My Encounter With Digital India

A week ago, I decided not to spend money in the wake of demonetization.

Some of my Modi bhakt friends suggested I spend money to keep the economy going. Heeding their advice, I got my weekly rations last week. Not foodgrains, silly, but cash.

Rs 24,000, the government dictated weekly cash quota for all Indians.
I felt great when the bank teller handed me 11 notes of Rs 2,000 and another 20 notes of Rs 100. Before I could tell him I needed change he had summoned the next person in the queue.

Armed with the Rs 2,000 notes, I stumbled on the dawn of Digital India.

With a Rs 2,000 note in hand, I sought to buy three tickets for the Alia Bhatt-Shah Rukh Khan starrer Dear Zindagi at Navina, the single screen theatre near my home.

The man at the ticket counter told me firmly that he would not accept the Rs 2,000 note and if I wanted to watch Dear Zindagi I would have to bring change.

Unfazed, I smiled and showed him my debit card, saying, “Now please accept this. India is going digital. Don’t you know that?”

The ticket seller laughed and said, “Are you serious? Who is going digital? Which India are you talking about?”

“Modiji’s India,” I replied.

“We don’t accept credit or debit cards,” he told me sternly, “If you want to watch the film, bring Rs 480 in change for three tickets. Or go to bookmyshow and book the tickets.”

‘Eureka!’ I thought almost with Archimedean fervour, ‘Modiji’s Digital India works!’

I logged onto bookmyshow and tried to book three tickets using my debit card.
I was startled to discover that the site would bill me Rs 58.20 extra as Internet charges for the three tickets. The extra charge, I guess, is the price one needs to pay for life in Modiji’s Digital India, but I was unwilling to do so.

“You are a fool,” a bhakt friend told me. “Download the Paytm app and then buy the movie tickets. They have many discounts.”

‘Eureka!’ I thought again. ‘Problem solved.’

I tried to download the app on my phone and felt I was entering the Alibaba’s cave of digital riches which Modiji talks about all the time.

In two minutes that illusion too was shattered.

My outdated smartphone responded, saying I didn’t have enough space to download the app.

“Ouch! Now what to do?” I asked my all-knowing bhakt friend.

There is a way out, he said, asking me to move my phone’s memory data to an external memory card, and then install the app.
I would have to buy a 16 GB external memory card for Rs 528 to do that, he added.
“No way am I going to pay Rs 528 extra for a memory card just to watch Dear Zindagi,” I said.

The bhakt was determined that I jump onto the digital bandwagon.
“If you don’t change,” he asked, “how will the rest of India change?”
He helpfully offered to book the movie tickets from his Paytm account.

His fingers moved like the bullet train which Modiji wants us so badly to have on his phone’s display and within seconds he was on Paytm to book my tickets.

Alas!
The Navina theatre was not listed on Paytm and my friend finally gave up.
There were only two options to watch Dear Zindagi. Pay Rs 58.20 extra on bookmy show or fork up the exact change, which I didn’t have.

I opted for the time tested Indian solution, jugaad.
I asked my friend to loan me Rs 480.
And thus ended, for now at least, my ‘Digital India’ dream.

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Dear People Who Copy From My Blog

On the onset of this post, please be relieved. I know you copy stuff off this site, and its totally cool, I assure you, for it gives me immense joy when I see my words being liked and shared by the like-minded. To me, writing has always been about expressing things that I can’t, otherwise, and nothing makes me happier than someone telling me I gave them words for the tangles in their mind. There is no harm in relating. However, it is when you claim authority over said piece, that it becomes a concern. Because you see, copying down something from the internet and posting it on your blog doesn’t make you the author here.

It so happened that my last post regarding Aamir Khan’s take on the AIB controversy was literally copied word to word ( only picture captions changed, safe move bro! ) by a prominent blog with a million likes and as many followers, claiming the article to be his brainchild rather than mine. But, maybe he forgot, there is this little thing called time stamp that shows the date and time of the article published. And by the looks of it, seems like this blog published the article first. Well done on your copy-job, mate!

Its because of faggots like you that India is still a third-world country.

Everything That Is Wrong With Aamir Khan

Once upon a time in India, Lagaan released.

The film was a smash hit, was sent as our choice for the Oscars ( but couldn’t win, as the jury grew old and died during the interval ) and Aamir Khan suddenly became the thinking man’s conscience. The guy who would never attend film awards because he didn’t believe in them, suddenly seemed to be jumping up and down the red carpet, promoting his film. But of course, he was doing it for the nation.

When Lagaan lost out to No Man’s Land, Aamir Khan told the press that the other film deserved to win. When I saw it, said Khan, I knew that it was better than ours. From that moment on, Aamir Khan has somehow projected and marketed himself as the voice of the nation/youth/continent/solar system.

And it’s fucking annoying.

How come no one considers me a freedom fighter? I won a cricket match against England, yo!

Alright, so he chooses to do one movie at a time, reads his scripts, and does extensive preparation for it. But all that is fucking expected from an actor in the first place. Just because ours is a hare-brained industry, doesn’t make someone a goddamn Socrates.

A few months before the release of Rang De Basanti, Aamir Khan sat with the Narmada Bachao Andolan protesters to speak up for their rights. Since then, there has been no word of his involvement with the issue whatsoever.

He then made a film on Mangal Pandey, and has been on a Bhagat Singh trip since, telling the nation what’s right, and what’s offensive. In Taare Zameen Par, he showed us how we are all a cruel, insensitive nation that doesn’t know how to deal with special children. In 3 Idiots, he showed us what is wrong with our education system. In PK, he showed us the problems with religion and godmen.

And tactful and insightful that our media is, we made him the voice of the nation. Aamir Khan tells the nation not to litter. Aamir Khan tells the nation to have proper sanitation. Aamir Khan tells the nation to be nice to foreigners.

Aamir Khan is a thinking man. How? Because all his films have long shots of him staring into the distance, thinking about the welfare of the cosmos. Aamir Khan is a perfectionist. Why? Because he undergoes a physical transformation for every role (which, as any theatre actor will tell you, is the fucking basic thing to do. Also, he gets paid crores for every film). Aamir Khan is a socially aware star. How? Because he blogs about issues.

However, as we all know, even Vishwamitra’s penance was disturbed. So Aamir Khan, the ever-aware thinking man’s Gautam Buddha slipped out of character and blogged about Shah Rukh Khan licking his toes while he sat on his table.

And of course, there is Satyameva Jayate. Now, I personally have no problems with the show. A star like Aamir Khan talking about issues that we Indians never bother to speak about, is commendable. Kudos.

I also have no problem with him projecting himself as this new-age Carl Shehnanigan who tells the nation how to live – much of an actor’s image comes from this. It is no different from Salman Khan being the large-hearted bhai, Ranveer Singh being a horny guy, and Honey Singh the nation’s Mahalingam. I have no problems with that.

satyameva jayate

I defeated the English in one of my movies. Now I’ll change the world.

My only problem is with Aamir Khan’s opinions on other artists. You see, Mr. Perfectionist doesn’t give a fuck about other artists. His work is sublime and pure and unadulterated and heavenly. The rest can go fuck themselves.

amir-stya1

Take for example the controversy regarding 3 Idiots.

Now, even though Chetan Bhagat is the Rakhi Sawant of Indian literature, he wrote the book and sold millions, and no one can take that away from him. If you’ve read 5 Point Someone, and watched 3 Idiots, and you possess the IQ of a garden lizard, you’ll know that the film is more or less an adaptation of the book. However, since it is Bollywood (and fuck writers!), Bhagat wasn’t given opening credits. He raked up the issue and Vidhu Vinod Chopra asked a journalist to ‘Shut Up’. Which is at least an honest response.

Mr. Khan, however, using his special 8th Sense, somehow had it all figured out. He told Bhagat off in public, calling him a cheapskate who will do anything for publicity. Which is fine, till someone asked him if he’s read the book. To which his response was – ‘Ahem, no.’

Fuck you, dude, fuck you!

How the fuck do you know that it isn’t an adaptation, if you haven’t even read the goddamn book? But Aamir Khan, yo. Intellectual actor.

When he released Delhi Belly, he appeared on Aap Ki Adalat (that classy, artful show with a completely non-creepy looking host), and justified the language in the film. His logic was, the youth of the nation today talk in that manner. If you can not stand such language, please don’t watch the film. All good.

Now, the AIB controversy. Since our media has no fucking work, they went and asked Aamir Khan, the brahmaguru of wisdom, what he thought. Aamir Khan first looked at the sky, blinked seven times, sipped some water, and then gave out his thoughts. That the show was offensive, hurt people’s sentiments, blah blah blah.

But then, here’s the key – HE HASN’T WATCHED THE FUCKING SHOW.

If you haven’t watched the show, and someone randomly told you there were jokes on body shape, sexuality, and religion without providing any context, it’s the partial truth. You’re like the blind man of Hindustan who held the elephant’s ass and thought that’s what an elephant looks like.

But no. Aamir Khan ko kaun samjhaye? He is the voice of the cosmos.

The universe works in perfect motion because he approves of it. Every time Aamir Khan sheds a tear, a kid in Africa gets cured of AIDS.

It’s bloody annoying.

***

Dear Aamir Khan, this isn’t the 60s. Where you could do a few patriotic movies and become a national hero. The audience you deal with is thirty years younger to you, a completely different generation. They understand subtleties, read between the lines, and can tell an actor from a chutiya. Just because you did regressive shit for 20 years, and suddenly conscience struck you like lightning, doesn’t mean the rest of the nation is a bunch of chimpanzees.

Also, like Russel Peters said, you are an actor. You appear on the set, mouth lines written by others, get numerous takes to perfect your craft, and get paid a bomb for it. Which is all fine.

But just like you’re an artist, there are others too. Who are attempting to make an honest living by pursuing what they think is art. If you really are an artist, at least have the fucking decency to look up their work before commenting.

Like I said, you’re not fooling anybody. This is a generation that sees through bullshit. And right now, for all your decades of carefully constructed PR, you come across as an aging douchebag.

I hope you aren’t offended by this blog. But if you are, I hope you at least read it before getting offended.

Dear Ms. Treasurywala

Dear Ms. Treasurywala,

At the offset, this isn’t retaliation to your open letter (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/actor-shenaz-treasurywalas-open-letter-to-pm-amitabh-bachchan-srk/1/406410.html). It’s a mere response. Yes, the letter releasing right before your movie feels like a badly timed PR gimmick done with a blatant, ham-handed disregard for timing, and any respect or delicacy that a situation requires. However, that’s a debate on ethics and morality, and one that takes a backseat over the other pressing concerns your rather enthusiastic letter inadvertently highlighted. Yes, you raised pertinent issues, but how you raised them, and the solutions you proposed, expose a deep, deep schism in the understanding of empowerment, equality, autonomy, justice, parity, and feminism as a concept. This is a mere attempt to clarify these issues.

We’re a generation born with a rather firm, but dicey hold on a proverbial trigger. Outrage is a right we have created for ourselves, and cemented with access to social media and the outreach it provides. Everyone has an opinion and everyone has the ability, and the capability to air it. This leads to a lot of half-baked information being circulated and biases cropping up, yes, but it also lends itself to solidarity. That’s where your letter connected with the audience that read it. You spoke of gruesome incidents of sexual assault, yes, but you also spoke of the apparently harmless leching, catcalling, and staring that leave an insidious impact on a woman’s psyche. It was relatable, and your outrage justifiable. Also, your repeated insistence on the fact that it’s not ‘our shame’, was on point. The victim of sexual assault is, truly, never at fault. It’s the perpetrator. However, when you add ‘it’s their shame’, you don’t just blame the perpetrators. You blame men, as a whole.

That being said, the crux of the letter you wrote shifted from the problems of sexual harassment and abuse to how you perceived it, and how you presume these issues could be solved. Worryingly, your perceptions that were allowed to take root and garnered immense support are skewed and very dangerous. Yes, that seems like a hyperbolic choice of words, but when my Facebook and Twitter homepages are flooded with your letter, shared by people my age, accompanied with vociferous agreement in the comments, it points to a deep rooted lack of understanding. Let’s begin with the people you addressed the letter to. The Prime Minister, and a sportsman, an industrialist, and a few top earning actors of this country. Your letter was aimed at the men you believe run India. You ask them to use their power to take charge in ways that would help in, and I quote, ‘SAVING US or PROTECTING US by insisting and protesting for the LAWS TO CHANGE and Rapists and Gropers to BE PUNISHED SEVERELY!’

The idea, and the belief in it you display, are inherently disturbing. According to you, a woman has no agency over her own safety. To use Hindi colloquialisms, a woman is an ‘abala nari’ and a ‘kachhi kali’, who needs to be protected at every turn. She has to maintain a stance of constant vigilance, and hope to have the men in her life act as her guardians and saviors in times of dire need. You go ahead and ask men to ‘SAVE US, Save your mother, daughter, sister please!’ By this understanding, the worth of a woman is tied to her relationship to a man. She has no autonomy over her own existence. The only time a man would, and should stand up in arms against the mistreatment of a woman is when he has a direct stake in her safety and wellbeing. The concept of an egalitarian respect for human dignity seems to escape you, for reasons unknown to me.

I am going to go ahead and bring up the big, bad F word here. Feminism. I can already feel the readers of this letter cringing, for they expect a rant about how women can do everything on their own, without a man’s help. However, there’s a rather lucid definition that would fit in this context. Feminism is simply the radical notion that your sex, gender, skin colour, choices within the legal ambit, social strata, country of origin, and any such subsidiary classification does not exempt you from having access to basic human rights, dignity, and respect. This does not exclude men. It, in fact, actively involves them in the breakdown on patriarchy. This does so, however, in an egalitarian manner. What you propose is, for the lack of a less clichéd wording, the idea of a damsel in distress. You have been indoctrinated (just like all of us) with the idea that a man is, by virtue of being a man, a savior. You forget that men too, are victims of patriarchy. You also forget that women, alongside being victims of patriarchy, are also propagators of the cycle. A prime example being you.

The idea that a man is a perpetrator, and hence also the only one who can be a savior, is a very regressive one. You’re very comfortably handing over the entire burden, of what is a societal structure that has stratified into a toxic standard, to a section of society that does not have the power to destroy it alone. Yes, having ‘powerful’ men on board with the idea of change would be a great help. But would this support have an impact if it were begged for, like the precedent you set? Or would it lead to concrete developments if it were born of an understanding of the concerns?

This, of course, will take time. Prevention of a crime is born out of a systematic deconstruction of long held standards and norms that will happen over years of debate and research. As headways are made into that lane, the idea of justice and recompense are equally important, as you yourself agree. Your rather radical ideas are alarming, to say the least. ‘All I ask for is the -Death Penalty Please. NOW! QUICK! If that’s too hard or will take too long then at least LIFE IMPRISONMENT. Put them away forever.’ In your understanding, making an example out of criminals by punishing them arbitrarily is the best way of preventing future crimes. However, you forget that if that truly worked, the Uber rape case wouldn’t have occurred with Nirbhaya case accused Ram Singh’s suicide in custody. That should have been, as your logic dictates, deterrence enough. In your case, your quantum of punishment is the same as the pinnacle of punishment.

Capital punishment is extremely difficult to defend for a variety of reasons. As Noam Chomsky says, “The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill.” Justice may have a canon it refers to, but it is dispensed by mere mortals given to making errors in judgement. ‘Justice’, although perceived as a gospel truth, depends on a variety of factors included, but not limited to the quality of representation the accused is provided, existing cultural biases, and the amount of pressure on the judiciary, which is unique to each case. These factors lead to arbitrary judgements. An example would be that of Ivan Henry. A victim of legal errors, a careless police investigation relying too heavily on eyewitness evidence, and incompetent legal counsel, he was incarcerated for 27 years for sexual offences he did not commit, before being acquitted. Now, implement your idea of capital punishment here. It would have led to the death of an innocent man, and the state would have been a murderer.

You ask for people to take responsibility. ‘YES, BAN UBER TOO. Make everyone responsible.’, you say. Ignoring the fact that banning a taxi service (for what was definitely a lapse in their administrative functioning) won’t actually change status quo, you seem to forget that the protection that the legal system provides has three components. Firstly, laws. Secondly, implementation of the said laws. And finally, if the first two steps fail, justice, that works on the principles of retribution and recompose, and deterrence. You seem to bypass the most crucial step, namely implementation, altogether. Of what use are harsh, draconian laws, and equally regressive punishments if the gap between them cannot be bridged by tackling the problems of corruption, laxity, and administrative laziness?

These problems, of course, are far too pressing and ingrained for a mere letter to solve them. However, the point is to make sure that you use your considerable influence to create a holistic understanding of the issues. Women don’t need saving. Men don’t have to be saviors. This isn’t a battle of the sexes. Justice isn’t solely retributive. Retribution isn’t the only way to create examples. Yes, a problem exists. But, using that problem as a PR strategy, and harping upon outdated, regressive, and rehashed rhetoric just ends up leading nowhere. Although well intentioned, your letter ended up being a fine example of precisely what you tried to talk about- a complacent attitude that passes the buck on.

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this letter. I also admit to not being an expert in any of the fields I have spoken about. However, I do hope this clarifies a few things, for a few people.

Regards,

The Indie Guy

P.S.: Try controlling your arbitrary capitalization. It was wholly distracting.

Good Porn, Bad Porn And The Culture Of Ban

There has been an upsurge in the opinion amongst ordinary people and legal experts about the criminal impact of porn on people’s psyche in general and the youngsters in particular, with an increased reporting on crimes against women and children recently. A thought which comes to mind after reading these lines is that the real culprit behind these crimes must be porn. A PIL was filed in April, 2014 in the Supreme Court which sought, among others things, a specific law on pornography; and to make watching of porn videos as a non-bailable and cognizable offence.

Serious concerns have been raised in the PIL about free availability of porn on the internet, its impact on people, violence against women etc. and the Court issued notice to the Central Government and the government replied by saying, “Blocking porn sites would cause greater harm”. Without getting into the legal nitty-gritty of the PIL , the issue at hand is whether we will develop a scientific response to such issues or go by tittle-tattle. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore the scientific relationship between porn and crime and that there is no such conclusive study available or done to establish the same. The article in no way tries to promote insensitivity about crimes against women and children, and is an attempt to understand ways in which the term, ‘Porn’ is defined, used and misused.

Definition of Porn according to Oxford Dictionary is, “Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement. Synonym of Porn includes words like erotica”. On one hand, we have the much stigmatized porn, and on the other, the artistic erotica finding a place in the literary works and part of mainstream culture. There can be any number of opinions for and against porn and the divide results from the way we define it.

So, let’s start by asking a simple question, what constitutes porn? A cursory look at the above gives a standard definition of porn but leaves so many questions unanswered. For instance, a consenting adult couple indulging in sexual activity uses printed/visual material (Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra) to heighten sexual excitement. Under which category will we place such an activity, porn or erotica? Another example can be of a married couple indulging in sex and recording their act to watch it later for purely private purposes. Would it be termed porn and thus stigmatized or will it be passed in the name of private affairs of two consenting married adults enjoying their marriage life. What kind of criminal tendencies will it generate in such cases?

Porn is vital to freedom“, says Rushdie. In an extract from his essay, The East is Blue; Rushdie implies that Muslims are avid consumers of pornography because of the segregation of the sexes. This is not just true for Muslims but for all the people around the world. With no sex education allowed in the schools in India and parents trying their best to avoid and suppress any information relating to the word sex, the youngsters turn towards peers and all possible sources to understand the psychological, biological changes that their bodies go through. This might result in gaining wrong information about their own bodies, unacceptable sexual behaviours etc. If proper guidance can be made available to our youngsters, if free mixing of both the sexes is allowed without any prejudice or bias, then it might change the way we tend to perceive porn or pornographic literature.

India has, according to studies reported in Firstpost, some of the highest rates of sexual crimes against children in the world: in 2007, 53% of children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. This can’t possibly, given low levels of internet access, be linked to online porn.

We must try and identify correctly the cause of a problem. Dowry practice is prevalent in all corners of the country, but can it be said that it is because of pornography. Of late, it has become a fashion to put blame on those which are not even remotely related to the issue. The article in no way tries to defend or oppose porn or its many avatars. It tries to highlight the way in which we deal with any issue of concern. Terms like development of scientific temper, objectivity, and rationality have been reduced to purely academic discussions and conversations, and every vice is blamed on the west. Freedom has come to be understood in a very narrow sense of the term and moral policing is exercised as a fundamental right in the country. The tendency to prescribe remedy without understanding the root of the problem is posing serious challenges to the society at large. To promote porn or not is altogether a different question. Our decisions and choices should be guided by rationality and not by any unscientific approach.