RIP Newshour

Arnab’s leaving. Just saying those words are devastating. As I heard the news, I stared at my TV, uncomfortable with the ensuing silence, an ominous quiet of the future to come, where I can hear birds and my own thoughts.

My TV, if it could speak, wanted to say, “thank you, I can go back to being a normal TV now and not worry about an anchor trying to jump out of me” – but I was in no mood to mollify inanimate Samsung objects. Nor was I up for appreciating smart-ass comedy wit on Twitter :
“You asked for a noise-less Diwali and here it is.”
“The Nation is relieved.”
Blah blah.
Do these cretins not realise that the messiah is not bothered by this juvenile teenage sarcasm? You think 138 characters can bring down a man who can become 138 characters?

Is this the time for humour, when we’ve just lost the only voice on television that was also all the other voices? In the age of comedy, will we not respect the most sacred Indian value of making sure everyone talks at once only to be overridden by the Messiah’s booming, “Just one minute. One minute…”

What, what kind of a world does he leave behind –a world of silence, of listening, of rational discussion, of both sides being right AND wrong – who wants that world? What is this – Canada?

As the great filmmaker Werner Herzog said in his memoir, “Whatever you do in life, always be aware of the bear behind you”. Arnab was the nation’s bear. Now the nation is bear-less. Johnny Cash, the singer once wrote,
There’s a man going around taking names And he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won’t be treated all the same when the man comes around.
That man isn’t coming around anymore. Your idiot friends are, some food app delivery boy is – but not Arnab’s justice. So nation, you are announced NOT guilty. What a shame. And who’ll decide your crimes? A court. What is that? Isn’t that just a movie?

Look what justice is now left with – this court place – people wearing black robes like they’re at morning assembly at a convent school guided by clauses written by British men in wigs influenced only by “evidence” (whatever that is).
Real justice – THE man saying to the nation, “I am saying to the nation you did it”- just died. And with that – the hopes of his fans – that someday he’d shoot the people he found guilty live on air. The hope that along-with the piece of paper he holds up with nothing written on it, there’d be a gun in the other hand – alas, will never be.

And how can he just walk away from the nation like this? Those that rely on him for everything. The stoned drunk single 24-year-old man at 3 am for whom Newshour is a trippy dream and his girlfriend. The families who have years of discontent and dysfunction and nothing to say to each other, who get by without confronting their issues by saying, “Did you see what he did last night?” The retired Pakistani generals whose entire post-pension income is based on keeping that moustache curled, looking like a Pakistani general, and ready to be shouted at.

The quiet die-hard right-wing guy in every family whose true colors can only be spotted, (like the near extinct Amazon lizard), when he steps out as himself – by his vehement agreement with Newshour, and you wonder, ‘Wow. This is different guy”. The comedians and satirists, a large chunk of whose income is based on Arnab impressions. Do we really want to live in a world where their children ask, “Dad who are you imitating? Who is that?” The Congress spokesperson who has forgotten how to finish his sentences.
Arnab has abandoned them, just like he would when something logical was beginning to be said on the show and he’d shout, “Rubbish. Ad break.”
What will happen to these people? What other test is there for Gen X and Y now to truly understand that their parents are mad, except the Newshour?
Still, all is not lost.

Like he rises from his bear repose by threatening “never ever ever never” to someone accusing him of taking a bribe, he will rise again. By sitting, that is. On an anchor’s desk. The kraken will be unleashed again.

He mentioned something about starting a news empire that can take on the CNN/ BBC hegemony. Amen. Why take on – overtake is my hope. Why aim just for this planet’s news media domination? Maybe one day it becomes so big that it is broadcast to other planets so any intelligent life out there will be convinced not to contact us.
We, his devotees, are ready for Arnab TV, modeled along the lines of Trump TV perhaps (but even bigger because Trump is small fry). As a sleight to NDTV 24/7, perhaps called Arnab 24/7. Yes Arnab from 8 am – nervous breakdown with morning coffee.

Sadly, they say the world is not ready for all this. That’s why he’s taking a break. In journalism they say that when something happens in the world, journalists are ready. In his case, he’s ready – now he has to make the world ready.
Till then, I will watch, in depressed annoyance, regional channels like the BBC; the old age home of journalism with informed people “listening to each other” (useless).
And as Shakespeare said in As You Like It, I will say to HIM:
“Hereafter, in a better world than this, I shall desire more love and knowledge of you”.

Hanging Yakub Would Be Killing Humanity

Day 3

All people know the same truth, our lives consist of how we choose to distort it. – Woody Alan.

So huge and devastating were the March ’93 serial blasts in Mumbai that the Memon family associated with it soon became notorious, edging out even the Kaskars ( Dawood Ibrahim and his siblings ) and other first families of Mumbai’s underworld. Suddenly Mustaq Memon, better known as Tiger, and his brother Yakub became bigger than Dawood and Anis.

But what really happened? Why did they carry out such an act of terrorism in the first place? What were their motives? Was it religious, or was it the strong antipathy towards Hindus that the borders of this country often have in common?

Tiger Memon was always known for his anger – something he’d inherited from his father, Abdul Razzak Memon, who was a prominent cricketer of his time, playing alongside greats such as Tiger Pataudi. Abdul Razzak Memon and his wife, Hanifa had six sons, all of whom were named after revered prophets, owing to their religious beliefs. To support the family, he also ran a workshop named Famous Engineering and Wielding in Mustafa Bazaar, Byculla, Mumbai but when it was not enough, his elder sons, Suleiman and Tiger quit their studies to take up odd jobs to pay the bills. While Suleiman was diligent and hardworking, Tiger never quite settled for a job, courtesy his temper.

Tiger wanted to be rich. Very very rich. And he wanted it quick. He wanted shortcuts. In the eighties, gold smuggling was the easiest and fastest way to make riches, and Tiger’s daredevilry and reckless temerity put him in the top rung of smugglers. Yakub, on the other hand, was very oriented towards academic excellence, and went on to become a top chartered accountant in the city. He went on to launch a chartered accountancy firm in partnership with a Gujrati Hindu, Chetan Mehta, and the firm, Memon and Mehta became one of the most reputed CA firms in the Mahim area. Yakub married and had a daughter. Suleiman and Ayub, the other brothers, also set up their businesses in Dubai, of where they became permanent residents.

Tiger and Yakub were poles apart in their attitude and demeanor. And even values. Tiger was arrogant and disdainful towards everyone while Yakub was not only educated but also very hard working. Yakub’s clients were mostly Hindus, but Tiger had a radical Jihadi mindset and did not mingle with other communities.

And then came the demolition of the Babri Masjid on Dec 6, ’92 and the widespread riots and communal conflagration in Mumbai. Everybody knew Tiger’s antipathy to Hindus, so a bunch of Hindu hooligans decided to punish him, teaching him a lesson in humility. They spared Yakub’s office but set ablaze Tiger’s office that he used as a front for smuggling and legitimizing black money. The demolition of the masjid did not affect him much, his Muslim brothers getting killed in the riots didn’t bother him a bit, but the destruction of his personal fiefdom made him furious and he swore revenge.

In retaliation, Tiger decided to annihilate the whole city – light up the very heart of India to avenge a personal massacre. But for that he needed naive and gullible volunteers who’d believe in his call and help in it’s execution. So, Tiger turned the vengeance drama into a religious battle. And once it became so, it wasn’t difficult for him to marshal support and money for the cause.

Tiger incited a communal frenzy and instigated the volunteers against the Hindus. His rage and vindictiveness resulted in the death of over 257 people with more than 700 people injured and devastation of thousands of families in the serial bomb blasts in the city on March 12, 1993.

The family left for Dubai on the insistence of Tiger, primarily because the riots had unsettled them but they had no knowledge about Tiger’s involvement in the upcoming blasts. Abdul Razzak memon was furious to have to leave Dubai for Karachi after the blasts. Tiger dragged the whole clan to Karachi and it dawned on the patriarch that Tiger had been used by Pakistan and as a pawn by ISI. Later, as Yakub revealed to the CBI officers interrogating him, his 65-year-old father picked up his walking stick and pounced on Tiger in full view of ISI agents and others, beating him black and blue until the stick broke and he was out of breath.

For days no one spoke to Tiger but it became clear within the family that they couldn’t stay in Pakistan forever. It was one thing to seek refuge there but a completely different other to stay there to be used as Pakistan’s arsenal against India. They decided to return to India against all odds.

In a remarkably audacious move, Yakub Memon collected a suitcase full of incontrovertible evidence against Pakistan’s involvement in the blasts, his own brother’s culpability and that of other big players such as Taufiq Jalianwala. Then Yakub hoodwinked the ISI. Under the pretext of visiting Dubai via Kathmandu, he also booked his return tickets on a Lufthansa flight just to complete the ruse.

In Kathmandu, where he was apprehended, he quickly confessed that he was not Yusuf Ahmad but Yakub Memon. So, as Yakub helped Indian agencies in sealing the fate of Pakistan and his brother Tiger, he expected clemency and compassion.
But he was rewarded with a death penalty – the only one of the 100 accused in the blasts to be sentenced to death after the Supreme Court cleared the way for his hanging.

For India, Yakub is just a symbol. It does not matter that he was not involved in the blasts and that the evidence against him was flimsy and consisted of retracted confessions. Since they didn’t get Tiger Memon, any other Memon would do. And Yakub, being educated, smart and suave, fitted the bill. It didn’t matter that they were shooting the messenger.

For 21 years, Yakub waited, hoping for reprieve – from politicians, from bureaucrats, from law enforcers, from the judiciary and from the public. Nobody cared. The crime was too big and somebody had to be hanged for justice to be seen to be done.

The Supreme Court of India commuted death sentences of all accused to life imprisonment save that of the man who helped India crack the serial blast case. Yakub Memon is set to hang tomorrow. Is this what we call a fair judgement?

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.