In the loop.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Islamophobic backlash is just beginning.

I came across an interesting article in this context.The author makes three points- (in case you’re thinking TL,DR):

1. There exists a ‘positive feedback loop’ between anti-western/anti-islam ideologies

2. Moderate Muslims should do their bit by speaking out and condemning radical Islam, as currently, outrage seems to be directed selectively against ‘injustices’ -like offensive cartoons/movies

3. The West should also actively abandon an Islamophobic attitude to further weaken the loop.

While I completely agree with the article in its entirety, I think the realisation of the writer’s second point will be extremely difficult-

First, because the ‘moderates’ and the ‘extremists’ are two distinct groups. Extremists are far more ‘visible’ because they actively participate in acts of dissent. Moderates are ordinary folks going about their daily lives-presumably the kind who have better things to do than to stage defensive protests. They are far more likely to register their disapproval in less visible ways- in articles, in conversations, perhaps even on social media- which makes their collective voice much more harder to discern. That is why you will see protests against cartoons- but none against fatwas.

The narrative of the ‘moderate Muslim condemning the radical Muslim’ is unfortunately inconspicuous in major media because of it’s dissipated, unorganised, individual nature. Discounting it’s very existence however, is wrong.

Second, the dissemination of radical ideology is probably spreading at a rate  faster than the moderates can keep it in check. The reason for this is numbingly simple- the ‘radicals’ have Wahhabi backers and limitless sources of funding, while the moderates do not. Moderate imams, mosques and madrassas are actively being ‘recruited’ into the cause of extremists using petrodollars. Take this for example. Or this. Of course you can hope that nobody buys into their brand of Islam, but the truth is that there are enough disenchanted souls who will be seduced by this increasingly pervasive rhetoric.

In the end, it boils down to simple, cynical truths- money matters. So does PR. At present ‘moderate’ Muslims- despite their best intentions- do not possess the former, and aren’t organised enough to meaningfully consider the latter.

And that’s why the third point becomes all the more important. Although the author meant for it to apply to government policy, it is literally the only thing we can do as individuals-ease up on the hard feelings.


As I write this, the law enforcement authorities in Boston are continuing the hunt for “White Hat”, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

I’ve never said this before, but I have a sibling who lives in the Greater Boston area. She lives very close to where the certain events took place last night/this morning- close enough to send me extremely worrying photos. She’s since been escorted out of her building by the Boston Police, but spent an hour in a state of significant worry, knowing (and seeing) that there were gunmen literally right outside where she was. Luckily, she was not alone , and luckily, the action subsequently shifted elsewhere. Luckily, at the time,( she and I ) were oblivious to the fact that these men were the terrorists of the Boston Marathon- I’m sure that would have caused more panic.She’s been in touch with me on and off. But honestly, I cannot wait for this chase to end. And this terrorist attack- in a far away city- has turned personal in an unimaginable way . It makes my stomach churn to think that these men were close enough to her that she was sure that would try to enter her building. It makes me sick to think that she spent a whole sixty minutes in fear.

I wondered about blogging about this. I wanted to vent, I guess.

I ruminate*

Dear Ajja/Ajji

When I last spoke to Amma, she mentioned the Important Function coming up next year. She also said that you had considered a ‘go daana’ (donating a cow), but had decided against it. The reason, as the purohit so kindly put it was that my marriage was a distinct possibility in either 2013 or 2014. As he further explained, one kanya daana (giving away the bride- or more literally, girl donation) is infinitely more ‘punya’ filled and thus more valuable than any old ‘go daana’.

I must say, I agree with his logic , and am pleased that you consider me as being better than a cow. I look forward to being ‘given’ away, knowing that you chose me, over a cow, to add to your bank of good karma. Truly, the magnanimousness of your comparision- bride versus bovine, is incomprehensible to a simple kanya like me.I am mooed moved.


* yes, like a cow.



Not even a modicum of real equality

Narendra Modi spoke to the ladies of FICCI flo- an organisation representing entrepreneurial Indian women. The organisers had indicated that they wanted him to elaborate the steps he’d taken in Gujarat, to empower women, and encourage both increased employment and entrepreneurship.

He did speak very generally, and seemed to aim his words at more ordinary women than the illustrious who’s who of Indian industry in front of him. The main thrust of his speech seemed to be praise for non-professional women- homemakers, women in rural India. This gem of an idea unfortunately translated into a wholly unimpressive speech .

Here are my thoughts on the speech:

The good:

He spoke about entrepreneurial initiatives like Lijjat Papad, Amul and a certain Jasuben’s Pizza- the first two especially are wonderful examples of small home-based industries , initiated by women or run by them, that have evolved to become companies that corner large pieces of their respective markets. It’s inspiring to hear of these skill-based industries, obviously,but it’s important to remember that the CEO and ‘top guns’ of these companies are still male-with good reason I’m sure, but I still feel it’s misleading to hide this fact. Also, these two companies predate Modi by many years- and it’s wholly wrong for any political outfit to claim any sort of role in the success of these companies.

The Bad:

The absence of any mention of the rural women who play a major role in grass-root implementation of various governmental schemes-the auxillary nurse midwives, ASHA workers, and  anganwadi workers.While a lot of women in these roles have limited education and training, they are vital to the success of all state programs- it’s criminal, in my eyes, to omit their contribution in any discussion of rural women’s achievements.

The ugly-

Like many politicians, the approach was indubitably patronising.He resorted to stereotypes of burnt fingers while making chapatis which have NOTHING to do with women empowerment or entrepreneurship, and serve to place women on some exalted pedestal that they are supposed to aspire to!  Another example of this was the constant use of  maa-behen to describe women- I found it extremely problematic- considering he uses ‘mitr’ (friends) while addressing men.

P.S. This is not about his politics, or my assessment of his suitability to lead the country in 2014.

Reel Reflections 5- On Imtiaz Ali

I re-watched Jab We Met recently discovered that, like a good wine, it still impresses and manages to hold it’s own despite the onslaught of new age-y love stories that have been churned out by Bollywood since then-almost as if on schedule.

I’ll admit I was quite blase about the film when I first watched it;it took a second time watch after gentle admonishing from a dear friend to really LISTEN to the dialogues that made me appreciate this story.

Which brings me to the writer/creator of Jab We Met -Imtiaz Ali.

In the years that have followed, he has been feted as the bard of Bollywood romance, for follow-ups such as Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and Cocktail.

I feel however, that none of these movies comes even close to Jab We Met. All his works, since then suffer from 2 fatal flaws-without exception.

The first of this is his insistence to make his newer characters ‘modern’-in the Bollywood sense of the word. JWM worked because everyone knows someone like Geet and Aditya. They were distinctly relatable, and lived in India. Love Aaj Kal, Rockstar and Cocktail feature characters who are trying SO hard to be cool that you almost feel a twinge of sympathy for their furious efforts.

The only characters who are well etched out in these movies- old-timey Punjabi loverboy (LAK), pre-stardom Janardhan (Rockstar) and Meera (Cocktail)- are creatures of a middle class milieu and sensibility- and this comfort between the writer and his more ordinary creations, really stands out onscreen.

All said and done, there’s only a couple of writers who write swish and privileged characters well in Hindi films- namely Zoya and Farhan Akhtar- probably because they’re so swish and privileged themselves.

It’s not just the ‘cool’ characters that seem contrived in these 3 movies, but also the whole  foreign-location rigmarole that seems to hark back to the YashRaj/Johar belief of yore that only Non Resident Indian’s are capable of romance- because obviously gambolling in  Switzerland or (INSERT FILM SUBSIDY-GIVING COUNTRY HERE) is such an important part of True Love (TM).

The second fatal flaw of all post-JVM Imitiaz Ali films is the unfortunate recurrence of non-actors playing female parts. Deepika Padukone and Nargis Fakri have extremely vapid on-screen presences-not a patch on the effervescence of Kareena Kapoor who can go from OTT to normal with ease. Better casting is in order.

On my part, i think Imitiaz Ali should go back to writing people he (and we) can actually relate to and use actors who can project characters we can care about. Leave the OD-ing on existential angst to Bhansali, the overseas OTT-styling to Dharma/Yashraj and the effortless hipness to the Akhtar duo-and do what he knows best.