Sunday, August 23, 2009

turd ways

I have been wondering whether it might be reasonable to posit an equivalence between the BJP's recent expulsion of Jaswant Singh and the CPI(M)'s treatment of Somnath Chatterjee in the wake of his refusal to toe the party line during the July 2008 no-confidence motion in Parliament. In the former case, the BJP denied the right of a party member to exercise his constitutional right of free speech. In the latter, the CPI(M) seemed to have lost cognisance of the understanding that the Speaker is supposed to be above (beyond?) party affiliation for the duration of his tenure in that post. The CPI(M) decision upset me more because I (used to?) care more about what it does generally, and because its actions betrayed a lack of understanding of constitutional and parliamentary conventions. Most of the time I'm quite pleased to see the BJP engage in fratricide, but Indian political discourse loses something very precious every time parties suppress internal dissent and ban books. Vidya Subrahmaniam notes that the Congress has rewarded Shashi Tharoor despite his (gently) critical comments on the Nehru-Gandhis. The cynic in me wants to say that the Congress doesn't face similar issues because it has no ideology. Congressmen have long understood that they enjoy freedom of speech subject to unquestioning loyalty to the Caesarist high command.

On the subject of banning books, I was pleased to note that our esteemed CM Yedyurappa has decided not to ban the book in Karnataka because (i) banning books only increases sales; (ii) no Kannadiga has been insulted in Jaswant's book (no comment on the parochialism of our freedom). On an unrelated issue, I was perplexed (but not unpleasantly) to note that Yeddy has also promised to rehabilitate the surviving descendants of Tipu Sultan. This seems to be a matter that has been in the administrative pipeline for sometime. I just wonder if the definition of 'pseudo-secularism' includes throwing crumbs to the descendants of long-dead kings even as you deny the rights of the living to express their religious identities. Burkhas became an issue in Karnataka last week when a girl in a Mangalore college was 'banned' from wearing one, setting the stage for a confrontation between Ram Sene-types masquerading as French secularists and 'Islamic' organisations taking the line that 'Muslim girls are duty bound to wear hijab'. Want to inhabit the space between? Buy my book in 2010. (Bah, middle ways again. I'm really not wedded to them. Terry Eagleton once asked, 'what's the middle way between Jews and Nazis?')

Thursday, August 06, 2009

delhi

i am in infrastructure nirvana. broad flat roads with many lanes, flyovers, effortless underpasses with no crazy gradient changes and zigzag dividers, leafy tree-lined avenues, roads down which it is possible to go both up and down (for those of you wondering why this is something to be grateful for, try negotiating bangalore's ever-modulating system of one-ways), a metro (as yet untried by this blogger, but knowing it exists is a great source of excitement), buses of many different kinds, we shall ignore the auto-drivers from hell (but a new supreme court-imposed quota has reportedly artificially jacked up the price of renting autos, inducing virtually all drivers to become professional extortionists to recover their investment), addresses that can be found. any comments about heat and dust will make me sound like a ruth prawer jhabvala novel, so i shall desist from making them. middle-class indians like myself, i am beginning to think, are obsessed with infrastructure. i would hazard the claim that in few other middle classes anywhere in the world do drawing room conversations routinely turn to the state of infrastructure in the city. everyone from the professional urban planner to the irate housewife has a view: on how much of a shortfall there is, how it should be made up, whose fault it is that it hasn't, and so on. decisions about which city to live in are made on the basis of who wins the infrastructure wars. the reason is quite simple: we, the rich, can buy everything except infrastructure.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

1st main, 2nd cross, 3rd block, 4th phase, 5th stage, somewhere

we live on 1st main, 8th cross of koramangala 4th block. sometimes i feel like writing 'turn left at the t-junction' somewhere in the address. 8th main seems to have major arterial importance in terms of people finding their bearings. i'm not sure why proper nouns have gone out of fashion in the newer parts of bangalore. it's not that we're short of celebrities. to the contrary, i suspect that we have a vast reservoir of B-grade celebrities, none of whom towers over the others enough to warrant having a major road named after them. so instead we're condemned to this naming system of numbers and building blocks. i particularly like phase and stage, because they sound so teleological - almost as if 4th phase and 5th stage are vastly improved over their predecessors, with much better amenities taking you that much closer to liberation from the cycle of digging and relaying within which most of us hapless citizens in the lower phases and stages of urban planning are trapped thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the bruhat bengaluru mahanagara palike.

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