Friday, June 6, 2014

Battleground UP : some thoughts on the affecting book

Battleground U.P. : Politics in the land of RamBattleground U.P. : Politics in the land of Ram by Manish Tiwari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for well researched, nuanced books on politics, but even if I hadn't been, this book would still rank as one of my favourites. For this is such an utterly fascinating book, so rooted in reality, so authentic. It deals with the dirty, murky world of ground-level politics in UP and dissects it in all its grimy and gory details. Never turning into a high handed social commentary, without any use of heavy academic jargons, it shows the disgusting and the noble, the ridiculous and the mundane, all facets of how politics is conducted in our largest state. And it does that with a lot of compassion, raw feelings, all tongue in cheek. Though it is a bit out of time to read this, since this book was written after UP assembly elections in 2013 and a lot of water has flown through the Ganga since, but still the socio-poltical realities is still almost same, and so it is a must read for anyone remotely interested in understanding how the dance of democracy is conducted in our hinterlands, and what it means for the masses inhabiting this hugely significant state, politically. Everything is dealt in detail here, whether the intertwined streams of communalism and criminaluzation or the rise of caste based politics, heralding the mainstreaming of the erstwhile backward communities into politics, whether the rise of nexus between neo-industrialists, politicians and mafia or the sustenance of socialism, alongside. With a heady mix of personalities, ideoligies, everything from the awe-inspiring to gut-wrenching. A wonderful read.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's not about one man.

It's easy to project all your fears on a single person. Helps you escape the reality. Doesn't change it, though. So, while every liberal and even remotely secular Indian is fearful of a Hindutva chauvinist becoming the next PM, I am afraid, the situation has already worsened so much that Modi or no Modi, the future of an India of the dreams of our founding fathers already looks in peril. The meteoric rise of Narendra Modi is, I fear, just a symptom of the malaise that has spread far and wide. Soft-communalism, anti-minority biases, prejudices and plain hatred, fanatical re-imaginings of the past, these values have gained so much currency today that it is indeed a shock.  And surprisingly have become so internalized by even the 'educated' and 'professionals' that it seems a daunting task to even imagine India returning to the ideal path now. I have to say, the Hindu-chauvinist organizations : the RSS, VHP et al wouldn't have in their wildest of dreams, imagined such widespread popularity of what was for a long time a fringe ideology, shunned by the majority. Is it still shunned by the core moderate Hindu ? I am not so sure.

The reason for my pessimism is the fact that these ideas have gained tremendous tract among the new middle class and the young professionals, students who will be the future of our country. The other day, in a discussion at my office lunch, someone nonchalantly quipped that Hindustan is for Hindus and those who don't agree with that do not matter. And there was amazing appreciation for that. Then someone said that Hindutva is just a 'way of life' and everybody living in India, is basically a Hindu, whether he agrees or not. Again it met with vociferous approval. Someone else joined in with the insightful comment that Babri demolition was a social movement, someone else praised Modi for 2002, saying it was the need of the hour.
All this with very little opposition. Those few who tried to oppose were vehemently heckled into silence. "We will have none of that 'pseudo-secularism' crap." "It is your problem if you are not with the patriots".
And the story continued the next day, and the next and then after, with more and more people joining in the Hindutva bandwagon and the opposing voices becoming shriller but,  let me be brutally honest, totally irrelevant. When the majority smells the whiff of communal thought, situation can turn really ugly, very quickly. And mind you these are the happenings inside an MNC, with bright minds and educated people, who are totally mild otherwise, living out in one the most liberal atmospheres possible in India. And that is why I fear for the future. Their insolence, intolerance was so shocking, their understanding of history so churlish and full of fantastical flourishes and paranoia, their belief in Modi being the saviour of one and all so unbending and their imagined victimhood of 'Hindus' by the others so visceral, it made me tremble in awe and fear.

I have now actually begun to curse all those writers, intellectuals and leaders who fooled me into believing that India is a secular state, that it is not a Hindu Pakistan. My belief has been shaken. With each passing day, I realise even more clearly, what I should have realised much earlier. After all the signs were already there. I must have been sleeping when 2 million people attended the funeral of Bal Thackeray.....2 million people, 20 lakh...imagine that. SO much appeal for a hooligan who did more damage to the cosmopolitan fabric of Bombay than any other person possibly. And I should have been concerned earlier that an openly communal CM was winning one election after the other and was simultaneously being given 'audience-choice' awards, one after the other, for the best CM. I must have been wandering in my dreams with Nehru or Ambedkar way too much and so I guess I deserve the rude shock that I have received now. Still, it hurts to watch the very idea of India of one's dreams being shredded apart and mockingly so, by my fellows without so much as a batting of an eyelid.

I have read some opinion pieces stating that this rise in communalism and Modi mania is transitory and will pass. I don't think so. I think the very secular nature of India has been charred already, and the man hasn't even taken power. And it doesn't matter, frankly. Because the man may come and go, but these ideas have so deeply got entrenched into everyone's minds, that it is not going to matter who is in power. Today a Modi, tomorrow an Amit Shah, day after some other. There is not going to be any stop. Atleast that is what it feels over here in this privileged cordon of cosmopolitan Bombay. Sad, very sad indeed!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Reading' through the Ghalib glass

( Courtesy : Vishi Sinha )

"कब किताब पढ़ते हो?"
"ग़ालिब छूटी पढ़ाई, पर अब भी कभी कभी,
पढ़ता हूँ रोज़-ए-अब्र-ओ-शब-ए-माहताब में."

"कौन सी पढ़ते हो?"
"अच्छी पढ़ ली खराब पढ़ ली, जैसी मिली क़िताब पढ़ ली."

"क्यों पढ़ते हो?"
"पढ़ता हूँ इसलिए कि कट जाए ज़िन्दगानी मेरी, वर्ना किसी शौक़ की ख़ातिर तो मैं नहीं पढ़ता."

"कितनी पढ़ते हो?"
"वैसे कभी पोथी नहीं काफी, कभी इक फ़िकरा बहुत है."

"कैसे और कहाँ पढ़ते हो?"
"कभी अल्फ्रेड पार्क में था मुक़ाम ,
तो कभी गंगा - जमुना तीरे,
कभी ट्रिपल आईटी लैब
तो कभी छत के कोने में.
आजकल फ़ुर्सत नहीं मिलती
ग़म-ए-रोजगार से
तो पायी है पनाह
मोबाइल की छोटी स्क्रीन में."