Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Panipuri and Politics

   You probably know what this post is all about, if not, read this, this, and this. Most of you, like me, must also have had panipuris at a roadside shop. Of all the times when you were stuffing yourselves silly with the tasty, super high calorie snack, did you ever stop and wonder where those hands serving you had been? Now, I sure hope that you haven't stopped eating panipuris just because of a video that was shown on television over and over again, zoomed in and zoomed out ad nauseum, pausing for time so that you could run to the loo, puke out your lunch, and be back in time to watch some more 'news'.
   The aftermath of all that coverage by 'news' channels resulted in quite a few upset stomachs, the same stomachs that had rarely, if ever, been upset after eating panipuris and bhels at much shadier locations. Later, in the presence of news cameras, quite a few vendors were manhandled, and their scope for having a dinner from their meager earnings destroyed. Evening snackers, definitely not suffering from a lack of choice, moved on to other options without a second thought, and satiated their hunger.
   Take a step back for a moment here, and look at it from a cynic's point of view. Panipuris have been in existence for at least a few centuries now, if not less. In all these years, I don't suppose the snack has been cooked in refined oil by people who have washed their hands with Dettol and then further sanitized them with Purell. Come to think of it, do you wash your hands  with soap after every visit to the loo? Since forever, roadside snacks have been prepared the way everyone knows they are. Nothing has changed for a long time, and nothing is going to change that, live with it.
   The sole reason that this was publicised so much is that the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena(MNS), starved for airtime, needed an issue to come to the limelight, and conveniently found it in the form of panipuri-wallahs; poor people who come from the cow belt to Bombay to earn a living. Now, I am in no way justifying the unhygienic behavior of the vendors, and I absolutely believe that just because something has been done in a certain way in the past is no reason to continue doing it in the future. Some things have to change, but this is not the way to do it. 
   The MNS workers who beat up the vendors should also go and check out how the Vada-Pao, indigeneous to Maharashtra, is made, if they are really that serious about hygiene. Oh, and while they are at it, they should check up on the dosa-wallahs too, they just might find something fishy in there, and then proceed to beat up the South Indians and try to send them back to 'where they came from', as their patriarch has done before. Sarcasm apart, they should sponsor and maintain public toilets, take care of the heaps of garbage in the cities and villages, and maybe look into their own leaders' homes to rid the world of filth. Political mileage is no justification for making people lose their livelihoods, and at times their lives. If these parties are really serious about bringing about change, they should take constructive steps towards it, and not randomly beat up people.
   Coming back to the title of this blog, the lesson should be clear by now: Don't mix your panipuris with politics.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not Leaving XL

I don’t know what’s worse, leaving a place, or going to that place and finding it empty, devoid of anyone I know, of any activity whatsoever, of any music, or any light emanating from any of the windows.
Each time I go to the gym, I just look at the building adjacent to it, and there’s nobody there. No one poking fun at me from the Saint Thomas balcony for trying to lose weight, or anyone calling me to play badminton and my forgetting all about the gym and playing hours of badminton and turning up at the gym the next day with a sheepish grin. I turn up at the gym pretty regularly now, but there’s no sheepish grinning on my part, just a sad smile on looking at the gym noticeboard full of photographs of my batch mates working out. It’s mostly empty these days, just a few of the GMP regulars who come in the evening for an hour. I miss waiting for the treadmill to free up, for the right set of dumbbells to be let go of, for the right sized exercise ball to be there, for space to do my stretches.
I miss seeing anyone to say hi to every time I step out of my temporary office at the TMDC. I miss getting drunk enough for someone to lend me a shoulder and take me to my room. I know I won’t get as drunk as I did that night, when I was on my way back to my room from the wet night on JLT after 10 odd drinks, and suddenly hungry and tired, I sat down in front of Bishuda wondering whether I should go upstairs and get money from my room, because in my drunken state of mind, I didn’t want to take anything on debt from him, when suddenly somebody asked me, ‘Bhai bhookh lagi hai kya?’, I nodded, and someone was actually feeding me a paratha with their own hands. Yep, I don’t see this happening ever again.
I don’t see myself being woken up by frantic banging on my door in the middle of the night by someone who just wanted to say ‘Hi’. I don’t see myself being robbed of my bucket because the neighbor’s bucket was leaking. I don’t see myself opening the door every morning to see a poster on the door opposite mine which said, “Do not disturb, Hangover in progress.” I don’t think anyone will ever explain Economics to me again the way someone did by dancing while explaining the concepts to me, nor do I think I’ll have anyone borrowing my king-size mirror from my room to get a haircut. I don’t suppose anyone will ride my scooter almost into a gutter at full rev on the first gear, and I definitely don’t think anyone else will ever be game for tea at 3am.
All the crazy things I’ve experienced in these two years, each surpasses the other, and I don’t know what’s more painful; forgetting them or remembering them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Afridi, With Love - Maheen Sadiq

Here's a very well written post by a Maheen Sadiq, a filmmaker at Maati TV, based out of Karachi. I just happened across this while browsing through someone's facebook profile.
This article is an absolute eye opener as it brings to light what a regular Pakistani thinks about India, a refreshing change from what we are subjected to in the form of government propaganda and supposed "peace" summits that invariably result in war within a few years, putting every effort down the drain. Do read the post, I hope it gives you some food for thought.

There’s a lot to be said about the cricket tournament, especially our match against India. And it has a lot more to do with Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Gul’s bad luck, and Sachin Tendulkar’s good fortune.

Cricket speaks to our nation in a way our government never has.

And Shahid Afridi addressed the nation in a way our president never has – unselfish, genuine, modest. So when Afridi apologized to Pakistan, millions listened and were humbled by the gesture. Our eyes filled with tears and our hearts with love and strange kind of sorrow. Shahid Afridi, you need not apologize to the nation. We are proud of you and our entire cricket team! You didn’t bring back the cup, but any excitement, any happiness, any hope that Pakistanis have felt in the past few months is because of your brilliance. We’ve been hearing a lot of “Pakistan needs something to celebrate,” but what Pakistanis really needed was something to look forward to, and the green team gave us that with the anticipation of each game played.

The funny thing about cricket is that it can unite the nation through a victory or a loss. It would have been wonderful to go out on the streets and celebrate with dhols, etc, as we did when we won the 20/20 Cricket World Cup in 2009. But even after our loss yesterday, the people of Pakistan, in their state of disbelief, came out and shared their sorrow. Misery loves company. Cars on streets, people driving around slowly, quietly, patiently. No honking, no cursing, no where to go, no where to escape. It was surreal. This only goes to show what cricket means to us and the massive void it fills for our nation.

Cricketers, you made us patriotic. You made us passionate. You made us proud.

And these precious adjectives are some that Pakistan rarely gets the chance to associate itself with.

So again, Afridi, your apology is appreciated but not needed. You conducted yourself with patience, grace and dignity, encouraging your own with a smile, and congratulating the opponents with an even bigger smile. You didn’t win the semi-finals, but you won our hearts. Thank you for showing the world we are not an aggressive nation. To Pakistan, I propose this: if there’s anyone who needs to apologize it’s us. So to Afridi and the team, I apologize for the pressure I put on you to win the World Cup. It comes from my own shortcomings. So lazy and so cowardly am I that I am incapable of creating for myself a reason to celebrate Pakistan. Since as far as I can remember, my patriotism has tenaciously clung to cricket. It is unfair. I know.

To those Pakistanis who thought this was a match between Hindus and Muslims, I’m glad India won. This was never a battle between nations, or a jehad against Hindus. It was a semi-final cricket match, and if a loss is what it took to be reminded of this then I’m glad we lost. Victory would have only made you gloat over something you had wrong all along anyway. However, if there was one thing I was relieved to discover it was that we don’t hate India. We may hate America, but we don’t hate India. No burning of the Indian flag, no bitter remarks, no threatening reaction. Phew! Just healthy competition and a pure love for the game. So we don’t hate India. In fact, we hate Zardari. What pleased me even more were the numerous text messages and facebook statuses I came across that poked fun at Zardari. My personal favourite is, “ We congratulate India on winning the semi-finals. As a good-will gesture, India can keep Pakistan’s prime minister. And if it wins the finals, we will give our president too.”

Ahhh, Zardari jokes. They never get old. He’s our scapegoat now. It’s his fault we lost. Somehow. That being said, think. It’s time we stop asking of our cricketers something we should have been asking of ourselves. Or our government. Lets find ourselves a reason to be patriotic and celebrate Pakistan, and let cricket be a sport, not an identity. If we all just took a little responsibility, maybe our beloved team can finally approach the pitch as cricketers, not as soldiers entering the battlefield. We owe it to them.

Welcome back, boys!

Read it? Liked it? Rewired something in your head? Do comment.