Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Baroda Blues

I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

The very fabric of our existence is under threat, some good people Get Out There and DO Something about it, and we call them Fascists? Very Bad. Because Fascists are a Bad Thing, and surely nekkid pictures are Bad Things too. Being against nekkid pictures must be a Good Thing, therefore people against nekkid pictures cannot be Fascists. Right? Far right.

All this hoo-ha, you know, all this secular shekular, very bad only.

I came across this programme on the telly on Sunday night. Barkha Dutt and a load of Wise People talking about the incident at the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad University of Arts, where a student named Lunar Enticer was arrested for threatening the national identity. Many wise things were said, the gist being that we must not say or do anything that could cause offence to anybody. Very nice, in fact the sort of thing I learnt at my mother’s knee, or at least the sort of thing I would have learnt if I had not been busy being a wise-acre.

I fail to understand why some people (Bloggers, This Means YOU) do not understand. This depraved boy Chandramohan produced paintings where religious icons were shown in conjunction with (gasp, sorry!) nekkid figures. Very bad. One Wise Gentleman pointed out that this was the Thin End of the Wedge – if people can paint religious icons nekkid (for example, a naked cross! Even a naked Shivlinga!), they could even paint his mother nekkid! Considering that the said gentleman is in his fifties and his mother is presumably in her 70s, I entirely agree that such a picture must NEVER be painted. I must, however, caution the gentleman that his mere mention of this possibility could offend not only me but also his mother.

(Warning – Long Digression)

What’s more, if this kind of thing is allowed, people might even suggest that the gentleman’s parents HAVE been naked at some point of time. This, of course, cannot be true of Traditional Indian Parents, who are always Fully Clothed. They might even suggest that his parents (shudder) Had Sex. This would strike at the roots of our Ancient Civilisation and Culture, because we all know that not only are Indians Never Naked, we Do Not EVER Have Sex.

Indians hold the proud honour of being the world’s second most populous nation without ANY SEX WHATSOEVER, because ALL Indians are born through parthenogenesis. Some Indians are born from nodding flowers and raging fires, as clearly shown in Indian films, but not one is ever born because his parents Had Sex (or ‘did’ sex, to use the Orkutian idiom). This proud truth is under threat from Indians residing Abroad, so the Guardians of Our Culture should give serious thought (which is the only kind of thought they are capable of) to attacking all the educational institutions that Corrupt Students’ Minds by suggesting that Indians can and do Have Sex.

Some stupid people have suggested that Indians Know About Sex, because they have seen Women Worshipping Shiv Lingas. Such people do not realize that this is a Demonstration of Innocence. These women have never seen a non-Shiv linga (even though most of them are mothers themselves) and therefore approach the holy phallus Entirely Unaware of its anatomical significance. In similar fashion, the temple at Kamakkhya has NO sexual or anatomical significance whatsoever.

(Now back on the main line …)

A group of Morally Responsible Citizens stormed the MSG University, called in the police, roughed up a few students and faculty and closed down the exhibition. Fine upstanding citizens these, demonstrating effective democracy in action. For what is democracy but the will of the greater number? There were more of them (the Outraged Citizens), so they were democratic. Tomorrow or the day after, we may witness a few thousand artists enraged at the Loss of Freedom descending upon these corporators and rending them limb from limb (or other portions of the anatomy, perhaps even those portions that Do Not Exist In Indians except as Spiritual Depictions). That would also be democratic as long as there were more rend-ers than rend-ees. (Though very unlikely, given the wimpish attitude of the intelligentsia so far – no fires, no broken furniture, not a single weapon in sight. One despairs of their democratic ability)

Then the students and some faculty did Something Very Bad. They set up an exhibition that purported to show Indian erotica through the ages. This, of course, was intolerable. India has NEVER had any erotic art. Ajanta, Ellora, Khajuraho, Orcha do not exist. Or if they do, there are no artefacts there. Or if there are, Somebody Else Did Them. Or even if we did, we don’t know anything about that. Just shut up. ShutupshutupSHUTUP. (This is Good Democratic Reasoning.)

So anyway, there was some to-ing and fro-ing and then the Dean suspended the Head of the Arts Faculty. Serves him right – he was actually trying to Support the Students. He is now in hiding, which of course is sufficient proof that he must have Done Something Wrong.

There has been some criticism of the police. Totally unwarranted, in my humble opinion. The police were very prompt in arresting the student. They have not, of course, registered an FIR against the corporators for their alleged ruffianism on campus. This proves their Fixity of Purpose. I mean, being Guardians of Morality, they cannot be seen to waver and Accommodate More than One Point of View. As for being Guardians of the Law, give the poor cops a break, will you? They’re busy enough Guarding Morality, they’ll get around to Upholding the Law sooner or later. Or some time.Like early 2009.

So all in all, this has been an enormously reassuring excise in Defending Civilisation. Next week, we’re going to Burn some Books. And if we get lucky, some authors as well. (The tenets of Guarding Morality are not clear about Burning Critics. This might be Seen as Weakness).

**** ****

Sunday, May 13, 2007

River's flow

In the haze of the river-morning, I thought a flotilla of small craft was proceeding downriver. Now, as the sun climbs, I see clumps of leaves, vegetation washed out by the tides, slowly floating past the sand-banks into the inner channel that hugs the hedge. As morning drifts to afternoon, the light brightens, hardens, the shadows are sharper and the leaves more still.

Morning and evening, the light dances on the broad leaves of the mallenda as the breeze stirs the waxy white blossoms. The mango trees whisper around their burden of unripe fruit. Shadows soften equally the garden and the distance across the river. Tiled roofs, brick kilns, haystacks and a temple sit astride their broken reflections along the far shore. One man in a pink vest and a conical straw hat poles his bobbing coracle towards mid-stream. As evening draws in, the other bank fades to a smudge in the half-light.

Only the country boats that chug past are clear. Lives float past as I sit by the window, lives defined by their clothes – colourful saris, the ‘bush-shirts’ and nondescript trousers of office-goers (perhaps some are returning from the long flat house downriver, built by the Dutch nearly 200 years ago, where I went to work for some years), the faded photuas­ and ­dhotis of the men who work with their hands. Bicycles, nets, shopping bags. And the beat of the thumping engines floats up to us some seconds after the boats come into view, like somebody beating clothes very fast at a distant ghaat.

Jackfruit trees seem to generate their own shadow. The bloated fruits hang in the bends of the trunks, the leaves especially dark green, an air of faux mystery shrouding these pretenders that are sometimes vegetable, sometimes fruit. Not fair. Only the mango trees should have that dual identity, sometimes dark and sometimes a glistening green, the fruits invisible in the dark of evening but light and bobbing in the light of day, clustering with a promise of plenty that makes the teeth ache as one remembers summer holidays and chutneys from childhood.

Memories. Of course that’s what this morning is all about. From the brilliant colours of a child’s paint-box –jacarandas a startling violet, yellow and red on the other trees – that recall long summer afternoons roaming round Salt Lake in the ’70s, to the orderly flower-beds and hedges that remind me of the years I worked in this district and visited this place ever so often, and the hum of the AC and the faint brown-paper smell of the carpet that bring back every ‘guest-house’ I have stayed in over the last 30 years.

Memories. Lines of coconut palms, their fronds glistening in the afternoon sun, the occasional crow floating into one with its wings spread and feet outstretched like landing gear. Bringing back memories of aching lonely afternoons as a probationer in Chinsurah, sitting in a little clapboard cubicle with a lazy fan, nibbling at a cold ‘vegetable chop’ and waiting for 3 o’clock when the little swimming pool outside would fill with children and their clamour.

The ­luchi at breakfast and the aromas of lunch on the boil downstairs, gobindobhog rice and mutton curry, bringing back a thousand Sundays in a hundred different places. Family sprawled on sofas and beds, desultory conversations, the television alternating between Tom & Jerry and the news channels depending on who usurps the remote. Retreating to the other room for a pipe, the rich chocolatey tobacco smell evoking my study and my rocking chair in my home 40 miles away.

Back to the present. I’ve made a start on my resolution to write a little something every day, I need a shower and my beer is going flat. More tomorrow. One hopes.

**** ****

Monday, May 07, 2007


Misery comes in stages.

First, the creeping realisation that one has not written anything in quite some time.

Then the efforts to Make Some Time to Write.

One has nothing to write about.

And anyway, other people have written about it. Much better than I can.

Try anyway? Nothing comes. Psyllium husk, where art thou?

Then, to rub it in, nice people offer me money to write. (I shall not repeat not voice my suspicion that they then sit back and gloat over my discomfiture.)

Still, nothing comes.

One might as well write nothing.

Hence this post.

**** ****

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I am bullshit

This is the kind of thing that puts me off my food. The food descriptions are not offensive, but those tags!


In other news, the Uncut One (even more sexy now that he HAS cut his tresses, but he has Sworn Me to Silence on that part of the conversation) has been most helpful. Provided radical ideas for marketing jute. Brand Ambassador - Captain Joot in his designer soot, said suit obviously made from ... yes, joot. One can imagine the Cap'n flying in, his Cape of Hessian settling in majestic folds around his sculptured physique (sculpted in the shape of a sack of cement?), assisting bewildered shoppers in their selection of home furnishings. Gripping stuff. The Duck should so take it up for his next graphic novel.

The Great Blogger laughed - sniggered, even - when I pointed out that jute is not, well, derma-friendly. Not to put too fine a point on it, if those super-hero designer undies were made from jute our hero would spend more time scratching than swatching. (He also mentioned Joot-is, have to ask the ShoeFiend about that one.)

Could it possibly be that the Uncut Ideals do not include Taking Jute Seriously? One is devastated.


Hero reminds me. Latest discovery is Tom Holt's 'Who's afraid of Beowulf?'. Very nice. (He also has a book called 'Paint Your Dragon'. Such joy!) The companion novel, 'My Hero', also plays with the interface of reality and fantasy but rambles far too much and becomes unreadable. Sad.
Woody Allen did it so much better in the classic short story 'The Kugelmass Episode', where "students in various classrooms across the country were saying to their teachers, 'Who is this character on page 100? A bald Jew is kissing Madame Bovary?'"

Should so ask the Jabberwock (and Baradwaj Rangan?) if they can name the '80s Hindi telefilm based on that story. Guesses, anyone?