Wednesday, August 25, 2010

White Lies

By Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 24th August 2010)

I’m really superbugged about the superbug The Lancet is going to town (or rather, the universe) about. That a nasty superbug may have originated in India is one thing – it’s a dead serious allegation and must be investigated as soon as possible. Naming it after New Delhi, however, is discriminatory. A sneaky and spiteful way of putting us down, isn’t it? Personally, I don’t care if patients from the western world stop coming to India for high quality (and relatively cheaper) medical treatment – it’s more their loss than ours. What makes my blood boil is the public slur that has been cast on India as a bug-infested nation - by one of the world’s most respected medical journals at that! I don’t have one racist bone in my body, but I’ve just had it with this ‘white is supremely right’ nonsense. Hello, we can be as finicky about their germs as they are about ours - fair’s fair, right?
So here’s a helpful little travel advisory for Indians who holiday in the west. And, might I add (in a dignified and mature manner) so there!

1. Do not use community washing machines or hotel laundry services: Keep in mind that you’ll temporarily be living with people who use flimsy toilet paper, not good old hygienic soap and water. That, erm, streaky underwear lands up in washing machines – get the picture? There is a good reason why very few Indians have affairs with whites – and honestly it has very little to do with race or religion! If this doesn’t demystify sexy Hollywood actors, nothing will. Anyway, do personally wash your clothes by hand if you travel west.

2. Do not dip even your little toe into swimming pools for one second: Perish the thought. Desist even if it’s boiling hot and the swimming pool looks very inviting. Remember two formidable little words: toilet paper.

3. Avoid physical contact with natives of western countries: Rumour has it that they bathe as many times in a week as we do every single day, particularly during winter. Sure, perfumes mask odours - but do they kill germs? If you must shake hands, do make liberal use of a hand sanitizer (as discreetly as possible, of course – we must be polite). Better still, execute the traditional germ-free Namaste.

4. Carry several family-size packs of antiseptic liquid: Sure you may have to hand out fistfuls of money for excess baggage but trust me, it’s worth it. Suppose, just suppose, your hotel doesn’t have a shower? Do scrub the bathtub down with gallons of antiseptic liquid. And if you’re feeling lazy, remember four shudder-inducing words: ‘toilet paper’ and ‘infrequent baths’.

5. Watch what you eat: Supermarket shelves in the west are packed with heat and eat convenience foods. These contain vast quantities of preservatives. Do you really want to ingest nasty chemicals that could do horrible, terrible things to your body? Heck, you may as well do your grocery shopping at a taxidermist’s.

6. Order your food wisely: When we cook meat in India, we cook it thoroughly and add a pinch of turmeric because of its super antiseptic properties. People in the west, however, appear to prefer undercooked meat. Even well done steaks are not as well done as they are in India. Stick a fork into a rare steak and chances are all that blood may make you feel squeamish and faint. If you can deal with it, why not just take a bite out of a live animal’s juicy rear instead and order sauce on the side?

7. Take all the tips I mentioned above with a generous pinch of salt: I’m just angry and I needed to let off steam, okay? Mainly because of the unfairness of it all. There is a mathematical explanation for the hysteria being generated in the west: a bypass surgery in India costs about $8000 while in the west it’s approximately $30,000. Now do you understand why droves of intelligent (and clearly there are many) western patients flock to India leaving lots of over paid, under-skilled speciality doctors in the UK with nothing to do but invent new germs when they’re bored of hanging out on Facebook? The doctors/researchers who named the superbug after New Delhi must be made aware of the fact that people who live in glass houses (even white people, darlings) shouldn’t throw stones!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's godawful poetry fortnight

For the sordid details, visit:
My annual contribution:
Death by BMC

T’was not the soppy nightingale nor the wet-blanket lark
When the life insurance agent espied her limp, lifeless body
Under the hideous gilt-touched plaster-of-paris monstrosity –
- A ridiculous, shamefully tacky, cringe-inducing faux-Gothic arch.

‘Bloody BMC philistines have ruined this park,
Do these morons think this crap is high art?’
While examining her pulse his thoughts were like Bourneville
- intensely and horribly, terribly dull and depressingly dark.

A sweaty, smelly doctor wheezed and jogged past,
Then reversed his steps to deliver a life-saving blast.
He administered CPR in vain, then glared at the arch,
- ‘These sods have killed her – haven’t they heard of Zay Zay School of Art?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mercy me!

By Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 10th August 2010)

Golly! That’s what I yelped when I read that Enid Blyton’s publishers are set to update the language of the original Famous Five series so that today’s children don’t find 1940s British slang a stumbling block. To cite a few examples, "mercy me!" will now be a dull "oh no!", "fellow" will be replaced by the dreary "old man" and "it's all very peculiar" will be "it's all very strange". If you ask me, it’s a ghastly idea, and when I recover from the shock, I plan to send a stinker to her publishers with the stern message, “You will jolly well not change a word!” Chances are that they will ignore my pleas (sadly, profits are more compelling than sentiments), and the only consolation I can hang on to is the fact that the publishers have stated, hand on heart, that they will make the changes “sensitively” and will not replace dated slang with its modern equivalent or text message language. Whew! Honestly, I think I’d throw up if I read the following:

“OMG,” Anne clutched George’s arm, “I hear this, like, rustling in the, like, undergrowth or something.”
“Hey chill,” George replied, “That’s just Timmy doing his thing. I guess, like, it’s time to get the pooper-scooper out.”
“Cool!”Anne heaved a sigh of relief and got back to checking her cellphone for text messages. Her brow creased as she pondered deeply over a cryptic message from Julian that stated, “Lmao n rotf - ttyl.”
She sent him a terse reply: WTF?

In all seriousness though, I really am very alarmed at this move. After they finish cleaning up the text, all we’ll have left is a racy story without Blyton’s unique flavouring that makes it all the more special. Sort of like unsalted popcorn. Am I the only one who believes that today’s children are being cheated instead of pampered?

Dash it all, if we allow this sort of thing to happen, PG Wodehouse’s publishers may do likewise – and imagine reading Wodehouse without all that “Pip pip and tally ho old chap” stuff. Will a staid “I feel good” make you giggle as much as “Feeling boomps-a-daisy”? And will the lovely phrases from hymns like “As pants the hart for cooling streams” (when one of the characters is yearning for a spot of alcohol) be changed to a prosaic, “I feel like a drink”? I can assure you that vultures will gnaw at my bosom if this happens!

By Toutatis, this modernisation disease could spread to Asterix comics as well – all the Latin phrases (like “alea jacta est”) will probably be deleted and clever puns may be brutally bumped off too. Who knows, Shakespeare may follow (to the delight of zillions of frustrated students) and one of Lady Macbeth’s most memorable lines may well read like this: “Out out damned stain, out I say! All the perfumes manufactured by France will not make my hands smell nicer.” Zounds!

It doesn’t end there - once people start fiddling around, everything eventually goes wrong. A few years ago, golliwogs were removed from Blyton’s Noddy series on the grounds of “racial offensiveness.” I remembering thinking that it was rather odd, considering that the golliwogs were not shown in a poor light at all – they were just as charming as Noddy himself! In fact, I loved them so much, my mum even made me one for my 7th birthday. So be warned: more silly politically correct acts are bound to follow. Here are a few of my predictions:
1. First the ham sandwiches that the Famous Five love so much will go – in case, in the new multicultural Britain, it may offend certain religious sects. They will probably be replaced with chicken sandwiches since beef is also taboo. (Please note that the bread will be whole wheat, of course.)
2. Then the chicken sandwiches may be replaced by cheese if groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals win more converts.
3. Dairy-eschewing vegans may object, and the starving Famous Five may be left with boring cucumber sandwiches. Or mustard and cress.
4. And so on and so forth.

I have one small question for Blyton’s publishers: Have you forgotten that today’s children have the Internet? Hey, if they can learn to make bombs from their mums cosmetics in 5 minutes, they can jolly well go to Google and discover that peculiar means strange!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Other Rahul

By Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 10th August 2010)

I remember BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s funeral clearly, as though it happened yesterday. It was aired lived on TV and as BJP members were tearfully bidding farewell to the great man who taught them how to make power point presentations (yes, apparently this was his most noteworthy achievement), they were also shrewdly wondering how they could use his tragic and sensational death to their advantage. Serendipity was at work - they discovered the answer at the funeral itself. A stoic Rahul Mahajan performing his father’s last rites was eerily reminiscent of Rahul Gandhi doing likewise when his father was assassinated many years ago. So what if Pramod Mahajan was shot by his own brother in a petty family squabble and not brutally murdered by a suicide bomber? The BJP was absolutely certain that waves of sympathy votes would sink the Congress and immediately drew up grand plans for their new crown prince, Rahul Mahajan.

The BJPs fond dreams went up in smoke soon after, when Rahul Mahajan was discovered deliriously happy on coke (not the innocuous cola – heck, he’s a big boy) on his way to immerse his father’s ashes in the holy Ganges. I must add here that I was terribly worried about the fate of his father’s ashes. Raving Rahul was apparently so far gone, could he have told the difference between two pale powdery substances? It’s quite possible that the fish in the Ganges were tripping the light fantastic for weeks thereafter and listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the moon.

A few years later, Raving Rahul’s first wife walked (sorry, ran) out of the marriage with tell tale bruises. It is rumoured that the poor girl was too frightened to press charges of domestic abuse in case Rahul’s brash political buddies brutally pressed the living breath out of her in retaliation. That’s when the BJP finally gave up and started distancing itself from him. Whew - I must thank them for that from the bottom of my heart.

Raving Rahul, however, lived happily ever after and reinvented himself on a TV freak show where he had a dalliance with a dreaded gangster’s moll among other weirdos. He made such an ass of himself that the media naturally fell madly in love with him. TV channels were so excited, they vied with each other to get the moron on their shows. So Raving Rahul got a freak show of his very own where he was made to choose a bride – imagine, a prize idiot was being given as a prize! To our astonishment, many pretty little Indian girls were urged by their pushy, exploitative middle-class parents to participate in it - despite Raving Rahul’s much publicised notoriety. Girls would have turned up in droves even if the TV producers had been honest and called the show, Who wants to marry an alleged schizophrenic wife-beating drug addict? Sad, isn’t it, how many Indian parents want their daughters to get killed?

As we all know, Raving Rahul chose a comely Bengali lass called Dimpy Ganguly but alas, Dimpy made her great escape a few days ago and coyly lifted her skirt to show the media a few bruises. Then her loving, caring father intervened and ordered her to get right back to her alleged schizophrenic wife-beating drug addict husband. What’s he waiting for – Raving Rahul to murder his daughter first before he contemplates the idea of divorce? With fathers like these, who needs sadists.

The TV channel that produced Raving Rahul’s wedding show must be over the moon with joy. They’re hunting for a new freak to do a swayamvar this season, and if Dimpy goes against her loving, caring father’s wishes and bravely divorces Raving Rahul, they can use him again, and perhaps every season thereafter, seeing how often his wives run away screaming. I even have an appropriate title in mind: Who wants to be Rahul Mahajan’s next victim?

My plea to all General Entertainment TV channels, however, is please may we have a little integrity? If you must use Raving Rahul, create fabulous shows with leading psychiatrists and rehab councillors as contestants. I have some concepts to toss at you: Who can reform a nasty wife-beater? Or, Who can rehabilitate a crazy coke-head? Now, those are the sort of freak shows I would definitely watch with great satisfaction and buckets of popcorn!

All that glitters is not 24 Karat gold

By Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 3rd August 2010)

Of all the preachy proverbs we were made to learn at school, the one that frightened me the most was, “Pride comes before a fall.” I continue to have deep respect for it because I actually saw how dramatically it worked in July 2008, after the Left had arrogantly (and utterly foolishly) withdrawn support to UPA-I over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Now, while we didn’t understand much (okay, why lie - we didn’t understand anything) about the nuclear deal, one thing was crystal clear: the America-unfriendly Left had absolutely no idea that the Cold War was over! How much faith can you have in a party that hasn’t bothered to read the newspapers for years? Naturally, we backed UPA-I, and to our great joy, the Left lost not just that battle but many more to come. Better still, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat, he who was most stridently and vociferously against the deal, was left with a generous helping of egg on his face. Most of us agreed that he looked so much more attractive this way - and not just because egg white tightens unseemly pores.

During the lively vote of confidence drama on television it was clear that while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the victor (yay) and Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdulla were decidedly the best looking chaps in Parliament (sigh), the real hero of the day was Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee. We were aware that he had been sternly ordered by his Left comrades to resign from the post of speaker before the vote of confidence. We were also aware that he’d spent several sleepless nights mulling over this arbitrary decision – racoon-like dark circles tell tales.

To our amazement, Chatterjee conscientiously stayed on, staunchly maintaining that a speaker plays an impartial role, so that was exactly what he was going to do, yah boo sucks to you! This thrilled the nation to bits. Good heavens, a man with integrity in Indian politics! Was he an alien? Was this a dream? As the highly charged drama unfolded on our television screens, we were delighted by Chatterjee’s unique style of humour (so much more entertaining than a 2000th re-run of Friends), enjoyed his lovely old fashioned reprimands, and applauded the commanding way in which he violently thumped the table to silence raucous dissent. And how we gasped with outrage when soon after the Left (well, Karat really) viciously expelled Chatterjee for upholding the principles of the constitution instead of toeing the petty party line. Such poor losers, tsk.

A year later, in the run up to the general elections, someone (it evidently wasn’t God) came to Karat in a dream and inspired him to create the Third Front: a rag tag bunch of regional parties who were naive enough to believe that they would knock out all chances of the UPA coming back to power. Karat had such delusions of grandeur – he really, really believed this would work and it gave us so much amusement to see him huffing and puffing in a self-important manner. Of course, when the results were declared, he avoided answering questions and mumbled some rubbish about the party getting into introspection mode, while wiping a fresh batch of eggs off his face. I don’t know if you noticed, but there was a shortage of eggs in the nation for weeks thereafter. I suppressed the overpowering urge to dash off a letter saying, “What's to introspect, Dude? You're the biggest problem in the party!”

But back to my hero, Somnath Chatterjee. His tell all autobiography, Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian, is set to be released on 21st August. To rub salt into Karat’s egg-encrusted face, it will be launched by his bĂȘte noire, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. If we go by the pre-launch excerpts, Chatterjee has some rather interesting and unflattering things to say about Karat. Gosh, this is one book I’m certainly going to smash my piggy bank to buy – and I hereby solemnly declare that I will not rest till I get it autographed as well!

Poor, poor Karat. Pride indeed does come before a fall. And what a fall there was my countrymen! All along I merely believed that he would go down in history as the walking, talking omelette. Chatterjee’s memoirs, however, may make him toast.