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Mall Road

Bus Addey, Maal Rode, Camp, Madal Toun, Ajadpur, Shalimaar...

BBM: A week is a long time in blogosphere



Prologue

About twenty posts were nominated for this mela, and all of them were excellent. However, I may not have been able to include a few of them as I have gone from theme to theme, using Technorati search to find suitable posts to include. Not being included is not a reflection on the quality of your post – I mean it.

Am still in a haze as I post this, so please bear with me if there are typos! Will correct them later, and would be glad if you could point them out politely.

I suggest that you read this Mela from beginning to end without clicking at any of the links. Open the links in second go and read at your leisure throughout the week.


Hulloa and welcome to the latest edition of the Bharateeya Blog Mela.

Vivek Kumar is now in the army. But how does he know? “Well, being surrounded by Army jawans with AK-47s and having an escort vehicle with a mounted LMG were two pretty good hints.” In a chilling post, with links to pics on his picture blog, Vivek writes things like, “Remember that your gun was manufactured by the lowest bidder,” and, “You won't get to hear the bullet that kills you… bullets are faster than sound.”

“There is something to be said about the feeling one gets when one picks up a gun,” he writes. I had always wondered how a soldier can mercilessly kill another soldier just because he is told that the other is an ‘enemy’? Now I know, thanks to Sachin’s linking of hostel ragging with the Milgram Experiments which show how we all can easily bow under authority and harm others without guilt. Don’t forget to see the comments section about another study, where the social scientist himself got obsessed about experimenting with the nature of abuse!


*

Yeah, power without responsibility can be intoxicating. Ask the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, writes Amardeep Singh after the Jo Bole So Nihaal bombings in Delhi. Even before the bombings, Amrit Hallan (who agrees the film should get another title) was lashing out at the SGPC over its ‘hypocrisy’:

I would like to ask the SGPC, doesn’t an average Sikh:

  • Indulge in sex?
  • Consume liquor?
  • Engage in fraudulent activities?
  • Interpret the Gurubani wrongly?
  • Ill-treat his wife, children and parents?
  • Visit brothels?

Being from a Sikh family, I have seen the so-called Sikhs doing all such things. Be it philandering, fornicating, excessive drinking, wife-beating, cheating other people, uttering profanities, I have seen the “respected” Sikhs doing all these.


While who is an ‘average Sikh’ is a complex issue that Amrit might want to consider, I think there’s a serious problem of stereotyping the Sikh community, which many of us do, sometimes unconsciously. Manish Vij refused to accept this when he called the Punjab Chief Minister a “jolly sardarji”, and Sonia had commented that one should see Jo Bole So Nihaal to see how Sikhs are represented. Mind you, all of this conversation happened before the bombings. After the bombings, there was just shock and awe.

There’s now the speculation of it being a gimmick of Pakistani terrorists. But Arnab Ray has another theory: “Could this be a result of turf-war between sections of SGPC and Akali Dal? A very plausible reason could be that the producer had "made peace" with one section and the other section was grouchy at not getting a share of the forgiveness pie.

Even if the bombings were by Pakistani terorrists (convenient scapegoat, IMHO), the SGPC's stupid objections to the movie can be blamed for giving Pakistani terrorists an excuse to do this with the aim of sparking communal violence. After writing my post on sentiments and bombs, I was left wondering at the SGPC’s objection about ‘semi-clad women’ in a movie whose title is a Sikh battle cry. Why is it that expression of female sexuality in movies always becomes a threat to institutionalised religions? Fire is another examples that come to mind.

*

Talking about sexuality, Saket is perplexed by a nightclub’s ousting of a lesbian couple: what are the ‘rights’ of the couple, and what are the rights of the nightclub’s proprietors? I am slightly unsettled by his assertion, “In a truly free society, business owners should also be entitled to rights. I may run a night-club in the city, and I may have an aversion to those brightly colored and hideous looking printed shirts. I may make it a matter of policy to refuse entry to those who come dressed in such shirts. Its my bloody nightclub, It is private property…” I can’t agree, but neither can I disagree! But Saket, if all business owners were to assert such ‘rights’, then you would be left with an experience similar to Govar’s.

Saket often ponders on such important questions - if he is not busy addressing the needs of his male readers, that is ;)

*

C’mon doode, forget these weighty matters and laugh a minute, says Harini Calamur about the laughing stock that is the world’s largest selling English language broadsheet.

She points to the tamasha that Mumbai’s media explosion is turning out to be. The hoarding makes Rashmi comment on HT’s digs at ToI’s dumbing down. Charu brings forth some more amusement that this round of media blitz is dishing out. It seems the medium is going to be the message until we get the first circulation figures.

In another post, Harini points out what I’ve been noticing for some time now: despite being the lowest common denominator, this esteemed newspaper is the one that lectures you the most on what good journalism is. She writes:

Today it is the turn of their yet to be launched tabloid (why would any group want two tabloids) the Mumbai Mirror. Carrying the publicity note as news is… the headline… Now, Mumbai to get a no-nonsense paper. Arre mere bhai, itne din hamme nonsense kisne diya! [My trans: So who gave us nonsense all these days if not you?]

TN Abinandan of Nanopolitan brings forth some more froth.

Amit Varma’s post on the same subject dealt with the term ‘prosumer’ in that ToI article, and this leads to further links about the fine art of using jargon in his later posts.

*

Mall Road Aphorism #56: One man's jargon can be another’s primary language. Sports is all Greek to me. It is to American economist Michael Higgins’ credit, therefore, that he takes so much interest in Indian sports: he almost sounds like one billion Indians asking themselves why we are underachievers in sports, and can’t even be toppers in the one game we play: cricket! Some of the reasons he lists (such as our indulgence in the sport that produces, well, babies) are interestingly new to me: I always thought cultural and economic faactors were responsible more than anything else. Uncle and Aunty want Babloo and Dabloo to be engineer and doctor. Not a struggling soccer or tennis player. Those are just hobbies, my son!

Avinash Tadimall has been playing some real hardcore cricket in the fields of California though. The International Cricket Council with their ideas of making the game more interesting could do with his calculations about the cost of a wide ball.

*

You want to escape the nonsense of our newspapers? Simple, stop reading them. Spend your time reading books. One Hundred Years of Solitude has been stimulating Nivas enough for him to recommend it to you. Nilanjana has been reading an anthology of new Indian writing in English, and doesn’t seem very impressed.

If you don’t want to travel into the worlds of writers, travel in real life. Go to Goa like Vikrum did, and you will find new worlds in new people. Talk to people like Pinki, a girl from rural Rajasthan, who told Annie how she can’t dare to wear a pair of jeans in her village – not that she wants to, but Annie certianly wants her to.

Talking to strangers, however, may not be such a comforting experience if you’re some what of a celebrity. (Read the comments there and you will agree with India Uncut’s no-comments policy. Or you may not.)

Also, don’t miss Amitav Ghosh’s forthcoming interview audio.

*

Prufrock Two (as opposed to Prufrock One) shows how our metros are dealing with the same problems as Istanbul has been over the years. He saw this mirror image of India in Istanbul via Orhan Pamuk’s award-winning book, Istanbul: Memories of a City. Chandrahas Choudhury says Pamuk is to Istanbul what Dickens has been to London.

There’s a lot that’s happening to our cities and it’s time to wake up before it becomes too late. Truman from Bangalore talks about the cleaning up of Mumbai’s pavement booksellers: the government thought they made the place look ‘ugly’. Tilotamma is unable to find her old bookseller, Alwar, whose fall says a lot about the changing face of Chennai.

Indiagenie, don’t be surprised at Suketu Mehta comparing New York with Allahbad. Things are coming to such a pass that we need new paradigms to understand our Shanghais in our Mumbais.

*

Sports minister Sunil Dutt passed away this week and most bloggers remembered his acting, not his politics. For Sourin Rao, like for many bloggers, his most memorable role was that of Bhola in Padosan. Asya agrees, and types down her humming of Mere Saamne Wali Khidki Mein.

The blogosphere had its share of obituaries for Ismail Merchant too. His homosexuality has been getting more attention in blogosphere obits than it is likely to in the Indian media.

I must see all the Merchant-Ivory films that Amit recommends, but may I also recommend The Mystic Masseur, based on VS Naipaul’s beautiful novel. Merchant had apparently written a letter to Naipaul asking for permission to make Masseur into a movie, and the pompous Sir Vidia had written back saying that he had heard of Merchant’s famous persuasive powers and did not wish to put them to test!

*

Some random postings before I shut my trap: Anand Vivek Taneja has been going bats, which makes him wonder why disease-spreading rats are considered cute and why nobody loves bats. Well, considering that in no culture were dogs considered cute domestic pets before Victorian England made them so, there’s hope for Anand leading a All Hail Our Bats revolution.

Abhishek Kant can help you interpolate between Linux and Windows so that you can have the best of both: the consumer is king, who cares about ideology? In a previous post he was wondering about who will take responsibility for glitches in open source software?

Rahul Tyagi is outraged at the comparison of Krzysztof Kieslowski's last three movies with Sanjay Bhansali’s Black.

Naveen talks about how “economic nationalism” can be “adverse patriotism”. I like this post for such terminology: words, empty words, have for long been the greatest asset of the Communist and the Socialist: they use such terminology that they fool everyone including themselves.

The politics at the Sangeet Natak Akademi has a simple solution coming from Sruthijith: get the state out of art. Add my name as of the sinatories to your petition, sir.

Last but not the least, you must read Annie’s post on Bhanwari Devi. As chilling, if not more, than Captain Vivek’s post that we began this mela with.


*

Epilogue

Please nominate your posts for the next Mela, to be hosted by Saket, who has been graciously helping improve upon my blog template.

If you wish to host a Blog Mela, please ask Shanti for a date.

It has been a pleasure hosting this Mela: to the Mela initiators, coordinators and volunteers: thank you.

I hope you enjoyed the Mela and will pass through Mall Road more often, and blogroll me too, ensuring thousands of hits each day, and helping me become a blog baron… $$$!... through Google AdSense.

Happy blogging!








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-- Blogger Vulturo, 5/27/2005 11:53:00 AM

Is Vivek *still* in the army?

I don't know about the Army's policies on blogging. But if the Indian army was Google Inc., Vivek would have been whacked for saying "Remember that your gun was manufactured by the lowest bidder." - Of course, thats stating the obvious, but there's an equally obvious hint that the guns are of a poor quality. Anyone remember Mark Jensen?    



-- Blogger Michael Higgins, 5/27/2005 06:51:00 PM

Hi Shivam
You did a wonderful job with your mela. Yes, you are spot on and the reason for lack of interest in sports in India is lack of career opportunities for sportsmen there. And the lack of career opportunities leads to a lack of interest in sports there. There is one exception: the national cricket team.    



-- Anonymous Sruthijith, 5/27/2005 09:33:00 PM

Great job shivam!    



-- Blogger Manish, 5/27/2005 10:11:00 PM

I think there’s a serious problem of stereotyping the Sikh community, which many of us do, sometimes unconsciously. Manish Vij refused to accept this when he called the Punjab Chief Minister a “jolly sardarji”...

I'm well aware of the stereotype. But your idea of stereotyping is absurd. You claim that if desis are known to be smart, you can't describe an individual person as smart even if it's true.

That speaks for itself. We should guard against stereotyping groups and in fiction. When you say you can't describe individuals as they are, you've crossed into denial and censorship.    



-- Blogger shaun, 5/27/2005 10:57:00 PM

You claim that if desis are known to be smart, you can't describe an individual person as smart even if it's true.

When did I say that Manish? You are putting words into my mouth. The term "sardarji" is loaded with connotations, and how you choose to describe an individual is important: you chose to irreverently describe the Punjab CM as a "jolly sardarji", and that is fodder to fundamentalists like the SGPC. You identified the man in the picture with his community without caring to know who he was as an individual. That's all I'm trying to say. I'm saying your stereotyping was unconscious: we all behave like this, but we should be careful. That's ALL I'm saying.    



-- Blogger Manish, 5/27/2005 11:38:00 PM

I'm saying your stereotyping was unconscious

It was neither stereotyping (applied to a group rather than an individual you have actual knowledge of) nor unconscious (I explicitly considered the stereotype but overrode it because it's an accurate description of the photo). Look at the photo.

You are putting words into my mouth.

It's the logical conclusion of your rule, no? In what situation can you describe a Sikh as cheerful if not a photo in which he's smiling?

I know the stereotype. My grandfather was Sikh. My uncle was Sikh. I knew gurudwara before I knew temple. I wince at step 'n fetchit Sikh roles played by Anupam Kher. I've written scads of stories Sikh stereotyping, discrimination against Sikhs, fighting to allow turbans, Harimandir Sahib and so on, vastly more than you've posted on this blog.

You seem to find the phrase offensive irrelevant of context. I find it accurate when you look at the photo. Let's agree to disagree.    



-- Blogger shaun, 5/28/2005 12:35:00 AM

Okay Manish, agreed. I mean, disagreed.

I still can't imagine you seeing a photo of me and calling me "jolly Hindu" and claiming you were not talking about any community or group but an individual.    



-- Blogger Manish, 5/31/2005 02:24:00 AM

I still can't imagine you seeing a photo of me and calling me "jolly Hindu" and claiming you were not talking about any community or group but an individual.

If you wore a Hindu religious symbol and were smiling, I very well might use those exact words.    



-- Blogger vAgue, 5/31/2005 03:42:00 PM

nice mela, shivam

mudrika, yes?

love bus stop roll)    



-- Blogger Twilight Fairy, 5/31/2005 06:42:00 PM

ok here's a mistake that i am pointing out err.. politely.. :)
Tilotamma, I believe is the name of a female.. so it's not "his bookseller" :P    



-- Blogger tilotamma, 5/31/2005 10:01:00 PM

Thanks fairy for correcting him about my gender :-).
You know what after the Mistress of Spices is out - no one will ever make this mistake again    



-- Blogger shaun, 5/31/2005 10:08:00 PM

Michael, Sruthijith, and 'vAgue': Many thanks for your compliments.

Twilight Fairy: Thanks for pointing out the error. I have corrected it.

Manish: I am shocked at your comment, to say the least. If I;m wearing what you call a 'religious symbol', you will see me first as belonging to a religious community and then, if at all, as a individual in my own right. Come to think of it, that's what you did when you referred to as the Punjab Chief Ministers as a 'jolly sardarji', without bothering to find out who he was, and then claiming that you know the 'sardarji' stereotype and you will still use it, because you are not the 'sort' who stereotypes Sikhs (you would rather call them 'sardarjis').

It's probably not all that bad a stereotype: some Sikh friends say the stereotype shows how the Sikhs have the ability to laugh at themeselves. But after 1984 things have changed and it is important for non-Sikhs to understand that a community so persecuted may not like the stereotype anymore, Or at least some members of the community. Like Balwinder Singh, 24, and Jagan Nath, 36.

Just that the Babbar Khalsa guys don't read blogs. Or so I presume. They just watch movies.    



-- Blogger shaun, 6/01/2005 12:26:00 AM

Tilotamma: Please accept my apologies for mistaking your gender! I assure you it was just an oversight!    



-- Blogger tilotamma, 6/01/2005 07:05:00 AM

It is OK maan....... I am not offended or anything. Tnaks for taking the time and trouble over the mela.I did find Alwar.

I just thought "amma" and Tamil women were synonymous since Jaya became CM of TN :-).    



-- Blogger Manish, 6/09/2005 01:52:00 AM

I am shocked at your comment, to say the least. If I;m wearing what you call a 'religious symbol', you will see me first as belonging to a religious community...

If someone wore a prominent cross, a star of David or a Greek priest's hat, mentioning that would shock you. It would mean the writer is a communalist! A rampaging religionist ready to re-enact Babri Masjid!    



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