Twitterific

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Watching NDTV’s We the Tweeple was fun if not for anything else but because one got to see a few familiar faces, people I have met in real life (@samitbasu, [His latest book, from what I have heard and based on the sample chapter provided, is a must-read] and @nilanjanaroy)  and also because one got to hear India’s most famous anchor, someone known to never take herself seriously, concluding the segment by saying that the lesson of Twitter was not to take ourselves seriously. I felt this was also as good a time as any to do a post on Twitter, one that I have been meaning to do for a while.

The question I have been asked the second most number of times during my book tour  (the first one being of course “Do you give ipods for the first comment?) was why I do not follow anyone on Twitter.

When I joined twitter, I felt there were two options open to me with regards to my follow policy.

To be truly equitable, and to make the social interaction be based on “friendship” rather than the  rather weird-sounding follower-followee (I am the only Prophet type) relationship, I figured I should follow back everyone who follows me. That however would simply flood my time-line leading me not be able to read most of what was coming on the stream.

The other option would be to do what most people do—–follow a selective few.

Given how “personally” people take the whole concept of “following” [much more than say subscribing or not subscribing to someone’s blog feed], I figured that this selection would essentially make a very public distinction between two kinds of people—-those whose opinions I think I want to hear and those whose I do not want to (even though they want to hear mine). This I felt would be kind of impolite.

And so I decided to follow no one.

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Raavan—the Review

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“Bak Bak Bak….Cheeeki Cheeki Keech Keech”….a crazy looking man, caked in mud jumped out in front, dancing all around making silent growls.

“God you scared the living daylights out of me. For a second, I thought you were Raavan”, she gasped, putting on her best Oprah Winfrey-show-worthy accent.

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Me Indian?

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Going through Priya Ramani’s much-talked-about article in the Mint, I was quite a bit confused. [Link]

Recently I’ve become increasingly convinced that I’m not an Indian. After all, it is possible that someone did a baby switch at Breach Candy Hospital where I was born, or that my parents have carefully hidden the truth about me for 40 years.

Quick proof that I’m not Indian? I have no furious loyalties to the Baganapalli or Alphonso. In fact, I can think of at least six fruits that I prefer to the mango. I have never eaten an entire paan or a pot of mishti doi (though I have tried both) and I don’t spit in public or private (except for that one time I tried a meetha paan).

I don’t understand that other national obsession, cricket, either. White is not my favourite skin colour. I don’t read Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho. I feel depressed every time I wear a salwar-kameez. No sir, I will not discuss my private life with a stranger on a train journey. And I don’t think I’ve ever begun a conversation with: “You’ve lost/gained so much weight!”

I don’t like (or understand) a single Indian soap currently on air. I never talk loudly to my maid, stockbroker or random friend during a movie. I always wait to let people exit an elevator before I enter. I don’t believe that Mumbai’s moviegoers should be forced to stand to attention every time they want to see Shrek (or anyone else) on the big screen. I don’t feel pride—only impatience that my popcorn’s getting cold—when I’m forced to listen to Lata/Asha do a slow-mo version of the national anthem before every single movie I watch in the city of my birth.

Is being “uncouth”, as manifested through acts of varying degrees of distastefulness (spitting, liking Paulo Coelho, remarking about other people’s weight), synonymous with being Indian, as if being one necessarily implies the other? If that be the case, Bullah ki jaana main kaun?

I love cricket, have a genuine appreciation for subaltern music videos of the “Eh Buchi bolo seal kaha tuthi” type and do not feel bad that my popcorn is getting cold when I am asked to make a gesture, however symbolic, in honor of those people who have made it possible for me to sit in an AC multiplex and enjoy a movie. Which possibly means I am Indian.

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Silly Mistakes

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The “guardian call”  missive  from school was the closest thing you could experience to a letter from the income tax authorities while growing up. If your luck was out, two things could happen. Your parents would either be berated for their ward engaging in that most heinous crime of them all— “talking in class and making it into a fish market” (I went to school in Kolkata as you can tell) or for the equally dire ” not up to standard of the class” which was sometimes an euphemism for “Sign the kid up in my coaching center”. If your luck was better, the teacher would gently chide your parents for your “silly mistakes” (like forgetting, just once in a seventeen-step problem, to change the sign when you changed sides in an equation or copying the number wrong to the “Answer” line). Not that it meant you would not get a zero or that you did not need to attend the teacher’s coaching class  (after all practice makes perfect) but at least the teacher acknowledged that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with you, sans the irritating habit of getting distracted while doing your HCFs and LCMs.

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The Great Bhopal Killing

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If there has ever been a story of a mass murder perpetrated by a corporation then it  is without doubt Bhopal.

This was not a accident. It never had been. The Bhopal incident was the inevitable culmination of a foreign company’s cynical disregard for human life in a third world country. To start off, the Union Carbide plant had decided to go with “untested production processes” for producing and storing some of the hazardous chemicals used in industry. Then when they saw that the demand for their pesticides was lower than expected and that they were hemorrhaging financially, they tried to transfer their plant to another third world country. This particular plant was so unsafe that Brazil or Indonesia would not allow them to bring it to their soil. So now they decided to reduce operational costs by drastically cutting down maintenance personnel. The Union Carbide management, headed by one Warren Anderson, was made aware of 61 hazards (30 of them major) by their own inspectors to which they did nothing except further let the safety systems rot for reasons of economy, installing instead safeguards for the plant in West Virginia (since American lives ARE valuable). [Link]

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Rajneeti—the Review

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When I first saw the promos of Rajneeti and more tellingly the image of Katrina Kaif moving through cheering crowds, in a look cleverly cultivated to make her look like the most powerful lady in the land, my pulse quickened. Was Prakash Jha going to give us the definitive Indian political thriller with thinly veiled allusions to the great Phemily? I imagined the ‘Half Blood Prince Who Joins the Opposition’, ‘The Chosen One Born To Rule”, the “Regent Who Kept The Throne Warm” , the “Dallit Messiah Who Went From Friend of Phemily To Sworn Enemy” as protagonists—-rubbing my hands together in glee at the prospect of a game of “spot the allusion”, especially if they used one of Katrina Kaif’s iconic songs “Kya baat hai kya cheez hai paisa” some how in the narrative.

But then a side of my brain said “Surely not”. The Queen Cong and her knaves would never allow a nasty tell-all and “spontaneous outbreaks of public anger” would lead to the movie being taken off the theaters, even if it by some miracle got by the censors. Then another side of my brain said “This must be a hagiography” from Prakash Jha, who after a disastrous run as a Lok Janashakti Party candidate, might be looking at something bigger and what better way to go up the rungs of the Party than by making a film extolling the struggles of Queen Cong.

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The Flotilla Incident

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Reminder: Saturday June 5 at 4 pm is our Washington DC meet-up at Union Station. Email me for details if you wish to attend.

This is the storyboard that you would definitely have heard. A ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza is illegally stopped by Israeli armed forces on the high seas (not Israel’s territorial waters) and then the Israeli forces open fire on aid workers killing nine of them.

What perhaps you will not hear, at least not so readily, is that the humanitarian flotilla was the brainchild of an organization called IHH which has been linked to dispatching Jihadi fighters to different battle hotspots and also have been known to be involved with the Al Qaeda Millennium Bomb Plot at Los Angeles airport. In other words, this was not your Red Cross mission of mercy. The ship was full of “peace workers” singing songs whose lyrics essentially called for death to Jews [Video from Al Jazeera] and for quite a few, their stated aim (as told to the camera in the previous video) was to attain martyrdom (which shows that they were there just to precipitate conflict). When the Israeli soldiers landed they went at them with whatever they could, threw one soldier off the railing (all captured on video)—-again not so much to inflict a victory by superiority of forces but to force a reaction. And they got one. The exact one that they wanted.

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