Thursday, February 21, 2013

Strike-Day Chicken

When times are slow and harrowing, humour is the best way to stage a relief drama. This is a satire, so it says what you understand from it, but perhaps in a way that is not the way you should understand it.
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For most of us in India, February 20th and 21st were like Sundays.

Not in the way they appear on the calendar leaf with red ink and all, but the way they are taken by the silent, sleepy, lazy minds of ours. We sat in our chairs and sipped hot warm tea and watched TV all day long. There was nothing else to be done. We had an additional set of holidays.

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What I am referring to here, is the trade union strike for forty eight hours, nationwide. It started on Feb 20th midnight. They had announced it weeks before, so it was easy, in a way. There was no need to worry about shortages in rice or soap or coconut oil. Feb 20th was a Wednesday and most of us came back home after work on Tuesday evening with a pack of chicken or beef or pork, that was, according to the availability.

As our place is getting increasingly narrow-minded in terms of religion and cast, chicken turned out to be the best-buy meat in town for any occasion. So if you did not want trouble buying pork or beef, you could resort to chicken. Another trouble in getting cattle meat or pig is that they are available only in special places. In order to reach there you have to take two or three buses in line. So in order to avoid such troubles of added bus ride after the day’s tiring work, and also to avoid spending more money on bus fairs, most of us came down to chicken on Tuesday evening.

We stood in front of the so-called “chicken-stalls” or butcher shops that can be found anywhere and everywhere, to buy freshly slaughtered fowls in curry-cut-pieces. Those who knew how to cook the legendary Malabar biriyani bought chickens in ‘biriyani-cut’. The line went a long way on to the main road and people stood close to rushing traffic and dust ignoring the dangers, dreaming about the steaming bowls of fowl curry flavoured with cinnamon leaves. You could survive a hundred Hartals with that flavour. Oh, my!

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Those among us, who were into drinking alcohol and know only one version of celebration, that is, screwing their heads off with drinking, kept their queues longer and steadier in front of Beverages Corporation. Only in the main city and government allotted places one can find the centres of Beverages Corporation. But that did not matter; some of us were ready to stand for hours in the line. The dream of two days with no work was more than enough to endure any long-hour line.

Those going to colleges and schools took the opportunity to play cricket or football in the deserted roads on the strike-days. There would not be any vehicles running or institutions working. Or took to video game CDs and DVDs and celebrated the days by watching movies and fighting virtual battles.  

“There is no question of right or wrong in freedom,” says J. Krishnamurthy. The freedom that our fragile and naked ancestors gained for us, even without firing a bullet would let us live with this guarantee. No one would ask what is right or what is wrong.

February has only twenty working days. Cut two days from twenty, if becomes eighteen. This was a sad part, because two days’ less pay could be considerably harmful at a time when the price tags run the length of size ten Bata shoes. But it was ok for some of us, because this two-day strike was a humble attempt to bring the government to notice how much the workers in this nation are suffering because of less payment and price hikes.

Most of us believed that “service providers” or entrepreneurs cannot be counted as ‘workers’. For most of us, it was easy and better to think the managements as the bad guys. But who is a ‘worker’ then? If someone works as a porter, isn’t he providing and managing his agility and strength for the customer? Isn’t he the manager of his skills to lift heavy weights? A teacher; isn’t he or she selling his teaching skills to the consumers—here consumers are both students and the institution.

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Then, who was it the strike for? Most of us think about this paradigm shift and are aware of it. But we cannot undermine the chicken being cooked and the movies in the Telly. And some of us are realistic enough that they are afraid to say things out loud. Some of us prefer just ‘thinking’. Thoughts are secret enough, aren't they? And thoughts are better, because we can think and simultaneously watch our cricket matches.  

Sometimes, truth is like preparing chicken curry. One must avoid some unwanted parts from the chicken in order to make the curry better. To make it sound better and entertaining some instances do not appear in this article. They are concerned with those people who had their marriages planned on these two days, those who needed emergency operations, those with heart palpitations, those visiting their relatives from distant places, etc. The list is long and is obviously tiring. Unfortunately, it has less political-entertainment value to it. So those issues should not be mentioned anywhere.

By the way, most of us would admit, the chicken was tasty and full value for money. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

James Patterson's "Private" will be reviewed here, soon.

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Imagination often becomes my factotum in daily affairs. It helps me wake up at the start of every lousy day and pushes me forward, showing me impressive things, giving me the baksheesh of hopes and so on. I am not against this elusive partner. I, sort of, like it. That is the reason why I suspend my questions about what would happen in the future, if the ‘what if’ of imagination leads my way.

Image Courtesy: Amazon
To tell you the truth, imagination never betrayed me, although some times, the grand pictures it shows about the time to come and the time present fail to materialize completely. But that is OK. Materials are of this world. Imagination is of another.

Jan 14th, 2013 morning, I woke up thinking about what if I create an idea for a sequel to James Patterson’s new series of novels, Private. I wanted to keep that thread of imagination hidden away in my coffer, so that no one could copy it or take advantage of it. Patterson had already written five volumes of Private, placing the story in different capital cities around the world. The latest two carried the names of their locations in the title itself—Private London and Private Berlin. I got curious about the series only when Private Berlin was released and the news was mailed to me from James Patterson’s website.

So why shouldn’t the next book be Private New Delhi?! Or, may be, Private Delhi? The thought excited me and drove the sleep out of my arm hairs. That was amazing—all of them stood up!

I created a well sketched plan. I must create a plot, an outline and characters.

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The next step was writing a query to the master of thrillers himself, asking if he can collaborate with me, writing Private Delhi.

‘Private’ is the world’s most exclusive detective agency. The plot I wrote down evolved around the Private office in Delhi. One of their team members goes missing and so on. I cannot describe it all here, because after all, I can use this plot for some other story I write in the future. Also, even if I do not use this plot any more, I just do not want a copycat to copy all my ideas and publish them before I do.

Jan 22, Tuesday; I was in the local bus to my college in the morning, where I work as a lecturer. There, from bus stand, I bought my usual English daily. It has a books’ page. That is the main reason I buy this paper. The news went something like this; “Private India; James Patterson to collaborate with Aswin Sanghi”!! My heart felt heavy.

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It was surprising in a shocking way. What was that?! I mean, not Patterson collaborating with Sanghi. But I mean all of it! The very idea of collaborating with an Indian author and the next book being set in India! The working title of the book is set to be Private India. This news was first announced on 21st, on the Random House website. It was not known to anyone out in the world, on or before Jan 14th, 2013 morning.

The leap my imagination took was rather a journey into an already initiated plan. Of course, both the writers must have planned the book earlier itself if they were able to announce it by 21st Jan. Now I know my imagination had taken me into that realm. My plot is wasted. But still I cherish those moments when the idea came to me of writing Private series, just for the thrill of it.

It looks very much like a planned co-incidence that I received Private, by Patterson and Maxine Paetro, for book review. The writer, I wished so much to collaborate with, is about to be reviewed, by the same mind that conjured up the image in front of me on that early January morning. Is it co-incidence or synchronicity; the whole universe collaborating through invisible links?

Coming soon is the book review PRIVATE: THE WORLD’S MOST EXCLUSIVE DETECTIVE AGENCY by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.

This book review is sponsored by: http://www.mysmartprice.com/books/

Monday, February 4, 2013

Official Page Inauguration

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Art.

What is it?

May be, just may be, if you answer this question, you will forever cast out art! That is, if art is the spontaneous and requiring the interference of the Divine, the indefinable then by defining it, you are ruining it.

Or perhaps, the answer to the question above is art itself. If art exists for its own sake, then the answer to what art is, carries everything it needs to survive.

Let’s go down to the bottom of this question now and find out what the basic element in both these hypotheses is. 

Undoubtedly, it is the spectator.

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Art is created for eyes, ears, minds, souls and beings. Without them, art is meaningless and has no right to exist. To some part, this is close enough to exhibitionism, isn’t it? Well, we better do not judge. I said that because most of us believe in the power of judgment to either simplify everything for them, or just to control the vastness of senselessness around them. These types of people cannot survive without passing a judgment over someone, something or another idea.

I remember John Grisham’s comment on book critics. He says they are people with an unpublished manuscript in their drawer.

Often the criticism becomes judgmental, which mostly owes to this unpublished manuscript hiding within their drawers. The less judgmental a critical essay is the better. But that is, of course, impossible. You read a good book, and you desperately want to say that it is good. How can you not? It is totally worth the experience. You simply say it and by proclaiming the book to be good, you are judgmental, surely in a positive way.

It is impossible for an artist to live without judgments or criticisms, fierce or mild. He must survive this, like a phoenix burning in the fire of its own creation. And he should come back, too. Since, that is the only way he can venerate his art.

Art is a way in itself. It writes the name of the artist in eternal letters, however small his endeavours are.

Here is a small endeavour to reach out to many of you, through Facebook; in order to reach spectators.
An official Facebook page for The Indian Commentator is launched here
Courtesy: Screen shot; Anu Lal
   

Friday, February 1, 2013

Literature Festivals—The Indian Version

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The epilogue to Jaipur Literature Fest was a police notice to the organizers. The police had asked them to stay in the city until the investigation on the sociologist Ashis Nandi’s statement is completed. Ashis Nandy, a prominent figure in the Indian socio-political and cultural scene had made a statement regarding corruption during one of the speeches he made in the festival. His whiplash was not just targeted at corruption alone, but caste. And not just any caste, but those who are traditionally classified as the “lower castes”.
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Ashis Nandi said; “most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled castes and now increasingly STs, and as long as it was the case, the Indian Republic would survive.” The question of truth in this statement is meaningless to search for. As one can see, he had made a blind generalization on the relationship between corruption and people from lower caste. People from these communities enjoy reservation in government jobs and academics. But corruption is not the doing of lower-caste people alone. People from those castes and communities who belong to the elite quota also attach the same evil to the system, when they are chosen for jobs on the basis of baksheesh or political influence. In other words, corruption is mainly an issue that has its causes hidden in the ground level building of the system.   

Lit Fests are not exactly meant for preaching a higher order of consciousness or even art. They are meant to propagate self-righteousness and political propagandas. Or that is the idea any one can get from watching and hearing what is happening out there. A select few who can read and write, can afford to buy books and can pay for the transportation to the location of the festival and manage to get a free pass, or even get to participate in these festivals. And Ashis Nandy played his part to add masala to the world of high-artfulness.
Ashis Nandy
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But this year’s Jaipur Lit Fest was not just about a caste monger. It was also about absences. The Hindu right wing deftly managed to keep the Pakistani writer’s at bay from the Fest. Needless to say, Pakistan hosts a bunch of very promising literary talents, including Kamila Shamsie, the Orange Prize runner up for her novel Burnt Shadows. The Hindu right wing’s demand not to include writers from Pakistan to the fest was in resonance with the surging patriotic spirits in the post-LoC breach period by Pakistan’s cooli-army.

Due to some reasons I could not attend this year’s J L F. With Indian Literature festivals getting more and more violent and shifting in centre towards mean and pitiable political stunts, it seems my lack of presence was in itself was a reward. But as an enthusiast of this art form of words on pages, I would sure be looking for some action in real. I have written down reminders for the upcoming major Literature Festivals in India. One is the Bangalore Literature Festival, which was conducted during early December, in 2012. The hope is that this year too, probably from December 7th to 9th we can expect this Festival. Another forthcoming literature festival is the Goa arts and Literary Festival. It is a five day festival, which started from December 13th, the previous year. So this year too we can expect it around that same time. These two are special because of the places they are planned in.
Kamila Shamsie
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Of course, it is not just about books or meeting their writers, but the traveling to places and meeting people and seeing cultures. Goa and Bangalore seem to be welcoming places for someone who loves mild weather and tourist spots. In no way would these two places be less significant compared to Jaipur Fest.
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