Friday, 27 March 2009


I last voted many general elections back. Not that I was not interested but because my job took me to places and my constituency was somewhere else.

This time too its no different. Though I will be visiting my native that will not be during the polling days. Anyway that doesnt prevent me from writing about the elections in my blog.

Basic Fact on General Elections 2009 (15th LokSabha)

The total number of seats in the Loksabha are 543. (Prevously I think it was 545)
13,68,430 voting machine will be made available for the this elections in 2009. There will be 8,28,804 polling stations. Thats 20% up from last time (2004).

Now read this - there is a polling station with a single voter too. Thats in Junagadh constituency, Bhanej village, in Gujarat. The voter is the priest of a Shiva temple which is situated in the centre of Gir forest - Guru Shree Bharath Dasji Bapu. (maharaj , aap toh guiness book mein hona chahiye)

How many voters? Around 71 crores. Last time it was around it was 67 crores.

When are the elections ?

Phase I - 16 April

Phase II - 22, 23 April

Phase III - 30 April

Phase IV - 7 May

Phase V - 13 May

Results - Single phased on 16 May

Election motto

There are only two major themes emerging if we ignore the ever and omnipresent the general background music of "uplifting the poor", "security safety and stability ", etc.

The Congress has tried to sort of make it look like a winning combination with the Oscar winning "Jai Ho" score. The permanant fall back options of, education, jobs and health for all by 2012 (extendable to any future election), the names Mahthmaji, Indiraji, Rajivji etc make up the hot curry masala and at times we are left counting the Italian sphagetti.

BJP projects itself through its leader. Their slogan - Able leader, Decisive government. (I like the word decisive in that , which is very necessary for any "Jai ho" to happen. Does it sound ominous enough for the militants too? or will another Khandahar like thing expose their mindless use of the word 'decisive' ).

The Communists have moved a step ahead after centuries of drinking tea, smoking beedis and acting as intellectuals. They launched a web site for the party. So I hope that those inside the party looking after paper based publishing have not lost their jobs.

Hence the General election mood can be summed up like this :-

1) Try getting more seats on any plank or prank.

2) If you fail at step 1, try to clobber up a majority by rounding up some others who managed to win. Give a name to the living-in, like UPA, NDA,..........ADA, APA BDA, BPA etc for that matter.

The general public has come to terms with the elections as something that happens seasonally. It will blow over they are sure and at most they have to cast their either influenced or indifferent vote. The rest will be taken care of by politicians.

Lets Laugh It Off

Some of the parties that fought the elections in 1951 were like this:-

Tamil Nadu Toiler's Party (won 0.84% votes and 4 seats). (hey then what about the opposite group?). So here comes the Zamindar party (won 0.27% votes and 2 seats). There was another group who declared their despondency - The Punjab Depressed Class League (0.01% votes and no seats). There was also a group which was neither toiling nor depressed but simply prided over their place - Cochin Party (0.01%, no seats)

Foot Note

Elections; mixed with - booth capturing, dynastic allotment of seats, seat sharing, pre/post poll alliances (holy or unholy), split, merger, secular and pseudo-secular accusations, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Italian influences, corruption , horse trading , hung parliament, disrupted parlaiment etc- should not dissuade you from casting your vote, for thats the only we yet know of to ward off militant or extreme groups from stopping us eating our Vada Pavs in peace.

Excersice Your Franchise ! Jai Hind!

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I was around 12 years of age and I almost pissed in my pyjamas.

I was reading Dracula - by Bram Stoker. The novel had already made deep inroads in to my psyche and kept prodding the fear psychosis. But I was gallant enough. That was before that particular night.

9.30 pm, after dinner. The window in my room opened towards the coconut palm grove. I was reading the novel in my bed when I was positively certain that two points of red light were looking at me from the darkened frame of the window. As on cue a dog howled from among the dark palm trees. My eyes were fixed on that dark square of the open window.

I kept the novel away. Extended my hands to the table, eyes still fixed on the open window, and took the readers digest lying on top.

' Was Dracula for Real ?', said the title on the page that I flipped open.

I was by then parlaysed with fear and sure to be Dracula's victim that night and as confirmed by the reader's digest omen too. The bedsheet under which I hid that night must have confused him probably.

On getting up,I checked - no dots on my neck signifying Dracula's fang attack. I was spared.

At the breakfast table that morning I must have been the happiest guy on earth.


I dont know when, but sometime later , the ghosts dissappeared from my window. Probabaly the hormones did it. There were not any more ghosts in my life. Draculas interested me now but never stopped me from sleeping peacefully. Open windows carried only fresh air inside and not fear.

Thats when one day, we friends, decided to play the ghost story for our neighbouhood. One of us dressed fully in white (white cricketing gear, secretly smuggled out of our homes) used to be in the burial ground during the dark, exactly facing the road that ran adjoining the cemetry and led to the nearby housing society.

The ghost saga didnt run long as the whisperings about the ghost reached the local police station and we stopped our prank just in time.

It must've been a blood chilling sight. Ghost in white, smoke from the cremation ground in the back ground, a few dogs- in cahoots with us, howling here and there. Not a bad scene at all.

If I remember correctly, a man retraced his steps on seeing me, first hesitantly but frantically a little later. Another fell off his bycicle and ran for his life. But the prize goes to the one whose scooter went dead right in front as I appeared in white. He ran all the way home. He jumped the compound wall, blinded by fear, while the gate was fully open - so I heard.

Though I lost fear of the ghosts long back, Iam not too sure if they do or dont exist . They may perhaps- atleast for the believers. Thats what I learned from my later life.

Saturday, 14 March 2009


As simple as writing a name plate. But he generally does it on stony surfaces. Thats what he told me when I happened to visit him in his canvas shanty.

Victor the Epitaph writer was unkempt, fully stubbled, with a half torn shirt pocket that held a few beedis, spectacles with one of its legs broken and latched to the rest with a string, shrivelled skin, dried twig like legs ending in slippers that again were repaired and operated upon using strings, plasters, stitches etc. Just like many of them, run down old men, you would have found on the streets.

"I dont know if they are true, but I write them all the same. After all writing good things is good isnt it? and it pays too" - he said about the epitaphs he writes.

"How did you happen to be in this proffession"? (I kick start my interview since Iam covering the epitaph writer during the lunch break and I work for a bank and not for a magazine)

"My father was a grave digger. I left that to my cousin. I took up the more literary side of it" - he says, as he finishes engraving- ' John who was the best of 'em all - 1925- 2009' (Obviously on of the best, after all he lasted for quite a while- I thought about John)

Chip chip chip....A few chiselled stone pieces found their way inside my shoes, much to my irritation and stopped me from contemplating further on John's longevity.

"How much do you get paid"? I enquire
"Its like a telegram, lengthier the message, the more expensive it is". He replied.

"But on an average?" - I bring my banking skills in to it.

"Around Rs.500/-" he said. (Not bad.....not bad at all....for chipping away on a stone) (and again for the oversees reader, Rs. 500/- is around 10 US $ )

"See its all about their attachment to the deceased and ofcourse the depth of their pockets. The latter atleast is in sufficient measure in this area" - he clarifies as if in answer to my thoughts.

"How many epitaphs do you do per day". Me again.

"3-4 per week not more. What with many discontinuing the practice , or getting it done from some other engraver cheaply. I Should be starting that ' ek pe ek free' I guess" (again for my countless overseas followers 'ek pe ek free' means 'one free on buying one'- a special scheme going on in India now a days on almost every imaginable item) He rues the recession the epitaph business has come in to.

"The expenses are mounting on one side...." he continued.

"That reminds me , what do your children do?"

"Got a son. He married a Goan and is running a joint there on the beach.
No epitaph, shipitaph...for him.....and he left home long back".
"Others in the family..wife....?"
"She lies there...".He points his finger. "Again no epitaphs for her either....I couldnt bring myself to write something. Iam near her always atleast". He had stopped chiseling and looked forlornly at a corner of the cemetry.
"The mounting expenses that you were mentioning...?" I asked , not quite getting it.
"What other vices for an old man , other than liquor" - he laughs at me, through the two missing incisors.
I should have guessed so much from his red, bulgy veined, eyes.
"As a writer I make lots of cock and bull stories about nothing" - I explained, "Do you feel the same applies to the epitaphs"?- I point to 'John who was the best of 'em all'.
"With the exception of a very few, mostly all are a facade I guess, atleast it would seem so from the way people vanish forever from the grave after the epitaphs and the final prayers are over. They too are busy people afterall". His face sort of oozed the futility, false hood and repetitiveness of life.

"Which was the funniest of 'em all - of all the epitaphs I mean"?

"Cant say which is the best but there is a good one out there"

He takes me to far side of the grave yard , a few meters away from the creek. There it was engraved "Jacob who did nothing good till he died- 1935-2003"

In danger of over shooting my lunch break I say a quick good bye , handing him a full pack of cigarettes, and whilst he grins I shuffle off to my work. I made him promise to call me if he comes across even funnier one liners.

I move on to other subject for my blog - a frog which croaks outside my window, the mad lady with the crocodile teeth, the three men who dissappeared while they went for a stroll (mystery blog) and like wise...

I dropped down to visit him on my way to the block buster film - "Pyar kiya toh karna kya" (English men may read this as "what to do when you are in love") . By the way there are lots of good hindi films being made now a days. A real learning experience for you all.

Victor was not there. A young fellow was chiselling away. I enquired about victor. He kept silent and took me to that far end near the creek and pointed at a grave stone.

"Buried under the weight of my profession, Victor 1940- 2009".

Friday, 6 March 2009


Vijay Mallya lrobably did the right thing (I dont know if its due to love for the country or love for publicity) by bidding successfully for the Gandhian relics.
I would've done the same. But I never had the money. Thats not the point but.
Its about Gandhi v/s Mallya.
Gandhiji - is our father of the nation. (For readers from outside India - Gandhiji is somewhat like what George Washington is for the USA plus Gandhiji was a strong advocate of non-violence and espoused simplicity by moving about in a loin cloth). The title of "Mahathma"- meaning "a great soul" truly summarises him.
Now have a look at these disparities (Iam not suggesting anything but do have a look at them) :-
  1. Gandhi fought against alcoholism. Vijay Mallya's job is to sell alcohol. (By the way Gandhi's home state Gujarat is a dry state officially and hence is blessed with a very thriving illegal liquor business like any other dry state in India. Everyone drinks unofficially. Officially all are tetotallers. Drunken driving there can potentially convert itself into a triple charge along with consuming liquor and peddling it too.
  2. Gandhi was a simpleton (psst...loin cloth...loin cloth) . Vijay Mallya is in to Horse racing, IPL (cricket) , Formula 1 racing etc. Infact anything to do with public display of wealth, glitz and glamour. In all probability he might be wearing a designer "Jockey" (thats, a highly sought after brand of under wear in India , which can make a any lady swoon , anytime any place - guaranteed) in place of a loin cloth.
  3. Gandhi fasted often - Mallya's each meal would probably follow a multi cuisine style with a lot to spare for the trash can.
  4. Gandhi lived for a public cause. Mallya has more to do with publicity than anything with any of the public causes. Personal goals and gains are stashed away carefully with the public getting the facade probably.
  5. Gandhi was the epitome of non-violence. Mallya spent millions for Tipu Sultan's sword.
  6. Gandhi travelled third class in train and walked along side cars whose owners pleaded with him to accompany them. Mallya owns a high on frills airline.
The list can go on and on...........
But yet Mallya may have done the right thing. He successfully bid for the Mahathma's slippers and all because he was deeply emotional about the Mahathma, about India (so he says). Also long-after-independence-India is much different from the principled struggling-to-get- independent-India. Is'nt it? Any how its not fair to compare two different eras. Right?
Mallya may also have felt like giving an extra kick to the teeming millions who drank his brew and who thus helped him buy such expensive slippers.
What else are we all suggesting that Mallya should've done instead of bringing the slippers home?
May be first denounce liquor. Close down his empire. Ground the airline. Tie a loin cloth, may be. One will not do though, since he is portly. May be stitch the two of 'em togather and then forget about Gandhiji's slippers since Mallya himself would 've been on the path to be a Mahathma.
Hence I really cannot dispute what Mallya did. Especially since Iam overcritical (as always Iam) because I dont own an empire and hence can never be in a critcisable position of a bidder for the father of the nation's slippers.
But had the Mahathma anticipated the shape of things to come, he would surely have done away with his slippers, spectacles and the bowl long back so that they dont grow expensive from his humble name.
["What about the loin cloth then? "
"What about it?"
"Would'nt they have snatched his loin cloth and auctioned it off too ?"]
For he had scruples in his head and slippers on his feet.
For us though slippers have got into our heads, with scruples not in the neighbouring country even.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


First things first- I write but in a very small way.
But since I write I too am prone to my own small time pitfalls.
All writers write based on some real experiences I guess.
I do.
But while those real experiences are true they are far removed from what is written later.

Like for example :

"I scaled the walls of the ladies hostel..........was temporarily rusticated........." I wrote once somewhere to depict my non- existent student day exploits .

"That was really- really bad of you". A friend said and passed me a despicable glance.

Another who sounded like having a grudge with me said, " Really you are that kind of a person- I can understand". She spat. The flames from her mouth danced - like those of the chinese dragon.

My folly was I wrote the small write up in the first person. The incident that inspired me to make such a statement went somewhat like this:

(I and my friend were returning from town after a film. As we entered the campus there were loud bursts of crackers- the elections were won by some students group. Someone later told me that some fully drunk students (from the intense celebrations) tried climbing the walls of the ladies hostel. No one was either temporarily or permamnently rusticated)

Now look at what happened to my charactar when I wrote that in the first person after spicing it up a bit.

Any how I never retorted at my friends comments. (and how are they to know if what Iam writing is true or not) I sort of inwardly laughed at the way I effectively hoodwinked people with my writing and ofcourse all the while I was getting the balls of my charactar squashed too.

At times people read more into your writing than what you have actually meant. Once someone wrote " ....the ant tavelled from my left hand to my right........." or something like that depicting the movement of an ant on his body. (I tell you he should've ignored the ant)

One great proof reader suggested to the editor of the magazine - " its vulgar Iam sure...". (You know what ?- the proof reader surely must have been into lots of cheap porn)

The writer denied all such allegations. But finally he agreed to editing the line out than being seen as a molestor that too by the ant method.

So never write in the first person ? Many do.

Some others give names to the characters but really make them sound like the author himself. Giving a personal touch certainly brings the characters alive. So a bit of flesh and blood is a must I guess.

The mysterious grey area between the truth and fiction can be luciously exploitable. (its akin to a women coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel rather than fully nude, the former makes you salivate where as the latter can hit you like halley's comet)

Ofcourse the original "First person-Ball squashky" problem of your character still exists. I've not forgotten that.

So how to write -First person, Second person or as a Bystander?

Dont ask me. Honestly, I dont know.

As far as Iam concerned, blogs are basically 'I write - U read the crap"

So clear now? - Ur screwed the moment u stepped on to this blog.

Gud night.