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Finally!

After hordes of actors, big and small, endorsing skin lightening products, here’s some hope. Ranbir apparently turned down a lucrative offer to endorse a fairness product. The reason reported is “Ranbir knows that there may be many who would end up blindly following what he does. He does not want to misguide anyone by saying that fairness creams ‘improve your skin”. While it may be delusions of grandeur on his part to assume that people would blindly follow what he says, his stand is admirable to say the least.

As far as white skin is concerned, it would be an understatement to say we Indians are obsessed. The lighter the better is the motto. Anywhere you see, hoardings, matrimonial ads, advertisements on the television, tv serials, soaps, news anchors, white stares back at you. White skin, white white white blah!

There is not one magazine cover out today that does not lighten the skin of the cover model, and no one escapes the white out. Why even a dusky Kajol who used to be proud of her color and her unibrow has started endorsing one of them whitening products, and was majorly whitewashed for the advertisement. That was when I lost all hope for Indian advertisers. They know white sells, and will go to any lengths to keep it so. Hence it is heartening to know that even though it is but one drop in the ocean, there is hope for other colors.

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The other day my Facebook status read

The CWG opening ceremony was good and all and I am thrilled. BUT are we forgetting the crores of rupees Kalmadi and Co have swindled out of taxpayers?

It seems like everyone is rejoicing over Facebook, Twitter, news media and elsewhere about how Kalmadi and India have had their revenge and how we cocked a nose at the world. But pray tell me, have you forgotten the bloated budget? So you get a piece of candy and you forget that the person who gave you the candy actually stole money from you in the first place?

News media, which was going berserk over the money being wasted and over how bad the status of the Games Village was is now singing Kalmadi’s praises. One went so far as to say that Kalmadi had the last laugh? I agree. The very fact that no one will now ask him to be accountable for all the money spent means that Kalmadi has had the last laugh! How come our media is so aaya ram gaya ram? Whenever there is a story breaking out, everyone jumps on it. As soon as it becomes even a little lukewarm, even though the issue hasn’t been addressed yet, they jump to the next big story. Which in this case happens to be the opening ceremony.

How come we have such short attention spans? Collectively, it seems like we all suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. We make noise, and rightfully so, about taxpayer money being misused, and they swing a balloon over our heads and we start jumping with delight? Really, who needs a billion dollar hot air balloon when they could have cut down on the budget by that much amount? And how many people are going to remember that? All this Indian pride and chest thumping seems like a bunch of hot air from the said balloon. I might sound like a traitor, and criticize me all you want, but I am going to keep making a noise and reminding people in my social circle about the initial budget of $364.5 million vs the actual $2.6 billion. Enough said!

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…but potty is potty for the both of us right? Does that make sense? Why does then, Lalit Bhanot, the secretary-general of the Delhi organizing committee for the CWG “rejected the poor sanitations conditions complaint terming it as different standards about cleanliness in India and west due to cultural differences”?

There are dogs defecating on the beds at the games village. Does Mr. Bhanot sleep on beds with excreta on them? Probably his dog routinely relieves itself on his bed, obviously, then, sanitary for him is very different from sanitary for you and me.

Oh and yes, there are cultural differences. The whole world is their urinal for most Indian men, in other countries, men actually hold it in, wait till they get to a rest room, like NORMAL human beings, and NOT relieve themselves like cattle, like our men do! (No offense to all you good men who do not indulge in his act!)

This whole CWG issue is making me so mad! Indians pay taxes through their nose, and the government gives us this shame to explain to the whole world? And then there are people who dare to tell us that we should not complain about our own country on social media because the whole world is reading all this! Oh and good man, did you ever pause to think that the BBC website is running front page stories about the CWG situation almost every day? It is like the cat who thinks closing its eyes and drinking the milk means that no one is watching her!

No, really, SOMEONE HAS TO explain why the situation in the Games Village is so bad, why bridges and buildings are collapsing every day, and why the work has not been done yet, while the games are scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks!

Professional event organizers and people with experience of organizing such large-scale events should have been in charge of CWG, not some babus like the utterly useless and spineless animal called Suresh Kalmadi. Seriously, every time I hear what he has to say, I want to rip is head off his body and throw it into the rubble of that collapsed pedestrian bridge. Oh and Bhanot, his head belongs on that bed which he thinks is sanitary! How much shame are these people going to cause our country? I am not ashamed of my country, I am ashamed of these sorry excuses for human beings who say they are ‘optimistic’ about the success of the games. STOP being optimistic, move you behind and GET THE WORK DONE!

PS: I hope Mr. Bhanot has seen this: surely his house is not like this!

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This morning on National Public Radio, there was a segment on Indian Railway exams.

India has an exam for virtually every government job — no matter how small. The Railway Exams, given to aspiring guards, ticket collectors and drivers, ask a surprising variety of questions — difficult questions. Competition for jobs on the railway is extreme — by one account there are 20,000 applicants for one ticket collector job.

You can listen to the entire story here. NPR Indian Railways exam story

This was a letter from their correspondent in India, Philip Reeves who has been exploring the life of the people who work on India’s railways and the journey they must take to get there. I thought he had a very interesting take on the system of employment to Railway jobs. For those of you who cannot listen, here is the transcript:

This is India’s most magical hour. It is just before dawn. Soon the multitude who live in the city will begin churning out noise and dust and heat. Now though it is hush, but for the birds singing the morning chorus, and the trains singing theirs(train horn sounds in the distance). Those horns are coming from a railway station mile and a half from out home. Every morning I lie in bed trying to visualize the journeys those trains are about to make through the plains, deserts and mountains of India, pausing at countless obscure and shabby towns.

India is knitted together by its railways. The network was originally built by the British, India was part of their empire. It is colossal. If you dug up all the rail track in India and laid it along the equator, you could ride around the world one and a half times. That track carries 20 million people around the country every day plus a mountain of goods and produce. To keep this batted system running requires 1 million 600 thousand people. That is more than the number of people on active duty in the US military. Getting a job on India’s railways is much harder than you think. The other day I met some young Indians trying to become ticket collectors. They first have to pass what are known as the railway exams. So they’ve gone back to school. They come here everyday to a stark and grubby classroom in a private tuition center tucked in a back-alley in New Delhi. The students scribble away in their dog-eared notebook. The teacher poses one of those brain teasers dreaded by everyone except math geeks. (Audio in hindi) That question is about the meeting point of two trains traveling in difference directions at different speeds. There are hundreds of these tuition centers in every big Indian city full of people studying all day, every day. In India the railway exams differ according to the job you are applying for. An aspiring station master will face much harder questions than say a goods guard and will have to take a psychological test and be a graduate. Deepak Pandey, one of the students here says the ticket collectors exam is no cakewalk, ‘It is a very tough exam, tough competition’, ‘And how many people do you think will also be competing with you for this job’, ‘approximately 20,000’, ‘for one job? Do you believe you will get the job?’, ‘I think so’, ‘You have to be an optimist’. That number may be an exaggeration but rail union officials confirm that often thousands compete for one job. India’s railways are state-run. There is huge competition for government posts because of the job security and the perks. The exams are set by railway recruitment boards around India and there’s intense security to make sure there is no cheating. The boards have websites where you can find sample exam questions. Right now I am logging on to a railway recruitment board based in Kerala in South India and there is a trial exam here and there are some questions here on Indian history and culture and language and so on. But how about these general knowledge questions? Whats the deepest place on earth? Whats the capital of Turkey? And who won the Australian Women’s singles tennis title in 2002? Now you can also buy books in India that contain sample papers for the railway exams. I have got one here. This is for a ticket collector’s job, question 67, whats laughing gas made of?

These days before dawn as I lie in bed listening to the trains setting off I think about where they are going and also about who is taking them there. Indians with their heads packed with more general knowledge than some of the world’s presidents and prime ministers. Indians who actually know that laughing gas is made from nitrous oxide.

Did you know that bit about riding along the equator one and a half times with our railway tracks? That made me so proud! Most of the points here about how tough the competition is well known. Also is well known our obsession with knowledge about the world, but isn’t it interesting that a ticket collector in India probably has more general knowledge than a high-ranked government official in the US?

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No reservation please.

What do you guys think about the Women’s reservation bill?

I am opposed to the idea of reservation for women. ANYWHERE. And why? One, I think this bill will only enable more men to install women puppets in parliament in the form of their wives, sisters or mothers. Far from being a tool to increase the numbers of strong women in legislature, it will only increase the numbers of powerful men. Men already in the parliament will have the women in their family contest, and god forbid, win, only to fill up the 33% numbers in the house. As if we need more such ‘leaders’!

Two, I for one don’t believe that truly deserving strong women are ever held back because they are women, in any field. So this push to increase their numbers will in no way affect the women who are really motivated to be leaders. And let us get real here. A strong candidate, male or female, faces the same problems getting noticed in public life. Eliminating these problems for women is very unfair to the men. Let me give you a real life example of how reservation affects men adversely. I am from Andhra Pradesh, where there is 33% reservation for women in higher education. In my batch of 50 in engineering there were 17 girls and the rest boys. We all had to write the EAMCET exam to get through into engineering colleges. The girls’ ranks ranged from 183-756 and the boys’ 72-300 something in the open quota(that is excluding students with other reservations). This does not sound that bad, but the last rank of the boy was half of that of the girls. Since both girls and boys are at similar intelligence levels it all worked out fine, but I know colleges where most non-reservation boys had ranks of less than 4000 and girls with ranks up to 10,000 in the same class. Can you imagine how unfair it all seems for the boys who worked harder and got better ranks than the girls? Are we contributing in any way to the collective intelligence of our society by doing that? Do we still need that reservation? Is that reservation helping a poor, uneducated woman’s daughter to get to school?

Already the last go around 61 women were elected to the Lok Sabha. The highest ever. So I believe in the natural course of time the numbers are only going to increase. There is no need of this external push to artificially increase their numbers. That will only decrease the credibility of women. That will only encourage the male members to keep the women out of important bills and sneer and say that the women are where they are only because of reservation and not because they were able candidates. Can you imagine someone saying that to you?

One reason a lot of proponents of this bill give is that more women will result in a more morally upright Lok Sabha.  I am pretty sure this bill will only increase the numbers of the likes of Mayawatis, who are no better than a Laloo Yadav when it comes to being honest and working for the people of their constituency. Not for a moment do I believe that women politicians are less dishonest or corrupt. So merely increasing their numbers is not going to matter to the collective ethics of the Lok Sabha.

What do you say? Yay or nay to reservation?

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Phir Mile Sur this Republic Day

Please visit here to watch the Phir Mile Sur video.

It is very well done and very musical and heartfelt. My only gripe is there is too much B-town(Bachchans, SRK, Aamir and the new crop too) representation and not much local flavor. Also, our brothers and sisters of the Northeast have been clubbed in one small section(as if they all have the same language and culture)…….it is shameful.

Still, it is good in its own way, but fades in front of the real one!

Let me know how you like it.

**************Spoilers ahead*****************
I loooooved Mahesh Babu in the Telugu part and Mammooty in the Malayalam version. Aman and Ayan Ali have an amazing voice!
***************Spoilers end******************

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Hindutva

This week saw politicians of all types giving their two bits on the Abu Azmi vs MNS flap. One of them was RSS chiefMohan Bhagwat. When I saw the headline “RSS chief takes swipe at Raj Thackeray on language issue” on timesofindia.com, I was curious as to how RSS would react to this. (I consider RSS as an organization that, in recent times, has morphed into a Hindu-nationalistic one that specializes in marginalizing other faiths.) Bhagwat criticized the attack on Azmi and said, among other things “All Indian languages are our languages. Regional issues are being flared up by politicians only to increase their vote-bank”..say what? Did he just say something that actually makes sense? Well I decided to be open about what he wants to say and read on.

Without naming either Raj Thackeray or MNS, Bhagwat further said that social unity fell victim to such extreme positions. Questioning the logic behind stretching regional issues to such lengths, Bhagwat said politicians are only interested in exploiting the situation for their own good.

This was too good a blog opportunity to pass up for me. This was the pot calling the kettle black, after having rubbed off its soot on all cups and saucers!

Finally he added:

Stating that the RSS stood for the unity of the people and that it respected their diversities, Bhagwat said the philosophy of Hindutva alone could help people come together. “The world today is faced with serious problems and only Hindutva can provide answers to these problems. It’s Hindutva which believes in the world as one family,” he added. Hindutva, he said, was the identity of the country.

I admit I know nothing about Hindutva…except that it sounds like something about a Hindu way of life, and that it was coined by Veer Savarkar. So I decided to read up. And for my benefit, and for the benefit of my readers, here is Hindutva from Wikipedia baba:

Hindutva (Devanagari: हिन्दुत्व, “Hinduness”, a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? ) is the term used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism. Members of the movement are called Hindutvadis.

So Hindutva means all those practices that advocate Hindu Nationalism. So does it mean all activities that a Hindu does in order to make his/her nation  a hindu nation? Well, not really.

Further,  Supreme Court has ruled that

no meaning to the words Hindu or Hindutva or Hinduism can confine them to a religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage.

Meaning that Hindutva can be the practice of advocating Hindu nationalism by Indians of any faith or religion. Still confused? Well I am too. Because according to Savarkar Hindutva meant Hinduness or the Hindu Characteristic. So do they all mean to say that Hindu is NOT = person following the Hindu religion but someone from the land of Hindu, aka, Hindustan? Thinking about the line “excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage” makes me realize that the supreme court really meant to refer to Hindus as those inhabiting Hindustan, not those who are Hindu by religion.

The Supreme Court further says:

Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu and since the Hindu is disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, he tends to believe that the highest divine powers complement each other for the well-being of the world and mankind.

So it seems like Hindutva was never meant to be what it has become today. A movement that represents Indians of the Hindu faith, specially upper class Hindus. It was never meant to be a movement that looks the other way when radicals are mauling people of other faiths solely because of difference in faiths. The earliest proponents of Hindutva believed that

India’s diversity in terms of customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this diversity was not without the strong underlying cultural basis which was essentially native. The Hindu natives with all their diversity, shared among other things “the same philosophy of life”, “the same values” and “the same aspirations” which formed a strong cultural and a civilizational basis for a nation.”

Also,

Hindus are those that inhabit the Indian subcontinent, that includes the areas south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush….

So there is a separation of the religion and the philosophy of life. For example you could be a Muslim but your ideas and philosophies were akin to the fundamentals of being a Hindu, you would be a Hindu-muslim? This one will surely send people into a spin and here is where the waters get murky. The Hindu way of life encompasses all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland, including Muslims, Christians and Parsis. that the Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although as religions they are not so. Then the Hindutva philosophy(as defined by RSS) further states that one of their goals is

Emphasizing historical oppression of Hindus by Colonial invaders like the Muslims and the Christians and the call to “reverse” the cultural influence resulting from these intrusions

wait wait wait! Did we not just call all those who adopted Bharat as their motherland as culturally Hindus? So does not mean that even their way of life and cultural influence be a part of being a Hindu then? So why is Hindutva talking about ‘reversing’ the cultural influence? It seems like one statement negates the other, and only succeeds on confusing the poor(me) reader.

What I want to know is the reactions of people from all faiths on Hindutva. Would you embrace the philosophy if it did not have religious connotations? Do you think there is an ‘Indian’ way of life that represents us all first, then there is a ‘faith-based’ way of life, and that these two can be separated?

There is a treasure trove of information on Hindutva, and I have barely skimmed the surface in this post. Further topics under the Hindutva Philosohpy are uniform civil code, opposition to differential laws, rewriting/reinterpreting history from the point of view of a Hindu, rather than the British PoV that exists currently etc, which I will try to reflect and expand upon in the coming weeks.

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