Sharell has already done a post on the Indian proclivity for spitting in public. And I quite like the numbering convention she’s come up with, so I have taken the liberty of borrowing that for my post.

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We all know that we’re the sort of people who like to treat the world as our spittoon. But this post is about some specific aspects of that general trait.

I was driving to work the other day, and there happened to be a bike as well an auto in front of me.  Up ahead, there was the carcass of a dog on the road, clearly roadkill from the night before. As the bike swerved to avoid the mangled remains, both the rider as well as the chap sitting pillion spat at the corpse in synchronised unison. Ptooeey, ptooeey. Two wet globs of spit landed on the carcass. Not to be outdone, the auto guy followed with a contribution of his own, his phlegmatic discharge twinkling in the morning sun as it, too, found its mark. Bizarre. Almost made me wonder if I was breaking some hoary tradition by not following suit.

That got me thinking about other strange Indian spitting rituals. Have any of the male readers here noticed what goes on around them in the men’s restroom at any multiplex, especially when it’s chock-a-block during the interval? Invariably, many of the men there extend their necks (gingerly) and then spit (not so gingerly) into the urinal before tucking themselves (again, gingerly) back into their flies. Now, I’m nothing if not a Scientific Simian. I therefore decided to observe this phenomenon afresh, and, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, visited a multiplex over the weekend. The results, I must report, were the same. A good number of people (statistically significant?) went thoooh in the loo. I don’t know what pissed them all off, but they did end up looking like spitting images of each other.

So folks, can anyone explain these rituals to me? Why would people passing by roadkill spit on it? And why do men feel the urge to spit while they are peeing? I, for one, am completely baffled. Any answers?

The Dark Knight Rises, but that has a lot to do with all the fluff.

To be honest, I think it’s a victim of the success of the last instalment. But whichever way I look at it, it’s a poorer film than the last one. Not just thematically, but otherwise as well.

The Dark Knight, I thought, was a fantastic film. And while I admit that it would be very difficult for a sequel to live up to that, one would have expected Nolan to have done a better job.

As is often the case, the problem starts with the script. For starters, unlike the last time, when we were confronted with the question of how to deal with Evil that exists purely for the thrill of doing evil, and with no other ambition or motive, this time we are treated to an unconvincing Revenge Drama reminiscent of dhishoom dhishoom Bollywood.

As if this weren’t bad enough, clumsily woven into the narrative from the very beginning is this angst of the 99% against the 1%, starting with Hathaway spouting her equivalent of  the “main chor paida nahin hui milord, mujhe samaj ne chor banaya”  dialogue. That strand is picked up later, culminating in the liberté, égalité, fraternité bits, complete with the storming of the Bastille and Guillotine sentencings.

The characterisations are nothing to write home about either. The whole Bane thing was another throwback to the good ol’ Hindi flicks of the 70s and 80s, where villains like Shakaal, Mugambo, Kancha Cheena and Whatsisname terrorised the local population until they had their comeuppance. That scene in the stadium was reminiscent of Evil Thakur holding sway in Village Square, with Hirsute Henchmen terrorising Helpless Villagers with their Double-Barrelled Guns before spiriting away Voluptuous Village Belle on horseback. Please, Nolan. Been there, done that.

And while it is par for the course today for a movie to have that obligatory twist in the end, must Nolan have fallen prey to that clichéd and desperate attempt of filmmakers to extract some more oohs and aaahs from the audience?  And if it had to be done, it should at least have been done well. As it happens, I guessed the twist(s) fairly early on. Yes, all of them.

Even the action was not as great as it was the last time. Remember the moments leading up to the revelation of the Batpod in The Dark Knight? Nothing close to that here. There’s an extended sequence towards the end with the Batpod, the Bat, a Truck and some other armoured car type thingies that’s good, but not great.

So – not a great script, no great action, mostly pedestrian acting. All in all, a disappointing effort. Coming from a director whom I really admire, the only rationalisation I have is that Nolan is fatigued.

He is fatigued because a franchise kills your creativity. How do you excel in your craft when you are constrained by the specifics of the franchise, hemmed in by the constructs of the initial instalments, and yet under pressure to match not only your own previous works, but also the other I-am-a-Superhero-battling-my-own-demons-and-flirting-with-the-dark-side franchises that seem to be crawling out of the woodwork?

And that’s the problem with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a product of fatigue. Nolan’s fatigue is evident, as is Bale’s. And when the director and the star both seem to be going through the motions, what more can one expect?

It’s official. We’re now a banana republic. I had this sneaking suspicion that we were well on our way when Kapil Sibal started his machinations last year; no doubts remain now that a Professor at Jadavpur University has been arrested for “spreading” a cartoon that shows Mamta Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy in “a poor light” (sic)

Poor light? Really? Newsflash, Didi. Idolising their subjects is not the way cartoons usually make people laugh.

Arresting somebody for expressing his views to people on his email list? Is that the kind of country we have become? First it was obscenity or “offending religious sentiments”. Now it seems you can be imprisoned for cartoons that express dissent, disapproval or just a different point of view.

The way we’re going – corruption, institutional decay, rising intolerance in both the private and public spheres, the economy down the crapper – I seriously need to contemplate emigration. Perhaps a country which, over the next couple of years, might be in a place better than where we’re headed.

Quirkynorthkorean? Has a nice ring to it, I must say.

As if all their other methods were not enough, the master strategists of the Congress have thought of a novel, fool-proof method to thwart public support for the Jan Lokpal bill movement.

They have got a female model to threaten to dance naked if the bill isn’t passed.

Brilliant! What better way of ensuring that all males, 14 and upwards, now actively start campaigning for the bill not to be passed?

Who says the Congress leadership lacks strategic depth?

Digvijay Singh has claimed that if the Congress were scared of Baba Ramdev, he (Ramdev) would be behind bars.

Interesting statement that. Digvijay Singh has said it all, and on many levels.

First, the fact that for many of his ilk, “Congress” and “Government” seem to be perfect synonyms.

Second, and far more revealing of the psychology of Digvijay and his colleagues, is the fact that dissent of any kind – even something as, well, “non-criminal” as a fast – seems to merit imprisonment.

Imprisonment? On what grounds? Isn’t there a well-defined, albeit often violated, procedure for imprisonment? And last I checked, no political party was given the right to decide that by our constitution – even if the offence was one that merited imprisonment and procedure was followed.

A Freudian slip. And a seemingly innocuous statement that reveals the face hiding behind the mask of democracy. A face that says “Agree with us or go to prison”.

So is Anna Hazare’s fast and movement something that will undermine democracy? Or is it simply the weapon of last resort left to a citizenry that has seen systematic weakening – and near dismantling – of many democratic institutions?

Over a year ago,  I wrote “Requiem for a Country”,  a post on some remarkable observations made by Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Rajendra Prasad. One of Dr. Ambedkar’s points of view struck me as being very insightful: that satyagraha and non-cooperation are the “grammar of anarchy”. In the interesting comments that followed that post, I further stressed that in a constitutional democracy, one has to use the tools given to us to seek redressal, and resorting to other means is not desirable. Not everyone agreed, of course.

I still stick to the point of view. But one can’t help but be in awe of what Anna Hazare has done. He has managed to bring together an apathetic nation, and has managed to infuse a sense of purpose into the people. It is very clear that this man has struck a chord with a people desperate for some semblance of change, craving for a symbol and a cause that would enable them to forget their everyday priorities of caste, religion and language.  For that, and for the courage to take a stand, he deserves our honour, gratitude and support.

But where does this all end? No one really knows. Uncomfortable and distraught as I am at the fact that as citizens and voters we have undermined our own constitutional democracy by electing, time and again, the worst possible people to represent us, I am equally uncomfortable with the fact that some NGOs, Magsaysay award winners and activists would now dictate policy. I am terrified of the self-righteous who, in my experience, can be as intolerant and blinkered as the worst bigot you can find.

And is corruption such a big issue to the average Indian voter? I know it is big, but is it big enough to overcome the primary considerations – language, caste and religion, with some electoral freebies thrown in for good measure – of the people of this Great Country? We will find out soon enough.  Our fellow citizens in five states have the opportunity to actually make a difference in their states. They have the tools, the means and the opportunity to drive the change everyone says India wants. Let us see what they do.

Having said that, in all fairness I must also admit that all the commentators and observers who are wary of this phenomenon that Anna Hazare has generated  – and I include myself among them – have failed to come up with any alternative or even a half-way credible solution to set things right. All they keep talking about is how dangerous it is to bypass elected representatives, and undermine the electoral process. And such arguments, without any alternatives, simply reek of hand-wringing helplessness, and only serve to  add credence to the alternative of action. “At least we’re doing something” seems to be the dismissive rejoinder to our notes of caution – and I can’t really blame the people for making that response. After all, see where six decades of constitutional democracy and elected representatives have got us. Surely anything would be better than this lot.

Hard to fault that argument. Except on one count. Where did this corrupt lot come from? Did they impose themselves on us? No. We elected them. We chose them. We applauded them and cheered when they made other illiberal decisions, drafted other draconian laws and nominated some distinctly dodgy people to certain positions of power and responsibility. Yes, we got them there. We had the gift of universal adult suffrage, which other countries are still fighting for, and we systematically squandered it away. Half the population chose not to exercise the right to vote, and the other half elected the very people that we heckle today. What makes us think that a different bucket of water from the same well is going to taste any better? We traded a bunch of white-skinned exploiters for a bunch of dark-skinned exploiters, and we now want to trade in the latter for another bunch with the same skin colour, but with apparently more integrity. But we can never have the ability,  as Dr. Rajendra Prasad rightly said “…to devise any yardstick for measuring the moral qualities of a man, and so long as that is not possible, our Constitution will remain defective”. The wave of enthusiasm sweeping across this country has its hopes underpinned on the fact that activists and “award-winners” will prove to be of better moral calibre than our politicians.

So, will anything change for real? I don’t know. We deserved the governments we got, and I dearly hope I am wrong, but all precedents point to the fact that we will also get the NGOs  and activists we deserve.

My disdain for CNBC and the pundits on it has prevented me from making millions.

I discovered this sad truth earlier today, when some talking head on the channel let slip the secret that’s been eluding me – and I am sure, many others like me – for years. “The trick to making money in the stock market” he revealed, “is to buy stocks cheap.”

No shit, Sherlock.

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