Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Singhania, Kanpur and Bollywood

Many families in India own business empires – the Tatas, Ambanis, Bajajs, Modis et al.
But Bollywood always zeroes in on the surname Singhania when it has to portray a tycoon rolling in wealth.
The latest example is the movie Humshakal.
In the movie, Saif Ali Khan is Ashok Singhania, a magnate settled in London who uses a helicopter instead of a car.
Earlier, Aamir Khan in Ghajini was Sanjay Singhania, an industrialist.   
I have often wondered why the Hindi film industry picks only Singhania.
I am yet to watch a movie in which the protagonist is Sanjay Godrej or Sanjay Birla or Sanjay Bajaj.
Are the surnames Tata and Birla synonymous with people who are like money-minting machines and don’t have time for romance?
Is the surname Ambani not hip enough to suit an actor like Aamir Khan or Saif Ali Khan or Akshay Kumar?
Will the audience think only about refrigerators when the main character is Sanjay Godrej on the screen?
Perhaps the surname Singhania suggests a bit of everything – wealth, grandeur, suaveness and romance. And may be, it is not overexposed like Tata, Ambani, Bajaj or Godrej.
Kanpur was once the home to the Singhanias and fount of their JK group.
But Singhania is not a surname; it’s the distorted form of the name of a village Singhana in the deserts of Rajasthan.
A bunch of enterprising people of Singhana found it too small for doing business and migrated to Kannauj, around 80 kilometres east of the Kanpur in the mid nineteenth century. The locals of Kannauj started calling them Singhania and today the name stands for wealth and richness. The story is more or less similar to the Kauls becoming Nehrus.
The family later shifted to Kanpur that under the British was developing and Juggilal Singhania set up a textile mill in the city.

But it was under the entrepreneurship of his grandson Padampat Singhania that the family came to own a conglomerate, manufacturing textile, paint, wool, tyres, steel, ice, cosmetic products, vegetable oil, brushes…….

Saturday, 10 May 2014

बनारस में वोटों की गिनती के समय जब एक भाजपा कार्यकर्ता चल बसा

वाक्या बनारस मे  साल 2009 के  लोक सभा चुनाव का है. वोटों की गिनती हो रही थी.

चार दिग्गज नेता मैदान में थे - बनारस के निर्वितमान सांसद रजेश मिश्रभारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) के राष्ट्रीय नेता मुरली मनोहर जोशी,  बहुजन समाज पार्टी (बसपा) के मुख्तार अंसारी और समाजवादी पार्टी (सपा) के अजय राय.        

टक्कर मुख्यतः जोशी और अंसारी के बीच थी. पर जोशी अपनी जीत के प्रति आश्वस्त थे.

सुबह जैसे ही वोटों की गिनती शुरु हुई तो जोशी आगे चल्ने लगे. पर जैसे ही  मुस्लिम बाहुल्य क्षेत्रों के मतों की गिनती शुरु हुईजोशी अनसारी से पिछडने लगे. भाजपा वालों को लगने लगा कि शायद अंसारी ही जीत जायेँगे।

पार्टी के एक वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्त्ता श्रीगोपाल साबू को दिल तो दौर पड़ गया. अंत में जीते तो जोशी ही पर जीत क जश्न मनाने से पहले ही श्रीगोपाल साबू की मौत हो गयी. 

सार यह है की नेता कितना भी बड़ा होपरिणाम क्या होगा कोई नही बता सकता.

यह बात शायद भाजपा और पार्टी की प्रधान मंत्री पद के दावेदार नरेन्द्र मोदी भी समझतें हैं और शायद जीत के लिये कोई कोर कसर नही छोड़ रहें हैं और किसी भी पहलू को न अनदेखा कर रहें है न उनछुआ रख रहें है.             

भाजपा द्वारा नरेन्द्र मोदी के नाम की वाराणसी से उम्मीदवारी कि घोषणा के कुछ दिनों बाद ही आम आदमी पार्टी के अरविन्द केजरीवाल ने वहीं से चुनाव लड़ने का ऐलान कर दिया. 

वाराणसी के वरिष्ठ पत्रकार बिनय सिंह कहतें हैं, "जैसे ही केजरीवाल मैदान में उतरें हैंटक्कर कांटें कि हो गयी है हम लोगों को चौबीस घंटे चौकन्ना रहना पड़ रहा है."  

आम आदमी पार्टी (आप) देश की सबसे नयी राजनीतिक पार्टी है और दिल्ली विधान सभा के चुनाव में पहली बार किसी चुनावी अखाड़े में उतरी। आप ने गैर पारम्परिक तरीके से चुनाव लड़ा. जहाँ कांग्रेस और भाजपा ने बड़ी बड़ी सभाएं कीआप ने रोड शो  और नुक्कड़ सभाएं की. 
दुसरे  पार्टीयों के कद्दावर नेताओं ने वोट माँगा तो आप के समर्पित कार्यकार्ताओं ने घर घर में प्रचार किया। दुसरे नेताओं से अलग पहचान बनाने के लिये अरविन्द केजरीवाल ने गाँधी टोपी पहननी शुरु की और लोगों को अपने साथ जोड़ने  लोगों को भी टोपी बांटी.           

नतीजा - आप ने दिल्ली विधान सभा में सबसे ज़्यादा सीटें जीती. 

आम तौर  पर जब चुनाव प्रचार  समाप्त हो जाता है तब पार्टी  कार्यकर्त्ता घर-घर जाकर वोट माँगते हैं. पर भाजपा ने आम आदमी पार्टी क तरीका अपनाते हुए अरविन्द केजरीवाल के बनारस से उम्मीदवारी घोषित होते ही घर घर प्रचार शुरु कर दिया.   

बनारस में गर्मी ने 40 का आंकड़ा पार कर लिया है. दोपहर के समय घर घर प्रचार करना मुश्किल काम है. इसलिए भाजपा कार्यकर्ताओं की टुकड़ियां पैम्फलेट और अन्य चुनाव सामग्री से लैस हो कर तकड़े  6  बजे ही पूरे शहर में फैल जाती हैं. 

कुछ टुकड़ियां वाराणसी  चोराहों पे खड़े हो कर लोगों को केसरिया टोपी जिसपे लिख होत है 'मोदी फॉर पी एमबांटना शुरु कर देतें हैं. पूछने पर भाजपा कार्यकार्ता इस बात से इंकार करते हैं कि वह आप की नकल कर रहें हैं. भाजपा कार्यकार्ता मोहन सिंह ने कहा, यह टोपी तो गाँधी जी की वजह से लोकप्रिय हूई थी. 

चुनाव विश्लेषक मनोज त्रिपाठी कहते हैं, "जिस तरह से भाजपा चुनाव प्रचार के गैर-पारम्पपरिक तरीकों को अपना रही है उसको देख के कह जा सकते है कि पार्टी अरविन्द केजरीवाल से हिली हुई है. कहीँ एक आशंका है. वाराणसी से मोदी की जीत के लिए पूरी तरह से आश्वस्त नहीं है. आत्म विश्वास तो ठीक है पर अति-आत्मा-विश्वास धोका दे जाएं तो ?" 

वे कहते हैं, " शायद इसीलिये भाजपा कोई कोर कसर नहीं छोड़ रही. हर मतदाता को लुभा रही है - चाहे वो  ब्राह्मण हो या भूमिहार या महीला." 

वाराणसी में वोटरों की संख्या क़रीब 16 लाख है. जाति के हिसाब से 3 लाख ब्राह्मण, 1.75 लाख भूमिहार, 1.5 ठाकुर, 4 लाख ओबीसी, 2.2 दलित, 2.5 मुस्लिम मतदाता हैं. 

तीन लाख ब्राह्मण वोटरों को लुभाने के लिये अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी क खूब सहारा लिया है भाजपा ने. शायद ही ऐसा कोई पार्टी कार्यक्रम और प्रेस कॉन्फ़्रेन्स हुआ हो जिसमे जो होर्डिंग लगए  थे उसमें अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी की तस्वीर न रही हो.   

कांग्रेस के टिकट पर मोदी के सामने हैं एक कद्दावर भूमिहार नेता अजय राय. भाजपा 1.75 लाख भूमिहार वोटरों को नहीं खोना चाहती है. भूमिहार वोटरों को अपने पक्ष में करने की ज़िम्मेदारी पार्टी ने स्वर्गीय नेता कृष्णानंद राय की पत्नि अलका राय को सौँप रक्खी है. अलका राय वर्तमान में विधयक हैं.  

पूर्वांचल के बड़े नेता वाराणसी में ही डटे हैं. दुसरे बड़े नेता भी वाराणसी पहुँच चुके हैं या पहुँच रहें हैँ.    

मनोज त्रिपाठी कहते हैं, "वड़ोदरा में मोदी के चुनाव प्रचार के लिये कोई नहीं गया. स्वयं मोदी भि नहीं। पर वाराणसी में सभी की इतनी सक्रियता क्यों?"   


 वाराणसी में मत 16  मई को पड़ने हैं. ऊँट किस करवट बैठेगा यह  16 मई को पता चलेग. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Which two BJP candidates won in 1984?

Recently, while browsing channels I stopped at News 24 or News Express. The presenter was analyzing the rise of the BJP.
She repeated – from two seats in 1984 to 85 seats in 1989….I was hoping that she would name the two BJP parliamentarians. But she did not. Perhaps she did not know. I was too lazy to check Wikipedia immediately. But I had become curious.
Every columnist, every anchor always mentions that the BJP’s tally, from two in 1984 rose to 85 in 1989. But they never name the candidates who had won.
A couple of days later, I sheepishly asked the question to the chief reporter of a leading newspaper of Kanpur. He answered very casually, “Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one of the victorious candidates.”
And who was the other candidate?
After a couple of seconds, he said, “But naturally L.K. Advani.”
And from which constituencies did they win?
“Atal Bihari from Vidisha and Advani from Gandhi Nagar.”
I was not satisfied with the answers. I decided to check.
In 1984, neither Atal Bihari Vajapayee had won from Vidisha nor L.K. Advani from Gandhi Nagar.
After searching frantically for about 15 minutes, I got the answers – Dr A.K. Patel (Mehsana, Gujarat) and Chandupatla Janga Reddy (Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh)


Monday, 21 April 2014

Reliving Love in the Time of Cholera

When Love in the Times of Cholera was published, the New York Times wrote about the novel, “An anatomy of love in all its forms….”
But the novel opens with the mention of unrequited love. Its first sentence is, “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
The hero of the novel is Florentino Ariza. When young, he falls in love with Fermina Daza. But her father is against the relationship and wants Fermina Daza to marry a medical doctor, Juvenal Urbino. Obeying her father’s diktat, Fermina Daza marries the doctor.
Florentino Ariza is patient. He waits. How long? Fifty-one years, nine months and four days.
When Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies in a freak accident, Folorentino Ariza, 76 and still single, once again proposes to Fermina Daza. The funeral is just over and he tells her, “I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.”
The excerpt is from the first chapter. It ends with the sentence – Only then did she realize that she had slept a long time without dying, sobbing in her sleep, and that while she slept sobbing, she had thought more about Florentino Ariza than about her dead husband.
The New York Times, on publication of the novel, had said – “An anatomy of love of all its forms….” Perhaps unrequited love is also a form of love.
Newsweek in its review had rightly said, “A love story of astonishing power….”  True. For ultimately love wins over unrequited love.
For me, Love in the Time of Cholera is celebration of love.
Newsweek had also said, “….Admirers of One Hundred Years of Solitude may find it hard to believe that Garcia Marquez can have written an even better novel. But that’s what he’s done.”
I have read both novels.
One Hundred Years of Solitude holds me in awe. But I have relived Love in the Time of Cholera.  
May be still, I am still reliving. That’s the difference between the two books. 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

With Khushwant Singh dead, who will write about farts?





Bebaak.

Bebaak was the word that most Hindi news channels used for Khushwant  Singh when he died.

I agree with the news channels. Khushwant Singh was bold or audacious when it came to writing on topics that are considered taboo – sex, infidelity and above all, farting.

With Khushwant Singh dead, who is going to write about farts?

He relished writing about farts and farting. Readers also equally enjoyed what he wrote.

The present crop of writers makes me hopeless. They are prude to the level of boring me. 

Khushwant Singh spent years in researching for Delhil: A Novel. He considered it as his masterpiece.
Sample this from the novel (published by Penguin, year 1990, page 10, last paragraph) – …..A third friend joins us. He is an Upper Division Clerk in the Ministry of Defence. He is utilizing his unutilized sick leave. He disapproves of this king talk! ‘Five million Indians are dying of hunger in Bihar and all you fellows can think of is women.’ He shakes his foot, then jerks his legs like the arms of a nutcracker. He puts his feet on the chair and continues to amuse himself. A fart escapes his fat arse: poonh. He is embarrassed. He puts his feet down and apologizes: ‘Sorry, it was slip of the tongue.

While editing Yojana. Khushwant Singh was asked by the UNICEF to write a booklet on the organisation’s work in Afghanistan. While in Kabul, Khushwant Singh was joined by a photographer named PN Sharma.
Here’s what Khushwant Singh writes about Sharma in his autobiography Truth, Love and a Little Malice: An Autobiography (published by Viking, year 2002, page 197, second paragraph) – I wish I had done better as a photographer. Having failed miserably, I had to share a room with Sharma in Kabul Hotel, the only one in the city at the time…….He was an orthodox Brahmin who wouldn’t eat anything which remotely smelt of meat. Unfortunately for him, and more fortunately for me, the only cooking medium Afghans used was a raughan made of lamb fat. So for Sharma even rice pilaf was out. All he could eat was fresh fruit – juicy watermelons, luscious Kandhari grapes and pomegranates. They were no doubt good for his health but proved devastatingly wind-producing on an empty stomach. By the time we returned to our respective beds Sharma was like a jet plane. He produced a series of the most resounding farts I have ever heard. When I protested, he gave me a long lecture on the varieties of farts listed in ancient Sanskrit texts. The ones he was letting off, he assured me were uttam padvi – of the highest order and entirely free of odour.

In the same book he writes about Begum Para – ……. one-time super vamp of the India screen had put on a lot of weight after she married Nasir Khan (brother of superstar Yusuf, alias Dilip Kumar) ……

Page 250 (second paragraph)…By the time I had finished my quota of three large whiskeys, Begum Para had nine. The bottle was almost empty…..

Page 251 (first paragraph) At long last the meal came to an end. I got up to assist Begum Para with her chair…..As she stepped forward, she missed her step and once again collapsed on the ground, this time with a loud fart. She sprained her ankle and began to howl with pain, ‘Hai Rabba Main Mar Gayee!’


Friday, 16 August 2013

I am off to Trinidad

I fly to Trinidad when I am ecstatic. I go there when I am morose. I visit the island when I have nothing important to do (that happens very often).  I am once again off to Trinidad. My routine there is monotonous. I meet the same people and visit the same places there but still I never get bored.

I will find Mohun waiting for me in his Prefect as I will emerge from the airport. He will wave at me and grin. I will also wave and grin at him in return.

We will drive to Mohun’s house in Sikkim Street in St James from the airport.

The house can be seen from two or three streets away and is known all over St James. It is like a huge and squat sentry box: tall, square, two-storeyed, with pyramidal roof of corrugated iron.

Once I am in the L-shaped drawing room, I can make out it has been spruced up for me. I find the floor freshly polished, the curtains rearranged, and the morris suite and the glass cabinet and the bookcase pushed to new positions. Heaped in one corner of the drawing room are old copies of Trinidad Sentinel, the paper for which Mohun works as a reporter. I flip through the copies of the paper as Shama, Mohun’s wife, makes tea for me.    

An article written by Mohun once caught my attention. It was –
                                         
                                          DADDY COMES HOME IN A COFFIN
                                                    U.S. Explorer’s Last Journey
                                                                    ON ICE           
                                                              By M. Biswas

Somewhere in America in a neat little red-roofed cottage four children ask their mother every day, ‘Mummy when is Daddy coming home?’

Less than a year ago Daddy – George Elmer Edman, the celebrated traveller and explorer – left home to explore the Amazon.

Well, I have news for you, kiddies.
Daddy is on his way home.
Yesterday he passed through Trinidad. In a coffin.

Mohun will later take me to the Hanuman House in the High Street at Arwacas. Among the tumbledown timber-and-corrugated-iron buildings in the High Street at Arwacas, Hanuman House stands like an alien white fortress.

The house is ruled by Mohun’s mother-in-law, Mrs Tulsi and her brother-in-law, Seth. The house teems with Mrs Tulsi’s sons, daughters and sons-in-law – Owad, Chinta, Sushila, Hari, Govind….Mohun has bitter-and-sweet memories about Hanuman House.

The house has a shop named Tulsi Store facing the street. Mohun was hired to paint signs (Mohum was a painter of signs before he became a journalist) for the Tulsi Store. He fell in love with Shama, Mrs Tulsi’s daughter while painting the signs and wrote a love-letter. The letter fell into the hands of Mrs Tulsi. But as Mohun belonged to a decent Brahmin family, Shama was married to him. Mohun’s four children (including the eldest one, a son, who won the Nobel Prize for literature) were born at Hanuman House. But it was also in the same house that Mohun was beaten by one of his brothers-in-law Govind (a cordial relation developed between them later). 
  
The third stop in my itinerary is The Chase where Mohun tried his hands as a shopkeeper. The Chase is a long, straggling settlement of mud huts in the heart of the sugarcane area in Trinidad. Few outsiders go to The Chase. The people who live there work on the estates and the roads. The world beyond the sugarcane field is remote and the village is linked to it only by villagers’ carts and bicycles, wholesalers’ vans and lorries, and an occasional private motor-bus that ran to no timetable and along no fixed route. 

The Tulsis had a shop there and beyond it, a house. Mohun lived in The Chase for some time before moving to Green Vale. It was in Green Vale that he decided to have house of his own. (The result is his house in Sikkim Street). Mohun tried to build a house in Green Vale but was unsuccessful and had to return to the Hanuman House. Mohun moved to a couple of more places like the Shorthills and Mrs Tulsi’s house in Port of Spain. I want to visit those places but I am too tired. Also, Mohun has arranged a grand party for me. The occasion is special. His son, VS Naipaul is turning 81 on August 17.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

The difference between Indian politicians and American politicians

No sooner had the planning commission declared that a person earning Rs 33.3 per day was not poor that the Congress leaders started giving absurd statements.
Raj Babbar said a person could fill his belly for Rs 12 in Mumbai. Rasheed Masood commented that a person could satiate his hunger with Rs five in Jama Masjid district of Delhi. Both wanted to please the Congress high command and tell the people that the party was doing enough for the poor.  
The statements amply prove that the leaders are not aware of the ground realities. If Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood were aware of places where food is available cheap, then they should have taken journalists to those places. Journalists would have then not scouted Delhi and Mumbai looking for places where food can be bought at ridiculously low prices.
But Raj Babbar and Rasheed Masood are not the only leaders who have made absurd statements. Exactly a year back, P Chidambaram had said, ‘We are prepared to pay Rs 15 for a bottle of water, but we can't bear to pay Re 1 more for 1 kg of rice or wheat. We are prepared to pay Rs 20 for an ice cream cone, but we can't pay Re 1 more for one kilo of wheat or rice."
Wheat flour was Rs 16 per kg in a shop in my neighbourhood when Chidambaram gave the statement. The cost is Rs 21 at present – a rise of over 30 per cent.
Now let’s turn towards the US.
Every poor in the US is entitled to food stamps worth $4 every day.
Converted to Indian money, that comes to around Rs 240.
By Indian standards, Rs 240 per day is more than enough for food.
But most Americans do not think that $4 is enough. They want their government to increase the worth of the food stamps.
Governors of two states – Oregon and Colorado and mayors of four cities – Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Newark and Phoenix have spent $4 on food in one day for a week to see if the amount was enough to buy wholesome and nutritious food. They wanted to empathise with the poor of their country. Even celebrities and students joined the politicians.
Celebrated chef Mario Batali has lived with his family for a week on $4 per head per day.
An American university also asked its students to try surviving on $4 per day so that they can relate to the poor. 
Here lies the difference between an American politician and an Indian politician. The US is the oldest democracy. Hence, is it also the most mature democracy? Will the biggest democracy take time to become a mature democracy?
In India, why can’t a political leader – whether of the Congress or the BJP try living on Rs 33.3 for a day? We have witnessed Rahul Gandhi entering into the houses of the poor dalits unannounced and sharing food with them. Will he ever try living on Rs 33.3 for a day?
If Rs 33.3 is enough for a person, Sonia Gandhi should live on it for a day and show way to the people. Why only the Gandhis, Narendra Modi also can try surviving on Rs 33.3. He should gain some practical experience before attacking the Congress.

P.S. – Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi visited Amethi and Rae Bareli some time back. The death of students after mid-day meal in Bihar was the hottest news then. Couldn’t Rahul and Priyanka visited a school unannounced in either Amethi or Rae Bareli and shared food with children, just to check the quality of food being served? But they concentrated only in nurturing their constituencies.