India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Not a man from DVD Land

Via Rahul Tyagi, I came across this Rediff interview of Sudhir Mishra, the director of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, in which he discusses, among many other fascinating things, the film Black:
I don't like hamming in films, and it's [Black's] a film where everybody's hamming, including the cameraman. Everything is setup for effect -- 'look how sensitive I am.'

It's not really a film about the girl who's blind. It's like you make a film about a guy who's lame, then you take the crutches away, then you hit him on the head, and he falls and you point and say, 'look how he's suffering.' When everything is for effect, it becomes boring. As a filmmaker, you start predicting.

For me, it's a very manipulative film. It's always manipulating me to cry. It's asking for too much sympathy, and I don't have that much sympathy to give. It's like emotional blackmail all the time, and I find that very unattractive. Some people might really like it, but it's not for me.

I enjoyed reading this because, as regular readers of this blog would remember, I expressed pretty much these same feelings in my review of Black a couple of months ago, right down to calling it manipulative. I'm glad to see someone agrees with me.

The rest of Mishra's interview is excellent as well. About Hazaaron... he says:
[T]his is one film I've made where I don't give a damn about anybody's opinion. I found my metre in this film, so I don't care. I know when you turn back 30 years, and you'll want to see a film about India as it was, then there's no other film. Because every young filmmaker is making a film in 'DVD land.'

About Shekhar Kapoor he says:
I regret that Shekhar Kapur doesn't make films more often. Because he's one filmmaker I admire. The problem is that he admires himself so much he doesn't make films more often.

And now, dear reader, you will surely ask how I found Hazaaron.... Well, despite most of the people around me not liking the film, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good story with strong characters, and evoked that period in history well. The screenplay was superb, with the narrative developing at just the right pace.

One drawback in my enjoyment of the film was that I never warmed to the characters Kaykay Menon and Chitrangada Singh played. I knew people like that in college, and I disliked them. But even if they weren't likeable (to me), they were real. The acting was superb, with Shiney Ahuja being the pick of the lot. I suspect, though, that his good looks will come in the way of his being recognised as the talented actor he clearly is. Interesting trivia: Ahuja had auditioned for the role that Akshaye Khanna eventually played in Dil Chahta Hai.

Many of the reasons why people disliked the film had to do with expectations. One friend told me that he was expecting an epic, and this wasn't one. Another said that she was expecting a film to deal with the emergency years, and Hazaaron... didn't. And so on.

Expectations bugger up any work of art. A film or a book should be evaluated for what it is, by itself, regardless of the hype around it or the expectations it raises. Sadly, this seldom happens. With books, for example, the news of a writer getting a big advance or a Booker nomination invariably colours our attitude towards the book, introducing either a negative bias because of jealousy, or a positive one because the sheen of that associated event rubs itself off on the work. That's a pity.
amit varma, 11:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Left, meet right

Are there any issues on which the left and the right are on the same side in India? Yes. Ramachandra Guha tells us where the extremes meet in a piece in the Telegraph titled "Where left meets right".

First, he tells us of how he went to that bastion of left-wing academia, the Jawaharlal Nehru University, to give a speech. When, over coffee, he asked who was the last speaker invited by his hosts, he was told that it was a "Marxist economist", who spoke on "how multinational outfits such as this one [Nescafe] should not be allowed to contaminate the purity of the JNU campus". Guha writes:
“Why does your professor oppose this Nescafé outlet?” I asked. “Because she feels we should encourage indigenous initiatives,” they answered. “Do you know where her own doctoral degree is from?” I asked. They didn’t know, so I supplied the answer — the University of Cambridge. “When you next meet your professor,” I said sarcastically, “ask her one question on my behalf — when she travels by plane to international meetings, does she carry a south Indian filter and Coorg coffee powder with her, or does she quietly drink the beverage offered her on the flight?”

I returned to Bangalore, to find my home-town overtaken by a much larger epidemic of xenophobia, orchestrated this time from the right. An American preacher named Benny Hinn was due to come to deliver a series of open-air sermons. The sangh parivar had come out in force to oppose him. The agitation was being led by the state unit president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ananth Kumar. Kumar described Benny Hinn’s visit as “an organized conspiracy to defame and destroy Hinduism”. The ring-leader of the conspiracy, he added, was the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. Unlike the JNU professor, however, the right-wing loonies were not content with making speeches. They tore down the posters advertising Hinn’s sermons, attacked government offices, held up traffic and generally harassed the residents of the city.

And so, Guha concludes: "Bitter enemies though they might be, the Marxist left and the saffron right are united by what can only be described as an irrational fear of the foreigner." Guha spends the rest of the article answering this question: "What explains this shared xenophobia of left and right?" Read the full thing.
amit varma, 4:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Supplies of horses and women

Vimalanand Prabhu sends mail in response to my post, "Mumbai's Taliban", to point out that the Shiv Sena are liberals compared to the Kyrgyz of Kyrgyzstan. He cites this New York Times report by Craig S Smith that tells us how "[m]ore than half of Kyrgyzstan's married women were snatched from the street by their husbands in a custom known as 'ala kachuu,' which translates roughly as 'grab and run.'" The article elaborates:
The custom predates the arrival of Islam in the 12th century and appears to have its roots in the region's once-marauding tribes, which periodically stole horses and women from rivals when supplies ran low. It is practiced in varying degrees across Central Asia but is most prevalent here in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, mountainous land that for decades was a backwater of the Soviet Union and has recently undergone political turmoil in which mass protests forced the president to resign.

Kyrgyz men say they snatch women because it is easier than courtship and cheaper than paying the standard "bride price," which can be as much as $800 plus a cow.

Family or friends often press a reluctant groom, lubricated with vodka and beer, into carrying out an abduction.

I am particularly struck by the bit about stealing "horses and women from rivals when supplies ran low". I can just imagine this scene:

"Hey, Kyrgyz Noor Bhrygyz," says Kyrgyz Emir Ghnkryz, "I'm feeling horny and we're running short of supplies here, go and ala kachuu or I'll blow your Kyrgyz head off."

"Ok, Kyrgyz Emir Ghnkryz," says Kyrgyz Noor Bhrygyz. He runs off. Ten minutes later he comes in panting, smelling of vodka and beer, dragging a horse behind him.

"Kyrgyz Noor Bhrygyz," shouts Kyrgyz Emir Ghnkryz. "What have you done, why have you got me a horse? I said I was feeling horny."

"Um, Kyrgyz Emir Ghnkryz," says Kyrgyz Noor Bhrygyz, "did you say horny? I thought you said you were feeling horsy. Sorry."
amit varma, 12:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Coffee, tea or strategic partnership?

Ashok Malik takes a look at the spin manufactured by the ministry of external affairs:
Begin with end March and the visit of the American secretary of state. It left India with the offer of a “strategic partnership”. Shortly afterwards, the Chinese prime minister came along and offered India another “strategic partnership”. Now the Japanese prime minister is here with a third “strategic partnership”.

Next month, the Indian prime minister visits Russia to, no doubt, celebrate an old “strategic partnership”. In 2005, India and Australia could exchange prime ministerial visits and upgrade their “strategic dialogue” to — what else? — a “strategic partnership”.

That aside, a familiar bunch of Cold War nostalgics speaks of a trilateral India-Russia-China “strategic partnership” — as opposed to bilateral strategic partnerships between these countries. Finally, this week, one analyst came close to advocating a strategic partnership with an “European Union seeking to cut its apron strings to America”, a happy occurrence Europhilic Indians have been waiting for since the D-Day landings.

Even if Venezuela and all of Africa have not been strategically partnered yet, that is a whole lot of strategic partnerships to cope with.

Later in the piece he asks, "Does the MEA have a strategic world view (as things stand, even a strategic Nepal view would be fine)? Perhaps it simply has a menu of strategic world views, one of which is pulled out to suit the visitor of the week."

Read the full thing.
amit varma, 12:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, April 29, 2005

Making the firangs pay

Karthik sends an email in response to my post on tourism in India, in which he writes:
Last year, when my wife and I visited India, a couple of our friends from the US joined us. They traveled around the country, trying to cover as many places as they could - from Agra to Ooty.

Everywhere we went, we were surprised (and outraged) to see that exploitation of tourists was official policy. The entry fees to most places were different for Indians and foreigners. Indians pay Rs 20 to enter the Taj, while foreigners (defined as people that are not brown) pay $20. Not just the Taj though: Mudumalai (a remote wildlife sanctuary near Ooty), Mahabalipuram, Nagerhole (near Mysore) - all of these places charge higher fees if you are foreign looking. At every place, we felt extremely embarrassed - often we'd just buy tickets without letting them know. After we returned to the US, they told us that having to pay more for the same service just because they were not locals was the thing they hated the most about the trip.

When taxi drivers and tour guides take visitors for a ride, you can tell the tourists that these are a few isolated criminals out to make money, and they'll probably understand. But what happens if the Government systematically exploits visitors? It makes them feel like they are unwelcome, is what happens. I've heard lame excuses along the lines of "They spend so much to come here, why not pay a few dollars more?" but that's totally missing the point.

Good observation. But things are not all bad. Karthik does admit that "[t]hroughout our trip, all the taxi drivers smelt just fine".

Update (April 30): Ashish Hanwadikar, in an email, writes:
The solution to the problem is simple. Whatever money GOI [the government of India] wants to extract from the tourists they should do through increased visa fees. Then the firangs will not feel cheated and GOI will get the money it wants. [In the same] kind of way that the H1-B applicants are asked to pay extra fees to cover training for workers they might displace.
amit varma, 11:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

First things first

Abheek Burman makes a strange proposition in an article in the Times of India, when he writes that India should "[e]xport governance and institutions to Nepal" and "[r]un it as a protectorate". Yazad Jal, who seems to disagree with Burman, then puts up a post titled: "Should India invade Nepal?" I disagree with Burman as well, and think that invading Nepal would be silly. We have a more urgent problem to wrestle with first, so here's my question:

Should India invade Bihar?
amit varma, 4:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

300 coconut and areca nut trees = Rs 2

Subir Bhaumik of the BBC writes about the benevolence of the local government in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where villagers have recieved tsunami compensation amounts of as little as Rs 2. The report says:
The BBC has seen a cheque for two rupees sent to Charity Champion, who lives in the village of Nancowrie, an island in the worst hit Nicobar group.

"I lost 300 coconut and areca nut trees in the tsunami, with damage running up to 20,000 rupees ($457)," Charity told the BBC.

"But even judging by the government's assessment of damage, I should have received at least five to six thousand rupees ($114-$137).

"You don't pay two rupees even for a broken window pane."

Her nearest bank demands a deposit of 500 rupees to open an account. She said she was in no mood to do that, just to cash in her two rupee cheque.

The report cites other such instances of residents getting ludicrously small amounts of compensation. I'm not surprised. I had travelled through Tamil Nadu after the tsunami struck (my blog posts through that journey are archived here) and time and again I found that, barring a few exceptions, the government was utterly inefficient. On a trip a few years earlier to Latur, after it was struck by an earthquake, I'd found that most relief material never reached the people they were intended to, but instead entered a well-organised black market. A natural disaster creates an industry of its own, with politicians and government servants being major players in the markets that open up. And the best relief work is done not by the government, but by individuals and private groups.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is not the only place where there is something black in the lentil soup, as you surely must know by now if you've been following this.
amit varma, 2:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to wake a sleeping judge

For every problem, if you dig deep enough, there's a solution. Khalid Ansari of Mid Day writes about a judge with a sleep disorder, who reportedly fell asleep during a recent rape trial. He writes:
Documents have been produced to show [Ian] Dodd snored while he slept for 15 minutes at a time, causing laughter and comments from the jury. The judge has a record of serial slumber on the bench.

What to do about such a judge? Well, check out this newspiece (link via email from Ravikiran), about a woman who was convicted for raping a man:
The incident occurred on Jan. 4 last year in a Bergen apartment. The man testified that he fell asleep on a sofa and woke up to find the woman performing oral sex on him.

The woman eventually admitted sexual contact but claimed that it was voluntary and that the man was willing and smiled.

So now you know how to wake the judge up. I can imagine this scene:
[Judge Gaitonde leaning back in chair] Mmmm, aah, oooh, eeeh... [trembles, rises from slumber]... oooh, ah, order, order, constable More, what on earth are you doing?
amit varma, 2:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Police v Police

Mumbai's female policemen have complaints against Mumbai's male policemen. Mid Day reports that 120 female cops recently got together to complain about sexual harrasment to joint commissioner (crime) Meera Borwankar. Some excerpts:
An officer from a south Mumbai police station said a male colleague got himself massaged inside the station, right in front of his female colleagues.

Another participant, from a suburban police station, broke into tears while narrating a harrowing experience with one of her superiors. She said she was shunted to an insignificant department after she resisted his advances.

Several participants said male officers frequently undress in front of them at the end of their shifts. When asked not to do so, they make embarrassing, lewd remarks.

They target females whose marriages they know aren’t going well, usually by making them stay back late.

Some alleged that most officers and constables are often drunk, especially while on night duty.

Nice, that last bit about "most officers and constables" being "often drunk". As I wrote in an earlier post, Sunil More was not an aberration: cops in India, generally, are incompetent and untrustworthy. At least the men are.
amit varma, 1:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Prufrock v Prufrock

Prufrock defrocks Prufrock.

But why, it must be asked, was Prufrock wearing a frock in the first place?
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The fondling of memory

Mid Day reports on the predicament of a lady named Shyamala Sharma:
“We had just finished celebrating our son’s naming ceremony and had gone to sleep. When I felt someone fondling me, initially I thought it was my husband who was sleeping with the kids nearby and I didn’t mind. But then he was acting strange as he didn’t answer my questions and when I went to switch on the light, he pushed my hand away,” said Shyamala.

When she finally managed to switch on the light, she got the shock of her life when she realised that it was not her husband but her neighbour, Nitin Sonavane.

Her husband "then beat up Sonavane", and took him to a police station, but he was "let off in under four hours". Sharma was quoted as saying:
We thought he would be locked up for good, but were shocked to see him dancing in a wedding nearby the same day. He even threatened my husband that he would teach him a lesson. I am terribly frustrated.

The bit that interests me here is how the memory of that event will shape itself in Mrs Sharma's mind. At the time she was being "fondled", she thought her husband was doing it and, it would seem, she enjoyed it. Later, when she found out that it wasn't Mr Sharma but Scoundrel Sonavane, she presumably revised her memory, and it became an unpleasant experience for her. In fact, it would be correct to say that she was fondled not once, but twice: once, in her impression at the time, she was 'caressed' by Mr Sharma; after that, and this was realised in retrospect, she was 'molested' by Scoundrel Sonavane. There were two events, one an imagined one in real time, the other a real one in hindsight.

Please don't imagine that I am drawing any moral conclusions from this idle musing or prescribing any leniency towards the culprit. Scoundrel Sonavane must get his due. Dancing in weddings is not on.
amit varma, 5:30 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The servant culture

Nilu complains that there are too many people employed in Indian establishments, including restaurants. MadMan, the owner of the magnificent Shiok, explains why that is so. He writes:
Take the American (or most Westerners really), for example. His idea of good service is a courteous waiter, menus presented on time, food brought out and placed on his table in reasonable time, and his glass filled from time to time. The American actually gets annoyed by the "fawning" service offered in so many Indian restaurants, where the waiters (mistakenly) believe that the gora sahib wants to be given extra attention and be waited on hand and foot. He tries his best to provide this service and ends up having exactly the opposite effect - he pisses the Westerner off.

In my training, we teach staff how to handle the Westerners differently - be polite, efficient, and don't serve them food like servants. They prefer to do that themselves. They want to be left alone much of the time.

The Indian, on the other hand, has completely different expectations. We live in a "servant" culture. When my Indian customer walks into a fine dining restaurant, he expects to be waited on hand and foot. To him (risking stereotyping here, but largely true), the waiters are like servants who are there to satisfy his every wish. That's what he's paying for, damn it! This means that he expects to be served when the food gets to the table, and served again when the rice on his plate is running out, and for the waiter to show up by his side the moment he raises his finger. If he has to say "excuse me", it's bad service. I've seen far too many people treat waiters like dirt. This might be why I always get treated like a king at my regular haunts. I treat them like humans and talk to them.

Read the full thing.
amit varma, 5:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On translation

As a cricket writer on tour, one of the most interesting things I note is press conferences that are not in English. Most of the Pakistanis, for example, prefer to speak in Urdu and many of the Indians, such as Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan, speak in their own language. What is fascinating to me is the manner in which they are translated by the English-language press.

How one translates quotes from another langauge reveals a lot about how one thinks, and writes. For example, if some writers lazily fall back upon cliches and banalities in their own writing and thought, something I had written about here, it is likely that a glimpse of that will appear in their translation as well. Those who tend to use archaichisms in their own writing will put them in other people's mouths.

Also, the translated quotes pieces that appear the next day reveal which groups of writers work in cliques. These are the pieces which are verbatim the same, something that would not be possible if each individual did his own translation. It means that one guy did the translating and the rest of his group took the copy from him. That is not a bad thing; stressed-out journalists on tour often need to work together to retain their sanity.

How do I work, you ask? Well, press conferences in Urdu and Hindi are the ones I enjoy the most, as I know these languages pretty well. It's a breeze for me to take down the gist of what is being said, and translate it quickly into simple English. I try not to use a big word when a smaller one would serve the same purpose, and I make sure that it sounds natural when spoken aloud. In the hands of many other writers, simple natural spoken Urdu turns into stilted English.

Consider, for example, this interview of Irfan Pathan in Outlook, in which he supposedly says: "I’ve already experienced the vicissitudes of life at the top." As fellow blogger Bala points out, "vicissitudes" is hardly the kind of word that Pathan would use in everyday speech. It tells us more about the interviewer than the interviewee, and that is a pity.
amit varma, 4:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Off with his head. Oops

Prashant Kothari points to a disturbing report of an Indian who had his head chopped off by the Saudi Arabian authorities, who then confessed that they had made a mistake and the fellow was innocent. Manish Vij of Sepia Mutiny dramatises it well:
Imagine this: you’re a poor Indian villager. You’re recruited for a decent blue-collar job in the Middle East. Your dad borrows money to buy you the ticket. Your travel agent takes pity on you and buys you decent clothes for your first day on the job.

When you arrive, customs searches your belongings. You’re shocked when they tell you they found a small amount of heroin in your shoes and throw you in jail. You quickly realize the travel agent was not as generous as he seemed. You spend the next five years in lockup. The Indian embassy doesn’t help.

One fine day, the police take you out back and cut off your head. A few days later, while closing out your case, they realize they made a mistake and send a message to the Indian embassy: turns out you were innocent. Shrug. Body’s been disposed of. Shit happens. Whaddya gonna do?

Send Sunil More there.
amit varma, 1:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Peechhe se mara-wara

Mid Day reports:
Former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said that the accused in the Gateway blasts, standing right behind him in court yesterday, terrified him.

“Peechhe se mara-wara toh problem ho jayega (If they hit me from behind, there’ll be a problem)” he muttered to advocate Rohini Salian, who smiled in reply to Bhujbal as he slid forward to the edge of his chair.

And later:
It was only after they left, that the creases disappeared from Bhujbal’s face and he relaxed again. This relief, however, was momentary — the press was waiting to grill him outside.

That's right. If the terrorists don't get you, the journalists will.
amit varma, 12:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Supporting the Taliban

A few of the people who mailed me after my recent post, "Mumbai's Taliban", were outraged that I should be denigrating the Shiv Sena by comparing them with Mullah Omar's men. It isn't, as I had thought, just a small fringe that supports the Sena. And today's Times of India confirms that. In a poll on, as many as half of the respondents agreed with the Sena's views on the matter of the Marine Drive rape. Read more on that poll, and some sample opinions of readers, here.

Some of the opinions baffle me. One guys says, "After all we should not forget that we are Indian. So it's 100% appropriate to say 'Avoid revealing clothes, avoid rape.'" Another person writes, "Girls must wear elegant clothes & not revealing clothes. This is not our culture." I'm sure (I hope!) the poll isn't representative, but even if a few people think like this, that is shocking.

Also read: this Indian Express editorial that says that "Mumbai’s citizens are demanding an end to moral policing and a beginning to police accountability." Are they, really? Or is it just a few of us "English-speaking types" who are making such demands?
amit varma, 12:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cabinet meetings on body odour

The International Herald Tribune reports:
The personal hygiene of Delhi's taxi drivers is an unusual topic for ministerial-level discussion, but recently it has been central to a government debate over how to lure more tourists to India.

Convinced that the body odors of many of the capital's drivers were far from inviting, the tourism minister, Renuka Chowdhury, has started an advertising campaign aimed at persuading those who work in the tourism sector to clean up their act.

Chowdhury is also quoted as saying:
I've been telling the drivers, "You must be clean, you must launder your clothes, you must wash your socks." I think I get away with it because I look so motherly.

Indeed. But being motherly is hardly enough. Tourists are not wary of India because of cabbies who don't bathe, but because of other deeper reasons, such as, to quote from the article, "infrastructure problems like potholed roads, restricted flights, shabby airports and dire hotel shortages". And India is culturally tourist-unfriendly. Consider this:
"Tourists have not been treated very well in the past," said Shyam Suri, secretary general of the Federation of Hotels and Restaurant Associations of India. A typical scam, he said, might be a taxi driver who tells a newcomer that there is a riot going on outside the hotel where he has reserved a room and who takes him to a smaller, seedier establishment instead, where the driver gets a cash commission.

Tourists, the article says, have been "dismayed at the way tour guides harassed them at national monuments, at overcharging by small-shop owners and at short-changing by taxi drivers." But is this something only tourists face? I get short-changed by cabbies all the time, even in Mumbai itself. And no respectable "small-shop owner" in India will pass up the chance to cheat a firang. Can this be changed? How can this be changed?

Soap will not be enough.

(Link via email from Sanjeev, aka Desi Poet.)
amit varma, 11:50 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

From rape to murder

Mumbai's police outdoes itself.
amit varma, 1:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Power without responsibility: Part II

The Telegraph reports:
After giving a clear indication about resuming arms supplies to Nepal, the Manmohan Singh government today took a step back after some strong condemnation from its key ally, the CPM.

It said arms supply would not be revived unless King Gyanendra took serious steps to restore democracy. Supplies were cut off after the king declared emergency, assuming charge himself.

I think Singh's government had made the right decision, and I agree with the government's assessment that "despite differences with the king, the threat posed by the Maoists in Nepal was a much more serious concern for Delhi." If I may take the immodest liberty of quoting from an earlier post of mine:
Gyanendra's suspension of democracy is an unwarranted and extreme move, but I would nevertheless contend that a threat to humanity, as Maoists have always been, is a greater danger than a threat to democracy. The right to vote can be restored; lives lost cannot.

Once the Maoists have been defeated, democracy will be easy to restore, with economic sanctions and so on. But if the Maoists triumph in Nepal, a Cambodia-like genocide is possible, especially given the Maoists' self-professed admiration for the Khmer Rouge. And the repurcussions for India could also be dangerous, with "a Naxal corridor from Nepal to Nellore", as the Indian Express put it, becoming a dangerous possibility.

Giving military aid to King Gyanendra, in this context, must be viewed not as the validation of a monarch who has suspended democracy, but as a neccessary step for the security of the region, one that might just save millions of lives. The CPM probably sympathises with their leftist brethren in Nepal, but this is one indulgence they must not be allowed.
amit varma, 1:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A cerebral introduction

The introduction to an IANS interview of Lara Dutta by Subhash K Jha reads:
Lara Datta is a cerebral actor is pretty apparent. She also felt that intelligence can be a "disadvantage" in Bollywood. Admitting she was "ambitious", she also said she was a "different" person. In this interview she talks about her wrong moves and her future plans. [Sigh. Many sics.]

This was published in Hindustan Times. Residents of Mumbai who keep complaining about the shoddy journalism of Times of India will no doubt be glad to learn that a Mumbai edition of HT will be launched soon. Same difference.
amit varma, 12:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Power without responsibility

Do you spend a lot of your free time wondering how to defame someone and escape trial? Nitin Pai tells you how.
amit varma, 11:42 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Fresh air and horoscopes

I know, from personal experience, of many cows who hate their sedentary lives, and wish they were taken out for more walks. "It's udderly frustrating," one cow remarked to me the other day. "I'm thinking of staring a campaign against this. Our slogan will be: 'You want fresh milk? Give us fresh air.'"

Well, in Kota, which most of India knows as a railway station but there's apparently a town attached, cows are getting their fresh air. IANS reports:
Milk sellers in Rajasthan, badly hit by customers shifting to processed milk following concerns about adulteration, are taking their milch cattle to buyers' doorsteps.

Milkmen in Kota district [...] have launched the novel initiative, one that could spread to other parts of the state. The milkmen reach the residential areas in the city with their cows and buffaloes at fixed times to enable customers buy fresh milk.

The article does not quote a cow called Indu as saying, "We are so glad, we get to take a walk every morning. It's just bovine, I mean, divine. Moo."

Indu's younger sister, Pindu, is of marriagable age. What, you have a bachelor bull? Well, no problem, now one can get horoscopes for cows made. Don't believe me? See here.
amit varma, 11:23 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mumbai's Taliban

A drunk policeman rapes a 17-year-old girl inside a police chowky, and the Shiv Sena takes the side of the cop. A bizarre article in Saamna, the party newspaper, blames "page 3 culture" for the attack, and says that part of the blame lies with girls who dress provocatively. The Indian Express quotes from the article:
There seems to be a competition among youngsters to show their undergarments in the name of ‘below-waist’ fashion. It is no longer feasible for a family to roam on Chowpatty. To see girls dangle a cigarette openly is worrisome. If a man is incited by such clothes, who can one blame?

There's more. One of the senior leaders of the party, and a prolific columnist, Pramod Navalkar is quoted as saying:
We are compromising with our culture. The manner in which girls behave and socialise today is exceeding all limits. In the good old days, girls from Ghatkopar would not venture to Chowpatty.

In other words, it was the girl's fault that she had the nerve to go to Marine Drive instead of hanging around in her own neighbourhood, and to add to this, she must have surely incited the cop by leaving some part of her body uncovered.

I'm amazed that in a state that prides itself for its progressive attitude, a party like the Shiv Sena can continue to get votes. These goons are our Taliban, and the fact that they have a following here is a matter of worry. Sunil More, the policeman who the Shiv Sena would have us believe was lured into becoming a rapist, is just a tiny symptom of a wider disease. So here's a question for you: What is this disease? How can we cure it?
amit varma, 11:01 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, April 25, 2005

Hey, who's that in my house?

Manmohan Singh calls up Sonia Gandhi and says, "Um, Soniaji, do you have a guest room in your house?"

"Why, Maninder?" asks Sonia. "Is that Prakash Karat fellow throwing pebbles at your window again?"

"Um, no, Soniaji," he replies. "And it's Manmohan, not Maninder. It so happens that I got home after work and there's an American fellow in my house, he insists it belongs to him. Can't argue with these Americans, you know."

Read this. (Link via Bala.)
amit varma, 9:57 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Prolonging the agony

"I’ve introduced Shah Rukh [Khan] in slow motion in all my films." - Karan Johar, in an interview on MTV.
amit varma, 9:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Our glass house

The Telegraph writes:
Politicians of all hues are going to extraordinary lengths to prove or disprove whether a stone has been cast at a minister, sparing little of the zeal or resources to get to the bottom of an accident in which 17 train passengers were killed in their sleep.

Darn right. Suddenly the focus has shifted from the accident that killed so many people to the battle between Lalu Prasad Yadav and Narendra Modi about who threw a stone at Lalu's car. But maybe that's fitting, because they're the real tragedy, those two. And we're the schmucks who voted them in. So why throw stones?
amit varma, 5:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I don't smoke cigars

So reveals Anjali Doshi of India Today in a story that is apparently up here (I've only seen it in print, the link requires a password). There is also a big photograph of mine, in which the cigar I had in my mouth has been artfully photoshopped out. An urban myth, of my not smoking cigars, has been created, and soon I will be endorsing all kinds of non-cigars. A legion of wannabe bloggers, following blindly in my hollowed (not hallowed) footsteps without possessing my non-lungs, will be puffing away at non-cigars, and writing non-sense. Like this paragraph.

The article reveals, by the way, that the Hurree Babu who writes that excellent blog, Kitabkhana, is actually Nilanjana Roy. That revelation reduces the diversity of the Indian blogosphere in my mind, because India's best book critic writing India's best lit blog is too, well, expected. Couldn't Hurree Babu have been an unknown banker or something, starving in a luxurious attic, ignored by the likes of Roy? Where's the romance?

I also know who Putu, Bridal and Prufrock are, but I'm not telling. So there.

PS: I am not implying, by the way, that I smoke cigars. Reality is irrelevant; the myth is out there.
amit varma, 5:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bunty, Babli aur woh

Another plagiarism controversy hits the fashion world, with Suneet Varma alleging that an outfit that he had designed for his Fall 2003 collection has been ripped off by the designer Aki Narula for the film, Bunty and Babli. Varma (not related to me) told Rediff:
I called Aki, because I think he has a right clarify his stand. He was vague. He said he did not know it was my design, and that he had picked it off a store called Options [in Mumbai], because there was a sudden requirement for a poncho the next morning. He said there was no label on it; that is not possible.

So who's the real culprit here? We will find out soon enough ... and then we will forget.
amit varma, 5:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The babus can't solve the problem of babus

In a fine piece in the Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta invokes Paul Appleby, "who, in the good old days when Nehru could freely employ foreign consultants, produced a report on public administration in 1953". Mehta elaborates:
This report is striking in many respects. While he was generally complimentary to the government, his Report shows how the constitutive weakness of the government was already an issue in 1953. Too little expert knowledge, inappropriate hierarchies, too much diffusion of responsibility, inability to prioritise, great inter-service rivalry, too many invidious distinctions between line and staff functions (between planners and implementers), too many rules, too much distrust in the exercise of discretionary power, no sense of opportunity cost and, finally, what he called “lack of action mindedness” were already considerable issues. What is astonishing is that, more than 50 years later, the Report still rings true.

Mehta's piece is about the "fundamental fact: there’s no administrative solution to the challenge of administrative reform." Read the full thing.
amit varma, 12:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Are the communists losing their faith?

Strange debates erupt in our country these days. Consider this report by the Times of India:
In an order sometime back, the Supreme Court had ruled “Hinduism is a way of life”.

But, when Marxist ministers in Kerala were authorised under the law to appoint members to the managing committee of the Devasam temple, the decision was challenged.

The petitioners argued since Communists are non-believers they cannot participate in the administration of a temple, even indirectly.

It was argued that Communists are not qualified to run a temple, which is run by the statutory governing body under the Guruvayoor Devasam Act.

But someone tell me this: why should communists even want to run a temple?

On the other hand, it could be argued that they have no reason to privatise state-run corporations either, and in West Bengal...
amit varma, 12:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Awards for dead people

PTI reports that Jawaharlal Nehru and Sukarno have been posthomously awarded the "Order of the Companion of OR Tambo", South Africa's highest award for foreigners. Now, I wonder what is the point of such awards, given that both the recipients have been dead for decades. Or maybe there is a point. Imagine Nehru and Sukarno hanging around in purgatory:

Sukarno says, "Dude Jawaharlal, we just got another award. Maybe they'll let us into heaven now."

"No chance," says Nehru, sighing copiously. "I've only got 14 of the 83 licenses I need to get in there, and the award won't be enough to grease the remaining palms. This central planning system just doesn't work for heaven, too much discretion to lowly angels, and too much corruption. I wonder who thought of such a stupid system."
amit varma, 7:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Broken piano

Here's a revelation about how Sunil More, who raped a 17-year-old girl inside a police chowky at Marine Drive a couple of days ago, got into the police force in the first place: "His father Atmaram was also a cop in the Mumbai police department. He is said to have died about nine years ago from a stomach ailment. On compassionate grounds, the police department offered the job to More."

So the fellow didn't even get into the police force on merit, but on "compassionate grounds". After this, according to Mid Day, he "quickly became notorious for his arrogance, laziness, and propensity for getting drunk," and "received five official reprimands for poor conduct". He didn't lose his job because "his brother – a constable in the crime branch – would placate More’s seniors every time he got himself into trouble, giving him free rein to do as he pleased".

The latest on this crime is that More has, predictably, denied the rape even as doctors have found prima facie evidence of it, and the chowky where the crime happened has been removed because, in the words of the police, "if the public damages it further in rage, it will amount to tampering of evidence".

The most bizarre development, though, is this: "Cop wives say they'll adopt rape victim". The wives of three top cops have offered to "adopt" the victim, and one of them has said: "I have two daughters; she will be my third child. We’ll do everything possible for her so that she can start leading a normal life again."

This reminds of of those Hindi films where a rapist's way of doing recompense to a rape victim is to marry her. No one bothers to ask the girl what she wants; she was treated as an object while being raped, and she is treated as an object afterwards. "Hey, we broke the piano. Let's make up for it by repairing the piano."

Well, the piano may not want your sanctimony, ladies. Instead, use your influence with your husbands to make sure that justice is done, and that the conditions that enabled the rape are removed from the police force. Such as an unqualified man being given a job on "compassionate grounds". Such as an incompetent policeman retaining his job despite "his arrogance, laziness, and propensity for getting drunk".

Also read: Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta's fine post, "Marine Drive, Saturday morning".
amit varma, 1:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What about Moo?

Daniel Lak has just written a book on India, and he says: "Not a single cow ambles through my pages."

Shame shame.
amit varma, 2:43 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sometimes happiness sometimes sadness

Ok, so you're on television in a quiz that could win you one crore rupees, Virender Sehwag's bat, Paris Hilton's hotel and a date with some hot person you like, and you get asked this question:
Q. Which of these is a Karan Johar movie?

a] Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum
b] Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gum
c] Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum
d] Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

You have 30 seconds to answer, and no internet access or lifelines. Quick, out with it, which is it?

Decided? Ok, the answer is here.

This bit of trivia courtesy Yazad, whose knowledge of Marathi serials, French pronounciation, Jain history and The Bold and the Beautiful is surely unsurpassed. My family unit had dinner with his would-be-family unit a short while back, and the four of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, especially the bit where Yazad had a fork waved at him. Much fun was had, in a passive voice, and the lychees stuffed with chocolate nutties in ice cream are recommended. The film is not.
amit varma, 2:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Big Brother is watching bargirls

Kumar Ketkar writes in the Indian Express:
Time and again it has been proved that the state cannot be the arbiter of private lives. It cannot define what is evil and what is good, what is moral and what is immoral, what is politically correct and what is not. Hitler tried to do this. His project ended in a suicide pact in a bunker. American conservatives had decreed prohibition in the ’30s and all it resulted in was the rise of the mafia. Pakistan banned liquor and bootleggers on both sides of the border are happily exploiting this. But we don’t need to look beyond the borders. In Gandhiji’s Gujarat, run by Super Hindu Narendra Modi, the per capita consumption of liquor is one of the highest in the country.

All this, of course, in the context of banning dance bars in Maharashtra. Read the full thing, while the government still allows you to. Hey, who's that at your shoulder?
amit varma, 1:46 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wants a baby, has a sari

Not long after it was revealed that Arun Nayar was divorcing his wife, Valentina Pedroni, because she did not want to have a child, Liz Hurley talks about her craving for a baby. So everything falls into place, and all's well and compatible.

Meanwhile, the Times of India starts jumping up and down (as opposed to sideways) because Hurley turns up at a do in a sari. Their headline shrieks: "Liz Hurley turns sari clad 'bahu'".

How terribly exciting.
amit varma, 3:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The New Third Front

Around two decades ago, TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan predicted that "within a decade India’s GDP would be led by services and, therefore, it made sense for India to negotiate aggressively for the liberalisation of trade in services". India's commerce secretary at the time called him "a bloody fool". Well, Srinivasa-Raghavan turned out to have been right then, and he has another prediction to offer us now. He writes:
The prediction is this: in a decade or so from now, large sections of the Congress and the BJP will have come together under a common label. This will be the new Third Front.

The starting point is once again the educated middle class, which is growing faster now than it was in the 1980s. Therefore, sooner than you think, a new political formation will have to emerge to reflect the aspirations and needs of this group.

But where will it come from? Certainly not from the perpetually heaving bosoms of the Left and the caste-based parties, because that game is ending.

Also, there are only two political sources with an all-India provenance—the Congress and the BJP. Both have large numbers of politicians who come from the class mentioned above. And their numbers are increasing.

The reason why these people have joined one or the other party is not ideology. Most of them could have gone either way.

Read the full thing.

A thought: is the USA also due for a new political alignment? The Democratic Party has drifted towards the left and the Republicans have gone right, and those extremes determine many of the positions they take, as well as determine their presidential condidate in the primaries. There is a vast space in the center which is up for grabs, and many things that could catalyse such a movement. A John McCain independent run for presidency, for example, though McCain, arguably America's most popular politician, seems to be setting himself up for a run for the Republican candidacy. Big things tend to happen suddenly, and both in India and in the US, we have a political landscape which is arguably not representative of what the people want. We are democracies, and change is inevitable.
amit varma, 2:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, April 22, 2005

Our greatest enemy

AFP reports that the HIV virus is widespread among Indian soldiers posted in the Northeast, and quotes a senior armyman as saying that there are "more soldiers dying to HIV-AIDS than to bullets fired by militants." Coming shortly after an earlier AFP story that revealed that India now has more HIV-positive people than any other country in the world, this is hardly a surprise. I'd written about our government's apathy to this in an earlier post, and our media seems as apathetic. Pity.
amit varma, 5:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Head on shoulders, brain in heart

"I'm not a sex kitten, says Priyanka", screams the Mid Day headline, and when I click on the story I find an interview with Priyanka Chopra in which she reveals:
I have an intelligent head on my shoulders, but I think with my heart as well. A balance of both is important. When I do a film, it is an instant thing with me. Whenever I have thought too much before doing a film, it has never worked. I am very intuitive.

There, so Malcolm Gladwell has a topic for his next book: thinking with the heart. I can't wait.
amit varma, 12:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Care for a walk on Marine Drive?

The story of the day in all three Mumbai newspapers is of the 17-year-old collegian who went for a walk on Marine Drive and ended up being raped in the Marine Drive police chowky by a drunk policeman. She was hanging out at Marine Drive with some male friends – reports differ on whether there were one or two or three of them – when the cop, a fellow named Sunil More, asked them to accompany him to the police station. There, he took the girl inside, locked the door, and raped her.

The girl screamed, and I'm not sure what the boy/s who had been with her were up to, because all the reports state that passersby broke down the door, and eventually ransacked the place. As for the cop, Mid Day quotes a witness as saying: "The constable was drunk and came out of the chowky adjusting his belt. He was aggressive and appeared completely unconcerned with what had just happened."

I'd written about a similar incident, which ended in murder, a couple of months back, and I wouldn't be taken aback if nothing happened to that cop. I'm just surprised that the boys who were with that girl let the policeman take her inside that chowky. Perhaps they were young and naive. In time, they will learn that the typical Indian policeman is like this: undereducated, overworked, underpaid, sexually repressed, resentful of richer people, and drunk on power. It is a potent combination.
amit varma, 12:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

So will the state control our wombs?

Pamela Philipose writes in the Indian Express:
The consequences of the Chinese model of authoritarian population control is already patent. It is based on four basic approaches: the setting of targets and quotas; bribes and punishments; organisational control; and promotional propaganda. It is a model that can be extremely effective, China demographer John Aird points out, in a “politically inert, uneducated, impoverished population” with “an established pattern of bureaucratic authoritarianism”. The stories of “over-quota” mothers being forcibly subjected to late abortions, of women locked up until they agree to a sterilisation, of workers keeping a tab on the menstrual cycles of female colleagues, are a legion from the land of the Middle Kingdom.

There is a new receptivity to such measures in India today.

Philipose's piece is written in response to a ridiculous new piece of legislation that the Maharashtra government has just pushed through, which would penalise farmers who have more than two children by charging them extra for irrigation water. The proposal originated not from some family planning ministry, but from the irrigation ministry. (By their logic a childless farmer should get water at a discount, but never mind that.)

What next, I wonder?
amit varma, 11:33 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The 20 letters in VHP English

The Times of India reports that thousands of schools in Jharkhand, run by the VHP, teach only 20 letters of the alphabet. This is because "there aren't any names of Hindu gods" beginning with the six omitted letters, which are, in case you're setting a quiz or something, E, F, Q, W, X and Z. (From the examples given, I note that not all of the other letters are taught with a reference to gods: while A stands for Arjun and B for Brahma, C stands for Cow. They're messing with me, these guys.)

Now, I can't imagine what's the point of teaching English to these kids if they're not going to teach the entire alphabet. Will they forever be constrained to deal in words that don't feature these letters, and live in a world with four vowels? Imagine if one such girl gets a job in a call centre, and receives this call:

"Hello, my name is Quentin Weezer, I'm calling from Florida, my fridge isn't working."

Now, how does she deal with that? Or if someone goes down on one knee, or even both if he's tired, and proposes? She's never learnt E, so she can't say "yes". Hell, she won't even know what "wife" is, that has three banned letters. And even if she got past all that, what about "sex" (two banned letters)? What a life. What an education. Someone stop these madmen.
amit varma, 11:07 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Not a crossfire casualty

The Indian Express has the details of why and how Jiwan Kumar was lured across the border by the Bangladesh Rifles and lynched.
amit varma, 11:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, April 21, 2005

At the touch of a mouse

KS Sudarshan, never at a loss for ways to amuse his countrymen, has given a speech in which he expounds on two themes. One, civilisational decay. Two, a clash of civilisations.

First, he says: "Every civilisation goes through the natural cycle of rise and fall and we are currently in the grip of a decline." He evokes the Mahabharata and implies that he will play the role of Krishna in this age.

As much as internal decay, though, he is worried about external sabotage. He alleges that Pope Benedict XVI and George Bush are conspiring to turn India into a Christian nation. About Bush he says, "At the touch of a mouse, he knows who is to be converted."

Yes, I can imagine Bush sitting with the Pope at a computer and clicking on an icon on the screen. "Citizen number 21,413,826," he reads out. "KS Soo-daar-shun. He's the next fellow we have to send the CIA to convert."

"Yeah," says the Pope. "But tell me one thing, Junior, why is his skin blue?"
amit varma, 5:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

To lose fat, get a girlfriend

Usman Afzaal says about his current girlfriend, Amrita Arora:
It's great to have a girlfriend who knows what it means to commit yourself to your work. Amrita has helped motivate me in my pre-season training, and I've got my body fat down by four per cent.

It's the third-last snippet on the page I linked to. The last one also cracks me up.

But wait a minute: how did she motivate him and how did he lose that fat? Oh, never mind.

(Link via MSN Messenger from Chandrahas.)
amit varma, 12:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Road department v water department

Don't you just love bureaucracy? Mid Day reports:
If your water contamination problems are not being attended to by the water department in spite of repeated complaints, blame the road department.

A recent circular issued by the civic administration has drastically hiked the charges for digging roads, which has led to the water department’s funds drying up.

This will affect laying new lines, checking water contamination and worse, addressing water shortage issues.

Consequently, the department has been facing difficulty in attending to complaints of water shortage, leakages and contamination. In fact, water department officials said that the circular has affected even routine maintenance works.

This reminds me of a conversation I had last evening at a friend's place, where he told me that there were two approach roads to his house, each run by a different municipality. One was well maintained, while the other was an utter mess. Opposite a police station near my house, in fact, the two lanes of the road fall under the jurisdiction of different police stations. So if a robbery happans across the road from the station, in full view of all the cops there, the victim has to go to some other station to file a complaint.

The rest of the world thinks Kafka did allegory; over here, we'd call it realism.

Update: Naveen Mandava writes in:
I have been witness to a situation where this guy was mugged and assaulted on Lane 1. He runs but is assaulted and falls unconscious on the lane beside Lane 1. Let us call it Lane 2. The respective police stations argument went like this.

Police Station 2: Lane 1 was where the theft happened so the case has to be registered with Police Station 1.
Police Station 1: Since the assault happened on Lane 2 the case has to be registered with Police Station 2.

This is not Kafka! This is us. Why does this happen? Perhaps Public choice theory can give us a few answers.
amit varma, 11:42 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Pope the question

Pope Benedict XVI will ignite opposition in India because of his conservative views and evangelical stance, says the Times of India. Even though he loves yoga, and has a "Kerala connection"?
amit varma, 11:35 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


Not just this but the entire railways ministry. Heck, all ministries. Who's going to rescue us?
amit varma, 11:05 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mongolian hot pots and al dente risotto

There's a generation war brewing in India, and it involves food. The New York Times reports:
Yogurt hasn't traditionally been a source of family tension among the Indian middle class. But things have changed in this most traditionbound of countries.

"Much to my mother's chagrin I use store-bought yogurt," said Rujuta Jog, 24, a recently married office worker. "And my mother-in-law was upset when she saw that I use Pillsbury flour to make rotis. She still prefers to buy wheat and grind it fresh."

Ms. Jog's mother, like most Indian women of her generation, has always cooked everything from scratch. But unlike her mother, Ms. Jog works 40 hours a week outside the home. She and her husband often just order from restaurants, which are more varied and widespread than ever before in cities like Bangalore. Millions of others are doing the same. The amount spent nationally on meals outside the home has more than doubled in the past decade.

It's actually not just the errant new generation that eats more outside and favours prepared food, but older people as well. And much as purists and old-timers might bemoan it, it's a fantastic thing. Kitchen technologies like ovens and microwaves contributed in making cooking less time-consuming, and freeing women up to do other things with their lives; prepared food enables an extension of that freedom. And anyone who doesn't like it is free to cook their own food, preferably in the woods over an open fire.

(Link via email from Bridal Beer.)

Update: Arun Simha writes in an email:
It is quite interesting that the US seems to be coming a full circle, what with the sprouting of shops selling organic food, doctors and dieticians recommending home cooked & healthy meals and people trying to rediscover their cooking roots. (My wife consults a dietician at Stanford to help her through her pregnancy.)

Heck, the anti-microwave trend has even spawned off a slow food movement.

This company, for instance, is doing very well in Northern California.

One of the popular cable channels - watched by males and females equally - is Food Network. Chefs are big time celebrities here and they inspire people to try various dishes at home. That includes males as well as females.

That's the other end of the circle, I guess, when people have enough leisure time and are affluent enough to spend that much time over food, which is, after all, one of our primal pleasures. And now, young connoisseurs of language, tell me this: did I really need the "I guess" and the "after all" in the previous sentence? Should I cut out the fat? Do you like your prose lean?
amit varma, 10:44 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act

If you're a cow in Punjab, someone cares for you.

On the other hand, you can read?

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 1:10 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Taking a stand

The Indian Express takes a hard line against the recent killing of a BSF jawan by Bangladesh forces, and rightly so. So does Secular-Right India.
amit varma, 5:02 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mr Patil and the bargirls

RR Patil, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra who doesn't want dance bars to exist in Maharashtra (and maybe discos too), is upset because he has just discovered that many bargirls in Mumbai apparently live in government housing. Mid Day quotes Patil as saying:
While collecting information on bargirls, it was noticed that most of them were staying in central government service quarters. It appears that the central government employees, who were allotted these houses for their personal use on a nominal rent, had subleased them to the bargirls.

Patil goes on to say, "If the central government employees don’t need the accommodation, I could use them to house thousands of homeless policemen in city." Or they could just stay in dance bars.

Meanwhile, Gaurav Sabnis tells us why airports, trains, buses and restuarants are next.
amit varma, 4:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

That old family bungalow

Jai Arjun Singh writes:
It’s sad when the films you’ve grown up with, the ones that form some of your earliest memories, turn out to be disappointing, even a little embarrassing, when you return to them. It’s like going back to that big family bungalow you remember vaguely from your childhood and discovering it was just a little cottage all along, with a smallish courtyard.

In this post, Jai revisits an old favourite, Deewar, and finds it quite as moving as when he first saw it. This time, however, he finds things in it to celebrate that have been glossed over, or missed completely, in traditional appreciations of the film. Read the full thing.
amit varma, 4:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Resumption at The Middle Stage

I've resumed blogging at The Middle Stage after 10 days of hiatus, in which time my new co-blogger, Chandrahas Choudhury, has lifted the level of that blog with posts such as this, this, this and this. Anyway, here's my new post: "On not having children".
amit varma, 4:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Leave my mahal alone

Heard about the salesman who sold the Taj Mahal to some gullible tourists? Well, it now appears that he didn't own it. Who does own it then? Well, Reuters informs us that "a leading Sunni Muslim body, some Shia Muslim leaders and a right-wing Hindu group allied to the former government are all laying claim to the tomb on the banks of the sacred but polluted Yamuna river."

Nobody, needless to say, wants the Yamuna.

Link via email from Sanjeev, aka Desi Poet.
amit varma, 11:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Camera angle malfunction

Kashmira Shah is upset because a nude scene that she had shot for in a film called Revati shows her nude. A report on says:
She claims that the producer, Vikas Kaate, has somehow managed to capture more skin on the camera than she ever intended to show. Trusting the director she did a backless bathing scene, which now show [sic] side shots of her frontal too.

Side shots of her frontal? Mid Day, which can always be relied upon to shun such euphemisms, quotes her as saying:
There is a side shot of me showing my breast, when all I had shot for was a shot of my back without revealing anything. They haven’t even shot with a body double so I don’t even know how and when they shot these pictures. Brad [Listermann, her husband] will not like it when he hears of it.

The article has the relevant picture, and I can quite understand how she never realised that the camera had sneaked up to her side: there was soap in her eyes. And now we have an opera.
amit varma, 10:52 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The New Don, and his chest

In a piece on, Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's cricket coach, compares Virender Sehwag to, gulp gulp, Don Bradman. Discussing Pakistan's experience with Sehwag during the recent Test series, he writes:
I would often sit in front of the computer, with Sehwag's innings on the biomechanics screen, searching for the weakness; looking for the line and length that would give him most difficulty.

In the end, we settled for a short ball, targeted into his chest. While this stunted his run scoring, we did not get him out this way.

Well, I identified that as Pakistan's tactic as the series got underway, in this post: "The battle of the series". But as I wrote here, Pakistan's bowlers weren't accurate enough to make it work. I still believe that Sehwag has a problem there that needs to be tested, but who will do it? Barring Australia, and perhaps England when Steve Harmison isn't homesick, no team has the bowling attack to implement the plan. Contrast that with 20 years ago, or even 10.
amit varma, 10:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

To not be miserable at 35

From a lovely post by a friend:
Waiting for a train at platform six in Kanpur after midnight, a small man hunched as he slowly walked past Amit and me to others who were talking among themselves. He asked them a question thrice before one of them noticed him. It bothered me. What were his dreams when he was 25? I spent the better part of a day scavenging about for a press pass, forced to smile at officials I would have liked to run over. I imagined it happening over and over and over, when I turned 35, 45, 55. It was probably nothing, but I was seeing buggered futures and arsed pasts in everything around me.

Read the full thing.
amit varma, 10:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Boredom on the road to peace

How do you deal with the intransigent president of a neighbouring country? You bore him. Rediff reports that Pervez Musharraf, during his visit to India, found that a lunch meeting with Abdul Kalam, India's president, stretched into a private educational seminar. The report says:
After welcoming his guest and exchanging pleasantries, the scientist-statesman took the general to his personal room and invited him to take a look at some of the projects he had been working on. In a few minutes, the two presidents were looking at the Rashtrapati's computer, which had details of his Providing Urban Amenities in the Rural Areas scheme. In the 25-minute presentation, President Kalam explained to the visiting leader how his project will bring about a change in the lives of the rural poor.

After that was over, the report says, "the two leaders discussed the changing world and how peace was important for the two nations to march forward". Kalam told Musharraf:
Place the confidence-building measures in a goodwill basket and see the eggs nurture. We should harness or direct our energy to nurture goodwill and ensure that no third party is allowed to enter or damage it.

I can imagine Musharraf coming away from this meeting and being greeted by Manmohan Singh.

"Did he tell you about the eggs you have to nurture?" asks Manmohan, grinning wickedly.

"Yes," sighs Musharraf. "After Agra I was 1-0. Now it's 1-1. Sigh. Wail. Weep."

"There there, Mush" says Manmohan, patting Musharraf on the head. "Don't worry, we'll go watch some cricket. One over of Nehra to Afridi, and you'll feel a lot better."
amit varma, 12:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cough syrup or cattle?

The Bangladesh newspapers say that Ramdhan Pal was smuggling 20 bottles of cough syrup across the border. The Indian newspapers say that Pal was kidnapped by Bangladesh personnel after "his cattle strayed into Bangla territory". Nitin Pai sums up both versions of events and gives his analysis here.
amit varma, 12:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Regular blogging resumes

I'm back in Mumbai, and cricket blogging will cease, though if you want to read more blogging on cricket by people who write about it for a living, I have something planned. Watch this space, for announcement of another one.

Blogging of a personal nature will also be reduced. I don't like to read blogs which are like diaries, on the lines of "I bought a new shade of lipstick today, and it's fuschia", and I don't like to write them either. But when I am travelling, I hardly get time to surf the net for news, and often have observations that come from my personal experience that seem interesting enough to share. It also seems fair to let my readers know if I am not going to be blogging for the next 28 hours because I'm a train, I mean, on a train, so they don't start to worry and go to the police or hold havans or stuff like that.

But I'm not travelling any more for a while, so I'll write less about what I'm doing. Starting with my next post.
amit varma, 12:14 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, April 18, 2005

Discovering a travel writer

A few months ago a friend, Chandrahas Choudhury, introduced me to a fine writer I'd never heard of before called Ryszard Kapuscinski. The first book of his that I read was called The Shadow of the Sun, and that started me on a rewarding journey of discovering other books by him. So what did Chandrahas tell me about him that compelled to buy that first book? Read it for yourself here.

I've just boarded the Rajdhani Express to Mumbai, by the way, and will be on a train till tomorrow early morning. So no more blogging for today.
amit varma, 3:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Touched by Wright

Today was John Wright's last press conference as Indian coach, and we all applauded as he walked into the room, something that hard-as-nails journalists seldom do at PCs. Wright was bowing out with defeat, but not in disgrace. India always had plenty of talent, but it was Wright who made them a professional outfit that could take on the best teams in the world. Beating Australia in 2001, reaching the final of the World Cup, drawing with Australia in the away series in 2003-04, beating Pakistan the same season; Wright had many high points, but many low ones too.

I shall write more about him, and his relationship with Sourav Ganguly, some other time. I'm writing this post simply because something he said moved me. When asked if he would still continue watching India play cricket, he said: "Like a hawk." He continued:

"My son supports India. My daughter supports India. I will always support India." Here he paused, and then said, "India has touched me".

These were sincere words; you could make out from the manner in which he said them. It was easy, from his tone, to imagine him holding back the tears while packing his bags for the last time, blinking furiously so that no one would see how much it meant. He is a quiet, undemonstrative man who gave everything to his job, and much as we credit others for bringing passion into the side and Wright for bringing professionalism, he was as passionate as anyone else there. He just didn't wear it on his sleeve.

These have been fascinating and emotional years for Indian cricket, and someday, I hope, one of the handful of talented cricket writers in the country will tell the full story, so that people know how much Wright tried, and how badly he was let down, by the BCCI, by his captain, by a media keen to rush to judgement, by circumstances. It was a time of possibilities, and much as Wright will gracefully deny it, it will also hold many regrets. What a shame.
amit varma, 6:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A greater disgrace than defeat

India just lost their sixth wicket, but there is a matter of greater disgrace than just a loss at hand. Hordes of bottles have descended on the field from a section of the stands, in a sudden flurry, as cops and groundsmen have rushed over to pick them up. What is curious is that there are plenty of cops inside the stands in question, and they're just standing and watching the fun. The bottles come in a series of bursts, like water from a malfunctioning faucet, and the players, after a few minutes, have decided to walk off.

This happened at three venues during the seven one-dayers that West Indies played on their tour to India in 2002-03, and no action was taken against those venues then. I believe that any venue where there is a disturbance should be banned from hosting international matches for five years, no excuses tolerated. Politics ensures that nothing of that sort will happen, of course, because the ICC can't piss off the BCCI and the BCCI president needs the votes of local state associations and the blocs they form. Pity.

Ah, and as I type this, another piece of information emerges. The stands where the disturbance came from are complimentary stands. These people haven't even bought their tickets, they're family and friends of VIPs, people with "contacts". And, if I really need to add, bottles.
amit varma, 3:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Timber falling

This first appeared on Cricinfo's Plays of the Day.

It should have been a regulation quick single, but it probably marked the end of a series. Rahul Dravid patted Abdul Razzaq to mid-on and ran, and Yousuf Youhana ran in, picked up and, in one easy motion, threw. The stumps went down, and the umpire called for the third umpire to make a decision. But before the replay could come on, Dravid was on his way back, head bowed.

Pakistan had, time and again, got their direct hits right in this series. It was a tribute to the work Bob Woolmer had put in, and the benefit of having a professional foreign coach was showing on the side. India, meanwhile, were playing their last game under John Wright.
amit varma, 2:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A demand for carbohydrates

As Inzamam-ul-Haq gets ready to play Ajit Agarkar, the crowd starts chanting, "aaloo, aaloo". ("Potato potato"; a nickname that irritates Inzamam.) Inzamam takes guard, Agarkar bowls wide outside off, Inzamam swings at it and misses by a long way. The Indians appeal and AV Jayaprakash lifts his finger, as if up the nostril of an imaginary man irritating him by hanging upside down just in front of him. It's a ridiculous decision, and Inzamam, slowly, walks back for lunch. Does he think, perhaps, of what might be on the menu?
amit varma, 12:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Airline wars

A group of fans in the stand below us at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium have started chanting, "jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega". (Loosely, "We will win, we will win, India will win".) They chant, and I am shocked to discover after a few seconds that my head is bobbing along to the rhythm.

Suddenly, one solitary voice shouts, "Air India jeetega". Nice.
amit varma, 12:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bombay Duck's Indian, ok?

A manual scoreboard at one end of the ground lists the Pakistan team. The last man named is Ajit Agarkar. Well, I can imagine the Pakistanis like him, but surely not that much.

Hat tip for this observation: Dileep.
amit varma, 11:49 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The attacking captain

From whatever little I’ve seen of Rahul Dravid captaining the Indian side, I’ve been impressed. He’s been assured, always in command of things, never short of ideas and, to the surprise of some people, aggressive. It’s easy to go by his being typecast as a defensive batsman in the early part of his career and assume that he would be a defensive captain as well, but he attacks more than most of his predecessors, and is tactically more astute as well. He had six fielders inside the ring for a lot of the middle overs, for example, something that can only come from a captain who is confident and believes in his players.

That belief shows in the way his players have been responding, fielding energetically, going for direct hits whenever there’s the slightest chance of a run-out, and backing up enthusiastically. His men respect him, and it shows.

Interestingly, another man typecast as a defensive player who was a superbly aggressive captain was Ravi Shastri. Cliché-ridden though his commentary is today, he never got a shot at an extended stint as captain. Hopefully, Dravid will.
amit varma, 11:40 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A brutal deja vu

This first appeared on Cricinfo's Plays of the Day.

"[Shahid] Afridi was the difference between the two sides in Kanpur," Rahul Dravid had said before this game. "We need to get him out early." Well, shortly after Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh shook hands with all the players, the offensive began.

Ashish Nehra to Afridi. Just outside off, swing and miss. Hmmm, Nehra must have thought, maybe that's the wrong line. Second ball, down leg, glanced for four. Third ball, on his hips, tucked away for four. Fourth ball, down leg again, glanced for four again. Fifth ball, short ball on middle stump, a high pull that looped up as if being sucked in by a cloud, and then fell on the fence for six. Hmm, Nehra must have thought, let me try something else. Last ball, outside off, slashed for four through point. Twenty-two off the over.

Nehra walked away, looking down at the ground. All this had happened before. Familiarity, in the case of Afridi, does not breed contempt; it breeds fear.
amit varma, 9:45 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The statesmen and the cricketers

Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh just came on to the field and met all the players, lined up in green and blue. When they were introduced to the Pakistan players, Manmohan led the way; when it was the Indians' turn, Musharraf led the way. They waved to the crowd after that, walking around a bit, and the crowd cheered madly.

I know out history isn't too enouraging, but I'm not a cynic about this peace process. As I've said here and here, I think we're on the right track. I hope it leads somewhere.
amit varma, 9:08 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who needs hydration?

As I entered the press box at the Ferozshah Kotla ground, at 6.30 am today morning, the bottle of water I was carrying was confisticated. "Water not allowed," the cop told me. He also said "mobile not allowed" and "camera not allowed", conditions that don't exist for the press at any other ground, but I smuggled them in anyway. A bottle of water, though, was too big for the secret pockets of my Samsonite laptop backpack. But I assumed we'd get water in the press box refreshment area.

Ha. There were massive containers of water there, but no glasses or bottles, because those had been held up by security. The Pepsi machine was working, but again, no glasses. After a couple of hours, I spotted an empty bottle lying somewhere, washed it throughly, filled it with Pepsi for my colleagues, and strode towards the part of the press box where we sit. I was stopped by security. "No Pepsi," they insisted. There was a commotion behind me. Bottles of water had just arrived. But those weren't allowed where we were sitting either. Eventually, Jaideep Bhandarkar of NDTV, a big man with a big heart, smuggled us some bottles, as the TV cameramen's enclosure was next to ours, and bottles were allowed there.

But what about the rest of the crowd? I don't know how many thousands of people have queued for hours for tickets and come here at an insanely early hour to watch the match. They now sit in the open air, and the sun beams down on them. They cheer lustily, but soon their throats will be dry.
amit varma, 8:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Politics and the Indian captaincy

Sourav Ganguly had packed his bags, but the journey he meant to take never happened. This was before the Kanpur one-day international between India and Pakistan, and Ganguly’s appeal over his six-match ban had been submitted to the ICC, which had allowed him to play until it came to a decision. So he would play in the last two one-dayers, he thought. Then he found out he wasn’t included in the team. Not through the BCCI, but through the media. He unpacked.

I haven’t had any illusions for a while that the captaincy of India is decided not by what happens on the field, but by backroom politics. Ganguly, regardless of whether he deserved to be in the team or not, would remain captain for a while because he had the backing of Jagmohan Dalmiya and the Bengal lobby. An easy away series against Zimbabwe comes up next, and I was sure Ganguly would lead India to its first series win outside the subcontinent since 1986.

In politics, though, the sun rises from the West when you’re doing your surya namaskar and burns your ass, and you never know what will happen next. So it is turning out. Everybody assumed that Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who had been installed by Dalmiya as a puppet BCCI president, would do his master’s bidding. But just as a previous puppet, AC Muttiah, had risen up against Dalmiya, so is Mahendra, sources tell me. He is a senior politician from Haryana, and rumours are that he has now joined hands with an even bigger politician, Sharad Pawar. Mahendra, as a front for Dalmiya, had beaten Pawar in the last elections for BCCI president. What would their coming together mean for Indian cricket?

One, it would mean that Dalmiya’s days as the omnipotent force in the BCCI could come to an end. Two, it would mean that Ganguly is finished. Why so? Because Mahendra was the manager of the 1991-92 tour to Australia in which Ganguly went, and the two did not get along there. Later, in an interview to, Ganguly was to describe Mahendra as “probably the worst guy I have ever seen in my life” and “a shame, a shame to Indian cricket.” If Mahendra starts asserting the power he technically holds as BCCI president, Ganguly is history.

How much credence would I give to these rumours? I’d take them pretty seriously. What else could explain Ganguly not playing the last two ODIs despite being eligible, and being treated in such a manner? And SK Nair, the secretary of the BCCI, recently contradicted himself to the press on this issue, first saying that Ganguly was told about the decision to drop him, and then, on a separate occasion, admitting that Ganguly was not aware of his being dropped.

I have felt for a while that despite his outstanding record as captain, Ganguly’s batting has suffered, probably because of the pressures of captaincy. Indian cricket needs to move on unsentimentally, for the good of the side, as Australian cricket always does. But not in this manner. Ganguly should have been allowed to leave with dignity. Ideally the BCCI should have had a quiet word with him and asked him to step down from the captaincy gracefully, and given him another series to focus on his batting and try to pick up the pieces. But just as Ganguly tarnished his legacy by playing on for too long, the BCCI has disgraced Indian cricket with its treatment of a man who led India through such a crucial phase in its cricketing history.

In other other words, it is the right decision, taken for the wrong reasons, implemented in the wrong manner. This is no way to go.
amit varma, 8:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The dialect of a cricket writer

This article was first published in the Indian Express as "Windbag and the willow". Note how my blog helped me in forming the ideas that went into this piece; I'd explored the subject of cricketing cliches all through my blogging in March.

THE next time you watch a cricket match, listen to the phrases that pop into your head with every piece of action. Have you heard these words before? I don’t know about you, but I am assailed by familiar phrases and sentences when I watch cricket, and I recoil each time one pops into my head. I am a cricket journalist, and it is my job to describe every game of cricket that I write about in a fresh manner, to give the reader a clear picture of what happened. And yet, that is so difficult.

Cricket writing, and commentary, has a dialect of its own which consists of lazy shorthands, cliches that do not evoke what happened in the field of play, but regurgitate banal expressions that dull our mind. It is difficult to escape this dialect, to write outside it, because we have been exposed to it repeatedly over the decades, and we reflexively think in this dialect whenever we watch cricket.

Here are some of the common forms that it takes. One, there are the descriptions of play, or of a situation. These could consist of dead metaphors, like the batsmen being ‘‘on a leather hunt’’, ‘‘using the long handle’’ and ‘‘taking the bull by the horns’’, as the match ‘‘teeters on a knife’s edge’’, as the bowlers ‘‘feel the heat’’. They could be phrases that were innovative when first used in this context, but now evoke nothing, such as when we talk of batsmen ‘‘taking control of the situation’’ or ‘‘tearing apart’’ the bowling or ‘‘seizing the initiative’’, as bowlers try to ‘‘tempt the batsmen into indiscretion’’ and ‘‘snatch the momentum’’.

They could be common descriptions, such as of a man who plays a ‘‘captain’s innings’’ or another whose ‘‘feet are stuck to the crease’’, as the ‘‘the game meanders towards a draw’’. And then there’s the hyperbole: ‘‘it’s all happening here’’, the ball ‘‘sped to the boundary like a tracer bullet’’, and ‘‘when he hits it, it stays hit’’.

Two, there are the aphorisms. ‘‘Form is temporary, class is permanent,’’ they say, adding, ‘‘When you’re in form, make it count.’’ After every bad decision someone is sure to write, ‘‘It all evens out in the end.’’ (That is not just a cliche, but also false.) And every twist in a match is sure to be accompanied by talk of ‘‘glorious uncertainties of the game’’.

Three, there are the adjectives. Certain cricketing nouns always seem to go with particular adjectives, which is why we talk of ‘‘fiery spells’’, ‘‘elegant cover-drives’’, ‘‘crisp driving’’, ‘‘lionhearted spinners’’, ‘‘gritty customers’’ (also a dead metaphor), ‘‘needless run-outs’’ (which run-out isn’t?), and ‘‘metronomic accuracy’’. These are objectionable not because they are inaccurate, but because they do not convey the particulars of a circumstance. Michael Vaughan, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Yasir Hameed all play ‘‘elegant cover-drives’’ that are different from each other, and it becomes the duty of the cricket writer to convey that difference.

What shocks me as a reader, and saddens me as a writer, is how in many Indian publications mastery of this dialect is considered a virtue. And television has actually sanctified it. For celebrities-turned-commentators, in fact, who have received no training in writing or commentary, the easiest way to cope is to pick up such shorthand. And if you learn the dialect, you are at least never at loss for something to say, for every situation evokes a basket of cliches to choose from. Perhaps this is an art in itself, if an ignoble one, but it does the game, and its followers, a disservice.

Regardless of whether we are writers, and regardless of the context of cricket, the language we use reveals the way we think. Are our ways of thinking fresh? George Orwell, in his famous essay ‘‘Politics and the English Language’’, wrote: ‘‘Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration.’’

Replace ‘‘political regeneration’’ with ‘‘the enjoyment of cricket’’ and that sentiment still holds. And that is why I get angry when people say that cricket is a dying sport. The game is not dying for faults of its own, but we are killing it with the ways in which we think about it, and speak about it.

Cricket is full of dramas, epiphanies, epic passages of play that reveal and celebrate the qualities that make us human. It is we who refuse to see cricket the way it is, and reduce it to banality.
amit varma, 7:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Action in Mumbai

There might be many things wrong with Mid Day, Mumbai's tabloid, but one thing they unfailingly provide is entertainment. Check out these three headlines:

Fire officer suspended 22 times in 33 yrs
69% say YES to dance bars...
Traffic jam trips up jewel thieves

What fun. I love the letters that are below the dance-bar story, and the start of the fire-officer story, by Vinod Kumar Menon, which I reproduce here:
Here’s one career distinction that chief fire officer NM Narkar will not be too proud of. He has been suspended 22 times in a career spanning 33 years, apparently for no fault of his.

Each time, the inquiry commission clears him of all the allegations and he is reinstated at the same post.

Not surprisingly, Narkar (58) of Bhiwandi Nizampura fire brigade, who has only nine months to go before he retires, is currently under suspension.

Nice. And in case you're wondering where I'm blogging from, I'm at a hotel in Delhi right now, about to leave shortly for a players' press conference at The Taj. And yes, I'm feeling much better, though my throat still hurts, and everything I say is being misheard and misunderstood. I told a friend on the phone, for example, that I was filing a piece, and he told another friend that I was stretching my knees. And so on.
amit varma, 10:05 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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