Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Indian media fanning politics of religion and polarization

A minority that is giving the majority a bad name and defaming an entire religion and a slanted media narrative that is adding fuel to the fire – welcome to the new style of ‘politics of polarization’ taking roots in India.

 No, I am not referring to the now clich├ęd “minority community”, but the motley minority of extreme thinking Hindu politicians who have voiced opinion adverse to the tenets of Sanatana Dharma* and the concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam^, that is now the basis of a media generalization – happily lapped up by the political opposition and a ‘magnanimously-fed-by-left-liberal’ media houses.

National Democratic Alliance (NDA) 2.0 coming to power in 2014 with an absolute majority for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meant that every step of its parent body Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) would be scrutinized. While there has not been any drastic approach of the Government in imposing the “Hindutva agenda” as the Indian National Congress and its alliance partners have been mongering the Indian electorate for securing the power for itself for decades, few insensitive remarks by BJP MPs began to give enough fodder for the starved-for-sensationalism media to play up.

Every action or speech of a few outspoken Sangh background ruling party MPs gave discomforting moments for the popularly elected Government, causing enough embarrassment to the democratic fabric of the nation of diverse religion and culture.

There is a rising wave of anti-Hindu political reporting in the media, thanks to the jealously driven hate against Narendra Modi. An outspoken politician whose popularity gave his party the massive victory in the general elections and one that has only grown through the endorsement of his Government’s vision by the international community, Modi is continued to be undeservingly hated by the media for quite too long now.

It is really saddening that Hindus are being shamed just because the Gujarat chief minister, a Hindu icon, aspired to become the prime minister of the country and succeeded in his very first attempt, while dozens of ageing politicians across the left and left leaning socialist parties have been dreaming of and failing to grab the coveted post without adding much value through constructive debate in repeated stints in the parliament.

Vying with the opposition politicians are media houses, writers, film actors, celebrities of any and every kind - all ganged up against Modi’s idea of India. The vicious anti-Modi hate narrative is tilting its target towards Hinduism, which is becoming the victim.

While no opportunity is missed to highlight the repeatedly headline making quote “Terror has no religion”, justifiably too, there is always a “saffron terror” tag attached to one deranged Hindu’s act of crime. ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindutva’ are fleetingly generalized, a commentary that has been built by a pseudo secular political mileage driven agenda.

Sample these two excerpts from the recent media reports:

“A mob of two hundred Hindu men, incited by the village priest, killed a Muslim neighbour and nearly killed his son on the strength of a rumour that they had been eating beef.”

“A play titled 'Agnes of God' has been called off after religious groups objected to it.”

While, the lynching of a fellow human for the food choices he makes is inhuman and barbaric and needs to condemned univocally, where is the need to paint the incident as a general ‘Hindu” mindset?  The Church is justified in its objection of the play about an American nun who gives birth to a dead child and claims it is the result of a virgin conception, which has been made into a film and has played all over the world.

Isolated acts of crime including arson and looting at religious places get reported as “Attack on Christianity” and “Burning of Churches” by HINDU RIGHT WING. There are no follow up reports on the antecedents of the criminals nabbed in such incidents and stories die natural death when the purported crime has no religious hate attached to it.

Strangely the Freedom of Expression brigade in the media goes to town only when the sentiments of a few minority “religious groups” are hurt by the Hindu men and saffron terrorrists, but it is never the other way round. This polarizing trend is increasingly becoming the norm by the media with its ‘reporters’ who are happily peddling opinion in the garb of news and reporting. Equally deplorable is the intolerant few in the Hindu right wing support group on the social media expressing their disapproval through extremely acerbic language, easily avoidable in a democratic debate.

No editor has ever questioned the usage of the “hindu men” for mob, and the “religious group” for the minority presence in a crime scenario.

Changing times for India where the words ‘ethics’, ‘neutral, ‘unbiased’ and ‘objectivity’ are losing their relevance in journalism.

*Sanatana Dharma: in Hinduism, term used to denote the “eternal” or absolute set of duties or religiously ordained practices incumbent upon all Hindus, regardless of class, caste, or sect.

^Vasudaiva Kutumbakam: A Sanskrit phrase which means "the world is one family".

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Celebrating the Silver Jubilee of R & D

Set the alarm and wake up at 4.00 am, brush and get fresh, have coffee and leave home by 4.30 am, park the car and rush into the railway station by 5.00 am for the 5.15 am train. Wait patiently for the announcement of the platform number, with no news till 5.30 go to the enquiry counter and get no response. More waiting, a round of bland machine coffee, pick up a newspaper, sit in a corner of Platform no. 1 and read through most of it while the ear reaches out to the announcement amidst the cackling noises and glancing eagerly at the far end television monitor for updates. Finally at 6.15 the ‘Chennai Express’ is sounded on the loudspeaker, to arrive ‘shortly’ on platform no. 6. Tuck the newspaper under the arm and climb the stairs to descend on the now already full ‘stage’. Some more waiting and a round of crossword in the now crumpled newspaper, with patience waned, the train chugs in slowly at 7.00. The frantic glance across the windows ends with the sight of the ‘relative’ standing at the door of S 12.

I proclaim with open arms: ‘Welcome to Hyderabad’, and uncle responds with ‘we are at Secunderabad right’, a broad grin masks my disapproval of the PJ.
The day went by with the usual ‘guided tour’ of tourist spots in and around the twin cities. The next day is for the shopping at General Bazaar, garments, pearls, Karachi biscuits and more. Late afternoon siesta plans are abandoned for its time for the return journey. Packed dinner in tow we leave home at 4.00pm to arrive at Secunderabad at 4.25pm exactly an hour before the Chennai Express departs. Some extended small talk while straining my eyes to sight the train which arrives grudgingly late by 30 minutes. The customary good bye done, I drive back home with the car stereo playing Kishore Kumar’s “Chala jaata hoon kisi ki dhun mein…” and the mind goes back to over two decades of R and D and gets nostalgic. Yes, Receiving and Dropping in short the R & D, of friends, relatives, cousins, aunts and uncles from and to Railway Stations, Bus stands and Airports seems to have been a practice, now over 25 years.

I recollect my college days when it was early morning travel by local bus to the railway station followed by the auto rickshaw ride home with cousins, then as years went by the pickup and drops by two wheelers and later by four wheelers. From summer holiday jaunts to business visits to attending functions of friends and relatives, to study related visits of younger cousins and nephews and nieces the innumerable R & D had brought lot of cheer. 

This apart the numerous trips to the old Begumpet airport for R & D of friends embarking on chasing their American dreams and studying in the land of opportunities, too have been countless. In the course of this R & D, I have done lots of research and development to improve the ‘service’ with the emphasis on punctuality being never compromised.

While most brought cheer, some brought gifts, some carried light luggage others carried huge ‘baggage’, some reciprocated the ‘favour’ at their home towns while others had none of it in their dna, nonchalantly arranging the neighbourhood taxi driver to engage in the R & D or simply see off from the local bus stop unemotionally.

The fast paced life and with changing times, the visits have been dwindling, the R & D reduced to an occasional affair. These days friends and relatives book their cab from their source city, prefer staying at hotels, drop into the city and take off uninformed, some even come and make this city their own, but remain incognito. 

Life goes on, as I await the next call for that much loved early morning mission and another update to my long list of R & D! 

Monday, 3 August 2015

What ails India?

In Conversation with a young lady journalist

A middle-aged middle class hard working salesman in a private manufacturing firm recently met a young lady journalist in a train and then they got talking on varied subjects… eventually the salesman realized the answer to many an Indian’s never answered question – What ails India?

The setting: winter evening - in a second class train compartment. Salesman travelling to headquarters to attend a two-day meeting sitting at the window reading a weekly magazine with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi featured on the cover page. Lady sitting at the opposite window reading a voluminous Ayn Rand novel with her spectacles perched over her head, occasionally glancing at her older co-traveler.

After exchanging few glances and bored of reading their respective books, they strike a conversation.

Here are the excerpts:

Sales Man (SM): Hi, that’s an interesting book you are reading, are you a student?
Journalist Lady (JL): No, I’m a journalist with a leading English magazine.

SM: That’s nice to hear.

JL: Do you actually believe that the man on the cover of the magazine you are reading is going to bring Achche Din (good days)?

SM: (Taken aback with the pointed question) Of course. He’s a proven administrator who has the wherewithal to lead the nation grappling with many ills into a better future.

JL: Humbug, he is a mass murderer … a man responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people in the 2002 Gujarat massacre… a right wing conceited leader who has no family, no respect for the constitution. I think he’s a huge blot on the secular fabric of this country.

SM: But wasn’t he elected with a huge mandate to lead the nation after a highly disappointing and corrupt administration crippled the economy?

JL: A mandate that is not a majority of the Indian populace, just a 30+ percentage that chose his party. He is going to destroy this nation. He is the worst thing to happen to India.

SM: You are being judgmental. Your prejudice is born out of excessive media hounding of the left-liberal kind that has been ever cynical of anything that is not conforming to the western ideals.

JL: Now you are bring judgmental and branding us with your fleeting generalization. We are the modern generation of Indians who like to be democratic in the true sense. We don’t like to be told what to do and when to do – we love to do things our way…

SM: … by compromising on our values and culture?

JL: What values and what culture are you talking about? We don’t need this government to thrust itself upon us… we know don’t need to be forcibly “Hindu-ised” with this culture thingy!

The conversation now had more spectators and heads turned with other passengers listening intently too…

SM: (Not wanting to be argumentative – digresses from the issue) so what do you write about as a journalist?

JL: (Beams, pleased to be talking about her work) I write on rural India, issues concerning women and the under privileged, travel a lot on the countryside.

SM: You are a young knowledgeable person, the nation needs citizens like you to set an example by contributing to its progress. Glad to know of your writing works… so what do you write about?

JL: I highlight their misery and how the government has turned a blind eye by promising big before the elections and now catering to the large corporate – we are doomed, the poor are getting poorer and committing suicides in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Our PM is busy touring the world has no time for these issues.

SM: Oh, you are back to your pet peeve – bashing the PM and his Govt. Isn’t this government just a year old and the poverty and the poor conditions prevalent for decades with successive governments having done little to improve? Have you ever been to villages in Karnataka and highlighted the farmer suicides there?

JL: Are you a RSS guy? A sort of Congress basher?

SM: I am a law abiding Indian citizen, a voter without a bias towards caste, creed, religion or any political leaning. I expect the press to do its role of being a watchdog without being biased and expect it to be objective in reporting. I find your question very subjective. So what makes you think I am one?

JL: (Glances at the magazine cover) Ok, let’s leave it there.

SM: Ok fine… Do you watch movies?

JL: Oh yes… Mostly Hollywood… they make filthy movies here in Bollywood.

SM: …and Telugu, Tamil South movies?

JL: They are all garish, loud and show women in poor light. Cheap quality stuff.

SM: But then I heard Bahubali is an expensive movie with massive settings… on par with Hollywood magnum opuses.

JL: There is too much hype here… I hate them all – glorifying Indian myths with over the top masculine dominated stories.

SM: Hmmm…well not sure Hollywood was any different, any way what else do you read? Indian authors? Chetan Bhagat?

JL: Oh, I have never read his books, the guy is so jarring and obsessive – a trashy novelist from what I’ve heard about his works.

SM: Are you not on the social media? Did you read his recent column in a newspaper where he called the Modi fans on internet – the so called bhakts – "Frustrated and Complex Ridden Male" who speak poor English and claim to be Modi loyalists?

JL: I’m on Facebook. Oh, he said that? I’m beginning to love this guy. (takes notes) I will have to do an interview of him for my mag. I should soon read his “best sellers” too! Thanks for that ‘lead’ (smiles)

SM: …and Shobha De? What about her writings – read them ever?

JL: Yuck! Is she a writer? She is one hell of soft porn writer who titillates to sell stuff to voyeuristic regressive Indian men. Shame on being called a woman.

SM: Heard she has been going hammer and tongs over the Shiv Sena and BJP in Mumbai – taking up cudgels against their legislators and making terse remarks over the Government’s initiative to promote Marathi in multiplexes?

JL: Wow! What did she do?

SM: She tweeted - "No more pop corn at multiplexes in Mumbai? Dahi misal and vada pav only. To go better with the Marathi movies at prime time" 

JL: I am impressed, she is right… what a woman. I must follow her on Twitter.

SM: So are you on twitter? Do you use the social media much?

JL: I’m on twitter, but only follow films, film stars and entertainment news - isn’t that all it is about?

SM: It is much more! Have you heard of Shruti Seth, the Hindi actress?

JL: No – who is she? Has she ever acted in any popular film? Must be third grade flop actress… why do you ask?

SM: She made a name for herself through twitter by posting against the PM and his recent project of #SelfieWithDaughter

JL: Well, that sounds interesting – bravo woman – must have been a very right thing to do. What did she say?

SM: She criticized the PM and invited the wrath of the twitter users who felt it was insulting to be critical of a ‘beautiful’ online initiative – she ended up calling the abuse and played the victim card… she is now popular.

JL: Must follow her. Twitter must be a wonderful place to be in.

SM: As a journalist what’s your opinion on Sagarika Ghose?

JL: Does drab boring stories, very predictable… loud and irritating. Got to the top using her Dad’s connection. Bleh!

SM: On Twitter she is a revelation. Makes fleeting comments against Narendra Modi, mostly very inept juvenile observations. I feel she does them to basically invite the negative comments from the PM’s supporters and then as usual play the victim.

JL: Amazing, no wonder… she comes from a rich lineage and has to be right – I guess I will soon be more active on twitter. Tell me more… some more interesting people to follow.

SM: I am sure you will be ‘impressed’ with Kavita Krishnan, Teesta Setalwad, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and a host of Indian TV journalists and of course Ashutosh and other AAP leaders.

JL: You follow them all? So how do you feel being on twitter… must be a great learning experience?

SM: I don’t know how I feel… Yes, I learnt a lot about the modern Indian cynic and ‘What ails India?’ - They call me names: Internet Hindoo, Bhakt, Troll and more…

JL: Good night.

SM: (yawns)… Good night.

------------------------------------------- pic courtesy: internet ------------------------------

Disclaimer: The above is a fictitious conversation..

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Beware! Your money is being whisked !

Cyber crime can hit anyone - no one is insulated

Thursday April 10, 2014:
 My family returned home late after attending the Bharatanatyam Arangetram of a friend’s daughter. Post dinner slept close to midnight, but since it was already summer, I woke up with thirst at 2.55 am on the Friday to drink water and noticed the Blackberry flashing text message notifications.

I was startled to see 6 messages between 23.41 hours and 00.10 hours during the intervening night of April 10 and 11th - all from the same source. It told me that a total sum of Rs. 80,000/- was withdrawn from my State Bank of India savings account through an ATM in Khargar, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. Another message timed 00.09 hrs stated that my online banking password was blocked owing to 3 consecutive wrong attempts.

That's when my agony began. I was pacing around trying to figure out what to do next? The 24 hour Customer Care number of SBI was not truly 24 hours service. I checked in the ATM at the local branch of SBI and found the transactions recorded through the mini statement. I could reach an executive of the SBI Toll free number after repeated trials finally at 8.15 am and got the card blocked.
I gave a written complaint to the Branch Manager of State Bank of India, Anand Bagh Branch at 9.30 am on the opening of business hours who advised me to file a complaint with the Central Crime Station – Cyber Crime.

I am now a victim of Cyber Fraud!

My ordeal thus continued as I approached the Centre Crime Station (CCS), Gachibowli – Cyberabad (under whose jurisdiction the branch falls) but was advised by the Inspector that the no case would be lodged and it was the Bank’s prerogative to approach the Police. They asked me to approach the Banking Ombudsman at Reserve Bank of India. I went to the RBI and was told to approach the Ombudsman only after 30 days. I reported back the same to the SBI, Branch Manager the same day.

I again met the CCS on Saturday April 19th. This time the Asst Commissioner of Police, Cyber Crime, did not accept my complaint and clearly stated that as per their guidelines, it was the Bank’s responsibility to file a Police complaint and not of the individual customers of the bank.

I also requested the ACP speak to the Bank’s Branch Manager over phone and relate the same. I then gave the same in writing too to the Bank and was provided with an SOP form which was filled and submitted to the Br Mgr the same day.

I did not receive any assurance of the likely time of reversal of the amount debited from my account.

Having undergone tremendous stress and also the amount of hardship being put into for approaching the Police twice, who are stationed 35 kms from the Bank branch and my residence, I wrote to the SBI Chairperson's office, Mumbai almost 50 days later on May 27th.

I expressed ire at the lackadaisical approach of the Bank in addressing my complaint and asked them to intervene in addressing the concerns of middle class salaried persons like me and that they not only provide financial security but also treat its customers in a better way.

I got a prompt reply from the Chairperson's office with a copy to the Local Head Office (LHO) in Hyderabad. It was only after a few more emails, that finally on Saturday July 5th I got my money back into my account. No interest was however paid for the 86 days period my money went into hiding.

I was told that my Debit card was phished and cloned through another bank's ATM, from where I had withdrawn money a week before the incident.

As a victim of financial fraud I would like to spread awareness of the likelihood of anyone being a victim if not wary.

Next time you are in an ATM check if your card slides through smoothly into the slot, check for suspicious objects like a camera other than the CCTV camera and hide your fingers while keying in the PIN.
Now, after over a year after the incident I have procured a new SBI ATM/Debit card.

Happy Banking!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

I was IMPRISONED and put in solitary confinement!

Another confession of a flawed perfectionist

 No, this is not fiction! A secret, the World must know, Now!

IT was 7.15 pm on Saturday April 25, 2015 – I had been sitting in the rickety white wooden bench for half hour now, dreading the outcome. My friend Sudhir was with me, he assured me nothing will be wrong, but he too knew all was not right.

As the moment arrived, I walked into the chamber nervously and then the man in the robe, just looked at me and the pronouncement was made, the verdict was NOT in my favour.
He handed over the papers to Sudhir with clear instructions. I felt my knees would give away, I was shattered. What was my crime? Well, I will deal with this issue later.

I was condemned to spend a week in solitary confinement.

8.00pm: I was remanded into the 8 feet x 12 feet room. A well painted one, it had a tube light and a fan, a stool with a jug of water and a steel glass, and just one calendar on the wall. A window, but closed, nothing was visible of the outside, a high ventilator. A side door which opened into a bathroom with a western toilet, neat with blue and white tiles. There was a wooden cot in the room without a bed, but I was asked to sleep on the floor mat with a thin cloth on it. I was also provided with pillows and bed sheet to cover. An electric mosquito repellant was there too.

I would rather call my ‘cell’^ a special room, for that gave me a feeling of having a special status and also sounded better.

I was asked to change into a long white shorts and a light round neck loose T shirt, I was given insipid curd rice in a small bowl and after partaking that I fell asleep on the mat, tired from the previous day’s incident. No, I am not going into the details, but one thing was sure I am going to endure this physical pain and torture for only a week… but the mental agony… for now - best forgotten.

I woke up late in the night and drank water from the jug, and couldn’t sleep at all, my back was aching, both the legs and hands were paining badly, I couldn’t get up and wash myself. I lied down again writhing in more pain.

The next day was Sunday, the ‘warden’* woke me with a broad smile, gave me my list of instructions: No bathing, No toothbrush, only toothpaste to be used with finger, No outside food, only porridge like dal rice and butter milk rice will be served, morning newspaper provided (thankfully – can check last night’s IPL match result) and some fruits allowed. Strictly NO contact with anybody whatsoever and NO VISITORS apart from immediate family, yes – I was allowed my medicines.

I dozed the whole Sunday, thinking of all the luxuries I was missing. That evening I was given my mobile phone, but no out-going calls* were allowed, I could check internet on the weak wifi. I logged in and out off Twitter and Facebook, no posts done... what will I post?

I kept thinking, what got me into this, how did it happen, I continued to have nightmares of the worst experience.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday too passed like a routine, with almost no activity, partook the insipid food, looked at the four walls and the roof all the time (the old brown fan needed to be wiped), read the newspaper, played a few games on the mobile, browsed the internet, made random posts on social media and dozed most of the time.

Thursday – April 30, 2015: My cousin Srinivasan was getting married in the same city, they got the news about me, I was feeling extremely sad that I couldn’t attend the wedding, my wife didn’t go, none from my family went either!

Friday was no different from earlier days, no change in the taste of the food, I yearned for samosas and mirchi bajjis, for ice-cream and chocolates.

Sunday, after a week I am released from the imprisonment. My face looks like a hardened criminal, unshaven for 10 days, deepened eyes, unkempt hair, dark spots all over the face

I have my first wash in more than a week and thank all those who were with me in this one week of utter torture, thanks to my family for bearing with me and my tantrums, special thanks to Sudhir Kutty for taking me to the Doctor, ‘the man in the robe’, who put me through this course of solitary confinement to cure the highly infectious chicken pox.

Ps: * marked items are added fiction - for the effect J
^the guest room in my house

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Please keep your 'bakchodi' private

Disclaimer: My views in this article are not an indication of my leanings with any political ideology, religious thought or otherwise, but purely as a very forward thinking, positive INDIAN individual who respects the freedom of others as much as they should be within the limits of decency.

There has been much brouhaha from the so called pseudo-forward thinking individuals who have been cribbing to no end over the past eight odd months since a new government has been in place in India. About everything that has been their nurtured culture at home but which when practiced openly has been a cause of concern because it goes against the ‘secular fabric’. Well agreed you don’t like the Gayatri mantra or the Saraswati Vandana be recited in schools, you don’t want the Surya namaskarams and the Yoga pranayams being popularized by a ‘popularly’ elected Government. Agreed you feel it is the ‘right’ of an artist to run roughshod the gods, goddesses and practices of the majority religion because Freedom of Expression must be allowed to practice. Agreed you go over the top shouting from rooftops when the minority religion or its practitioners are painted black in a film maker’s artistic expression as it is against the ‘secular thread’ and Freedom of Expression is taken too far.

What baffles me is your outrageous support of the filth that is being spread in the name of ushering in openness and freedom of expression, albeit westernised.

Call me conservative, call me old-school, call me hypocrite, call me OLD or whatever… as what you call your parents… Today I am a father of a teenage daughter, but I haven’t changed a bit from my own teenage days…

I come from the city of Hyderabad which is known for its liberal usage of the choicest of expletives quite native to this region and very popular among all age groups (no youth or old talk here, everyone has the twang when they speak the language). But the point is as much as I have been an orator of sorts of the brilliant filthy vocabulary, I have been a strict practitioner of the same in private. I have been a vociferous promoter of abstinence of bad language in public, in the midst of elders and above all women and children.

While conceptually a paid audience of four thousand has every right to listen to their share of expletive ridden sarcastic roasting of individuals in the garb of ‘healthy’ humour in a closed auditorium, the spread of this malady as ‘art’ through world-wide-web, which is easily accessible by all and sundry is not something that needs to be applauded.

More so, when the content is full of not just expletives but pornographic acts - drama induced sexual innuendos and crass behavior of celebrities who are looked upon as idols by the younger generation (read teenagers).

If you think denying you your daily dose of such filthy edgy entertainment is “khaak achche din” so be it. "Not your cup of tea.. don't drink it!!" is agreed.. but why do you drink Your tea in public and in the nude?!

The nation built on better morals stay better, don’t get induced to be roasted in public and cry foul selectively.

Summer Rains

...and I love the Petichor! Petrichor: the scent of rain on dry earth, or the scent of dust after rain. The Hyderabad summer has ...