What does she mean to you? The world? The galaxy? The whole universe? Honestly, mommies (or mummies, or, to be more exact, mothers) should mean more. However, we never realise how much they mean to us, do we?

I lost mine when I wasn’t even 13! It was back then that one of my teachers taught me something, and I respect her to this day for that one piece of advice she gave me. She told me that (especially in Bengali) we call our female relatives mashima (mausi, or mother’s sister), pishima (bua or father’s sister), mamima (mami, or mother’s brother’s wife), kakima (chachi or father’s younger brother’s wife) or even jethima (taai, or father’s elder brother’s wife).

In each case, there is a ‘ma’ as a prefix, my teacher had told me. It meant that every female relative of mine was a mother in one way or the other! It also meant that instead of pining over the loss of my mother, I should look to these ladies for some motherly treatment. And though they did not know it, and most of them don’t realise it till date, many of them did contribute to being my surrogate mother, even if only for a little time! Each one of them was a mother figure to me for a small period of time, and I am grateful!

What does a mother do? My father had lost his mother when he was just two-and-a-half years old, and he used t tell me how strong a mother’s love can be. “There was once this boy who loved a girl, but the girl wanted to ‘test’ his love,” he would tell me when I was only a child.

“That’s why she, the selfish girl, asked him to get her his mother’s heart if she really loved him.” Please don’t get into analysing the girl’s character right now, folks! “He was hesitant at first, but he steeled himself,” my father would tell me.

“He went home, attacked his mother from behind, ripped off her heart from her body, and was running down the road with it when he tripped and fell. The moment he landed on the ground, his mother’s heart talked to him, ‘You aren’t heart, are you, my boy?’ That’s how much a mother loves you!”

He would end it there, leaving me imagining the miracle of a mother’s love. Only when I lost it did I understand its full power. Years later, I have found it again, and yearn for it more than I let on. However circumstances prevent me. But that’s just with me.

Give your mother a hug today, people. Try to think of all the things she has done, all that she has sacrificed for you. Reminisce of all the times she has been there for you when you never even expected her to! This one is for the mothers, folks!

Leave your comments here, please. Leave them for the most special lady in your life!


Tough jobs: Part I

This is about the medical profession.

These jobs are tough. No one believes you. Everyone asks for a ‘second opinion’.

I just finished watching the second season of House MD, and it just confirmed my observation. I wonder how an architect, an engineer or an artist would feel if someone ‘viewing their work’ would ask for a ‘second opinion’.

Many people still call psychology an ‘inexact’ science. What they may be unaware of is that only a handful of diseases have ‘absolute’ cures. Otherwise, doctors treat mostly the symptoms. Leave aside the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)! That’s how the common cold still has no cure!

A doc’s job is very tough, especially if he’s a diagnostician! Generally, people themselves seem to determine what disease they have, and visit doctors accordingly. Were I a doctor, I would never have reacted positively to this practice. Then again, I don’t know who exactly I am. So I can’t comment.

So, this is my humble advice to those who demean or debase doctors: Please have a little more respect.

Please post your comments here. Please!

Restructuring Religion

It was supposed to have been a rallying point for people. It was supposed to have been a tool to get the common man to believe, and to discipline them, to get them off the ‘wrong’ path. Religion seems to have gone the opposite direction. At least individual religions have. In my opinion, the time to restructure these religions is already past, but better late than never, eh?

Let’s start with my own religion, Hinduism. It’s an ancient religion, that has been fragmented and ‘revised’ to such an extent that it’s practices in one part of the country is almost unrecognisably different from another part! While many temples dedicated to Goddess Kali in some parts of India still see animal sacrifices and the offering of the sacrificial meat to the deity, at other parts even the mere mention of a non-vegetarian food is a sin.

Now, I am never against someone choosing a vegetarian diet and sticking to it, but I am definitely opposed to people justifying the eating of pure vegetarian food with religion. And that’s because they try to use guilt to make their point.

More often that not have I heard the argument that the stomachs of non-vegetarians are actually cemeteries for dead animals. If that’s true, then by the same logic, the stomachs of vegetarians are also cemeteries for plants, and the latter practice is crueller, because while animals can make a noise or try to resist, plants can’t even do that!

Then there are those who say that certain animals are our gods or mothers, and should not be eaten, or even slaughtered. Yes, I am talking about cattle, or more specifically, cows here. These people should start avoiding sugar, because it is crystallised using bone charcoal. They should also avoid all sorts of leather clothing and accessories! Isn’t that the ideal way around?

Honestly, I am not trying to convert anyone to non-vegetarianism. All I am asking of you is to stop badgering us in the name of religion or any other thing. There are more religious connotations to this discussion than you can even imagine!

For one, meat-eating has been an integral part of Hinduism long before vegetarianism become fashionable. There are accounts in the Mahabharata of people devouring meat in copious amounts. This is especially true of Bheem, the second Pandav, who was brought fresh meat regularly by a group of ‘lower-caste’ hunters. Even Balaram, elder brother of Lord Krishna, was a devourer of meat of all sorts.

There are other aspects of Hinduism that seem to be utterly ignored these days. I wish someone pointed more of them out.

Then there’s the hugely misunderstood and even more hugely misinterpreted Islam. I once attended a conference on the teachings of Islam, and it had some very learned scholars. I heard them as they explained how Islam says that a true Muslim should always seek his neighbour’s permission before building another storey above his roof, because he needs to be mindful that he is not cutting off his neighbour’s supply of fresh air and sunlight.

How can such an accommodating religion permit the killing of people? The Sharia laws that exist today are derivatives, and the products of a time when they were perfect. Those times have gone, and so is the need to cut off someone’s hand or give someone else a public lashing for some crime they may or may not have committed.

I also believe that it’s time to abolish the religious law that allows a man to take more than one wife. It is a byproduct of the time when men went to battles at a large scale and were killed in large numbers, thereby leaving a lot of unmarried or widowed women around. If it were up to me, I would up change the talaaq laws too, giving the divorced woman more power to access her husband’s wealth, or just a section of it. I have been told that, as of now, if a wife from a financially backward Muslim family is divorced, she has little or no way to eke out a living.

Despite all this, I have immense respect for Islam, more so after reading about the messages that Allah has given through Prophet Mohammed, as written by Khalil Gibran in The Prophet. I believe that any Muslim man should be allowed choose to keep his beard and every Muslim woman should be allowed to choose to wear her Hijab, just as every Sikh man should be given the choice to wear his kachchhakadakangakesh and kirpan.

Thus it is that we come to the furiously religious and even more misunderstood Sikhs. In the USA, they are often mistaken for Muslims, and in their own country, they are the butt of a lot of jokes. However, there is something inherently resilient about the followers of this religion. Never have I seen a Sikh beggar, because they prefer to live on their hard-earned money.

And last, but definitely not the least, is Christianity. I have studied in both a Catholic and a Protestant school, and I say that both branches of the religion have been given a bad rep by residents of Europe and the USA, more so from the latter.

Christianity, as described and preached by Jesus Christ, must have been fascinating for those contemporary to it. Not any more. Where is Christ’s message of love? Looks like it’s all lost in the race of power! Christ once kicked off the tables outside a house of worship because, according to Him, the merchants had turned it into a marketplace. Can He do it once again, please? Can He please teach a certain section of Christians that merely foaming at the mouth at the slightest attack on their religion is not what He had taught them?

And then there’s Judaism, a religion that most remember as the one that believes in only the First Testament of the Bible. I, however, remember it as probably the only religion in the world that orders it’s male followers to make love to their wives on a certain day of the week! Of course, the needs of a woman are much more, but what other religion provides even this much?

Modern-day Islam, in some of its forms, is probably the most brutal in its history! Despite that, it holds no candle to the times when Christian priests killed of thousands of women by just branding them witches! No wonder then, that those were the Dark Ages! Present-day Christianity may be much more liberal, but not so the present-day Christians, many of whom still look to other religions with disgust.

Modern-day Hinduism is no better. Only recently have I come to know of a girl not being able to marry the love of her life because he had been ‘convinced’ by his parents that they were incompatible when it came to their astrological charts! Incidents such as these prompt me to call for the restructuring of all religions, which have become the refuge of many criminals. As they say in Bengali, “Oti bhokti chore-er lokkhon. (an excess of piety is the sign of a thief.)”

I eagerly await your comments, folks. Leave them here, on this blog, please.

God of Music

Its sublime! It’s moving! It’s simply beyond words! That’s how I describe AR Rahman’s music. Honestly, I think that no language in the world has the appropriate vocabulary that cam shower enough praise on his works!

I have been a fan of Rahman from his Roja days. Of course, by then, he had given music to quite a few advertisements, but I didn’t know that. But somehow, I distinctively remember my first encounter with his music.

This must have been way back in 1992, because that’s when Roja released. I remember the one-room house we had. Actually, the house had several rooms, but I, my mom and my dad were given one single room to live. The house actually belonged to my grandfather, but my father and his brothers had occupied different parts of it. But that’s beside the point now. It’s all about what I remember about that fateful night.

I must have been about just eight years old back then. There were only two television channels then: Doordarshan (DD 1) and the Metro channel (DD Metro or DD 2), the latter being the more entertaining of the two.

It was on DD 1 that we first saw a programme called Superhit Muqabla, initially hosted by Baba Sehgal. I remember that I was helping my parents (my mother was alive then) put up a mosquito net around our bed when I heard that totally different song. It didn’t seem like a song at first. The melody was intriguing, but it was different from every other song till then. And I was hooked!

It was the song Rukmani Rukmani from the film Roja that had set the tone. Years later, when one of my maternal uncles told me that he found the song vulgar, I put forward to him the song Yeh Haseen Wadiyan from the same film. It was equally ’vulgar’ in picturisation, but much more melodious. He was almost forced to concede defeat!

Then came Bombay, the film, and I was almost moved to tears by Kehna Hi Kya. Only later did I learn about Tu Hi Re, and it increased my admiration for Rahman. Apparently, he had asked his sound engineer to remove all the sounds of breathing from Tu Hi Re, and after this had been done, had heard the song, and felt that its soul had gone out of it! He then asked his sound engineer to re-incorporate all of those sounds!

And then there was Dil Se, the film. Chhaiya Chhaiya was such a big hit that it was chosen as the ninth song among the Top 10 Songs of the Century by BBC Radio in a poll! The song Dil Se became my dad’s favourite, and for several years, served as one of the few common factors between an adolescent boy (me) and his father. Just for him did I, from the time caller tunes were introduced till sometime in mid-2010, keep the song as my caller tune.

Somewhere in between came Rangeela, Rahman’s first entirely original Hindi score, and it scored with me too! I remember Asha Bhonsle speaking in an interview of how Tanha Tanha, the song that almost reinvented her voice, was recorded.

I’m almost paraphrasing her interview here, because I don’t remember the exact words she used, but this is what she roughly said. "(Ram Gopal) Varma brought to me the music composer [Rahman] and introduced us. The music composer then told me about the song, took me to the bathroom, played a single track with just a flute playing in the background, and said, ’Amma, gao’. And amma sang."

A few days later, Asha Bhosle apparently went on a world tour for a month or two. When she returned, she was inundated with messages congratulating her for the success of her new song. However, when she heard Tanha Tanha for the first time, she didn’t even recognise it as her own voice, she later confessed!

By this time, and especially by the end of the 20th century, his detractors had begun saying that Rahman’s music had become cliched, that he could only produce ’westernised’ music, that he had no touch with his Indian roots. My rebuttal was to just get these people to listen to Hai Rama from Rangeela. The music of this song was so deeply rooted into Indian classical music that I easily won the argument.

I didn’t have to stand up for him in the 21st century. His music did most of the talking for him.

However, I still have a regret. I do not know Tamil or Telugu, two languages in which Rahman composes most of his music. Without any understanding of these two languages, I have half the access to his songs. And yet, I happen to enjoy the songs from Kandukondain Kandukondain, Alaipayidhey and Rahman’s other creations. I guess this is how music transcends the language barrier!

Vidarbha loses again!

Now I may not be the best political commentator, or even close to the most average of them, but the change of guards at the state government level of Maharashtra leaves me disappointed and sorry. Sorry for the hundreds of Vidarbha farmers who are looking down the barrel of a gun. Sorry for the large chunk of them who will contemplate suicide, and others who will commit them.

There was a point of time when I had great hopes. These were the times I saw institutes like the Visveswaraiya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur organise entire fests centred around the development and well being of the rural populace. They were actually following in the footsteps of some of the Indian Institutes of Technology, who had actually adopted local villages and were catering to their needs.

It was at that point that I felt a tinge of hope for the farmers in Vidarbha, who have always been shortchanged, right from ’state government sops’ to the huge rehabilitation scheme that the then finance minister P Chidambaram had announced. For starters, farmers in this cotton-growing belt have not received the best of seeds.

It doesn’t matter how much Nana Patekar, a person projected as a son of the soil in Maharashtra, ’stars’ in advertisements that promote BT cotton. The variety simply didn’t seem to work for the farmers! POOF went the promise of the state government aid! How could one trust a government that was giving its farmers an under-performing (that was a gross understatement, in fact) crop!

Former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde in 2004 even promised these farmers free electricity to run their pumps and gadgets! This despite the state having to buy power from outside to meet its needs. Want more proof of how Vidarbha has been neglected? Cities like Pune now have a zero-load-shedding policy in place, but Nagpur, a part of Vidarbha and more importantly the SECOND CAPITAL OF THE STATE does not have anything like that! Every time a proposal regarding this was put forward in front of MSEDCL, it has been delayed or shot down on one pretext or the other!

And then came P Chidambaram’s promise. The amount was also increased 20%. Apparently, all farmers who had taken loans from government-approved banks would not need to repay them, or repay only a portion of them. It was still too technical, and yet, they missed the biggest point of all!

Most farmers do not take loans from ’government-approved banks’! Only agricultural conglomerates and rich farmers do that, or are able to do that, simply because they have the financial ability to provide proper ’collateral’ in return of the loan! The poorer and the more numerous farmers avail of loans from the local sahukar, the moneylender who provides them ’monetary assistance’ in an unofficial capacity, without any proper documentation of the money taken or the rate of interest. This facilitates jacking up the loan rates to whatever level they want, and whenever they want it!

Vidarbha probably made a bigger ’blunder’, if one can call it that, during the state assembly elections in October 2009, when it turned out that around than two-thirds of the representatives elected to the Vidhan Sabha did not belong to the ruling coalition! Congress and NCP heavyweights fell like a ton of bricks, and the consequences are apparent.

Now, with the ascendance of Prithviraj Chavan to the ’throne of Maharashtra’, if one can call it that, Vidarbha can expect no better a fate! Chavan has been elected from the district of Satara, and is as unlikely to address the issues in Vidarbha as his predecessors. Ajit’dada’ Pawar, nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, can be expected to be no better. So Vidarbha loses again!

I guess the BJP’s choice of a Vidarbha person as its head will also have its kickbacks from Congress and NCP.

And here’s a primer for those who still have no idea what I am talking about. Vidarbha is a collection of 11 districts towards the fag eastern end of Maharashtra. Remember all those farmer suicides you have been hearing about? Including the one that grabbed your attention in Peepli [Live]? This is the place where most of them have been taking place. The belt used to be one of the largest producers of Indian cotton. No more, I guess…

PS: This is purely an individual’s personal opinion, and nothing more.


No, I’m not talking about medical treatments here. I’m talking about the way foreign tourists or foreign nationals are treated in India. From what I have seen and read, its not very amusing. And yet, it continues!

I live in Jaipur now, and was strolling through the thoroughfares of the Walled City yesterday evening, where the city palace and Hawa Mahal are situated, when I saw something which nauseated the hell out of me! Had I or someone close to me been subjected to that kind of treatment, I would have beaten the heck out of the perpetrators!

Basically, it was this. A man and a woman, both foreigners, were walking down a pretty crowded road, when two boys, either in their late teens or early twenties, started ogling them and then filming them with their mobile camera. The woman put up her hand in front of her, to show her disapproval, but it just did not matter to the boys. They just kept filming!

My question now is that would these people go back with a positive impression of India, or with this negative impression! Our government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, euros and pounds to promote tourism, even millions, but with people like these on the streets, are these foreign tourists likely to take back a positive impression of this country?

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have a Google Alert that brings to me, among other things, all blogs and web entries made about Jaipur. Amongst these, I often find accounts of how these foreigners have been ’jumped upon’ by locals, either offering a ’cheap’ ride, or trying to sell something, or trying to beg. One account even told of a foreign national being ’groped’ by one of these people! I even wrote an article about these blogs! Read it here.

And from the local residents I have learnt about the lapkus. Apparently, every neighbourhood in the tourist areas of the city has this group of people who jump on tourists’ shoulders (figuratively) to get the latter to do what they (the locals) want. A lapku is one who jumps (lapak jaate hain). As soon as they spot a foreign tourist, they tend to jump on them, hawking their fare, looking for alms or whatever!

I have seen these tourists being dragged by their hands into a shop, unwillingness and horror etched on their faces! Such is the distrust that these foreign tourists develop from such actions that when you try to genuinely help them, they decline, thinking that you too will pile on something or the other on them!

With the advent of travel blogs, things can get and have gotten only worse for India! Almost every blog or post I read about Jaipur extols the virtues of the tourist attractions, and immediately expresses revulsions at the way foreigners are treated here!

Honestly, all this is new to me, so I cannot proffer a solution to this problem. Do you have any?

Media Matters…

This post was set off by a video that I saw on Facebook. Apparently, it ’slams the media’ for ’creating a furore’ about a contest that was held in one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology where boys got to smear girls’ lips with lipstick in any which way they deemed suitable!

First of all, This post is not about that incident. I’ll let your esteemed selves decide whether the act was within acceptable limits, or whether it breached a certain barrier of decency. What got my goose was the use the word ’MEDIA’ in the article!

It was the equivalent of blaming every stockbroker for what Harshad Mehta had perpetrated on us, or condemning every Muslim in the country, including Shahrukh Khan, AR Rahman and our former President APJ Abdul Kalam, just because a certain section of the separatists, who turned out to be Muslims, caused blasts in the country!

As I pointed out to a friend, ’media’ includes not only news channels but films, television programmes, radio channels, advertisements, newspapers, magazines, books and even comics! Therefore, it would be totally wrong to go blaming the ’media’ for every wrongdoing perpetrated by just a handful of organisations, or sometimes, just a single organisation!

Honestly, you people have no idea of the lengths to which a newspaper reporter goes for a certain bit of news, and the disdain with which you treat the report once the newspaper lands at your doorstep! Let me put forward a few examples.

On one occasion, when I was helping out and learning under the crime reporter of the Nagpur edition of probably the most reputed newspaper brand in India, I was asked to go and bring back the report of a 13-year-old girl committing suicide.

Now here are some guidelines one has to follow as a crime reporter. One can never directly name someone as a criminal. For example, if person A is arrested by the police in connection with a murder, no reporter can say that person A is the murderer, even if there are 10 different people ready to testify against him. Why? Because it has not been proved in a court of law that A has committed the crime! Till then, he is only a suspect, or has been ’accused’ of committing the crime. He has ’allegedly’ or ’reportedly’ done it.

And there is good reason behind this! If, for example, you yourself are person A, and police arrest you in connection with the murder, but you know you have not done it! Suppose every newspaper says you are a criminal. Suppose every news channel flashes your photo with the word ’criminal’ under it. And then, one fine day, you are released because someone else actually admits to the crime, is tried in court and found guilty of it! Unfortunately, you will find that people will tend to remember you as a criminal. The fact that you were actually released and acquitted of all charges, or you weren’t even presented in court, would never seem to occur to these people!

Second, when it comes to some kind of a victim, you simply cannot name the person if her or she is underage. Would you want the name of your underage niece, or relative, or neighbour, to be taken repeatedly in a news report where it says she has been raped or assaulted? It would actually make her suffering worse, and through no fault of her own!

But let’s get back to that reporting ’assignment’. I went to the girl’s house to find that her entire family was there. Apparently, she had committed suicide by jumping from the third floor balcony to the ground after a slightly severe admonition that had followed an underperformed test.

I had been to several other crime scenes before, and have been to many more ever since, but the reason why this particular incident is achingly etched in my memory os due to the girl’s kid brother. He was barely six to eight years old. And while the rest of the family simply sat around, he would, from time to time, get up and go around the house.

I noticed this, and the kid’s uncle noticed that I noticed. He told me the reason behind it. "We have told him that his sister is hiding. If he cannot find her, she will go away to their maternal uncle’s house. We didn’t have the heart to tell him, let alone explain to him, that his didi is no more," he said.

And despite this, I somehow managed to come back to office and file a report about this. It needed to be done. Parents needed to know that their children were on a lesser tolerance threshold. They needed to be treated with more sensitivity.

This is the situation under which we, the ’mediapersons’, have to work. And these are just some of the facts. Of course, you will now be compelled to put forward the age-old ’wisdom that "This is your job!" Sure, this is our job, but that does not make it any easier. Think it through next time before you condemn or berate us. Put yourselves in our shoes, evaluate all the points before you cast a single stone at us next time! I’m pretty sure that your brain will get the better of your ’rebellious impulse’!