The State of Indian Politics

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The year 2014 changed many things about the Indian colloquial dialogue. Politics has become the subject of prime interest since the beginning of last year. Everybody talks about politics. One of the key KPI of the current government seems appears to keep the PM trending on twitter 24 hours.

Everybody is talking about politics and I, find myself talking about it much more often than I used to. Narendra Modi’s elevation to the national scene changed the course of Indian politics. Here was a man, whose claim to fame was development and polarization in the state of Gujarat. Gujaratis seemed to love him for both.

Many people, going by the results of the Lok Sabha elections chose to overlook his ‘lack of sufficient action,’ to say the least, in the genocide of the Muslim community in 2002. Development became the core agenda of BJP, led by their Prime Ministerial candidate.

BJP also changed. The old guard at the helm made way for the aggressive Modi. He made BJP the party which, perceptively, focused on development. Perception, after all, is reality. He succeeded in capturing the imagination of the nation and offered hope.

Congress, on the other hand, had nothing to offer. Rahul Gandhi, who led the party’s campaign, seemed forced and reluctant for the task at hand. He still does. His public appearances were few in contrast to those of Modi and the ones he made, failed to inspire anymore. He appeared once on prime time and people laughed at that interview. The congress party had no inspiring leaders, unlike BJP, which had Modi.

2014 was the year when India desperately sought a leader. The nation sought a leader who could fire up the nation’s imagination and lead it into the future, at a time when Congress only had scams to offer. They also had the silence of the then Prime Minister who didn’t speak up and became famous for saying nothing, most of the times.

AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal tried to fight a much stronger and powerful party, whose cadres were on fire. He overestimated himself and AAP’s chances at the Lok Sabha elections. More importantly, his resignation from the post of Delhi’s Chief Minister became his Achilles’ heel, which did not leave him, wherever he went asking for votes. It still haunts him as he seeks another term as the Chief Minister.

Kejriwal is not a bad guy. It was his inexperience and lack of political judgment, which made him, quit the post within 49 days. He made a mistake and he has admitted to it. He had to admit it, especially after the results of the Lok Sabha elections.

Circa 2015, not much has changed. Congress has almost gone into a shell since their worst performance in the history of the party. AAP is trying to revive itself. BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections followed by many state assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and other states. Unfortunately, as expected, the so called fringe elements have started the same old rhetoric about India being a Hindu Rashtra.

Thankfully, due to the pressure from the civil society, the ghar vapsi and conversion programs have slowed down. I would not be very confident that the fringe elements won’t resuscitate these issues again in the coming future. These events have cast aspersions on the development agenda of the Prime Minister.

I am not a believer in rhetoric. I was fairly skeptical about BJP being totally able to focus on development since their history is replete with communal strife with the Muslim community. The silence of the Prime Minster, when such incidents happen, makes one doubt his commitment to the social fabric of the country.

We are fortunate to be democratic nation. However, the quality of the chosen representatives depends on what the electorate demands from them. As people of the country, it is our duty to protest and shout, in whatever way we can when our elected representatives move in a direction which challenges what we ought to be proud of- a country where people from any religion, caste, belief live happily, work hard and grow together.

If we don’t demand high standards from our leaders, I don’t know who will. I hope I am proven wrong and our current Prime Minister proves himself as one of the greatest leaders this country has had.

I want development too but not at the cost of religious polarization.

As a footnote, Delhi elections are hither. I don’t even have a vote, since I live in Haryana, which is okay. However, in my heart of hearts, I wish Kejriwal wins. Congress doesn’t seem to stand any chance. Kejriwal is a fighter, as he has shown. He has apologized for his mistake and I am sure he is yearning desperately for redemption.

However, we live in Modi’s India. Anybody who says anything in favor of a party which is not BJP is frowned upon. So, I am not sure if Kejriwal will get his chance at redemption. As far as congress is concerned, well, they need Lord Krishna to reincarnate to save them.

We live, in interesting times.

The Global Obsession With Virginity

There is a reason why this piece is called ‘global’ obsession with virginity and not an Asian obsession and more particularly, an Indian obsession, where the problem is much more acute.

The reason is that the subject of virginity affects lives all over the world, I believe; somewhere, in a small way, and somewhere in a massive way.

Are you a virgin?

Oops, did I just ask you that? So, you answered it to yourself, right? I know you did. Don’t lie. I mean, who would you, lie to; a reader has only himself or herself to lie to. So, either you are a virgin or you are not. No, there is another possibility, which is that you are not sure of the answer. In case, you are not sure of the answer, I think your doubts will be dispelled, somewhere through this article. So, I suggest, stay with me.

So, if you are a man, you were never a virgin. I mean technically, nothing changes when you make out. Nothing was there which was supposed to be removed. Men never have any virginity. Now, I am not talking about your sexual life. I don’t care how good or how awful it is. I am talking about a so called moral issue or metaphorical perspective.

If you are a female, things are different. For some reason, nature wanted to mess with their bodies and therefore, installed a flap, technically called a hymen. Now, this extra layer of skin has caused so much mess in the lives of human beings around the world, especially in societies which are conservative and illiberal in their attitudes to sexuality.

Let me talk about the situation at home, India.

Indian men have so much moral and intrinsic pressure to marry a virgin that the first thing that comes to their mind when they are considering marriage is ‘would my wife be a virgin?’ Most marriages that happen in India are arranged marriages. Let me expound the subject of arranged marriages for the readers of this blog. Arranged marriages are the most illogical and accommodating system of finding a life partner. First of all, in the case of arranged marriages, a man doesn’t marry a woman in a marriage. A family marries a family. Please read the previous line again. Now, since a family marries a family, there are ways to go about it.

India is a country where caste and religion are the two key pillars of identity. We are human beings later and we are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Parsis first.

In addition to religion, there are caste divisions and there are further preposterous divisions which have lead to certain ‘honor’ killings in the country lately. This means, for example, a Sikh, the community I was born in has a few dominant and a few not so dominant castes. Similarly, other religions and castes have their own divisions and quite comprehensive ones. There is no logical basis to this distribution and therefore, I will not get into it. It only gets more ridiculous.

Now, back to arranged marriages. Since people are known by their religious and caste communities, they want to stay in their religious and caste communities. Therefore, in case of arranged marriages a Sikh ‘caste X’ family will want to marry a Sikh ‘caste X’ family. Now, since you want to marry in the same caste and religion, the entire market of girls and boys is not available to you. Your supply source, if you are male looking for a bride, is the marriageable girls in your religion and community.

See now, you being the man want a virgin wife and if a girl who is looking for a man through the arranged marriage route, knows that your husband eventually will want a virgin wife.

So, she has to preserve her virginity. Boom!

For men and women who seek partners because they love them, there are issues, which are different but then everyone wants a virgin, or at least hopes to have one. I wish that people get into relationships, including marriages, not only because they want to want to have sex (which everybody does), but because they seek someone’s companionship, whose presence can take their life to a beautiful place.

In Indonesia, reportedly, women who want to be police officers have to go through virginity testing, which means a degrading two finger test to establish the hymen. Apparently, sex is not the only way hymen can be broken. It can be broken because of a sporting activity. What a shame, is all I can say. This is one of the most bizarre and meaningless things I have come across. What does a police officers’ duty have to do with virginity?! Well, if you can, try to figure out an answer.

Whatever exposure I have had to western culture, I believe it is more liberal with virginity, the Church may disagree. I found this bit online, when I searched for Church’s view on virginity***. Try to make sense of it, if you can.

“According to the Protoevangelium, Joseph was required to regard Mary’s vow of virginity with the utmost respect. The gravity of his responsibility as the guardian of a virgin was indicated by the fact that, when she was discovered to be with child, he had to answer to the Temple authorities, who thought him guilty of defiling a virgin of the Lord. Mary was also accused of having forsaken the Lord by breaking her vow. Keeping this in mind, it is an incredible insult to the Blessed Virgin to say that she broke her vow by bearing children other than her Lord and God, who was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s a fortunate thing in this world, to find love and companionship. We are all broken and battered by relationships that don’t last. They break us.

If you find love, don’t search for a hymen.

*** Source: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-ever-virgin

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

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The Jaipur Literature festival is one of the most intellectually satisfying experiences one can have, in India.Delegates and attendees from all over the world converge to attend the festival every year and I am sure they have similar reasons. One of the pitfalls, however, of keeping the festival free for the audience is massive crowds at every session. For the popular sessions like those of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Nobel Laureate V S Naipaul, there was hardly space available to even stand.

In my opinion, the festival can charge a nominal fee. This will ensure that only the ones, who are genuinely interested, walk in and help avoid the disinterested freeloaders who come because everyone is going and not because they are really keen to listen. It is a essentially a festival for those who are interested in the written word and how it impacts our life and I believe that they would be willing to pay a small amount to attend it, if it helps in bringing down the crowds.

Enough for the critical view, I love the festival and have been visiting it for a few years. Therefore, I will now take the time to write about what I totally enjoyed this time.

The V S Naipaul Session
I think Mr. Farrukh Dhondy did a brilliant job at moderating the session. Sir Naipaul did lose himself many times during the discussion and it was for Mr. Dhondy to get him back on track and keep the discussion moving. Mr. Naipaul shared his experiences around early writing, having to learn about non-fiction, comedy and different genres of writing.

It was a fascinating discussion. I was hooked onto every word Mr. Naipaul said. He also narrated a story about his early days at writing when he sat down and finished a piece of work. I had a lesson to learn there. Many a time, while writing, I take a break, which disrupts the train of thought. Now, I am determined to not leave, until I finish this article.


The Rajdeep Sardesai and Mihir Sharma session

It was moderated by Ms. Madhu Trehan. I am a fan of Mr.Sardesai. He is one of the best journalists in this country, along with Ms. Barkha Dutt. The session was exhilarating and enjoyable. Mr. Sardesai spoke about his book and stories of his encounter with the now Prime Minister. He spoke about not getting an invite for the Obama Dinner because he would ask uncomfortable questions instead of taking selfies.

Mr. Sharma is a witty speaker and he took the question on retrospective taxes, among other questions on his book. It was fun watching these two gentlemen talking about Indian politics and its heroes and failures.

Against the Grain
This was a wonderful session. The person who totally inspired and led this session, to my mind was Mr. Gideon Levy- described as the most hated man in Israel by Ms. Meru Gokhale, who moderated the session. He came across as a man of unquestionable integrity and moral courage.

The other speakers on the panel were interesting in their own right, since they all represented going against the grain, except, Mr. Dasgupta, who is a part of the establishment in the current political set up and not quite, against the grain.

There were other sessions also, which led perspectives on the LGBT community and what ‘coming out’ meant, life of Gandhi, which led me feeling thoughtful.

I hope the crowd isn’t that much next year and that a pan masala company isn’t sponsoring it. I will go to listen to the thinkers who grace the Diggi palace with their profound thinking. I will go to hear about the courage of people like Mr. Gideon Levy. They are the fest.

I wish I was a smoker

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Sometimes I wish
I was a smoker
The pace of life won’t matter to me
No matter what the rate
I could just stand in a corner
And go in a trance kind of a state

I would see the smoke go by…
When a fellow smoker would come
I would smile and say hi
He or she would ask, ‘got a light?’
And then a few would join
A few moments later
the whole place would be engulfed
In a fog of white

Sometimes I would hold a fag with tea
Sometimes with coffee
Sometimes… may be whiskey

No problem would be tough,
I would then be a tough bloke
Oh, If only
I could ever smoke

Oh, God, but I can’t do it
Just don’t feel like it, oh shit!

I know it’s not done
Oh, i miss so much fun!
If you are reading this,

You might just think
I am such a choker, oops
I wonder why but I know
I will never be a smoker

An Ode to a free bird

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To sing, To fly
To go as much as you care
To go as much as high

To do what you love
And do it at your pace
You just don’t want to compete with them
It has been and it’s just your own race

You don’t want to answer anyone
Your accountability is to the mirror
If you can look to it straight in the eye
There is nothing out there that can make you shy

Your convictions are worth a fight
If it does not make you happy
How does anything become right?!

So often you don’t fit in
Never ever have you followed the herd
Something inside you keeps reminding you

that you were born
You were born to be a free bird

Hypocrisy

We crave to be loved by people we love
We crave to be appreciated by people we admire
We crave for food when we are hungry
We crave for intimacy
We crave for victory at pursuits we love
We crave for freedom while bound in shackles
We crave to depend while feigning independence
We crave so much
and we don’t show it

Pretense is the expression of hypocrisy.