Thursday, 31 May 2007

Excessive campaign against tobacco: Wine is Fine

First of all let me clarify that I am neither a smoker or associated with a cigarette brand (or tobacco company) but the pitch against tobacco that is getting shriller every year, really annoys me.

Today was No Tobacco Day and it seemed that consumption of tobacco is a the worst of all crimes in the society. But I don't see any such campaign against the liquor, which makes a person addict in a very different sense than cigarette or gutka.

Once you are addicted to liquor, it takes its toll on your entire family and ruins the life. Tobacco is a health hazard but surely not in this category. But it is made out to be the biggest culprit. While wine is celebrated and promoted these days. Tobacco is much cheaper and smoking is still not such a costly addiction compared to alcoholism that hits the finances of the family. Innumerable families suffer due to alcoholic men.
If tobacco can cause cancer, liquor is no nectar. But liquor seems to have got the approval. Most of the women, I know, approve of social drinking but their eyebrows are raised when a man lights a cigarette (is it because he hasn't asked their permission?).

And smoking doesn't lead to crime but liquor does lead to all kinds of anti-social activities including sexual crimes, still the latter is fast becoming acceptable and cigarette/tobacco is condemned excessively.
I fail to understand this strong movement against smoking, which is acquiring a dangerous momentum with time though smoking 'bidi' has been a part of culture in rural India.

Urban Indians may laugh at it but in rural areas, especially in parts of Haryana, UP, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, women can't do without a 'beedi'.

The advertisements are banned, the cigarette/bidi packets are now carrying warnings in bold letters and every year they are taxed heavily. Though love for liquor grows. I know many would say that alcohol can be beneficial and has medicinal properties but I feel that this requires exceptional restraint which most of the alcohol consumers find nearly impossible to achieve.

(Photographs: A woman enjoys a puff of bidi in Delhi on top right. Here on the left two women light up their bidis)

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The great Indian summer in pictures


Most of India is experiencing hot weather and though showers have brought temperature down in some parts,
the harsh May sun has made life difficult for ordinary Indians, especially those who work on the street.

Barf ka Gola. In this photograph, the Buddhist children in Himachal Pradesh are relishing this desi ice candy. Don't you remember your childhood and the joy of eating this 'barf ka gola'.

Nearly two crore Indians travel by trains every day and railway journey becomes an ordeal in the season. The picture here shows passengers using the window of train compartment to get in and out of rail.

Of course, it is more a problem in the second class and the general compartment. But that's the real India, isn't it!

Typically Indian. Surely a nice picture to look but none of us would like to be in such a packed train. Will you? But what's the option when you have no option to travel.

The Indian railway takes you everywhere in the country and though the bogey may be overcrowded, the fellow passengers somehow manage and give the speace after squirming a bit, at least in the lower classes.

Even the animals are feeling the heat this year.

In this photograph on the left, the elephant is being fed the watermelon. That's a photo from Patna where the jumbo is eating the 'tarbooz', which I am sure, succeeded in refreshing the elephant up.

The animals don't have the coolers, fans and ACs and they are the worst sufferers. As a result of the global warming and rising temperature, the animals appear in a state of panic.

Of course, there are a few lucky ones like the sniffer dogs employed by police and other armed forces. They enjoy all the comforts and are kept in air-conditioned dens. Also some tigers, lions and other big cats in zoos and national parks for whom coolers have been installed, have this luxury.

I had a tough time persuading any rickshaw-wallah in Lucknow to take me to the locality where my relative stayed as it was quite far and nobody seemed in a mood to face the blazing sun.

In this picture, which is from Punjab, the rickshaw-walas sleep under a shed even though the harsh sun rays penetrate in. Still, the 'mehnat-kash' have snatched their siesta.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Upper caste MLAs touch the feet of 'untouchable'

Mayawati's coronation: Caste wheel turns full circle

On May 13 when the newly-elected upper caste MLAs of BSP touched her feet at the oath-taking faction in Raj Bhawan at Lucknow, it was the most watershed event in the history of this nation.

The Brahmins, Thakurs, Banias and Kayasthas, who for at least two millenniums treated the Dalits as un-touchables, were not only accepting a Dalit woman as their leader but seemed eager to give her the kind of reverence which the upper castes commanded from the Dalits for centuries.

The coronation of Mayawati as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest political stories in independent India. She now heads the government which rules nearly 200 million people of UP.

It is the greatness of Indian democracy that a woman from Jatav caste of Dalits (un-touchables) has come to rule the land where flow the sacred Hindu rivers--Ganga, Jumna and Saraswati and has the holiest cities like Benares and Allahabad. It is the region where the kingdom of Lord Rama existed near Ayodhya on the bank of Saryu and it is the Doab where the interaction of Hindus and Muslims resulted in the birth of a common composite culture. The majestic Taj Mahal at Agra and the beautiful Urdu language are the most beautiful symbols of this interaction.

But the enormity of injustice meted out to the huge Dalit population remained a blot on India for centuries. With the acceptance of Mayawati as their leader by Brahmins, who rank highest in the caste hierarchy, and an overwhelming support of Muslims and other groups, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has got the opportunity to bring the social change.

Still, in thousands of Indian villages, a Dalit bridgeroom can't ride a horse, the Dalit women can't fetch water from the well meant for upper-castes and the lower castes have to put up with insults though the situation has changed in urban areas.

The Kashi Ram protege has come a long way. Her mentor had established the BSP in 1984. Once the strong rhetoric of 'Tilak Tarazu aur Talwar, Inko maaro joote chaar' evoked sharp response for India's elite but now an all-inclusive Mayawati talks about 'sarva-samaj' and the slogans in the recently held elections were: 'Brahmin shankh bajayega, Hathi Dilli jayega' & 'Hathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai'.

Hopefully, an experienced Mayavati, will avoid the politics of vendetta and ensure the rule of law. In her earlier stints, she succeeded in instilling pride amongst Dalits by installing statues of Lord Buddha, Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj, Dr BR Ambedkar, Bijli Pasi, Jhalkari Bai and other Dalit icons of the past. Now she must take upon the real tasks:

UP badly needs good governance. The law-and-order is crumbling. The mafia and abductions for ransom needs to be curbed. The state needs investment, infrastructure, electricity and good institutes of learning. With the people of Uttar Pradesh giving her an absolute majority, Mayawati must rise to the occasion and bring order to UP that has got the tag of 'ulta pradesh'. We Wish her success.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Sting operation exposes four 'godmen'

The God-men who have millions of followers and teach morality in public turned out to be fraudulent commission agents, caught in a sting operation on Friday.

For many it could be a sad day but at Hindustaniat we believe that the Cobra Post-IBN 7's operation Maya, which nailed these Babas--Pilot Baba, Vedanti Maharaj, Suryam Namboodiri and Kireet Maharaj, is a welcome move. It will hopefully check the growing superstitions in the society.

Twenty first century India should have no place for such cheat 'sants' and 'mahatmas'.

1. Pilot Baba, who has a great following and influence amongst politicians and bureaucrats was caught on camera, shamelessly demanding commission to turn black money into 'white'. The Baba who after retirement from Air Force as Wing Commander, turned a Sanyasi, and is known to take long 'samadhis' boasted about his connections with top leaders. He offered to convert Rs 7 crore into 'white' by taking Rs 3 crore.

'Give me Rs 10 crore, I will keep Rs 3 crore and the rest will be returned to you in the form of cheque issued by my trust', he said. The payment of Rs 7 crore would be shown as money paid in lieu of some construction work at his Ashram. He was caught by the hidden camera. He boasted of his association with Arab Sheikhs and most politicians. Also, said that he had all sorts of men and can get anybody 'picked up' from his house in case of mischief.

2. Ram Vilas Vedanti, who has been associated with Ram Mandir movement, and runs the Matri Sewa Trust was also caught. He said that he will keep the commission and then give back the money, converted to 'white'. "I have my own trust and there is no need to ask anybody or seek anyone's advice in issuing a cheque'.

This holy man turned a financial dealer of worst kind and a fraudster with no conscience. He lied about his own position in the trusts and had no hesitation in asking how much 'percentage he will get'. He was shamelessly lying and dealing with journalists of Cobra Post who had masqueraded as agents of Corporate companies. Vedanti is known for his association with Hindutva ideology and support to Ram Mandir movement. His comment against Muslims were also in a bad taste.

3. Kirit Maharaj was the third person to be caught on camera. He made the most surprising statement. 'I can make a chutney of Rs 100 crore in five months and finish it'. By 'chutney' he meant that he could show this black money, into legally earned amount, with his fraudulent methods.

Like a seasoned businessman, he kept bargaining and negotiating. He wanted 40% commission. He said how he would show that the money was given by his Vrindavan Project and get it converted into 'Number 1 ka paisa'.

4. The fourth of the godman who was exposed in the first series of IBN expose, was Suryam Namboodiri, who hails from South India and has an Ashram at the Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi. Though he couldn't communicate, the dealings were finalised through his disciple.

The Baba is well-known for making accurate predictions but failed to realise that the persons sitting with him were not financial agents but reporters on a mission to nab him. Surprisingly, all these god-men preach morality but had no difficulty in discussing all sorts of illegal ways and appeared willing to go to any extent in their greed for amassing wealth and money.

The IBN-7 (CNN-IBN's Hindi channel) with the help of Cobra Post has exposed seven babas and names of three more will be revealed on Saturday. But there is one question, what will happen to the religious channels that survive on such 'gurus' and their discourses!

The rest three Babas include include Swami, Pragyanand, Anil Joshi and Acharya Pramod.

Aise babaon se to bhagwan bachaye hinduon ko...

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

End of Chaupals & your first TV set: Weston, Crown or EC?


Which was your first Television set? Chances are that most of you would remember that, especially if you were born before the 80s when TV was rare in Indian households.

Those were the days when Baithaks and Chaupaals were still alive. The old and young would sit in the evening for the leisurely chat. But the idiot box was to change all that in no time.

My first TV came as late as 1984. Indira Gandhi had just died and the whole nation was watching her last rites. Young Rajeev Gandhi was about to take over the reins of the country and Amitabh Bachchan lit the funeral pyre with him.

It was an orange coloured portable Texla TV. Unlike most television sets that were rectangular, it was squarish and the strange look caught my fancy. The Indian Express ad priced it at Rs 1349 (inclusive of all taxes) but it cost us Rs 1750 (the consumer was not the King back in early 80s).

As a kid I had seen TV in Delhi in an exhibition in 1978. The same year a TV set was bought in my maternal grandfather's house. It was a Huge TV by any standards. The company was EC, the most popular one, which had its advertisements on the last page of most magazines including Nandan and Indrajal Comics, then.

It was so heavy that four persons used to lift it. The cabinet was made of beautiful wood and the doors had a lion-shaped lock. It's tale had to be pulled and pushed into its mouth to unlock. On every Sunday, the entire locality would gather in the house and the TV would be brought in the compound.

The film would start at 6:30 pm but crowd would gather much before 5 pm and even after the film ended, they would not leave until my grandfather would start getting angry. I spent my summer holidays in my grandfather's house in the small town. And on return would boast about the huge TV in front of my friends, who were yet to see it.

But Asiad 1982 changed everything. Appu, the elephant, became a darling and the most recognisable mascot. The new stadiums came up in Delhi and India was all of a sudden changing from a poor nation to a happening country. The biggest jolt came to me when a neighbour who had a large family with five kids and who worked as lab assistant, bought a TV in the building.

It took another couple of years, the 1983 world cup, in between, before we could own a TV set. The orange small TV was a darling of everybody in the house. There were strict rules on who will turn on TV and that it should be handled with care.

Once when the mechanic came to fix a problem, he was treated as a VIP, as if any disrespect might turn him off and he may put off the work for the next morning, depriving us of the sight of the serial, Ados Pados (it came on Thursday). Each and every small detail about the set and the number of times it needed repair is still fresh in my mind.

In a year or so the world changed around us. TVs came in all the neighbouring houses. The names of the few companies which I remember are:

Crown EC TV Weston Keltron Televista
Dyanora Uptron Bush Konark Solidaire
BPL Beltek Videocon Texla Onida Binatone

The Onida was special with the Satan's ad about neighbour's envy, owner's pride. The jingle for Crown was 'Crown is the World Class TV....' I think most of the companies shut shop and after the end of black and white TV era, failed to upgrade. Except BPL, Videocon and Onida.

After that Orange coloured TV set, we bought many more sets but we don't remember either the year we bought them or the shop they were taken from, let alone other minor details. Plasma, Flat, 3D TVs will come and go but neither the era will come back nor any 'buddhu baksa' will give the joy of watching even the Krishi Darshan on those black and white TV sets.

(Photos: TV dealt a fatal blow to Chowpals, an old black and white TV set, the mascot and logo of Asian Games 1982)

Nostalgia Zindabad!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Girl remembers playing cricket in a boys' team in college

Golden Heart Girl nostalgically recalls playing cricket

Like most of Indians, I grew up with gully cricket. Did not matter I was a female. Born in a family that uncannily is all about equal opportunities and having grown up in a locality that did not frown up little girls in frocks fielding plastic balls with boys in knickers, I had all the opportunities to participate in the game of life called cricket.

Graduating from playing with brother and his friends in local gully, I landed up in a college that was more uncannily into `equal opportunities'. Here at the Institute of Science, Nagpur, they had an interesting rule for the annual sports competition. Each of the team competing in any of the events had to have at least two female members!

Given the fact that we were only two females in a batch of 13 students reading Geology/Mathematics combination, me and my best friend Archana would be part of all the sports teams that our batch participated in. Did not matter that I was definitely plump and far from being an active sportswoman.

But I was (and am) definitely a very strong fan of cricket from the days I had to climb up a chair to listen on cricket commentary on radio that was kept on the highest rack in our home (to keep it away from us children, of course). I distinctly remember the debut match of Kapil Dev in Pakistan, though I certainly was a little kid then.

Anyway, the annual sports were a very interesting affair in our college and we would look forward more to them than the cultural events. The cricket matches were played at the huge ground adjoining the hostel of the college and even when our team was not playing, we would gather there to cheer. And we cheered in our unique style. My specialty was a typical flat ribbed whistle – bright green in colour – that had to be move between lips to bring out shrill yet rhythmic sound. It was held between fingers in a way that it remained invisible most of time.

I was also the innovator among the cheer team. I designed the bougainvillea creeper garlands (that grew on the boundaries of ground) for the players who were dud performers. Whenever a player of opposite team was hit for a four or six or got out while batting, we would rush out into field, holding the bougainvillea garlands.

Most often we were shooed away, as many of these players would be our seniors. Yet there was no dearth of enthusiasm. Even when in graduation first year, I become to be known as one of the most vocal and mischievous of the lot. Another way to irk the opponents was to rush out to seek autographs after a dud performance.

(The photo of the Institute of Science ground as seen by Google Earth)

Also I was good at creating parodies out of famous Hindi songs and applying them to situations. Also we would use famous advertisements of those times to tease the players. I remember we had a senior who was in M Sc Final (Physics) when we were in B Sc II. This was a handsome guy, but had a peculiar walking gait. So whenever he came out for batting, on the sidelines I would imitate his walking style, singing `Tata ka OK dhulai ka saabun' (there used to be nurse walking very stylishly in this famous advertisement on television).

I was hugely embarrassed about a decade later, when this senior turned out to be the cousin of one of my very good friend and recognized me as the `Tata ka Ok' girl despite me being clad in a saree for wedding of my friend.

Coming back to cricket - once I was put up for fielding at forward short leg position (dangerous position I know) against a very good team in a crucial match. Their star batsman was at his best, smashing our bowlers to every corner of field. We had used all tricks to get him out but in vain.

Suddenly, when he was at about 80-odd runs, he decided to smash a drive that lashed directly at me and I was hit hard on my thigh with the cork ball. Interestingly even as I clutched my leg and twitched in pain, I saw my teammate at the mid-on position go down on ground, the ball unbelievingly in his hands. Well, the ball had deflected from my thigh high enough for the catch. The star batsman was out! After that I came to be known as the `Great China Wall' (I had the girth to suit the title then) in college.

Even today, whenever I pass the Institute of Science Ground, which coincidently falls very close to our residence now, I remember those days vividly. Often I catch some amateur club members playing cricket there and I slow down a bit, reliving the days I used to be the `Great China Wall'.

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