This appeared in The Week. I am off to Delhi tomorrow to check out the Garam Hawa in the Capital. My next post will be on thursday on my return. I got back late this evening from a long shoot to find a courier package from Amitabh Bachchan. I thought he had sent me another missive in connection with something I'd written. Mais non, it was a hefty tome about Jug Suraiya's article published in the Times of India on 2nd March. This was an emotional and anguished reaction to Jug's piece titled 'Slumdog Divide.' Amitabh has analysed Jug's 'Subverse' column virtually line by line , and done a surgically perfect job of taking it apart. I agree with Amitabh's basic argument and am surprised that Jug could have committed the factual blunders he has listed out. It's also good to know that there is someone out there who cares enough to set the record straight so very scrupulously. But Jug is what is called a 'Humour writer'. So, I don't really know whether or not Amitabh's outrage and righteous anger are a little misplaced here. But the fact that Amitabh has invested so much time and energy into challenging Jug's every thought on the subject is terrific. I like passion. If you feel strongly about an issue, give it your all. Don't hold back. It remains to be seen whether the editor of the TOI decides to publish the unedited version of Amitabh's eloquent rebuttal.
Two Bihari Bigmouths for the price of one?? Shatrughan Sinha is pitted against Shekhar Suman in Patna. Suman was all deference and humility while talking about his 'brother' Sinha. But Sinha could not hold back the bombast as he claimed he was the asli Bihari Babu - and he even refused to acknowledge Suman by name, preferrring to refer to him as 'That gentleman'. Theek hai. Now that 'The Suman and Sinha Show' is on the road - sit back and enjoy the fun. Question is - will Suman's honewalli bahu, Kangana Ranaut, campaign for him ? If so, what will she be not wearing??
Where have all the women gone….??
The elections are upon us… and women are missing in action. One would have thought by now political parties across the board would have woken up to ground realities that women count – literally!! Besides, look at the ladies who are calling the shots as party bosses – Sonia, Maya, Mamata, Jayalalithaa, Brinda – shouldn’t their spectacular success tell the men something? More importantly, shouldn’t these very women be looking for female candidates ? Apparently, that is not happening. And the number of females in the fray remains dismally, disappointingly small. Not a single political party has announced any meaningful programmes designed for women so far. And I’m not talking about reservations, since I have always been opposed to quota systems of any kind. I want to hear about specifics – something at a basic level that will ensure a better future for the next generation ( too late to do anything of consequence for the present one). Nobody has come up with a single proposal so far – not even a promise to provide something as essential as toilets in our villages where women still have to wait for darkness to relieve themselves. Imagine that in the 21st century. A toilet can transform the life of a village. But it remains a low priority. A village equipped with a toilet and school for girls is capable of changing society at large. Perhaps, that is the real fear. Perhaps that’s precisely what our netas don’t want. But since ‘change’ is being touted this time, and is the new magic mantra, how about starting at latrine level??
Change is what Barack Obama promised and cruised to victory. Change is what India needs. Change can come from women. But it may not be the sort of change entrenched politicians want. They would prefer to keep our womenfolk ignorant, insecure and hungry. It’s an age-old trick that ensures dominance and control over the disempowered. But what these politicians are missing out on is the potential for turning this so-called ‘disadvantage’ into an advantage. If they co-opt the women of this country into the mainstream of decision making, it will definitely benefit them! Since politicians are necessarily self-seeking, they must realize the potential of this enormous vote bank. Any party that places women up there in its manifesto will win far many more supporters than by discussing the 123 treaty which goes over most people’s heads anyway. But I don’t see it happening. I was talking to a young, dynamic editor of a powerful business publication the other day. I asked him bluntly why they ignored women as jury members while deciding the winners of their prestigious business awards. He naively told me that the reason was simple. According to him, women were incapable of wading through reams of balance sheets and financial papers that needed to be processed before short listing candidates. My look of absolute horror did not deter this young man from expanding on his theory that women really did not understand the intricacies of company profiles, and there weren’t enough ‘qualified’ women around in the first place. When I mentioned a few, including Indra Nooyi, he grinned and said, “ Well…. she is an exception.” Ha! So much for gender equality, even in media. I wondered aloud how many men on that damned jury of theirs could decode balance sheets themselves… and whether they even bothered to. Most of these awards follow the old boys’ network practices – men award other men knowing it will be their turn soon. So it is in politics, too.
Take a look at this statistic: just 44 women made it to the Lok Sabha in the 2004 elections out of 539 candidates. So far, in ‘progressive’ Maharashtra, only 5 women are in the fray for 48 Lok Sabha seats. I don’t see that number going up very much higher in the coming weeks. A candidate’s ability is what counts above and beyond gender. Does this number mean we are not confident about the ability of our women to represent us in government?? It is a matter of personal disappointment that I say this - for women’s voices to be heard, we have to desexualize our mindset. The easy route is to throw brainless Bollywood actresses into the ring and exploit their sex appeal – the surest way to insult all women . I’d rather such a seat be given to a more deserving man. Since these elections are being touted as the ultimate photo- op, why not use the same sexist yardstick to pick male candidates. Going by that, I guess if John Abraham decides to contest, his butt will win hands down!!,