Saturday, 17 February 2018

JNU Mandatory Attendance Circular Protests - An Attempt to Find Sense in Them

Suddenly, I came across a tweet which says offices of JNU being held under siege by students, put in by a staff member of the University who is literaly pleading the students he is sick and needs assistance. 
We too protested, but we never ensured that some’s life is at stake. Trawling through the comments, it is surprising to see the level of abuse against the staff members. Is it a norm today? Or is it an exception to see that level of hate? May be I am too old for this, because we ran our show in colleges with Orkut and GPRS connections, not superfast wifi. And what offended me the most is the hashtag #NotOurVC. Is that the respect you give to your teachers? 
At one point I jumped into the debate. I was not happy the way debate was going on. Actually, it seems, there are two grouses - 
1. Mandatory attendance
2. Closing of dhabas in the university campus by 11 PM while as the reading goes, it used to be round the clock.
The argument plainly put forward was, 
"Dikkat ye h ki koi bhi university of  social science courses keliye wo bhi PhD tk attendence compulsory ni h wo hi 75%.  Ye sab circulars isiliye nikal warhe taaki; jnu ka debate and discussions culture khtm hojaaega.Govt. Is using its propaganda through v.c”
"Yahan dhabas 4 baje tk khulte the.. saare dhabas. Dhaba tha hmara venue to speak and generate awareness; or discuss; till late night.  Ab dhabas 11 baje band hone lga h. Social studies mai class se sirf 40% education milthi h. Baaki class ke bahar se”
For propreity, I am not going to mask the names of all the participants.
But, this is how the debate went in the general direction.
JNU Student: When we are attending classes, what’s the problem in making it mandatory?
Myself: When you are already attending, what’s the problem in formalizing it?
JNU Student: Problem is, they are making it mandatory that too for people till PHD level. This will kill the debate and discussion culture.
Another person: How is attendance and debating culture interlinked?
JNU Student: Dhabas in the campus used to be open till 4 AM. Dhabas used to be our venues to speak and generate awareness. Now, orders are given to shut them by 11 PM. We get only 40% education in Social Studies. Rest is outside.
Myself: Why can’t the same debates be conducted in class rooms after college hours? Which teacher is going to oppose it? 
No answer but a shift in goal post.
JNU Student: You can go and check how many Social Sciences Universities have 75% attendance for MPhil and PhD. JNU is the only college in the country which opposes any repressive government policy. 
Another person: I see only selective protests - against Govt, Army, RSS but I am not seeing any protests against ISIS, Triple Talaq or some other social evils. There was not even a protest when one of your collegemate was issued rape threats but you protested loudly in favour of the one who told Pakistan didn’t kill my father, war did. 
JNU Student: Protesting against ISIS in JNU, what good will it do? There are a thousand evils in the world and we won’t be protesting against all of them. The most important thing today is fascist threat against all non upper class Hindus and minorities, and mysterious disappearance of people.
Myself: Let's see. Protesting for Kashmir or Bastar in the urban coziness of Delhi, how does it help then? When your answer is pressurize govt, you can pressurize the same govt to create a united front against ISIS. As to the other allegation, do you have stats?
JNU Student: No muslim organisations in india ever supported the bloody attacks of isis. They have only clearly stated that they are not muslims. highest no. Of victims of ISIS  are also muslims. But RSS is killing with state impunity here and BJP leaders publicly support
Myself: You are a college student. How did the debate degrade to Hindu vs Muslim? Shall we talk about your college, which is the only thing needed?
Another person: There will be fascist threat only if the current demography of India changes. The current facsist threat is just imagination of you people. 
Myself: Interesting to see you don't have an answer for even one of the questions posed. Let me compile them.
1. Which Univs don't have mandatory attendance?
2. Why is protesting against ISIS useless but protesting against Kashmir is?
3. Why didn't you protest in favour of Shelha Rashid?
4. How is debating in classes different from debating in canteens and hotels?
These should suffice for the time being.
The usual answer.
JNU Student: m not paid by anyone to attack people using fake accounts nor endowed with 'much time' as u people are. So; the 4. Questions u raised can be easily found properly from internet. But if u are a sanghi; thrs no point in me debating.
This turned out to be the usual tone of the debate. I am completely flummoxed. Can any student be this irresponsible and callous? They are risking lives simply because dhabas are closed and late risers are herded into class rooms. And when they are asked why they are protesting selectively(forget everything. When their collegemate is abused online, they all stood silent) or a list of colleges which don’t enforce mandatory attendance, they don’t have any answers 

and the only options available with them are shifting goalposts and blocking(yes. I got that badge of honour as well), 

that too when their Vice Chancellor, Department Heads and other seniors in the administration are part of the discussion. An added thing here is blind hate towards the Indic ecosystem which is currently identified with the word Sanghi. Is this the level of general discipline in the college, I don’t see any reason why the university or the concerned department should be kept open. It should be completely fumigated to make it a more saner place.

The VC may agree or disagree or can have a better solution than me, but the reality is, the current state of things cannot continue.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ruler vs Governor – Dera Sacha Sauda’s Travails of the Day

Dera Sacha Sauda is filthy rich, has massive political influence and has got a tremendous popular following. In spite of that, it is on the brink of collapse due to a scandal, a scandal which is not at all potent enough to topple an empire. And it’s not as if the charges are unique. Cardinal Muller was recently removed from power as there is too much noise being made over the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. So, what exactly is different here? Both the crimes are equally abhorrent. And, is it that easy to topple something such big? Or, is there a chink in Dera’s armour which is helping in it’s collapse?
Interestingly, there is another parallel in the world history, the lessons of which we are loathe to learn – the chaos in the Middle East. Let’s take two names two centuries apart – Mustafa Agha Barbar and Bashar al Assad. Both approximately did the same thing, according to their opponents – massacre a select set of people. Barbar, it’s Alawites and Assad, whomsoever it is. While Assad is struggling for his existence, Ottoman Empire of whom Barbar was a part of, never faced any existential threat because of Barbar’s actions. This lets us ask, in spite of the fact that Ottoman Empire faced rebellions after rebellions, why wasn’t anyone able to do anything to the Ottomans while it’s almost a cakewalk to take down Assad?
All four, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Muller, Barbar and Assad are guilty. But, while Muller and Barbar are governors, GRR and Assad are the rulers. When there is a trouble, simply, replace the governor and make him personally accountable. The anger against the institution will be channelled towards the individual and the threat is staved off. But, what happens when the ruler is targeted? He is ready to bring down the institution with him, instead of accepting the reality. So, this raises another question – why is it that Hinduism is this decentralized while the Abrahamics are not? Is it a deliberate attempt to weaken the religion there by chipping off institution after institution? Or, may be, is it time for us to create a sort of central institution for Hinduism and bring every godman under this umbrella and then replace this ruler with a governor?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Gold Prices in India - Did they ever Increase?

I was looking at some old data to see if there is any correlation between gold prices and per capita income in India. There are two graphs which I made over this. The first is the increase in gold price and per capita income having the value for both in 1970 as 1. Both of them follow the same path, with gold slightly above the income graph. But, one important thing, the pay commissions (1973, 1983, 1994, 2006, 2016) gave a sudden spike in the take home income and we see gold prices dipping around the same period.

The second one is the quantity of gold a person can buy based on his monthly wages. It looks as if this range is boxed between 2 grams and 4 grams, with the economic chaos of 1970s creating a steeper dip.

The inference is, at least with respect to gold, a person’s salary didn’t change much. May be, it’ll be the same with house rent or CPI index?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Heights of Nepotism?

As an actor, I am not sure, but as a human, I liked Saif. Not the word liked. But, well, as time progresses, I feel the hang of royalty is creeping in. Just have a look at this article. The arrogance, the sense of superiority…Is this what we encourage in the society? Sorry guys, these sort of people should be shown their place. First goes the letter which he wrote and then the counter given by Kangana Ranaut.

To whomsoever it may concern,
Over the last few days, a lot has been said and written about the skit on the IIFA stage by Karan Johar, Varun Dhawan and yours truly. Let’s first see what happened here. “Nepotism Rocks” was a joke on stage. It’s not something that I wrote or something I believe in. It was a joke on ourselves, between Varun (Dhawan), Karan (Johar) and me. It was not supposed to be a big deal, but I realised at some point, that it might have offended Kangana (Ranaut). I called her and apologised personally. That should be the end of it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill and back off.
However, in today’s world, apologies are made through Twitter or though some other social media platform. That, is basically apologising to your fans and the world in general, instead of apologising to the person concerned, because you don’t want to lose support. These are the times we live in. We wish each other happy birthday or offer condolences on social media. This is another reason I don’t want to be on any social media platform — it feels fake. As far as the issue of saying something stupid on stage goes, I’m sure it’s not the first or the last time I’m going to say something stupid in an attempt to be funny. And I apologised to Kangana, so I don’t owe anybody else an explanation. The issue is over.
What I can’t seem to understand are some of the media reactions to this. While most people have been sensible, three reporters from the websites BollywoodLife, The Quint and Elle India, made a point of saying that all I did was use big words like eugenics and genetics. I think it’s extremely relevant in a conversation on nepotism, which means family favouritism, to talk about genetics and eugenics. Eugenics means well born and in a movie context, the genes (the DNA we’re born with, not the blue trousers we wear) of, let’s say Dharmendra’s son or Amitabh Bachchan’s son or for that matter, Sharmila Tagore’s son come into play.
Because people are interested in what their children will be like and whether they will have the genes of their parents, in terms of their talent. If you need another example, then take race horses. We take a derby winner, mate him with the right mate and see if we can create another grand national winner. So, in that sense, this is the relationship between genetics and star kids. Hope that’s clear? As for the girl from Elle: I’m sorry you found words like eugenics in a conversation about nepotism misplaced. Perhaps if you got your head out of the hemline of the actress of the month and read a book, your vocabulary might improve.
The real flag bearer of nepotism, I’d say is the media. Look at how they treat Taimur, Shahid’s daughter Misha or even Shah Rukh’s son AbRam. They photograph them and hype them up to be the next big thing and the child has no choice. From a young age they have to deal with being celebrities, which they don’t really deserve, before they can even speak or talk, leave alone understand what is happening.
So, what is nepotism? I think nepotism means when you give somebody from your family a job that somebody else is better suited for. But, is that what happens in movies? Is that what people mean when they say that there is lot of nepotism in film industry? I think perhaps what Kangana means (and again I’m only assuming here) by nepotism is that people from Dharma or Yashraj are against people like her, who have come up the hard way without their support and that they only support their own people. Whether that is true or not I have no idea and it’s none of my business.
Nepotism is probably least prevalent in the movie industry and rampant in politics and business. Nepotism in dynastic politics is a well-known and unspoken truth. It’s the same in business. But nobody talks about that.Nepotism is Donald Trump putting his daughter in the White House rather than someone who is better qualified. Actors are the soft targets. So if you say star kids have an advantage, of course, they do. It’s an advantage created by the press because people are interested in them. There is a curiosity to see Taimur, Sara or Ibrahim. It’s supply and demand. People want it, media serves it. So we’re all part of the same vicious circle in that sense.
What’s at play here are three systems. Aristocracy, the rule of the best, which is what this industry is. Ruled by the best. Also, meritocracy. It is ruled by the people with the most talent and it’s also ultimately tempered by democracy, which is people power. Nepotism cannot work in the film industry because it is a democracy. The film industry is the most fair line of work. So yes, maybe I got a chance because of my mother, but that is more genetics than nepotism. It’s a genetic investment that the producer was making.
Compared to an outsider, maybe I had a better chance of meeting people, but Akshay is also an outsider. When people saw him, they gave him a chance rather than give me one because they are businessmen who can spot talent. And when a hero walks in, they know. They want to imagine me as a privileged prince and so, it’s nice to pull me down once in a while, I imagine. For every star kid, there are many guys and girls from total non-filmi backgrounds. Take Shah Rukh Khan, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Jackie Shroff… it’s an endless list. Everyone knows this is the only industry where a spotboy can become a superstar. And to the idiot who gave the example of Arjun Kapoor for nepotism, I would just like to say that every film he has done, has worked. He should be an inspiration as an unlikely hero, not pulled down for nepotism. And that is the reason he is here. Not because of his father or uncle. It’s the audience that makes a film a hit, not the family members, otherwise all kinds of people would be ruling the roost.
Lastly, Johnny Depp once told Kate Moss — and I have forgotten his advice and I’m never going to forget it again — Never complain and never explain. That’s good advice, I think.
Saif Ali Khan

And Kangana Ranaut’s response
All the debate and exchange of thoughts on nepotism is exasperating, but healthy. While I enjoyed some of the perspectives on this subject, I did find a few disturbing ones. This morning, I woke up to one such open letter (circulating online), written by Saif Ali Khan.
The last time I was deeply pained and upset about this issue was when Mr Karan Johar wrote a blog on it, and even once declared in an interview that there are many criteria for excelling in film business. Talent is not one of them.
I don’t know if he was being misinformed, or simply na├»ve, but to discredit the likes of Mr Dilip Kumar, Mr K Asif, Mr Bimal Roy, Mr Satyajit Ray, Mr Guru Dutt, and many more, whose talent and exceptional abilities have formed the spine of our contemporary film business, is absolutely bizarre.
Even in today’s times, there are plenty of examples where it has repeatedly been proven that beyond the superficiality of branded clothes, polished accents, and a sanitised upbringing, exists grit, genuine hard-work, diligence, eagerness to learn, and the gigantic power of the human spirit. Many examples, all over the world, in every field, are a testimony to that. My dear friend Saif has written a letter on this topic and I would like to share my perspective. My request is that people must not misconstrue this and pit us against each other.
This is just a healthy exchange of ideas, and not a clash between individuals.
Saif, in your letter you mentioned that, “I apologized to Kangana, and I don’t owe anyone any explanation, and this issue is over.” But this is not my issue alone.
Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies.
Businesses that are run by human emotions and not by great value-systems, might gain superficial profits.
However, they cannot be truly productive and tap into the true potential of a nation of more than 1.3 billion people.
Nepotism, on many levels, fails the test of objectivity and rationale. I have acquired these values from the ones who have found great success and discovered a higher truth, much before me. These values are in the public domain, and no one has a copyright on them.
Greats like Vivekananda, Einstein and Shakespeare didn’t belong to a select few. They belonged to collective humanity. Their work has shaped our future, and our work will shape the future of the coming generations.
Today, I can afford to have the willpower to stand for these values, but tomorrow, I might fail, and help my own children realise their dreams of stardom. In that case, I believe that I would have failed as an individual. But the values will never fail. They will continue to stand tall and strong, long after we are gone.
So, we owe an explanation to everyone who either owns, or wants to own these values. Like I said, we are the ones who will shape the future of the coming generations.
In another part of your letter, you talked about the relationship between genetics and star kids, where you emphasised on nepotism being an investment on tried and tested genes. I have spent a significant part of my life studying genetics. But, I fail to understand how you can compare genetically hybrid racehorses to artists!
Are you implying that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, can be inherited through family genes? If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests.
You also spoke of eugenics — which means controlled breeding of the human race. So far, I believe that the human race hasn’t found the DNA that can pass on greatness and excellence. If it had, we would’ve loved to repeat the greatness of Einstein, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Vivekananda, Stephen Hawking, Terence Tao, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gerhard Richter.
You also said that the media is to be blamed since it is the real flag-bearer of nepotism. That makes it sound like a crime, which is far from the truth. Nepotism is merely a weakness of the human nature; it takes great deal of will-power and strength to rise above our intrinsic nature — sometimes we excel, sometimes we don’t. No one is putting a gun to anyone’s head to hire talent they don’t believe in. So, there is no need to get defensive about one’s choices.
In fact, the subtext of all my talk on this subject has been to encourage outsiders to take the path less traveled. Bullying, jealousy, nepotism and territorial human tendencies are all part of the entertainment industry, much like any other. If you don’t find acceptance in the mainstream, go off beat — there are so many ways of doing the same thing.
I think the privileged are the least to be blamed in this debate, since they are part of the system, which is set around chain reactions. Change can only be caused by those who want it. It is the prerogative of the dreamer who learns to take his or her due, and not ask for it.
You are absolutely right — there is a lot of excitement and admiration for the lives of the rich and famous. But at the same time, our creative industry gets this love from our countrymen, because we are like a mirror to them — whether it’s Langda Tyagi from Omkara or Rani from Queen, we are loved for the extraordinary portrayal of the ordinary.
So, should we make peace with nepotism? The ones who think it works for them can make peace with it. In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Vulture Politics

Vultures vultures vultures everywhere,
Waiting for the carcasses to feed upon
We wait for an opportunity and gloat on it
And then feast upon the bodies with glee

Is it of a Hindu killed in a terror attack,
Is it of a mercenary raiding our lands,
Is it of an aggressive and noisy neighbor,
Is it of a government flexing strong arms

It doesn’t matter us, what the carcass is,
Till we have a carcass to feast and enjoy
We will feed noisily, we won’t let dispose –

Where is relevance without vulture politics?