Monday, December 09, 2013


Feminists have, all along,  demanded an level playing field and fought against ‘victim’ labels.   Have tables been turned, with raucous baying against the rapacious desire of Indian media’s Christian Grey (from  Fifty Shades of Grey, for whom elevators were a favorite hotspot)?   

Don’t get me wrong.  I have been labeled a ‘feminist’ as I write usually for women, by women and of women.   During earlier rapes cases that outraged all of us, I pleaded repeatedly for public exposure of rapists – which happened in the Nirbhay case --   and for all of us to move away from that dratted “Mera Raja Beta” syndrome, to teach boys to respect women from babyhood.

A stage comes when one has to wonder what it’s all about?   Hard on the heels of those gory gang rapes, TV channels blared the hounding of a woman by state agencies for their ‘Saheb’.

Then L’affaire Tejpal took center stage!  To shoo ‘Saheb’ and his lady into the background, hopefully until the elections get over.

What was the new one all about?  After encounters (consensual or otherwise, depending on whose version is being read) over two consecutive days, in precisely the same setting – an elevator -  a young woman confided in her fiancĂ© and a group of friends.  And then, some ten days later, starts pleading ‘raped’ in emails that are made public, with her name.  The language in her  mail now circulating in the ether would do El James proud - India’s own Fifty Shades!!

First  who is this young lady?   A young journalist, no wilting flower.  If she were, she wouldn’t be a journalist in the first place; leave alone with a sting-happy, scam-exposing Tehelka which needs brash and bold journos -- even if Tejpal was her daddy’s pal.  He would have gotten her a job elsewhere more suitable to her temperament, rather than make her a misfit in his.

So this young lady is in the Tehelka gang assigned to hostessing the Robert de Niro and family at a lavish think fest in Goa. During the course of said duty, she remains in constant contact with Tarun Tejpal, both before and even immediately after the ‘sexual assaults’ about which she had confided in to her friends, including Tejpal’s daughter.
Going by her version, she remained admirably self possessed, enough to continue with her official hostessing duties and even communicate with her “Rapist” professionally and personally.   
Then all of a sudden  this self possessed young lady, obsessed with Fifty shades of Tejpal, realizes that a complaint is order, not the Tejpal apology for a ‘drunken banter’ / ‘encounter’.   

There is her immediate senior, Shoma Chaudhary of Tehelka who sees a junior colleague in a difficult situation and tries to clam down on the stink -- aghast, as Tejpal stands violating  all that she had stood for in her career; all her strong stands in the arena of women’s rights are in danger of being flushed down the drain.   They already are now, her name horrendously public, unlike the flimsy veil thrown around the ‘victim’.

And Tejpal? Accused of raping his own employee at an event he organized for the Chatterati. After some posturing, he was smart and net-worked enough to have bought time (+ what else?), with the big, brave BJP who sent in its Goa CM as savior of the damsel-in-distress and of its very own warrior-in-distress.

The media dutifully reports medical checks on Tejpal to build Goa police a water-tight case and the persons sharing a cell with Tejpal in custody.    What are the odds of this high-profile rapist not spending just a few months in lotus-land Goa (who ever actually ‘stays’ in jail?) Didn’t we see Sanjay Dutt hosting parties and a Mata di Chowki on parole? Then an appeal to upturn everything and after a spell of lying low, a brash re entry into Page 3. Business as usual?

Point to be noted: it is only high profile Rapists who are exposed.  The rest enjoy the anonymity to repeat their crimes.
The other high profile Rapist, a former SC judge, no less, is on Tejpal’s page, not acknowledging rape at all.  They call them ‘encounters’ now, sexual, not the deadly variety.
Some of Judge Ganguly’s fellow judges have reportedly demanded that no female interns be posted  with them --  a clear cut case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  They want women out of the office, rather than control themselves.  Or is it to eliminate competition for their male offspring some decades down the line?  Will  it stop ‘encounters’ outside the workplace or the elevator?

All it needs to throw the baby out with the bath water in L’affaire Tejpal would be a classic Tehelka sting: nail the Fifty Shades of Tejpal to establish what was consensual, what was the upshot of the hectic politicking to gain time before arrest and after  and what triggered off the raucuous rape charge and police follow up (instead of the commission as in BJP’s ‘Saheb’ case).

 For the women, once again the classic “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Shoma damned for trying to contain the stink; had she chosen to shout from day one, would she not have earned the ire of her colleagues furious at the sabotage of the Tehelka brand?
For the “victim”, had she chosen to keep quiet, would her fiancĂ©` and  those colleagues who kept her secret, have kept it?  Were her actions to preempt someone else going public on her?

Still on the lookout for  a Man in a world of Rapists?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Need for War Correspondents Courses

In the old days, there used to be War Correspondent courses for journalists. I don’t know if they still have them. Perhaps such need to be reinforced and made absolutely compulsory for our loquacious TV commentators.  These ‘journalists’ fall over each other to make revelations of what is happening on the front, hoping to later claim credit for having sparked off another Indo-Pak war …... complete with hectoring of the Armed forces and the administration  on how they should handle situations that they have been trained for, cocksure in their belief that they and they alone know how any and every situation should be handled!!  Obviously opposition leaders cannot afford to be left behind  in hectoring and making absurd demands which, if anything, exhibit how far from reality they actually are.

This morning’s Indian Express Op-ed page (August 13, 2013) carries a very very rationale argument “A Competitive Pseudo-Patriotism”  by Rtd. Lieutenant General  V K Nayar  reiterating that there are laid down procedures for the armed forces to deal with whatever happens at the front, which need not become fodder for competitive newshounds and political spokesperson to make war on TV, to be beamed to millions who do not know of how the Armed Forces operate;  and have been operating for the past 66 years to keep the country safe, except when politics overtakes defence needs.  

The full glare of media, at all times, with its damaged integrity and blatantly incomplete reporting  may end up negative for India’s national interests.  If everyone is always looking over the shoulder to wonder how some action may appear to a novice reporter unaware of the nuances of the situation, very little would be actually done in national interest alone.

Is it not time that we accept that there is a role away from media coverage for operations at all levels in matters that have to be conducted with some confidentiality, whether defense or diplomacy?  

Saturday, August 10, 2013


?s around couples …..

“Palaces have a strange virus.
They echo, quite maliciously, the unspoken word.”
The author of a book that recounts a unique relationship in an ancient tale in poetry format, that is highly evocative and passionate, questing and loving, acknowledged his wife in the writing of the long, long poem during long winter evenings. 
Twenty years down the line, the same author lives up to his bureaucratic biases to bring out learned tomes, dry as dust on assorted suggestions for policy change.   There is no mention of the wife any more.  What does that hint of the relationship two decades on?
Couples, especially long lived ones, do evoke unspoken queries in our times with its rising sensitivity to man-woman relationships at all levels.  Question marks often surround senior couples seen in public parks and gatherings:
Is that eternally smiling grandma faking it?
Or that smirking hubbie?  That quick hug, was it for external consumption only?
An old couple raises the thought: Which face is more lined?  Is the old woman’s smooth cheek symptom of her never having held any reins in her hands or made any decisions of her own?    
See that Aunty there, she’s wife of a retired big wig, may be an IAS babu … that official style of dressing, everything matches. Her earrings not only match her purse but also husband’s pipe!
There’s her opposite.  Bindaas Buddhi with loud prints, skirt and horribly unfeminine but comfortable slippers, positively dressing down.  That one couldn’t care less how she looks. Why? There  can be many valid reasons …..
She may be beyond marriageable age and actually relieved that the hunt is over and the family off her back finally -- dress to please herself and her comfort, rather than prospective in laws.   Showing off the wrinkles and smiles with her eyes.

She may be genuinely bindaas, loves the freedom.       Or it could be a form of rebellion from the pressure of conform, to look good. For What ? to attract a male ? but  she  doesn’t want to attract any male. Can’t stand them? Or to spite?  That pressure from her man to “ look good, don’t make me ashamed in front of the others”… Few men want their women to stand out in the crowd.  They want that their women should look good. Bas. Other guys should envy but not pant after their women.   
Don’t  Women ever dress to please women and themselves? 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Of Politicians and Puppies

“The analogy of the car and the dog makes the riot sound like an accident when it was as much a designer event as Modi’s career …….”
This sentence made its way into the consciousness like few others have in recent times, for a simple reason --  the realization  that kudos is due to a professional for actually facing reality, when seasoned writers seem to have been taken in by rhetoric not backed by reality. Or perhaps ……. ?

Recent weeks have seen a … call it, trumpeted campaign, media overhype, infotainment,  adverpleading  or whatever new name may be coined for what passes for the long playing comments seen on news and edit pages.
Is India doomed to be drowned in media hype?  Or are, hopefully, our masses wide awake and able to read between the lines?  Especially our newly minted young voters?   Is history all that old a lesson to be so easily forgotten?

Since Time Immemorial, writers, poets, bards have been paid to sing paeans to the ruling deity or king, attributing to them virtues they often had no clue of.  In India, prime examples are the Rajputs’ and Sikhs and their fighting honor, which allowed them to allow India to be invaded again and again because they were busy squabbling with each other instead of fending off the foreigners.  

Abroad perhaps the most noted example that comes to mind is the poets and bards who sang vociferously of the vaunted ‘values’ of the British when they were nothing but  famously “a nation of shopkeepers”, whose last great monarch, Queen Victoria left behind a set of morals that continue to riddle even our society more than a century after her death.

Coming back to India, what are the bards going to sing next of?  Pink chaddis or khakhi ones?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where will the Mango Man go?

Many years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Are we raising a generation paupers?”
In that I had argued that with all the proposals being made for investments in insurances of all sorts, SIPs, mutual funds, housing, luxury vehicles, savings for children’s education and marriages   plus the enticements of clubs and holidays etc etc,  how much did  the ordinary middle class  family have left to actually live on after all those putaways?
This morning a wealth management CEO told readers that he put 20,000/- a month in two SIPS since she was born, for his  daughter’s graduation and post graduation. And then another for her marriage.
Now if you are putting away thirty grand a month in three SIPs for your presumably only kid, how much must you earn to maintain the lifestyle while bringing her up, clubs, holidays, jewelry for the wife plus health insurance and life insurance and other investments, plus purchase of properties and cars? Suppose another kid came along? Then what?
Bank deposits are an absolute No-No.  You need the money multipliers.  No mention of now regular collapse of some mutual fund scheme or the other or the walking away of the foreign companies from desi insurance companies.  LIC is absolutely anathema to such advisors.
What on earth does the poor ordinary person do, our Mango Man (aam aadmi) with only 4 or 5 digit annual income and a family of parents and children support?   

Any convenient poisons like those our farmer brethren use?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Seniors: medical insurance rip-off

Was medical insurance brought to India only to fatten the already fat insurance moneybag, or to provide some relief from soaring medical costs to the general populace?
Let’s face it: the profit margins are cannot be the only considerations in medical insurance. The American example is a recent good one.
Here we have a classic fat-cat situation with medical insurance companies planning to elbow out senior citizens from medical cover from their offspring’s policies, without offering any suitable package that will benefit the seniors with a reasonably priced cover.  
Are they so unaware of ground realities that they do not know that the majority of those covered belong to a generation when retirement planning was virtually unheard of?  Those generations earned and spent it all on a house, if possible and the education of their children that they may live better than them.  Whatever little was saved was spent on higher education and marriages. A tiny majority qualified for  pensions now eroded with galloping inflation.
In that scenario, medical cover from their working children was a great relief in old age.  But within less than five years of introduction, those insurance big wigs in their ivory towers argue that the maximum outgo is for old people ... that becomes  misuse of an insurance policy that was created for this very purpose!
Executives who were virtually railroaded into it with the offer that the premiums would earn tax deductions, are now being shooed away -- now they are railroaded away from it with an additional premium, so that they may leave their old parents in the lurch, arguing that the extra burden is beyond their budgets.  In the bargain, no one stops to think whether that burden would be easy on the budget of a pensioner or a senior citizen clinging to old savings against the harsh grab of rising inflation all round.
What makes one ponder more is the fact that these so-called mediclaim companies were set up for public benefit.  Brings one to the question:  public benefit?   Which public are we talking about here – the general public which consists of working people and their aged retired parents or only the segment of the public that works in these companies and their top bosses who only consideration is the annual balance sheet showing a healthy profit?

Once again, it is the business elites versus the people of India. JAI HO!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feeding India's Poor

A few days ago, the newspapers carried statements of SEBI and private banks’ head honchos declaim against RBI rate cut in absence of other government hand outs.  What, one wonders, was the purpose of private banks if they can operate only with government handouts?  What happens to their much lauded ‘private’ status then?
Banks, entrepreneurs, economic intellectuals et all rail against the food bill that promises food in the belly of India’s poor.  Instead of those lakhs, they argue in favor of diverting that money to industrialists’ coffers, purportedly to speed up development via industrial growth, claiming that will raise India up faster.

The Question is: against a handout of x lakh crores, what guarantee is there of creation of at least y thousand jobs?  In recent times, the import of state of art technology means less than c hundred jobs, generally limited to the upper middle and upper classes?
What are these chappies afraid of?  Actually?
Of those lakhs of really poor, who cannot afford one square meal a day,  slum dwellers in the smaller towns, rural and tribal areas, the sc and st deprived classes, who would for the first time, get access to food to fill their bellies …. 
That, after a full belly, they may want more -- amenities, education, health, jobs  and some of those goodies, shampoos, bournvita, chocolates, maggi,  drinks, eats and homes that these gentlemen proclaim to have done wonders in.
Perhaps they know that they will not be able to move fast enough to meet the stepped up demand and then the MNCs will step in while they watch the outcome of their playing ducks and drakes with national investments.
Just as we have watched Sahara and other chit funds fool people of savings;  a Mallya lead the high life while his kingfisher employees make do without salaries, the argument being that kingfish airlines has nothing  in common with money spinning breweries, except the common owner?   Or all those netas with multiple lakh crores?   Has anyone wondered how despite a recession and deflated industrial growth, the personal incomes of big wigs show  healthy hikes?

The arguments for industrial growth are well measured:
One industrialist argues     “where do you decide to what level growth should fall?  And how do you bring it up?  We’ve brought down growth but to what level have we succeeded in controlling inflation?”
The SEBI chairman wanted post office rates and statutory liquid ratios to come down first.  CEO,HDFC wanted liquidity to improve with government spending and FII inflows before his bank could do anything.   Citibank CEO wanted more government, public and private sector spending to happen with improved liquidity first. And CEO, ICICI bank said that deposit rates would not come down unless the deposit growth rates and seasonal demand improves.

On literacy vs skill development, it is argued that instead of wailing over the ‘missing women’ lost in female foeticide, better growth will improve lives of those living children.  Why not, but only if factories will sprout that will offer fruitful employment to the boys allowed to be born and pampered into rapisthood.
In short: Faster industrial growth vs. food in the belly of the starved or semi starved ----  but only if the government will bankroll that industrial growth!!

Another way out may be if all these industrialists with begging bowls were to check their accounts to see how much they owe the government under what heads and how many petitions and appeals they have filed to stave off that payment. Instead of a vast legal department to deal with those, let them just cough up the balance, to give the government more than enough to either feed those poor or help the new industrial growth along, perhaps both.

Even so, where are all those jobs going to come from? Everyone worth his salt is united in declaring that the government has to get out of the public sector as soon as possible.  So one huge employment segment is firmly out.
The private sector creates limited jobs, a couple thousand per hundred crores investment, may be.
That leaves us with faujis, policewallas, babus and netas.
Our army is desperately short of men; their pay is abysmal.  But the babus fight any pay hike tooth and nail. Ditto the policewallas for whom the absence of decent pay hike, plus babu-neta demands means more rampant corruption.  So unless we really pay our uniformed forces right, another huge segment of employment is closed.
And of course, there is no rein on the recruitment and corruption of the babus and the netas.

Reports from China indicate that their single child policy has now resulted in spoilt brats called Little Emperors, whose self absorption has led to a damaging decline of the work ethic and discipline that fuelled the country’s dramatic rise.
The effects of this phenomena are slated to be felt as soon as 2020 when India’s average age will be 29 against China’s 37, leaving that many less working years left for the  working population that in China, struggles with their little emperors, themselves and two sets of retired parents each from the pre-retirement planning days.
Statistics indicate that by 2040 the Indian population will be more than China’s and younger too; that translates into greater productivity – if there are jobs to be productive in.  Stats do tell lies, but there is always a grain of truth somewhere. Question is how to we capitalize on this hare and tortoise race with China …. feed, house, clothe, education and train young people to contribute to positive change, not merely  terror and rape statistics.

The issue then is of creating jobs.  If these biggies want to create jobs, they need gargantuan government handouts which could empty the banks, plus speedy land reforms and acquisitions which will barely give jobs to those dispossessed, plus speedy clearances and infrastructure support --- not that their record for giving results despite such support is anything to talk about.
Yet the question is:  et c’est possible? Politically?  Even with an election looming?  Will the opposition allow that?
What then happens to those teeming hungry millions and their daily bread, while our BMWallahs  laugh all the way to those banks?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Back to the Roots

Going back to my roots seems to have become a thing of now.
First it was my book BEYOND DIAMOND RINGS which revisited my matriarchal Sindhi roots and the evolution of Sindhi women since the Partition, although I was born post partition.
Suddenly last week, I found myself wearing what would a today version of the traditional dress of my grandmothers “paro chadar”.  Their paro was a full skirt, could be poplin, bosky, silk, satin, velvet , whatever; topped with a kurti, the length of which was obviously dictated by fashion.
The whole would be topped by a chadar, sindhi adaption of the odhni or the muslim ‘chador’ that all enveloping cover all. Once again, that could be plain white fabric, poplin or mull, net or silk, depending on the ocasison, the time and circumstances etc.  jewelry was obviously a must.
My adaption was a cotton printed skirt made from the salwar fabric of a salwar kameez set.  And my kurti was a T shirt to match. Odhni dispensed with in this sticky heat…….  But still back to the roots, right!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

BJP: Mughal clones?

Does it sound like a totally preposterous comparison: of the BJP to the Mughals?   But there it is, the BJP has just done what the Mughals did centuries ago.
Once past their prime, the Mughals oversaw the demise of Hindustan, first losing the south and letting administration slide.
In our times, the BJP rose swiftly to take Delhi and spread its wings across the country. Slowly those wings lost wind; its southern bastion, Karnataka took the sting out of the BJP’s neta-speak, rather raving and ranting about corruption and scams. Now Karnataka has firmly rejected the BJP, actually opting for the ‘scam prone’ Congress instead.  
One wonders: was it a mere coincidence that all the scams crept out of the woodwork while BJP was facing voter rejection?   Were the BJP years all that scam free or it is mere Congressi forebearance that has kept those worms inside the wood work still?
The BJP mughals have not only lost the south first in their retreat from power.  They have actually set something of a record in non governance.  The last lok sabha has been found to be the least productive in history, just like the reigns of the later mughals, almost entirely thanks to the BJP’s tactical determination not to let it function. The party stalwarts are so scared of debate that they chose to disrupt proceedings all the time, so that nothing can be discussed, unless it is raising the pay and perks of MPs.
FDI, land reform, police reform, corruption, food for all, whatever – for the BJP it made no difference whether business suffered, the poor or something they had initiated themselves.  The only concern apparently is the paralysis of administration with spice in the media and on twitter – as if that is all there is to India, Bharat, Hindustan, you pick the name, for what is there in a name? India or a rose remains a rose by any name.

Sunday, May 05, 2013


When the government announced a scheme aimed at putting cash into BPL hands for two square meals a day, a cacophony of learned corporate intellectuals pontificated over the evil of such hand outs to the poor.
Better, it was argued, to give that money to entrepreneurs and industrialists to set up units to provide jobs, instead of food protection.
Many wondered whether that might not be a more effective way of taking the country forward.  
But then how many businessmen actually use their own money to start business? And are the numbers of jobs created worth the number of crores from public money in the banks?  
Also does industry really run on its own?
The answer is a big NO, as evident from the enunciations of banking heavyweights from the private sector, the head honchos of the private banks who consider themselves a cut above nationalized banks and of SEBI, the bastion of those with investable surpluses.
On May 3rd, 2013, the Reserve Bank of India announced a cut in the repo rate, no doubt hoping to spark of a revival in the flagging economy.
But from SEBI and the private banks, there was a loud  NIX.
The SEBI chairman wanted post office rates and statutory liquid ratios to come down first.
The CEO,HDFC wanted liquidity to improve with government spending and FII inflows before his bank could do anything.
The Citibank CEO wanted more government, public and private sector spending to happen with improved liquidity first.
And the CEO, ICICI bank said that deposit rates would not come down unless the deposit growth rates and seasonal demand improves.

What does all this mean?   That banks and industrialists need constant  bottle feeds of government assistance, even as they begrudge the poorest of the poor some food, while they indulge in their world class luxury brands. 
Perhaps we’ll reach the Top Ten Table only when we learn to carry all with us.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



The question is a very simple one: is Sanjay Dutt guilty of accumulating an arsenal of illegally acquired arms?  If yes, he needs to go through the sentence handed down. 
and not all the caterwauling  of  the film fraternity and its producers should change that.
At the time of signing those contracts that total over 500 crores, it was Sanjay's duty to warn them of the impending judgement. If he did not, should that let him off the hook? 
Then why not so many others, with more or less equal claims of innocence who also have young or elderly dependents, most without the money to fall back on that Sanjay's family has.
All of us have grown with this man's story.  As a teenager, ladla beta of one of the best known and respected couples on the social scene, both of them MPs, Sanjay repeatedly let down his family with his tyrsts with drugs. The family always rallied round to help wash them out of his system and ease his return into the Bollywood family. Always the Return of the Prodigal Son.
Finally it was the arms episode that proved the last straw on father Sunil Dutt's parliamentary career.  Then a disastrous marriage, an abandoned wife, years later a second happier marriage, estrangement from sisters, finallly  forgive and forget as once again the family has rallied around Sanjay.  
One is tempted to wonder: were those glam don roles in Vaastav and Munnabhai meant to create images which are proving so useful in raising public sympathy now?
The question remains:
Should he be let off the hook because he has 500 crores in others' pipelines ?
Should he be given the leeway that will not be given to so many others who may or may not be equally at fault?
If we accept that a middle aged man should not pay for a mistake he made as a young man,  what of that 17 year old who was the kingpin of the Nirbhaya rape case?
If Sanjay is not guilty for acquiring that arsenal, then every young kashmiri pandit who hears of humiliating episodes in Shrinagar, every young tamil getting news from Sri Lanka or every young muslim in any of the pandemic riots that continue to plague us,  should be held to be justified in acquiring illegally procured arms "to protect" their families.
In a democracy, the same law applies to all.  Should that law be different for the offspring of not one but two former MPs of this democracy?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Women rising?

interesting sidelight at the Woman rising event at Gujarat Vidyapith, ahmedabad on thursday. tells us a lot about both male and female attitudes.
as the crowd broke up into garba circles, a young woman invited a young man she obviously knew well to garba in her circle. he indicated the backpack he was carrying around. when she pleaded, he promptly slipped the pack off his bag and handed it to her and started to dance, leaving her struggling to place it on her back before getting back into the circle!!
if she could do garba with back pack, why not him?
these are the attitudes that need to be changed, both the young women and the young men, right? Jai Ho

Women rising?

interesting sidelight at the Woman rising event at Gujarat Vidyapith, ahmedabad on thursday. tells us a lot about both male and female attitudes.
as the crowd broke up into garba circles, a young woman invited a young man she obviously knew well to garba in her circle. he indicated the backpack he was carrying around. when she pleaded, he promptly slipped the pack off his bag and handed it to her and started to dance, leaving her struggling to place it on her back before getting back into the circle!!
if she could do garba with back pack, why not him?
these are the attitudes that need to be changed, both the young women and the young men, right? Jai Ho

Friday, February 01, 2013

Last week at the Jaipur Literature Festival, I met up with my former paper, Rajasthan Patrika and a little piece was done on Mastani, how it came about and the role of Mastani in the politics of those times and in Baji Rao's life. Plus inevitable questions about JLF.
Wonderful to see young people so cued in on national interests and issues and asking such perceptive questions which has some of the panelists stumped too!!
One thing came thru loud and clear. here we are all full of the development happening in Gujarat and how far we have come. JLF was a national festival with plenty of international analysts as well expounding on national issues, political, social, economic and literary.
Sadly we gujjus dont figure anywhere. in development they talked of UP and Bihar racing ahead. literary and politically, gujarat drew a blank. sad but true.

Controversies at Jaipur festival 2013

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2013  presents a modern manthan, of ideas and ideals, opinions, books, fashions, what have you.  With six issues being taken up per hour from 10 am to 7 pm, the choice is incredible, whether one wants to just hang out with a cup of tea or coffee or any of the other delicious eats on offer, watching the latest in winter wear on display  or partake of more serious offerings in any of the panel discussions.
In one of his less controversial statements, Ashish Nandy pointed out  India’s  four favorites:  films, sports, crime and politics. All were present at Jaipur, so footfalls were obviously heavy.  It was during the same discussion, after Tehelka’s Tarun tejpal offered a different view of corruption that Ashish let fly.  When Tejpal suggested that the ‘corruption’ be looked at as a way of means of equalizing equity, offering a pick me up to the have nots,  Ashish Nandy let fly his missile about corruption being the worst amongst the SC,ST and OBC.  Despite the hooting, he continued, ignoring the fact that there is no Old Boys network for them to fall back on , which allow an enormous amount of subterfuge and sophistication  in the multi-crore corruption of the upper castes and India Inc.    No wonder there was such a huge backlash, first on the stage  and later in the streets and the courts.
Wonder if Ashish Nandy is aware of the realities?  That Bengal and Kerela lost their vaunted positions on the India development table when taken over by CPM…supposedly non corrupt according to Nandy?  That the SC ST poor’s version of corruption is less than chillar compared to the stakes in the huge scams in big business and elsewhere? As someone remarked in the melee, it was upper caste leaders who oversaw Darupadi vastraharan and precipitated the Mahabharat?   But the big Nandy was only concerned with the corruptions attributed to Mulayam and Mayawati!
The controversy completely blanked out the earlier part  of that session which was focused on a hunt for
Utopia.  Why?  Of what use a Utopia,which by its very name is not available.  If it were, would it be a Utopia?  Is there such a thing as complete freedom, of speech, religion, economy…whatever?  where does the utopia come in, except in the fancies of the Greek literateurs and their present day fans. A utopia would be boring. When  constant changes are being sought and chased,  why hunt for a utopia?
In the search for a break out nation, the focus was on the developing states, listed as UP and MP and Bihar.  For some reason, Gujarat did not figure in the listing.  Is it already developed?
But what was discussed was the fact that strong regional leaders are rarely prime minister material, for the very fact of their being regional leaders whose pull is limited to their state.  And India today has not one but three chief ministers serving a third popular term already.   As a matter of history, all India’s non-Nehru/Gandhi prime ministers were dark horses, virtually pulled out of a hat.  So the hunt is on for that hat and its contents for 2014, when politics will matter only if there is also a policy to appease an India hungry for universal good and institutional leaders rather than reservations and sectional benefits and economic reforms’ benefit has actually percolated down to the aam aadmi, since everyone is aware that despite the rise of the regional leaders, economic control still remains with Delhi.

Will the Kashmir issue ever be resolved?  Despite the anguish and the anxiety of the ordinary peoples  of both India and Pakistan?
The proceedings at JLF were rather despondent on this issue.  A session with India’s present and former IFS bosses, and those from Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan ended up with a lady literateur begging for peace to enable people to move back and forth and mingle over newly built bridges, rather than held back by walls; while the big babus hung on to their stiff upper lip and their insistence on proper protocols etc etc which have held back the peace process for so many decades now.  Pavan Varma’s cut and dried stance and strict babu attitude  came as a shock for someone who remembers him as the author of the incredibly sensitive book on the relationship between Yudhistir and Draupadi.   A  babu who was a poet is now a poet who has become babudom personified, straddling diplomacy and Chankya giri.

At the human level too, the picture is not very encouraging.  At a session titled Chronicles of Exile where the subject was a book “Our moon has blood clots” by Rahul Pandita who belongs to the exiled Kashmiri Pandits, his fellow panelists, one a valley muslim and the other a muslim from Leh seemed very pointedly to refuse to concede the  realities of the situation. Rahul pleaded for an acknowledgment of his people’s trauma and their lost heritage in Kashmir, his co panelists displayed a  stoic refusal to see that point at all.  They seemed were more concerned with resolving the LOC so they could meet up with their relatives on the other side and do business with them.  Had it not been so tragic, the obduracy and specious arguments presented would have been amusing!  Given such attitudes, finding a solution in Kashmir remains a very big question in my mind, and a whole lot of others too.

It was while listening to this session that I realized the pride I could take in my own heritage.  I belong to the Sindhi Bhaibund community.  Partition saw our entire homeland swallowed up by Pakistan and the exile was en masse.  But Sindhis have not stopped to fester or to breed violence.  They brushed aside those feelings of alienation and uprootedness which have become the harbringer of vicious violence in the partitions such as Palestine;  Sindhis have clung to their memories of a happier time, when they interacted with their muslim brethren and went on pilgrimages to well known, time honored sites not available to them now.  And they just buckled down and got to work to make a living for their children, without any begging,.... not on the streets, not from any government ….  It was plain and simple hard work which has brought Sindhis right on top of the economic table whichever country of the globe they live and work in.  But they never, repeat never speak about what they left behind and lost in that flight from what was HOME.  SALUTE!  JAI HO!
Amongst the Kashmiris,  there is an ignoring of the problems created by lowering the security systems by railing at the routine mobile blackouts, with neither remorse nor sympathy for the damage done to the rest of the country.   
End note: all agree that Kashmir is Delhi’s cottage industry for trouble, that with Pakistan being declared a failed state, Azad Kashmir is no longer a viable option. But…but will the Kashmiri aam aadmi accept that?
Or will it go the Khalistan and Bodoland way, with the elite exiling themselves to safe havens abroad from where they can send funds to create mischief at home?
The most recent example of this is the Kurds, a community of some 30 odd million that is scattered in four middle eastern countries,  while the elites have based themselves in the US from where they watch their compatriots making themselves  with the concessions they extract from the respective governments, under the constant threat of a ‘Kurdish” uprising.

Speaking for his Chanakya’s New Manifesto, Pavan Varma held forth on the need for reforms, both economic and judicial with a transparent nexus between the crime and the punishment and a neutral technology that eliminates touts.  He himself is a former Babu and knows all the way and means. Doable? The author says it is all doable, not rocket science.  Must read the book to see exactly what and how, the exact prescriptions.