Inception was a movie that I was really looking forward to. Christopher Nolan, DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe – how could it go wrong? The Matrix references only added to my excitement.

Turns out, it’s a good film. But it’s not a great film. Perhaps I have been let down by my expectations. I have watched every film but one of Nolan’s and, while hard-pressed to point out his best, believe that this particular film is not it. It’s a very novel concept, it’s been well executed, but there’s nothing like the kick in the gut one got when one watched The Matrix. One has to admit, though, that The Matrix is a tough act to follow. Even the Wachowskis could never attain the same heights again….they never even came close.

The best thing about Inception is the idea – it’s unique, and it’s clearly been thought through. Nolan has also kept it taut, even if it runs for almost two and a half hours. It’s a good-looking film, well shot, with competent acting, and is definitely worth a watch. I just wish I could better explain this feeling – of something missing – that persisted with me long after the end of the film.


Now to other matters. Two sets of friends are in the middle of divorces. And it just made me realise that men are very often victims as well. In one case, the wife carried on with another man for a long time, and decided to end the marriage. Ok, that happens. You find someone else and decide to move on. The husband, who had no idea, was shocked. But they decided to keep it amicable and civil, and he’s now trying to pick up the pieces of his life.

It’s the divorce of the other couple that has really disturbed me. Wonderful people, both the husband and the wife. I’ve known them for years. They decided to separate, and also figured on doing it amicably and civilly. Things were proceeding well. And suddenly, the husband was threatened with allegations of harassment and torture, and is now being arm-twisted to part with more than he should. And frankly, he was already being more than fair in the settlement. Anyone who knows the couple knows that there is not an iota of truth in those allegations. But the law, when it comes to allegations of this sort, is skewed in favour of the woman, and the man, if he decides to call the bluff here, is in for the long haul – FIR, possible arrest, harassment and possible arrest of his parents, and a long and sapping court battle. With his father having undergone a complicated bypass procedure a few months ago, he is anxious to end this with minimum fuss. Which means giving in to the wife’s extortion.

Most of us who know them are aghast, more so because the wife is also a warm and caring person. At least, she used to be. But greed can, I suppose, make people do strange things.

The unfairness of the law galls me. But it also struck me that this was part of a larger Indian phenomenon – the tendency to cover incompetence and shortcoming in implementation by making tougher laws. So, if women are being harassed and intimidated at home, instead of ensuring that the police investigate such complaints promptly and efficiently, with some degree of competence, we take the short-cut of enacting a tougher law. And as much as domestic violence targeted against women is a sad fact, it is equally true that there are many women who exploit and misuse this law to screw over their husbands.

And we don’t restrict it to that, do we? No. Terror laws, for example. The police can’t competently handle things here as well, so make it easier to pick up people and lock them up for long periods without judicial redress.

In both cases, we have tougher laws – unfair laws, in my opinion – that actually absolve the investigating authorities of the need for any competence and expertise, and instead hand our men in khaki yet another source of income.

It’s shameful – and ironic – how we keep snipping away at the thin sheets of liberty that our constitution gives us, handing over more and more power and control to an already predatory state.

And, as with my friend, it’s always the innocent who bear the brunt.


Did I forget to mention that it’s good to be back?


Three bits of news to gladden the hearts of all Indians:

First, the derogatory, insulting and demeaning portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire has finally been challenged: some intrepid chappie has taken it upon himself to fight for the honour of all Indians! Jai Ho! Artists, film-makers, authors beware: you don’t mess with us.

And then there is the news that a worker’s union vandalised a hotel in Mumbai – in the presence of the police – to protest the sacking of some colleagues. Way to go, guys! Smash windows and destroy furniture. Do your bit to make India a more vibrant democracy. Let’s hear it for more gratuitous mob violence.

Equally heartening was the news of Sukhbir Singh Badal’s coronation as Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab; his father is Chief Minister and other assorted relatives also hang around the corridors of power, having been bequeathed various official positions. The Badal family accounts for a third of the total cabinet portfolios in the state. But why single out the Badals? They’re merely another addition to the long list headed by the Gandhis (fourth generation and counting), the Abdullahs (third generation and counting), the Pilots, the Pawar-Sules, the Scindias, the Thackerays, the Marans, the Karunanidhi clan, the Deve Gowda family, the Devi Lal bunch, Mulayam Singh & Sons & Co., the Charan Singh parivaar, the NTR family, the Patnaiks of Orissa…..the list, you will be happy to know, goes on and on. And on.

While on the subject of democracies, I am also proud of how our democracy has matured. Most other democracies, besides resisting the concept of dynastic succession in politics, resist the inclusion of criminals as well. We are above such petty traditions that limit the boundaries of individual freedom. We have, to show the world how it should be done, gone ahead and given a standing ovation to a candidate who combines both these qualities: Sanjay Dutt. He has everything we desire in a politician. He’s an actor, his father was an MP and while his sister inherited that particular constituency, that did not stop selfless Sanjay from wanting to help the people as well. He’s also been convicted for illegal possession of an automatic weapon, even though the fact that he was acquitted of charges of terrorism and conspiracy against the state does lessen his appeal somewhat. The people of Lucknow are truly fortunate to have such an illustrious citizen willing to take on the rigours of parliamentary life for them.

Some of you might – quite rightly – point out that the US, for example, might be going the same way when it comes to dynasties, though on a smaller scale. Well, I want India to take credit for that as well. Like we did earlier in our glorious past, 5000 years ago, it is time, again, for India to spread its message and philosophy across the world. Haven’t you heard the (apocryphal) story about Laloo Yadav? Someone once suggested to him that he should hire Japanese consultants who could help change Bihar into something like Japan. Laloo is reputed to have retorted, “Send me to Japan for three months….I’ll make it another Bihar”.

Perhaps that’s the way the world is headed. Our time has come!

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!