Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How BJP is trying to change the “idea of India”- one ban at a time

India is under attack, but not from the some external agency, or enemy country, but from within. And strangely, the ones attacking India are the one who seem to have copyrighted terms like “nationalism”, “patriotism” and  claim to be actually propelling the country ahead to glorious times. Confused? Let me explain.

India is a country that has, for over centuries, been  known for its diversity. India has been a nation which has absorbed many cultures, many religions, many languages and adapted them locally to have what we now know as India. This idea of India was where different languages co-existed, where religions co-existed, different cultures too co-existed. And it was this co-existence that  when it came together formed India. “Unity in diversity”- that is what I learnt in school. But sadly, this diversity is being threatened, and so is the idea of India.

2014 elections were considered a major turning point for a number of reasons. For the first time social media and technology played a very important role. There were a large number of first-time voters, an anti-corruption movement. It was also one of the most polarizing elections of recent times. The ascent of Narendra Modi was being feared by many liberals and seculars as being antithetic to the idea of India. They were booed, termed anti-national, pseudo-secular, and anti-development.
But 1 year down the line, the cloak is coming off, and the sheen of development promises is fading too.  It is important to see how in this time, constant attempts have been made to re-imagine India only as a “Hindu” nation, with Hindutva as the only philosophy as Hinduism. Signs of this had started appearing when the Prime Minister and Home Minister claimed mythology as scientific evidence. Hinduism and the Vedas had all the answers, or so the new Govt would have us believe. A scientific conference strangely had papers on mythological inventions, and the government was spending money trying to prove the superiority of ancient India, which of course meant only “Hindu India”. The PM, in his intial speeches referred to “thousand years of slavery”. The British ruled India for some 200 years only.  You see,  Mughals weren’t part of India in the BJP’s version. India only existed before the Muslim invaded and settled down. But this was restricted to speeches till now.
The first major signs of belittling of minorities were visible when PM Modi declared Christmas as a “Good Governance Day”. A smart move to mask your intentions with words like “good” there. There were controversies abound, but the adamant BJP and PM stuck to it. The hullabaloo was soon settled. But the government had made its intentions clear. It will not buckle down, and more would follow. It would be interesting to note how VHP and Sangh Parivar, BJP’s parent organisations, have been involved previously in attacks over Christians. Was it mere co-incidence then that the country also saw a spurt in violence against Christian places of worship?

Then there were the “ghar wapsi” campaigns and love-jihad propaganda of the Sangh. Suddenly, love between a hindu and a muslim was deemed a conspiracy. Ridiculous claims were made. As if love marriages, especially inter-religious marriages, in India were any less opposed by parents, it also became the site of Sanghs political play. The PM, which takes to twitter to wish birthdays and congratulations for achievement, had nothing to say about the whole affair. BJP washed its hands off the matter saying the central government had nothing to do with it, and policing was a state affair. That the parent body of BJP, from which most of the government ministers have come, is involved in such vitriol was suddenly of no importance. Silence in this case was more related to condoning of the acts, rather than being silenced by pain.

If the poor/common Muslim was attacked through such tirades, the high and mighty weren’t left either. BJP and the Sangh have time and again targeted Vice President Hamid Karzai. He was first targeted by the Hindu right with pictures of him being circulated for not saluting the National Flag at the Republic Day Reviewing Stand, and then for not being present at the Yoga Day celebrations by the Govt. In both the cases, the credentials of a person who has served the country for years were questioned because he was a Muslim. In doing so, the message that the BJP was clearly trying to send was- if we can target the Vice President,  we can easily target you (the common Muslim).
But attack on Muslims hasn’t been the only salient feature of this Govt. NGOs have come under special scanner. Greenpeace has been targeted constantly because of its work, and because it has exposed the many ways through which a corporate-government nexus is ruining lives and environments. Teesta Setalvad was another target, and she had to get relief from the courts finally. Dissent, a hallmark of a dynamic democracy, is no longer allowed under this Govt. So much so that TV channels are being sent notices for questioning the PM and his schemes (indirectly), or for showing other side of the story (Yakub Memon). Fear and intimidation are being instilled into the people.

But that’s not all. BJP also wants to decide what food you eat, what kind of sex you have (in this case the matter was made easy by the Supreme Court), and what things you watch. So suddenly, one fine day, ISPs started blocking some popular porn sites. It is interesting to note that the previous UPA govt had told the Supreme Court that it wasn’t possible to ban porn on the internet, in fact, the courts had also said that what one watches in his/her privacy is no one’s business. Yet, the Govt took it upon itself to ban over 300 porn sites, in the most secretive way possible. The excuse of “child pornography” didn’t hold true when the list was leaked over the internet. Sangh Parivar (and BJP) have always looked at sex (and sexual pleasure like porn) as immoral, and so it was no surprise that it went in a hurry to ban porn sites and decide what the citizens could access over the internet.
While porn ban was something that the govt had to revert, it has again tried targeting Muslims and their livelihood and eating habits by the infamous Beef Ban. Maharashtra, ruled by BJP currently, banned beef and the punishment for the possession of the same was made as 10 years. Cow slaughter was already banned in the state, but by banning the consumption and slaughter of other bovines, BJP was again playing its anti-muslim card. Other BJP states too followed soon. If the Muslims had to live in BJP ruled parts, they must do so on BJP’s terms. That the Constitution gives everyone equal rights, irrespective of caste,c reed, religion, sex… didn’t matter to BJP. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

These lines by Pastor Martin Niemöller fits the Indian scenario perfectly today. So while eating habits and patriotism of Muslims (or anyone who questioned the govt) were being targeted, majority Indians kept quiet, for it did not affect them. But with a blanket ban of meat in the name of “respecting sentiments of Jains” being place in Maharashtra and other BJP states, it was no longer the Muslim or Dalit who was the target. The Brahminical tyranny of BJP was in full display.  

Compare the histrionics of the PM when he was sworn in, to the present day scenario. He remains mostly absent from Parliament debates, but rushes to the RSS conclave to present a report card of the govt. He doesn’t prefer to answer the opposition (elected members), but has no qualms in answering the Sangh Parivars call. No sooner had the ministers come out of the RSS conclave, that the culture minister was all charged up giving interview of what the definition of Indian culture was, and how “despite being a muslim” APJ Abdul Kalam was a great humanist and nationalist.

BJP, whether through its bans, or by questioning the patriotism or nationalism of certain sections of the country, has been constantly attacking the idea of India. The India which was imagined by our founders where people of all religion and caste would live with equal rights and dignity. Through its bans, or through its name-calling, through its attempts at homogenising India,  BJP has been constantly hammering this idea, with the intention that over a period of time, it would have weakened the structure so much that it would crumble on its own.  To its credit, it has been able to shift the debates away from poverty, and the shoddy role of Sangh in distorting the truth and instigating riots; to one where we are debating how many days of ban should there be on meat. Irony is that organizations terming themselves as nationalist are the ones who have not been celebrating the Independence Day of the country for over 60 years, and had no role in the freedom struggle!

Note: This post was written for Youth Ki Awaaz's advertisement related to editorial opening, which required a fresh unpublished piece to be submitted. Since I haven't heard back from them, I decided to publish it on my personal blog

Monday, July 22, 2013

Marital Rape in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: Why We Need To Talk About It?

I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag after more than a week of its release. While the movie was gripping (though long, with some scenes and song sequences that could have been easily done away with), what has been surprising for me is that even though, for a very brief moment, the movie shows about marital rape (though all behind the curtains), in this one week, I haven't come across a single article/opinion piece in any of the media houses/blogs that used this opportunity to talk about the issue that people still don't want to even acknowledge - Marital Rape.

The movie of course is about the life story of Milkha Singh, so the scene in itself is of a few minutes. For the brief moment where it touches upon the issue, a young Milkha Singh is shown to have finally been united with his sister, and now stays in their tent in the refugee camp. Her sister (played by Divya Dutta) is called upon by her husband at night, who has drawn makeshift curtains at his end. As she goes there, she is she is first slapped by him for not coming on his first call, and then, what follows are a series of sounds - of the husband panting and reaching orgasm as the wife's cries are heard. The noises wakes up the young Milkha, who is feeling angry even as 2 other teenaged boys sleeping there look at the drawn curtain and chuckle. Divya Dutta finally comes out of the tent and splashes water on her face continuously to ease here trauma, and then hugs Milkha (who had come out, unable to bear it all) and cries.

Of course, neither domestic abuse nor marital rape were elaborated, but the scenes were pretty clear about what they conveyed. Yet, in a country that was left outraged by rape just around 6 months back, not a single article is carried by any media house on what could have been a good starting point to talk about the "untalkable". Or is it that as always, when faced with the most uncomfortable truth, we would rather not talk about it and turn our face? For if we don't talk about it, it means that it doesn't exist!! Or is it that marital rape brings the whole issue too closer to us, and we might have to face ourselves in the mirror, for rape is something that the "other" commits, how can a married person "rape" his wife? Or is it that our outrage is only for certain kinds of rape? Probably rape of a working woman in an urban area, or of a child, but other kinds of rapes- of dalit women, of poor women in urban areas, of the maid working at the home, of women by the Army personnel under the protection of the AFSPA are not much of a rape and has its own justification or cause?

Strangely though, the Justice Verma Committe formed to look into the malaise of rape and gender violence that has set in the Indian society, also recommended criminalising marital rape, and cited various narratives and instances of the same. Yet, the government very conveniently shelved it. Why just the government, much of the discussions and articles surrounding the recommendations in the media concerned more about gender neutrality of the law and the age of consent of sex, totally ignoring the other important issue of marital rape. But then, would it have passed the parliament is itself a question, given how leaders of political parties proudly talked about how women cannot be wooed without stalking and displayed their full misogynist side during the debate on the rape law (irony, isn't it?).

Yet, the reason why the movie should have been used by activists and feminists as a starting point to talk about this important issue with the wider public is that for many, that scene hardly signified marital rape (for the possibility of such a thing itself is non-existent because marriage in itself is a stamp for having sex with wife, consensual or otherwise), or at best, marital rape in a bygone era. As it is, the moment you talk about marital rape, men start playing the victim and you get to hear all kind of weird and hysterical responses - from how it would be misused, to how a wife is supposed to satisfy the husband, otherwise where will the poor husband go if not to a prostitute or have an extra-marital affair!! And yet, another person on by Facebook list easily dismissed the whole scene and issue as "the incident was circa 1947.. I guess at that time, in a marriage, it was always deemed consensual?" followed by, "On a lighter note, how did you make out that it was one? There was a makeshift screen."

And that is why we need to talk about the scene, and point it out, for far too many people may have just failed to read the whole scene correctly, and worse still, as always, assumed there is no such thing as marital rape and any kind of sex- forced or consensual- within marriage is OK. And when you do come across it, you just chuckle (like those boys) or better still, pretend that you didnt hear/see anything. 

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag should have been used as an opportunity to talk about marital rape, given that we are still trying to figure out why rape incidences are going up in the country, and banning and blaming anything - from porn movies to internet to clothes to item songs. But, in all this, we fail to blame ourselves, for the truth is too close to home than we would like to acknowledge!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The case of "Public" in RE-Public of India

"Public morality", "public decency (or indecency)", "public sentiments", "public trial", public this and public that... and add to that list one more now, "public conscience" (aka collective conscience of society)... Sorry to say, but the "public" of this country has started to disgust me now.

Till now, probably such "public terms" were used by the police, politicians and right-wing groups to harass people and extort money. So, you could be sitting in a park, talking to a girl (need not be your girl-friend) and you would have gone against the "public morality". You could be a girl who could have gone to a discotheque and you would have been branded immoral by the "public". You could be walking on a road holding hands with your partner, or just having an ice cream in an ice cream parlour, and you could be booked for "indecency in public". You could be a painter who could have painted a few nude paintings, and so the "public sentiments" could be hurt, or you could be a film maker, whose movie theme could "hurt the sentiments of a section of the public". And let me not get started on the "public trials" that are held during the News-Hour discussions of this country every day. And as I write this, I just receive the news that another (gay) party was raided by police and people booked for dancing "indecently".

But, when the courts start meting out justice on the basis of the conscience of the "public", things take a new low. I woke up on Sat morning to the news of the hanging of Afzal Guru, which was conducted in total secrecy in the wee-hours. The whole state of J&K was put under curfew, many modes of communication shut down. And much of the "public" in other parts rejoicing. But something seemed shoddy to me, the whole manner in which the hanging was conducted. What did the Govt fear? Keeping my reservations about death penalty aside, I would have considered it as justice being done finally. But when I read the basis of judgement, I was shocked. And as the rhetoric now dies down, and facts start to emerge , the shoddy manner in which the trial was conducted, and the gaping holes and questions left unanswered surely point to other directions.

In this piece A Perfect Day for Democracy, Arundhati Roy puts across some of the facts, "At the most crucial stage of a criminal case, when evidence is presented, when witnesses are cross-examined, when the foundations of the argument are laid — in the High Court and the Supreme Court you can only argue points of law, you cannot introduce new evidence — Afzal Guru, locked in a high security solitary cell, had no lawyer. The court-appointed junior lawyer did not visit his client even once in jail, he did not summon any witnesses in Afzal’s defence and did not cross examine the prosecution witnesses." Which can only mean one thing. This letter written by her wife that has emerged now also puts across the lawyer situation that he faced in his trial (and the other background things that people ight not know, or would not like to look at)

But what shocked me was when a friend, celebrated the hooliganisms of the hooligan group named Bajrang Dal and VHP at Delhi Jantar Mantar, where they attacked people (mainly from J&K) who had come to protest against this shoddy judgment and hanging. How easily can rabble rousing on  the name of Nationalism cloud your judgement. So, where these people and students not Indian citizens now? Don't they have a right to protest against what they consider is wrong? Do I have to agree with everything the Govt does? So if I am in Gujarat, do I have to agree with Modi on everything, and not have a right to protest against him?  That friend pointed to me that Guru had himself confessed his role in a TV interview. But since when did TV interviews become the mode of deciding the truth? In all likelihood, Afzal Guru would have been tortured, threatened, and given a script that he had to enact. Haven't we all seen such concocted police evidences, "confessions under duress" and framing of innocents?

And as Omar Abdullah asked, "There are others on death who are also implicated in attacks on democracy. If chief minister of a state not a symbol of democracy? Is a former Prime Minister not a symbol of democracy? Of course, he is." But no, the swollen chests and egos of the so called "nationalists" and "patriots" can only be satisfied by the blood of another person. It doesn't matter if the person was innocent or not. Someone had to die to fix the situation and send out a message. It doesn't matter that an entire State has since been placed under curfew and most basic communication modes shut down for them. It doesn't matter whether as a society, death penalty in itself should be there on our law books or not. The death penalty does nothing but make martyrs of people in such situations. Afzal Guru may or may not be involved in the Parliament attack (directly or indirectly), but he will now surely been turned into a martyr by the extremist forces who would exploit the situation well. The sense of injustice would only mean that people who would have otherwise not listened to such rabble rousing in the valley would now be tilted towards them. But no, after all, the "public conscience" is satisfied. Strangely enough, this "conscience of the public" lacks when poor people are made homeless by builders, corporators or others. No, i don't want to be a part of this "public".

To end this, I will just paste this poem that someone named Sameer Bhat penned and captures the pain and anger of the people from the valley:

Why is moral conscience so thin?

There are nights
when collective conscience howls
like old miseries
deep inside democratic dungeons

The executioner wipes his hand
and neatly folds a black hood
He has stopped breathing
The public can exult

Guests descend upon studios
in big cars and winter shawls
No registered mail arrives
in desolate apple orchards

We are a secret society now
where death, too, is classified
There are no graves
Memory, too, is hanged

Does life become extinct
when the soul has exited?
Someone ask the grand minister
why is moral conscience so thin?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When God is taken to Court: A review of OMG!

Just came back after watching the movie Oh My God! and it is after a really long time(seems like eternity) that I am getting down to writing about a movie.
Well, I went to watch OMG expecting it to be a laugh riot, for a movie with Paresh Rawal will never disappoint you on that front. And OMG! did not disappoint me either. May be not something that I will term a laugh riot like Hera Pheri (Paresh and Akshay combo) but a movie that has definitely left me smiling long after I left the hall and even when I laughed, there was a message within. Of course, it is based on a play and so all credit must go to the original writer, but then, no one can take back the credit from Paresh Rawal, who has carried it on his own shoulders and delivered another good performance.

I was disappointed with the first half of the movie, which I won't call as slow, but wasn't exactly what I was expecting it to be- it was neither a laugh riot, nor had any punch apart from a few lines that made you laugh (at times forcefully, because I had paid the money and I wanted to get the satisfaction of having laughed..LOL). The first half was basically what can be described as the story of a man who doesn't believe in God (but makes excellent profits selling idols of God) but has *only* his shop destroyed in a mild earthquake after he mocks a Godman; and doesn't get his insurance because the earthquake gets classified under "Acts of God" clause of the policy.

It is the second half where the movie picks up once he decides to file a case in court and makes all the GodMen a party to it and his case is accepted. From there, the movie is a reflection of today's society, on how the nexus between politicians and such Godmen runs, how, people are targeted because someone finds the act of questioning God (or rather his Godmen) as blasphemous. People of all religion who had their insurance claim rejected citing this "Act of God" clause throng to him, many of them afraid that members of their own "religious community" will turn against them if they do it themselves. The movie also depicts the role of media and the sensitization it can lead to in a small way, and how it can change public opinions. In one such TV interview, Paresh Rawal is asked, "What does he think religion makes of people?" After some thought, he replies,
 "Religion either makes you helpless or a terrorist. (Dharam insaan ko ya toh bebas banata hai, ya terrorist)"

The court proceedings are a treat to watch, where the deft Paresh puts forth his arguments, questions the various illogical practices going on in the name of God, whether it is the shaving of your head at Tirupati or pouring of milk on a Shiva Linga or lighting of candles in a Church or "chadar chadayi" in a daragah; nothing escapes his scrutiny. Then again he uses the same Holy Books that his opponents were citing to shut them up, signifying how Holy Books are mostly twisted by people with their own agenda to mislead people.

But the movie doesn't stop at this, it further goes on to show how the whole business of religion and religious people thrives on apotheosis. As Akshay Kumar(playing God in the movie) says, "Logon se inka Dharam mat cheeno, nahi to yeh tumhe apna dharam bana denge" (Don't snatch religion from these people, else they will make you as their religion).

The movie has some excellent dialogues like "Mazhaam insaan ke liye bante hai, insaan mazhaab ke liye nahi" and "These (religious) people are God-fearing people, not God loving people, today or tomorrow they will get back to these (illogical) practices". The movie releases at a time when every second day the world is reeling under protests and riots over religious issues, where these so called GodMen/Religious leaders feed on this fear of people and make this world an uninhabitable world of intolerant people. Whether you are an atheist, or a god loving or god fearing person, a religious bigot or a liberal man, this movie will surely lead you to think that if God really exists, will such a mad rush and mindless rituals please Him?

As for the acting and all, Paresh Rawal carries it all on his shoulders, and no where do you feel the need of any other actor. Akshay may have been roped in for the "star" factor but his role is minimal and anyone could have played it. Keeping with the bollywood formula, there was on Govinda song with PrabhuDeva dancing in it, which could have been easily done away with. Also, another piece of advice for Bollywood would be not to attempt to reproduce Hollywood stunts. The entry of Akshay Kumar is a direct rip off from Dark Knight movie and those "stunt" scenes look like a scene from some video game (yes, it is that bad). His bike is styled on Batman's bike and these are the only sore things in the movie which happen in the first half. The second half thankfully remains away from these bollywood formulas and thus sails through.

The best part though happened after the movie finished and I came out of the hall. A group of young (and hot) men could be heard talking and wondering why do they actually shave off their head once in a year and is it of any good. May be they will go back to the old ritual of mundan, but it atleast got them thinking.

P.S. - In my college, there was a case going on in the court between the administration and local people over land, and God (Lord Rama) was actually made a party to it, so such a thing has happened in reality already!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Anonymous Me

 As I deal with my first break-up.. every 2nd day going into the mode of "I should give him more time, it couldn't have been over" I stumbled upon this note I had written for someone I had a big crush on for over a year. The guy worked in my office, and, after almost a year of secretly admiring him, it seemed that he was finally showing some interest, pro-longing the chat on his own when I would run out of things to talk.

I was so madly in love(? may be) that right from New Year, I had started planning of what I will give to him on Valentine's day. Of course, I had never directly told him my emotions, but I saw hints, and thought V-day was the perfect day to propose. New Year came, I thought he will at least send an sms wishing me the same.. it never happened.. I was so confused with his mixed signals, I decided to end it all in my mind and move on. And I am glad that I did, for a few months back.. he got married. As luck would have it, I instead celebrated V-day with my current boyfriend (or should I call him my Ex? Nah, I still think we have a chance and I should approach him once more) whom I met just when I was trying to move myself away from this office crush/love.

Anyways, as is my habit of not destroying things/memories, I had kept this note saved in my laptop. I had written the note in one of the moments of extreme romanticism, when I was thinking of how to propose him on V-day. Read the note.. may be you will get to see the dilemma that I was in, the emotions that I had.

Someone who admires you just thought that a handsome man like you should receive beautiful flowers on this special day to make it more special for you, and bring a smile on your face. That someone doesn’t know whether this is the right thing to do, or whether you already got many red roses, whether you will be able to guess or have an inkling of who that someone might be. That someone has never given a rose to anyone earlier on valentines (or otherwise also) but thought this is the perfect time to do. That someone couldn’t have a heart break today (in case that someone read it all wrong all these days) and so remains anonymous, because at times ignorance is bliss, and this ignorance might atleast save me from having an upset mood today (if there is a chance of that).

I know anonymous posts/messages suck, but that Someone just hopes that you won’t mind the flowers today, and keep it thinking that someone likes you enough to have sent you flowers today. That you are the subject of someone’s blogs, someone’s thoughts revolve around you all the time; that someone could just go on writing about it on and on… That someone would be waiting to see whether you could guess who it is..

Saturday, August 18, 2012

N-E Exodus : Connecting the dots

It was like any other holiday for me. 15th August meant a day off from office, getting up late, and then going for the flower show at Lalbagh, and later meet up with friends. I was excited about the day because I was getting another temporary tattoo for the day, and was to wear the new T-shirt I had bought from Kolkata. Of course, I had no idea in the morning as to what ironies the day would hold.

By the time I returned back home, it was 11pm already, and when I logged into my Facebook account, I saw a post by a friend about people from North East fleeing Bangalore because of the Assam Riots. It seemed weird to me at first thought why would people in Bangalore feel any effect of Assam riots? Then I saw another post by another friend about the same. I visited the website of a few national dailies and didn't find any news related to it, and thus dismissed it as something minor may be. But when I woke up the next day, the news seemed to be everywhere. What seemed strange and ridiculous was that the reason behind the exodus was messages doing the rounds that NE people will be attacked by Muslims because of the riots that happened in Assam. Even before I could gather what exactly was happening through the news sites, there were facebook photos and posts by some right-wing Hindu groups and other fundamentalist groups that were being shared that talked about how NE people were being threatened by muslims. One such misguided (and hate spewing) page Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena uploaded a photo saying a "fatwa had been issued against NE people" (the picture seems to have been removed now, after the same was reported in a newspaper article by THE HINDU). What was more astonishing to me was that even while the administration seems to have been taken by surprise at the exodus, RSS cadres were quickly deployed to "assure the people of their safety" in the Bangalore station. And as the "news" (or rumour) spread throughout the day, the message that was being clearly passed was that "people from the NE are being threatened by muslims, who will avenge the death of Bangladeshi immigrant muslims in ethnic clashes in Assam.

Probably what made the NE people believe these rumours were that a few days earlier, there was violence during a protest called out against the Assam and Myanmar "riots". Initial investigations have revealed that the violence was pre-planned. Nevertheless, it gave the right-wing parties another opportunity to mis-guide people, by posting pictures from the protest, and passing off islamic flags there as Pakistani flag and further spreading hatred against the community.

What seems strange is the way events have unfolded. The timing of these disturbances seems crucial to me. Parties have already started preparing themselves for the coming general elections. That such rumours should have spread before Eid, with a clear intent of passing the message that Muslims are out to harm NE people (and thus trying to create an overall environment of hatred against the community and increase communal tension). Also strange is the fact that the exodus should happen from Bangalore  and Pune. While Bangalore is BJP ruled, Pune and Mumbai are strongholds of Shiv Sena and RSS. Add to that how RSS seems to be prepared for helping those fleeing the city. A communal environment and disruption of harmony would only help in polarising the votes in the upcoming elections and by playing on the Hindu card, may be try and swing the "majority hindu votes". The govt has just come up with the report that most of the doctored pictures of Burmese Muslim killings originated from Pakistan, but that was already known. But the question remains, how did the SMS start circulating in the first place? How did the rumour mill start working? Who started "warning" (rather spreading the rumors about) the NE people against attacks by muslims? Isnt there a sinister political motive behind this whole development? Above all, how come only South India?

Amongst all this confusion, fear and panic had set in the people from North East, mostly students and workers. No attack was reported thankfully.. none happened in real. Both the state and central govt acted responsibly and tried confidence building steps. While the exodus seems to have eased a bit from banaglore, the panic that spread to Chennai and Hyderabad is yet to subside. AMidst all this, we can all pledge not to share things/information on these social networking sites without authenticating them.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

BASANT - The Big Fat ISM Wedding

ISM-Dhanbad during Basant

“You know about Basant? The whole college is decked up like a dulhan to welcome the alumni.” These were the first words I heard about Basant when I had entered ISM as a fresher when there was a sordid attempt to woo the only “Bengali Sardar” to their side during the hay days of POLY. The stakes were high, for I had two parallel identities that no side wanted to give up on. But let me get back on the analogy of Basant and Dulhan (or rather Marriage) that the senior drew.

Decked up ISM
Yes, Basant is the Big Fat Indian Wedding of ISM, replete with all dance, drama, get-together, bonhomie and of course, food. Like any “shaadi-byaah”, decoration of the college is of prime importance. Every nook and corner of the campus (only the main site, not the jharia one) will be covered with lights. Each new building that comes up in the area around the main building provides a new opportunity for the decorators. Yes, the “baraatis” need to feel welcomed, and spending lakhs on decorations at least gives you the impression that something important is happening in the campus and someone cared to launder all this money for you. After all, who likes a dulhan on her wedding day without the make-up and jewelry she adorns? Only in this case, this marriage happens every year.

An Indian marriage is more about the congregation of people (known or unknown) than the actual marriage itself, and Basant holds true to this fact. You have alumni pouring in. For many it is that one family occasion where you meet all your old friends, try to recognize others as some distant relative (read some junior or senior) and form your own small group to move around with. An exact replica of an Indian wedding, where your near and distant relatives meet after a long time, and their kids probably for the first time; and soon enough, groups are formed based on various interests. While the alumni are the baaratis, current ISM students and organizers form the bride’s side and family. It is upon the ladkiwaale to make sure the baraatis are well entertained. But like most weddings, expect some or the other hiccup that only the closed ones (read organizers) of the family would know.

If in an actual Indian wedding the saalis steal shoes and demand the money from the groom, the ritual gets slightly changed in case of ISM. Money does switch hands, but in exchange for roses and not shoes. So, a Rs 5 rose gets sold for anywhere between Rs 100 – Rs 500 and there is little that the baraati alumni can do. But it is just not the baraatis paying, boys from the ladkiwale side don’t hesitate either. The roses also play an important role in getting the story of the heart across to a girl, another important aspect of Indian marriages, where many future nuptials also take shape.

Performance during Basant
Like a Bollywood movie shaadi, naach-gaana forms an integral part of this ISM wedding. So, you will have a singer or a performer called in to entertain everyone that some will go gaga over, while others will find problems with and rue how they could have done a better job had they been “in power”. In the end, no wedding is well-organised and a memorable one unless you have a big feast to gorge upon. Food can make or break an Indian wedding, and people judge a good wedding based on it. After all, many do come in for free and good food. It is that day when no one in the student community has to “contribute” in  any form upfront, and so even the most matiyao of ISMite would turn up during dinner time. 

With the hum-drum over, everyone heads to their own previous state of inertia. Notes are made about the mistakes not to be repeated for the next wedding, on how the caterer and decorator went back on their words. Some praise for having organized a well-planned wedding to some criticism of the goof-ups. Everything is soon forgotten and flushed down the toilet along with the food eaten the last night. As for the bride, who cares about her state as long as the wedding was a show of pomp and everyone had their own share of pie to eat.

This post was written for Mailer Daemon, the college newsletter of ISM and published in MD's Vol VIII, Issue 3.

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