Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alitalia knows who they want on board

A letter to editor on Tuesday September 5 Chennai Edition of Deccan Chronicle read: "..one is indeed puzzled to report regarding the refusal of Alitalia to fly a Delhi passenger, even when he had very clear travel documents and a confirmed ticket.." and the letter refered to DC, Sept 4. I found a copy, and the lead story on the front page went: "Alitalia tells man he's unfit to fly: Delhi ragpicker had a ticket, but didn't fit `profile' ".

"New Delhi, Sept.3: In a startling and clear case of class bias, the Italian national airline Alitalia refused to allow a Delhi resident to fly business class to Milan, on his way to Brazil to attend an international conference, despite the fact that the passenger had a valid ticket and all his travel documents were in order.

The reason: Santraj Maurya, who made a living out of collecting waste on Delhi's streets, and whose streetsmart leadership skills had attracted the attention of an NGO which was sending him to attend a conference on the impact of privatization of waste pickers worldwide, did not-- in the airline's view-- fit the profile of a businessman or an international traveller.."

Ok, "puzzled" and "strartling" are subjective. And this is about two months late news. But not necessarily stale, as much of the media avoided it. (It did not stay on the online version of the newspaper for long). We had had a related topic about this airline here on this diary once so I thought it makes sense to have this here for record.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Srividya, you'll be remembered

Actress Srividya died of cancer a few days back. When I think of Srividya the image that comes to me first is the Alice of Aadaminte Variyellu. Then there were many mother roles we can't forget-- Swati Tirunal, Apoorva Sahodarangal, Dalapati, Ente Sooryaputhrikku.. And there was Maggie of Daivatthinte Vikruthikal, for which she won the best actress award for the third time (Idavazhiyile Poocha Mindapoocha and Rachana were the first two, which I have not seen).

Deshabhimani pays tribute to the actress in its cinema page-- "Ananjupoyenkilum" by poet Rose Mary, followed by lyricist-director Sreekumaran Thampi recollecting his memories. Articles are in Malayalam, the link points to a pdf file so that there are no font issues.

[Here are links to The Hindu and Rediff takes].

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A place called Singur

Singur. A place in the Hoogly district of West Bengal.

"I won't give up my land," says 48-year old Loknath in an article that appeared in Mumbai newspaper DNA. He knows that some ‘boro karkhana’ (large industry) will come up, for which he has to give up his farmland, his sole source of income.

The story goes that the CPM-led Left Front Government of West Bengal is set to acquire the multi-crop lands at Singur to make way for a small car factory. A move that will leave many farmers like Loknath landless. It's not just the farmers-- apparently this move will render more than ten thousand local inhabitants including farmers, sharecroppers and daily labourers jobless.

A group of scientists from various research institutes have personally visited the area and declared that it is beyond any doubt that the earmarked lands are extremely fertile and vast majority of those grow multi-crops throughout the year, and a group of research scientists from the Center for Studies on Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata have tried to capture this in a documentary film “Abad Bhumi” (Right to Land). They have also prepared an online petition that addresses the Governer of West Bengal. Don't know how much it'll help though.

Yet another example of the much-hyped "Globalization" eating up our resources and not accounting for it? Probably. But we may forget that soon.

As we already seem to have forgotten that the Colas have been sucking out our groundwater and ruining our villages (they fill the soil with toxics in return as a token of their gratitude) -- be it Mehendiganj in Uttar Pradesh (where Coca Cola draws out more than 250,000 liters of underground water per day and dumps toxic wastes) or Plachimada in Kerala (where the plant was shut-down once following a court order and is operational again now). In Shivaganga, Tamil Nadu, people's protest prevented a plant of Coke being set up in a region that was already facing water scarcity. There are silimar stories of struggles from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, Patna and Hajipur in Bihar, Satharia Jainpur, Simhachavar in Ballia, Hathras in Aligarh, Dasna–Masoori in Ghaziabad, Bijnor in U.P., Badoli and Panipat in Haryana, Mandideep and Bhopal in M.P., Ahmedabad and Herea in Gujarat, Kudus and Thane in Maharashtra. Now the issue is whether the drinks have pesticides in it (Bahu Tulsi and Aamir Khan are assuring us they are safe) or whether having pesticides is a non-issue as even mother's milk has it, or whether it is right to compare Cola with Mother's milk.

* * *

[Some details and updates on the Singur story at PCFS page:
    Forced Eviction of Farming Communities in Singur, West Bengal (and other links)

Also see: Tata Motors defends site selection at Singur, Times of India, 21 October 2006.

CPM defends the move: All India Kisan Sabha (CITU) leader and Industries Minister in People's Democracy]

The moon, the sun and Pooja

In this earlier post I talked about Excitement. Yesterday I receive another mail from Pooja. This time it's more of a curiosity that it evokes in me than excitement.

"..In a city of all unexpected places, among a Muslim community whose hairs stand on end in sight of my bizarre outfits, the endless parade of men and women of various ages and forms who come and go, my pumping up the tires of my circus cycle, my solo-ness and unconcern over it and the absence of my mythical Himalayan husband… but who, nevertheless accept, tolerate, and support me.."

"..I am running of all things, appropriate at once and also absurd, an art and performance gallery- draavidia, the first one of its kind in the little macondo city of cochin (and arguably in kerala.) (Ten years ago now started by a philosopher poet.) a funky east meets west in a pooja-kinda-way pricey shop (the lunar shop) and helping with a funky café (the solar café). i make herbal tea potions again- this time of vanilla pods, saffron, licorice, fennel.."

"..I love you. I need your support and blessings and letters and visits. I need financial support. I could bring so many of the amazing traditional and contemporary performance artists I know in kerala here if I had money...i need great music to play for full moon dance parties. If you’ve always wanted to come to India and have had no excuse. Come! You can stay here and help or do a residency…besides which there are plenty of beautiful places to choose from in kerala to live- by the ocean, in the mountains, in the woods…"

"..its not unlike the storytimes at simon's rock, not unlike the sunday potlucks in portland, not unlike what you might fathom, colorful, eclectic.."

Here's the address to send letters or other contributions:

draavidia art and performance gallery
customs boat jetty
fort cochin
ernakulam district

She says she'll be there till feb/march for sure.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Deepavali (I miss the month of Ramzan)

Happy Deepavali to the readers for whom it means much. To me it meant a holiday till I reached Nagpur to do my engineering, where it meant a month of holidays. And then eventually a festival that many of my friends celebrated. Who get goodies from home when they come back after the holidays.

And I miss the month of Ramzan back home. It did mean a lot to us in our school days. (My friend here asks me if I could write this without fear if I were a Muslim. I leave that question to you. On second thoughts, how does it matter when one is living every moment in fear and in pressure to prove one's Indianness?)

Ok, we were talking of Ramzan. Yes it meant a month of holidays-- when I was in primary school (till 7th std) Ramzan used to coincide with the month of June. Our school, along with other "Muslim" schools, closed one month late and opened one month late on 1st July when all other schools opened on 1st June. It also meant Patthiri and Irachi (thin Rice roti and chicken/mutton/beef) coming in from the neighbourhood houses in the evenings. And more..

Things aren't so good these days-- a Hindu has to wear signs of being a Hindu (one my little friend in class 2 asked his parents why wasn't he wearing a tika when every other Hindu child in his class did), and a Hindu is not really welcome in a Mosque (this doesn't apply to temples, as "non-Hindus not allowed inside" or "ahindukkalkku pravesanamilla" board was always there). Don't know where we are headed..

Let that not stop the celebrations. Happy Deepavali and Id Mubarak!!

[image courtesy : "jung aur aman"/anand patwardhan]

Friday, October 20, 2006

Afzal zinda hai

The title refers to news that Mohammad Afzal Guru's execution, originally scheduled for today morning 6am, has been put off. However, this post is not about Afzal. But I got to writing this thanks to him.

Yesterday being the last day before the fazi, I happened to enter a couple of noicy rooms filled with people baying for blood, one on an orcut community and another on The Times of India page, and one would be shocked to see the amount of misinformation that gets propagated and becomes common wisdom.

It seems the Supreme Court order said "[the attack on parliament] had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to [him]. But scanning through the aawaaz, I realized that this "collective conscience" won't be satisfied until the last Muslim in this nation is hanged.

The blogpage ToI promoted on its page had comments like




(yes, in all caps) and

"B*star'd Abdul Kalam finally he also chose to be Mus'lim first than an Indian President"..

(and much more)

When I responded to making Dhananjoy vs Afzal a Hindu/Muslim issue, asking him to get their facts right (If one chooses to make it a Hindu versus others issue then it has been a huge triumph for the caste Hindus, as almost 100% of the people hanged in independent India are Dalits or religious minorities), someone (who calls himself "SUDIP IS AN ASSHOLE") writes, "WHY DO YOU DIVIDE BASED ON CASTE FIRST OF ALL"?[** footnote on this below the post]



Well I didn't know this one! I hail from Kerala, and from the *only* district in Kerala that has more Muslims than Hindus (Kerala has 14 districts). I still would like to know the source of this guy's information, as this gives an idea how intense is the hate campaign against Muslims of this country.

I do get to hear glimpses of such "wisdom" making rounds once in a while from various sources. For instance, when I once visited some schools run by the Sangh Parivar in the tribal areas of Maharashtra. They are teaching the children, so far so good, but one lesson that is repeated often is that Muslims and Christians are our enemies. Even the games and songs talked of how one should take to talvaar (the sword).

Another popular myth links Bombay riots (1992 Dec-93 Jan/Feb) to 1993 March Bombay blasts, about which Dilip writes here.

And about the "bombs in every house" that is women, and the parents who allow her to go to college which ends up in them in "having love affairs, often with Muslims" and how can we prevent this from happening..? Prasant Jha in Himal, got link from Shivam's blog. By now, not quite shocking.

* * *

[** Why do you divide based on caste? Seemingly innocent question. Like those people who say "why do you want to divide people with reservations". There was a time when I used to ask this too. When one section takes all the privileges that it has got in the society being the "dominant" section, and when some sections are denied most of those previleges, that is not "dividing" people. When one tries to account for the discrimination, she is.

Why is it that it is always Dalits (who are outside the castes), and then Muslims and Christians, who get death sentence?

I don't count Afzal in this, his has been a speacial case, he got good media attention, has got good connections including foreign ones.. Most other victims of death penalty in independent India haven't had such luxury. Here's one reference.]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Of a Dead Youth

"of a dead youth:

an essentially de-politicised childhood, we all share.

history, not very interesting topic.

cocacola, why not?

poor? do they exist?
(yes, i saw the photos on a forwarded mail..
really sad.)

from life?
we want freedom, money, love.."

Its time.. so Gargi has decided to break silence.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rang De Basanti Salaam!

That was the name of a programme aired along with RDB on Gandhi Jayanti day on STAR GOLD. It was supposed to talk not about the making of the film that has been chosen India's official entry for Oscars, but about those who are keeping the spirit of the film alive.

It sounded funny, if not ridiculous. To have a film like Rang De Basanti on the (only?) day we are supposed to get high on non-violence. Going by the film, I tried to guess who were those people the programme would try to showcase. Naxalites? Less likely. The film's spirit lied not only in taking law in one's hands or in violent means of action. Like many other films that claim to address the "real" issues that concern the nation, this one also echoed the urban middle class sentiment that the corrupt politicians were THE problem we faced.

Worse, the people who swore by RDB in the real world were the foot-soldiers of the anti-reservation army. You mean, them?

I wanted to check it out but was terribly tired. TV was on, I was off. Yet shots of a singer from Punjab caught my attention. His name was Bant Singh.

He was lying with both his hands and a leg cut off. Apparently his daughter was raped by the "upper" caste Jat Sikh landlords, and his fight for justice earned him this.

He was singing a song with a flash of smile on his face.

A few days later I got a mail from my friend-- the subject line read "Urgent: Bant Singh's rehabilitation". "Bant Singh's courage will be a source of inspiration to all but we need not be mere spectators to the tragedy unleashed on him. We can express our solidarity by helping him access the best possible medical rehabilitation, so that he is back on his feet. Doctors have pointed out that with the current developments in medical technology, it would not be impossible to fix artificial limbs, both arms and legs, for him..", said the mail.

A link in the mail led to an article A Torso Flaming With Spirit that appeared in Tehelka.

Jithe khun hain meren veeriyan da Vishiya sadkan te haqan di luk banke Buchar khaneyan chon jithe lok mere Nittar rahe itihas di thuk banke Maa dhartiye sada suhagne ni Mere yaaran nu janam tu deyin uthe… [from another Tehelka article on Bant Singh].

So what if he can't hold Jagmeet in his hands again, the dalit singer has not given up his fight.

For once I thanked RDB for helping me know this man. And his daughter.

Friday, October 13, 2006

When our Intelligence traps us..

".. our intelligence also catches us in its net, the nature of which is to link causes and effects and by forming a logical argument. Then we try to get our life to an order that fits that logic; view the world through the same. When things don't happen according to this logic, that leaves us astounded. We feel it is impossible, it can not be true. Things don't cease to happen just because our intelligence considers it impossible. Thus when the path that the life and the world takes does not match with one's intelligence, it baffles the brain.."

I know it's not a very good translation. Original below, in Malayalam:

"..buddhiyum ithupole namme mohitharakkarundu. karyakaranangale kortthiNakkivachchu tharkkikamaya oru nyayatthinu roopam nalkiyittu, aa nyayam vachukondu swantham jeevithatthe krameekarikkukayum prapanchatthe nireekshikkukayum cheyyunnathaanathinte swabhaavam. athanusarichchu karyangaL nadakkaathe varumpoL amparannu ninnupokunnu. athanusarichchallatheyulla sambhavangal prapanchatthil nadakkumpoL athasaadhyam ennum asambhavyam ennum vilayirutthunnu. asambhavyam ennu manushyabuddhi vilayirutthiyathukondu maathram sambhavangal undavathirikkunnilla. ingane jeevithatthinteyum prapanchatthinteyum gathiyum swantham buddhiyum thammil iNangaathe varumpoL buddhi kuzhanhupokunnu.."

[Swami Muni Narayanaprasad in his explanation of Sree Narayana Guru's Darsanamaala]

This happens with most of us but we often manage the situation somehow and save our thoughts from getting completely fouled up. But when one is extremely convinved that the logic that one has found is "THE TRUTH", and the world around her/him is not flexible enough to change it ways the way (s)he wants, it is likely that the person goes mad..

And we are often helpless..

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is Sharmila Irom real?

Last week one my friend told me he was in a campaign to gather support for Sharmila Irom's hunger strike in Delhi. He also gave a few links.

I didn't have any idea who she was and what the issue was. Going through some of the links, I learnt that she has been on a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar, Delhi. Next day I noticed the name on the newspaper, it said she was arrested by Delhi Police and was taken to AIIMS.

Last few days I have been trying to figure out who's Sharmila Irom, why was she on a fast. With the help of the web I figured out she started her hunger strike in November 2000 (you read it right) against Armed Forces Special Powers Act and she has been on a fast unto death since then. For almost SIX years! She is now being force-fed through a pipe in her nose on the orders of the state administration.

"How is she alive now then
" was one (natural) response I got from a friend when I shared what I learnt. The only conclusion I could reach was that it is not only food that keeps one going.

Another response was a more concerned one. Concerned about me, not the lady. That I'm in Assam, I better stay away from such delicate issues.. Life is precious.

Yes, my life is precious. What about many other lives that hang on this particular act? And if this is so much delicate an issue, what is this act all about?

Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA) grants special powers to the Indian armed forces to arrest, detain, interrogate or even kill any person on mere suspicion with impunity. Manipur (where Sharmila hails from) and her neighbouring states of north-east India have been reeling under this act for almost half a century.

Following widespread protests against the law, the Centre set up the expert panel headed by former Justice Jeevan Reddy to review the legislation in 2004. The panel last year submitted its report to the Centre, which is yet to act on its recommendations. Apparently the commission had recommended the law should be repealed ("The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed," it notes in its recommendations. "The Act is too sketchy, too bald and quite inadequate in several particulars"..)

My fast is on behalf of the people of Manipur. This is not a personal battle – this is symbolic. It is a symbol of truth, love and peace”, says Irom Sharmila Charu.

More on her and about the act can be found at http://manipurfreedom.org (the site is being updated regularly with news on her and on the law against which people in Manipur and elsewhere in the North-East have been agitating for several years).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Farmer and her land

"A farmer wants a loan from the bank to dig a well in her land."

"Every citizen has the right to express her thoughts, cast her vote or contest elections."

These sentences may shock some, and it seems some are even finding them outrageous. After growing up learning the boring lessons on how mother washed me and combed my hair, and how father worked in the farm all day, this is indeed a refreshing change.

"A number of new NCERT textbooks for class I to class XII have been designed to encourage children to question social prejudices, discrimination and inequalities. This is a conscious reversal of the earlier trend where textbooks reinforced prevailing stereotypes", notes Deepti Priya Mehrotra in India Together (article dated 5 October 2006).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mahatma Gandhi meets Munnabhai

October 2 was a holiday, and Mohandas decided to check out the latest product that's selling his brand..

Mahatma Gandhi: Arre, tu to is baar ekdum pseud dikhrela hai bhaai..

Munna: Haan bhaai, sab jagah vikaas ki baat horalla hai, apna look bhi thoda vikasit ho gaya samjho bhaai..

Circuit: Aur mera naya cheshma dekha bhai.. Mere gale mein ka sone ka wajan bhi badh gayela hai Gandhibhaai!

MG: Lagta hai uske saath saath tumhare rishtein bhi badal gaye hai.. Pichli baar tumlogon ka ek "aam aadmi" image tha, kahaani mein bhi kuch aise character the jo not-so-elite India ko represent kar rahe the.. Iss baar to kahaani mein sirf amir log nazar aa rahe hai bhaii.. jaise Karan Johar ki film mein hote hai!

M: Kya karein bhaai producer ko shayad laga hoga multiplex audience ko unki class kihich kahani pasand aayegi.. Aur bole to shayad unko ye bhi lagta hai middle aur upper middle class mein Gandhigiri phailane ke liye aise characters chahiye jinse woh log relate kar paaye..

MG: Kya bol raha hai! Ye movie Gandhigiri phaila raha hai..?

M: Main nahi bola bhai.. Akhaa media bolrela hai.. Aur apna producer aur director bhi wohi bolrela hai..

C: Magar tumhe aisa nahi lagaa naa Gandhibhai.. Main bhi wohi bol raha tha.. Ye sab Gandhigiri Non-violence sab bakwaas hai sirf Dadagiri chalta hai-- yehi film ka moral of the story hai! Bura mat maanna bhaai mujhe Gaandhigiri ke barein mein kuch pata nahi hai (woh film dekhke tumhe pata chala hi hoga) main to sirf film ki message ki baat kar raha hoon bhaai..

MG: Circuit sahi bol raha hai.. Gandhigiri mujhe sirf iska poster mein dikha tha.. ki "Statutory warning: This film contains nonviolence.." Uske aage to film mein sirf goondagiri nazar aata hain! Tu bhi kyaa aadmi hai Munnabhai, do main mar pade to pehle bolta hai aage kya karna hai Gandhi ne bola nahi hai, uska bajaa dalta hai phir apnaa Gandhigiri yaad aata hai..

M: Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi hai bhaai.. director saab ko lagtaa hai uskaa bajaa daalna chahiye.. mera matlab hai usko lagta hai audience ko wohich mangta hai.. to main kyaa karoon bhaai?

MG: Aur tu bhi Circuit.. Woh bechaara jyothish ka bheje pe bandook lagake uska dimaag out kar deta hai aur phir bolta hai "mujhe sorry bolne kaa hai".. Isko tum Gandhigiri bolte ho?

C: Maine pehle hi bola tha bhai.. Ye Gandhigiri Wandhigiri mein apun ka vishwaas nahi hai.. Sach to ye hai ki ye apna hero Munna ko bhi vishwaas nahi hai, directorsaab ko bhi nahi hai, naa film dekhke jo "enlightented" ho gaye hai unko! Aur mujhe kya bol raha hai ji..

MG: Magar ek baat to hai Circuit.. Tu jab pyaar se "Bhaai" bolta hai naa, Sanju bhaai ke saare female fans jalke koyla ban gaye honge. Pehle film mein bhi aur abhi bhi! Tu sahi mein Munna ka pyaar mein to nahi hai..

C (blushing): Ye sab public mein bolne ka nahin hota bhai..

LS (passing by, shaking his hips): Just chill chill just chill...