Monday, April 11, 2011

Democracy is not obsolete....yet.

It has been a few months since It have written on this blog. I would like to say because I was caught up in my very exciting life. But truthfully, the real cause for my absenteeism is good old lethargy. However, certain events in both nation and international news have jolted me out of my state of lethargy into penning my thoughts here.

The popular opinion amongst the educated youth in India regarding politics and governance is something that has always deeply concerned me over the last few years. What we have seen is a trend- the young and restless are sick and tired of the corruption and red-tapism of traditional parliamentary democracy. And one common refrain is- hand the country over to the corporates. One common yet controversial statement that was made about the emergency under Indira Gandhi was "All the trains ran on time". But at what cost? I feel initially at least today's young generation would embrace the idea of an emergency. Until they start realizing what it really entails. Abritrary imprisionment, no freedom of speech and every thing must contribute to the efficient running of the machinery of the state. Produce, produce ,produce. Any dissenting voices must be crushed. But our frustration with the political fraternity often blinds us to that.

Privatisation is not always good. The India we see on news channels in their CCD's and Barista's want everything now. We are the generation that hates to wait. The genration that is used to being pampered and pandered to by technology and the consumer-crazy retail culture. We don't have the patience of democracy anymore. Neither did the Germans in the 1930's. And we all know how that worked out. If our politicans have failed us, we are responsible for we elected them. The answer in my opinion is to not to shut out the democratic process but to empower voters. Vote bank politics only work if we let them work.

And lastly, in a nation that celebrates Narendra Modi for his progress-oriented approach, I will not trade in humanity for a high GDP. I will not accept slaughter and violation of civil liberties in exhange for a few flyovers. And what use is the cheapest car in the world if even that is worth more than a human life in this nation?

So to all the supporters and facebook-likers of Anna Hazare's cause, I don't like the idea of respresentatives for civil society being arbitrarily selected on basis of what you think their achievements qualify them for. The last i checked, I live in the largest democracy in the world. So if someone is framing laws that effect me, he or she better have been elected by a people's mandate. Do not mock my adult franchise. This is not Egypt. We do not really need a revolution. We can actually elect our leaders. We need voter empowerment. That's not convenient and it's not something that can achieved in a couple of generations. But that is what we need. Because, no matter how much you tweet about it, democracy is not obsolete...yet.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Free Binayak Sen! Or pretend we are still a democracy.

This is not a political blog. I do have political views but i do not use this blog for those. This blog was supposed to be about letting the funk flow. The small things, the simple things. But there are somethings that cannot be ignored. Binayak Sen is not Jessica Lall. He is not glamorous. Bollywood celebrities have not spoken out for him. (Although Konkona Sharma did tweet about it if that counts) His case is set in Chattisgharh, not in one of the "cool" metros. And he is not a socialite. But I'll telll you what he is. Binayak Sen is a social worker who could have gone towards a succesful and prosperous career after finishing his education from Christian Medical College, Vellore.

But instead, Binayak dedicated himself to social service and became a human rights and health activist.He and his wife played key roles in the foundation of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha's Shaheed Hospital, which is an interesting model in community healthcare. The hospital owned and operated by a workers' organization. The couple also run a community-based NGO called Rupantar.He is also an advisor to Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a health care organization.

But this is not why Binayak has made himself an enemy of the state. Sure, the mainstream might find it amusing that a man should sacrifice everything for the greater good of the people, but surely they cannot want to crucify him for that. Granted, they had a whole other reason for that.

That reason is the PUCL- People's Union for Civil Liberties. As national vice president and Chattisgarh general secretary of the PUCL, Binayak had stepped on quite a few toes. Big ugly ones. He was involved in various investigations against human rights violations in anti-Naxalite operations. He especially spoke up against the vigilante terrorism of the Salwa Judum, an anti-naxalite group backed by the state that engages in horrific atrocities on tribals with even a vague link to Naxalities. And sometimes even that vague link is not needed. Women have been raped, children have been killed and houses have been burnt. Binayak Sen spoke out against that.

The case of sedition for which Binayak was arrested in 2007 is a joke at best. He has been accused because he was accused of being a courier between Narayan Sanyal, a jailed naxalite and businessmen Piyush Guha, who has been accused of having links with Naxalites. And oh yeah, he visited Narayan Sanyal 33 times. Of course these visits were all approved by the police and he was there in his capacity as a doctor. None of that matters ofcourse. The evidence against Binayak is even more ludicrous than the accusations against him. The "incriminating" documents that the authorities found include Das Kapital, communist literature and some articles on the Naxalite movement. Wow. That evidence is rock solid. Hey I know someone who has a copy of Mein Kampf. Can i report him as a genocidal Nazi?

On christmas eve, Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life imprisonment. This is a shame. I am not a political person but the Naxalites cannot all be killed. Movements like this need rehabilitaion. But who will rehabilitate them if social workers like Binayak Sen are singled out for their courage and convictions and then brutally crushed? Amnesty International has expressed solidarity with Binayak Sen. As have intellectuals across the globe from Ramchandra Guha to Noam Chomsky. I would finally like to end with a quote by Noam Chomsky that simply articulates what we have all been thinking.

Noam Chomsky: Dr Sen's arrest is clearly an attempt to intimidate PUCL and other democratic voices that have been speaking out against human rights violations in the state.

Don't we always brag about how we are so much better than China and Pakistan when it comes to an idea of democracy and freedom of expression? Can we really really cling to that conviction anymore?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Live to eat not eat to live

I woke up in the morning craving Chinese food. Actually more specifically I was craving chilli chicken with fried prawns on the side and chicken hakka noodles. With soya sauce and that delightful red chilli sauce which brings tears to my eyes for reasons of spice and joy to my heart for reasons of life. Shakespeare once said, "If music be the food of love, play on!" Well I say if "Food be the music of my gut, then cook on". I enjoy the epic concerts like those wonderfully elaborate meals with starters and a main course and that delightfully indulgent dessert. Chocolate Mousse or Blueberry Cheesecake? Ohh La La, to mousse or not to mousse, that is the question. But I also enjoy the nice little extempore performances like a quick chicken roll off the street or a few puchkas off the corner (panipuris to Mumbaikars and golgappas to Dilli people). I like the classical compositions like the legendary Hyderabadi Biryani but I also love the contemporary fusion like the chicken tikka pizza. I love a good beef steak but I also cannot help but admire the culinary genius that is the cheese chutney sandwich.

I have never been a slim person but thankfully I have always had a healthy body image. Ofcourse the feminists will scream, "Because you're a man and society does not pressure you". Maybe they're right. But that's another conversation. I also have a metabolism that is conducive to lend my shape a somewhat spherical form. But the way I see it is I have one life to live and all this amazing food to taste. Not eat, taste. There are few joys as satisfying as when you hit that sweet spot with the perfect taste. Well there is another experience that is in the same zone but that requires contraceptives. So go ahead, munch those samosas, lick that ice cream and ravage that tandoori chicken. After all, if we don't enjoy such a pure and simple indulgence as food, well there is no hope left for us then is there?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The small things

I don't know if Arundhati Roy reads my blog( i should certainly hope not!). But Ms. Roy, if you do, this is not a take on "God of small things"- that book you wrote that is the only reason we tolerate your endless rants on everything and anything under the sun. So if this came up in a partial search on google, it's not about your book.

With that out of the way, comes the question that even Ms. Roy might ask if she did happen to stumble upon this page. What is this about? Well, the small things for me are the simple pleasures, the tiny liitle moments that fill our lives. Most of us are painfully blind to how very funky these moments can be. For example, have you ever really stopped to wonder how amazing chocolate ice cream tastes when it's in that transitional state between melting and not melting? Or have you ever come back home from a hot and sweaty day of dealing with this shitty city (or city shitty) and then rested your feet in a bucket of cold water? It feels marvellous. Or the sheer joy of sucking the fruit out of a mango, old school Bihari style.

I could go on.But the point is, life is tough and we all have our problems and our pain, our hardships and our baggage. And some of us are also unlucky enough to have wives on top of all that. Okay, that's a joke. Humour. That's another small but wonderful gift we have that can light up a day like a thousand christmases and diwalis all at once. But we need to live for these moments to see them. I always make it a point to make time for myself to enjoy the small things. I am a communication professional and I spend 10 hours a day, five days a week, 51 weeks a year and god knows how many years a life in a cubicle. So it's important for me for my life not to just be a variable on a bell curve. I take time out for myself. I love performing and writing songs so I stil ldo my hip hop thing when I can. I still spend hours on video games. I have a xbox 360 and a ps2 and I never feel the need to outgrow these passions. I savour the tiny joys of beheading the boss in god of war as much as when I spit a tight flow at the open mic as much as when I have that chocolate gelato ice cream when it's just about to melt. Sure there are the big things like succeeding at work or maybe getting a record deal or falling in love. And those are great. But it's the small things that make life worth it. It's the small things have the directions to the big things in life. You miss them and you'll just drive off the road. That's all for now. So now back to getting past this alien horde in gears of war. Damn, I need a new video game.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

R.I.P Leslie Nielsen

Leslie Nielsen to a co-passenger in the cult classic 'Airplane'-"Can you fly a plane?" Co-passenger: "Surely you can't be serious!" Leslie Nielsen as deadpan as can be: "I am serious and don't call me Shirley."

The Naked Gun series, Dracula Dead and Loving It, Hot shots, Airplane and a delightful cameo in the last Scary movie. That is not a resume. That is a legacy. The legacy of a genius.Leslie Nielsen was one of the funniest lead actors to ever grace the screen. And he owned the genre of spoof medleys like no man. Even in films like Hot Shots or Scary Movie 3 where he was not the main character he owned the screen the moment he came on to it. If you have seen Hot Shots part deux, you will definitely remember that iconic sequence where Leslie Nielsen as the U.S president went up against Saddam in hand to hand combat. Crazy.

Well, today is a sad day for anyone who enjoys true comedy. Nielson died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home, surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends. He was 84. As a true fan I just want to thank him for giving us such classics. He might not have invented the spoof genre. But his amazing sense of comedy made the success of the genre a foregone conclusion. So hats off to you, Leslie. I am going to go home today and put in my Naked Gun DVD and laugh my ass off. I can think of no greater tribute to the man who was more seriously funny than anyone I have ever seen. Rest in peace maestro.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Me Mumbaikar!

The title of this post and the author have absolutely nothing in common. I am not "Me Mumbaikar". I never was and I don't see me becoming one in the future either. I don't like the idea of a city where the predominant way of getting someone's attention is to smack their lips and make a half sucking half kissing sound. Or the ubiquitous and rather disgusting "Chi Chi". Mumbaikars and well, people who live in Mumbai( two different categories, mind you) will know what I am talking about.

I am a North Indian(read: Bihari) who grew up in Calcutta, studied management in Ahmedabad and now live in Mumbai. Back home in Calcutta, they say "Ey Dada" (Dada means elder brother). In Bihar they say "Arrey Bhaisaab" (again a variation on brother combined with the more western "sir"). But what do they say in Mumbai?Nothing. They either make a smacking kissing sound or call you out with the charming "Chi Chi". That is the respect and consideration a fellow human being is given in this marvellously industrious city.

Mumbai as a city prides itself on being always busy and chaotic and money to be made and businesses to be done. But when progress reaches a point where respect for people is just not worth the effort, well then it starts getting just a bit uncomfortable. And that is what most Mumbaikars will tell you too. "Who has the time for all that?" You have to be efficient with your time. This is a city that values efficiency over human dignity.

Mumbai is of and for and the rich. Even if it is by the poor.You think the restaurants are over-priced and you feel you have a right to watch a film in a multiplex for less than 300 bucks?Too bad. Go back to Delhi. Or patna. Or whatever inglorious hole you crawled out of to come to this marvellopus land of air-kissing socialites and homicidal auto-wallahs. And bleeding heart activists who think a human's life is nowhere as valuable as a dog's. Or better still- a kiten's. Surely, no one can disagree kittens are much more necessary to save than our poor!

That's the other thing. Every city has it's share of xenophobia but this city makes an art form out of it. Maybe because of coming under attack on various occasions, there is a very prominent "If you're not with us, you're against us" way of thinking. If India wasn't such a vibrant democracy, I would worry about MNS's similarity to the Nazi Socialist Party of the 30's.

I understand this is an outsider's view and is such is lacking in a certain understanding that comes in living in a place for years. I also realize Mumbai has been hurt and crippled by the mafia,terrorists,politicians,bollywood celebs and ofcourse the greatest villain of them all- us. The complacent middle class that watch as the city we live in and even maybe love gets raped to death. And why is she being raped? Because she can be raped.

We all try and survive our personal traumas and go on but something changes in us. We carry baggage that affects and limits us and cities are no different. Cities carry baggage of their past too. So does Bombay/Mumbai. Bombay is no more. But Mumbai still carries her ghost around.

So in conclusion, I am no Mumbaikar. But I think I get why Mumbai is so messed up. It's not the greatest city in the world and I will never love it. But I can be indulgent of it's potholes. But not blind to them. Mumbai, you suck. But it's okay. I don't hold it against you. There might be some funk left in you afterall.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An Introduction to the funk

Funk-"Funk is an American musical style that originated in the mid- to late-1960s when African American performers blended soul music, soul jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony, and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground. Funk creates an intense groove in it's musical style." Intense Groove. Now that is what I'm talking about. The funk. The groove. The rhythm. The life. I am not even talking about the musical genre of funk here. This right here is about what i take from the spirit of funk music and try apply in my own life and in my own music as a hip hop artist. For me funk is Prince, funk is James Brown, funk is Rick James back in the day. I'm not saying that these artists are the ultimate proponents of funk music( though they very well might be). Nahh. But atleast in my listenings, these artists exemplified the philosphy of funk and not just the music but funk as a concept.
So what is the concept of funk? Ahhh that's the fun part. Funk for me epitomizes living on a groove, living for a groove. If you down with funk, you don't just exist. You fucking live! Funk is James Brown going crazy on stage singing 'SuperBad', funk is Prince still teaching us 'Musicology', funk is Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five spreading "The Message" back in the day. Funk is living on your own groove and loving every damn second of it. Ofcourse you ain't gotta limit yourself to music to live on funk. Funk is just the concept of living with that soundtrack in your head that never goes away. When your very state of mind, hell your very personality is shaped by that. Funk is never regretting being alive. Funk is grabbing life by the balls and breathing rather than respiring. Funk is chasing your dream till the end of the earth and laughing your ass off all along the way. When you live on that funk, people might look at you strange and you might not do everything the way people expect you to. But if you live on funk, you probably won't notice. And even if you do, it won't really matter. Funk is when life is your bitch and you fuck her till you're done with her. Then they can come and take you away. And let them write on our tombstones- "Let the funk flow."