Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma Gandhi’

Getting mad about anything

Posted: October 2, 2015 in Cow
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Comedians and actors had better not think of cracking jokes that have the words “stupid cow” or “beef” in them, for more than one reason now. Not that that the first reason of equating women with a cow is any less insulting, but the second reason is because in the last 16 months people have rediscovered the importance of the cow in their lives, and if offended they are willing to kill for it. In other words, killing a cow is inhumane, but killing a human being who ALLEGEDLY kills a cow is all in a day’s work for some.

Actually, in recent times, one has noticed this desperate urge by anyone to make a hue and cry about anything that gets his or her goat. Uh oh…

People killing a man who they thought had beef in his house is the most dangerous thing I‘ve heard in a long time. It basically means we are going to have vigilantes barging into homes on a whim and then getting away with murder. And it doesn’t surprise me when politicians support this kind of murderous behaviour and demand their release. After all, many of them have graduated to politics from the same ranks. So we will soon come to a stage in this county when we won’t be requiring the police and judiciary because summary justice will be meted out by vigilantes.

What surprises me is the new found affection for the cow, which roams the streets, sleeps on the footpath and scavenges the bins for food, does not include bringing it into your home and giving it a place to sleep, and nursing it. I guess that’s too expensive. So much easier to give it some food and push it out of the way as you leave for the temple or club for a game of tennis.

Here’s a quote from Mahatma Gandhi on the subject, whose birth anniversary falls tomorrow. I do not agree with all his views but here goes: “I do not know how this question (Will the Muslims be allowed to eat their national food-beef under a Hindu majority Government?) arises. For, whilst Congressmen were in office, they are not known to have interfered with the practice of beef-eating by Muslims. The question is also badly conceived. There is no such thing as Hindu majority Government.

“It is, moreover, not true to say that beef is the national food of Muslims. In the first place, the Muslims of India are not as yet a separate nation. IN the second, beef is not their ordinary food. Their ordinary food is the same as that of the millions. What is true is that there are very few Muslims who are vegetarians from religious motive. Therefore, they will take meat, including beef, when they can get it. But during the greater part of the years, millions of Muslims, owing to poverty, go without meat of any kind. These are facts. But the theoretical question demands a clear answer. As a Hindu, a confirmed vegetarian, and a worshipper of the cow whom I regard with the same veneration as I regard my mother (alas, no more on this earth!) I maintain that Muslims should have full freedom to slaughter cows, if they wish, subject of course to hygienic restrictions and in a manner not to wound the susceptibilities of their Hindu neighbours. Fullest recognition of freedom to the Muslims to slaughter cows is indispensable of communal harmony, and is the only way of saving cow.”

And to end that another line from the great man: “As a Musalman friend writes, beef eating which is merely permissible in Islam will become a duty, if compulsion is resorted to by Hindus.”

So is that what it is all about?

Now to get to the light side of getting mad about anything.

On Thursday, a national daily carried a story about a school that forcibly got a student’s hair cut from the school barber. I am shocked that the editor of a reputed national newspaper even entertained his reporter when he came to him with such an idiotic story. I would have asked him if he had a fever.

ALL school students know the rules of the school and some students keep long/spiked hair to defy those rules. So when they defy the rules they should get punished. My son had naturally spiked hair when it was cut to school standards, and he had a hard time explaining to his prefects that he did not use a spray to spike his hair, and he even offered to wash it and show it them to prove it.

The funny thing is this kid in the hair cut story is quoted as saying that he had gum stuck in his hair because he was chewing gum in school! The guy has no remorse whatsoever at breaking the rules and he is proud to say so in as many words, but is upset because his peers made fun of him after his haircut? I am surprised that parents don’t ask their children when they see them leaving for school that way.  My folks would order me off to barber every time they thought my hair was getting a little long. I remember being sent to the barber one evening when I was in the 8th Class. My dorm teacher sent me packing all the way to East Street for a snip, even though my hair was short. I returned only to be told it wasn’t good enough and was sent off again. The second time the exasperated barber left little on the head. I had to grin and bear the jibes  of “aye Taklu” for weeks. I think back and remember and my exact views were “the bloody bugger thinks he’s still in the army.” I was too young to use ‘f*****g bastard’! If I had gone to the editor of a paper to voice my grievance I would have been laughed out of his office with a spank on my backside.


How many of you will believe me if I told you that I not only saw one of the most beautiful women in the world a foot away from me, but also travelled in her car? Well I did. I used to be a receptionist at the Hotel Blue Diamond in the 1980s. It was, then, the only five-star hotel in Pune and the only one where the rich and the famous stayed if they were in the city. The hotel was abuzz because (then) Sir Richard Attenborough’s unit for the film Gandhi was checking in  and the CEO Arvind Pandit was telling the housekeeping and everyone else to ensure that everything went off smoothly.

I still remember the palpable excitement in the hotel and at the front office where I worked. The chief receptionist and others were filling up the check-in forms in advance. Computers were still some years away. We didn’t want the VIP guests to wait, so all formalities were completed in advance. When the guests arrived, Sir Richard Attenborough and the rest of them got the traditional aarti and tilak welcome and were whisked away to their rooms. If I remember right, Attenborough requested that the best suite be given to Candice Bergen. She was the STAR, back then. She was playing the role of Margaret Bourke-White, the Life magazine photographer.

I was really excited to see Edward Fox. I had read Fredrick Forsyth’s book The Day of the Jackal and Fox had played the role of the assassin, so seeing the Jackal in the flesh was thrilling. If I sound an excited schoolboy, pardon me, because that is how I felt and I am sure most of you would have felt that way too! Saeed Jaffrey was there too, so was Geraldine James, but Ben Kingsley stayed at the Turf Club, I think. He would drop in at the hotel in the evenings to meet Sir Richard and the rest of the unit. The foreign crew members all stayed at the Blue Diamond, while the rest of the Indian crew were scattered around in the other cheaper city hotels.

I also remember that quite a few people working in the hotel got bit roles in the film. One was Sonal, who worked at the hotel reception and she was among the ladies with Kasturba Gandhi when Gandhi decides to burn the pass in South Africa. It was shot on Fergusson College ground and I remember I had gone there too see the shooting from Vaishali! We weren’t allowed to get too close so I lost interest.

There was a gentleman called Graham Ford, who was the location manager and one who I struck up a rapport with because I went out of my way to help him get something. Ford liked his Irish Coffee every evening, but couldn’t find the right quality of cream to make the perfect drink. One evening, when he was telling me about it, I asked around and managed to get someone to deliver it to the hotel especially for him. He was over the moon and invited me up to his room for a drink. Since I am not going to be hauled up, now, for fraternising with the guest, let me admit that after my shift was over, he insisted I come up and made me an Irish Coffee. It was his way of saying thank you.

On another evening, Saeed Jaffrey, lisped his way up to us a little before midnight to ask where he could get some Biryani and Banarasi paan. A bell boy was dispatched pronto to get both. He travelled all the way to Cafe Good Luck by autorickshaw to bring the biryani and the paan. While waiting at the reception, he started to chat with us and someone said “Haan ji” and Jaffrey retorted “Haan ji, nahin Sahab, Ji haan kahiye. Aap hijre hain?” (Don’t say Haan ji sir, say ji haan. Are you a transgender?). I think the next day, he along with some of the Indian unit members went out again for Biryani.

One day a friend asked if I could persuade Ford to let him watch a day’s shooting, since he was an avid film buff. Ford was more than happy to oblige. After all, I had gone that extra inch to get him his cream! So after a night shift at the front office, the friend and I were ready to travel to the location. As we were waiting in the lobby with Graham Ford, Candice Bergen walked up and he asked her if she would mind taking two extra passengers with her in the car. It was the good old Ambassador, so the driver and the two of us could fit comfortably in the front seat while Ms Bergen sat in the back. The driver, of course, had no clue he was in the presence of Hollywood royalty. If Rekha had been in the car, I guess it would have been different for him. But we were stunned into silence, completely overawed by the magnetism and beauty of the woman sitting behind us. This was one of the most beautiful women in the world and WE were travelling in her car! Our day was made.

We watched Sir Richard shooting the famous scene from the film where Mahatma Gandhi is chatting with Bourke-White as she shoots his pictures during his incarceration at the Aga Khan Palace. We watched the shot a number of times and after a while I got bored. As far as I was concerned, I had travelled in the same car with Candice Bergen! Who wanted anything else?

Mahatma Gandhi and the politicians who formed the first government of Independent India were the first and last breed of secular politicians this country has seen. Since then there have only been pretenders. Real secularism was replaced by ‘politics of secularism’. By the time Indira Gandhi became the prime minister secularism had become just another dirty word.

Which is where I come to the grand old party of Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand). Nehru, Patel and others, which claims to own the patent to secularism since 1885 or thereabouts, It has also allegedly claimed to have worked for the minorities and the downtrodden since then. If that is so, how is it that most of the minority communities and the downtrodden are still where they are since 1947? And even after being taken for a ride year after year, they continue to vote for the grand old party.

The amount of money that spent on them should have been enough to give them a better life. But has that happened? The fact that the government still has to give them food subsidies, free mobiles, write off loans etc, shows that the Congress party’s policies have, by and large, FAILED in their objectives to raise the living standards of the minorities and economically weaker sections.

If there are those from such communities and castes who have overcome obstacles and risen to make a name for themselves, they have done so because of their own desire to succeed. Just today I read about Yusufalli, a Malayalee businessman in the UAE, who has been voted the most powerful Indian in the Gulf for the fourth year running. That’s a fantastic achievement. The Indians in the Gulf are a good example of people working to make a living instead of depending on the sops thrown to them by government.

In journalism, there are two sides to every story. While I completely understand that Narendra Modi’s past with reference to Gujarat in 2001, makes him suspect, I am also aware that Congress politicians are equally guilty of engineering riots in the country and worse. If I tell a Modi-hater that neither the courts nor the security agencies have been able to pin anything on him for the riots, there are howls of protest, and they allege that he has manipulated the courts and the legal system. Fair enough. However, when I ask them why people like Kamal Nath, Tytler and others are still walking free for their alleged roles in various riots; about people like Lalu who walked free for 17 years until recently, then there is studied silence. There’s more, but let’s leave that for another day.

Why are the same secular people and media, who rail against Modi for his divisive politics and his riot-tainted past completely silent when someone like Shinde or Sonia waxes eloquent about being on the side of the minorities. Or is it a case of selective knowledge? Or is it that they are so blinded by hate for the BJP or Modi or whoever that is anti-Congress, that they turn a blind eye to any nonsense that is said in the name of secularism? It’s almost as if, anyone is against the Congress or Rahul, then he must be pro-Modi!

Then some of my good friends think that by ridiculing Rahul Gandhi and his antics, I am inadvertently making Modi a hero, which he is not. Then, of course, there are those veiled suggestions that I am, in fact, a closet Hindu fundamentalist or worse a Modi supporter. To be honest, my religious inclinations are quite a joke among the members of my family. In my home, during every festival, my wife, who believes in observing most festivals, has to drag me most reluctantly to the puja corner in our house, even to spend a few minutes in silence.

Yes I do carry a Hanuman Chalisa with me. It is usually in the glove compartment of the car. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. It started after I once found that I felt a little calm after reading it. I had to ask my wife and son what the words meant, though! So now one copy lies in my glove compartment. Call me silly, superstitious or whatever. So does that qualify me to be either a closet fundamentalist Hindu or a Narendra Modi fan? I hope not, otherwise a lot of people who read such books would also be labelled fundamentalists!

To be honest, I would rather be anything but a supporter of a government whose Home Minister demolishes the credibility of his own police force and intelligence community; where an upstart MP can ridicule his own prime minister and government on a public forum because he wants to indulge in theatrics to garner some brownie points; where the entire government machinery closes ranks to protect the son-in-law of the first family who they claim is a ‘private citizen’; where MPs accused in corruption cases can get re-elected to the Rajya Sabha with the backing of the ruling party, and where a Congress-ruled State government announces that loans taken by Muslims will be underwritten. So what crime have the others committed to be excluded from such munificence?

If this is how secularism is to be defined, thank you, but no thank you. And I am sure my Muslim friends understand the point.

I wish that holding talks, peace marches and candlelight vigils at India Gate or the Wagah border could solve the problems between Indian and Pakistan. But since it can’t and never will, let’s get real.

Today at the South Asian Youth Peace Meet (SAYPM) at the Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication in Lavale, Chintamani Mahapatra, Chairman, Centre for Canada, US & Latin American Studies and Professor at the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, narrated a very interesting incident about the attitude of the members of a Pakistani delegation during a conference to discuss the problems between the two neighbours, held somewhere abroad.

During that conference, the Kargil fiasco erupted and the Pakistanis began to celebrate. Their mood would oscillate between fury and joy as they kept hearing about the developments. And these were people who were there for a peace meet!

One well known editor of a Pakistani newspaper came up to Mahapatra at the same conference, puffed up his chest and announced loudly, “Tell your government not to get too adventurous, Pakistan now has the bomb.”

Mahapatra reminded him that in the event of a nuclear war, lots of Indians might lose their lives, but looking at India’s population, millions will still survive. In Pakistan’s case, even that was doubtful! Incidentally, the conference was organised at Dr Mahapatra’s request, which goes to prove that good intentions, don’t mean much to the Pakistanis!

What I and, I’m sure, many others like me would like to know, is how a country, supposedly on the verge of bankruptcy half the time, and in the throes of anarchy, the other half of the time, can repeatedly tell its more powerful neighbour to F*** OFF, every time they are asked to arrest the people who plan terrorist attacks on Indian soil? My apologies for using the F word here, but there is really no other expression that fits so perfectly what the Pakistanis have been telling us to do for the past so many years.

See how the Pakistan Army hosts Hafeez Saeed at an Iftar, when they should, in reality be arresting him for his terrorist acts, or see the contempt with which the Pakistani foreign minister treats each dossier he receives from the Indian government. For that matter, see how easily Pervez Musharraf admits that the funds and weapons which were given by the US to fight the Taliban, were used against India. Even more ironical is A.Q. Khan stating that he had sold nuclear secrets to China, Iran and North Korea. Have you noticed any signs of surprise or outrage against any of these actions anywhere, except in India? I find it difficult to believe that the Americans didn’t know what Pakistan’s Dr. No was up to?

Take the case of Dawood Ibrahim. Indian Intelligence officials have given Pakistanis every single detail about the underworld don, but the Pakistanis simply junk it claiming that it’s not adequate. What else do they need – his underwear brand name?

Could the Pakistanis have done any of this without tacit backing of the Americans or Chinese? Don’t you find it strange that despite all the dirty tricks Pakistan indulges in, the US and Chinese continue to fund it? The Americans first castigate Pakistan for, “not doing enough” and then promptly send them a couple of billion dollars of funding to fight their “war on terror.”

A few days earlier, also at the SAYPM, well known reformist Asghar Ali Engineer, had me smiling when he said that wherever in the world there’s unrest and strife, there’s a US hand! A man after my own heart, this Mr Engineer!

The Indian sub-continent is becoming a very dangerous place, thanks to the Americans. They are running riot all over Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and no one can do anything about it. Things are slowly and surely spiraling out of control and the weak-kneed Indian government is busy sending out dossiers to all and sundry or flying out its ministers to meet God (read Obama) and complain to him about our unfriendly neighbours.

Just because Mahatma Gandhi told us to show the other cheek, must we take it so literally?