Archive for ‘News Stories’

February 6, 2010

So what if My Name is Khan??


Let me begin with a story. Once there was a Tiger. The Tiger used to unofficially control the city of Bombay (the Tiger and his cubs prefer Mumbai) sitting inside his den. Once in a while he would appear in public gatherings and sit on his royal throne to give royal upadesha. He also owned a newspaper called Samna and roared from its editorial columns once in a while. He never mixed with other lowly creatures. How could he? After all he was the Tiger. But even though the Tiger never fraternized with the lowly creatures and was always surrounded by his Mantrigan, his heart always bled for the plight of those lowly creatures. Or did it really? Never mind. The point being, the Tiger and his Praja lived happily. Of course some monkeys who didn’t support him had to be eliminated here and there. But it was ok because the Tiger was Sarkar.

But one day the Tiger realized that he was getting old and was losing his power. And so he decided to appoint a successor for himself. And that was a problem, because his own cub, who he wanted to become the successor didn’t have any tiger like qualities. He was actually a sheep. And the cub who indeed have tiger like qualities was his nephew, his brother’s cub or Junior Tiger. Torn apart by the dilemma, the Tiger became weaker and weaker, untill one day he realized that the Junior Tiger was smarter than he had thought and had decided to become a Tiger on his own. Meanwhile the Sheep became the successor after Tiger retired and found it extremely difficult to maintain his Sarkar Raj.

And so one fine day the Sheep decided to wear the mask of Tiger and fight with the Junior Tiger who was gaining popularity on his own. But then a sheep is a sheep and can’t become a Tiger even if he wears a mask. So the Sheep became desperate and started throwing tantrums just to show that he was the Tiger in the making. But how long can he fool people with his mask?

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven’t understood till now, this was the tale of two cousins Raj and Uddhav Thackeray and their patriarch, Balasaheb Thackeray. And this post is about the latest controversy on the Sena front. And two icons who fanned it. Lets discuss them one by one.

SRK Controversy

The first one is about Shahrukh Khan and why others have a problem if he says “My Name is Khan.” Let me be brutally frank here. It was SRK only who had started this controversy months ago when he tried to gain milage by making an issue out of non issue and claimed that he was detained at Newark Airport in US for two hours for a silly reason, his name. But is he the only only one to be detained at a US airport. Wasn’t President Kalam also frisked by the staff of an american airline? That too in New Delhi. And Kalam was the President of India? And not just Kalam after 9/11 many Indians have been subjected to strict security checks and harassment by US airport officials. But how many of them cried fowl in the Indian media? But SRK happily gave exclusive sound bytes to media folks, who otherwise have to struggle getting a word out of him. Isn’t something fishy here. I think there is.

I win I win!

Then again recently he made statements about Pakistani Cricket players, which we all know. And Uddhav Thakeray’s Shiv Sena which is on the lookout for issues (even if silly) these days to gain milage out of it, latched on to it and made it a mega issue. So the Sainiks have now decided to protest against the screening of “My Name is Khan.” Other politicians got a chance to bake their own cakes in this melee and media got a chance to take a break from cats and dogs and aliens and give some real news.

Now it all boils down to two controversies being started by SRK before the release of his movie My Name is Khan. Now you may join the media circus and claim that SRK has become a real life hero. The whole nation, cutting across party lines, and ideologies is supporting him for his “brave” stance. Bollywood which has been quiet till now, is openly supporting him now. Slaman Khan says SRK doesn’t need to apologize to anyone. Or you may question, like me, as to why SRK does his acts of bravado before the release of his films. Is this just an act of spontaneous outburst (I would be glad if it were just that. It is high time someone taught Shiv Sena a lesson) or a calculated move to gain publicity (which is what I have a problem with, because if that is the case then we are all being taken for a ride). There are no definite answers to this question. Since we don’t know the truth, we can only speculate.

Rahul Gandhi and the Marathi Manoos

Rahul Gandhi claimed in Bihar that Biharis have helped save Bombay from terrorists and that sparked another controversy, the details of which you already know. Whether Rahul Gandhi’s statements hurt the pride of Marathi Manoos (I live with three Marathi roommates  in the den of Shiv Sena and I didn’t see anyone pride being hurt) I don’t know for sure. But what it did was to give The Sheep another plank to become a Tiger. Living in a city like Bombay with a surname like Pandey has made me see things up, close and personal. And my understanding says that Shiv Sena has lost its teeth. And doesn’t deserve to roar.

So imagine my delight when I see Rahul Baba cruising through the streets of Bombay in the heartland of Shiv Sena and mixing freely with the Marathi Manoos, which Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, even though he lives in Bombay, had never done. And this was against the threat of Shiv Sena. So is this show of protest by Rahul Gandhi spontaneous? No, its well calculated. But then it should be because Rahul is a politician and it his job to create issues. What is admirable is Rahul’s decision to do what he did. He has shown Shiv Sena its right place and I love that.

The result of both these controversies?

Well, we have found two new heroes, SRK and Rahul Gandhi and everybody is chanting the mantra of nationalism and unity. So in a crooked way both these controversies have helped the cause of Indian Nationalism, and a movie called My Name is Khan.

January 8, 2010

Indo-Pak Joint Anthem?!


Ok, first let’s get the news. Then I will get down to my perspectives, most of which will be uncomfortable for many, but true nevertheless.

India’s Times of India group and Pakistan’s Jung group have jointly decided to create a new “anthem” for India and Pakistan written by Gulzar and sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The song called “Nazar Me Rehte” is part of “Aman Ki Asha: Destination Peace, the cultural and emotional people to people initiative” (as they call it) by both the media groups. According to TOI “Aman ki Asha seeks to build bridges between the two nations, 63 years after partition.” Click here for the complete TOI story.

Yeah, right! With all due respect to Gulzar, Shankar Mahadevan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan,  who are absolutely brilliant artists, this one is yet another sentimental gimmick by TOI which prides itself on taking initiatives on social issues but which publishes gossip in its newspapers in the name of news, because gossip sells. Lead India, Teach India, Vote India, loads of money spent on ads for these, hours of public debate and the end result in terms of societal change? Zilch. So brace yourself for yet another ad campaign which will bring you to tears (I have kept one here as a sample), and will convince you that both the countries are finally coming together. And TOI will publish reports on how its initiative is changing the world. But at the end of all its self praise (which it does brilliantly) and publicity and hopefully a couple of Cannes Lions (which seems to be one of its real objectives behind these campaign after the success with Lead India), whether there will really be any change (don’t trust the TOI news machine for this), is still under doubt.

Which brings me to a very important and serious issue:  according to me the only serious way of bringing India and Pakistan closer is by creating more awareness of the life of common man in both the countries, without any of the biases, jingoism or sentimentalism involved. The solution is not absolute hatred or absolute love, the solution lies in objective and unbiased understanding.

Come to think of it, how much of Pakistan do we really know? I am talking of the real Pakistan, the Pakistan that exists in the streets of Lahore, in the courtyards of Islamabad, in the Mosques of Multan, in the police stations of Rawalpindi, in the skyscrappers of Karachi and in so many other places whose names we don’t even get to know unless a terrorist or a cricketer hails from there. Not all Pakistanis are terrorists and likewise not all Indians are cow worshippers. What is the real essence of both the countries, their culture, industries, infrastructure, people and their livelihoods? And does Aman Ki Asha really intends to do that?

This question brings me to another very important question: even though India and Pakistan share a common (although disputed) border of 2900 kms, are we really neighbours? I know what a neighbour means. Ashok uncle used to be my neighbour in Calcutta. He was fifty years old, his wife was forty five, when I left the city. They have a son and a daughter. Ashok uncle has a peculiar habit of collecting magazines and newspapers and then cutting out articles and pictures and anything from them that catches his imagination. His son did his studies in my school and I know him well. His daughter is married to a fine young man. We helped each other whenever we could. Ashok uncle kept our keys when no one was at home. The point being, we know our neighbours. Between us, we share more than just a wall. Sometimes I think our real neighbour is US even though we are at two different ends of the world. We think like them, we dress like them, we watch their TV shows, we admire and worship their movies (at least I do) and film stars, and we keep looking for the smallest opportunity to go there. We have even started to have sex like them! The fact that even after fifty years we haven’t been able to figure out who our real neighbour is, has been a resounding failure for us. For both of us.

And all that the two biggest media conglomerates from either side can do is sing a song and bring celebrities from either side to say a few lines of peace and friendship! What a scam! Must we always reduce serious issues to trivialities, must we always bring unnecessary sentimentalism where decisive action is required, must we always think of our own interests in the garb of social welfare?

A word of advice to the people running both TOI and Jung: If you are seriously interested in bridging the gap between the people of India and Pakistan, why not set an example of outstanding international journalism and dedicate at least two pages of your newspaper for unbiased reporting on the life and culture of real Pakistan? I would subscribe to the newspaper just to know what my Pakistani brothers and sisters do everyday, to earn their livelihood, what happens in their power corridors and in their corporate boardrooms, how they dress for their festivals and funerals and how they admire their celebrities. Fear and hatred arises because of lack of knowledge of the unknown. We fear and hate darkness because we don’t know what darkness holds within itself. Can we, for a change spread light in the darkness, instead of first promoting darkness as evil and then singing songs and making ads to drive away the evil?

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