Indian Quirks

Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi, feels that a woman driving home in her car late at night in India’s capital is being adventurous. In other words, she’s asking to be killed. Women shouldn’t travel at night. Better still, they should probably never leave home at all. After marriage at 18 (unless she thinks it should be earlier), and after getting themselves impregnated at regular intervals, shouldn’t they stay home, bringing up the children and cooking for the husband?

Silly season, as you can see, continues.

Ramadoss bans smoking, and gives the police another handle to beat the citizen with. So a friend of mine, smoking in his car, was flagged down by overzealous policemen and told he couldn’t smoke in his car. To which he produced the rules related to the smoking ban and asked them to show where it said so. They couldn’t. Deprived of some easy money, the cops then checked his driving license, PUC certificate, registration and insurance papers. Disappointed at not finding anything amiss, they reluctantly let him go.

The Rajkot police, meanwhile, ever vigilant and conscientious about their duties as Enforcers-Of-Indian-Feminine-Modesty, have put backless cholis on their Dandiya blacklist. Not for our young girls these indecent, flesh-showing cholis. This is not what Indian culture (arre, more than 5000 years, you are not understanding?) is about. This is Women Being Adventurous. And being adventurous, as we know, can either get you killed, or knocked up. The Sheila would approve.

Take heart, fellow citizens. This only goes to show that underneath our petty regional differences, we are still a nation, bound by stupidity and regressive thinking.

There is also good news. (Surely you didn’t think I was just a purveyor of gloom?) Anyway, the good news is contraceptive sales are up 25% in Ahmedabad. And I’m sure in Mumbai as well. It’s good news because this season’s a shag fest anyway, and at least some of the copulating couples have figured out that safe sex is the way to go.


New Delhi and Swarg, Aug 05: In a scathing indictment of temporal and spiritual politics alike, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court expressed its anguish over the state of affairs in India.

Indian politicians, now immune to such pronouncements, had no comments.

There was no response from God’s office and residence to an email asking for comments on the observations. Later in the day, however, God’s official spokesperson addressed a thinly-attended press conference (most press-people were attending a Q&A with Katrina Kaif).

When asked for God’s reactions to the Apex Court’s observation that “Even God will not be able to save this country. In India even if God comes down he cannot change our country. Our country’s character has gone. We are helpless”, the spokesperson had this terse reply to offer: “God is in complete agreement with the honourable judges and has nothing further to say in this matter.”

The spokesperson also declined to comment on who God thought was India’s No. 1 heroine.

Further details are awaited.

Among the many admirable traits Indians have, perhaps none defines us better than our propensity for mob violence.

We love being part of violent mobs.

There are enough instances where this has been demonstrated – across the length and breadth of the country. Various pundits have waxed eloquent on this remarkable manifestation of the Indian character. They talk about such probable causes as frustration (either with our lot or the redressal system), a weak and apathetic administration and police force, rabble-rousing politicians and a host of other reasons. I think they all miss the point. We indulge in mob violence because we are like that only.

We are a nation of very timid individuals, but violent mobs. All that shit about Indians, as a nation, being peace-loving and passive is just that – shit. We love the idea of violence, but being smart, we also know that in a violent situation, there is the probability – however small – that we might get hurt ourselves. So, being rational and cerebral and all of that, we seek to minimise that probability. (Thus, we also excel in incidents of individual violence where the threat to us is non-existent. As individuals, we cleverly target all who can’t hit back – women, children, the weak and downtrodden, certain animals…). We endeavour to get that particular variable – the possibility of physical harm to oneself – out of the equation. And the ingenious, inventive and innovative (in these matters) Indian brain hit upon a great concept – mob violence. And we have even managed to give it the respectability of a legitimate form of democratic protest. Wah bhai wah!

The sheer brilliance of the concept is breathtaking. What better way of ensuring zero probability of physical harm to ourselves while indulging in all kinds of violent activities than being part of a mob? In a mob you’re protected. Both from physical harm to yourself, and the other consequent post-violence irritants. Since mob violence has been co-opted into our great democratic tradition, it is today a legitimate expression of the anger of the people, sanctified by years of public and individual apathy.

So whether we want to protest about some cartoons we’ve never seen, or some painting we’ve never looked at, some film we’ve never watched or just some view that we don’t agree with – there is nothing more democratic and equitable (redistribution of wealth and all that!) than a little loot and arson.

Or when we are hurt about the government not including our caste or tribe in the reserved list, we show our displeasure by rioting and destroying public property. Or as members of a political party, we call a bandh and violently enforce it.

Or if, in our never-ending and noble quest to build a crime-free society, we lynch a few alleged thieves – that’s just us taking our civic responsibilities seriously.

Or when we don’t like what’s written in a newspaper we set fire to the newspaper’s office with people inside it. Third-degree burns and death – both powerful and effective means of democratic persuasion. Dead people don’t write negative articles, do they?

In the safety of numbers, these brave Indians go around smashing windshields and stores, burning buses, cars and offices, attacking hapless bystanders and lynching thieves.

In a gleeful, cathartic frenzy, we hit, we lynch, we rape, we loot, we burn, we destroy. And we get away.

We get away on two levels. First, being part of a rampaging mob means our victims pose no physical threat to us. Second, we are always protected against any aftermath by being part of a political, social, religious, caste-based or linguistic group that was expressing a form of democratic protest. We’re a democracy. There’s immunity in numbers in this country.

So let’s continue strengthening the democratic tradition and building a better country by assaulting defenceless people and indulging in a little loot and arson. Let us continue being the brave Indians we are.

Jai Hind.

Isn’t it a sad day for Indian democracy when the fate of the government depends on the likes of Mohammed Shahabuddin, Pappu Yadav, Suraj Bhan, Afzal Ansari, Ateeq Ahmed and others of their ilk? And while these are the ones who have been convicted, it seems that approximately one-fourth of India’s elected representatives have criminal investigations or cases pending against them. As I wrote in one of my earlier posts, the charges range from murder, rape, attempt to murder, intimidation, rioting and robbery.

So tell me, folks – do we have our own version of the Statue of Liberty outside the hallowed portals of Indian democracy? Complete with our own version of The New Colossus:

“Keep ancient land, your weak and the good!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your crooks, thieves and more,

Your many scoundrels yearning to sin with impunity,

The wretched, stinking refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, charlatans and felons all, ballot-tost to me,

And then do you prepare to bend over some more”

(With apologies to Emma Lazarus)

From what we see, it sure looks like it.

“Bharat Ka Gaurav – Obama”…….sounds ridiculous? Unlikely to be the headline on an Indian news channel? Well, not if you see the kind of hoopla beginning to build around Obama and his Indian good-luck charm.

Apparently, of the many good-luck charms the guy carries with him, one is a tiny statue of Hanuman. (Seems to me it’s a figurine of Kali rather than Hanuman, but what’s my keen observation against the numerical strength of uninformed journalistic opinion?) And have we started to go overboard! Prayers for his success have been organised at some Delhi temple, and some businessman wants to send him some books and Hanuman pictures.

I can see the beginnings of another Indian jamboree here. Come October, there will be havans, prayer meetings and the like for his success. Everyone will try to outdo everyone else in this game.

Some news channel will find some Indian who happened to be in Indonesia when Obama was there. Notwithstanding the fact that they lived on different streets, if not in different towns, this intrepid Indian will talk about how Obama was “a nice, well-behaved boy. Studious student. Even then he was to be showing focus and determination. Even then, I knew he is making it big someday.”

Then another (random) talking head – “you not knowing? He is the devotee of Hanumanji. He is carrying his idol in pockets. I am hearing he is fasting on Tuesdays and has become vegetarian only.”

Not to be outdone, another news channel will find some guy in Bhatinda whose second cousin, once removed, went to the same high-school as Obama’s mother. Out comes the yearbook, with the cousin’s picture on page 5 and Obama’s mum’s on page 13. The anchor calls the cousin in the US – “abhi sirf iss channel pay, live hum apke liye lay kay aayen hain Obama ki maa ki classmate, Satwinder. To ji Satwinderji, aap hame yeh batayen ki aapko iss waqt kaise lag raha hain? Kyaa Obama jeetenge?” (Only on this channel, live and exclusive, we have Obama’s mum’s classmate, Satwinder. So Satwinder, how do you feel about this? Will Obama win?)

Satwinder – “hanji. You know, woh bahut mature politician hain, aur unhe India kay liye bahut feelings hain. Hum sub bahut excitement main hain ji.” (Yes. You know, he is a very mature politician, who feels a lot for India. We are all very excited.)

Anchor: “Jee haan, bilkul. Accha Satwinderji, aap Obama ki mataji kay saath school main theen…” (Of course. OK Satwinder, so you were in school with Obama’s mother?)

And some more gems about how Satwinder and Obama’s mum regularly sat two tables apart at the cafeteria. Then Satwinder’s cousin, cut up at being ignored for the last 5 minutes, butts in and says how they are organising an all-faith prayer meeting in Bhatinda for Obama’s success and how he has managed to get 1000 schoolchildren to send “Good Luck Obama Uncleji” cards.

And then we have more of this tripe, with the other news-channels also doing pretty much the same thing.

Of course, the real circus will begin if Bobby Jindal decides to run for vice-president.

People in his ancestral village had a collective orgasm when he was elected Governor. We are going to have orgies of joy if he decides to be McCain’s running mate.

And then we will witness the miracle that 61 years of (splintered) Indian democracy could not achieve. Indians will be split down the middle between two political parties.

The hitch being both parties will be American.

But hey – it’s a start.

My last post was an interview with an Elected Representative of the people of India, where the REP dismissed all allegations and charges against him as baseless and politically motivated – “by my enemies”. Strangely enough, I read this morning that one of these politicians (our guiding lights!) actually made a statement like that to the press. Read on.

I am sure a lot of us are happy to hear that the Yadav brothers have been convicted in the Nitish Katara murder case. But Daddy Dearest, also known as DP Yadav, a powerful UP politician, called a press conference, alleging that this verdict was a conspiracy to politically destroy him. Read that hilarious statement here.

Really now, Daddy? And I suppose the fact that your son is already serving a sentence for tampering with evidence in the Jessica Lal case was another conspiracy to destroy you politically. It seems to me that it is your son who is your political enemy. Isn’t it amazing, the lengths he goes to just to screw you over? What did you do to make him so angry?

Well, sad as it may be, your son and nephew have been convicted. You have other options open to you now to set aside this judgement – you can appeal, you can bribe your way through the system, you can intimidate the deceased’s family to withdraw the charges, you can tamper with evidence, you can browbeat the system. We’ll see how that goes. It’s not going to be easy for Neelam Katara – you’ll ensure that. But hopefully, this time, one of the little people you lot have been so used to squishing underfoot will win. And to hell with the fact that it’s afternoon – I’ll drink to that!

Sound of spitting. Again. A fart.

Vigorous crotch scratching.

REP: I heard today that some newspaper talked about this Lalit Modi guy having a drug charge against him in America. He even had to do community service because of that. Anyway, some people are saying that he shouldn’t be the VP of the BCCI. As an elected representative of the people, I am in complete agreement with that. Such people should not be allowed to run cricket. People involved with drugs spoil generations, they corrupt the youth and destroy the future of the country.

QI: Ummm, so what you are saying is that after having undergone the stipulated hours of community service, and being allowed by the court in the US to legally return to India, he should not be part of the BCCI?

REP: Absolutely. What kind of example is he setting Indian youth, the cricketing icons, and the public?

QI: Ummm….but haven’t you been charge-sheeted yourself in offences ranging from intimidation, rape, murder and attempt to murder? Not to mention some disproportionate assets case?

REP (benignly): That is different….how can you compare the two? The cases against me are frivolous ones filed at the instigation of my enemies. Nothing has been proven. That rape case… proof. Just to malign me. The truth is that woman was a thief, entered my house illegally…..

QI: Entered your house illegally? With the security cover the government has given you? Not to mention your armed goons?

REP: Please don’t interrupt. The government security is obviously inadequate, which is why I have asked for the highest cover possible. And please don’t make baseless remarks about my party associates. They are not goons. Anyway, this woman broke in, probably to steal something. I walked into my bedroom and saw her going through my cupboard. Seeing me, she was startled and started to run. Her saree caught in the door and tore, and as she ran, she fell down the stairs, badly hurting herself. And my enemies call it rape?

QI: So you’re saying she fell down the stairs and suffered scratch and bruise marks on the face and chest, not to mention serious vaginal tear and laceration? From falling down the stairs?!

REP: Of course. She has made wild accusations, and has not been able to prove it in court. What to do? Such accusations are common for public servants like me. But I am a mature person. And as befits a magnanimous public figure, I did not make a complaint of breaking and entering against her. Please, no more comments on this, the matter is sub-judice.

QI: What about the charge of murdering your political rivals, C and D?

REP: Another baseless fabrication concocted by my enemies. I have no role in their unfortunate deaths. C died in a road accident. And D drowned.

QI: You realise the charges are that C was killed before the road accident, and the hit-and-run was fabricated after he had been bludgeoned to death? And that D was a champion swimmer and there was no way he could’ve drowned in 4 feet of water?

REP (indulgently): You are watching too many fillims. Please don’t believe in lies spread by my enemies and the biased media. There is no proof. Witnesses have changed statement and are now telling the truth. Please, no more comments on this, the matter is sub-judice.

QI: So you deny any charges of intimidating witnesses, tampering with evidence and generally subverting the investigative process in each of these cases?

REP: Please, no more comments on this, the matter is sub-judice. You will see. Hopefully in the next two decades we will have a verdict. You will see, I am innocent. How can you accuse me when there is no proof? I have not been convicted.

QI: Like you said, hopefully the truth will out by 2020. OK, since you keep talking about proof – what about the sting operations which caught you taking a bribe on camera, and the subsequent one where you were caught in a romp with a prostitute?

REP: I was accepting money for the party.

QI: The tape shows you promising to make sure the contract would be awarded to them. And that the money was for you… that you could make sure their bid won.

REP: No, no, I have denied this, even in the house. It is all a ratings game by these irresponsible channels. They have fabricated the tape. It is me on tape, but accepting money as a donation to the party. But the voice is not mine. Those are not my words. The tape has been doctored. The house is investigating this entrapment of an elected representative. We have taken a very serious view of this.

QI: And the prostitute sting? There are no sounds there. At least, there are no words….there are plenty of other sounds.

REP: Special effects… is a plot by a foreign power to destabilise the country by undermining its elected representatives. I am telling you, what magic these special effects can do! During the time of the alleged sting operation, I was not even in the city. My bodyguards have testified that I was actually in my farmhouse. The house is going to deal with this wicked TRP game of these channels. You wait and see.

QI: Okay – so your answer to every charge and accusation is that it has been fabricated by your enemies. And that you haven’t been convicted yet. So tell me, if you are convicted by 2020, will you resign if you are still a member?

REP: I have full faith in the courts of our country. They will never wrongly convict an innocent man, especially if he is a public servant. But more than that, I believe in the power of the people. We are a democracy. The people’s court – the elections – have proven time and again that I am innocent. And as long as the people have declared me innocent, I don’t think there is a higher authority in India that can make me resign. Democracy you see. Power of the people is supreme. Jai Hind.

Some more vigorous crotch-scratching and nose-digging. Another fart. Clearly, the interview is over. Hastily avoiding a ball of booger casually flicked in my direction, I make my exit, my belief in India’s future stronger than ever, my faith in Indian democracy vindicated.

PS: Read an article today on how an old drug possession case came back to haunt Lalit Modi. This got me thinking about the fact that current statistics show that almost 25% of members of parliament in India have criminal investigations or cases pending against them. The figure is even worse for the state legislatures taken collectively. Charges common to many are intimidation, attempt to murder, murder, rioting, rape and robbery. Oh yes, there’s also the minor matter of disproportionate assets. Has anyone seen a POOR or MIDDLE-CLASS elected representative? And remember, you cannot apply for a government job with any of these complaints against you, guilty or not guilty. And chances are that the private sector will also take serious note of such allegations if brought against an employee. Yet these guys sit as elected representatives and collectively decide the fate of a billion Indians!

In pre-independence India, the sanction of a separate electorate system based on religion was like a seal of approval for the call to partition India on the basis of religion. We are now all set to revisit history.

I normally don’t like – in the communally volatile and polarised atmosphere we live in – to comment on issues of religion, since we have lost the ability to debate rationally and objectively. But this bit of news I came across was so sublimely ridiculous, I just had to share it.

In 2006, when the government wanted to undertake a headcount of Muslims in the Indian Army, I was appalled. Luckily for all of us, the move was dropped. But with elections due next year, I guess some shocks are still in store. Like the recent move of the government to station Muslim personnel in Muslim-dominated areas. I mean, seriously, what were these guys thinking?

More importantly, where does this stop? So will the Indian Administrative Service be sub-divided into the Hindu Administrative Service, the Muslim Administrative Service, the Sikh Administrative Service and so on? Ditto for the Indian Police Service. And all other government institutions and services. Of course, given the way we are headed, we will soon have Lingayat personnel for Lingayat dominated areas, Yadav personnel for Yadav dominated areas, Maratha personnel for Maratha dominated areas…you get the gist. We could even extend these to take “gotras” into account. We could cross-reference transfers and appointments on the basis of religion, caste, sub-caste, language, dialect and even shoe-sizes.

Of course, I am not one to stand in the way of such progressive empowerment of the disadvantaged, or grudge them their rightful share in the resources of the nation. Just think – right now, while it is only us Indians who enjoy the benefit of having dismal healthcare, non-existent sanitation, woefully inadequate infrastructure, pathetic primary education, low safety & security and corrupt local administrations, we could soon be on our way to a more egalitarian society, where every religion-language-caste-based sub-group can have its due share of this bountiful largesse.

Yep, our tryst with destiny is about to happen!

Indians are a family people. We love families. We especially love political families – it’s in our genes.

Remember the hullabaloo over some Congress functionary calling Rahul Gandhi “Yuvraaj”? (English translation – crown prince). So what’s the problem? He stated a fact. It is the truth. Look at the empirical evidence. Rahul’s great-grandfather was prime minister. His grandmother was prime minister. His father was prime minister. His mother could’ve been prime minister….she chose not to take it up.

Now, I’m not a betting man, but given these statistics, betting on Rahul becoming prime minister is a sure winner. Arjun Singh has already set the ball rolling on that. The only person that could queer his pitch – surprise, surprise – is his sister.

Is this an isolated case? Not at all. Look at the Scindias, the Deoras, the Dutts, Karunanidhi and progeny, Thackeray and clan, the Pawars, Devegowda and clan, Lalu-Rabri, Mulayam and clan, Farooq Abdullah and co., Devi Lal and clan – we have a fairly representative sample from across the length and breadth of our great land.

Now, someone less quirky might say that this is actually a reflection of the fact that our democracy has not matured, has not permeated to the grassroots, and is still a top-down affair. Others might say this is a symptom of a devastating weakness in our public institutions.

My take is – notwithstanding the Kennedys and the two Bushs – this is yet another unique Indian trait. It’s another manifestation of what’s in our DNA – whether we’re Assamese, Gujarati, Punjabi or Tamil. (The discovery of that yet unknown unique gene/chromosome marker – that makes us so indisputably Indian – could be an even bigger story than the discovery of the M130 chromosome marker in Tamil Nadu.)

We are like this only. So nobody bats an eyelid when Parliamentary seats or Assembly seats – even Chief Ministerships and Prime Ministerships – are bequeathed as legacies. It’s routine. Standard operating procedure.

Perhaps one day bureaucratic positions will also go the same way. So police stations, district commissionerships, city police commissionerships and chief secretaryships shall all stay within the family.

I’m all done in child, here, take the baton and run.

And we, the people, cheer from the sidelines!