Intellectual Standards Organization

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What Chetan Bhagat is to Indian writing in English, Ram Guha is to popular modern history. Unlike the Bhagat though, Mr. Guha is an ISO-certified intellectual where ISO stands for Intellectual Standards Organization, that august body to which I somehow someday hope to gain admittance. Hoping to get some tips and tricks, I sat through his interview on a popular English news channel, and I can say with confidence, I came away enriched.

Mr. Guha’s basic contention, which I am presuming is explicated further in his new book that he was promoting, was that India is more intolerant than at any time it has been since Emergency. Now I was tempted to say that the very fact that he is on saying this on TV contradicts his assertion of suppression of free speech, since at one point, he even brings up Pakistan and North Korea, to imply we are only marginally better than them. I also felt that pinning  Canada and Sweden as examples of what we should aspire to be in terms of a liberal society was rather silly, given that these two countries have nothing of the demographics, diversity and history that we have, and that Ram Guha, being a historian should know that most of all, but then I told myself “zyara bhavnao ko samjho” and moved on. Though really I could not move on, perhaps because I think of intolerance as a systemic problem in Indian politics and social life, not one for which one political party can be singled out for, a malaise which draws sustenance from poor protections for free speech afforded by our Constitution, which allows people to be arrested for forwarding cartoons or making social media posts, a Constitution which, surprise of surprises, Guha’s heroes, Nehru and Ambedkar wrote up.

But then what do I know? I am just a struggling author with no  bully pulpit, and no TV channel to promote my book.

 

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Shocked

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mocambo

I am shocked.

Mocambo, the legendary Calcutta eatery to which I have never been to, which might even be the single most Instagrammed place in the city, a favorite haunt of people who refer to themselves as “foodies”,  has been accused of not letting a working man, a driver of a car, enter the restaurant as a patron, because the powers-be considered him not appropriate for the establishment, based on his station in life. This has led to the usual social media cycle of outrage, of people downvoting a Facebook page which was not the restaurant’s, and of news media passing statements of  doubtful provenance as ” the official” franchise response, and of shares and comments and Whatsapp messages and other forms of digital mayhem.

As I said before, I am shocked.

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The Legend of Mem Bou

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There are many privileges of being born Bengali.

I can live in a glorious past. I can appreciate Ray without subtitles. I can marvel at the Ma Maati Manush alliterative chchondo of Didi’s poems, by the grace of Ma Sharda. I can tremble my voice during elocution. I can consider telebhaja to be an industry.

And most of all, I can derive pride from the awesomeness of the new viral meme.

Mem Bou.

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Gunda Becomes Jawaan

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Gunda turned eighteen this weekend. Or to put it in Gundese “Haye haye mera Gunda jawaan ho gya, toota hua teer kamaan ho gya”.

What began as a closely guarded secret in male dorms across the country, like a shared password for that orgy in “Eyes Wide Shut” except there are no women, all men, and all of unappealing body-types, and while imagining this, also imagine the stench of sweat, the musky odor of wet underwear drying in the breeze,  and only then do you begin to get a faint flavor of the origin of this global phenomenon.

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Azhar—the Review

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emraan-azhar123

There is a scene in Azhar where Azhar has gone to watch a film with Naureen, his first wife. As Nargis Fakhri playing Sangeeta comes onto screen, her lips swollen like she walked into an Ambrose bouncer, it is Naureen who almost gets aroused, commenting to Azhar “kya khoobsoorat aankhein hai uski” and for those who have grown up in Bollywood,  we know that”aankhein”is often an euphemism for some other components of a woman’s body. While wife getting turned on by another woman is a long-standing fantasy among Indian men, and by this time you should be thinking of Khulbhushan Kharbanda’s spontaneous eruption in front of bottles of “Crush”  after stumbling upon his wife Shabana Azmi writing sensuously with Nandita Das in Fire, Azhar is immensely distraught by the licentiousness of the dance, and looks uncomfortably from side to side, like he did when the ball was bouncing near his head on fast tracks.

Yes that’s how innocent and honorable Azhar is, in his approved eponymous hagiography. Why did he take money from bookies? So that he bankrupts them, and prevents them from offering the same money to other players. Yes. You read that right. That’s the final reveal. Why was his career finished? Because some player suspiciously called “Manoj”, himself suspect in his loyalties, resented Azhar being the boss, and carried a grudge of having been seen nude in the dressing room. Why the extramarital affair? Because the first wife was unavailable, and how do we know that? Azhar sits down to a dinner with Naureen, asks her about the biriyani, she says “it’s good”, and Azhar asks “What about it is good? The rice? The spices? The flavor?” and Naureen says “It’s all good”, and Azhar loses his cool because no husband likes a wife who can’t deconstruct biriyani and the next thing you know he is in the arms of his mistress. Not convinced that he is an amazing person? Here is more. Azhar wants to tell his wife the marriage is over, but there are people at the house, so what can the poor man do except announce it on TV, leaving his wife not just heartbroken but also embarrassed?

Because you see Azhar did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. Everyone around him was bad, a resentful “Manoj”, a philandering “Ravi”, a difficult “Navjot”. And if throwing mud at everyone else in order to make him look good isn’t bad enough, there are bare-faced lies. Matches Azhar was accused of having fixed, are mixed with other matches, like the one in Bangalore where he got a bad decision, so that unless you lived through the Azhar era or read Cricinfo while others go to Pornhub, you would not realize that the game that started was not the one that finished.

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Stop Hating on Bobby Deol

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Between Ashutosh’s assault on the English language, the activities of Gau Rakshaks, the melting of the ice caps,  and the shamelessness of Indian sports officials, I thought I had become impervious to the evils of the world.

Till I saw this.

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According to a source, Bobby played the tracks from his old film Gupt throughout the night! Yes, that happened! And by the end of the night, the people at the club were left fuming, and were seen asking for a refund from the hotel officials! [Link]

Who the eff are these wannabes? I played songs from Gupt, in a loop, for five years, and I got my PhD. And they can’t take it for one night, and that too from the man whose film it was?

They deserve Pulkit Samrat. And Somnath Bharti. And Raaz the Reboot. And KRK dancing to Beat Pe Booty. And Honey Singh desecrating “Dheere dheere se”.

They do.

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A Legend Is Born

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Like most Indians, I had no idea of what a Produnova was till a week ago, would never have been able to tell it from a Supernova or a Kournikova.

Now I know.

Thank you Dipa Karmakar. You are now a legend and an inspiration. That does not mean, we as a nation will remember you, of course we won’t, unless we have Farhan Akthar or Priyanka Chopra playing you in your biopic, with the script written by Shobha De or Chetan Bhagat, each of whom will then go on to make more money off your name than you will manage in a lifetime.

But thank you, because for those few seconds when you floated in the air, you inspired us, a nation with little culture of sports or physical exercise, at least compared to the world, to soar, before we came down to the bitching and backbiting and snarky people that we usually are.

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