Sunday, August 28, 2011

Readings in Mumbai

Now that the new book is out, we shall be doing a series of readings across various book-stores (and perhaps at some institutions too). This space will be updated as and when new events are finalized. Please do come. Physical invitations are not necessary, so anyone interested in the Good Indian Girl (and why would't you be?), come along for a chat.

One:  Kitabkhana
[Address: Ground Floor, Somaiya Bhavan, 45/47, MG Road, Fort, Mumbai]
Time: 6 pm
Day: September 3 (Saturday), 2011.

Snapshots from the city of waves

I headed towards the autos queued outside the domestic airport and carried my bags to the front of the line. As I got into the first auto, a white-uniformed fellow with an I-am-a-somebody demeanor leaned in, blocking the exit. He said: “Hundred rupees… If you get a pre-paid slip, you will have to pay a hundred and fifty.”
I snapped something about using the meter, and then tried to alight. White Uniform stepped back, saying, “Okay, okay. Meter…”
Later, I asked the driver how much I owed him. He tried to overcharge by 10 rupees.
I looked at the meter and took a deep breath. One part of me was saying: Forget it. The other part said: “Don’t add to a culture of financial misdemeanor.”
So I pointed to the meter. He stared at me sullenly and said, “I waited in line at the airport a long time.” I retorted, “So I pay because you have to line up?”
I wanted to say other things — about how you have a better chance of being treated with respect if you act like you deserve it; how cheating becomes a way of life; how this is a vicious circle of blame and powerlessness; how I too wait in line for autos but do not charge a premium for it. But I didn’t say any of this.
Two days later, the road was blocked by another Anna-people rally. Tricolour flags etcetera.
I was in an auto and the driver was twisting this way and that, peering at the junction. He mumbled, “Now are these Anna-people headed right or left?”
I had to smile. Big question, that one. Are they headed right, or left?
I asked the white-haired driver what he thinks about Anna Hazare. He shrugged.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

To read, perchance to have fun:

It is the result of the joint labours (and loves) of myself and Smriti Ravindra. It is ready for scrutiny, and judgement, or whatever else you might bestow upon it. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting The Bad Boy's Guide to the Good Indian Girl aka The Good Indian Girl's Guide to Living, Loving and Having Fun. The book can be preordered (heavily discounted) on Flipkart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Look, laugh, nod, think

Here's a short video put together in the context of the book. If you have responses, or comments, they are most welcome here, or over at the Zubaan blog. If you want to respond at length, come up with your own note/ essay/ video/ musing-in-some-new-format and we will link to it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The lathmaar school of management

People, you see, have problems. And even if the problems are not of the state’s making, the people still expect the state to intervene.And when it comes to corruption, they are truly furious and justified in their fury because they confront corruption mostly via state-controlled agencies. So they are mistrustful of the government when it claims that it will tackle corruption on its own.

The mishandling of the Ramdev situation in Delhi is still fresh in their minds, and threats that Anna Hazare would be treated the same way have just caused a massive, public upchucking.

That’s how these protests appear to me — an outpouring of disgust. Friends have been calling from other cities to say that their staid, smug middle class neighbours are marching in support of Anna Hazare. They are probably upset about food inflation. Or insane real estate prices. They are not really supporting Hazare’s version of the Lokpal Bill. They can’t, because they haven’t read the draft nor thought about its repercussions.
I have, and I disagree with it. Police and judicial reforms are far, far more pressing. Yet, people support Hazare because they need a rallying point. They need to express their disgust. But how does the government deal with public disgust? By flexing its judicial and administrative muscles! By throwing a colonial-era law book at their faces!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seeding sovereignty

Wiktionary defines sovereignty as the state of making laws and controlling resources without the coercion of other nations. In other words, we are sovereign only if we use collective resources to our own advantage. So, here’s a question. Does food qualify as a resource?

Yes? What about traditional knowledge? Yes? Do I hear you say that it is imperative that India holds on to her strengths in the food department?
But food comes from seeds. And seeds… Well, there’s a seed floating around nowadays that is not ours. We don’t own the knowledge and fertility that’s embedded in that seed. Foreign corporations do and they won’t allow us to save a fraction of the crop for using as seed next year. In fact, corporations like Monsanto sell expensive seed with built-in ‘terminator’ technologies, so that the crop is useless for re-sowing. Does that spell ‘justice, liberty, equality’ to you?
So farmer groups, under the banner of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), decided to celebrate Quit India Day (August 9) by asking Monsanto to get out. They want the state to stop GM crop trials and work out a system of seed self-reliance instead. They’re denouncing the ‘bio-piracy’ that blocks access to seeds through ‘collaborative research’.
You may or may not agree with the ‘Quit India’ call, but remember that seeds can be contaminated, or destroyed. Crops can fail again, and again. Famines can happen. Terrible famines have happened during colonial times and one reason was that farmers couldn’t choose what to grow.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Do you accept it?

BSY posed for photographs — holding one edge of the resignation letter while the Governor held the other — smiling confidently for the cameras. He insisted he would be back in the CM’s chair within six months. There was a lot of bluster andshowbaazi. Looking at the photos, it seemed as if he was resigning in protest.There was no sign of shame, no sign that the CM had to be shoved out after allegations of massive corruption and nearly weeks of wrangling with his own party bosses.
This last week, some citizens certainly have realized how much they loved BSY, and how acutely they would feel his loss. These would be people who gained from illegal mining and are now scrambling to squeeze out the last few thousands of crores, while they still can. Whilst power was brokered in Bengaluru, they snuck out iron ore by the train-load despite a Supreme Court order banning all mining and transportation of iron ore in Bellary.
Reportedly, 49 lorries were caught transporting ore from BMC (a firm rumoured to be tied to the Reddys). District authorities in Bellary also seized 7,448 tonnes of iron ore in two rakes (each rake has 58 wagons). Another 1,000 tonnes was seized at JSW Steel Ltd, coming from Mysore Minerals.
Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, I was wondering whether it was safe to step outside if the new CM was someone BSY couldn’t trust to shove back into oblivion after six months. What would happen to those of us who were out having lunch, buying veggies, travelling in buses?
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