Tuesday 24 December 2019

Violent night

Violent night, holy shyt
Fires are lit, flames are bright
Round yon Muslims the bigots go wild
Pretty sure no case will be filed
Weep in Muzaffarnagar
Weep in Muzaffarnagar

Violent night, holy shyt
People quake at the sight
Mobs are coming — is that a cop car?
Saintly voic's saying 'Kill the mullah'
Bro, a pogrom is on
Bro, a pogrom is on

Violent night, holy shyt
Kutta ka bachcha in the headlights
This will go down well with the base
Together they'll de-Muslim the place
Hindu rashtra on earth
Hindu rashtra on earth

Friday 6 December 2019

I am an island

A winter's day
In a dweep I bought from
I am alone
Gazing at my phone at news reports from desh
And a freshly powdered silent pile of hash
I am a prick
Who owns an island

Abducted kids
Have a rape case pending too
That they can't litigate
I have no need of justice, justice is a pain
Punishment and jail time I disdain
I am a prick
Who owns an island

Don't talk of love
But sex tapes I've made before
I was sleeping with an actor
I won't disclose the number of offshore crores I have
Tax-free dollars paid for Kailaasa
I am a prick
Who owns an island

I have my kooks
And my bhakts are there to protect me
I am shielded in my exile
Safe within my room, eating magic shrooms
I can touch everyone and no one can touch me
I am a prick
Who owns an island

And my prick feels no shame
And no one hears my victim's cries

Real life, as often happens these days, outran satire. Ecuador said it hadn't agreed to sell the 'swami' anything and he had left, presumably for Haiti.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Work and disability

Persons with disabilities are 2.21% of India’s population according to the 2011 census. It’s not a figure that seems realistic; for one, global averages place the number at between 10% to 15%, and since a number of disabilities can be a result of sub-optimal nutrition or lack of timely medical care, a developing nation is likely to have a figure at the higher end of that range, if not higher.

But even if you take the census data as fact, a recent Business Standard study said that among some of India’s top listed companies, the percentage of employees with disabilities is 0.46%. If you assume, reasonably, that these companies are a little ahead of the curve on inclusive hiring practices, that indicates that less than 25% of persons with disabilities find employment. It is rather likely that as you move away from the cities and the big companies, the figures will be pretty low. The government and public sector undertakings do reserve jobs for candidates with disabilities, but in my limited knowledge, these are low level or relatively unskilled positions. (This is anecdotal and ancient, but in college, I had friends who acquired BA and BSc degrees and the only jobs they got were as telephone operators.) The 2011 Census figures are more optimistic: they say 36% of persons with disabilities are employed. If you take that as fact too, it still leaves 64% of disabled people wholly dependent on others.

Granted, some of these people will have severe disabilities; some will also have learning or intellectual disabilities. These can get in the way of getting a standard education, of learning employable skills. And we’re a a country where even able-bodied people often don’t have access to these things. There is a whole lot to fix here, at very basic levels, and that’s beyond the scope of what I want to say with this.

So I'll just ask these questions.

How welcoming is your workplace to persons with disabilities? Is your office wheelchair accessible? Are the approaches and the layouts navigable for persons with limited or no vision? Are there disability-friendly toilets? Is there software that makes work systems accessible for various disabilities? (I don’t ask this rhetorically; please do share answers.)

If your office doesn’t stack up too well on these criteria, is there anything you can do about it?

p.s. This is from my friend Balaji Bondili:

Living in SF, I always think about the “smart” products that are created to support the so called ‘busy’ lives of tech bros with very little of this ‘intellect’ spent on solving problems of the disabled that actually need some of the analytics and sensors and all that cool tech but not no, let’s figure out how the deliver cappuccino with a drone…
To which I’d like to add:
And there's this. Products that are designed to assist persons with disabilities very often do have wider applications. Things like screen readers, voice assistants, navigation aids are mainstream now, and commercially viable.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

The room in the elephant

Mastodon — or to be precise, mastodon.social, which is the only part of the 'Fediverse' I've explored at all — feels a lot like early Web.

Before 'social networks' were named thus. Before Ryze or Orkut, which for many Indians were their first steps into the ocean. Before even blogs. When there were communities, and it felt… right. When "assume goodwill," to steal friend Udhay Shankar's advice to members of a certain list, seemed perfectly natural. (To be clear, I only met Udhay comparatively recently. When I did see that succinct phrase, those words leapt out at me; they described what I had been looking for then — and often I found it — and continue to search for today.)

These communities of choice formed in ad hoc ways. Lists (which of course were pre-Web, and to which I came late), chat rooms (which I jumped into enthusiastically, over-enthusiastically), even comment sections when they came up. And, as someone pointed out to me, guest books and the like. It took some time and effort to find your peeps and keep track of them.

Geocities was the first, if I recall right, to create infra of a sort for this. (Raise hands if you had a homestead.) Then came LiveJournal, which I totally missed out on, and then other early purpose-built networks and the "blogosphere," which I put in quotes because it already feels like a bygone era. And now, of course, social media seems ubiquitous, inescapable.

In this deluge of information, Mastodon.social feels calmer. Like starting over. The rules of engagement, formal or informal, are sane, and moderation is firm and decisive. I see 'influencers' fumbling around, some adding 'verified' symbols to their handles because Mastodon doesn't have them. I also see folks who are confident in their worth, being helpful, reaching out, not standing on their celebrity dignity. I see names from long ago, people who sort of withdrew from the hurly-burly (or maybe just from my ken, as I morphed).

Perhaps, this won't last.. Perhaps server loads will get too high to keep membership free. Perhaps traffic will be too frenetic for moderators to keep track of. Perhaps.

For now, this is refreshing. And fun.

If you haven't tried the water yet, come on in.

Friday 8 November 2019

Trunk call

Yeah, so I'm on Mastodon.

If you want to join this 'instance' of Mastodon and follow me, use this link.

Both are invitations to mastodon.social — which is the most popular but also only one of many ways to use Mastodon — but you don't have to do either to use Mastodon. You could, instead, go to Join Mastodon and get an overview and then choose from any of a vast number of instances of Mastodon. Think of it — in a limited way — like email: I could have Gmail, you could have Yahoo Mail (but why would you?), but we can still write to each other. You can even set up your own instance of Mastodon if you have a server and are feeling hospitable. And then later, if you want to, look me up.

Here are links to intros to Mastodon at PC Mag and LifeHacker (the later's a bit dated, referring to a tool that lets you look up your Twitter followers, but Twitter's changed it's API, so the tool no longer exists.)

Sunday 27 October 2019


In my first advertising job, in Lintas, the agency had two Apple Macs. One was an older machine, CPU and monitor in one unit, the other had a much larger colour monitor. Each profit centre had allotted hours in the 'Mac Room,' and all the art directors in what was then India's second-biggest agency took turns using the computers within those slots. Most of them would use only the machine with the larger colour monitor. So I, the trainee copywriter, would frequently sit at the old machine and mess around, asking the seniors for help when I got stuck.

I got reasonably competent with Quark XPress, Aldus Freehand and Adobe Photoshop. Enough for one of my senior art directors to draw scribbles with measurements marked, and instead of passing it on to the studio to make a mock-up, letting me create the layout. He was a grey-haired gentleman who clocked in at 9.30 and picked up his bag at 6 and was having nothing to do with this new-fangled stuff, but was happy to humour me. I would wait for after-hours when the Macs would have less of a queue, and work on the layouts, type in my copy, and leave printouts on his desk which he would see in the morning.

My next job was in Trikaya Grey, where, the Mac Room was in the studio, with full-time operators at the machines. The protocol: visualisers and art directors would take pencil-and-paper layouts to the Mac Room and sit beside the operator, who would make the layout.

The studio worked in a bureaucratic kind of way: stop work at 1 p.m., have lunch and then play cards or relax and chatter, and start work again at 2. (We dismissively called this 'studio mentality,' but I have since reconsidered this opinion. Having acquired respect for work:life balance, I now think of workplaces that valourise long hours and sacrificing personal time as exploitive.)

My art colleagues then were Mangesh Rane, who like me was at the beginning of his career (and, unlike me, he quickly became a star), and Ashok Parab, who was a bit more senior, but with no ego about learning how to work digital. (And slightly later, Yardena and Satish Ambewadikar, but they came in knowing how to handle Macs, and of course Makarand Joshi, who named himself Mac The Man Not The Machine and who came in as a Mac operator and worked his way up to now be a creative director in one of the advertising majors.)

Since I knew the software, we would sneak in extra time at the Macs by going to the studio at 1 p.m,, and I would be Mac operator for Mongoose and Parab. Adjusting leading, tracking, kerning and condensation by fractions of a percentage point, moving pictures or 0.25mm rules 1mm higher or lower, creating white space to let layouts breathe and stand out — and never making the logo bigger — I got a free education in design from them. I'm still grateful for that, and while I never got good enough to win awards, I actually had ads out in which I was art director as well as copywriter (and one which I also illustrated) and being able to do self-defence layouts and have a reasonably informed opinion on design has helped me no end in my work life.

Now the story proper. **

One of Trikaya's top creative people was the legendary Vikas Gaitonde, and among the brands whose work carried his touch was Mauritius Tourism.

It was a weekend and Mangesh and I, who were working that day, had the Mac Room to ourselves, Below us, in the paste-up section, there was a spot of trouble. Vikas was in office, because the client needed something quickly. But the place from which the agency usually ordered typesetting was not available (or maybe they didn't have the particular variant of the typeface that he wanted for the headline; I don't remember this clearly, but I think it was a variant of Bernhard Modern).

Enter Mangesh and I.

We scanned the page with that typeface from a type book. Then Mangesh made the layout. and I cut-and-pasted in the letters of the headline one by one, him instructing me on placement to the fraction of a millimetre. A little tweaking and we got the exact condensation right, and while it took some time, we eventually had a printout ready for the big man, and then for the client. And that is how I once did manual typesetting on a computer.

* Jeeze, I'm a reminiscing old fart already. Shoot me now.

** Argh. A meandering storyteller.

Sunday 18 August 2019


Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.
~ George Bernard Shaw

A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.
~ George William Curtis

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!
~ Albert Einstein

When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and the purity of its heart.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patriotism is a menace to liberty.
~ Emma Goldman

During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.
~ Howard Thurman

Maybe that’s enough to make patriotism eligible to be considered a virtue. If only I could get out of my mind the most patriotic people who ever lived, the Nazi Germans.
~ Andy Rooney

There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism.
~ Alexander Hamilton

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.
~ Voltaire

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
~ GK Chesterton

I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.
~ Albert Camus

In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.
~ Eugene Victor Debs

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich

It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.
~ EA Bucchianeri

But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either “my country, right or wrong,” which is infamous, or “my country is always right,” which is imbecile.
~ Patrick O’Brian

How does one hate a country, or love one?… I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is the love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing.
~ Ursula K Le Guin

Identification with the rag called the national flag is an emotional and sentimental factor and for that factor you are willing to kill another - and that is called, the love of your country, love of the neighbor…? One can see that where sentiment and emotion come in, love is not.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.
~ HL Mencken

Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
~ EM Forster

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.
~ Malcolm X

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.
~ Oscar Wilde

The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously.
~ Julian Barnes

Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.
~ Emma Goldman

You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
~ George Bernard Shaw

One of the great attractions of patriotism: it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.
~ Aldous Huxley

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?
~ Pablo Casals

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.
~ James Bryce

Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.
~ Arundhati Roy

Force, violence, pressure, or compulsion with a view to conformity, are both uncivilized and undemocratic.
~ MK Gandhi

I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will not allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

The idea of the Nation is one of the most powerful anaesthetics that Man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion - in fact feeling dangerously resentful if it is pointed out.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception.
~ George Orwell

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
~ Emma Goldman

Let us contemplate our forefathers and posterity, and resolve to maintain the rights bequeathed to us from the former for the sake of the latter. Instead of sitting down satisfied with the efforts we have already made, which is the wish of our enemies, the necessity of the times more than ever calls for our utmost circumspection, deliberation, fortitude, and perseverance. Let us remember that “if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom!” It is a very serious consideration, which should deeply impress our minds, that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers in the event!
~ Samuel Adams

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit it is the first.
~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. “Patriotism” is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by “patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare — never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
~ Erich Fromm

There are two Americas. One is the America of Lincoln and Adlai Stevenson; the other is the America of Teddy Roosevelt and the modern superpatriots. One is generous and humane, the other narrowly egotistical; one is self-critical, the other self-righteous; one is sensible, the other romantic; one is good-humored, the other solemn; one is inquiring, the other pontificating; one is moderate, the other filled with passionate intensity; one is judicious and the other arrogant in the use of great power.
~ J William Fulbright

Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time.
~ Emma Goldman

When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for the great structure where all shall be united into a universal brotherhood — a truly free society.
~ Emma Goldman

Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable meaning is nothing but an instrument for the attainment of the government’s ambitious and mercenary aims, and a renunciation of human dignity, common sense, and conscience by the governed, and a slavish submission to those who hold power. That is what is really preached wherever patriotism is championed. Patriotism is slavery.
~ Leo Tolstoy

Patriotism is the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers.
~ Leo Tolstoy

Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.
~ Leo Tolstoy

I have already several times expressed the thought that in our day the feeling of patriotism is an unnatural, irrational, and harmful feeling, and a cause of a great part of the ills from which mankind is suffering, and that, consequently, this feeling – should not be cultivated, as is now being done, but should, on the contrary, be suppressed and eradicated by all means available to rational men. Yet, strange to say – though it is undeniable that the universal armaments and destructive wars which are ruining the peoples result from that one feeling – all my arguments showing the backwardness, anachronism, and harmfulness of patriotism have been met, and are still met, either by silence, by intentional misinterpretation, or by a strange unvarying reply to the effect that only bad patriotism (Jingoism or Chauvinism) is evil, but that real good patriotism is a very elevated moral feeling, to condemn which is not only irrational but wicked. What this real, good patriotism consists in, we are never told; or, if anything is said about it, instead of explanation we get declamatory, inflated phrases, or, finally, some other conception is substituted for patriotism – something which has nothing in common with the patriotism we all know, and from the results of which we all suffer so severely.
~ Leo Tolstoy

The ethnic nationalist who wants a linguistically and culturally uniform nation is akin to the racist who is intolerant toward those who look (and behave) differently. The patriot is a “diversitarian”; he is pleased, indeed proud of the variety within the borders of his country; he looks for loyalty from all citizens. And he looks up and down, not left and right.
~ Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

A great many people really care very little for their own compatriots, but they hate anything foreign.
~ Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

I have no patriotism, for patriotism, as I see it, is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.
~ George Jean Nathan

By “nationalism” … I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
~ George Orwell

[Patriotism is the] willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
~ Bertrand Russell

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.
~ George Santayana

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice — and always has been.
~ Mark Twain

Every national border in Europe marks the place where two gangs of bandits got too exhausted to kill each other anymore and signed a treaty. Patriotism is the delusion that one of these gangs of bandits is better than all the others.
~ El Eswad (as quoted by Robert Anton Wilson)

If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one's country, one's fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles.
~ Howard Zinn

Our country, right or wrong! When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right!
~ Carl Schurz

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
~ Albert Einstein

Nationalism was so perfectly suited to its double task, the domestication of workers and the despoliation of aliens, that it appealed to everyone - everyone, that is, who wielded or aspired to wield a portion of capital.
~ Fredy Perlman

Individuality is a far more important thing than nationality,and in any given man deserves a thousand-fold more consideration. And since you cannot speak of national character without referring to large numbers of people, it is impossible to be both loud in your praises and honest. National character is only another name for the particular form which the littleness, perversity and baseness of mankind take in every country. If we become disgusted with one, we praise another, until we get disgusted with this one too. Every nation mocks at other nations, and they are all right.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

What are the phenomena of nationalism? Here are some of them: 1) National egoism, from which many other negative traits of nationalism are derived, as for example — a desire for foreign conquest, a desire to oppress other nations, a desire to impose economic exploitation upon other nations, and so on; 2) national-chauvinism which is also a source of many other negative traits of nationalism, as for example national hatred, the disparagement of other nations, the disparagement of their history, culture, and scientific activities and scientific achievements, and so on, the glorification of developments in their own history that were negative and which from our Marxist point of view are considered negative.
~ Josip Broz Tito

India is a peculiar country and her nationalists and patriots are a peculiar people. A patriot and a nationalist in India is one who sees with open eyes his fellow men treated as being less than man. But his humanity does not rise in protest. He knows that men and women for no cause are denied their rights. But it does not prick his civil sense of helpful action. He finds a whole class of people shut out from public employment. But it does not rouse his sense of justice and fair play. Hundreds of evil practices that injure man and society are perceived by him. But they do not sicken him with disgust. The patriot’s one cry is power for him and his class. I am glad I do not belong to that class of patriots. I belong to that class which takes its stand on democracy and which seeks to destroy monopoly in every form. Our aim is to realise in practice our ideal of one man one value in all walks of life – political, economical and social.
~ BR Ambedkar

And from stand-up.

I was over in Australia, and I was asked, “Are you proud to be an American?” And I was like, “Um, I don't know, I didn’t have a lot to do with it. You know, my parents fucked there, that’s about all. You know, I was in the spirit realm at that time. ‘Fuck in Paris! Fuck in Paris!’ but they couldn’t hear me, cos I didn’t have a mouth. I was a spirit without lungs or mouth or vocal cords.” They fucked here. OK, I’m proud. I hate patriotism. I can’t stand it, man. Makes me fuckin’ sick. It’s a round world last time I checked, OK? You know what I mean. I hate patriotism. In fact, that’s how we could stop patriotism, I think. Instead of putting stars and stripes on our flags, we should put pictures of our parents fucking. [Audio here.]
~ Bill Hicks

Nationalism does nothing but teach you how to hate people that you never met. And all of a sudden you take pride in accomplishments you had no part in whatsoever, and you brag about - and the Americans’ll go “Fuck the French! Fuck the French, if we hadn't had saved their ass in two world wars, they’d be speakin’ German right now!” And you go, “Oh, was that us?” Was that me and you, Tommy, we saved the French? Jesus! I know I blacked out a little bit after that fourth shot of Jägermeister last night, but I don’t remember… I know we went through the Wendy’s drive-thru to get one of them Freschetta sandwiches that looked so alluring on the commercial, but then we ordered it and realized we had no money, and we had to ditch out before the second window, and those douchebags in line behind us with the bass music probably got our order and we laughed about that. But I don’t remember savin’ the French. At all! I went through the last ten calls on my cell phone and there’s nothin’ incoming or outgoing to the French, lookin’ for muscle on a project! I checked my pants, there’s no mud stains on the knees from where we were garroting krauts in the trenches at Verdun. I think we didn’t do anything but watch sports bloopers while we got hammered. I think we should shut the fuck up! [Video here.]
~ Doug Stanhope


I could never understand ethnic or national pride. Because to me, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth. Being Irish isn't a skill, it’s a fuckin’ genetic accident. You wouldn’t say “l’m proud to be 5’11,” “I'm proud to have a predisposition for colon cancer.” So why the fuck would you be proud to be Irish, or proud to be Italian, or American, or anything?
~ George Carlin

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich

Saturday 20 July 2019

Requiem for a paper

And for another Saturday of my life, a few stray thoughts and a few general observations and a few points of view (all my own work).

Like it’s sad that The Afternoon Despatch and Courier will bring out its last edition today, 34 years and change since it first hit the stands.

Like so many of us blithely defected from Mid-Day just to follow the writing of Behram Contractor, its founding editor and most popular columnist under the nom de plume Busybee.

Like it was a talisman for people my age, the first paper we bought ourselves, sharing its pages and collaborating over the crossword in the canteen of an evening, later reading it on the train home when we were earning salaries and could afford personal copies and could properly, to steal the verb today’s young people use, ‘adult.’

Like we who lost the afternoon paper habit to getting our news on the Internet even as our parents continued to get printing ink on their hands every morning were complicit on The Afternoon’s demise and so we can hardly complain, but we will, like this writer, nevertheless mourn our victim.

Like the paper hosted a galaxy of reporters and writers over time, many of them role models to your correspondent, some of them now people one has met personally and liked, their bylines remembered long after one first read them.

Like no one wrote about Bombay and its people and their foibles and graces, their mannerisms and addictions, with as much affection and gentle humour as he did, some have come close since, but only that. And yes, not many knew its food, from the humblest snack to the poshest spread, as he did.

Like while one can reproduce Busybee’s signature starting lines for his Saturday column and begin every paragraph with ‘like’ as homage, as many have, and many will do now to mark the passing of his paper, it’s really not possible to write like him without having lived his life; there’s a reason why a word often found before his name is ‘inimitable.’

Like this was supposed to be about the newspaper, but it has turned out being about Mr Contractor.

Like, perhaps this was why the paper was not the same after Mr C passed away.

Like it was somehow inevitable that a picture of an internal notice announcing the paper’s closing has been doing the rounds on social media way before any formal news of it appeared anywhere.

Like it was nevertheless sad that that notice was signed by the publisher’s commercial manager not the editor.

Like one hopes that the staff whose services ‘stands terminated w.e.f. 19th July 2019’ had read the writing on the wall before the notice on the softboard and have found new jobs.

And this final point of view. Today’s young people are not reading print newspapers much; but they are reading, and reading a lot; it’s just that their eyes are rivetted to small screens and we who make a living in text media have not yet learnt out how to get them to pay to read us. And more loved papers will die while we try to figure that out.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Dystopian Rhapsody

Is this the real life?
Is this Republic TV?
Won in a landslide;
No court will call us guilty.

Open the door
Of your refrigerator:
Oo meat!
I’m just a गौ boy,
You get no sympathy,
Because this is not the north-east,
There they can eat more cow
Because there we’re winning now.
Kerala तो is all commie, commie.

मामा, we lynched a man.
Broke his door down, then his head,
Threw some bricks and now he’s dead.
मामा, who needs a gun?
See, now they’re all scared and running away.

मामा, ooh,
Did you hear the sickulars cry?
If it’s grief for Muslims, is it sorrow?
Carry on, carry on.
As if minorities matter.

Oh hell, real war might come,
When I yelled that battle-cry
I meant you should die, not I
Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you at the front I need to wee.

मामा, ooh
(The winds of war blow)
I don’t wanna fight,
Just sometimes want television rating points.

I see a camouflage-cap-wearing wanker:
News anchor, news anchor, will you do the flak jacket?
Studio graphics,
Very, very scary pix
(Goswami-o) Goswami-o.
(Goswami-o) Goswami-o,
Shivshankar Navika
O TRP-ee-ee-ee-ee.

I’m just a गौ boy, nobody’s देवर.
He’s just a गौ boy from a poor परिवार.
Spare him his life from the actual army.

You know I died in ’64?
Jawahar! Ho, you do not understand. (Understand!)
Jawahar! You’re our only plan. (Only plan!)
Jawahar! Take the blame old man. (Blame the man!)
You and all your clan. (Rename their plans!)
Just because we can. (Because, because, because, because we can!)
Oh oh oh oh
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh, Nehru-mian, Nehru-mian (We’ll use you till ’24.)
Maybe by then we’ll also go after Gandhi! Gandhi! Gandhi!

So you think you can stop us from re-election?
We’ll win and we’ll change the constitution.
Oh, baby, remove ‘secular,’ baby,
Then ‘democratic,’ just gotta get five more years.

(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)

India is in tatters,
Anyone can see.
The rich are getting fatter,
That’s what really matters
To me.

Can you feel war winds blow?

Sunday 10 March 2019

We are WhatsAppians

I’ve got my phone
I’ve got the time
Can’t write a sentence
That’s not a crime
Can copy-paste
So sucks to you
I’ve hit ‘Share’ and sent to all my groups
And it’s gone through

(And I can go on and on and on and on)

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
WhatsApp historians
Our tones are stentorian,
No time for research
’Cause we’re not really sapiens; hello world!

I’ve taken my vows
I’ll make India tall
I’ll mix up science and stories and reproduce as fact what’s myth
And then ‘Send all’
No I have no neuroses
No self-worth issues
I’m attractive to all around after I’ve had some booze
And I’ll always amuse

(And I just need go on and on and on and on)

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
India we glory in
Our phones Chinese or Korean
No time for fact check
’Cause we’re not really sapiens; hello world!

We are WhatsAppians, my friends
And we’ll keep forwarding till the end
We are WhatsAppians
We are WhatsAppians
No use for AltNews
’Cause we’re Whatsappians

We are the weird

There comes a time
When we heed the WhatsApp call
When the weird must come together as one
Infocell is saying
Oh, it’s time to type a tweet
’Bout him, the greatest mard of all

Stop watching porn
Pretending we’re at work
And someone, somewhere thinks we’re all cool
We’re all a part of our great big parivar
And the truth, I mean cow, is all we need

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay
Just for this tweet

Oh, type them out fast
So the rest of us can share
And mantris will jump in and retweet
Demigod has shown us
That throwing stones at heads
Is just another bailable offence

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay,
Just for this tweet

When there’s no template, and no Infocell call
Make up some shit, curse the Congis, have a ball
Well, well, well, well, let us tell some lies
Oh, the bhakts will surely come
And we’ll game algorithms as one, yeah, yeah, yeah

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay,
Just for this tweet

We are the weird
We are the paid trolls
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

We are the weird (are the weird)
We are the paid trolls (are the paid trolls)
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting (so let’s start tweeting)
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

Oh, let me hear you!

We are the weird (are the weird)
We are the paid trolls (are the paid trolls)
We are the ones who make the fake news trend,
So let’s start tweeting (so let’s start tweeting)
There’s a voice we’re faking
We’re cutting and pasting
It’s true we’ll earn one day’s pay, just for this tweet

[repeat chorus until it trends]

Thursday 21 February 2019

Bumpy and Western song

Almost ’leven, Lower Parel
Traffucked as ever, full of party people
Air is soiled there, they ain’t got no trees
Building jostle buildings, cutting out the breeze

Potholed roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
Get me an Uber, even Ola
Take me home, bumpy roads

Battery’s low now, b-pack’s empty
Should’ve plugged in while we were still drinking
I might have to take a kaali-peeli
Worse, the local, with the hoi polloi

Come on app cab, take me home
To the flat I do not own
Lokhandwala, 1 BHK
Take me home, bumpy roads

Nakabandhi, breathalysers oh FMG
Oh why did I, remind me, move to this bloody Bombay
Lurching down the road I remember
That I am very late on my EMIs, EMIs

Potholed roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
In Wadala, please don’t judge me
Take me home, bumpy roads

Bumpy roads, take me home
To the flat I do not own
In Vikhroli, at least it’s not Vashi
Take me home, potholed roads

Take me home, down potholed roads
Take me home, down bumpy roads

Apologies to John Denver.
Sing along: Karaoke version