Decoding Bhagwat-Modi duo’s Googly

September 23, 2018 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Media, Musings)

The Chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat’s statement saying Muslims are a part of the Hindu Rashtra dream of the RSS and their vision of the nation has a place for Muslims though appears to be a googly, beyond the surface actually it isn’t.

The statement made by the RSS chief at the three day conglomeration of the Sangh, came couple of days after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the commemoration of the Martyrdom of Imam Husain at Indore. At the programme organised by the Dawoodi Bohra community, the act of Prime Minister Narednra Modi embracing the religious head of Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin created ripples along with the praise made by him of the Bohra community.

Both these events came as a surprise to all including both the supporters and critiques of the Prime Minister and his ideological family- RSS. But a close observation of this reveals that neither of them is playing off the tune notes.

The RSS has never in its history held the desire to wipe Muslims out of this country. They, starting from their Guru Golwalkar, have always maintained the position that Muslims should live in India like second grade citizens. The allegory given by RSS throughout their history is that of big brother and younger brother, demanding the Muslims as the younger brother accept an unequal position and listen to the elder brother, the Hindus.

Yes, of course the RSS and the Prime Minister are saying nothing new or different from the philosophy of the party. But they are speaking half-truth making their position appear like that of inclusion and respect, at an interesting turn of times. No, this is not just an appropriation tactic before the elections and appeasement of the well to do Bohra community. It is all of that but it is not just that.

A close observation of the Congress party and its action reveals how desperately it is trying to impress the Hindu community and at proving itself as not an anti-Hindu party or a pro-Muslim party. Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples were one of the series of things orchestrated by the Congress party to make this point. A fresh action on the same lines for the same purpose is the journey to be taken in Madhya Pradesh by five leaders, including Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh, called Rampath Gaman. In this journey they will be retracing the footsteps of Ram and Sita during their exile.

It can be remembered how the BJP and RSS went on an aggressive hate campaign against the Congress accusing them of being pleasers of the Muslim community and being anti-Hindu. The BJP and RSS bullied the Congress so much that under the pressure of it now the Congress is trying to prove itself as a not an anti-Hindu party! Apparently, the Congress has fallen into the trap.

BJP and RSS, like they have been doing in the recent past, are again dictating the rules of the game and all of the opposition, not just Congress, are playing the game as per the rules decided by the BJP and RSS.

The action of the Congress, which is a reaction to the allegations made by the BJP, has actually triggered a sense of abandonment among the Muslims, who already have been feeling alienated because of the politics of the BJP and RSS. Taking advantage of this situation, now BJP is trying to tell the Muslim community that the Congress cannot be trusted while they can be. But of course the condition always is that the Muslim community will have to accept a second grade citizenship and behave like a younger brother, obedient to the elder brother. With Congress abandoning them, the Muslim community is forced to give supporting BJP a thought. Thus the BJP has erased opposition further.

Moreover, one should realize that Modi and the RSS are now so powerful that they can say whatever they wish to say and continue to do what they believe in, without bothering if their words and actions might appear contrary. Social scientists have identified this new phenomenon being seen not just in India but also in the United States of America and Russia where the authoritarian figures are making contrary statements one after the other and still not being held accountable or answerable neither for any of their statements or for their contradictions. The powerful, it is said, is so powerful that they determine what is to be believed as the truth. The new phenomenon is like a Chinese proverb that says, “That which triumphs is the truth,” which is quite the opposite of what was being told and believed in India: “Truth triumphs.”

In such a scenario what we can infer from what Modi and the RSS are saying is not that they have undergone a change of heart but only that they are more powerful than ever.

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Stree

September 10, 2018 at 9:15 PMSep (Cinema, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

In the country where superstitions are deep rooted, in times when champions of anti-superstition bill are being killed, to make a film like Stree is undoubtedly an act of bravery. In Bombay cinema the genre of horror films has always played to the stereotype using the superstitions to its benefit and has strengthened those superstitions. Stree breaks away from this tradition and subverts not just this genre but also more.

The last few years, specifically after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident and the following protests across nations, Bombay cinema has played to the newly awakened feminist thought line among the masses. If one were to look at it just as a response of popular culture without diving deep into discussions about feminism and the feminism of popular culture, one can say that these series of films including titles like Gulaab Gang, Pink, NH 10, Queen, Highway etc, have tried to make a point in their own ways and attempted to puncture the prevailing patriarchal ideas and beliefs. But more or less all these films have been quite two dimensional and more or less sloganeering, even if we have to assess these films as cinema of popular culture. Stree does what all these films attempted to do, in a much engaging and convincing manner without reducing the thought into slogans or sermons!

Very few imaginative writers and directors are able to make a larger point through a genre like that of horror films, Under the Shadow, written and directed by the Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari being one of those exceptional cases. For a nation where stories of ghosts and spirit existing is more or less equal to the head count of living human beings in the country and where there has been a tradition of horror films across A and B grade films, it has not been much possible to do turn the superstitions on their head and through them make a comment on the real! Stree becomes an important film for these reasons!

Stree written by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK and directed by Amar Kaushik is refreshingly original which at the very beginning of the film declares it is based on ‘a ridiculous phenomenon’. Making its position clear thus, the film goes on to weave horror, humour, satire in right elements and present a film which is hilarious, scary and also political.

Set in the small town Chanderi, the film Stree revolves around the myth of a ghost, known just by the name Stree, who every year visits the town only at the time of festival and picks men up leaving behind only their clothes. To save the men in their house each house write on their walls, “Aye Stree, Kal Aana,” to mean, “Oh Stree, come tomorrow.” Writing this, it is believed, will keep the ghost away. If this is to save the men at home, there is no way one can save the men on streets during those four nights during the festival. The easiest way found out by the men of the town is to not step out of their house after sunset. By chance if they have to step out, it is believed they should not meet eyes with Stree who is believed to call men from behind thrice before abducting them.

Vicky (played by Rajkumar Rao) is a tailor in Chanderi popular for his ways of taking measurement without using a measuring tape but through his gaze alone. His friends are Bittu, who owns a readymade clothing shop and Jaana. The friendship of these three and their acquaintances with the town scholar Rurdra (played by Pankaj Tripathi) keeps underlining the quintessential quality of a small town, its worldview and its lifestyle. One day Vicky meets a girl (played by Shraddha Kapoor) who wants to get a dress stitched before the last day of the festival and a fond relationship flowers between the two. Her refusal to reveal her identity, her phone number and her strange demands for the tail of a lizard, hair of a cat etc. in her first letter to Vicky, which he and his friends understand as a love letter, makes his friends come to the conclusion that this mysterious friend of Vicky in real is Stree and is after his life. What adds strength to this conclusion of theirs is the fact that this unnamed girl doesn’t enter the temple or take the prashaad offered by the temple and more importantly nobody except Vicky has seen or met this girl.

When his two friends arrive at this conclusion Vicky has gone to meet the girl in an abandoned place. The friends go in search of Vicky to save him and fail to find him. The two scared of being spotted by Stree return and in the last leg of their way back take different routes to go to their respective places. That is when Stree makes Jaana her catch, leaving behind only his clothes.

The disappearance of Jaana makes Vicky and Bittu go in search of Stree and bring back their missing friend. For this journey they take the help of the town scholar Rudra and after making a surprising discovery the three along with a fourth comrade not just fight the ghost but also discover the past of the ghost which becomes a mirror of the societal values and hypocrisy.

This entire journey is thoroughly funny and scary. Short but powerful dialogues which are in tune with the story line also echo a larger political commentary. While dialogues like, “Andh bhakti buri cheez hai, kisi ko bhakt nahi hona chaahiye,” is a comment on the political worshipping; dialogues like “Stree ijaazat kay bagair haath nahi lagaati,” underline the issue of consent in a way which is non-argumentative. The past of the ghost and the past of the protagonist Vicky and how the fighting four respond to these are remarks made on the existing social values and through their response the film subverts them. These elements which form the heart of the narrative a political film wrapped in a horror genre. But the politics of Stree doesn’t beat its drum hard yet doesn’t fail to make its point.

While saying all of this it must be said that the film which otherwise speaks about women’s issue with such conviction could have avoided the item number where the camera drools over the body of the dancer and reduces the women to a body. Also and more importantly demonizing one of its central characters in the end also could have been avoided. These wouldn’t have taken away anything from the film even by an inch and avoiding them would have made the film even the more lovable.

This calendar year after Raazi we have one more creative and brilliant political film which dares to look into the eyes of the times we live in and show our times a mirror.

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Is Hari Dead?

August 31, 2018 at 9:15 PMAug (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life)

One of the often asked question after the screening of Aanya Kasaravalli’s debut film Harikatha Prasanga (Chronicles of Hari) has been: “Does Hari die in the end? Is Hari dead?”

Being associated closely with the film, not just in the capacity of the associate director, but also as a friend of Ananya, I have had several discussion, at different stages of the film, about the film and the character Hari. One of the issues we did discuss was obviously as to whether Hari dies or not in the end. While Ananya, from the beginning, felt that Hari isnt dead, I believed the opposite.

The same discussion took place couple of times, between some artist or some technician and me during the shoot and every time I answered, “According to me he dies, but Ananya believes he isnt dead.” While some believed that Hari shouldnt die because that would be dark and defeating, some did agree with me that he is dead. But I am not sure why they, like me, felt that Hari is dead.

(spoilers ahead)

Chronicles of Hari, as I see, is a film on the idea of normalcy, managed by morality and legality, which orchestrates certain standardization that marks things, humans, ideas etc as acceptable or unacceptable. Hari, as I understand, becomes problematic to these categories and moves, continuously, from difficulty to impossibility of being standardized and becoming acceptable to and in the standardized world.

I see Hari’s character being unfolded or revealed in different names as the different ways in which they- people in the society- want to see him. To ‘see’ means how they want to see him be. But Hari every time casts off the name and thorugh his being and continual becoming breaks the expectation and standardization in the name of morality, legality and also the idea of normalcy. His being and continual becoming is what exposes the shallowness of the society and its idea of normalcy. It also upholds the right to dignity and right to life of humans of all colours and all shades and thus celebrates the human rainbow.

If Hari is so powerful who punctures the idea of normalcy continuously and repeatedly, how can I come to believe that Hari dies in the end?

Man, as we all know, is born free but everywhere is in chains. These chains are social, economical, aesthetic etc. which are all designed for moulding humans into conventions. The ones who are in battle against the society are the ones who refuse to become conventions and break the mould repeatedly. Society through its power and force always longs to chain the human spirit which is born free. Society accepting such individuals who break those mould would mean surrendering to convention, conforming and rejection of freedom. Success of a rebelling artist in a world which s/he is rebelling against becomes his/her greatest failure for it would mean some compromise unless the world itself has undergone a change of heart.

When freedom is not permitted in life, freedom is chosen in death. Hari announces his freedom, at the cost of life. Death becomes the expression of freedom, though not liberation. Death is not acceptance of failure by Hari but the failure of the world in accepting Hari. So even in his death of transforming from soul to the soulless he once again underlines the shortcoming of the world, its norms and its conventions. He rejects it because its heart hasnt changed yet. But only after fighting a brave but unequal battle.

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Bhakti

July 21, 2018 at 9:15 PMJul (Friends, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Theater)

A splendid moment occurred on 17 Feb 2018 at the Dhwanyaloka, in the campus of MGM College, Udupi.

Occasion: Book launch of Lakshmeedha Tolpady’s ‘bhaktiya nepadalli’ and ‘bhakti kampita’, a collection of essays by AK Ramanujan on Bhakti, translated by Dr. Mahabaleshwar Rao, to be followed by lectures and discussions.

The event was inaugurated by Yakshagana artist Bannanje Sanjeeva Suvarna through a short performance of Yakshagana, along with a student of his. For the inaugural performance Suvarna Sir had selected the episode of Krishna visiting Vidhura, to be in tune with the theme of Bhakti, which was flowing across both the books to be released.

Krishna has arrived at Vidhura’s place and the latter is overwhelmed with joy, to the point of tears and silence! Struggling to express his affection for the Lord in words, Vidhura starts to sing and dance. At this point of the performance Suvarna Sir went on his knees to perform ‘manDi’, a popular step in Yakshagana where the artist goes on his knees and swirls as he goes around the stage/ performing space, forming circles. Dhwanyaloka is designed to be a lecture hall not performance hall. So, the Krishna performer standing erect in the center of the performance space, in a typical Krishna pose, became an obstacle in the orbit of Suvarna Sir, while performing ‘manDi’. Vidhura/ Suvarna Sir at this point, very casually and unhesitatingly gave a gentle push to Krishna, brushing him aside! Krishna softly moved to the side and made way for the swirling performance by Vidhura.

It was an electrifying moment for me!

Lakshmeesha Tolpady during his speech later remembered the moment and said, “The devotee asks for space and the Lord makes space for him. Else there will be no space for the Lord.” It was a thrilling way of looking at it. But that moment appeared a bit different to me, or rather I saw it a bit differently.

It is the God himself/herself who, in his/ her stagnancy, becomes an obstacle to Bhakti. And when Bhakti is in full force it gives movement to the static God and brings him/ her to life and brings him/ her alive. Also, Bhakti doesn’t tolerate the God himself/ herself, if s/he becomes an obstacle in the path of Bhakti. In the end the one who occupies the center stage is not the Lord but Bhakti and through Bhakti, the devotee.

The event was presided over by K.P. Rao, who in his presidential address remembered the short invocation performance by Suvarana Sir before the Vidhura-Krishna performance. In the invocation performance Suvarna Sir invoked Lord Ganesha, where he was describing Lord Ganesha through gestures and also performing the worshiping of Lord Ganesha. Remembering this KP Rao said, “Did you see how Suvarna was becoming the worshiper and also the worshiped, the devotee and also the Lord himself?” He was pointing not at the one man performance where the same performer plays different roles. It was a comment on Bhakti!

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Raag and the Rain

June 13, 2018 at 9:15 PMJun (Friends, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

One afternoon, in the third week of this April, I was with my friend Randheer in Jammu University. I had gone back to that campus after two years. In a while, our other friends- Sonia, Nisha and Shaabaaz joined. As we sat under a tree with chai in our hands, we requested Nisha to sing and Shaabaaz to recite his poems. Understanding the mood of the situation, Shaabaaz called his friend Aakash, a trained and passionate singer, to join us. Akash was with us in two minutes.

Nisha began the mehfil by singing a gazal by Begum Akthar. After Nisha sang and Shaabaaz recited his poems, now it was Akash’s turn. Akash sang quite a few songs and ghazals for us, pausing his singing to explain which raag it is, other musical details and some related anecdotes. Once while he was explaining a raag to us, the impulsive and innocent Sonia asked Akash if its true that some raag bring rains and some light the lamps. My immediate reaction was, “What a juvenile question,” which of course I did not say loud. I do not know what others thought but Akash clearly did not think so. Very spontaneously he said, “I am not sure if it happens in the outside world. But it has happened within me. I have witnessed rain within me, while listening to some raag and have witnessed lamps being lit within me, while listening to some other raag. That is all I can say.”

I was glad Sonia asked that question. When Akash’s singing continued, I could feel a new vibration within me.

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Troubled times ahead, either way?

May 16, 2018 at 9:15 PMMay (Activism, Media, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

With the eyes of the entire nation on it, Karnataka went for elections on May 12. The much awaited results of the state’s Assembly elections are being widely held as an indicator of what lies in store in the 2019 general elections. This worked in bringing more light and focus on Karnataka. And hence, we were all made to witness a high voltage election campaign both, by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and the Indian National Congress.

While the Congress, specially incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, seemed quite positive about the results from the beginning, the methods of BJP and the body language of its leaders revealed a lack of confidence. The ruling party at the Centre with majority of states under it and its allies couldn’t hide the frustration of not being able to crack it in Karnataka easily. The diminished confidence of the BJP was not only because of its inability to recreate its magic in the state but also a result of the much apparent dwindling hope, masses all across the country had pinned on the party and the Prime Ministers.

Let us park aside the pan India phenomenon and the predictions for the result for a while and come to coastal Karnataka.

The door to door campaign of the BJP, in coastal Karnataka, where this writer comes from, was extremely communal in colour, this time. BJP’s campaign was centred on creating in Hindus the fear against members of the Muslim community rather than educating voters about their proposed plan of action for the wellbeing of the people.

It is also important to take note that the BJP asked the people of coastal Karnataka to vote not for their local candidate but for the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. One of the messages that was being circulated on social media by the BJP read, “There is no need to spend time wondering who the BJP candidates are in Karnataka, who is the CM candidate of BJP in Karnataka because whoever the local candidates are and whoever becomes the CM, the total control of things will be in the hands of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.” The message even goes further saying, “We know that some of the BJP candidates are not the right ones but what we need is Modi ji’s administration. In case the local candidates do not perform their duty you can contact Modi ji directly and he will set things right,” and then requests the people to, “Vote for BJP without much thought and bring Modi ji’s administration in Karnataka.” This message and this tactics is a clear indicator of the desperation in the saffron party.

RSS exporting hate to the nation via Coastal Karnataka

In the last two and a half decades, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), the ideological parent of BJP had made Karnataka, especially coastal Karnataka, a laboratory for its politics of hate. No matter which party ran the government in Karnataka, RSS has had its own parallel administration in coastal Karnataka and has been slowly expanding its influence to other parts of the state as well.

The tragic communal history of coastal Karnataka is important at this point to understand the deep seated fear in the people about the results of the elections. Before spelling out fear, we should have a slightly closer look at the last few years.

Nine years before India got ‘Modi-fied’, and ten years before the inhumane lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, which went on capture the national imagination with its agenda of ‘protecting the gau mata’ the coastal town of Udupi had already had its highly condemnable Dadri moment.

On March 13, 2005 father and son, Hajabba and Hasanabba, were stopped by the Hindu Yuva Sena (HYV) members while transporting livestock. They were dragged to a nearby helipad and stripped completely before being paraded naked and assaulted. This happened hours before the sun went down and darkness settled on this part of earth. This was witnessed by hundreds of citizens in Udupi, who neither intervened nor uttered a word of disapproval. The livestock traders were also made to pose for a photograph by the HYV. This was done in order to send across a message to the Muslim community about what would happen if they were not to listen to Hindus.

It took immense efforts by activists to make police take cognizance of the offence. “Jurisdictional dispute” became the reason for the delay even after the Police took note of the crime. Huge protests by activists made the state handover the case to Corps of Detectives (CoD) . Preliminary reports held key members of Hindu Yuva Sena responsible for the stripping and assault of Hajabba and Hasanabba. One among the key members was Yashpal Suvarna who was later awarded nomination for town council by the BJP.

In the year 2009, couple of weeks after the infamous pub attack in the coastal town Mangalore, a girl, barely 15 years old, from a nearby town Moodbidri hung herself in her residence after she was taken to the police station by the self-styled vigilante groups which hailed Hindutva ideology. Her crime was that she interacted with a man who belonged to the “other” community. The boy was thrashed black and blue before the girl was taken to the Police Station where the police also summoned her father. She was then “counselled” by the police and the vigilante group. Feeling humiliated the girl ended her life the very same evening.

This was one of the many incidents of ‘immoral policing’ that have been taking place in coastal Karnataka from over a decade now. It is amidst such incidents that the concept of the non-existing ‘Love Jihad’ was first brought into circulation by the Hindutva vigilante groups, alleging Muslim boys of luring Hindu girls and getting them converted. The idea of Love Jihad slowly gained currency and travelled across India making it an urgent matter to attend to, all over.

The two incidents have been recollected here specifically to spell out how big the laboratory of Hindutva hate politics is coastal Karnataka. Issues , used to divide the people and create an anti-Hindu image of Muslims, namely “love jihad”, “cow protection” were exported to the entire nation only after having been tried and tested in coastal Karnataka first.

Troubled times ahead, either way?

With these memories still afresh, how is one to look at the vicious campaigning the BJP undertook during the Karnataka elections where they were once again seen trying to divide and create tension between Hindus and Muslims? Given that the BJP is frustrated about its fading magic all over India with their weapons of development; war on illegal money, etc becoming ineffective, it is quite evident that as a run up for the 2019 elections they will go back to their basics, communal politics. Dividing communities and inciting violence is likely to be the game plan of BJP for the 2019 election. A glimpse of this was seen in Karnataka once again.

People in Karnataka fear both, BJP winning and BJP losing the Karnataka elections. In case they win, they have all the control in the world to sharpen their weapons and get ready for 2019. If they lose, they have an entire year to do what they are good at, in order to ensure 2019 is not a repeat of 2018.

Either way, it is going to be a year of communal tension and violence, fear many people in Karnataka and the rest of India.

[Originally published in Hind Kisan on 13 May 2018]

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Missing The Point

April 18, 2018 at 9:15 AMApr (Activism, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The rape of a minor in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by her brutal murder as gained the attention of India, even if it is after three months. In these three months the civil (?) societies, the lawyers, the politicians belonging to the right wing in Jammu have without any hesitation come out in public to shield the perpetrators. These facts when brought to light, the liberals of India rightly got enraged as much as they got outraged on hearing about the rape of the minor girl belonging to the Bakarwal community, a nomadic tribe.

While nothing better than supporting perpetrators could be expected from the right wing, my disappointment is with the liberals, though I believe that the protest being registered is a necessary gesture. Here I would just like to list my disappointments…

Illustration by Mir Suhail

Firstly, the case of Kathua and Unnao, though barbaric and unacceptable, are being mentioned in one breath as if they are similar. No, they aren’t, even when both of them are inhumane. The question how will be answered through my elaboration of the other disappointments.

The case of Kathua rape is not being communalized and politicized by the ones underlining the religious and political identity of the girl. The rape happened because of her religious and political identity. So if anyone brought religion and politics into this, it is not those who are highlighting the identity markers but those who perpetrated violence. The cry of some liberals requesting to not make the incident “about religion and politics,” marks their ignorance of the details in this case.

The issue of Kathua cannot be seen in isolation, distancing it from the history of rape used as a weapon by the Indian state in Kashmir and on Kahsmiri people. Had the girl been raped for being a girl alone, we could have spoken only about humanity and patriarchy. But since she was raped for being a Muslim and a Kahsmiri, let’s talk primarily about the state of minorities and the way Indian state has conducted itself in Kahsmir, especially with relation to women.

Amidst all this, I fail to understand the tweets of people like Javed Akhtar who wants to remind people of the ways in which Bakarwal people showed their loyalty to India and asking us to be in solidarity with the victim. The question to be asked is, what if Bakarwal people were anti-India? In that case would Javed sahab be okay with the rape? Are does he want us to be okay with rape?

The issue of Kathua rape and murder, for many liberals, has become a scoring point against the Bharateeya Janatha Party. I have no doubts about the BJP being a disgrace to democracy, which one needs to get rid of. But I find it morally disturbing when the issue of Kathua rape is being used to churn anti-BJP public opinion alone. If at all the Kathua incident has troubled the Indian liberals then it should enable them to see the connection between the Indian occupation of Kashmir and the rape and murder of Kathua. To see it as a symbol of the maliciousness of BJP alone is to not understand the context of the Kathua rape and murder. Restricting the discussion to the role of BJP alone is parking the vehicle mid-way and aborting the truth before one has arrived at it completely. More importantly it will be dilution of the matter. The interconnections between occupation of Kashmir and the Kathua incident exists beneath the surface and one more round of scratching is enough to reach there. Very hesitantly I make this statement: If intelligence is a slave to convenience, then it is not just a moral corruption but also a sign of opportunism.

The liberal discourse around Kathua has been reeking of poverty of understanding, knowledge, sensitivity and imagination too. In extreme conditions of history, such as this, to be a liberal centrist is to let down the victims and let violence continue on the socially, politically vulnerable.

If the Indian liberals are actually horrified, as they claim to be, then the question is if the Indian liberals will at least now acknowledge Kunan Poshpora and innumerable such rapes in Kashmir (Handwara, Shopian, Islamabad, Trehgam, Doda etc) orchestrated and conducted by the Indian army? Will they stop seeing the Kathua incident out of context? If not then the liberals need to reimagine their politics.

[Originally written for Coastal Digest web portal. Published on 16 April 2018]

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A Graceful Moment in Cricket

April 2, 2018 at 9:15 PMApr (Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Some moments just remain with us, for it historical significance and for its emotional weight.

The ICC World Cup tournament being sealed with a six by the the then Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni is one such moment for many a Indians, including me.

Growing up in 90s, like almost every urban and semi-urban Indian, I not just played cricket but also fancied Indian cricket team becoming World Champions. One hardly wins over the child within them, with regard to some matters. The fascination for cricket remained, though it eroded to an extent.

So when the Indian cricket captain sent the ball out of the boundary line without a bounce, I jumped and went on my knees, out of joy.

But soon the joy got eclipsed by a different feeling. It made me go silent. I sat back on the chair and looked at that one frame again and again;as the moment of Dhoni closing the match with a six was replayed.

Dhoni who had not a single half century in the tournament had promoted himself and come to the ground before Yuvaraj Singh, who had done well tremendously in the tournament. Dhoni played a captain’s innings and turned the course of the match and brought victory to the Indian team with a magnificent six. Yet in that moment of seeing the ball sail across the boundary line, Dhoni was as calm as ever. Not a single punch in the air, not a single scream! Indian cricket team won the world cup, Dhoni was the captain, it is he who had made victory in the final match possible and it was all sealed with a six! The ever silent and calm Gary Kirsten, the then coach of the team, had gotten up from his chair and had shouted loud. But Dhoni stood still, swirling his bat like a warrior, yet being so composed!

Even now when I recollect that moment, I get overwhelmed. Probably because I can never be like that in any moment, forget a charged moment like that.

Once the moment sunk in and I developed greater respects for the man MS Dhoni, I realized there was one more person in the same frame. It was Kumara Sangakkara.

The Sri Lankan team had returned home the previous ICC World Cup after loosing in the finals and yet again reached the finals. To enter the finals yet again and loose yet again must have been a very frustrating thing for the Sri Lankan players. Standing in the center of the ground Sangakkara had witnessed closely how the match had turned and slipped from the hands of Sri Lanka. Yet Sangakkara displayed great sportsmanship when he gracefully waited for Yuvaraj and the rest of the Indian cricket team to celebrate, have their moment, and wished Dhoni and others by shaking their hand. No disappointment expressed, no tears, no frustrated reaction. A defeat accepted gracefully, without loosing his calm.

Seven years have passed since the Indian cricket team won the ICC World Cup. Now, not much of love remains in my heart for the game of cricket and Dhoni seems to have lost his magic while Sangakkara has retired. But once in a while I go on youtube and watch that one moment, not for India’s victory, not for the jingoistic pride attached to the moment, but for the grace and beauty of Dhoni and Sangakkara.

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Madhu’s Murder and Questions Unanswered

March 1, 2018 at 9:15 PMMar (Activism, Friends, Media, Musings, Soliloquy)

(On February 22, the locals of Agali town in Attapadi region of Kerala beat up an Adivasi Madhu,for stealing rice. He had succumbed to death in the police jeep on the way to the hospital. The police said that he was suffering from a mental illness. The post-mortem concluded that Madhu died of head injuries. Sixteen persons have been arrested in connection to Madhu’s death so far. The tragic event had evoked outrage across the country. The author imagines different reactions had Madhu’s life not taken the turn it did before he was nabbed by the mob.)

An Adivasi youth named Madhu was beaten to death in Attapadi, Kerala by the public, for having stolen food items.

Following the death of Madhu, there has been an outrage against the murder and the murderers, who were not just inhumane to beat Madhu to death but also rejoiced the entire act which has been reflected in their acts of taking selfie during the incident.

While this outrage is justified, let us see what could have been an alternate script…

Madhu subscribes to the middle class values and believes stealing is bad, unethical, immoral and also criminal. But since he is hungry and as a result, dies of hunger.

The fact is before us. In Attapadi there have been several incidences of death among the Adivasis because of malnutrition and starvation. Madhu would have added himself to the statistics, had he not attempted, in desperation, to steal food items.

Facts tell us that Attapadi, heartland of Adivasis in Kerala, is where the Adivasi land was encroached in the last few decades. It is ironic that the settlers who deprived Madhu and his community of their way of life and way to living have now murdered Madhu, for stealing food.

Yes, the ones who beat Madhu to death needs to be condemned and be punished for their crime. But in the midst of this outrage against the murderers let us also be brutal on ourselves a bit and scratch the matter below the surface.

If this alternate script was to play out, who would have been responsible for his death/ silent murder? If this alternate script was to play out and had Madhu died of starvation, to begin with his death would have gone unnoticed and even if it came to our notice, we the middle class would have questioned Madhu why he wouldn’t work (hard like us), why he wouldn’t take up a job, and similar questions.

We are, secretly, thankful to the murderers because they have saved us of some guilt. But we are such hypocrites and worse, deceptive, that we are using this as an opportunity to play holier than thou with all our statements about the murderers.

Let us not forget that we are a part of the system which led to a moment which handed over Madhu to the murderers.

The question of identity is not something that can be ignored in the case of Madhu’s murder. It is not just the middle class morality around stealing which has led, as I see, to the murder of Madhu.

What we also have to ask ourselves is; whose ‘unacceptable’ (the question ‘to whom?’ remains) acts irritates, angers and outrages us to the point of murdering them? Of course, not every act unacceptable to us awakens the murderer in us. Some people’s actions anger us more than that of others. Who are these people, who are lesser humans to the society at large? More than often, people who are weak, economically, socially and politically. In other words, it is the poor, the women, the Dalit-Bahujans, the LGBT community and also the Adivasis.

By reducing the death of Madhu to a matter caused by poverty we are trying to hide the issue of identity, in such a hierarchical society, because we have not been able to liberate ourselves from this prejudice even while we fancy ourselves as just, caring and sensitive lot.

Madhu being mentally unstable gives the society more courage to be violent because the mentally ill have no social, economic, legal and political power and representation in this country.
Let us now be positive (a great fancy of the middle class, aspirational India) and imagine another alternative script of Madhu…

Madhu went to school and later got a seat in some prestigious university.

We the middle class would start complaining about how reservation is eating up our seats in educational spaces and at jobs. We the middle class would laugh at Madhu for his English pronunciation, for his ‘not-so-civilized’ mannerisms and then ask whether the subaltern can adjust themselves to the mainstream way of living.

Madhu’s murder is not the first murder caused by the insensitivity of the greater commons of this country. And every murder leaves behind several questions, which we do not even acknowledge, forget coming face to face with it. Of these questions two seem significant, to me, at least at this point; how many murders does it take to be called a massacre? How many murders does it take for us to become humans?

(Originally published in Hind Kisan on 27 Feb 2018)

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A Moment of Fulfillment

February 3, 2018 at 9:15 AMFeb (Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Today when the U-19 cricket team of India holding the World Cup rushed to Rahul Dravid, my hero and the coach of the U-19 team, my eyes became moist.

This is only the second time that in my life that I had tears in my eyes while watching cricket, the other moment being during the 1999 semifinals between South Africa and Australia where after a brilliant fight South Africa had to make way for Australia into the finals.

Rahul Dravid has been my cricketing hero for over two decades now and when in his captaincy India lost horribly at the World Cup in West Indies my heart got super anxious because the Captain, my hero Dravid, would receive criticism from all over. When in 2011 under the able leadership of Dhoni and mentoring of Kirsten team India won the World Cup, of course I was happy but there was a slight sorrow for my hero, undoubtedly one of the finest cricketer in the history of the game, was not in the team and was not seen in that moment of glory under the fireworks in the vast sky.

Today on the third day of the second month of the year 2018 those two aches have gotten healed.

What a moment it is when you see the man of the series say, “We are luck to have Dravid sir as the coach,” to hear the winning captain acknowledge in his award acceptance speech the contribution of Dravid and see the team playfully dance behind Dravid while he spoke to the camera! And of course them running to him with the trophy and handing it over to him and jumping around him.

It was a moment of fulfillment!

There is no doubt that Dravid deserved all of this and all of this also shows what Dravid is. But to get a complete picture of Dravid one has to highlight what he said when he spoke to the camera after the match. He said it is embarrassing for him because he seems to be taking the limelight. It was not a performance it was not a pretense. One could see the truth in the moment when he said that and the humility of the man. It was reflected also in his actions. Dravid stayed back in the pavilion till the boys had done celebrating their victory and stepped into the ground only after the boys had their moment of celebration. Even after the boys made him hold the trophy he disappeared in a moment and let the boys live the moment with the trophy.

Even when everyone, from the commentators to the team members to the anchors made his contribution obvious to the world, Dravid made sure he would do all he could to not make it about him.

It looked like the team would carry Dravid on their shoulder but probably it is the spirit of Dravid which must have taught them, not through words but by living, that a team should always stand together, be it in defeat or in victory. The greatest lesson Dravid seems to have made these boys learn in to have their head on their shoulder and never loose gravitation of reality.

In his word to the camera Dravid also said, “May they have more and better memories,” pointing at the journey ahead and also wishing better for the youngsters. In that moment my hero sounded like the wisest man who ever stepped on the cricket field. It was a pure moment!

Dravid, my hero, today my love and respect for you has touched infinity and eternity.

Love you, Jammy! We dont carry you on our shoulders but carry you in our hearts!

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