things the indian people are doing – 2 :: the mumbai wall project, tulsi road ::

Letter to an ex- mumbaikar:

” see! brilliant idea of bee-emm-cee!
  see! hordes of dreamers descend on pipe road, tulsi!
( )
see! a row of dull gray transform into a wall of whimsy and wit!
see! lurid bollywood posters of “gair” & “aladin” plastered all over it!
(as amitabh glowers and snarls,  riteish plays the lover –
the ex- chief minister’s son, now returned to power)
see! righteous indignation galvanise sensitive bombay youth,
see  anger and disgust for publicity most uncouth.
( )
see striped-shirt man in far corner snigger,
(himself a much-maligned, cliched figure)
and whisper:
“yeh hai mumbai meri jaan!”
–     nirvana demon (2009)”


11 of october, 2009 :: things the indian people are doing – 1 ::

This column is inspired by the immensely popular “stuff white people like” [read]

With significant differences, of course. I’m not white, for instance.  Neither am I christian (nor is my name Christian, for that matter). And most, importantly, Indians aren’t white.

Other attributes are also that they are not homogenous : scattered as they are across more than a couple millenia and a few thousand square kilometres in that faux-rhomboid subcontinent south of the himalayas and flanked by the seas. With a political identity that crystallised itself to its presentness only about 60 years back, (and with transplanted seeds scattered far and wide across the world: Jamaica, Durban, Mauritius, San Jose, Dubai, Toronto), Indianness is both an identity and a self-realisation… who is to say william dalrymple is not Indian, or that the swollen masses outside a soccer field in port au prince are…?

Yet there is a common thread that unites them all, and a common set of likely actions and predictable responses, a thread that broadly fits into the things that the indian people are doing…


Its ironic, perhaps, that I begin this series with things Indians are not doing,  what they internalise not to do from a very young age, and what they eventually never learn to do until their dying day, where they would no doubt push and shove to get through the Pearly gates too (“me first! me first!! You bleddy Saint Peter, Do you know who my father is??”)

We were driving through the orderly streets of Durban’s downtown, and suddenly came to a chaotic junction where three cars converged on us, seemingly oblivious of the traffic lights… I turned to her and asked reflexly “Guess where the Indian part of town is!”  She rolled here eyes laterally towards the nearest samosa stall…

Indians hate queues. The fact that someone else should get ahead of me, merely because of having reached that part of the universe earlier, in that specific space-time continuum, is a fact that is abhorrent to every Indian. Queue after queue in front of ticket counters will be thrown into disarray by the one joker who barges up to the head, and tries to muscle his way to the head of the line. What adds insult to injury, of course, is how he will then proceed to turn and loudly berate the people behind him in the line “Why are you pushing me, yes? what-what is it that you are doing?”, or better still, the ones who turn with a sweet smile, and assure you that yes, this is just a small interruption, and he will be off once he is done with the small task of buying the ticket….

And as the snaking queue that stretches all the way to the main gate (and spilling into the road outside) shouts and screams at the interloper in one voice, he will react with equal fervour. His shameless persistence in the face of all berations or his baleful retreat in the face of insurmountable odds will determine his success in the larger Indian Rat Race, where a billion pushing, jostling, shoving mass will leave you behind, if you don’t struggle… to stay in the lead.

And his loud protestations will give a million reasons why he should be allowed to precede everyone else waiting patiently behind him: his urgency, his occupation, his dying grandmother, his broken-down car, his connections in the ruling party, his previous experience waiting in the same line, or, most importantly… his Father’s position in society… (jaanta nahin mera baap kaun hain?)

But that is the subject of another post.


2nd october 2009 :: Happy Birthday ::

Barack Obama just increased his fan base by another 100 million or so. Amid widespread american disaffection with what they see as selling out to the devil (read republican profligacy and heavy-handedness), this man is looking at other, more friendly shores for his re-election bid.

He should come to India, really. Considering the country’s future options are between a scion of the Nehru Royal family, (whose most notable asset is to be described as  “well-meaning” and “sincere” by commentators getting their panties in a wad to give him a great review) and who-knows-whom from the beejaypee, the leader most likely to succeed advani’s inglorious and inevitable exit.

Anyway, Obama should know at least that this is one country where ure parents’ miscegenation is certainly something that qualifies you to aspire to the highest office in the country. Where else would he be able to find such an accomodating and broad-minded electorate?

is what Obama said, and as the article points out, if he could have dinner with anyone in the world, alive or dead, it would be The Mahatma. A man who was the single most important person to cause the ultimate dismantling of the British Empire, admired by a man who has succeeded one of the most vilified neo-imperialists of recent times.

Its not ironic, just interesting. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On to other things: I had the most amazing weekend away from cold, misty and freezing-at-times Hilton last week. Drove to Coffee Bay, a beach resort in the Eastern Cape, beyond Mthatha. Coffee Bay is called that because sometime n the late 1800-s, a ship carrying coffee beans washed ashore on the beach and for a brief, crazy while, coffee plants grew along the eastern cape’s coast. The plants died soon enough, and the bay never got back to its coffee-growing ways, but the name has stuck.

The eastern cape is among the poorest areas in SA, a former homeland where poverty and neglect were allowed to run riot, where successive legislations like the Bantu Education Act 1953 created a large population bereft of skills or knowledge in a part of the country not particularly blessed with arable land or large natural harbours. It is also home to Nelson Mandela, a Xhosa who was brought up in a village outside Mthatha.

Indeed, Port St. John, north of Coffee Bay, and about one hour from Mthata, is the site of some of the best cannabis grown in SA. This weed was shipped in large numbers by the government and surreptitiously supplied to the Black workers in the mines in Gauteng (thats Johannesburg and its surrounding areas) so as to keep them perpetually dull and simple, giggling and drooling, staring at random events by the wayside, and laughing.

Kept apathetic and moribund by a willing government, the mind boggles to even imagine the incredible amount of insult and injury that must have been perpetuated in the notorious ‘hostels’ outside Jo’Burg. It also makes so much more sinister reading when you think of the number of women who may have been consuming alcohol and cannabis and tobacco through their pregnancy, and to imagine the number of children born with deficiencies.

The blacks who lived in the homelands were used as cheap labour, in homes and on mines. The steady stream of migrant labour created parentless homes and unsupervised children in the villages, and rampant promiscuity and breakdown of family structures in the mines and at workplaces. Add to that the AIDS epidemic, and this potent brew of patriarchal african value systems, insiduous white oppression, systematic neglect and marginalisation, poor health outcomes and internecine rivalry, and this powder keg of conflicting interests is just about ready to go ka-boom, like noone else’s business.

Still, Coffee bay is a stunningly beautiful part of the country, and along with its beautiful and more famous neighbour, Hole-in-the-Wall, it forms among the most beautiful natural rock formation on the seas that i have ever seen. We stayed at a place called coffee shack, across the river, on the beach.


The weekend we went was that of the Worldwide Earth day celebrations, and in 200 sites across the world, a trance party was being held to herald the world’s imminent descent into destruction. As stoned presenters greeted their happy audiences with “got some spliffs on u?”, trance music throbbed in the background and psychedelic colours glowered from the walls. We were in a cottage nearby, and 72 hours of pulsating techno accompanied our vacation at coffee bay. Sometime during Day2, Mr DJ decided that he would use his strange machine-like grunts to fill up the space between spliff-breaks. Having realised that he was onto a good thing, (or passing out next to the munchies in the back kitchen), the machine-groans continued for the next 12 hours. As I woke up, disoriented, at 3 in the AM, a washing machine was making its bizarre mating call to another. Some serious discussions later, a refrigerator had joined in the chorus, and all three were engaged in loudly addressing each other across the bar mouth.

I turned over, muttering angrily in my sleep. Save the world with lousy trance and inebriation. May work. All I know is that I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.

All hail Jim Morrison, american poet, savant of the torpedoed masses!!!!!!!

22 july, 2009 :Global Warming and the Democratic Paradox:

Much of my attention of late has been directed towards the monumental waste of resources that I see around everyday, in Durban, with its first world cities (and third world villages – but thats the topc for another blog altogether), correlated with images from the US and the UK on my brief visits there in the past.

The amount of waste that is perpetrated by the developed world is staggering in the enormity of scale. Paper, electricity, water, petrol, diesel, edible food, the list is endless. It seems to me that being “developed” essentially means going to an incredible amount of discomfort in order to ensure comfort to yourself.

Maybe that is not exactly true, after all. The paradigms of reference vary, certainly. So while the discomfort is relative (the trouble of having to pay for purified drinking water- purified with an immense amount of energy expenditure and cost – just so that you can wash your clothes and flush it down ure drain), the comfort is a no-brainer, designed to make life simpler, easier, hassle-free, and predictable.

this perhaps explains why traffic rules work so well in the developed world, with drivers’ absolute willingness to stand in long queues behind capricious traffic lights just so that they may be able to travel at great speeds with the promise of increased safety.

This philosophy, however, does not seem to work for global warming. And herein lies the rub. the reality of our age is that global warming and large-scale environmental degradation are realities that are projected to take place in a foreseeable future, with largely uncertain effects. Yet, the irony is that their extent and actual impact are matters of projection, at best. The effects of environmental collapse can be only appreciated by a person who has spent sufficient time imagining the future, and who is able to have a very sophisticated understanding of the “if-then-else” loop of reasoning.

Simple though this reasoning may seem, it is sadly not very common.

Again, changes, if and when they come, would happen at a gradual pace – effecting a gradual erosion in our quality of life in a way and so as to allow for enough time for civilisation to adjust to it.

What this does mean is that in the case of environmental protection, people will very often be willing to disregard the long term deleterious effects of their actions if they imagine that the short term benefits are attractive enough.

It also makes the process of educating people difficult because all that you have by way of reasoning is the vague threat that things may slide into a dystopic future where matters will be out of hand, and that responsible behaviour will help you to live a vastly less profligate lifestyle for a longer time frame.

Maybe, if you’re lucky.

This is where systems of governments come into play. And where democracy tries so valiantly. And fails: so completely, so pathetically.

Democracy has the reputation of something of a sacred cow in the world we live in today. It is seen as the best system of governance, and countries have been invaded in its name. Regimes have been toppled, rulers deposed, and the will of many people squashed because of the modern  (essentially wetsern) belief that democracy will solve most of the nation’s worries.

I do not want to go into the relative merits or demerits of the system. That is the topic of another post.

But democracy, as we know it: a system of government consisting of proportional representation of the citizens of the country, who are assisted and guided by the executive and judiciary, is not a system that is known for its long-sightedness. One of the important aspects of democracy is the fact that governments have a finite lifetime, after which they have to seek the approval of the electorate again. It follows, therefore, that to retain the favour of the electorate, a government shall have to take popular decisions that shall ensure another term in office.

It is within the dictates of electoral compulsion, and onlycorrect within the mandates of a democratic election, that a group of elected representatives should strive to take the decisions that the majority would support.

Herein lies the rub. So while elected governments will see it as morally justified, even pertinent, that they safeguard the immediate interests of their citizens, the long-term decisions (that may be uncomfortable in the short term and may have questionable effects in the long term) may be put on the back burner.

And why not? Governments do not fret about the world that they are handing down to their successors, 20 years into the future. Hell, the incumbents don’t even bother about the poor gits who’re coming in after them in a month’s time! This is is entirely different from, say, a monarchy, where the king has a vested interest in preserving and nourishing the kingdom for future generations, since succession is most often lineal.

This does not in any way mean that I am suggesting that monarchy is better or worse than democracy.

In fact, it does not even mean that I am suggesting that democratically elected governments are incapable of saving the environment.

But it certainly means that there will need to be an incredible amount of vision and concerted effort, and a will to think beyond the next general elections, if a democratic government based on popular consensus is to have a realistic chance of making long-term decisions that improve conditions and forge a new way forward.

That takes courage, and maturity, and selflessness. Because after all the considered thought and concerted action, the opposition may just win at the hustings by trumpeting the obvious current shortcomings of the government. Charges which would be impossible to disown, without scare-mongering about a nebulous future.

This is the democratic paradox, and it will be interesting to see how we shall negotiate it in the years to come.

16 Jul 2009 : :the unbearable heaviness of being (indian) part 3

It has been a long time since I have written, and while that may not mean anything to you, o occasional reader, o itinerant wayfarer, to me it represents a great departure indeed, after months of indolence. The motivation to stretch and move, to coax my tired digits to clatter over the keys and beat out the tattoo of a new blog post, is one that does not come easily, which requires practice and regular effort.

Yet this is here, and I am in Durban, and the excitement of a new universe opening itself before my eyes like the petal pink folds of a nautilus shell, is one that has to be discussed, and shared, and written down for future perusal, and reflection.

Durban is a port city, and home to a fascinating mix of people: of Indian, African, European and Mixed descent. Indeed, one of the first things a Durbanite will enquire after referring to a person will be the appropriate racial box that you can check them under (like “…so this is your family friend? Her name’s Barbara? She’s white, eh?”)

The totally unselfconscious way in which these people seek to know the racial origins of everyone they interact with is disarming in its directness. To people used to the almost aseptic political correctness of the United States or the UK, it represents the conversational equivalent of a loud fart (with concomitant malodorous accompaniments) in a packed elevator. There is a sudden widening of the pupils, and an effort to keep the twitching facial muscles under check.

It is interesting for me to see this, coming from an Indian perspective, and watching the racism from within the view of the community that identifies itself as Indian.

The Indians in South Africa are different from the expatriate Indians in the US, or say, the UK. And while this can be said of Indians in almost any part of the world, the south African Indians are reportedly the second largest concentration of Indians in any place outside of India, (till recently, the largest).

This makes them a group certainly worthy of attention and study, and their difference from other expats is thus significant.

Yet, it is this terminology of being Indian that is problematic. Because of course, “Indian” is not a racial type exactly, and though there might be an overall way of behaving and of dress and culture and attitude that is prevalent among people from the subcontinent, it is sufficiently diverse as to render any common grouping fairly irrelevant.

To elaborate on my favourite thesis, India is like Europe, and to think that there is a commonality to all of Europe that manifests in ways besides the Euro and EU summits would be a little simplistic.

Anyway, all that is neither here nor there, because the Indians in South Africa came here when India was not the nation we now know, when it was a huge conglomerate of colonies administered by the British. So all people of South Asian origin, from present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh and even Sri Lanka, are identified as Indian. The majority of Indians came in the 1800’s, brought in by the british, as indentured labour to work on the plantations. Following this, they set up shop, as small businessmen and traders in the cities, and proliferated and grew.

There was also a smaller community who came about a century before, but the overwhelming majority today are the 1800-ers.

anyway, after 1948, the South African government banned the further immigration of Indians into the country, following which India also passed an embargo against them. It got messy, and there were situations where people who married women in India (as indians are wont to do, of course 🙂 were not allowed to bring their brides into the country.

All this changed in 1994, when the country became a democracy, and equality was ensured by law. But not before ensuring that the primacy of racial identity was forever ingrained in the worldview of the south African Indians, without a commensurate level of contact with the subcontinent.

So we have here a situation where the India that the south africans were forced to identify with was a country that was carried forward in the collective consciousness in a group of immigrants, about 100 years before, and with all the resulting bastardizations of the process of migration and settling.

It created a fascinating mix, and thus we have the Indian community here, which barely speaks any Indian language fluently, and have not traveled to India in the past 2 generations at least. But a community which identifies fiercely with India, and what it sees as common Indian values and traditions.


(next post: marriage laws in pre-’94 South Africa)

17-02-09: (most of) what i know abt gaiman… a.k.a. authors i like to read (part 1):

there are people you love to read.  all the time.   any which way.   the regular stash run thru, you are reduced to digging out old forgotten books published in the early part of their careers and dismissed in their time as frivolous, or as strictly avoidable.

these are the authors whose books wou will end, close, and wish you had not read so that you can read it again, and hope that there will be occassion, at some point in the distant fuure, when you may have  forgotten the plot  enough to read it again.

these are authors whose characters or writings or stories stick with you for a lifetime, whose metaphors twist their way into your everyday moral measures, tipping the scales as you judge and evaluate.

i wish to make a list of such authors.  every one has different lists, and i am sure any list i rattle off the top of my head would be incomplete.  and miss out on some really good people.   yet, here is my first attempt:

of course, before we go on,  there are rules.   as always.   there are rules.

  1. the book should not be an established religious text that has disputed authorship.  you cannot claim to love king james, or mathew, or whoever it is that you wish to attribute you corner of the bible to, but no it doesn’t work.
  2. the writer should have attempted to be prolific.  that could mean anything depending on the resources availble at that point of time, like lao tzu‘s writings, which definitely qualify for a whole body of work. yet one-time authors (like, say, siddharth sanghvi) in a post-printing press-era are not allowed.  so while there is certainly no doubt about considering someone as versatile as shakespeare (let’s just asume for the sake of this post that there was only one man, that it was a bargain that he had made with an extra terrestrial entity, who exacted his part of the bargain, or maybe didn’t 🙂  the works of kalidasa, or homer would certainly to be considered to be in the running,  too.
  3. there has to be a book.  that you can hold.  in your hands.  it can be any format,   novel, essays, short stories, graphic novels, collage narratives, picture books, what have you.  but books.   no blogs, no online columns, no periodicals, no newspapers, no official correspondence (u cannot claim to love the bukke shahato, saying that Tokugawa leyasu is your favourite author)
  4. group authors are ok, so long as they show cognisable evidence of having worked together.   (like lapierre and collins are perfectly ok, above the board, ekdum bindaas chun.)

but why am i saying all this in the second person, addressing it to you?  it is, obviously, dear reader, because you would have perhaps read so far, and have moved on to fantasising about you own list, so this is just a framework that you can use, to narrow ure search…

P G Wodehouse.

will certainly be the author to have influenced me the most, in so many different ways.  he has written books that i wished would never end, books that i thought were so hilarious, i have rolled around and laughed, tears streaming down my face.   contrary to most media representations, it is not the story of bertie and jeeves that interests me, tho i must confess a more than grudging respect for the entire line now, in retrospect.  my favourites were always situated in blanding’s castle, near market shropshire, with the butler Beach who enjoys his glass of port down by the pantry. and the pigman who keeps changing:  cyril wellbeloved was the most popular of them, elciting the approval of lord emsworth, anyway.  and when two variant characters and worlds collide, as in leave it to psmith which has psmith coming to blandings, and going thru that entire routine with baxter and the flowerpots, it adds a whole different level of hilarity.  “psmith leapt across the lawn like a long-legged mustang”.  i also thoroughly enjoyed monty bodkin (heavy weather “uncle woggly to his chicks: “hullo chikkabidies…” “) and other books here and there like meet mr mulliner, brinkley manor, and doctor sally (errmmm… ummmm personal tee hee and furious blushing moment).  spoken simply, or better, in evelyn waugh‘s words, “…wodehouse’s idyllic world will never stale….(he has)  created a world for us to live in and delight in”.   if ever i should use terms like ‘blithe insouciance’ and still have a straight face it should be for describing wodehousian characters.  the man is genius, of course.   his language, his turn of phrase, his sharp wit, self deprecating comments only serve to romanticise the fate of the foppish nobility in the twenties, as these penniless young men waltz in and out of his books, their wits about them, their innocence intact, and their idyllic world never stale.  the women are cuteness, desirability, wit and charm all rolled into one.   the men are goofy and lovable, or suave and sophisticated.   either way, the result is confusion, charm and hilarity.

Goscinny and Uderzo

some of the best humour in graphic literature has come from both these guys, especially thru their immensely successful and hugely popular “asterix” series.   honestly, i think that the great divide (with its lead couple melodrama and histrionix) is one of the smartest, brightest, funniest books ever written.   as for sheer genius, it has to be  asterix and the roman agent featuring the indomitable tortuous convulvulus (they put him in the circus in rome, but the lions eat each other).   for sheer inventiveness, you have to note asterix and cleopatra, aand as for smart and biting european farce and comedy, i suppose asterix and the banquet, asterix and the magic cauldron would get my vote.   also, the great visits to foreign countries for these thrilling adventures : corsica, britain, belgium, scandinavia (great crossing), greece, india, the middle east (asterix and the black gold) and so on.  the ability to keep such hilarious names intact, even after the translation from the french and the ability to retain the humour in exchanges like “join the army, they said…. its a man’s life they said (muttering)” is what really astounds me.   and also the great cameo performances (like ‘dubbelosix’ in asterix and the black gold and the fly who is his carrier fly and is in love with him). clearly, goscinny and uderozo were humorists far ahead of their time, using humour to tell a self-deprecating story that makes light of the more glaring truth : that all of france was run roughshod over by the italians, who plundered and conquered and toyed with the french till the last blue-gummed dying days of their own lead-fuelled demise


Next post  : features christie, crompton

friday, 13th february, 2009 : sri ram sene and the slumdog millionaire :

well, today is friday the thirteenth.  wat sweet irony, tomorrow is valentine’s day.  and made ever more so (ironic, ie) by the flurry of pink panties, godless women and publess men, scary economy blues, lunar eclipses (ok so there was only one), scarier environment reds and the victory of likud with the spectacular rise of lieberman….

never before really has love had such a bad chance.  it has been amusing to see the amount of anger and righteous indignation that has poured out on to the indian streets over the last few weeks.   of course, in some cases , it has been just outrageous and tragic (sri ram sene dragging women out by their hair), in some cases dangerous and thought provoking ( a free and fair election in israel that threw up the anger that it did), in some cases eerily premonitory (the moon, that trusted friends of lovers everywhere, obscured by a shadow of the earth), and in some cases, just downright insulting and presumptuous (the widespread disapproval of slumdog millionaire for portraying the ugly india)

so let me dwell on two of these issues that i feel are related in some way, and which have animated our discussions, in the month past.

when slumdog millionaire was released, at first, there was the pleased smile of a nation that was charmed.   here was danny boyle, maker of the beach and trainspotting, making a movie on india, shooting in mumbai.  and all that had happened in the city over the last year would be laid to rest.

then there were the whispers that it showed india in a bad t, a throwback to the snake charmer-and-elephant days.  nooooooo……  a collective groan rose all over the country, not again, we don’t want to be branded as exotic pieces in a cornershop in colorado, oh no!

then a few days later the great B spoke, and said : ” if SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”

oooohh. prickly, aren’t we?  protests went off across the nation.  said voices …this is not how we are: a bunch of dirty, impoverished, thieving schemers, flirting with disease and danger with easy nonchalance.   we are the new india. the one that grew up after shriman bakshi left, so thank you very much mr peter sellers, but we’ll be the judge of how funny your faux indian turn in the movie was.   and if you want to look at the new india, the real india, then for heaven’s sake get your nose out of the gutter and see the millions of young people who’re crouching in front of a “roadies” skinned orkut, sending sixteen scraps to suneeta and sunaina, sataak-se, like that!  we’re cool, really, and we listen to a r rahman’s remixed sufi tunes on our pink iPods while waiting to talk to business associates across the globe, shivering in a european winter..   wake up.   this is the new india…..


the sri ram sene, on the 25th of december, dragged women out of a pub in mangalore, ironically named “amnesia”, and thrashed them in public, obliging eager videographers in the vicinity.   when confronted, the leader of the ram sene, muthalik, said that this was his duty, so to speak, he was just doing what the parents of these girls would want, and that this was the sene’s way of enforcing the dictates of indian culture.  this is not indian culture, all these women going to pubs, taking drugs and indulging in alcoholism, he said.   plus, we have reasonably certain information that some pubs are fronts for making blue films, and also for prostitution.

muthalik is a vandal, a publicity-hungry hound who will sell his own mother for a record price if the attention and sensation is worth it.   i shall not waste any time talking about him.   even as i write, a group of women have spearheaded a campaign to send him pink panties, and sanjukta, my friend (of  fame) is at the spearhead of a “hug karo pub bharo” cmpaign.   there are many women across india who want to join her, and many more who are pledging their support.   many men, too, and children.

my point is this: at a very basic level, wat is the difference between muthalik and the persons protesting the depiction of poor people in SLD? lete us refer to “persons protesting the depiction of poor people in SLD” henceforth as big B, since he has actually voiced it after all.   muthalik believes in a depiction of india that he defines narrowly within his limited understanding of what it is to be indian, and how one must behave.   having done so, he goes on to enforce it, using force to do so.   big B objects to a depiction of a slice of india  shown in an international film that’s gathering much acclaim because he believes its not the india he wants shown outside.   there are many other things here.   why don’t you write about them?   (pardon me for shuddering, but i cannot help but get  a deja vu of some idi amin-esque african dictator’s helpful advice to a visiting journalist: “there are many other things here.   why don’t you write about them?”)

yes.  the difference is the use of violence.  that’s right.

i don’t know if you have seen the movie.  i have, and i did not imagine that the movie depicted anything that was hyperbole in the extreme, nor did it show scenes of incredible squalor and deprivation.  if anything, it showed a smart, self-sufficient people, resourceful and ingenious, living in the massive slums of mumbai (itself housing a population that rivals that of many world cities) and leading their lives with dignity, not as wasted junkies living on dole and roadside crack.  the ugliness that we glimpse thru the movie too, is real, and boyle’s mistake is in perhaps making jamal’s life a generic collection of different situations that may eventually only occur independently to different people.  yet, the details are true.   if you don’t believe me, the proof is a short auto ride away.   your city has a slum too, you know, teeming with people who work in your garages, in your homes, on the fringes of your lives, keeping costs low and luxuries affordable.

yet the great B deems this as causing “pain and disgust” among patriots and nationalists.

wowow. lets stop for a minute here.   what if someone came up to you and told you that the india that you knew, the india that formed your daily existence, your everyday reality, that india (for india is simultaneously many indias rolled inside of one)  is not pretty enuff to swell the hearts of patriots, and showing it is in bad taste?  how would you feel?  what if someone came to you, mr big B-aka-millions-masquerading-as-one, wat if your world of forum malls and swank offices and smart plastic cards clipped on smooth pinstripe shirts  was not beautiful enuff for people to show in an english movie?

what then, mister big bee?

what, indeed?

as a matter of fact, if i have a complaint with SLD, it was the characterisation of anil kapoor as rude and derisive, heaping insult upon pejorative, and heckling a chai-wallah working in a call centre in mumbai.   is that how the west sees noveau rich india, how it imagines the perfumed plutocracy of this country to be, as shallow insensitive cads without a shred of conscience or a sliver of empathy: cold, crude and calculating, calmly calling the cops to carry out their corrupt bidding?

and if that is so, isn’t that wrong?   the great indan middle class cannot be like that!

after the uproar, i’m suddenly not so sure.

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