Friday, November 28, 2008

It would be funny if it weren't so scary

1. Someone has started a group in facebook called "Say NO to terrorism." Its membership is swelling by the minute. Are its members promising to not indulge in terrorism ("say no to drugs" types)? Or is the group meant to inform terrorists (at least the ones who are on facebook) that there are people out there who don't like getting bombed. Thereby clearing their misconception that their victims enjoy their attacks. I'm scanning the list of members to see if Osama has joined.

2. Pratibha Patil has put our minds at ease by "strongly condemning" the terror attacks. She probably thought that we were sick with apprehension that she might applaud it. The Deccan Mujaheddin are now expected to be completely demoralized by this presidential rebuke.

3. Manmohan Singh has "called" for the establishment of a federal investigation agency. Uh? Who is he "calling"? Isn't he the guy who is supposed to set it up? And preferably have set it up by now. It's like Emperor Nero "calling" for the establishment of a fire department.

4. Commandos are landing on the Nariman Building. They seem to be tip-toeing down. They are communicating to each other through hand signals. Secrecy & surprise are paramount. And NDTV is showing this live!!! With informative commentary on how many commandos have landed and so on. Perhaps NDTV's research has shown that terrorists only watch cartoon network during missions.

5. Shivraj Patil is peeved that the terrorists didn't hang around in the Cama Hospital & CST till he landed up. He is probably extremely upset about this grave breach of protocol. Which is why, his description of the events has been "most disturbing". Reminds me of Humphry Appleby.

6. The CII Chief Mentor, Tarun Das, has suggested that many conferences should be held to combat terrorism. I presume they will meet all day in exotic but safe spots and come out with a resolution condemning terrorism. There goes Al Qaeda's chances on getting listed in the BSE.

7. While all the TV channels have been uniformly hysterical, Barkha Dutt seems to have emerged as the first among equals in the race for the most words with the least sense. By asking the relatives of hostages bizarre questions - "How do you feel?" and "What will you do if your husband doesn't come out?"  - she has piled insensitivity on top of stupidity. Basically the thugs have taken the hostages and the media is spreading the terror.

Sat morning

The fighting seems to be over. Now I guess the battles will begin.

One news channel is showing the corpse of a terrorist and claims that the death of this particular terrorist symbolizes the death of terror. NDTV has changed its caption from "War Zone" to "Enough is enough". Which, strangely, is what most people have been telling them.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

100-word Election Speeches - Part 1

It’s a-polling time again. Elections are around the corner and they promise to drive us round the bend. Bearded newsreaders are turning into psephologists and exorcists are now calling themselves “booth capturers”. Distilleries are ramping up production and there is a buzz of anticipation everywhere. But in today’s fast-paced world of snack-sized entertainment, who has the time for long boring campaign speeches. In tune with the times, all parties are preparing short sound-bytes of under 100 words. Here are the offerings of the big three.

Advani – Namaste. I urge you to vote for the BJP so that we can create history We will go back to the glory of the Vedas. During the polls, we propose to use the Rig-Veda. And after the polls, we promise to distribute idli-veda. All parliamentary proceedings will start with prayer. In fact, we will rename the parliament Shlok Sabha. Give us a chance. All of us are not communal. Our own party is split into extremists and Modirates. So, vote for us. Please lotus rule this time and I promise you Ram Rajya.

Sonia – Ram Rajya? He must be Tutti-Frutti. I’ll give you Rome Rajya. My party is about reform. Economic Reform – Liberalization will move pasta. Judicial reform - Cases will be tried by azzuri of peers. Land reform - All farmers will get a pizza land. Poverty alleviation – All poor people will get at least a Pavarotti to eat (Italy-vada for the Madrasis). Tourism Development – We’ll open many risotto everywhere. Brothers & sisters, I’m sure you will all vote for me. I feel Sonia to power. But remember, come to the polling booth on time. Don’t be latte.

Mayawati (seated on her plush, red caste-ing couch) – Brahmins, Dalits & OBCs, thanks for coming. Baniyaas, I Vaishya were here. Amar Singh calls my rule Scam Rajya. He has gone Mulayam in the head. As you see, I am the one in the corridors of power. I blocked the coach factory only because I thought it was supposed to manufacture Greg Chappels. If you elect me, I promise efficiency. If you break your hand, you’ll get a scheduled cast. I’ll trim bureaucracy. It will have no OBCeety problem. I’ll build numerous statues honouring scholars and Daliterary achievements. So please caste your vote for me and remember – To BSP is not be SP.

Disclaimer : Please do not take this post literally. I've just used figures of speech. Or perhaps speeches of figures. Whatever.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Salman Khan for Prime Minister

Yeah, what’s the harm in that? MGR was cut-out to rule TN. Jayalalitha loomed large after him. NTR introduced Rama Rajya in AP much before the BJP coined the phrase. Now Chiranjeevi has jumped into the action. Govinda has been MP No. 1. Jaya Prada, Shatrughan Sinha, Dharmendra… The list is endless. So why not go all the way and get Salmaan Khan to rule the country. Here is a speech that he could use while campaigning.

Deer Voter,

I stand before you with open arms and bare chest to seek your vote. We have heard enough about Rama Rajya. What I promise you is Drama Rajya. You will all get enough Khan-a and peena. And plenty of gaana too. In order to improve the ratings of Lok Sabha TV, I will put together the most attractive council of ministers ever.

I, Salman, will personally look after finance. I promise to sternly punish income tax evasion. There will be no black-bucks in this country.

My friend Shahrukh will take over the home ministry. He will ensure that there are no riots. No hate. Only love. Love. Regardless of age, caste, religion or er…gender. He will ensure peace. There will be Home-Shanti-Home.

Sunjay Dutt will handle the defence portfolio. He is an opinionated fellow, so he’ll never sit on de-fence. He will ensure that we are always armed and ready. He deserves the TADAsaheb Phalke award.

Dharmendra will take over animal welfare. He has promised to drink the khoon of any kamina who harms a kuttha. And to take good care of all soovar ke baccheys.

Aishwarya Rai, will be the minister for environment. No one can doubt her love for trees. She will ban weeding, and encourage wedding.

Foreign affairs will be handled by Neena Gupta. She has a Viv-id perspective in this area.

Rakhi Sawant will be put in charge of rural development. She has constantly worked for the upliftment of the masses.

The health portfolio will be handled by Saif Ali Khan. He has promised to examine potato chips and pronounce them as completely Saif.

You might wonder why Amitabh has not been mentioned so far. That is because the Big B will be my nomination for the President of India. To ensure that Raj Thackeray will allow him to return to Mumbai after his term, Amitabhji has requested that be referred to not as Rasthtrapati but as Maharashtrapati.

With this star-studded council of ministers, I promise you a lot of action. Every village will get lights and every villager a plot. We will open a dialogue with Pakistan. Our industries will improve their production. And the country will have some direction.

Vote for me. Together we Khan.

Disclaimer : All characters in the speech are figments of Salman Khan's imagination.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Manmohan calls Customer Service

The intellectual, soon-to-be U.S. president Obama (whose visiting card, in India, would have said "O  B.A., M.A.") calls and our PM could not take the call because he was traveling. Vodafone he has!!! After 4 years as PM, he doesn’t even have roaming. What is he? A sub-prime minister? Anyway, Manmohan decides to rectify this and many other problems with his phone. He makes a call to customer service. 

Tring tring.

Husky Female Voice : Thank you for calling Vodafone. If you want to continue in English press 1. Hindi mein jaankari ke liye 2 dabaeeye. Woof bow wow bark woof 3 bow-wow.

Manmohan presses 1.

HFV : If you are an existing subscriber press 1...(and so on and on and on)

After pressing more buttons than a liftman in the Empire State Building, Manmohan finally gets through to a customer service officer.

CSO (in the tone of a waiter in an Udipi restaurant rattling off the menu) : Thank-you-for-calling-Vodafone-this-is-Rakesh-here-how-may-I-help-you?

Manmohan Singh : Namaste. This is Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India.

CSO : Yeah sure. And this is the dog from our TVC.

MS : Please don’t be pugnacious. I really am Manmohan Singh.

CSO (skeptically) : Er…is that so? In that case, you will have to answer a secret question to verify your identity.

MS : Go ahead.

CSO : What colour is your favourite turban?

MS : Light Blue.

CSO (startled) : Ofwwrwgf. You are Manmohan Singh. How may I help you sir?

MS : You see, I have some technical doubts regarding my phone. I checked with my Minister for Technology - Kapil Sibal. But he was busy allocating spectrum. He tells me Reliance is going to be given violet and Tata gets indigo. Anyway, coming back to the issue, I would like a tech person to visit me and configure my phone for me.

CSO : Sure sir. Happy to help. Could you tell me what you need? So that I can brief the technician.

MS : Sure. Firstly, I am getting very confused with all the ministers’ names. You see, I have 78 ministers. 30 of them are in my cabinet (which of course, leaves room for nothing but one spare blue turban).  To make my life easier, I want to store their names as nicknames.

CSO : That can be done sir. Why nicknames?

MS : It’s easier to remember them that way. I want Lalu stored as “fodder of the nation”, Arjun Singh as “reservation counter”, Ramadoss as “banned-it king” and so on.

CSO : Can be done. Er…sorry for overstepping my bounds sir. I know I’m just a mere citizen, but why do you keep so many of these people? Why, for instance, do you need Kamal Nath.

MS : Why not, I say. He follows customs. He does his duty. That’s what commerce needs.

CSO : Er… Shivraj Patil?

MS (indignantly) : Please!!! After seeing how Obama won, I am convinced that we need Shivraj. He represents the 'change' platform. Moreover, as home minister, he has redressed every grievance.

CSO : er… I see. Sharad…?

MS : Oh, that Pawar hungry fellow. I don’t really need him. I put him in agriculture only so that our cricket team will do better. You would notice that these days, our players dig themselves in and plough through the opposition. In fact we will be top seeds in the next world cup. All this is because Sharad is the agriculture minister. Imagine what would happen if I gave him fisheries.

CSO : But what about the farmers?

MS : Aw. They are just a confused crop. They drink pesticide and spray Coca-Cola on their plants. Coming back to my problems… I would also like to upgrade from 2G to 3G.

CSO : 3G hasn’t been launched yet sir. Why the hurry?

MS : Oh, no real hurry. So far, 2G was enough. I had only Sonia-ji & Rahul-ji to call. But I heard Priyanka-ji may enter politics. So I just want to be prepared.

CSO : Umm. Noted sir. Anything else?

MS : Yes, yes. I would also like to have different ringback tones for different people. When Prakash Karat calls, I want him to hear “cheeni kum”. It’s good advice for him. Heh Heh. Amar Singh should hear “naach meri bull bull, tujhe paisa milega.” And so on.

CSO : Sure sir. And if Sonia calls…

MS : “Maa tujhe salaam.” And oh, before I forget, I want roaming activated.

CSO (surprised) : You still don’t have roaming sir?

MS (a bit apologetically) : Well, you know, roam wasn’t built in a day. In fact, I’m not a-loan in waivering on this. Chidambaram also doesn’t have roaming. You see, it’s not in our common minimum programme. So whenever I tried to get the facility, the left told me it wasn’t right. I used to think that I could manage without roaming because BSNL had installed a phone in Air India One. But I found out only last week that it was a landline. And silly me, I thought it never worked during flights because it had no air-time.

CSO : We’ll set it up right away sir. Anything else?

MS : Yes. Er… could your technician also teach me how to put the phone in silent mode. You see, the Indian parliament is the best that money can buy. So with all the buying and selling these days, I get calls non-stop. Not just from the MPs but their vassals also. And you know, the MP vassal makes the greatest sound. Heh Heh,

CSO : Of course. Of course. Thank you for calling sir. I’ll send the technician over. Where exactly do you stay.

MS (exasperated) : Obviously Race Course Road. The best address for horse-trading.

CSO : Sure sir. Thank-you-for-calling-vodafone-have-a-nice-day.

Disclaimer : The above conversation didn't really take place. It is completely phone-y.
References : If you don't follow Indian politics, this post will make no sense to you (please note that this statement does not imply that this post will make sense if you do follow Indian politics). In that case, do mention it in your comments and I will add the necessary links.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ramadoss meets Devadoss

Scene : Flower decked khota in Kolkata. Devadoss has just walked in and ordered some sharaab, shabaab and kabaab. He closes his eyes in blissful anticipation of a debauched night that will help him forget Paro. A prod to his ribs makes him open his eyes. Instead of the seductive Chandramukhi, there’s a middle-aged man with a strict moustache eyeing him critically. Devadoss is stupefied. 

Devadoss : Hey, who are you? Where’s Chandramukhi?

Ramadoss (graciously) : Good evening. I am Anbumani Ramadoss. Anbu means love in Tamil. So when I heard that this place gives anbu for money, I realized it’s the right place for Anbumani. Hehehe. Incidentally I’ll be your host for the evening.

D : You???? But this is a pleasure palace. It’s a Khota.

R : Not anymore. We have changed the classification of this place from khota to quota. Therefore I have control over it. And believe me, I am going to make this a model institution. With noble AIIMS.

D : Er, how?

R (accusingly) : By sanitizing you. Just look at you. Riddled with vice. You drink, you smoke, you love. And society has to bear the cost. People like you are a parasite on society. And believe me, as host, I know all about parasites.

D : Parasite???

R (patronizingly) : Yes. You belong to society. Your labour belongs to society. You are supposed to work and pay taxes. Not waste your time wooing women. You are supposed to be productive, not reproductive.

D : But I am too sad to work. Ever since my girlfriend left me, my life has declined in every parometer. (No pun intended. It’s just his Bong accent)

R : Shame on you. Don’t you know that love is bad for health. It generates an excess of hormones, pheromones and ecstatic moans. In fact, we have already banned it in all public places. Heh Heh. Ramadoss what others can’t.

D : Oh forget Paro, can I have Chandramukhi? At least that is pure lust. There’s no love involved.

R : Sorry. No unhealthy exchange of fluids. Especially on a commercial basis. We cannot allow people to sell their bodies. It’s indecent, immoral and untaxable.

D : Er… what exactly am I to do for.... you know... my physical needs?

R (conspiratorially) : Well if you want to do some naughty things with Chunnibabu, I can help you there. After all, the more gay you are, the less sad you’ll be.

D : No thank you. Lemme just puff a few melancholy drags on my hookah.

R : Hey, do you ever read the newspapers? Don’t you know that smoking is also banned. Especially by someone like you who is a fictional character in Bollywood.

D : No hookers and no hookahs??? What am I supposed to do here?

R : Why are you asking me? Do whatever. Just don’t break any law.

D : Okay. Okay. Cool it. Can Chandramukhi at least dance for me?

R (a bit apologetically) : Er… I don’t know how to break this to you but that is also banned. Not by me though. I think dancing is good exercise but some of my mates felt that it would take us back to the dark ages of Khajuraho & Kamasutra. However, if you do want to do a quick Salsa with Chunnibabu…

D : …No. No. Anything but that. Some music?

R (triumphantly) : Banned. In fact that was easy. They wanted music bands. We just banned music instead.

D : C’mon man. Why do you call yourself host? Will you at least pour me a glass of wine.

R : Sorry. Alcohol is bad for society. I don’t want to see anyone in front of bars. Only behind them. You’ll just have to gin & beer it… er… I mean grin & bear it.

D : Listen, if I can’t get a woman, a smoke, some dance, music or even wine, how exactly do I drown my sorrows.

R : Well, I’ve only banned wine. You are allowed to whine. All you want.

D : Aaaaargh. I’m out of here.

R : Aww. Go to health.

Disclaimer : All the above characters are fictitious and any resemblance to any other fictitious characters and union ministers is entirely coincidental.
Reference : If you have no clue who Devadoss is, you can read about the character he coincidentally resembles here.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

The student, the toiler, the soldier, the leader.

I was languidly watching the test match wither away into a draw when suddenly the news flashed that Anil Kumble has decided to retire. We knew it was coming. In fact, some were even giving blatantly subtle hints about it. But regardless of how much we anticipate the retirement of a great cricketer, it still leaves a sense of disbelief when it actually happens. There is a sense of loss that we won’t see that famous run up again. So while the news channels are quickly making edits of “Chak De India” to play tonight with visuals of his ten-wicket haul, while ex-cricketers are hastily sheathing their barbs and polishing their tributes, and while Mallya is wondering if he will save some money on the Royal Challengers budget, here is my piece on a man I admire.

Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar transformed Indian cricket in the 90s. Sachin showed us glimpses of the impossible. He was the magician who lived in a world which seemed illusory to us. A world of what could be. Kumble, on the other hand, lived in our imperfect world. He too was a magician. But his brand of magic was about what is. He showed us how reality could be exploited; how adversity could be ground into submission by human will. His was the art of the possible.

He was the student. Ever attentive. Ever curious. Ever experimentative. A generation which had been bred on the nostalgia of the wizardly spin quartet and then faced the disappointment of unfulfilled genius like L.Siva, Hirwani & Maninder had trouble relating to a spinner who didn’t really spin the ball much. But this gentle, bespectacled player showed us that accuracy can make up for turn. Control can make up for flight. Once he was in the team, he was the team.

He was the toiler. Labouring away on seamer friendly pitches abroad and batsman friendly pitches at home. All I remember of his spells were endless, fruitless overs for three days where he stoically bottled one end up for hours on end with no emotion, no sign of tiredness and nearly no wickets. And suddenly things would change on the fourth and fifth days. The benevolent giant suddenly became vicious. The ball would start hopping, leaping, spitting and shooting. There would be six fielders around the bat. And Kumble would spin India to victory.

He was the warrior. Broad shouldered. Big hearted. And fearless. He fought in lost causes. He fought in dead battles. He fought his own limitations. He fought with injury. He fought through injury. In fact, his last wicket was the mark of a soldier. He ran back to catch a skier in spite of the fact that he had eleven stitches in his left hand. For Kumble, the game was not a lucrative contest. It was gentlemanly war.

He was the leader. Towards the end of his career, he was elevated to captaincy as a stop-gap arrangement. As a bridge between the frustration of Dravid and the hope of Dhoni . In these difficult times, he brought a rare dignity to his role. He took a disarrayed cricket team and united them with a skeleton of hard metal.  

All great players have their trademarks. The image we remember them by. Like Lara’s backlift, Kapil’s leap, and Sachin’s lofted drive. The image that will always come to my mind when I think of Kumble is his walk back to his run up. The moment when he tosses the ball a couple of times and gets ready to try yet again. And his unbounded joy when he got a wicket. Even his 619th one.

Kumble never enjoyed the adulation that we Indians reserve for geniuses. Ours is a culture which values flamboyance over grit, elan over hard work, Boris Becker over Ivan Lendll, ease over persistence and looks over character. So we have always downplayed his achievements, ridiculed his skills and ignored his greatness. Kumble never enjoyed the mob frenzy that others got. No one burnt effigies when he was dropped. He never told us which soft drink to consume or which shaving cream to use. 

That’s ok. Kumble was not cut out to be a model. There are many of those. He belongs to that much rarer species - a role model.

Pics courtesy Zee News, Sky Sports, Hindu & NIC