April 27, 2007

Celluloid of Self

I don't like linear, continuous writing, so to create a sense of discreteness, will describe five shots from the film that will be made on me:

1. A chipped full-length mirror, in a South Kolkata damp-walled bedroom. A crumpled mosquito net in one corner of the bed, and starched saris folded in a pile in the other.

2. An orange-candy man in the Loudon-Rawdon Street crossing, wiping sweat. Girls in French plaits, and pleated blue and green and red skirts and white keds, slurping orange candy, around him. Lanky boys in white-now-muddy-pulled-out-at-lunchtime shirts, cackling in clusters, nudging each other.

3. Rains and eucalyptuses. Running for shelter. A wet, filter-broken cigarette.
4. A mountain-bike, with a perturbed brake, ribboning the Sahyadris on a cold night. The headlights of a truck from the other side on the milestone number. Written in Gujarati.
5. Swift hands sift through papers coming out of a Xerox machine. Punch holes on the left side, and slip a green thread through the holes. A file.

April 26, 2007

The North Indian Mard

The North-Indian man, in his various avtars, has intrigued, annoyed, exasperated, charmed, befriended me. I have also found enough of them attrative at various points in my life. The tall, broad, wiry, English-speaking ones. Sometimes, the lower-economic-rung, behnchod-spewing, paan-spitting, lassi-guzzling stalwarts of partiarchy. There is some common thread in the different brands of patriarchy that each kind represents. In some, it is subtle and charming- like insisting on ferrying you around in their long car, that I know not the brand of. Some in a goofy, self-effacing "I know it's wrong, but I can't help but presume a woman wants to sleep with me, when she calls me thrice a day" way. Some are quite innocent- "She is thirty! Why isn't she married?!" Some evil and vicious- " I have seen her in this pub, with a different guy everytime".

No, I don't mean the patriarchy charms me. But there's something about this accepted-patriarchal mind that has always intrigued me. If you hunt among these, you may find, in Shamilar Bagh or Jhhandewalan or Kirti Nagar, the odd painter, or Urdu shayar, or engineer-turned-development -acitivist, or Gandhian, or primary-school-teacher-rock-enthusiast. The elusive, versatile face of the North Indian Mard is seldom spoken about, never exalted. It's almost like the quirky Punjabi man needs to be hidden, to ensure the longstanding prosperity and longevity of the Satellite channel, or London-studio-that-mixes-Bhangra, or the K-serial, or the upcoming kabhie-kabhi-pyar-mohabbat movie.....

Like always, I say 'look for the subtext, and you may find a goldmine'....

April 24, 2007

Delhi Times

The beer-guzzling routine is settling in. The best thing about Delhi, I decided when i moved in the middle of last summer, was that a can and a bottle of KF, cost the same! Rs. 30.

It was then that I decided this city was beginning to charm me. With its tradition of the thheka. These liquor vedors are licensed. They shut shop on dry-days. And make a killing the night before.

Delhi also turned out to be more cosmopolitan than I had imagined. I live in a Punjabi-Sikh-refugee part of town. Which houses a surprisingly large number of Middle-Easterns (with the hooked noses, and gold watches and hijab-d women in Western clothes, and words with the sounds of schhh and ghh), Black people (not sure whether from the Caribbean or Africa), whites (in noodle-strapped summer dresses and khaki shorts), and Midnapore-Bengalis and Bangladesh-Bengalis, and Tamilians and Mizos and Assamese. And unbathed, straggly-haired hippies.

I find this melting pot business especially roaring in the low-rent markets, where you hand the rent in cash, there is a lease agreement, but how it works depends on what equation you strike with your landlord. The owner knows that it is the down-n-out hippie and the shoestring-budgeted jholawala journo who form the bulk of his market. If they pay the money, and keep music down, what cocaine or woman they entertain is not his headache.

The paisa-vasooli-ideology has made this mujahid Punjabi community cosmopolitan. Comfortable with the sight of whites, blues, blacks and yellows, and their quaint ways of being.

For a city with as flashy and golddigging as some of its faces, there are really cheaps ways of living and having fun, that are hidden in its nooks and corners. Some of which I regular, some I am still hunting for. For instance, beef curry and Kerala parathas at the Mallu Dhaba at INA Market. Parathas at the foot of the Ashram Flyover. Daroo at 4S in Defence Colony Market, which, of course, is quite popular already in low-budget circles already.Nothing Authentic, a Bhangra-pub in New Friends Colony, which in its Happy Hours, has 1+2, 2+3, 3+4 deal, takes you easily on the high road, without pinching your pocket much.

So now, that I have guzzled enough to feel pinched in the middle of the week, I solemnly pledge abstinence till maybe... Friday Night...

And talking of cheap living, a summer-welcming trip to Sarojini is strongly recommended. I bought cute(especially, if one believes in the summer-minimal school of thought) stuff for thirty five bucks each. Very hip.

April 22, 2007

Of Rum and then Some

Knock-out is Punjoo-friendly beer, with higher alcohol content than the others, a sort of sweet, whisky-ish smell, and knocks you out in no time. The weekend wasn't much of a party, just some last-minute attempt at a Weekend, by drowning in Knock-out and then Rum-n-coke.

The waiter had placed the vodka near me, and the two Rums-n-Cokes near my two men friends. - See, he thinks you are a vodka chick.
-What is it about me that might make him think I am a vodka-chick!

What is it, in fact, that makes a woman- a woman of vodka, a woman of daiquiri, a woman of tequila, or woman of rum-n-coke. Is it a yardstick that maps how 'genteel' the woman is? Is it a yardstick of measuring how much she 'hangs out with the boys'? Is it a predictive tool of judging whether she wants to get high, happy, tipsy-n-giggly, dead drunk and calling ex-boyfriend, drunk and willing to bartop-dance?!

In any event, Vodka and I are over. The chemistry used to be incredible at some point, but the sharp drops in the roller-coaster turned out too much to handle. So rum, here I come. Vodka used to listen to my ...ahem... inner soul, whereas Rum is like a back-slapping buddy. No baggage, no hangups, just pure fun, no morning-after angst.

It is pertinent to mention that in the past few months, I have also developed an affinity for the purely Man's drink- the Whisky. Not in a Khanna uncle, whisky-n-water- to-drown-out-Auntie's-grievances, and Sweetie's-love-for-the-Decibel way. Not in a suave, unshaven-man, baritoned, scotch-on-the-rocks way, but like the eminient feminists, feminising the experience, with Apple Juice. The idea, of course, is from an Alcohol-worshipping male friend. But , it was sort of waiting for me to find it, and give it love and warmth, in the wolverine arena of the Neat Whisky.

Please note, that Alcohol is going to feature at regular intervals.
Please also note that I have a strong affinity for Capital letters, and full stops in eh middle of nowhere. More on my views on grammar, next time.

April 21, 2007

Of Martyrdom and Manufacture of Efficiency

At lawschool, we were reared with a sort of "armed forces patriotism". We like the sounds of
" Yes sir", "Will be done tonight sir", " Doesn't matter, I will pull an all-nighter sir"....Gives one a sensation of a being a breed of jihadi, soem sort of martyr. Whereas, only few things in our business, unlike that of doctors and the police and the army and journalists and such other important people, are actually life-and-death. Those would include when a guy needs to be out on bail, when limitation period ends tomorrow (mmmm.... limitation period is one of legal irritants which takes away your right to sue a for not paying back your money, twelve years, after he was supposed to have paid, why you can't sue him twelve years later, I don't really know, except it would make my life easier if you could), or when you realise five minutes before you were going to file that there is a landmark judgment in your favour, that you sort of dint kow of.....

The rich lawyers create urgency, so they manufacture some insane levels of efficiency( pulling off a merger in one night) where its not really required, but it gives your client a sense that numbers of zeroes in his cheques, were after all worth the quality of 'service'.

Us PIL chaps create urgency for moral gratification. So we go home, dishevelled and hungry and irrtiable thinking it was all for social change, to carry the voices of the marginals ito the hallowed halls of justice. Then we imagine our little Magsaysays through hour-long power naps.

Yanyways, I was hoping for upwardly-mobile night of measured extravagance (without risking penury), and skimpy clothes, and drunken flirtatious giggle and some cha cha cha.

But Politics of Development and Good Governance beckons. And I square my activistic shoulders, for the cross that I carry, is one that demands a martyrdom that only I can deliver. I straighten my ruffled deveopment-feather, which had been swayed which was almost flying off at the lure, of petty bourgouise pleasures.

But no, the voice of the marginal beckons, and i must say a reassuring Holla, and peer into the papers of justice.

April 19, 2007

The Key Role Played by the Cute Chick

You see it always helps to be cute. You must be "efficient and competent and intelligent" as well. If you are both, then you are the stuff that I don't like. So i will ignore you. If you are the former only, they always give you appointments, for as long as you want, as often as you want, they love you, but never do your work after you leave their office, If you are the latter only, then they hate doing your work, they hate giving you appointments, they hate you, but you get work done out of them.

Then again, if you are the former, you are useful to other agencies and institutions. Like the press likes you coz you make good photo-ops. The ministry guy likes you coz he gets into the pic, if he shakes your hand, and grins lasciviously at you. The NGO/cause/issue/dam/displacement/dharan/party/fundraiser/film/documentary that you represent gets attention. So if you're a cute chick, you are very very useful, in more ways than you can imagine. You fuel industries, create demand, create demand for ancillaries to meet the demand, you make oppressors see reasons and the despondents see light.

April 12, 2007

Of Panchayats in summer

Most annoyed for having lost a beautiful post last night, which I thought was saved, but Blogger messed up.

So Yuppy Activist (hereinafter "YA") sits in a corner and writhes, as Local Leader (hereinafter "LL") shrieks something to the tune of "Gimme blood, and I'll give you water"... "That a villager who does not abide by the decision of the Pradhan commits a legal wrong". Shut up, there is no such compulsion in the Constitution. The 73rd Amendment on Panchayati Raj was instituted to facilitate decentralised democracy- with some powers in the Panchayat to take decisions in specific areas- water,sanitation, health, blah, i forget- but no coercive powers are reflected in the Amendment. By the time YA is done writhing, the point has floated across. LL beams radiantly.

What does it matter to YA as long as a case for violated industrial pollution standards is made out? YA yearns for facewash, rubbing her neck, watching the corners of her nails collect dirt. Yeah, will collate the material, will prepare a note, will help with the campaign, ok can we go now? Thank you, please have the interim order mailed to my office. G'nite....

YA's Day out.


- What does citizenship in a democracy mean if activists don't value proceses of participatory decision-making? What is this charisma politics? I am your hero, so I will think for you! Can I not think because I am poor? Am i not entitled to an opportunity to discuss, dissent, maybe agree after I've given it some thought!

-Maybe coercion is a cultural thing, especially coercion through emotional blackmail. If you dare start thinking about what I say, it means you don't trust me....Maybe, some people are okay with that. Maybe, that is a different brand of autonomy. Being okay with coercion.


- Are people's movements really personality movements? Is this what cool academics call 'democracy deficit'?

- Maybe I am culturally conditioned to interpret citizenship in a "I must have a say in everything, that affects me" way, maybe there are cultural variants of democracy."

- My cheques are finally credited, so I can drink this weekend, or shop for summery skirts in Sarojini. Good stuff.

April 7, 2007

Delhi-Dilemmas: The Life and Times of the Yuppy Activist

The initial days of a blog are the early flirting days of sixteen- you are very keen to keep the connection going, you don't want things to fizzle, and you are continuously rattling your head for something 'cool' to say. At about nineteen, you also develop the anxiety to not sound 'too keen', and realise the magical powers of the odd 'nonchalance' breaks.

So I am through with my purported 'nonchalance' break, and back with gusto. With a carefully thought out 'expose'.


The yuppy metro-city activist, grows up in bilingualism, hip-ness, little bit of hippieness, with some intellectual ingredients thrown in which trigger small outbursts on the lines of - 'that this nation-building project is exclusionary', 'this development paradigm is exploitative', knowing the logic but not knowing the masala. Trying to grapple with the irony that that the beer that they guzzle through Saturday nights, dries up water resources for villagers whose crop, culture and citizenship is much debated over the beer.

So this is my Delhi-dilemma, which apart from sounding cool and alliterative, I shall use as summarising the crux of this blog. So what about the Delhi-dilemma?That I don't drink Coke, but often couple it with rum, that I crib when my maid bunks and talk of the travails of the organised labour, that I largely wear desi kurtas but often with Pepe jeans.

Mr. K. Marx would have probably seen me as part of the productive-asset-owning class, that has access not just to production capital, but also social/cultural capital, and yet the likes of me, with their professional arrogance and chewing-gum accents cringe in the guilt of our exploiting shoes. Except on the nights that we don them dancing shoes and go cha-cha-cha. Knowing that the big multiplex/club/hotel that titillates our sense has evicted some casual labourer whose rebellion inspires us.

We are mostly organised in three sects- The Academics, The NGO-wallahs, The Journalists. Some have loyalties in more than one sect. They conflict and unite from time to time, in the continuing war against bad things that happen in the world.

ahem.... Thank you...

April 3, 2007


The biodata:
Quite simply, i stopped blogging about nine months back, and this is an attempt to start afresh.

A Kolkata-bred, Bangalore-enlightened woman who steered northwards, because there was something there. It smelt funny. Wiry men with red-henna-hair, patiala salwars and juice-shops and moongphaliwalahs, glass bangles, n's rolled up in some pockets, the lands of the ma and the bahn and skewed sex ratios....there's something here. What, I'm still sniffing.... tell you in a bit.

What the blog is going to be about:

1. Delhi/NCR/cowbelt
2. The hallowed halls of the sarkar
3. General legal/socio-political gyan
4. Jhandagiri and other stories
5. Shopping for summer clothing
6. Living on showstring budgets