Blood on our dance floor

Remember how Rajiv Goswami, the student who lit himself in protest of Mandal report, had moved India across the nation? There was no social media. We weren’t living in an informed age like this. But still it moved the country. A young man burning himself was more than enough to move our senses back then even if some people didn’t know what Mandal meant.

Rohit Vemula was a passionate young man too. He didn’t kill himself on the road, but silently in a hostel room. His last words were that of a man who has seen it through, that he went about writing ‘do not trouble my friends or enemies on this’.

It is unlikely that Vemula will move India like Goswami did. Because beyond the protests and our keyboard activism, many of us who stand at the top of the caste ladder, still are not sure of the larger topic – caste and the reservation – though Vemulas of our time validates it.

We are all Dathathreyas. We are all manu vaadis in that regard. And no Facebook/blog posts can take that guilt back, including this one.

A dog here, a dog there

No, I don’t think that the weight of caste is on BJP alone. It is on every one of us here in India – regardless of parties, religions, gender or region. It is on us who secretly take pride when we have to mention our caste, while we try our best to make it sound like it doesn’t matter to us. It is on us, when we laugh at those ‘harmless caste jokes’ when we have our fellow upper-caste friends around, yet so proud how modern and caste-less we are. So, no, the news of those two little ones being burnt in a casteist attack doesn’t surprise me. That is everyday India for you. Though it breaks my heart to see those two small bundles of white cloth; ironically, we call children the bundle of joy, don’t we?

But what makes me so helplessly angry is the faux pas (that’s how Firstpost calls it so casually) made by V K Singh, country’s minister of state, about the killing that compares the incident to stoning a dog. To think that this man was once the army chief of the country makes me shudder. And as usual, the prime minister who used to accuse his predecessor for being silent on issues is still busy shuttling between international terminals without a word.

Hindutva and Jains

No, it’s not going to stop with beef or meat in general. Eggs are next. Madhya Pradesh has already begun the silent ‘revolution’ when it’s chief minister turned down the proposal to include eggs in the midday meals at the anganwadis for malnourished children in the tribal areas.

Another thing that makes the news interesting is the mention of Jain community in this news. The NPR article states that the community is powerful in the state and has ‘previously thwarted efforts to introduce eggs in daycare centres and schools’.

That is even more interesting when you read with it the four-day meat ban (not to confuse with the ‘beef’ ban) in Mumbai for a Jain festival.

So why is it that we do not have much observations about the Jain community’s influence in sustaining and contributing to the Hindutva ideology?

Read: Egg War: Why India’s Vegetarian Elite Are Accused Of Keeping Kids Hungry

Hindi-India Bhai-Bhai

There is a peculiar thing about Rashmi Bansal’s book “Take Me Home” that introduces twenty small town entrepreneurs in India who made it big. Though the book is in English, she plugs in Hindi quite often with English translations in brackets. Sometimes long sentences and some times short words, like “sewa (service)”. Not just that it breaks the flow of reading for non-Hindi readers but adds an extra effort in reading. Mind you, this does not happen in chapters were she talks about entrepreneurs from other states, say like Kerala. Not a single word of Malayalam and it’s translation given.

A couple of days ago I watched an interview with a rather new politician who promised to be different. You know, the one who wears the muffler. This was on a national English TV channel, the questions were being asked in English, and the man is capable of speaking English, yet every answer he gave was in Hindi. You gotta give it to Rashmi Bansal here for she at least gave the English translation along, but here there were no subtitles.

I wonder what it is that makes people like this writer and politician plug in a language that is not spoken or read by a large chunk of people in India. Whom are they addressing, really? Or who, they think, is worthy of their address?

The Grand Christmas Circus – 2014

Santa can’t distribute chocolates to kids to ‘convert them to Christianity’ this Christmas season. At least not in Chattisgarh. Saraswati gets to visit, and stay in the schools instead.

The ‘good’ Christian folks who have been silent and treaded on the islamophobia and voted for ‘good governance’ gets their prize this season too. A school competition on good governance and other in-school activities for their children right on the day of Christmas (which seems to have been revoked after the issue had public attention).

But that’s not all for this season (what’s the Xmas season without a grand sale, right?). Parivar shop has five lakhs for Muslims and three lakhs for Christians to convert to Hinduism on the Christmas day. But I think the people should wait a bit and see what counter offer the Christian and Muslim camps can come up with.

Christmas has come of age in India. And ‘good governance’ too.

Do we need a zoo anymore?

Much has been spoken about the Delhi zoo accident already. I think it’s unfair on the part of the media to call the animal a ‘killer’ tiger. He did what the nature has programmed him to do when he feels threatened. The victim is said to be mentally unstable, so its unfair on the so called animal lovers’ part to put the blame on him too. Those who were around were also blamed, but I think that is also unfair because you can’t expect a common man to have learned about the animal behavior and acted accordingly.

But the zoo authorities should have done something. To have somebody trained to handle such situations if something like this tragic situation happened. It seems that there was a trainer for this tiger who knew the animal inside out but he also couldn’t get to him through the crowd (I wonder there is no other entrance for the trainer to approach the tiger than through the crowd). The tiger seems to have waited for about 10 minutes I hear and that’s plenty of time to get his attention away.

On a larger perspective, its time to think about the very concept of zoo or bringing in the wild animals to common places (elephants included).

I want Modi to win

No. I am not going to post that in Modi’s Gujrat the average daily wages is Rs. 129 while it is Rs. 493 in Kerala. Or that Wikileaks themselves have made it clear that the BJP’s official campaigners used the name of Julian Assange to bat for Modi as an ‘incorruptible leader’ in a fake Twitter message. Or about the gender violence in Gujrat as published by Open Democracy.

Why should I, while you – the so-called ‘non-partisans’ – are in search of reasons to like him despite the many myth-busters doing the rounds? Why, when the finance experts among you – while admitting that the statistics can be played out – bats for him with finance jargon?

I would rather play myself a Yesudas. I will tell you the stories of harmony, one god, one religion and all that. And how music can heal you. I should do that because in Modi’s India, I will be saved with all that good talks and not lose a fan in the name of my politics (with a most recent example of that lady who befriended me after hearing a song of mine and later quit accusing me of my ‘secular meter coming down’). Why should I be worried? The Sangh or Modi will definitely not rake up much of the Hindutva issues in their first term. In the next term, probably their first target is going to be Muslims and I am not a Muslim. Their second target could be the evangelical Christians and I don’t belong to one. Their third target could be the Dalits but though I would be proud to call myself part of a tribe who fought the oppression, I am not categorically a Dalit. I belong to a Church who, while the Christians were being burned and killed, said that Communism is a greater threat than Hindutva – simply because their educational business or their belief business was at threat. The same church who are as Hindutvavaadis as the real Hindutvavaadis in the name of ‘nativity’ while they seldom admit that their approaches are being labeled as a way to convert the natives by the Hindutvavaadis.

I want Modi to win. Really. I want him to be the prime minister. I know for certain that he can’t deliver what he promises. I know for certain he will not be a prime minister even for my class, the middle class, but for the Adanis and Ambanis, but I want him to win. I know for certain that he would blame his inefficiencies on the political alliances and compromises but I still want him to win. Because you deserve him. India deserves him so badly right now.

I want Modi to be your prime minister.

Meanwhile in Delhi…

The writer was searching for ideas to write a new book. By the time he had already used the themes he knew best – the upper/middle-class, elite educational institutions and middle-class romance – and didn’t know what to write next. He had no idea that Writer’s Block would be such a big deal. Happens to all great minds, he told himself. Yet, the pain was unbearable to him. ‘Help me god’, he prayed. ‘ Please do something like you did in my novel’. There was no answer. But just as he moved to grab a cup of coffee to serve the late night internet time, the phone rang.


‘Hello Ketan’, said the Dolby 5.1 voice on the other end.

OH.MY.GOD! Is this really happening? I never thought that something like this could really happen!’

‘What’s happening?’

Nothing. I’m just stuck with ideas. I’ve run out of topics to write. Tell me please, what can I do? What can I do?’. The writer was on the verge of breaking into tears.

‘Stop being a sizzy, Johnny Fontane.’


‘Nevermind. Open your eyes Ketan, and look around. What do you see?’

I see Arnab Goswami on TV!

‘You’re so hopeless, Ketan. Look around again.’

I see Arundhati Roy!

‘Bingo! Tell me now, what do you think you should do when you have nothing to write?’

Write about politics! Oh my god, I’ve never been clearer!

‘I know that part, but what do you plan to write about politics?’

Liberalism, Maoism, India-China friendship?

‘You’re being hopeless again, Ketan. That territory is already occupied’.

Hmm… How about going just the opposite side? Towards the right of the politics?

‘Well thought. But your fanboys are from urban India and they don’t know yet if they are on right, center or left.’

Now I’m confused!

‘Just like thy fans Ketan baby, but that’s okay. I will give you an idea. Write about something that is political yet you won’t be straight political, something so populist and appealing to the middle and elite class yet you will touch an emotional note with the rest, while ensuring you poke nose into someone more famous than you for a bit of TV time and in the effort you also get in the company of powerful people’.

Wow, that’s a lot to do, god! Is that even possible?

‘Like I said, look around you, boy. What do you see? Now don’t tell me the name of that Arnab fellow again or am gonna put you straight in an interview with him!’

Fair enough. Okay, I see Narendra Modi.


I see Amartya Sen and he is saying something about Modi.


If I write against Sen and support Modi, I will be even more popular and mine and Modi bhai’s target audience is almost the same!

‘Dumb, dumb boy. How do you then relate to the other class?’

Hmm… so should I speak on behalf of young Indians in general than myself?

‘Just because you have put an old photo of yours in that blue T everywhere from your book covers to Twitter background, doesn’t make you look young or the youngsters’ representative (get that T changed, BTW. You have Photoshop these days, you know).’

Then I will probably write against Sen saying he doesn’t know what the poor India wants.

‘Poor, of what kind?’

The ones who can’t attend a decent college or get a decent job?

‘And you know them because… you’ve spent your academics in IIT/IIM and then you got a job as an investment banker in Hong Kong and you stayed there for 11 years?’

But who’s going to think about all that? This is young urban India that we are talking about!

‘Super cool. You’re smarter than me.’

Kai Po Che! Gotta hang up now. Twitter time!


And so the writer began to tweet.


Of puppies and the Men-behind-the-drivers

The puppy is silly. He makes his passage not knowing that the next car on the road might just hit him. He may not have realized that the next car could be ‘the’ car. The car comes and it hits him hard and crushes him under the wheels. There is a driver. And there is a man behind the driver. He is asked by someone, “do you regret what happened”? Plain question. The answer could be a Yes, or No. But the man opts to draw an analogy instead. He does not say that ‘I should have hit the brakes before it happened, but I couldn’t’ or ‘I wish I could save the puppy’s life but was unable to do so’. He also does not say that it was the puppy’s problem altogether which could have revealed what he thought of the puppy’s action. Rather, he puts the analogy of another puppy.

The question of whether the driver or the man-behind-the-driver regrets what happened still hangs in the air. Even the person who asked the question doesn’t seem to have noticed that.


No Urdu, please. And no Hindi too.

Urdu, I heard, is a beautiful language. I don’t understand it though, but those who have dealt with it, like a lyricist friend of mine, have always praised the language for it’s beauty. But Urdu has always seemed strange to me. A language that sounds like Hindi, yet if written looks like Arabic.

What seemed stranger to me was when people like Justice Katju who is known to have been outspoken and union minister Kapil Sibal battling for the language so much so that they even suggested that it should be taught in schools. It is true that Sanskrit and Urdu have had the fate of being associated with religion and thus keeping some sections of people away from them as Justice Katju had rightly put at an Urdu poetry symposium. But is teaching these languages compulsorily in the schools throughout the country the solution? I don’t think so.

We are already being taught Hindi compulsorily in the name of raashTRa bhaasha, which is of no use to us at all. For somebody who comes from the non-Hindi speaking region in India (and there are many non-Hindi regions in India), learning Hindi is useless. I have learned Hindi from 5th standard onwards, but the language is of no use to me now. I don’t even remember the words or grammar that I learned in the school because it never made to the daily use. I speak Malayalam and I use English at the personal and work spaces. What purpose does Hindi learning serve to a non-Hindi speaker if he is not living in the Hindi speaking part of the country? (And now they are teaching Hindi from 1st standard onwards!). Any language other than the native language and English should be treated as an optional subject in schools. Why make compulsory?

So what I would like to tell Justice Katju and Kapil Sibal is that we are already fed up of the compulsory mode of Hindi in our schools and it’s cultural invasion into our regional space. Please don’t push more as such down our throats. Make it optional if you want but not compulsory. And when you do that, take out Hindi too. It only helps in understanding Hindi movies but even that can be dealt with the subtitled DVDs.