistanis gleefully continue to dangle over our heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. And other politicians and their peacenik friends, who are feted when they go across the border, have made things worse by their confused and dovish rhetoric. Well, I am glad Mr Modi called the Pakistani bluff. He finally told them and their friends on this side of the border that they had no role in Kashmir, so the ride was over and it was time to get off.

I know a retired colonel of the Indian army, who in 1971, as a young lieutenant, rode triumphantly on the first truck into Dhaka to liberate East Pakistan. He once told me “Don’t ever expect the army or any army man to talk peace with those butchers. Those mother f*****s killed so many of my boys in cold blood in the wars. Every time we have fought them, it has been with one arm tied behind our backs. They only know one way and that is to knife you in the back”

So when I read what Maj Gen (retd). G.D. Bakshi http://http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/gd-bakshis-iit-madras-speech-was-filled-with-hatred-alleges-student-2970742/spoke at IIT Madras I can understand where he is coming from.

Peace is a two-way process. You can’t talk peace to someone who has an AK-47 in his hands. You have to be either mentally deficient or living with your head shoved really far up sone place where the light doesn’t reach to know that Pakistan does not ever want peace with India. They want India’s total destruction. So can we ask those sympathisers of the Pakistani establishment in this country to extricate their heads from that warm, fuzzy place so that they can see daylight?


This blog is a bit about crap – literally. The other day I read that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a failure. Why? I have no clue. Is it because Indians, in general, hate being told to maintain cleanliness? Or is it because, those believe that wallowing in filth and dirt is a way of life, just find it too much of an effort to change?

Let me give you example. I once lived in a housing society where my neighbour who lived directly above me had a leaking toilet which was messing up my ceiling. I asked him to repair it, but he refused saying it was my problem since it was my ceiling that was being messed up! I even offered to fund half the repairs but his answer remained unchanged. Finally after years of waiting and watching my ceiling deteriorate, I went up to his flat with a plumber. What I saw made my bile rise. I come from Bhagalpur, a small town in Bihar, where in the days when I was a kid, you squatted on a toilet seat which had a hole you defecated into. Your crap fell into a pot a few feet below which was cleaned daily by a woman who pulled out the pot and emptied it into a bigger pot to be taken away and emptied into some drain. Does reading this make you throw up? Well, that is how I felt when I saw the neighbour’s toilet.

My first thought was, how does he or others in his family even step into the place first thing in the morning, and every time after that? In utter disgust, I paid to get a new toilet bowl for him and also paid for all the repairs and waterproofing. But the dirty truth is he preferred to wallow in the filth rather than repair his toilet bowl – just for a few thousand rupees. This is why I say we Indians are dirty.

Take the way we spit anywhere and everywhere. Does it take the prime minister of the country to tell us that we should not spit in public places? And this has nothing to do with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Sometime in the 1980s I was seeing off a female friend at the Pune railway station. She was travelling home to Hyderabad. As we waited for the Secunderabad Express to arrive she watched very impassively as a couple of men standing a few feet away kept spitting on the tracks every few seconds. It wasn’t as if they were chewing paan or tobacco. They were just spitting for no rhyme or reason. When she couldn’t control herself any longer, she walked up to them and said, “Can you stop spitting? And if you can’t, please move away?”

I wasn’t surprised, because I knew she was one of those who didn’t believe in keeping quiet if she felt strongly about something. When she returned she said exasperatedly, “I come from Hyderabad, so people spitting around me isn’t anything new, but you guys in Pune take it to an altogether different level.”

So when I read that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has failed I am not surprised at all. We just don’t like being told that we should maintain cleanliness. We come out with a whole host of reasons why it is wrong and when that fails we ridicule the prime minister and his request. We ridicule him for spending public money without asking ourselves the one fundamental question. Would he be spending this money if we just took the effort to maintain cleanliness? I mean, people have a problem with the fact that the government is building toilets. This is so typically Indian. It’s just like the crash helmet rule or any other rule we are asked to follow. We’ll dredge out of the muck a hundred reasons on why they cannot follow it. Of course, there is also the point that previous governments have not bothered about ensuring basic sanitation in the villages, building adequate toilets and ensuring water supply to these toilets. But let’s leave that for another day.

Presently, I live in a supposedly upmarket locality where people throw garbage over the walls of the housing societies. Well-meaning groups have been advising residents of the area not to dump their garbage anywhere but does that help? The civic body asked people to segregate their garbage but even their people have a problem. Have they given a thought to the conservancy staff that carries that garbage to the dump yard? Well, that’s not their problem. So we’ll criticise civic body for not sending the truck that does now show up to pick up the rubbish, but have no problem throwing it out of our balconies to keep our homes clean.

So, why is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan failing? I think it is because the people of India are a filthy lot who expect the prime minister to ensure cleanliness for them, while they party and dirty the place.


Picture1I’ve been reading with avid interest the incident of well-known journalist Rajdeep Sardesai becoming the target of vicious trolls especially after the Agusta Westland scam re-emerged from hiding where it had been conveniently placed by the UPA government for the past so many years. And then, his latest foul-mouthed outburst against trolls and then the revelation that his Twitter account had been hacked, after which he went off Twitter, has been the cause of much angst among his followers and sections of the media, who believe he is being targeted by Modi Bhakts.

Rajdeep is one of the few journalists I have admired in the Indian media right through the years, when he was a part of the print media. I always thought of him as a journalist who retained objectivity in his writings even if he was criticising someone, even though his biases have become more prominent in the past few years. It’s unfortunate that he has become the target of Modi Bhakts and trolls who have taken a dislike for him. He’s been pleading with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to control his bhakts and I’m pretty sure the PM is having a quiet chuckle at the irony of it all – that those who  propagate and staunchly defend the right to free speech are the ones asking for control on it!

But this blog isn’t about Rajdeep, but more about this whole issue of exercising free speech and complete freedom of expression.

The thing is when you call the prime minister ‘feku’ in public and believe you have the right to do so because it’s free speech, be prepared to accept the criticism when someone retaliates in any form they think right. They are also just exercising their right to free speech. Don’t complain.

I am really surprised that journalists flog this nonsense about free speech. Frankly, I think there is too much of it around. That is why on Twitter one can say whatever one wants and get away with it. Swearing and abusing is also free speech. While I understand that some journalists cannot stoop to such levels and are rightfully objecting to the foul language being directed against them, what they need to understand is that they can’t demand free speech and yet demand that some elements be censored just because they have been made the target. Simply, put, you can’t have it both ways.

Look at what is happening in the United States and the United Kingdom where a talk show host can call Trump or Cameron an asshole and continue happily without being dragged to court. A respected newspaper such as the Financial Times of London can publish a lead story headline that says boldly “ACTUALLY, GO FUCK YOUR SELF”. That is absolute free speech. Can we take it?

And when we can’t, we start comparing things to the emergency and fascism! I would have liked to see how many journalists would have written the nonsensical open letters to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and continued to walk free an hour after it was published – if it ever got that far. It would have been ripped to shreds by a censor sitting in the very office of the media house before it could see the light of day. Or for that matter I would like to know how far prominent journalists who pens satirical pieces would have progressed if there had been no free speech today.

Journalists may be getting back at Modi for the contemptuous way he has been treating them after the elections and one may hold him responsible for his past misdeeds, but don’t expect him to act against his followers who have been viciously targeting all those who dare to take on their hero. If I was him, I would say “You wanted free speech, well, you’ve got it, SO DON’T COMPLAIN”

The proponents of free speech need to understand one thing about it –  it is a bit like bisexuality, it’s perfectly normal for it to swing both ways.


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?


 

image1 (1)The three-pointed star has remained the most admired symbol of the automobile anywhere in the world. Much before the BMWs, the Audis and Skodas were seen on the streets of Pune, there was the Mercedes-Benz, in its original avatar as a left-hand drive. If you owned a Merc you had arrived.

But coming to motor sport and the role that the iconic Mercedes has played in it, one needs to understand that the brand has been active in that arena since the advent of the automobile, the fact is that no other car has tried to tackle so many diverse mediums of motor racing than the Mercedes-Benz.

The 400-page pictorial view tiled ‘WINNING’ which narrates 120 years of the Mercedes-Benz on the race track and in India, is a very important look not just into the history of Mercedes-Benz but into Indian automotive history as well. The history is profusely illustrated and the book has over 970 images in all, most of them never having seen the light of day before they found their way into this book. To be honest, it is not just a book for the aficionados of the three-pointed star but also for those who love motor sport in all its myriad colours. The book is any Mercedes-Benz fan’s dream.

This book is about Mercedes-Benz winning in an altogether different vein in India and there is a rich history to back it up over the last 120 years.

image2

The beautiful Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek at the age of 11.

It is about an Austrian girl named Mercedes Adrienne Ramona Manuela Jellinek after whom the legendary vehicle was named. She was the daughter of Emil Jellinek, diplomat-businessman-socialite and wearer of many other hats. And had it not been for Jellinek, the Mercedes brand would have never emerged to the forefront in the automotive world.

The book is also about Karl Benz, obstinate and obdurate beyond belief, who was not the best advocate for motor racing, because he found it too dangerous given the state of the roads. He might have had a point but it was one that was lost in an era where speed was everything for car makers.

WINNING is replete with details and photographs and written and compiled by Adil Jal Darukhanawala, one of India’s leading motoring journalists.

I’ve known Adil since the mid-1980s when I worked with the Maharashtra Herald and he began editing Car and Bike International magazine in 1987. He would drop in often to say hello or to bring either some press release or a write-up on some motor sports event published. It is to the credit of the genial ‘bawa’ that he was never refused space in the paper. When Harry David, the then chief reporter, and I managed to convince the boss to launch a sports pull-out along with the paper, Adil was one of the few people we approached to write a motor sports column for us. Needless to say, it became quite popular. After leaving Car & Bike in 1998, he set up Overdrive and ran it till 2005. He then did a stint with Car India, Bike India and CV, after which he set up the largest automotive portal in the country www.ZigWheels. From 2014, he launched the Zeegnition division of Zee Media Corporation.

This history of the Mercedes-Benz has never been chronicled so completely and thoroughly and captured as imaginatively as it has been in WINNING.