Udta Sindhi Anthem

Anthem for Udta Sindhi

Sindhis refused to sink, soared high and became UDTA SINDHI.

Anyone else would have surrendered,
Accepted defeat
And
Drowned in the depressing sea of anonymity…
But the Sindhis refused,
Fought quietly
And rebuilt themselves,
Ready to fly.

Anyone else would have lost the individuality,
Would have blended with the local culture,
But the Sindhis said no,
Continued with ‘charyo’,
‘Muo’,
‘Bhensaan’,
‘Buja’
And Lakh ji laanat atheyee,
Remained a Sindhi
And created a new world,
Got himself wings.

He refused to sink,
And Soared in the sky,
Like an eagle,
To become an UDTA SINDHI.

Mohan Deep
20th April 1989.

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Chandru Punjabee – the man behind the township for Sindhis

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Chandru Punjabee – the man behind a township for Sindhis

Sindhis do need a township – to enjoy the bond of kinship, to nurture the individuality and to be together.
Just imagine a million Sindhis in a township!
I met our dear friend, architect, builder and philanthropist Shri Chandru Punjabee, the man behind this movement, after a long time. We had a chat about his dream project for Sindhis. Housing. While I am not free to reveal the details at this stage, all I can say is that this would be an ultra-modern township which would have luxury towers at affordable prices, schools, colleges, hospitals and all other amenities one can think of. It would be a mega project.
While the tentative name to the project is “Sndhunagar”, it may end up as ‘Char Dhaam’. Char Dhaam because the township is going to have the replicas of the four holy places – to the scale and exact reproductions.
The replicas will have the same Feng Shui, the same Vastu that the dhaams have.
A deeply spiritual person, Chandru is talking about giving back to the society which has given him so much. The man is such a giver that he says, “The medical services would be free for the needy without humiliating the needy. It would be enough if you say that you’re needy. The hospital wouldn’t ask for proofs, salary slips and letters to establish that you’re needy.
“And while the flats would be exclusively for Sindhis, they will be free to resale to anyone, anytime.” Says the dashing and dynamic Punjabee.
At some stage, Udta Sindhi will disclose all the details about the entire project.
But at the moment a little more about this man of great enterprise.

*****

I try to find a link between his roots and his dreams. The Punjabee family that owned acres of land and buildings in Pakistan, came penniless to Mumbai. Chandru’s father had the showrooms of luxury cars like Plymouth and Dodge in Quetta. He married just a month before the partition and came to Bombay carrying small amount, insignificant if seen in the context of the huge assets they had.

He wanted to start construction business and received an order for construction material from Century Rayon. Punjabees purchased a piece of land to quarry stones and other material. Unfortunately, the land yielded only mud. Suffering losses in the very first project, he got a job at a salary of Rs 150 a month.

Chandru was born in one of the military barracks given to his father
in Ulhasnagar. He and his siblings are the products of this period of struggle and need. He grew up to be an architect and a builder.

But for Punjabee, who has moved from Ulhasnagar to Colaba and then to Juhu, Ulhasnagar has always remained Sindhunagar, a name given to it informally by the Sindhis who lived there.

*****

Decades back, my maternal aunt Sita B Advani, who lived in Khar, told us that the building she lived in had been acquired by a Sindhi builder. He wanted to redevelop it and also to have his offices in the same building.

By the time I could meet her, in a fast development, she had sold her flat and shifted to another building.

She told me that, “I thought they might harass me, as often happens in Khar and Bandra, specially because of his Shiv Sena connections, but the builder is a real gentleman. He was so polite and kind enough to offer me more than the market rate. His office also helped me find another flat a little away in an equally good area.”

“Who is the builder?” Curious, I asked her.

“Chandru Punjabee.” she said promptly. Shiv Sena had started its Sindhi wing during the same period and, close to Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray, Punjabee headed this wing.

Chandru was already a well known name with his social activities and philanthropy. Starting in early ’80s, with an association with Andheri Sindhi Panchayat, to help the needy Sindhis in assisting them with the marriage expenses, he found himself being approached by several organisations.

Chandru never says ‘no’ when asked to help a good community cause.

He went on growing in stature. There was a time when he used to be invited as a Chief Guest by almost every Sindhi organisation and panchayat to celebrate Cheti Chand, the Sindhi New Year, festival. This is when began his association with Sindh Panchayat Federation. Nari Gursahani, a prominent lawyer and the President of The Federation welcomed him to become the Vice President of the biggest organisation of Sindhis.

Today, he is the President of this umbrella body of all the Sindhi panchayats in India and abroad.

*****

Besides in Mumbai, Chandru Punjabee has offices in Dubai and London. His son Harsh Chandru Punjabee is in entertainment business and has acquired two channels.

*****

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Who will be the next President?

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Mohan’s Musings – President

Who will be the next President? Baba Ramdev? Sharad Pawar? Subramaniam Swamy? Amitabh Bachchan? L K Advani? Ratan Tata?

When Pranab Mukherjee said in his first interview after he became the President of India that he always wanted to have such a large lawn for morning walks he was only revealing the human side of his larger than life image.
While one doesn’t expect the President to be flawless, the idea always is to have a person of stature in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Unless he gets to have another term, Mukherjee may not have his morning walks in the large lawns after July 2017.
The speculations about who will be the next occupant have already begun.
The post of the President of India is like that of the Queen of England. Persons with dignity and characters, who have lived a controversy-free public life without any political bias ought to occupy it.
In over six decades, persons of great stature like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr Radhakrishnan, Dr. APJ Adbul Kalam and Dr. Zakir Hussain have occupied it. But along with them have been, in the list, Presidents we rather forget about.

Pratibha Patil was under a cloud when she was nominated. Her brother had been charged with murder and the apprehension was that she may use her influence in the case.
Yet, she went on to become the President.
Controversies about her continued during her tenure and even after her term got over.
One of the many of her scams is about acquiring a land, over 2 lakh sq feet, belonging to Defence and building a 4,500 sq ft bungalow in Pune while a retired President can get a house with a maximum area of Rs 2000 sq ft.
Her only ‘qualifications’ were that she would be the first woman President and she was perceived to be loyal to Gandhis.
It was the same loyalty to Mrs Indira Gandhi that made Giani Zail Singh declare in public that he was ready to follow her orders even if she asked him to sweep the floor. He went on to become the first Sikh President of India.
Fakhruddin Ahmed was so loyal to Mrs Gandhi that he could be woken up at midnight to sign an ordinance proclaiming national emergency. He signed it immediately and went back to sleep.

During the days of Vajpayee government, BJP didn’t have enough numbers to get the presidency to its nominee P.C. Alexander as Congress was averse to him. They settled for APJ Abdul Kalam, a choice of SP’s Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. But now BJP can have anyone it chooses to become the President. Seeing that Modi has an absolute control on the party, it is going to be his choice alone.
The first name that is making the rounds is of Lal Kishan Advani.
In fact, Union minister Nitin Gadkari had suggested Advani for President, but Narendra Modi reportedly felt that “age is a major factor”. Advani is in good health but seeing that the term is five years, Modi is right. The memory of the age factor diminishing the agility and health hasn’t still faded from the public memory.
Modi has totally sidelined Advani and the rest of old guards including Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha.
I don’t think Modi would risk having a President with his own mind.
The diminutive ball of fire Sushma Swaraj, once perceived as the Prime Minister candidate, too can be the final choice. But would she make an ‘obedient’ President?
Modi wouldn’t be happy with the idea of a controversial Subramaniam Swamy, either. Swamy’s name figures here because he has written about how J Jayalalitha wanted him to become the President. To quote Swamy, “In 2007, Jayalalithaa wanted me to become the President of India. I declined her offer telling her that I had a teaching assignment at Harvard University. I was also not sure about my winning chances. Because many political leaders were afraid of me.”
Swamy may be as unwanted now. No one wants an unpredictable and controversial person to become the President.
A more serious candidate is NCP Chief Sharad Pawar. Once in the running for the post of the Prime Minister, Pawar has vast administration experience and ‘friends’ across the party lines. Congress has been an ally for his NCP and his equation with Narendra Modi seems a major asset. It is because of this equation that BJP has virtually spared his nephew Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam in Maharashtra and has settled only for the head of Chhagan Bhujbal.
During the parliamentary election campaign Modi had often accused NCP of being the most corrupt but is on record as describing whatever he has said about the opposition parties as election rhetorics not to be taken seriously.
Pawar is a ‘pragmatic’ politician and may suit Modi.
But there are others too. India hasn’t seen any industrialist occupying the Rashtrapati Bhavan but it may happen now.
Narayan Murthy, the founder and former Chairman of Infosys, is a respected figure and whispered to be as an ideal candidate. He can make the kind of President a Prime Minister, who has radical plans – some obvious and the others unclear – would welcome. He would be supportive no matter what the PM does.
Modi may find Ratan Tata too a good choice. Why, Nandan Nilekani (Aadhar) too may be in the running. He has always been a blue eyed boy for the establishment.
While Bollywood stars are considered good for campaigning, even holding portfolios, a Bollywood star as the President seems incongruous unless he happens to be Amitabh Bachchan. His name made rounds the last time but his strained relationship with Gandhis is said to have worked against him.
A politically neutral Amitabh may make a good choice if he lives down wife Jaya’s activism against demonetisation.
Seeing that Modi is the Monarch and BJP in absolute control – even if they lose every election in Punjab, UP and Goa – we shouldn’t be surprised to find RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat or even Baba Ramdev the next President of India.
And once Modi decides to make someone – even if he be Baba Ramdev – no one can change his mind. To quote Venkaiah Naidu, “It is not in his blood.”

*****

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Do Bollywood Actresses Read Books?

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Mohan’s Musings

Bollywood actresses and the books they read or don’t

The world press (including ‘The Guardian’) tittered when Shilpa Shetty (known to them because of the ‘racist attack’ on her during her stay in ‘Big Brother’ where Jade Goody called her ‘Shilpa Fuckawallah’, ‘Shilpa Daroopa’ and ‘Shilpa Poppadom’, model Danielle Lloyd said that Shilpa “couldn’t even speak English properly anyway” and “Shetty should “fuck off home”.) recommended George Orwell’s allegory ‘Animal Farm’ for the children so that they can ‘love and care for animals’. It was obvious that Ms Shetty hadn’t read the book. She hadn’t even read the summery of the book available on the ‘net.
Shilpa became a laughing stock of the high society, Bollywood and Page 3 circuit.
Shilpa found an scapegoat in her publicist and the latest version, which no one seems to believe, is that it wasn’t she but her publicist who had blundered.
Whether her publicist or the starlet, the focus has returned to the books read by the actresses and their GK.
I remember finding Tinkle in the luxury van of a top South Indian heroine. Her secretary told me that the actress read only comics. It didn’t surprise me as she had started her career as a child actress. She hadn’t had any opportunity to read. In fact, she didn’t need to read much. That she was a superb actress and had a great career is a different story. Except for a few films, Bollywood films have never required nuanced performances.
Later this actress, who had a double role in a comic like film, was to tell me me that she looked at every film as a comic.
She said matter of factly that her only reading was comics and the scripts.
It was true of another South Indian actress too , known for her obsession with a married super star, too. She wouldn’t even read the newspaper as, to quote her, “Who wants to see the ugly faces of politicians every morning?”
Her only reading was the glossies and mainly her own interviews and the interviews given by her star lover. And books on health, beauty and make up.
But not all the heroines of this period hated books.
Besides being one of the best actresses Bollywood has seen, Meena Kumari was also a poetess and read books. She is on record as saying that reading broadens the outlook and gives your thoughts a depth that goes a long way in understanding and interpreting the characters. Not for nothing did she give some really nuanced performances.
Even Raakhee is known to be a voracious reader but that again could be the influence of the very same man – Gulzar – who brought books in the life of Meena Kumari. Raakhee, now a recluse in her farmhouse, continues her reading. Books regularly reach her by courier.
While these five belong to the older generation, here is an interesting episode about the reading habits of one of the top heroines of today. Married to a Muslim actor from a royal family, she was gifted a book by her husband who reads a lot. She happily kept the book next to her pillow for several days, talked about it to the media but confessed that she couldn’t go beyond the first few pages.
Funnily, when she launches a book – she has launched several – the media focus is never on the author. One would find her solo pictures with captions like “Xxxxx launched a book at a five star hotel in Western Suburbs”. At least this actress has no pretensions of being an ‘intellectual’ but her mother-in-law, a star in seventies and eighties, was always perceived as an intellectual because she would always have a ‘heavy’ book on her!
But she didn’t notice that she was given a book written by Alistair MacLean for a shot that showed her
reading in a golden jubilee hit; a book she would have hated to be seen with.
Interestingly, her daughter has inherited a love for reading from her. I once found her buying several books from Crosswords. But I don’t know whether she bought them for her reading pleasure or while getting done the interior of her new apartment.
A more interesting character is an actress who is always found with a pair of spectacles on her nose, and her nose in a fat book and is perceived as an ‘intellectual’. No one says anything about the kind of books she reads and her interviews don’t show any spark of this intelligence.
I got an opportunity to see the title of a book she was reading. It was a James Hadley Chase book!
But the lady who takes the cake is an actress known for being a ‘feminist’. She bought a couple of books on feminism, gave these books to her publicist and asked her to find some ‘interesting’ quotes from the books. The publicist, also not known for reading, googled for some quotes from these books and used them while answering an e-mail interview questionnaire. Unlike in the quotes of Shilpa Shetty, this interview didn’t have any gaffes.
But the books remained unread.

*****

Reading and GK don’t really seem to matter as far as the success and the career of glamorous girls are concerned.
Shatrughan Sinha once ridiculed a South Indian actress for not knowing the name of the President of India.
Ironically, she found her way to the Parliament.

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Dissent is ‘treason’…

Mohan’s Musings/Mohan Deep

It is not an emergency, but dissent is ‘treason’…

Within an hour of the announcement of demonetization by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi I wrote:

“The main problem in India isn’t about the government having or not having enough money to run the country. The real problem is that only a minor fraction of that is spent on the welfare of the citizens, while the rest goes into different pockets.
“The essential honesty and character are totally missing from the governance.
“I will just give you an example of clean drinking water. The tap water in London is as potable as the branded water sold under fancy names.
“The reason we don’t get potable water at least in Mumbai is: (1) because half of the pipelines still belong to the British period. (2) The filtration plants need to be upgraded and their capacity expanded. (3) The water Mafia steals the water and sells it to us after an artificially created shortage.
“Where is the money issue if the richest Municipal Corporation in the entire country has failed to do even this basic duty despite having an absolute control for 70 years?
“So please don’t expect any great effects of the money government collects after demonetization.
It hasn’t happened in the past. It is not going to happen in future, either.”

I would call it mild criticism. It is my right. But within minutes, I found the pro-BJP elements – popularly called bhakts – pouncing on me. No one really argued back, but everyone questioned my patriotism and nationalism, and some of them poured scorn on me. The basic idea was to bully me into silence.
Angered, I wrote some more and found more bhakts trying to silence me. They called me anti-national and unpatriotic. It would have soured anyone’s mood and silenced him. But it didn’t happen to me, maybe because I have seen worse days during an emergency period. And it is because of this that the thought comes to me.
Are we in for another emergency? Or is it already an undeclared emergency?
The debate is out! A sensible argument has become irrelevant. Hired hands have been unleashed on the two social networking sites. They neither debate nor talk sense. They seem to have one aim: harass those who are critical of the policies of the Prime Minister.
That our Prime Minister cannot handle any criticism gracefully is clear for years. During his election campaign, on a channel I forget, he was interviewed by several journalists. Everyone asked questions that flattered him, but one of the scribes was asked to grill him. I could see that the young man was shivering in fear, but he went ahead.
Within seconds, we saw Narendra Modi glaring at him!
Our PM candidate wasn’t willing to answer a single hostile question.

*****

My earliest memory of national emergency declared by Mrs Indira Gandhi, on a personal level, is watching a police constable posted to control a bus queue, slapping a well-dressed bespectacled senior citizen for hurrying to get into the public transport.
His pair of spectacles was thrown several meters away due to the impact. Yet, not a single person protested.
The fear psychosis had gripped everyone. The electricity of the offices and the presses (Indian Express) was cut off. No one smiled as I stepped into the semi-dark office.
The list of the leaders and journalists arrested and thrown behind the bars along with hardcore criminals was a mile long. Along with them were the underworld dons.
On the first Saturday, in the afternoon, after the declaration of emergency, I stepped into an Irani Hotel on Bazar Gate Street. We, writers, used to conduct our story readings over tea. The tea would give way to beer and whiskey. Which group of writers would be satisfied with tea?
The manager cautioned us. “No alcohol. Emergency laga hua hai.”
The hotel didn’t have the permit and didn’t want to risk losing the license because of a couple of bottles hid under the table. As we emptied the tea cup, my contemporary writer Vishnu Bhatia made a crack.
“Indira Gandhi used to sit on these chairs before she became the PM.”
This was an innocent joke, private between us. And I laughed.
A lot of celebrities and politicians used to hang around in Fort, Bal Thackeray, and R K Laxman used to work in FPJ, a barefooted M F Husain along with a short and stooped K H Ara would stride in and out of Irani Hotels and I had seen J R D Tata entering a saloon without any fanfare. I used to throw different names.
Indira Gandhi?
A policeman emerged from nowhere. “Kya bola?”
We became nervous, but tried explaining. He wasn’t willing to listen. He wanted to take all of us to the Thana (Colaba Police Station). Our other writer friends explained to him with a lot of ‘sorries.’ When he saw that we really were writers and weren’t even expected to have enough money to bribe him, he let us go with a warning, “Emergency laga huaa hai, andar kar doonga to kissi ko pata bhi nahin hoga!”
Things may be worse today!
Saagar, a journalist from ‘Caravan,’ narrates his latest experience. (Incidentally, I was once a regular writer for this magazine.) Writes Saagar, “In an effort to document the tense situation (in the bank), I started recording the incident with the camera on my phone. Bemused, the official in the white shirt told me to stop shooting. When I did not stop, he rushed towards me—momentarily forgetting the crowd he was supposed to block—his arms outstretched. I asked him repeatedly, to not touch my camera and said that I was from the press. He grabbed me and dragged me down the stairs of the building, onto the road. Subsequently, other employees and security guards from the bank surrounded me. “Tere ko main batata hun. Tu bach ke nahi jayega”—I’ll show you now. You will not escape unharmed, the man in the white shirt said. “Tu janta nahi mere ko”—You don’t know me, he continued, “Mere upar pehle se case hai. Main khud police hun”—I already have cases registered against me, I myself am the police.”
The report is long, but it makes a point. A legitimate journalist from a respectable group is being threatened by the thugs appointed by the bank as guards while doing his job.

*****

D K Barua coined the notorious phrase: ‘India is Indira, Indira is India.’ It was the personality cult of epic proportions.
And now, if you’re against Narendra Modi, you’re anti-national!
They equate the Prime Minister with the nation, Modi with India. A slight criticism of the man earns you the abusive wrath of the bhakts. The abuses would have your ears turning red, but the bhakts, who represent a political party that prides itself on its hoary tradition, drags your mothers and sisters in the filthiest arguments you can have.
Like Congress tried doing it to the states ruled by the opposition parties, BJP too has tried the same trick with the states ruled by the opposition.
AAP humiliated BJP by almost erasing it out of the picture in Delhi. BJP hasn’t forgiven Arvind Kejriwal and has tried using whatever power at its disposal to browbeat the Kejriwal government.
Elected governments of non-BJP parties are not being allowed to function, like in Delhi. BJP was accused of trying to topple/toppling the governments run by the opposition in Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Assam. You can hear the echo of what Mrs Indira Gandhi did during the emergency. But one thing that made emergency the most hated, besides the press censorship and jailing of the opposition leaders, was the compulsory sterilization of men. Nasbandi. And the arrogance; the arrogance that Indians deserve danda, that they didn’t have the courage to retaliate to the police canes and army shoes. Magistrate Lateef Fatima (actor Shah Rukh Khan’s mother), Rukhsana Sultana (actor Amrita Singh’s socialite mother), and a few others close to Sanjay Gandhi had played a massive role in nasbandi drive. And then happened Turkman Gate massacre. The government tried to cleanse Delhi of slums and force poor residents, mostly Muslims, to move to distant settlements. Already seething with anger over nasbandi, they refused to go as they would have to commute every day paying heavy bus fares to reach the city to earn their living. They resisted the bulldozing of their houses.
The police opened fire on protesters, killing several of them. However, it was not reported in Indian media which had been silenced with censorship, but we learned about the killings through foreign media like BBC.
*****
What is happening in India also has a similarity with what is going on in, of all the places, Turkey! The only difference is that whatever the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has started is an aftermath of a failed coup attack on him. To Erdogan, his coalition of ‘Nationalists and Islamists’ is synonymous with ‘the national will’!
Here, they have started these games scared of losing the power.
BJP has not declared press censorship, either. But it doesn’t need to.
The state power has already been used to keep the press, particularly television media in chains. Major channels are owned by big business which has vested interest in being on the side of the establishment. It is because of this dirty connection that the entire television blacklisted Arvind Kejriwal within hours of his announcement that he would expose Ambanis.
Every BJP scam, including Vyapam, Nitin Gadkari’s shell companies, the nexus between the Prime Minister and the big business has been wiped out of public memory.
The government has also tried controlling the judiciary by trying to push in their favourites – like they did with the other institutions, and the tension between the CJI and the PM was so much that the judge publicly wept as he addressed Modi. Even then the problem of judicial appointments has not been solved till now.
As for the dissent, the fundamental right of every citizen, the BJP simply renames it treason.

*****

Mohan Deep is an eminent novelist and Bollywood biographer, based in Mumbai.

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Good Deed, Eh?

Mohan’s Musings

Good deed, eh?

In school, I was told that as a boy scout, I was expected to do one good deed a day. Hence, I discovered a lot of things that would be considered good deeds.
But what if we didn’t do the good deeds? We could just write imaginary stories in the notebook.
Soon, I learned that many were already doing it. Some of us may have improved our handwriting skills and even ‘creative writing,’ but this certainly was not the way to do the good deed.
I don’t know what happened to my classmates, but as I changed the school, I didn’t remain a scout anymore. I didn’t have to do 365 good deeds in a year compulsorily.
Nowadays, I find a lot of people doing a lot of good deeds. Lesser mortals, celebrities, film stars, and the Richie rich.
They all are doing good deeds.
I too agree that visiting old people is a good deed because you are lonely when you are old. You can be in your home along with half a dozen others, but they become indifferent to you and your needs. A visitor, irrespective of age and gender, can turn that day into a festival. And if you’re in an old age home, a visitor, even if he is the son of the crabby old man, four beds or rooms away can provide some excitement if he/she stops to crack a joke with you.
But if he has come only because he wants to do a good deed and go back feeling nice about it, it is not a good deed.
Ditto for a visit to the cancer survivors, giving alms to beggars, helping a visually impaired person to cross a road, donating notebooks to needy students, visiting orphanages, and giving them breakfast or lunch.
They are all good deeds, but not if you end up feeling that you are a jolly good fellow.
Not when you feel good, take some pictures, and post them on your Facebook wall.
Not if you get a PR freelancer to get coverage in the media.
And this brings me to the wannabes and celebrities. The good deeds remain the same, but the coverage (paid, certainly) is more. I consider this to be the worst kind of good deed.
You open the papers over the morning cup of tea and with a mock surprise to show your wife (or husband) the media coverage that can really be called advertisement and say, “We really got good media coverage!” Now, you cannot proudly tell your spouse that you’ve got good advertisement coverage or that every newspaper has published your advertisements.
If you’re a bigger fish, the arrangement is more discreet. Only your secretary would know why you released an ad for a paper whose demographics don’t suit the product your company manufactures. You can continue to pretend to your spouse over the pictorial report of your good deed.
Good deed?
If you really wanted to do a good deed, you would have transferred your secretary’s ailing mother from a Municipal hospital to Breach Candy or helped her daughter get an admission in the medical college.
But nobody would have been wiser.
It is only when you are a Bollywood star that even a contribution of a lousy Rs five lakh for the family of a stuntman who lost his life as your double, riding a motorcycle at a maniacal 160 kmh would get you a four-column headline.
Why, if you’re still a bigger star with a bad image, you can hire an entire PR agency that would transform your image into that of an angel, the God’s Gift to the world – a great name for a trust and NGO, no? – By writing long articles and ‘news-stories’ about your, mostly imaginary, good deeds.
They would get old women in the wheelchairs or young boys on crutches to your drawing room or if you don’t like it, to your sets. You can have a battery of photographers shoot you with them as you wonder why you are doing all this shit when you can shack up with another starlet.
Let’s not talk about the politicians in the same breath, not even the ministers, who don’t do good deeds. Their signatures are considered good deeds whether they gift you a parcel of land to build a hospital or a school.
Nor are the Indian businessmen doing any good deed when they build temples after their family name or donate to build an entire ward in a hospital and get it named after their mother.
They are not Boy Scouts.
The hospitals and colleges named after industrialists or their parents are not acts of philanthropy. These are business organizations where the aim is to have huge profits.
Let there be chains of hospitals with state of the art equipment that are free to citizens. Let there be groups of schools and colleges (even medical and engineering colleges) with the same quality education that you sell for premium fees and donations for the citizens.
Our Kaamwali wouldn’t have to borrow money from every house she cleans to pay for her daughter’s admission.
This will be a big bloody good deed. You won’t need media coverage for this. Your name will be etched in the memories of the people, the real people.

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The New Woman Has Arrived – Part II

shabana-azmi

New Woman in literature and films


Emancipated women have always figured in films and literature.

The earliest depiction in Hindi films that I saw was in Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’ film “Gyarah Hazar Ladkiyan.” Abbas got the title from the government’s official figure of the working women in Mumbai in 1954. Mala Sinha was one of them.

To me, as a Sindhi boy born after partition; working women were the independent women, as they are neither constrained by the tradition nor restricted by the customs. I had a working mother, and I know it.

I saw a woman like her in a Sindhi short story of Sundri Uttamchandani. The narration that left my eyes moist was about a Sindhi refugee wife who has to live on a limited salary of her husband. Whatever ‘sacrifice’ in the meal; whether mango or butter, would first be quietly from her plate and then she would have a conflict between reducing the nutritious food from the plate of her toiling husband or her growing Son (schooling).

The sacrificing woman decides to work to support her husband; and thus, becomes the second bullock of the cart. To me, this was the real emancipated woman.

She was the result of the changing tough world. But she had also come out of the pages of literature.

This bold woman who could fight the social pressure could be seen in the fiction of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. She was also present in the fiction of Punjabi’s Amrita Pritam.

I saw the glimpses of the woman ready to break the chains around her in The Deal. It was about dowry. Nirupama’s father was unable to pay a dowry of Rs 10,000 but gave Rs 7,000; and as the groom insisted, the marriage took place. But her life was full of torture. Her father managed to bring the rest of the dowry by selling his house. But Nirupama strongly urged him not to give any more money to her father-in-law. This was her moment as a strong woman.

She later died though torture, and her father-in-law arranged another girl with a dowry of Rs 20,000.

Nirupama remains in your mind as a woman who tried to fight the unjust social structure around her.

Tagore’s story: Mahamaya revolved around the ‘Sati’ custom, and she was married off to an old man whom she despised; she later became a widow. She was forced to become Sati. Mahamaya was able to escape the pyre and knock on the door of the man she loved. He was willing to accept her, but she had one more condition that she would remain in purdah. He wouldn’t see her face; otherwise, she would leave him.
One particular night, the anxious man came closer to see her uncovered face and saw a burnt face. He screamed, and she woke up.

Mahamaya left him.

She didn’t want pity. She was a proud woman.

More than Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee created what I consider ‘the mother of the modern emancipated woman.’ Just think of

Vijaya of Datta, Kiranmayi of Charitraheen, Hemangini of Mejdidi or Kamal of Shesh Prashna.

These were the women with their own mind during the days a patriarchal Bong society only suppressed them.

Like the Nora of Ibsen’s Doll’s House, these women were the original free women.

Not many have realized that the women who figured in the Sindhi and Punjabi folk stories were assertive and fighting women who had rejected the social norms and customs.

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, the classical poet from Sind, treated them as such and these female characters were described as ‘his brave heroines’ (the term in Sindhi was Soormiyoon). The stories included Sohni Mehar, Sassui Punhoon, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sorath Rai Diyach, and Momal Rano.

Shah and many others wrote verses on these tales, which in turn adds more glamor to these female characters.

To return to Hindi films, one saw a reflection of that woman in Nikah. The climax scene when the former husband (Deepak Prashar) and the current husband (Raj Babbar) of Salma Agha are arguing over her has the twist. Nilofar (Salma) doesn’t return to her first husband.

This emerges the modern and bold woman who speaks her mind and tells the men that they cannot treat her like an object to be exchanged as a token of friendship.

Arth was a milestone, a turning point as far as the portrayal of a woman finding her own identity was concerned.

Pooja (Shabana Azmi) suffers a lot when her husband (Kulbhushan Kharbhanda) leaves her for another woman, an actress (Smita Patil). She soon becomes an independent woman with the help of another young man (Raj Kiran). When her husband returns to her feeling remorseful and apologetic, she refuses to go back to him. There is a strange reality in her portrayal as she refuses to go with the new man, either. She ends up like the modern single, once bitten twice shy, kind of woman.

There is continuity from Abbas’ Mala Sinha to Chopra’s Salma, Mahesh Bhatt’s Shabana, Vikas Behl, Anand Rai’s Kangana, Shoorjit Sircar’s Deepika, Tapasee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang. They are the large hoardings of the growing modern woman’s life calendar.

But the story of the women’s emancipation has yet to climax.

*****

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The New Woman Has Arrived – Part I

wants-right-to-smoke

The New Woman has arrived!

 

Our world has changed. The woman has changed. She was once a closet smoker. She would look stealthily around and light up, take quick drags, and throw the butt away.

But now, she is relaxed whenever she places a cigarette between her lips and strikes a match. The smoke comes out of her nostrils, and she takes another puff.

She doesn’t care if people are watching. It is her life, her choice.

It is the same with alcohol or when she is snorting heroin or smoking hash.

She is equally guilt-free with a one night stand or sleeping with the husband of an office colleague she likes.

It is her life, her choice.

If she is an editor, she ensures that sexism and misogynist words and phrases are out. As a reviewer, her priority is to check whether the characters or the story is regressive; and if yes, to lambast the filmmaker.

If she is directing an ad film, she ensures that the man in her film is a wimp, his wife may order him around, or rather slaps him a couple of times. She is changing the way men are portrayed; she is changing the mindset. She is quietly working to transform the patriarchal setup to a society where the woman has the last word.

She is the new age woman. She has arrived.
She is a feminist who doesn’t need to explain herself for being what she is.

We have Vidya Balan (Ishqiya, Kahaani, Bobby Jasoos), Deepika Padukone (Piku), Anushaka Sharma (NH 10), Kangana Ranaut (Queen and Manu Weds Tanu and its sequel), Radhika Apte (in her bold scenes), and finally the three girls in Pink (Tapasee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang).

Vidya is aggressive and a dominating partner in Bobby Jasoos where Ali Fazal plays second fiddles to her. Not only is this a title role, but she breaks the ceiling by working in a male dominated profession, as a rare female detective, despite belonging to an orthodox Muslim family.

The kind of roles Kangana Ranaut has done have got her to become an icon for the feminists.

However, the three girls in ‘Pink’ have emerged as the ultimate in the portrayal of the feminists. They defy all the social norms, including living alone, going out at night, and drinking with almost strangers; even being sex workers. At least one of them even admits to having asked for money in exchange for sex (though only because she got tired of the hostile and offensive treatment by the Public Prosecutor); but the film doesn’t even have a hint of judgment against them, about their choices. Their lawyer, played by Amitabh Bachchan ensures that the message of the film “No means No” reaches everyone irrespective of what or who the woman is. This is a total acceptance of feminist values.

The real climax and message reaches the audience when Amitabh, despite being their lawyer, asks Taapsee Pannu in open court whether she was a virgin. He questions her till she opens up. Again, she’s guilt free. She admits that she wasn’t a virgin, but she lost it neither under compulsion nor for money. It was her choice!

It conveys the message Deepika Padukone sent some time back in a short message film. What a girl does with her life or with her body is her choice.
If she makes love to a guy she likes and loses her virginity, it is her choice. Her family, her friends, and the society had no say in the matter.

The New Woman is free from all crutches and every restraint, as well as every manacle.

Kangana Ranaut seemed to play a modern and independent woman who didn’t care for the conventions in “Tanu Weds Manu;” but she and her free and independent woman really emerged successfully in Queen. This coming-of-age story is about Rani. Her fiancé (Rajkumar Rao) calls off the wedding because he finds her traditional. She, a North Indian girl from a conservative family, goes on her honeymoon alone. Later, when her fiancé sees another picture of her where she appears modern, he repents and follows her on the honeymoon. He tries to win her back, but she rejects him.

The girl walking alone and laughing carefree has almost become the symbol for the carefree Independent woman.

Even in “Tanu Weds Manu,” Kangana’s tryst with the independent woman who rejects the social constraints, continued.

Deepika Padukone shifted from her traditional glamorous roles to play Piku, the unmarried daughter of an always constipated Amitabh Bachchan. Everything from her lines, her irritation and her concern for her father projected her as an independent woman. She would have ended up being just another sacrificing spinster Raakhi specialized in, but for the nuanced performance and the treatment.

In an interesting party scene, Amitabh reveals to her suitor that she wasn’t a virgin. This is a complicated situation in the story where an utterly selfish father creates obstacles in the marriage of his own daughter.

However, the point is made. Virginity is passé.

Not going further into the story, I can say that with Deepika’s Piku, the depiction of a modern woman became real.

(…Contd Part 2)

 

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Paybacks for the Blood Sucking Call Centres

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Mohan’s Musings

Paybacks for the blood sucking Call Centres

Till the other day they appeared a little idiotic voices on the other side when you made a call to the call centre. They would read from a script. You knew that the American and the rest of the civilised world laughed at their accent and stupidity.
Unknown to us this voice had transformed into a criminally menacing voice with practiced American accent and has been extorting money, big money, from the American citizens. This new voice belonged to the unscrupulous and ruthless blackmailer, extortionist and scamster.
It used the voice-over-internet-technology, normally used by the terrorists and drug syndicates to hide their telephone numbers and locations.
The targets were the senior American citizens, men and women, the most vulnerable population.The annual financial loss to elderly victims of financial abuse in the US is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion!
Every employee was given a script upon joining the firms, the first line of it read: “Hello, I am an officer calling from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) of which you are a tax defaulter.”

The victims were harassed, hounded and threatened with arrest with these unnumbered call and blackmailed into paying amounts ranging from $500 to $50,000, depending on their capacities, under threat of arrest!

Their executives would force victims to pay non-existent tax dues through gift cards of a specific brand or through wire transfers, allegedly making Rs 1.5 crore a day in this manner.

There has even been a case of an older American woman who died during this two hour long ordeal. Her son abused the caller who quietly disconnected the line.

Thane police raided at least 9 call centres, booked 700 people and made 70 arrests on charges of cheating, extorting and impersonating under the Indian Penal Code and other relevant Act.
This has turned out to be a Pandora’s Box. According to police, though the mother of these call centres is in Ahmedabad, the call centres have been operating from Andheri, Vile Parle, Bandra and several other locations.

In fact, there are also instances where these call centres have been operating from the homes!

The state police have also alleged hawala transactions by owners of the call centres.
*****
The Call Centre Rackets and the paybacks
The word is that the Call Centre Racket is not limited to the few call centres that have been raided in Mira Road and Thane so far.
The Police have arrested 700 employees and the master mind, SagarThakkar alias Shaggy, is said to be holed up in Dubai. Shaggy is suspected of owning 17 call centres that were mostly managed by his friends. While nine call centres are claimed to be in Mumbai, the rest are in Gujarat. A total of 2,000 people work in these call centres.
But seeing the kind of money every call centre employee was making (Rs 15,000 – 20,000 plus a cut from the amount extorted which ran into a couple of lakh for every employer) and Rs 3-5 crore a month by the call centre ‘boss’, the racket seems widespread.
Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy may not be the only big fish. The Police have even arrested his ‘mentor’! Borivili based Jagdish Kanani is said to have taught the ropes ‘some others’ too.
America’s prestigious Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is already in India and their blood hounds are on the trail of everyone who has played any role in this dirty business.
And I guess, the FBI will locate several ‘master minds’ and pick up a planeload of them to try them in the US, as it is a major crime against thousands of American.

*****

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The Great Indian Banks Robbery

Mohan’s Musings

The Great Banks Robbery for which NOBODY will be punished.

I am being ripped off. And I am not the only one. Everyone of you who has an account in any bank is the victim of this great robbery. The amount is Rs 1.10 lakh crore. It is my money. It is your money. But the banks have lent it to big borrowers without proper scrutinies, without proper checks, without mortgaging assets, without proper collaterals and without verifying the authenticity of their claims, the papers and certificates submitted by them.

And that entire amount has been written off.

My questions:

Have they seized or tried to seize the assets of the managing directors, chairmans, directors and major stake holders?
Have they taken over the assets of the sureties and signatories?
Has there been an auction of the apartments, properties and vehicles owned by them?
Have the banks got the accounts of these people frozen?
Have the bank officials who sanctioned these loans been hauled up, questioned, suspended and charged?
Have the names of the people who conned banks been disclosed to public?
Has a single MD or Chairman moved in the house of a friend or in-laws because his apartment / bungalow has been seized?
The answer to every question I raise is ‘no’.
How the banks loot us.

Despite RBI controls, most banks take full advantage of the monopoly like situation. It is like a cartel.

Take for instance:

1. While it take a bank clerk the same five minutes to prepare a pay order, and when the money is ours, the charges change with the amount. A pay order for Rs 50 lakhs may cost you Rs 15,000. Plain robbery. Even the Shikarpuris issuing hawala chits charged less.

2. Banks use buying and selling of foreign currency as a business like the money changers. Why they charge any arbitrary charges without any value addition to the transaction.

3. Many private banks have different rates for RTGS (Real time gross settlement) depending on the quantum of money being transferred. It doesn’t take longer to punch in a transfer entry of Rs.1 crore as compared to a transfer entry of Rs.3 lakhs. If RTGS has to replace cheques it should be free or close to free.

The banks may call it business, I call it unethical business.

Moreover, there is a lot of difference in treatment to a ‘small’ borrower and the ‘big’ borrower.. The banks can easily get a car picked up if a certain number of EMIs are not paid, may embarrass a middle class borrower and recover the loan yet they make it more difficult for him to borrow than for a big borrower. Yet, it treats the small borrower as of no consequence. The pygmy sitting behind the desk with some fancy label, would look down at the person applying for loan like some needless chore. His documents are scrutinised, salary slip is checked and a bank representative would visit the house, check the credit worthiness and all the bank statements, deposit receipts etc

The small borrower is made to feel, well, small!

There are scores of instance. The govt can make a law and impose a fine of Rs 1000 for charging more than MRP on the mineral water, for breaking a signal and for several small offences of the common citizen, the small man. But the banking lobby is too powerful for the government.

The banks often sanction loans of unusually large amount for the corporates without proper security, over-valuation of the assets (as happened with Vijay Mallya) and by ignoring the usual safety norms before parting with the funds.Those amounts are in hundreds and thousands of crore.

It is not unreasonable to assume that cuts and commissions reach to the highest echelons of the corridors of every bank which ‘lends’ such massive amounts.

It is not difficult to understand why these huge loans are written off without much effort to recover them. Just compare the wide coverage the media gave to a single defaulter called Vijay Mallya who was hounded for an amount of Rs 8000 crore and has absconded to London. Even as the banks try to auction his bungalows, fleet of expensive luxury cars and personal jet, we learn that everything was overvalued. The banks will find it difficult to recover even half of the amount loaned to him, forget the interest and penalty. But this amount is peanuts compared to Rs 1.10 lakh crore the others have borrowed and swallowed.

Using the banking jargon, the banks hide behind phrases like ‘settlement of NPAs is a time consuming process’, ‘involves labour’ and ‘judicial process’ and opt for write-off. Simply put, the banks say that they don’t have staff and legal advice to recover the money! What they are trying to underplay is that the money has been squandered or siphoned out and the assets pawned by the corporates are not worth the valuation.

The blame lies at the door of the banks and their staff (and outsiders) who over-valued the assets. And if the bank officers are whispering that they passed huge loans under pressure from the politicians, let them name them!

Let us know how much loan was approved under the pressure from UPA2 and how much loan was sanctioned under the unsaid orders of BJP government.

And let’s have the names.

*****

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