Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Black Bucks of Chennai

The Year of The Buck

It was man’s worst nightmare come true. Chennai city was on the brink of yet another crisis. And this time, it had nothing to do with the deficiency of a colourless fluid. Years of care and nurturing of the black buck population in IIT Madras had resulted in a population explosion of sorts. Chaos theory experts in the Physics department were nodding their heads in acknowledgement. The black buck population had undergone something known technically as a rampant population explosion, similar to that of dogs and humans in the rest of the country.

The whole thing in a nutshell was this: There were too many black bucks around. So many of them, that the IIT campus could sustain them no more. They ran out of the gate when the security was not looking, were thrown over the wall by irate staff – and also stowed away in water tankers. They gradually became a fixture in Chennai roads. The black bucks drove the once ubiquitous cows to a state of extinction – the same way the pigeons drove the sparrows to extinction – and man drove everything else to extinction.

In the beginning it was all okay. The black bucks looked a lot better than the cows. And it always is a novelty to see an endangered species in abundance on city streets. People used to pass by black bucks and pat them on the back. Live and let live was the motto. Even the SPCA was impressed.

As is with every civilization, anarchy pops its ugly head up every now and then. The black bucks metamorphosized from friends, philosophers and guides into rodents. Kitchens were never the same again: if you had a sack if rice, there was bound to be a black buck gnawing at it. If you were going out to the Besant Nagar beach in the dusk, a black buck would stalk you in an aggressive way. If you went to the neigbourhood Food-World, black bucks would wrestle with you when you came out with your grocery bag. The residents of Chennai put up with this menace for quite some time. However, matters reached the point of no return when a black buck made a meal of the charge-sheet that the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu had framed against his arch rival. (Chief ministers of Tamil Nadu frame chargesheets against opponents). The poor thing (the black buck) had, as usual popped its head into a car (a procedure popularized by the mendicants of today) and made a meal of the nearest paper. Little did it know that it was the chief minister’s car! The black buck thought that it had had better – perhaps memories of the millions of Xeroxes in IIT after exams.

The Chief Minister, never one to lose a chance, reckoned that the Black buck menace was a machination of his opponent. Something had to be done!! Who can help Chennai cope with the black bucks? The Chief Minister knew whom to assign the task to.

P-Man and Salamander

Deep within in Chambal ravines in that eerie border between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh existed a cave. And in that cave existed Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, that once popular Cricketer and that noblest of all noble men. He was in hiding: an arrest warrant had been issued against in way back in June 2005. He had adopted a reclusive lifestyle for he did not want to face the ignominy of arrest. He lived only in the shadow – and under an alias. He was known as P-Man to the elite English-educated. (the children, unfortunately called him Pee-Man). To the masses he was P-Admi. (The hindi children too were not kind to him. They called him Padmi). He was known as the definitive black buck exterminator. However, he had never got an assignment. He had, of late, begun to feel as if his expertise was going waste.

Did we say he was a loner? Perhaps not. He had only one friend in the world – his sidekick - the trusty Salamander. The Salamander was actually the famous actor, Salman Khan. He was also absconding from the world, though for an entirely different reason. Lots of young women (with amorous thoughts in their heads) were pursuing him after his customary chest baring scene in a recent movie. The Indian government was after him for smoking on screen as well as for nailing a black buck and accidentally lynching a human. A passion to see helpless black bucks bleed to death united him with P-Man.

A red telephone lit up in the cave at Chambal. P-Man hurried towards it. It was the hotline. It had never rung before. Finally, an assignment! Chennai!

They were both to be on their way to Chennai. P-Man got his P-Mobile (of the automotive variety) and hurled a briefcase of cash in it to pay for his Petrol to Chennai. Will P-Man and Salamander rid Chennai of its black bucks? Or will they be consumed by the overpopulating mammal? Read on, dear reader.

The Pied-Piper of Marina

P-Man and Salamander came over to Chennai in their BMW. Salamander was intoxicated in the fresh air of the city and lost control of their car. They ran into a human and a black buck. The black buck escaped unhurt – and the human later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

How does one terminate millions of rodents at one go? Many approaches came to P-Man’s eternally alert brain. He could bonk all of them on the head – but that approach lacked finesse. He could put cyanide in the city’s water supply – but the city had no water. Shooting all of them down would be a noisy affair – and the environmentalists would never agree. He looked up biographies of Hitler and Saddam – and even Laloo Yadhav. But all their methods needed significant investment. Gas chamber exterminations needed gas chambers – and they did not come cheap. Salamander, could, of course inadvertently ram into all of them with his car – but Petrol was not cheap either.

Salamander came up with the winner. He remembered something about a Tsunami – and some aid work that his friend Vivek was doing long ago. He decided lure the bucks to the beach and create a Tsunami to kill all of them somehow. He could persuade the Sri Lankan government to conduct nuclear tests near the Chennai coast. That would certainly create the requisite Tsunami.

How does one lure so many black bucks to the coast? Salamander (always full of Ideas) knew how to. His chest baring act had never failed to gab the attention of the opposite sex. And some black bucks were of the opposite sex too. If they ran, the jealous males would run too. So, a semi-nude salamander ran through the streets of Chennai. The entire human female population of the town was kept out of the streets by airing a rerun of Kyonki Saans bhi Bahu Thi on all television channels – so they were not susceptible to the raw sexual charms of the Salamander.

On the beach next day after a tsunami struck, were found the bodies of all the black bucks of Chennai and a few men draped in Pinkish clothes. Salamander and P-Man saved the day!

National Attention

This heroic deed did not go unnoticed. P-Man and Salamander became celebrities yet again. It was as if they were reborn. A rather ancient looking L.K Advani, in an emotional speech said that Salamander had never killed a fellow human (even inadvertently) and that P-Man had never killed a black buck. An equally ancient Praveen Togadia asked him to step down from active politics. Déjà vu?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

History Changes

L.K Advani's Pakistani adventures, his resignation and the consequent BJP resolution have been getting a lot of newsprint. BJP recenty resolved that Jinnah, though immensely secular was responsible for partition. The air thus having been cleared, Advani withdrew his resignation, as is the case with most resignations tendered in this country. Such a practice is usually common amongst railway ministers after rail accidents. We see that this trait is propagating here there and everywhere.

Murli Manohar Joshi's saffron text books are often accused 'fabricating' history.The past week has shown us that his approach certainly does not fabricate any history. With the BJP passing 'resolutions' to authenticate history, it would be quite simple to pass off anything in the name of school book history. The 'saffron' textbooks did not contain biased accounts of History: whatever was in them was resolved to be true - so the question of fabrication does not arise.

BJP's uncanny powers of modifying history by passing resolutions have not gone unnoticed. The German embassy was in touch with the BJP to erase Hitler from the history of the world. (They found it very embarassing to say 'Our great leader was a homicidal maniac' - or whatever its German equivalent is.). Pretty ironic, if you ask me, considering that one of Hitler's fans, Modi is an active member of the BJP. Last heard, BJP was busy sending a delegation to pass a resoultion in Germany.

Bill Clinton also approached the BJP to erase Monica Lewinsky, and Canada to erase Bryan Adams. Sri Lanka wanted to erase the Tsunami and Japan the Nuclear Bomb. China, however, did not care about Tinamen square. No wonder, BJP has very few credibile second rung leaders. They're all at other places passing resolutions and making history, literally.

An Advertisement

Is there anything you regret? Any crime you committed? Any black buck you killed? And woman you raped in Best Bakery? Anybody you Hacked to death after Godhra? Any mosque you destroyed back in the early 90s in Ayodhya?

You can contact BJP to pass a resolution erasing all your previous sins. It is just like a dip in the Ganga - but cleaner! They will, of course, present a bill for their services. They're not communists after all, but reasonable men.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Singh and Musharaff behind closed doors

What happens at these high profile meetings, when leaders of state meet each other? This is one of current politics' best guarded secrets. These leaked out minutes of a conversation between the Indian Premier, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani Premier, Mr Pervez Musharaff go a long way in making us comprehend what goes on behind closed doors. Before you can indulge in these spicy minutes, may we remind you of our Sponsors?

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The Hon Prez. Musharaff walked in when the Hon. Prime minister was applying his last puff of powder and seated himself in a chair drawn out especially for him. The Hon. Prime Minister Singh, taking note of this, hurried up and sat facing the Hon President. The Hon. President then called for some water, which his intellegence agents checked for poison. The Hon. Prime minister. too, ordered water which was also checked for poison by Indian intellegence agents. The agents looked at their counterparts and winked.

The Hon Prime minister then stated that Sania Mirza was an upcoming talent and that he hoped she would do well in the Delhi Cricket Match. The President, visibly shocked, informed the Prime minister that though he was, in principle, not an opponent of Sania Mirza, he had not come all the way from Pakistan to see a Women's cricket match. The Hon Prime minister apologized (though he looked as if he thought the Prez. sexist) and asked the president (trying to change the subject) what a leg bye was. The Hon President talked of a brave soldier by the name of Salim who had lost a leg in Kargil. While walking up the slope, he had encountered a leg-break - and was forced to bid a good-bye to his leg, therefore a leg bye. The prime minister, never one to miss an oppotunity (after all, he was the leader of the opposition for a very long time), drew a conclusion that the Prez. agreed to there being Pakistani troops at Kargil. The Prez. retaliated by saying that the soldier was probably vacationing in Kargil.

Then, as is inevitable, the conversation turned towards Kashmir. The Prime minister said something about the standard of living of the people of Kashmir. The President then said that Kashmir was a very nice place to vacation. He had even wanted to build a house there once - but unfortunately, there were some local goondas - the mujahidoon or something - who kept coming to his house and claiming that Kashmir was disputed territory. The prime minister said that the same thing happened to him in Sikkim - but the people were called the Wang. The Prez. then said that Islamabad could get very hot in summer and he needed a summer retreat. The Prime Minster said that Delhi would not be freezing either. They both agreed a better climate - like that of Kashmir was needed to help them serve the people better. The Prime minster invited the President over for a cup of tea in Srinagar - and the President invited the prime minister for tea in Muzaffarabad. They both, suddenly remembered that they had engagements (trips abroad) and decided to send some other lesser leaders over instead. Since there was no transport on either side, they decided to send buses across the border every once in a while.

All that settled, they decided to talk about terrorism. They talked about all the movies they had seen recently - and settled on the Ring, which had by then, been transalated into Hindi and Urdu. They were unanimous and decided try to ban such 'terror' movies from America. They did not appreciate cross border terrorism.

And fianally, the got up and had lunch. They were both relieved that their secretaries were talking too. Politicians can't take care of everything, you know.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Back on Earth

Some Background
The Government of India banned the depiction of smoking from all movies and television programmes made in India after the 1/8/05. In old movies shown after the 1st of August, 'smoking scenes' will have to carry a warning.

Damodar Om Ganesan (henceforth referred to as DOG) was one of India’s most well known astronauts. He was launched into space from Sriharikota in 2005, and returned to his homeland in 2010, and passed himself away a few days later. What did he think on coming back to India? We present excepts from his diary.

7 Jan, 2010

We landed today. We had taken off a week ago in my time. Since we traveled at velocities comparable to that of light with respect to earth, Einstein’s time dilation came into play and we’re back here after five years. Unfortunately, those great minds who planned the trip were not taught relativity in their courses at IIT. The never expected us back this late! Quite a surprise it was to find the attendant in the space station with more wrinkles than we had left him with. They were also quite surprised to find us back. So surprised that the air force tried to greet us with missiles. We (unfortunately, in retroscpect) managed to avert any such incident, though, thanks to the miracle of the radio not failing.

On landing I expected to find my girlfriend waiting at the space center. But I was greeted by surprised looking officials that I had never seen before. Apparently, they had given up on us four years and three hundred and sixty two days ago. My family had been given Rs Five Lakhs as compensation (probably more money than I could ever be worth to them!) – and a mock funeral had been completed. It seemed they had searched the earth for space craft debris and not found much. They probably settled for a dead golden retriever or something to burn in the mock funeral. My brother had married my girlfriend by then using four of the five lakhs for his honeymoon. The other lakh was taxed.

I walked out of the space station, expecting to find a sparse surrounding. I, instead found myself in a crowd similar to that in the stands of a cricket match. The people in the crowd seemed very healthy – which made it all the more difficult to pass through them. Curious. I somehow made my way to the taxi stand. I expected to find those good old ambassadors there. There were no ambassadors, however. What dominated the taxi stand was – you guessed it – bullock carts. No cars. No buses. Bullock carts.

I climbed into one of those things – when a voice said “Hello” in the best English that I have ever heard. “What can I do for you sir ?”. I later found out that he was retrenched from a call center.

I arrived at home. A surprised mother opened the door. I could witness the surprise change to worry. Did she have to pay the five lakhs back to the government? Dad, of course had no similar worry. He was sure I could sue IIT for it or something, so he did not seem to perturbed. He was a lawyer, so I need not worry about lawyer charges.

8 Jan 2010

I shall not describe the emotional scenes back at home: primarily because there were none. The parents were happy to have their son back: but they dreaded the task of telling everyone else. Four memorial ceremonies (one per year) had been performed; the whole thing could turn into an rather big embarrassment. The brother avoided me for some rather obvious reasons. The girlfriend avoided me too: possibly because she was a physics graduate and was caught napping when I told her about my ‘flight’ plans. And also possibly because she married my brother a week after the disappearance.

I put on the television (which was in a dusty corner of the living room). I wanted to cool off by just surfing the channels.. a hobby that I had got used to just a couple of weeks ago (in my time). I was surprised to see that there were only five channels: Discovery, Door-Darshan I , DD II , DD News and National Geographic. There was no MTV, no Star World, No NDTV, no nothing. I thought things would improve in five years. Newspapers were reduced to six A4 sheets with advertisements filling four of them.

Why did this happen? Why did the country fall into such a hole in five years? All I could get out of my parents regarding this was something about a ban on something which’s name had escaped their mind. Dad drew something which looked a lot like an elongated lozenge. It looked like a cigarette. I could not catch sleep at night. Cigarette ban…. so?

9 Jan 2010

I had a better discussion with Dad today. They (Mum and Dad) had recovered from the early shock of seeing me. They cast aside their disappointment and now seemed more relived to see me. The conversation I made with dad regarding everything cleared any doubts I had.

It was very innocuous. It started with a cigarette ban. That was fine. Youngsters stopped smoking as their role models did not smoke on screen. The people became healthier, and stopped dying. The country became over-populated, as a result. Looking at the success of this ban, they decided to ban portrayal of dishonest behavior on television. As a result, it no longer became profitable to make movies, comedies or even soap operas. An attempt was made by one of our producers: he made a film about a young man who was the perfect role model. He never drank, smoked or stole. The movie flopped.

The news channels have stopped since the government decided that even factual portrayal of crime would influence the youth: so no reference was to be made of crime on television. Even organized crime: so politics was out too. DD news shows only social work done by the government.

Dad drew my attention to the lack of babies in India. Apparently, lewd programs on television were blamed for the high level of perversion and rapes in India. So, they were banned too. As a consequence, the Indian youth were not aware how to copulate. So, obviously, no babies.

Automobiles were banned, since they smoked, and the idiots in the government thought that it reminded people of cigarettes. Cricket was then banned too, since the act of throwing a ball was construed as violent by the government. The act of swinging a bat was also thought to be violent. India now plays bridge, pass-the-parcel, chinese whisper and other harmless games only.

Spicy food was banned too, since spices could be used as weapons when inserted into other people's eyes. Thalis in Andhra hotels were banned for that reason. However, in a memorable moment for the resistance in India, the Thali-Ban was revoked. The argument was simple: the Thali-Ban sounded a lot like the Taliban (of Afghanistan) regime, whose policies the government had condemned to the core.

On hearing this, I shot myself in the head with a gun I found lying on the road somewhere. My blood splattered all over the road, and my brain was forced out of my head and fell on the pavement. An enthusiastic dog came along and made a meal of the same. That was the end of it all for me. My body was hidden and the fifth ceremony was performed by the parents.

The Indian Dog

Beside every house and every hut
In India there’s always a mangy mutt.
It barks at everything that walks by
Even at the bird up in the sky

There are many such dogs on the road
They bark so much they can’t be ignored.
They chase and mate each other all the time
Male or female, it’s all just fine.

They live in abject poverty
But at least, from the pound they’re free.
They’re always treated with the stick and the stone
People like to make sure they’re gone.

When you try to catch a night of sleep
They make a racket on the street
All night, they bark and bark
Making it impossible to walk in the dark.

When you walk in a secluded spot
They give you all they’ve got.
They show you their teeth and growl.
It all feels so completely foul.

If you to eat as you walk,
You, million dogs will stalk!
What you eat, they can smell.
It’s like ringing a dinner bell.

And when there’s nothing to eat;
No milk and certainly no meat,
Dogs starve and their ribs show.
They look like monsters in a movie show.

In the winters rather than freeze to death
They curl into tight little balls instead.
In the rain they soak it all up
And people say “Oh that poor little pup!”

If you think the lives of dogs are sad.
Most people of India aren’t even half as glad.
They live in huts, the soak in the rain,
And summers and winters just drive them insane.

They suffer from the authorities
Police beat them up whenever they please.
There’s no water for them to drink
No food to eat, to write no ink.

Human life in unfortunate India does so much stink,
That only of dogs do I prefer to think.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

English and Us

Japan. China. France. Italy. Germany. Everybody loves their own language. People there do not think it imperative to be schooled in English. Top executives in Japan talk in Japanese. Socialites in France converse in French. Most Chinese have heard that something called English exists, but have never conversed in it. So why do the people in India with money, the more successful ones, stick to schooling in English as a medium of instruction? Are our languages inferior in any way?

Mulayam Singh Yadhav feels passionately about this. (Refer to an editorial in today’s Times of India). One can catch his drift. He thinks that Indians are servile. He thinks that we want to ape the west. He feels humiliated for the same. And with his zestful oratory, he shall doubtlessly convince the masses of the same. Turbulent times are ahead for English Medium Schools in Uttar Pradesh.

If you earn well (if you’re a part of the great Indian slightly-above-the-middle economic class), then odds are your children are studying in an English medium School. You think that vernacular education in comparison is inferior. Everybody who is a considerable success in the new India, odds are, has undergone an English medium schooling. Vernacular schools are for those who want subsidized education. Subsidized education in India is of course immensely sub-standard. But that’s a wholly different story.

The language of the Indian elite is English. Socialites in parties can be heard prattling along in English. Not Hindi. Not Tamil. Not Assamese. Sachin Tendulkar who was a stranger to English before superstardom now loves Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Indian businessmen give interviews in English. Channels such as the purely elitist English NDTV 24 x 7 make as much money as common man’s Hindi AAJ TAK (with only a fraction of the popularilty). The English newspaper business (though the circulations are relatively lesser) is as profitable as its Hindi Counterpart. Quite obviously, the English- Literate individual carries a lot more economic clout. Call him an A quality consumer or something. These advertisers have their lingo.

Let’s try to guess some answers now. Why is English so much more important to India, than say, it is to France? To Germany? To Japan? Much as Mulayam Singh would disagree, I personally feel that a servile mentality has nothing to do with it. I attribute it to the third dog gets the bone syndrome. The people in the south have their own languages. Given ample leeway, they would like to conduct education in their own language. Vernacular schools in Chennai teach in Tamil. Not Hindi.

English education was introduced by the British. It was a system which worked – worked too well, actually. South Indians started learning English long before they ever heard of Hindi. It is natural to see why English is a second language to the people in the south – the same way it is a second language to the people in the north.

It is utterly unacceptable to the people of the south to be taught Hindi by force. Hindi is a tongue more alien to them than English. Similarly, can you see Tamil make any inroads into the plains of Bihar? It just will not happen. So if there has to be a communication between different states which do not speak the same languages then, the language surely cannot be Hindi or Tamil. The third dog gets the bone. English it is, though an alien.

It also helps that all text books are in English. It avoids twenty-six translations of Feynman’s lectures! And just imagine, if all scientific literature were in a tongue unfamiliar to us? Research in our country would never be able to catch up. The Chinese are having to learn English for this! The Germans too. If the world is ever going to be global, then English is the language it shall talk in. Not French. Not Hindi. Other languages are impediments from this point of view.