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ASSEMBLY 2013: The battle for New Delhi

The CHILD BRIDES of Kheri

RS 35 2 December 2013

INSIDE What lurks in the deep web l i f e

a n d

t i m e s .

e v e r y

w e e k

What you didn’t see when you watched Tendulkar for 24 years


“WELCOME TO MY WORLD”

Thom Richard is one of the few pilots in the world to possess the talent, experience and courage required to compete in the final of the famous Reno Air Races – the world’s fastest motorsport. Less than ten champions are capable of vying with each other at speeds of almost 500 mph, flying wing to wing at the risk of their lives, just a few feet off the ground. It is for these elite aviators that Breitling develops its chronographs: sturdy, functional and ultra high-performance instruments all equipped with movements chronometer-certified by the COSC – the highest official benchmark in terms of reliability and precision. Welcome to the Breitling world.

B R E I T LIN G .COM

CHRONOMAT 44


Open Mail | editor@openmedianetwork.in Editor Manu Joseph managing Editor Rajesh Jha Deputy Editor Aresh Shirali Features and Sports Editor Akshay

Sawai

Senior Editors Kishore Seram,

Haima Deshpande (Mumbai) Mumbai bureau chief Madhavankutty Pillai associate editors Dhirendra Kumar Jha, Rahul Pandita assistant editors

Anil Budur Lulla (Bangalore), Shahina KK, Aastha Atray Banan, Mihir Srivastava, Chinki Sinha Special Correspondents Aanchal Bansal, Lhendup Gyatso Bhutia (Mumbai), Gunjeet Sra Assistant Art Director Tarun Sehgal SENIOR DESIGNER Anup Banerjee photo editor Ruhani Kaur assistant Photo editor Ritesh Uttamchandani (Mumbai) Staff Photographers Ashish Sharma, Raul Irani Editorial Researcher Shailendra Tyagi asst Editor (web) Arindam Mukherjee staff writer Devika Bakshi Associate publisher Deepa Gopinath Associate general managers (advertisement) Rajeev Marwaha (North

and East), Karl Mistry (West), Krishnanand Nair (South)

Manager—Marketing Raghav

Chandrasekhar

National Head—Distribution and Sales

Ajay Gupta regional heads—circulation D Charles

(South), Melvin George (West), Basab Ghosh (East)

Head—production Maneesh Tyagi pre-press manager Sharad Tailang cfo Anil Bisht hEAD—it Hamendra Singh

3D printing is now part of major business and technology articles in developed countries. It’s no longer a novelty that only some avant garde artists play around with, but increasingly being used to create complex and error proof medical devices (‘First, You Print the Shot Glass’, 25 November 2013). I’ m sure if you search the internet, you will find a recent article on an artificial hamburger made by a 3D printer—granted, it costs millions today. Nasa has allocated a 3D printing is being million dollar prize for touted the way personal an artificial printed computers were 30 years pizza. 3D printing is ago when computing being touted the way was moved from big personal computers mainframes to desks were 30 ago back when they brought computing from big mainframes to people’s desks by decentralising big processing factories. 3D printing is going to have profound effects on labour, agriculture, technology and manufacturing processes. I think the 3D printing revolution deserves more articles from a technology or manufacturing perspective, and not just a society column.  letter of the week One for Kejriwal

publisher

R Rajmohan

All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner is prohibited. Printed and published by R Rajmohan on behalf of the owner, Open Media Network Pvt Ltd. Printed at Thomson Press India Ltd., 18-35 Milestone, Delhi Mathura Road, Faridabad—121007, (Haryana). Published at 4, DDA Commercial Complex, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110017. Ph: (011) 30934199; Fax: (011) 30934162 To subscribe, sms ‘openmagazine’ to 56070 or log on to www.openthemagazine.com Or call our Toll Free Number 1800 300 22 000 or email at: subscription@openmedianetwork.in For corporate sales, email ajay@openmedianetwork.in For marketing alliances, email alliances@openmedianetwork.in For advertising, email advt@openmedianetwork.in

Volume 5 Issue 47 For the week 26 Nov—2 Dec 2013 Total No. of pages 64 + Covers cover photo

akash

Ritesh Uttamchandani

2 december 2013

it will be a straight fight between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress in Delhi (‘Kejriwal Is Not Even on Our Radar’, 11 November 2013). For the past 15 years, the BJP has just been a hanger-on for the Congress in Delhi, where its leaders have colluded with the Congress to loot the coffers of the city. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has long overplayed the card of a maternal grandmother to cover up the incompetence of her administration. Delhi voters now are demanding a change from the corruption unleashed by the MCD and other state machinery. The daily struggle with rising prices, water shortage, worsening power shortage, inadequate sanitation, women’s safety, etcetera, is enough to say goodbye to Mrs Dikshit. It is time to usher in an honest government of the Aam Aadmi

Party, which is committed to Swaraj and Anna’s Lokpal.  A jay Chandra

Look Who’s Talking

for 10 years, the media crucified Modi without any evidence or reason (‘Modi, Media and Money’, 18 November 2013). The professional careers of several media anchors was built on a hate campaign against Modi, and in the process they got rich. Then the social media wave picked up, the common man starting voicing his altogether different opinion of Modi, debunking the theory that the media represents people. Several journalists were exposed in the ‘Radia Tapes’ scandal, and eventually the media was forced to take a balanced view of the situation and stop its hate campaign against Modi. The 10-year-old hunter became the hunted and is now complaining that Modi

is influencing the media.  R ohan

VK Singh Is Wrong

open magazine has carried an interview with former Army Chief General VK Singh in its 25 November 2013 issue in which Singh is quoted as having said (about the troop movement report that The Indian Express carried on 4 April 2012): “We issued a notice. Twenty days later, [the paper] carried an apology, hidden somewhere on page 8. No bold headline this time. (laughs) The Press Council also didn’t do much about it.” Singh is wrong. One, The Indian Express did not receive any notice from him. Two, the newspaper has never apologised for the story. It stands by the report. In fact, the day of its publication, the newspaper issued a detailed statement that made this very clear. That statement is online at http://tinyurl.com/jw5yar6. We wish your reporter had, in the interest of fairness and accuracy, checked with The Indian Express before unquestioningly reproducing Singh’s claims. Vaidehi Thakar

Director- Corporate Legal The Indian Express

Open Responds

it is true that Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, did not apologise to General VK Singh, nor did Singh issue a notice against Shekhar Gupta as he is quoted as saying in the Open interview titled ‘The Arms Lobby Is Very Strong’. The error is regretted. —Editor

open www.openthemagazine.com 1


small world

Comic Book Propaganda Goes Radioactive trick

A series of three pro-nuclear comics is being distributed around proposed nuclear plant sites

the 2011 Fukushima disaster, work at India’s various proposed nuclear plants has frequently been stalled by protests by locals and anti-nuclear lobbyists. Last year, large-scale protests occurred at the proposed Jaitapur plant in Maharashtra and the Kudankulam plant in Tamil Nadu. The Central Government reasons that a greater thrust in nuclear power will help India meet its energy needs, but locals at the site of the proposed plants are unconvinced of their safety and concerned about the displace-

Ever since

2 december 2013

ment they will cause. Now, the Central Government-run Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) has come up with a novel way to win over locals—a series of three comics that show how a villager named Budhiya, riddled with fears of nuclear plants, becomes convinced of their safety and efficacy. In the first installment, Ek Tha Budhiya, the character voices his concerns and gets a lesson in how safe and effective nuclear plants are. In the second, Budhiya Ki Seher, he visits one. By the third, Badal Gaya Budhiya, he has become a

champion of nuclear energy. Amritesh Srivastava, a communication manager at NPC, which conceptualised the series, says, “Atomic energy is a complex concept. Most people associate it only with disasters like Hiroshima-Nagasaki and now Fukushima. The idea was to communicate effectively and simply the benefits of nuclear energy to a lay person. A lot of falsehoods about nuclear energy have been spread among locals. This is our way of dealing with those misconceptions.” Published in seven languag-

es, the comics have been distributed around villages where nuclear plants are coming up. While the character is called Budhiya in Hindi, he is Ganpat in Marathi and Nathu in Tamil. The story is set in a village called Jagdishpur, which Srivastava says is inspired by Jaitapur. “We have distributed at least 10 to 12 lakh copies through schools and colleges,” Srivastava says. “Our site officers also went house to house distributing [them]. The impact will soon be there to see.” n Lhendup G Bhutia

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16

contents 6

angle

The industry of nuisance

20

cover story

40

The Invisible Tendulkar

elections

12

The battle for New Delhi

34

news reel

Babar Ayaz on What’s Wrong With Pakistan?

cyberworld

Malaise

The child brides of Kheri

What lurks in the Deep Web

Cattle Tourism Bihar’s Sonepur cattle fair, considered the largest cattle fair in Asia, began this year on 16 November. It is an annual month-long affair where all sorts of animals—buffaloes, donkeys, ponies, horses, dogs, camels, etcetera—are bought and sold. However, since last year, when the Bihar Tourism Ministry took over the organisation of the fair, it has also got a new spin as a tourist destination. To woo foreigners, fancy Swiss cottages— which come with yoga classes and elephant rides—have been built near the location. A substantial amount has also been spent in sprucing up the venue. Whether it will work will have to be seen. Last year, the fair only managed an average of 25,000 footfalls each day, far short of the daily minimum of 100,000 it used to see some years ago. n OMKAR KHANDEKAR

h o ly w o w

After criticising Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on the ISI trying to recruit disgruntled youth after the Muzaffarnagar riots, Jairam Ramesh retreats in haste out of turn

“What will Rahul Gandhi say or do, I can’t say. If you’re saying he should clarify his statement and apologise, I agree with you… I agree that the statement shouldn’t have been made the way it was made” —Jairam Ramesh, speaking to Urdu media, 16 November 2013

“I didn’t say that Rahul should apologise, the media twisted it... Rahul’s intention was not to malign any community. But it was blown out of proportion by the media and Congress adversaries” —Jairam Ramesh, at a press meet, 17 November 2013

around

turn

Open Roads Inspired by an event called ‘Ciclovia’ that started in 1976 in Bogota, Colombia, Gurgaon has started a new street festival called ‘Raahgiri’ during which streets will be open exclusively to runners, cyclists, skaters and other fitness junkies. The initiative is a joint effort by the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation, police and residents, and is aimed at promoting the use of non-motorised transport to solve the city’s growing traffic woes. To begin with, one street in the city will be kept free of traffic every Sunday for a minimum of six hours. The city administration has identified a few streets that will follow this schedule, and residents are being encouraged to use these non-traffic streets for recreational and community activities. The first ‘Raahgiri’ day was celebrated on 17 November, when the busy street along Galleria Market was cordoned off for the festival. The idea also seems to have found takers in Bangalore. A visiting team of officials from Bangalore is considering starting a similar event for the tech city soon. n Gunjeet Sra

INITIATIVE

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2 december 2013


44

50

reminscence

Bhimsen Joshi and his neglected son

p

b books

53

How I Write: Tash Aw

c true life

cinema

56

Women don’t bleed blue

Interview: Richard Linklater

Ml Sh

arma

63

Kareena’s careening career

Malala:

on able Pers Unreasotnhe Week of ■

NOT PEOPLE LIKE US

The Superhero

Malala Yousafzai’s story has inspired cartoonists, both at home in Pakistan and in America, to come up with female Muslim superheroes. Earlier this year, Aaron Harin Rashid, a Pakistani pop singer, came up with the idea of ‘Burkha Avenger’—a female superhero cartoon character who works as a teacher by day and fights Taliban fundamentalists by night. Her American counterpart is a comic book superhero codenamed ‘Ms Marvel’. Also known as Kamala Khan, Ms Marvel is a PakistaniAmerican who, in addition to fighting villains, also combats stereotypes associated with Muslims in her country. n Gunjeet Sra

COMICs

F o r challenging a student’s

sexual harassment allegations against a retired judge by citing ancient scriptures that supposedly establish that women lie After a law student claimed she had been sexually harassed by a retired Supreme Court judge last year, the Chief Justice formed a panel to look into the allegations. However, a criminal advocate named ML Sharma has challenged her claim by filing a PIL against the website that hosted her blog, and contested her statement by claiming that ancient scriptures show that ‘women are not truthful’. In his PIL, Sharma claims that these ancient books show that ‘[a] lady never speaks [the] truth. Even for a short benefit or for revenge for a denial [of] her demand, she can go to any extent for revenge.’ On the face of it, there is nothing wrong in contesting an allegation. But to do so by resorting to amorphous, unsubstantiated ‘scriptural wisdom’ rather than factual evidence is patently absurd. n 2 december 2013

Shashi Tharoor, the Actor? Our Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shashi Tharoor, wears many hats. He is an author, a columnist, a Twitter personality and a former UN official who almost became the UN Secretary General at one point. But did he ever act in a film? There’s a brief scene in the Bollywood cult favourite Andaaz Apna Apna where a man who looks remarkably like a young Tharoor looks on as Salman Khan and Aamir Khan have a go inside a bus. Someone pointed this out on Twitter recently and Tharoor

M I S T A K EN I D ENT I TY

replied. Not quite amused, perhaps a little agitated even, the minister tweeted: ‘How many times must I repeat that I didn’t appear in Andaz ApnaApna or any other movie!? I was working at the UN from 1978!’ Within minutes, the conversation went viral on the social networking site. Turns out, this is not the first time Tharoor has had to field such an inquiry. Sometime last year, he sent out a plea on Twitter, ‘Will the guy in the middle of this still from Andaaz Apna Apna please identify himself so people stop claiming it’s me?’ n LHENDUP G BHUTIA open www.openthemagazine.com 5


angle

On the Contrary

The Industry of Nuisance On the nature of current court cases against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new movie M a d h ava n ku t t y P i l l a i

T

Bhansali to change the name of his movie and Bhansali is a victim of this industry. from Ramleela to Ram-Leela to Goliyon Ki According to a DNA report, just this against Sanjay Leela Bhansali because of Ram-Leela remind me of week a court declared that a case could be Raasleela: Ram-Leela. Another court case filed against Bhansali and the actors in his had forced him to change the names of a very interesting character I met the warring communities in the movie. movie because the complainant said it about half a decade ago for a column on All this was happening despite a High ‘glorified violence and obscenity’. do-gooders. Earlier, a slew of court cases had forced Court having imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 He was known to be a crusader against on one such complainant for filing such a unauthorised buildings. When I met him, frivolous case. This deterrent had made he told me how he had been just an no difference. ordinary middle-aged man until a builder There is an entire industry in Bhansali’s movie became a target started constructing an illegal building because the name ‘Ram’ is in the title and on a plot adjoining his home. He couldn’t this country trying to profit that makes it perfect material for creating sleep at night from the noise and when he from the power of becoming a a nuisance by using labels like ‘glorificacomplained, he got insulted by everyone nuisance. They do this through tion of violence’, which mean nothing. from the builder’s men to the police. The Ramayana itself culminates in a great One night, defeated and sleep-shorn, he knowledge of law, familiarity turned over his troubles to God. The next with court and police procedure, war, and if that is not ‘glorification of violence’, what is? morning he woke up with renewed and gumption. Bhansali is a The industry of nuisance is, however, vigour and went on the offensive. Many not all bad. In the case of the possible-expetitions, court appearances and a vicious victim of this industry tortionist that I cited above, you assault on him later, the building ap can still recognise that there is was demolished. something courageous about He had found a vocation. Soon, robbing the corrupt. It is a form he was a name taking on all sorts of justice when powerful people of unauthorised structures built have completely compromised by really powerful people, the system and an unexpected including a former mayor. It was person comes along to play a dangerous thing to do and I extortionist. It is not a noble act, especially found his night of but even in a den of criminals, religious epiphany fascinating. there are degrees of evil. But strangely, when I spoke to If one can sympathise with the lawyer who first took on his such extortion, then the sort of case for free and the journalist nuisance Bhansali has faced who filed the first report on him, seems not so much evil as insipid they would say things like ‘He and irritating. If, like SEBI and was alright in the beginning’. At TRAI, there were a regulator some point, I surmised, it was for the nuisance sector, then possible that the man had turned people blackmailing filmmakers his knowledge of the system into would be on top of its agenda to a means of extorting money of weed out. those whom he targeted. I I had one final encounter with dropped the story. the possible-extortionist. In the Like him, there is an entire last Assembly election, when I industry out there in this went to the polling booth, I saw country trying to profit from the his name on the ballot. He was power of becoming a nuisance. representing an irrelevant party. They do this through knowledge I had already decided to waste of law, familiarity with court and my vote, and giving it to him police procedure, and gumption. seemed one way to make amends Some do it for money, others for for taking his time and not publicity. It is a tool for many writing about him. I pressed the aspiring politicians. Yellow button against his name. n journalism exists for this reason visible target Bhansali’s legal harrassment is more irritant than extortion he unending court cases

6 open

2 december 2013


real

india

A Hurried Man’s Guide to CNR Rao

Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, who was recently awarded the Bharat Ratna, is currently chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. He also heads the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, which he helped establish 25 years ago. Rao is also a former chairman of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) based in Bangalore.

It Happens

A New Currency in Karnataka As a solution to soiled notes and coin-shortage, one district is using laminated paper as currency A n i l B u d u r L u l l a

Rao is a chemist, specialising in solid-state and structural chemistry. He has around 60 honorary doctorates from universities across the world, and has authored around 1,500 scientific papers and 45 books. Born in Bangalore, he received his Bachelors degree from Mysore University, a Masters from Banaras Hindu University, and a PhD from Purdue University in the United States. In 1963, he returned to Rao holds around India and taught at IIT, 60 honorary Kanpur, before moving to doctorates and has IISc, where he served as authored 1,500 director over 1984-94. papers and 45 books

hindu archives

Rao is currently helping set up three supercomputers in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. It is believed that this project will help boost India’s supercomputing strength and bring it on par with China and South Korea. He is also involved in another project to produce hydrogen in a lab and to separate hydrogen and oxygen.

Among other awards, both Indian and foreign, Rao has won the prestigious Dan David Prize, a prestigious award for men of science instituted by Israel. He used the prize money of that award, $10,000, to set up the CNR Rao Educational Foundation to acquaint rural children with science. In 2011, the professor was accused of plagiarism for allegedly reproducing the text of other scientists in a research paper and was forced to apologise to the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Materials. Ultimately, a co-author, a PhD student at IISc, admitted the gaffe and took full responsibility for it. n

tokenland In Belgaum district, local businesses are issuing tokens instead of change

A

new type of currency is gaining ground in Karnataka’s Belgaum district. Issued by various shops, restaurants and other establishments, each note measures about an inch by two inches, is printed on laminated paper and available in denominations of mostly Rs 5 or less. Instead of offering them change, such establishments issue their patrons tokens marked with a rupee amount and the name of the establishment issuing it. Customers can then use these tokens on a subsequent visit to the shop. According to various patrons and establishments that deal in these tokens, this system of informal currency exchange began because of an acute shortage of coins and the poor condition of Rs 5 and Rs 10 notes. It is believed to have started about six months ago when shopkeepers in the district’s Chokkodi town, fed up with customers refusing to accept soiled five rupee notes, started issuing such tokens. The phenomenon has since spread rapidly across the district, including the city. “Earlier, customers would get irked when, instead of coughing up the change, we offered chocolates or toffees worth that amount,” one

hotel cashier explains. “Now, they are happy to pocket these tokens, since they know they can use them instead of money when they deal with us later.” While most establishments offer tokens of Rs 5 or less, some are thinking of introducing Rs 10 tokens as well. Belgaum hotelier RK Chowgule says, “We are now thinking of printing tokens of Rs 10 denomination, as the ones circulating in this region are in bad condition. It’s been years, in fact, since we saw new Rs 5 and Damodar Rs 10 coins. Pavate holds Banks too have stopped tokens from circulating the local paan them,’’ he says. shop, grocery “I have so store and bar many tokens in my pocket at any given time,’’ says local Damodar Pavate, who uses tokens at the neighbourhood paan shop, grocery store, bar and restaurants. Since the tokens are exchanged locally and each of them bears the name of the establishment it was issued by, traders say there is no fear of duplication. “Only those from out of town do not accept these tokens,” says Chowgule. n 2 december 2013


business

Of Movies and Midriffs as Market Signs clips. For one, the Big Bang model of binary down, the country’s top pick is a dance c i ne m a Ad guru Alyque Padamsee once called advertising the ‘cave paintings’ cinema profit has taken over: put a film on number called Tamaache Pe Disco. With handgun gestures serving as a sort of of the modern age. Recently, he called Open as many screens as possible, rally a vast sexual code, it’s busy wooing audiences for viewership over the weekend, and it’s the doosra delivery of cricket: you never either a bang or a whimper. For another, ad Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Bullett Raja, a Saif Ali know which way it’ll turn. It’s the Khan starrer whose promotional clips clips for movies now have mass reach via advertising analogy, though, that struck appear aimed at an 80s-style mass market; me as odd. After all, prehistoric art usually the internet; the country boasts of almost its single shot of dialogue, ‘Jab hum 100 million handheld devices with web depicts the grim reality of survival, while aayenge, garmi thodi badh jayegi, pata toh access. In other words, it’s a war for advertising is mostly escapist. And, chal hi jayega’ rings out loud and clear. eyeballs fast turning radioactive. ironically enough, the ads most likely to Of late, the hottest campaign for a If Alyque wasn’t achieve archival value a few millennia kidding, neither was movie, however, has been the guns galore, Hindi film hence are those vying with each other to fifty shades of red and song sizzlers of the late Lever advertising is draw audiences for films. These ads, of laureate Shunu Sen. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon ki under pressure, course, are the song-and-dance sequences Raasleela: Ram-Leela, a carnivalesque take Addressing a hall and what works that are released a few weeks before a on carnal love in divisive times set in full of MBA has plenty to say movie hits theatre screens. Gujarat that scores big on song-and-dance students, Sen once about India as a It was MTV that kicked off the action, at several levels of sensuality and subtlety. asked all those mass market Viacom’s ‘music television’ channel to Not just its title track, its which a generation of entire publicity package urban youngsters lost has proven a success. their video virginity even No less greedy for as sundry elders had their attention is the stuff on dentures dislodged by the air for Aamir Khan’s shock. That was back in Dhoom: 3. The TV 1991, and the boobtube campaign for the latest gig that dared ask a edition of India’s No 1 country sedated by action franchise has only Doordarshan to ‘Enjoy’ just begun, and is going (gulp!) didn’t just set the all out for eyeballs and tone for every global eardrums with slick brand trying to desify stunts and a title track itself, it also managed to that refreshes the globalise Indian music to original lyrics and retains an extent. As attention its sex appeal (and spans got crunched and refrain). sexuality got groovy, it On the evidence of all was clear Hindi cinema the buzz these clips have would have to adapt. managed to generate, It did. And how! India’s cave artists seem Ah, it was heady, and to be doing a swell job. the turn of the millenniOf course, one could um saw showbiz advertisargue that what lures ing get headier still. As viewership is something FM radio got active, new of a no-brainer nowadays, music TV channels hit given the country’s Indian airwaves. The recessionary economy. Times Group’s Zoom gave Across the world, song lyrics the honour of bullets versus blanks Dialogues, pelvic thrusts and raunchy lyrics are all vying for attention anxiety is considered an onscreen ticker-tape. good for showbiz. In the And INX Media’s 9XM US, recessions have long been correlated who’d read the latest issue of Harvard sneaked up to overthrow MTV as India’s top music channel, a power shift that’s less Business Review to raise their hands. Quite with rising hemlines. Such an analysis sounds sexist, but could this be what’s a few went up. He then asked who’d seen of a puzzle than how its one-time sister really up right now? Except, instead of organ NewsX ended up in alleged Ambani the latest music charts on television (he hemlines riding up thighs, it would be control thanks to the devices of an alleged referred to a show my buddies had cholis and ghagras yawning their fashionnicknamed ‘Phallus Top Ten’). Only a few PR professional called Niira Radia. able way apart to bare midriffs in ever did. And these, Sen declared, were the And the action is far from over yet. In a marketers who’d go on to crack the market more daring ways. But then again, sex crazily competitive market, film marketappeal is only one aspect of the Hindi film some day. ers are now under pelvis-pounding formula. There’s other stuff too. And of So, what does a snap scan of this week’s pressure to make waves on TV with music greater archival value. n ARESH SHIRALI chartbusters reveal? By MTV’s countvideos interspersed with action/dialogue 10 open

2 december 2013


news

reel

pakistan

raul irani

‘Ideologies do not stop at cantonment gates’

Near the beginning of his book, What’s Wrong With Pakistan?, eminent Pakistani journalist Babar Ayaz offers a diagnosis that the country has a genetic defect. He uses this as a basis to look at why Pakistan has remained a dysfunctional state and how its state of affairs continues to be in conflict with ‘twenty-first century value systems’. Excerpts from an interview with Open’s Rahul Pandita.

When so much goes wrong with [a] country and it remains, after 65 years, dysfunctional, then it is a serious issue. My view has been for a long time—much before I started writing this book—that we have to find the fundamental reason why we are what we are. And then I realised that once you exploit religion and [create] political formulations [based on] it to make a country, then that formulation is going to... set the future course. The ruling classes of Pakistan, the establishYour book offers an insight into how ment of Pakistan, [have] used it at different successive rulers in Pakistan have succumbed to what you call the ‘confused theory times to achieve their own projects. The problem is that leaders use it for shortof Iqbal’—that religion and State should not term gains. Now this is not something be separated. Does that lie at the core of [that] only [happens in] Pakistan. Look at what ails Pakistan today? 12 open

the United States, with all its vision and think-tanks and what not, and how it committed [the] fundamental mistake of using religion and religious militancy in Afghanistan. [And] what is happening? The mechanism set by it is today eating the Americans.

You argue in the book that Pakistan suffered because of a ‘strategic collapse of Jinnah’s strategy’ to use the idea of Pakistan as a bargaining tool. But several researchers have argued otherwise—that for the Muslim League, the idea of Pakistan was very clear as the ‘new Medina’. If you see the documents… it is different [from] what the speeches [say]. And at

2 december 2013


times I see researchers putting too much emphasis on speeches. Speeches are made for public consumption. When you read the documents, they are very clear that what the Muslim League was asking for was basically maximum autonomy for the provinces that had a Muslim majority, and maximum autonomy for Muslims in provinces where they were in a minority. And then there were [other] crucial demands: 33 per cent representation in the legislative assembly. And that the minorities... any minorities... if 75 per cent of them do not vote for a particular clause of the Constitution, then that clause will not go through. And the third was: we will get 33 per cent share [of] jobs. These were the issues—all documented—that people do not talk about. But Mr [Jawaharlal] Nehru did not accept it. The country got divided. Come to 1971. In front of Pakistan’s legislative assembly, Mr [Zulfikar Ali] Bhutto wanted certain assurances from the majority party, the Awami League. But the Awami League did not agree. What happened? The country broke. Fast forward—what happened in Egypt? [Mohamed] Morsi tried to implement a majoritarian constitution. He said: ‘we will have a referendum.’ But that was not representative—hardly 22 per cent of all people. What happened? Total chaos. So you have to carry on with fundamental documents in a large-hearted way. I’ll give an example that is not usually liked by all three religions—that had Jews had a bigger heart, Christianity and Islam would have been two sects of Judaism. Same in India with Buddhism. You need to have vision. Somebody told me the other day that Jinnah did not see it. I said, ‘Yes, but even Nehru did not see it’. But Maulana Azad could foresee it. So for that, an Oxford education is not necessary (laughs).

You have quoted various theses to argue that extremism is deeply embedded in Pakistan’s DNA. But was it clear from the beginning? Or did it really become clear

from Zia’s regime?

I would go back. I [would] say, because we used or exploited religion for getting public support when Pakistan was made, obviously Islamism was one narrative. As a result, the government, because it had propagated [Islam], had to give [it] space. So the council of Ulemas was established to advise [Pakistan] on what kind of constitution we [would] have. The first thing that happened was anti-Ahmadi riots—although one of the persons who adopted the Pakistan Resolution was an Ahmadi [and] Pakistan’s first foreign minister was an Ahmadi. So right from the beginning, these [forces] started consuming Pakistan. Mr Bhutto, to please the fundamentalists, was the one who brought in the anti-Ahmadi law. So it is not only Zia. Bhutto is the one who banned liquor, although he used to drink himself. It comes to the same thing: because you adopted this stance that Pakistan was made for Islam, for Sharia, once you accept that, it is very difficult to move away from it. But yes, the qualitative and quantitative change came in Zia’s time. What he did was, he changed political Islam into militant Islam, and that changed the whole paradigm. That is what has created men who are committing all this violence; the men who want to bring in Islam through the barrel of the gun. But the world over, religiosity—I would not say it is increasing, but it is becoming more pronounced. And assertive. In India, you have Hindutva. In America, you have Evangelists.

But in case of Pakistan it is much sharper, much more damaging—so damaging that it threatens the very existence of Pakistan.

You are right. In the first place, it is sharper in all Muslim polities. Osama bin Laden is not a person, he is a phenomenon. What Osama has done is he has sharpened the contradictions between the people who want to live under Sharia and anybody who talks about modernity. That is what has led to this situation.

It is more acute in Pakistan because, one: it started from there. Osama was living there; Al-Qaida had a base there. And still, its main leader is somewhere around there. Two: Pakistan allowed so many non-State actors to equip themselves not only with arms but with that kind of ideology. Also because Pakistan is a nuclear power, it becomes ideal for Islamists to [impose] their rule. And then Afghanistan.

Is there a realisation now—especially within the Army—that this extremism has become a monster that is eating them up as well? When you try to tell your army that ‘You are the defender or guardian of the ideology of Pakistan’, ‘You are the forces of Islam’, and ‘Pakistan is the fortress of Islam’, then you are doing it wrong. When you come under militant Islam, you are under conflict. That is why there are [now] statements from Pakistan’s Army Chief telling political leaders, ‘Please, do not create confusion by saying this is our enemy, this is our war’; people like Imran Khan who foolishly say ‘[Tribal] people are like animals because of [the CIA’s] drones’. Ideologies, you see—anywhere in the world—do not stop at cantonment gates. They do not seek some kind of licence or pass to enter. And people in the army are human beings; they go home, they have their families. Then you have, according to an old survey, 250,000 mosques. [That is] around one mosque for 246 people. Mosques have a captive audience; they have a captive narrative.

And, so much sectarian violence?

In the sectarian violence in Pakistan, there is an element of proxy warfare. A lot of Muslim labour is going to Saudi Arabia. When they go there, because people speak Arabic in Saudi Arabia and behave in a particular way, these men think that is true Islam. So the Islam that was localised in the Subcontinent is gradually changing its colour. So [even] here we have started saying ‘Allah hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda hafiz’. n


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calculus

Modi Mania in South India The BJP’s PM aspirant is popular here but cannot count on the region for numbers anil budur lulla

To shore up support in the run-up to the General Election of 2014, Modi has been making periodic visits to urban centres in the south. Yet, the region has been cold to the saffron party all these years since its 1990s emergence as a force in north and west India. Barring Karnataka, the south has been uncharted territory for the BJP, and while Modi may attract crowds, how well the party can possibly perform here remains a matter of doubt. Of the region’s 130 Lok Sabha seats—42 in Andhra Pradesh, 39 in Tamil Nadu, 28 in Karnataka and 20 in Kerala, apart from Puducherry’s sole seat—the BJP leader cannot expect a tally worth talking about. Fragmentation is the story of the south.

Take a look at the composition of the current Lok Sabha for a sense of the strength that regional parties command. To represent Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK has nine seats, the DMK 18, and the MDMK and VCK one each. From Andhra Pradesh, the TRS has two, YSR Congress two, TDP six, and the MiM one. As for Karnataka, the JD-S and KJP have one seat each (earlier, the JD-S had three but it lost two in recent bypolls). From Kerala, the Kerala Congress (Mani) faction has one, while the rest are shared among others by if size is might A huge cut-out of Modi outside the venue of a public rally in Bangalore

Aijaz Rahi/AP

visits to India’s four southern states, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will have to look elsewhere for Lok Sabha numbers. The south is largely dominated by regional parties, and even the smaller of these are not easy for the BJP to either dislodge or forge alliances with. In Bangalore, the talking point is the Rs 10 that each attendee recently paid as an entry fee to hear Modi speak at the city’s palace grounds. At its conclusion, Karnataka’s BJP unit handed over a cheque of Rs 35 lakh to Modi to help fund his dream Sardar Patel statue project back home in Gujarat.

Despite his frequent


the IUML, CPM and CPI (while the latter two are not regional parties, they have no pan-Indian presence either). What makes the going difficult for the BJP is the fact that these regional parties have managed to hold their own, even those that have just one or two seats. In such a scenario, while AP and Karnataka has seen mandates in favour of a national party—be it the Congress or BJP—the other two states have stuck to candidates of other parties, many of which have shared power with a coalition at the Centre. Over the past decade, it is the UPA that they have shared power with. This time round, the BJP hopes to go one up on the UPA by roping in regional allies. Is this likely?

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n Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is yet to formally announce an alliance with any party, though the TDP was part of the Vajpayee-led NDA and has thus been a BJP partner at the Centre. The TDP’s chief, N Chandrababu Naidu, once a United Front leader, was the state’s CM in 1998 when the NDA assumed power. While Naidu left the NDA after it lost power in 2004, citing Gujarat’s anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, he was never able to recover the electoral support he lost over the NDA’s term in power. Now, having lost two Assembly terms to the Congress in his home state, Naidu has been the first among the BJP’s ex-partners to reach out to Modi after he was named the party’s PM candidate. But as it happens, the TDP is still on shaky ground. Its traditional support base in the Seemandhra part of AP is at threat of being overrun by Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of former Congress CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy who broke away to set up the YSR Congress. Jagan, under CBI investigation for his assets being out of proportion to his known income, was released from prison not long ago and has been issuing statements in praise of Modi since then. This suggests that he may not be averse to a tie-up with the BJP. Since AP’s state polls were held together with the General Election of 2009, the state is likely to hold both of them simultaneously again in 2014. If the state splits into Seemandhra and Telangana by then, it could impact electoral outcomes. The YSR Congress sniffs victory in Seemandhra while the Congress hopes to win big in Telangana. That would leave the TDP in the cold for a third term. In alliance with the BJP, a potential Modi wave in the region may help the party somewhat, but this would only be for the Lok Sabha. On its own, the BJP may win a seat or two at best. All said, 2 december 2013

most of AP’s 42 seats are likely to go to regional parties and the Congress.

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n Tamil Nadu, decades of experience

have shown that the Congress is the only national party that can win a few seats on its own, and that too, in alliance with either the AIADMK or DMK, the state’s two big Dravidian parties. The AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa, who is currently CM, is seen as a personal friend of Modi, but while her equation with him is cordial, she has a vote calculus to deal with of which a minority vote swing would be a part. More significantly, Jayalalithaa has prime ministerial ambitions of her own, the calculation being that in case a rag-tag coalition takes shape in 2014 (supported, say, by a national party), she would have a claim to the top post by potential virtue of being a regional party with the formation’s largest number of seats. Even if the BJP has a seat-sharing deal with the AIADMK, it will be difficult for the party to win on its own strength since NaMo mania is an urban phenomena if anything, restricted to Chennai, Coimbatore and perhaps Tiruchirapalli, where Modi received a rapturous welcome two months ago. The mood could yet change. The BJP’s best bet would be to lure the AIADMK as a regional ally. Possible? During Modi’s October visit to Chennai, Jaya snubbed him by not turning up at a Madras University function where both were scheduled to speak. While the media highlighted Jaya’s own PM ambitions as a reason for keeping equally away from the BJP and Congress , observers felt she did not want to upset minority voters who could play a key role in her sweeping the state in 2014 as she did in 2011’s Assembly polls. In the current Lok Sabha, the DMK has 18 seats while the AIADMK has nine of the 39 in all (the rest are held by the Congress and smaller regional parties). Around the time Cyclone Phailin was to hit India’s eastern seaboard, Modi was in Chennai to deliver a lecture on ‘India and the world’. The country, he declared, would soon be hit by a ‘cyclone of change’. That morning, Chennai residents awoke to the strange sight of the road from the airport to the venue bedecked in saffron with banners extending ‘a heartly welcome to the next PM of India.’ Political commentator Cho Ramaswamy, who is said to be close to Jaya, declared that Modi would soon address the nation from 7 Race Course Road (the PM’s official residence in New Delhi) on the strength of an

AIADMK-BJP alliance. But that still isn’t an obvious deal. While Jaya had congratulated Modi on his becoming the BJP campaign committee chief, she did not call him after he was named the party’s PM candidate. In a rally in September in Tiruchirapalli, Modi had refrained from making any reference to either Jaya or the DMK. This was after Jaya had let her ministers mark their presence alongside UPA ministers visiting to launch central schemes, and around the time that the DMK’s M Karunanidhi had sought BJP support for a bypoll in Yercaud. The DMK, which has kept low since its rout in 2011, has a family succession crisis to resolve. Its official ally right now, the Congress, recently bowed to a DMK demand by keeping the PM away from a Commonwealth meet in Colombo in protest against Sri Lanka’s treatment of its Tamil minority (especially during the country’s 2009 battle against the LTTE).

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n Kerala, the BJP has never won a

seat in either Assembly or Lok Sabha polls. This will not change. The saffron party still has no chance of its own in 2014, nor of any significant partner. Elections in this state are always a direct fight between regional alliances led by the Congress and CPM. Though Modi has toured the state and even visited godwoman Mata Amritanandamayi, who has a huge following, it is unlikely such sporadic support will translate into votes for the BJP. That leaves only Karnataka, where the BJP has done well over the past two decades. Presently, it has 19 MPs, one of whom, BY Raghavendra, Yeddyurappa’s son, has joined the KJP floated by his father. Though the BJP lost the Assembly polls in May 2013 to the Congress, recent opinion polls show that Modi as the BJP’s candidate may have sparked a revival in its fortunes. The BJP may fare even better if Yeddyurappa, who was expelled after corruption charges were levelled against him, rejoins the party and the KJP plays spoiler no more. The BJP’s flip-flops over Yeddyurappa, who is considered close to Modi, make for plenty of political entertainment in Karnataka. But this time serious calculations could bring the scam-tainted former CM back into the saffron fold. At the end, while Modi does have support in the South that is disproportionate to the BJP’s overall presence in the region, there is no question of a NaMo wave that could make much of a difference to his Lok Sabha tally. n open www.openthemagazine.com 15


a s s e m b ly p o l l s

The Battle for New Delhi An electoral contest that has India’s capital rivetted mihir srivastava

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n June, half a year before the Delhi Assembly polls to be held on 4 December, Arvind Kejriwal declared that he would make his electoral debut against the state’s three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit by contesting the New Delhi seat she holds. Not just that, the Aam Aadmi Party leader vowed to fight directly against her in any constituency she sought election from. Many felt it was suicidal of Kejriwal to take on Dikshit in her own bastion. His political career, they warned, could end before it had begun. But much has changed since then and the debutant’s chances are no longer seen as dismal. Kejriwal himself has simple logic for his choice of constituency. The BJP, he says, has conspired with Dikshit by fielding weak candidates against her in past elections. This allowed her to emerge stronger each time. He wants to change that. As the top leader of his party, he wants to pit himself against the top leader of the Congress in Delhi. This is not about chief ministership, he explains. It is about making a contest of a non-contest. Meanwhile, for the same constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has picked Vijender Gupta, who, as a former state chief of Delhi, is no lightweight himself. Many see this choice as an outcome of Kejriwal’s insistence on making a fight of it. Little wonder that the capital’s New Delhi constituency has become the cynosure of the state’s polls. On her part, Dikshit maintains that the AAP poses no

16 open

challenge and is delusional about its chances. And she does not want to enhance Kejriwal’s stature by having an open debate with him. “What for?” she said in an interview with Open, “I don’t even know what he stands for, and he has no political ideology.” “The writing is on the wall,” says a cabinet member of her government. While Kejriwal has little chance of winning New Delhi, he says, “contesting Dikshit could easily result in a situation where Kejriwal loses the seat but his party makes major gains elsewhere”. The deb-

No one says anything against Kejriwal, but they dub the AAP a ‘mad elephant’ on a rampage, with no saying who or what it will damage utant party is indeed a force to reckon with, he admits, though unsure if its underdog strategy will yield results. “[Dikshit’s stance] might not be an assertion of confidence as much as an expression of being shaken,” says a Union minister of the Congress who stays in the New Delhi constituency. It is not Kejriwal’s popularity but Dikshit’s loss of her own that’s a worry for the ruling party, he says, walking with me in Lodhi Garden. He is not sure whether the BJP or AAP will gain the votes the Congress loses.

The New Delhi constituency is unique in the sense that about 65 per cent of its homes are occupied by government employees. At first glance, Kejriwal’s fate seems sealed by this statistic alone. “We don’t doubt his intentions,” says an IAS officer who lives in Bharati Nagar, “but are worried that he may create anarchy.” There is, he adds, another reason that many are wary of the AAP leader: with bureaucrats and politicians the biggest beneficiaries of corruption, why would they support the man who wants to take a broom to it? Another voter, a Revenue Department officer of the 1989 batch who was once Kejriwal’s boss, has this to say: “Black money fuels the parallel economy. Babus and ministers are not the only beneficiaries [of corruption].” There are illegal hawkers and street peddlers who pay bribes to carry on doing what they do. If not for this, they’d have no jobs. Plus, the constituency is full of middlemen who help with passports, driver’s licences, legal cases, railway tickets and assorted permits and certificates for a fee. They will not vote for the AAP candidate. “That is not necessarily true,” says Kejriwal. Even if they gain from a corrupt system, he says, they are unhappy with the rot that has set in. Even they want a clean-up. He cites the example of a drug supplier to government hospitals. This man gets supply contracts for drugs that never reach these hospitals, but gets paid for them on the basis of fake bills. He pays half the money as bribes to government functionaries who get him contracts, 2 december 2013


photos raul irani

shaken Sheila Dikshit says the AAP poses no challenge, but her waning popularity worries the ruling party in Delhi

even as he sells off the medicines in the open market. “He told me I want to supply medicine and run a clean business, and that is why he supports AAP,” says Kejriwal, “Winds of change are blowing, I can feel it.” Many others want to clean up their acts as well, he says.

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n the 2008 Assembly polls, Dikshit’s

nearest rival in New Delhi was the BJP’s Vijay Jolly, who lost by a margin of 13,000

2 december 2013

votes. Jolly is now vice-president of the Delhi BJP unit. This Diwali, he gifted Dikshit a 20 kg basket of onions, the price of which had scaled about Rs 100 per kg at the time, perilously high for a government in power (in 1999, the BJP more or less lost Delhi to her on this issue). The CM’s equation with the current BJP candidate, Gupta, is not even perversely cordial. She has reportedly described him as an ‘outsider’ since he lives in Rohini on the outskirts of west Delhi.

“If I am an outsider, what is she?” Gupta lashes back. “She has contested elections from Kannauj in UP and once from East Delhi in the past.” And he is no longer a resident of Rohini, he says, pointing to his sarkari bungalow on 14 Bishambar Das Marg in New Delhi: “I live here now.” This is where Gupta’s election office is—a big hall with a white-tiled floor and a scatter of chairs. At the far end is a big table behind which sits Vijay Prakash Pande, a slim middle-aged man open www.openthemagazine.com 17


clad in a green kurta and black sadari sporting a saffron lotus brooch. Pande teaches mathematics at an institute he owns but won’t name (“It’s in Rohini,” is all he says), and here, he is in charge of logistics. He places an order of 200 chairs for a rally and then speaks to an elderly party worker for a band to accompany a padyatra that Gupta is set to undertake. According to Pande, the BJP will win on the strength of an anti-incumbency wave. “AAP is not an alternative,” he says, “We are.” Outside the hall, the AAP is a subject of ridicule among a group of BJP workers. How could a party that didn’t even exist until now deliver ‘change’? They find the idea of it funny. No one says anything against Kejriwal, but they dub the AAP a ‘mad elephant’ on a rampage, with no saying who or what it will damage. Later, the BJP candidate explains what he sees as a key weakness of the AAP. It has no experienced workers at the booth-level, and without these, victory is hard to score. “It’s all hype,” he says of the rival party, “This is a constituency of brainy people.” Gupta is about to leave to attend a funeral. He talks about problems of the constituency—bad roads, water shortages, et al—that have persisted despite its legislator having been the CM for 15 years. And then he draws closer to say, “I have exclusive and explosive information for you. [Diskhit] is going to badly lose from here. I have not said this to anyone before.” How is he so sure? “I have been interacting with people,” he says, “They are not happy with her. They support me.” This conclusion, he drew from a door-to-door campaign that he began four days ago. But knocking on doors is what the AAP has been doing as well—for four months. “This fight is between two parties,” says Gupta, spouting the party line expressed first by Nitin Gadkari, who dismissed the AAP as a ‘chaar aadmi party’ (four-member non-entity). His words echo what Dikshit said in an interview with Open: “Kejriwal is not even on our radar.”

challengers Former BJP Delhi unit president Vijender Gupta dismisses AAP as a ‘Chaar aadmi party’; Arvind Kejriwal (facing page) meanwhile has raked in over Rs 20 crore in donations 18 open

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achiketa, an Anna Hazare follower

from Maharashtra who claims to be a BJP supporter too, believes he had reason to fling black ink on Kejriwal at a press conference on 18 November. “I have done this to protest the Jan Lokpal Andolan,” he yelled after he did it, “Anna has asked them not to use his name. Still, these people are using Anna’s name.” That was shortly before an exchange of letters between Anna Hazare and Kejriwal was made public. In the correspondence, Hazare argues that the Jan Lok Pal bill cannot be passed by the Delhi Assembly, since it’s a Central bill and needs to be enacted by Indian Parliament. In his reply, Kejriwal reminds Hazare that he’d supported a similar piece of legislation by Uttarakhand’s BC Khanduri government of the time. In May 2012, Hazare had toured Maharashtra in support of a similar law for the state. Also in the news is Hazare’s demand of Kejriwal that he explain where some money went that was collected in the Anna Movement’s name. As 4 December draws closer, the AAP also finds its finances under the scanner of the Central Government. Recently, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ordered a probe of its alleged funds from foreign sources, though he himself had given the party a clean chit on this in February. Just the publicity of the probe, however, appears to have done the AAP a good turn; within five days of its announcement, the party raked in

additional donations of Rs 90 lakh. Kejriwal says he is unperturbed by the probe. He has work to do. Apart from public meetings in the constituency, he has been meeting early morning walkers at Lodhi Garden. His constituency office is in Jangpura, a small room with a big study table and an iron shelf with bundles of paper on it. When I enter, I find a young man asleep with his mouth open curled up against a wall. On a sofa set are seated half a dozen young men and women updating the party’s donor list on the AAP website. In their sweat-shirts, jeans and slippers, and wearing the party’s ‘Main Aam Aadmi Hoon’ caps, they look severely deprived of sleep. Total donations crossed Rs 20 crore last week, which is the sum the AAP estimates it needs to fight the Delhi polls. “This is the only opportunity to make a difference to the country,” says Vijay, 30, an engineer from Andhra Pradesh who was working for a firm in Bangalore before he quit his job four months ago to help the AAP’s cause. He is busy translating a Hindi document into English. Equally enthusiastic is Rajesh Trivedi, a software engineer who lives on Pandara Road near India Gate. He says he left a paying job in Mumbai to volunteer for AAP, and claims to have visited nearly every household in the constituency other than the grand Lutyen’s bungalows that are home to judges and ministers. With the help of a few others, he has drawn up a list of public works that need to be done jasjeet plana/ht/getty images


in New Delhi. Lodhi colony, for example, has a theft problem. “It’s a government colony,” he says, “and is still not safe.” Then there is Rakesh, 28, a doctor who’d have been doing an internship in Bangalore had he not volunteered. “I can take you to places where roads have not been repaired for years,” he says. Coordinating all their efforts is Gopal, who gets incessant phone calls and claims not to have slept for four nights. He was busy with filing Kejriwal’s nomination papers. “We have received donations ranging from Rs 11,000 to Rs 5 from 12,000 families,” he says, “Mostly people donated between Rs 10 and Rs 100.” An inspector general of police who lives in government quarters on Pandara Road, and has contributed Rs 5,000 in the name of his daughter, says that Kejriwal’s views are not new. But no one has sincerely done what needs to be done. “I am surprised that no one has dealt with these issues seriously in the past,” he says, “at least he is making the right noises.”

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aving drawn so much attention, it was inevitable that the New Delhi constituency would see new forms of tamasha. Shiv Kumar Tiwari, an independent candidate, sought to make a show of himself by turning up to file his nomination atop an elephant, an act of grandiosity that the Election Commission has frowned upon. Its model code of conduct, among other things, prohibits ‘cruelty to

2 december 2013

animals’ during election campaigning. “I had checked with the nodal officer if riding an elephant was against the model code of conduct,” says Tiwari in his defence, “I treated the animal with care. It was hired from professionals who provide elephants on rent.” The joke among Congress and BJP workers is that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), whose party symbol is an elephant, might be tempted to follow Tiwari’s example. BSP workers say that its chances should not be underestimated. In the last polls, its vote share was 15 per cent and it didn’t even contest all 70 seats.

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he polls of 2008 saw the Congress romp to victory in Delhi with roughly 35 per cent of all votes, while the BJP trailed by 2.5 percentage points. With the AAP in the fray, it is not clear what a swing away from the Congress will do to the seat-by-seat outcome. The Congress is banking heavily this time on poor voters in slums and unauthorised colonies, many of whom have been beneficiaries of Dikshit’s policies. She considers her awarding of ‘ownership rights’ to 895 resettlement colony householders ‘historic’. But her gung-ho claims cannot disguise the disgruntlement with her government. Weak attendance at a Rahul Gandhi rally last week in Mangolpuri, where a sizeable number of voters live in resettlement colonies,

has shaken the party. Gandhi had to cut short his speech because there was hardly anyone left to listen. Dikshit was heard pleading with women leaving the venue. “My dear sisters, I know you must be hungry, thirsty… at least listen to Rahulji before leaving,” she was heard saying into a mike at the podium in Hindi. A 75-year-old retired bureaucrat, a friend of Dikshit’s husband Vinod, expresses reservations about the CM’s prospects this December. “It will be a tough winter for both of us,” he says, refusing to have his name revealed, “I fear a snowfall this year in Delhi. She faces an electoral debacle.” The Delhi government has not got its act together, he complains. He elaborates with an example. For three years, he says, he has written to many, including Dikshit, asking for street lights in his locality to be fixed, but nothing has been done. “They have even removed the electric pole now,” he laughs. Then there are other issues that concern voters. Bharati Chaturvedi, a resident of New Delhi and founder of the green NGO Chintan, is upset that the constituency is a “resource guzzler” and “unequal” in its privileges. What Chaturvedi wants to know is what each contender will do to make the area more sustainable and equitable, and to improve the overall quality of life— especially of the urban poor—and all this with the use of less resources. n open www.openthemagazine.com 19


l eg ac y

The Invisible Tendulkar What you didn’t quite see when you watched him for 24 years jackatley/afp

ANJALI DOSHI

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ohit Sharma’s first acquaintance with the un-

familiar world of non-academic texts was Ajit Tendulkar’s The Making of a Cricketer—the story of younger brother Sachin’s formative years in cricket. His first experience of watching Tendulkar in the flesh was at the age of 13, when Sharma skipped school and travelled ticketless for 11 stops on a local train to the MIG cricket club, where Mumbai were playing Baroda in the 20 open

Ranji Trophy. The trip was well worth it: Tendulkar raced to 108 and Sharma furiously made mental notes from a tree outside the ground. In his first meeting with Tendulkar four years later, Sharma was tongue-tied and fumbling nervously, but no less determined to hang on to every word from his boyhood superhero. It was only fitting, then, that Sharma should be award2 december 2013


ed a Test cap in Tendulkar’s final series by the man himself, that he made a century in Tendulkar’s farewell Test at their mutual home ground Wankhede, and, as if in complete surrender to serendipity, that the 111 runs were made with a bat gifted to him by, who else, Tendulkar. A week before the Test series against the West Indies, Sharma matched another Tendulkar record—a limitedovers double-hundred. The only other cricketer to achieve this feat is Virender Sehwag—no coincidence, perhaps, that Sehwag, like Sharma, was one of many Indian players who took up the sport because of Tendulkar. But Sharma’s recent dream run, which also included a century in the first Test at Kolkata, was preceded by a sixyear struggle as he made several entries and exits into the Indian limited-overs team like a stage actor who couldn’t quite get right the lines of his soliloquy. Through these times of uncertainty, he had many conversations with Tendulkar—about tackling bounce in Australia in 2008, the technical adjustments he had to make in South Africa and suchlike. He was mentored through three IPL stints after his switch from Deccan Chargers to Mumbai Indians in 2011. And he was given a pep talk over the phone through another slump in Sri Lanka in 2012. The chats often focused on helping Sharma overcome his failure to convert 20- and 30-run starts into substantial scores. “What Rohit and many in the Indian dressing room learnt from Sachin was the ability to elevate their game to the next level of productivity,” says a member of the Indian set-up. “Sachin is like a search engine. Any question you ask results in multiple responses. It is so difficult to quantify his immense influence, especially on younger players.” The irony is this wasn’t always the case. Tendulkar’s immediate impact was to unsettle a generation of cricketers who played alongside him. One of his contemporaries who did not wish to be named revealed how cricketers just a couple of years older began to question their place in the scheme of things. “Tendulkar was 16 and playing for India. At 19, I was still trying to make my debut for the state side,” he told Open. “If you were 26-27, you were considered too old by the selectors.” When Tendulkar’s immediate contemporary Vinod Kambli made his Test debut four years after Tendulkar in 1993, he mentioned famously how he had plodded up the stairs while Tendulkar had taken the elevator to success—an insight into the pressure he must have felt when compared to his Mumbai teammate and close friend. Fast forward 20 years and you witness how dramatically this dynamic evolved as Tendulkar went from boy genius to senior statesman in the Indian dressing room. *** Now that the dust has settled at the Wankhede, the tears have been wiped away and the shouts of ‘Sachin, Sachin’ have petered out, one can step back and raise the 2 december 2013

question of Tendulkar’s legacy. We all know the runs and records, the stats and scorecards. But as Tendulkar wakes up to make himself tea and contemplate life without cricket in the many morns to come, it is time to examine his impact on the three generations he played alongside and the ones to follow; time to understand the intangible legacy of India’s most celebrated sportsman and its most revered hero since Mahatma Gandhi. Paaji, coaching manual, bhagwan, role model extraordinaire, legend, inspiration and master, Tendulkar has essayed many roles and earned many labels from his teammates—of whom 93 made their Test debut and 121 their limited-overs debut after him. For two decades, he was the nucleus of the Indian team—regulating the activity of this cell and its influence on maidans across the country; controlling its metabolism, growth and reproduction; and ensuring its evolution contributed a new species of Indian batsman with aggression, fearlessness and determination in his DNA. Tendulkar was the prototype of the new-generation Indian batsman, a run machine in the most hostile of con-

“Sachin is like a search engine. Any question you ask results in multiple responses. It is so difficult to quantify his immense influence, especially on younger players” ditions and a judicious combination of his heroes Sunil Gavaskar and Vivian Richards. While he was by no means the architect of this brand of batsmanship, he was without doubt India’s finest exponent all through the nineties and early 2000s. Of course, Tendulkar is too graceful to admit his widereaching influence on his teammates, let alone flaunt it. When Open put the question of legacy to him at his farewell press conference, Tendulkar said, “I know that someone like Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] wasn’t even born when I started playing for India. I have told them jokingly, wish me ‘good morning, sir’ when I come to the dressing room.” He added, “I have shared my various experiences with them, and about my batting and my observations about their batting and what should they do… I have always done that and that’s not only because I am the senior-most player in the side. Even when I was the junior-most member in the squad, I would do that. It was about talking cricket, breathing cricket, it’s all about cricket. I think that process will continue till the time I stop breathing.” Perhaps, questions of legacy are best left unanswered by those who create them. Tendulkar was the box office blockbuster as well as the open www.openthemagazine.com 21


vijayanand gupta/ht/getty images

THE MAESTRO AND HIS UNDERSTUDIES (Clockwise from left) Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli... all have their own gratitude stories to tell indranil mukherjee/afp

gautam singh/ap

can only follow four decades of diffidence. *** rajanish kakade/ap

cult classic, the embodiment of a conservative middleclass Indian man and his antithesis, the innocent curlyhaired boy and the middle-aged monk with straightened locks, the destroyer of bowling attacks and the accumulator of runs, sunshine on a winter morning and rainfall on a sweltering tropical noon. If classifications of Generation X and Y dominated the socio-cultural discourse in the United States and England, then post-liberalisation, India only knew Generation S. The Sachin generation welcomed economic reforms and globalisation, Diesel jeans and anti-ageing creams, frequent flyer miles and luxury wheels, post-graduate degrees at Harvard and corner offices in Nariman Point. And if an entire generation of Indians was celebrating its newfound confidence, India’s cricketers could hardly be left behind, imbued as they were with a swagger that 22 open

Speaking about the impact successful child prodigies have on their social milieu, cultural historian Leo Braudy said, “One is created by others before one can create oneself.” Braudy’s observation would offer some explanation of the myth and legend of Tendulkar and what he meant to any aspiring cricketer in the nineties. When Sachin made his debut in November 1989, Virender Sehwag was 10, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were eight, Rohit Sharma two, and Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane a year old. Sehwag took up cricket as late as 15, influenced by the 20-year-old who was then routinely tearing apart opposition bowling in Pakistan, England and Australia. Called the Tendulkar of Najafgarh before he became the Nawab of Najafgarh, it was clear whom Sehwag had modelled his game on, especially while playing the straight drive and the slash in front of point, leading to much confusion among commentators—and Sachin’s wife Anjali—who 2 december 2013


found it hard to tell them apart when batting. Sehwag was just one of many Tendulkar mini-mes. Yuvraj recalls meeting an 11-year-old Tendulkar in Mohali when he was all of three and watching him play a couple of cover drives, Kohli (Tendulkar’s heir apparent) says the desert sandstorm knocks in Sharjah in 1998 made him want to do something similar for India, and Rahane, like Sharma, was a Mumbai boy who joined in the chants of ‘Sachin, Sachin’. By the mid-nineties, Tendulkar was easily India’s bestknown sportsman and its richest. Never drunk on the trappings of success, fame and money, he took pride in showing his countrymen what was possible if you never took any shortcuts, religiously honed your skills, kept your feet on the ground and head on your shoulders. In the month leading up to Tendulkar’s last two Tests, the vast array of tributes from his teammates has dominated Twitter’s feed, newspaper headlines, sports broadcasts and 24x7 television as Dhoni, Kohli, Sharma, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Harbhajan among many others point again and again to him as their greatest inspiration, like the chorus of a Beatles’ chartbuster. But this legend wasn’t just about Tendulkar’s batting

Tendulkar was a complete package—head position still; stance side on; spiritual, mental and physical balance immaculate; focus enviable; grace under pressure like none other style or his copybook strokes. “It’s the incredible story of a 16-year-old cricketer taking on the world,” explains Rohan Gavaskar. “That’s the story India fell in love with.” Perhaps it wasn’t ever so much about batting like Tendulkar as it was about being like Tendulkar. “The one thing that inspired me the most was his balance. That was the key word in Sachin’s batting and life. Balance on and off the field. There was so much to learn from him, so much to observe and absorb,” Yuvraj Singh said, speaking to Open. “With time, my relationship grew with him and he became a friend, philosopher, guide and an elder brother. Even during cancer, the way he stood behind me and kept motivating me and came all the way to meet me in England… it just shows the kind of man he is and how lightly he carries his greatness.” The stories of Tendulkar’s impact are many: helping Yuvraj work out a plan to counter Ajantha Mendis in Sri Lanka in 2008, mentoring Mumbai Indians batsmen Ambati Rayudu and Saurabh Tiwary during the IPL, pointing out to Cheteshwar Pujara that a side-on stance and longer stride would help tackle outswingers, 24 open

chipping in with valuable inputs about opposition bowlers during matches and team meetings, and sharing his knowledge and experience every day. Any day. All the time. It wasn’t batsmen alone. Bowlers, too, benefitted from his suggestions. A few months before the 2011 World Cup, Tendulkar advised Zaheer Khan to work on developing the knuckleball—a slower delivery that tends to skid off the pitch and is helpful in Subcontinental conditions. “It fetched Zaheer eight wickets through the tournament including a couple in the final,” says a team insider. That Tendulkar did all this while absorbing the weight of a billion expectations and allowing his teammates to bat without any shackles is perhaps the most invisible aspect of his legacy and one the Indian team will miss the most. Pujara’s century in Tendulkar’s final Test was the classic sideshow to his 74—perhaps the most unwatched century in the history of the game as the Wankhede reserved its applause and emotion for one man alone. *** Until Tendulkar came along, India’s best-known strokeplayer was K Srikkanth. More of a maverick dasher than a model of consistency, with a modest average of just under 30 in both forms of the game, Srikkanth was always entertaining but hardly enduring. However, many believe Tendulkar’s greatest legacy to his teammates was not his attacking strokeplay, but his ability to adapt and evolve through injury, age and loss of form as he kept an open mind to advice from even the most junior member of the side. “He is a batting institution who has set new benchmarks for batsmen like Rohit and Virat,” says Aakash Chopra who played alongside Tendulkar in 10 Test matches. “They have seen a person in flesh and blood who has played 200 Test matches and scored 100 hundreds.” These are the new goals to aspire to. Critics may point out that Tendulkar was hardly radical in his strokeplay, that he took classical batting a notch up when he infused it with an aggressive approach. He did not introduce any new shots to the game like the dilscoop (Tillekaratne Dilshan), leg glance (Ranjit Singh), reverse sweep (Mushtaq Mohammed) or switch hit (Kevin Pietersen). But Tendulkar was a complete package—head position still; stance side on; spiritual, mental and physical balance immaculate; focus enviable; grace under pressure like none other. Will there ever be another Indian cricketer who inspires a chant that will reverberate in stadiums around the world, no one knows. But as author Stephen Covey so elegantly put it, “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children… one is roots, the other wings.” Tendulkar did plenty of both. And left Indian cricket in far better shape than when he entered it. n 2 december 2013


f r ot h

The (Limited) Hysteria Making sense of the hype over Tendulkar’s last Test MADHAVANKUTTY PILLAI danish siddiqui/reuters

O

n Friday night, outside the Experimental Theatre

at NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts), the venue of the Tata Literature Live festival, a middle-aged woman introduced herself as a banker to an audience of two. She was soon crowing about how she was once invited to a dinner that included Sachin Tendulkar and some other cricketers. But she didn’t go because she 2 december 2013

didn’t understand cricket. “Why make a fool of myself?” she reasoned. Tendulkar had just got out that day in the last Test of his life, and in the subtle and not so subtle conventions of human interaction, she was using him to affirm something about herself. Sometime later, the door opened and everyone walked in. The talk was on an anecdotal history of Indian cricket by Boria Majumdar. He open www.openthemagazine.com 25


photos ritesh uttamchandani

is a forceful speaker and, as the official biographer of Tendulkar, it was no surprise his talk was peppered with Tendulkar’s name. Majumdar began with a fascinating story of the politics behind the England tour of 1932. The Maharaja of Patiala outmanoeuvred and outspent the Maharaja of Vizianagram to become captain and then promptly gave it up. Majumdar says it was just as well because he couldn’t hold a bat. In his stead, went the Maharaja of

Tendulkar in 1970 would still have been a superstar like Gavaskar, but would not have earned epithets like ‘god’. Extraordinary talent may have been necessary but wouldn’t have been sufficient Porbandar, who had a batting average of 0.66. He also sensibly turned over charge to CK Nayudu once in England. For the 1936 tour, there was another bout of such absurdities, which saw their star batsman, Lala Amarnath, being asked to return home after abusing the captain, the Maharaja of Vizianagram (who came to the tour with 200 suitcases). Majumdar goes from decade to decade. He touches on Sunil Gavaskar bringing to the team the idea 26 open

of victory, when he returned an average of 154.20 on his debut tour of West Indies. He talks about the BCCI’s remarkable rise from an institution with a deficit of Rs 62,62,000 in its accounts in 1992 to its current value of $3.4 billion. “It is actually a 20-year story,” says Majumdar. A few things can be inferred from the talk about the conditions that created a Tendulkar. There is the fact that he was from Mumbai, the heart of Indian cricket then. Genius was spotted early by the greats of the game in Mumbai, like Gavaskar, and Tendulkar didn’t have to negotiate the politics of selection. Also, BCCI’s emergence as the powerhouse of cricket coincided with India’s economic liberalisation. It was also not coincidentally the time Tendulkar’s international career was taking off. Liberalisation opened the doors to enormous consumption, which meant enormous efforts of marketing, and marketers need symbols, preferably those with genius and integrity. The Indian skies were also opening up to private television channels, and the living image was getting into every drawing room. The pool of those who would be part of a Tendulkar cult multiplied by tens of millions. Tendulkar in 1970 would still have been a superstar like Gavaskar, but no one would have given him epithets like ‘god’. Extraordinary talent may have been a necessary condition but would not have been sufficient; the dynamics of the society around him created the icon. In his talk, Majumdar says the entire city came to a standstill for Tendulkar’s last Test. The entire world came 2 december 2013


reflected light (Above) A TV presenter prepares for his post-match dispatch at Marine Drive; (facing page) BJP politician Vinod Tawde’s banner of himself with Sachin rips as it is pulled down from its conspicuous position outside one of Wankhede’s main gates

to a standstill by his reckoning, and he includes non-cricketing countries. Just look at the headlines in those countries, he says. But he is wrong—Mumbai did not come to a standstill.

D

uring the World Cup final, cricket was palpable in

the air in Mumbai. The streets were so empty it looked like the Shiv Sena had called a bandh. For Tendulkar’s last Test, traffic crawled in the morning outside the stadium when the match opened but that was about it. The media, like Majumdar, allowed itself to believe the world had come to a stop because, for them, it was a seminal event. But you just have to look at the photo features across those days to understand how newspapers were trying to find the occasion’s colour across town and coming short. They had little to show mass hysteria. Images of curly haired children holding bats was the most they could do. There are reasons for this. The World Cup final was on one day and, all said and done, it was about the game and the tensions and associations that come with it. This Test was going to be a five-day affair in which you couldn’t predict when Tendulkar would play. No one has the time or inclination to watch Tests anymore, especially when the result is already known. Tendulkar has a connect with India that no sportsman has had, but that still does not extend to people keeping their lives on hold for five days. To 2 december 2013

portray it in such a manner, as the media did, was to delude oneself. Of course, many felt emotionally adrift for a while but time did not stand still. The afternoon that Tendulkar batted, the crowd outside Wankhede would not have been more than you could count. On the opposite side of the street, on Marine Drive, there were television crews desperately looking for stuff to keep it interesting. And that is why Prakash Phand, with roller skates under him, was sitting with his back to the sea giving bytes to a Hindi news channel.

T

he afternoon sun is beating down hard and Phand

looks spent. Nearby there is a banner that says ‘Skating Star of India’. Between 2005 and 2007, over 735 days, he claims to have skated 122,407 kilometres all over India. I ask him if he is there to watch the Test. He says ‘no’. He is just here to convey a message to ‘Brother Sachin’ about coaching orphans after his retirement so that he can change their lives. Phand is obviously here to use the last Test for some mileage. But it is no more than what the bold and beautiful with direct access to Tendulkar are doing. Aamir Khan, for example, who came in early morning to be in time to see the first ball bowled. And then left midway when the West Indies started batting only to return when they collapsed and India started its first innings. Journalists open www.openthemagazine.com 27


immediately started to receive a message from a PR company that an event to promote Dhoom 3 had been postponed because of this. You also read elsewhere that Aamir was going to dedicate a song from the movie to Tendulkar at the event. What Phand is doing is what Aamir Khan and Yash Raj Productions are doing—using Tendulkar to add some flavour to their show. And there is no reason to doubt either Phand or Aamir’s fondness of Tendulkar. Only Phand is a poor young man making the best of what is available to him. It says something about human industry that a not-so-well-off man can roller-skate across the country to make a name for himself, and then try some ambush marketing to build on it some more. On the morning of the Test, when the crowds were lined up to enter the stadium, a small market had come into being. There were flags on sale, whose staffs were taken out by securitymen at the gate. Urchins roamed around shouting ‘Paint Paint’ to colour the faces of people with the name ‘Sachin’. There were also budding entrepreneurs like Parth Kapadia, who stood holding a spoof Beatles T-shirt with Tendulkar and other Indian cricketers on it. He is part of a start-up that designs T-shirts for college students. “We were just waiting for Sachin to announce his retirement so we could launch these T-shirts,” he said. The T-shirts nearly sold out that day. Outside Vinoo Mankad Gate, a BJP politician named Vinod Tawde had set up a banner of Tendulkar with his own photo to the right of the cricketer. All the main VIPs, including every Congressman from the Chief Minister to the Union law 28 open


indranil mukherjee/afp

the buck stops (Clockwise from left) A taxi driver offers spectators free rides to the stadium; Parth Kapadia sells a customised version of the iconic Beatles T-shirt featuring batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, with the legend ‘ The Beaters’; crowds disappear from the Wankhede stands after Sachin’s dismissal

minister, entered through that gate. Predictably, the banner was pulled down, but in a true reflection of government efficiency, the man charged with the job managed to tear off half of Tendulkar’s face. If you were someone looking for parallels, you would see in this a testament to politicians who have been trying to leech off Tendulkar. Outside Gate 4 of Wankhede stadium, water bottles and bags are steadily piling up. Two municipal cleaners, Anushaya and Vijaya, are on the job. They look irritated. “Don’t they know they can’t bring these items? How many times do they have to be told? They don’t understand,” says Anushaya. She is quite unexcited about the jamboree. She has seen it before, and cricket really does not interest her. It is just a day that she has to work harder. But her irritation lasts only a couple of hours. Once everyone has entered, life returns to normal. A few men are still shouting ‘Paint Paint’ but no one’s buying. There are some people standing in clusters in the vague hope that something might happen. A hundred steps away, Mumbai hums along like any other day.

Tendulkar. These are also the celebrities who just picked up a phone and got a ticket to the Test match while the rest of India had to count on a lottery for the fraction of seats reserved for the general public. The men who make up this queue are also the ones who have been asked over the past few days to relentlessly comment on Tendulkar as he bids farewell. The ones who, through their unending superlatives, give the appearance that the world has come to a standstill for the Test. They will now felicitate Tendulkar at different events. The politicians among them would have pointed out to the Government how

A

much goodwill it will generate to give Tendulkar a Bharat Ratna, like a Rajya Sabha seat did earlier. They are the ones who, a day before the Test, held an event to name the press box at Wankhede after Bal Thackeray, a man who made his foot soldiers dig up the pitch here. This is the cream of India’s rulers who have embraced Tendulkar because his success rubs off on them. Contrast their exaggerations with the emotional balance that makes Tendulkar what he is. In his press conference, he talked about his coach Ramakant Achrekar never saying ‘well played’ to him, lest the praise go to his head. These VIPs stand at the other extreme. And people know. Which is why during the farewell ceremony, when Ravi Shastri introduced the hangers-on and politicians, they got booed. n

n interesting moment in Majumdar’s talk is the an-

ecdote he starts with. He speaks about watching the Mumbai Test with Tendulkar’s family and later when they are leaving, there is a massive throng. As the cricketer’s mother is led into the car, Majumdar says, “Several politicians and VIPs came out at the same time. There was Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Raj Thackeray and a host of others. The moment this elderly woman came out—she is no celebrity herself—everyone moved to one corner, forming a kind of human chain and giving her a guard of honour. For me, an anecdotal history of human cricket starts from there.” For him, this scene embodied the decency and values cricket and Tendulkar stand for. There is, however, another way of looking at it. Because the image also shows this—common folk kept at bay by a wall of VIPs, a club of the elite, who have co-opted

2 december 2013

The cream of India’s rulers have embraced Tendulkar because his success rubs off on them. Contrast their exaggerations with the emotional balance that makes Tendulkar what he is

With Ritesh Uttamchandani open www.openthemagazine.com 29


ADIEU

THE END Notes from a swansong

AKSHAY SAWAI Photographs by ritesh uttamchandani

I

t hits home when he says, thin voice scaling over

the din of the crowd, “Goodbye.” Sachin Tendulkar, a constant in Indian life since 1989, will not play for India again. “Goodbye” is the last of almost two-and-a-half thousand words he speaks over 20 minutes in the bright but hazy noon at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium. The speech has already earned a place in the canon of public oration in 30 open

India. There is a sheet of paper he consults during the address, but the rest of the words pour forth from the moment. The overhead sun and his white floppy hat cast a shadow over the top half of his face. All you can mostly see is the nose and mouth. This is the opposite of when he batted, when you saw his eyes over the visor of the helmet. For once, it is his mouth doing the talking. The length and power of the speech surprise people. 2 december 2013


Tendulkar is not known to conquer with words, though he has improved remarkably. People expect him to be drained. What can he say? What is there to be said? The same old things. They are indeed the same old things. But they are spoken from the heart. That, combined with the fact that this is his last appearance for India, make the speech an emotional tour de force. People stand still, rapt. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly, famous men more accustomed to being watched, are happy to be spectators, watching their former teammate on a giant screen from under a blue umbrella, the sun glinting off their dark glasses when they step out of the shade. The one thing that continues to be in motion is Sudhir Gautam, the famous Indian cricket fan who perhaps bathes in Asian Paints. He stands towards the eastern side of the ground, pushing the Indian flag from side to side. When you run into him later, he says he has left behind his conch shell, his other prized possession apart from the national flag, and darts off. After Tendulkar’s speech is a lap around the ground on the shoulders of teammates. And then the last homage to the pitch. This soil is revered by cricketers. Academies and tournaments are often inaugurated by the breaking of a coconut on the pitch. In 1995, Tendulkar had inaugurated the Elf Vengsarkar Academy at the Oval Maidan in similar fashion. Sanjay Manjrekar was also there. Tendulkar called him ‘Manji Boy’ then. Seems like the day before yesterday. Around the Wankhede, facial muscles twitch. ‘Not a single dry eye’ is the phrase being thrown about. For once, it is accurate. The drama is genuine. Because Tendulkar, for the most part of his career, has been genuine. The same cannot be said of the politicians and administrators who stand near him now. The crowd knows this and boos them. Journalists are victims of seen-it-all-ophia, but now the press box is silent. For the first time in journalistic history, the lunch lies ignored. West Indies captain Darren Sammy comes for the press conference. Of the nearly 170 journalists in the press box, only about a dozen attend the interaction with Sammy, that too after almost being implored to do so by organisers. *** Tendulkar announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket on 10 October. Expectedly, his swansong often degenerated into the farcical, preyed on by political and commercial opportunists, sycophants and hyperbolic media. But there were redeeming factors. And often they had to do with cricket and not the tamasha. The first of these moments was in Lahli, where Tendulkar’s goodbye tour began with Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy engagement against Haryana. The trip got off to a chaotic start. The dressing room at the Bansi Lal Stadium was in such a state that Tendulkar, who normally takes the high road and doesn’t complain, was prompted to 2 december 2013

wonder, “Yeh dressing room hai?” The town also showered him with suffocating love, without wiggle room for so much as a stroll to the wicket minus the hordes following him. The Haryana team too was guilty of some over-thetop gestures. It is one thing for grown-up men to give a man a guard of honour, another to salute him. But the game was refreshing. The green wicket, village fair atmosphere and even contest between bat and ball compensated for the circus of the days leading up to the match. Tendulkar was out cheaply in the first innings, but in the second, he scored an unbeaten 79 to take Mumbai over the line. Eden Gardens came next but it made more news for the way everyone fawned over Tendulkar and the wax statue that looked more like Piyush Chawla. Then came Mumbai. At first the fever seemed to have plateaued. The night before the match a media accreditation official agreed that things felt forced, not least because of the quality of the West Indies side and the contrived manner in which the series was slapped together to facilitate Tendulkar’s exit. But when it is cricket and the player is Tendulkar, the

I ask a photographer how many frames he has shot of Sachin in his half an hour at the Trident. “457,” he says, when the norm for a routine press conference shot is 50 frames maximum number of followers remains large. The day before the match, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) office is filled with people seeking passes. There also are service providers awaiting their accreditation cards. People in various uniforms are present, as if Maganlal Dresswala had started operations in the building. From one cabin emerges a commando in Army fatigues. A chef wearing a white apron with the logo of Moveable Feast, the catering service, waits to meet an official. There are two women players in blue India shirts. Somewhere, there is a traffic cop. *** It is a smoggy morning when the match begins. The mega-screens flash a countdown. ‘Time to SRT 200, 94 seconds...93…92…’ SRT 200 is how this match, India’s 474th Test overall and 90th against the West Indies, comes to be known. The Indian team wears customised whites commemorating SRT 200. The Star Sports commentators wear SRT 200 blazers. SRT makes his speech with an SRT 200 microphone. The West Indies bat first. Before the first ball is sent down by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Tendulkar, positioned at mid-on, bends to touch his toes. Then he goes down on all open www.openthemagazine.com 31


dibyangshu sarkar/afp

fours, as if to walk on his limbs, and jogs his legs. The gossip is that the West Indies are not too invested in the contest and have been rather busy after sundown. They are all out before you can say ‘Shivnarine Chanderpaul’. Things look interesting. For once people want two India wickets to fall quickly. They do, and Tendulkar walks in, turning his shoulders side to side, wheeling his right arm and looking up at the sun. He starts carefully, getting his eye in against the likes of offspinner Shane Shillingford, who got him in Kolkata, though thanks to a disputable decision from the umpire. Gradually, he opens up. The chant of ‘Sachiiin, Sachin!’ gathers momentum too. You hear bugles, plastic bottles banging against seats, shouting, whistling, rhythmic clapping. A roar ripples around the stadium during Mexican waves. On Staircase 6 of the Vijay Merchant pavilion stand two blue-shirted, corporate looking men, likely in their thirties. For a while they don’t say much. Ultimately one of them joins in the ‘Sachiiin Sachin’ chorus. He does it half-heartedly. The grown-up in him makes him self-conscious. But he must have started watching Sachin in his teens and that teenager wants him to go ahead and give it all. The mind travels back to 1989. And this must be the case with anyone in the 35-50 age bracket. Arguably, this is the crop that best witnessed and registered the entire arc of Tendulkar’s career, in particular the period 1989-99, Tendulkar’s best years. This was a time when he played a certain way, television telecasts had recently improved and everything was new and exciting. And what does one say about 1989. Memories of Tendulkar’s selection in the Indian team for the tour to Pakistan are still clear. The Afternoon newspaper carried a photo of his on the front page, a beaming Tendulkar sitting with pads presented to him by Sunil Gavaskar on his lap. On the day of the team’s 32 open

departure, Doordarshan interviewed Tendulkar inside the airport. “People have expectations of me, and I will try my best to fulfil them,” he said in Marathi. About a month later Maine Pyar Kiya released, and the nation fell in love with Bhagyashree Patwardhan. Those were indeed the days. The longevity of Tendulkar’s career made us feel younger than we were. If someone who started playing when we were in college was still at it, how could we be that old? Now that defence is gone. *** Back to 2013. Tino Best bowls a determined but fruitless spell on the second morning. He comes close to getting Tendulkar and earning a mention in history but the snick eludes. Tendulkar is shaping up well for a hundred, and along the way has treated the crowd to some trademark straight drives. But a hundred would have been too perfect an ending. Off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine gets him for 74 to become cricket’s new Eric Hollies, the man who dismissed Sir Don Bradman in his final match. The first two deliveries after Tendulkar’s dismissal are fours, the first by new man in, Virat Kohli, the other by Cheteshwar Pujara. Last checked they are India players. But not many clap. It does not strike them that fours have been hit. Pujara and Rohit Sharma score centuries, the latter with a bat presented to him by Tendulkar. There is no way India will bat again in the match. At best, people can hope to see Tendulkar bowl. The demands start early on the third morning. “Ganpati bappa morya, pudhchi over Sachinla dya.” (Ganpati bappa morya, give Sachin the next over.) His family has been in attendance and now the emotions start welling up in some of them. Seeking some privacy and respite from the attention, Ajit, Sachin’s reclusive older 2 december 2013


SUPPORT STAFF (Clockwise from left) Big bearded brother Ajit Tendulkar; wife Anjali (in pink top); and diehard fan Sudhir Gautam waving to his idol on the team bus

brother, finds a place high up in the Divecha Pavilion. A liftman points him out to a magazine photographer. “Aap jaao, unkey saath foto khichao na,” the liftman says. (Go ahead, take a photo with him). The photographer is baffled. The liftman tells him not to worry, many took photos with Ajit. A little later, Anjali Tendulkar also comes to the stand, but attracts too much attention and leaves. On her way out, she hears on the public address system that her husband is to bowl. Raising her right hand, she does a small jig as the crowd chants ‘Sachiiin Sachin’. Some two hours after everything is over, a few thousand still hang around the seats near the dressing room. They want to see Tendulkar one more time. He obliges them, emerging on the balcony. The man who has arranged this bonus goodbye is the MCA’s Vinod Deshpande. Deshpande gets resounding applause as he walks down the steps from the dressing room. He is unable to contain the width of his grin. Somehow, people don’t want to leave the Wankhede, and seem paralysed by the moment. Moulin Parikh, a 27-year-old reporter with The Asian Age, sits at the foot of 2 december 2013

the long stairway that leads to the dressing room, staring at the field. “The other day the highlights of the 2003 World Cup match between India and Pakistan were being aired on TV,” he says. “My father was watching and refused to get up for something my mother wanted him to do. These were highlights of a match played ten years ago. My father is 64. I don’t know if there will be another player who will mean so much for people of all ages.” The sign ‘Home Team’, in Roman and Devanagari, is fixed above the entrance of the Indian dressing room. It has chairs with red cushioning and wooden arms arranged along the periphery of the room. A long wooden table occupies the centre. In one corner are boxes of Twinings tea bags. In another corner is Tendulkar’s black cricket trunk with metal trim. The name ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ is emblazoned in cursive font on the trunk. Next to it is a blue plastic bag with floral bouquets sticking out. An attendant says Tendulkar will collect the kit later. The West Indies team has left a while ago without much fanfare. Now, at last, the Indian team is ready to leave too. Anjali Tendulkar has the window seat of the first row to the left of the white Volvo bus. Sachin sits to her right, still in his whites, save for his footwear, which are black training shoes. Once more, a roar. Once more, a wave of the hand. The next day, he meets the media at the rooftop of the Trident Hotel in Nariman Point, 350 feet above the ground, on the 35th floor of the hotel. His career is over, but the media frenzy around him has not gone down. I ask a photographer how many frames he has shot of Sachin in his half an hour at the Trident. “457,” he says, when the norm for a routine press conference shot is 50 frames maximum. Leaving aside the chaos at the event, the ambience is of relaxed luxury, a far cry from the dust and sweat and tears of 24 hours ago. Lounge music from the Café Del Mar collection plays before Tendulkar’s arrival. Subdued blue lights cast a glow on the white ceiling and walls. Tendulkar wears an India tie, sharp suit, gleaming dress shoes and a watch that radiates wealth. He does not look like a man mourning the end of his career. He looks like a king, ready to spread his kingdom. n With Ritesh Uttamchandani open www.openthemagazine.com 33


c y b e rwo r l d

chris draper/getty images

the Deep Web

The seamy side of the internet that you dare not explore siddhartha gupta


I

n bluish-white letters on a grey

background, he claims that he can ‘get someone known as a user of child porn, ruin someone financially or get them arrested’ for a fee of around €500. He also takes up ‘smaller’ jobs such as hacking into email or Facebook accounts for just around €200. A chill runs through me as I stare at this, because the claims of this nameless and faceless individual on the other side of a terminal somewhere in the world leave little to my imagination. For long, the Deep Web has held the attention of the faithful for the darkest of reasons. But in spite of the negative connotations associated with that term, it essentially just refers to that part of cyberspace that is ‘off the map’ as it were: the part that has not been indexed by standard search engines such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing. By popular estimates, it may well be 500 times the size in gigabyte terms than the usual World Wide Web as search engines know it. It hides in plain sight, catering to patrons across class, creed, sex and language barriers. It promises fulfillment of even the most esoteric and wild fantasies without forcing one to give up the charade of one’s offline life. Its reach and penetration is a big question even among the best hackers and cyber security mavens. This hacker-for-hire that I have on my screen says that he is ‘not a pussy and will do anything for money’. He also claims 16 years of experience in the field. To back this up, he substantiates his resume-website with his technical skills: ‘HTML, PHP, SQL, APACHE, C, C++, Assembler, Delphi, highly personalized Trojans, Bots, DDOS and spear phishing attacks.’ Last but not least, he says he is ‘not from some crappy Eastern Europe country’ and that he is fluent in English and German. Somewhere, I get the feeling that he is trying too hard. Whether that would-be mercenary is authentic or fake, it is unlikely that he will ever be caught. This is because the biggest asset he has is also a necessity for Deep Web survival—that of anonymity. For instance, my Internet Protocol (IP) address currently appears to be 37.252.125.188, which corresponds to a location in the Netherlands, but of course, at the click of a button I could easily be in Australia, France or the US.

2 december 2013

Access to Anonymity: The Onion Router

The first thing I notice about The Onion Router (TOR) is that it makes web surfing annoyingly slow. Simply opening Google Mail, which happens almost instantly on my regular browser, Chrome, takes over 10 seconds on the TOR browser bundle. Nor can I watch videos (of course, there are ways to make that happen, but it has been blocked for a reason). This is the price I will have to pay for more privacy and security in cyberspace. The Onion Router, originally funded by the US Navy, is maintained by the USbased not-for-profit Tor Project. TOR browser bundle basically comprises Mozilla Firefox version 17 compounded with additional security. When connecting to a site, it shrouds the data from the original computer in multiple layers of encryption (like an onion), which it then routes through a randomly selected net-

Deep Web promises fulfillment of even the most esoteric and wild fantasies without forcing one to give up the charade of one’s offline life work of volunteer computers across the world. At each relay node, a layer is peeled off the onion—decrypted, that is—to get the address of the next relay. The final node in the chain decrypts the last layer to find the destination and transfer the data, without ever finding out its origin or the path it took to get there. Although TOR does a good job of enabling online anonymity, it is not perfect. This was demonstrated by a hacker group called Anonymous back in 2011 when it launched an attack (called Operation Darknet) on a group of child pornography websites on TOR. The group, working in conjunction with FBI, claimed access to a list of IP addresses of users who frequented those websites. Although Anonymous’ method of attack, the Distributed Denial-of-Service or DDoS, did not explicitly point to a chink in TOR’s armour, as was also evident from the fact that the websites resumed operations soon after, it did raise enough ques-

tions for people to wonder whether the FBI, and by extension the US government, was getting around to breaking TOR. Last month, the FBI arrested Eric Eoin Marques, who the agency claims as the biggest facilitator of child porn on the planet, shutting down almost all major websites on his online hosting facility on TOR, Freedom Hosting. Over the years, the bi-directional blindness that TOR facilitates has spawned online markets for drugs, arms, pornography, contract killings, forgeries, hacking services, classified information and cyber activism across cyberspace. And this is by no means an exhaustive list. ‘High as a Kite’

The owner of The Silk Road (TSR), a multimillion dollar online enterprise famous for drugs, is a hacker and wannabe philosopher who likes to call himself Dread Pirate Roberts. He greets me with some elder-brotherly advice on my first visit to TSR. He says he knows how I can’t wait ‘to get to the good stuff’, but that I should read his entire letter for my own good. He then tells me to behave myself and refrain from ‘child pornography, stolen goods, assassinations and stolen personal information’. He advises me not to scam others or get scammed in return. He preaches some more and says that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’. Then it occurs to him that he is not my daddy and that it’s for me to judge what’s good and what’s bad for me. Finally, he signs off as my ‘faithful servant’. For a hidden site that is known as the Mecca of drugs, TSR is remarkably easy to locate. Go ahead. Google it. You’ll see. The web addresses to these hidden sites are some random alphanumeric combinations followed by ‘.onion’. They look as if a cat was let loose on the keyboard when the sites were being named. Once within the market, I begin to realise why TSR has been making waves. I may not be drooling, but my mouth is wide open and my fingers are frozen because I am literally spoilt for choice. MDMA, ketamine, hash, kush (in pineapple flavour too, if you so desire), crystal meth, DMT, GHB, LSD and scores of other chemical combinations. There are also Penis Envy Shrooms (‘Extremely Potent’) and ChillPill Capsules with interesting illustrations next to them, though I am not open www.openthemagazine.com 35


andy clark/reuters

gaining acceptance Signs on a window advertise a bitcoin ATM machine that has been installed at an outlet of Waves Coffee House in Vancouver

sure what these might be. They are broadly clubbed under 11 groups: Cannabis, Dissociatives, Ecstasy, Intoxicants, Opioids, Others, Precursors, Prescription, Psychedelics, Stimulants and Tobacco. Ironically, a small box to the right of my screen also has links saying, ‘Winning the war on drugs’ or ‘Ask a drug expert physician about drugs and health.’ These drugs are shipped to desirous souls in the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Australia mostly. And these are priced at anything up to a few million bitcoins (more on this later), although I think anything priced above a few hundred bitcoins may quite possibly be a scam because bitcoins are an expensive currency. Nobody in his right mind would pay that kind of money just for a bunch of pills. Although TSR has become synonymous with drugs, that is not the only merchandise available. Gold bars, dollar bills, bank accounts, driver’s licences, birth/ death certificates, passports, explosives, gemstones, Rolexes, Swarovskis, cameras, laptops and what have you. TSR’s roaring success has given rise to competition. Soon enough, I am browsing through Atlantis and Black Market Reloaded, the new kids on the block that are bringing the fight out in the open. I stumble upon a YouTube video-cum-advertisement showing how ‘Charlie’, who was sorely 36 open

disappointed when he couldn’t find dope in his neighbourhood, gets ‘high as a kite’ after using Atlantis’ services. Atlantis also likes to boast about the rating it got in a recent article in Forbes magazine, which had ordered marijuana from all three sources to test how good the service was; Atlantis was rated ‘Impressive’ while TSR was rated ‘Not ideal’, and the package from Black Market Reloaded did not even show up. Such publicity finally con-

Unless you are a criminal, a sexual deviant, dope-fiend, whistleblower or just an incorrigible anarchist, chances are that you will want out of the Deep Web vinced Dread Pirate Roberts to loosen up a little and agree to an interview with Forbes last month. The Bitcoin Rush

A bitcoin is exactly what its name says— an online currency of information bits, made of 1s and 0s. To get a sense of how a transaction with this digital currency works, imagine a society with a few people, among them you and I, somewhere on Mars (in cyberspace, we would corre-

spond to computer terminals). We all go about using a nickname and nobody knows anybody’s true identity. Standard fiat currency, such as the rupee or dollar, has no value on Mars. What we use instead as a means of exchange and store of value is varying bitcoin units, each of which—like a currency note—has a unique ID given by the issuer that cannot be replicated; any attempted counterfeits are caught out by software. Now if I have 10 bitcoins and would like to give you six bitcoins for some service, this is how it will proceed. I will write out the details of the transaction on memos—who I am dealing with, how much money I want to transfer, how much change I will be left with, and the transaction fee I will be assigning to the successful facilitator of my transaction (‘a bitcoin miner’)—and then affix the memos with my nick-signature. Then, I send out one such memo each to everyone in the society, including you, by which you know that I am interested in paying you some bitcoins. The facilitators of my transaction, the bitcoin miners, validate the transaction by verifying whether I have the money I am spending, whether my signature is genuine, and if you, the entity I am paying, even exist. Anybody in the society willing to take up that job could work as a miner, but few survive since it is such a 2 december 2013


experimental Software engineer Mike Caldwell with bitcoins he minted in Utah

The bitcoin can at best be considered an experiment, but it is one that is gaining acceptance rapidly. Bitcoin banks, exchanges (such as the famous MT. Gox in Tokyo) and even trading counters have arisen across different continents. Although it is highly volatile (its value in US dollars at Mt Gox has gone from 90 to 140 over the past two months), people are putting more and more faith in it because non-sentimental mathematics has historically proven to be a better friend than greedy bankers.

george frey/getty images

The Endless Iceberg

resource-intensive job. Once the verification is done, there is one rather difficult task that the miners must do. Different miners are required to solve variations of a tough puzzle (‘proof of work’) that indicates that they have authentically done their part of the job and that their work can be trusted. Mind you, the miners are racing each other all this while. The first one to come up with an appropriate proof-of-work will be assigned the responsibility of recording the transaction in an online ledger, the details of which are known to the whole society. But why do all of this? For the simple reason that everybody likes to get rich. Not only does the successful miner get a transaction fee, he also ends up generating a pre-decided amount of bitcoins (out of thin Martian air, as it were) for himself. Once the puzzle has been solved, the victorious miner sends memos to all other individuals in the society letting them know of his success. The others drop their hard work and start using the updated ledger without whining (yes, in this fictional world of ours, nobody 2 december 2013

is jealous of anybody). The above, of course, is an oversimplified view of how bitcoins operate. All these activities happen in cyberspace with the help of cryptographic functions and complex calculations with a host of inbuilt mechanisms to detect and prevent fraud. An interesting aspect of the above transaction is that although the entire society is aware of the financial details, nobody knows the true identities of the two parties since everyone in this society is represented by a series of numbers—like with ‘numbered’ Swiss bank accounts of old—or nicknames. The main reason for coining the bitcoin, as its founder Satoshi Nakamoto pointed out, was to rid currency management of human subjectivity—as exercised by central banks—and let the reliability of mathematical formulae rule the currency. As Nakamoto wrote on his blog, the trust invested in financial institutions and the breach of that trust was the cause of most troubles with fiat currency. It is telling that the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto has never been found.

One of the analogies that people favour to describe the Deep Web is that of an iceberg, and nine-tenths of an iceberg cannot be seen. The Deep Web does one better. The bottom of an iceberg can be scraped if you dive reasonably deep, but the depths of the Deep Web can only be left to your imagination. For those who must take a dive, there is the Hidden Wiki to your rescue (How could there not be?). After I enter the cat-pawed web-address, I land up at an almost blank page with an onion saying ‘Hello’ on the title bar and a single statement at the top left asking me, ‘Looking for the Hidden Wiki?’ Of course, you moron. The Hidden Wiki, though not as fancy as your usual Wiki, is pretty handy as an entry point to the Deep Web. In neatly listed bullet points, it offers me TOR addresses to each of the activities I have mentioned so far, and more. I start clicking on random links one after the other, and realise with a pang of disappointment that many don’t work. But the ones that do, lead me to another thousand links. It would be pointless to write on everything that catches my attention—and rest assured, the Deep Web is an extremely intriguing place—and even if I did, you wouldn’t be satisfied. I have been exploring this hidden world for five nights now and I have had enough. The honeymoon, as they say, is over. Unless you are a criminal, a sexual deviant, dope-fiend, activist, whistleblower or just an incorrigible anarchist, chances are that you will want out. Frankly, the usage and speed constraints are too much for a ‘normal’ user to handle. Me, I am just a curious journalist, and for now, I am not sure I need a bulletproof vest. n open www.openthemagazine.com 37


small lives

Child Brides India has an estimated 24 million of them. We meet a few gunjeet sra

S

he is adjusting the veil on her

forehead to keep it from falling. The lipstick meant to accentuate her thin lips has been chewed off, but not for long. An older woman notices it and presses a tube to her tightly pressed lips again, hard. A dozen children at different stages of growth watch the gesture with curiosity. The girls lean forward repeatedly to touch her. She asks them to leave but they only move inches away and stand with their eyes fixed on her. She is a novelty to them. It hasn’t yet been a year since her wedding and she is the most interesting person in their lives. But she doesn’t understand it. “I hate children. Just can’t stand the thought of them,” she whispers. You can’t blame her. Priya is just 14 herself and trying to adjust to her life as a grown up. We are sitting on a mud porch surrounded by three huts in Kheri, Uttar Pradesh. This is the home of Priya, her brothers-in-law and their families. There are two more thatched huts facing the road that belong to her father-in-law. For the next hour or so, every question directed at her is answered by a sister-in-law, all waxing eloquent about how lucky Priya is to be married into a decent family, to a loving man. From time to time, she nods in agreement, silent, compliant, smiling. Then she spots a young man and runs into his arms in an uninhibited display of affection. With the young man, there is an older balding man to whom she nods. The young man is her 22-year-old brother Sonu. He is accompanied by her 40-year-old husband Vinay Kumar, a mechanic at a spare parts shop, who introduces himself as a 24-year-old. Priya laughs at his introduction and he slaps her. She calms down. 40 open

She understands that she is married to a man thrice her age by force of circumstance. She even understands the violence. “I always knew I was poor, but I wanted to work, save up and eventually marry later when I had learnt how to cook and clean. Right now, I don’t know anything and this makes my husband angry. He slaps me when the food is bad and I fall short on my wifely duties,” she says. “But I never cry. No matter what. The other day he hit me when I asked if I could

“I have to pretend to be happy all day,” says Priya, a 14-year-old married to a 40-year-old. “I get so bored. I am surrounded by old people and children” borrow his mobile to play some songs.” One of the women in her entourage, unhappy with the revelation, nudges her, then disappears in search of something.

T

he latest figures from the United

Nations Population Fund show that 14.2 million girl children are married off annually; that makes 39,000 daily. India is home to the world’s highest number of child brides—24 million—yet it refused to sign the first-ever global resolution on early and forced marriages of children floated by the UN Human Rights Council, which found support in 107 countries, including almost all those with high rates of child marriage. Girls in India are married early for a variety of reasons, including poverty, lack

of economic opportunities and patriarchal pressure. According to the National Family Health Survey, 58.6 per cent of these child brides are in Uttar Pradesh. Bisni Kumari, 15, is one of them. It has now been seven months since she was married off in Kheri district. She always knew this would be her fate. “I was going to get married before the age of 16. That is what everyone does. In fact, I am one of the lucky ones. At least I married a man my age,” she says. Kumari, who is on a visit to her mother’s, is somewhat bemused at the interest in her life, which she sees as “ordinary”. Usha Thakur is 14 and has been married six months. She too sees her wedding as fated. “I had to get married because my father has seven children and I am the second eldest. My sister is 20. Her husband left her. We have no money and my in-laws asked for no dowry. Also, we’re of the same caste. It was a dream match,” she says, sweeping her one-room home, which she has decorated with origami. She talks incessantly of how happy she is, pausing briefly to say that the only thing she doesn’t like is having to hide her playthings in a trunk. “I can’t take them out and play because all the children laugh at me and break them.” Usha’s aspirations for her life are small. She would like to be a seamstress. “But we don’t have a machine and I’ll have children. Let’s see if he allows me,” she says, looking lovingly at her husband who is brooding in a corner because of all the attention she is getting. “You know, he asks me to wear jeans, but how can I?” she giggles, getting up to serve him food, then sitting at the edge of a hand pump to begin washing the pile of utensils that have accumulated. 2 december 2013


photos Sukhman Dhillon


girls, interrupted (Clockwise from right) Usha, Priya and Bisni Kumari are just a few of the 24 million child brides in India

I

t is the day after Diwali and Priya’s

brother Sonu is here to ask for permission to take her home for a day. They are obviously close and happy to be in each other’s company. Her husband grants them five minutes of privacy and Priya talks of how she is not allowed to go home often. “Even when they allow it, I am supposed to come back by the evening. It is unthinkable that I should want to spend a night at my parents’,” she says. Her brother calms her down and says this is how married women ought to behave. “Not like our mother, spending days and nights by the road, high on alcohol, not knowing what time of day it is,” he says. Priya was born to poor alcoholic parents. “Add to this that she is a girl and her options were very limited,” says Sonu. “From the time I turned 15, I knew that it was my moral responsibility to get my sisters married and settled. First 42 open

I saved up enough to get the eldest one married. Then this wonderful match came our way. It was my father who fixed it. I just got her married. I mean, where will you find a family that is willing to bear the cost of the entire wedding? They did that.”

The fact that Priya is married to an old man does not bother Sonu. He says that it’s just fate and she will have to adapt to that fact. “What else can she do?” Priya’s mother, who wasn’t at the wedding because she was living in Mumbai at the time, was shocked when she found 2 december 2013


out that her daughter was marrying someone so old. “She told me that this was the worst thing that I could do to myself,” says Priya, “that if I had waited, she would have married me to a handsome fellow in Delhi. But she wasn’t there, was she? So what choice did I have?” She found out about her own wedding only two days before it was to take place. At first, she refused, and then tried to throw a tantrum. “But then my father beat me up and my brother reasoned that the cards had been printed and there was no going back,” she says. Sonu adds that one of the reasons he pushed for the marriage was the fear that she would get influenced by their mother and end up with nothing: “She was starting to be2 december 2013

come just like her; spending all her time outside the home, getting up to no good. We had to take stock of the situation. Plus she has such a good home now. At least she is settled.”

A

baby wails and Priya makes her way back to the porch, instinctively stepping away from her husband as she crosses him to enter her hut. It is damp and cold inside. There is a narrow bed with a baby on it on one side and a mud stove on the other. There is a lone trunk, and garish Bollywood posters line the thatched walls. Priya loves Bollywood. Shahid Kapoor is her favourite; she had hoped to marry someone like

him. “And here I am stuck with an old man,” she laughs. Finally, alone in her hut, she hangs up a linen cloth that serves as a curtain for the entrance. This is the first time she has been in her room all day because her sisters-in-law don’t take kindly to her sitting here. “They tell me I am snobbish because I want to wear salwar kameez and that I do no work, which is a lie. Not only do I clean my house, I also help with their duties. They get aggressive if I don’t cater to all their demands,” she says. Pointing to a cheap china tea set on a shelf, she says her brother gave it to her and it’s her favourite thing to use. She also points to a trunk and a handbag, her few possessions. “It’s all Sonu. I don’t begrudge him anything. I know he loves me and is trying to do his best,” she says. “It’s my father and sister that I despise, as they are constantly pressuring me to behave better.” Every time she refuses to do something, like sleep with her husband, he calls her father who comes down to have a chat with her. “My husband never talks to me except to ask for food. He usually just beats me and asks me to walk the line. My father and sister are the same,” she says. “I have to pretend to be happy all day. I get so bored. I am surrounded by old people and children.” She glances at the baby on the bed, her two-month-old girl. “I feel nothing for her. I didn’t want children. Who knows, I might be pregnant with another,” she says patting the tiny swell of her belly. Can she not visit a doctor? She laughs at the question. “How will I do that? The only time I am allowed outside the house is in the morning.” She has no friends who can help, either. She used to know a few girls she played with, but they are now part of a life that is alien to her. On her own, in a cold hut with a baby that she doesn’t quite know how to pacify or nurse, she looks helpless and frighteningly like a child for a few seconds before she collects herself. She swiftly picks up her plastic hand bag and moves toward her brother, waiting outside, when she realises that she must take the baby too. Almost as an afterthought, she stops, goes to her trunk and picks out an ostentatious faux silver belt. “Can you help me with this?” she asks. “Now that I am going home, I might as well look prosperous and happy.” n open www.openthemagazine.com 43


reminiscence

A Belated Acknowledgement


Raghavendra, Bhimsen Joshi’s eldest and neglected son, pens a tell-all book on his bitter-sweet relationship with his father lhendup g bhutia

W

hen Raghavendra Bhimsen

Joshi sings, his face contorts into various grimaces. His eyes become wild, his hands sway and cut through the air, his sinews come alive, and his mouth twists. He does none of this in imitation, nor in an affected manner. And when he pauses briefly, he says, “For music, even your body has to become an instrument.” As he continues singing, my gaze climbs above him and over a crayon-scribbled wall, and rests on a framed photograph of a man singing. I cannot help but realise how closely Raghavendra while singing resembles the man in the photograph, his illustrious late father, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. To an untrained ear, Raghavendra’s voice appears rich and mellifluous. Yet, he was able to sing to his father on only two occasions, once when Bhimsen Joshi was bedridden after he had fractured a leg, and another time during his last dying days. Otherwise, such intimacy was never encouraged. Raghavendra is Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s eldest son, born of his first and neglected wife, Sunanda Hunagund. His mother bore three more children, Usha, Sumangala and Anand. When he was around five years old, Bhimsen Joshi got married a second time—to Vatsala Mudholkar, with whom he had three children. After a brief attempt to stay together, Bhimsen Joshi moved in with his second wife and family. “History is always written by conquerors,” Raghavendra says. “And in the war over our father, we lost.” Now at 69, two years after the death of Bhimsen Joshi, Raghavendra is making a claim to his father and his memories of

story of neglect Raghavendra with his father Bhim-anna (Bhimsen Joshi) and mother Sunanda at his thread ceremony 2 december 2013

him. He has written a book detailing his relationship with his father. Titled Ganaaryache Por (Singer’s Son), it will first be published in Marathi and then translated into Kannada later this year. “Some people ask why I have written this tell-all book.” he says. “But this is not about speaking ill of my father. It is about providing a true and complete picture of him. About providing our story with him,” he says, ‘our’ being Sunanda and her children.

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aghavendra lives on the outskirts

of Pune in a two-storey house with his wife, two sons and three grandchildren. After spending about 15 years working as a supervisor in a government arms factory, he set up a bore-well drilling company from which he retired a few years ago.

He would ask his father to train him and practice on his own, imitating whatever riyaaz he had seen his father do, but he was never trained Raghavendra’s is a story about neglect and abandonment. After his father eloped with his second wife, whom he had met during a Kannada play, the two wives and their children tried living together. Arguments between the two wives would break out constantly, and according to Raghavendra, the second wife ill-treated them. He claims that within a few months, he and his mother were asked to leave and live separately. On his second wife’s insistence, Bhimsen Joshi provided them only a meagre allowance of about Rs 200 every month, and she let him visit them only occasionally.

“When people wrote articles or books on my father and his personal life, we would never be mentioned [even] in a single line. It was extremely hurtful. Here was this star, a public figure growing in stature, and here we were, neglected and alone,” Raghavendra says. Many years later, when Gulzar’s documentary on Bhimsen Joshi was aired on Doordarshan, Raghavendra gathered his family to watch it. “It was supposed to be an intimate look at Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, but we were not [mentioned] even once. But what hurt the most was that one instance in the film when [my father] remarks how every time he travels, he now has to get something for his grandson,” Raghavendra says. Bhimsen Joshi was referring to the grandson at his home with his second wife, while Raghavendra himself had a son of similar age. Raghavendra refers to his father as ‘Bhim-anna’, having picked up the name from the manner in which other musicians referred to him. When he was around six, he recalls watching a performance of his father at an open-air concert. There was a slight drizzle. He shut his eyes while his father sang, and for the first time, he felt as though he was walking with his father in a beautiful garden. “I realised what an incredible man he was,” he says, “And I wanted to be a singer just like him.” He would ask his father to train him, visit his father’s performances and practice on his own, imitating whatever riyaaz he had seen his father do, but he was never trained. A few years later, when his mother started living separately from her husband, she encouraged him to sing and got him a guru. However, the arrangement did not work out, and Raghavendra soon had to concentrate on his education so he could support the family. Later, when he started working, he tried to undergo vocal training again. But that did not work out open www.openthemagazine.com 45


either, as he found himself too tired after work to pursue music classes. Unlike his siblings, Raghavendra was deeply influenced by his father’s music. He had, after all, spent plenty of time with his father before he moved away. Raghavendra would try to attend all his performances in Pune and nearby cities like Mumbai. On many occasions, his second wife and children would be invited on stage for photographs, while Raghavendra would look on from the front row. After performances, Raghavendra would walk home, while his father would drive on as though he hadn’t seen him. “But I don’t grudge him those moments. I understand he was under pressure,” he says. However, despite objections, Bhimsen Joshi continued to visit his first wife and family. And in 1962, about a decade after he remarried, Sunanda gave birth to her youngest son, Anand Bhimsen Joshi. Bhimsen Joshi was an incorrigible alcoholic, which Raghavendra blames on the pressures of having two families. Tales of his drunken antics include stumbling on stage sodden with alcohol. Once in the 1950s, he boarded a flight at Mumbai Airport drunk and took a seat reserved for Morarji Desai, Chief Minister of the then Bombay state. The city was under prohibition at the time. Desai took another seat instead. But during the flight, the CM realised that the singer was drunk and pointed out that liquor was not allowed in the city. “Prohibition is for the ground,” replied the singer, “Not the skies.”

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himsen Joshi’s biography, Bhimsen

Joshi: A Passion for Music, tells of another hilarious account. In early 1976, when India was under the Emergency, Bhimsen Joshi was travelling to Delhi with a friend, TA Pai, a banker. Pai was expected to become the Union’s next Finance minister, but got the Commerce portfolio instead. Later, during a performance in the capital that Pai was attending, a drunken Bhimsen Joshi started delivering a speech on how Indira Gandhi was erring by not letting Pai run the Finance Ministry. Afraid of the consequences, Pai waded through the audience, landed on stage and tried to wrest the mike out of his hands, even as 46 open

Bhimsen Joshi kept up his harangue. Raghavendra laughs as he recalls these episodes. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting in the passenger seat of his father’s Fiat with his inebriated father— in undershorts, a vest and pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses—and the windows rolled down, driving from Pune to Kolkata to reach a venue for a performance. On one occasion, he visited his first family slightly drunk, and, Raghavendra recalls shyly, planted a kiss on his mother’s cheek in front of the children. As the years went by, and as the guilt perhaps over neglecting his wife and children increased, Bhimsen Joshi started drinking more. Later, there were times when he would disappear for days at a stretch, with neither wife aware of his whereabouts. Vatsala, his second wife, would call Raghavendra on such occasions, asking him for help. As the eldest son, his father often listened to him.

As the years went by, and as the guilt perhaps over neglecting his wife and children increased, Bhimsen Joshi started drinking more Bhimsen Joshi was once located in Mumbai after about two days of being missing, and since he was refusing to return home, Raghavendra along with a half brother were sent to fetch him. They all returned to Pune by air, also Raghavendra’s first ever flight. Bhimsen Joshi, with his late arrival and people’s requests for pictures, managed to delay the aircraft by about half an hour. When they reached Pune, the singer refused to go to either house. Instead, he took the two sons to a rich friend’s house for lunch and “a few light drinks”. Hearing his father’s stories, the host said, “What a rich life you lead, Panditji.” “This episode has always stuck with me.” Raghavendra says, “Here was this rich man, with an elaborate feast and a number of servants, and he was calling my father rich.” Despite being ignored so badly, Raghavendra would always seek out his father. He got his father to attend his wed-

ding, his son’s naming ceremony (where Bhimsen Joshi showered flowers made of gold on the child), and when he bought his first vehicle, a Maruti car, he asked his father to take the first drive home from the showroom.

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hen Sunanda died, Bhimsen Joshi

was in Mumbai for a performance. Raghavendra called him, but his father asked him to go ahead with the funeral as he would not be able to attend it. In a rare instance of losing his temper on his father, Raghavendra cut the line off, saying he did not expect any better. Bhimsen Joshi apologised later and made it to the funeral. Raghavendra himself tried to be part of his father’s life, often going out of his way to do so. He was beside his ailing father when he was conferred the Bharat Ratna, despite not having been invited. He paid daily visits to his father when he was in hospital dying. When he died, it was a hospital doctor, and not any of his stepsiblings, who informed Raghavendra. A few years before his death, when Bhimsen Joshi was bedridden with a fractured leg, Raghavendra had asked him why he had neglected them. “You could so effortlessly move people to tears with your voice,” he asked, “How could you be so cruel to your own family?” This was a rare instance, since he’d never questioned his father. His father began to cry then. Raghavendra’s biggest disappointment remains of not having followed his father’s footsteps and become a musician. He never had the courage to express this disappointment to his father, or even the gumption to ask him for his opinion on his talent. That evening, as he sat by his father’s bedside, his father moved to tears by his question, Raghavendra asked him one more thing. For the first time, he asked if he could sing to him. Bhimsen Joshi agreed and after listening to him, cried some more but did not say anything. Raghavendra sang to him once more, a few years later, as his father lay on his deathbed, with no one but a nurse in attendance. This time, after the end of his song, when he opened his eyes to look at his father, Bhimsen Joshi had turned to the nurse. Too weak to speak, he was gesticulating to her with his eyebrows what a fine singer he was. n 2 december 2013


between the sheets

The Certainty Myth

Saying ‘yes’ to marriage is not simply a matter of ‘just knowing’ it’s right sonali khan

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arriage proposals.

Whether you believe in the institution of marriage, think of it as a pointless social contract or are on the fence, it’s hard to escape marriage proposals. They’ll nudge you gently by way of viral videos that’ll have you discreetly reaching for tissues to dab your eyes (if you’ve been living under a rock and still haven’t seen the lip sync and meme proposals, please Google right away). They’ll punch you smack in the middle every time a friend enlists your help for an elaborate ‘will you marry me’ production. If you had the average Indian upbringing, you were probably raised to believe in and revere the sanctity of marriage. Indians get married and stay married. Like most kids of my generation, the thought of toeing the marriage line didn’t even occur to me until my mid twenties. I remember a time many years ago when I’d watch When Harry Met Sally and dream that my then boyfriend would someday say to me: “… When you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” A time when every boyfriend’s surname was tried on—scribbled in the back of notebooks during boring lectures, said out loud in front of the mirror for effect. I have to admit that, even as a fence-sitter, I’ve often wondered what it would be like when someone proposed and the answer wasn’t an unequivocal “No”. But I’d never imagined being proposed to by someone’s mother. Which is how I’d describe what happened at lunch that day. The Boyfriend, obviously, vehemently disagrees. After his mother’s ill-timed, “You will have tall kids” announcement, the Boyfriend did what he does best—pretend that he hadn’t heard a thing. Topics were swiftly changed and with the help of a post-doctorate-level analysis of the falling standards of beauty pageants in India, the Boyfriend prised her away from the subject of our future offspring. Later that night, while I was brushing my teeth, confident that the Boyfriend was as reluctant to have the where-is-this-relationship-going conversation as I was, he popped the question. Picture this: I’m standing in the bathroom in tatty shorts and Bata slippers, toothbrush in mouth, vigorously scrubbing my teeth to expend all the nervous energy after a nerve-wracking day, and he picks

that moment to go down on his knee and ask me to marry him. Moron. My first instinct was to start laughing at the ludicrousness of the situation. And then came the panic—the sheer, unadulterated terror at not having an absolute answer. When you’re younger and you imagine your dream proposal, you imagine looking like a million bucks and being thrilled at the prospect of spending the rest of your life with The One. The past few years have taught me that sometimes, you have to go through a sexua/getty images ries of ‘most certainly not’, ‘not on my life’ and ‘not even if the future of the human race depended on it’ before you meet someone you want to say ‘yes’ to. But in every scenario—real or imagined—I had an answer. When the person is right, apparently, you know. Everything I’ve ever read or seen has cemented this rose-tinted worldview. As I stood there, staring at the Boyfriend who was still on one knee, waiting for me to say something, I realised that there was a third possibility—I just didn’t know. The really strange part is I knew I loved him and that he’d be a great husband. And yet. I told him I needed time to think. Obviously, he was massively disappointed. Clearly, this wasn’t the proposal of either of our dreams. It was amazing how all the questions I’d ignored when we started dating came crashing down on me in the next three days. Did I even believe in marriage? Would Grandma K ever get over the religious divide? We’d only been dating six months, was it enough? Would I make a good wife? Would his parents expect me to convert? On the second day, I turned up at mom’s door, in desperate need of advice. She told me that she was thankful that no daughter of hers was stupid enough to just know, considering she’d spent almost 35 wonderful years with my father, not knowing and trying to figure out the answer every day. The next morning, while he was brushing his teeth, I said ‘yes’. I’m pleased to report that he choked and swallowed more toothpaste than I had. n

My mother told me she was thankful that no daughter of hers was stupid enough to just know

48 open

Sonali Khan was holding on to her virtue, and then she fell in love...with several men. She drinks whisky, not Cosmopolitan 2 december 2013


true life

mindspace

Taboo Menstruation: what’s the big deal? 50

In the Shadows No Longer

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O p e n s pa c e

Ranveer Singh Kareena Kapoor

62

n p lu

Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela Rajjo

61 Cinema reviews

Olympus OM-DE-M1 Dior Christal Baguette Diamonds Black Python Alienware 14

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Tech & style

The Man-Dog Friendship Copper Makes Tumours Grow Rising Tree Pests and Diseases

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Science

Interview: Richard Linklater

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cinema

Interview: Tash Aw

books

Women Don’t Bleed Blue

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kameron walsh/getty images


true life

ramya maddali is originally from Tirupati. A Pharmacy graduate, she is currently a Young India Fellow

WOMEN DON’T BLEED BLUE How I got over the mystery, myth and maligning of menstruation Ramya Maddali

Sean marc Lee/getty images


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any years ago, I realised that

sanitary napkins were not fancy diapers meant for wildly incontinent women. This exciting revelation occurred when I was nine and my sister attained menarche, or ‘matured’ as was said at home. I was the quintessential second child, desiring everything my sister had: her clothes, her words, her friends, her shoes, and naturally I wanted her uterus now, for all the rumours of maturity circulating it. She would purchase packets of sanitary napkins imprinted with mysterious and hilarious terminology—ultra-wings, mega wings, choice wings, maxi-pads, nights only, dry-max, sidewalls. Imagine what these names did to the mind of a nine year old! I started envisioning a civil war going on down there, where these napkins worked overtime trying to trap gallons of blue fluid (thank you, advertising) to prevent social embarrassment. So drunk was I on my mission to solve the mystery of these absorbent superheroes that I slyly peeled open one of my sister’s napkins in her absence and stuck it as best I could on the inside of my tiny underwear, wings and all. See, I thought the napkin came first and then the fluid. The one with the sanitary napkin, I thought, was the locus of all power, maturity and wisdom. So there I sat, in one precious corner of the house all morning, jealously guarding the secret in my panty, knowing that something new and blue was filling it up. I was thoroughly dismayed and disappointed when I discovered an empty, ugly, white napkin in the evening. Nada, no blue, not even a little. I put the sadly unsuccessful mission behind me and asked my sister and mother a torrent of questions about the whole maturity affair. Thankfully, they were very honest with their answers and gave me books to read—my sister and I both loved encyclopaedias and other books on biology. This time, I deconstructed the entire event and armed myself with real wisdom: one morning in my early teens I would bleed a beautiful red, not an un-

2 december 2013

natural blue, on my panty and this exciting ritual would continue until I was 50. I shared this delicious secret with a couple of girls in my class and soon became the authority on all matters regarding sanitary napkins and big, fat, mature wombs. I invented secret codes so we could discuss them in front of the boys and laugh when their blunt minds failed to comprehend our cryptic messages. All this while, I waited. Waited for ‘it’ to happen to me. A couple of years passed and my uterus insisted on staying dormant and woefully immature. The day came when my best friend left school in the middle of the day and was taken home, returning only a fortnight later. Girls congratulated her in low whispers and the boys behaved as if they didn’t care, but made many a distasteful joke. Everyone knew about ‘it’ now. It took girl after girl for its own. Soon, I was invited to a ‘maturity function’ at the home of one of the girls and made to sit beside her while men and women gave her money, bangles, clothes and blessings. I felt incredibly left out and angry with my body for letting me down. My breasts were painful knobs and I had no growth spurt. Had I put on weight or developed acne, I would have hated my body even more. Slowly and surely, I became obsessed with attaining menarche. Every time I urinated, I would wait impatiently for the mild yellow waters to turn crimson. Every time I felt something wet in my underwear, I would walk swiftly to the nearest bathroom and check for redness, only to find white, gelatinous mucus. I panicked, thinking I wasn’t woman enough and that my indolent uterus would be unable to bear children. I looked with a kind of melancholic jealousy on girls who complained to me about their cramps. In my head, I told them to shut up because I would have taken cramps over nothing any day. I wanted those cramps. I wanted to stain my clothes and then cover up with a sweater in that oh-so-grownup manner. I wanted to say that my

legs hurt, like so many girls did, to get out of doing anything I didn’t want to; ‘I have periods’ could get any visibly healthy girl out of sports, dance, physical training, morning assembly and punishment. Being the even tempered girl I was (and still am), I yearned to create anger and frustration out of nothing and take it out on the people around me using PMS as a legitimate excuse for bad behaviour, as I had seen so many girls do. Around that time, I was sent on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala, a hill in Kerala that women who have attained puberty are forbidden to visit. This was a further blow to my endometrium and I was sure Lord Ayyappa had further discouraged it from shedding itself any time in the near future. My conviction that menarche was a biological certainty dwindled despite my mother’s constant reassurance that some girls hit it even as late as 18. I stopped waiting for it and focused my energies on academics and more interesting things such as boys and bras. And then one morning, when I was least expecting it, there it was! Wonderful, wet, expressionist strokes of black, red, maroon and brown were streaked across my panty. I hugged myself in joy, but now that it had happened, I was apprehensive too. For a second I felt grown up, womanly, and emotion overwhelmed me. I rubbed the red mucus between my fingers to check its authenticity, and smelt it. It had a sharp, rusty odour, but to the girl in me who had wanted this so badly, it smelled like life wrapped between the legs of a woman. I walked to the kitchen, but did not enter it. I stood by the door and told my mother shyly, ‘‘Amma, ochesindi (it came).’’ Thankfully, there was no ‘maturity function’ for me (or my sister) because neither parent saw the need to parade the fact that their 13-year-old daughter was now ready to reproduce. My aunt came over, dressed me up in an orange pattu parikhini, put flowers in my hair and fed me a tasty mixture of milk, bananas and nuvvulu (sesame seeds). I was asked to touch the feet of both my parents. My aunt said open www.openthemagazine.com 51


that in the unfortunate event they die before I get married, this was their one chance to see the miniature bride in me. Wondering why there was no miniature, make-believe groom, I obediently touched their feet and felt a lump in my throat at the sheer beauty of certain Hindu beliefs. I had never touched their feet before. As I grew up, I failed to see the reason I was restricted from going to temples when my tap was on. When elders defended tradition saying that a woman is considered impure during that time, I argued, using childish and easy logic, that if purity were linked to the ability to reproduce, a woman was most ‘pure’ during her periods, because her uterus had most diligently waited for sperm! And if purity was associated with chastity—which is another concept I cannot make my peace with—wasn’t a period evidence that the girl had remained chaste? Once, on the second day of my period, the taboo day when the river runs red, I walked into the puja room and mentally conversed with the Gods there. Durga and Saraswati seemed particularly understanding, while Ayyappa seemed a tad confused. I explained to them that if they claimed to have designed my body, they were losing credibility by distancing me from them. I don’t restrict myself from going into the puja room anymore. Nobody has the right to tell me that I am impure or contaminated. There were other things too that disturbed me. My aunt refused to provide her daughter with proper sanitary napkins and made her use cotton cloth instead, fearing that if a used napkin were improperly disposed, a snake might lick it and curse her womanhood, rendering her barren. Why a snake would want to lick a smelly napkin beats me. A few of my friends were not allowed to leave their rooms when they got their periods, and were given separate plates to eat out of. In some orthodox families, a girl on her period must not touch other clothes and if she does, turmeric water must be sprinkled on her and the contaminated clothes in order to cleanse them. I'm sure all these rituals are grounded, to some extent, in some old rationale or other, but they have lost all meaning with time. The spooky snake story might have been made 52 open

up to frighten and dissuade young girls from disposing of their used napkins in public. And perhaps the young girls were kept jailed in one corner of the house to prevent them from tiring themselves out, considering how painful menstrual cramps can be. But isn’t it infinitely better if reasons are given for such practices, that they are not merely shrouded in superstition? Snakes, my foot! Why does the bleedin’ shopkeeper meticulously wrap every pack-

Once, I walked into the puja room during my period and explained to the Gods there that

if they claimed to have made my body, they were losing credibility by distancing me. Now, I don't restrict myself from going into the Puja Room.

Nobody has the right to tell me that I am impure or contaminated age of sanitary napkins in newspaper and then in a black plastic bag before handing it over to the customer? I deliberately ask shopkeepers not to misuse plastic and carry the bright orange packet in my hand. I am not proud of menstruating nor am I ashamed of it. It is just a fact of life, marginally more exciting than sneezing. Buying sanitary napkins—or condoms for that matter—is as necessary as buying diapers, which, by the way, no one hides in a black cover. Oh no. They are for cute, fat, leaking babies, aren’t they?

Let’s show off that we added to the population of the world! Why did the older advertisements on TV use a blue fluid to denote menstrual fluid? What was so disgusting about the natural colour of blood that compelled the makers of the ad to use a colour not found in the body at all? What is so ruinous about a blood stain that a girl loses all confidence and hope in life at the possibility of its occurrence, gaining it all back the moment she uses a napkin of a certain brand? It is just a blood stain; a fluid as natural as the saliva from a baby’s mouth, as common as sweat or urine, and as necessary as a man’s semen. If all the secretions of the body were lined up, menses blood would be most ostracised, with vomit a close second. Why are there so many euphemisms for menses? What do ‘periods’, ‘chums’ and ‘down’ even mean? I would love to see an advert where a boy points out to a girl that she has a blood stain and she unabashedly goes with him to the chemist and asks for Murmur Choice Ultra Maxi wings or whatever, and they both walk off, the girl explaining to the guy what the wings are for. It has been a good eight years since my uterus got some sense knocked into it and the ride has been pretty smooth so far, apart from a few irregular cycles. My body probably knows that I am not a malingerer and that I love physical activity, sports and dance; I have never had cramps or the kind of monstrous pain I have seen other girls writhe in. My PMS is a joke; I get no mood swings or cravings. I wait for my periods every month, because their quality and quantity indicate the extent to which my ovaries and the rest of my procreative apparatus are well oiled. They do not make me feel womanly—that was a childish assumption. Womanhood and manhood are loaded words that cannot be defined or validated by breast size, the ability to bear children, penis size or the ability to perform sexually. I welcome my periods with open arms—or should I say wings?—because the gush of blood warms me quite nicely on a cold day. The colour is riveting, and thanks to the fragrant sanitary napkins available now, unlike the plain ones many years ago, the odour has ceased to disgust me. I will miss them when I am 50. Period. n 2 december 2013


Books How I Write

The Asianist Writing about South East Asia, Tash Aw explores the confusion of new personal and political freedoms, privileging emotional authenticity over exotic detail omkar khandekar

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alter Chao dreams of being ‘superabundantly, incalculably wealthy’; author Tash Aw has no such illusions. “Most writers don’t even get to have a career. That way, I consider myself already a commercial success,” chuckles the 41-year-old Malaysian writer when I quote the protagonist from his third novel, Five Star Billionaire, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize earlier this year. A towering figure in the Asian literary landscape, Aw has been described, in a Daily Mail review of his second book Map of the Invisible World, as being just as able ‘to conjure stampeding crowds as the glow of fireflies’. In person, he comes across as charming and downto-earth. Aw doesn’t seem to mind hanging back in dimly lit corridors to interact and share tips with those who haven’t even read his works. In conversation at the Mumbai LitFest, Aw dismisses the romanticism around writing and explains why it is just like an office-goer’s job. Excerpts:

moved to England in 1991, where you studied law for four years and then practised it for another four years. When did you reach the point where you decided to take a plunge?

I did my training for four years. But by [that] time, I was already writing quite seriously. But you know—and this is my tip for a lot of young writers— you should never rush yourself into it. Always have a back-up plan. I knew that my early attempts as a writer were not very stable. So I just took my time. Because I had a law degree, I took a job in a law firm. I wrote at night. But at some point, there comes a time that you have to make a leap of faith, when you

“Two or three years in the lifespan of a writer is not a long time. When you are 65 and hopefully at the top of your career, you [won’t] notice those years you [took] to finish your first book”

What made you take up writing?

It’s one of those things writers can never really explain. Most writers that I know—and I am certainly one of them—have always had an impulse to write right from a very [young] age. I grew up in a very normal Malaysian family. Although my parents encouraged my love of literature, they never really encouraged me to become a writer. I didn’t really know it was possible to become a writer until I moved to England and started to write my first novel. It’s a very deep-seated urge to tell stories. I think that’s where it comes from.

I ask because you have a very different academic and professional background. You 2 december 2013

have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. At the age of 29, you can’t do a full time legal job and write at the same time. Writing was something I dreamed of but now it made sense to me. People always ask me, ‘How do you know when to make a leap of faith?’ My answer is, ‘You just do.’

How long did it take you to write your first novel The Harmony Silk Factory?

While I was working, I was already writing [the] novel. By 2000, I already had about half the novel done. I realised that if I was ever going to finish it, I needed to devote all my ener-

gies to it. That’s when I quit my job. I had saved up enough money to last me a whole year. I told myself that if I didn’t finish my novel within that year, I [would] just go back and get another job. But within that year, I finished it and subsequently, I was able to sell it. I then got lucky. The first agent I spoke to, the agent I always wanted to work with, took me on. The first publisher I spoke to took me on too. You need a bit of luck. But before that, what I had done was given myself plenty of time, a full seven years, to finish my first novel. Two or three years in the whole lifespan of a writer is not a long time. When you are 65 and hopefully at the top of your career, you are not going to notice those years you gave yourself to finish your first book.

Since your debut, you have steadily produced two more novels, with a gap of four years between them. How did you go about the new routine of being a full time writer?

The life of a writer is a very inconsistent one. For that reason, I like being very regular. I write every day. Writing should be like any other job. Take people having office jobs. They wake up in the morning, they don’t feel like working but you still have to go to the job. You might not be very productive, but [you] still have to go. That’s how I treat my work. I still turn up, I still do the hours. Some days are better than others, but I still give my job that respect. A lot of younger writers need to realise that it’s not just that beautiful thing [where] you wait for inspiration to come to you. You set yourself challenges. You have to make it happen.

What kind of discipline do you follow? Do you set any time-bound targets? open www.openthemagazine.com 53


graham jepson/ap

Emergence Tash Aw has quickly become one of the most promising voices in South-East Asian literature

When I am writing very intensively, I wake up very early, about 5 or 5.30 am. Then I go straight to work. I aim to do the bulk of my writing by 10. If that doesn’t happen, I have another block until lunch. After that I do something physical, like go for a walk. I come back later in the afternoon and have a look at what I have done, to see if there are things I can tweak. Then I try to set up the next day’s work. I never work in the evenings. If I did, my brain starts ticking over and I can’t relax and sleep. That would affect my next day’s work. I’m not a morning person. But I like the feeling of discipline and pushing myself to wake up early. Early in the morning, my brain is also very clear. This is before the phone starts ringing [and] emails start pouring in; [before] there is any traffic. So it’s the best time.

What is your preferred work-space? 54 open

Sometimes, I am lucky enough to work at Writer’s Residencies. Those are usually in very quiet, beautiful places. But I like working at home. I can’t just go to a cafe and write.

You have set your novels in various parts of Asia—Malaysia, Indonesia, China—often in times and spaces you haven’t been a part of. Is this a conscious attempt to explore the unfamiliar?

Yes. I am in interested in the way South-East Asia has evolved in the last 60-70 years, how our priorities, aspirations, fears and desires have changed. In the first novel, although it is about people wanting personal freedom, there is... the theatre of national freedom being played [out] in the background. In the second, I wanted to see how we dealt with freedom once we had it. I wanted to see how personal indepen-

dence is scary for some people and national freedom is confusing after long periods of having none. In the present day, after having enjoyed many decades of this freedom, has this led to a culture of absolute, over-the-top materialism? Those are the things I wanted to explore.

Your connection with Malaysia comes from your schooling there. What connection did you share with Indonesia and China before you started writing about them?

With Indonesia, there are two points of connection. First, my father worked there for many years. So I have been there many times. Secondly, Malaysia and Indonesia are very closely linked— in some ways like India and Pakistan. There are commonalities in language, religion, often ethnicity. I wanted to explore this notion of brotherhood that these countries share. 2 december 2013


With Five Star Billionaire [set in China], the connection is that I am ethnically Chinese. I was intrigued by these Chinese Malaysians who are now going back to China for purely economic reasons in the same way their ancestors had come to Malaysia about 100 years ago. That’s why I lived in China for 18 months between 2009 and 2011.

Which writers inspire you?

How do you go about research?

They absolutely have. They are the ones who I read in my teens. Of course, as you grow older, you are exposed to more books and they make you think in a different way. But I think the early influences are the strongest.

When I was in China, I went out a lot, listened to a lot of stories. It’s what I do normally. I read the news, ask people for their opinions. I spend a lot of time observing. For first two novels, I had to do a lot of historical research. That involves a lot of library work. For the latest, it was just about being open, seeing how people behave.

At the workshop you conducted at the recently concluded Mumbai Literature Festival, you said something on the lines of, ‘I’d rather be believable than authentic.’

Yeah, I am troubled by the idea of authenticity. I am more concerned about emotional authenticity. When you read something, it should feel truthful on an emotional level rather than whether the details are accurate. I couldn’t really give a damn about whether you were actually wearing those shoes, whether that make of Adidas or Nike was available in India in that time. That’s something my copy editor can deal with. There is a lot of pressure on Asian writers to be authentic, in a way that they have to be the perfect spokespeople for their race or country. No one ever asks a British writer, ‘Do people in Hampstead really drink tea that way?’

You speak a number of languages—Malay, Mandarin, English and French. What language do you think in?

It changes depending on where I am. In China, I often thought in Chinese. I even dreamt in Chinese. In a neutral country like India, I will think in Malay or Chinese. But I guess my main medium of writing is English. So when I am writing intensively, I will think a lot in English. 2 december 2013

Traditionally, it’s the writers that occupy the territory I instinctively fall into, like Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Conrad and also people like William Faulkner. There are isolated books as well. As a writer, [Herman] Melville isn’t one of my inspirations, but Moby Dick is.

Are these writers who inspire you today or have they stood the test of time?

How much time do you spend with your characters before you put them to paper?

For Five Star Billionaire, I spent a couple of years just drawing out character

“There is a lot of pressure on Asian writers to be authentic; they have to be spokespeople for their race or country. No one ever asks a British writer, ‘Do people in Hampstead really drink tea that way?’” sketches. I drew heavily from the people I had grown up with in my teens. You only know how someone behaves if you put them in scenes. So I started out slowly, building scenes in my head.

So was the process of writing a novel ultimately about putting the pieces of the jigsaw together?

Yeah, it was. But even then, when you are writing them, scenes get shifted. The chronology shifts, the system gets altered.

How different are your novels from how you originally conceive of them to what the final draft looks like? They’re quite different. But in a way, that’s good. It’s a sign that the book is taking a life of its own. Iris Murdoch said that before she started a book, she knew every single scene and line from

the book. I can’t really believe that it’s true, but if it was, that would be terrible.

‘Exotic’ is the go-to word for critics when they are describing the fiction and landscape of this part of the world. What does that word mean to you? Do you view your writing that way?

For me, ‘exotic’ is snowy mountains and log cabins. It’s what for other people is perfectly dull. You see, things, cultures and people are different from one end of the world to another. Exoticising something is using those differences to keep that culture separate and ‘other’. You are not making any attempt to bridge [the gap] and convince yourself that you have nothing in common. But within those differences, there is universality. Things like love, ambition and desire are experienced in the same way. There is a way someone living in Jakarta can read about someone sitting in Winnipeg and understand those situations. A lot of my work is a process of writing about people who are different. but not exotic.

What are you presently working on?

I’m working on some short stories and a series of non-fiction essays on Malaysia.

Do you take a break after you finish a novel? What do you do during that time?

Yeah, yeah. I think it’s very important for me to take a complete break. In this time, I read a lot, write essays that are my responses to things. I travel and write on what I see. They are not meant for publication but just for me.

What is your support system?

Writing is a very solitary profession. I have a few close friends who read my work and we discuss it. But in terms of day-to-day [activities], I am on my own.

Over the next few years, will you only be writing about Asia or are you planning to go beyond that?

I can’t say for sure. But for the moment, my preoccupations are to do with Asia. I don’t know how they are going to manifest themselves in fiction, but they are mostly Asia-centric. n open www.openthemagazine.com 55


CINEMA Rambling Man In the candid banter typical of his films, Richard Linklater talks about 18 years with the same two characters, a career on the periphery of the Hollywood studio system, and the evolution of the love story in cinema Nikhil Taneja

J茅r么me de Perlinghi/Corbis Outline

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2 december 2013


I

s there an easy way to introduce Richard Linklater? An icon of American independent cinema, often credited with paving the way for the era of low-budget, light-comic, selfexploratory gen-X movies, Linklater’s legacy as a writer-director is deep and varied, his films fiercely original and undeniably interesting. He has managed to forge an inspiring film career by living and operating at the periphery of the American film industry in the era of clone blockbusters, and is one of the few remaining high-profile filmmakers who work not for money, but for the love of cinema. Before Midnight, the long-awaited third film in Linklater’s utterly beautiful and romantic Before… series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, released across the world earlier this year, premiering in India at the recently-concluded Mumbai Film Festival. In his first ever interview with an Indian publication, over the phone from his home in Austin, Texas, the director of cult classics like Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life and School of Rock offers an insight into his mind and craft. And he’s just as amiable and charming as every one of his films. Excerpts:

I’m always constantly thinking, ‘Oh this could be good if we ever do another movie—this notion or piece of information’. So we can look at it both emotionally and scientifically, and we have our own lives going on with our long term partners, and it’s involved in there too.

In the 18 years it’s taken to complete the Before... trilogy, how has your idea of love personally changed?

I don’t think young people would approach love the same way [now], but I still think the core of that movie— two people meeting, that moment of attraction, of falling in love—that never goes away. That’s relevant. That was relevant 500 years ago and will be relevant 500 years from now. Nothing’s going to change in that area between people. There is something about that that is eternal, but the details of it change generation to generation. But I can honestly say that Before Midnight covers an area that is not covered a whole lot in movies today, for obvious reasons. It’s not about the beginning of a relationship, it’s not about the end of a relationship. It’s about when they are having their problems. It’s kind of the middle area, which is not often used as subject matter for something in the romantic realm. It’s not very commercial.

Now that I think of it, for Julie [Delpy], Ethan [Hawke] and I, making these films sort of introduced [to us] this subject of long term relationships and the definition of love or what love even means. That’s become the subject of our lives, you know. I find myself reading a book on that or reading articles or statistical data on couples. Movies are like that—when you are making a movie, you tend to feel that you are doing a Masters [degree in] whatever the situation is. Over two decades now, this subject [has] really made me follow notions of relationships of long term, and question how things change and how things remain the same. I don’t know if that’s an answer, but it’s definitely a subject in our lives and

2 december 2013

In this time, how has the idea of love changed for Hollywood? Is ‘romance’ still relevant today?

(laughs) I don’t know. I mean, the first film, Before Sunrise, wouldn’t happen today, or at least in the same way. It certainly wouldn’t have the same result, like they wouldn’t exchange numbers. I mean, they would get each other’s emails or texts, you know. People communicate differently today. That film was a little old fashioned even then.

“Making these films introduced to us the subject of long term relationships and the definition of love. That’s become the subject of our lives. Movies are like that—you tend to feel that you are doing a Masters degree”

You don’t see a lot of compelling films made on this. Hollywood would never touch these films. We have a low budget, and we make these independently, so we can do whatever we want and express things that don’t need to fit into a Hollywood romantic comedy construct. We can make something that we feel is much more honest, but we know we don’t have a huge audience for these movies. We just kind of figure our audience might appreciate some of the blunt honesty (laughs) of our characters in their situation.

I’m also asking about love in the time of the movie studio, because the Before… trilogy is one of the few movies where romance is real and uncontrived. How did you manage that? That’s a compliment, thank you. I think it’s just the approach. It’s what you are going for, you know? What is real? I don’t pretend any of it is actually real. I mean, they are not documentaries; they are actually scripted and rehearsed excessively, very well thought out, very constructed. But the effect I am going for in the viewer’s mind is [for them] to accept it as some kind of reality, to feel like it’s real. I don’t know if people want to feel that way. I like going to movies often, going into someone’s unreality. When you go into a Tim Burton film or a James Cameron film, you will enjoy being in their reality, [which] you know is not real but it’s wonderful. I’m not asking people to be in some kind of parallel reality, but to relate to [a film] on a closer level. That’s what I love about the way people perceive movies. I kind of like that a film could be anything and mean something different to every one; it just has to be true to the story you’re trying to tell. People just come along for the ride.

When Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and you got together to write Before Midnight, how did you find common ground for it, considering that you might all have been in different places emotionally after 18 years? I think we just incorporate our different moods, you know. Whatever

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changes in character or whatever vibe you get from this movie that’s different from the last one probably reflects our changing mood, the atmosphere, the things we’ve all been through. I’ve tried to incorporate our personal reality into this film, into something that’s real for Jesse and Celine. I think Ethan, Julie and I trust each other artistically, so we don’t have to work too hard to find common ground. I think we are all trying to be honest when we write something that means something to us. Julie not feeling good about something or being paranoid about something, you know, some of that might find its way into the movie. Or if Ethan is feeling creatively satisfied and has such ideas, then we’ll work that in. So we’re kind of basing the film on where we are at, to some degree. Our writing sessions were like comedic therapy (laughs). We’d sit around, laugh a lot, and just talk for hours and hours.

How would you say you have evolved as a writer and director in these 18 years?

You know that’s a good question, because I don’t know if I have that much (chuckles). Stylistically my movies are still very similar—well, I do that on purpose—but I don’t know if I’ve matured that much. With anything you do, you get a little more confident, you get a little more experienced. I guess that’s all good, but I don’t feel I have changed significantly. I think my concerns are pretty much very similar. What I’m getting at is that I’m always surprised I’m much more similar than different. I would say the same about Jesse and Celine: it’s not so much how they have changed; it’s really more interesting how they have stayed the same. And to think of it, am I that different than I was at 24? I am more mature and more experienced, of course. Life has a way of doing that whether you like it or not. But the gist of my life, what I’m interested in, what I care about, artistically, it’s still kind of similar.

You’ve mentioned that your films are semiautobiographical. How many movies do 58 open

you think you’ll need to express all facets of yourself completely?

(Laughs) Well that’s really the question, isn’t it? I don’t know. I wonder if Ingmar Bergman [would say] at the end of his life... that he expressed himself completely in his movies. I don’t know if that’s even possible, if any filmmaker is totally satisfied. [Michelangelo] Antonioni, towards the end of his life I think, finally wrote a book [That Bowling Alley On The Tiber: Tales Of A Director] to say, ‘Here’s 30 movies I’ll never make.’ He had ideas, and a few pages about each of them. A book about unrealised movies—I could do that book now. I have 10-15 unrealised films (chuckles). But to answer your question, you’d have to make, like, a hundred. Every film does say something. In every one, you are communicating something.

“I am always trying to discover something. I don’t look forward to the day that I have some knowledge to impart. If I have something worth making, it’s something I have mixed feelings about” But that’s sort of the challenge artistically, isn’t it? To try to express what you want to express. And some novelists or writers have perhaps spent thousands of pages trying to do that. I admire people though who kind of say, ‘No, I’ve said all that I have to say,’ and [then] quit writing, quit making movies, quit painting or quit making music. But I don’t really believe it. I don’t think you can retire from expressing yourself.

Do you write to discover something about yourself or do you already have philosophies you centre your films around? To be honest, I am always trying to discover something. I don’t look forward to the day that I have some knowledge to impart. If I have something worth making, it’s something I [either] have mixed feelings about or am trying to discover something about, or I’m not

totally sure what I think about it, and that’s why I think it makes it fertile ground to try to make a movie. To make a movie about something, specifically, that I definitely have strong feelings about and then [to] convey them exactly—that’s a lot less interesting, I think. Things you have strong opinions about find their way into the general tone and core of the movie anyway. Films are truly much more about the exploration of your thought and lot of exploration is just the process of making a movie. And I’m inclined to think that everybody feels that way. I wonder if [Alfred] Hitchcock felt that way. Was he just physically manifesting what he had all planned out or was he discovering his deeper feelings about the subjects that he made [films about]? For example, in Vertigo. I don’t think anyone just renders something they’ve just printed out, as much as they try.

Your movies are very dialogue heavy, and that goes against the conventional wisdom of cinema, except if you are, say, Woody Allen. Why is dialogue so important to you?

I don’t know. You’re right; that is Film School 101. (In a stern voice) ‘Don’t talk about things, show it’ (laughs). It is a visual medium. The first time I turned on a camera and heard the characters, I thought that people talking revealed a lot; that was as interesting as any landscape. I’m not that verbal myself. I’m not much of a good talker; I’m more of a listener. When you fall in love with cinema, it’s usually visually, but it’s just the way you evolve. Like I said, I’m as surprised as anyone! When I was making my first film, I thought strictly in visual technical terms; I wasn’t thinking so much dialogues or character, even though I had a background in theatre. I should have known that was coming. I never improvise on camera. Never. Ever. That’s never made sense to me, I don’t know how to do that. It’s always very scripted and rehearsed. You know, it can be a loose idea, I can sit with the actors, but by the time the cameras are rolling, we have worked it out. We 2 december 2013


know what we’re doing. I don’t leave it to chance.

Even with your fascination with dialogue, you don’t just direct to, say, deliver the poetry of a script, as in the case of an Aaron Sorkin movie. You take direction very seriously, don’t you?

Yeah, I mean, cinema is the most important. I remember every movie of mine having a little cinematic scheme in mind—visually. I mean, I’m not, like, uber-stylist; I’m not that interested in that. But I do really believe in a cinematic design to the story you’re telling. And you spend a lot of time to work on it. I think people who come strictly from writing backgrounds, might not think that way. But I always felt that it was primarily a director’s job to think cinematically, in terms of pictures and stuff, you know? What’s the particular tone, style, approach to a movie—I’d have really strong rules in that area. I plan all that, even though, again, it doesn’t drive too much attention to it I hope. But, you know, it’s about creating a parallel world of characters and trying to make that work when it all comes together in the movie. I don’t see anything as separate; [it is] all part of the same thing, which is trying to tell the story appropriately, and that’s different from film to film.

Comedy has also always been an important part of your films, even when you are dealing with subject matter as serious as death (Bernie) or drugs (Waking Life).

I think it’s just the way I see the world. Everything’s funny, you know! I’ve done a lot of comedies where most of what I do is pretty comedic, but Bernie was a challenge because it is about death. There is some dark subject matter swirling around that movie. But I think to make that a consistent comedy was a real challenge. That world’s so much like ours, even though it’s tragic [and] there’s a lot of ups and downs. I think it’s not a bad way to see the world through a comedic lens. Whatever tragedy, hardship or struggle, comedy is a pretty good way to offset it. And not more consciously—again, 2 december 2013

that’s just in films—but in the way you naturally see the world, I think, and the way you approach drama too. I just can’t help but see the humour. And I admire that in movies I like. For example, Raging Bull is a movie that would never be listed as a comedy. It’s just too dark a subject and what you take away emotionally from that movie is anything but comedy. And yet, if you really sat down in front of it, you would find yourself laughing very consistently throughout that movie. And I thought that was brilliant! I mean, when I saw that movie, something clicked in me—this was before I was even thinking about making movies [myself]. It’s kind of like how I see the world: in the middle of fights, in the middle of all the horrible stuff, I would have these funny thoughts. Even as a kid,

“It’s not a bad way to see the world, through a comedic lens. Even as a kid, when things were bad or parents were mad at you, there was always something ridiculous about it, something funny. I always liked that tone” when things were bad, or parents were mad at you, there was always something ridiculous about it, something funny. I always liked that tone. So even with Before Midnight—people wouldn’t think that film’s a comedy, in fact it’s an extreme opposite of it—when they fight in the movie, Julie and I think that’s pretty funny. Celine and Jesse don’t think it’s funny, far from it; but we, the audience, do. And I like that mixture—a little uncomfortable, a little real. I think it’s the right approach to a movie and to life.

Do you ever find it surprising that living in Austin, outside of Hollywood and the studio system, you have managed to have such a spectacular career? Yeah, well that would be my point of view—and I guess it’s yours—but Hollywood wouldn’t look at it that way. They would look at my career as

an underachievement or a failure, you know. Whatever (chuckles). It’s all perspective. When I go to LA, I do feel like a nobody, because I don’t fit into that world so well, you know. I haven’t made all that money. What I mean is that our concerns are not exactly the same. They are sometimes, yes, but it’s nothing I think about a lot. It’s just the way it all worked out. I’m lucky to live in my own bubble and managed to make a life and living out of my kind of cinema. I’ve been lucky to get a lot of films made, because it’s hard to do, and it’s harder to do today. I think I came around at the right time. It would be tougher to get started now, doing what I’ve been able to do.

What would it take for you to come back to the studios? A superhero film?

(Laughs) I don’t know about super heroes, but I’m always on the lookout for comedies. You know, when you are trying to get a story told, some need a bigger budget and studio backing because some are inherently more commercial. So obviously, I’m not averse to that. School of Rock and Bad News Bears are good examples in the last 10 years of times I found myself way into a story where I felt I could express [something] or I was the right director for, but those are probably the only two films [I have done] that maybe would have existed without me. Like, if I wouldn’t have done them, someone else would have. None of my other films would exist as movies, you know, if I wouldn’t have done them. But those two, they are part of the system. But I like the system. It’s nice to have that support. They have $30 million, a 50 day schedule, you can do it right. It’s kind of nice to have the—if you’re lucky enough—subject matter they think it warrants. Usually, I’m in the area where they say, ‘Oh! This isn’t a very commercial movie; we’ve got to do it for nothing!’ That’s okay, but that’s tougher over the years too. Bernie would have been a studio movie 10-15 years ago, but by the time I did it, it was like an [off-beat] independent movie. n open www.openthemagazine.com 59


oldest link Analysis of DNA of a 33,000 year old fossil tooth found in southern Siberia confirms that the tooth belonged to one of the oldest known ancestors of the modern dog, says a PLOS ONE report

The Man-Dog Friendship Dogs were domesticated by humans in Europe at least 19,000 years ago

Copper Makes Tumours Grow

de agostini/getty images

science

W

hen did dog become man’s

best friend? When and how did some wolves diverge to give us the world’s first domesticated animal? According to a widely-held view, dogs were first domesticated about 15,000 years ago in eastern Asia, when humans moved from hunting-gathering to farming. According to this theory, when humans took to agriculture, they started producing large amounts of waste dumps around their settlements. Wolves started taking to this easily-available food and came to live around these settlements, eventually leading to their domestication. However, a new study published in the journal Science says this theory is incorrect, and that dogs were domesticated by men in Europe sometime between 19,000 and 32,000 years ago. The study was conducted by Finnish and German researchers who studied the DNA of various modern breeds of dog, wolf and coyote. They then compared their findings against samples from fossils of ancient animals that resembled dogs and wolves. The researchers write in the journal, ‘The geographic and temporal origins of the domestic dog

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remain controversial, as genetic data suggest a domestication process in East Asia beginning 15,000 years ago, whereas the oldest doglike fossils are found in Europe and Siberia and date to 30,000 years ago. We analyzed the mitochondrial genomes of 18 prehistoric canids from Eurasia and the New World, along with a comprehensive panel of modern dogs and wolves.’ According to the researchers, instead of having diverged from wolves with the advent of agriculture in Asia, the canine is likely to have been domesticated at camp sites of hunter-gatherers in Europe. These canines must have scavenged for leftover food and been tamed in the process. The researchers say, ‘The mitochondrial genomes of all modern dogs are phylogenetically most closely related to either ancient or modern canids of Europe. Molecular dating suggests an onset of domestication there 18,800 to 32,100 years ago. These findings imply that domestic dogs are the culmination of a process that initiated with European huntergatherers and the canids with whom they interacted.’ n

According to a study published in PNAS, scientists have found that copper in drinking water—given at the maximum levels permitted in public water supplies— accelerates the growth of tumours in mice. On the other hand, reducing copper levels reduced tumour growth. The study strongly suggests that copper is an essential factor for the growth of tumors in humans as well. However, the researchers do not think that copper causes cancer. Exposure of healthy mice to the same amount of copper via drinking water for up to two years did not result in an increased incidence of cancer. The authors suggest that copper levels could be monitored in cancer patients. n

Rising Tree Pests and Diseases The number of pests and disease outbreaks in trees and forests across the world has been increasing, according to a new study published in Science. The study shows that the experience of widespread death of trees, similar to that seen from Dutch elm disease and with the arrival last year of a new fungal disease of ash—Chalara fraxinea—has not been unique to the UK. While presenting the alarming trend, the researchers added that there is growing concern that some aspects of globalisation—in particular, high volumes and new forms of trade— may increase the risk of disease spreading and provide opportunities for genetic reassortment, which can enhance pathogenicity (the ability of an organism to cause disease). n 2 december 2013


warm or cool Colour temperature is typically recorded in kelvin, the unit of absolute temperature. Cool colours like blue and white generally have colour temperatures over 7000K, while warmer colours like red and orange lie around the 2000K mark

tech&style

Olympus OM-D E-M1 This one is for the discerning photographer and geek alike gagandeep Singh Sapra Rs 105,000

Dior w Christal Baguette Diamonds Black Python

Price on request

The Dior Christal Baguette Diamonds Black Python is embellished with 58 baguette diamonds on the flange, 232 finely cut diamonds horns set with baguette diamonds, a white gold crown set with a rose cut diamond and a black python strap. It has a marquetry dial with delicate diamonds and a personalized oscillating weight inlaid with white mother of pearl. A limited edition of ten pieces, it is a Haute Horlogerie timepiece with Elite calibre by Zenith—one of the flattest automatic movements. n

Alienware 14

I

t was like love at first sight;

a camera with retro looks, yet had the tech to take on any semi-professional camera, a body that can take on both beaches and frozen mountains, a sophisticated autofocus system and buttons for just about everything, this was like a photographer and geek’s dream come true. Three weeks with the camera, taking some shots of sporting action, landscapes, portraits and some late night star trails, the camera emerged a winner in all situations. Its in-body 5-axis image stabilisation means sharp stills or videos even at slower shutter speed. The camera’s 16 Megapixel sensor puts out some stunning images, and with its super fast autofocus system it’s easier to capture all that action. A buttons-for-everything approach means that you can change settings anytime even when you are holding up the camera to focus through its 2 december 2013

bright and sharp electronic viewfinder that comes as close to an optical viewfinder as it can. With the EM-1, Olympus has also introduced in-body HDR capabilities so you can shoot those landscapes and make them look super cool. Also included is a colour creator tool to modify the tones and colours of an image, so if you are shooting people you can add warmth, or if it is food you can add more saturation to make those colours come alive. The EM-1 also has built-in Wi-Fi. You can shoot and share pictures with your smartphone as well as remotely control the camera. The Tilt LCD makes it easy to take low-angle shots, and via a smartphone you can manage some interesting shots. The price of Rs 105,000 is for the body only. You can buy it with a bundled 12-50 mm f 3.5-6.3 lens for Rs 119,990, or with a 12-40 mm f/2.8 lens for Rs 159,000. n

Rs 113,990

The Alienware 14 is a laptop with all the power a gamer needs. It features a 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16 Gigabytes of RAM and 750 GB of storage. It runs all its graphic processing functions using a NVIDIA GT 765M graphic card that handles any game you throw at it. Though the machine heats up quite fast and is slightly noisy, if you are a gamer you would be using noise cancellation headsets and this may not matter. The 14 has a sharp full HD display and a magnesium alloy body with an aluminium lid. n Gagandeep Singh Sapra is The Big Geek at System3. He can be reached at gadgets@openmedianetwork.in

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CINEMA

author to Auteur Vishwas Patil, director of Rajjo, is an IAS officer, historian and Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer. He won the award in 1992 for his novel Zadazadati. Rajjo is his first film.

Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela Bhansali’s Gujarati Romeo & Juliet is beautiful but unmemorable ajit duara

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Rajjo Director Vishwas Patil cast Kangana Ranaut,

Paras Arora

Score ★★★★★

dukone , Cast Deepika Pa gh Sin eer nv Ra Leela Bhansali Director Sanjay

S

hakespeare was not original with his plots and nor is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. If Romeo and Juliet can be traced, among several other texts, to Giulietta e Romeo by Matteo Bandello, then Bhansali’s earlier films too have The Miracle Worker and The Sea Inside as their distinguished uncredited sources. Here, however, in GKRR-L, Bhansali has turned over a new leaf and given the ‘Bard of Avon’ credit. Frankly, it was not really necessary. The film has a vague and elliptical connection with the Shakespearean tragedy and seems influenced by only one sequence—and that too from Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic adaptation of the balcony scene. In other respects, the film is a colourful Gujarati folk tale set in modern times to music and dance. It is like temple architecture— with erotic sculpture frozen in time— suddenly turning to life, into the sculpted bodies of Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. The claustrophobic ambience in 62 open

the sculpture turns to life as well, and what we get in the movie is a medieval setting with new age lovers—the old eroticism replaced with the pornographic CD collection of the hero; his love messages, then sent by courier, now by cellphone. You have to acknowledge a certain originality in Bhansali’s use of the cinematic form, even as you regret the convolution of content.The story is formulaic: ‘Rajadi’ and ‘Sanera’ are two warring clans in a small desert town in Gujarat and the love across the divide, between Ram (Ranveer) and Leela (Deepika), opens old wounds and leads to fresh blood letting. Later, of course, love conquers all and heals ancient enmity, but before that happens, we have the festivals of Holi and Dussehra; we have raunchy conversation; we have the flexing of muscles and the gyrating of hips. In the end, GKRR-L is a beautifully illustrated comic book, lovely to look at but with little to remember it by. n

Now that she is riding high on some good performances, Rajjo is a very poor choice of script by Kangana Ranaut. The film is an old chestnut about a nautch girl with a heart of gold. The treatment is archaic, with no updates or concessions to modernity. Furthermore, the set design, the style of acting and the location of the story—a Kotha in Mumbai’s Nagpada—gives it the feel of a film from the 1980s. Rajjo (Ranaut) is wooed by a young college going customer, Chandu (Paras Arora), who then marries her. Naturally, he is thrown out of his house by his parents and has to support his wife by running a Chinese Fast Food place. The movie is linear in structure and has no sub-plots or seriously developed conflict. It is completely naive in the idea that it presents— that love for music and dance will conquer all obstacles and eventually lead to a happy married life for an untalented young boy and a Kotha girl who is continually harassed by her previous admirers. The casting of the leading boy is a disaster and the pairing of Arora and Ranaut almost comic. The only vaguely interesting performance is by Mahesh Manjrekar, who plays the Kotha owner, Begum, a transsexual who, it turns out, also has a heart of gold. A very poor film by Vishwas Patil. n ad

2 december 2013


Not People Like Us

R aj e e v M asa n d

A Family Affair

Zoya Akhtar doesn’t start shooting her next film till April, but the buzz surrounding the project is only getting stronger. Ram-Leela star Ranveer Singh, who replaced the director’s first choice Ranbir Kapoor, describes the movie as “The Royal Tenenbaums set on a ship”, hinting at the film’s quirky Wes Anderson-like tone. Reportedly, it’s about a dysfunctional extended family thrown together on a holiday cruise, forced to confront their many issues. On one level, the film apparently also addresses the deep-rooted hypocrisy among Indian families towards their children, in that sons are raised much more liberally than daughters. To realise these characters, Zoya has cast Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra as her sibling leads (in parts that were originally written with Ranbir and Kareena Kapoor in mind), and while no official announcement has been made, there’s talk that Anil Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia will play their parents. Meanwhile, Ranveer’s real-life ex Anushka Sharma will play the actor’s love interest in the movie. Zoya and her brother Farhan (who will once again write dialogues for his sister’s film) have denied that the story is based on their own lives, but they don’t entirely dismiss the notion that the relationship between the characters played by Priyanka and Ranveer may be somewhat inspired by their own.

“Star-crossed Lovers”

Kareena Kapoor, currently sporting an extremely toned frame, says she has “no choice but to get into solid shape,” given that she begins shooting with the very fit Hrithik Roshan from 1 December.The pair, who haven’t worked together since 2001’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, are being reunited for another Karan Johar production, Shuddhi, helmed by Agneepath director Karan Malhotra. While promoting Gori Tere Pyaar Mein with Imran Khan earlier this week, the actress told me she doesn’t stress herself out over a film’s box-office performance anymore, having been through the roller-coaster ride of success and failure for “so many years” now. She also appears a lot more stoic about major film projects that didn’t materialise. Of Ram-Leela, which was famously offered to her first, she says: “Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) and I are like star-crossed lovers. It never seems to work out.” Of Zoya Akhtar’s offer that fell through after Ranbir Kapoor dropped out of the film, Kareena says: “I’d real2 december 2013

ly love to work with Zoya someday because she’s one of the best directors in the country, but this movie probably wasn’t meant to be.” Not that she’s nursing a grudge against her cousin Ranbir for nixing the offer. One hears Kareena got along famously with the Besharam star while filming Koffee With Karan recently, and even teased him on camera about his relationship with Katrina Kaif. “I’ve got my lehenga ready for your wedding,” she reportedly told him. “And I’ve been rehearsing the steps to Sheila ki Jawaani and Chikni Chameli,” she ragged. Kareena may not be working with Zoya this time round, but she has said ‘yes’ to starring opposite Farhan Akhtar in director Dev Benegal’s film, which Farhan’s company will produce. “From doing an item song in Don [which he directed], to being his heroine,” she says, “this will be interesting.”

A Fine Friendship

She arrived in Bollywood as a breath of fresh air, making a lasting impression with her natural performances. Early in her acting career, she’s being spoken of as an artiste with immense potential, and one for the ages. The tabloids haven’t found any scandals, no skeletons in her cupboard, no secret boyfriend, nothing really to embarrass her yet, although she’s been repeatedly linked to the director of her debut film, with whom she made another hit film recently. The actress, for her part, has dismissed the romantic rumours, never denying however that they’re close buddies. So close, in fact, that it appears the director has a flat in the same building in which the actress lives, just a few floors below her. They reportedly share a domestic help, and common meals are often prepared for both homes. Neighbours living in the same building are used to seeing the actress visit the director at his home, and neither makes any effort to hide their friendship as if they were up to something sneaky. There’s been some talk that the director has snagged an A-list male star to feature in his next film, and word in the trade is that his favourite actress will naturally be paired opposite the superstar. n Rajeev Masand is entertainment editor and film critic at CNN-IBN open www.openthemagazine.com 63


open space

In the Shadows No Longer

by r au l i r a n i

Backstage at the ramp walk and dance performance by transgender and hijra community members at the second national Hijra Habba in Delhi, two participants await their turn in the spotlight. The event is organised by Pehchan in collaboration with the UNDP to promote social justice and the empowerment of India’s transgender and hijra communities

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2 december 2013



OPEN Magazine 2 December 2013