Monday, June 30, 2008

Shakeel Siddiqui – the laugh riot

The Pakistani comedian Shakeel Siddiqui is one hell of a comedian. His every gesture, dialogue delivery is an invitation to laughter

A great spoof on shakeel and urvashi

Movie Review: Mrs and Mrs 55 (1955) (Hindi film)

A 1955 (doesn’t take a particularly perceptive person to guess that) movie that stars the talented (but doomed) Guru Dutt. The melancholic talented Guru Dutt is mostly known for his sad movies. He committed suicide in his prime

Also starring is the woman acclaimed to be the most beautiful face in Hindi cinema: Madhubala. Some might add also Madhuri Dixit to the list. Well, certainly the latter is much more talented than the former and equally beautiful. But that’s a story for another day.

Madhubala stars (and starts) as the fresh, wet behind the ears lass dominated on the domestic front by a feminist aunt…..unusual for that age. A curious sub-clause in the recently opened will of her late father; compels her to look for a short-term marriage in order to inherit her rightful millions. Of course, that’s at her aunt’s prompting. Enter Guru Dutt as the penniless cartoonist (cartoonist, and not communist as he clarifies later in the movie) who agrees to be her temporary mate. The story proceeds on usual lines with the girl and boy walking into the sunset.

Where the movie scores is in its scores (music scores, that is). Each song is lighthearted, unique, highly hummable and remembered to this day.

Where the movie scores is in its scores (music scores, that is). Each song is lighthearted, unique, highly hummable and remembered to this day.

* Dil Par Hua Aisa Jadoo: the effect of love at first sight on GuruDutt

* Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata: the girl coming of age, frolicking with her friends

* Jaane kaha mera jigar gaya ji: a delightful song picturised on the comedian Johny Walker and his love interest (who is no mean charmer herself)

* Ab toh ji hone laga kisi ki surat ka

* Neele Asman mein

* Chal diye banda nawaz

* Udhar tum haseen ho idhar hum jawaan hai

* Meri duniya lut rahi thi aur main khamosh tha

A solid set of actors is what lends a strong backbone to this movie. While GuruDutt, Lalita Pawar, Johny Walker, even Tun Tun (or Uma Devi as she is known here) are competent where acting is concerned, Madhubala makes up for the shortage in that department by her endearing acting and high cuteness quotient. If that endearing smile and spontaneity wont attract you to Madhubala, I wonder what will.

Given the times and the era in which the movie was made, one will observe a lot of variations in the proficiency of acting. But the kind of lovable set of characters that one observes cannot be found in today’s Bollywood world of standardization (or McDonaldisation as I would prefer to call it).

I wonder if Sridevi has modeled her Hindi dialogue delivery on Madhubala: the staccato, childlike (and childish) falsetto voice.

And as far as the drawbacks are concerned:

In the print I watched, the chiaroscuro is jarring at times. More black then white. 

The music runs roughshod on the dialogues at times.

You get to watch Guru Dutt sing high pitched songs with admirable economy of lip movement. Indeed he appears to be like a ventriloquist with his dummy emitting suitable noises elsewhere.

Also in line with those times, one will find parts of this film overtly chauvinistic

Aside from that, its mildly delightful with the songs, a must watch.


Guru Dutt
Johny Walker
Lalita Pawar
Yasmin & KumKum
Uma Devi (TunTun)

Dialogues: Abrar Alvi
Lyrics: Majrooh
Music: O.P.Nayyar
Directed: Guru Dutt

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More thoughts!!

O, when I am safe in my sylvan home,
I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome;
And when I am stretched beneath the pines,
Where the evening star so holy shines,
I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
For what are they all, in their high conceit,
When man in the bush with God may meet

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness.

- Shakespeare

It is because one can be frivolous that the majority do not hang themselves

- Voltaire

………..this planet is the lunatic asylum for the whole solar system

- George Bernard Shaw

…….. Headache gives the sufferer a touch of importance. All other aches sound crude and physiological, and sensitive people would not mention them. No other ailment can be so openly mentioned with impunity. You could mention headache in the most elegant social gathering and no one would be shocked by it. The only expression which is superior to headache is ‘indisposition’. Whenever I see that word I wonder what it exactly means. It is one of those curious words (like ‘inanity’ which has no ‘anity’), which do not necessarily mean the opposite without the ‘in’. You cannot say, ‘owing to disposition I am not taking the medicine,’ whereas you can say, ‘Owing to indisposition I called in the doctor.’ What exactly is this indisposition? I have never been able to understand it, except that it sounds very well in press notes or health bulletins……….

- R. K. Narayan

I definitely feel man to man, an average American is totally materialistic in the best sense of the term, work, wages, good wife, and good life – are all his main interests; while an Indian will be bothering about the next life also, in addition to all this.

- R. K. Narayan

The old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfils himself to many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world

- Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gandhi's Assassin: Nathuram Godse

I recently re-read the tome ‘The Men Who Killed Gandhi’ by Manohar Malgonkar. It comes highly recommended from me to folks who are into those kind of thrillers.

This book covers the plot to kill Gandhi from end-to-end.

But the real topic I wish to touch upon in todays post is about Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Gandhi. I am no supporter of Godse and his ilk. In fact there are many things about Gandhi that I admire. But as with everything else in life, the purest saint has some pretty quirky characteristics and the ‘supposed villain’ does have a few pertinent points to make.

Nathuram’s defense of himself is very spirited and deserves a close read by a student of Indian history. Am posting it in full here below

Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had, therefore, been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. As I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus were of equal status as to rights, social and religious and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners in which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Chamars and Bhangis participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the
company of each other.

I have read the speeches and writings of Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak, along with the books of ancient and modern history of India and some prominent countries like England, France, America and' Russia. Moreover I studied the tenets of Socialism and Marxism. But above all I studied very closely whatever Veer Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind these two ideologies have contributed more to the moulding of the thought and action of the Indian people during the last thirty years or so, than any other single factor has done.

All this reading and thinking led me to believe it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (300 million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and the well-being of all India, one fifth of human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanghtanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well.

Since the year 1920, that is, after the demise of Lokamanya Tilak, Gandhiji's influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme. His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to those slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. In fact, hunour, duty and love of one's own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust. I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and, if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. [In the Ramayana] Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita. [In the Mahabharata], Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations including the revered Bhishma because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action.

In more recent history, it was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji that first checked and eventually destroyed the Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely essentially for Shivaji to overpower and kill an aggressive Afzal Khan, failing which he would have lost his own life. In condemning history's towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhiji has merely exposed his self-conceit. He was, paradoxical as it may appear, a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and non-violence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen for ever for the freedom they brought to them.

The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately. Gandhi had done very good in South Africa to uphold the rights and well-being of the Indian community there. But when he finally returned to India he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the Judge of everyone and every thing; he was the master brain guiding the civil disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, it might bring untold disaster and political reverses but that could make no difference to the Mahatma's infallibility. 'A Satyagrahi can never fail' was his formula for declaring his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is.

Thus, the Mahatma became the judge and jury in his own cause. These childish insanities and obstinacies, coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible. Many people thought that his politics were irrational but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility Gandhi was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure, disaster after disaster.

Gandhi's pro-Muslim policy is blatantly in his perverse attitude on the question of the national language of India. It is quite obvious that Hindi has the most prior claim to be accepted as the premier language. In the beginning of his career in India, Gandhi gave a great impetus to Hindi but as he found that the Muslims did not like it, he became a champion of what is called Hindustani. Everybody in India knows that there is no language called Hindustani; it has no grammar; it has no vocabulary. It is a mere dialect, it is spoken, but not written. It is a bastard tongue and cross-breed between Hindi and Urdu, and not even the Mahatma's sophistry could make it popular. But in his desire to please the Muslims he insisted that Hindustani alone should be the national language of India. His blind followers, of course, supported him and the so-called hybrid language began to be used. The charm and purity of the Hindi language was to be prostituted to please the Muslims. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus.

From August 1946 onwards the private armies of the Muslim League began a massacre of the Hindus. The then Viceroy, Lord Wavell, though distressed at what was happening, would not use his powers under the Government of India Act of 1935 to prevent the rape, murder and arson. The Hindu blood began to flow from Bengal to Karachi with some retaliation by the Hindus. The Interim Government formed in September was sabotaged by its Muslim League members right from its inception, but the more they became disloyal and treasonable to the government of which they were a part, the greater was Gandhi's infatuation for them. Lord Wavell had to resign as he could not bring about a settlement and he was succeeded by Lord Mountbatten. King Log was followed by King Stork.

The Congress which had boasted of its nationalism and socialism secretly accepted Pakistan literally at the point of the bayonet and abjectly surrendered to Jinnah. India was vivisected and one-third of the Indian territory became foreign land to us from August 15, 1947. Lord Mountbatten came to be described in Congress circles as the greatest Viceroy and Governor-General this country ever had. The official date for handing over power was fixed for June 30, 1948, but Mountbatten with his ruthless surgery gave us a gift of vivisected India ten months in advance. This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what Congress party calls 'freedom' and 'peaceful transfer of power'. The Hindu-Muslim unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic state was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called 'freedom won by them with sacrifice' - whose sacrifice? When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country - which we consider a deity of worship - my mind was filled with direful anger.

One of the conditions imposed by Gandhi for his breaking of the fast unto death related to the mosques in Delhi occupied by the Hindu refugees. But when Hindus in Pakistan were subjected to violent attacks he did not so much as utter a single word to protest and censure the Pakistan Government or the Muslims concerned. Gandhi was shrewd enough to know that while undertaking a fast unto death, had he imposed for its break some condition on the Muslims in Pakistan, there would have been found hardly any Muslims who could have shown some grief if the fast had ended in his death. It was for this reason that he purposely avoided imposing any condition on the Muslims. He was fully aware of from the experience that Jinnah was not at all perturbed or influenced by his fast and the Muslim League hardly attached any value to the inner voice of Gandhi.

Gandhi is being referred to as the Father of the Nation. But if that is so, he had failed his paternal duty inasmuch as he has acted very treacherously to the nation by his consenting to the partitioning of it. I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan. His inner-voice, his spiritual power and his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled before Jinnah's iron will and proved to be powerless.

Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building. After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter, but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds of Birla House.

I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots.

I bear no ill will towards anyone individually but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi. I have to say with great regret that Prime Minister Nehru quite forgets that his preachings and deeds are at times at variances with each other when he talks about India as a secular state in season and out of season, because it is significant to note that Nehru has played a leading role in the establishment of the theocratic state of Pakistan, and his job was made easier by Gandhi's persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims.

I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone else should beg for mercy on my behalf. My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof some day in future.


Interviews with the assassin’s brother and co-conspirator are at

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oh! India

  • Its among the most difficult of places to travel, and the most rewarding. Some say India stands for “I’ll Never Do It Again”; many more are drawn back time and again because India is the best show on earth, the best bazaar of human experiences that can be visited in a lifetime. It has been said that there are 330 million gods in India, and there are at least that many varieties of experience available, religious or otherwise.

- From the introduction to ‘Travelers’ Tales INDIA’ edited by James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger

  • Gange Cha Yamune Chaiva
    Godavarai Saraswati
    Narmade Sindhu Kaveri
    Jale Asmin Sannidhim Kuru

    (O Holy Mother Ganges! O Yamuna!
    Godavari! Saraswati!
    O Narmada! Sindhu! Kaveri!
    May you all be pleased to be manifest in these waters with which I shall purify myself!)

    Prayer to the Seven Sacred Rivers recited by every devout Hindu at the time of taking his bath

- Eric Newby, Slowly Down the Ganges

  • In India, conversation often seemed to go round in circles. In Chittaurgarh (City of Valour….), the man at the guest house knocked on my door and said, “Sir. Good evening but your country of origin is what please?”

    “You’ve already written it down five times on five different bits of paper,” I said

    “What is the first name of your father?”

    “You’ve written that five times as well.”

    “In the morning,” he said, “you are wishing for a breakfast mealing?”

    “Yes, that would be very nice. You have porridge?” I inquired hopefully.

    “Porridge – yes.”

    “How much your porridge?” I asked, surprised.

    “Porridge three rupee only.”

    “Okay. One bowl porridge in the morning please.”

    “Porridge? No, no porridge”

    “But you just said porridge – yes.”

    “No. Omelette, chapati.”

    “Do you have yoghurt – dahi?”

    “Dahi, Yes.”

    “Okay, I’ll have dahi then.”

    “You want omelette?”

    “No, just dahi.”

    “No problem omelette.”

    “No, just dahi”

    “Just dahi?”

    “Yes, just dahi.”

    In the morning, I was presented with a bowl of porridge.

- Josie Dew, The Wind in My Wheels: Travel Tales from the Saddle

  • The ancient Hindus chose their temple sites with great care and they sometimes spent years looking for a place with the right power and energy. They would search for an area where cattle liked to graze. In a big pasture the cows always had a favourite place.

    Likewise, dogs were considered to be a good sign. If dogs were found wandering among the cattle, then the site was perfect. But any sign of a cat in the field, and the site was abandoned. According to the ancients, dogs and cows attracted positive energies, whereas cats were definitely negative.

    The priests tethered the cows and left them there for forty-one days. Then they slaughtered the cows and checked their internal organs. If any of the beasts showed signs of disease then the priests looked for another place. If the cattle were all healthy, the construction of the temple went ahead

- Peter Holt, In Clive’s Footsteps

  • ……It is karma that brings joy or sorrow
    Willing or unwilling, we live by our karma.
    Observe the potter shaping his pots
    Some break on the wheel,
    Some crack after removal from the wheel,
    Some spoil when wet, some when dry,
    Some burst while being fired,
    Some after removal from the kiln,
    Some shatter in use…..,
    So some of us die in the womb,
    Some immediately after birth,
    Some a day later,
    Some a fortnight later, some a month,
    Some after one year, some after two,
    Some in youth, some in middle age, some in old,
    Their karma determines it all.
    This is the way the world is -
    So what is the point of grieving?
    Swimmers dive,
    then emerge from the water;
    So creatures sink into,
    and emerge from the stream of life.

- The Mahabharata of Vyasa (The Eleventh Book: The Woman), as quoted by Mala Sen in India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi

  • Dense clumps of sugarcane had spread through the fields here and provided refuge for numerous cobras. A lot of people were bitten by them, Ranjan said, but forceful eradication was impossible for religious reasons. Instead nonviolent persuasion was traditionally practiced.

    The great event took place every year at the time of the November half-moon when a large contingent of snake charmers appeared on the scene. The snake charmers located the ants’ nests in which the cobras had taken up residence and played music to induce them to leave their holes. They were then fed with milk, molasses, and the only recently discovered gastronomic inducement, popcorn, which had become their favourite food.

    The ceremony of feeding at an end, each cobra was presented with a new dhoti, afte which the priest would wish them a happy and successful year and beg them to cease to bite members of his community

- Norman Lewis, A Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India

  • When I stopped in London on my way home from India, the city appeared empty, and disarmingly quiet. I felt, most of all, ignored: I actually had to hail the taxis, rather than wait for them to tear up beside me and shout me down with offers. Londoners left me alone, and I was lonely for the first time in months. The streets seemed like dormant movie sets – how I imagined Disneyland would look at five in the morning.

    Shoppers paid whatever the price tag said; cows were confined to Cadbury advertisements. As the Swedish sadhu had warned, I was bored within days. After the novelty of leavened bread and tap water had worn off, I’d grown impatient with the city’s pace.

    I boarded a shiny bus for Hampstead. People sat two seats apart, eyes averted, and coughed silently to themselves. I got off the bus at the Everyman Cinema and bought a matinee ticket for Salaam Bombay!

- Peter Jon Lindberg, “The Confounding Allure of India,” The New York Times

  • “I’m losing my serenity,” I hissed at a bank clerk after having spent all day trying to untangle currency problems which would have taken ten minutes to solve at home.

    “Madam,” he answered, “it takes many years to attain serenity. One does not lose it in a day.”

- Cheryl Bentley, “Enchanted”

  • 54 million tribals in India are roughly the equivalent of the combined metropolitan populations of New York City, Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro, London and Shanghai. Put another way, this is nearly the entire population of France, or Italy, or Egypt, which all weigh in at about 57 million

- James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger

  • No other nation has ever known such a natural diversity of tongues, the result, for the most part, of slow evolution since the beginning of mankind. No other country has lived with so complicated a past so equably, assimilating everything that has happened to it, obliterating naught, so that not even the intricate histories of European states have produced such a rich pattern as that bequeathed by the Mauryas, the Ashokas, the Pahlavas, the Guptas, the Chalukyas, the Hoysalas, the Pandyas, the Cholas, the Mughals, and the British – to identify only a few of the peoples who have shaped India’s inheritance. Nor is there another land that constantly provokes in the stranger such elation and despair, so much affection and anger, by powerful contrasts, and irreducible opposites of behaviour; wickedness and virtue, caring and indifference, things bewitching and disgusting and terrifying and disarming, often in quick succession. India has nuclear power and other advanced technology close by some of the most obscene slums in creation; she has never failed to hold democratic elections at the appointed time, yet those too frequently elevate men whose own votes can be bought with rupees and other emoluments; she has a high and mightly self-esteem and a taste for moral posturing which equals anything suffered by her people when the British were here; she has been capable of unparalleled generosity to her last imperial rulers, but she bickers endlessly and meanly with her closest neighbour and twin; she gave birth to the creed of massive nonviolent protest and once practiced this effectively, yet in the first generation of independence she has assassinated three of her own leaders, starting with the begetter of satyagraha….Such contradictions and anomalies as these run through India from end to end and help to make her incomparable.

    …………………….Plenty of Westerners do not survive their initial experience of the subcontinent, fleeing in anxiety, in disgust, and with indignation from its darkness, condemned never to know it properly. But many more are vouchsafed in that first encounter a glimpse of something so enchanting, so inspiring, so utterly and attractively outside all previous experience, that they know they will return as often as possible, to be thrilled by it afresh.

- Geoffrey Moorhouse

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The 6 Thinking Hats – Edward de Bono

  • Devised in 1985
  • The hats allow joint exploration of a subject
  • They require each individual fully to explore a subject (using the ‘hat’ mode of thinking) rather than just to make and defend a case (or a mode of thinking)
  • They provide a quick method of switching thinking
  • The hats replace the ego and aggression with the challenge thoroughly to explore a subject.
  • The metaphor of 6 colored hats is used where the hats provide a strong and neutral symbol of requesting a certain type of thinking
    • White Hat
      • means information.
      • When it is used, everybody is focusing on information
      • …….not a question of one person saying something and the other disagreeing
      • Information can be hard facts or soft information like rumours, personal experience etc.
    • Red Hat
      • Represents emotions, feelings and intuition
      • In this you do not have to give any reasons at all for your feelings.
      • You just express your feelings
      • Intuition is complex…….the thinker may not even be aware of all the components that go into the judgement
    • Black Hat
      • Is the basis of critical thinking
      • It points out dangers, faults and problems
      • It covers all ‘caution’ aspects
    • Yellow Hat
      • Under it we look for values, benefits and why something should work
      • It stands for ‘value sensitivity’.
    • Green Hat
      • Is the productive/generative/creative hat
      • It asks for ideas, alternatives, possibilities and design
    • Blue Sky
      • Its role is to organize the other hats and the thinking
      • Its answers the questions: What are we here for? What is the end goal?