From NBT To FTII: Is The BJP Indulging In Political Favouritism?

A few days back, the internet was flooded with news of the apparent unfairness of Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the new chief of the esteemed Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. It took me a moment to piece the face in pictures with that of the mustache-sporting, crown-wearing Yudhisthir who spoke spasht Hindi and had me hooked to the TV every Sunday morning. I spent around 10 fruitless minutes trying to recollect what else he has in his kitty to justify the entrustment of such a big responsibility before I came across an article that explained his political affiliations and – lo behold! I wasn’t in the dark anymore.

Picture Credit: FTII Wisdom Tree
Picture Credit: FTII Wisdom Tree

Interestingly, the phenomenon of political favoritism when it comes to official appointments is not a new one. It is common practice for political parties to pull out the wrong color grass and replace it with the right one – it has been done before and it will be done again. However, nepotism in the field of education is exceptionally lethal and should be done away at any cost.

Educational institutions have, and will continue to be, the breeding grounds for the future citizens of our country. It is here that ideas arise, ideologies are discussed, and studied and impressions formed. Hence, it is of utmost importance that these arenas of knowledge not be limited by any kind of political or religious agenda or arm-twisting. However, this is exactly what the current Government is doing.

First, Baldev Sharma, former editor of RSS mouthpiece ‘Panchjanya‘, was appointed as chairman of the National Book Trust. Then, Vishram Ramchandra Jamdar, a professed RSS swayamsevak, was appointed as the head of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur (although he was not among the four shortlisted candidates for the post), not to forget the much publicized resignation of Dr. Amartya Sen from the helm of Nalanda University, which was followed by the repainting of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) with a cluster of saffron supporters. And now this. Read it all together and you’ll realise that the paranoia and suspicion that greeted the news of Chauhan’s appointment was not uncalled for.

FTII, which had been home to the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Raj Kumar Hirani, to name a few, has long been a space that treats cinema as an art. This is hugely relevant in today’s times than we imagine, because it still adheres to viewing cinema in its hugely multifarious role for social comment, socio-political reflection, and as an important cultural tool that makes sense of the society we live in. Considering the importance of free speech in the constructive criticism of society, the government and the culture in general, it is of utmost importance that the spaces that facilitate the same not be under the shadow of any particular political entity. This is particularly valid in the current scenario where the opposition party (or what is left of it) is as effective as a pen without a nib.

Last that I heard, the FTII students at Pune have launched an indefinite strike against this blatantly political appointment. Taking into consideration the reports that Chauhan was picked ahead of lyricist Gulzar and filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who were apparently shortlisted by the ministry for the top job, this is not surprising. Meanwhile, Chauhan maintains that he doesn’t understand the reasoning behind these ‘blind protests’ and that he is planning to meet the students in person and try and address their concerns.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to mention that the reign of the BJP government has been peppered with controversies of favoritism and U-turns from Day 1, which is amusing since it is for the same that they had pointed fingers, with much gusto, at the earlier government. Needless to say, this is not going to be the last of the many controversies that the ruling party is so very fond of unleashing. In the meantime, as the headline of a leading daily goes, appointment of ‘Yudhishtir‘ has triggered an FTII ‘Mahabharat’”.

(This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz)



It was killing her. Literally killing her. She didn’t know where it was coming from, this fist that was squeezing her chest. This burning in her eyes…oh the burning…if only she could put it off with a flood of tears. But she couldn’t. That she was sure of. It had never been in her to ease the pain with tears. The irony was the pain had an audience within her. A part of her that was standing back, slightly amused, saying “Hmm…so this is how it feels to have loved and lost.

Loved? Is that what she had been doing for the past few days? If that was so, then Gautham Vasudev Menon sure as hell had it wrong. There had been no violins or stolen glances or even a lingering smile. There as sure as hell were no proposals or ‘I’ll-love-you-till-the-end-of-my-lifes’. Not even an ‘I-have-a-thing-for-you’. Nor had she know, by some inexplicable cosmic suggestion that he was in love with her. In fact, to this day, she had no idea if he was.

However, it had all begun in a fashion that was the baap of all clichés – through a common friend. This ‘common friend’ (let’s call him – for it is a he in this particular story – Mr.CF for the moment) is the most evenly distributed species that has ever walked the earth – every gang has at least one. He is the most cheerful, vibrant guy you’ll ever meet. He has been in a relationship, a very exciting relationship since you’ve known him which is probably why he thinks his mission in life is to match of the people who are ‘meant-to-be’. And he is good. Almost 90 % success rate he has, even though his methods of connecting the people who are ‘meant-to-be’ is often questionable.

Regardless, it came as a surprise when Mr.CF came in one day and told her that someone has a thing for her. “Uvv…!” was her reaction, for that sure she was that he was pulling her leg. “No, seriously. Swear to God”, he insisted. She grinned at him and shrugged it off. A few days passed. Every time he passed her in the corridor (the CF i.e.), he’d ask her “Have you thought about what I told ya?” and she’d smile at him and wave it off.

To nobody’s surprise, as days passed on, the idea started growing on her. Curiosity came first. What was he like? What did he like in her? Did he find her gorgeous? Was there anything about her that he didn’t like? Did he notice her when she walked into the room? To find the answer to the first question, she did the obvious – landed up on his Facebook profile. And there, between the books he liked and the music he loved, she realised that she and he bowed to a different deity. Uh oh. A casual mention of a ‘hypothetical situation in which she falls in love with a guy of a different religion’ was presented before her parents. Negative.

“So..did you think about it? He’s really into you, you know…” CF told her.

“Religion scene aavm”, she told him.

“What if we work around that?”

“Na…you can’t work around that. At least, my folks can’t.”

“What if his folks can?”

“They can’t. No one can”, she responded.

“He’s gonna ask them. He wants to, but should he?”

She didn’t know what to say. The logical part in her, the realist, knew well that no good was ever gonna come out of it. It was one thing to spout “religion is bullshit”, another to practise it. After all, one’s life was never truly one’s own. What she didn’t anticipate was the part in her that wanted it to be true. Like the camel that crept in to rest its hump, he had crept into a corner of her mind and before she knew it, he’d carved out a cosy corner for himself.

Which was why, when CF turned up one evening and said “It’s not gonna work out. He asked his family. They said no. He’s devastated, but that’s just the way things are, I guess. You guys’ll be friends, right?”, all she could do was smile and say “Of course! I told you it’ll never work out.” She pretended that she couldn’t feel the tightness in her chest, the piercing needle of sorrow (or was it regret?) that threatened to burst her heart. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t mentioned, much less promised her anything.

And it wasn’t like she was in love with him. You couldn’t be in love with someone over a week’s time.

No, she definitely wasn’t in love with him.

But she could have. Over the week, she had realized that she could easily fall in love with him. It’s almost like the bud of a flower, ready to blossom but it’s just not quite there yet. And she liked him a lot, she really did. She thought about him often, but she didn’t love him.

She could, though. She knew she could.

Goodbye Gujarat

“Why does one person need so many cloths?? How many t-shirts and salwar could one person wear in a span of 3months?? What in the world was I thinking when I bought all this stuff?? How the hell was I going to get all this stuff across 5 states?!”

These were just a few questions that were going through my mind as I sat in front of a suitcase that was looking increasingly puny in comparison with all the stuff that is supposed to go inside it. So I decided to do what many a genius has done time and again when faced with such daunting tasks. I decided to procrastinate.

See the thing is, I am moving out from Gandhinagar in less than a week. Wow… hurts quite a bit to think about it! In a little over than 3 months, this place has become as much a home as is possible. So many memories…walking down the memory lane, I am jotting down some of the most vivid memories I have of this place.

  1. Wandering through Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk is a street food bazaar which opens at around 10.00pm every night. Known for the mouth-watering variety of food it offers, it is the perfect place to have the BEST dosa you’ve ever had (I’m a South Indian. So when I say The Best, I mean it), lip-smacking pav bhajis, kulfi with raita, faludas, hot jalebis, and reasonably good pani puris among other delicacies. Key in the 1980s Bollywood music streaming in from speakers to experience life in North India at its best.

Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy:
Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy:
  1. The day of hailstorm

This is truly an unforgettable experience. A few friends and I had set out to visit the Adalaj Stepwell as few kilometers away from Infocity. It was a very hot and cloudy day and we were expecting (or rather hoping) for a strong drizzle at most. Imagine our surprise when the sun who had been playing peek-a-boo barely a second ago, suddenly disappeared and wind strong enough to overturn roadside carts and uproot age-old trees appeared. Initially we waited a while, hoping it would abate as abruptly as it started. And then it started to rain with such ferocity that we wondered if this was a replay of the 2001 earthquake. Somehow we managed to find an autorickshaw. It took us a moment to realise that half the ferocity of the rain was because it wasn’t raindrops that was drenching us – it was sharp, pebble-sized pieces of ice! My first hailstorm! And then, as if it were a Bollywood movie, the rickshaw broke down. How we got back to the hostel with our wits intact still eludes me but once we did, it made a hell of a story!

Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy:
Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy:
  1. Strolling through Sabarmati Riverfront. At 12.30 am.

Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project is an initiative by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to develop the Sabarmati riverfront in the city of Ahmedabad, India. . We reached there at around 12.30 am, only to be sent back as it closes at 11.00pm. Neverthless, the short walks outside the entrance were enticing enough to make me want to come back to this place as and when I can.

Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy:
Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy:

It was also the place where I got the first glimpse of how dangerous the seemingly safe places of North can be. The fact is, in the Southern parts of India, people rarely venture out after dark, with the exception of metro cities. We don’t have night bazaars or street shopping. However in the other parts of India, night is the time everything comes alive. There is something about seeing multitudes streaming through streets going through their lives that make you put your guard down. It makes your forget all that you’ve read about how unsafe a place it is for girls. Which you should never, EVER forget.

  1. Sunset at Somnath

Somnath is an ancient temple located in the Western coast of Gujarat. We were on a trip to Diu and stopped there and ended up visiting the temple at the best moment possible. The evening aarthi was just starting and the ambiance inside was amazing. But the best part of Somnath was standing on the deck there and watching the sunset across one of the most beautiful expanse of sea I’ve ever seen. Experiencing that sense of peace and tranquillity – very difficult to put into words.

Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
  1. The day Modi won

How can that day not be memorable? Hearing about Gujarat rejoicing over Modi’s win is one thing – seeing it person, feeling that joy and sense of triumph vibrating through passers by…unforgettable. Needless to say, by the night of 16th May, there was not a single sweet shop not empty and there were policemen stationed every 100 metres. (Erm…I just realised that those two facts have nothing in common!) Brushing aside my personal emotions, it was amazing seeing so much faith in one man’s vision.

Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy:
Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy:

Falling for ‘What Young India Wants’

There are a lot of things that you don’t do in life – for various reasons. Some things you don’t do because you don’t want to do it. Like getting drunk. Or eating curd rice. Or eat curd rice when you are getting drunk – you get the gist. Then there are some things that you don’t do because you KNOW it’ll get you killed – like check if you are, by some stroke of fate, a long-lost third cousin of Spiderman, or put up a Facebook status that goes “Mohanlal is fat”. And then there are things that you really want to do/say but don’t because you know that it’ll make you seem – there is no poetic way to say this – LAME to the world.

Where are you going with this, you ask?

Well the point is there is something that I really want to say but is hesitant due to Reason No.3. But I really want to say it so I’m gonna just blurt it out fast so that I can try to pretend I didn’t say it, okay?

Here goes. *Deep breathe*


There. I said it.

You know that guy who writes predominantly crappy novels that get turned into rather crappy movies that people love? Yup, I’m talking about him. Correction – only two of the movies turned out to be total crap – 3 Idiots and Hello. The rest of them, the movies that is, were pretty good. *And this is where it dawns on me that there is only one other book that has been adapted onscreen. Good going Navmi, good going*

So where was I? Haan…Chetan Bhagat. As someone who has read every single one of his unbelievably ridiculous books that somehow turns out to be bestsellers (I can personally justify the popularity of 2 States. That one, you gotta admit, was pretty cool), I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always had a certain amount of scorn for people who find his books “awesome!” Imagine the look on the face of someone who has watched a Leonardo DiCaprio movie if you tell him Nargis Fakri is your favourite actor. That’s how I’ve felt every time I heard “Chetan Bhagat is my favourite author”.

Around 2 weeks back, I came across one of his books, “What Young India Wants”. Expecting the usual potpourri of the girl-who-kisses-the-poor-timid-guy, sex scenes that have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot and a storyline that makes as much sense as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, boy, was I surprised to find myself hooked – like dream-about-reading-the-book hooked – to it. So much that I dashed off to Flipkart and bought that babe home. And lemme tell ya…it has been a hell of a long time since I’ve done THAT.

Hey, before you dash off to check out ‘What Young India Wants’, a word of caution. The book, is by no means, an awesome piece of literature. The content is, to be frank, nothing new. It is a seeda-saada Chetan Bhagat book.

And yet I was (and am) totally smitten. The entire book, a collection of selected essays and columns CB has penned over the last few years, is very well put-together. The issues CB brings up have been discussed about at length and with varying degrees of seriousness and expertise. So nothing new there. The real pull of the book for me was how it spoke about various issues in India like an average Indian who is so in love with the country, despite all that is wrong with her. An Indian who dreams of India growing up to make a name for Herself not unlike how our parents dream for us. A tad bit silly, I guess. But you and I, my friend, are in our hearts, subscribers of that silliness. Often, it is the only thing between us and insanity in this amazing country which is, many a time, an increasingly frustrating place to live.


“Gosh…you sound like a feminist!”

I hear the word ‘feminist’ and I blanch. I can’ help it – it’s just a reflex reaction. I cannot imagine a higher insult than being referred to as a feminist. In fact, my whole life, one thing I’ve tried to avoid like plague is that very tag. Every word I speak, every opinion I present have all been carefully analyzed to sieve off their feministic hues.

For to be a feminist is to be anti-men (Erm… is that a word? Don’t think so). Feminism has always, and probably will always, be synonymous with the assumption that you are man-hating liberal. Even amongst quite reasonable groups, feminism is still seen as “too radical, too uncomfortable, or simply unnecessary.” Hell… I, being a female, find feminists too extreme in their opinions. Having been educated in a co-ed school since kindergarten and a co-ed college thereafter, there has never been a dearth of male friends. Such wonderful people too. So to challenge or tussle with their every move and word, often said in jest – not my cuppa tea.

It was only recently, during a conversation with a friend (a male friend, might I add) that I realised that I‘d been approaching this island from the wrong direction my entire life. Feminism, I was told, has never been about being anti-men. It has never been, or it should never have been about establishing the superiority of women over men. A feminist, in simplistic terms, is someone who advocates equal rights for women. You’d be interested to know that the opposite of a feminist is not a chauvinist. Rather, a man who believes that men should have the same rights as women is called a `hominist’. (This is not a new word. George Bernard Shaw coined it in 1903 in his preface to `Ma and Superman’, I’m told)

To put it very simply, I believe in equality of men and women. I realize that men and women are physically and emotionally poles apart, they have different capabilities. I also realize that alkalis are as important as acids in chemistry. The reason feminists often divert from their path of ‘equality of men and women’ to ‘equality over men’ is because women, let’s face the facts here, do face problems which are more severe, persistent and critical in nature. It is one thing to be free to work after your marriage and choosing not to – totally different scene if you are forbidden to work at all. Being okay with girls drinking doesn’t imply that you’ll find me at the Joys Palace after 6.00.

It pisses me off when I see posts in Facebook that contains a picture of a girl who is drenched with captions like “How would you feel if this was your sister?” It disappoints me to see friends of mine share it. It cripples me that not one of them had the courage to abuse the photographer who went into such pains to take a photo of the girl without her consent.  Does that make me a feminist?

And just so you know, one doesn’t need to personally go through something traumatic to be angry about moral policing and sexism. Recognition and disdain of injustice or abuse do not necessarily stem from one’s significant experience.  For me, they came from looking around and noticing, comparing, and realizing.

So now, for me, feminism is all about having a choice. And having no one hover around you, making sure that you choose the “right” one.

ഒരു ഓട്ടോയിൽ കയറിയ കഥ.

ആകെ ഒരു സുഖം ഇല്ലാത്ത ദിവസം.

രാവിലെ തന്നെ alarm അടിച്ചില്ല. അടിച്ചത്‌ ഞാൻ അറിഞ്ഞില്ല എന്ന് പറയുന്നതാവും കുറേകൂടി ശരി. വീട്ടുകാർ ആണെങ്കിൽ എന്നെ വിളിച്ചതും ഇല്ല. പതിയേ ഉറക്കത്തിൽ നിന്നും എഴുന്നേറ്റ്‌ നോക്കുമ്പൊൾ സമയം 8.30 . ജോലിക്ക്‌ report ചെയ്യണ്ട സമയം 9.00.

ഓടിപിടഞ്ഞ്‌ എഴുന്നേറ്റ്‌ Shakthimaan’നെ പോലെ ready ആയി വന്നു നോക്കുമ്പൊൾ അമ്മ അതാ പതുക്കെ പാട്ടും പാടി കണ്ണ് തിരുമ്പി hall’ലൂടെ ഉലാത്തുന്നു. Bus strike പ്രമാണിച്ച്‌ കക്ഷിക്ക്‌ ഇന്ന് കൊളേജ്‌ അവധി ആണത്രെ. ഞാൻ രാവിലെ എഴുന്നേറ്റ്‌ ജോലിക്ക്‌ പോകുന്നത്ത്‌ കണ്ട്‌ ആസ്വദിക്കാൻ നെരത്തേ തന്നെ hall’ൽ വന്ന് തബടിച്ചിരിക്കുകയാണു കക്ഷി.

ഒരു കണക്കിന്‌ bag’ഉം പുസ്തകവും ഒക്കെ തപ്പിപിടിച്ച്‌ പുറത്തിറങ്ങി നോക്കുമ്പൊൾ ഒരൊറ്റ ഓട്ടോ പോലും കാണാനില്ല. ഇനിയിപ്പോ എന്തുചെയ്യും എന്ന് ആലോചിച്ച്‌ മാനം നോക്കി നിൽക്കുമ്പൊൾ  ആണ്‌ എവിടെ നിന്നോ ഒരു ഓട്ടോ slow motion’ൽ വരുന്നത്‌ ഞാൻ ശ്രദ്ധിച്ചത്‌. “Slow motion എങ്കിൽ Slow motion” എന്ന് കരുതി വേഗം ഓട്ടോക്ക്‌ കൈ കാണിച്ചു.

വണ്ടിയിൽ ഇരുന്ന് late ആയതിന്‌ എന്ത്‌ reason പറയും എന്ന് ആലോചിച്ചുണ്ടാക്കുന്ന തത്രപാടിൽ ഓട്ടോ ചേട്ടൻ കണ്ണാടിയിലൂടെ എന്നെ കാര്യമായി നിരീക്ഷിക്കുന്നത്‌ ഞാൻ ശ്രദ്ധിച്ചതേ ഇല്ല. അതുകൊണ്ടാവാം “മോളൂ ഇതിനുമുമ്പു എന്റെ വണ്ടിയിൽ കേറീട്ടുണ്ടല്ലോ..” എന്ന് ചോദിച്ചപ്പൊൾ ഞാൻ നല്ല അസ്സലായിട്ട്‌ ഒന്ന് ഞെട്ടി.

“ഞാനോ? അത്‌…”

ഒരു നിമിഷം ഞാൻ ആരാ..എന്താ.. എന്നറിയാതേ പകച്ചിരുന്നു. പിന്നെ എനിക്ക്‌ ഓർമ്മ വന്നു. പണ്ടൊരിക്കൽ ഞാൻ ഈ ഓട്ടോ’ൽ കയറിയതും അന്ന് ഈ ചേട്ടൻ എന്നൊട്‌ എന്തിനാ പഠിക്കണേ എന്ന് ചോദിച്ചതും ഒക്കെ. Engineering’നാണെന്ന് പറഞ്ഞപ്പൊൾ P.C’ടെ അവിടെ coaching’നു പോയിരുന്നൊ എന്നും, Entrance’ന്റെ rank എത്രയാ എന്നും ഒക്കെ വിശദമായി ചോദിച്ചിരുന്നു. ആൾടെ മകൾ 12thൽ ആണെന്നും coaching classes’നു പോകുന്നുണ്ടെന്നും ഒക്കെ പറഞ്ഞിരുന്നു അന്ന്.

“ഉവ്വ്‌. എനിക്ക്‌ ഓർമ്മ ഉണ്ട്‌. പെട്ടന്ന് മനസ്സിലായില്ല.”, ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞു.

“ആ..ഇപ്പൊ ന്താ ചെയ്യണേ? B.Tech കഴിഞ്ഞില്ലേ?”

“ആ കഴിഞ്ഞു. ഇപ്പോ ജോലി ചെയ്യാ”

“അതെയോ…? എങ്ങനേണ്ട്‌ ജോലി ഒക്കെ?”

“കുഴപ്പല്യാ..”, കാര്യമായി കത്തി വെക്കാനുള്ള ഒരു മൂഡിൽ അല്ലായിരുന്നത്കൊണ്ട്‌ ഉത്തരങ്ങൾ ഒക്കെ ഒറ്റ-വാക്കിൽ ഒതുക്കി ഞാൻ.

ചേട്ടൻ പക്ഷെ വിടുന്ന ലക്ഷണം ഇല്ല.

“മോൾ M.Tech’നു പൊകണില്ലെ?

കേട്ടു കേട്ടു വെറുത്തു പോയ ചോദ്യം. വീട്ടിൽ അമ്മ, അമ്മമ്മ, അമ്മാവൻ എന്നിങ്ങനെ ഒരു പറ്റം മനുഷ്യർ. നാട്ടിൽ ആണെങ്കിൽ പറയേം വേണ്ട. ഒരു പരിചയവും ഇല്ലാത്ത ആന്റിമാർക്ക്‌ വരെ കുശലം ചോദിക്കാൻ ആകെ ഈ ഒരു ചോദ്യമേ ഉള്ളു – “GATE കിട്ടില്യേ? എന്താ GATE കിട്ടാത്തേ? അടുത്ത വർഷം കിട്ടോ…” എന്റമ്മൊ..!! അപ്പോ വന്ന അരിശത്തിനു അങ്ങേരുടെ മൊട്ടത്തലക്കിട്ടൊരു കൊട്ടു കൊടുത്തിടു “അയ്യോ ചേട്ടാ..bag തുറന്നപ്പോൾ കൈ ഇടിച്ചതാ..” എന്നു പറയാനാ തോനിയത്‌. ആ ആഗ്രഹം ഒക്കെ അടക്കി വെച്ച്‌ ഞാൻ പറഞ്ഞു

“ഇല്യ ചേട്ടാ.”

“അതെന്താ മോളേ പോകാത്തേ? എന്നിട്‌ PhD ഒക്കേ ചെയ്യ്തൂടെ?”

PhD! കേട്ടിട്ടിണ്ട്‌. കൊറേ കേട്ടിട്ട്ണ്ട്‌.

മുഖത്ത്‌ വിടർന്ന് വന്ന പുച്ചഭാവം കണ്ണാടിയിൽ കണ്ടിട്ടോ എന്തോ, ചേട്ടൻ ദ്രിതിയിൽ ചോദ്യം പിൻവലിച്ചു.

“അല്ല..ഞാൻ വെറുതേ ചോദിച്ചൂ എന്നേ ഉള്ളു ട്ടൊ..”

ഒരു 30 സെക്കന്റ്‌ ആകെ ഒരു ശ്മശാന മൂകത. പിന്നെം ചേട്ടൻ പറഞ്ഞു തുടങ്ങി.

“ഞാൻ ചോദിക്കാൻ കാരണേ ന്റെ ചേട്ടന്റേ മോൾ ഉണ്ട്‌ – അനു. അവളു പടിക്കാൻ വല്യ മിടുക്കിയാണേ. എജിനീറിങ്ങിനു പോണമ്ന്ന് വല്യ ആഗ്രഹം ആയിരുന്നു അവൾക്ക്‌. അത്‌ പറ്റീല്യാ. അങ്ങനേ അവളേ കൊണ്ട്‌ B.Sc Chemistryക്ക്‌ ചേർത്തു. Chemistry അവൾക്ക്‌ വല്യ കാര്യാണെ. അതിലു അവൾക്ക്‌ നല്ല മാർക്കും ഉണ്ടായി. എന്നിട്ട്‌ M.Sc’ക്‌ ചേർന്നൂ. മ്മടേ കൊച്ചി സർവ്വകലാശാലയ്ടെ കോളേജ്‌ ഇല്യേ…ന്താ അയ്ന്റെ പേര്‌…”

“ങേ.. CUSAT ആണൊ?”

“ആ…അതെന്നെ. CUSAT. അവടെ അവൾക്ക്‌ കിട്ടി. 10 പൈസാ ചെലവില്ലാതെ പഠിക്കാൻ പറ്റി. ഹോസ്റ്റൽ ഫീസും, പഠിക്കാൻ ഉള്ള ചെലവും ഒക്കെ അവരെന്നെ എടുത്തു. അവടേം അവൾ അസ്സലായ്ട്ട്‌ പഠിച്ചു. Chemistry’ൽ വല്യ കമ്പം ആണേ… അങ്ങനെ ഇരിക്കുമ്പൊ France’ലെ Govt’ന്റെ ഒരു scholarship ഉണ്ട്‌. അയ്ന്റെ പേര്‌ ഞാൻ മറന്നു. ന്തൊ വായിൽ കൊള്ളാത്ത പേരാ..ആ scholarship കിട്ടി. Paris ഇല്യേ..അവടെ പഠിക്കാൻ. ഇത്‌ കൊറേ കൊല്ലം മുമ്പാണുട്ടോ. ഇന്നാളു അവൾടെ കല്യാണായിരുന്നു. അവടെ അവൾടെ കൂടെ ന്നെ പഠിക്കണ ഒരു പയ്യന്നായിട്ട്‌. അവൻ അവടെ Physics’ലു PhD ചെയ്യാ. ഇപ്പൊ അവരു അങ്ങോട്ട്‌ പോയി.. Parisലേക്കെ.. ഇടക്കിടക്കെ വിളിക്കുംട്ടൊ എന്നെ. വല്യ കാര്യാണെ. അപ്പൊ എപ്പഴും പറയും അമ്മുനെ പഠിപ്പിക്കണെന്നു. അമ്മു ന്റെ മോളാ..”

“P.C’ടെ class’നു പോകുന്നൂന്നു പറഞ്ഞ…”

“ആ..അവളെന്നെ. മോളേ കണ്ടപ്പോ പെട്ടന്ന് എനിക്ക്‌ അനു പറഞ്ഞത്‌ ഓർമ്മ വന്നു. ന്താണാവോ. അവളെ കണ്ടാൽ ഒരു ചെറിയ കുട്ടിയാ. ദിത്ര ഉയരം ഇണ്ടാവും ഏകദേശം. ഭയങ്കര ബുദ്ധിയാ. വീട്ടിൽ വല്യ കഴിവൊന്നും ഇല്യ. കൂലി പണി ആണേ. എന്നാലും അവളു പഠിച്ചൊരു നിലയിൽ എത്തി. അല്ലേങ്കിൽ നമ്മുക്കൊക്കെ സ്വപ്നം കാണാൻ പറ്റണ കാര്യാണോ മോളെ ഇതൊക്കെ..അതാ ഞാൻ മോളോട്‌ PhD എടുത്തൂടെ ചോദിച്ചെ ട്ടൊ. അതിനിപ്പൊ പുറത്തോക്കെ വല്യ scope ആണേ..”

ഇറങ്ങണ്ട ഇടം എത്തി. ഓട്ടോൽ നിന്ന് ഇറങ്ങി, പൈസ കൊടുക്കുമ്പൊൾ ആ ചേട്ടൻ എന്നോട്‌ പറഞ്ഞു – “നന്നയി പടിക്കണം ട്ടൊ മോളെ. ഇനിയും കുറെ പഠിക്കണം. ഇവിടം കൊണ്ട്‌ നിർത്തരുത്‌ ട്ടൊ. ശെരിന്നാൽ..”

ഒന്ന് പുഞ്ചിരിചിട്ട്‌ ആ ചേട്ടൻ പോയി. ആൾടെ മുഖമോ, ഓട്ടോയുടെ പേരൊ ഒന്നും എനിക്ക്‌ ഇപ്പൊ ഓർമ്മ ഇല്ല. ഓന്നോർത്താൽ ഒർത്തിരിക്കാൻ മാത്രം ഒന്നും ആളു പറഞ്ഞിട്ടും ഇല്ല. ഇതിനു മുമ്പ്‌ പലരും പല തവണ തന്നിട്ടുള്ള്‌ ആ ഉപദേശം – അത്രേന്നെ. എന്നാലും….

The Art Of Spotting A Slight Where None Was Intended

Yesterday, I was witness to a rather fascinating conversation among the three sixteen-ish girls who were standing next to me in the bus. Now, I’m not sure what sparked their discussion but from what I could infer, they were diehard fans of Alia Bhatt and were discussing about the controversy set off by the ‘Radha’ song. But before I could gather what the controversy was, a rather..erm…well-built aunty with an equally well-built handbag got in between us, thus ending my rather harmless eavesdropping session.

And since I had nothing better to do (Now you get an idea about the degree of my joblessness!), I came home and summoned the Google Devi, vowing to get to the bottom of this. And I did. What I read made me want to bang my head on the wall, on my desk, anywhere, but then I’d hurt my head and probably have an aneurysm. (Yes, I know that I watch way too much Grey’s Anatomy) So I thought I’d share it with you all and make you want to bang your heads on the wall. You know what they say – safety in numbers and all.

So here goes a list of some of the ‘controversies’ triggered by the songs in the recent times. Oh btw, my dear reader, you are forewarned. What follows is my rant rather than a decent blog post.

Let’s start with the song that started this rant. According to Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS), in the song Radha (Student of the Year), lyricist Anvita Dutta used the word ‘sexy’ to describe Radha, thus making a derogatory reference to the mythological character Radha of Hindu religion. That doesn’t really astonish me because I had been expecting this ever since the very first time I heard this song. But what had me doubling up with laughter is Ms. Sushma Swaraj’s take on this – Apparently, while addressing a function of RSS, she mentioned that there are references to Radha (in the film) not knowing how to dance and being invited to the dance floor to learn dancing and that such references are attacks on Hindu beliefs. Incidently, Sushma Swaraj also had a problem with the movie Oh My God because the lead role (portrayed by Paresh Rawal) is shown to be an atheist. Erm…melodramatic much?

The music maestro A.R Rahman too has been subjected to his share of meaningless controversies. Hosanna, a chartbuster from Gautham Menon’s Ek Deewana Tha (yes, the lukewarm Hindi version of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya) has been objected to by the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, which has said, “It has hurt not only Christian, but also Jewish sentiments.” CSF general secretary Joseph Dias was quoted as saying, “We aren’t going into the lyrics or vulgar picturisation of the song which are also objectionable. But we’d like to point out that Hosanna is a prayer in the Bible and sacred to both Jews and Christians.” Excuse me, but are we talking about the same song here?? What vulgar picturisation?? Have I been sold a bogus CD? Fraud! I know my rights! Consumer court – I want a refund!

And then there is Marjaanifrom Billu. Or was it Billi? Whatever! The movie had already been dragged into courts as some barber associations objected to use of the word “barber” in the title (It was initially titled Billu Barber). What is so objectionable about calling a barber a barber is beyond me! Anyway, I’ve heard and seen this particular song many a time and try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. So I searched and searched and finally found that the lyrics in limelight are ‘Rab ki hazoor mein kasme jo khayee.” I really don’t know what is so terrible in these lines to offend a section of the Muslim audience (I found a lot of explanation about how the word hazoor has been used to describe presence rather than the Prophet, but I don’t know enough to comment on that. Plus, my Hindi is rather basic), but offended they were!

If you can’t slam a movie for hurting “religious sentiment”, then the next shot is racism. The title song of Madhur Dixit’s Aaja Nachle irked certain communities in Uttar Pradesh so much so that Ms.Mayawati called for a nationwide ban on the movie. Allegedly, the title song humiliated Dalits. Now, of course, I couldn’t rest without knowing what the lyrics were precisely. The lyrics which was responsible for all this hungama is the seemingly harmless line hidden somewhere in the title song which goes like ‘bole mochi bhi khud ko sonaar hai’ which roughly translates to ‘the cobbler tried to pass off as a goldsmith’. Assuming that you are as confused as I am, let me try to explain to you how calling cobbler ‘mochi’ turned out to be so derogatory. See, the cobbler or shoemaker often makes things made of leather. Leather is made from hide. Hide comes from cows. Person who profits by death of cow is traditionally… not popular, shall we say? To add things up, we have here a person who makes an important product from an unpopular resource and further, in the context of the song, tries to pass himself off as a goldsmith in order to score a date. Whew! A glass of water, someone?

So there you have it. This is why they collect taxes every year (and in numerous names). There may be numerous powercuts all day long, roads may not be tarred, women maybe raped every 10 minutes…but the government will somehow find the time to watch a Madhuri Dixit film first day, first show and raise a voice in protest if it feels Mrs.Dixit has cast a shadow on your honor. Impressive!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a million references in a million different songs that have affronted numerous sections of the society for reasons which seem exceedingly trivial. It feels like a trend nowadays to judge a movie even before it is released, as was the case with Vishwaroopam, and portray it in a negative light as opposed to allowing the audience to watch the movie and judge for themselves. Is our faith and self-respect so fragile that it can be dented or shattered by something that whizzes through the cinema screen for an hour or two? We speak about unity in diversity and open-mindedness and yet when push comes to shove, it is my-group vs. your-group!

I particularly have a problem with the controversies sparked off by alleged ‘disrespect to religious beliefs’. I, for one, believe that our faith is wholly personal matter, which no one can tarnish unless you let them. It is common consensus that there is but one God (if you believe in Him, that is!) who, incidently, is probably ROFL-ing at all the rubbish that is being done for his benefit! And please don’t get me started on the intolerance towards atheism. But, more of my verbal diarrhea on religion and society later. (A word of advice – if you are around when I start pontifying about religion and society, run.)

Honestly, how the use of a word in a song reflects the thoughts of a society, I fail to understand! Remember the Rang De Basantidebacle where the government was ‘concerned’ as the movie seems to send out the wrong message to the youngsters as it shows the shooting of the corrupt minister? Also, do you remember how one group of demonstrators, taking cue from the scene in which the protagonists hold a silent, candlelight vigil at New Delhi’s India Gate, carried out a similar rally to voice their protest over the acquittal of the main accused of the Jessica Lal murder case? How much more proof do you need to realize that the Indian society has enough sense to discern the good from bad on its own without every other word being censored?

What good can ever come of all this mollycoddling??

Happy Mother’s Day!

Every year, on the second week of May, my Gmail inbox is bombarded with ideas for Mother’s Day gifts, cards, vouchers, blah blah blah. And every year, I delete them right off without even bothering to open many an email. This happens for the reason that no one in my family ever celebrates the Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anybody’s Day because they (and by they, I mean my achan) feel (VERY strongly, if I may add) that these celebrations are ‘brought on by commercialization which is manipulating the rudimentary emotions of love and respect among the human beings by confining them to a particular Day of the year as opposed to spreading them year round’. If you think that was harsh, then wait till you hear about what happened when my sister and I, who was around 11-years-old then, tried to celebrate my parents’ anniversary by getting them a present and *hold your breath* a card! ‘Coz, you see presents are dangerous but cards are fatal. But that is a story for another Day (pun totally intended :D).

This year, I am kinda jobless at the moment, as you might be aware, so I decided to spend some time going through those emails and take a peek at what all this fuss what about. What attracted me among those newsletters where not the striking pictures or offers but some well chosen definitions for the word ‘Mother’ because, to be honest, I had never thought of ‘mother’ as a word. I mean, Mother was always my amma. It never crossed my mind that this word can be interpreted in so many different ways. And one of the descriptions which caught my fancy goes thus.

“Mother is a title given to someone as a mark of respect for their age and wisdom” 

When I read this, the first thought that crossed my mind was that if that was the case, then I have a number of names and images to associate the word mother with. And that, my friends, is why I’m taking this stroll along the memory lane to pay tribute to some very fine ‘mothers’ who’ve touched me in ways too many to list.

The first image that comes to my mind is that of a reasonably tall, well-built lady with curly hair and a heavenly smile – Savithri Namboothiripad, my LKG teacher. Incredibly gorgeous, she was blessed with good-looks that would put Aishwarya Rai to shame and what she lacked in beauty, she made up with her incredibly loving nature. How we first met is a story which my amma loves to recount in every gathering. (Humiliating their children in front of perfect strangers is the No:1 past time of all parents. But of course you know that.)

The story unravels thus – I am said to have been a rather happy-go-lucky toddler who didn’t have any qualms about being hugged by strangers or being around unknown people, and so on the first day of LKG, I was the only one among the mass of bawling, drool-spitting mass of humanity with a grin on my face. Savithri teacher is said to have been so startled and charmed by this phenomenon that she asked me, innocently, “vava mathram enda karyathe?” Apparently, I took this to be a bad thing and immediately started bawling for God-knows-what reason and Savithri teacher came to be known as the teacher-who-made-the-smiling-kid-cry.

I still run into her at the supermarket and such, and she still remembers me. Scratch that – she still remembers all her students. By name. One of my fondest memories of her is when I spotted her riding on her son’s bike through the Swaraj round. I was in an auto unsure of whether I should call out at her or not when she turned, looked straight at me, gave me a heavenly smile and big wave. That is how cool she is. Kind, smart, amazing…I run out of adjectives when I describe her.

Another incredible person I want to introduce to you is a supermom in its truest sense. She is one of my oldest friend’s mother. Everyone in my batch knew her. She was one of the warmest, friendliest, most outgoing mothers I’ve ever seen. She always knew the name of every single friend of her daughter’s, she was always the first to volunteer for any school activity, she threw the best b’day parties – Mini aunty was THE mom. I got along really well with her, right from my KGs. I’d often call her daughter (who is my friend) and Mini aunty would chat with me for a while first. Her demise was my first brush with grief that refused to translate to heart-wrenching sobs but crept up, often unexpectedly, like a very painful thorn in the shoe.

As I grew up and started spending more time at my friends’ place than mine, I got to many more lovely mothers like Viji aunty, who has literally seen me grow up from a chubby kid to…well, to the person I am now (she even has pictorial evidence of the same.. eeks!), Subi aunty who has (again) known me right from my pre-KG days, Velyu (short for Velyamma :P) who has coped surprisingly well with my compulsive addiction towards a-certain-dish – amazingly compassionate women (with exceptional cooking skills. Aah..!) who, in my amma’s words “have been born with more than their share of patience”.

 And then, of course, there is the first mother (like The First Lady :D) – my amma who has treated me more as a friend than a daughter from the time I can remember. She is less of a cuddly/spoil-your-child-a-bit mother and more of a you-want-something-done-then-better-do-it-yourself person (especially when you want her to wash your socks). Extremely passionate about what she believes in, she taught me, by example that it’s important to say sorry if you have wronged, age non-withstanding. She taught me that it doesn’t matter if you are not the best – what matters is getting up in the morning and trying. She’s super- intuitive in some instances, totally oblivious at others, she’s a total tube-light when it comes to chalis and is obsessed with knowing exactly what you mean when you say something – once, in a fit of rage, I told her to stop chorialing me and she was behind me for the next few days, wanting to know the exact meaning of chori. She is the first person who comes into my mind when I hear the words ‘unconditional love’.

I could go on about all the wonderful people I’ve met who have a special place in my mind forever, but since this is neither the place nor time to write a novel (plus, I really don’t want to stretch your patience), I wind up by wishing all the wonderful, gorgeous, and empathetic mothers all the good in the world. I’m sure you know this, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times but I just want you to hear it one more time – We love you. It’s just sometimes we don’t know how to say it. Sometimes it just comes out screaming or crying. So the next time you hear us screaming, know that what we are actually saying is “I love you, Mom”.

Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

31 days

“No, he isn’t home.”


“No sir, I don’t know where he is. He hasn’t contacted me.”

This time the pause is longer. She could almost feel the waves of disbelief emanating from the faceless, yet strangely terrifying man-with-the-deep voice at the other end of the phone. She waits for him to respond, to call her bluff and smack her with verbal threats as she had for the past 30 days.

Silence. She shifts the receiver to dry her sweaty palms on her sari pallu and absentmindedly rubs off the dust between the number keys of the telephone with her fingers. She waits. The sound of intake of breath through the phone is cut off abruptly. And then, just a dial tone.

Trembling hands replaced the receiver. She holds on to it for a moment, her eyes closed and the other hand clutching her mangalsutra. It seems as if she is safe. For now.

She heads to the kitchen, her eyes noting the time on the clock mounted on the wall. Quickly, efficiently, she steams the vegetables and strains the rice, pausing in between to spread the dosa batter on the pan. A pinch of salt here, a dash of oil there, she moves like a musician, a jazz player, coaxing flavour out of the numerous pots and pans that surround her. Before long, the kitchen is filled with food and the grumbling of her two minions-of-Satan. They move like Shaktimaan, little bouts of cyclone, flying from one place to another and leaving off isolated pools of destruction. For one the dosa is too thick, the other is “borrrred” (the number of ‘r’s being directly proportional to the level of dosa’s lameness) of dosa. She silently packs their lunch boxes, taking care to pack it the way each prefers it, as her eyes roam over her bundles of joy, noting the mismatched slides and wayward ribbons. With a light touch on the head and a tweak of the pigtails, she sees them off. Minutes later, she heads out of the house to her workplace.

The eerie silence and closed offices remind her of the phone call in the morning. It was from the District Collector’s office calling to enquire about her husband’s whereabouts. You see, her husband was one of the thousands taking part in the strike by the government employees against attempts to revoke financial benefits. Not unheard of or very dangerous, as a rule. But things took a turn for the worse when the Collector supposedly agreed to issue an arrest warrant in his name. Her husband handled a significant section in the Office and it was imperative that he get back to work, which was why his refusal to distance himself from the strike was to be dealt with seriously.

And so she had been walking on coal ever since that fateful evening when he was informed of the chance of arrest. A blur of backpack being pulled out and clothes being jammed in, a whirlwind of possible locations to lie low at, an array of quick phone calls, a quick pat on her cheek and he was gone. Her husband, the epitome of common man, with his unflinching sincerity and mild political activism might possibly be arrested. By the police. And locked in a cell.

Her head throbbed.

She thought of the nights when she packed up her 2 kids and headed off to a friends’ apartment, scared that the police might come in and haul her off in an attempt to lure out her husband. Every fleeting bob of light passing through the window was the police coming to get her. The ringing of the phone seemed to induce in her a sense of impending doom. She caught herself praying and making bargains with Him so that she and her own may be left alone. She was tired of living the double life, of acting as if she didn’t know where her husband was, of keeping up the charade of Daddy-has-gone-on-an-official-tour, of playing dumb with her colleagues.

Above all, she was tired of aching for him. Of finding bits of him everywhere. Strands of his salt and pepper hair (lately more salt than pepper) caught on the comb. The lingering scent of his aftershave. His books, with their corners neatly tucked, strewn about on the table…

The ringing of the darn phone cut through her thoughts. Again, the now-familiar sense of dread coursed through her. Involuntarily she shivered. And picked up the phone.


Aah… That familiar voice. A spasm of pleasure wriggled its way through her trepidation.

“How are you? Are you okay?” she asked.

“I’m fine. There’s some good news. The strike has officially ended.”

Relief. Sweet relief coursed through every cell of her body.

“After 31 days, I’ll finally be home tomorrow. I can’t wait to see the kids and you.”

“Ok”, she said. “They’ll be ecstatic.”

“See you then.” The phone went dead in her hand.

And she wept. In utter bliss.


The government employees’ agitation of February 2002 saw around 5.5 lakh government employees participating in an indefinite strike to protest against the curtailment of the benefits being enjoyed by them as part of the steps to overcome the financial crisis facing the State. The strike went on for 32 days.  For a detailed report, refer this link to an article which appeared in ‘The Hindu’ in connection with the same.

A Day Well Spent

On Sunday, I walked into my home at around 6.00pm in a haze of self-satisfaction. 

You know that feeling you get when you feel a bit light-headed and warm and just really happy for no obvious reason? You might’ve felt it when you watched a good movie or stumbled upon the perfect dress after a hard day of shopping. Or even when a simple “Good morning” message you sent to your friend was responded to warmly. 

Well, I felt that yesterday. Very intensely.

Let me explain why I felt so – from the very beginning. It all began when the news of the brutal gang rape of the 23-year-old at Delhi went viral. At that time, I was totally immersed in the Arts fest at my college and hadn’t even been home for about 3-4 days. So only when all the dust of the Arts fest and the fight for the Overall Trophy had settled, did I come to know about the incident. Needless to say, I immediately joined the numerous social media users in proclaiming my anger and even posted directions for the judiciary on how to deal with such heinous criminals (in CAPS, no less). The soft copies of the fury, support and pain felt for the brave-heart were duly recorded on a massive scale in FB and Twitter. It was a crazy time. As they say, we Indians are blessed with a sense of righteous indignation and oneness which is usually voiced when there is a cricket match or a war or such high-profile delinquency. So we stood as one, supporting our brothers and sisters holding candle-light vigils & protest marches at Delhi and signing petitions for the strengthening of measures for protection of women. After all, that was all we could do at the moment.

And then, one of my friends invited me to be a part of an initiative to organize a peaceful protest march at Thrissur. I agreed on principle, fully-believing that it’ll remain as a concept on paper. For one, it seemed a little odd to organize a demonstration after the news had cooled. Besides, I didn’t think anybody would actually turn up because it is one thing to verbally spray out your feeling within the safety of 4 walls and another to actually go out and do something (especially in the light of the police intervention at the rallies at Delhi). So when I was told that a demonstration was organised on Sunday at Saturday night, I was initially a bit skeptic. But then I thought “Why not?” and tried to find out if any of my friends were gonna be there. (You know, safety in numbers and all that) But as it was all planned in a jiffy, a lot of genuinely interested people were tied up with errands and couldn’t make it. 

So on Sunday, it was just 10 of us, armed with posters and charts, who turned up at Thekinkkadu Maidanam. Clearly, it was stupid to carry out a rally with just 10 people. So we contented ourselves with hanging up placards and pasting posters all around the Swaraj Round, pushing for speedy implementation of the verdicts in the numerous rape cases all over India. And that in itself was an experience. Everywhere we went the innate curiosity of an average Keralite followed. People paused to look at our posters – some nodded their heads, some giggled, a few looked embarrassed on our behalf and some walked on as if they were blind. Oh and we did get a LOT of “ee penpillerkonm vere joli ille?” kind of looks (even though there were a few guys in the group).  Looking back, I feel a bit astonished at the dignity with which we walked on; our heads (and the placards) held high, regardless of the numerous eyes on us, majority of them filled with scorn or amusement. There were a few moments like when all the sun and the slights seemed worth it. Like the moment when a group of women (masonry workers, from their attires) made us stop, read our slogans and placards and walked on after lauding us for the “good gesture”. Or the beggars on the side walk who blessed us with “kuttikale ningal nannayi varum”. 

But best of all was that glow of self-respect that I felt when we had pasted our last poster and moved on. Make no mistake – I am fully aware of the insignificance of our action when you look at the larger picture. Neither am I under any false sense of accomplishment that this gesture of ours would influence the Thrissurites. But the fact that I was able to do something other than spurn obscenities at the TV or Facebook is undeniable. And that is enough for me at the moment.