Shaken

“You okay?”

His hands shook as he took a cigarette out of the crumpled boxed. His fingers, worn and covered in liver spots, were surprisingly delicate; a strange juxtaposition, when compared to his rough, low voice, even, despite the urgency of his tone. Their imperceptible tremble was highlighted by the way the cigarette shook between his nicotine stained fingertips. He looked quite unlike his usual self. Unsure, and shaken up, he looked like a man who didn’t quite know what to do with his limbs. His shoulders hunched forward, and elbows stuck out at an angle that couldn’t possibly have been comfortable, but he sat just like that, crouched on the sidewalk.

“Yeah, yeah I am. I think so.”

“Good.”

He handed the cigarette over to her, and picked one out for himself. He kept a ‘lucky’ one, she noted with amusement as she saw the tobacco peak out of the neat little rows of white filters. She wouldn’t have taken him for a man who believed in any superstition, but then, what did she really know? A sudden shiver ran down her spine as she suddenly realized what had just happened. Her shoulders tightened against her will, and she rolled them to ease the sudden pain. Her cheap, flowly jacket rustled against his arm, and she saw him twitch. But he didn’t move away. Another surprise from the man she’d never thought could surprise her.

“Would you like me to move?”

“We just survived a goddamned earthquake. I think I can survive you sitting next to me.”

She laughed. A hearty, loud laugh, quite unlike the airy giggle he reserved for her customers. It was an unwarranted sound considering their surroundings. A collapsed building, a tree uprooted, resting on a car, and people milling around, looking as dazed as he felt. Some looked at them now, annoyance clear on their faces. He didn’t say a word. Just signaled with the lighter he held in his hand, and she leaned in, cigarette between her pursed red lips. A deep drag later, she exhaled, the smoke from her mouth mingling with his.

“Thank you.”

He grunted back. Forty years of working at the store. His store. And he had never encountered a whore quite like her. Most stopped working the corner near his in a week or two after they first stepped into the store, and there she was. Back, every night. She always bought the same thing. A pack of lights and a bottle of water. She walked up to the counter with a flounce and arrogance that infuriated him, and smiled as she paid. He knew her smile as intimately as he knew his own, perhaps. Open mouthed, with a chipped front tooth, with a little bit of lipstick gone astray. He knew it well enough to hate it.
She was incorrigible. With her loud makeup, large hair, and clothes that felt like they were created to provoke his anger, not other men’s desire, she was an antithesis of him. He took pride in his near-punishing austerity. Faded blue shirt, faded brown pants with their pleated ironed out, and faded black loafers. He liked being slightly dull. Just slightly wane. He liked to think he represented himself well, with his calm, uneventful life.

And yet, he found himself sitting on a curbside with the prostitute he hated, sharing a cigarette after an earthquake.

He took a last, final drag and stubbed it against the pavement, letting the filter roll off into the gutter. Moving slowly as he got up, he dusted himself off and leaned against a lamppost for support. He suddenly felt old. Older than he had in years. Older than what he felt when his wife died. Older than himself. He scanned the front of his store for any obvious damage. None. He’d probably have to pick up things that fell off the shelves, though. He sighed at the thought. Too old. Too old for this.

As he shuffled towards the door, he heard the clacking of her heels. It was a sound he knew only too well, for it had been discomfiting him for years now, at exactly 9:30pm every night. He turned to her suddenly, causing her to trip and totter as she regained her balance.

“What the fuck do you want?”

“Well. It’s time for my lights and water.”

She smiled at him. Open mouthed, with a chipped front tooth, with a little bit of lipstick gone astray.

And for the first time in the four years of their torrid acquaintance, his lips twitched slightly.

Advertisements

The Fault In Our Syllabus : How School Textbooks Give No Space For Individual Growth

Culture is the best contraception.

As absurd as it may sound to the regular, level headed logical reader here, it is a popular opinion throughout India. And it matters what people think when one of those people is our own Health Minister. Recently, Dr. Harsh Vardhan went as far as to suggest that faithfulness to one’s partner was the only sure shot way of preventing AIDS- an underlining of culture and morality clearly influencing his statements. So when it comes to including sex education in textbooks, one can imagine what that would consist of. Bird and bees, or a stork by the riverside if we are lucky.

This is just one example, brought into attention by a remark which had sparked a lot of controversy. The truth is, the standard textbooks used by the CBSE, ICSE, ISC or any other board are well structured and carefully planned with proper snippets of information on the side, enriching cartoons and footnotes, but in reality, they allow little or no space for individual opinions to be formulated.

Photo Credit

Right in the very first few pages of most of these books, after the contents, there is an elaborate and tabulated marking scheme, which dictates how many classes a teacher should spend on each topic, how many marks should be allotted to each topic, inadvertently dictating if ‘Consumer Right’ is more important or ‘Democracy’. In this scenario, where a student is given tools to do the bare minimum, there is hardly any attempt for any extra outside reading or out of the box thinking.

Any student who has grown up in a typical Indian education environment can relate that certain subjects like mathematics and the sciences have always been given more importance. The extra‘tuitions’ are mostly for the sciences. Thus originates the timeless inclination of parents for their children to end up as a doctor or an engineer, or perhaps a lawyer or a journalist if they fail.

The fallacies in the material taught can be found in every page if one looks for it. For example, in a class 7th NCERT textbook, the first chapter is about equal rights, with examples from the universal adult franchise. However, it fails to make students understand that without financial equality, political equality means little to the underprivileged sections. It would be some time before the one-track educated student realizes the right of equality before the judiciary is full of loopholes, rendering them uninterested to the whole concept in the long run.

Studying Literature in CBSE Schools

One of the most commonly voiced grievances regarding this is the lack of literary classics from the English syllabus. While CBSE contents itself with certain short stories and poems and an occasional story by an author these students do recognize from the bestseller stands, the fact remains that our perception of someone being good in literature rests on how many big words a student uses or how he/she answers questions with no perspective at all. They are maybe not told in the exact words, but it is thoroughly implied to all students in their years of schooling that, even though the question asks, what you feel about this or that, they aren’t really asking for your opinion. On multiple occasions, I myself have gone with my red marked answers to the teacher, only to be sent back after being told that my opinion here actually means the author’s/teacher’s opinion.

The complete and utter ignorance of studying literature in the form of books and understanding them in depth is one of the main fallbacks. To this date, students of CBSE wishing to pursue literature can answer the entrance exam questions from To Kill a Mockingbird only if they have read and analyzed it themselves or with some external paid help.

Little Scope for Individual Development

With the 2014 elections, an era of established orthodoxy of the HRD ministry has come to an end with a non-graduate minister in the chair. While we have gotten past a lot of old rules and the textbooks are now more open to the sensitive incidences like the Emergency, the fact remains that there is little scope for individual development of each and every student who is unique in his or her own way.

For someone who has studied in a CBSE board school for the most part of his life, an irksome factor is the heavy display of patriotism and Godly references. Patriotism is perfectly acceptable and deemed desirable in textbooks, blind patriotism is not. With freedom fighters and nation leaders being shown in an almost God-like light, no wonder huge masses of people in our nation equate following a politician like following a religion even now.

Lastly, the problem of being lost in translation still exists in every rural area. Lack of proper training of the teachers once the new syllabus is out, or even the unwillingness to teach whatever may be beyond them results in those children learning everything in a lopsided, half correct way.

The Budget this year has proved promising in the education sector, with the arrangements being made for proper sanitation and hygiene which would enable girl students to remain in school, the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Andolan, a more gender sensitive syllabus. But unless mainstream syllabuses aren’t contemporized, all these new measures would serve little to the target masses and in the end just fall back in regular, criticized lines like the current syllabus. It’s time to step back and see things from a new perspective now, because what we read and write today will make us what we are tomorrow.

Stereotyping the LGBT : Where do we stand?

“If you believe that your thoughts originate inside your brain, do you also believe that television shows are made inside your television set?” ― Warren Ellis

If I ask you to imagine a homosexual person right now, what kind of a description will you come up with?

Chances are, you’re going to end up thinking of a delicate looking, effeminate ‘male’ with soft movements and “girly” gestures, and most likely he’s going to be impeccably well – dressed and well- groomed. He frowns at wardrobe disasters and is a bigger fashion diva than you will ever be. You know, the fashion –designer type. (Remember how the gay Patrick scores over the fashion-goddess Lacey every time in Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management?)

Alternatively, if you’re a girl who’s got her heart broken by Matt Dallas, you might think of a devastatingly handsome looking – man, who’s got all his charms set, but to your horror, doesn’t respond to female attention (because he is perhaps feeling like that for another guy himself): whatever might be the case, almost always, a homosexual person is surrounded by a bunch of homophobes (or fake homophobes) who believe they’re their biggest nightmare. (“God, stop acting gay! Get away from me!“)

After numerous fight-scenes in movies following the use of a certain word “faggot” , or the playing out of the classic trope of a homosexual man playing the heroine’s best-friend in movies (a la Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding), we can cross our hearts and ascertain that queer characters have finally arrived in mainstream media.

However, portraying these characters in popular media comes with its baggage – it’s not enough to simply use such characters for the sake of adding entertainment value. What’s really important is to portray them correctly. Considering that the LGBT community is a marginalized section of society that faces enormous social stigma in many developing (also developed) countries, it is absolutely imperative that the media which serves as a channel across people of different beliefs and faiths does its best to push forward their interests, and represent them as they are . People who are entrusted with the job of creating queer characters for the screen shoulder a very heavy responsibility; to strike a balance between entertainment and truthfulness…

…At which, the larger section of them, fail miserably. Merely churning out a laughable queer character is not only irresponsible, but also, unfortunately, the bitter truth about mainstream media today. The LGBT community is given the treatment of an outcast group in our popular culture. So much so, that If we’re asked to imagine a homosexual individual, our minds lead us directly to one of the stereotypical stock images of queer characters we’ve seen in television serials and movies.

Massive generalisation and an overdose of stock homosexual characters have distorted our own sense of reality to the extent that we begin to subconsciously filter people around us through a lens that was created for us, and not by us.

Let us take the recent case of Tiger Shroff – his androgynous looks have made him appealing to both women and men, but for the very same reason, there are jokes being created over his sexuality.

We’ve perhaps been over fed the idea of a queer man as an effeminate character, which might be true of a certain group of these individuals, but not the whole lot of them.

Could you tell just by looking at Ricky Martin that he’s gay? For all I know, all my friends, including myself, regarded him as one from the community of (heterosexual) alpha-males! When the news of him being gay came about, most of  girls I know reacted with a sigh, “But he looked so manly!” which just goes on to prove that there is no one prototype of a homosexual man. But if Ricky Martin was to be a character in a mainstream Bollywood flick, he would have been played by Abhishek Bachchan, perpetually shrieking and batting his eyelids. The lacuna between reality and representation, thus, is vast and unfilled.

What’s worse is that the damage done doesn’t end here. A graver aspect of such a demeaning representation is in the use of our language, of terms related to the queer community.

Katy Perry released a song in 2007, titled “Ur So Gay” with the chorus line going- “You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys…” The tone of the song is such that it employs the concept of being “gay”as a horrible insult, the label of an emasculate man. At this point, being gay stops dealing with the concept of a sexual preference altogether. It instead becomes a synonym for unmanliness where Homophobia is glorified and homophobic men are considered “real men”, and homosexuals, pitiable. In effect, the mainstream media has taken the simple case of a sexual orientation and preference, and made it something of a funny business.

It has conditioned us to look for signs of “gay behaviour”. What is gay behaviour but a media created term? By promoting myths about homosexuality, it has ostracised the community, so it cannot be assimilated within our own. One such embodiment of stereotypical queer characters is Rishi Kapoor playing the gay school principal in Student of the Year. If we were to prepare a checklist of seemingly gay characteristics, Rishi Kapoor’s act in the movie would tick off every single one of them. And that is not a good thing.

Moving on to the lesbians of the LGBT community, situations are graver. Quoting from the blog, Equal Writers, Feminism and Gender issues in Princeton University, “It’s still somewhat of a novelty to see lesbian characters in films and television shows, and when we do see lesbian characters, we see them as lesbian characters, not characters who happen to be lesbians.” That is to say, if gay men are portrayed in the mainstream channels for the purpose of amusement and laughter, lesbians are props for adding the sex appeal and glamour central to popular media. A lesbian movie sells because of the steamy and passionate love-making scenes in it, and what essentially happens in the process is utter objectification of these women as promiscuous sex-slaves.

In India, attempts have been made to portray Lesbianism explicitly on screen (read Deepa Mehta’s Fire), but they’ve been met with strong criticism of right-wing political parties and flak from conservative audiences. Thereon, the theme has been subtly explored in various mainstream movies by daring directors like Madhur Bhandarkar and Abhishek Chaubey, though the travails of a homosexual female are hardly explored; or even touched, for that matter.

Ours is a country that’s stuck neck-deep in a confusion of ideology. We don’t want to give up on our traditional belief system, yet we want to modernize and become open-minded to issues that challenge our values. God knows how that is supposed to be achieved, but for starters, we could begin by respecting our differences. Sample if you wake up one day to find the world order has changed, and it is not “normal” for a girl to have a crush on a boy anymore, or for men and women to be married. You’ll feel as if something as natural as your sexuality is being taken away from you. And who are people to govern your personal life anyway, isn’t it?

That’s exactly how people from the “other” community feel as well. If it’s hard for us to even imagine a situation like that, consider how difficult it must be for the queer community to live with a reality like that. How dreadful and offensive it must be for them to not even have a right to express their love and sexuality, just because it doesn’t fall in the proper “world order.”

Let’s give this a thought. Let’s not derive amusement from the media stereotyping of the queer community, because remember, one day you might wake up to find a ‘new normal’, and the odds might not be in your favour then. Let us respect every individual’s right to a life of their choice. Let people be more than just their gender. And let us, for once, stop making homosexuality a funny media business.

Stereotype breaking : 

-Every gay person is not a “designer – type”: I’m talking Alexander The Great and Harvey Milk.

– Every lesbian female is not a promiscuous, drug addict with unstable relationships and career: Haven’t you seen Ellen DeGeneres rocking her prime-time show, and don’t you know she’s in a happy marriage?

– Every transgender is not a loud and awkward person: if your idea of a transgender is still Bobby Darling, you need to grow up.

Why Hush Your Periods?

I was seven years old or maybe eight. I had started doing minor shopping. It usually happened when mom was busy cooking and she suddenly realized that a couple of ingredients are missing. She used to quickly grab a pen, find out a piece of paper, scribble her requirements and handed the paper to me. I used to go to the shop, give him the list, have a chat with the shopkeeper (which usually meant I would be playfully teased by him), get the stuff and come back home showing-off my new purchase, even if it were only a packet of iodized salt. I grew up doing this and hence, I have a fantastic rapport with the shopkeepers of my locality.

As I entered my tenth year, I started going to the pharmacies in my area. But I did not have the same kind of a rapport with the pharmacists in the shop. Whenever my elder sister used to come to visit, I would be sent on her pharmacy-errands. I would enter the shop, give him a paper with only one thing written on it. On seeing the list, he would quietly get the product, wrap it up with a newspaper, give me a black carry-bag and send me off.  I failed to understand the mystery behind this activity. Somehow, I had never questioned her or my parents, for that matter of fact. Or maybe I had and never got a reply. Nevertheless, I kept doing this till an age by which I understood what I was actually doing. I was buying sanitary pads for my sister. I, as any curious young child will do, asked my friends at school. None of us knew what it was. Some wise guy of our batch professed that he knew everything about pads. We went to him. He sat on a bench, wore a grim look on his face and started his rant about how sanitary pads are used by women to absorb blood if they get hurt. We thought we were enlightened and came back thinking that pads were gauze-bandages.

Sigh! Those days of innocence!

Now that I am an adult I do understand what menstruation is, what a sanitary pad does, and how a majority of rural Indian women do not have access to a proper sanitary pad and use cloth/sack instead. But I fail to understand one thing:

“Why do women hush themselves when it comes to discussing menstruation?”

Menstruation is something which women can’t avoid, at least naturally. It is something which the men are bound to know while growing up with sisters or girlfriends. If it is something so obvious, why does the society consider it a taboo?

Why did the pharmacist wrap it up? Why were most of my friends clueless about this- totally natural phenomena. Why do we have to get embarrassed about something which is practically, inevitable? Intriguingly weird are the norms the society.

Forget about childhood. My friends feel extremely shy to say that they have to go and buy tampons, in emergency, for their girlfriends. I don’t see many men going to the pharmacy store to buy sanitary pads for their wives/daughters. And strangely enough, not keeping pace with the otherwise modern society, the pharmacist still wraps up the packet, and gives it in a black bag. Why is it such a big deal for my friends to say that the reason for them not coming to the adventure island is because they have their menses on? Why do they have to lie that they have fever?

Giving it a thought, I believe the origin of such a taboo or the so-called- “fever days” was because of the retarded attitude of the society in the previous generations. Women, who had their periods on, were treated as untouchables. And, suddenly as if they have contracted a deadly communicable disease, people surrounding them would start avoiding them for the entire week. Having visited some villages during my education, I see the same attitude even today. Perhaps, not as regressive as our grandmothers or their mothers had faced, but still very regressive compared to the advancement in the society

But of all these, the most appalling fact is that my ‘modern’ friends who are educated from the reputable colleges of the world, still shy away from talking about their periods. The other day, I and a friend of mine were watching videos on Youtube when the advertisement of a tampon popped up. She felt awkward and immediately switched tabs. She was perfectly educated, a woman of substance with strong opinions about many world issues. Her behaviour automatically questions the behaviour of many such women.

How about a world where every woman can freely tell their men counterparts about their totally natural and biological processes? How about a biology class where the topic of menstruation is not rushed through with giggles across the class? How about a brother going to the pharmacist and asking for a tampon, confidently? How about the pharmacist giving it without wrapping it up? How about my “modern day classmates” telling me the actual reason for missing that trip?

Imagine the happiness of young teenage girl, when she can share her pain with her father without feeling guilty.  Imagine the comfort of the woman/man getting a packet of tampon without being stared at. Imagine!

It’s time we realize that menstruating is not a crime! It’s time we stop chuckling every time an advertisement of a tampon brand is broadcasted. It’s time we speak up! It’s time to stop killing our freedom ourselves.

If you shut up now, you switch on the mute button forever. Make it a culture. Let’s get this transformation in ourselves and allow it to infuse in the society. Tell your twelve year old son about that product. Tell that pharmacist not to wrap it up in a newspaper. Ask your friends to stop laughing at this topic. Tell your brother to go and proudly get your monthly needs. It is YOU who can bring about this change.

From today, don’t hush it down, ever!

 

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.

Analysing The Modi Effect

Few politicians are as fascinating as Narendra Modi. And for the last 12 years, no politician has been as controversial. Neither has been any politician accused, blacklisted, vilified and treated like a pariah as much. Yet he has not only survived, but thrived.

Today, people will be surprised if he doesn’t win 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Elusive allies are sending accommodating feelers. What’s amazing is the criticism has not stopped even as the Godhra riots’ censure has subsided. There’s a new industry of experts looking for holes in Gujarat’s development story. One can almost imagine them looking for the most pathetic places in the state.

They need a visual of that one school with fewer teachers or one underfunded hospital so they can scream, “Look, your Gujarat is so terrible.” These experts forget Gujarat is a part of India. India is still largely run by the central government which controls most funds and policies. A messed up Gujarat (or a progressive Gujarat) is not entirely the state government’s creation.

Anyhow, whether Gujarat is amazing or not, one thing is clear — Modi’s political graph has continued to rise. Even the always righteous but not always right Arvind Kejriwal who has successfully tarnished many reputations so far – Gadkari, Vadra, Ambani, Sheila Dikshit to name a few — has been unable to puncture the Modi effect. 

Why is that so? Is it just Modi’s development agenda? Is it a lack of choice? Is it Modi’s personality and oratory? Or is it his never overstated yet always present Hindutva stance? Other BJP leaders have run states well – Manohar Parrikar and Shivraj Singh Chouhan for instance. So why does Modi command a wild and passionate fan base like no other BJP leader? 

Answering these questions is important. First, for BJP, which needs to capitalise on the Modi wave a bit more as it is not home yet. To have a stable government that Modi has promised his fans, 20 more seats than currently projected are needed.

Secondly, understanding Modi’s popularity is important for his opposition. For now, opponents seem to be helping Modi more than hurting him. Criticism is Modi’s polish, making him shine even more. Finally, figuring Modi out gives us insights about who we are as Indians.

An aspect mostly overlooked about Indian society is its understated, often subdued but strong sense of Hindu entitlement. Sure, our Constitution and laws are secular. Our public discourse shuns communal arguments, and rightly so. However, this doesn’t mean the sense of entitlement goes away. 

With over 80% Hindu population, comprising most of the world’s Hindus, it is nearly impossible to eliminate that sense of majority entitlement. Add to that Congress’s strategy of turning Muslims into a vote bank and responding better to Muslim issues. This triggered the Hindu sense of dissatisfaction even more. 

In this context, a leader representing Hindu pride will find resonance. This is why many people do not ascribe much importance to the handling of post-Godhra riots when it comes to judging Modi. For one, his role wasn’t clear (and legally has been un-proven). Second, to a section of people it felt like retribution. 

Of course, this ignores the fact that Muslims who burnt the train or organised terror attacks had nothing to do with Muslims who suffered during the riots. How-ever, emotions often supersede reason and a disgruntled Hindu populace has mostly pardoned Modi. Again, i make no judgment if this was right or wrong, but this is what happened. 

The third reason why Modi did well is his ability to manage expectations. He worked in Gujarat until it showed at least some good metrics. Gujarat may not be a perfect state, but at least on a few parameters it did better than others. More importantly, Modi never made tall claims beforehand. He worked hard first and marketed himself later. 

Fourth, his personality is the exact opposite of Manmohan Singh. Modi is a straight talker and people like that. They want a PM who has opinions, even if they are not the most polished. It doesn’t hurt that Modi has a sense of humour. Humour creates connect and adds charm. Even if many of the jokes are at the expense of the ‘shehzada’ and the ‘mute PM, they do induce a chuckle.

Five, he represents practicality. Most Indians know that while it is good to remove corruption, nepotism, dynasty, oppression of women and a million other wrongs, it isn’t easy. Things change, but slowly and over time. The leader many Indians seek is not idealistic, but someone who can do a fairly good job despite the muck in our society. 

Finally Modi is, plain and simple, lucky. Rahul Gandhi is weak as a major opponent. Even the TV guys are struggling to find a real adversary for entertaining election coverage (Kejriwal is helping somewhat). The scam-ridden UPA decade has upset most Indians. The arrogance of Congress leaders hasn’t helped either. Modi arrives at a time when people want change.

Overall, we don’t know what will happen in elections. The stars seem to be getting aligned for Modi. This might be due to his and his party’s efforts. It could be luck. Or as they say in Hindu terms, it might just be destiny.