The everyday trial

Today, the topic I wish to write about, it truly a nation-al one. In my house, there were two ‘camps’ – the pro-Arnab Goswami and anti-Arnab camp. My dad, like so many others, loves him and waits for the Newshour and follows the ‘30 minutes to Newshour’ strapline on the ticker. I loathed him with an intensity reserved for few people – like those who think the world loves their face so much that they upload a selfie every alternate day on facebook – and trust me, I would walk off the moment I heard that irritating newshour music. Notice how I was using the past tense? No, no its not that I love the show now but yes, I do sit through some of his debates and do not walk off as soon as dad puts on channel no 366.

MUMBAI, INDIA ? APRIL 03: Arnab Goswami, Indian Journalist, Editor in Chief and News anchor of the news channel Times Now at his office in Mumbai.(Photo by Bhaskar Paul/India Today Group/Getty Images)

MUMBAI, INDIA ? APRIL 03: Arnab Goswami, Indian Journalist, Editor in Chief and News anchor of the news channel Times Now at his office in Mumbai.(Photo by Bhaskar Paul/India Today Group/Getty Images)

The other day I happened to read his interview on scroll and Arnab’s answer to the question of ‘all the shouting and finger-pointing on times now’ kind of got me thinking:

 He said ‘After eight years of news leadership, if the only charge that sticks against Times Now is that we make our point too directly then it’s a good thing. I would be more worried if people would accuse us of corruption or impropriety, (as some channels have been). Being clear and unambiguous is a charge that I am comfortable with.’

Yes, formally or even otherwise, I have not heard anything about him being corrupt or of the channel having any clear political leanings, as some other channels have been accused of. He has always been as aggressive, be it any government in power; he is as much a boogeyman to Nalin Kohli of the BJP, as he was to Sanjay Jha of the Congress. And it is the time of low standards set by some media outlets, where the proximity between them and those in power crossed levels of fariplay, that being non-partisan can be seen as the biggest virtue. What would be the point of a nuanced debate if there is an obvious bias, right?

Ofcourse, there are a lot of things to not like about Arnab’s show. He invites half the country as guests on the news debate and then pigeonholes them in boxes, where some of them are conveniently forgotten till the end of the show. And as an ad by a rival channel would show, there is an unhealthy amount of jingoism when it comes to shows relating to Pakistan. Then there is the then oversimplification of issues, the tendency to search for a daily villain, there is so much that one could dislike about the show and the man. My main complain with watching Arnab’s show was that by the end of the debate, I would not end up learning more about the issue from various perspectives, inspite of his overcrowded guesthouse.

But the other day after watching the entire debate of Gajendra ‘ junge love’ Chauhan – the person appointed as chairman of the FTII and the controversy around it – I was all the more convinced about what worked for Arnab, apart from being seen as non-partisan. I think, we as a people are tired of the entire ‘corrupt system’ ‘corrupt politicians’ cycle that keeps playing ad nauseam. The trial in courts – if indeed it goes to trial – we know will take ages, and it is here that ‘Justice Arnab’ appeals to our baser instincts: the hope to see these scamsters, these politicians punished for what they are doing in any way possible. A ‘media trial’ is an unhealthy trend ofcourse but when I saw a clown like Chauhan being absolutely stripped to smithereens – his own stupidity here playing a major part – on the show, I felt this sense of vindication. Oh yes, eventually because of blatant political reasons, you may end up being the FTII chief, but ‘in the court of Arnab’ you were shown who you are. In the 45-minute long debate – it was after a long while that I could sit through the debate – a baser part of me felt good.

And that is what I realized works for Arnab, for the better or worse. The news and developments of the day sometimes become a byproduct to the main show in which is Arnab going after these people whom we hope to see punished but are not sure they will not be, at least in our lifetimes. It is for that hour long vindication, when Arnab shouts at Fadnavis saying how dare you stop a plane for an hour and see his spokesperson struggle for words, that for sometime, people feel that politicians are not high flying netas, but public servants, and thereby accountable to the people, a class that Arnab claims to represent every night at 9.

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Ramzan & me

Ramzan or Ramadhan, whichever way you like it – I prefer Ramzan after learning that Ramadhan is a Saudi import and am not a big fan of the influence that place has had on Islam – is unlike any other months of the Islamic calendar, literally and otherwise. The beauty of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, is that you start looking out for it months in advance – ok three months for Ramzan, two months, Ramzan is only a week away; partly with a sense of anticipation and partly with dread. Of all the practices that Islam has, fasting is something that I relate to quite a bit, inspite of it being one of the most demanding one.

The way I look at it, and I am sure we all at some point find our own meanings while pursuing religious practises, it is the month of discipline – where by sheer force of will you tide over so many things. While on a normal day, even though you are stuffed, you still can’t resist the fragrance of a freshly fried bhajiya; during Ramzan, you somehow find it within you to whizz past it – maybe with some help from visualizing the sufra (the tablecloth on which sumptuous eatables are kept) that awaits you during iftaari !

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Ramzan, to me, brings back beautiful childhood memories. As a kid I wanted to fast – maybe as a means to be counted as an adult, something which rather foolishly most children want – and would convince my mother every night to wake me up for sehri (the pre-dawn meal), cause without that there would be no fasting. The way I would know she was ‘conning’ me was when she would agree to wake me up and not ask me before sleeping what I would eat for sehri. Just before she would go to sleep, my class 5 angry self would approach her with the swagger of a cop who spots a person walking suspiciously on a deserted street in the night and ask: so why didn’t you ask me what I will eat for sehri? It means you aren’t waking me up and I am not fasting. I would then go to sleep with a huff.

Don’t ask about the delight on days that I would find myself awake for sehri. Having a breakfast with all family members at that hour was like being allowed entry in a privileged club meant only for adults.

After waking up, for the first half of the day, you don’t even begin calculating, knowing well that the counting will throw up a number that you wouldn’t particularly like. I think it’s around 5 o’clock, when, with a slightly heavy head, the sense of anticipation begins. Another highlight of the fast, is the final few moments before Iftaar (evening meal when the fast is ended), when you have actually conquered the day, but the last few minutes, knowing their importance quite well, will amble along leisurely. Also no matter what’s on the menu, there is no place like home for iftar. Just the pure unrushed serenity that ensures you end the fast not all at once but enjoy every moment, you’ve waited all day.

Here again, the key to iftar is to not declare an all out war on food/water, no matter how thirsty or hungry you are. My amateur self (I’m really making it sound like a life skill) would at times gulp down a few glasses of water as soon as it was time and the hunger just vanished and I’d feel so stupid. The right way of doing iftar – oh yes over the years I believe there is a right way – is to go real slow even though all your instincts want you to not bother going for the spoon and directly attack the utensils.

As roza’s pass by, my mind again tilts towards mathematics. It starts – I rather shamefully admit – right after the third fast is complete. Without exception, every year after the third fast, some part of my head displays this: 1/10th over. This is how it usually pans out:

5 days – 1/6th over

6 days – 1/5th over

10 days – 1/3rd over (WHOA)

12 days – 4/10th over (its true)

15 days – ½ over (super whoa)

And now, things start getting a bit slow just like the moments before iftaar and I give up on calculations till day 27 (9/10th) and then well Eid Mubarak :D. Pudhcha varshi lavkar ya

courtesy: rubriker.tk

courtesy: rubriker.tk

On different types of eggs !!

One has at some point been involved in discussions with friends about the quota system. Most of these years, I’ve always raised the flag of merit and bemoaned reservations without a hint of doubt whatsoever. Since the past year or two, I heard of the word ‘privilege’ and scoffed at it as some ‘theoretical construct’ (take that intellectuals :P); conveniently carrying on their existence unquestioned in musty books, stocked far far away from reality.

It was a comic strip on privilege (insert here) I came across that kind of got me thinking. It did because it explained what privilege meant using a life situation as against big words. In my head, at that point privilege came out of the safe confines of book covers, and appeared to be something that we all knew, maybe at some unconscious level. (Do go through the cartoon strip)

A few days back, having a few hours to kill before watching the much raved about Tamil movie Kaaka Muttai (crow’s egg), I was having a discussion with a friend – one more socially aware than myself – about privilege. Although, I knew at a certain level that the slide to her side of the debate had already started since the time I saw that cartoon strip– I flung several situations at her:

Q:  But so many from discouraging backgrounds work hard and come up. So why reservation ?

-They have to work harder. With the same amount of hard work, someone with a better background will achieve more. (Examples followed)

Q:  But Ambedkar managed to come out of it without reservation?

-She: Yes but take the ratio of how many are able to come out of their backgrounds which on an everyday basis push them back in little ways that can pass our attention so easily. (Examples followed)

I thought about it and agreed to most of what she had to say. After a riveting discussion, a visit to a bookstore and chai bun-maska strewn with sugar (those who know me, know how important the last ingredient was) it was movie time. Almost like some cosmic design up there had taken it as a personal challenge to make me a convert by the end of the day itself, the movie also turned out to be based on a similar theme (privilege) and quite inception-like drove the point much deeper in my puny brain.

Kaaka Muttai is a story of two brothers residing in a slum pocket adjacent to a highway, who want to eat a pizza from a recently opened Pizza outlet in their locality. Ever since they see a superstar, who comes for the store opening ceremony, make a circle using his thumb and index finger followed by three outstretched fingers (indicating the yummy taste of the pizza) pointed at the slum children – including the two brothers – standing outside, it is the only thing the brothers can think about. (In hindsight, what a cruel scene.)

The problem obviously is that the pizza costs Rs 299 and they begin to look for sources of money to collect that amount. After selling coal that fall off goods trains near railway tracks and unknowingly stealing coal, they finally make enough money. Then, with a bit of a swagger usually reserved for bollywood heroes, they head to the pizza place, maybe feeling like the superstar himself (oh advertisers, you will rot in hell piiissing chakki to make batter for the pizza that you will never get to eat). The security guard stops them. Even before they can point out that they have the money, they are showed the door. This was the moment for me. The boys are confused; why are they not being allowed inside when they have the money? They are later told by someone that it is their worn-out clothes that stop them from getting inside. They then save more money, get new clothes and come to the pizza place again. Here again, not only are they not allowed inside, but one of the supervisor slaps them.

The boys have the money, they have the clothes to go with it; but they are poor. The assumption is that they might make other customers uncomfortable – a not completely unheard fear right ?. It may not be good for the reputation of the outlet. (Ofcourse, firstly it is assumed that the boys do not have the money.) But here is what it is: the boys could get the money, put on new clothes, and maybe even get the chappals later that are missing when they go to the outlet the second time, but, at the end of the day, they are still crow eggs; most outlets would chicken out at the prospect of denting their image. So do what the brothers may, they cannot earn enough to rise above their circumstances- atleast not for the time being.

Coming back to the conversation, I was having before the movie, I asked my friend: So then what does one (coming for a privileged background)do about it? Pat came the reply: Maybe not credit oneself too much for what one has achieved. Ones circumstances should also be taken into account. Hmmm. Keeping ones feet on the ground never killed anyone right ?

(This is I agree a much larger debate. Here I am talking about my limited experience)

rger debate and I am here talking about my limited experience)

The Cycling Mechanism

Starkenn Bikes

In this vast maze of roads and highways, heavy and light vehicles, motorists, honking-traffic- bribe- signals, is there space for cycling?

Well, there’s plenty! Way beyond the capacity of other motorists trying to make their way through the passage.

Cycle is the only instrument that allows you to get down, move along as conveniently as if you just took a small walk. So while others are peeping ahead at the length of the traffic, you escalate. This feature wouldn’t be convenient with other vehicles, let alone a biker, who looks so disheartened while trudging along with his bike as though air has left not only his bike tyre but also his soul.

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Unfortunately, this flexibility of what cycling gives you often also comes with its disadvantages. The lack of speed of cyclists(as compared to other vehicles), ignorance about basic things like keeping to one side of the road. However, even…

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Court : On Celluloid and otherwise

My write-up on Chaitanya Tamhane’s nuanced movie ‘Court’

F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b

This post is by Mohamed Thaver, who has covered the Sessions Court proceedings for Hindustan Times for over a year. As he watched Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court, he could not stop himself from making some Court-notes. Blame it on good ol’ journalism.

Thaver is a former journo who still finds it difficult to keep his nose out of crime, movies and book. Over to him now.

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It is easier to hate people if you do not see them in human form. Especially, if, with the help of stock phrases, you just have to reduce them to pre-moulded narratives. After moving to report on the Mumbai Sessions court from crime reporting, the first thing that hit me was the absolutely direct access to the accused. While though initially it gave me a kick, seeing all these accused about whom I had been writing, soon I realized it was a tricky position to…

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The socket hunters

So the other day I go to this restaurant and realizing the slow and painful (more on that later) death my phone is going through. I rush to the hotel owner with this you-have-to-save-me look and ask him if there is a socket using which I could charge my mobile phone. He smiled and gave me that oh-I-get-this- so-many-times-its-not-funny look before pointing towards a socket hidden behind a fridge, almost invisible, maybe deliberately so.

I think our smart phones (which maybe are not as smart after what they are turning us into) are turning us into a generation of socket hunters. Ok I may be succumbing to hyperbole here but it seems – at least to me- every second person I meet is afflicted by this ‘I have low battery’ syndrome. While if you search online, you will find scores of articles about how the next smart phone should ensure it has good battery life, something desperately (more or less) missing from most smart phones these days. They are adding apps, games and other (relatively unimportant features), but when it comes to the thumb rule of a mobile being able to last longer, they are screwing it up. (ok diversion, random ranting)

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So you try to ‘instill the habit’ of charging your phone first thing you get up in the morning but as far as its execution goes, your guess is as good as mine. On most days after you leave home, in the first few minutes for sure, you realize the battery life, on a lucky day, is somewhere around 60 per cent. And then those damn calculations begin. Ok no music, data off; or maybe no music, data on; no music data on but 3G off and so on and so forth. There better you get technology, the more permutations and combinations you have and thereby more confusion.

No matter what you do, on most days, and following Murphy’s law, the most important days, as you are maybe headed back to office, it is a race against how much (battery) your phone sucks and how quickly you can locate the next socket. (As I do not use a portable battery charger that is not an option. Have to still make up my mind on that front). And that is when the phone begins to die a slow (and extremely painful for your mental health) death and along with the battery starts sucking your blood. Kala Ghoda: battery life 10 per cent, check; Marine Lines 8 per cent check; Elphinstone road 6 per cent check; all this amidst being cautious that you do not check it too many times lest: it drains your battery.

Finally you reach office and recharge your phone. On most occasions all sockets in the office would be occupied and according to a CHDS survey (these are made up these days right?) or an exit poll ( since we are in election season) on a particular day you will meet atleast two persons who are looking around wide eyed (and visible stress) for that elusive unoccupied charging point, that socket to resuscitate their mobile back to life. The statistic will go to three a day, in case you are counting yourself.

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PS: Not a bad thought to start charging for charging points.

To click or not to click

Travel and photography have always been strange bedfellows in my head. I have been ambivalent what one is to do in the face of raw beauty. To gawk at it and let it occupy some place in the recesses of your mind. Or to photograph the hell out of it, every square inch of it. The less dramatic answer: you do both, what’s the problem here then?

When I observe my reaction on coming across something beautiful in the process of travel, I normally tend to pull out my mobile camera and start clicking away with more passion than my brethrens with the DSLR. At some point, I almost have to remind myself, to keep the darn thing in my pocket and just gawk, absent mindedly, mesmerized. I mean I want to see the place when I am there in person, not back home while browsing through the photographs I clicked.

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But then there are so many tourists who will come to a spot or ‘point’ and go beserk with their cameras and don’t know when to stop. It would not be that big a problem in my head if it was solely not restricted to that. When I look at most of them, I get a feeling – and I could be wrong here – all some of them are hoping for is their next display picture for facebook, to show these particular people on their timeline what a swell time/life they are having.

This coming from a guy, who in the words of a friend: put up a photo diarrhea instead of a photo diary about his travel on facebook, may seem ironic. But like I mentioned above, I think at some point, I do realize that the camera has to go in. I do think of facebook and other sites when photos are being clicked. And honestly, I then try not to think of it that way. I remind myself that beyond the likes, shares and comments, these are memories in the long run (too many memories if you ask me). If it was just about taking photographs, well you could download a few from google.

The deal here is the moment you are out there. At some point you stand there (ok I am not pontificating about postures here, do what you want) and just feel the place. You try to find that unique relationship with the place that will stay with you. You observe the feelings the place evokes in you. This feeling that may come back to mind three weeks after the trip just between the time you have shut your eyes and before sleep finally overpowers. You can regurgitate it in your head and unknowingly doze off. Well if you’re lucky, dream about it.

During my trip to Chherapunji, we had visited a cave. It was so dark inside that we could not click photographs. Maybe it was the best thing. When we returned from the cave and discussed the experience, all three of us could feel the vibe of something ancient in there. Some ancestral shiver had run down our modern day spine, when we looked at a leaf fossil embedded in a rock. That uncaptured, unclicked moment will stay with me like so many others.

What I am trying to say, is that in the process of making memories, I hope we don’t end up trading them for raw experience, something that is the very nub of what travel should be about. Whenever I think about these things, it brings to mind one of my favourite scenes from movie The Namesake. Irfan Khan (Ashoke Ganguli) along with his son reach the far end of the beach and realize they forgot to get the camera along.

Ashoke Ganguli: The camera! It is in the car. All this and no picture, huh? We just have to remember it then. Huh? Will you remember this day, Gogol?

Gogol: How long do you I to remember it?

Ashoke Ganguli: [laughing] Ah, remember it always. Remember that you and I made the journey and went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.

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