If Rama really vanquished Ravana…

Burning effigies is usually the proof that you cannot touch the real person. It is done by the groups who need to express their collective anger.
It has happened during Bofors scandal when ABVP burnt the effigies of Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh was hurt and his family was upset. The worse moment in his life was when his father Harvanshrai Bachchan asked him whether he was involved in the scam.
The effigy burners didn’t need the proof of his involvement. Allegations were enough for them.
On the other hand, the Congress activists have burnt the effigies of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Amethi and in Kolkatta. For similar reasons.
It isn’t confined to India.
In USA, Kathy Griffin a female stand up comedian did it to President Donald Trump. The sight of Kathy holding the decapitated effigy that was burnt disturbed Trump’s 11-year-old son but a bit of debate showed that the conservatives had given a similar treatment to Barrack Obama!
Americans have a long history of citizens committing violence against president effigies to voice political dissent. Americans have a tradition of burning the effigies of their own Presidents. James Madison, John Tyler, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush have faced it.Uttar Pradesh RSS backed body burnt the effigy of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru after Congress criticised Narendra Modi recently. Atal Behari Vajpayee faced the same fate and that too at the hands of RSS’ student wing ABVP which wasn’t satisfied with his handling of Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The list is long. One thing is clear that burning effigies is a symbolic protest. What is clearer is that you burn the effigies of leaders who are already in power, beyond your reach. Burning effigy creates a momentary ‘sense of victory’ among the groups who do it. And the anger against the ‘demon’ gets diluted. The same Amitabh Bachchan enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, the mass adulation. There even is an Amitabh Bachchan temple in Kolkatta where they worship him. Ditto for everyone else who has seen the photographs and reports of his own effigies being burnt. This brings me to the practice of burning of the effigy of Ravana. As the traditional story is, Ravana kidnapped Sita but never forced himself on her. He allowed her a separate place to live and didn’t even touch her.

Lord Rama waged a war against him, killed him and got his wife back. There doesn’t seem any justification to the custom of burning the effigy of Ravana, year after year, in the entire Hindu community. We have no reason to nurture the venom against Ravana centuries after the episode (whether real or fiction, history or mythology) where he had not done anything despicable. Why do we celebrate Dassera? Could it be that Ram didn’t win the war? And Ravana just let Sita free? And Ram never could kill Ravana? The entire episode of killing Ravan was added – like a lot of episodes in our mythology – to glorify ‘our side’? And seeing that ‘we’ couldn’t touch him, we started the custom of burning his effigy?

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Is BJP any different from Congress?

Mohan’s Musings

Is BJP any different from Congress?

BJP has not reached the pinnacle of power overnight. It has been the committed pracharaks and the leaders who have been at it crawling slowly as Jan Sangh.
The party won just 3 seats in the entire country during 52-57 parliamentary elections and 4 seats during the 57-62 elections.
I remember being a supporter as a nine-year-old. I had even joined the shaakhas of RSS for a few months and appeared for Hindi exams run by Nagpur. I did Prathmik, Prambhik, Pravesh and Parichay. Didn’t continue for Kovid and Rattan, though. I liked English more.
They taught us laathi and salute.
It was in Kandivali. The school was Dhanamal Vidyalaya.
I forget the name of the leader who came to campaign during ’57 but remember the cold night and warm greetings he received. He spoke in Hindi and was a good orator. Come to think of it, unlike Congress (where even the President and the Vice President give speeches with chits and notes and still fumble) BJP has several good orators.
To return to this nameless leader on this cold night, he talked about Hindu pride and we all, Sindhi refugees and their children, loved it. I had goose bumps. Sindhis didn’t like Muslims. They had to flee from Sindh because of them.
L K Advani and Hashu Advani were the popular figures who got more Sindhis to support Jan Sangh.
During the campaign, we could outdo the loudspeakers of Congress campaign and even stop it from proceeding further with our chant of Deepak Deepak. The election symbol of Jana Sangh was lamp. I have scrawled it on the walls during this period.
I don’t remember whether Jan Sangh candidate won or loss but this was the closest I got to the elections. I wrote the slips and witnessed the counting too. I remember how every mid-level leader would talk of growth.
I was disillusioned when these leaders refused to entertain the questions I had. I had read a few books and had asked questions. Questions that the RSS leaders (mid-level) didn’t encourage. Questions that Jan Sangh activists tried to answer but failed. And they didn’t like it.
As I got interested in writing and read progressive literature my opinion for the ideology of Jan Sangh started changing. They appeared koop mandook (frogs in the well) and I’d say it. They didn’t like it. And I came closer to Muslims. I saw that none of them resembled Aurangzeb, Genghes Khan or even Afzal Khan. They were like me. Middle class and struggling to survive. There was no reason to be hostile to them. I loved Urdu poetry, qawwalis and Urdu writings. I enjoyed Saadat Hasan Manto, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Ismat Chugtai and even Ibne Safi who wrote detective books. I also liked the songs sung by Mohammad Rafi, the music of Naushad and paintings of Maqbool Fida Husain.
My tryst with the progressive thinking too was brief. But let’s not get into that now.
I saw the Jan Sangh at close quarters during the emergency period and realised the strong network they have built up. They (and RSS) fought the tyranny of Mrs Indira Gandhi. I knew of the pracharaks or volunteers who would pick up pamphlets or handwritten messages and deliver them. It was fascinating but I kept away.
I saw Advani, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Pramod Mahajan and others at close quarters when BJP held its adhiveshan in Mumbai. I was a journalist and was covering them as a news-story. BJP was a disciplined lot. Advani was urging the party to spread its wings down south and about his dream of Ram Rajya.
Advani did bring ‘Ram Rajya’ and today BJP is ruling the country.
It is this obsession and single minded struggle that Jan Sangh became Bharatiya Janata Party and attained its dream. But it was his Rath Yatra that culminated in Babri Masjid demolition that divided the country once again after the partition.
It instigated riots and Mumbai bomb blasts. In fact, terrorism in India began after this. But BJP did come to power.
It happened when Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of a coalition government.
It also happened when Narendra Modi has become the Prime Minister with an absolute majority.
And now, I don’t see any difference between BJP of today and Congress of yesterday.
Even Narayan Rane is joining the BJP and someone has said that Congress would be left with only three persons – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.
If this is what they wanted, they all could have joined Congress! What’s in a name.


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Why do Indians have a short fuse?

Mohan’s Musings

Why Indians have a short fuse?

I first noticed the difference in the pranks they telecast on TV. In the western countries, I noticed, when the people are fooled with pranks for TV most take it sportingly and laugh about it. But try doing it to an Indian and see the response. You will only discover irritation, anger, snarl and even abuses.
Clearly, we are not a happy people. A recent survey places India at 122 in the index, even behind China and Pakistan.
There are many reasons for this. Let’s look at our leaders, their speeches, their photographs in the banners. Their index finger is always angrily pointing towards some unknown target. You’ll find them hurling accusations, abuses and threats at whosoever they imagine to be their rivals and even the communities, linguistic groups and castes they dislike. They spew venom, polarise the country and attain power.
This hatred percolates down. It also spreads in all directions.


The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. They are further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes. The ‘lowest’ is Shudras and funnily, they too have their sub-castes.
The hostilities between the castes often begins at family level with parents telling their children not to interact with the ‘lower class’.
The conflict begins during the childhood itself.
The child belonging to one community, caste and linguistic group is ‘alerted’ about the ‘lower status’ of the others; teachers, principal and of course the classmates. The ‘others’ are described in derogatory terms.
The hatred increased when India was divided into states on the linguistic basis. It was virtually the return of the feudal system. The old time rulers were replaced by the elected representatives, the MLAs and MPs and the Ministers. The hostility remained the same, warlike. Whether two States fight over the division of river water (Cauvery) or over a city (Mumbai Aamchi) , it is always a warlike situation. The Gujarati has hated the Maharashtrian, the Tamilian has disliked the Hindi speaking visitors, the Bengalis refuse to give directions if asked in Hindi and so on.
The feudal hostilities have survived and have been nurtured.


The guy who lives in a slum, sharing a 10×10 kholi with half a dozen others, sleeping on the uneven floor and struggling hopes for a comfortable life in future. The future may grant him an apartment, a vehicle, some money in the pocket and some more deposited in the bank but he finds that the life around him remains unchanged. The roads continue to have potholes. He cannot escape the clumsily installed speed breakers. He finds himself spending long hours travelling between his home and place of work in sub-human conditions. There is no escape. His frustration increases.
He finds himself burdened with high rate of taxes, bank charges, other liabilities and perceives everyone as trying to grab a part of his hard earned money. He starts noticing the unjust state and unfair society.
The government’s failure to provide the basic amenities isn’t limited to the struggling lower middle class. It is as unfair to the higher middle class. This class pays through their noses for apartments and penthouses worth crores. These amounts include property taxes, road taxes, GST, Income Tax and gets little in return.
You don’t get potable drinking water in India. It has to be filtered by you at your end. You may have sleek expensive cars but, despite collecting taxes, the state fails to provide the roads for you. It was the state that permitted the entry of high end cars and charged the manufacturers crores in fees and bribes to let them start their production but avoided its responsibilities of building the requires infrastructure, the roads and bridges.
Why, even in a city like Mumbai, the fire brigade is not equipped with snorkels that could reach the higher floors of the multi-storey buildings. Even the fire hydrants have disappeared below the hurriedly made roads of inferior quality that require repairs every year! And if the firemen would be lucky to locate a hydrant, it may not have water. The establishment that permitted multi-storey buildings didn’t create the required infrastructure.
This system failure affects everyone.
Every city in India is dirty and the propaganda machinery shifts the blame on the citizens. The truth is that it is the state that has failed in its legal duty to cope with the garbage and sewage. Shirking the responsibility, it is asking the citizens to participate in cleaning the beaches, the roads and the rivers.
If these surroundings don’t frustrate you, nothing will.
The seething anger comes out during the traffic jams. The working person sees the failed infrastructure as a major obstacle in his output. Whether it is a film star or a businessman struck in a traffic jam or a common man on the crowded railway station, everyone is the victim of the system failure.
The housewife waiting for a repairman for her washing machine, dishwasher, TV too finds herself frustrated with the uncertainty.


The middle class is angrier. It sees the state waiving the loans of farmers, and the amounts run into lakhs of crore, year after year and writing off lakhs of crores of the rich borrowers but hounding the middle class for EMIs.
Red tape, corruption (India is number 2 in the index of corruption) and the middlemen makes your life miserable. Whether you want to add a name in the ration card, change the address in a telephone bill, close a connection the formalities in Indian system are time consuming.
An unsaid class war is going on in the streets of India. The babu sitting on his desk is uncooperative. He hates you.
The cop who stops a young man speeding on his expensive bike privately envies and hates him. He is happy to penalise him and happier to accept the bribe from him.
The state of silent war has been going on for years.
It is between the government machinery and the citizens, the poor and the rich, the failures and the successful.
The situation in India has become like what you experience in the crowded train. Those who are in the gravy train don’t want the others to get in and when some get in they develop the same attitude.


India has always been a feudal society and continues to remain divided. Dynasties contribute to the frustration among the common man. The common citizen sees a large board proclaiming ‘No Entry’ whether he wants to enter Bollywood or politics. You can only serve the dynasties, not join them. They are divided into camps and groups whose domain remains under the absolute control of the Big Brother.
Why, even the situation in front of lovers is terrible. Short of space, they are also hounded by the moral brigade. People watch killings and lynching in public places silently but won’t allow you to kiss in public. The obstacles for the lovers are the same – rooted in our hate-based society: caste, community, gotra, class.


An irony that has emerged in the recent years is the behaviour on the Internet.
Instead of the limited, educated population exposed to the newspapers, magazines and books we have hundreds of millions illiterates on the ‘net.
The same paintings of MF Husain and cartoons of Shankar that created mild controversies and became the topics for coffee table debates became ‘shocking’, ‘unacceptable’ and ‘offensive to the sensibilities’ of the people who had never been inside an art gallery or seen a cartoon weekly.
This has increased the conflict further. The war is between the intellectuals and the masses, between the elite and the state machinery that caters to vote banks.
These vote banks are being encouraged and enlarged by the short-sighted and opportunist politicians.
Social networking sites are no more social and happy places. You find yourself abused for simply airing your views by the illiterates and semi-literate trolls who neither understand nuanced statements nor the freedom of expression.
Why, even the well-intentioned Right to Information – RTI – has set the citizens against one another!
The reasons for the frustration and unhappiness of Indians are too many to list and analyse in an article. It would end up being a Mahabharta and talking of epics and mythology one finds that even the Rishis and Munis were not free from anger and frustration. They were prone to lose temper at the drop of a hat and issue a curse. The rulers in India have inherited the same short fuse.


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Dissent is ‘treason’…

Mohan’s Musings/Mohan Deep

It is not an emergency, but dissent is ‘treason’…

Within an hour of the announcement of demonetization by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi I wrote:

“The main problem in India isn’t about the government having or not having enough money to run the country. The real problem is that only a minor fraction of that is spent on the welfare of the citizens, while the rest goes into different pockets.
“The essential honesty and character are totally missing from the governance.
“I will just give you an example of clean drinking water. The tap water in London is as potable as the branded water sold under fancy names.
“The reason we don’t get potable water at least in Mumbai is: (1) because half of the pipelines still belong to the British period. (2) The filtration plants need to be upgraded and their capacity expanded. (3) The water Mafia steals the water and sells it to us after an artificially created shortage.
“Where is the money issue if the richest Municipal Corporation in the entire country has failed to do even this basic duty despite having an absolute control for 70 years?
“So please don’t expect any great effects of the money government collects after demonetization.
It hasn’t happened in the past. It is not going to happen in future, either.”

I would call it mild criticism. It is my right. But within minutes, I found the pro-BJP elements – popularly called bhakts – pouncing on me. No one really argued back, but everyone questioned my patriotism and nationalism, and some of them poured scorn on me. The basic idea was to bully me into silence.
Angered, I wrote some more and found more bhakts trying to silence me. They called me anti-national and unpatriotic. It would have soured anyone’s mood and silenced him. But it didn’t happen to me, maybe because I have seen worse days during an emergency period. And it is because of this that the thought comes to me.
Are we in for another emergency? Or is it already an undeclared emergency?
The debate is out! A sensible argument has become irrelevant. Hired hands have been unleashed on the two social networking sites. They neither debate nor talk sense. They seem to have one aim: harass those who are critical of the policies of the Prime Minister.
That our Prime Minister cannot handle any criticism gracefully is clear for years. During his election campaign, on a channel I forget, he was interviewed by several journalists. Everyone asked questions that flattered him, but one of the scribes was asked to grill him. I could see that the young man was shivering in fear, but he went ahead.
Within seconds, we saw Narendra Modi glaring at him!
Our PM candidate wasn’t willing to answer a single hostile question.


My earliest memory of national emergency declared by Mrs Indira Gandhi, on a personal level, is watching a police constable posted to control a bus queue, slapping a well-dressed bespectacled senior citizen for hurrying to get into the public transport.
His pair of spectacles was thrown several meters away due to the impact. Yet, not a single person protested.
The fear psychosis had gripped everyone. The electricity of the offices and the presses (Indian Express) was cut off. No one smiled as I stepped into the semi-dark office.
The list of the leaders and journalists arrested and thrown behind the bars along with hardcore criminals was a mile long. Along with them were the underworld dons.
On the first Saturday, in the afternoon, after the declaration of emergency, I stepped into an Irani Hotel on Bazar Gate Street. We, writers, used to conduct our story readings over tea. The tea would give way to beer and whiskey. Which group of writers would be satisfied with tea?
The manager cautioned us. “No alcohol. Emergency laga hua hai.”
The hotel didn’t have the permit and didn’t want to risk losing the license because of a couple of bottles hid under the table. As we emptied the tea cup, my contemporary writer Vishnu Bhatia made a crack.
“Indira Gandhi used to sit on these chairs before she became the PM.”
This was an innocent joke, private between us. And I laughed.
A lot of celebrities and politicians used to hang around in Fort, Bal Thackeray, and R K Laxman used to work in FPJ, a barefooted M F Husain along with a short and stooped K H Ara would stride in and out of Irani Hotels and I had seen J R D Tata entering a saloon without any fanfare. I used to throw different names.
Indira Gandhi?
A policeman emerged from nowhere. “Kya bola?”
We became nervous, but tried explaining. He wasn’t willing to listen. He wanted to take all of us to the Thana (Colaba Police Station). Our other writer friends explained to him with a lot of ‘sorries.’ When he saw that we really were writers and weren’t even expected to have enough money to bribe him, he let us go with a warning, “Emergency laga huaa hai, andar kar doonga to kissi ko pata bhi nahin hoga!”
Things may be worse today!
Saagar, a journalist from ‘Caravan,’ narrates his latest experience. (Incidentally, I was once a regular writer for this magazine.) Writes Saagar, “In an effort to document the tense situation (in the bank), I started recording the incident with the camera on my phone. Bemused, the official in the white shirt told me to stop shooting. When I did not stop, he rushed towards me—momentarily forgetting the crowd he was supposed to block—his arms outstretched. I asked him repeatedly, to not touch my camera and said that I was from the press. He grabbed me and dragged me down the stairs of the building, onto the road. Subsequently, other employees and security guards from the bank surrounded me. “Tere ko main batata hun. Tu bach ke nahi jayega”—I’ll show you now. You will not escape unharmed, the man in the white shirt said. “Tu janta nahi mere ko”—You don’t know me, he continued, “Mere upar pehle se case hai. Main khud police hun”—I already have cases registered against me, I myself am the police.”
The report is long, but it makes a point. A legitimate journalist from a respectable group is being threatened by the thugs appointed by the bank as guards while doing his job.


D K Barua coined the notorious phrase: ‘India is Indira, Indira is India.’ It was the personality cult of epic proportions.
And now, if you’re against Narendra Modi, you’re anti-national!
They equate the Prime Minister with the nation, Modi with India. A slight criticism of the man earns you the abusive wrath of the bhakts. The abuses would have your ears turning red, but the bhakts, who represent a political party that prides itself on its hoary tradition, drags your mothers and sisters in the filthiest arguments you can have.
Like Congress tried doing it to the states ruled by the opposition parties, BJP too has tried the same trick with the states ruled by the opposition.
AAP humiliated BJP by almost erasing it out of the picture in Delhi. BJP hasn’t forgiven Arvind Kejriwal and has tried using whatever power at its disposal to browbeat the Kejriwal government.
Elected governments of non-BJP parties are not being allowed to function, like in Delhi. BJP was accused of trying to topple/toppling the governments run by the opposition in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Assam. You can hear the echo of what Mrs Indira Gandhi did during the emergency. But one thing that made emergency the most hated, besides the press censorship and jailing of the opposition leaders, was the compulsory sterilization of men. Nasbandi. And the arrogance; the arrogance that Indians deserve danda, that they didn’t have the courage to retaliate to the police canes and army shoes. Magistrate Lateef Fatima (actor Shah Rukh Khan’s mother), Rukhsana Sultana (actor Amrita Singh’s socialite mother), and a few others close to Sanjay Gandhi had played a massive role in nasbandi drive. And then happened Turkman Gate massacre. The government tried to cleanse Delhi of slums and force poor residents, mostly Muslims, to move to distant settlements. Already seething with anger over nasbandi, they refused to go as they would have to commute every day paying heavy bus fares to reach the city to earn their living. They resisted the bulldozing of their houses.
The police opened fire on protesters, killing several of them. However, it was not reported in Indian media which had been silenced with censorship, but we learned about the killings through foreign media like BBC.
What is happening in India also has a similarity with what is going on in, of all the places, Turkey! The only difference is that whatever the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has started is an aftermath of a failed coup attack on him. To Erdogan, his coalition of ‘Nationalists and Islamists’ is synonymous with ‘the national will’!
Here, they have started these games scared of losing the power.
BJP has not declared press censorship, either. But it doesn’t need to.
The state power has already been used to keep the press, particularly television media in chains. Major channels are owned by big business which has vested interest in being on the side of the establishment. It is because of this dirty connection that the entire television blacklisted Arvind Kejriwal within hours of his announcement that he would expose Ambanis.
Every BJP scam, including Vyapam, Nitin Gadkari’s shell companies, the nexus between the Prime Minister and the big business has been wiped out of public memory.
The government has also tried controlling the judiciary by trying to push in their favourites – like they did with the other institutions, and the tension between the CJI and the PM was so much that the judge publicly wept as he addressed Modi. Even then the problem of judicial appointments has not been solved till now.
As for the dissent, the fundamental right of every citizen, the BJP simply renames it treason.


Mohan Deep is an eminent novelist and Bollywood biographer, based in Mumbai.

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The New Woman Has Arrived – Part II


New Woman in literature and films

Emancipated women have always figured in films and literature.

The earliest depiction in Hindi films that I saw was in Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’ film “Gyarah Hazar Ladkiyan.” Abbas got the title from the government’s official figure of the working women in Mumbai in 1954. Mala Sinha was one of them.

To me, as a Sindhi boy born after partition; working women were the independent women, as they are neither constrained by the tradition nor restricted by the customs. I had a working mother, and I know it.

I saw a woman like her in a Sindhi short story of Sundri Uttamchandani. The narration that left my eyes moist was about a Sindhi refugee wife who has to live on a limited salary of her husband. Whatever ‘sacrifice’ in the meal; whether mango or butter, would first be quietly from her plate and then she would have a conflict between reducing the nutritious food from the plate of her toiling husband or her growing Son (schooling).

The sacrificing woman decides to work to support her husband; and thus, becomes the second bullock of the cart. To me, this was the real emancipated woman.

She was the result of the changing tough world. But she had also come out of the pages of literature.

This bold woman who could fight the social pressure could be seen in the fiction of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. She was also present in the fiction of Punjabi’s Amrita Pritam.

I saw the glimpses of the woman ready to break the chains around her in The Deal. It was about dowry. Nirupama’s father was unable to pay a dowry of Rs 10,000 but gave Rs 7,000; and as the groom insisted, the marriage took place. But her life was full of torture. Her father managed to bring the rest of the dowry by selling his house. But Nirupama strongly urged him not to give any more money to her father-in-law. This was her moment as a strong woman.

She later died though torture, and her father-in-law arranged another girl with a dowry of Rs 20,000.

Nirupama remains in your mind as a woman who tried to fight the unjust social structure around her.

Tagore’s story: Mahamaya revolved around the ‘Sati’ custom, and she was married off to an old man whom she despised; she later became a widow. She was forced to become Sati. Mahamaya was able to escape the pyre and knock on the door of the man she loved. He was willing to accept her, but she had one more condition that she would remain in purdah. He wouldn’t see her face; otherwise, she would leave him.
One particular night, the anxious man came closer to see her uncovered face and saw a burnt face. He screamed, and she woke up.

Mahamaya left him.

She didn’t want pity. She was a proud woman.

More than Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee created what I consider ‘the mother of the modern emancipated woman.’ Just think of

Vijaya of Datta, Kiranmayi of Charitraheen, Hemangini of Mejdidi or Kamal of Shesh Prashna.

These were the women with their own mind during the days a patriarchal Bong society only suppressed them.

Like the Nora of Ibsen’s Doll’s House, these women were the original free women.

Not many have realized that the women who figured in the Sindhi and Punjabi folk stories were assertive and fighting women who had rejected the social norms and customs.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, the classical poet from Sind, treated them as such and these female characters were described as ‘his brave heroines’ (the term in Sindhi was Soormiyoon). The stories included Sohni Mehar, Sassui Punhoon, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sorath Rai Diyach, and Momal Rano.

Shah and many others wrote verses on these tales, which in turn adds more glamor to these female characters.

To return to Hindi films, one saw a reflection of that woman in Nikah. The climax scene when the former husband (Deepak Prashar) and the current husband (Raj Babbar) of Salma Agha are arguing over her has the twist. Nilofar (Salma) doesn’t return to her first husband.

This emerges the modern and bold woman who speaks her mind and tells the men that they cannot treat her like an object to be exchanged as a token of friendship.

Arth was a milestone, a turning point as far as the portrayal of a woman finding her own identity was concerned.

Pooja (Shabana Azmi) suffers a lot when her husband (Kulbhushan Kharbhanda) leaves her for another woman, an actress (Smita Patil). She soon becomes an independent woman with the help of another young man (Raj Kiran). When her husband returns to her feeling remorseful and apologetic, she refuses to go back to him. There is a strange reality in her portrayal as she refuses to go with the new man, either. She ends up like the modern single, once bitten twice shy, kind of woman.

There is continuity from Abbas’ Mala Sinha to Chopra’s Salma, Mahesh Bhatt’s Shabana, Vikas Behl, Anand Rai’s Kangana, Shoorjit Sircar’s Deepika, Tapasee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang. They are the large hoardings of the growing modern woman’s life calendar.

But the story of the women’s emancipation has yet to climax.


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The New Woman Has Arrived – Part I


The New Woman has arrived!


Our world has changed. The woman has changed. She was once a closet smoker. She would look stealthily around and light up, take quick drags, and throw the butt away.

But now, she is relaxed whenever she places a cigarette between her lips and strikes a match. The smoke comes out of her nostrils, and she takes another puff.

She doesn’t care if people are watching. It is her life, her choice.

It is the same with alcohol or when she is snorting heroin or smoking hash.

She is equally guilt-free with a one night stand or sleeping with the husband of an office colleague she likes.

It is her life, her choice.

If she is an editor, she ensures that sexism and misogynist words and phrases are out. As a reviewer, her priority is to check whether the characters or the story is regressive; and if yes, to lambast the filmmaker.

If she is directing an ad film, she ensures that the man in her film is a wimp, his wife may order him around, or rather slaps him a couple of times. She is changing the way men are portrayed; she is changing the mindset. She is quietly working to transform the patriarchal setup to a society where the woman has the last word.

She is the new age woman. She has arrived.
She is a feminist who doesn’t need to explain herself for being what she is.

We have Vidya Balan (Ishqiya, Kahaani, Bobby Jasoos), Deepika Padukone (Piku), Anushaka Sharma (NH 10), Kangana Ranaut (Queen and Manu Weds Tanu and its sequel), Radhika Apte (in her bold scenes), and finally the three girls in Pink (Tapasee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang).

Vidya is aggressive and a dominating partner in Bobby Jasoos where Ali Fazal plays second fiddles to her. Not only is this a title role, but she breaks the ceiling by working in a male dominated profession, as a rare female detective, despite belonging to an orthodox Muslim family.

The kind of roles Kangana Ranaut has done have got her to become an icon for the feminists.

However, the three girls in ‘Pink’ have emerged as the ultimate in the portrayal of the feminists. They defy all the social norms, including living alone, going out at night, and drinking with almost strangers; even being sex workers. At least one of them even admits to having asked for money in exchange for sex (though only because she got tired of the hostile and offensive treatment by the Public Prosecutor); but the film doesn’t even have a hint of judgment against them, about their choices. Their lawyer, played by Amitabh Bachchan ensures that the message of the film “No means No” reaches everyone irrespective of what or who the woman is. This is a total acceptance of feminist values.

The real climax and message reaches the audience when Amitabh, despite being their lawyer, asks Taapsee Pannu in open court whether she was a virgin. He questions her till she opens up. Again, she’s guilt free. She admits that she wasn’t a virgin, but she lost it neither under compulsion nor for money. It was her choice!

It conveys the message Deepika Padukone sent some time back in a short message film. What a girl does with her life or with her body is her choice.
If she makes love to a guy she likes and loses her virginity, it is her choice. Her family, her friends, and the society had no say in the matter.

The New Woman is free from all crutches and every restraint, as well as every manacle.

Kangana Ranaut seemed to play a modern and independent woman who didn’t care for the conventions in “Tanu Weds Manu;” but she and her free and independent woman really emerged successfully in Queen. This coming-of-age story is about Rani. Her fiancé (Rajkumar Rao) calls off the wedding because he finds her traditional. She, a North Indian girl from a conservative family, goes on her honeymoon alone. Later, when her fiancé sees another picture of her where she appears modern, he repents and follows her on the honeymoon. He tries to win her back, but she rejects him.

The girl walking alone and laughing carefree has almost become the symbol for the carefree Independent woman.

Even in “Tanu Weds Manu,” Kangana’s tryst with the independent woman who rejects the social constraints, continued.

Deepika Padukone shifted from her traditional glamorous roles to play Piku, the unmarried daughter of an always constipated Amitabh Bachchan. Everything from her lines, her irritation and her concern for her father projected her as an independent woman. She would have ended up being just another sacrificing spinster Raakhi specialized in, but for the nuanced performance and the treatment.

In an interesting party scene, Amitabh reveals to her suitor that she wasn’t a virgin. This is a complicated situation in the story where an utterly selfish father creates obstacles in the marriage of his own daughter.

However, the point is made. Virginity is passé.

Not going further into the story, I can say that with Deepika’s Piku, the depiction of a modern woman became real.

(…Contd Part 2)


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Before you add Kashmir to National Anthem…


Mohan’s Musings

The controversy that will never die

Did Rabindranath Tagore really wrote Jan Gan Man in honour of King George V?

Before I get into the flesh of the ‘Jan Gan Man’ controversy, let me say that this has been investigated a number of times and it has been clearly established that Rabindranath Tagore wrote it in honour of our motherland Bharat.
First, about the patriotism of Tagore. He was the one who wrote poems like ‘Where mind is without fear’ and Ekla Chalo Re. The massacre of Jallianwala Bagh so angered him that he renounced the knighthood in protest. The Knighthood was conferred on him by the same King George V after he received Nobel Prize Literature.
I have written this piece because it has been suggested that Kashmir may be added to the anthem. Some have gone as far as to suggest that Tagore’s Jan Gan Man may be junked.
Tampering with any creative work, specially of this caliber, is simply unacceptable.

It all started with two British papers (The Statesman and Englishman) who reported that Tagore recited Jan Gan Man in honour of King George V. Congress had invited the King to pledge its loyalty to the throne. (Remember this was 1911.)
Reporting the same event, Amrit Bazar Patrika had reported, “The proceedings of the Congress party session started with a prayer in Bengali to praise God (song of benediction). This was followed by a resolution expressing loyalty to King George V. Then another song was sung welcoming King George V.” (Dec.28,1911)
The Bengalee had recorded, “The annual session of Congress began by singing a song composed by the great Bengali poet Ravindranath Tagore. Then a resolution expressing loyalty to King George V was passed. A song paying a heartfelt homage to King George V was then sung by a group of boys and girls.”

Why the confusion?

The confusion had arisen because a different song, “Badshah Humara” written in Hindi by Rambhuj Chaudhary was sung on the same occasion in praise of King George V.

Years later when the National Anthem was being chosen, two songs, Tagore’s Jan Gan Man and Bankim Chandra Bannerjee’s Vande Matram made it to the finals. Vande Matram was unacceptable to the Muslim population. The government settled for Jan Gan Man.
However, the Hindu right wing was never happy with the rejection of Vande Matram. Even having Vande Matram as the National Song didn’t placate them.
Some of them chose to defame the national anthem and the poet who wrote it. Articles full of lies claiming that Jan Gan Man was composed to honour King George V were published. Memes and forwards have continued to spread the same lie.

Tagore’s clarification

Commenting on the controversy Tagore has written, “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George the Fourth or George the Fifth as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.” (Purvasa, Phalgun, 1354, p. 738.)

Tagore’s word should be enough. But the controversy has not died, will never die.
Fling dirt enough and some will stick.


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Was Gandhi a racist?


Was Gandhi a racist? Are we Indians racists?

1700 signatures and copies of Mahatma Gandhi‘s writings where Gandhi described the Black South Africans as Kaffirs (a high offensive racist slur, the way Muslims referred to Hindus) was enough to persuade the Government of Ghana to remove the statue of Gandhi from the University of Ghana.
One of the quotes included a letter Gandhi sent to former Prime Minister of England Neville Chamberlain in May 1899, claiming that Indians were superior to “kaffirs,” an ethnic slur for black South Africans. Ironically, Gandhi was living in South Africa to fight anti-Indian discrimination at the time.
(This once again establishes that Gandhi, #Jawaharlal Nehru and even #Muhammad Ali Jinnah treated themselves as brown sahebs though Gandhi got rid of his western dresses in favour of a lion cloth.)
Ghana government and it’s people didn’t worry about causing annoyance to India and causing a diplomatic row.
In fact the petition by the Professors of the University read, “It is better to stand up for our dignity than to kowtow to the wishes of a burgeoning Eurasian super power”, and quoted passages written by Gandhi which say Indians are “infinitely superior” to black Africans.
I am not surprised!
Indians are racist and there is no doubt about it. The way our people refer to those they consider lesser has an interesting narration.
The North Indians are called Chinki and the girls from this part of India are considered of ‘dubious character’. The story behind is the traffic in Nepali women and the confusion between the Nepali girls (who were, once, described as foreigners!) and the girls from North East.
Police describe the tall Nigerian drug dealers and scamsters as ‘blacks’ with contempt though, at least Mumbai Police is physically no match for the tall and muscular #Nigerians.
Ask yourself: will you ever hire a Nigerian?
We don’t stop there.
Our rigid caste system in existence since before the term ‘Hindu’ was coined to describe all has the civilised world laughing at us. The petition too says, “The caste system in India is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The system divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups.”
Our elections are caste-oriented, and the candidates are allotted tickets on caste (or money) basis. We live in ghettos what with Parsis living in their baugs, Muslims in their clusters and Christians in their Gaothans. Why, even Sindhis, who don’t follow the rigid Hindu caste system, have their colonies!
And, as far the color goes, the tales of discriminations are too many to recount.
The fair and lovely gets to be posted in the front offices, get quicker promotions and raises in the salaries but the dark skinned are left behind, in the back offices away from the glares of the visitors.
Yes, we certainly are racists.


On the shutting down of a branch of ‘#Bru’

I was surprised to see the waiters who had served me my cuppa Latte for the last three-four years, packing the furniture.
Bru, Lokhandwalla Branch, downed the shutters.
I liked the coffee and sometimes, when the machine didn’t perform well, they would happily make another cuppa.
I liked the ambience. Inexpensive functional furniture that could be easily moved. The rickety chairs, the sockets to charge the mobiles and laptops – half of them dysfunctional  – and the little loo where the staff changed the uniforms making it difficult for the customers. The a/c didn’t always function.
All just right for the strugglers in Bollywood and some familiar faces from the industry. Every occupied table had energy around it, the energy that comes from positivity and optimism. Films were planned and made here, TV serials were conceived and scripts were written here.
Faces that became familiar to me, people who would greet me and always accommodate me on the same table…
I felt the energy, loved it.
I like strugglers, their optimism and the sparkle in their eyes. I love success oriented people and their drive.
Before Bru, I used to have my coffee at Barista and Cafe Coffee Day. It was the same Bollywood strugglers. Oshiwara has many. They go to the acting schools, get their portfolios made, go for auditions and wait patiently for the calls.
I see a lot happening here.
My last novel ‘Color Me Rich’ is set in Oshiwara and the story develops at Bru. It also has Adarsh Nagar which houses small producers, sound studios, editing rooms and costumes shops. You can get the entire technical support for making a film.
And on the main road in bigger buildings are located the big time producers and even the offices of some of the studios.
I compare Oshiwara with Hollywood. Here too strugglers get jobs as waiters and waitresses till they get a break in films. I don’t really know any waiter who has made it to the big screen. The only name I can recall is Smriti Irani. But I never saw her waiting tables. She worked in McDonalds and I don’t like the atmosphere there. I prefer eating at Indigo. Here you see the familiar faces from the big screen. Oshiwara has more hotels, restaurants and bars than any where else in Mumbai. And if you visit at night you can see a lot of familiar faces from films and TV serials. You’d recognise the film stars by their names and the TV stars with the names of the characters they play. The channels and producers neither give their names on the large hoardings nor in the credits. They don’t want them to become TV stars and have an identity of their own. The cleverer one indulge in brawls, get dragged to Oshiwara Police Station and find their names in the newspapers’ crime pages.
But to return to my cuppa, I’ll have to shift to #StarBucks. I love the Cappuccino of Starbucks whether at Oshiwara or at the Horniman Circle.
Why, I loved the Starbucks in Manhattan and London too, much more than the Starbucks in Mumbai. Mumbai has a way of Indianising everything, even Starbucks coffee.




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If Narendra Modi was a gora we’d have crawled

Modi and Obama

Had the Prime Minister Narendra Modi been a Caucasian (white skinned man) all of us would have further crawled in front of him!
We are a nation of racists and there is no doubt about it!
Let’s begin with Giriraj Singh‘s statement.
He said, ‘What if Sonia Gandhi was a Nigerian? Would Congress have accepted Sonia as its leader if she weren’t an Italian and instead of African origin.
Amit Shah had rebuked Giriraj for what is being considered a racist remark and even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has frowned on it. But they are just being politically correct.
Giriraj Singh makes a lot of sense. And he is not the first person to say it.
Journalist-columnist Tavleen Singh who made a career out of moving in the high places and even ‘married’ Aatish Taseer, the slain governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, and had a son from him, has said the same thing in her book about Gandhis.
According to Tavleen, “Sonia Gandhi is revered simply because she is from Italy and is of white skin. She’s not articulate, she is not smart, she isn’t even well-read. In her own Italian surroundings, she might even be considered as “down-market”. But not in Delhi durbars where she can be the center of attraction mainly because of her skin and partly because she is the wife of one of the “princes” of India. People with white skin are considered gods and goddesses by Indians.”
Tavleen even mentions the servility shown by people in South to Sonia Gandhi; they create songs like “you have such white skin, you are a goddess.
I remember seeing the Chief Librarian of Asiatic library taking a gora visitor on the round of the library in a similar servile manner. The visitor wasn’t even holding some office of power!
You see this attitude in restaurants in Colaba (Leopold Cafe, for instance) and at in Goa. The waiters would give the firangis a royal treatment and ignore the locals. This may have to do with the tips they hope to get but not all goras are good tippers and not all Indians are frugal with tips.
It is the same whether you visit and art gallery or a shop.
And to come back to BJP, did you see how our Prime Minister flaunted his non-existing camaraderie with his friend the President of US Barrack Obama and flaunted being on first name terms with him? You can only imagine how he would have behaved if Obama had been a Caucasian!

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The Cop Hates you, lady!

Netizens going hoarse urging the government and the police to ‘prevent’ the incidents of rape (this is what all the checks and bans are all about) should read what the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has to say about the siege in Sidney. Said Abbott, “Even if this individual, this sick and disturbed individual, had been front and center on our watch list, even if this individual had been monitored 24-hours a day, it’s quite likely, certainly possible, that this incident could have taken place.”
It is truer in India.
Think of the pressures on the police.
Whether there is a complaint when someone violates the limit of noise level, and this can happen anytime anywhere, or there is an offensive post on the FB we involve the cops. Ours cop is over-worked and under-paid – don’t look at the bribes, gifts and tips which are shared up to the highest level – and, like it or not, he resents your fast car, high-end mobile phone and life style.
You want him to be a government servant or at best a helpful friend but he has inherited the culture handed down from the British days, the Moghul days. He believes he is the government. You are the public.
Look at his body language. Watch the ads. Hear his sermon.
He is not with you. The cop in India, like everyone who works in government office, is never on your side.
You chill out, after a period of heavy work, he is jealous. Whether you sit in a group and share a hookah or have a time of your life, the cop hates it.
Maybe he thinks you’re giving it to the others, but not to him.
He puts on the cloak of a self-righteous indignation when you light an expensive cigarette.
Girl, you are more alone in Mumbai (or Delhi, or any other Indian city) than in London or New York.
This is why I tell you, girlie –
Don’t let it hang out…
Don’t be alone and vulnerable…
Look after yourself!

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