Category Archives: Politics

Diwali pollution

A cracker of a decision

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any issue we can discuss in India without giving it communal undertones.

And then, I remember that this is India and if I want to have fancy dreams, I might as well think of Aditi Rao Hydari on a bright summer beach. We might be the oldest existing civilisation in the world, but we discuss and argue with the intellectual maturity of adolescent grasshoppers.

Unlike what Twitter will tell you, the directive to ban the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR does not stem from the Supreme Court being a ‘liberal gandu’. It was actually a petition signed by three kids from Delhi who believed that firecrackers were polluting the air.

And before you dismiss it as some childish dream by three naadaan bachhe, here’s some facts that will stir up the patriotism in you – India has a problem of pollution. 13 of our cities rank among the 30 most polluted cities in the world. We have the most number of polluted cities, and share this unique distinction with China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Which means that we live in the most polluted region in the world, and if we don’t start acting up, shit gonna hit da fan, bruh!

According to other reports, 50 lakh kilograms of firecrackers are set to be sold in the NCR region, and 1 lakh kilos in Delhi alone. Which of course, has some benefits. For example, we learn new words every year. Like SMOKE + FOG = SMOG. After all, Indian culture is the best. Even if you pollute the fuck out of the environment, Indian culture will give you something back in return.

Most critics of the ban have a singular, solid point of defence. Why single out only Hindu festivals? Are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to be bursting 2 crore kilograms of firecrackers in one night, and you want a fucking pat on the back??

Funnily enough, most patriots nurture a strange notion that crackers are an integral part of Diwali celebrations. They actually believe that our ancestors from the Vedic age burst crackers on Diwali. What fertile minds! What vivid imaginations!!

So they must be thinking that the day Rama returned from Lanka after defeating Ravana, Vishwamitra and Vashishta went and bought some bijli bombs and started lighting up ladis along the road. That Narada went and brought some rockets and Shatrughana (since he didn’t have much to do throughout) made sure the crackers were dried in the sun the previous day!

And leading this pack of morons is the largest selling author of our country – Chetan Bhagat. It’s been five years since I’ve bitched about the guy, and I’m thrilled to announce that the dude has just got more and more stupid as the years have gone by. Mr. Bhagat has tweeted about how firecrackers are being targeted, and slaughtering goats is not touched upon. Bhagat is a funny man. All through the UPA regime, he fussed and cribbed about the government being a sellout by making policies appeasing Muslims. One would assume he would shut the fuck up now that his wet dreams have come true with a majority BJP government. But one must never underestimate the power of stupidity!

And that is the sad part about having any discussion in India today. You cannot broach any topic without some intellectually challenged dude like Chetan Bhagat questioning your secular credentials. I fail to understand how pollution has any religion. What is the religion of a child’s lungs? And which God rescues older people and children when they get asthma attacks after every Diwali?

I understand the skepticism in the minds of people. But it is not impossible. Smaller cities like Ranchi and Bhubaneswar have set up specific locations in the city where crackers can be sold. Some cities in China have completely banned the use of firecrackers – no exceptions, no by-laws. Even Mumbai has laws (at least on paper) that you cannot burst crackers on the roads.

Laws are the beginning of change. And when you fight the forming of laws, what change do you expect to see in the country?

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Unfortunately, Hinduism began as a religion that worshipped nature. Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, is a collection of hymns that praise nature as gods. In India, we worship the wind, water, oceans, trees, and hills.

And yet, come any festival, and we pollute like today’s the last day on earth. Like tomorrow morning Kalki Avatar is going to arrive on his white horse and wipe out everybody on the face of this planet.

Diwali? We celebrate Rama’s victory by dirtying our roads, scaring patients in hospitals, and inducing thousands of injuries from fire wounds. Holi? We throw toxic chemicals on each other, and decide to also colour dogs, cows and buffaloes. Ganesh Puja? We hail the God of Knowledge by doing the dumbest fucking thing on earth – dumping him in water bodies. Durga Puja? We worship The Mother by laying her to rest in filthy rivers and lakes.

THIS is our culture. We are a nation that loves to pollute. That loves to spread filth and celebrate it as our ‘rich’ culture. Ironically, all the fools who support firecrackers will shut their mouths and follow the laws of the land when they’re in a different country. But when in India…

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I find it sad when I see teenagers and youngsters talk about our rich heritage. When I see them reason that we have been bursting crackers for hundreds of years – why should we stop now? 

Well, times change. And we would be idiots not to change with it. Do you still wear dhotis, write letters in post cards, and travel in horse-drawn taangaas? Then what’s the problem in acknowledging a problem that is real, and getting worse by the year?

What is the reluctance in accepting change, in understanding that we cannot as a nation keep on polluting our air and rivers? What sort of a intellectually warped nation have we become that we cannot even see beyond our flaws as a nation?

What IS this culture that we keep celebrating??

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(Featured Image courtesy Flicker)

BHU protest

Why are Indian educational institutions such Concentration Camps?

The recent protests by girls in Benares Hindu University, and the police crackdown on them, speaks volumes of the horrific tradition that Indian universities follow – that of locking women up ‘for their own safety’.

I once dated a girl from BHU for a while, and the stories of restrictions she narrated were horrific. Girl students must report back to their hostels by 6.30, walking with a man is frowned upon, wardens have to be informed for something as frivolous as collecting a parcel – it’s fucking ridiculous.

And this is true of campuses across the country. The one unifying factor of Indian higher education is the blanket of regressive rules and laws imposed on girls on campuses. These rules are set under flimsy pretences such as ‘avoiding indecency’, providing a ‘conducive atmosphere for studying’, and ‘avoiding distractions’. But if you scratch a little deeper, you’ll find all these reasons are a bunch of bullshit.

The restrictions are manifold.

In some universities, there are rules about dressing. If there are no uniforms prescribed, there are unwritten rules about students wearing jeans. Most colleges have separate seating for girls and boys, some even have restrictions on hanging out in the canteen together. Benares Hindu University, one of the oldest universities in the country, frowns upon a boy and a girl even walking together. As does Aligarh Muslim University. IIT Madras has rules regarding male-female interaction after certain hours of the day. In the IIT-churning coaching institutes in Andhra Pradesh, if you are caught speaking to a girl, a call is made to your parents!

In every university I visited in Gujarat, girls are locked up inside their hostels (sometimes as early as 7 PM). Boys are given an extension up to 9.30, after which a security guard takes over. The security guard is often the least qualified, yet wields the most power in such campuses.

I myself studied in a Boys’ Boarding school where even the attendants and cooks were male.  Interaction with the other gender was considered a primal sin. It is only when I left the school did I realise how much of a misfit I was. I couldn’t speak to girls, developing cold feet, fumbling around for words, something that took me years to undo.

I have often wondered why we need such restrictions on our educational institutions. I have spoken to the wardens, guards, and students; and most of them have reconciled to the fact that this is how things should be. This is how things were 50 years ago, and there is no point changing such stuff.

It’s all deeply regressive.

Firstly, the most common excuse given is that such rules are enforced to avoid distractions for the students. Scratch a little deeper, and what they’re actually saying is that if they keep the two genders away from each other, they will probably concentrate on their studies better.

It’s sad that even after 70 years of independence, we still behave as if education happens only inside classes. But ask any great, any topper, and they’ll tell you that the real education that an institution offers, is what you gain from the atmosphere. From talking, interacting, discussing, and debating. But like most things in India, we have 60 year olds deciding what is right for 20 year olds, and then shoving their crap down their throats.

Also, look a little deeper, and you will find that interactions with the other gender are frowned upon because primarily, the Indian society sees two people of opposite genders capable of just one act – sex. I have seen guards on campuses walk up to couples and question them about their motive. For all you know, they might have been friends just talking about a movie. Or even youngsters who want to fuck each other – what is the big deal?

For all our evolved thinking and Vasudaiva Kutumbakam (Universe is One Family) logic, we haven’t evolved enough to assume that a boy and a girl could do anything else but fuck. That is how we think. And that is why we impose such rules.

Thirdly, segregation never works. It is a stupid, short-cut of an approach, enforced by idiots who have no clue how the real world in 21st century works. Look at the state of women in our country today. Strangely, as we continue to raise our voice against rapes and molestations, we refuse to look beyond the reason for such incidents.

It is not as if Indian men suddenly starting raping women on the streets. This is a culmination of decades of upbringing that told Indian men that women were different, were weaker.

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Which is where education plays such a vital role. Education makes you look at the other person with respect. An education brings out qualities in people that go beyond their looks or gender. It brings in mutual respect, equality and trust. The more you segregate students on the basis of gender, you are simply enforcing existing ideas – that every guy is a threat, every girl is vulnerable.

It is sad that even after all these years, our elders haven’t woken up to the reality of the world. That their idea of education is still one dimensional – get a degree, get a job. Everything else is a distraction.

Even though we all know that it is regressive, nobody raises their voice. We go about our lives, hiding in dark places, scrambling for cover when the guard appears, a whistle in mouth, a stick in hand.

We continue to let ourselves be shepherded around. Like cattle that need to be driven to our homes. Ironically, we are a nation that celebrates Devi the goddess. We celebrate with friends and family, with relatives and children. And yet, in real life, we want our women to be locked up, protected, their wings clipped.

Even more ironically, the protests at BHU were against the molestations that took place on campus. In Modi’s constituency (Bhakts triggered! :D), students are lathi-charged when they protest sexual violence. It’s hilariously tragic. Dudes drive up to your campus and molest a few girls. The girls protest against this and get lathi-charged by the police in the night. Achhe din, achhe raat.

But don’t worry about that. We are getting Bullet trains, Demonetisation was a success, keep your women indoors, and link your Aadhar to PAN.

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(Featured Image courtesy: NDTV)

Sarathi-Baba-wallpaper

The Rise and Fall of Sarathi Baba

I’ll be honest with you.

I have always wanted to be a Baba. I have the long hair, and the ability to talk for hours. I also possess the innate ability to sound profound while discussing the difference between urad daal and masoor daal.

On a deeper level, growing up in an ashram exposed me to the works of a number of spiritual gurus such as Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Osho and UG. I have giggled at some of their teachings, read through some over and over again, and gaped in wonder at the simplicity of some of their preachings.

So the desire to be a Baba was always there.

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The last few years haven’t been great for Babas. There was Nityananda, who raised a symbolic leg in a private chamber with his devotee. There was Asaram Bapu, who has been convicted of raping two teenage girls. There is of course, Sant Ram Rahim Singh Insaan who has decided to inflict cinematic torture on the world through his films. And finally, that dude in Haryana whose guards started shooting at the police when he was wanted on murder charges.

But these might seem like minor hiccups, as the Baba industry is the second oldest profession in the world. It is only a matter of time before Indians latch on to another Baba.

Sarathi Baba knew all of this.

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Sarathi Baba was the first big mover in the Baba market in Odisha. The market had been fragmented by Satya Sai Baba, Asaram Bapu, the new-age secularism of Shirdi Sai Baba, and the Silent Sect of Sisters – the Brahmakumaris.

However, it was a case of local connect. These were all Babas preaching in Hindi/English. There was a need for local flavour, to activate local language settings. The suave, English speaking Babas like Sadhguru or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar do not attract too many people in Odisha.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

And that’s how Sarathi Baba shot into the limelight.

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Sarathi Baba spoke in Odiya, dressed up in yellow clothes, and bellowed from the television set every morning. While Babas are supposed to stay away from worldly pleasures and generally adopt an ascetic waistline, Sarathi Baba looked like he ate four katoris of gajar halwa a day.

When people dug into his past, it was found that Sarathi Baba used to sell paan in his village and gradually transformed into a yogic guiding light of the state. This gave me a lot of hope for a number of reasons.

Sarathi Baba cooler

You may achieve enlightenment later, but right now, you need Symphony Air Cooler.

Apart from spiritual reasons, one of the reasons was that I kinda look like the dude on the left after a chicken biriyani

The picture on the left is me after a Sunday afternoon chicken biriyani.

In a few years, his devotees began to increase. He released MP3 albums in his Phata Mangeshkar voice, his devotees wore lockets and bracelets with his pudgy face on it. Sarathi Baba opened new branches of his ashram in nearly every city in Odisha, with his main attraction being a cement cow that could give milk!

Please watch the video at your own discretion. It shows honey flowing out of Baba’s feet. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about its authenticity. 

 

While most Babas like to stay away from familial bonds, Sarathi Baba proclaimed to have a son. This young man (quite literally) threw his weight around, and was partially responsible for the earth slipping from its orbital axis.

Life was sailing smoothly for Sarathi Baba, when like most Babas, he decided to take a break.

The plan was simple, he would come to Hyderabad for a few days with a lady friend, chill out in an unknown land, monetise the benefits of being a Baba with all those tax cuts, and return to his holy land. Except for one crucial point.

ALL WAITERS AND BARTENDERS IN HYDERABAD ARE ODIYA.

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It happened before you could say the word ‘motey’. A curious waiter with a smartphone clicked a few pictures of a portly man who bore a striking resemblance to Odisha’s most famous Baba. In the picture, Baba was seen watching TV in the hotel lobby, ordering beer, and biting off chicken with aplomb.

Sarathi Baba Hyderabad hotel photos

It didn’t take long for the pictures to spread like wildfire. The hotel records were thrown open, and it was found that Sarathi Baba had ordered three Kingfisher Strong beers, and chilly chicken. That Baba was not only spreading his wisdom, but also his sperm. The 22 year old girl who had travelled with Baba immediately told the world (from behind a red handkerchief) that she had been harassed and forced to travel with Sarathi Baba.

When Baba travelled back to Bhubaneswar, he was arrested at the airport. It was a sad end to a colourful yellow career that held a lot of promise. Baba’s son was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, and as can be seen from this Pulitzer-winning news byte, often engaged in vices like eating mutton pakoda and looking like Ramesh Powar.

 

Sarathi Baba’s ashrams were seized. Odiya people went back to the much safer Baba Ramdev and his Anulom-Vilom. Sarathi Baba got trolled by Odiya people in strange, weird ways.

Sarathi Baba Audio CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

sarathi-baba-cartoon

Caption says: ‘Whatever people say….DHHO!’

Sarathi Baba protest Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi wondering what he did this time!

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While it might seem comic, the story of Sarathi Baba taught me a few important life lessons. 1. If you become a famous Baba, always go to 5 Star hotels. Or to houses of rich devotees. Not Hotel Sunshine in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. 2. Never order three Kingfisher beers. Nothing good can come off that.

Meanwhile, the Baba market in Odisha sees a Sarathi Baba sized hole, waiting for me to fill it.

JAI SARATHI BABA!

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Manohar-Parrikar1

Culture ke Vulture

In an age when tragic and depressing news hits you everyday, there are some that give you sleepless nights. That make you toss and turn in your bed and curse the stupidity that drives this nation in a mass hysteria.

The CM of Goa Mr. Manohar Partykar announced that in two weeks, Goa will have no more late-night parties. Reasons thrown up were the welfare of old people, and that age-old excuse that works with Fevi-Kwik like efficiency – Indian culture.

As for elderly people getting affected by the loud noise, I don’t even know what to say. It’s Goa, for fuck’s sake, not Sabarimalai. If you’ve spent 60-70 years surviving in India, why would you choose to live near shacks and clubs in Goa? It’s like buying a house near a masjid and complaining about insomnia. But it’s elders we are talking about, and even Pakistan knows that in India, elders are always right. By virtue of passing their sperms to meet eggs, they have automatically risen over logic and questioning.

About the second excuse – Indian Culture – I have lots to say.

Firstly, what the fuck is Indian culture?

India today is the oldest surviving civilisation, with a history dating back to over 5000 years. At which point in history did you decide Indian culture is against partying? What the fuck is Holi, then? When the entire nation descends onto the streets and partakes of a giant orgy of a rave party? And what is Diwali, if not for a nation-wide acid trip – a whole cuntry tripping on sights and sounds?

Who is your point of reference? Do you know for a fact if the Bhils fought off invading forces because of their Techno-house-EDM-BPL music? Or did Aurangzeb have people beheaded for head-banging? Do you know if Ashoka went to sleep at 10 PM every night? How the fuck can someone throw in ‘Indian culture’ for every single argument?

I am wary of political leaders who have been deified by mainstream media. Manohar Partykar is an IIT-ian who leads the simple life. He has no criminal cases against him (Wah!Taj) and travels using economy class and public transport. Which is great! Shabaash! Fifty points to Slytherin.

But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get called out for his bullshit.

A great person doesn’t make a great politician. Look at Kapil Dev’s stint as coach of the Indian cricket team. When Sachin Tendulkar entered the field everyday feeling like the gladiator in the film The Gladiator. Or even Govinda, who danced into people’s hearts in his movies, but moonwalked the fuck out of his constitutional responsibilities.

As it is, Goa is the only proper party place in the entire country. Doesn’t it strike you as absurd? The 7th largest country in the world, with the 2nd largest number of people has ONE party place!

It’s not like DJs are setting up rave parties at Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. It’s not like the Dalai Lama got caught with cocaine, pills and stamps. Then what pray, is the logic behind this ban on late night parties?

If you’ve been to Goa in the last few years and spoken to locals there, you’ll know that Goa has been witnessing a steady decline in foreign tourists. With rising disposable income and the benefits of capitalism, young Indians in Goa far outnumber foreigners. It’s their only place to party, but Uttam IIT Purush has other ideas!

That is my problem with the BJP. Their idea of development and growth comes with a caveat – the development will be on our terms. We decide what you eat, what you wear, who you make love to – else fuck off! Go vote for Congress.

The multitude of BJP fans across social media will NEVER call out their party for their bullshit, but will share links of how Modi swatted away flies with his balls on his Vietnam tour. If you cannot grow a spine to criticise your party and leaders when they goof up, you’re not a fan. You’re fucking sheep.

But who will bell the tiger? Who will call out the CM for his myopic, Islamic view of the world? Nobody. Why? Because he is an IIT-ian who travels by economy class! Every single debate follows a single trajectory-

Me: That is bullshit. How can you decide what’s right for the people?
BJP Sheep: Andhera Kaayam Rahe…
Me: Don’t you realise that mixing religion with politics is disastrous? It has never worked out, for any country, in the history of human civilisation…
BJP Sheep: Shakti shakti shaktimaan…shakti shakti shaktimaan…Adbhut adhamya saahas ki…
Me: …?
BJP Sheep: Fucking go vote for Congress, then!

Even after 70 years as a democracy, after surviving demonic dictators and dynastic politics, all our political acumen has boiled down to whataboutery. How does one explain to them that electoral politics is not like going to a paan dabba to buy smokes. It’s not like Gold Flake nahi hai toh main beedi pee lunga.

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Or may be in his own twisted way, the CM of Goa is following Indian culture in its truest form. A 61 year old deciding what’s right for 20 year-olds, is well and truly Indian culture.

So kiss your Goa plans goodbye, guys! And book those tickets to Thailand. Spend all that glorious demonetised money in another country, because clubs and shacks in Goa are run by evil ISI agents and beef-eating aliens.

Because if you party after 10 PM,

Uncle police bulaa lenge,
Uncle police bulaa lenge,
Uncle police bulaa lenge,
Par development yun hi chalegi.

Party all night till 10 PM 
Party all night till 10 PM 
Party all night  till 10 PM 
We do party all night  till 10 PM

 

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(Featured Image courtesy: www.askIITiansblog.com)

Irom Sharmila NDTV

Will Irom Sharmila purchase her groceries?

When Irom Sharmila won a meager 90 votes in the recent Assembly elections in Manipur, she elicited two distinct reactions.

One, was liberals guilt-tripping the people of Manipur for not voting Irom Sharmila to power. The second reaction, mostly from right-wingers, was to mock her guts, to call her a media-created goddess. Irom Sharmila, who had spoken of her desire to get married, have children and lead a normal life after the elections, vowed never to contest elections ever again.

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

Irom Sharmila (not ‘Iron’ Sharmila as a lot of people confuse her as) began her fast in the year 2000. Hrithik Roshan had made his debut and his film was still playing in some theatres. Govinda was a popular actor, and the Internet and mobile phones had just made inroads into India’s cities.

Her fast began on Nov. 3, 2000 and was triggered by the gunning down of 10 civilians while waiting for a bus. She demanded the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, that has been in force since 1958. Ironically, AFSPA owes its roots to the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942, enforced by the British to quell the ‘Quit India’ movement.

The AFSPA gives the state extraordinary powers in order to retain the peace and harmony of the land. Currently enforced in five of the seven North-eastern states and Kashmir (and temporarily in Punjab), the nitty-gritties of AFSPA have been debated for decades now. 

Under AFSPA, congregations are illegal, the forces have the right to search, frisk, raid, arrest, interrogate and shoot at sight suspects without citing any reason or warrant. The Act also provides protection to the armed forces, as the steps taken are purported to be to in good faith. The Central Government’s intervention is needed for any prosecution of the armed forces/officers.

Times Of India

Times Of India

Since it was enforced in 1958, there have been a number of humanitarian mishaps attributed to the armed forces. There have been reviews, promises to repeal AFSPA in parts, commissions set up by Central governments to analyse the impact of the Act, and a number of extra-judiciary killings have been reported, in a country with a recurring judicial killings problem. It must be remembered that AFSPA can be repealed by the state governments, as seen in Punjab and Tripura, which successfully lifted AFSPA from their states.

IROM SHARMILA’S FAST

Irom Sharmila’s protest, where she vowed not to eat, drink or cut her hair till AFSPA was repealed in Manipur completely, made her the world’s longest hunger striker. Support and awards flowed in, editorials and interviews continued to be published in her name.

Irom Sharmila’s name featured in quizzes, GK Refresher booklets, posters in universities, and articles by foreign correspondents in India. For 16 years, Irom Sharmila presented herself in court every two weeks. For 16 years, Irom Sharmila protested against AFSPA and demanded its removal. It was a unique protest, one woman taking on the system through nonviolent means for 16 years.

Somewhere along the 16 years, her family turned its back on her. Somewhere along the 16 years, she fell in love with a man and got engaged to him. Somewhere along the line, support for her within Manipur reduced, with even death threats sent out for her choice in partner. For 16 years, Irom Sharmila was confined to a hospital ward, tubes running through her body as she was force-fed by the state since it is illegal to take one’s life.

And then, on August 9, 2016, Irom Sharmila decided to end her fast, and contest electoral politics.

DIFFERENT BALLGAME

In spite of offers from a few political parties, Irom Sharmila decided to fight it out alone.

She vowed to repeal AFSPA in Manipur if elected as the CM, and took on Okram Ibobi Singh, three time Chief Minister who was nicknamed ‘Mr. Ten Percent’ for every deal signed in the state, according to a leak by Wikileaks.

While it might have been a courageous move, it reeked of political immaturity. Politics, unlike people’s movements, is a different ballgame. No amount of visibility, experience or public life can guarantee political victory. It’s like Sachin Tendulkar competing in Table Tennis – he has to start from the basics all over again!

A protest is based on foundations of ideals, beliefs and devotion to an idea. Politics is based on nothing at all. No ideals, no principles, just numbers. Cold statistics. Going with the Congress was out of question, as the INC was in power for 10 of Irom Sharmila’s protest years. Partnering with BJP was impossible as it is the ruling party at the Centre.

Irom Sharmila formed her own party – People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance and took on the Chief Minister in his own den. On paper, it was a victory for the movement – the face of a movement who entered the political arena to take the battle to the domain of electoral politics. JP Narayan did it in 1977, as the nation bent under the Emergency enforced by Indira Gandhi. More recently, Arvind Kejriwal stormed to power, winning nearly every single seat in the Delhi Assembly elections. So it certainly wasn’t the first time.

But it had had happened too suddenly, and seven months in politics is equal to the blink of an eye. JP’s campaign was built from the grassroots through hundreds of rallies and arrests. Kejriwal’s routing at the Delhi elections came on the back of a nation-wide anti-corruption campaign that hogged headlines for weeks at stretch. Irom Sharmila got the support of intelligentsia, Kejriwal (who also gave her Rs. 50,000) and supporters in social media, magazines and journals.

Unfortunately though, India does not vote in the boardrooms of newspaper offices, or in university campuses. India votes in its zillas and gram panchayats. In government schools and lanes of roads wide and narrow. In government ration shops and dispensaries, in farms and factories, in huts and houses.

Irom Sharmila won only 90 votes. There were more NOTA (None of the above) votes than the votes she won. After 16 years, Irom Sharmila jumped on to a different domain and lost a heartbreaking election. Articles, memes and editorials guilted the people of Manipur for not choosing Irom Sharmila.

16 years of protests, brought to an end by one false move.

Irom Sharmila swore never to contest elections again. She fought the system for 16 years, but the world has changed in these 16 years.

Perhaps Irom Sharmila will get to lead a regular life now. Perhaps she will get married and have kids like she professed a few years ago. May be Irom Sharmila will get to enjoy the joys of regular life, of marital bliss, the reassuring banalities of everyday married life. Or will she?

Will Irom Sharmila lead a regular life? Is it possible to dive right back into a life that one gave up nearly two decades ago? Will Irom Sharmila be able to cook for herself and take an afternoon siesta?

Will Irom Sharmila buy her groceries?

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Featured Image Courtesy: NDTV

Recommended Reading:

Armed Forces Special Powers Act – The Debate. By Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

AFSPA – A Soldier’s Perspective

arunabhkumar-kSQE--621x414@LiveMint

TVF Snitchers

Ever since YouTube became a household necessity in India, if there’s one group that has revolutionised content consumption across the nation, it is TVF. The Viral Fever began in 2010, and in a couple of years, was churning out videos that were surging through YouTube Top 10 lists.

They were fresh, brazen, and irreverent. And unlike their biggest competitors – AIB – they were not a bunch of elite South Bombay dudes telling the nation how to behave. TVF’s videos, sketches, and webseries have now become a part of pop-culture folklore. Look at the comments on YouTube and you find content-thirsty youngsters baying for the next episode.

While India’s Startup story is much feted and celebrated, the sad truth is that the biggest Indian startups are simply clones of Western organisations. Ola, Flipkart, Oyo Rooms simply brought to the Indian population an idea that already existed in the West. TVF, however, was the unique Indian startup story. A bunch of IITians venturing into the archaic, nepotistic Indian entertainment industry to shake it up.

As a subscriber, you could be assured there was a fresh video in your list every week. In a nation with the largest youth population in the world, TVF revolutionised content creation in three major ways. 1. They recognised the apathy that youngsters harboured towards mainstream TV and films. 2. TVF placed their bets on a huge Indian population with YouTube on their phones and time on their hands. 3. They foresaw the entry of content platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar, and successfully created their own platform for content.

TVF’s primary target audience is the youth of the country – embarrassed by soap operas, and a little jaded by Netflix and Torrents. A population starving for local content, for there’s only so much pasta one can eat! TVF’s web series – Pitchers, Tripling, and (my favourite) The Making Of…have achieved cult status online. In a country where the most popular TV show features three men dressed as women, TVF provided humour that didn’t make youngsters cringe, or change the channel in disgust. Slowly but surely, TVF was elevated from just a YouTube channel, to a youth icon.

Which is why the allegations against Arunabh Kumar are so shocking. What began as an anonymous blog has grown to more than 50 allegations from different women. 50 allegations is no joke, and puts one in the company of Amrish Puri in Vishwatma. However, there is one sad truth in the entire case.

The court of law does not recognise blogs, Twitter threads or Facebook debates. For any action to be taken, an FIR will have to be lodged. Without that, there might be some loss of reputation, a few people might uninstall the TVF app, but it will be business as usual.

I do not agree with the call to ban TVF in totality. TVF is more than just Arunabh – TVF is Nidhi Bisht and Biswapati Sarkar, and Jeetu and Naveen, and all those wonderful people who run the channel – a bunch of 20 somethings who dared to shatter the nepotism and bureaucracy that passes off in the name of the Indian entertainment industry.

How TVF reacts to this case will go a long way in crystallising the perception of workplace sexual harassment in India for a long, long time. If action is taken on the basis of evidence and facts, it will be seen as hope in the minds of millions of young women of the country. If Kumar walks free, it will be seen as a victory of clout over doubt.

Trial by social media is a dangerous trend, and the last year witnessed two such massive cases. The case of the biker who abused an AAP volunteer, and the Delhi Metro policeman who was suspended for being drunk, whereas he had a heart attack – these are disturbing trends. I would like to reserve my judgement till the time there’s an actual FIR lodged.

It is difficult, and the lady who does it has to put a lot on the line. But like most of life’s tough decisions, there’s simply no other choice. It remains to be seen if TVF remains The Viral Fever. Or it comes to mean The Vulture’s Free.

Like Shah Rukh Khan says in his movies, FIR milenge, chalte chalte!

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(Featured image courtesy: LiveMint)

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Why do we allow Shiv Sena – MNS to bully us?

When Bal Thackeray passed away, I remember being thoroughly amused by the huge amounts of sympathy being poured out on social media. Not by Maharashtrians, or those who enjoyed any real benefits from living under his regime. But by people who grew up elsewhere, and were in no way affected by his policies, principles, or tenures.

I still don’t understand the Shiv Sena’s contribution to nation-building. I remember being enraged that a teenage girl was arrested on the basis of a Facebook post condemning the blocking of roads. I mean, if your greatness is shaken by a teenager’s Facebook post…

But one of the points raised by the fanboys was that Bal Thackeray was a strong leader who ‘stood up to Pakistan’. An interesting choice of words, because in India, when people say Pakistan, they surreptitiously mean ‘Muslims’. But even ignoring that, how really did Bal Thackeray stand up to Pakistan?

Did he personally pick, train, and send a specialist team of commandos to Pakistan? Did he bring into place groundbreaking policy and advocacy that changed people’s lives? Did he alter the fabric of the nation through his thoughts, ideas and laws?

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What the Shiv Sena did essentially, was throw a fit of tantrum. Remember that fat kid in school who would throw his geometry box around? Shiv Sena was that kid. Throughout their inception, they have run hate campaigns against communities, ethnicities, regions and languages. They have instituted a culture of beating people up, threatening them with dire consequences, and holding up law and order because Democracy is merely a cow from their father’s village.

Shiv Sena celebrates 50 years in 2016, and their history is studded with a range of ‘outsider villains’ – Communists in the 60s, ‘Madrasis’ in the 70s, UP-Biharis in this decade, and Pakistanis since their inception. Bal Thackeray has been indicted in criminal activities, provoking violence and riots, and yet, the man went to jail just once. A party that was created to uphold the interests of the local Marathis of Bombay, has become a backstreet bully without a sense of humour. How ironic that their founder started his career as a political cartoonist!

And when their voice isn’t heard, they go about behaving like a 4 year old girl on cocaine – break shops, smash hotels, vandalise media outlets – just do whatever the fuck they want till people listen to you. And if they don’t give in to your tantrums, just dig up the cricket pitch where the Test match is to be played. I mean, who benefited from that act?

Rashid Latif.

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This went on for decades, and has slowly seeped into other states and organisations too. The idea of violent protests has become a part of our mainstream. Take for instance the recent protests by Gujjars for reservations, or Kannadigas for Cauvery water. Or the true heir of Bal Thackeray – the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena – the only political party in the world with its foundations built on the principles of Sunny Deol in Ghayal. The modus operandi is one that is patented by the Shiv Sena – smash public property like it is your own advance dowry supply.

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These dudes have spent their entire political journey smashing things up. When was the last time you heard an MNS politician make a sensible statement? Or bring about any change in any real way? All these guys do is fret and burn, fuss and smash – just a bunch of pusillanimous dickheads.

It is shocking that no party ever takes any action against them. The Congress party didn’t do it because their entire bunch of leaders were doing Lingaabhishekam to Rahul Gandhi. And the ruling BJP won’t do it because it won’t get them 1700 gazillion dollars investment from Germany.

Why do we tolerate political parties like the Shiv Sena and MNS? Why do we give them the freedom to do what they please with the country? May be because we as a race are passive, we let things be. Which is why they know they can get away with it. What else could be the reason?

We have a fully functional police force, judiciary, law and order system, and yet nobody stands up to these bullies. It’s a democracy, motherfuckers! Not Raj Thackeray’s Bachelor Party. Who is he to decide that every film producer should pay 5 crores to the Army fund? I mean, what the fuck is going on?

MNS is a fringe party in Maharashtra, has no fucking role in our nation as such – why do we accord them so much importance? The Shiv Sena has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 3 in the Rajya Sabha. Guess how many seats the MNS won in the 2014 Assembly Elections?

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Bobby Deol has double the number of hits in his career. Why are these parties taken so seriously? In spite of laws against vandalism, against disrupting the peace of the land, no party ever takes any action against them. Arnab Goswami never calls an MNS leader to his show because that would require actual balls – living, pumping sockets of scrotum that are not needed when you bring people to your show and shout at them.

The legacy of Bal Thackeray, for all his achievements, will essentially remain the firm entrenchment of chaos politics in India. Of letting loose goons on the road to silence and scare people – the lowliest form of realpolitik that one can adopt in the 21st century.

For all their hatred of Pakistan and Muslim countries, the Shiv Sena and MNS are the closest resemblance to Islamic fundamentalism in India. Their ideology is driven from the same racial superiority that makes Pakistan the failed state that it is today. It’s high time someone spoke up against these bullies. Showed them their negligible position in the nation’s scheme of things.

You might sit silent today. You might be too far removed from their politics in everyday life. But the poison of mob frenzy spreads quickly. And before you know it, a dumbass is smashing your car because Bipasha Basu’s cat ate fish on Karva Chauth.

You can choose to remain silent. But I’m going to say it.

Dear Shiv Sena and MNS,

You guys are high school bullies who refuse to grow up. You pick on the weakest, the outsiders, the fragile, simply because nobody wants to bother commenting on your brainless antics. You guys are fucking pussies. 

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Odiya guys, you need to calm the fuck down!!

If you haven’t been following Markandeya Katju on social media, you aren’t missing much.

The former Chief Justice of India is a man with lively ideas, and doesn’t believe in mincing words. He strikes me as a 70 year old man who loves to talk, and has finally discovered a platform to communicate. Some of his opinions are progressive, some loony, and some amusing.

As part of Mr. Katju’s social media discourses, somebody nudged him for an opinion on Odiya people, and the man had this to say:

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What followed was…

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Well, surprise surprise, assholes!! If there’s one thing we love as Indians, it is taking offence. There is something about offence that draws us all towards it, like bees to a flower, like ants to sugar, like Fardeen Khan to a line of coke. 

Indian man taking offence. Www.heartranjan.com

When a journalist asked for my opinion, I was actually taken aback. Are you kidding me? An old man ranting on Facebook is now to be discussed and debated over? Some people burnt his effigy, slapped his photograph with many pairs of Khadim chappals and sandals, and dared him to enter the state.

I didn’t know if I should laugh, or bury my sorrows in a quarter of Director’s Special Premium XXX Whiskey. IT WAS A JOKE, GUYS. It clearly says so in the post. The man was having some fun – just let him be!

Which brings me to my second point. We attach too much importance to Facebook. Facebook has been fairly popular in India for about 8 years now, and one’d expect we’d take it for what it is – a glorified Orkut. But – nope! We take Facebook too fucking seriously.

In case you got outraged, here’s a subtle hint.

A Facebook post doesn’t mean jack shit. Stop taking it seriously.

A Facebook post means nothing. It has no constitutional weight, nor is it valid in a court of law. It isn’t even an informed opinion – it’s just a rant. Like your grandpa’s opinion on the deteriorating standards of cinema, or your uncle’s unhealthy fascination for Falguni Pathak. It’s the same thing. Earlier, your family members would merely shake their heads and walk away. Today, a million guys receive a notification on their smartphones during their lunch break. But it’s still just a rant.

You’d burn someone’s effigies, and threaten to beat up an old man on the basis of that? Really? Come on, man. I thought we were cool. I thought we might not have a thriving stock exchange, or SpaceX’s next capsule, but we always had a sense of humour.  

I tried reasoning with some people on Facebook about this, when I was met with a very learned question.

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Arey, what did he even say, man? That the poor chaps got dejected after getting a thrashing from Ashoka. And then proceeded to perform a rather lame wordplay pun on the words Patra and Mahapatra. Who gives a shit? Did that offend you guys?? Seriously? In Twenty Fucking Sixteen??

Have you looked around you? We live in troubled times. There are children beheading people in front of a camera in the name of God. Planes are being burst, crowds being run over. People are being called infidels, faithless bastards, traitors and animals. People wake up to suffering and beheadings and explosions, nations are exploding on the basis of tweets. And this Facebook post enraged you? Are you fucking kidding me??

Haven’t we all cracked Sardar jokes? Imagine if every time a Sardar joke was cracked, they took up arms and burnt effigies. That’s never going to happen because…1984. Or how about the whole ‘Marwari kanjoos hai’ jokes? Or the vast repository of ‘Madrasi sambhar peeyega’ jokes? Or those splendid ‘Bihari ganwaar’ range?

We have grown up making fun of people, being made fun of. As someone who has been performing stand up, and writing humour for about ten years now, I always took great pride in my sense of humour. That I belong to a community of people that can take a joke with grace. And then slam you down with a joke so vitriolic, you’d want to run back into your mother’s womb, asshole!

One of the first times my mind was blown was when I heard an explicit version of Ramayan in a hamlet near Berhampore. It wasn’t a YouTube video, or an MP3 track. Just oral renditions of the entire gist of Ramayana, involving foul language, delicious sarcasm, and unholy punchlines. I remember gaping in wonder, that such a healthy practice was still alive, and practiced by ‘palla’ dancers – traditional travelling stand up comedians (who didn’t get paid too much).

We were a cool state. Let’s worry about the real issues, my friend. Of which we know there are many. Let the old man rant. We need to calm the fuck down.

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. 

Pic: Dawn.com

The origins of ‘Fuck off to Pakistan!’

‘Fuck off’ has been the nation’s war cry for a long time now.

It is not due to the Surgical Strike in Kashmir or the ‘Sir jee, kal strike’ in Kolkata. For a while now, we have been obsessed with kicking people out. 

The sentiment is not restricted to nationality and jingoism. We do it among ourselves too. Pioneers of this school of thought are the two Senas in Maharashtra – Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Right from the attacks against ‘Madrasis’ 30 years ago, to the present day, they have been playing the ‘Fuck off’ game to stellar effect.

Those who cannot speak Marathi fuck off to your own states. Biharis fuck off from Mumbai. Pakistani cricketers fuck off to your country, or we’ll dig up the pitch – which if you think about it, doesn’t do much good for anybody. If the Shiv Sena really wanted to win the nation’s approval, they should have dug up the pitch just a little. Just enough for Anil Kumble to razzmatazz the fuck out of Pakistani batsmen, dismissing them for 73 runs. That would have been smart, but alas! – Shiv Sena.

But it is not just them. Other ‘Fuck off’ situations are those between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Two seemingly developed, mature states that produced stately statesmen like Javagal Srinath and S. Venkataraghavan. The two states have been asking people to fuck off to their own states with the recent Cauvery imbroglio. Telangana people wanted Andhra people to fuck off, Kannada people wanted North-easterns to fuck off. Kashmiri separatists committed an entire genocide to ask Pundits to fuck off. Our primeval response to conflict is ‘Bhai, bahut ho gaya. Ab tum nikal lo’.

Then there is the case of social media and popular opinion. A comment that doesn’t fit the mould of a patriotism is met with – Fuck off to Pakistan. Criticism of The Leader elicits the cry to fuck off. An alternate opinion, and you’re asked to fuck off. Criticise a God, and you’re asked to fuck off.

I do not insinuate that we are the only country with such reactions. Our neighbours across the border have fancy protest too.

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. Pic: Dawn.com

Like these brothers who couldn’t spell ‘Israel’ because their struggle is rael. They’re also not particularly fond of the card game Uno.
Pic: Dawn.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan 'Go India, Go back' makes you wonder if they're egging us on, or egging us out. Pic: www.latimes.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan ‘Go India, Go back’ makes you wonder if they’re egging us on, or egging us out.
Pic: www.latimes.com

But what really is this obsession with ‘Leave our land’?

Is this an inherently Indian phenomenon? Has it somehow been ingrained into our consciousness?

I think it has to do with the way our families and societies are constructed. We as a culture live with our parents and the cruelest punishment is to banish the child from the house.

Our greatest stories, our oldest epics – from Ramayan to Devdas, involve a son being asked to leave the house. Our films and our novels further propagate this idea.

And perhaps that has seeped into the way we think. Perhaps that is why we as a nation are obsessed with kicking people out of our country, our states, and our screens. The reasons may vary, the conflicts may be diverse, but the response is standard – Nikal lo.

But when there’s a war, or a question raised on our nation, we all stand together. The Bihari banished from Mumbai and the Kannada banished from Chennai. We get together and ask the new enemy to leave the nation. May be ‘ghar se nikal jao’ is a big deal for us. Perhaps it has become our first response.

As the K3G soundtrack plays in the distance, I notice that we had a traitor living amongst us all these days. Time for me to do what I must. 

Tanushree Dutta endorsing Multani mitti. Fuck off to Pakistan, Tanushree Dutta! #PeopleWhoShouldFuckOffToPakistan

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

The only film title to have TWO grammatical errors in it.

Word of the Month (March’16) : Anti-National

The word has often given me a lot of trouble.

But before I go on to dissect it, I would like to clarify a few points so that we are on the same page (I love that phrase – Hey, are we on the same page? Yes, but it’s a different book. Oh, shit!)

What does the term ‘Nationalist’ really mean?

The dictionary defines it as an unwavering, unfaltering devotion to the nation’s cause, a firm belief in the fortunes of the nation. But here, I’d like to raise a question. Does believing that ‘India is the best country’ constitute nationalism?

Also, how does one go about this loyalty? Are we all by default expected to believe that the nation we were born in is the best nation in the world? By that logic, people in Syria must also believe that theirs is the best nation in the world. As must people in Burundi, Niger, and Malawi.

My second question is this – how is a nationalist supposed to view the nation’s faults? In the event of a nationalist being displeased with an aspect of the nation, how does he/she express it? Is a nationalist allowed to criticise the nation? Or does one’s nationalism blind one to the faults of the nation?

Is a Nationalist expected to only speak of the nation’s positives? If at all a negative aspect was mentioned, does one cease to be a Nationalist? For eg, two people who have lived all their lives in Dubai, are asked about their opinion on the place.

The first person, a man, says that he loves Dubai as it has the best hotels, swanky cars, and the glitziest malls in the entire world. The second person, a woman, says it’s all good, but she hates the fact that she isn’t allowed to drive a car or go for a walk by herself.

Is the man the Nationalist? Or the woman Anti-nationalist?

Why is it that when a doctor points out a problem with our bodies, we pay the person respect and money. But if someone points out a problem with the nation, he/she is automatically anti-national? Is the doctor considered anti-human??

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If I ask myself the above questions in a completely objective manner, I don’t think I qualify as a Nationalist.

For one, it was a matter of chance that I was born in India.

I mean, I didn’t choose to be born here. It wasn’t destiny or any of the bullshit that films and songs make us believe. The fact is, I was born in India without my choice. Does that mean I am forced to believe that my nation is the greatest? So people in Bangladesh must believe that there’s is the greatest nation in the world as well, right?

So is this Nationalism a ritualistic phenomenon? Is it religious in nature?

Do I feel proud of being born in India? I am not very sure.

I am proud of things I did, I achieved, I created. How can I be proud of something I had NO role to play in? I was born on a Friday, and I’m not really proud of it; it just happened.

I feel a sense of silent pride that we as a nation haven’t descended into chaos. Look at all our neighbours, and you get the sense of chaos that we could have descended into. I am proud of the fact that India managed to uphold its basic constitutional principles for so long. It gives me great satisfaction that we have (in most ways) managed to live with each other in spite of our differences and diversity, that we have kept refueling the engine of democracy that keeps our nation chugging along.

But I’m not proud of EVERYTHING about our nation – that would be lying. I hate the fact that we as a nation still believe in the caste system. In spite of all our Ekta and Shobha, behind the curt smiles and folded hands, our parents still shamelessly subscribe to the system.

I hate the fact that in most parts of the nation, women can’t walk around freely. That as an average citizen of India, you’re given shitty government amenities, and your entire life is a race to earn enough to bypass the need for government services like education, food, water, housing, and healthcare.

I like a few things about my country, and a few things make my blood boil. So where does that place me?

Am I a nationalist? Am I an anti-national? Or semi-national?

The only film title to have TWO grammatical errors in it.

                The only film title to have TWO grammatical errors in it.

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Which brings me to the issue of Kanhaiya Kumar in recent times. When he was branded an anti-national and asked to leave the nation. It’s been a trend of sorts. Chipmunks with access to internet and a keyboard, asking people to leave the nation – whether it is Kanhaiya Kumar, or Aamir Khan, or Javed Akhtar.

Firstly, WHO THE FUCK are you to ask someone to leave the nation?

Did you do a tapasya for a thousand years to gain the rare privilege of being in India? Nope!

Your parents had sex, some random sperms traveled from Point A to Point B, and you were born here. So shut the fuck up! You can’t ask everybody with a different opinion to leave!

This is a nation we are talking about, not fucking Bansal’s Chemistry Coaching Classes!!

*

I don’t believe India is the greatest nation in the world. If you believe it is, you’re either supremely dumb, or you blindly consume the stuff that fat politicians and psychotic journalists peddle on television everyday. A few things about our nation are awesome, and a few things suck donkey balls. That’s just the way it is, and my loyalty to my nation doesn’t change those basic facts.

If I look at where I stand in terms of the above questions, I realise I am certainly no nationalist.

And neither are you, dear orangutan with a keyboard and an internet connection. You have absolutely no right to ask someone else to leave the nation, because you’ve done ZILCH to earn the right in the first place. A few thousand kilometres this way or that, and you could’ve been born in Pakistan or Bangladesh. So shut the fuck up about your patriotism already!

You didn’t choose to be born in India. Neither did Mahatma Gandhi, or Narendra Damodardas Modi. It just happened that they were born here, that’s all.

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I’m sorry, but blindly believing that your country is the greatest in the world doesn’t amount to nationalism.

There’s a term for it – Jingoism.

North Korea tells its citizens that they live in the greatest nation in the world, and they all firmly believe it. At one point, a certain someone worked on the same principle – that Germany is the greatest country in the entire world.

The fact is, every great movement in the world was at some point anti-nationalist. The fight for civil liberties in the USA, the fight to end slavery, the fight for equal rights, they were all concepts seen as being ‘against the nation’s interest’ at some point.

Every single political hero in the world – be it Gandhi, or Mandela, or Che, or Malcolm X, or Ambedkar – they were all hawking ideas that were seen as ‘dangerous’ to the nation’s ‘fabric’ at some point of time. But shutting them off because they dared to question the status quo would have been foolish, wouldn’t it?

Should we follow Nationalism as a religion, then? Should it be sacrosanct, unquestionable, unshakable, like Isl  the world’s favourite religion?

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I have mixed feelings about being an Indian.

I have some hope, and some despair. And frankly, active citizenry is not about chest-thumping and sharing shady links on Facebook. It is about raising uncomfortable questions, and trying to find solutions for them. To blindly believe ki hum best hai, no matter what – is not nationalism. It is a flavour of religious fanaticism.

If you ask me to shut up and leave the country for criticizing India, you need to go enroll yourself in Bansal’s Chemistry Coaching classes.

They need people like you there!