Rajesh Khanna

When I heard Rajesh Khanna is no more, it did not strike me so hard. We knew he was ill, we knew his once-estranged-wife had made peace with him recently, we knew (thanks to the Havel’s ad) that he looks shockingly frail and old now. All of it probably had prepared us, to some extent, to be ready for the worst.

However, as the day passed and the TV channels beamed montage of the old songs and scenes – the famous smile, the tilted head and the glimmer in the eyes rushed back into the mind. And I suddenly realized the loss. It is not that I thought he was a great actor or his movies were great – far from it. But the songs, oh, the songs! The songs that he had in his movies were the ones which I grew up with. Mind you, it was not the 1960s or the 1970s, but the 1990s. Even then the songs were as popular. It is not surprising because even today, in 2012, those songs seem to have not suffered any dip in popularity.

That is why, even a few decades down the line, when you would be downhearted and will feel like ‘zindagi ka safar….koi samjha nahi, koi jana nahi’, or when you are hurt by the world and say ‘kuchh to log kahenge, logon ka kam hai kehna’, or even when you would be with your beloved and hum ‘woh sham kuch ajib thi…’, at the back of your mind, you will see a glimpse of this handsome man with a smile and the glimmer in his eyes.

It took some time for the feeling to sink in. I do not belong to the generation who has seen the first superstar of Hindi movies in the movie theatres or read about his legendary antiques in gossip magazines, but for me, Rajesh Khanna would always remain the face of the songs which I have grown up listening to.

However, there was one thing I could not help thinking about, when I was reading about the eulogies about Khanna in the past few days and see the crowd in his last journey. Khanna had lead his life in his own terms. He had been the biggest superstar and had pretty women swooning all over him – he had blown up everything and has ended up choosing horrible movies as comeback vehicle. But all said and done, here was a real man who has worn his heart on his sleeves. He has not hidden behind his PR people and publicists, he has not done ‘correct’ things to develop an image. That is why in today’s world when we see actors building up their images and doing politically correct TV shows and making socially relevant statements, we love a man like Rajesh Khanna who is terribly flawed and human.

This also brings to my mind another question. If the developments since his death are to be believed, it is quite evident that the public loves Khanna, it is evident that his fellow actors and the present corps of celebrities are awed by him. But could they not have shown this to him when he was alive? A man like Rajesh Khanna, who lived for the fame and popularity, would have loved it. Instead of a situation where he probably felt that his ‘fans’ are merely mechanical fans instead of humans (irony of a brilliantly conceptualized ad, I’d never forget), could we not have made him felt loved and wanted while he was in his self imposed exile from the 1990s till the end?

Never mind Kaka…..choro bekar ki baaton mein kahin beet na jaye raina…

Here, cheers to you!

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‘Gangs of Gobindapur – Part I ’ – the movie

No, this is not Anurag Kashyap’s movie Gangs of Wasseypur. This is a movie I watched while I was sleeping a few days back and thought it is a story worth retelling.

The movie is based in the small town of Gobindapur, which lies near the east coast of the vast country of Indusland. Hundreds of years back, the area where Gobindapur lies today, was a fertile plain where the peasants used to grow crops in abundance. Then the Firangs came and set up factories. It was a prosperous economy and Gobindapur grew into a small but populous town. But then the river moved away and the Firangs were driven off. The land turned less fertile and the factories shut down one by one, unable to contain the trade unions and their demands of no work but more pay. So within a few decades, Gobindapur looked like a ghost town.

Vijaya D. Chauhan was born in a lower middle class family in the town. Her father died while she was still an infant. A tomboy while growing up, she established her authority over her playmates in the neighbourhood quite easily. Her gang included both boys and girls, who found it easier to follow her whims than face her temper. To her neighbours, however, she was a helpful figure who would be there with them no matter what. Her souring popularity caught the attention of Soumak Mishra, who was a local leader of the sorts. He recruited her in the gang which he was a part of, called the Fisters (it was widely known but officially denied that the Fisters had links with the Italian mafiaso). But she proved to be a handful to control and maybe, in certain regards, more ambitious than him. This did not go well with Mishra and she left soon with some of her followers to form a rival gang called the Flower Power. All this while, however, her main battle was with the gang who ruled Gobindapur, called the Sickles. I will not get into the grimy details of all the gang battles, but they were as bad as can be. In her early career as a gang leader, Vijaya was beaten up by the Sickles and her skull was cracked in, what later came to known as, the notorious Battle of Hazaripath.

I won’t get into the details of what followed and how she snatched power in Gobindapur from the Sickles after a series of bloody battles, or how she made Fisters insignificant in Gobindapur and ultimately ensured that Soumak Mishra leave Fisters and join her Flower Power. It also shows how the shaken FIsters makes a truce with Vijaya in her own terms. It is a story of revenge, blood and gore. A very Anurag Kashyapesque plot, I must say. But it shows that while Vijaya rises up and up, how the values she once stood for, crumbles all around. It reminded me of a dialogue from Satyajit Ray’s epic Aranyar Din Ratri, which translated in English, would roughly mean, ‘the more you rise, the more you fall’.

I must tell you how the movie ends. Chanakya Murugkar, the Chitpavan Brahmin, who was the consigliore of the Fisters, had a long time feud with Vijaya. Fisters, true to its Italian tradition, did not let Chanakya to rise up to the rank of the Don since he did not have Italian blood in his veins. But he was their confidante and consigliore for years. While Vijaya was a foot soldier, so to say, she had a tiff with Chanakya. Nobody knows what it was about. Some speculate it was because Chanakya felt Vijaya was getting too much backing of the then Don. Some others say that it was because Vijaya insulted Chanakya’s seniority in the party, due to the fact that he was merely an advisor and not a ‘made man’. Nevertheless, after Vijaya’s assumption of power in Gobindapur and after a brief period of truce between Flower Power and the Fisters, Vijaya again rises to fights against Chanakya’s nomination to the post of Guardian of the son of the late Don, and therefore, the de facto head of the Fisters. Vijaya tried to influence some insiders of Fisters and some other friendly gangs, but it ended with all of them triple crossing her. The movie ends with Chanakya assuming power as the Guardian, while Vijaya is shown striding down the road, with her anger against the world. The camera pans to her, she looks at it and breaks the fourth dimension, by speaking directly to the audience, “Picture abhi bhi baaki hai, mere dosht” and then repeating it in English, for ease of international audience, “Thish peekchaar eej shtill not obhaar, my phrends”.

While Gangs of Gobindapur – Part I concentrated mostly on the gang battles between Vijaya and Sickles and the difficult relation between Vijaya and the Fisters, it seems the second part would focus mostly on the impending war between Vijaya and the Fisters.

I’ll let you guys know when I see that in my dream next.


To drink or not to drink….

To drink or not to drink, was never the question! To ban or not to ban, has always been the question.

Here’s to you, two interesting reads about the alcohol politics:

First, a grim reminder of the danger of spurious alcohol – 57 people (and counting) dead and more than 100 ill thanks to spurious alcohol in a village of West Bengal ( http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/illicit-liquor-claims-57-lives-condition-of-over-100-serious/articleshow/11110806.cms)

Second, an interesting article on the history of prohibition in light of Anna Hazare’s tirade against alcohol and people who can’t live without it (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/message-in-a-bottle/880909/0)

If you go back thousands of years, you will find that our ancients in India had no problems with alcohol. Not only they referred to alcoholic drinks in their texts, they even had their gods and goddesses partake divine spirits! The prohibition, if I may say so, was imported by the Islamic invaders and the subsequent rulers of the Indian subcontinent. Again, when India was the crown jewel of the British empire, alcohol used to be available freely in the railway carts of the important stations. Something unthinkable now!

However, then came Mr. M.K. Gandhi and his ideology. He could not teach India a lot of things, of which honesty and non-violence are  examples, but his followers found his dislike of alcohol an easy thing to follow. When I saw ‘to follow’, I only mean on paper. Lest Mr. Sibal again wish to edit my post, I shall refrain from naming any of his followers and future leaders of India, who did not find fine specimens of alcohol unsavory. Therefore, alcohol was banned in states like Gujarat, whereas everywhere else it was strictly prohibited by stringent measures of licenses and heavy taxes. However, since the tipplers will continue to be tipplers, the underground economy of alcohol had always been quite booming in India, especially in placed like Gujarat.

The alcohol politics and diplomacy continued for several decades after independence, where the strong domestic whisky lobby and subsequently the resurgent wine lobby ensured that the government impose heavy duty on the foreign liquor to ward off competition with the domestic producers.

In the meantime, India received its latest avatar – in the form of Anna Hajare, whose idea of anti-corruption somehow also included elements of anti-alcohol-ism! The reason is, however, quite obscure since it would appear to any sober person that drunk people would be less capable of masterminding and effectuating scams. Hajare’s habit of youth of beating up people who refuse to give up alcohol does not go very well with his Gandhian facade, but then such notions get adrenalin rushing and dopamin release in a lot of people, which gives them a temporary high. No wonder they do not mind releasing a person’s soul from his body, if needed, so that he does not indulge in vile activities like drinking.

No one advocates irresponsible drinking and harming others while intoxicated. However, how does it give right to certain individuals to prevent their fellow drinkers from drinking? Drinking, unlike smoking, does not cause passive harm. Drinking in moderation does not harm one’s body, unlike smoking. If we do not condemn and weed out smoking absolutely, why go after drinking alone? Drinking of alcohol has been there in human civilization for ages, and it is very unlikely that it would go out of human psyche through prohibitions and Hazare-style street punishments.

Then what to do?

If you may notice, the people who suffer things like illicit liquor or a thrashing from Hajare’s ilk, are the ordinary poor people who cannot afford the costlier and less risky ‘foreign liquor’. Even when alcohol is prohibited, the relatively well off people can still afford it in the black market. So is it that the poorer people should be deprived of their choice of drink because they are poor? Prohibition and bans never solve any problem. Proper guidance and regulation, to a very limited extent, may.

The children should be made aware of the ills of smoking and irresponsible drinking. However, it should not be done in a way that they look down upon the people who do it, rather be aware of the ill effects. Thus, when they reach an age of maturity, they can take an informed decision. Many would argue, such lessons would make them curious at an early age and create problems of teenage drinking. It is not completely impossible for everyone. However, in today’s social and economic scenario, we cannot keep them ignorant for long, so why not get the right message across and kill the curiosity?

Taxes on foreign liquor should be reduced, and not increased. While it is one of government’s cash cows to earn revenue, it is affecting competition in the Indian liquor industry. Competition will reduce price and improve quality. Another idea may be to regularise production of cheap desi liquor and invite investments in this sector to modernise and control quality. Imagine the number of customers of desi liquor in India. Its a huge market and I am sure there would be investors willing to invest here, which would make it easier for the authorities to impose quality controls, which is rather difficult to do in a fragmented sector.

Come to think of it, whiskey, beer, vodka….all of them have been local cheap alcoholic drinks of the farmers and workers at some point of time. If they can be improved upon and marketed globally, why not our Indian alcohols!

However, we need to change our outlook and the approach to the problem first. These ideas may not make Mr. Hajare and his followers happy, but they can prevent those unfortunate deaths.


Black money – experts’ opinions

The live news update on Rediff.com can be really hilarious!  Found a gem today:

15:48  Right now in Parliament, Deve Gowda speaks on the blackmoney issue, shortly after Lalu Prasad Yadav.

……..

15:25  In Parliament right now, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav speaks on the black money issue.”


The burning hospital, Mr. Toady and the Charlatan (Purists) Morcha

A few days back, a hospital in the capital city of Bongo caught fire and about a hundred people succumbed to the accident. Nearly all of them were patients admitted in the hospital and couple of staffs of the hospital who, unlike the others of their ilk, tried to evacuate the patients instead of running away and saving themselves. Hundreds of other patients were however rescued by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood slums, who being jobless and ruffians as they are, were up all night trying to poke their nose at their rich neighbours’ business without minding their own.

We were told by the television and newspaper reports that the security-guards and the staffs of the hospital (owned by Mr. Toady and others) initially tried to keep away these ruffians by shutting the main gate of the hospital, but to no avail. We were also informed that the personnel tried to maintain the comfort level of the patients inside the burning building by not turning off the AC system (which incidentally spread the smoke uniformly even to the parts of the building where the fire could not reach). They had kept the fire warning system switched off and did not even call the fire department so that the patients do not feel disturbed due to noise of alarms. However, in spite of their best efforts, some ruffians from the neighbouring slums forced their way inside the hospital, broke as many windows as possible to drive away the smoke, and rescued the patients. We hope that the authorities will take note of such vandalism and ensure that the slums are removed from the civilized parts of the city.

We heard that Her Majesty the Queen of Bongo ordered arrest of Mr. Toady and other owners of the hospital. The opposition party of Bongo, the Charlatan (Purists) Morcha (CPM), behaved like a perfectly responsible opposition party during this entire incident and cooperated with Her Majesty. Even though Mr. Toady is a card-holding member of the Charlatan (Purists) Morcha and as the rumour mill suggests, is one of the biggest contributors to the Morcha, they did not interfere with the process. However, this makes one wonder about the relevance of friendship and long term relationship in this changing world of loyalties. As the newspapers suggest, Mr. Toady has been a friend of the deceased long ruling dictator of Bongo, Comrade Basuski, may his soul rest in peace, from the 1970s even before the Morcha had come to power in Bongo. Apart from making monitory contributions for the cause of leftism, Mr. Toady apparently used to let his factories be the hiding ground for the comrades in those dark and tumultuous days and allow his press be used for publication of leftist newspapers which would churn venom at the capitalists, the Congress and the US (in no particular order). He was suitably rewarded by Comrade Basuski after the Morcha turned Bongo into a smaller version of the USSR (except the cold and sporting excellence of course) for next 3 decades. That is how by the time Comrade Basuski stepped down, Mr Toady was running a business empire worth hundreds of crores (Rupees, not Roubles) and most of his ventures were in partnership with the Bongo government (which in plain terms means the government had the land and Mr. Toady, the profits). It would be worth mentioning that Comrade Basuski also breathed his last in another of Mr. Toady’s hospitals and Mr. Toady did not even charge the Morcha a rupee for it.

After three decades of serving the nation of Bongo and the Morcha, Mr. Toady is now having to face the wrath of the newly coronated Her Majesty the Queen of Bongo. It is really painful to notice, and must be even more painful for Mr. Toady himself, that the Morcha did not stand beside him in his hour of need and tried to play to the gallery (read the vote bank) by acting as a responsible opposition party.

Mr. Toady – may you keep doing well to the people as you have done for years. May you coffers fill up with riches, because you will need that in these hours of need to feed your family, when you are in jail and your business suffering. But forgive the Morcha, Mr. Toady, for they will again come back for your generous donations as soon as you are freed from jail and this fiasco is erased from public memory.


An argument for Mr. Sibbal

And while we are at it, let us look at the other side of the story. Atticus Finch said in “To Kill a Mockingbird” that we should try to step into other people’s shoes to understand how they see the world.

While we hurl abuses at the government and the political parties in power, have we ever tried to understand the situation from where their decisions come? I’ll give an example, from a non-political field here.

Ian Holloway, manager of Blackpool football club, mentioned recently –

I had one fella, a taxi driver, sit in my office the day after for two hours telling me everything I’d got wrong. I asked him to write down the team he would have played, then explained to him that nine of the lads he’d listed were injured. Whether we get a giant like Manchester United or one of the minnows, I will do what I always do and select a starting XI I think is good enough to win on the day.

[http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/ian-holloway-first-panic-then-a-spot-of-gardening-6272001.html]

Often the job of the men (and women) in power gets constricted like this. While we criticize the move of the government (and Kapil Sibbal specifically) to regulate the contents of popular sites like Facebook, Youtube, etc., let us guess what YOU would have done in his position?

And by YOU, I do not mean a software engineer or a business analyst or the likes whose responsibility ends after posting a comment, I mean if you were a minister in a democratically elected government of India where you have to balance the likes or dislikes of different interest groups and vote banks.

If you fail at that, the existing government may face bigger flacks in case some widespread trouble breaks out due to some random comment or video on the internet promoting hate and violence. And if you fail to protect your party and the government, my dear friend, your own career would be jeopardized. We get stressed out while managing our puny little jobs, our idiotic bosses and our unsympathetic spouses. At his age, with a boss like Ms. Gandhi and the responsibility that he has, you don’t envy Mr. Sibbal, do you?

You will argue that Mr. Sibbal could have very well stayed out of all this and remained a brilliant lawyer like he had been. I agree. But then you could have stayed jobless and unmarried all your life, instead of cribbing about your spouse and boss every day, couldn’t you?


Why I blog?

I tried writing the following piece as an explanation of why I started this blog. However, while trying to post, I got a popup saying that this post will be sent to Mr. Sibbal’s office for review and necessary modifications. The modified writeup (along with the words / expressions deleted and the reasons provided for that) is produced below:

Friends, Indians (1), countrymen,

I take great pride to publish (2) my first blog post on wordpress. I am also thankful to the Government of India for protecting the environment of freedom of speech and expression in our country as well as on the internet (3).

Let me share a small anecdote which will demonstrate (4) the reason behind this attempt on my part. I have a friend, let me call him Rahul (5), whom I knew since my schooldays. Rahul is a very good human being and a charismatic leader. He is close to the aam admi and embodies the hope of the nation (6). His hobby is photography and ever since our college days he used to take a lot of snaps with his automatic Kodak camera. We always (7) thought he is much of a photographer. However, just after he got a job and started earning, he bought an expensive camera – SLR or something – with lot of zoom. He decided to become a street photographer and promptly set up a blog which he filled up with black and white bleak photographs of hungry children, beggars and homeless people. Rahul once stayed with the dalits in their villages. He is the future of India (8). Within sometime, people started considering him to be an excellent photo journalist – his followers on blog increased and some of his dark (literally – I initially thought he does not have a flash on his camera) photographs were sent for competitions and even won awards in the west. Now he is a leading photojournalist and often shows up on the TV channels offering his views on various issues, from inflation to The Dirty Picture.

Encouraged by Rahul’s success, I also decided to set up this blog. Once day a publisher may chance upon my writing and give me an offer to write a novel, or a novella or at least a short story.

P.S. – Rahul is (9) my friend’s real name (10).

1 – Deleted ‘Romans’ [Politically sensitive reference]

2 – Deleted ‘unveil’ [Obscenity]

3 – Inserted

4 – Deleted ‘reveal’ [Obscenity]

5 – Bold and emphasis added

6 – Inserted

7 – Deleted ‘never’ [do not criticize Rahul baba]

8 – Inserted

9 – Deleted ‘is not’ [Rahul is his real name and not Raul. It is a false propaganda of RSS]

10 – Deleted ‘You probably know him by another name, which I will not use here, so as not to offend him’ [This is an outright lie. Rahul does not live a double life.]


Hello! Hello! Blog testing!

Umm…errm…yeah, so here we are!

[silence]

Mmm…right!

What do you say when you start a blog?

How do you do, dear reader? (are there any?)

So this thing will go up on the web if I hit the ‘update’ button, right?

Not much of a difficult thing, this blogging! I can do it as well as you do!

Phew, so much for the first post – see you later, readers!