Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi as a subject is a minefield of opinions. Sometime back it was cool to insult Gandhi-vaad. Then Gandhi-giri became cool. More recently people wanted to follow Gandhi-the-2nd in Freedom-Struggle-the-2nd.

Gandhi essentially is a confounding subject. He calls non-violence a weapon. In a country facing a perpetual food shortage, he made “fasting” a tool of protests. He converted a pinch of salt in to a national issue. He cleaned the roads of Noakhali of the litter to subvert the bloodbath of Bengal. He walked in Buckingham palace wearing just a shawl and a loincloth.

I have time and again gotten in to debates with friends regarding relevance or importance of Mahatma Gandhi to India’s Freedom Struggle. Many blame him for not saving Shahid Bhagat Singh’s life when he probably had a chance. People snigger while mentioning his “experiments” with younger women. His insane insistence on celibacy and crazed view of anything sexual abhors a lot of us. Uninformed accuse of him enabling partition of India and people by truckloads hold him responsible for showing preference to Nehru over Sardar. I am not here to defend him on any of these counts.

To rephrase Mark Anthony-

I have come to mourn Gandhi, not to praise him

If Godse has told us that Gandhi was betraying Hindus,

We have no reason to doubt it.

For Godse is an honorable man.

So are the people from Sangh, all honorable men!

I don’t want to step (further) in to these controversies today. Today, I will rather tell you about things that have always fascinated me about this guy – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Gandhi didn’t “like” and “RT” the issues he felt strongly about. He went out in the real world and stood up to the strongest empire the planet had ever seen. But that wasn’t his strongest moment. His strongest moment was when stood up to his own country-men and shut down Non-Cooperation movement in response to violence in Chauri Chaura. Of course, he was criticized for taking a moral stand.

Granted his ideas regarding sex were almost entirely unhinged. His insistence on celibacy, forced separation of couples in love and in later years his experiments in bed are all manifestations of a deep rooted guilt (at least, so I think). The story goes something like this. He was nursing his ailing father one night. Gandhi left the sickbed to be with his wife. His father died in the meantime. This scarred him more than he could admit. He became a slave to his anger and bitterness against sex. He felt let down by what he considered his baser desires. All his actions and ideas regarding sex will become clear once this event is included in your perspective.

Gandhi didn’t bomb and gun his way to glory. The people who did that were termed terrorists and criminals by British government but nothing concrete ever came of these revolutionary efforts. Don’t get me wrong, I do not disparage bravery or patriotism of our revolutionaries. But as far as the scorecards were concerned, they didn’t shake so much as a curtain of English empire. Gandhi shook those foundations. Because he took away the pretense of civility from British. Before Gandhi, India was a land of brutes and it was British “white man’s burden” to rule India. The world in general and the Britain especially firmly believed that India was better off governed by foreigners – people who had a sense of decency. Gandhi changed that image.

He didn’t fight on terms that Britain could fight back on. Gandhi fought them on principles upheld by Britain. Gandhi demanded equal treatment. And he demonstrated his commitment by being ready to suffer for it. He spent countless years in jails in Africa and India. Suffered humiliations, scorn and mockery of others. He held firm his demand that British treat him and every other Indian as an equal. This changed the game outside India. Even in Britain, people realized that their empire wasn’t as benevolent as they deluded themselves in to believing.

In India, Gandhi brought a different game-changer. Before Gandhi, Indian National Congress was a body of Britain-educated Lawyers who met to hone skills in debate and showcase their verbosity. Revolutionaries of necessity couldn’t involve a very large number of people. Only two men understood the difference people of India can make in deciding their destiny. One was Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The other was M K Gandhi. Bhagat Singh planned his case to be a mouthpiece of Indian revolutionaries. His speeches and defense were targeted at sparking a fire in hearts of Indians. He hoped that newspaper coverage of his trial will serve the cause of India better than his life.

Gandhi went to people. He took their problems and linked them to issues of freedom. Dye-making, salt-making, cotton-farming were the issues that made Gandhi’s freedom movement. This was an act of a visionary. This is the part he seldom gets credit for. We all know that India received freedom because England’s forces were too thinly spread after WW2 to run a country as large as India. Gandhi doesn’t deserve the credit for bringing freedom to India. Gandhi deserves credit for something much more fundamental. He brought the idea of freedom to people of India.

Gandhi fought for taboo issues like untouchability and women’s participation in social life. This was a tough pill to swallow for most of the Indians. The same way today’s fundamentalist Hindus believe Gandhi did nothing but appease Muslims, many in previous generation blamed him for damaging Hindu faith by bringing untouchables and lower castes at the same pedestal as higher castes.

Interestingly, Gandhi’s vision of uplifting “harijans” and other persecuted castes didn’t involve reservations. He was the original crusader against reservation. I believe that is one of the reasons a lot of Bahujan politicians in post-freedom era have vilified Gandhi.

Gandhi’s death, like his life, was a study in contradictions – a devout and practicing Hindu with non-communal (though hardly secular, never secular) politics was murdered by disciples of a self-avowed atheist with communal politics for pandering to wishes of a community that had largely abandoned him. Jinnah’s reluctant tribute to Gandhi was “he was a great Hindu”. A Hindu group in India is rumored to have celebrated Gandhi’s assassination by distributing sweets.

Waaiz-e-tang nazar ne mujhe kaafir samajha,

Aur kaafir ye kehte hai ki main musalmaan hu!

Narrow scrutiny of Mullah deduces that I am a Kaafir and Kaafirs distrust me because they think I am too much of a Muslim.

PS – as I mentioned, I am not here to defend or to praise Gandhi. I would rather that everyone build their own view. The books I have found helpful in building my notions about Gandhi are as follows-

  1. Gandhi Vadh Kyon – Nathuram Godse
  2. Bapu, maari ma (Bapu, My Mother) – Mani Gandhi (the girl who was part of his sexual “experiments”. Not sure if a translated version exists in English.)
  3. My Autobiography or My Experiments with Truth – M K Gandhi
  4. Freedom At Midnight – Dominic Lapierre and Larry Collins
  5. Gandhi: A Memoir – William L Shirer
  6. Numerous writings by Duttatreya Kalelkar
  7. Prakash no Padachaayo (shadows of light) – Dinkar Joshi. The book follows Harilal Gandhi and his interactions with the man who became Father to a nation but failed to be one to him.


Beef it up!

Let me start this with ascribing a very bad-word to myself. I am a Secular human being – meaning my views and opinions are not guided by a religion. Not the oldest religion, not the popular religion and not the religion of peace. So while I have been brought up in a Hindu household and educated in Christian missionary school, I persevere to disengage my views from cultural mores instilled in me by either religions. But enough about me.

The frenzy gripping India these days is this sudden explosion of intolerance. Or maybe the intolerance was always there but suddenly people have started noticing it. One person was brutally murdered in Dadri for allegedly eating/storing beef. Delhi police raided Kerala house kitchen for allegedly serving cow-meat. First incident is deplorable and hopefully, the culprits will brought to a swift justice. Second incident is a typical political SNAFU and I don’t think is worth a comment.

What is worth a comment however is this reaction from intelligentsia of my dear country. People right, left and center are returning state-sponsored awards to oppose the growing intolerance in the country. It’s a welcome change. I have always been lamenting the increase of intolerance in the country and thankfully the people who matter have taken notice.

One can argue that they are late. They didn’t return these awards when Sikhs were murdered in 1984 in north India. They didn’t return the awards when Kashmiri Pundits were made to flee their homes in late 1980s. They didn’t return their awards to oppose AB Vajpayee’s government when horrendous 2002 happened. But their sensibilities have been touched by 1 (one) mob-murder in UP. But I wouldn’t make these arguments. At least now they have woken up.

I am hoping they’re making UP CM Mr. Yadav’s life hell with their protests! Why Mr. Yadav, you ask? Because Law and Order in UP is his responsibility. I am interested in finding out how much this outrage Mr. Yadav are facing? Why should Mr. Modi answer for things not falling under his purview? Surely, we can’t expect him to field every question for everything happening everywhere in the world?

As far as the issue of beef eating is concerned, I am all for allowing people to eat what they want. If a community is so concerned about protecting the cows, let them put money where their mouth is. Buy all the cows up for slaughter. House them better, care for them, make beef costlier than caviar. That will show the rest of us how much really care for cows. Beating unarmed a 50-year-old is an act of cowardice. Browbeating political parties in to making self-serving legislation is only more so.

I really applaud the people who are fighting against such an illogical law. No one has a right to hold their own religious beliefs sacrosanct for the rest of us. Freedom of religion allows you to follow your religion. But it doesn’t allow you to bind others by edicts of your religion. I am all for champions of tolerance.

Here is how this tolerance thing works, if a religion considers something like eating cow-meat sacrilege, its followers shouldn’t be made to eat cow-meat. But they cannot stop others from eating cow-meat. Now for getting the full-view of tolerance, replace highlighted words with “drawing a particular prophet” and read the previous sentence again. I wouldn’t force you to take same stand on both topics. Who am I to force anything of anyone?

But as you take your courageous stands and rejoice that you are standing for something noble while hosting “beef-parties” please ask yourself, would you hold a “draw a particular prophet” event once you had your fill of beef? I hope your answer is a yes. I hope you are not a hypocrite but an honest wo/man. I hope you really are secular.

They see only their (own) shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows? 

Kahlil Gibran

Right to Ridicule

Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.

– Martin Luther King Jr

In the current Indian political activist scenario – “Right-to” is the buzzword. Right to Information has been realized in some measure. Right to education has been awarded to all children of India. (Somebody should tell that to those kids carrying tea in canteens of our courts.)

I believe one of the very fundamental rights in a democracy is Freedom of speech. My right to express my ideas, my views, my opinions without restriction is at the core of a democratic society. Our constitution awards us this right under Right of Freedom-

Right to freedom includes speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality), right to life and liberty, right to education, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.

The underlined part unfortunately leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Constitutionally, your right to speech and expression has a limitation that is up for subjective view.

The biggest danger against this right is culture of “feeling offended”. Salman Rushdie has said that today a person is defined by what offends him/her. Hindus are offended by beef-fest in a hostel. Muslims are offended by pictures of prophet. Mochi-caste was offended by a film-song. Who are you if nothing offends you?

Now there is nothing wrong with being offended. Get offended all you want. Engage in a fruitful debate – that’s even better. But these are not the responses my beloved offended country-men (and women) are resorting to. They are marshaling their offended-ness in to an offensive. They use these (potential, perceived or real) offenses to throttle creative expression or contrarian thinking.

M F Hussain was forced to stay out of the country. Satanic Verses and Lajja are banned. Release of a foreign movie is delayed because Church wants an additional warning about the movie being a work of fiction. Movie-makers are forced to remove caste-references from their songs. All in the name of appeasing the offended.

The part we have to understand about the right of freedom is this – the people who think similar to the mob or are mellow in their opinions are always allowed the right of expression. Even in dictatorships or autocracies. It is the expression of difference and dissonance that is (or at least should be) protected by Freedom of Expression. Freedom of Expression means right to creating and publishing content that is offensive to a part of the population or even to the entire population.

This perverse practice of “getting-offended” is used to subvert the other person’s right to their beliefs and their expression of those beliefs.

My issue here is two-fold.

1)      As people, we have become less tolerant towards views of others. A country and culture that prided itself on plurality and vasudhaiv kutumbkam is suddenly unable to handle an FB comment. Either our insecurity in our beliefs is making us violent or we’re trying to outdo each other in zealotry. I know not what the reason is. But I believe this marks a zenith in cultural richness of India

2)      Our law that bends over backward in protecting corrupt politicians and their coteries is very quick in meting out punishments for thought-crimes and expression-crimes. We are aiming to throttle down information flow on internet. Our law seems to believe that vehicle of Indian democratic expression needs child-lock on every window of expression. Books, TV shows, movies, websites, blogs everything goes under 1984-sque lenses at the drop of a complaint.

I am saddened that even in 21st century my country is doing what Church did to Galileo Galilei in 17th century.

A voice of slight dissent is so corrosive to feelings and sentimentalities of my countrymen that they end up burning a clinic for an FB comment. I shudder to think what they would have done to Galileo.

“Strange that the creatures without backbones have the hardest shells”

-Kahlil Gibran


AAP – The Conspiracy

These days a lot of airtime is being given to AAP being an anti-Modi conspiracy of Congress. The frenzied trolls of BJP are littering timelines with videos and articles spinning this theory from every nook and cranny of our virtual-walls. They’re also busy decrying how AAP is not delivering on its promises.

Now I distrust every party equally. But I find this overreaction a needless bullying by a party that knows little else. So here’s my two cents against Modi-fanboys in general and this article in specific.

  1. AAP related conspiracy theories seem to be stemming from a fear of a potential BJP defeat in 2014 polls. AAP is the first serious contender to BJP in 2014. Why are Modi-fanboys so scared of a little bit of competition? Isn’t democracy improved a little if our voters have two good options to choose from?
  2. AAP appeals to middle-class and youth. Apparently, mainstay of BJP-votes. But AAP also positions itself as a minority-appeasing party. So that should eat in to Congress votes as well, isn’t it? Did you see that being mentioned anywhere my dear Modi-trolls? AAP is a cleaner and non-communal option than both BJP and Congress. It will hurt both parties. So AAP doesn’t ensure a Congress victory or even a relative improvement in Congress votes.
  3. This article in particular accepts that hate-based MNS strategy brought votes and popularity for Raj Thackery. Do you also accept that this was the reason for Modi’s 2002 win in Gujarat election? If Congress knowingly let MNS have a field day, is there a chance someone did the same calculations in 2002?? If there’s such a chance, should we let that guy become a PM?
  4. It is good that you’re all so up in the arms about evaluating performance of AAP’s Delhi government. Hopefully, you’ll treat your own MPs and local governments with the same scrutiny. However I do hope you will use that uncommon trait called common sense and allow the government sufficient time before you write them off.

So by all means, criticize AAP. Give voice to opinions not carried by media. But also be honest to yourself and ask the same tough questions about your favorite favorite leader and his party.

5 Arguments – Why There’s No God!

The previous post covers why I am an atheist more from autobiographical perspective. It answers the ‘why’ from Causality but not from Reason or Argument. So here we go again.

I will tackle the question of probability of God’s existence from multiple famous or not-so-famous arguments-

1. God requires you to believe in him/her or expects your allegiance – That sounds like dealing with a corrupt government official or a self-obsessed boss. Unless you acknowledge his supremacy and submit your life to his will, there shall be no respite for you. If this type of God really exists, he has a lot to answer for. If that is not the case, your belief or disbelief should not matter in the end.

2. Omniscient, Omnipotent, Loving God doesn’t correspond with the world we see around us – this is old hat argument on atheist forums. If God knows everything, can do anything why in the world do people get raped? Why do children starve in third world? Why do people suffer insurmountable agonies? If you try telling me that pain makes us stronger, humor me this. Assume you’re an omnipotent omniscient God. You know your creation needed to be stronger. Why the heck can’t you just make it strong enough in the first place! Now that would be intelligent design.

3. World doesn’t need a creator – This is the oldest argument of the other side. This world is beautiful, perfect and dazzling. How could it have come in to existence without a creator? The old argument of if there’s a watch, there has to be a mechanic to create it. This argument is so easily refuted by so many people that I am not even going to waste my breath on it. Just take my word for it. World doesn’t need a creator.🙂

4. Creating a world doesn’t sound like an intelligent endeavor – First a hat-tip to Douglas Adams for his eternal line “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” What could be a good reason for a God to create the universe? A universe, God knew (being omniscient) will hold suffering for lots of his creations! A universe that will be ruled by Devil or evil (as per most scriptures, current world is such)! Was it a thought experiment? Or ego-massage? Sheer BDSM (Funnily enough, faith includes Bondage, domination, sadism. Not sure about masochism much! Any views)?

5. Multiple Religions – Religions are the biggest proof that God doesn’t exist. If there was really a God, do you think he will send out so many confusing messages? Eat bacon. Don’t eat bacon, but eat beef. No, don’t eat beef. Wait, don’t eat beef, bacon, chicken, eggs, onions, garlic. I am not making light of the subject. Religions differ from each other on very fundamental points. It is very naïve to think that all religions teach the same thing.

  • One religion teaches you to worship statues. Another categorically forbids it.
  • One god, many gods and goddesses, three gods that is one.
  • Authority of different messages and different messengers

These are fundamental points where religions differ from each other.
So my argument is this – why different religions if there’s really a God? Why not send down just one book? Maybe in multiple languages with perfect god-like translations? Why mess up the messages so much between messiahs? Why can’t Moses, Jesus and Mohammad bring the same message? If there was a single intelligent being guiding the hand that is what would happen. Instead we have multiple religions significantly different from each other. This in essence proves that there’s no control over what content is passed off as sacred and hence there’s no God. (Unless of course you believe world is creation of gods fighting with each other. In that case, do read Game World trilogy by Sumit Basu and another obscure book called “Book of Job: A tragedy of errors”)

No, I don’t believe the world was created, is maintained or will be destroyed by a God or Gods. I believe the world is a beautiful accident of circumstances. Life has chanced upon this planet. Of the 1022 stars with an average of about 1 to 5 habitable planets (drake equation) in the universe, one of the planets (that we know of) gets to have conditions amenable to a carbon-based life form. I don’t think it’s a miracle. It’s a chance. It’s a chance in 1 out of 3 x 1022 planets.

And it’s beautiful! You have a lifetime; hope you have the time of your life!

Why I am an Atheist?

Let’s face it. Theists of one type or another are in majority in the world. For someone like me who wears his faith (or lack thereof) on his sleeve, I have been asked umpteen number of times what horrible event made me an atheist? Even people close to me wonder why I, who has been very lucky by their estimate, should be against God. It’s almost as if society expects our default mindset to be a Theist.

One does not need an explanation for why s/he is a theist. Considering a majority of people carry on with the religion they were born in most people do not even make a conscious decision about which god to believe in. They pick-up the first fairy-tale they hear and spend rest of their lives rationalizing that theirs is the greatest fairy-tale and theirs is the biggest fairy-monster.

Considering this state of the society, being an atheist is almost always a conscious choice. It requires some thinking on your own. One needs to stand up from the comfortable conceited self-centered beliefs and recognize one’s own mind as a working tool. I am not saying that all believers are incapable of thinking. It is just this one subject where they choose to forego reasoning and cling to incredulous fiction. I am not saying that atheists are intellectually more capable. But I do believe that atheists are intellectually more honest.

However this particular post is not about bashing believers. This is about my journey to the oasis of Atheism. This is about my breaking up a two decade old friendship with an imaginary friend – God.

Passive Acceptance

To begin, let’s get to the beginnings. I was born in a very religious and devout family. My father is very spiritual and very firm in his beliefs. My mother, like a lot of Indian women, follows the gods of her in-laws and her husband. I learnt basic chants and prayers around the house. As a child I considered it a point of pride to be able to rattle off any of the prayers I had learnt. There wasn’t even a subconscious effort to learn the meaning. That would come later. This was just a brush with the ritual.

My touch with religion came through my maternal and paternal grandmothers. My paternal grandmother used to live with us and she was very fond of devotional songs and religious magazines. My maternal grandmother, who visited us every six months or so, was a wonderful story-teller and she read a lot of religious books. In those days I was a book-worm without a sense of genre or direction. I read everything that was lying around. So at the age of reading Chacha Chaudhary I read books on Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Instead of Jules Verne, I read Jan-Kalyan (a local religion-focused magazine).

I had read / heard multiple versions of stories of Mahabharat and Ramayan. My love for stories of Krishna and his devotees outlasted my belief in the God and even now continues to stay with me. Being student of a Convent school, I had a mild exposure to stories and morals of Bible. At that time though, I wasn’t aware of this connection between the subject “Moral Science” and Bible. I should note here that contrary to public perception, we were not fed any “Jesus is the only savior and Christianity is the only true religion” message. Now I can reflect that the content of “Moral Science” subject was not at all science and not particularly moral!

Active Acceptance

As a side-effect of all this religious content that I was devouring, I had come to believe that God does watch my every decision and everything good that happens to me is a reward from God. God was like a family member in addition to my parents who would discipline me and reward me based on my actions. So far, so good.

In the general trumpeted bonhomie between Hindus and Muslims in TV serials and movies, I sort of developed a healthy dose of respect for Islam as well without really knowing much about the religion. Another heavy influence on me was autobiography and some biographies of Mahatma Gandhi. Seeing that Gandhi was also a religious person acted as a validation of my beliefs.

Passive Rejection

Between ages 15-18 I devoutly prayed to and worshiped gods. I performed the daily puja at my house for about 3-3.5 years. Mainly because the board exams were around and without appeasing Gods, there couldn’t be any rewards. Behind this devout exterior, there was an under-current unbeknownst even to me at the time. I read up all that was lying around. But I wasn’t eating it all up. I had my problems with what was written in a lot of those books. Unequal treatment based on caste or gender was something that had never sat well with me. I found Manu-Smruti a singularly revolting treatise. But I took solace in thinking that these were either mistranslated or misunderstood. God himself (yes, I always thought of God as a “him”) wouldn’t be in agreement with all the stuff that I was finding around me.

Active Rejection

Then I joined college. Moved to a different city. So regular prayers and religious reading fell by the wayside. With board exams done, there was no special appeasement required. Gods fell in to back burner for a while. Around this time, I received a small award for an article I had written some time back. The award wasn’t a Noble Prize but I felt myself a few small steps away from it. As befits a fake modest spiritual fool, I attributed this success to God. This is where all hell broke loose. A dear friend, Kaushal Bhavsar, gave a very brief argument and forced me to re-look at my beliefs.

KB – So you mean, you did not deserve the award?

Me – Yes. This is all God’s grace and mercy.

KB – Does this mean that you will expect more rewards that you do not deserve?

Me – (well there is no backing out of this one when “God” is favoring you) why, of course. That is the way God works. He rewards people he sees fit.

KB – by that logic, isn’t God making you into an over-confident, incompetent bastard who expects to be entitled to things he doesn’t deserve?

This isn’t the strongest argument against God. This wasn’t even the strongest argument Kaushal made in our regular discussions. But it put a stop to my rationalization of my failures and minor successes. From here on, I went back to my beliefs and my faith structure one by one. I checked the foundation of my beliefs and found every brick hollow, every stone brittle. Day-by-day, argument-by-argument I came towards the light of reason.

Slowly but surely I lost my connection with god and religion. Here again my reading helped me a lot. Whatever little I read of Koran, Geeta and Bible pushed me more towards Atheism. I am not saying that for the dramatic value. I found each of them too violent for my taste at the time. The hatred steeped too deeply in Old Testament and Koran horrified me. Inconsistencies in Geeta and constant rhetoric for war put me off that book as well. Bertrand Russell’s essay – Why I am not a Christian made a lasting impact and I dispossessed myself of God and religion for good.

Since then I have gone back to these three books again. I dabbled around some Upnishads and re-read various versions of Mahabharat and Ramayan again and again. I have come to detest Ram and I continue to be fascinated by Krishna. I still continue to seek and read various books around religions. But that is mainly to understand peculiarities of these religions and be enthralled by a fascinating fiction.

So dear curious theists, no, there’re no dead bodies or desperate events that made me an atheist. I am not an atheist due to disappointment in god. I am not an atheist because I can’t see how beautiful the world is. I am an atheist because I cannot delude myself anymore. I choose to put my stake in reason therefore I am an atheist. I prefer doubt over belief therefore I am an atheist.

I think, therefore I am… an atheist!


No! No! Don’t Sing!

There was this famous story I believe Dada Kondake of Marathi Theater used to relate. A woman phones police station and complains that a man is roaming around naked in her neighborhood. This for some reason is a crime in our country. Promptly a policeman reaches the woman’s house and asks after the whereabouts of the offender. The woman guides him to a backstreet behind her house. She climbs on top of a cycle lying next to a wall, looks through a bathroom ventilator and points inside saying “here’s the man roaming around nude with no sense of decency”. The policeman tells her “Madam, if you go to so much trouble to look for obscenity, you will find it everywhere.”

Same story and advice is applicable to those who are trying to implicate Rapper Honey Singh for lyrics in some of his songs. For last two days Twitter has been abuzz with Honey Singh bashing. Now an IPS officer has gone ahead and lodged an FIR against Honey Singh. There was also an online petition making rounds for banning Honey Singh’s one performance in particular.

The thing with songs is, if you don’t like them, don’t listen to them. The specific songs of his that people are supposedly having problems with are not the songs that are available on any DVDs. These songs have undoubtedly very foul language. For that reason, they’re not being played by Radio or TV-stations either. The only way you could come across them is if you go searching for them in Youtube or some such site.

Now this is a queer way of getting offended. You hunt the song down, listen to it intently and then claim it offends you. Please go ahead and close the tab. But you want the singer reprimanded. For no sane reason. The worst part is that you are taking the discussion away from much more important points.

I have no qualms in saying that I have heard Honey Singh’s music and enjoyed quite a few of his songs. I will also grant you quite a lot of his songs do not picture women in too favorable a light. But why should that be a reason to ban his music? Are we banning everything that mentions women unfavorably? How many examples are you looking at? Let me go all Diwar-Amitabh-Bachchan on you and ask “pehle uss admi ka sign le ke aao”…

–          Are we banning all religious books? None of them, not one, are respectful of women. If women are not described as outright agents of devil, they’re described as men’s chattel. Where’s the PIL banning all religious books?

–          Are we banning all item numbers? Countless other songs objectifying women? How about excessively degenerate Bhojpuri songs?

–          Are we banning all Hindi movies? Where women are invariably either a second fiddle to a male lead or merely a pretty face with a few song and dance sequences. How about Banning Subhash Ghai movies where women are won like trophies at the end of sports contests? Remember Bike race in Hero or Kabaddi in Pardes? (I don’t want to start on Hollywood, but there’s an article on about how Hollywood treats females there. You should look it up.)

–          Are we going to ban all the books and all other art forms where women are treated less than honorably? And who’s going to be the judge of what is honorable and what’s not?

Are we so afraid of a two-bit rapper? Honey Singh is a minor fad just like tons of Punjabi singers who made it big for a year or two and then faded away in oblivion. Are we trying to address the disease or a mere symptom when we try to ban Honey Singh? Granted, Honey Singh is a symptom of the rot our societal values. But he’s a mere symptom. Focusing on him takes the attention away from really important place – our own minds.

There’re women that need to be armed. Children need to be rescued from the clutches of unscrupulous scum. There’re millions and billions of male homo sapience sapience to be converted in to human beings. We have to make safer – not only our streets but also our homes, hospitals, police stations, schools, colleges, buses, cars and day-care centers. There’re laws that need changing. Courts that need to move faster. Few more gang rape cases that need similar attention that one in Delhi received. There’s mind-set that needs changing. There’s this patriarchic culture that needs overhauling.

We’re facing all these giants that need to be conquered and we’re trying to silence a rapper? Are we looking for a placebo and not for a cure? Is this a quick-fix for our conscience to wash away the guilt and shame of Delhi rape? Do we need Honey Singh to be a scape-goat so we can go back to our happily indifferent ignorant blissful lives behind flat-screen TVs and multiple megabyte Wi-fi?

Do we seriously think filth in lyrics of a rapper our biggest problem? Here’s a song of his. There’s this one line that’s explicitly offensive to women. Go digging and let me know if you can find it. Meanwhile if you enjoy the music, don’t mention it.

You had to be there

We all have been duped in to going for that one crazy-ape-shit movie at least once in your life. Most of us have seen so many crappy movies that it is impossible to find out which one to put on the poop-pedestal of movie making. I watch more than my fair share of movies and logically end up watching enough bad movies to last most people a lifetime.

I have seen so many bad movies that I have had to develop multiple categories for bad movies. These categories  though have more to do with my situation than the movie, but you will see that as you go through the list-

1)      I was trapped – Assume that you are travelling by bus, which I was. Assume they have a TV with player, which they did. Now assume they have extremely loud speakers, which they always do have. I mean EXTREMELY LOUD!! You cannot run and you sure as hell cannot sleep.

Most notable in this category is Tere Naam. Not only was I forced to watch it 3 times on 3 different journeys, on one unfortunate trip from Mysore to Bangalore I had to watch the Kannada version – Huchcha as well.

2)      I trapped others – Well, you know I am an engineer. Once in a hostel TV-room of LD College of Engineering (not my college btw!) I along with a good friend forced a group of 20 people to sit through a screening of “Dhai Akshar Prem Ke”. I strongly believe this movie has potential to be screened in torture chambers. Just don’t let your local Human Rights Activists know.

3)      Stepped in cow dung –You are an Indian. You know it is impossible to walk on the roads without stepping in to cow dung once in a while. It feels warm at first but once you realize what it is, you are only disgusted by it. This is where almost all movies from Karan Johan and his ilk fall in.

You really want to have some fun. You think you should go watch the latest movie. You haven’t seen the promos. But you decide to go all the same.

As an engineering student in Gujarat with nothing better to do on a Christmas eve, I went along with long-time partner-in-crime Parashar Kacha to watch Raju Chacha! (Did all of that just rhyme somehow? Run, it’s rhymosaurus*, run for your lives!) Ajay Devgan and Kajol butchering the art of movie making in tandem. What a couple, what a couple!! I believe they deserve each other.

4)      Movie that is so bad, it is good – This place of honor is reserved for movies like “Gunda”. Scratch that. There’re no movies like “Gunda”. There’s only “Gunda” (Jaime Lannister, that’s a hat-tip) and then there’re others. These movies if watched alone are likely to cause multiple headaches (depending on the number of heads you have). Never watch these with families. Nor with that morose friend who questions logic of every joke you tell him. Watch these movies with people you went to college with. The ones who are low on the restraint side. The ones who don’t mind getting thrown out of a theater.

In this category, falls this little gem from SRK-Juhi Chawla full of unlimited nightmarish performances – “One 2 Ka 4”.

When I say the movie was a little gem, I mean it was big steaming load of dinosaur crap.

Little Gem – One 2 Ka 4

The movie is futuristic without saying so. There’s a Mumbai police-chowki in the movie which wouldn’t look out of place in Times Square. The cops, Mumbai cops, are not lathi-wielding pot-bellied khaki-clad middle-aged frustrated men. These cops are wearing jeans and white T-shirts to show-case well-built muscles. Belt-holsters full of automatic weapons. This is the Indian cop one dreams of. Well, if you’re in to that kind of thing.

Stuff that Karan Johar’s dreams are made of

Juhi Chawla for some reason has a very bad Haryanwi accent but it goes with her shrill voice, not. (Borat, this one’s to you!) She sells Mataji’s music cassettes at fairs and moon-lights as a secret agent for the good guys (or maybe the other way round, I forget.) All roles done by Jackie Shroff are more or less forgettable (Polio commercial being the exception here). This one falls in to more forgettable category. Then there’re these annoying little child actors that Indian directors have a knack of finding. Cherry-on-the-top is of course our King Khan. Stinking up the place with disconcertingly mismatched facial expressions and dialogue delivery.

“Aha moment” of the movie was when this song started with some preamble about a secret agent meeting. Now this song is the epitome of the movie so do enjoy it here.

Juhi Chawla dropping in (literally) with those flying-cum-swimming movements. The way SRK’s hair move at the revelation that the dancer is Juhi (0.51 min in the video). Now the lyrics of this song are legendary. Do turn on English subtitles in the video for a complete experience.

Watch closely at 1.20. The surprise you see on Shahrukh’s face – that is the height of his acting abilities. That is as good as he is ever going to be.

You can see Juhi’s “professionalism” in three piece suit (with some pieces missing maybe) she’s wearing from 1.52. Those were the days of item songs in suits. Remember this pole-dance from Raveena Tondon?

Now here’s the moment where our Sheila of the Jawani fame was taking notes. Look at that long-shirt-only-look at 3.05.

Watch closely at SRK trying to wake himself up with a carbonated drink at the end of song. You will need to do that once you’re done with the movie.

This is the stuff great crap is made of. Don’t tell me I didn’t tell you.

Not a PS – I was privileged to watch this with my engineering class-mates Kaushal Bhavsar, Tushar Chavda “Gadu” and Parashar Kacha in Ahmedabad’s Drive-in Theater. It was a laugh riot. But I can’t explain that part to you. You had to be there.

PS – Blame Yogesh Patwari for putting this movie in my head with this article of his. How do these articles link up? Long story.

PPS – The movie however has one good song and some other passable songs. Except that, yes truck load of crap.

* Rhymosaurus is the new age cursed creature which isn’t going extinct any soon. S/he believes it’s the rhyming words that make the poetry. They don’t worry about trifles like consistency of thought or completeness of a sentence or beauty of expression. Rhyme to them is an end unto itself.

Here’s my poetry from them-

I just met you, I know you’re crazy,

but I won’t kill you, ‘cause I’m that lazy!

Tani Naachi Gai Sab Ke Man Bahlaawa Re Bhaiya!!

Story-tellers. They are a different breed. I don’t think the rest of the world exists for them. There’s the story and there’s the telling of it. Audience is just incidental. Purpose of any story-telling is self-sufficient – to a story teller. The art form has moved out from late night village chowks to multiplexes but thankfully, passionate lovers of the art have not moved on.

One such artist in our time is Anurag Kashyap. As the director of Paanch, Dev-D and Black Friday he had already earned a very high regard. Then he directed Gulaal, which is arguably one of the best Bollywood movies of all time. I didn’t think there would be a way to out-do that effort very soon.

But “Gangs of Wasseypur” might do just that.Image

First of all it is a story of revenge. Set in Bihar. Involving gun-trotting ruffians. This has been done before. So-bloody-many-times. Be done with the idea already. Secondly, the movie has no star-cast to speak of (thank heavens for that). Thirdly, the movie is made in two parts and only the first part has been released. None of this looks like a formula for success. And jury is still out on whether this is a box-office success or not.

Any of these decisions notwithstanding, Gangs of Wasseypur is a movie to be relished. Pace is breath-taking in first-half and considerably slower in the second-half. But that is because the director is building the story. He is enjoying building the characters and interactions. He will not be hurried because you, my fellow film-goer, are expecting it. He will not end the movie where you can take home a closure.

Director like a conscientious sculptor is giving time in creating finer details. Eventually, a casual observer will not notice this detail. The time put in creating a proper milieu will not be appreciated by everyone. But to be honest to himself, director still needs to do it. You and I don’t get a vote in it. We might buy the ticket and decide how big business the film does. But an artist making love to his art is oblivious to our existence.

Anurag Kashyap has put his heart in to making this movie. But his heart alone wouldn’t make the rhythm of gun-shots. Everyone in the crew brings their A-game to the movie.

After legendary Bhikhu Mhatre and slightly unsung Samar Pratap Singh (Shool), Manoj Bajpai makes character of Sardar Khan come alive. A man filled with single-purpose of revenge but still left with enough life to look for simpler pleasures in life.

Piyush Mishra has understated presence on the screen but as a narrator he again demonstrates his immense talent. I believe it is a loss for Bollywood that he has done so little in the mainstream cinema. Again he pitches in with music, voice and lyrics for the hauntingly beautiful song “Ek bagal mein”.

Another story-teller walks in as a character and lights up the screen with his cold evil presence – Tigmanshu Dhulia as a corrupt politician is exceptional.

Two other striking performances are by Nawauddin Siddiqui as an awkward and unsure Faizal Khan and Jaideep Ahlawat as an ambitious small-time criminal Shahid Khan.

As one has come to expect from Anurag’s movies, music is absolutely fabulous. Unusual singers and music-genres contribute to make an exceptional Soung-track. “O Womaniya” and “Jiya ho Bihar ke lala” are two special treats.

In the end, the movie leaves you wanting more. Good thing is, there’s the second part to look forward to!

Tani jaan jala ke geet ko tel pilaawa re bhaiya

Burn yourself a bit and provide fuel for the song, o brother

Tani naachi gai sab ke man bahlaawa re bhaiya

Sing and dance a little, and entertain everyone!

Cover the Shame

My outrage today is about the draconian ideas and ideology of Mr. Virupaksha Dasa. The most horrifying part is that this is the thought process some / many of our law-keepers and law-makers also subscribe to.

The issue in question is whether provocative (by Mr. Virupaksha Dasa’s definition) dressing by women is the main cause behind rapes. What one will find infinitely more shocking to note is that while Mr. Virupaksha Dasa is able to find tons of quotes regarding how women should behave and dress, he doesn’t have a single quote to condemn rapes nor does he use a very strong language against it. By his convoluted logic, he holds victims guiltier than culprits – that too for such a heinous crime.

Granted Mr. V Dasa, the women do want to look good, beautiful or even sexy. They will have their reasons for it ranging from “to be desirable to men” to “want to feel good”. Either way, it is none of mine or more importantly your business to tell them how they should dress. As a civilized society, one would expect that all members would be granted adequate safety and autonomy to make their decisions on such simple matters as an evening dress.

I have twofold problem with the approach that Mr. V Dasa and those of his ilk take.

1)     You have no, I repeat, NO right to tell anyone how they should dress. Not women, not Sikhs, not Muslims (Dear developed world, I am looking at you there!)

2)     Do you have any evidence whatsoever to say that women are raped more in places where they dress more provocatively? Evidence is something that religious people wouldn’t understand but here we are talking about real world’s real problems: and to solve those, you will need to try out this new thing called logical thinking. Here we need evidence and causality before we reach a conclusion.

Here’s a list of major causes of sexual crimes including rape. Please find for me where is Provocative dressing listed. Show me at least one survey or finding that forms the basis for your rhetoric.

Even if women want to look desirable, it doesn’t mean they have to give up the right to choose partners or how much are they willing to let an encounter progress. Forget provocative dressing, even heavy flirting is not an invitation for rape. Law includes any non-consensual sex (even within the wedlock) as a rape. This will be very difficult for Mr. V Dasa to understand because Manu wouldn’t say any such thing and all Mr. V Dasa follows is what Srila Prabhupada says which is derivative of what Manu and other ancients have said.

Even the assumption that women need men’s protection also is chauvinism behind the thick veil of chivalry. I would be greatly worried about what we have achieved as a civilization if males are condoned for turning into rabid frothing animals at the sight of more than “allowed” skin-show and women are considered responsible for ensuing rape and violence.

From here, it’s a short step to stoning of raped women, women not being allowed to drive (because if women go out, obviously they’re having a tryst with other men) and women not being allowed to handle bananas or cucumbers (because somehow these Mullahs know the answer to eternal question ‘what women want??).

Sex and Rape, Mr. Dasa needs to understand, are two very different acts. While you might not understand this difference, let me clarify it here – sex is an act of passion and intimacy whereas rape is an act of hate, anger and perversion.

All the more worrying part over here is that there are people even among law-keepers who think that women are at least partially to blame for rapes. This mentality coupled with rampant growth of sexual crime and lack of guilt or shame among the culprits creates a dangerous situation.

India, it seems, is no country for young women!