Thursday, November 25, 2010

Today is Annual Make Nasty Jokes About Pakistan's ISI Day

26/11 anniversary. Hindustan Times Mumbai has thoughtfully given a little candle with a copy of their paper today. Wish I could light mine up the ISIs arse. Yes, I said arse. It is not nice. Neither is Pakistan's ISI.

I'm going to spend the ENTIRE day making nasty cracks about those evil muscle-brained lunatics, since we can't bomb them. India is a responsible nation. Unlike other Western nations we cannot attack countries that attack us because only Western countries are allowed to be irresponsible, see? Some like the US are so irresponsible they even supply truck-loads of money and arms to countries that breed terrorists. Hmm.

Anyway, here's an article I wrote a few months ago when talks between India and Pakistan collapsed. It was published in Hardnews in my monthly column Angst in my Pants.

The Shah of Blah

Every time the papers and news channels excitedly announce peace talks between India and Pakistan, I shake my head sadly. Particularly after I saw Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on TV a day after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. He was in New Delhi when the attacks occurred and he delivered the usual over the top Pakistani bluster, of course: roared with rage, clenched his fists dramatically till his knuckles turned white, and thundered that we had no business to blame Pakistan for the attacks – it was very mean and small-minded of us, he fumed. He was terrifically angry and I suspect that it’s because the poor chap had no time to buy DVDs of the latest Bollywood flicks for his family and friends since he had to leave in such a tearing hurry. Tsk. Too bad the ISI never warned him in advance – they were way too busy directing the horrific attacks to waste time on pathetic little puppets.

Since then we have reams of evidence, but the Pakistani government absolutely refuses to believe us. We even have audio tapes just in case they can’t read - hey, I’m willing to bet their President Asif Ali Zardari can’t. He makes former US President George W. Bush seem like an intellectual. After watching him lead his nation, I’m beginning to believe that his nickname, Mr. Ten Percent, still holds true – he just has 10% of a normal human brain, that is.

Despite the fact that David Headley, one of the chief 26/11 planners, is singing soulfully like an American Idol contestant in US custody, Pakistan is stubbornly playing deaf. During the recent ‘peace’ talks, Qureshi metaphorically jammed his pudgy little fingers in his ears and screamed “Nyaah, nyaah nyaah, I can’t hear you and you guys are mean and nasty too la la la la, so there!” He pretended to be really upset that Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna got a few phone-calls from India and accused the Indian government of directing the peace talks. Hello, Mr. Qureshi, they were not instructing SM Krishna to brutally murder everyone in the room like your beloved ISI. If it was them at all, they were probably saying, “Just because these ISI puppets are uncivilized boors, don’t stoop to their level and lose your sophistication and cool.” Or perhaps they were merely translating Qureshi’s weird ‘clipped Brit meets guttural Punjabi’ accent? I don’t blame Mr. Krishna – it takes me ages to understand what Qureshi’s saying.

Honestly, the only positive thing I have to say about Qureshi is that he’s a natty dresser. But fine feathers don’t always make fine birds and I think a few classes in manners are what he desperately requires. For starters, will someone please teach Qureshi how to shake hands nicely? The moment a hand is extended, he assumes it’s for a hand-wrestling match and eagerly starts playing panja with it. Not exactly ‘mine host’ material.

I have a pertinent question: What is Qureshi so arrogant about? Everyone in world is aware that Pakistan is a failed nation and it depends on hefty hand-outs from the gullible US to survive.

While I love the idea of peace with a neighbour, particularly an extremely nasty tempered one with more nuclear weapons than sense, I don’t believe I’ll be ringing his doorbell with a bottle of chilled wine and a peace pipe. I’d much rather avoid him instead and go so far as to take the stairs if he’s in the elevator. It’s not possible to have rational discussions with irrational beings, is it? Sort of like locking yourself in a cage with a starving, snarling man-eating lion and soothingly saying, “Here kitty, here, here kitty, I’ve come to discuss the possibility of peaceful co-existence.”

And in case you’re wondering, I’m not against the Aman ki Asha citizens for peace initiative. I will continue to read books by Pakistani authors I enjoy like Mohammed Hanif. I will continue to encourage cricket matches between India and Pakistan. I have nothing against the people – even the brain-washed, uneducated ones who spit out anti-India epithets. It is Pakistan’s machivellan ISI and their weak, prevaricating politicians who make me sick. And so, I have one fervent plea for the Indian government: please don’t get into a ‘Have you hugged a Pakistani politician today?’ mode. Not till they deliver justice on the 26/11 attacks, at the very least.

Barack Obama's India Diary

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post,23rd Nov 2010)

6th Nov

Landed in Mumbai and boy, was it hot! Was greeted by a gangsta dude wearing dark glasses – it was Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. Briefly wondered if wearing dark glasses is against protocol but charitably dismissed it. Remembered that Secret Service fellas had discreetly informed me that the dude was accused of pinching apartments from war widows and would be axed soon after I left – he’d probably spent the entire night diluting his glass of Bourbon with tears. Nonetheless, checked back pocket after we got into the chopper for the Taj. My wallet was still there, whew.

Made pretty speech at the Taj to survivors of the 26/11 terrorist attack – it was so moving I felt tears rush to my eyes but brushed them away in case vision got blurred and I couldn’t read the teleprompter. Was warmly applauded.

Visited Mani Bhavan, my idol’s (Mahatama Gandhi’s) former house. Deeply impressed everyone by not mispronouncing Gandhi as Ghandy.

Made pretty speech to win business for America at Trident hotel. Was applauded a little less warmly.

Elation faded when saw self on TV later that night. Indian news channels were attacking me like a pack of savage wolves for not calling Pakistan a terrorist state. Particularly a chap called something like Doorknob. Have they absolutely no idea of US foreign policy or are they shockingly naive?

7th Nov
Spent the morning with children. First went to a school in Colaba and was treated to a cultural program by the students. Got the fidgets after 2nd song and dance - jaws were also aching from bestowing wide smiles of appreciation. Fortunately this was not as long as Bollywood films. Michelle got the fidgets too and leapt up to dance – she’s still got it!

I was dragged to floor and gamely imitated their moves. Heard kids snigger behind my back. They said something like, “Pappu can’t dance saala”. Poor Pappu, whoever he is.

Met Mumbai University students at St. Xavier’s College. It was so hot, had to take off jacket. Wished I could take off shirt as well. Now I know why male Bollywood stars frequently bare their chests. Michelle wowed them first with her usual heart-warming spiel on her humble beginnings and then I was introduced. Made pretty speech and then took questions. Was thrown. Must warn America yet again that Indian kids are v. smart – more forcefully this time. Had to skirt question on Pakistan of course, and was made to pay for it. Indian News channels started attacking me viciously again, particularly Doorknob. He’s started pouting as well, quite like Marilyn Monroe.

Boarded Air Force One for Delhi. Looked forward to meeting my buddy Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Hoped I wouldn’t meet a fella called Suresh Kalmadi who referred to Prince Charles’ current wife Camilla as Princess Diana. He’s quite capable of addressing me as President Osama.

Was warmly greeted by the Prime Minister and his wife. All four of us exchanged hugs and kisses. On the way to Humayun’s tomb, Secret Service hissed that we made a big faux pas. Effigies of Richard Gere were burnt because he planted a chaste kiss on the cheeks of some Bollywood starlet a few years ago. Ooops!

Indian News Channels still maligning me. Thought I’d escaped from the battering at home, but I get even worse treatment here! Nobody loves me! Must give India something to make those news hounds shut up.

8th Nov
Had lots of important meetings today. Shook so many hands I fear that my shoulder may be dislocated.

Met a v. strange lady called Sushma Swaraj from the BJP. She sternly and repeatedly told me that the BJP had initiated friendship with the US first. That is the only thing she had to say.

Grand finale: my address to both houses of parliament. Over 50% of the politicians present looked like thugs – wouldn’t ever want to meet them in dark alleys. Made v. pretty speech about India, threw in lots of Indian words and gave them a grand present that cost me nothing: support for a permanent seat at the UNSC. Now everybody in India loves me, including Doorknob!

Lovely dinner and now have to pack for our trip to Indonesia. It is a nightmare. Every VIP I met gave me big fat coffee table books. Thank god I don’t have to pay for excess baggage!

All cleaned up for Diwali

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 9th Nov 2010)

As I write this, Mumbai is gearing up for Diwali like never before. We’re expecting two very important guests this year: our all-time favourite Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and Barack Obama, the President of the USA as well. Security is going to be tight with many annoying restrictions in place and people who live in the area around the Taj hotel (where Obama is staying) are particularly bitter. So many fattening mithais to eat and nowhere to walk them off! We’re hoping that all the president’s men do not prevent Laxmi from entering our freshly spruced up homes. And while on the subject of cleanliness, the state government claims that it’s going flat out to clean up the city. Sadly, the only clean up we can see is of the city’s coffers.

Mumbaikars are bristling with rage at the Adarsh Housing Society scam where a bunch of greedy politicians, bureaucrats and (golly gosh) defence personnel in Mumbai joined hands to snatch homes from Kargil war widows. A number of interesting observations have emerged from this:

1. Suresh Kalmadi, President of the Commonwealth Games organising committee, has started smiling widely again. He is not alone in his ignominy, hallelujah. Overcharging for toilet paper is not as big an offence as stealing from war widows, see? His future in the Congress party may well be secure again.

2. Ashok Chavan, prime suspect in the Adarsh scam and Maharashtra chief minister, raised a very important point when he was accused of nepotism for allotting a flat to his mother-in-law. He grimly stated through gritted teeth that his mother-in-law was not a part of his family, how dare anyone even suggest it! For the first time since the scam was exposed, he looked more outraged and offended than TV reporters who were interviewing him. Not surprisingly, he has endeared himself to innumerable men with insufferable mothers-in-law.

3. If you believe in numerology, pay attention to this: never consult Ashok Chavan’s personal numerologist. The chap urged Chavan to add the word ‘Rao’ to his name to improve the quality of his life. Accordingly, a shiny new name plate was attached to his front door. A few days later, the Adarsh scam was exposed. To be scrupulously fair, perhaps the numerologist was not to blame – there’s always the possibility that Chavan mistakenly spelt the word ‘rao’ as ‘row’.

4. This scam brought home the fact that bureaucrats would make excellent waiters. They’re so used to the larger part of their income coming from lavish tips. Besides, they’re so well-educated I’m sure they can pronounce the names of French dishes like Coq au Vin and Ratatouille without stumbling.

5. The retired defence chaps who were interviewed on TV sounded truly devastated that the army had a few rotten eggs. I don’t know about you, but I found their reaction astonishing. Come on, had they not heard of the Kargil body bag scam or the more recent Sukhna shocker?

6. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram may learn something vitally important from this: perhaps the best way to defeat Maoists is not to arrest them but to arrest his own party members who steal from widows, the helpless and the homeless, and as a result turn sane people into insane Maoist sympathisers.

7. And, just in case the Congress does eventually decide to send its guilty politicians to jail (ha ha, as if – despite the fact that we’re reminded every now and then that Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to corruption), I make one humble request: please, please, please build a state-of-the-art hospital in the jail they’re housed in too. Or else, strange flutters of the heart may occur and the party’s criminals will once again inconvenience citizens by occupying precious hospital beds throughout the duration of their sentence.

8. The BJP of course is over the moon with joy. With the Congress party in a scambolic state (CWG, telecom and now this), they are filled with the fond hope that the next general elections will bring them joy. I hate to rain on their parade, but let’s not forget that their mother ship (the RSS) is alleged to have terror links. So the next time you cast your vote, do consider this: would you prefer a party that snatches money or a party that snatches lives?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nearer my god to thee

Was cleaning up a cupboard and laughed myself silly when I discovered the things we'd acquired in recent years:

1. A neck brace
2. A back brace
3. A knee sock
4. A wrist brace
5. An ankle brace
6. Sundry physiotherapy aids
7. Kgs of X-rays and MRI scans

Soon Beloved Husband and I will have supports for each and every body part including the index finger (which I tend to exercise so frequently it's bound to get fractured or at least severely sprained). We can go to fancy dress balls dressed as exo-skeletons. Growing old and decrepit can be rather amusing! So far, the 40s have brought much mirth. Hope the 50s and 60s will be as entertaining. Am not thinking about the 70s. Not yet!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A day in the life of Arundhati Roy (As imagined by the writer)

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 2nd November 2010)

Alarm went off at 6 am. Leapt out of bed and rushed to the mirror. Screeched when I noticed several ugly red spots on my face. Swore never to visit those nasty mosquito-infested jungles without carrying Odomos. This is just too bad, considering that I have to give a speech to other like-minded intellectuals this afternoon - like-minded when it comes to issues only, of course. Intellectually I’m far more superior than those morons can ever hope to be - have they won the Booker ever, ha ha? Jumped back into bed – more beauty sleep is urgently required. Must live up to my reputation of being beautiful inside-out.
Great Revolutionary Leader called at 7.30 am, interrupting my sleep. He sounded more outraged than Arnab Goswami of Times Now. ‘Have you read today’s papers?’ he spluttered. ‘The Government of India is building a school in a tribal village. Those creeps, how dare they!’ he thundered. Really, how dare they? After all the hard work we’ve put in to persuade tribals about the wickedness of the Government of India, they’re now trying to show us up! The cheek! Consoled Great Revolutionary Leader. Told him he could always bomb it after it’s built. Preferably while school children are in it. That will make superb headlines, and I will be invited as guest speaker to many more intellectual dos. Great Revolutionary Leader chuckled. He told me how beautiful I was inside-out.
Had toast with honey (good for skin) for brekker – not commercial honey but the real McCoy stuff from the tribals. Had to fish some wings and hairy legs out of it, yuck. Glanced through newspapers. Am filled with rage – not a single article on me, not even a teeny-weeny mention! What is this country coming to? No wonder it’s a failed State!
Consoled self by Googling my name. About a zillion mentions on blogs, yay! Clicked a blog at random. The blogger said that someone called Adrian Mole was a more convincing and likeable intellectual than I am. Googled Adrian Mole – he’s a thirteen and a half year old fictional pseudo-intellectual who writes a diary. Read an excerpt of the diary: He has acne, loves ABBA, writes lousy poetry and sounds like a half-wit. How dare that nasty blog writer say that Adrian Mole is better than I am? Browsed through another blog also written by a fool - she says that I should be called a megalomaniac anarchist not a selfless activist. Another stupid woman has said that, “If she hates India so much why doesn’t she just get the hell out and leave us in peace.” Rot – I have as much right as she has to live in this country and overthrow the State if I wish – this is a democracy after all! They’re just plain jealous that I’m beautiful inside-out. Will fix these people when we crush India and create our own beautiful country. Will torture them before we behead them. Dissent will not be tolerated.
Was v. depressed all afternoon. Just as well that these heckling bloggers are never invited to events where I make speeches. They are not intellectuals - they just don’t understand that ideas are more important than people losing lives and limbs. Bimbos!
Turned on TV news and discovered to my joy that I may be booked for sedition because I echoed a hardline separatist’s views on Kashmir! More publicity, hooray! Phone never stopped ringing thereafter, with other intellectuals warmly congratulating me. They’re so insincere really – I could not fail to detect envy in their voices. Wonder what to wear when the TV wallahs come calling with their cameras for my reaction?
Put a Beatles CD on while going through my extensive wardrobe. Have selected several pretty saris and some ethnic skirts with lots of chunky tribal jewellery. Cannot be photographed in the same outfit for different TV channels after all. Have also applied foundation to hide the ugly red mosquito bites. Doorbell rang, so I hastily changed the music to a rousing tribal beat before I opened the door.
Celebration party tonight! Have got several jerry cans of heady mahua from the tribals. Will serve mahuatinis (dash of mahua and lots of sweetened orange juice to disguise the terrible taste). They are super potent and in the eyes of my inebriated companions I will look even more beautiful inside-out!

Much ado about nothing

Rupa Gulab
(Published in Bengal Post, 26th October 2010)

We can never thank young Aditya Thackeray enough for helping Mumbai rediscover the joys of reading fiction – particularly Rohinton Mistry’s Such A Long Journey. A friend has been kind enough to lend me her copy, so I’ve been spared the trauma of fidgeting, sweating and fainting in serpentine queues outside bookshops. Let this be a lesson to all authors who want to hit the bestseller list – get rabble-rousing politicians to ban/burn your book, instead of begging glitzy filmstars to launch it.

I have to confess that I didn’t gasp loudly the way people do at the sight of a hairy cockroach floating lazily in their soup when I read some of the passages in Mistry’s book that the thin-skinned Shiv Sena violently objected to. Sure, his fictional character raved and ranted about things that annoyed him – everything from the Congress to the Shiv Sena to different communities, but so what? Everyone has the right to his opinion. And frankly, his ‘insulting’ remarks were mild compared to the vitriolic statements the Thackerays frequently (and loudly) dish out about people and communities – a lot of it is uncalled for personal remarks like ‘Rahul Gandhi is a frustrated bachelor’ and some very unsavoury things about prime minister Manmohan Singh which I do not choose to repeat here.

Honestly if you take that into account, Mistry has every right to burn copies of the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna in return for the shabby treatment doled out to his book. Fortunately, Mistry is such a good hearted chap, really. Instead of criticising Aditya for not actually reading his book before burning it, he is being rather paternal about it by playing mentor to him. Mistry has warmly urged Aditya to read a couple of books to become a better political leader instead of following the same old fuddy duddy tactics as his grandfather: Joseph Conrad’s grim Heart of Darkness ‘in order to consider the options: step back from the abyss, or go over the edge’, and Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, particularly for the stirring lines of this verse, ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free.’ I doubt that knowledge will seep in however, since every time the young lad is given a book he excitedly fumbles in his pockets for a matchbox.

Incidentally, Aditya Thackeray is a writer himself – he’s got two volumes of poetry under his belt, one of which is set to music (by some of India’s finest musicians and singers, of course – they loved it so much they just couldn’t say no) and launched by Bollywood star and chief Shiv Sena aficionado Amitabh Bachchan a few years ago. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s because his loving family thoughtlessly did not ban/burn his book and album. Tsk. One would think that they’d have figured out marketing tactics by now, considering that almost everything they ban/burn turns to gold. Even that forgettable movie, My Name is Khan.

Do read Such A Long Journey. Not only for the sensational bits, which, like I’ve said before, aren’t remotely sensational at all. I recommend it because it truly is a warm, engrossing and well-written story. Such a pity that it had to be sacrificed to launch Aditya’s political career. Couldn’t the Shiv Sena have hired the chaps who put together the fantastic opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games to launch the Yuva Sena instead? That way, we may have appreciated the show and the grandson of (yawn) yet another political dynasty better. Spunky messages on T-shirts with a spin on the Shiv Sena’s tiger symbol (like ‘You bring out the tiger in me’) are not enough to prove that you’re cool and with it, dude! As the En Vogue song goes, ‘Free your mind, and the rest will follow.’

So what I’m wondering now is, what will Aditya Thackeray’s estranged uncle Raj Thackeray do? Raj (leader of the dreaded Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) is highly competitive and pretty much given to ‘me too’ tactics. Will he make his young son burn another book? Yippie, I’m dying to know which one so I can buy it before the bookshop queues begin! Also, since the MNS symbol is a railway engine, will his son sport T-shirts with the message, ‘You bring out the choo choo train in me’ or, ‘Let me take you for a ride’? Ooh, just can’t wait!