Thursday, December 14, 2006

Heroes and heroines at the Games

Jaspal Rana, the 18-year old wonderkid we saw a while ago, is back in action, and I can't believe it's been 12 long years! He's named the best athlete at the Asian Games at Doha. I hope he does not go back to oblivion again as he did once. (It seems he was fighting some illness).

While we remember Rana's name even after quite a long time, most athletes don't enjoy so much of our attention. Mahesh and Paes are making news for wrong reasons. Sania has become more of page 3 than the sports page. Other names and snaps are in the newspapers when they fetch us medals at the Games, but the names go unregistered. Let me raise a toast for you guys (we are going to forget you all in a few days anyway)..

Sinimol Paulose who won bronze in 1500m;
Yogeshwar Dutt who won a wrestling bronze;
Archery team that won bronze;
Sailing team that won silver;
Aboobakker Thanikkal, Joseph Abraham, Bhupinder Singh and K M Binu who won silver in the men's 4x400m relay;
Pinki Pramanik, Satti Geetha, Chitra Soman and Manjeet Kaur who won gold in women's 4x400m (she also won a silver in the individual 400m) ...

(I have already forgotten the rest!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Happy Christmas, in Rappai's name

Theetta Rappai (that translates roughly as "eater Rappai") passed away.

A piece on him that appeared in Telegraph.co.uk four years back: Restaurants ban India's 'Big Eater' (26/08/2002)

This diary won't be very regular for the rest of the year. So here's Christmas and New Year wishes in advance!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chithralekha

The beauiful name stands out. [It could be an interesting story in itself-- People from the "lower" castes were not allowed to give good names to their children. In Kerala, there were a set of names that were "reserved" for them-- none of our "merit" mongers seemed to have any problem with this reservation. One my friend has told me his father named his sister "Suvarna" (golden) and called her "thampu", as a short form of "thampuratti" (the queen) in what was perceived as an open challenge to the existing social system, and it made many feel threatened.]

Coming back to our heroine, Chithralekha is a Pulaya girl from Thrissur, Kerala. She married a boy who belonged to a different caste (Ezhava -- a shudra caste, comes under OBC, Other Backward Castes). The boy's family and CPM, the leading left party in the state, were against it. The boy was from Kannur district, a CPM stronghold. In order to make a living, they decided to buy an autorikshaw and Chitralekha was to operate it in Payyannur town. She faced problems getting a driver's card, and when she got it, it was continuous harassing in various forms by the fellow automen (most of them ezhavas and dominant castes). The glass of the vehicle was broken and she was beaten up. When the case went to the police, they said she is a prostitute. Then her autorikshaw was burnt to dust in the night, and she was threatened she'll face the same fate as that of her vehicle.

All this happened more than a year back, and I heard about this story for the first time from my friend who mentioned it in an e-mail. I could not find any details on the net. Not even a single news-paper report. (Unlike in the recent Khairlanje incident that the media was forced to give some coverage. Here is one letter that Ravikiran Shinde sent to Rajdeep Sardesai. This blog post checks why Priyanka is not quite a Priyadarshini Matoo and Jessica Lal for us). Recently another friend of mine faced the same problem when she was trying to document this incident in the context of gender-caste opression in Kerala.

She figured out that this was second such incident of a Dalit woman's auto rickshaw being burned in that town.

Unlike Maharashtra (latest Outlook carries an article on the Dalit rage that followed Khairlanje-- interesting), issues of caste oppressions are not dealt with politically in the "God's own" Kerala where CPM takes the contract of rectifying all the social and economical problems (ok-- first we will "boil down" things to class politics, and do what we feel like). If anyone else-- any group, political outfit, persons-- try to raise any issue, they will be silenced. And the opposition Congress is useless-- they don't feel any need for any serious political intervention, they are content with the people who get fed up of the left rule and put them in power every alternate election. I hope Kerala grows up to deal with such issues in a political way.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Police Story 2: The missing lion



While writing about the Police Story, I remembered an old joke on Delhi Police. I'm bad at recollecting a story well (though I can still feel the punch it had on me the first time I heard the joke) but would still give it a shot.

The lion goes missing from the New York zoo. The New York Police goes all out on lion hunt, but fails. Then they call friend Tony Blair, and the British Police team arrives. They use all their resources, searches the siberian islands and the African jungles, but can't trace the lion. Then someone suggests that NY take the help of the Delhi Police. Delhi Police comes to the zoo to check the site, and gets hold of the bear in the next cell. Bear is taken to the lock-up. Policeman comes and tells the bear, "bol tu sher hai" (tell you're lion). Bear is clueless.

The next day, the bear confesses he's lion.

[There are different versions of this story.]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Police Story

"According to reports in a leading daily (August 26 and September 4), Hoshangabad police charged a couple with the murder of their twelve-year-old son. Their son was indeed missing, and a body was found near the railway track. The parents confessed to the crime, and spent over 45 days in jail.."

"Six months after his murder, young Gabbar turned up in town.."

"As for the parents who confessed to the murder of a son who was alive — “They broke three of my fingers with sticks,” said the father.."

"It further involved, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of the boy being alive, reiterations in court of the police version under oath, urging the court instead to prosecute Gabbar’s family for producing another person as Gabbar.."

* * *

The above (and below) quotes are from an interesting story by Nivedita in today's Telegraph, where she asks this question that she finds nightmarish:

"what happens to police procedures and media reportage when nothing less than national security is at stake?"

She asks, "Would this blatant miscarriage of justice have been reported in the media if the parents had been arrested on a different sort of charge? If Gabbar himself had not turned up alive? What if Gabbar had been killed in an encounter?"

"Last month, a woman widely known in academic and activist circles in Delhi — Sunita of Daanish Books, a small alternative publisher — was detained by the police in Chandrapur, where she had set up a book exhibition.."

"..when concerned phone calls and faxes started pouring in, the police claimed that they had “clinching evidence” (a phrase they repeatedly used) that this Sunita was a Maoist activist from Jehanabad, where her Maoist husband had been killed some years ago in an encounter. During her interrogation, the official insisted that she admit she was from Jehanabad, despite her assertion that she is from Bhagalpur, and that she had never lost a husband to police bullets. A policeman told her confidently at one point, Hum saabit kar ke rahenge ki aap vohi Sunita hain, Jehanabad ki.."

"..during interrogation Sunita was asked, “Why do you sell books on Bhagat Singh? The British have left, haven’t they?

"Reports in local Hindi newspapers published the police version without any further comment or corroboration.."

[link to complete story]

Border

One my friend tells me she's passing through Guwahati, and gives me her mobile number so that I could call her once she's here.

I find it amusing-- the idea of someone from "Mainland India" carrying a mobile to this part of India, the north-eastern states. I carried mine when I came for a visit early this year, and it took a while for me to come to terms with it.

That the mobiles don't roam across the "border".

This is after all, a "special" area-- with special powers to army, specially detached from the nation..

Friday, December 01, 2006

D2: Missing the action

Not that Dhoom 2: Back in Action missed the action-- we missed whatever action/inaction of D2 because we had a bag with us. We had to return the purchased tickets. Because we happened to be in a sensitive locality, in sensitive times.

After the double bomb blasts in the first week of November, a rikshaw-puller, his wife and their one and a half year old kid died in a follow-up incident at Guwahati railway station on 23rd November. If that wasn't enough, it seems ULFA has put a "ban" on screening Hindi films in the state.

Despite all this, the cinema halls were flocked with people-- it was just three days after the blast-- thanks to all the hype as well as the curiosity associated with a sequel. And in general, the public here appear to be used to all this-- they didn't seem to give a damn, and the streets were as crowded as it could get.

[Coming back to the film, I think they're overdoing the publicity-- the Guwahati city special of The Telegraph has been carrying Dhoom specials-- interviews with Hritik, Bipasha, Abhishek, Aishwarya and the director Sanjay Gadhvi, the "Dhoom quotient" and what not.. for more than a week now; it's slowly getting on one's nerves!]