The Saffron Undercurrent

As Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, attempts to provide the panacea to all that ails this country, a steady wave of saffronization is spreading, one that is barely perceptible but very much extant. Nehru’s legacy is questioned; Nathuram Godse is called a patriot, and it is suggested that he should have killed Nehru instead of Gandhi. And the leader of the largest secular democracy of the free world gifts a copy of the Gita – the guiding light of those who bask in the glory of Hinduism as a way of life – to another world leader. Maybe I read too much into it… But when a respected Parliamentarian and a Union minister calls for the Gita to be declared the National Book of India, I sense a saffron undercurrent. I sense it when money is raised to fund conversions of Muslims and Christians. I sense it when those self-appointed guardians of the Hindu culture and chest-thumping pseudo-intellectuals dictate the heroes I should worship and the language I should speak. I sense it when textbooks are purged and history is rewritten in hues of religion. It is only a matter of time before the parivaar and its perverse ideology merge with the party, and one will become an extension of the other, if it isn’t already.

PS: This post isn’t meant to disrespect anyone or offend any sensibilities. I have read a part of the Gita (an English interpretation) and I believe in a lot of what it says… Having said that, I think it is extremely inappropriate to politicize the scripture, and use it as a means to spread a right-wing agenda.

A smiling usher, some popcorn, and a movie

Over the weekend, I discovered a “new” single-screen theater in Lower Parel; it used to be a dilapidated building sitting at the edge of the intersection of Pandurang Budhkar Marg and N. M. Joshi Road. Deepak Talkies, which now houses the auspices of the Matterden Center for Films and Creation, underwent a transformation early this year and screens art cinema and classics that pander to the tastes of movie-buffs across the city. I bought tickets for a late-evening screening of Gone Girl and was pleasantly surprised to see the usher – and I should add here that he didn’t look like one – standing at the entrance, warmly greeting patrons as they made their way inside. Continue reading

The Prisoner’s Dilemma & That Toilet In Your Office

Imagine you’ve had an early start to your day. And as an extension, you need to take care of your “business” and make a “long call” in the office washroom. You walk in, and you scan the place. The washroom isn’t crowded… Just a few folks and cleaners loitering around… You proceed to turn the latch and open the door to the first cubicle on your left. There’s water on the floor. You try the next one. Water on the floor and used tissue scattered all over. The third cubicle is a little clean but there’s no tissue roll. Not cool. Two cubicles on the other side are occupied. Someone comes out of the last cubicle at the far end on the other side and you know you won’t be able to use it till the seat is a little less… Warm… You finally find a cubicle you can use; it’s relatively clean, there’s tissue roll, and no vestiges of anyone having used it that morning. You thank your stars and rush in. You take care of your “business.” Now you’re faced with a slightly complex problem. Do you ensure that you throw the used tissue in the bin on your left? Is it worth the extra effort, when you know that the same cubicle will be a mess later in the day? And that the person who walks in after you will, in all probability, litter the floor and keep it that way for those who use it after him? After all, you only have to make one “long call” in the day, and if you have to make another one tomorrow, the toilets will be cleaned overnight by housekeeping anyway. So, should you bother? To those who are offended by my temerity to suggest that we are actually disgusting enough to consider these calculations, I say this… Look at the state of the washrooms in your office in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Continue reading

Modi-fied or not?

A lot has been written and said about Narendra Modi and every aspect of his leadership in national and international media in recent months. Riding on the back of three successful stints as chief minister of a state with an extremely enterprising populace and the anti-incumbency factor, Modi is widely seen as the man forming and leading the next government at the center. With a few weeks left before 814 million people vote in one of the biggest electoral exercises in the world that will last for over a month, the BJP has gone on an overdrive to highlight Modi’s meteoric rise with most of the advertising for the elections centered on the man and his pro-development and pro-business image. The markets, driven more by sentiment than by fundamentals at this point in time, have touched new highs and are already factoring-in a Modi-win. Small and medium enterprises, which were hit hard during the global economic meltdown and are still reeling under the after-effects of its collapse, are riding out the last few months of a government plagued by policy paralysis in the hope that business will receive a stimulus once a new regime takes over. Continue reading