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Thursday, December 20, 2018

                    Leaders Of Nation

We seem to be approaching  closing time in  the  gardens of Sare  Jahan Se Accha Hindostan  Hamara. The nightingales have departed – or have been driven  out – and what we hear is the cawing of the crows, where of late the song birds sang with gay abandon. The occasional owl has given way to a parliament of them . These owls  are not the owls of Minerva, they are  not associated with wisdom and knowledge, nor do they  seem to be  the  carriers of  Lakshmi , the Goddess of wealth  . These are the harbingers of night and the forces that represent darkness.  The famous couplet , Barbad  Gulistan Karne Ko Bas Eh Hee Ullu Kafi Hai; Har Shakh Par Ullu Baitha  Hai Anjame Gulistan Kya  Hoga.” ( “One single owl is enough to lay waste a blooming garden, what would be its fate if  every single branch is  occupied by an owl.”)

 I am reminded of a fable by James Thurber  which is very apposite for our time . ( I love  Thurber and I can never have enough of him!) A mole  tried to hoodwink an owl one night and was caught. He escaped to tell his compatriots that the owl was all powerful and he could see in the darkness of night. A fox interjected,  ‘but can he see during the day?’  A valid question but he was promptly shooed away.A delegation waited upon him to test his abilities. Some one asked him to give another expression for “That is to say,” The owl promptly said,  “To wit.” A  bird hid her claws and yet the owl could answer correctly. So on. Finally everyone was convinced  that he was indeed God  and he was invited to lead the animals and birds of the  jungle .

 Inflated by  his new found recognition, the very next morning he led his followers on the broad expressway . There were outriders flanking the cavalcade and the owl marched in  the firm centre  followed by the motley procession.  Some of the animals wondered  at the sagacity of this move ,  some even warned that  they were likely to be run over but the owl, unable to see in the broad day light,  jut smirked, sure in his wisdom .  A huge truck was running into them directly and the outriders warned the owl but he said, “yeah,  I  can see.” His  followers blinded by adoration  saw in this another proof of his courage, prescience, and the ability to lead. The truck   flattened  them over in no time. Owl, the great leader and all.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Wise Indian Voter

Disclaimer: I am sorry, this time round I shall not be able to tell you whether I am being serious or comical? I myself don’t know.

In 1907 Wilhelm Von Osten, a German  mathematics teacher   demonstrated the numerical skill of his horse Hans - Clever Hans  as it   later came to be known throughout Germany-  and caused a minor sensation. But diligent scientific investigations proved that the horse was keenly observing his trainer and responding  to the cues from his body language to nod at the correct answer.  The Clever Hans syndrome had its brief period of fame, but it did  provided an important methodology in conducting animal intelligence experiments.   Observer-expectancy effect is widely used in studies in animal cognition.
 Every   now and then   the Indian  voters vote one  way or the other  and The results naturally go in  favour of  one party/  group or the other. Predictably  the results  throw  the  commentators, analysts, strategists and believers in  democracy  into  raptures.   A lot of inspirational verbiage , heavy  jargon and statistical tools like bar graph, pies , chart and scatter diagram are all yoked by violence together to  establish, scientifically ,  the wisdom and the perspicacity of the voter. The act of  unseating the  ruling  charlatan   is taken  as an   evidence  of the maturing of democracy just as installing him five or ten or fifteen  or twenty years earlier  had  then  been  declared an  act of  great maturity. It seems that the primal state of immaturity is the default position of the Indian voter, the state of equilibrium , the state of  maximum entropy to which having shown its maturity on election eve,  he quietly retires.
   The fact of the matter is that the voters’ choices are no more intelligent than that of Clever Hans or the roadside fortune telling parrot. The high costs involved  and the  mammoth organising capability  required to make an all India presence , has already narrowed the choice of acceptable alternatives to the two major political alliances.   The paid media has ensured that you don’t know a thing  about them for sure  and you have to vote by blind instinct or prejudice.  Those who know both  could describe  them only in the memorable phrase of Stalin: “they are both worse .”
 The voters  respond to certain inducements, blandishments or subliminal appeals. Loan waiver, free electricity, free laptop, free liquor, freedom to smooch in the Echo Park or Sanjay Gandhi Udyan,( a great vote catcher among the young  in Bihar sometime back ) Mandir , Masjid, Mandal , Kamandal, caste , community,  are some sure fire formulas.  At the end of the day  long association with  power has  the  same effect   as living in the same underwear for long: they both stink and   need to be  changed, purely    in the interest of hygiene.  Nothing clever or exciting  about  that!.If you take elections for what they are – a farce, a masked ball , a  carnival, –  you can enjoy them as the most memorable show on earth .
 ‘Free elections’’, says the maverick thinker, commentator and polemicist Slavoj Zizek,” involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.”  For  full  participation  the pretense  must be taken very seriously. You must prattle in your  dunce’s  cap pretending it be a crown. (I remember a line  of  a song  I heard as  a chid: Mat kaho ki sir pe topi hai, ye kaho ki sir pe taj hai.’ My generation was   indoctrinated  in this business of topi pahanna and pahnana  as children).  The would be tormentor/ oppressor/ excoriator  would  appear behind the mask  of   a servant,a  chowkidar , a  benefactor , a  reformer , a paupper  and  beg  for your vote.  The electorate   must    plays his role of prince  with all  the seriousness at his command  and  having granted the supplicant- pauper-  his vote be   prepared  to be heard no more. Those , like me who can see the tree  for the wood  enjoy   democracy   as  a farce, and  those  many who don’t , suffer it  as  tragedy.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Disclaimer: If I express my less than reverential opinion about Mr. Rahul Gandhi, it does not earn me an automatic membership to Mr. Modi’s fan club. It is not in me to be a bhakt, a mandarin, a camp follower, or a palanquin bearer. I am an independent citizen who struts in all seriousness, wearing his cap of sovereignty. The stance of the citizen taking himself seriously, and hanging on to the democratic premise that he is the master, is at the heart of the absurd theatre called electoral democracy: a scene from this Theatre of the Absurd.
"He is one of the most thoughtful, best-read Indian politicians on religion and spirituality" Shahsi Tharoor on Rahul Gandhi.
In hoary antiquity a woman scholar called Tillottama, laid low all the contemporary scholars- all men, of course- at philosophical debates. She remained unmarried simply because her vow that she would marry only the man who could give her a drubbing- or at least prove to be her match- at such a debate could not be fulfilled. The many pundits who had crossed swords with her and licked the dust, united in malice and conspired to avenge their humiliation by getting her married to the greatest idiot of their time.They were in luck because no sooner had they set out in search of the greatest moron, they found one, instantly : Kalidas, was sawing the very branch he was sitting upon. They lured him with promises of cash rewards and other goodies and set her up before Tillotama as her latest challenger. He looked every bit the idiot that he was but Tillotama was sworn to engage him in debate. The accompanying Pundits put the condition that the Brahmgyani did not speak, he could only gesture and make signs. Tillotama pointed a finger and explained that there was but one God. Kalidas enraged beyond words, directed two fingers at her eyes. If she gouged one of his eyes he will do both. But the Pundits explained his crude response it in terms of the philosophy of dualism . Tillotama uncertain but trapped, showed five fingers to say that the human body was made of five elements. Kalidas provoked beyond control raised his fist. The Pundits quickly explained it as a riposte to suggest that the five elements ultimately produced an indivisible essence. Even before Tillotama had the time to consider the answer , the judges to the debate , gave their verdict in favour of Kalidas and Tillotama was forced into marriage with Kalidas.
I never heard this story, that I was told in my childhood , repeated in my adult years. But it lay buried somewhere in the attic of my mind and it erupted like a volcano after reading the following two items of news:
The profundity- as much of it as Mr. Tharoor can bring to bear upon something as vast,amorphous, many faceted, multilayered and diffuse as Hinduism and- attributed to Rahul Gandhi had me thinking. Tharoor’s elucidation of his master’s thought/motivation could pass muster as voice over, with Mr. Gandhi lip syncing, but what if Mr. Gandhi had to speak those lines ? I mean no disrespect to him, but summoning up remembrance of things said by him in the past , only quotidian, banal, ephemeral and wedded to the contingent moment of luring the voter or ridiculing the opponent came to mind . Never do I remember him holding forth on Hinduism or gods of the Hindu pantheon, or matters spiritual or the eternal verities of life. He now flaunts his Janeu but his religious identity was never explicitly spoken of .In fact, if I remember correctly quite a controversy erupted when Mrs. Sonia Gandhi refused to disclose her religion when visiting some Hindu shrine.
Shiva devotee begin the day with a recital of Shiva Tandav Strot. Coul Mr. Gandhi, the self avowed Shiva bhakt, recite , not from memory, but with the help of a teleprompter even the first four lines from this strot or from any other of the many of the hymns, shlokas , prayers devoted to Lord Shiva, or even name the Dwadash Jyotirling ? A man who says Kumbhakaran in place of Kumbharam can hardly be the dispenser of so much wisdom on soft and hard core Hinduttva. This is no reflection on his capabilities in other fields, it is just to reiterate that Mr. Gandhi just does not belong there. By all accounts he is a simple man, well meaning and even kind after a fashion, but not wily enough to harness religion to the requirements of democratic politics.
I am lamenting the cynicism of those who are scripting his role, those who are running him. I want to know whether the Indian National Congress, the soi disant secular party, has reneged on its commitment to civic republicanism which privileges a person’s civic role as paramount to engage in competitive appeasement of people who think that their religious commitments takes precedence over their civic ones? I am wondering about the new role of the intellectual? To be continued.....

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Italo Calvino’s memorable fable, Numbers in the Dark, contains some timeless observation on the folly of the wise. A conscientious accountant comes across an error – a small error long committed time back –by the legendry Annibale De Canis, “the master of book keeping,” in a giant Italian conglomerate. “This infallible man” made “a mistake, a stupid mistake of four hundred ten lire in an addition........Over all these years, you know that mistake of four hundred and ten lire has become . Billions! Billions! The calculating machines and electronic brains and what not can grind out numbers they like. The mistake is right at the core, beneath and bigger than all their numbers, and it’s growing bigger and bigger. The company has grown big , huge , with thousands of shareholders , hundreds of subsidiaries , endless overseas agencies , and all of them grinding out nothing but wrong figures, there’s not a grain of truth in any of their accounts. Half the city is built on these mistakes. No not half the city, what am I saying? Half the country. And the exports and imports ? All wrong? All wrong, the whole world is distorted by this mistake in the life of Annabale De Cunis , the master of book keeping , the giant of accountancy , the genius.”
That’s the point, if genius, great leaders, founding fathers, statesmen err their errors also are commensurate with their stature. The Congress has ruled the nation for the best part of seventy years and has indeed given us some wonderful institutions and memorable moments of governance but they ruled just long enough to fritter away not only the inheritance of their forbears but have also gone on to commit such a vast compendium of illegalities, immoralities, malgovernance and other evils that their non Congress successors can always cite instances of worse immorality for every immoral deed of their own, for a long, long time to come. To quote just one trenchant example: when the Modi government was being pilloried for pestering the RBI someone cited the case of the harried south Indian governor of RBI who was forced to resign because of Nehru’s intransigence.
Congress also created some organisations which threaten to rock the very foundation of our democratic polity. I am thinking of CBI, spawned in 1963 , for some noble purpose no doubt , but it has proved to be by far the greatest disruptor of our political process in the last several decades , and its activities – antics –are constitutive of the political history of our time. It has destabilised governments, helped oust popular leaders, shored up the sagging fortunes of those who should have been condemned to jail, destroyed dynasties and consigned many highly regarded public figures to the moral twilight between guilt and innocence, forever. The remark of Supreme Court about the CBI being a caged parrot was not in the nature of a judicial pronouncement nor even an obiter dicta but it has acquired the finality of an axiom . The observation of the court is only half true. The CBI is an aberration, a bio mythological monster. It is not one bird but a combination of two: a parrot, a popular domestic pet and a vicious bird of prey, a hunting falcon that can be set upon those required to be hunted by those who exercise control over it. It can be recalled mid way from flight . For those who control its career prospect, it chirps sweet nothings, but ask those whom it is set upon, how vicious can it be!
The division bench on Guwahati and Meghalaya High Court has in a matter WA No. 119 of 2008 in WP (C) No 6877 of 2005 challenging CBI investigation a couple of years back declared the CBI to be an un constitutional entity. The judgement has been stayed by the Supreme Court the matter is pending there. But the facts regarding the creation of theFrankenstein monster which threatens to gobble up our federal polity are revealing. Let us give a careful reading of the deliberations on the original file, the foundational document:
“Whether it is necessary to have a new comprehensive Act to define the functions and the powers of the Central Bureau of Investigation and to give it the legal authority for conducting enquiries and investigations all over India?
If States are to be consulted and if a new comprehensive Act has to be passed by Parliament before the setting up of the Central Bureau of Investigation, this proposal is likely to be unduly held up. Objections might be raised or doubts might be expressed by some States and the process of resolving them will necessarily take time. Some difficulties might also arise from the standpoint of the spheres of responsibility of the Centre and the States.”
The creation of CBI, it appears, was absolutely necessary and it could brook no delay so here is what they came up with. “Even with all the care in drafting and preparing the Act it is likely to be questioned in courts and it is difficult to anticipate what the decision of the courts would be on the validity of the new Act or on legal points arising from it. On the other hand, it might be mentioned that the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act has already gone through this process. Its provisions have been debated in courts from all possible angles and it has withstood onslaughts from all directions. Even the highest courts have upheld the validity of the provisions of this Act. It is a matter for consideration whether it would be worthwhile framing a new Act just at present with all the delay and difficulty that this involves and with the risk that it is likely to entail.” (The above quotes have been cited in the judgement declaring CBI unconstitutional)
Under the Government of the time headed by Sri Jawaharlal Nehru and comprising of the top icons of the Congress pantheon a resolution was issued under the signature of the then Secretary to government of India S . Vishwanathan bringing into being the CBI from Ist of April ( Ist of April?) 1963.
CBI was thus born, ridding piggy back on the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. But once launched it has been on a roller coaster ride, gathering destructive potential along the way until its perilous adventure has brought the polity on the brink of an abyss fifty five years later.
Those who are really keen to educate themselves must refer to the judgement itself, for its sheer architectonics, if for nothing else. It is built like an impregnable castle, designed to withstand every assault. The court has appointed an amicus curie to obtain non partisan advice apart from the contestations of the rival party’s .Then it goes on to make sure that there was no previous judgment on the issue before them for the consideration, that is, ‘whether the CBI is an entity created by due process of law.?There was none. The many Apex Court judgements delivered from time to time, explicating the role, power, and jurisdiction of the CBI are gone through with a fine tooth comb, and like a trained surgeon wielding a scalpel the ratio decidendi is separated from the obiter dictum. The matter in its extant formulation has never been heard.
The division bench begins at the beginning and asks the union of India as well as the parties to the writ to produce all the relevant papers as to its creation . The original file concerning the creation of CBI is missing and the Union Of India produces an attested copy of the file procured from the National Archives. Having exhausted this search for papers the Court puts them to diligent scrutiny. The stark fact of the matter is that there is no paper to suggest that the CBI as a police organization was ever created. In fact the CBI in official parlance and an icon in popular culture can be connected to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act only through inference, obliquities and indirect references. There have been half a dozen amendments since independence and yet the word CBI does not occur anywhere in the Delhi Special Police establishment Act. DSPE is like Hamlet without the prince of Denmark .
The resolution which creates this organization has not been vetted by the union cabinet nor does it have the Presidential assent even to qualify as an executive order. “..... that CBI has been investigating offences and prosecuting alleged offenders in the garb of being an organization under the DSPE Act, 1946. In fact, we have already indicated above that the impugned Resolution, dated 01.04.1963, is not, strictly speaking, an executive action of the Union within the meaning of Article 73 inasmuch as the executive instructions, embodied in the impugned Resolution, were not the decision of the Union Cabinet nor were these executive instructions assented to by the President. Therefore, the impugned Resolution, dated 01.04.1963, can, at best, be regarded as departmental instructions, which cannot be termed as ‘law’ within the meaning of Article 13(3) (a) nor can the executive instructions, embodied in the impugned Resolution, dated 58 01.04.1963, be regarded to fall within the expression, "procedure established by law", as envisaged by Article 21 of the Constitution”. The Court went on to quash the resolution “ In the result and for the reasons discussed above, this appeal partly succeeds. We hereby set aside the impugned judgment and order, dated 30.11.2007, passed, in WP(C) No. 6877/2005, and while we decline to hold and declare that the DSPE Act, 1946, is not a valid piece of legislation, we do hold that the CBI is neither an organ nor a part of the DSPE and the CBI cannot be treated as a ‘police force’ constituted under the DSPE Act, 1946.
The Government of India challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court and the judgement has been stayed. Matters sub judice are to be approached with utmost care and respect , therefore, I have studiedly avoided making any comment and have stated only quoted facts and observations from the judgement .My simple submission is this: why did Mr. Manmohan Singh’s government not make a special plea to the Supreme Court to decide this matter on an utmost priority. What stops the present government, political parties activists, jurists, civil society spokesmen to make a common cause before the Supreme Court now to take up the matter straight away instead of PILs about peripheral issues. But that is not going to be. Every politician, every political party worth the name aspires to the Sultanate of Delhi. All of them would like to use this versatile tool when their turn comes to discipline their rivals.CBI is happy to be used and has found innovative ways to be ever more useful.
The judgment needs to be more widely known and read in the original by whoever cares about constitution and constitutional proprieties.Shravan Kumar

Sunday, November 25, 2018


DISCLAIMER: My faith in democracy is resolute and unshakable and I am prepared to go with it down the drain with my democratic faith undiminished. I am not a fascist, I do not believe in violence, I abhor the idea of people’s heads being chopped off, even of their own accord. This fantasy was not woven by me; Blame it on Italo Calvino, and I am presenting this as piece of fiction - not as utopian draft for future.
If you are too close to the thing, you don’t notice the tree for the woods. Like living in the most debauched version of democracy, we have not even noticed that elections have become merely a state procedure and getting elected nothing but a plebicitarian manipulation of the base sectarian loyalties of people. In my version of the Modest Proposal I had suggested that the aspirants run a race to infinity, the one who stays till the last automatically inherits power. But I found this proposal by Italo Calvino - “Beheading the Heads” - much more acceptable, and it comes with its philosophical explanation. I have abridged and summarised the story to the purpose stated above.
In Italo Calvino’s fable, “Beheading the Heads”, they have devised a very effective system for transfer of power. Anyone who offers to be the head of the state must voluntarily submit to his head being chopped off at the end of his term, in a massive public ceremony attended by the citizens. The scaffolds are made to exact specifications, so that the citizens get the best possible view of the neatly cut head jumping into the basket.
The citizens remembered with surprise that during barbarian interregnums, “Someone rules, commands, then, as if nothing had happened, stops and goes back home.' And dies in bed.
The arrangement proved to be a very effective way of stopping non-serious and undeserving candidates running for office. The logic is very simple. “Authority over others is indivisible from the right of those others to have you climb the scaffold and do away with you, one day in the not too distant future ... What authority would a leader have without the aura of this destiny around him, if you couldn't read it in his eyes, his sense of his end, for every second of his mandate? Civil institutions depend on this dual aspect of authority; no civilization has ever used any other system.”
A citizen explains, “The head commands so long as it's attached to the neck.”
“What do you mean?”, the others asked. “Do you mean that if for example a leader went beyond his term and, just for the sake of argument, didn't get his head cut off, he'd stay there ruling, his whole life long?”
"That's how things used to be”, the old man agreed, “in the times before it was clear that whoever chose to be leader chose to be beheaded in the not too distant future. Those who had power hung on to it...” .....
“So? What did people do?”, they asked the old man.
“They had to cut their heads off willy-nilly, with brute force, against their wishes! That's what used to happen before things were organized, before the leaders accepted... “
“It's not true that the leaders are forced to undergo execution. Say that and you miss the real meaning of our statutes, the real relationship that binds our leaders to the rest of the people. Only heads of state can be beheaded, hence you can't wish to be a head without also wishing for the chop. Only those who feel they have this vocation can become heads of state, only those who already feel themselves beheaded the moment they take up a position of authority.” ......
"That's what power is,” he went on, “this waiting for the end. All the authority one has is no more than advance notice of the blade hissing through the air, crashing down in a clean cut, all the applause you get is no more than the beginning of that last applause that greets your head as it rolls down the waxed surface of the scaffold.”
The visitor was told that the man making this small little speech was the man likely to succeed: “Tomorrow he'll be watching the executions as if they were already his own. They're all like that, the first days; they get upset, excited, they make a big deal of it.”
"Vocation: what pompous words they come out with!”
“And afterwards?”
“He'll get used to it, like everybody else. They have so much to do, they don't think about it anymore, until their day comes around. But then: who can see into a leader's mind? They give the impression they're not thinking about it.

Friday, October 26, 2018



I do not know the two wrestling mammoths of the CBI personally, nor even through the reports of peers and professionals. But their fight   has led to  not only  a lot of grass being  trampled  in the organisation,  it has also sent shock waves throughout the country, much beyond the confines of the designated turf . Having served for close to 40 years in the IPS I have long since stopped believing in reputations created through media. One of the fighters, for instance was sometime a darling of the local and national media and during the AH scam his image was carved in pure awe. How much of it was due to the fact that Laloo Jee was media’s favourite bĂȘte noir?)Therefore, I will refrain from offering my comments on the current crisis, but I will permit myself a few general observations.

Governments have perfected failsafe mechanisms to separate the chaff from the grain in bureaucracy, more particularly in the IAS and the IPS, and then they invariably opt for the chaff. Regardless of political persuasion, they show a remarkable congruence in their choice of incumbents for sensitive assignments: they carefully assess the risk of emergence of character in the incumbent after he gets the coveted tenure post.
 Governments   are now ruthless in their approach when it comes to dealing with those who do not have a talent to please. The perils of independence are unacceptable just as the rewards of collaboration are unimaginable.

 In general the idea of the neutrality of civil service and police has long since been abandoned and the police officers, civil servant and political masters often show the internal cohesion of predatory gangs. Governments are increasingly being run like private companies. The media is the latest entrant to the elite club and their affiliation to one gang or the other would be evident from the news reporting of the squabbling senior officers.

How do the achievers and ‘succeeders’-if I may say- adapt to the changed priorities and preferences of governments with mutually hostile agenda? They cultivate a palimpsest identity, consisting of layers after layers of alternating political affiliations, the one suitable for the particular occasion is revealed. This is what gives them a foothold through three decades or more of their career, in the fragile ecology of power.

The hierarchy is well established, especially in uniformed services, but if the contenders draw sustenance form the political ecosystem, the laws of the harem come into operation: both are favourites but one is more of a favourite than the other? I know it at first hand; the Bihar Police suffered incalculable harm in terms of morale, organisational cohesiveness, efficiency and its image in the public eye, (such as it was) in the early years of Sushahsan.
PS 1 No reflection on the present contender but as a rule he who beats everyone else to become the Police Commissioner of Delhi and then beats the other two contenders with matching credentials, escapes the Supreme Court criterion for mandatory experience in the CBI, is acceptable to the leader of the government in office and the leader of the government in exile to bag the post of Director CBI is hardly likely to be a Cr PC, police manual wielding fanatic. But yes, Beckets and Black Swans do turn up!

  PS 2 Thinking about the crisis I was reminded of the famous remark of H N Brailsford, “If a Power coerces once, it may dictate for some years afterwards without requiring to repeat the lesson. (A Great Illusion or a War of Steel and Gold? Norman Angel and H N Brailsford on The Causes of International Conflict.)
Officers reared in sweet docility are rarely known to stand up suddenly and beard the lion.

PS 3 I have known at least five CBI directors fairly well in the last decade or so, some of them very closely. One kept hearing on the grapevine how they bagged the post but one of them who had lost the race and then come back from the dead, like Lazarus, to clinch the job   told me his own story. He did not turn out to be a great investigator, in fact, he added a chapter to the rich history of infamy of the CBI, but I could not but marvel at his brilliant understanding of the capillaries that feed the power system.
PS 4 An NGO moves Supreme Court against the removal of CBI Director. Is not this is the same organisation that had opposed the appointment of this Director last year?  
PS 5 Layers after layers of the much vaunted capability of the CBI is being peeled off and every  now and then the Supreme Court steps in to put a stitch or two. But now the frayed vestment looks a patchwork of sorts, a caricature , a scarecrow for bird like the fabled meat exporter  to do the dirt upon.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Disclaimer: The exploitation of women is not unique to film or media industry. Wherever there are gazing male eyes, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, “She would like to be invisible; it frightens her to become flesh and to show flesh”.
“This is the paradox of public space”, says the maverick Slovenian philospher, polemicist Slavoj Zizek,“even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything.”Sexual exploitation of women in the film and media industry is now dominating the headlines because someone has gone ahead and uttered the well known secret. Sex as a perk that comes with power has been so well understood on both sides of the gender divide.The entitled demand it as a mode of privilege and the exploited cope with it as best as they can, taking it on their chins, or deeming these as occupational hazard. They may repulse the overtures but to take umbrage at the solicitation itself would be considered signs of prudishness.
Sex as a route to accelerated career advancement for the aspiring – the infamous casting couch – has been scorned, mourned or vehemently denied by the film industry but this also is a fact of life. The hiatus between success and failure here is so great, the stakes are so high, that refusal to abide by the rules of game spells the difference between being and nothingness. Hence it requires courage of heroic proportions to annoy the powerful. But some day someone has had enough of it, the person goes ahead and breaks the code of silence . Gradually more allegations pour in, the fellow is “revealed”. It is not that the fellow was known to be anything else! The mere act of speaking up makes the difference, because it is the silence of the lambs that had made a lion of him. Speaking up is subversion in the system where the rest of the industry revolve like satellites, in silence and sufferance around the star .
But the act of speaking up has reverberations much beyond the local disturbance. Moral revulsion, shock and dismay become the stock reactions because they are the safest alibi, the alibi of ignorance, because to be seized of the guilty knowledge would entail a responsibility to act.
The cyclone me-too which originated in Hollywood has been a hugely disruptive force. After having wreaked havoc in its place of origin it has reached Indian shores to rock our own glitzy Bollywood. The Nirbhaya episode which shook the nation to its moral foundation had already created an area of low depression and this storm hit at a time when it could cause most damage. The film industry has been dogged by scandals and rumours. Media is facing a deep crisis of confidence because of fake and paid news. Now it has been “revealed” to be a bunch of leches also . The serial disclosures makes one wonder whether there would be any media man left who would be “me- too- compliant” and any media woman who did not carry victimhood like a secret petal of fear in her heart? It hit the bohemian part of our world whose ethos and life style are entirely different from the humdrum world of middle class morality, or subaltern exploitation and yet rattled the outside world as well .
Thirty years back I wrote a very mushy paper, “Reflections In the Year of the SAARC on the Rights Of the Girl Child”, for a UNICEF seminar,- which won me some obligatory applauses –wherein I had expressed the confident hope that as we go on to acquire a full member ship of the cybernetic and knowledge society, where brain would have supplanted brawn , women for once will escape Freud’s ‘anatomy is destiny’ and defy Simone de Beauvoir’s, ominous pronouncement , "the body of woman is one of the essential elements of her situation in the world".
Where does the resounding refutation come from? From a group of people to whom the society looks up, who constitute the brains trust , the very moral core of society: from our, media men, our creative geniuses our artists and intellectuals. Liberal, egalitarian, progressive and non sectarian in outlook, they talk big, they make elevating and inspirational films, and they are the most conscious antenna of the race. Sadly when it comes to women their ethereal minds are equally slaves to the instincts of Neanderthal men.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Women do not understand manpower

Disclaimer: It is a long post- more than 1300 words. Those who have the endurance of a Marathon Man can venture in. It is Humour, but there are many who don’t have a stomach for humour and end up in tears. So check for such allergies and other contraindicated medical conditions!
          Women do not understand much about manpower: an autobiographical account.
After a great deal of thought and weighing all the pros and cons I have decided to join a facebook friend  James Joyce on his next expedition to the Pamirs ,exploring the origin of Oxus or with  someone out  hunting the elusive Yeti in the Himalayas.But let me tell you it is not for the thrill of it; I am not a convert to the new   ecumenical faith of adventure tourism. I remain as devoutly and as defiantly  lazy as ever.  I hate adventure from the same core of my heart that I have always hated. But I am left with no choice. Either I go to the Pamirs or search for the Loch Ness Monster in distant locations or find plausible reasons to escape  more hazardous adventures  in the familiar setting of my home. I will tell you what!
After I have undertaken my mandatory walk or stint on the treadmill etc I do not undertake any wasteful expeditions.  My wife is no “mechanical bride”, she is as complete a human being as ever there was and inordinately humane at that, but she is tidying up this, minding that apart from the regular chores all the time.  Like planets she is in a state of perpetual motion.  Her living room is her pride, her bedroom her work of art.  If I had to do that kind of movement  I would  demand a pair of roller-skates – motorised one at that- and three robotic assistants. Having done my quota of   physical activity why should I waste man- power on frivolous movements? Parked in front of my desk top or sprawled on the bed , it gives me the vertigo to watch my wife indulging her pleasure of doing such pointless work.  But women I guess, do not understand much about man power!
I had told my wife very early during our marriage  that it takes many to solve a problem and there are various steps to solving  it. My job was to reflect on the nature of the problem, she could do the solving . That is division of labour. My wife gave me that look which she perfected in a short time  living with me. The translation would run in volumes but I get it in an instant.  Ever since she has gone about doing her things; I   have learnt to managed to cope with  my vertigo reasonably well. But now that domestic helps are becoming a little unpredictable she expects me to join her in these mad pursuits. No one else to divide the labour with except the poor husband who is already  dead tired of watching her at work!
 I have some rule of thumb excuses to dodge the draft. “Is it necessary, we will be leaving in  a couple of days, anyway?” “Is it legal?” I escaped the edict to locate the source of a leak( my version of investigating the source of Oxus) from somewhere behind the geyser. I said the municipality will have to be notified, the power supply company will have to be informed.  “So the government has now entered our bathroom? And in the next move they will be sprawled  right in our bedroom?” She said facetiously. But she let it pass; she was just testing  me. She knew that  my intervention would have resulted in flooding the bathroom any way  and a call to National Disaster Management Authority.
 During the course of the same week I was asked to go up to the terrace to see whether the help was malingering or tending to the many plants and pots. I pleaded that I had lost my cap and standing in the sun for long made me feel giddy and nauseated. My Rayban  aviator glasses were missing. May be this was also just a dry run and she let me get away with this one as well .Now I know why; she  was laying  a perfect ambush ,  she trapped me on  an S- bend!
 My books – or rather poor me in my  untidy environment  of books –are her greatest eye sore .There was a time when we could dedicate one big hall to my books , neatly displayed,easily accessible. If I wanted a book, I could without the help of a Google map, home in right there to the correct shelf, bang in front of my book. Even in the middle of the night if I was seized by an urge to look up a reference or browse a few pages it was no problem.
But gone are days and in   the more frugal circumstances, in the brutal struggle for existence my books have lost out to the many shelfs and almirahs which according to my wife contain objects of absolute necessity. If I could show you how  I and my books have been squeezed into an alcove with some shelves of one corner of the room , you would be moved to tears.  The rest of my books have been despatched to a room on the first floor. I argued with my wife that I and my books had co-evolved , it is like my environment for me, you can’t destroy  my habitat. “Don’t you have any concern for the sole member of that rare species called husband.”My wife said that you could survive with your thousand books and the rest of it is an indulgence.” I said these are not a thousand but only six hundred. She threatened to count each one of them so I climbed down and it was agreed that if I imported some books from upstairs an equal number would have to be deported.
Now my wife has a suspicion that some illegal immigrants from the first floor  are hiding in the pile. Of course my children have sent me a few hundred in last few years but they are all legal. I told her,  “I have papers from Amazon, even for the imported ones. Don’t husbands have human rights?” “So long as they do n’t create pig stys in bedroom,”, she said.   The clutter and the pile are intruding into alien territory of her nicely curated corner. “ Don’t you quote  all the time ‘ I would rather  be an unsatisfied Socrates  than a satisfied pig’. So Mr. Socrates of the slums  don’t be a pig.” My wife has served me notice that either I do the needful or she will take things in her own hand  . And in matters like these she is an  extremist . Either I find a way to somehow accommodate these books  on the uppermost shelves by  weeding out some for extinction or see them deported en masse.I am a human being not an uncaring cruel natural agency like Evolution!
I have avoided the task so far by pointing out that the aluminium ladder has become a little unstable and by generally playing on her insecurity that her aging sixty six plus husband might take a bump. This has worked so far, but for how long? Aluminium ladders can be mended! Our departure from Patna has earned me a reprieve but how long can I be an exile?
I had asked my wife to buy me a pair of walking shoes and a couple of track pants. Normally I am pressurised into accompanying her on these missions because of size issues but over the years I have managed to find comprehensive strategies to evade  the demand. But this time she did not say a word.  I got my pair of shoes and track pants from Decathlon but the inventory included unindented  trekking back pack, a pair of mountain trekking shoes, a rucksack , trekking gloves, trek zip off pants  , a solid looking harness, and waterproof all weather multilayer  peel off  jacket . She sat down triumphantly. “When we get back to Patna you are going to go on  your climbing expedition and plant the books in proper order, tidy up the clutter on the lower reaches and leave no waste on the top.  You are equipped for every season and every eventuality, the activity is perfectly legal and does not violate any of your human rights . I checked up with our family lawyer.”
It has steeled my resolution. I shall arise and go now and go to the Arctic tundra, report triumphantly for the facebook,  wearing all that gear, petting a caribou or riding a sled. Chase the lions chasing  antelopes and gazelles for lunch in the Serengeti  Savannahs in the darkest Africa. At least   I wouild earn some admiring  oohs and aahs from  known and unknown women friends!   

Friday, August 10, 2018

A moral code in Braille for a morally blind society?
My dear friend Ms. Amita Paul, a former IAS officer, conscientious and combative when in service and deeply socially engaged even in retirement, in- boxed me a long post: “Our Missing Mamta.” It is a Crie de Coeur, so to say, which disrupted my sabbatical from fb.There could not be a more appropriate caption for a society which has lost its feeling pulse, whose pulsating heart has gone into a state of cardiac arrest, a society which has generally lost its way in the impenetrable spiritual and moral darkness all around, where pedophilic pleasure becomes regular fare for those in the first circle of power or maybe, the privilege is available throughout the concentric circles. You just have to remain connected. Mamta is one of the 34 girls from Muzaffarpur shelter home who suffered it all, who could spill the beans, who could complicate matters for both the investigative agencies and those whose names could be thrown up, has gone missing. But, for the details, read Amita herself. I do not want one bit of the pathos to be lost in paraphrasing.
Perhaps I was wrong. The darkness around has now been interiorized. We have become morally blind and the society is yet to write its moral code- in Braille. Or perhaps we have regressed to barbaric times- a curious feat in itself, because the arrow of evolution is a barbed arrow, it does not go back in time- a time when the human male could ravish anything female, before taboos about incest and children had been internalized in our psyche and become powerful inhibitory controls. Which other society would permit a continuous and custodial rape of its children some of them aged seven and ten for possibly days, weeks, months or years?
While we are recovering from shock, comes the news that Deoria shelter home for the hapless, helpless, waifs also functioned as a seraglio.Ara, Patna and Hyderabad from beyond the state were in the news for this very reason. Suddenly something which had been going on for years but brushed under the carpet, became the media flavour of the season.(Of that later!)And wait, a girl alleged to have disappeared from one such shelter home has returned, one and a half years later, with just one kidney less!
Brajesh Thakur is merely the symptom of a society that has become immunodeficient. AIDS is as much a medical issue as a socio-political one. Both relate to infamous histories of illicit liaison. In the case of AIDS afflicted individual, it is his promiscuous carnal past. But when the society freely and indiscriminately co-opts people reputed to be corrupt, conspirators and crimininals into positions of power and influence it , people who were outcasts, lepers of the moral order only till 50 60 years back, invites this deadly retribution. If AIDS is the punishment for the violation of sexual taboos by the human victim, the miscegenation, the cohabitation of crime and politics, corruption and illegitimate power begets these midnight children who are the new threats to society: they render its defence mechanism defunct.
Police is charged with the general responsibility of preventing all crimes, but there were dedicated agencies, committees, departments, NGOs, the whole arsenal of institutional safeguards deployed by the state to protect its children. They have failed. All of them . Year after year. Bureaucratic barbarism is not a closely guarded secret. Nor is police apathy, cynicism, and heartlessness but what about the neighbours who heard the nocturnal cries of the victims and pulled their blankets more tightly over their heads so that their collective conscience was lulled into sleep and did not cry “hold”, “hold”.
But this is the limit of this conceit. A person suffering from AIDS is afraid to be ‘revealed’. He tries to dissolve his identity into a non person. His family goes in hiding. That is why there are strict institutional safeguards for protecting the identity of the victim. The other one does not let you forget his foundational crimes which secured his entry to the political fold. No one for a moment suggests that the photographs of the gentleman with bigwigs is in itself any proof of their complicity, but let no one, but no one, deny the strategic value of these photographs in building up a larger than life Brajesh Thakur before whom the law of the land gawks ; uncertain of its powers or purpose.
A society which has become immunodeficient finds itself helpless in face of every invasion, every malady. Because everywhere, in every way the sentinels have been compromised. It cannot procure its defence equipments vital to the defence of the realm, it cannot ensure free and fair examinations, recruitments, and it cannot build bridges that hold. Its institutions gradually disintegrate and decay. If you want confirmation look up the conversation on the social media and the risible contempt with which the takeover of the case by the once respected, feared, and credible CBI has been greeted!