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?

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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.

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.

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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.

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

Indyeah has resurfaced with another long (no surprises there!), well-meaning post that asks why we seem to be Punjabis, Jats, Malayalis, Yadavs, Dalits and Kannadigas, but not Indians. A post written, I suspect, more in hope, idealism and perhaps frustration than anything else.

So, who is an Indian? Ask me. I really don’t belong anywhere – including the place where my ancestors lived. At any place in India, wherever I go, my identity and acceptance –and therefore my ability to function as a normal human – seem to hinge on my speaking a particular language, or my belonging to a certain caste, a certain religion, a certain ethnicity. The boundaries of identity that we have been drawing around ourselves seem to be getting tighter and tighter, as we discover reason after reason for some new fissure, a fresh fracture. Ironically, the only place within India where I will be labelled and identified (and therefore hated) as Indian is Kashmir.

I don’t see this changing. If anything, I see these fissures getting wider and deeper. Why, you ask? Well, for one, constitutionally-guaranteed-right-to-work-anywhere-in-India or not, migration will always happen. Both from within the country and outside. We might grow from 6 cities that are economic magnets, for instance, to 12 cities that attract the bulk of the migrants. But the flow of migrants is not going to stop – at most, it might ease somewhat. Then there’s this wonderful concept of identity, honed to a fine art in this country called India. The politics of identity feeds on the concept of the ‘other’. My thesis is that migration will not stop. Ergo, the conclusion is that neither will the politics of identity. Not here, not anywhere. But here’s what’s worse – even if I am wrong, and migration does stop, the politics of identity will never go away. If there’s no ‘other’ from ‘outside’, well, a new ‘other’ will be created, from the existing, deceptively homogeneous mass. There will always be new players who will want power and a piece of the pie – and they will slice and dice identities until, quite literally, there might come a day when the politics of identity will reach ridiculous levels. You know, when we have political parties like the Mylapore Dravida Nadar Catholic Kazhagam, or the Nizamuddin East Punjabi Hindu Khatri Janata Vikas Manch.

And don’t think I’m trying to be funny here. (Well, maybe a little…). But isn’t it true that we have moved into an era of even greater fragmentation, where everyone seems to be getting violently agitated about the same things – caste, language, religion, region – but in a more granular way? Witness the rise of the sub-categories: sub-castes, dialects, sects, sub-sects and sub-ethnicities.

Of course, we will have the usual apologists who dole out the same tired clichés about how great India is notwithstanding all this…their arguments (and that’s being charitable) seem to be in the form of ‘only 60 years, so much progress, growing economy, survived global recession, hum honge kaamyab, superpower’ without looking at either our trajectory or the direction in which we are heading.

A bunch of businessmen getting richer and entering the global list of billionaires is great. The emergence of a middle class more prosperous than the previous generation is wonderful. A million or so bloggers having collective orgasms about India’s place in the world is fantastic. But we seem to forget that timelines have been seriously crunched in this age we live in. Each generation demands faster and quicker change. All this optimism – we shall overcome, we are the best and other such infantile fantasies – does not seem to have much basis in reality, unless of course the reality is that these optimists live in a mythical India far, far way from the dust, grime and poverty of the real one. The real India in which – depending on which definition you use – around a third of the population lives in poverty. The real India in which a great part of the country is wracked by a deeply-entrenched and violent Maoist insurgency. The real India where half the children are underweight. The real India where the forgotten millions live, struggling to make ends meet, without access to water or basic health care. Did I mention primary education? This cheery list could go on.

But Indyeah’s article was more an attempt to find solutions. Well, to be proud of being Indians, we first need to be proud of India. And we can be proud of a better India. So there we go. That’s the ultimate question, as far as we are concerned. Do you want Better India? Yes. Can we expect anything good from Our Great Rulers? No. So now it’s down to us.

I believe small things can make a difference. While Indians don’t give back to society and are not philanthropists in any sense of the word, we could – and should – guide the next generation in that direction. We can just start by behaving like good citizens. Let’s be courteous to our fellow citizens – in small ways, in the way that we dispose off our trash, in the way we drive, in the way we stand in queues and generally in the way we behave, especially in public areas. Let’s teach our children these small things. Perhaps they’ll be better people than us. Better People.

Pay for an underprivileged child’s education – fees, books, the works. Any child in your immediate vicinity. Ideally, as far as resources and time permit, do more than that – take an interest in her education. Monitor her progress. Interact with her. Hopefully, that child will learn something other than what is in books, and perhaps the India of 2030 might be a slightly better place than the one of today – and that’s not really a big ask!

I truly believe this is something small enough to easily do, but big enough to matter.

(The Original Cynical QI Will Be Back In The Next Post)

So the media circus around Kasab is hopefully about to get over. I, for one, might be accused of being callous for not understanding what the enormous fuss was all about. The man deserved a fair trial; our judicial system – aided, no doubt, by the fact that the accused was captured on camera – outdid itself in turning in a verdict in a little over a year’s time. Hallelujah!

Many people have already picked up the pieces of their broken lives and moved on, some will probably find some closure with this verdict, and some will never be able to move on. And that’s that. Still doesn’t explain the circus, but then, I’m slow.

But does the matter end here? Fuck no!

There’s the small matter of there being no hangman available. So here’s how things might pan out in the next few years, according to Quirky Indian’s Crystal Ball.

Q4 2011: Various appeals by Kasab for commutation of the sentence are rejected. Finally, the sentence stands.

Q1 2012: Ooops, no hangman.

Q4 2012: Still no hangman

Q2 2013: Government decides to fill the vacant hangman positions. Raj wants only locals to even think of applying. “Others who even think of applying will face action, MNS style.”

Q4 2013: 3 candidates have been selected from amongst the 1673489 applicants (including engineers, lawyers and MBAs). But some disgruntled applicant who was not selected filed a lawsuit alleging irregularity in the selection procedure.

Q2 2016: The courts finally throw out the lawsuit and lift the stay on the appointment of 3 selected candidates. But now there are only 2, as the 3rd candidate has become a ward boy in a BMC hospital.

Q3 2016: Another lawsuit filed by an NGO demanding that the hangings take place in the chronological order of sentencing.

Q4 2016: The government agrees that the sanctity of the queue on death row be maintained.

Q4 2020: The backlog is finally over, Afzal is still ignored, but Kasab’s turn is here.

Q1 2021: A leading TV channel exposes a scam in the procurement of the hangman’s noose and prisoner’s hood. Opposition demands the PM resign, stalls parliament for 6th day in succession, and the talking heads slug it out on TV. Couple of officials transferred. JPC constituted to look into this. Opposition is now desperate – tones down its demand – now wants somebody, anybody to resign. Nobody obliges.

Q4 2025: JPC submits its report. No concrete proof of irregularities found. The hangings can continue.

Q1 2026: Human right groups make a concerted effort to abolish the death penalty. Endless chatter on TV news convinces the government to dither on this issue.

Q1 2030: Government still undecided on death penalty.

Q2 2035: Kasab chokes to death on a piece of his mutton biryani. He was also high on drugs, which is why he could not call for medical assistance on his cell phone. Turned out he called a stripper by mistake. Her services were not needed – he was quite stiff by the time she got to his cell.

Q4 2040: Afzal’s still waiting…..

(QI consults by appointment only)

“No trial and no exchange on undergarments”

Duh! I should hope not!

The question is, do stores that do not explicitly state this policy allow trials and exchange of underwear?

Interesting question, that. Adds a whole new and sinister dimension to that mild, innocuous itch, doesn’t it? 🙂

It’s a tough life for us godmen. After all the enlightening, awakening, healing and guiding that we’re expected to do, one would think that we were entitled to some R&R. But no, that can’t happen, can it? You spend all your waking hours serving your congregation, showing them the way to knowledge and bliss, and what do you get in return? Vilification and public humiliation.

There was this actress who was very upset that her career wasn’t doing much for her. “Look at me, Swami. I am talented and gorgeous and fame still eludes me. Oh, please show me the light…..please show me the way……”

Well, what could I do? There’s an SOP for people who want to see the light, who want to find the way. Ironically, even if it’s the light of fame and the way to prosperity that they seek, it involves casting aside worries and worldly possessions. And, as any fool knows, clothes are worldly possessions. So cast them aside she did. Again, being vertical is not a good way to see the light….the bulb’s on the ceiling, after all. So, she got horizontal. I did too…all the better to show her the light, my dears! So I showed her the light and the way – not necessarily in that order – and she showed me her moves. Oh, did she ever….!

And see what happened….and don’t take me literally, you vicariously gratified bastards! You’ve done enough of that.

Man, it sucks being victimised. After all, I just did all that I did to fulfil the aspirations of a devotee.

Not that all this hate and derision bothers me. I am a guru, and I’ve stashed away loads. (All in the course of helping lost souls shed the baggage of worldly possessions…) Besides, you know what they say…….sticks and stoners can’t break your boners…..

Perhaps I can still make a go of it? Or should I find something else to do? Something similar, something that again involves selfless service to the people? Politics, maybe? Well, what better place to start a career in politics than in prison. Talk about head starts. So that worked out OK, eh? Phew.

Though it’s a shame to be changing professions. I kinda like hanging free, if you know what I mean, in those loose robes. They’re easier to cast aside – and khadi is itchy. Should I get into a related field? Like tantric-sex wish-fulfilment therapy? Because I was really good at this. And it worked, didn’t it? For the actress, I mean. She’s famous and all over the internet and TV now, isn’t she? And look where I ended up.

So you see, the media got it all backwards. It is I who got screwed.