Monday, July 28, 2008

India being held ransom!


That is the question that bothers me. WHAT EXACTLY do these terrorists WANT? Can't they tell us? In the earlier days, hijackers, kidnappers etc. told us what they wanted in return & we had information about what we needed to do to secure the release of our people. We also knew what their grouse was & if it was a valid grouse, we could fix it.

These terror attacks are acts of cowardice. They don't want to face us, they don't want to negotiate. Do they even WANT anything??? Or are they just brainwashed people or mercenaries, being encouraged by entities who want India to remain weak? Pak we've heard before? China maybe?

Most importantly... WHAT can we do to stop this madness?

The Indian Express had talked about "Local Intelligence" after the Jaipur blasts and reiterates that point here.

Apparently the Centre is talking about raising the %age spend on State-specific Intelligence instead of depending on one central body. It makes immense sense to have multiple entities striking at the problem instead of one single body. What the Centre needs to realize is this: There is a HUGE difference between drawing up plans & implementing them effectively. The success of corporate honchos & heads of state alike is determined by their ability to implement! Dr. Singh hasn't failed on that count yet and I hope he and the Hon'ble Home Minister can implement to perfection as well!

In fact, it would make sense to have a district level/gram panchayat level anti-terror intelligence gathering cell/programme!

I've heard of Mohalla committees that were put in place & were successful as an anti-rioting measure. We can have similar programmes for anti-terror intelligence gathering.

Another idea is to make all these uber-patriots (I'd love to use pseudo but the extremist right seems to have patented the use of that word; additionally there's a good chance they won't understand uber) like the sena & it's illegitimate child the mns, the vhp, bajrangis and the rss, who keep flaunting their committment to the nation, to become the cells of intelligence gathering. Since they're so interested in the Nation's security, let's give them a chance to do something CONSTRUCTIVE about it instead of just ranting about it for a change! Ditto the organizations that keep calling for bandhs!

The ulema too can put their money where their mouth is & put up intelligence collection cells wherever they have a presence.

With that amount of intelligence coming in, we may be able to control this menace. At least one of the blocks will be in place!

Others expressing anguish about this.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Perceptive, Insightful, Discerning...

are all adjectives that I will attribute to myself henceforth.

Of the recommendations that I had made here, one was about the liberals using the media to get the truth out, to send positive messages out to the unknowing world at large.
And HERE is vindication that I was on the right track!!!
Read up about how Alyque Padamsee's brilliant brain is being put to nobler use than it had ever before!
Read about how people like Madni, Padamsee & Javed Anand exist. Rejoice at what they stand for & represent!
Read up about how it's to be done!

A half-Hindu's view on how Hindus should be percieved

I'm half-Hindu. The other half is Muslim. I've spoken about one aspect of this earlier and am therefore going to skip some parts of the preamble.

I grew up accustomed to people marvelling at my knowledge of "Hindu" mythology, and other religions. I also grew up practically unaware of what Islam was about. Since my family didn't pay much attention to it, I was only aware of who the "heroes" of Islam were: The Prophet, Hazrat Ali & his martyred sons Imam Hasan & Imam Husain, and their clan.

As I grew older, I mixed with more Hindus than Muslims, by virtue of the simple fact that they're in greater numbers in India. Also by virtue of the fact that my parent's mixed-marriage effectively precluded our either staying in areas determined by ethnicity or fraternizing based only on it.

Apart from a few stray incidents I rarely met a religion obsessed Hindu (churkhi & janayoo notwithstanding). This may have to do with the fact that my Muslim sounding name may have deterred them in some way, but despite that I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the Hindus I met were not the kind that carried religion outside on the street with them. Only once when I was about six or seven was I asked in the park, "What religion are you?" by a group of similarly aged youngsters. I am still unable to comprehend how 7 year olds could ask me a question like that. Unless they had instructions from home to ask... Wierd, very wierd.

So my best friends were Hindus right through school, graduation & post-grad. Irrespective of whether I was in UP, Rajasthan or Maharashtra.

It's important for me to state however that I hadn't scratched the surface yet. Young & forgiving I ignored the people who refused to rent me a room to stay in upon hearing my name. I told myself that they're an aberration.

So what has changed now? Have the recent events in India, made me change my opinion of the average Hindu? Have people like bal-t & advani & modi, have babri & gujarat made me rethink? Has the rise in the number of bjp supporters made me rethink my stand? Has the absolute glut of hindutvis on web forums everywhere made me rethink?

To be honest, the first few did not. But the last two really have!

I've just needed to look at my friends in order to dispel any doubts about the first few questions. But the second set of questions bothers me... Is is because I've realized that there's another world lurking behind the anonymity that the Internet offers? Is this a new phenomenon or has it always existed & I've been oblivious to it?

I have also been bothered by some of the statements that some of my Hindu relatives make. Something about Hindus being tolerant & being taken for granted. These are well educated, high ranking, retired people! To be fair, they've always voted the jansangh and to be fair they had to leave Lahore leaving everything behind, but it worries me nonetheless.

So to answer my own question... has all of this changed my stance towards Hindus outside my family? Frankly it hasn't. 5 or 6 incidents are not representative of the attitude of all Hindus. And 15 idiots on web forums do not make up the entire Hindu population!!!

My experience with non-family Hindus has been largely great. I continue to enjoy the love & admiration of friends & family. There is no reason for me to being doubting the larger populace of Hindus, even those that don't have the advantage of a Western education!

So how do we deal with the sections in the media that are right-wing? How do we deal with pronouncements of bal-t, advani & modi? How do we deal with the extremists in web forums?

This is the second part of my mission. I intend to meet them head on. Ignoring them is dangerous, so they must be countered. In every forum! People like Alyque Padamsee are doing it in the offline world, using the clout they have. People like us should do it in the areas where we have the clout.

I will volunteer time at schools & colleges & teach children & youth about tolerance & communal harmony!

I will debate them in web forums, TV shows, wherever I get a platform. I will present facts to them. Most importantly, I will show them how they're hurting the image of the average Hindu by doing all of this. How they're giving an opportunity to the extremists to showcase their hatred to potential recruits!

Educated, liberal Hindus should use media to clear the air about what the religion stands for. They should showcase the lives of Hindus like themselves using TV, papers, novels, films whatever is available. They must undo the damage that the conservatives have caused. A PR exercise is as desperately needed to safeguard the image of the tolerant, secular, progressive Hindu as it is by similar Muslims!

Work should be done to improve the lot of minorities & backward sections like Dalits. Educated Hindus should actively condemn when something goes wrong in areas like that!

My mission going forward is to impress upon each uber-conservative Hindu I come across, the importance of being as modern & liberal. And how it's important for their community to come across as that, if they're to contribute to solving the problems that face all of us today. We must sow the seeds of the idea in their mind.

If you agree dear readers, please help me do the same. Please speak to every hardliner you come across & tell them to live their life as they would like their religion to be perceived. If they want to be viewed as progressive, educated, liberal, loving & peaceful, then they must be that themselves. Do spread the good word.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I've often said that I don't want the focus of this blog to be low-lives, but once in a while some idiots come along who excel at being so low that discovering them is akin to the unearthing of Mohen-jo-Daro! Such a discovery needs talking about. Here's another example of a bunch of nobodies using outright lies to malign someone who is their superior by light years!

I tried putting up the following comment on this forum, but the idiots are so scared of facts that they didn't even publish my comment. They only want to look at the world from their perspective. Good for them! The less competition to genuine intellect there is the better! I'm having difficulty deciding between "kuen ke mendhak" or "jab haathi chalte hain toh kuttey bhownkte hain. Which one is applicable to them? Both maybe. Anyway, here's my response:

1. Mr. Bachchan's first mega-hit was Zanjeer, a solo. Aren't you forgetting movies like Don, Lawaris etc. etc. Aur yaad dilaoon ya itna kaafi hai aapka muh bandh rakhne ke liye?
2. This overseas market jazz is for people who don't know. There was no oversead market until Yash Chopra & co. started tapping into it late in their careers. And even overseas, Mr. Bachchan got voted as the Superstar of the Millenium in the BBC poll. Bhool gaye kya? Or on purpose?
3. Yeh aapke dekhna ka nazarya hai. I still remember Amitabh's wound up angst from Shakti, not Dilip Kumar's histrionics.And SRK will always remain a poor actor to me. He can't even match Saif, forget matching Mr. Bachchan.
4. I have already answered this in 1 above, but here's a little more. SRK doesn't do movies outside the Chopra-Johar clan. In contrast Aamir Khan does movies with rank newcomers & churns out hit after hit. SRK isn't even as good as Aamir, what're you doing comparing him with India's Cinegod Mr. Bachchan.
5. SRK is rumoured to be bisexual & said to be having an affair with Karan Johar. Is that a cleaner image than Mr. Bachchan's?
6. KANK a hit? When did this happen??? Last I looked it was declared a damp squib.
Aapki zaati rai aap apne paas rakhen toh behtar hoga.
Outlook Magazine recently had a poll on the most popular star. Guess what margin the eventual winner Mr. Bachchan beat his closest competitor by?
Aap sab log jhoot ka sahara kyun lete hain...?

Afterthought on KKL

A more critical analysis of KKL came to me as an afterthought. It doesn't take away anything from the movie at all for two reasons: The movie is genuinely good; and secondly as my favourite playright GBS put it, "A critic is one who leaves no turn unstoned"!

The part that I'd have liked to see made differently is the absolute ending. There's too much wrong with the ending according to me. The elder brother deserved better & that is what should've been shown. The younger brother deserved much worse and that is what should've been shown, instead of showing him happily returning to his piano. I know for a fact that guilt makes each day unlivable! How happily they've shown the misguided youngster return to a life of normalcy. This according to me, is one flaw in the movie. In short the ending is further from a happy ending than I would've liked.

Maybe viewers with a taste for the quasi-realistic don't share my problem with the ending.

Attempted Crosspost

Monday, July 07, 2008

Demise of the Union...?

Looks like it. Unless all this has been going on for ages & I've just woken up to the news!

Take a look at some of the news over the last 2 weeks:

1. Amarnath Yatra Politics. Yes, politics. There's no other word to describe it. My friend has already blogged about it very accurately here.
2. Naxals getting stronger in Orrisa!
3. bal-t saying he's proud of an H-bomb!
4. The deplorable rise & rise of hindutva!
5. The deplorable rise & rise of Muslim fundamentalists!
6. Sikhs on the streets with swords among other transgressions!
And if you want to go a few months back...
7. Marathis on the streets bullying their fellow-countrymen!

So what is happening to the average Indian? Is he no longer an Indian? Is he Hindu/Muslim/Sikh/Marathi/gujarati/"whatever jazz" first these days? Is the Union of India finally breaking up?
Are "outside forces" causing India to come apart?
Or are "inside forces" causing India to fall apart?
Have we always been like this? Apart for the few years that Gandhiji led us as one in our freedom struggle?

Thoughts solicited from the moderate, centrist.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

4 Movie Recommendations

I'm fairly picky about the movies that I watch & even pickier about the ones I like. Any regular reader of this blog will vouch for that. I am recommending 4 movies today for mass consumption. Movies that should probably be made mandatory viewing in India. Just like Sir Attenborough's Oscar winning classic has!

There is no order here, neither chronological, nor preferential.

A thriller worthy of Hollywood. The film starts off fairly innocuously and from there a series of events hurl the protagonist by the same name deeper & deeper into a web of conspiracy & deceit.
The film keeps the viewer feeling edgy all the time, due to the slowly unfolding nature of the subject, the mystery that refuses to unravel, and mainly due to the superb execution of the plot by the director!
Bombay has been grittily shot, realistic, teeming, buzzing, filthy. The glimpses bring memories of the city back to anyone who's stayed there for any decent length of time.
So, brilliant camerawork supports a great plot, a capable cast, and gives us a gritty, gripping thriller that stays with us even after we leave the movie theatre. Surely one of the best made thrillers to come out of India ever!

I haven't seen the movie yet, but my wife has & thinks it should be on a compulsory watchlist for all Indians, specially those who've gone over to the conservative side.

The Message:
Needlessly controversial, banned in many parts, this is a film in the tradition of the Ten Commandments & Ben-Hur, only not that dramatic. It is a representation of facts around the origin of Islam, only more reserved.
The film is a must watch for anyone seeking to dispel any popularly held notions about Islam, for anyone seeking answers about the religion and what it's message is.
Starring Anthony Quinn as Hamza, the warrior uncle of Prophet Mohammad, the rest of the star cast is a bunch of unknown (to us) names. The cast really isn't that important as will be clear when you watch the movie; the movie focuses on the history and the origins of Islam & The Message.
Watch it if you are desirious of developing any know-how about the religion at all.

The idiotic ulemas of the sub-continent and a few other people have made a very poor remake of the film called Al-Risalah. A totally unnecessary butchering of the original. Avoid it & go for the original "The Message. You local pirated DVD wala should be able to get you a good copy. Make sure you ask for a totally unedited one! One never knows these days!

Khuda Kay Liye:
Much talked about, much less seen movie. Although, without a doubt a syllabus recommended, compulsory viewing movie! So important is it's message!
The brilliance of the film is in it's theme, the characters essayed rather well by the cast (that includes our Naseer in a small but very crucial cameo), and to some degree the plot. I know many fans of the movie will disagree, but this is my opinion. Don't get me wrong. It's a good movie. A very important modern work! But the style is somewhat documentary. Not that that shold be a negative for any movie, but I'm a little biased towards Hollywood's style of movie-making. It's brilliant in patches, but stops just short of being overall brilliant!

The songs are quite a rage I hear. I'm not humming them yet, so I will reserve comment on that bit. The cast is good, the theme is brilliant. The movie succeeds in getting it's very worthy message across.

A word of caution here: DO NOT PICK UP PIRATED COPIES OF THIS MOVIE. I have heard that certain conservative elements have edited out the secular maulana's (played by Naseer) very crucial very enlightening speech towards the end!
Go to Planet M, pick up the original CD's from there. BETTER STILL, pick up an original DVD if possible as the subtitles will make it easy to understand the otherwise difficult Urdu.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A half-Muslim's view on how Muslims should be percieved

I'm half-Muslim. The other half is Hindu. While there were no overt attempts in the house to make me choose between either religion, there was exposure to both. Outside of the home, you didn't meet many Muslims and therefore the exposure outside the home was primarily Hindu. And thankfully we grew up celebrating all festivals in the house, and had Christian teachers in school, so there was an ample dose of Christianity thrown in.

I was raised by my Mother on Amar Chitra Kathas. (Uncle Pai therefore shares some of the blame for how I've turned out.) I read comics on Jesus Christ, Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Buddha, Mahavir Jain, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Agastya, Ghatotkach and a truckload on Hindu mythology. I read loads about India's history, her invasions, her home grown kings, and Amar Chitra Kathas always presented an unbiased, usually positive viewpoint, the kind that kids should be exposed to.

I grew up accustomed to people marvelling at my knowledge of "Hindu" mythology, and other religions. I also grew up practically unaware of what Islam was about. Since my family didn't pay much attention to it, I was only aware of who the "heroes" of Islam were: The Prophet, Hazrat Ali & his martyred sons Imam Hasan & Imam Husain, and their clan.

As I grew older, I met more Muslims, relatives who didn't have the advantage of a Western education, who were amazed at how little I knew about Islam. They tried to impress upon me, how good the religion was, what it said etc. Unfortunately, I was in my teens & rebellious, saying emphatic NO's to everything. Also, these people were not exactly the best of teachers.

Thankfully my Grandfather was an erudite, liberal scholar. And his daughter, my Mother had learnt her Islam from him. So she chose to teach me about the progressiveness of Islam. I found that my Grandfather's interpretations of the religion were radically different from what the common Muslim knew & believed. My Mother taught me all about the history of the region where the religion originated and linked it to why certain things were expressed in a certain way in Islam. It made much more sense that way. Simple things like this: Islam considers Moses an earlier Prophet of Islam and his teachings are incorporated in the Quran. So "Thou shalt not kill" is an integral part of Islam.

The damage however had been done by then. I knew my family was different, but the image of the common Muslim in my mind was this: They're Islam obsessed. All they seemed to talk about was religion. If ever another topic came up, the answers were sought in Islam. And that bothered me. Until I realized that all over the World, people seek answers & direction from their religion. Why then did it seem to me that Muslims were more religions focused than other religious groups? That is something I am looking for an answer to.

With all the World attention on Islam & all the hate that spews out in blog forums & on the roads sometimes against it, I've been wondering if there is anything Muslims can do to clear the air. Here are some of the things that I think Muslims should/should not do:

  • Educated, liberal Muslims should use media to clear the air about what the religion stands for. It should showcase the lives of Muslims like themselves using TV, papers, novels, films whatever i available. The common non-Muslim deserves to know what Islam really stands for. They must undo the damage that the conservatives have caused. A PR exercise is desperately needed.

  • Muslim majority countries like Iran should lay off minorities like the Bahais. Educated Muslims should actively condemn Iran when it does something like this. Countries like Saudi Arabia should allow freedom of religious expression in their countries. Unless they're content to be knows as a hardline, conservative state. I as an educated, liberal, half-Muslim would be the first to condemn religious states!

  • The Shia-Sunni divide needs to be bridged. This is easier said than done, but if the differences are irreconcilable, they should at least lay off each other. And guys like zakir naik should be condemned publicly if they mouth any hate.
Notice that I am not just saying "educated". I am saying "educated, liberal". There is a difference and that is the section in whose hands the image of Muslims worldwide lies today.

  • The media doesn't seem to be helping on it's own. So there should be an active involvement with the media, a partnership that showcases the attitudes of people like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Farooque Shaikh, the bin laden niece who made a magazine cover in America. People like Dinara Safina, Marat Safin, Sania Mirza & their parents.
I intend to do my two bits. This way while I can & more if I can later.

My mini-mission going forward is to impress upon each uber-conservative Muslim I come across, the importance of being as modern & liberal. And how it's important for their community to come across as that, if they're to contribute to solving the problems that face them today. I'm aware that most of them will take it as personal criticism & will react just the way I did as a teenager, but I must sow the seeds of the idea in their mind.

If you agree dear readers, please help me do the same. Please speak to every hardliner you come across & tell them to live their life as they would like their religion to be perceived. If they want to be viewed as progressive, educated, liberal, loving & peaceful, then they must be that themselves. Do spread the good word.