The Echo Chambers: Demonetization

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When Modi said that he was going to announce something important to the nation at eight, I thought, it could be only one of two things. That he wanted to do a review of Sultan of Delhi. Or that he was going to enter the Big Boss House. Instead he demonetized 500 and 1000 rupee notes, and it seemed that his election promise of depositing 15 lacs of black money in every bank account was coming true, except that it was not someone else’s black money in your account, which is what people thought, but your own black money in your own account, and this is what happens when you don’t go over the fine print.

Over the next few days, I have sought to write my two five hundred rupee notes about demonetization, but I have been told I should not, because I am a NRI, and what would I know. I was told this by the very same people who in India have strong opinions on Donald Trump and white privilege, and who refuse to accept Donald Trump as their president, perhaps because their president is Pranab Mukherjee. So I have decided to shut up, and also because I am not really an economist, and this, seems something that only specialists can be seriously expected to evaluate.

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Betting Against Trump

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I am not a betting kind of person. The first time I bet on something was so that I could reverse-jinx, a one-rupee rosogolla againt India winning against England in the World Cup 83 semi-finals. When I lost the bet, I refused to pay up. Years later, this time because I was actually confident I would win, I bet a coffee on Hillary Clinton with a colleague, confident that I would get a free Starbucks coffee.

This time, being older, I could not cry and get out of my commitment. So I bought the coffee.

Because all through these months, I was absolutely sure that Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to win. Absolutely sure. Blame Nate Silver. Blame the different polls. Blame my faith in data delivered from a pulpit of authority. Most importantly, I had based my belief, and I acknowledge I was wrong, that the cosmic order would give Clinton the presidency, that somehow, to quote Paulo Coelho, when you want something the whole universe conspires to give you it, and boy has Ms. Clinton wanted this. My middle-class upbringing tells me that the studious girl always gets A, the one who has prepared for the test, again and again and again, for the past forty years, and not the  hungover bully, smelling of shots and lipstick, who staggers into the exam hall, and scribbles something on his sheet.

And then this happens.

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Goodbye Arnab Goswami (For Now)

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“A dangerous game is about to begin”. And with that Amitabh Bachchan, in Aankhein, launched a daring scheme to rob a bank with two men who could not see (Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal) and one man who could not see or act (Arjun Rampal).

It is not a coincidence that “A game is about to begin” was what Arnab Goswami chose to ominously utter to his staffers in Times Now before making his final exit. Whether he intends to start an international channel to take on the BBC and Al Jazeera or whether he merely intends to get his hands on  Pirzada’s jewels we know not, but something tells me he will , like a Cyborg sent from the future, be back. Whether the magic he created at Times Now will ever be recreated, like the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri chemistry of Batata Wada, I do not know, but Arnabs of the world, at least the ones I have known, never fade quietly into the night.

It is just not in their nature.

Arnab Goswami is, and I hesitate to use the past tense for him, many things. An arrogant, self-important demagogue who broke news into a million pieces. A human mute button. A paper tiger. A showman in love with the amplitude of his own voice. A TRP-hungry wild boar. A narcissist who would shame Narcissus himself. Mother-in-law to the nation, in that he was always right, and he never let anyone else speak.

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil–The Review

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Karan Johar is a creator of worlds. Like J K Rowling, George R R Martin and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Even though Mr. Johar’s world is populated by what seems to be homo-sapiens, in that they live, breathe, drink, eat, attempt to fornicate and occasionally die in order to resolve a story perfectly (leaving behind letters for an over-precocious child to read), it is very obviously a reality that is not quite ours. In the Johar universe, poverty does not exist even for poets and singers, people travel in personal jets, live in chic lofts in Paris and London with designer furniture, body-fat has melted away instead of the icecaps , the government provides everyone the latest fashions to wear , people do not converse but mushaaira through life, and men and women may lose their marbles occasionally and start thumping themselves on the chest with a flower-pot, but none of that affects their perfect make-up, not an even terminal illness can do that.

There is only one source of conflict in this reality, only one problem that world has not solved.

What is love? What is friendship?

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The Issue: A Durga Pujo Short Story

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[My latest book “Sultan of Delhi” is now available on Kindle outside the Indian sub-continental region]

“Let me go and offer puja”, the wife says pointing to the Durga idol to the right, up on the stage, “You can sit there, see if you know anyone.”

All married couples know this passage of play. It’s when one of the two makes the other do something that that person doesn’t want, and then compensates by backing off for a certain period of time afterwards. My wife knows I am not happy. I did not want to be here. Weekends are for reading books and watching movies, not for wearing kurta-pyjama that don’t really fit me in the way they were originally tailored, driving an hour, taking three exits, and then paying fifty dollars per person at the door for the dubious privilege of lunch, dinner and “cultural program”.

But it’s Pujo. Are we not going anywhere?

Even if that place is a high school rented for the weekend, and we don’t know anyone there.

So here we are.

“Well why don’t you go to Bangali Association meetings?” My wife had said on the drive here, chilly inside the car even though the heat was turned up high, “Then everyone would not be a stranger.”

I had simply gripped the steering wheel harder. I have been married for ten years. I know not to answer such questions.

“But you used to love Durga Pujo.”

I did. Back in Calcutta. When I had friends. When I could walk into a random pandal at any time of the day and most likely meet someone I knew, from school or college or from “coaching”, when the whole city was extended family.

Not now. Not in the US. Not any more.

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M S Dhoni: The Untold Story—the Review

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[This WordPress tells me is my 1000th post]

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M S Dhoni. The Untold story.

So what would this “untold story” be I wondered, as I sank into my seat at AMC Barrington, in a surprisingly packed auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.

Was I expecting untold stories about Rhiti sports, cricket enthusiasts, selection room shenanigans, bags of cement and Deepika Padukone?

Of course not. A biopic of a sportsman who is not just alive but also playing the game isn’t going to lift the hood and show us the gunk in the engine.Just not going to happen. That too in India, where slapping of defamation and sentiment-hurting lawsuits is a cottage industry. And to be honest, cinematic biographies of heroes, even the most Oscars-hogging of them and I am talking Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, rarely rise above being hagiographies, maybe not to the level of MSG Messenger of God, but pretty close.

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Five Stages of Grief

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[Writing this post based on a series of tweets I made earlier today. For two reasons. One: to collect them in one place. Two: to cover my ass for the time when they are photoshopped together, shared without attribution, and then I have to defend myself; that it’s not me who copied but they. This, alas, has happened to me too many times.]

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, postulates a series of emotions experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death, where in the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. [Wiki].

After India’s surgical strikes against Pakistan, our Indian “liberals” have been passing through, what can be identified, as the different stages of grief.

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