september twenty third, two thousand and eight : the dot busters :

we were talking  recently, and i referred to the “dot busters” in passing…

wait a minute, she said, wat was that again? “dot busters”? wat on earth is that?

so i told her. the story trotting out of me after almost two decades of suppressed south asian racial paranoia, a story that i still remember was told to me by shankar, the chubby round tam-brahm boy in the eleventh grade  who leaned on his bike and recounted tales of persecution and angst.

this is kerala of the late-eighties. middle class cochin, with its unique long-distance economy of thomson VHS tapes from the “gelf” and billboard cassettes from cuzzins in “yamerica”. michael jackson was uber hip and rajiv was PM. the most racially uncomfortable u got was when vaira muthu, ure pal from tamil nadu was around. the rest of the state, freed of caste hierarchies at least to not allow it to percolate to their children, so a unique feeling of not understanding the scope of these things….

the story was simple. there was a bunch of hoods. in america. they were going around clubbing young indians to death in the neighbourhood, killing them so that their wives would not wear a bindi any more. the plan seemed at once macabre and ghoulish to me, arousing my blood-thirsty pre-pubescent interest.

we feasted deliciously on tales of large gangs of hooded men, some firing their guns into the air, roaming the streets of suburban america, arms in hand, slaughtering indians in their numbers, pulling them out of stores and clobbering or shooting them, then disappearing into the gatheirng fog.  

(i din’t let in on all of this lore, but yeah, i stuck to the story.)

she was amused. then intrigued. curious, she looked it up, and google told her: of, and to confirm popularly held view, of wiki:

there is a letter which these guys had written to the local paper , generally talking abt how fucked their lives had becme after the indians came in.

their first victium, in 1987, a thirty-year-old Indian immigrant bank manager, Navroze Mody, was beaten to death by a gang chanting “Hindu, Hindu!”  . mody was probably a parsee, all things considered, but then again does it really matter?

what matters is the image. and the thought of persecution. on the basis of an identity u did not necessarily choose, actively. and whose relationship with u is complicated, and never all-assuming.

i imagine fair brahmin boys in their loose garments dragged out and slaughtered by an attacking horde of kashmiri men, or i imagine villages ganging up to slaughter one who was deemed to have overstepped his natural place in the larger sceme of things, his “aukaat”, and i think of raikia, and b pradhan, who won’t be among us anymore.

the gap. will we bridge it? is it in our nature to cling to ever shrinking circles of chalk drawn around our own private universes, gathering many galaxies, but leaving a world outside?

we were silent for a while, mulling…




she giggled,

       and the morning sun

bathed my window in light.

                       — Nirvana Demon (2008)


twenty-nine-zero eight : after the flood :

pune is not flooded. not yet.

as i watched the swirling waters in dark, angry eddies, about twenty feet below my feet, i knew that the rain had not stopped up river. that up in the hills, it was still the regular pitter of passing clouds, slamming into the sheer rock face, squeezing themselves in the narrow valley between the mountain peaks, and washing the hills with rain. 

the waters seemed to be raising, at least to my furiously fantasia-seeking mind. and the future of the riverside houses in pune would be etched (i felt) by a brown line of washed-up grime about 6 feet tall from the ground, all along the outer walls and the garage, as a mute testament to fireside tales of excitement-in-the-time-of-natural disaster-distress in the future.

further near the river, small houses thatched together with pieces of tarpaulin, old sacks and sticks would be washed away in the rising deluge. small shanties made of corrugated tin sheets and resting on the hard earthern floor will seep water from under their sides, then as the water begins to wash in in earnest, may not stand upright to withstand the sudden onslaught.

as reservoirs upstream fill up more and more with water, their helplessness will be depicted in their strict enforcement of maximum water level guidelines and wretched hand-wringing. in a rather macabre metaphorical allusion to the fate at the bottom of the power chain when things go wrong at the top, some warnings will be issued, some notices sent out, and vastis evacuated of their human habitation and essentials. as the dark, muttering shorls of water wash away the houses, that never existed on paper in the first place, a new set of families would have been born, transplanted overnight from the category of “urban poor” to the category of “displaced”.

the waters will recede, tho. and there will be a time after the flood. when all we shall have by way of evidence shall be the scraggly shrubs lining the river side festooned with plastic bags and detritus from the river’s path.

and memories of a day when the waters washed our houses , sometimes washing them away altogether.


All that ocean of blue

    soon as those clouds

Pass away

             — Jack Kerouac

14 09 2008 : savita bhabhi :

“ding dong!”

“who’s there?”

“WOW! What a hot BHABHI!”

thus go the first few lines of the exchange between “lingerie salesman” (Henceforth to be referred to as “LS”), and Savita Bhabhi, (henceforth to be referred to as “SB”), in the newly released, india’s first online toon porn princess, published by the indian porn emprire (IPE)

wait a minute. princess?

that’s not quite right.

this is savita bhabhi, already married to a mustachioed gent of indeterminate importance and questionable virility, whose presence savita acknowledges and bears allegiance to. her unswerving identification as bhaiyya’s (hence referred to as “dheele lund ki peydaayish”, or “DLP”) wife is driven home in every frame, as she straddles her lover and arches her head to flash the deep red of the sindoor like an open gash in the parting of her hair, or shows off her mangal sutra, suspended in the deep valley between her impossibly globular breasts.

yet, her desires get the better of her, and SB takes the opportunity to bed just about any man that crosses her path, be he lingerie salesman, cricket-playing neighbourhood boys (“CPNB”) or even hot husband of fat wife. her lust is insatiable, and her conscience, that pitiful organ with one tottering leg and a sign saying “Push-Over Here” in large neon on its head, is no deterrent as she prevaricates for one frame, maybe two, about the moral dilemna that she is in, and the transgressions she has committed by agreeing to sleep with the man in q., before plunging (pardon my french) right into the act.

plotlines are slim, and besides of the qualms on her wafer-thin conscience, the seduction scenes themselves do not have too much of artful finesse or playful coquetry, preferring to replace heavy-duty flirtation with more efficient and business-like come-hither lines, completely in keeping with all gender stereotypes attendant on the hot-bhaabhi-turned-sex-crazed-fuckmachine (“wait here, let me get you some limbu-sharbat”, delivered from over her shoulder as the frame presents SB’s hourglass figure, tapering down to a wasp-like waist and lusciously ample bottom)

the scheming to get the man into bed is also not too detailed, running true to realistic plotlines in similarly sexually charged situations (“hmmm…. let me give these bacchas really something to look at”, bhabhi’s thought bubbles conspire even as she is on her hands and knees in front of the couch, searching for a lost cricket ball underneath it, wiggling her voluptuous bottom in CPNBs’ faces.). all such childish scheming is lost soon afterwards as bhabhi’s voluptuous lower lip is gathered in between her teeth, and she screams “aieeeee” as her neighbourhood cricket-playing boys double penetrate her efficiently, giving a whole new dimension to the phrase “ball swinging at both ends”

the artwork tho, is predictably lavish and generous with bhabhi’s overflowing charms,and the gossamer saris and deeply cut cholis reveal ubiquitous cleavage, as also the main character – mr mangal sutra, hanging between SB’s heaving and (ostensibly) strife-torn bosom.

the content is not novel, nor earth-shatteringly different. i suppose what makes it unique is its (at least superficial) understanding of the sexual tensions underlying male-female social relationships within the milieu of a typical indian suburban household. the trotting out of traditional indian stereotypes (hot stay-at-home bhabhi, invisible, and hence morally non-troublesome bhaiyya, endless cups of chai/ glasses of limbu sharbat fetched for lascivious male visitors and delivered with a low bow, stooping to conquer, with smooth saree pallus slipping to reveal deep cleavage below, etc)

all-in-all, a definitely interesting read, and surely worth a dekko, for al such persons who have chuckled over these stereotypes a hundred times before. also available in marathi, hindi, malayalam, bengali, gujarati, tamil, telugu, kannada et al. tho the languages did not open up at first click.

one thumb up, definitely.

september tenth, twenty-oh-eight : what would raj say? :

raj thackeray is demanding an unconditional apology from jaya bacchan for saying that she would speak in hindi only, and may all maharashtrian people forgive her. the comment was made at the launch of the music of Drona, her son’s new hindi film.

everyone is incensed. some at raj, some at jaya, some at the media. for making insensitive comments, moral policing, behaving irresponsibly (and thats not a “respectively” that i have put at the end of the second clause, kindly note)

it makes me wonder. on the same day, i was standing in front of abt 21 medical officers, nurses and faculty from training centres in maharashtra, stammering out an apologetic “majhi marathi khoob kami aahe, pun majhi marathi samjhoon shakto”, and receiving broad grins in reply as i rounded it off with a “majhi gaav keral aahe”. we were discussing how best to improve the situation of married adolescent girls in the state. which is my job, but i won’t go there.

where i will go, however, is that we are working with the government, at the institute of health management, Pachod ( we are running close to 23 projects across maharashtra, mainly in sexual and reproductive health, and sometimes in sanitation and capacity building and training.

we are a 30 year old organisation which was set up by a punjabi doctor from simla, and is now run from Pune and pachod. the organisation was shaped and founded through its long years here by a reproductive health specialist from gujarat, a finance director/accounts head from kerala, and a behaviour and communications expert from gujarat. we have had, along the years, gujaratis, marwaris, bengalis as well as a large staff of maharashtrians in the organisation. we speak mainly marathi and hindi in the office, and prepare all of our information-education-communication material in marathi.

i wonder, wat would raj say to all of us? wud he tell us to leave? would he tell us that maharashtra does not need our stiff-lipped condescension? that it does not need our patronising muddling help?

would he tell us that the marathi manoos is eminently capable of taking care of itself, and that we need not import ideas from other parts of india to this place? would he also say that if marathi manoos are beating their wives to pulp, marrying their daughters off early, commiting marital rape on their 14 year old wives, and forcing their 15-year old daughters in law to visit fertility specialists because they’re not conceiving after two years of marriage, then this is the marathi way? and that it is not in our infinite wisdom to interfere?

would he ask us to leave?

or would he say that so long as we speak in marathi and we understand the local ethos, we can stay? but the moment we transgress, we leave? would he say that the ideas that we propound (wait till a girl is 18 before she is married, don’t beat up ure wife, see that a woman gets support and nutrition that prevent anemia and result in healthier girls and babies, etc etc) are non-marathi and hence must leave too? (rural maharashtra has 57% of girls married below 18, anemia levels are higher than 70% in married women -if the WHO standard of mild anemia is taken- and domestic violence is almost a given among “men from marathwada” – if u don’t believe me, ask any brahmin girl from nanded/parbhani/beed/latur/osmanabad/aurangabad)

or, if we left, would he accuse us of deserting? of reneging on our duties? on leaving a job half done and leaving a community in the lurch?

i wonder

what would raj say?

september ninth, two-oh-oh-aight :primary health centre:

so here i am back in aurangabad, wrestling with a bunch of medical officers from ten PHCs of maharashtra during a two-day orientation training which is part enthu, part grudging acceptance and whole parts cynical ennui(for the uninitiated, PHC is the primary health centre, a basic medical care centre in the government public health system that is responsible for the health of some 30-50000 persons in its area, administering this with the help of one doctor, abt 6 nurses, 6 health assistants and 2-3 male multi purpose workers and lady health visitors)

thus the well being and continued good health and cheer of 40000 (sometimes upto 65000) hapless people is manned by a small band of abt 20 technical staff, and some four-five non technical staff (like driver, supervisor, compounder, etc).

so if there is a small minor flood, not like the kosi and its awesome paradigm shift, but a smaller, more local flood. that happens in that particular river basin every year (say some small river that flooded, killing 16 people, and displacing about 3000 others). and then after the flood waters recede, and the people find that the rotting carcasses, the open shitting grounds, the carefully constructed latrines for the community-led-total-sanitation programme and the vast mound of filth and dirt on the northern edge of the village have leached into the only available source of drinking water, the village pond, they are too busy picking up the pieces of their lives to  think abt corrections.

and then, the next week, everyone notices that the greenish-yellow gunk that forms a small puddle near their aboral ends when they squat in the grounds for their morning constitutional is more than usually offensive smelling, and the children are beginning to literally purge their guts out, thats when mr pee-aitch-see swings into action.

armed with 20 people and a packetful of chlorine tablets. and ORS packets handed arnd like largesse. and substandard and poorly stocked drug inventories, these brave men and women have to attend to the competing pressures of disease prevention, political expediency, personal prejudice, individual greed, inevitable corruption, incessant demands, squalor, filth, and the frustrating spectre of death that snatches away persons from right under their hands, even as theyre busy filling forms in triplicate asking for extra funds for diesel since the fuel budget was fixed before the hike, or more likely, waiting for the local mla to attend the inauguration of the relief camp.

now all this is an extreme case scenario. most places in india are not so dramatic, and the million daily struggles in its public sector institutions go unnoticed until there is a good flood. after all, every one wud like to sit in their home, with warm feet and dry clothes, and not have to bother abt heating water for bathing on the wood stove before the 16 hour power cut plunges everything into darkness.

having ensured these comforts, they would like not to hear too much about other persons who cannot do this.

 and life’s experiences are incremental, adding on one-on-top-of-the-other, till finally when one of these men is a joint director sitting in the kutumb kalyan bhavan, pune (thats right next to le meridien, for those who came in late), then he thinks nothing of charging a paltry 60000 rupees to ensure or block a supplicating junior officer’s transfer.

public views of morality are so terribly narrow. we see only the present, forgetting conveniently the age that brought upon us this moment:

sep-one. two thousand and eight : in memory of bihar and the kosi that was :

After the earthquake,

      A child crying

In the silence

        —Jack Keruouac  “Beat Generation Haikus”


Shedding tears for Kosi, the sorrow of Bihar.