Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Odisha files

I don't understand much about politics. Actually, I don't understand much about ANYTHING, but politics is something I understand even less about. I mean, I know our great leaders are doing everything they can to help the poor and lift the country to the sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity, but sometimes I just can't see the logic behind their actions. Why, for instance, does Amar Singh, who is such a great leader, spend so much time leading the Bachhan family, who are not really poor? And why in the world would he want his security upgraded to Z-category when no terrorist in his right mind would want to assassinate him, because he's doing a much better job of buggering up the nation than they could ever hope to?

But the thing that takes the cake is Naveen Patnaik's great effort to change his state's name to Odisha from Orissa and the name of the language to Odiya from Oriya. Now is this profound or what? Here you have a state which is the poorest in the nation, where people routinely die of starvation, where women and children are sold in weekly markets and what do you give them? A spelling change. And the beauty is the way it is presented by the press, as if Naveen had to struggle night and day against immense opposition to achieve this. Who in their right mind would? But perhaps Naveen is not really to be blamed. It is the latest political doctrine - when you can't do anything, increase the reservation and rename something. It's a lot easier than ensuring effective administration and just governance. Who wants to tramp around the place ensuring that the poor get a fair deal when all you need to do is to increase the OBC quota for something?

I despair for my country, I really do. I know I should stick to writing funny stories but today, I really don't feel funny at all. I quite love India. I've been all over the country and I've found the people to be really nice. To be sure, there is the odd asshole or criminal, but most Indians are warm and hospitable people. And honest. And clever. So how in the world do we have a political system where anyone can get away with anything? What the hell went wrong? Who elected Amar Singh?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to address a Bengaluru Auto driver

Whenever I stay in Bangalore, Sheela's brother most graciously ferries me around in his car to wherever I want, which is nice of him, but has deprived me of some very important insights into human nature, a very specific sub-species of humanity known as the Bangalore Auto Driver (BAD). This time, owing to his being busy, I volunteered to get around by myself on autos. He warned me, saying that it is a thing not easily mastered by novices, but I decided to take the plunge. Hence this report.

At the outset, let me clarify that, despite all the cynical and adverse publicity given to the BADs by various writers, the BAD is actually part of the homo sapien species. The seemingly aberrant behavior, surly countenance and reluctance to perform any kind of beneficial economic activity such as taking people to their destinations is simply an acquired evolutionary feature and should be understood as such. This account is intended to guide the reader in his or her interactions with the BAD

First, unlike in Mumbai, one does not get in to the auto and bark out one's destination, just like that. I don't exactly know what happens if one does that, but no one's ever tried it and survived. Perhaps the auto driver slashes your throat. Even the question puts the shivers into most Bangaloreans. What you do is go humbly to the rickshaw driver, avoiding eye contact at all times, and request him to take you to your destination

"Chalukya Hotel?"

Note that I do not use any more words than necessary. Even the question mark is implied in the intonation.

The responses to this question can be one of several.

Sometimes even this innocuous question, possibly because you haven't asked it with sufficient humility, results in a little tirade, conveying the auto driver's views on the despicable nature of Chalukya Hotel as a destination and of you as just the kind of low life who WOULD want to go to places like that.

Do not be disheartened. He does not mean it. Even if it does, he does not mean you any harm. Withdraw from his august presence with head bowed at all times and walk backwards till you are a respectable distance away. See for instance the movie Mughal-e-Azam for guidance to proper obsequiousness. You will find it in the courtiers approaching the Emperor Akbar for minor favors such as commutation of a death sentence.

Often, the auto driver also adds a sarcastic barb, pointing you out to other auto drivers as if to say "Look at this loser. Chalukya hotel! His father ever went to Chalukya hotel or what?" and ends it with a bit of raucous laughter.

Choke back those rising sobs and hold back those tears. The auto driver might not take kindly to drama gima.

However, there are a few auto drivers who are very sweet and nice about the whole thing. These are the thinkers, the Socrateses among the pack, people who have realized the futility of life, people who will feed dumb animals and give alms to the poor. If you are fortunate enough to meet one of them, he will smile in a saintly manner and with a look of infinite sadness tell you that he cannot come to Chalukya hotel. He doesn't tell you why but you can guess it must be something grave. Probably promised his dying grandmother he would never got to Chalukya Hotel.

Where, one might ask, do these guys all want to go? That, dear reader, is one of life's great mysteries. Perhaps, like great sages, the great BADs are here for a purpose us ignorant people cannot fathom. Perhaps it's just our sheer inferiority that puts us out of contention for receiving favors from them. Perhaps you'll have to climb a few Himalayan mountains scouring for wise men who can tell you the answer. But one thing is abundantly clear. What they are definitely NOT here for is to go to Chalukya Hotel

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

National Awards

As I sit here pretending to work, a news item flits by. Some people are being awarded Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan awards. Among them, Tendlya, who looks rather smart. And for some mysterious reason, Pranab Mukherjee. What the F has he done? Apart from screwing up foreign policy all over the place?

Anyway, the thing that prompted me to write this post - my contribution to post-erity - is that one of the awardees for Padma Bhushan is Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, a former Ambassador. I was just thinking how nice it would be if they had awarded one to Dara Singh for being a former Maruti.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A rose by any other name-brand

There are many ways of earning money. Some people choose to toil away in a farm and earn money from the rice or wheat that they grow. Others work in factories, for which they might be paid a daily wage. Or you can buy T-shirts with pirate skulls painted on them by people in China and sell them for $154 a piece, which is what one Ed Hardy does.

I have nothing against Ed. Indeed, I envy him his easy lifestyle. Pay the Ching Hou Garment company of Guangzhou for 10,000 tee shirts at 0.82 per and sell them at $154 less retail commission. I'm not much of a mathematician - I would readily acknowledge Newton and Leibniz to be my superiors - but I know enough to tell that Ed is rolling in the stuff. What I marvel at is that the supply of suckers in this world seems endless.

How does someone like me who, lets be frank here, has the style consciousness of a hippopotamus in a mud pool, cash in on this abundance of suckerness? I thought I would list down a few business plans and pass it around the blogosphere for some free advice. Please don't steal them. If you do, please send me my share .

Business plan 1

Product - Designer bread

USP - Available in bold colors and post-modern shapes.

Designer logo - Five grains of wheat stuck on the wrapper

Target Customer
        • 1. Style conscious professional who needs to make a statement with the sandwich he/she takes to work.
        • 2. Sucker

Retail price - $49.95 per loaf.

Manufacturing - Sourced from The Ching Hou Designer Bread Company of Guangzhou @
$49.95 per 20 ft. container

Quality policy
- We will tell the chaps at The Ching Hou Designer Bread Company of Guangzhou, "Chaps, make sure it is of a good quality, ok?

Do you think Kleiner Perkins will fund it? I guess so, can see no downside.

Business Plan 2

Service- Designer appendicectomy scars

USP - Available in bold colors and post-modern shapes.

Designer logo - Five distinctive stitches on the abdomen

Target Customer
        • 1. Style conscious professional who needs to make a statement when he/she undresses, for various reasons.
        • 2. Sucker

Retail price - $4,995 per scar. (The operation is extra)

Manufacturing - Outsourced to The Ching Hou Designer Scar Company of Guangzhou @
$49.95 per scar

Quality policy
- We will tell the chaps at The Ching Hou Designer Scar Company of Guangzhou, "Chaps, make sure the knives and needles and stuff are clean, ok?

Kleiner Perkins should be able to fund this one as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Greatness Gene

There is a gene for greatness. I know it. I am not in a position to prove it right now, but I know that great people are born only to other great people. Soon we will have elections here and then all you skeptics will see it for your self.

I am talking of people like Kumaraswamy, who gets the greatness gene from Devegowda himself, that patriot who has done so much for his poor self, his poor wife and his extremely poor children, M. K. Stalin who likewise, inherits it from Karunanidhi, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasada, the Thakerays son and nephew, and even old Narayan Rane's whatsisname son, I can think of dozens.

Disappointingly some of our so called great leaders did not posses this gene, evidenced by the fact that none of their progeny are great.

Start with Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Unlike the Scindia family, who wisely decided to support the nice, white, British masters, this belligerent queen fought them recklessly, even killing herself in the process. Had it not been for the kindly Scindias who decided to betray her to the British, why, she might have actually won. Luckily for our country, the nice British masters were able to defeat her, and won for the Indian people a hundred years of secure serfdom instead of dangerous independence. And the Scindias, you will note, gave us many many great leaders including the young and dashing Jyotiraditya Scindia and the not so young but no less dashing Vasundhara Raje. And Rani Lakshmibai? Her direct descendant is a petty shopkeeper in Indore, I heard. See? See what I mean?

Second non-great on my list is Mahatma Gandhi who left no son, daughter, cousin, in-laws, nobody at all to prove that he had the greatness gene. Bal Thakeray rightly condemns him as having ruined the country, unlike himself who has given us a son AND a nephew, both adept at beating up wrongdoers.

Third has got to be Vallabbhai Patel. They used to call him the strong man of India, but where is the son? The daughter? Anybody at all?

The list continues, though, mercifully, it does not have any current leaders on it. Even that rotund excrescence, Chhagan Bhujbal, has given to the nation two equally rotund young excrescences, nephews I think, who are as great as him.

I know, you're going to say what about the poor people? Why are their numbers swelling if we have so many great leaders? Why does the system keep robbing them of what is rightfully theirs? The PDS supplies? Their lands, in acquisitions? Their liberty in arbitrary assaults? You are a stooge of the Americans, if you feel that way. The reason all this happens is the caste system, foreign hands, forcible conversions, scantily clad cheerleaders, flags being flown upside down, insufficient reservation in the IIMs and the IITs, unscrupulous businessmen, actors smoking on screen, distorted versions of Akbar's story.And a few more I can't recall at this moment.

But it is NOT because of our great leaders. To say that is tantamount to treason. We might just lynch you.