अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

July 20, 2013

Covers for War and War Crimes

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 5:54 am

Time Magazine Cover | Jan. 2, 1939

(Man of the Year: 1938)

State Police photographer releases bloody Tsarnaev photos to Boston Magazine

(A Noble Revelation)

Photographer who released Tsarnaev capture images suspended

(Featured Comments)

Floyd: Rolling Stone magazine can’t make a killer cool

(Monster of the Year: 2013)

(So There Has Been Progress)

Henry Kissinger (on Time Magazine Cover) | Feb. 14, 1969

(Now That’s What We Call a Hero)

America Keeps Honoring One of Its Worst Mass Murderers: Henry Kissinger

(The Self-Serving Cowards)

Henry Kissinger: War Criminal or Old-Fashioned Murderer?

America Keeps Honoring One of Its Worst Mass Murderers: Henry Kissinger

(Losers Whining in Their Panic Room)

World’s Most Evil And Lawless Institution?

(But These Lives Don’t Count)

(Why Are You Complaining?)

Bush’s Useful Idiots

(And We Have a War Going On)

(That Will Go On Indefinitely)

On His 95th Birthday, the Story of Nelson Mandela’s Struggle Told Outside His Old Soweto Home

(But We Are Not Heartless!)

(Haven’t We Pardoned This Terrorist?)

“The Act of Killing”: New Film Shows U.S.-Backed Indonesian Death Squad Leaders Re-enacting Massacres

(These People Are Not Enjoying Their Old Age in Peace)

(They are Broken and Tormented At The End)

(Our Hero Kissinger Dies Happy)

(He Was Not Tormented At All)

(These Are Uneducated People)

(We Are Smart And Sophisticated)

(Have We Sinned? We Have Not.)

Suicide bomber kills 20 in Iraqi Sunni mosque

(And This Has Nothing to Do With Us)

(We Can’t Waste Our Time in Trying to Understand)

(Why and How a Tragedy Like This Happens)

***

 

 

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Car bombs and violence leave 46 dead in Iraq

 

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Pakistan government recorded killings from US drone strikes, document shows

 

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Al-Qaida claims Iraq prison raids which freed hundreds of inmates

(We Told You Al-Qaida was in Iraq)

(That’s Why We Attacked and Destroyed It)

 

***

 

More than 1000 inmates escape from Libyan jail

(This Has Nothing to Do With Us Either)

 

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Day of Violence Kills 30 in Iraq

 

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Wave of car bomb attacks in Iraq

(You Have a Morbid Obsession with Death)

 

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‘King of romance,’ now an angry militant

(Totally Irrelevant. You Are Crazy.)

July 7, 2013

कोई बड़ी बात नहीं है

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 10:34 pm

- अगला आडमी बुलाओ।

- नैक्स्ट!

एक आदमी अपने काग़ज़ लेकर आगे आता है।

- क्या नाम है टुम्हारा?

- कीर्ति आज़ाद

- (एकदम गुस्से में खड़े होकर) साला बाग़ी! टुमको आज़ाडी मांगटा?

- नहीं साहब …

- साला, झूट बोलटा! ए सिपॉय सीटाराम!

- जी, हुज़ूर!

- इस बागी को उढर मैडान में लेजाके डो सौ कोड़े लगाओ।

- पर साहब, मैं तो आपके खिलाफ़ नहीं हूँ!

- साला, फिर झूट बोलटा!

- गुस्ताखी मुआफ़, हुजूर, पर ये सही कह रहा है। ये तो दोस्त रियासत की दोस्त पार्टी का है। हिंदुस्तान में बी जे पी का एम पी है। हिंदुस्तान के बारे में तो आप जानते ही हैं, और इसकी पार्टी भी बड़ी वफ़ादार पार्टी है। हिंदुस्तान की सबसे वफ़ादार पार्टी है।

- टो ये अपने नाम में आजाड काए को लगाए है? खैर, इसको लेजाके डो घंटे कोठरी में बंद कर डो।

- हुज़ूर, ये तो ज्यादती हो जाएगी। सरकार बहादुर का तो नाम है इंसाफ़ के लिए।

- टुम ठीक कहटा है। फिर भी सबक डेना टो ज़रूरी है। इसे डो घंटे उधर बेंच पर बिठा डो।

- जी हुज़ूर। बिल्कुल जाय़ज़ सज़ा मुकर्रर की है साहब ने। .. आओ, चलो।

- पर ये तो ज़्यादती है!

- अरे, ख़ैर मनाओ। तुम बी जे पी के हो और एम पी हो और यहीं से वर्ल्ड कप जीत के गए थे। अगर नहीं होते और आंध्र प्रदेश या उड़ीसा या, भगवान न करे, छत्तीसगढ़ में आंदोलन वगैरह से जुड़े होते तो कौन जाने शायद यहाँ से तुमको उठा के ले जाया जाता और एन्काउंटर भी हो सकता था।

- पर मेरे नाम में आज़ाद तो …

- पता है, पता है! पर आज़ादी का फ़ैशन अब चला गया। दुनिया आगे बढ़ गई है और तुम्हारा नाम पुराना पड़ गया है और खतरनाक बन गया है।

- अच्छा ठीक है, पर बी जे पी से क्या? राज तो अभी कौंग्रेस का है …

- कौंग्रेस के होते तो भी बच जाते। वो भी तो दोस्त पार्टी है। … तुम्हारे अकेले के साथ ही ऐसा नहीं हुआ है। दरअसल कॉरपोरेश बहादुर, जिनके राज में कभी सूरज अस्त नहीं होता, आजकल काफ़ी सख्ती बरत रही है। किसी भी तरह की बग़ावत को एकदम बर्दाश्त नहीं करेगी। तुमने सुना ही होगा, आजकल तो राष्ट्रपतियों को भी नहीं बख्शा जाता, एम पी की तो छोड़ो।

- तो दो घंटे क्या होगा?

- कुछ नहीं, आराम से बैठकर सज़ा की फ़ॉर्मेल्टी पूरी करो। यह सोच लेना किसी और को सज़ा दी जा रही है। हमारे साहब बहादुर को क्या तुम बेवकूफ़ समझते हो? ऐसे ही थोड़े ही ना कह दिया है। अब तुम एम पी हो और वर्ल्ड कप विजेता हो तो खबर तो बनेगी ही। यह खबर दूसरों के लिए सबक का काम करेगी। कोई बड़ी बात नहीं है। … और तुम्हारी पार्टी चाहे तो इसका भी चुनाव में इस्तेमाल कर सकती है … इसी आज़ाद नाम को लेकर … क्या समझे?

- पर इज़्ज़त भी तो कोई चीज़ होती है। एम पी की भी तो कुछ हैसियत होती है।

- अरे अब छोड़ो भी! अब नाम ऐसा है तो थोड़ा भुगतना तो पड़ेगा ही। ऐसा करना, वापस पहुँच कर प्रेस को एक बयान दे देना। मन हल्का हो जाएगा।

April 25, 2013

A Great Friend of Humanity: In Praise of a Mere Utensil

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 3:33 am

To be more precise, not just an utensil (though it can serve as that), but a device. No, not an I.E. Device, but a common cooking device.

One of the latest targets of the newest witch hunts is something called a pressure cooker. Photos of a destroyed pressure cooker have been all over the screens and papers of the world. They are almost presented as the photos of a monster.

The other day, that great conman of the 21st century who holds the title of the President of the US of A (not that most of the rest are any better), was giving another one of his precious speeches in which he said solemnly and seriously that the surviving accused –

Let us repeat it together: The surviving – accused. Accused.

Repeat the last part once more: Accused.

Or, alternatively: The suspect.

Or, another alternative: The alleged perpetrator.

Repeat the second last part: Alleged.

(This repetition excercise is courtesy another famous president, famous at least in my part of the world).

- So the great conman president was telling the world that any time bombs are used against innocent civilians (presumably for political purposes, though he didn’t say that), it is an act of terror. Two days later, I heard on the news that the accused has been charged with “using weapons of mass destruction”.

For a moment I actually thought that I was in South Park.

But South Park is a much saner place.

A brave journalist (citing the above statement) did, in fact, question the White House spokesman (shame! shame! what an office to hold!) about whether the US considers its bombing in Afghanistan carried out only a few days earlier, that killed 14 children and a woman, i.e., innocent civilians, (presumably for political purposes, thought she didn’t say so) an act of terror. The spokesman gave the kind of moronic reply that only spokesmen, PR guys and morons can give.

Fifteen is five times three. If you are allowed to say that two plus two is four.

Anyway, all that is not very relevant to the topic of this article. The theme, or rather the protagonist, of this article is the utensil, the cooking device called a pressure cooker. Animals can’t speak for themselves, but they can still express some feelings and reactions. A pressure cooker cannot even do that. It is not even a living being. It is not even an entity. It is a type that represents individual pressure cookers such as the one you have been seeing (in a mutilated condition) for the last so many days.

But the need of the hour is that we talk about a type as an entity. Sometimes that is necessary. For example, we talk about the common man. Almost everyone does. At least they do in India, where I am from, which is very relevant to the current theme. They do, even though there is no ‘the common man’, as many wise men keep pointing out. Still, it sometimes makes sense to pretend that there is. Similarly, we can talk about ‘the pressure cooker’, when we are actually talking about a type. And it is more justified in this case, because ‘the pressure cooker’ is much more like ‘a pressure cooker’ than ‘the common man’ is like ‘a common man’.

So, let’s get on with it.

Pressure Cooker for Dummies

What is a pressure cooker? It is a cooking device that is shaped like an utensil (it is an utensil, at least a part of it is an utensil). It is used to cook a wide variety of home cooked food (and even some non-home cooked). It is an utensil with a lid. The top of the utensil and the bottom of the lid are made in such a way that the lid can be screwed on to the utensil that holds the item to be cooked. The lid requires a washer (a ‘gasket’) to be inserted in it, before it can be screwed on to the utensil. The washer makes the pressure cooker air tight: It prevents the water vapour from escaping from the utensil. The part of the science behind the pressure cooker is based on the famous Gas Laws, which are primarily based on the (very aptly named) Boyl’s Law and the Charles’ Law. One of the basic ideas is that as the temperature of the item in the cooker increases, since the volume and the mass remain constant (as the water vapour cannot escape), the pressure goes up. High pressure means faster cooking. But that is not all. The other basic idea is that water boils at higher temperature at higher pressure. That means that, inside the pressure cooker, since the water boils at higher temperature, the cooking items can be heated up to a higher temperature, which also greatly helps cooking.

So what can happen if the pressure cooker is left unattended and the pressure goes too high? Not to worry. Every pressure cooker’s anatomy (and physiology) consists of another important part, that is, the safety valve. When the pressure reaches a carefully set limit for which it was designed, the safety valve lets some of the steam out, thereby avoiding the possibility of the cooker being blown up. Just like a circuit breaker prevents an electric device from catching fire.

Pressure Cooker for Grown Ups (Reader Discretion Strongly Advised)

Why is it important to defend, indeed, praise this device about which the current consensus seems to be that it is dangerous device? A weapon of mass destruction!

Take a fucking sanity check, you morons!

The pressure cooker is a great friend of humanity.

To digress just a little bit, not everyone has been calling to execute the pressure cooker. There have been many who have defended it. However, sadly, some of them have put it in the same category as guns. They are saying, they are in fact petitioning, that: “Don’t ban pressure cookers. Don’t ban guns.”

Now, in an ideal world, I would like not to have any guns or bombs or anything of the sort. But since we don’t live in an ideal world, I am prepared to discuss why guns should not be banned. Still, even in practice, in the present world, I personally favour gun control, based on common sense. But the point is that I am prepared to discuss whether they should be banned or not. I am unlikely to change my opinion though, for reasons on which we can’t spend the precious space here.

But putting guns and pressure cookers in the same category? No way! They have hardly anything in common.

I won’t talk about guns, but I will about the poor, much maligned pressure cooker that is such a boon to a large population of the world. And to the planet.

Here is why.

Because of the way it is designed and the science behind it, it is not only quite safe to use, but is actually a device that is beneficial to humanity in many different ways.

It is a great energy conservator. What would have required 10x of energy to cook, needs only 3x or may be just one 1x, depending on what you are cooking. Not exact numbers, but good indicators.

It is a great option for saving time. The same numbers apply as for energy, more or less.

Since it keeps everything inside it, it serves two other important purposes. First, less smell escapes, so that the neighbours will feel less envy. Or disgust, depending on the tastes and customs. Second, since less smell escapes, it is preserved in the cooked food. The food tastes and smells better. Now, some might not agree with the last part and there are indeed charms associated with, say, cooking on an old style wood-burning ‘choolha’, but such things are hardly practical in the cities.

It is also not very expensive. It costs less than a microwave. At least it does in the places where it is used the most.

And where is it used the most? That is a very pertinent and, dare I say, a burning question.

It is used in the poorest countries of the world. It is used, for example, in the whole of South Asia. So much so, that no South Asian kitchen (provided there is a kitchen and the kitchen owners can afford to buy it) is complete without a pressure cooker. If there is any one single item most commonly associated with cooking in modern South Asia, it is the cook’s best friend, the pressure cooker.

And I believe it is used in many other parts of the world. In countries of the South. The East. The Third World.

Plotting to deprive the Third World (and parts of the Second World) of the one common luxury that it has? It is criminal and diabolical, to say the least.

In the First World countries too, the pressure cooker might be one of the common denominators among the people whose origins lie in the the Third World.

There is always a need to find innovative ways to express as well as practice some time honoured traditions like racism and discrimination. An enemy has to be found. The enemy is mostly based on the race or some such criterion. But the enemy has to appear as race-neutral for reasons of political correctness. This time it is the poor pressure cooker.

Of course, as indicated above, there are vast numbers in the Third World who can’t even afford to buy a pressure cooker. But those who can, do. Because it is an essential item in the kitchen, often the first cooking utensil that is bought when a house starts becoming a home.

The pressure cooker saves money for people who earn relatively less (and even for those who earn a lot). It conserves energy, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas emission, the CO2 footprint. It saves time and thereby makes people more productive. It encourages better nutrition because those who are lazy can still quickly cook something if they have a pressure cooker at hand.

And to top it all, the pressure cooker’s existence is perhaps one of the few (or may be the only) redeeming features of that infernal activity called bauxite mining.

Take a look inside your girehbaans, you murdering scoundrels!

But pressure cooker can even be made from steel. And when it is, it not only deprives the bauxite industry of its redemption, it can be also be used with an induction heater. The pair together save even more energy.

The only negative side that I can think of is related to washing it. Washing it is somewhat more cumbersome than washing a microwave glass bowl.

I have been living alone for the last decade. I am known to be very negligent about food. So people, that is, family members, keep asking me about food. I have an elder brother. I have met him rarely in more than a decade, but whenever we meet, he advises me about using the pressure cooker to quickly cook something to ensure that the body gets at least the minimum that it needs. Before coming to France, and also when he once came to France after I came here, he stressed this point. He even advises me about how to use it in such a way that the neighbours (of the First World) are not scared by the (safety valve’s) whistle that the pressure lets out from time to time. (In India, we are all very much used to it). He does that, of course, because he is concerned about my nutrition and health. He is a highly qualified doctor by training. And a very good one. And he is telling from his experience, because he has travelled much more than me and has lived in even more places than me.

I haven’t followed his advise here. But that is at my own peril. The point is that I know the value of the pressure cooker. If I had it here, I would have eaten better.

So what about the dangers it is purported to pose to the community? Well, there can indeed be rare occasions when an old pressure cooker ‘blows up’. It did actually happen once when I was a teenager, almost in my sight. Fortunately, no one was injured. But that didn’t stop us from using it.

When I bought my first microwave some years ago, I once put something in it — a ‘paapad’ and what happened? It (the ‘paapad’) caught fire, which was easily put out as I was right in front of it at that time. But that didn’t stop me from using it. And everyone knows what can happen if you put a metal utensil in a microwave, something much more likely to happen in countries where the microwave is still a novelty.

Earlier it was the pagdi. Then it was the burka. Now they have got hold of the pressure cooker. They keep getting nastier and nastier.

While pagdi and burka were specific to certain communities (also from the Third World), the pressure cooker casts a much wider net. And, as detailed above, there is hardly anything rational to said against it. And a lot that can be said in favour of it.

Don’t let them get away with it.

A Very Boring and Unoriginal Excercise for the Reader

Who used the world’s first most famous weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians? The one and only time it was used?

Which countries used chemical weapons extensively against each other, so much so that they had to be banned?

Who possesses the most weapons in the world and sells most of them? Each infinitely more dangerous than a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker?

(The Writer is evading the question about who buys most of those dangerous weapons).

In the last one month, or one year, or one decade, or one century, how many have been killed by a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker, a cooking device?

And how many have been killed in the last month, just one month alone by US made and US delivered BOMBS (with some other former empires pitching in), which had nothing whatsoever to do with the pressure cooker?

Given the quality of what is shown on TVs these days, if someone were to make a bomb using one of them (out of mere frustration from watching them), should TVs be banned?

(If you say that they should be banned anyway, even if they are not used as a bomb, you have the writer’s sympathy).

Just a Few Questions for the Really Grown Ups

Can TVs and other such devices be used as weapons of mass destruction? Even without them being used as BOMBS or even as detonators? Are they already being used as such? If yes, should they be banned?

Who is using them?

April 23, 2013

It’s Back with a Vengeance

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 8:02 am

The horrible night (and evening) is back again. It’s back with a vengeance.

The same symptoms. Right according a scripts. Or a chemical.

You eat or (more usually) drink something and soon they are on you. All over you.

A vague pain starts in the stomach. The pain turns to a burning sensation.

The burning sensation, the inflammation spreads to the whole abdomen.

Pretty soon, your tongue seems to be on fire. It is not just the tip of the tongue, as in some other kind of problems.

Then it worsens. The whole upper body seems to be on fire. From the inside.

No other word can do it justice. Torture. That is the word, much as I try to avoid uttering (or writing) it.

(Any word used too much loses its meaning).

Anguish is also a good word, but perhaps not strong enough.

Some of the inflammation reaches the head. Fire seems to be running through your veins.

Everything else remains fine. You can think. You can even work, that is, if you manage to bear the pain and the burning.

Then there are the palpitations, of course. They add the terror that is hard to ignore.

The inflammation in the throat and on the tongue and the chest means that you feel as if you are choking, so eating (or sometimes even drinking) becomes difficult.

Apart from the pain and the inflammation, there is a real breathing problem. Which makes everything worse.

You can take a pain killer and an anti-inflammation pill, but it doesn’t help much.

Sometimes, the heartbeat goes wild too.

For the last few weeks, it had stopped. I don’t know why. In fact, I was feeling unusually well for the last two or three days. Today, it has started again.

As I am writing this, I am experiencing perhaps the worst of such cases so far.

I need to sleep, because I didn’t sleep much last night, or I should say this early morning.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a bank official. It is very important that I meet him tomorrow, but I am not sure if I will be able to make it.

I had met him some days ago. I have to meet him again because of a series of events that have taken place over the last few days.

Since I will be leaving France at the end of this month, I have to transfer my savings over the year to my Indian account.

It has turned into a nightmarish adventure that seems to have no end.

And I thought it was very easy to do. As a matter of fact, it is very easy. In theory. With internet banking.

The problem is that, to use the Internet banking for this purpose, I have to have my mobile phone number registered for something that is called a CERTICODE service. It is meant for better security.

The problems started because, after the initial period in France, when I got my proper mobile connection, I asked the bank to register the new number. It turned out that the number change was made only for certain kind of messages, not for this CERTICODE service.

I found this out only about a few weeks ago. I then started my rounds of the bank. At the counter, they told me that this can be done by calling their IVR (Interactive Voice Response) customer service number, not from the bank.

There was an Indian lady there, or someone of Indian or South Asian origin, who knew English (she did speak to me in English briefly and perfectly). But she pretended that she didn’t understand English and could only understand French. She talked to me mostly in French, which I could not understand. One of the other ladies there actually asked her why she was not speaking to me in English, but she evaded the question.

She did however (politely) made me meet the bank official assigned to me. He seemed annoyed at this meeting without an appointment, but he met me anyway. I explained the problem to him. He said, no problem. He checked my id card, as he is required to do. He opened the database and I could partially see the monitor. He said, yes, the CERTICODE number has not been changed. But he did not do anything in front of me. I was expecting that he would just type in the new number and save it. (He was expected to give me the receipt for the same too, as I understand, which he did not give). I noticed that he hadn’t changed anything, so I politely mentioned that this (the number still there on the screen) is my old number. He said, no problem, it is done. Since you have got it done with me, it is secure. I took him at his word, thinking that perhaps he was in hurry for something and he will change it later.

Several days gone by and the number did not change. In my Internet banking account, there was still the same old CERTICODE number.

Finally I went to the bank again. This time there was a person who did speak English. Initially he said it can’t be done. You have to call the customer care. He also said at first that the window (guichet) is closed, though others were being served. I stood there. Stood my gound, you could say. Then he asked me to wait at another counter. Finally he asked me for my bank card and he did change the number and give me a receipt. The number change takes 48 hours to become effective. That is one of the causes for the worry.

The same person had done a similar change many months ago, when I initially opted for the CERTICODE service, which is required for using the bank card as a credit card and for some other purposes such as money transfer.

I did call the customer care number, which I have problem using because — I understand spoken French very little. But, as if by a miracle, I got connected once to someone who spoke English well. I asked him about the number change. He said he can’t do it because he will need to check my id, which made sense. He said I will have to go to my bank to get it done. He said they told you that? I said yes. He said then I should change my bank. I don’t know what he meant by that.

When I mentioned to someone about the problems I was facing in getting my social security number and my health insurance, which I have given up on, I was told sarcastically that I should move to Britain. I have no idea what he meant by that.

Anyway, meanwhile, I was starting to wind up some things as I did not have much time left. I have one broadband connection and I had one mobile connection. Both from the same company. According to their guidelines, to close the accounts, you have to send a written letter to them by post.

For both connections, there are two options. One is that you want to terminate the connection immediately at the receipt of the letter of cancellation at their office. The other is that you opt for closing at the end of the month (for broadband) or at the end of the billing cycle (for the mobile connection: the date for me was 4th May, a safe date, as I would be leaving earlier).

For the broadband connection, there was a PDF file that I could generate and just fill in and enter my name etc. For the moblile connection, there was no such letter. So I just used the same format and language as the one for the broadband connection. In both cases, I (obviously) specifically opted for the end of the month option, not immediate termination.

Why on earth would I opt for immediate termination when I am leaving at the end of the month and urgently need both connections till the end of the month?

I sent the letter just before I went to the bank on the day when the English speaking person actually changed my CERTICODE number.

The number was changed to this same number which I was going to close at the end of the month.

And what happens? Several days go by (certainly more than 48 hours) and the CERTICODE number was still not changed. Then I wake up one day I find out that my mobile connection is not working. I receive an email soon that my connection has been terminated. That evening, I also find out (from Internet banking) that the CERTICODE number has been changed to the number that has been terminated.

The electronic change of phone number had not taken place even after several days, but the snail mail went at the speed of sound and the required action was taken immediately. To terminate the account.

I bought another number, a prepaid one. A more expensive option. I tried to recharge it with my French credit card (bank card), but it didn’t work because I can’t receive the ‘security’ code on my mobile and that is because the mobile number that it is sent to has been terminated. I try my Indian credit card, but the payment is not accepted for some unknown reason. I had used the same credit card sometime ago without any problem.

Finally, after some research, I manage to recharge with the bank card through the mobile itself with those hash based codes, an option that does not require the CERTICODE. I make two recharges. One for international calls and one for French calls. It turns out that I can call to India, but I can’t call to a French number because I have no credit in my account. The small amount of credit that the SIM card came with was wasted in trying to call the bank’s customer care. Now I try to make another recharge in the same way, one that will add some credit to the account, so that I can make calls within France.

But this time, the same card is not accepted. I tried for hours, but it refused to work.

The next day, with no other option, I went to a shop and asked for a recharge voucher. That problem, at least, was solved (I hope it remains solved), although at the shop I had to endure some derisive laughter, as if they knew what was going on with me.

So I went to the bank again. To get my new number registered for the CERTICODE service. The same English speaking person this time refused to change the number. He said the counter is closed, though again, others were being served. He, instead gave me an appointment (for several days later) with my bank official. That’s why I have to meet him tomorrow.

I hope it is understandable that, especially given the fact that soon I will be without a job, I am worried about not being able to transfer my savings to my Indian account. I will have to live on that for some time (at least).

But the fire is raging right now. And I am not sure I will be able to keep the appointment.

And it came back this time, once again, after a visit to Paris. And while coming back, guess who came and sat opposite me for most of the journey? In the very corner seat at the end of the coach? The girl who I believe was taking my video on that day a month or more ago on that steep slope. There is a possibility that I might be wrong about this. But in any case, I have come across that girl a few times before on my rare visits out. And as my station came and I was getting ready to get down, she had a mischievous smile on her face, looking out of the window.

I came to to the apartment and found that someone had come in, as an inner door that I had closed for sure, was open.

I drank some water. There was a slight smell that I have come to recognize and I knew what was coming.

And here it is. I am in pain, to put it simply. There is fire inside my body. I want to drink water. But I know as soon as I drink it, it will become worse.

I must say though that I am not sure that it is because of the water. It could be something else. Sometimes it seems to be related to something else. But whatever it is, it is worse than anything I have experienced in India, where I did experience similar things continuously.

And it is not an anxiety attack. I am a veteran of anxiety attacks and I know the symptoms inside-out. I don’t feel any anxiety in that (clinical) sense. I am not even agitated. There is no panic. The only anxiety that I feel is a perfectly rational anxiety about not being able to keep the appointment tomorrow.

All I feel is pure physical pain and fire raging inside the body.

I know that writing this here is certainly not going to help me. It might make things worse. They can always get worse. But I feel it necessary to write it.

That’s why I am doing it.

April 13, 2013

A Prediction of Anguish

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 8:58 am

Ever since the stranglehold of the Congress party was loosened over India, the Indian politics has had a succession of colourful leaders from parties which can’t even be put on a left-right spectrum or be identified with any other ideology, even nominally, though some of them sometimes make some ideological claims or wear some label. Purely for electoral purposes.

It would be foolish (and unwise) to dismiss these leaders and their parties as irrelevant to any serious political analysis, whether pedagogical or pragmatic or ideological or even historical. For these leaders, the leaders of the so called ‘regional’ parties (or other marginal parties) represent their constituencies in a more meaningful sense of the word than, say, Jawaharlal Nehru or any of his family ever represented the Indian population. They (members of the Nehru dynasty) got elected, of course, but why that happened (and keeps happening) is another long story.

Some of these leaders are more colourful than others. I have a kind of a personal Hall of Fame (or Infame, depending on your point of view) to which a small number of them belong. May be I will talk about them in more detail some time later, but I am going to mention one them now.

That one is Mamata Bannerjee. Maragaret Thatcher is still in the news as being the Iron Lady of Britain, but India had so many of them that we can only look with scorn at the US as it tries to elect its first woman President. It has already failed once.

And it is not just India which had women heads of state. Almost all South Asian countries did. Burma is on the track.

If it sounds great, let me spoil the party by pointing out that, of course, there is a catch here. Most of these women leaders were family members of a Great Man who was already in power, in one way or another. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and now Burma: the story is the same all over. Daughters and wives most often, but sometimes sisters or even mothers (at a little lower level than the head of the state).

What almost makes me proud is the fact that we even have the case of an unwed lover. At least one that I know of. Perhaps there are others. That makes me smile. With joy, not with sarcasm. Because that is something in Indian society. It is not a cakewalk.

Sorry, sorry, sorry! I just remembered another one. That makes my smile broader, because that case is even more to my liking.

Both of them are in my Hall of Fame. Or Infame, if you like. I prefer Fame, because I don’t see how they are any worse than any of the others.

But there are a few rare ones among these women leaders who got where they were (or are) on their own. As much as any man does.

One of them is Mamata Banerjee.

She is a worthy candidate for the label Iron Lady (in a somewhat different sense), in case you like such labels.

Who is she? She is the nemesis of the Establishment Left in India. At least in the only big state of India where the Establishment Left has a major presence. So major that it ruled that state for more than 20 years. Why it was able to rule that long is another interesting story, but the rule came to an end and the party that dislodged the Communist Party of India (Marxist), commonly known as CPI(M), was not a party that had any presence anywhere in India. It was a newly formed party called the Trinamool Congress. Trinamool literally means the one having origins in the leaves of grass. And for once, the literal meaning is not inaccurate, for the party is as much of a grassroots party as any party in India is, including all the Left parties.

And the reason her party is a grassroots party is because she herself is an untiring grassroots worker. She came up from below. She raised such a storm that the decaying castle of the CPI(M) ultimately collapsed. Neither of the two major parties of India (the Congress and the BJP) could take her place in Bengal after the fall of the (nominally) Leftist government.

I am not the right person to tell her story in detail, but I never cease to be amazed by the reaction to her from various sides.

You don’t like her? Don’t worry. I am not writing a eulogy.

Is she a saint? Is she a revolutionary? Is she a saviour? Of course not. There is hardly any space for such people in today’s India, if there ever was. She is as wily a politician as they come. Her rule today looks hardly any different from the rule of the Left Front. They seem to be twins, politically speaking. Except that she is not much of a Bhadra Lok person, a bourgeois. She can hold her own amongst what are (or should be) called the ‘people’. She is rough and crafty. She is an ambitious politician. There is much that can be said (justifiably) against her. But that doesn’t change the fact that she is a genuine grassroots leader, more than perhaps any other major leader in India today. You can see it as a positive point in her favour or as the living demonstration of the fact that just being a grassroots leader doesn’t make you the perfect leader, if anyone thought so.

And she is always in the news. The media loves covering her.

Oh, they don’t praise her. They don’t even like her. In fact, their feelings towards her sometimes border on hate. Neither does the Establishment (of which the media is a part). And it is not hard to understand why.

Once people (that is, individuals with roots in the leaves of grass) join the Establishment, they change, as any grassroots person knows. So has she, to an extent. But she has a strong personality. So the change in her is less noticeable. Whether that benefits the people she represents in any way or not is highly debatable.

One of the common elements among all the parties that have ruled West Bengal ever since Independence has been that they all had their goon squads. Proper goon squads. Goon squads on a large scale. Almost like storm troopers. And so, one of the common media stories in India (about West Bengal) is about the doings of these goon squads. They fight each other. Some times they join together and fight against the common enemy: the true revolutionary. They performed a great service to the nation in the 60s and 70s.

There is often violence. People get killed.

It happens even in the 21st century and the way that it happens, almost make me appreciate the value of open violence of the 20th century (and of the preceding centuries) as against the covert, ubiquitous, and perfectly normal and civilized-sanitized violence of the 21st century (there are exceptions, of course, such as these goon squads). There always was hope against this kind of old style violence, but there may be none against the kind that we have now and we will continue to have in the future, as far as I can see. We will only have more of this. The hopeless kind.

There have been some such incidents of the old style violence recently and the media has been covering them heavily. But now the media loves these fights even more among the goon squads of the Trinamool Party and of the CPI(M) — I am not an idiot, so I know that not all of them are mere goons — and it loves them because it (and the Establishment) wants both of them gone. Eradicated forever. One, the leftist party that was a kind of a grassroots party in the days gone by. The other, still a grassroots party, though with flexible ideology.

There is business to be done. There are deals to be made. West Bengal has to march in step with the India Shining, Inc. How can West Bengal be left behind even Bihar! Unthinkable!

Neither of the two fighting parties has a place in the Vision 2020, unless they die and are reborn in a 21st century avatar (perhaps that process has already started).

They are Relics Of The Past. They are the Hurdles In The Path To Development. The sooner they finish each other off, the better. If we can do anything to make if fast, we will.

And both of them are actively collaborating with the Establishment. These are days when people don’t worry about digging their own graves. They just look for the earliest Return On Investment. Even these two are not exceptions.

What about my grave? Well, I am already in it, sort of, as you probably know.

Another major news item recently has been an account given by Natwar Singh, the famous diplomat and later a politician of the Congress party. A real true-blue aristocrat by origin, which must have given him better access to the leaders around the world, as it did him to Margaret Thatcher. And not only him. As he tells in the story, which has amused the middle class Indians quite a lot, he had once introduced the (really) infamous Godman Chandraswamy to Maragaret Thatcher at the former’s request, which he points out, was highly unusual. You can read the story elsewhere, but the relevant part here is that the then young and relatively unknown Godman (except to those in high places) not only met the Iron Lady (also relatively unknown then), but so impressed her with his magical tricks that she agreed to meet him again and in the dress and the accessory that he asked her to. At that second meeting, she asked him whether she will become the Prime Minister and when. And he gave answers (according to Natwar Singh) which turned out to be very accurate. The story has an even more amusing ending, which I won’t spoil for you.

I, of course, don’t believe in such things (neither does Natwar Singh), but the story as told by him, if true in details, is quite eery, to say the least.

Now Chandraswamy belonged to another class of colourful characters in India who are often as powerful (sometime more) as the top level political leaders of the country. His devotees (or clients) included Prime Ministers of India, as was the case with many other Godmen, equally infamous. Or Famous, if you like. I don’t.

This is not quite a digression.

One of the recent news items about Mamata Banerjee was about her being taken ill in Delhi. One of the items says that “I am leaving, Delhi is not safe: Mamata Banerjee”. Another one says that “Mamata Banerjee admitted to Belle Vue”:

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was admitted to Belle Vue Clinic with complaints of body pain, breathing trouble and palpitation after returning from Delhi on Wednesday.

The chief minister was driven straight to the clinic from the airport and was admitted at 4:30 pm. Clinic sources said she was being examined by a medical team led by Subrata Moitra.

Sources said her blood pressure level dipped to 90/65 against the normal range of 120/80.

So what’s this all about?

I know a thing or two about this.

If a charlatan like Chandraswamy can hog the limelight for making a prediction, well, I am in the prediction business too. I write programs that literally ‘predict’ things (on scientific basis too!). Things of much less significance, but nevertheless predict they do. And they are more likely to be useful for the ‘people’. And in a much more humble way.

So here goes. I am going to make a prediction too. But this one is not about Machine Translation. It is about bigger things.

The Establishment has tried to portray dissent as a kind of disease, with the help of a certain kind of ‘scientists’. It has succeeded in those attempts to a large extent. However, dissent still remains. As in the pesky presence of those like yours truly. And, in the eyes of the Establishment, equally pesky presence of the two fighting parties I mentioned earlier.

The Establishment in the 21st century has less patience than it did earlier. It is in a hurry. If it is not enough to portray dissent as a disease, what about literally making it one?

So my prediction is that, in the coming years, more and more of those who qualify for this disease will have symptoms somewhat (or exactly) like those mentioned above.

Sudden attacks of breathing problems. Palpitations. A high level of discomfort in the abdominal region. Inability to sleep due to the level of discomfort. Inability to work. Inability to dissent. And, who knows? probably even worse.

This won’t be the abstract and profound nausea of ‘nothingness’ of the dissenter of the 20th century. It will be very concrete and mundane.

For some, it might become a routine. The essence of their material existence.

All very sanitized. Any blame for unsanitoriness, if any, would lie on the patient.

Before you launch an attack on me for this gloomy prediction, let me say that I have no super powers. I just got ‘lucky’ in being able to make this prediction. And no one could hope more for this to be proved wrong.

But I am almost certain it will be proved right. Even if the Establishment has to cut a part of its Left Arm.

Unless you can do something about it.

Can you, now?

April 4, 2013

Have I Become a Celebrity or What?

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 5:57 am

There was a news item in Indian newspapers that mentioned an incident in the Indian parliament. An M.P., who has been a major actress (quite a good one, among my favourites) in Hindi films, and is also the wife of perhaps the biggest Bollywood star ever. It was reported that as she was walking down the aisle or something, another M.P. brought out a camera and took photographs of her. This led to a major incident where she protested and went even further, saying something along the lines that that person will have to pay for this.

I can understand her feelings, though I was surprised at the intensity of her reaction. For she is both a long time celebrity as well as a public figure, not to mention a high level entrepreneur. One would think that being just one of these will make people used to their photos being taken.

After the Delhi gang rape case, there has been a talk of tougher laws and they are in the pipeline. Rough justice meanwhile has already been meted out to one of the accused.

One of the suggestions for tougher laws, I gather, includes stalking.

I can understand some of the suggestions, but stalking? Now that’s something I am extremely familiar with. Because I have been living with it for the last more than a decade. Continuous, relentless stalking.

I thought it had actually been made legal and was considered very patriotic behaviour, and also something that is the height of civic responsibility. The way civilized and cultured people deal with people like yours truly.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? borrowing words from one of my innumerable stalkers. Are they all going to be put in jail?

I don’t want that.

And when did I become a celebrity?

The first time after writing the last article that I went out to the office, I was walking from the train station to the office building, which is around 2 km (not an exact figure, I have not checked on Google Map). Part of it involves climbing a hill, because the office is on the hill.

And one part of it, on the route that I usually take these days, is a very steep climb. As I was nearing the end of that steep slope, the end being a T point where the road with the steep slope meets (and ends into) another road with a less steep slope, I saw a girl with a camera.

She was taking a video. At first I thought she may be like me, someone who likes to photograph landscapes, and was photographing the road. But the camera was pointed right at me. She must have got the complete footage of my climb. Even as I neared her, she didn’t stop. Finally, only when I started looking sternly at her, she lowered the camera. The place is usually deserted, that is, you rarely come across anyone else, accept perhaps at the usual office timings (coming and going). So, again, no one else was there. As I kept staring at her, she flustered and started walking down the slope. I passed her, then I looked back. She had stopped a few steps away on the sidewalk and was making sure that she had got the footage.

I was born in 1968. It was only in 2005 that I traveled abroad. It was only then that I traveled in a plane. It was only then that I actually saw the inside of an airport. It was only then that my passport was used for the first time.

Somehow, which is a long story, in the years 2010-2011 I had to travel in local flights in India quite frequently, Frequent here being a very relative term. Frequent for a person who had first been on a plane only in 2005. Still, there were quite a few.

Several times out of these, as I would walk into the plane, one or two men sitting somewhere in the front rows (first or second) would almost stand up with a camera in hand and brazenly take a video of me. Not once, not twice. Several times. If you want an exact number, go read a book on statistics. Or watch a football or cricket match.

I looked at them, I stopped (after having experienced this the first time and not having reacted), I glared at them, but they would go on. Only after they had sufficient footage, they would stop.

Similar things happened at airports. At one airport, as I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the security check to start, there was a middle aged couple sitting right opposite to me, at a perfect distance for taking a photo or a video. It was only after some time (some time after sitting down) that I noticed something odd. The man, who was sitting directly opposite to me, had a high end mobile phone. He was holding it in a very odd fashion. But it was not at all odd for what he was doing. He had the camera of the phone directly pointed at me, which required an unnatural way of holding the phone. I say unnatural, because, unlike those men in the planes, he was pretending that he was not doing what he was doing, thought he knew that I knew what he was doing. I took some more time to make sure that he was indeed taking a video of me and then I started glaring at him. I tried my toughest glare, I did my utmost, but the man was shameless. At least 3-4 minutes (possibly more, it seemed like much more, a very long time) must have passed before he actually stopped. He brought the phone near him and pushed the button to stop the recording. He didn’t do this very discretely. All this time, his wife was looking on as if nothing unusual was happening.

But it did not start with my flying (in the) planes, which I knew can be dangerous, thanks to the great man Chomsky.

It started, or at least I first noticed it with my own eyes when I was doing my PhD. As I came out of my hostel room to go the lab, an undergraduate student, standing with his friends and girlfriends. took out the mobile phone and started taking my video. I remember this happening at least twice there.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I ask, borrowing words from one of my newest stalkers.

I wish I could believe that the girl found me attractive. That there was love at first sight. That she didn’t want to forget this moment and was therefore recording it for — what do they call it? I forgot the word.

If, by any chance, that is the truth, could she contact me? I would be happy to explore the possibility of starting a relationship. I am desperate for something like that to happen.

But those men certainly not were attracted to me. Or were they? May be they were? Who knows?

I had a short career as an unpaid amateur photographer. Short, partly because it was only in 2005 that I could afford to buy my own camera.

I am sorry. There is a correction. In 2005, I started with a borrowed digital camera that had 16MB memory. It was only one or two years later that I could afford to buy my own.

I mostly took photos of landscapes. Urban and rural and everything else. Not of people. Because of a simple reason.

I would not like someone in the street to stop and take my photo without permission. So, I thought, others may not like that either. And I am certainly not the kind of person who could walk up to people and ask whether they would mind being photographed. I can barely ask a shopkeeper to sell me the thing that I need most urgently right now.

I did violate this principle a few time. Mostly because certain kinds of landscapes always have people. In any case, I didn’t take any close ups or took any photos where my focus was on people.

I wish I were the person who could go up to them and ask them. For keeping people out of photography is losing more than half the battle even before you have started. But I am not, so I don’t photograph people as far as I can.

These people are not like me. They are working for a higher cause. They don’t bother with trivia and externalities like the Golden Rule. They don’t have to take my permission. Either for stalking, or for taking photographs or videos. They just do it. They have a duty to their society. To the world. To the Humanity.

I am sorry again. They are concerned about such trivia. Numerous kinds of trivia. Truckloads of trivia. Trainloads of trivia. But all that does not apply to the case of your truly.

But what do they need my photographs or videos for? Have I become a celebrity?

If so, then where are my photos in newspapers and on television? Why has no one contacted me for an interview?

A public figure?

Okay, so why has no one taken the political comments I have been making seriously?

A high level entrepreneur?

Oh well, then where is my billion dollar bailout? Where are the juicy contracts?

A public enemy?

Send me some of the folk songs composed in my honour. Are there any bounty hunters?

Most wanted?

But I thought I was not wanted at all.

I don’t see any posters on the walls with my picture on them.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I wonder at this not so new mystery.

May be it is to have better briefings in the future.

I hope I will not be treated like a ‘chutiya’ the next time.

Or are we just making a movie here?

Then where is my fat paycheck? Am I insured? Who is my agent? When is the premiere scheduled? Am I invited?

Who is the fuck is the director?

And who is looking after the music? I am particularly interested in the use of music in movies.

April 1, 2013

DM21C: The Briefing, Or With O’Brien in Alice’s Wonderland

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 3:45 am

I had been doing some work that could be considered as being at the boundaries of what is commonly understood by ‘activism’, by which I mean that the emphasis is on the morpheme ‘act’ and that the act is implied to be physical, such as taking part in a street protest or ‘organizing’ or ‘mobilizing’ or doing any of the things that many environmental activists do, like handcuffing themselves to something that is symbolically associated with the corporations that are doing their best to destroy the planet’s ecology.

I have had little such participation in ‘physical’ protests.

That statement is grossly unfair to me. I will have to rephrase it. I have had little part in such ‘physical’ (aka ‘real’) protest of the conventional kind, which gets some publicity. Whatever physical protest I took part in, was usually a lonely act with no sympathetic onlookers to notice it and record it. Perhaps I should record them myself.

But not now.

Although I may have had little participation in such protests, I had still been doing something or the other, both at the local and the day-to-day life level and on larger forums. Most of it consisted of some form of writing (or compiling, which I consider to be a very important kind of activity).

The great Epics of human civilizations are, after all, compilations by more than one person, in many (or most) cases by a large number of people.

For example, I had started the Hindi version of ZNet. I selected articles, translated them, I put them together in the form of a website. I got this Hindi version online on ZNet (with the help of those at ZNet). At that time I could not afford to host a website on my own. Later on, as soon as I could, I did that.

It was an utter failure. At least in the conventional sense. For I had hoped that once I start this, many others (or at least a few others) would join me. Not a single person did. Neither in the early stage when it was hosted on ZNet and consisted only of translations of articles already there, not later on. So later on, when I was busy with trying to complete my PhD (along with doing various other things) and was not able to translate many articles, I resorted to a form of appropriation. I tried to find all the progressive, dissident voices on the Internet who were writing in Hindi — they were usually on their own blogs, not commercial content in most cases — and I posted those pieces or articles or reports on the Hindi version (which I called Sah-Sanchar). All the expenses were paid from my meager earnings and all the work was done solely by me. I refrained from including my own articles so as not to be accused of self-promotion. Part of the reasoning behind this (appropriation) was the ephemeral nature of such content. A blog (or a website) is there today, gone tomorrow. So is the content on it. I thought if I collect some of it and put it on Sah-Sanchar, it would be read more (indeed it was) and it would be less likely to be lost. In other words, if I couldn’t succeed in building a lively website with novel content, I could at least run an archive, or a ‘blog aggregator’ (as someone called it, because there actually was a blog aggregating section on this website, quite apart from the hand-collected content I am talking about).

Meanwhile, I was also writing on my own blogs.

There is a joke among Hindi (literary and activist) writers that in Hindi there are more writers than readers. The the commercial world has no place for this kind of writing. A certain corporate friendly version of it is now getting a piece of the pie, but in general, if you write Hindi literature or if you write in Hindi and (in your writing or otherwise) damn the capitalistic system, you have to do it in your own unpaid time. You might, in fact, have to pay dearly for doing that. ‘Pay’ being a metaphor here. How much you would have to pay will depend on how much of a threat you are considered to be by the Establishment. Most are not considered much of a threat and can go along nicely, doing it as a kind of hobby. Others have to risk a lot. In objective terms, it is not very clear what the Establishment might see as more of a threat.

Not all these writers are good, obviously, and not all of them are sincere. Many are just bad hacks and many are in a social circle where doing this is cool, so they do it. That is, as long as they are in that circle. Still, there are many who are good as well as sincere, even if some of them have some shortcomings. Who doesn’t?

Oh, so you are not satisfied with the (lack of) figures. You don’t like ‘many’ and ‘some’ because they are not specific numbers? Alright then, how about 2345 for the first case, 3533 for the second case and 1678 for the third case? Does that make you feel better?

The conditions are such that these writers (remember that, in many senses, I am like them, in fact, I am one of them) are desperate to get published somewhere. (Although, in my case, I have never really tried to get published, with an exception or two).

That is partly the reason why there were (perhaps still are, though I am a bit out of touch for some time now) a large number of Hindi literary magazines, most of them with very progressive, anti-right-wing, anti-capitalism agendas. They have no commercial success. Even the most successful one among them barely manage to survive.

I could go on about this, but the point I making here is that there are a large number of such ‘progressive’ (with and without quotes) and even revolutionary writers who would like to get published somewhere. Almost anywhere. Without expecting a remuneration. Many of them do translation too.

However, as I said, not a single person came forward to contribute to the Hindi version of ZNet. Neither as a translator nor as a writer. I had even created a form based submission system for those who wanted to submit articles or translations. The site, however, is still read a lot, at least by the standards of readership of Hindi articles by dissidents.

It was only after reconciling to the fact that no one was going to join me, that I started taking articles from elsewhere and posting them on Sah-Sanchar (with attribution, with the writer’s and the source’s name intact and with a link to the original). Then I started getting some pieces sent to me by email. They were not works of art or scholarship, but they started out as worth posting on the website, and I used them. The persons who sent them to me seemed to send them with the implicit request that they be published on the website. They did not, however, explicitly say so. I went along with that, as there didn’t seem anything wrong with it. Till I realized that I was actually being steered in a certain direction, a softer tone, a diluted and Establishment-friendly form of dissidence. Then I decided to stop, though I have not taken a vow about this.

The site still stands. I pay for it. There is no question of a donation based website. If I can’t even get contributions to be published from Hindi writers who are desperate to get published, what is the chance of getting donations to run the website (or anything else for that matter)? There was no way I could even consider the idea. I am referring to it so that some comparisons can be made.

Let me make it crystal clear that I am not against donations based dissident organizations.

By the way, like many others, I have come to the conclusion that my most avid readers are the ones who hate me and what I do the most. They keep an eye on my every move, so to speak. I had once written several posts about Narendra Modi and in one of them I mentioned a story written by him and linked to it. Sometime later, a supporter of him commented on the blog (politely) to correct the link, as it had changed. You can be sure I was not praising the Indian Mussolini.

The Leftists (definitely in India), with all their talk about organizing and mobilizing, have all but lost touch with most of the population, whereas those from the Right (especially from the Far Right) are overactive. It is no coincidence that with all my desire to participate in meaningful protest, no Leftist ever approached me to work with some leftist organization. The closest I came to it was long ago when I wrote an article (about a rally by the Fascists) for the magazine of a well known progressive NGO. That was perhaps my only article that has been ‘published’ in the usual sense.

On the other hand, those from the Right and the Far Right have gone out of their way to approach me and win me over to their cause, or at least to persuade me to look sympathetically at their cause. Some have even worked with me for considerable time (professionally, not politically). I was not always able to identify them as being so, because they often came spouting left wing rhetoric and quoting Chomsky, briefed as they were about me, Again, going out of their way to do that. My interactions with those from the Right and the Far Right have been like: With O’Brien in Alice’s Wonderland.

Anyway, those days it so happened that I came across many articles that lamented the fact that not many people are actually participating in activities (preferably ‘physical’, conventional acts of protest, as I mentioned earlier). They are, for example, spending their time ‘preening on their Facebook pages’. I wasn’t active on the Facebook, but, who knows!, what I was doing might be considered preening by some. So I thought, if no one would join me, what if I try to join the others? And participate and contribute in that way.

While reading articles on ZNet, I came across one that mentioned one Indian (dissident) website and praised it for the good work it was doing. As I know of few such websites which publish not just articles or pieces by people who consider themselves (literary) writers, like yours truly, but actually do some field work and publish the results of that work. Even if that work is just a study (involving specific entities and specific numbers).

So I went to this website. I read some of the things they had published. I did not find anything that could upset the Indian Establishment. It mostly had articles (not very good ones at that) which were kind of mild criticism of some of the things that are going on. Which is not to say that such things are not worth doing, but just to give you an idea of the kind of content they had. Still, being somewhat desperate to be able to actually contribute something that the real activists would consider worthwhile, I thought it would be better than nothing. And my contribution would be contributions. If it helps at all, that’s not bad.

I must admit that they do have specific figures and data on their website.

I found a contact form on this website. I filled it up. It asked about the kind of contributions I was interested in making etc. Since, being almost a hermit in the cities, I could not think of any conventional physical kind of contribution I could make, I said that I can contribute to writing, editing and similar activities. I mentioned some of my experience in this regard. After a long delay, I received a response. It was a fine response. It mentioned various ways in which I could contribute. It said, since I was in R&D, my skills could be helpful for them. It was a longish mail from the editors and it looked promising. It even said that “we are always on the lookout for people like you”.

So I replied, saying I could contribute by writing articles, especially on topics related to science and technology and that I could do some editing too.

I then received an email saying that they had one person, a ‘public health activist’ ‘working with an organisation in policy research field’, in the city I was working in at that time. Would I like to work with him?

I was not sure about the public health part (as I wasn’t sure how well I could contribute in that area). The ‘policy research’ part also bothered me. But I wrote back saying I can get in touch with him and asked them how to contact him. I was prepared to learn.

More than a month and a half later, I received another mail, saying that it would be great if I could get in touch with a person (who was an ‘assistant’ of the ‘public health activist’). The mail ended like this:

“Mr X has been briefed about your profile and after meeting him you may also like to further strengthen the collaboration with his group Y.”

I had not written much about my profile on their contact form.

This mail had the alarm bells ringing for me. For the tone of the mail was quite different the earlier ones, or so it seemed to me. I didn’t like the word ‘briefed’ and the couldn’t help noticing that the name of the group (the said Y) sounded suspicious for an activist who I had approached after reading a recommendation on the website of one of the most radical leftist dissident media organizations. It was a name that in India would be associated with the Right, especially if it was the name of an organization. It was Hindu religious word that a genuinely progressive organisation is very unlikely to use.

I had almost lost interest in it by then. Nothing happened for a long time. I almost forgot about it.

But one day, as I was working on my laptop and there was some technical problem that I was trying to solve, I got the call. From the ‘activist’. Not his assistant, who I was supposed to contact, but the group leader himself.

He had a Bengali name. So I was expecting a person with a Bengali accent or someone speaking English. He talked mostly in Hindi, though he said one or two sentences in English, as most educated Indians do, even those who are not from the English medium.

And what Hindi! He spoke like a rough policeman or a rougher wheeler-dealer from near the birth place of Hindi, that is, like a rough-talking Delhi-wala.

He started by asking me whether I was who I was supposed to be (that is, my name) and then he introduced himself. He said that I had approached that organization (which was recommended on the ZNet: note however, that ZNet has a fairly liberal policy about allowing articles to be posted there, so it is not as if ZNet itself had recommended it). I said, yes, I had written to them about contributing to writing and editing etc.

This had barely transpired, when suddenly, almost in the middle of a sentence, he seemed to turn his head to someone else (for the sound changed: you know, the Doppler Effect), presumably to his assistant, and said emphatically, “yeh to chutiya hai”. He said, “he is a chutiya”, meaning me.

Now, ‘chutiya’ is an interesting word in Hindi (and in many Indian languages). Literally, it means ‘the one with a vagina’. But as with all curse words, it is rarely used in the literal sense. It is, however, used in an almost literal sense to refer to those who some now respectfully call ‘homies’ (I noticed this usage in an online comment somewhere, perhaps on YouTube and in response to a film video by or about Pasolini). Like all curse words, it is used much more metaphorically than literally.

The most common metaphorical meaning of this ubiquitous Indian word is roughly the same as a ‘village idiot’. Although, it must be noted, even in this sense, i.e., if you are an idiot who can be easily taken advantage of, you virtually become as good (or as bad) as that most marginal of human beings in conservatives societies like India, namely a ‘homie’. The self-boasting torturer of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri man hanged recently for his ‘role’ in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, used this word for Afzal Guru in this very sense.

But it can also mean many other things.

There is little doubt that he was making this comment about yours truly and it was addressed to whoever was sitting near him at that time. He almost confirmed it later, as you will see.

This was just the start of one of the most bizarre conversations I have had in years. And I had some very bizarre ones over that last two decades.

Since I don’t have a recording (may be someone has) and it is difficult to convey in English exactly what he said (he used very colloquial, slangish Hindi, where the tone and the prosody are extremely important), I try to convey the essence of what passed during this conversation.

But it was basically just a monologue. He did not ask me anything. He did not suggest that I do anything. He did not say anything that could make any sense. It was a conversation whose sole purpose (if it had any purpose at all) seemed to be to warn me against ever trying something similar in future. That is, to try to get involved in such activities.

He weighed (very heavily) upon two main themes. One was about Bill Gates and Microsoft. Don’t ask me what was the relation to public health.

All of what he said was either in the tone with which he said “yeh to chutiya hai”, or (most of it) in an exaggerated faux-conspiratorial tone. He whispered (quite loudly) that Bill Gates was behind everything that was going wrong. He said Bill Gates, through his software, his Microsoft products, was introducing things into people’s computers and was doing horrible things. He went on in this vein for some time.

The second theme was kind of related to public health. He said that the pharmaceutical industry is the most devilish in the world. That it would not stop at any dark deed. That it was indulging in the most horrible acts. He said he had been fighting this industry for a long time. But then he said he had a personal fight against it. “Very personal”, he said, in an even more faux-conspiratorial tone. He said he doesn’t talk about this to anybody. It is his completely personal fight. He said he had been ‘like a vegetable’ for some years. He said (or at least implied) it was not part of his public activities, including his (public health) activism. The way in which he said this to me, I couldn’t help thinking that he had indeed been ‘briefed’ about me, for there are many who considered me (or still do) to be in a vegetable like state. Specifically, there was a time when those looking at me (but not very familiar with me) would have thought me to be in a vegetable like state. They did and they expressed their feelings right in front of me. And there was some truth in it, sort of.

Now, I am no fan of Bill Gates or Microsoft or the pharma industry. After all, a large part of the IT-nerd world refers to Microsoft as the ‘Dark Side’. And the less said the better about the pharma industry. But he was not talking like an activist about them. (What an understatement!).

I don’t think it is necessary to point out that he was talking to me as if he was talking to a ‘chutiya’, a village idiot. Or an idiot in the older sense (often used in world literature), which meant someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

During this monologue, he also said how Bill Gates was flooding the media with lies (and only Bill Gates for some reason) and how you could not believe anything in the mainstream media. By this time I had a pretty good idea what I had got into. So I just hoped to end the call without having to say much. I just said, a bit irritatedly (but still trying to be polite) that, yes, I know, that I read the dissident media (that is, I don’t rely solely on the mainstream media) and that I am aware of such things.

When he had done enough of this ‘chutiya’-repellent talk, directly addressed to a ‘chutiya’ who was aspiring to be an activist, he finally ended by saying this. He said, thank you, Mr. Singh, for giving time to me. He then said that he was sorry that he had underestimated me.

Let me repeat it. He said at the end that he was sorry to have underestimated me. And I couldn’t think of anything to say except that, no, it’s alright. Perhaps I am what he was calling me.

But it was not the first time someone said this to me. Just the context this time was highly unusual, to say the least.

I never heard from him again, or from his assistant, or from that organisation which was recommended on a ZNet article. An article that may not be endorsed by the ZNet team (who I have great respect for, even if I disagree with them about some things), but it was featured on the front page of ZNet. It was not a very good article in any sense. I just relied on it because it was on ZNet front page.

I have many of my articles on ZNet (on my ZSpace page, posted by myself). None of my articles, as far as I know, has ever made to the front page. If it smacks of resentment, so be it, but I can’t see how many of the articles that appear on ZNet front page are better than what I write. Perhaps I don’t have the credentials.

But ZNet is still among the best (if not ‘the’ best). To the best of my knowledge. The majority of articles which appear on the front page are among the best you could find anywhere.

There are numerous other dissident media websites (and organizations) where the Establishment proxies are peddling their ware and getting away with it without a blemish. Some of them (the proxies) lead respectable lives as progressives, and may be even as revolutionaries.

Many of them (the dissident organizations) are playing the role of the court dissident. I could easily name some, but what good would it do, unless backed up with an exhaustive data based study, something that I am not in a position to do right now? The irony (or the tragedy) is that they are prospering (even in the material sense), while ZNet is struggling to survive.

So am I.

As I post this article on the blog, I find that it is now past midnight and the April Fool’s Day has started.

Is this a cosmic sign that he was right after all?

March 27, 2013

DM21C: Watch Your Back(pack)

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 2:34 pm

I have lived in many cities and towns and regions, but I spent most of my initial life, till I graduated from an engineering college, in a state of India that is known as the ‘Desert State’. As I had to point out before to a lot of people in various parts of India, that appellation is not quite accurate, for the said state, Rajasthan, is now the largest state of India in terms of area (it used to be the second largest before Chhattisgarh was carved out Madhya Pradesh), and it has a very varied geography and climate. It has places where it rains so much and which have so much greenery, that you might get fed up with both. It has places on the northern border which are almost like those in Punjab, because they are on the border of Punjab. There are places which border Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and they resemble places in those states, i.e., they are not part of a desert. It even boasts of a famous hill station and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, even though these ‘mountains’ are more like hills or hillocks, so much so that when people from the Uttarakhand (from the Himalayan region) see them, they mockingly refer to them by using a colloquial term used for a part of the female anatomy. Still, a considerable area of Rajasthan is part of the Thar desert, which includes areas in the bordering Pakistan. Moreover, the desert is said to be spreading, not just now, but for a very long time, in a process that may be a part of the climate change going around the world.

Though I spent the initial (long) part of my life in that state, I have lived in various places all over the state. After that I lived in some other cities, but all these cities had a climate that lacked one thing which is rare in a tropical country: It does not snow in any of these cities. Although, again, India has an even more varied geography and there are the Himalayas in the north and lots of places in India where it does snow a lot, I had never before seen snow in real life. I had seen it only on the screen or in photographs. Even when I visited Kashmir sometime ago (for the first time), I avoided visiting any places (such as those where you can see snow) as a matter of principle, given the historical (and other) contexts in which I went there.

A couple of months ago, it snowed for several days in several parts of Europe, including in France and in the part of France where I currently live and work. It was not the first time this season, so I had already seen it snowing at least once. But on this day a couple of months ago, when I went out for work, it was white everywhere. Everything was covered in snow. Now, I might be half dead (as many have said to my face, some going even further) and I might be in a state where it is difficult to take pleasure in anything, but I couldn’t resist the charm of that sight. Not completely, at least.

I walked up to the train station, looking at the cars and houses covered with snow, the sidewalks covered with thick snow, so that you had to walk on it, and even the trees covered with snow. A sight to behold for a person from the Desert State and from a tropical country. I looked at it in a way a country boy looks at skyscrapers when he first comes to a big city. Though I tried to make it more like a world-weary person looking at charms he has little time for.

I took the train and walked up to the bus stand to get the bus to the work place. The bus took a long time in coming, and I (and the others there) waited for it. I stood in the place where I usually stand, that is, next to the bus shelter, not inside it.

The bus came and I boarded it. All through the ride, there was person in front of me, who kept glaring at me, almost unblinkingly. I tried to avoid noticing, but I couldn’t because he really was persistent. I don’t think he even once shifted the gaze from me. But it was glare, not a gaze. It was not ogling either.

It turned out that the bus was not going all the way to the place where I (and others working there) normally get down. Instead, it was going in a different direction. It was the right bus, but there was some work going on the road leading up to my bus stop, so the bus took a different route. I had received a mail about this, but I forgot it, and anyway I was still under the spell of the snow.

Since the bus was taking a different route than usual, the driver announced it (in French). I couldn’t understand all of what he said as I am still struggling with French, especially spoken French. And I had forgotten about the route change. But since many others got down, I understood I had to get down too (these things happen in India also, you know). However, I understood a bit too late, so that I did not get down at the place which was near to my office and from where I knew the way. I got down at the next stop, which was around one and a half kilometer further down the road and in the wrong direction for me. Now I had to walk to the office from there and I had to find my way.

There was another person who got down with me. A colleague, sort of. As I was walking this way and that, trying to figure out which way to go, as there was no one around to ask, he came up to me and asked in English whether I knew the way, because he didn’t either. The place where we had got down, being an open space, was covered even more with the snow. I couldn’t resist taking some photos with my small mobile phone camera, although I have almost completely stopped taking photos for the last several years. Why is that so is another story. Story not in the fictional sense, but in a journalistic sense, just like this story that I am narrating now.

So the two of us walked this way and that, trying to find our way to the office. We even asked one person who came along, but he couldn’t help us, partly I think because neither of us spoke much French and he didn’t speak any English (or our respective mother tongues, which are not English or French).

Finally, we found the way and I reached the office. I carries a backpack with me to the work, like always. The backpack is for the laptop. And an umbrella. I put down the backpack and it was only then that I noticed that I was made a spectacle of all the way from the bus to the office. For my backpack was all open. Its zippers (if that is how they are called, in Hindi we call them ‘chain’) were open from end to end. If you are familiar with this kind of backpack, you might recall than the ‘chains’ of these backpacks run from the lower end one the one side to the lower end on the other side. The lower end is almost at the bottom. Thus, if the chain is open from end to end, all the entrails of the backpack hang out. And it was not just the chain of main container that was open from end to end, even the other large pocket, in which I keep the umbrella, was also open from end to end. That means, all the entrails of my backpack, the major container as well as the minor container, were hanging out for all the world to see. The only reason why the laptop did not fall out was because it was kept in a slot within the open container that such backpacks have for laptops.

Now I do sometimes forget to ‘close’ the chains while picking it up and going somewhere, but I am very well aware of that and so I try to make sure that I don’t. This was not something that had happened to me for the first time. It happened several times in India, but there I thought it was a prank by the students. When I noticed it the first time (in India), I thought I might have forgotten it, so the next time I made sure that I had closed it. And on such occasions when I had made sure that I had closed the chains, I still found after going from one place to another that they were open. But all these times, they were open only a little at the top and only one container, minor or major. Open enough to take out the laptop, no more. That is how I open the backpack too: just enough to be able to take out the laptop. I never open it from end to end. Why would I? Except on special occasions, but then the thing is so visible right in front of you that you can’t forget closing it back.

There is no way I could have opened it (both containers) from end to end and forgotten to close it, especially when I know that I sometimes do forget it. But when I do forget, as I said, it is only one container and only enough to take out the laptop. That is why it is not so visible and that I why I forget in the first place.

Who could have done that? Looking back at the sequence of events, I am pretty sure who did it. At the bus stop, a person came and stood right next to me, between me and the bus shelter, which was unusual in itself as there was little space there. Then he moved behind me, between me and the wall. I wondered at that time why he had moved behind me, but I did not look back. This is a posh area, a completely gentrified area, where no riff-raff is usually to be seen. It used to be a banlieue, if I am not mistaken, but it is not that now. All those who wait there are usually sophisticated people, most of them researchers or academicians, as this is an area with a number of academic institutions and research centres. That is. higher level academic institutions. The person who moved behind me looked no different from any researcher. In fact, he looked better. It was at that time, during the wait for the bus that he mush have done it.

And, looking back, I am almost sure that the person who glared at me during the whole of the ride was this same person. Reconsidering, although he looked sophisticated and no different from a researcher, he also could be seen as a tough looking man. It was as if he was looking at his handiwork and passing on a message to the object of that handiwork.

But this is not the part that jolted me most. The opening of the backpack by some tough but sophisticated looking person. May be he just wanted to have some fun.

What I can’t get out of my mind is the fact that when I got into the bus, all the entrails of my backpack were hanging out, visible for anyone to see, so much so that it would be difficult to resist looking at it. And if you have some kindness or decency in you, you might point out to the person that his backpack is all open. Everyone there must have understood that the backpack had a laptop in it. But no one, not a single person even glanced at me or the backpack, let alone telling me about it. It was as if they didn’t see it at all. If it was involuntary on their part, it was something way beyond my overlooking to close my backpack. And if if was voluntary, it was a remarkable achievement of a sadistic kind.

Then there was the person who got down from the bus with me and who searched for and walked all the way to the office with me. The colleague, sort of. Since we were stopping at various places and waiting for each other, as one of us did some exploration, he was several times directly behind me, so there is no way he could have avoided seeing it. I, meanwhile, stopped at several places to take photos of the snow. Not once did this person even hinted with his eyes or otherwise that there was something unusual on my back. Let alone telling me that I should put my backpack right.

For it was raining.

It was raining and the rain was getting into the backpack. Had we taken longer to find the way and reach our offices (he works in the same place but in different building), water would have reached inside the laptop. And my laptop is my most precious possession here, as anyone can guess who even knows me slightly. When I put down the bag and took out the laptop to check, there was indeed some water on it, but fortunately it was still working.

I may have a number of shortcomings as human being, but I know for sure that if I saw something like this happen to someone else (whether deliberately done by someone or happened accidentally) and I walked with that person trying to find the way to the workplace where both of us worked (while we even had some friendly chat), even if I hated that person, I would let him know that not only was the backpack open all the way on all sides, the laptop could be damaged, so he should close it (if he wanted to, and why wouldn’t he?).

I have not overlooked another possibility. That it was this person who did what was done to the backpack, and not that person on the bus stand. If that is true, unlikely as it is, it would be even worse.

I have a feeling, pardon me for saying so and for banging on this theme so much on this blog, if it had been the 20th century, this kind of thing would not have happened. May be I am wrong and it would have happened even in that century. But I also have the feeling that in the 21st century, this kind thing would be a norm, not an aberration.

And it would be so in any country you might go to, if you happen to be in a situation that I am in. Or perhaps even otherwise. Perhaps just because you are not ‘one of us’.

You would be told, and told in a perverted way, to watch your back. And your backpack.

And to give you a treatment to cure you of the audacity to admire and be attracted to ‘our (developed) snow’ and appropriate ‘our (civilized and cultured) heritage’. Especially if you also have the audacity to question what is happening in the world, including the ‘developed’ world.

This, and all such things I have described here (on this blog) are literally true. They are, I would say, borrowing the words from Kenneth Chamberlain, ‘my sworn testimony’, as I wait for worse things to happen.

But wait. This is not the end of the story.

It was on that day that I found out that my one year contract was not going to be renewed. That did not upset me very much, because I was prepared for this.

What happened further on that day is that I went from the office directly to a supermarket to buy the groceries that I had run out of. I don’t eat outside (almost ever) and I rarely go anywhere. I go to a supermarket, because it is the place where I can get most things I need in the least possible time so that I can get back to my room as soon as possible, so as to avoid unpleasant experiences. That is how it has been for the last several years. I go to the supermarket around once or twice a month, bring a large bagful of groceries, and manage with that throughout the month.

As I got all that I needed and reached the counter, two men came behind me. They were, again, tough looking men. One of them, by the way, looked similar to the man at the bus stop. They were not actually there to buy anything. One of them just picked up some little thing to make it appear that he was there to buy something (I have seen this drama before) and got directly behind me at the counter.

And then he said loudly, very clearly, and with a long pause after each word, so that I simply could not *not understand* what he was saying. He said that loudly for everyone to hear, but addressing no one in particular, and he said it mockingly (and dare I say sadistically?).

He said:

“Je.”
“Travaille.”
“Demain.”
“Comme.”
“Toujours”

Then he repeated at least twice, in the same loud and clear voice, even more mockingly, full of hate:

“Je.”
“Travaille.”

“Je.”
“Travaille.”

I work. That’s what he said. I work. Tomorrow. Like always.

“I work”. That was a phrase I had used earlier in the day. “Like always” was also a phrase I had used.

And believe it or not, although I had every intention of going to work the next day, and I was not much upset (as these things keep happening and I have learnt to live with them as much as possible), I had such a horrible night that I could not sleep and I was in no shape to go to work the next day. It was as if a chemical had entered my body that did not agree at all with me.

This too has happened before (and after), but on that day it was particularly bad. I know my health problems, to the extent they are present (I don’t have any major disease, as far as I know: never had), I am familiar with all the symptoms, but this thing is unlike any of the usual things. And for some strange reason, it usually happens on the weekends. It starts on Friday evening and is the worst on Saturday and subsides by Sunday evening. It had stopped happening for some months, but it reappeared after (whether there is any relation between the two or not) I went out to see one of the Paris sights on a Saturday a few weeks ago. If it sounds crazy, I can’t help it, because I am just narrating the literal truth with as little interpretation from my side as possible.

But that particular day was not a weekend day. It was not even Friday.

As I said, this is my sworn testimony. Just a small part of it.

***

Today, i.e., the next day after writing the above, I woke up to find this mail in my official mailbox, addressed to all in the mailing list:

ADIEU

Selon les dernières volontés du testateur, il n’y aura ni fleurs ni couronnes.
Un registre est mis à la disposition des personnes qui désirent laisser leur témoignage.

Donc, dorénavant :

After that, there is a list of people’s names and their tasks, as in movie credits. It doesn’t say anything else.

***

One day after, that is 29-03-13, I had to go for giving a presentation for a possible job at a city near Paris. I prepared the presentation and saved three different versions of it yesterday. I made them on Linux, saved them on the Windows partition, opened Windows and checked that they were there and I could open them. I have to do this because my notebook does not work with projectors when in Linux. I have to use Windows if I have to give a presentation using a projector.

As I was closing down my system, the display configuration window automatically (where you select the monitor/projector in my version of Linux) opened. I didn’t give it much thought.

I should have. Because today morning, as I was preparing to leave the presentation, I started Windows and tried to go through the presentation as I had some time. But I found that all the three versions were gone.

I tried a data recovery tool to try to recover them, but even that tool won’t show them. Since I had to leave, I gave up and started redoing the presentation. I thought I would complete it on the train ride, as I already knew well enough what was in it.

I went to the train station. I had the e-ticket confirmation, which has a file number. With that file number, you have retrieve your ticket from the kiosk at the station. I entered the file number, and the machine accepted that. Then it asked for my name. I entered my name, but it said the name is unknown. I tried various combinations of my names, but none of them worked. At the counter, there was no one there to ask. So I had no option but to return.

I had applied to more than a dozen places and this was the only place from where I got a (non-negative) reply.

I come back to my apartment and send a mail about this to the concerned person that I will not be able to come for this reason. Then I open switch to another window, the one that lists files and folder (Nautilus). And, magically, all those three versions of the presentation are back! Right where they were.

***

A few hour later, on the same day (29-03-2013), as I take backup of my laptop (which actually a small notebook), I have almost completed the process. I come to the place where I  had saved those presentations, and they are gone again.

Along with that, the complete folder in which I download and keep Democracy Now! videos everyday is also gone.

On closer inspection (using some Linux commands for checking disk space), it seems almost certain that they are not actually gone. that is the data is still on the disk. However, it is not visible or accessible, like deleted. The other folders and files (at least most of them) are still present. In the same partition, even in the same folder.

I go back and check if they have magically come back again. They haven’t. Not so far.

March 26, 2013

The Sadness of the Singh Song

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 5:44 am

Pardon me for the corny title, but I was not in the mood to write today. I am just waiting for something on my laptop to finish and I cannot start the next thing that I have to do before that thing finishes. The corny title is the product of half-heartedness and laziness. Let’s hope the rest of this article (I am trying to build self-esteem by not calling it a ‘piece’) will not be of the same nature.

Yesterday someone sent me a link to a Wikipedia talk page where a ‘silly’ discussion was going on as to whether Bhagat Singh (about whom the concerned article was) should be referred to throughout as Bhagat Singh or should he only initially be called Bhagat Singh and from then on as only Singh.

Bhagat Singh, of course, is one of the best known names in India, indeed the in entire Indian sub-continent, that is, in South Asia (barring, perhaps, Afghanistan). If there is one person who rivals Gandhi in popularity and in stature in the history of Indian independence movement, even in the whole of 5000 years of Indian history perhaps, that person is Bhagat Singh. He was socialist revolutionary, and a freedom fighter. More the former than the latter, which is something that many (especially on the Right) are not willing to accept.

A lot could be written about Bhagat Singh and a lot has been written. But this articles is not about Bhagat Singh, but about just Singh. About any Humble Common Singh. Or Proud Uncommon Singh.

Singh, in Sanskrit and in Sanskritized Hindi (and in many other Sanskritized Indian languages) means lion. The rulers and the feudal classes of northern India, who considered themselves great warriors (though for nearly a thousand years they were ruled either by those who were foreign invaders, or were descendants of those invaders, or else they accepted the suzerainty of those invaders) started calling themselves Singhs, that is, lions. In today’s India, of course, few have such delusion of grandeur (they have different delusions now), but there are still some who think along those lines. In today’s India, Singh hardly means anything. It is just a name.

But it still has a significance. Although it is not a caste name, that is, the name of a specific caste, it still denotes membership of a broader caste. The caste system in India does not consist of just four castes, the four ‘Varnas’. (If any Yoga-peddling Indian ever tries to convince you that it does, check your wallet.) It is a phenomenally complicated system with a criss-crossing hierarchy that even those Indians who still practice it are barely familiar with. Most practicing casteists have seen only a tiny part of the blood splattered giant caste mural that spreads across the ‘four corners’ of the South Asian sub-continent.

And it is significant not just for South Asia, by the way. What do you think Norodom Sihanouk owes his name to? What is the origin of the name Singapur? None other than Singh.

The significance, moreover, is not just about the caste name alone. There is a whole system of traditions and customs and taboos and rules and regulations that is associated not only with each caste, but with their relationships with one another.

Just to give one example, I was once attending a class on socio-linguistics. The teacher was an expert on socio-linguistics. She said during one lecture that under the Indian caste system you are supposed to marry a person of your own caste. Now that is roughly true, but there are complications. In the caste that she belonged to, it is certainly true, with the prohibition that you cannot marry any relative and any one who has the same ‘gotra’ as you. ‘Gotra’ is another complicated concept with various interpretations, but let’s not go there. In my caste, however, I pointed out to her, a very important prohibition is that you are not allowed to marry within your sub-caste. That is, if you are a Rajput, and your sub-caste is S, then you have to marry someone from a Rajput family (subject to the above proscriptions), but you simply cannot marry someone who is from the same sub-caste. You can marry a C Rajput or a B Rajput or a T Rajput, but not an S Rajput, because that would be considered incest. This is further complicated by the fact that there is no common agreement about which is the caste and which is a sub-caste, because it is not a a two level hierarchy. Now, she was not aware of this and she found it hard to believe. But we then had another argument after some time. I mentioned that in Indian villages, even the language is different for different castes. At least it is different for upper and lower castes. Those from the ‘lower’ castes are not allowed to speak the language of the ‘upper’ castes, but the vice-versa is allowed. There may be places where this does not happen, but there are many where it does. She was not aware of this either and at this point she thought I was just being obnoxious and was peacocking. She did not exactly say that (I have borrowed that P-term from the Wikipedia talk page) but those were the feelings she expressed effectively.

Not that I am an expert in the caste system. I was brought up in a nuclear family where the caste system was not present so much. I was fortunate to be able to free myself from the caste prejudices at quite an early age. The point is that even those you would consider knowledgeable about the caste system in India know very little about its complexities. And she was not aware probably because she came from a somewhat elite background, where there is comparatively less direct encounter with the caste system.

Coming back to the theme of the article, my name has three parts. The last part, the third part, is Singh. The last name of the person who sent me the link is also Singh. The last name of the current Indian Prime Minister is Singh. The last name of the prime accused in the recent Delhi gang rape case (who hanged himself or was murdered in jail) was Singh. The name of the rape victim who died also had Singh in it. I am sure that many among the protesters against the rape, as among the prisoners in the prison, had names ending in Singh. All my family members and relatives have Singh in their names.

The gist of this Singh song is that there must be a few hundred million people in India, definitely more than one hundred million, who have Singh in their names.

How is that so? This is how. The last (tenth) Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh decreed, in the days when the star of the Mughal Empire in Delhi was waning and the star of the long oppressed Sikhs was starting to rise, that all male Sikhs must henceforth call themselves Singhs. That they should have Singh as their last name. And so all Sikhs added Singh to their names. But Singh is not usually their last name. The last names is usually the caste name. Singh is generally the second last name. Sikhism, in theory, has no place for the caste system, but that’s how things turned out. That is the power of the caste system in India.

Then there are the Rajputs (literally, sons of the royalty). They are not called Rajputs everywhere. For example, in Rajasthan (former Rajputana) they proudly call themselves Rajputs, but in Uttar Pradesh (where they are found in the largest number) they call themselves Thakurs. ‘Rajput’ in Uttar Pradesh is the name of a lower caste, so no Thakur would call himself Rajput. That is the fun of the caste system.

All Rajputs/Thakurs have Singh as their last, or more commonly, second last name. Some upwardly mobile, convent educated Rajputs/Thakurs have now started to drop Singh from their names, but they still keep the last name, i.e., the caste name, which still identifies them as Rajputs/Thakurs, with a little risk involved. For example, if you are name Mr. X Singh Y, and you start calling yourself Mr. X Y, then even though Y is the highest sub-caste among the Thakurs, there are lower caste people who call themselves Mr. X Y. But the risk is not much if you have already moved up the ladder, because the context will vindicate your pedigree. Fun continued.

All male Sikhs are Singhs. And all Rajputs/Thakurs of both sexes are Singhs. (There are a handful of exceptions, of course.) The latter are much larger in number. But these two are not the only Singhs.

During all of Indian history, one major mechanism for social upward mobility has been to climb up the caste ladder, because that was pretty much the only way it could be done, unlike now, though caste is still very important even now, albeit in a less overt way. Thus, it was common for families, and sometimes whole communities or villages or localities to have deals with those in power to give them recognition as members of a slightly higher caste. In fact, that is how most Rajputs became Rajputs. There is a theory that says that there were people who originally came from various places, say, from Turkey or Persia, who got themselves accepted as Rajputs because they were at that time in a position to bargain for such a deal of social mobility and acceptance. This may not be a complete explanation, but I think there is quite a bit of truth in it.

So much for the supposedly racial basis of the caste system. But the racial basis is there in a very different sense, if you know what I mean.

Leaving aside the racial basis, what I am driving at is the trend, still very much present, a sad (as well as amusing) trend, of people of ‘lower castes’ adding Singh (or some other marker of an ‘upper’ caste) to their names, much to the annoyance of the Rajputs/Thakurs. That is why it is a common practice to get the caste verified (unofficially, because official India, in theory, bans caste-based discrimination), before a marriage, by members of the extended family, of the prospective bride or the groom.

Just to set the record straight, the Rajputs/Thakurs were calling themselves Singhs long before the decree by the last Sikh Guru. He was, in a way, saying that we are as much of warriors, if not more than, as the Rajputs. The Sikhs then were the people resisting the Mughal Empire, whereas the Rajputs (most of them) were collaborating with it. The Sikhs later resisted the British Empire too, till they were subdued and started total collaboration with the British. Till Bhagat Singh and party came along.

There is a lighter aspect of the Singh song too. People often have fun at my expense because of my last name, which, as I said, is Singh. I leave it as for the reader to guess why and how. These are gentler people. And this happens more in South India, or East India or outside India. Not in North India, because about, may be, 20% of the North Indian population is (last) named Singh.

There are less gentler people who have fun at my expense with my first name. This fun is of a nastier sort. Because nasty people like nasty fun.

It is better to finish with gentler people. I was once attending a major international conference in a South Indian city (as if the name is a secret and as if I am a great researcher) and there was a cultural program in the evening. There were performances by folk (or psuedo-folk) artists from different parts of India. A South Indian student from my institute (which was organizing the workshop) was introducing them. One of the performances was by artists from Punjab, who were, naturally (there is a story there) Sikhs. This student, a good natured person, kept referring to them as ‘Singhs’ and made some good natured joking remarks about them as ‘Singhs’. I later approached him and tried to tell him, for the sake of accuracy, that not all ‘Singhs’ are Sikhs. That a large section of the population of several North Indian states is made up of ‘Singhs’.

You see, people may have fun with my name, but they have much more fun with the Sikhs in general. Sikh jokes in India are endemic. But Sikh jokes, which, by the way, you might hear from the Sikhs themselves, do not refer to them as ‘Singhs’. They refer to them by the term which is used to refer to any Sikh all over India, especially North India. That term is ‘sardar’. The word literally means ‘the leader’ or ‘the chief’, and it is still used in that sense, but as soon as you are going to tell a joke and you say, “There was a sardar…”, you have got the makings of a successful joke. A sardar joke is the safest joke in India. In South Asia, I should say. It will never fail. The word itself has become a joke, but usually a good natured joke, because the others are a bit scared of the Sikhs too.

And yet, one of other prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement, Vallabhbhai Patel, the person who is credited with having unified the hundreds of principalities with the Indian nation after the independence, was given the honorific ‘Sardar’. And the man who now claims to be his successor, the man who oversaw a pogrom on a massive scale, a man who is a proud Fascist of the worst sort, has been given the honorific ‘Chhota Sardar’ (the Junior Sardar). That is a tragedy not directly related to the caste system.

I guess when I informed that student about the difference between ‘Singhs’ (there is really no such thing as ‘Singhs’) and Sikhs, I was secretly worried about being considered a ‘sardar’. Many people there did, in fact, think that. No one wants others to have perpetual fun at their expense. I don’t think even the Sikhs do. They just can’t stop it, so, to keep their dignity and to not seem like spoilsports, they join in. But if you remember, there was resentment against it during the days of the separatist movement during the 80s. The resentment must have been there all along. It just came out then.

And among the ‘Singhs’, the Sikhs, there are the ‘lower’ castes. The Majabi Sikhs, as opposed to the Jat Sikhs. These long oppressed Sikhs are now coming out with their own resentment against the caste system. Being made fun of is bad, but being oppressed and persecuted (by the people of their own religion) is worse. That is the sadness of the caste system.

To put it very mildly. Almost offensively mildly. Almost obnoxiously mildly.

March 25, 2013

The Mysterious Video

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 5:14 am

These days I sometimes see old, publicly available films on YouTube. I also sometimes see other videos, mostly about films and politics and sundry other topics.

I see a large variety of videos. I don’t stick to one kind. And I don’t go by channels or in any other organized way, just as in the case of books.

When you open YouTube, it shows you some videos, based on whatever criterion. And, when you have seen one video, it shows you some other suggestions. Everybody knows that, of course, I am just prefacing things. What I have observed for the last few months is that there is one particular video that keeps appearing as the top suggestion. Whatever video I have just seen, whenever I am trying to see one, suddenly this one video is in front of me. Time and again.

There are zillions of videos out there. And, to make a confession, I have seen this one once. I remember it as a silly video, as silly as they come. I don’t even remember what was in it.

Now, I like looking at beautiful female bodies as much as the next person, and, on the other hand, I am as much against objectification of female body as anyone else, but this is really getting on my nerves.

the-mysterious-video

Why the hell would one particular silly video (let me see how many views it has got – wait a second – oh boy! it has only 212 views!), why the hell would it come up as the top suggestion in front of me again and again. I have seen many videos before, including such silly ones. Some I have seen more than once.

And it comes with different headings. This time, as you can see, it comes as the top entry when I search for ‘Accatone full movie’. It has come with this same heading. It comes as the top entry no matter what I am watching or what I am searching for.

Note the fact that there are only 212 views. But these views are only for this particular avatar of the video, i.e., as ‘Accatone full movie’.

There are other weird things that I have observed, but this one, by its sheer frequency and relentlessness, has compelled me to write about it.

One weird thing for example, was that when I started YouTube today, I got a screen saying “Let us get you started”. The screen would not let you proceed. On my small notebook, the button to be pressed was not visible at all. I zoomed out. I zoomed out three times or more. Finally I saw a small ‘Next’ button. Since I just wanted to get past the screen, I pressed the button, and hey! presto! (as they say) I was subscribed to not one, not two, but fifteen channels. Never in my life have I been subscribed to two YouTube channels, let alone fifteen.

And what came with these fifteen channels? All I could see in in the thumbnails were female bodies in, as they say again, in various degrees of undress (is that how they say it?) and various degrees of entanglement.

Now, as I said, I like looking at beautiful female bodies as much as the next person (it is worth repeating). However, in my condition (knowing that I am on the show, among other things), such an eventuality (what happened to my vocabulary?) reminds me of the testimony of that released (innocent) prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay prison, now working as a journalist for Al Jazeera, who detailed the way he was tortured.

Weird things, of course, happen to me offline too. Even more so.

Whenever I go out, like most people here, I take the local train. So the train stations are among the places where these weird things happen. As I had written once before, usually no one sits next to me (on the station benches, that is). When someone does, it has usually turned out be an experience of the nature I am talking about. Namely, weird.

About more than two months ago, while coming back from the office in the evening, there were not many people at the station. Since the train was to come more than ten minutes after I reached the station, I decided to wait in that covered place with chairs or benches where people wait (vocabulary!). When I went inside it, there was no one there. It had two gates. I was sitting on the middle chair. The two gates were on either side of me. All the other chairs were empty as there was no one else there. Then came two women. One was a middle aged one. She came from the left door. The other was young. And she was very good looking and what you would call – well, I chicken out – she had a very attractive figure. She came from the door on the right. Since weird things have happened before, I did not even properly glance at her, let alone ogle. I just had an impression from the side of my eyes. Something that you can’t avoid as long as your eyes are fully open.

What happened? Well, the middle aged woman sat down right next to me on my left, almost touching me. And the young one came and sat right next to me on my right. Almost touching me. But not quite.

As I said, all the chairs were empty. Usually, as long as there are enough empty chairs, people (leaving aside myself) take seats in such a way as to leave one empty between the next person sitting there, if you know what I am talking about. I mean, if there are ten seats and only one person is sitting there and two new persons come, it is very unlikely that they will both sit right next to the person already sitting. And much more unlikely if that person is me.

Perhaps there is a theorem about it in mathematics or computer science. I know that there are about some similar things.

Now the older woman not just sat there. She had a crooked smile on her face. And with that smile, she looked hard (and long, and pointedly) at me. And she looked across me to the other girl. Both were very respectable women from respectable families, so don’t get the wrong idea. It would be fair to say that she was looking at me with mocking, almost sadistic smile. The young one, meanwhile brought out a mobile phone. She stretched her legs. She performed some exaggerated gestures with phone and she made a call. She was talking in French. Not many sentences were exchanged. I could hear and understand the last part which was said a bit more loudly. Loud enough for me to hear and clear enough for me to understand. The person at the other end apparently asked some question.

She replied with two short sentences, which marked the end of the conversation. She said, “Ce mourir. D’accord?”. She said it, again, in a mocking and almost sadistically sweet voice. She said it in an artificially sweet voice, the kind fit for villainy in cinema. Then she hung up the phone and made some more gestures with the phone.

I have experienced variations on this theme on various other occasions and in various other places.

That video reminded me of this too.

I am going to watch it again to see if I can get some clue.

***

Well, I can’t watch it. Because it is not actually there, although it is everywhere. Could you help me find it so that I can watch it? It seems to be connected to my fate (not in the Gita sense).

the-mysterious-video-2

***

Did I say it seems to be connected to my fate? Well, it is uploaded (in all these disappeared avatars that come in front of me) by someone nicknamed EuraButz, whose country is mentioned as India. And this person created this account on 1st May 2012, the day my work contract here started. And if I remember correctly, I had watched it around that time, though I still can’t remember what was in it.

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