23 April 2014

Why Modi should be warier of his supporters than his detractors

These days, on social media and in conversations, people who express any reservations about Modi as India’s future PM are invariably accused of being stuck in a time warp, failing to look beyond the 2002 riots. In my opinion, its actually the contrary that is true. A significant proportion of modi supporters, inspite of all the rhetoric about development and progress, still cling to the notion that he is pro-hindu and that is what dictates their allegiance to him. Many others who dish out development stats and the corruption issue were also drawn towards him just because of his pro-majority stance, their grouse being minority appeasement. Prod them a bit and the development plank will quickly give way to veiled minority-bashing. This is precisely the reason the communalism bogey refuses to die down, because even though many of his supporters ostensibly support modi’s development agenda, deep down many of them hope that he will root out the practice of minority appeasement. While no one can deny that minority appeasement has been regressive and counter-productive, the fundamentalists often use this as an excuse for their prejudices. And these fundamentalists, for multiple reasons, somehow see Modi as their messiah, as is evident from statements by Togadia, Girirah and all.
My point is that even though Modi may have turned over a new leaf and may no longer be a religious bigot, his supporters, even more so than his critics, are refusing to acknowledge it. Many still believe that his conciliatory stand is just due to electoral compulsions, and these are not his detractors. That is why a murderer like Bajrangi claims that Modi got three judges transferred to get him bail, a rabble-rouser like Muthalik presumes that he would be welcomed by BJP with open arms and fanatics like Togadia make obnoxious statements in his home state.
Its rather paradoxical that a majority of Modi’s supporters as well as his critics are unwilling to accept that he is no longer anti-muslim, and while the critics are apprehensive about it, his supporters are pleased about his presumed dissemblance.

21 August 2013

Narendra Modi as PM?

A friend recently suggested that I pen my opinion regarding Narendra Modi as a potential prime ministerial candidate. I’m sure most of us have thought on those lines and have formed our opinions. For me, I didn’t find it easy to reach a conclusion, pretty much like my predicament regarding voting. I’ve stayed in Gujarat for more than six years and there can be no denying the fact that it is one of the most comfortable states in India to live in. And it’s been more than five years since I left Gujarat and by all accounts, it seems to have become even better, at least in terms of infrastructure such as roads, public transport, low crime rates etc. For the educated urban middle and upper classes, the only yardstick for development is how convenient their lives have become, and roads and industries are visible and obvious manifestations of development, according to them. And it is this chosen few that controls as well as consumes popular messaging through mass media. Hence, this sudden clamor among TV channels (particularly English language) and social media regarding how Narendra Modi can be the panacea for the country, once he is at the helm.
It will be foolhardy to state that Narendra Modi has not done anything positive in terms of development, even though it is debatable if the development is inclusive across social, economic and religious strata. For the sake of simplicity, and for want of contradictory facts, let us accept that Modi has transformed Gujarat over the past decade or so, as his followers would like to believe. Anyway, the point is, even if we assume that Gujarat’s development has accelerated over the past decade, isn’t it a case of oversimplification to attribute it to one individual? I’m sure everyone would agree that Gujarat has never been a backward state, right from its inception in 1960. Finding reasons for it would necessitate making generalizations about the entrepreneurship of Gujaratis, the influx of NRI money etc. Popular opinion seems to imply that Modi has a somewhat hard-nosed approach towards governance, and quite evidently, he is a strong-willed persona, essential traits for a leader. By that reasoning, Modi does seem to have played a big part in Gujarat’s road to prosperity.
This assumption brings us to the proverbial thorn in the flesh for Modi and his supporters, the riots of 2001. If he is such an able leader who is always in command, why did he allow the riots to continue unabated across the state for weeks? As in, if Modi is the single entity responsible for Gujarat’s ostensible development, how can he not be responsible for the heinous carnage? Isn’t it scary that a reprehensible character like Babu Bajrangi boasts about how Modi got ‘three judges transferred just to secure bail for him’? Doesn’t it bother us that shady characters like Amit Shah wield such huge influence? Doesn’t the experience of someone like Mallika Sarabhai, whose Darpan academy was not allowed to run in Gujarat because of her open opposition to Modi reek of intolerance bordering on fascism? Isn’t it alarming that any criticism of Modi brings out vitriolic and abusive reactions from his supporters, who have this ‘you’re either with us or you are our enemy’ attitude? And aren’t those who deride Congress’s dynastic and personality cult indulging in an equally sycophantic hero-worship? And what about the undeniable fact that a significant proportion of the country’s population will feel insecure and threatened by Modi’s presence at the helm?
Personally, I would be happy if the roads of Bangalore were to become even a fraction as good as those in Ahmedabad, and if Modi can do it, fine with me. But again, I and people like me aren’t the only residents of this country, in fact, we are just a miniscule. If we go by socio-economic indicators available in public domain, Gujarat hasn’t fared much better than other Indian states in terms of inclusive development. In terms of public expenditure on health and education, Gujarat is below 14 other states in India, one-thirds of Gujarat lives below the poverty line. Closer scrutiny reveals considerable lacunae in the growth story as well, projects implemented or under implementation have fallen from 73 per cent in 2003 to 13 per cent in 2011. I agree that statistics are not a sure-fire indicator but Modi supporters often make tall claims based on stats. In fact, Narendra Modi himself has claimed on numerous occasions that the milk we drink comes from Gujarat, which really doesn’t make much sense because in terms of milk production, Gujarat is a distant seventh in the country.
Again, statistics don’t help much because for each one I place here, someone else might come up with two others to prove their point. The point I’m trying to make is that things aren’t always as black and white as Modi supporters like to believe. Maybe Modi as PM could be a positive development, but being so smugly certain about it is naivete.

08 May 2013

Why I chose not to vote in the Karnataka assembly elections 2013

As has been the trend in previous elections, Bangalore Urban recorded the worst voter turnout in this year’s Karnataka assemble elections. And I have to admit that I contributed to the low turnout. Often, the urban educated electorate has been accused of being callous and indifferent, capable of only passing judgments but stopping short of doing anything about it. While there is merit in that argument, I believe there is another factor governing the lack of will to vote, the absence of a clear motivation to vote someone in or out of power.
In the past, I have exercised my franchise on most occasions since attaining adulthood. However, I chose to stay away this time around. And that was because I really don’t know who to vote for. I’ve encountered similar predicaments in the past as well but usually I was sufficiently clear on who I don’t want to come in power. This time, in Karnataka, I didn’t even have the luxury of choosing the lesser of the evils. At the national level, the Congress has set new standards in misgovernance, and instead of addressing it, all they seem to be capable of doing is achieving new lows in obnoxious sycophancy towards the Gandhi family. The BJP seems to be treading the same path now, with its Narendra Modi obsession. At the state level, I can’t find a single good reason to vote the BJP back to power. Most would agree that Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy are not an alternative.
At the constituency level, it is all the more difficult to make a decision because you are hardly ever aware of a candidate’s credentials. A solution could probably be public debates, or something more practical would be the promotion of a candidate’s achievements. Instead, what we get in terms of canvassing is huge cut-outs of Gandhi, Modi or any other leader to whom the candidate wants to pledge their allegiance.
So where does all this leave the voter. I personally decided that instead of making a half-baked uninformed decision, I’d leave it to the majority and hope that they have a clearer perspective than I have.

10 January 2013

Best Hindi Movies of 2012

Here’s a me-too list, my take on the best Hindi movies released In 2012, in order of preference. I stress on released because there were quite a few unreleased works like Kshay, Supremen of Malegaon etc. which I haven’t included.

Gangs of Wasseypur-1 (Anurag Kashyap): The sort of movie that you need to watch multiple times to really appreciate its brilliance. Almost everything was perfect about this Anurag Kashyap masterpiece, except perhaps the needless voyeurism exploring Reema Sen’s body. The first half hour that depicted the history of Wasseypur was a lesson in story telling. A remarkably authentic setting, an apt musical score, and brilliant performances by Manoj Vajpai, Richa Chaddha, Tigamanshu Dhulia and the entire cast made for a memorable cinematic experience.

Paan Singh Tomar (Tigmanshu Dhuliya): In what was a good sign for Hindi Cinema, PST actually ended up being one of the most successful films on the box office for the year. The director Tigmanshu Dhuliya and the actors, led by a terrific Irfan Khan, captured the Bundelkhand setting and dialect to perfection. Lesser known actors, including an impressive Mahie Gill and Brijendra Kala as the diffident journalist, and an engaging screenplay made sure that PST was appreciated by a wide variety of movie-goers.

Vicky Donor (Shoojit Sircar): In Vicky Donor, Indian Cinema unearthed one of the most talented performers of recent years, Ayushman Khurana. An excellent depiction of the quirks of the city of Delhi, Vicky Donor was ably supported by some mellifluous music. Yami Gautam was a refreshing change from the typical plastic caricatures that play female leads in Hindi Cinema. Dolly Ahluwalia, playing Vicky’s mother, was a revelation.

Shanghai (Dibakar Bannerjee): A brave work, delving into the genre of political thrillers, largely unexplored in Hindi Cinema. Inspired by Costas Gavras’ Z, Shanghai did more than adequate justice to the original. Competent performances by Imran Hashmi and Abhay Deol were overshadowed by the brilliant depiction of an unscrupulous bureaucrat by Farooq Shaikh.

Gangs of Wasseypur-2 (Anurag Kashyap): Paled in comparison to GOW-1, but was nonetheless a great work. Highlights were brilliant performances by unknown actors like zeeshan quadric, Vipin Sharma etc. and some tongue-in-cheek humour.

Luv Shuv Te Chicken Khurana (Sameer Shrama): A feel-good movie, redolent of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s works. Huma Quraishi was the stand-out performer, more so for the departure from her earlier portrayal of a feisty Bihari girl in GOW-2. Equally impressive was the endearing Titu played to perfection by Rajesh Sharma. Probably a more capable actor than Kunal Kapoor could have helped.

Jalpari-The Desert Mermaid (Nila Madhab Panda): Following his earlier ‘I am Kalam’, the director made another brave movie, tackling the sensitive issue of female infanticide without being preachy and melodramatic. Notable were the excellent performances of the child actors.

English Vinglish (Gauri Shinde): The first and only time Sridevi looks beautiful and actually acts well, English Vinglish used a simple premise to come up with a reasonable depiction of the archetypal Indian homemaker. Thankfully, it stayed away from the stereotypes characteristic of such works.

Oh My God (Umesh Shukla): This movie touched upon the controversial subject of religion with a fair bit of equanimity, but only to a certain extent. Probably scared that a negative portrayal might result in a backlash, the director chose to introduce some needless diversions, and by the end of it, it suffered from over-cautiousness and populism.

Makkhi (S S Rajamouli): This was a Telugu movie dubbed in Hindi helped by some good special effects, not exactly matching Hollywood standards but still miles ahead of what we are accustomed to in Indian Cinema. There was nothing great about the script or the performances, just the fact that it was so different made it worth viewing.

Kahaani (Sujoy Ghosh): An excellent performance by Vidya Balan and an engaging script made Kahaani a watchable movie.

Barfi (Anurag Basu): In spite of the best efforts of Priyanka Chopra to destroy it, Barfi survived simply because of the performance of Ranbir Kapoor and the standout music score of the year. Ileana D’Cruz was one of the prettiest faces to adorn the screen in a long time, and in comparison with the dreadful caricaturish performance of Priyanka Chopra, was considerably better.

Some other movies that might have made it to my list had I watched them Gattu, Forest, Dabang-2, to name a few. 

04 October 2010

ayodhya and cwg: what next

The past week saw two events, which were met with widespread accolades in the media and the establishment in general, but which are likely to have far-reaching repercussions. The first was the Ayodhya verdict. The endless self-congratulatory pats on the back accorded by the politicos and the media are harping on the victory of the country’s ‘secular credentials’. But even the staunchest pro-majority fundamentalist will have to accede that the verdict has a strong bias towards the Hindus. There may not be any immediate fall-outs of the verdict, but have we tried to examine the reasons behind it and its long-term implications?

The Indian Muslim has over the years become less inclined to direct confrontations, not because of any mellowing of the fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has, on the contrary, risen over the years. But lately, the tendency is to play the wronged martyr, rather than the aggressor. The reason for this is the corresponding shift is the Hindu majority’s changing outlook towards intolerance and aggressive self-assertion and the Islamist fundamentalists’ realization that a direct confrontation is likely to have a much more negative impact on the Muslims rather than the Hindus. There has been a significant shift in the stands of the judiciary and the establishment as well. While earlier there was a tendency to appease the Muslims, the appeasement has now tilted towards the Hindus, largely because the Hindu fundamentalist has become more prone to immediate violent reactions. This does not imply that the Muslims have become more tolerant. In fact the ‘wronged’ consciousness is what has resulted in the spate of terrorist attacks. Islamic fundamentals now hit back at the presumed atrocities in a much more damaging manner. Most terrorist attacks have cited the Gujarat riots or the Masjid demolitions as their justifications for the attacks. This verdict provides the self-appointed protectors of the Indian Muslim with another excuse for playing upon his emotions and insecurities. So, even though there has not been any immediate ramification, the long-term prospects are ominous.

The second event which has drawn even more self-aggrandizement is the apparent success of the CWG opening ceremony. Whether or not the event matched international standards is a matter of one’s own perception. However, the sudden shift in the media’s standpoint from rubbishing everything about the games to hailing the event is also likely to have negative upshots over the years. The fact that the country is willing to overlook the extravagant and profligate expenditure, which could have been put to far better uses will give the establishment another opportunity to vie for future events of this magnitude. Which means, more corruption, more mismanagement, and most importantly, more wasteful expenditure. And can we afford such extravagance when more than half of the country is struggling to garner two square meals a day? Significantly, the fallout of both these events has been dictated by the media, which has become a proxy establishment by itself. The media claims that India has become more mature, going by the response to the Ayodhya verdict, and playing to the gallery, it professes that the CWG has enhanced the country’s international stature. But examine it closely, and it becomes evident that such claims are just eyewash and the ground reality cannot be any farther from these assertions.

So, while we may be rejoicing now, we would have much more reasons to regret these incidents in the years to come.

31 August 2010

match fixing: is it for real?

Yet another allegation of match fixing. And at stake is arguably the most potent new ball pair in the world. While there is no doubt about the fact that this issue raises serious questions about the integrity of the cricketers, I feel they ought to be given another chance. What’s the big deal about bowling a few no-balls in a match in which the result was a foregone conclusion? It’s not as if bowling these no balls contributed to Pakistan’s loss. And the baseless allegations about Pakistan having tanked the Sydney test and other such matches reek of sensationalism. Pakistan was beaten fair and square at Sydney and I still believe no cricketer could ever take money for throwing a match. Particularly so in the sub-continent, where the cricketers would very well know how much a victory or defeat means to the viewers. And why would they risk their careers for a little money, when they know that doing well would open up enormous avenues for money-making for them? None of the fixing allegations, except the admission from Hansie Cronje, have been proven till date. They have destroyed promising cricketing careers, though. Rashid Latif, for instance, was one of the best wicket-keepers of our time before he was banned without any substantial proof. Yes, it is very much a possibility that cricketers would be taking money for bowling the odd no ball, but with the nature of the game, it doesn’t actually seem possible for any cricketer to tank a match when he is only one member of the playing eleven. And allegations about dropping catches also seem absurd. The fielders usually get a split second to react when the ball comes their way. Is it possible for them to botch it up intentionally, while making it seem a genuine attempt, within a matter of seconds? From the cricketers’ perspective, this would be just a harmless way of making some extra money, which, though a despicable move, still doesn’t warrant a crucifixion. For that matter, even Randiv bowled a deliberate no-ball.

17 June 2010

another movie review: shutter island

For those who swear by Martin Scorsese and have had the chance to watch some of his defining works like Raging Bull or Taxi Driver, Shutter Island will be a huge let-down. However, if you don’t have the baggage of expectations and are going to watch it like any other movie, it might just be interesting enough. Probably the weakest of all Scorcese movies till date, Shutter Island fails on multiple counts. The oft-repeated premise of mentally unsound characters offers the film-maker the liberty to introduce outrageous and absurd twists to the narrative. The whole movie builds up towards that final ‘revelation’ and the more implausible it is, the better (an instance of this was the recent ‘Karthik calling Karthik). Such films rely more on ‘shock-value’ than anything else. Shutter Island also falls into the same category, except that it is more adeptly handled and has some superior production values. Leonardo Di Caprio plays the familiar role of the shrewd and calculating cop yet again and is adequate. However, like most of his other roles, he does not add any extra dimensions to the character he plays, and it doesn’t stay with you beyond the two hours of watching him act. Ben Kingsley is wasted in an ill-defined role, which is probably because the script intends it to be so. There is nothing remarkable about any of the other performances, the actors just come and go, again, serving as bits and pieces of a mysterious puzzle. There are many other flaws in the script but revealing them here would take away the surprise element, hence I’ll desist from doing so. Despite all these drawbacks, the film does keep you hooked, the pace doesn’t slacken and you will be curious to know ‘what’s going on’. The cinematography is excellent and the ambience does give a sense of foreboding throughout the movie. And while the concept may be outlandish, it is definitely fresh. To conclude, Shutter Island can be viewed once, but it isn’t the sort of movie you’d remember one year down the line. For Scorcese fans, don’t watch it expecting a Taxi Driver, ‘Raging Bull’ or ‘After Hours’ or even a ‘Gangs of New York’, and you may not be so disappointed.

movie review: Rajneeti

Often, movies which boast of ensemble casts and are preceded by tremendous hype fail to live up to the expectations of the audience. The expectations become magnified, and even an average effort turns out to be a box office dud, simply because the viewer comes expecting the moon and ends up getting a street-light, or sometimes, being left in the dark.

Rajneeti, however, does not disappoint. Yes, maybe it will be slightly disappointing for some who expected a landmark movie, what with arguably one of the most explosive assembly of great actors. But as I said earlier, it may not be the moon, but its one powerful halogen lamp nevertheless. Tapping into one of the best stories ever told, the Mahabharat, the film is backed by a powerful and taut script. The complexity of the characters is suitably maintained; with each of the protagonists showing their dark sides. The most powerful role is reserved for Arjun (Ranbir kapoor) which speaks volumes of his star power. However, while he is more than competent in the role, you get the feeling that perhaps the underplaying had to be toned up a bit. The absolute lack of emotions the character is supposed to have is a bit far-fetched. All the more so when his entry into the big bad world of politics has been dictated by the desire for vengeance. There is ample similarity between Michael Corleone of Godfather 2 and Arjun. But even though Michael was also shown as being reticent and unmoved, Al Pacino made him much more human and sensitive than Ranbir Kapoor. Maybe it’s unfair to compare Ranbir Kapoor with someone like Al Pacino, but he has shown enough evidence of his acting skills in some of his previous movies. So, the restraint could have been loosened up a bit, to give him more opportunities to display his acting skills.

As for the rest of the cast, there are three actors who contribute significantly; Manoj Bajpai, Ajay Devgan, and Arjun rampal. Nana Patekar doesn’t have a lot to do while Naseeruddin Shah seems to have turned up in a blink-and-a-miss role for reasons best known to him and the director. A lot has been said about Katrina Kaif in the media,which isn’t entirely unjustified. This is easily her only good performance, apart from Namaste London. However, that is as far it goes, a particularly bad actress coming up with a competent performance.
Ajay Devgun has that familiar tortured look throughout the movie, which has become his forte. He doesn’t disappoint, but you are too used to seeing him in the role of the wronged and upright individual. Arjun Rampal, again, like Katrina Kaif is not much of an actor. So, you’d be pleasantly surprised by his performance, hugely aided by a role which most actors would die for.

Finally, the best thing about the movie, Manoj Bajpai. It’s sad that an actor of his caliber is languishing in the sidelines after his outstanding performances in Satya, Shool, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, and many more. Coming to the fore after a long hiatus, his is the character which stays with you for long after you’ve seen the movie. Agreed, he is over the top and melodramatic at times, but his role requires him to be so. A marvelous performance, even by his high standards, which makes it one of the high points of the movie.

For those who have been following Prakash Jha’s movies in the past, like Damul, Mrityudand, Gangajal, Apharan etc., the most noticeable aspect of the movie is the absence of a socially relevant theme and message. Unlike his earlier movies, which tackled burning social issues, Rajneeti is plain and simple story-telling. Though it’s a great example of entertaining and engaging cinema, it doesn’t stir up emotions, like the frustration and anger aroused by the helplessness and victimization of Ajay Shastri in Apharan, the despair on witnessing the realistic and tragic practice of bonded labor in Damul, nor does it give you an adrenaline rush felt with the social upheaval engendered by SP Amit Kumar of Gangajal or the rebellion of women against atrocities from Mrityudand. It does tackle the issue of the power hungry politics, but it does so dispassionately, and doesn’t offer any new perspectives. It’s more a tale of a family torn by internal strife than a depiction of the political quagmire in our country. All said and done, Rajneeti is definitely worth a watch, and probably, one of the best Hindi movies of this year.

By the way, an added incentive is the manner in which the beautiful city of Bhopal is shown throughout the movie.

08 June 2010

Strikes and protest: changing perceptions

Trade unionism and organized protests in recent times have become a pariah, an object of disparagement. In the media and middle-class consciousness, it’s begun to symbolize an impediment to progress. The roots to these perceptions lie in the disenchantment with the public sector industry, which is now deemed to be an inefficient burden on the country’s exchequer. The strikes in the textile mills of Mumbai, the fall from grace of the state of West Bengal from the map of industrialization and development, the corruption and inefficiencies of government undertakings are all somehow attributed to trade unionism. And this isn’t necessarily untrue. The PSU and government employees who could ostensibly get away with anything and the bureaucracy who plague our government machinery have survived without much effort largely because of the unions. We have iron ore mines running for decades when the entire resources have been depleted, just so that the employees’ salaries can be paid, we have sick units dragging on without any hope of a turnaround just because the unions won’t allow their closure; and we have the all-too-familiar blackmails by providers of essential services to have their just or unjust demands met. Lately, there have been voices which have called for ruthless handling of any voice of dissent. Aided by the media which panders to the views of a minority which unfailingly opposes any hindrance to their comfortable lives, the opponents of public protests are having a field day. In the absence of any support, unions and protestors have to face the brunt of opposition from all quarters.

These tendencies are now leading to a situation wherein even the legitimate demands of protestors are quashed without any opposition. A recent instance was the way in which the strike called by the employee unions of Air India was dealt with. Not many are aware of what prompted the strike in the first place. An extremely biased and melodramatic reporting focused only on the trouble faced by the commuters, and the contention that a strike just after a major disaster involving the national was unjustified. The fall-out was the termination of striking employees and derecognition of Air India employee unions. The rhetoric of the management and the aviation ministry was facilitated by a sympathetic media and its consumers who were not willing to compromise on their convenience at any cost. Nobody really cared about the standpoint of the striking employees, there was unbridled rejoicing when the strike was forcibly brought down, considered to be a vindication of the media and airline consumers’ opinions.

What actually happened, what prompted the Air India employees to go on a strike a day after one of the biggest tragedies visited in the history of Indian passenger aviation? While trouble had been brewing for long regarding non-payment of salaries, which in itself is more than a good reason for calling off work, the flash-point was a gag order implemented by Air India management, restraining its employees from making any unauthorized statements regarding the carrier. It went on to suspend an employee who had raised a question about the certification process of an aircraft’s flight-worthiness. Apparently, the ill-fated Mangalore aircraft was cleared for flight by a team of engineers from Kingfisher Airlines. The suspended employee had questioned the credentials and qualification of the team and the very practice of a private body performing such a sensitive task. Even though the crash did not occur because of any aircraft snag, the point raised was quite valid. As regards non-payment of salaries, it would be insane to expect someone to carry on working without getting the wages on time.

In spite of all these valid arguments, the employees’ strike was met with impatience and high-handedness, and the calling off termed as a victory for the airline management. In truth, it was an unjust repression, which shows the changing face of India’s work ethics.

10 May 2010

the tale of the rat poison seller

He used to sell a formulation designed to exterminate vermin. Standing at the town’s most crowded street corner, he’d bawl his guts out, “Maro, Maro” which literally translates to “kill, kill”. This intonation of his would go on for hours at a stretch, be it the most inclement of weathers, which came with annoying regularity. The toughest season was summer, which lasted for more than nine months in a year. The proximity to the sea made his white polyester shirt cling to his frail frame so much so that his clenched nerves, throbbing with his screams, would seem on the verge of exploding, leaving just a frame of bones still yelling ‘Maro, Maro’.

He was pitch black, emaciated, not very tall, and bespectacled, having long smooth hair, oiled to an extent that they would appear thoroughly wet. The hair themselves were a remarkable color, the blackest black imaginable; the kind of black you would show a kid to define black. He had a huge cyst on his neck, which used to wriggle with each superhuman effort of his to bring out the loudest amplitude, exhorting everyone to turn into murderers. The pain and discomfort would be there for everyone to see, but it somehow seemed that this remarkably strong willed persona was always destined to pursue this grotesque profession.

People stumbling over him, giving probing, amused or shocked glances would turn away with a sentiment akin to guilt, as though they were collectively responsible for the misery heaped upon him. The usual progression of emotions on coming across this hideous outcome of human civilization was amazement, amusement, sympathy, guilt and finally, an accusing indifference. For some, the indifference could even turn into hatred. They would feel indignant, blaming him for having roused their apathetic interest just like a blazing curio among the inconsequential trinkets at an amusement park. They would hate him for flaunting his pathos, his misery and the absolute lack of emotion he showed, his apparent indifference to derisive glances, his unconcern with the fruits of his labor and his tenacity which gave them a measure of their own vulnerability.

07 May 2010

death to kasab

Since yesterday, when the death sentence for Kasab was announced, there is unbridled joy being expressed by the media and the people in general. The splurge of posts on social networking sites celebrating the judgment takes on various hues. Some condemn the time and money spent on his trial for what should have been an open-and-shut case. Some praise the Indian judicial system which allows even someone like Kasab to undergo a fair trial, and some just resort to jingoistic balderdash.

There is another group of people who dwell upon the morality of the death penalty and whether such a ‘heinous’ act should be abolished altogether, like in some countries. This group assumes that death penalty is an inhuman or heinous act. In my opinion, it isn’t so. As a matter of fact, a death sentence is probably the mildest form of retribution for someone who has no hope of evading the law. Amongst all fears that plague us, fear of death is probably the one which is least encountered. How many of us are actually afraid of dying, how many of us even ever think about dying, which is in fact the only certainly of life. Each of us is going to die anyhow, so how does death become a punishment. In fact, the quick death by the noose is perhaps much easier to endure than a slow painful death.

And does awarding the death penalty become a deterrent? Certainly not. How can something which you or anyone you know has never experienced become a deterrent? Suffering, we all know, or can at least imagine, but death? Moreover, a quick death ensures that someone like Kasab, so heavily indoctrinated with his fanaticism takes his hatred to the grave with him. So, it’s just a proponent of an ideology who dies, the dogma itself still survives, and in fact, flourishes, emphasized by the assumed martyr who gave his life for it.

On the other hand, if such a criminal is subjected to life-long torment, with no respite or hope, the aura associated with his act gradually fades away, both in his own as well as his supporters’ eyes. In the never-ending anguish, the perpetrator may even realize the futility of his crime. As for retribution, what can be a bigger revenge than having someone spend his whole life confined within four walls in sub-human living conditions? The ideas that he lives on are likely to wither away in a matter of months and he becomes a despicable reckless individual, detested because of his actions, but certainly not revered for his beliefs. For a religious fanatic, the death penalty is a sort of corroboration of his viewpoint. It just endorses the filmy cliché ‘it’s better to die with your head held high than to go through an agonizing existence forever facing ridicule, scorn and contempt’.