Thoughts/ Articles

Free Speech Should Have a Wild Run

Free Speech Should Have a Wild Run

You don’t’ become an anti-national by shouting a few slogans anymore than you become a patriot by disrupting Gulam Ali’s concerts or digging cricket pitches. Giving tickets to people with criminal backgrounds is anti-national, failing to deliver on election promises is anti- national, evading paying your taxes is anti-national, demanding a bribe is anti-national, sending in the police to an educational institution to arrest students is anti-national.


Sex and the Indian Journos.

Sex and the Indian Journos.

Most journalists, come from the middle class and represent middle class values and obsessions. They like to believe in the slanderous exploits of others because these stories makes them feel better about their own sexually repressed lives.


India’s Miserable Singles

India’s Miserable Singles

Singles are not living it up but float about waif-like, seeking out husbands or wives in boardrooms, in birthday parties, in weddings, in Facebook friend-lists or dating sites.


Ladakh Monasteries and the Paucity of Monks

Ladakh Monasteries and the Paucity of Monks

The monasteries dotting Ladakh’s cold deserts are facing an acute shortage of monks. The dearth is so dire that one day the monasteries, numbering over 38, may become museum pieces with empty courtyards and silent prayer halls.


Dom Raja : Keeper of the Flame

Dom Raja : Keeper of the Flame

Its not an easy job, Sanjit reminds you. The stench of bodies , some of whom having been kept in mortuaries for days and opened up for postmortems, is unbearable. To drown out the putrid odor, Sanjit drinks copious amounts of local whisky. He claims to drink over eight bottles ( each 250mls) every day.


Paul Theroux. Under  Sir Vidia’s Shadow Still

Paul Theroux. Under  Sir Vidia’s Shadow Still

Naipaul was dealt not only on the chin but had been administered many a searing body blows by Theroux , most of them well below the belt, with Theroux’s intimate account of their friendship in his memoir, Sir Vidia’s Shadow, in which Naipaul came out shining like a bad penny.


Are you Depressed? Seek Psychiatric Help at Your own Risk

Are you Depressed? Seek Psychiatric Help at Your own Risk

Unfortunately, it takes many years and sometimes decades to realize that Psychiatry is but a sophisticated form of quackery. That it’s nothing but the latter-day Inquisition where behavior, which is somewhat, out of the ordinary, is demonized. The disorders are decided not on the basis of scientific analysis but on what’s unacceptable in society.

Thankfully, important psychiatrists, like Thomas Szasaz, who wrote ‘ The Myth of Mental Illness’ and “The Manufacture of Madness”, have come out strongly to call psychiatry’s bluff.


Are There Emotional No-go Areas for Artists?

Are There Emotional No-go Areas for Artists?

What was shocking was that the vitriol and cry for rioting came not from political goons as is so often the case in India over art, but largely from the creative community itself. They drummed up such an uproar on the social media that the photographer, Raj Shetye, cowering under pressure, quietly removed the photos.


Varanasi : The Day the Music Died.

Varanasi : The Day the Music Died.

Sadly today, the music is dying out in Varanasi. Living in neglect, the musicians now look at any opportunity to move out of the city. Music concerts are more on Bollywood themes, and Indian classical music as a consequence gets a short shrift. Students wishing to learn Indian classical music are few and far between and there is a real danger of some of the classical traditions vanishing and the old instruments falling silent forever.


How a Cop asks for a Bribe. Remembers his ‘Old Self’. And goes to a Temple.

How a Cop asks for a Bribe. Remembers his 'Old Self'. And  goes to a Temple.

They usually hum and haw and wait for you to make the offer. So when he finished the paperwork  and looked straight at me and  demanded, “Now get me the money”, I was taken aback. Even in his civvies, he looked every bit a cop. He was tall, had flaccid, clean- shaven jowls and wore […]


Golden Temple Kitchen – The largest community kitchen in the world.

Golden Temple Kitchen - The largest community kitchen in the world.

This is no ordinary kitchen. This is the kitchen of the holiest Sikh Shrine, the Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib which serves meals to more than 40 thousand people any given day. On a Sikh religious holiday however, the number can cross 1,00,000, making it the largest community kitchen of the world.


Sherpas and the Truth about Mountain Climbing.

Sherpas and the Truth about Mountain Climbing.

Year after year, all manner of people, from the physically handicapped to the age defying – the very old to the very young- climb Everest and other big Himalayan peaks setting up new benchmarks and world records. The fact is, the easier the Sherpas make the climb for the amateurs the more they risk


Varanasi- A Divine City in Decay

Varanasi- A Divine City in Decay

The assault of the incessant honking, traffic snarls, the squalor and the general chaos can be overwhelming even for an average Indian city dweller used to the din. But instead of dismay there is a lazy romanticizing of the city, as a consequence nothing changes and the putrid Ganga continues to collect garbage from ghat to ghat.

Perhaps Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won his election from here, can stem the rot. Or perhaps not. Because the decay is not just physical.Its also deeply cultural.


Have you visited the Holiest Hindu Temple in Varanasi? Probably Not.

Have you visited the Holiest Hindu Temple in Varanasi? Probably Not.

But its inclusiveness is not just in the fact that it welcomes everyone –most Hindu temple do that- but that it incorporates the spirit of Hinduism like no other temple in Varanasi. All aspects of life, including sex are celebrated in its beautifully carved wooden sculptures. Nothing is condemned.


The Opium Drinkers of Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The Opium Drinkers of Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Doda is the last derivative of the opium plant. Its bits of straw and dust and this is what they sell at the government shops. It’s less pure and therefore less lethal than pure opium but just as addictive. The addicts ground the dry straw to powder. They mix it with water and filter it through a piece of cloth several times. The tea-colored liquid, which is odorless and tasteless, is then drunk by the glassfuls.


Rent a Womb? The Baby Factory in Gujarat.

Rent a Womb? The Baby Factory in Gujarat.

However for the childless around the world, Anand is just a pit stop on their dream to acquire a child. Each year hundreds of them flock here from as many as 34 countries, winding their way through the traffic chocked, dusty by lanes to reach Akanksha Infertility Clinic- the hospital that churns out an average of one baby a day.

But Anand is also the last hope for women who have none. Empty stomached but fertile wombed they come here from all across Gujarat offering their womb for rent.


Gujarat- Its Smelly, Its Dusty , Its Poor. Its India.

Gujarat- Its Smelly, Its Dusty , Its Poor.  Its India.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to make road journeys across this vibrant state twice in the last one year to see for myself and rejoice. Truth be told, at first I did feel that same tug –a mixture of inferiority and expectancy – you feel when you fly to any Western country from India.

But away from the steel and glass, in an old part of Ahmedabad, where I went walking the next day, I got the same chocking feeling you get in any Indian city where filth and noise overwhelms you and sweaty smelly men buffet you about in the milling crowds.


Siddis- The Lost African Tribe in India.

Siddis- The Lost African Tribe in India.

The Siddis were brought to India almost 500 years ago as slaves by Arab and Portuguese merchants. Some Siddis also came as merchants but most of them worked as slaves and since then remained in India as part of the African diaspora. Over time, the Siddis were completely Indianised but they kept their African genes alive by marrying within their community.

Where do the Siddi’s fit in the complex caste system of India? In pre-Independence India they were outside it and were put even below the untouchables in the social hierarchy.


Female Bikers in India.

Female Bikers in India.

The image of a girl on a bike is that of her riding pillion. Biking is a male preserve where boys use their bikes to assert their masculinity. They have their peculiar mannerisms, their boy talk and adventures that one man can share only with another man.

But entering this cozy boy’s club are few females who are not content on sitting behind the boys to make them look pretty. They have their own bikes just as big and heavy. They go on long cross- country tours just like the boys and make all the heads turn at the traffic signal in the cities.


Bikes, Brawns, Babes: Testosterones Tales from India Bike Week, Goa.

Bikes, Brawns, Babes: Testosterones Tales from India Bike Week, Goa.

They called the biking rendezvous; the Woodstock of Biking and touted it as the biggest and meanest of its kind in India. The first one, which took place in 2013, attracted biking aficionados of all hues, over 6000 of them. This year it was more flamboyant drawing all comers to the sweltering cauldron at Vagator, despite the hefty entry fee.
True, the India Bike Week at Goa , only a year old, is Woodstockian in scope. But it’s more a monument to testosterone.


Indian Gays and Lesbians: Pushed Back into the Closet.

Indian Gays and Lesbians: Pushed Back into the Closet.

Walid , 29, research scholar was not so fortunate. His family never tried to understand his point of view. His father told him bluntly that if he spoke about homosexuality again he would stab him. The Supreme Court judgment has only hardened their stand and they have already begun to send him we-told-you-so feelers.

“My father told me clearly that he would rather have me dead than have me a homosexual. He said our religion is against it and that was enough”, says Walid.


Tarun Tejpal and The Story of his Assassins.

Tarun Tejpal  and The Story of his Assassins.

Schadenfreude is a German word, which means deriving pleasure out of other people’s misery and discomfort. It embraces the bitter elements of sadism, voyeurism and malice.

And when a big man falls the Schadenfreude is that much sweeter. We drive pleasure out of other’s misfortune not necessarily because we hate the person in question but because it makes us feel better. We feel better about our own sorry lives.


Ranaram Bishnoi- The 75 year Old who Stopped the March of the Desert

Ranaram Bishnoi- The 75 year Old  who Stopped the March of the Desert

No sooner we exchange greetings than he whisks us to the desert swathe where he’s planted over 27 thousand trees turning it green. He has singlehandedly stopped the march of the desert, which left to itself would have muzzled up the farmlands adjoining it and beyond. The desert dunes now lie tamed and anchored to the roots of Ranaram’s trees.
Ranaram has been planting these trees for some years now, drawing water from a nearby well and carrying it in an earthen pot on his shoulders to water the saplings.


Living With Parents ? Get Out of That House Already!

Living With Parents ?  Get Out of That House Already!

The biggest fallacy is that those who continue to live with their parents, love them more. The truth is, it’s a minefield of squabbles out there and the build up resentment and acrimony in the family is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.

It has nothing to do with love in the first place. Or with our great Indian culture – which is invoked every time in a discussions of this nature. The reasons for shacking up with parents are usually selfish; not being economically independent, high rentals, security and comfort, warm home cooked meals, not having to deal with the pesky landlord or simply plain laziness.