Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll

February 23, 2009

Tonight is Mahasivarathri. And while Valentine’s Day is not part of our culture, Mahashivratri definitely is. I urge you to go out and celebrate it with devotion and piety.

The best way to celebrate is with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. By having sex, you will be following in the divine example set by Mahadeva Himself.

The earth with its serpent and tortoise trembled, oppressed by the weight of the excessive amorous play of the two powerful deities, the god with his sakti. Because of the burden of the tortoise, the very air which supports everything was compressed solid, and the three worlds were agitated with fear. Then all the gods went with Brahma to take refuge in Hari, and, dejected at heart, they reported everything that had happened: ‘God of gods, husband of Lakshmi, lord, saviour of everyone, protect us; we have come to you for refuge, for our minds are disturbed by fear. The breath of the triple world is compressed solid, and we do not know the cause; the triple world, moving and still, with all the sages and gods, is agitated.’ 

‘The great lord Siva, the lord of all, has gone into the dwelling place of Parvathi, the daughter of the mountain, after staioning us here; he is an expert in the various forms of love-play.’

When the great god, expert in the knowledge of yoga, heard this, he lost his desire but still he did not cease his erotic play, for he was afraid of Parvathi.

(The Shiv Purana)

This just goes to show the benefits of Savism – incredibly good sex that makes not just the earth, but also heaven and hell move. Vaisnavites will of course try to respond by bringing up Krishna and the 1000 gopikas – but did Krishna ever make the triple worlds tremble? Choose quality over quantity, people!

Drugs would also be appropriate tonight:

This is the point where the stories converge. The pair in M___, asked for “Bam bam boley ka samaan” (Bam Bam Boley’s stuff). Pardon them, they were both Tam-Brahms. While the group in M___, asked for “Shivji ka prasaad”. Both the parties, found what they were looking for.

(22nd floor)

And of course, there’s rock and roll. Shiv’s attendants, the ganas, are the original death metal band, or even Hell’s Angels:

Descriptions of the Ganas vary from the wholly abstract – representing the fundamental categories of existence, to somewhat negative descriptions of them being deformed, grotesque, dwarfs or night-walking spirits of gross and lustful appetite. It is said they had acquired the capacity to change shapes whenever they liked, could move about invisibly and fly. They flung Shiva’s enemies into ravines and dashing them to the ground in their rage. Moreover, they were fond of music and dancing, and occasionally enticed women into their embrace.

From Indian Witchcraft by R.N Saletore comes a description of the ganas:

“…a princess Rupinika was advised how to look like a Gana. She had to shave her head with a razor in such a manner that five locks were to be left, then she was to wear a necklace around her neck of skulls and stripping off her clothes, paint one side of her body with lamp-black and the other with red lead so that in this way she could resemble a Gana and find it easy to gain admission into heaven.”

(The Ganas: Hooligans of Heaven)

Honestly, how different is that from this?

I urge all of you to celebrate Mahasivarathri by bringing sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll into your lives. Please remember that it is part of our glorious culture. And if we don’t have our culture, what do we have?


February 22, 2009

He has been out of Delhi so long that he has forgotten what weddings there are like. So when the invitation card says 7 pm, he arrives at 7.30. Once there, he discovers that the bride and groom and their relatives are nowhere to be found. He is the only guest over there, apart from one slightly chubby girl who is standing outside and talking on her cellphone. He has a vague suspicion that he has seen the same girl at every wedding he has ever been to, and that she is not actually a guest but a prop that all caterers carry along. Effectively, he is the only person there.

On the bright side of things, this means that Kitty Auntyji is not around. And the catering staff is on time and they are serving tandoori mushrooms and paneer tikkas.

He is slightly outraged. He has shaved on a weekend, put on uncomfortable shoes and ironed a dress shirt, and for all this effort, landed up at an empty banquet hall. It isn’t fair. So he grabs the tikkas from the passing waiters and broods.

When he used to be in Bangalore and go to his friends’ weddings there, Dig weddings would start promptly and end as promptly so that all the guests could move on to lunch. TamBram weddings would also start promptly though they would do this six hours earlier and end with breakfast instead. And moreover they did not impose these ridiculous dress requirements. He used to go in jeans, t-shirt, and stubble, and nobody bothered. He wonders what it is about Delhi weddings that encourages this tardiness.

He suddenly realises that he has already found the answer – in Bangalore, weddings are centred around breakfast or lunch, which cannot be put off. In Delhi, weddings and receptions are held at night, and dinner can be put off to midnight or even further as long as the guests are fed enough snacks uptil then so that they don’t revolt and march off. But this has started a vicious cycle of later and later dinners, and in turn has led to guests and organisers coming later and later. Now it is impossible for any wedding in Delhi to start on time. The snacks which seemed like such a good idea thirty years ago have led to the collapse of punctuality.

It is all the fault of the paneer tikkas that he is standing here out in the cold with nobody talk to. He reflects gloomily on this. And then, because he can’t help it, he has another one.

The Upstart Pink Chaddis

February 21, 2009

Continuing my grand tradition of blogging about things long after they take place, I draw your attention to some astoundingly dumb MSM commentary about the Pink Chaddi Campaign.

First is this Pioneer editorial by Kanchan Gupta. It isn’t even worth a fisk – just three questions:

  1. Did Kanchan Gupta even bother to visit the facebook group before he wrote this?
  2. Does Kanchan Gupta seriously think that the Coalition of Loose etc. Women is actually promoting alcoholism and promiscuity or does he suffer from sarcasm deficiency?
  3. Does Kanchan Gupta even know that something called sarcasm exists?

Then, there was Sagarika Ghose’s editorial in the Hindustan Times (linking to IBN site ‘cos the HT site is throwing errors). After spending a considerable amount of time trying to extract meaning from her ramble, I have concluded that she is accusing the Pink Chaddi Campaign of being frivolous,

Which is why the battle for freedom and the battle for progress must be a sensible and a rational one; it can’t be a trivial battle where we fling coloured underwear at maniacs.

the modern youth of today of flaunting their modernity and youth,

Maybe India’s young instead of trying to be like characters from Sex In The City, should try to emulate Sarojini Naidu and Jawaharlal Nehru. While the ghastly cultural hoodlums must be dealt with sternly by the law and handed out exemplary and speedy punishment, the lifestyle norms we choose, especially in public places, must be attuned somewhat at least to our surroundings.

and for good measure, suggests that everyone follow in the footsteps of the elites of the 1950s.

We must learn from the Nehruvians of the 40s and 50s who were incredibly westernised, but deeply rooted; many of whom were rich but lived modest tasteful lives. They drank, they smoked and they romanced, yet they were discreet and embodied a tradition of Indian elitism that was rooted in both excellence as well as tradition.

I suppose that as the senior editor of a channel which has popularised the SMS poll as a form of discourse, and maniacs screaming at each other as a form of debate, Sagarika Ghose is well placed to comment on the frivolity or triviality of a particular exercise.

As far as the point about flaunting modernity or being discreet is concerned, I think it’s a remarkable idea and should be followed to the hilt. If you are fortunate enough to have liberal parents, or rich enough to own your own farmhouse where your servants can tend to all your guests, you can enjoy your drink. If you’re merely aspiring middle class and need to go to public spaces for your leisure – you know, like most of Sagarika Ghose’s viewers – you should just suppress your urges or you might spark off a revolution. (Note: Ravikiran has plaigarised my blogpost and backdated it. Cheater!)

Anyway, to ward off painful arguments in the comments, let me also say:

  1. The dichotomy of alcoholism-promiscuity / sobriety-traditionalism was started not by the Pink Chaddiers, but by the Ram Sene. In that case, if people respond to it by saying that they’d pick being drunk, promiscuous and ridiculous to being suppressed and not allowed to exercise their freedom, that’s entirely justified.
  2. Yes, the Pink Chaddi Campaign is frivolous. So? Indian public protests are usually trivial and accomplish nothing. At least this one was amusing and creative, which got it much more footage and participation than it would have otherwise. And who’s to say that it won’t be the platform for something much more productive some time down the line? A collection of passionate people has its own value.
  3. In case you plan to use the “how would you feel if it was your sister!” argument, please note that a) I don’t have a sister, b) what my hypothetical sister does on her time is not your concern, c) what my hypothetical sister does on her time is not my concern, either.

Taking on the Moral Police

February 7, 2009

I tried very hard to make a quis custodiet ipsos custodes joke in the title, but I couldn’t get a decent one. Anyway.

So after the Shri Ram Sene ran amuck in Mangalore, some other people have decided to stand up either against idiots who think culture gives them a free pass to beat up people, or for people who just want to get on with life and be affectionate without being beaten up. So here’s a quick list:

First, the Delhi organisation of the Jammu-based National Panthers Party has announced that it will hit the streets on St. Valentine’s Day and beat up anyone who is annoying couples.

“The party has decided to oppose fundamentalist and communal elements that indulge in moral policing and don’t allow the youth to celebrate the day of red roses,” said Delhi NPP chief Sanjoy Sachdev.

Apart from issuing ‘beat on sight’ orders, the NPP has also sought police help in protecting those who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. “If red chillies and pepper fail to scare away the obstructers, our activists will resort to judo and karate tactics,” said Sachdeva, the self-appointed patron saint of lovers. “And this will continue till police arrest the trouble makers,” he added.

(Hindustan Times)

Who’s going to police the moral police? The National Panthers, that’s who!

Hari the Kid would like this to become a pan-India thing, and proposes to start off in Bangalore. If you wish to assist, please let him know.

If you are non-violent, then there’s this: Stand Up to Moral Policing, which wants help and volunteers for a peaceful protest march in Delhi. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any idea beyond a protest march, but hopefully that will just be a start.

What if you approve of public display of affection, but also are a fan of Our Glorious Culture? Then this is probably what you should be considering: Kamasutra Day – A Truly Indian Cultural Event. On a side note, it would be awesome if xkcd listed the numerical equivalents and baseball positions for all the Kamasutra and Khajuraho positions.

And if you don’t give a damn about culture, there’s The Coalition of Pubgoing Loose and Forward Women.

Wasting Your Word Limit

February 7, 2009

Shiv Viswanathan and Sadanand Menon annoy me. They both have columns/ op-eds up about the Mangalore pub incident which hint at some interesting ideas. But these guys can’t seem to realise that writing for newspapers is not the same as academic writing. There’s so academic or generally postmodern jargon in their pieces, that only the most dedicated general reader won’t flee in terror. And even when you have a reader like me who struggles through the piece anyway, there’s a sense of annoyance at the end of it – if there hadn’t been so much jargon, these guys could have spent more of their word limit exploring their genuinely interesting fundaes.

Let’s take a look at Shiv Viswanathan first:

In India, the word ‘culture’ is used in a variety of ways. Culture refers to an identity, an umbilical chord, an epidermis, a pretext for rationalising behaviour, and an everyday habit. It is a second skin. But politicised, it has a different meaning. The historical dictum that nationalism is the last refuge of scoundrels can be extended to culture, which has become the last refuge of every goon wishing to join politics.

This paragraph is just a series of buzzwords. Sure, culture could be an epidermis and an umbilical cord, but how is that relevant to the rest of the article? If I was being charitable to Shiv Viswanathan, I’d think he was writing this in a stream of consciousness style. If I wasn’t, I’d accuse him of faffing.

The park and pub are probably the two public spaces easily available for younger people. Both get disciplined in the name of an imaginary “public” and an imagined “culture”. Let us not dub this as moral policing, a variant of the thought police made legendary by Orwell in 1984. Policing in India is a strange function. Parents, neighbours, peer groups, the crowd, all police you. In fact, policing is performed in India by everyone except police. So moral policing is misleading because it is not an act of censorship. What one witnessed is plain brutality justified in terms of half-baked politics. Beyond exclusion and negation these parties have no programme.


This bit is the genuinely interesting one – it has an idea about public spaces, and who actually owns or shares these. But it isn’t built upon. Again, to be fair, it may not have been his main point – he concentrates more on violence and dialogue towards the end – but if he didn’t spend so much time faffing and using jargon he would have more space with which to explore the good ideas.

We face a clash of two limited ideas of culture both claiming a set of virtues. If one claims “freedom” the other claims “duty” and “tradition”. Both are ersatz ideas of culture. Both need a hearing as long as they avoid violence. In fact it is violence that enfeebles the sena idea of culture. The sena idea of politics is what needs to be challenged. Whether as Ram Sene or Shiv Sena, its politics is illiterate and it sees violence as the answer to any dissenting, ethnic, marginal group asserting itself. The police, who probably share these values, watch in complicity. Only the media’s sense of outrage creates it as an event. To legislate on morals and aesthetics through such violence is futile.

(New Indian Express)

Ersatz? Does anybody outside the JNU campus even know what that means? Couldn’t he just have said substitute or phony or proxy? And again, there are far too many repeated statements – he’s saying the same thing over and over again. If there had been an exploration of how the hearing of the two ideas in a non-violent environment was to be conducted, that would actually have been valuable. But no. Shyeah!

Then there’s Sadanand Menon. This is actually one of his less jargon filled pieces. I read his monthly column in Better Photography and my head spins at the language he uses there (and this is a magazine where the majority of the readership probably doesn’t even have English as a first language). But anyway – here are the interesting and the bad bits from his piece:

In Chennai, going to buy liquor from the government controlled TASMAC shops is an utterly anti-civilisational, self-demeaning act. The atmosphere around these shops is filthy beyond description. You have to gingerly manoeuvre your steps between dollops of spit and phlegm, remains of old and fresh vomit, broken bottles, remains of the plastic pouches in which vendors sell kadalai (boiled gram) and pickles, puddles of piss in the corners, drunks lying sprawled in the muck and a general air of depravity and squalor which beggars imagination.

From such a scene of apostasy, which even a Victor Hugo would have been hard put to capture in Les Miserables, to reach say Kathmandu, is a culture shock. Here you can walk into a vegetable or provision store and buy Khukhri Rum at a price that can wean you off water for ever. Or in Panjim, where everything is bright, clean, transparent, open and civilised. Mahe has some of the most stylish and well-designed wine shops.

The regime of controls, bans, prohibitions and state monopolies, besides being anti-democratic, never achieves its purpose. It only produces a sort of moral cramping, an aesthetic stunting. Alcohol consumption must be re-invested with the dignity and decency of democratic choice where the State, instead of treating alcohol merely as a source for revenue generation, also acknowledges its potential for mature socialising, conviviality and celebration.

There must also be a parallel movement to offer a peg and a toast to the moral police, which needs to recover the best of Indian civilisation. The dehumanising effects of alcohol (as well as its grotesque retailing) can be offset by the humanising power of freedom and choice and creativity. After all, as Omar Khayyam said, ‘What can a vintner buy, half as precious as what he sells’?

(Business Standard)

So yeah. The idea that the sort of way alcohol consumption is treated in TASMAC makes it even more degrading than regular alcoholism is very interesting. So is the idea that freedom and choice are humanising. That idea is also in complete opposition to the Shiv Viswanathan piece, which pretty much relegates freedom to a secondary status. But despite the interesting idea in there, the language is painful. Why say ‘choice’ when you’ve already said ‘freedom’? Why say ‘moral cramping, an aesthetic stunting’ when you can just say ‘moral and aesthetic cramping’? It’s wasting words on repetition that could be used for exploration instead.

Recession Honeymoon

February 4, 2009

Saileshbhai had been able to get some good out of a bad situation since he was a boy. In those days, his mother used to insist that he drink milk everyday though he hated it. So he would take the glass down to the housing society’s playground and give it to the Kapoor’s Alsatian Jupiter. The Kapoors, who were Punjabi, thought they should have a big dog with a pig name. Pluto was the smallest planet and fit only for Pomeranians. Anyway, after a week of this, he became friendly with the Kapoors, and Cuckoo Aunty started calling him up to have Maggi. In this way the young Sailesh turned milk into Maggi.

He continued to get some good out of everything his whole life. He had bad marks in maths in Class IX, but this meant that he joined maths tuition classes along with Savita Patel, who allowed him to squeeze her breasts. Three years later, Saileshbhai couldn’t get into Narsee Monjee for his B Com. So he enrolled in the nearby Thakur College and used the time he saved commuting to start his business doing wholesale trading of electronics. Now Saileshbhai was the biggest distributor of iPods and Sony Handycams in the Western Suburbs.

But even the current recession had Saileshbhai stumped. Business had dried up. People were so busy paying their home loan EMIs and credit card bills that they were no longer buying consumer electronics. He would lie awake, wondering what good could happen now.

After a month of sleepless nights, Saileshbhai had a brainwave and got into the package tour business. He catered to honeymooners who had to economise because the recession had wiped out their demat account balances. He offered two weeks in Singapore and Penang for five thousand rupees, All Countries of Europe tour (Jain cuisine available) for twelve thousand rupees, and East-to-West America Las Vegas Special for eigtheen thousand rupees.

The competition was stunned. They couldn’t understand how he made any money at those prics. But the honeymooners poured in. The tours were a roaring success. And the honeymooners recommended Sailesh Honeymoon Travels to all other newlyweds they knew.

Saileshbhai had understood his target market. He knew that honeymooners didn’t want to travel, but to show their relatives pictures of themselves in foreign. So he sent them not on Amazing South Africa Tour, but to a guest house in Alibag where they were left to themselves to do whatever they felt like. Being honeymooners, they usually didn’t leave the guesthouse much. Two weeks later, he would drop them off to their homes (Free Home Pickup and Drop!), along with a photo album with their photos morphed in front of the Eiffel Tower or Mount Titlis. He also tied up with the Original Equipment Manufacturers in Dharavi for the I♥NY souvenirs and the Merlion keychains. And he offloaded his electronics business inventory to the couples who wanted to show that they had shopped while they were abroad.

Eventually, the India Tours and Travel Journal interviewed Saileshbhai to undestand how he offered such incredibly low prices. Saileshbha smiled and said that he was always able to get some good out of bad. He never revealed anything more.