16 May 2009

The voice of India

The voice of India has announced that the Congress has won. The UPA government led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is to continue for another 5 years. More importantly, the vicious beast of communalism upon whose back the losing BJP was riding has been mercilessly crushed by the very people whom they tried to incite against the minorities.

India, whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate, has realised that the reins of power cannot be handed over to someone who wishes to take India back to the dark ages. Who wishes to murder in the name of God and then like a child point a finger and say - but he started it first.

There are no saints here. All the parties, winners and losers alike, have all been tarnished with the brush of corruption and greed. All we are able to do is choose between the lesser of the two evils. And hope that the good work continues and the bad work lessens. Either way, the government has a lot of promises to fulfil and a lot of begging bowls to fill.

My only hope is that our hope isn't snuffed out by the overconfidence and the arrogance of victory. My hope is that this government raises the bar of expectation and then supersedes it. My cynical, experienced side says I'm asking for too much. My hopeful side, the one that dragged its behind in a blistering sun to vote for them, says maybe, just maybe....

Interesting sidebar.... Every major TV channel that broadcasts in India constantly covered the last 24 hours of the election. Except CNN international. They gave it as much importance as a namby pamby interview of Musharraf by Fareed Zakaria. Is this the American approach to 'bonding with the world's largest democracy?' Or do they think that the American elections are the only ones worth covering? Shame on CNN International. The BBC on the other hand, did a smart thing. They made the coverage so scintillating and well-positioned that most Indian viewers were hard pressed to choose between popular Indian channels and the BBC.

Well, the drama is almost over. It'll be back to murky business come Monday morning. Lord help us all.

11 May 2009

M for Music. M for Manooghi Hi.

I am not, repeat NOT, a big believer in 'fusion' music or 'fusion' anything. I am hopelessly old-fashioned with my music and I don't like adulteration in any form. Don't mistake this for me not knowing my music. I'm happy to say I know music and it knows me and we have a deep and meaningful relationship that has not been interrupted for 36 years. And then a few months ago, along came this upstart called Manooghi Hi, who challenged my ideas about global music and wagged a mongrel finger and said: Hey, listen here and suspend your prejudices. Or you're not worth the paper you write on. My first instinct was to ask the upstart to leave and go back to my Chet Baker but like an obstinate child, it pulled out its bag of tricks, undeterred and played.

I am not, repeat NOT, easily impressed. In fact, trying to impress me will have the opposite effect and I was about to warn the upstart about this when I heard something.

And I saw Buddha here
And I met Jesus there
And I heard Hendrix there
And I felt Shiva there
And I touched Gandhi there
And Andy Warhol there
He just didn't care
He was in his underwear

I am not, repeat NOT, immune to clever poetry. Especially if it smacks of Miss Dorothy Parker and offends the general ignorant populace. As the cheeky little offender continued to play unbidden, I found my tongue clapped to the roof of my mouth while the lead singer twisted the sinews of urban poesie to curl around the belly of a raga and throw itself shamelessly naked upon the flat back of the tabla before being delicately stomped on by the piano and finally disappearing into the mist of a final rising violin's note.

I'm an elevator
Where everyone pretends to be alone
I'm a hotel
Where everyone pretends to be at home

I am not, repeat NOT, easily fooled by ideas stolen from T.S. Eliot but I am astounded when they are strung like offerings around the Hindu goddess Kali's neck and hang there in perfect harmony like pearls embedded in skulls.

I am not, repeat NOT, immune to the beauty of various pure languages. When I heard English, Hindi, Bengali, Persian and Tamil slide in and out of songs without losing the shimmering thread and balance between lyric and melody, even though metre was unconventionally seduced, I was an espresso short of being completely mesmerised.

I am not, repeat NOT, interested in namby pamby praise or advertising. Probably why I'm unemployable. So in the spirit of full disclosure, Mehnaz, the lead singer, is a friend. If you call being overly critical of every last full stop and comma of her work, friendship. She will attest to this with a painful smile. The rest of the Seattle-based band are strangers to me.

I am not, repeat NOT, going to tell you how great Manooghi Hi is. I would rather credit you with a brain and ears. If you're certain that you are strong enough and open enough to deal with the volcanic inner core of their lyricism, then log on to their site and listen. www.manooghihi.com.

I am not, repeat NOT, going to admit I'm a shameless groupie.

01 May 2009

When pigs fly

Between worrying about washing our hands a million times till they begin to resemble a butcher's hands and trying to procure the latest vaccine against the H1N1 virus (swine flu to you philistines) we have once again succeeded in absolving our collective conscience about the world's real problems. I don't mean to disparage the latest news of the day. If the WHO says it's going to be a pandemic, let us immediately stop worrying about anything but clean handkerchiefs. However, what about the real pandemics? Injustice, the Taliban's gun-toting versions of the law, the world gone mad in Sri Lanka, the children in the soup kitchens in the richest country in the world and daily rape and massacre in several nations in Africa? Surely that's equally important and should have gone up to a level 6 way before a few people and a few pigs started to die?

Even more hilarious, there are websites and news channels warning Europe, particularly the UK, that this summer could see more deaths, when temperatures climb into the unbearable range of 32 degrees Centigrade. Are we for real? Do we all exist on the same planet or has the EU decided that it's going to blindly follow Mr. Berlusconi's philosophy of I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass about anything?

And then there's poor Obama. Trying to balance his speeches between the economy, money to a rogue 'India-obsessed' Pakistan and the swine flu. While Joe Biden tells everyone that he wouldn't let his family get on a plane. (Nice job, Joe. Whenever you start talking, we either fall asleep or gag.) In the meanwhile, every major news network is sending out journalists and interns and sons of the Vice-President of the network to hunt down anybody that either has a cold, shakes hands with someone who has a cold, looks like a pig, eats a pig, kills a pig or does things with a pig that are illegal in most countries. Because of course that takes precedence over the nine-year old child that's been beheaded in the Congo for trying to rescue his mother from being gangraped.

Not to mention a half-hour telecast of Britain's withdrawal from Iraq. No disrespect to the boys in the forces, they've been nothing but great for the most part- but where was Tony Blair? Did he not want to supervise the last of his handiwork? Or was he chuckling in some backroom of some mansion with his buddy George, while trying to shoot pheasants down with microwave popcorn? How about the other side of that telecast? Where Iraqis lay dying? With no idea of how to run their lives and their country now? With the question uppermost in their minds; you made this giant mess and now you're leaving us with the pieces? Is this going to be Britain's legacy to Iraq? Like the mess they made with the mandate in Palestine all those years ago? Well done, indeed. Oh sorry, no time to probe into that because we're back with the lovely honeymooners who've returned with duty free Taliskers and the swine flu.

Even the elections in India, technically the most populous democracy in the world, were overshadowed in part by the swine flu. Because of course, that's what is killing India. Not the ineffectual politicians, apathy and communalism.

At least now we know- Pigs can fly.