Thoughts/ Articles

Siddis- The Lost African Tribe in India.

  “ Do you want to see a  habshi?’, asks my guide pointing to an African boy sitting under a tree  as we enter   Gir  in  Gujarat- home to the famous Asiatic lions. Habshi or  negro are the words used (not pejoratively)  by the locals for Siddis- the people of African origin,  sprinkled  in Junagadh [...]


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.

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.

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

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!

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.


Apple Farming in Himachal: A Bitter-Sweet Fruit

But over the decades apples have transformed the lives of the apple growing community completely. The apple growers no longer live in villages in traditional mud and wood houses. Most of them now live in lavish farmhouses in the middle of their orchards harking to a lush, beautiful English countryside than a rural Indian setting. Expensive 4WD’s park behind the high walls of these houses and orchardists check for weather forecasts on their iPads and iPhones. Their children study in expensive boarding schools and little expense is spared during any social occasions like marriages or village rituals.


Temple to Lord Amitabh Bachchan, Kolkata

Temple to Lord Amitabh Bachchan, Kolkata

This is clearly not a fans shrine to their superstar. Bollywood fimstar Amitabh Bachchan is worshipped here as a God incarnate and full rites and rituals are accorded to him as to any Hindu God including the devotional aarti sung to him in pious clamor to the accompaniment of cymbals and bells.

And the temple is like any other Hindu temple with its religious protocol and symbols and customs. So much so that as we cross the threshold, the autorickshaw driver, as if on an ancient impulse, folds his hands in reverence.


Temple Freak Show in Bikaner, Rajasthan

Reverence for all things living is a special trait of Hinduism. But nothing prepares you for the freak show at this temple in Rajasthan overrun by thousands of overfed rats. There are over 20,000 of them living within the temple precincts and people come from far and wide to pay them obeisance


The Birds I Shot in my Orchards.

When I was growing up I wanted to become a hunter. I was encouraged in my bloody endeavor by my father when he got me my cousin’s hand -me -down air-rifle. With it I shot a wide variety of birds that live in the orchards and its periphery.
The birds were shot for morbid boyish pleasure of course but there were some like the streaked laughing thrush and the oriental turtle dove we barbequed in the jungle and ate. The streaked laughing thrush was particularly delicious and as a bird lover now , disconcerting though the thought is, my mouth still waters at the memory of the flesh.


In Search of ‘Real India’ with Chetan Bhagat

‘’I want to see the real India. Its important to see these people living at the grassroot level’’, Chetan tells me. But accustomed to dishing out homilies though his columns and tweets, Chetan is clearly out of his depth when it comes to asking questions about other people’s lives.
Chetan has come to see the ‘real’ India but he clearly cannot get enough of the India he has left behind. Between shots, in the jeep, even between conversations with the locals he twiddles briskly on his blackberry.


The Clay Refrigerator Man: He Makes all Appliances out of Clay.

Prajapati is an innovator who is in the business of making everyday household appliances including refrigerators, pressure cookers, non-stick pans, water dispensers- all out of clay. These products marketed under the Mitti Cool banner are not only eco-friendly, sustainable and effective but also very cheap.


Dining with the Dead: The Graveyard Restaurant

Life and death are so finely interwoven into the matrix of Indian life that sometimes it is just a matter of course. Like in this quaint restaurant in Ahmedabad, Gujrat, where the living come out to dine with the dead. Built over a graveyard, the New Lucky Restaurant has more graves than tables.


Its only Human. How Sexual Perversions and Depravities are uniquely Human.

Humans are the only species on the planet who rape though ironically we often call the rapists animals. No animal rapes. No animal has sexual perversions or depravities. It is, as with most things, a peculiar human trait.


How Political Correctness can make you Deaf and Dumb. But Mostly Dumb.

The liberals (so called ) suppress any thoughts or research that could brand them one of these terms : sexist, racist, communal and in the case of India castist. Liberals will do anything to be seen as liberals. Which paradoxically often leads them to voicing illiberal ideas.


Why don’t Indians Read?

I believe, one of the main reasons why we don’t read in India is because historically in the East the exploration has always been within. If you want any answers you look within rather than without.


Kumbh Mela- And the Great Churning of Superstitions.

The Kumbh Mela does no service to Hinduism. Rather it presents a very narrow, clichéd and archaic picture of this versatile religion. Thanks to events like the Kumbh, Hinduism has become a mere Brahaminical ritualistic mumbo jumbo. Hinduism of the Upanishads that expounds on existentialism, and a deep personal inquiry is virtually unknown to the Hindus or is completely lost to them.
Only a sustained public discourse on the subject can restore Hinduism to the heights of wisdom the great Upanishadic mystics had elevated it to. Otherwise Gurus like Assaram will continue to emerge from the woodwork and try and define it for us.


Safdarjung’s Tomb. The Flawed Mughal Monument

The main dome itself seems a bit out of place compared to the domes of other Mughal Mosoleums. The domb here is somewhat extended at the top giving it the ‘onion’ look. The dome and other places where marble is used has a rough patchwork look to it. Thats because most of the marble used in Safdarjung Tomb was marble plundered from other tombs-most notable the tomb in Nizamuddin of Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Akbar’s protege,


A Mosque, a Temple and a Gurudwara- All Under One Roof.

One of the main triggers of religious conflict in India particularly between the Hindus and the Muslims has been over places of worship. The demolition in 1992 of the ancient Babri Mosque at Ayodhya by the Hindu religious right who claimed it was the birthplace of Lord Ram, is just one example. Many religious sites [...]


Khushwant Singh: The Man Who Taught me the Importance of Replying

It can get really exasperating to reply to people who mistake you for someone else. But reply I do.

One cannot write enough how ill-mannered we Indians generally are. Not replying back is not only a lack of good manners but is also rude and arrogant. Khushwant Singh was a man with impeccable manners. Today every crazy email I want to trash, I think of the good old Singh, sitting at his desk replying to every silly letter he received.


Why All Atheists are Religious Fanatics.

The fact is there is little to put the person who genuflects before a God in Heaven apart from the one who bows before a country. Both are worshipper of an abstract idea. In one case the idea is enforced by the priests and in the other its promulgated by the politicians.


Why There are Only Two Temples to Lord Brahma?

Prayer as practiced by all organized religions of the world is a sort of begging. The believers worship a certain God, either out of fear or to fulfill their needs (material, emotional or spiritual). Shiva the Destroyer, is very much like the angry Old Testament God. He has to be kept happy, lest he wreck havoc on the world and our lives. Vishnu the Preserver has the power to fulfill our dreams. His various avatars from Krishna to Rama are worshipped by Hindu’s for a better salary, better grads in school, good husband, safe air journey etc.

But Brahma? What is the point of worshipping him? He is the creator and he has done his job. He has no power to either destroy our dreams or fulfill them. So why worship him? That’s why Brahma has been completely ignored by the Hindus.


Why Don’t Indians Exercise?

The problem is that in India exercise is seen as an unusual activity, a fad or an indulgence of the elite. If you workout people comment,

‘’ Wah! so you are a fitness freak?’’.

We began our life on the planet as hunters and gatherers. We trekked for days in search of food. It was arduous physical labor and it’s all imprinted in our genes. We may have altered the world around us but our bodies haven’t suddenly metamorphosed in the short span we have been on this planet. It needs that primeval physical exertion.