Sampath G

Archive for the ‘Satire’ Category

Will you please brand yourself, please?

In Business, Management, Politics, Satire, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Of late, for some reason that is not clear to me, I’ve been getting lots of mail offering to help me ‘reinvent my brand’. One such mailer I got yesterday beseeches me to attend a programme where I will be trained to “brand my brand”.

Sure, these days you get spammed by all sorts of mails, from those promising to enlarge your penis, to those desperate to transfer a billion dollars to your account, to those peremptorily asking you to “revert on the business proposal”. So initially, I thought I was being mistaken for a consumer product of some kind, which perhaps needed a stronger branding. But my name does not (at least to me) sound like the name of a washing powder or a tooth paste, or….well, Sampath Condoms, anyone?

But then, as a marketing whiz friend explained to me, with a duh look on his face, Hey, you don’t have to be a condom in order to be a brand. You can be (and have to be) a ‘brand’ so long as you wish to sell yourself or any aspect of yourself to anyone anywhere in any market. And this applies to each one of you reading this who is there in the job market, and in the ever-expanding celebrity market.

Just as an exercise, why don’t you try segregating all the subtly self-promotional mails you get from your so-called well-wishers/friends/networking contacts? From newspaper articles they have written, to books they have published, to the awards they have won (and secretly sponsored), to the hot/cool people they have bedded, to the parties they’ve attended and taken pictures of, to the expensive holidays they’ve enjoyed, to the videos they’ve made of themselves shaking hands with Roger Federer  – it is all one big ‘personal branding’ exercise. Or maybe not: perhaps they just figured, accurately, that you were genuinely interested in their personal milestones and they were only doing their best to assuage your hunger for the boring details of their exciting lives.

So, if you thought, like I did (and secretly still do, in the middle of the night, when my ‘Brand Custodian’ is not watching) that all talk of ‘personal branding’ is just gas, well, fart again! Sorry, think again. It does not matter any longer how good you are at what you do; nor does it matter how long you’ve been doing it (not even if you’re a brand of dentures); and it matters not at all if your ‘brand image’ is the exact opposite of what you really are.

What does matter is ‘perception management’. And if anyone knows the value of ‘personal branding’ in Indian politics today, it is the one man who needs it the most: Narendra Modi. He has hired the world’s most powerful lobbying and PR firm, known, incidentally, for its respectable clientele of war mongers. In what must go down as a brilliant case study in the annals of image management strategy, Modi has, in a short span of time, gotten the world to merge the identity of Gujarat with that of his own. So today, Brand Gujarat and Brand Modi are inseparable – and the visit to SRCC was all about investing the ‘brand equity’ of Brand Gujarat for longer term ROI on the national stage.

But brand positioning is not a simple art. As any PR executive will tell you, the whole process begins with what they call a ‘perception audit’. In Modi’s case, such an audit today would still throw up a giant bucketful of stuff that could dissolve into irrelevance even the most painstaking of brand campaigns. All the chemicals of Apco cannot wash the blood of the hands of a man who presided over what everyone knows he presided over in Gujarat in 2002. I don’t even have to say what it was – that’s how powerful Modi’s brand is, and here I am not talking about the ‘brand’ that he and his minions were trying hard to ‘build’ through his SRCC event.

Unlike Rome, brands are built in a day. All you need is money to spend. Our brave new brand-enriched world is one of smoke and mirrors, where, as Macbeth’s witches famously observed, “fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

So here, off the top of my head, is a list of entities that could do with some help in ‘reinventing’ their brand: the Indian army in Kashmir, politicians as a class, Delhi police, Dow Chemicals, Suresh Kalmadi, and that news anchor who keeps yelling on TV. Happy branding to you all!

The end of the world and all that shit

In Humour, Satire, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

What were you doing when the world was ending?” is not a question that a human being is normally expected to answer. But that’s what I was doing the day after the day marked for the biggest Event in the history of the world — its end. For those of you who haven’t been told yet: I was busy squabbling over which was better for the bottom: a square toilet or a round one.

Let me explain. My wife was determined that if there was one thing she wanted done before the world ended, it was to die with a bathroom she wouldn’t have to be ashamed of. So we spent the second week of December selecting tiles, chasing the plumber, and researching toilets.

I wanted a round pot because the human bottom is round (sort of) and also because I prefer roundness as a matter of aesthetic principle. But my wife believed that a square toilet would look more elegant as debris, and weather an apocalypse better. So, after a long and bitter argument which I lost, naturally, we ended up buying a square pot. My only consolation was that it didn’t really matter because, the world was going to end anyway, and then I wouldn’t be around to produce shit.

But as usual, it turned out that I was slow on the uptake. It took me a while to register that, for the doomsday believers, the end of  the world did not mean that they themselves would cease to exist — it only signified a mega-calamity that they, and they alone, along with their family, friends, pets (and if they are lucky, their favourite pornstars), would survive.

But if you ask me, personally, I believe the end of the world is an idea whose time has come. As a lifetime pessimist and technophobe and eco-fundamentalist who holds that all forms of life on the planet (save mosquitoes) have equal rights to life and dignity, I sincerely believe the extinction of the human race would serve the greater common good.

When the dinosaurs returned to the evolutionary pavilion after a marathon innings of 180 million years, they left the planet, if not a better place than they found it, at least no worse. We humans have barely played a couple of overs, and we’ve already wrecked the pitch, poisoned the opposition, and burnt down half the stadium. If you ask any cockroach, it would tell you that life was much better under the dinosaurs — there were no pesticides in leftovers, and hardly any traffic.

I am not particularly fond of machines, but I am with Agent Smith on his assessment of the human species. In that memorable scene in Matrix — arguably the greatest cinematic indictment of the technophilia and the digital onanism that drives human civilization today — Agent Smith, a computer program, tells a bashed up and battered Morpheus that human beings are no different from a virus: “Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

As someone with a vested interest in the welfare of the planet, I was hoping the cure would happen on December 21st. But alas, the disease will live on. We will continue to fry the planet, plunder mountains and seas, pollute the rivers and the air, poison the lakes and the very source code of life — the planetary gene pool — in the name of progress and technology. And we will continue to wage war for peace, make arms for security, and build prisons to protect our liberty. Who would mourn the passing away of a world such as this? Or celebrate its non-perishing? Not me. And not even the doomsday junkies.

It’s not as if, on December 21, the doomsday believers really expected the entire planet to disappear in a puff of smoke, or the earth to be smashed by a colliding planet into a million little pieces, each country now perched atop a tiny piece of planetary real estate with its own atmosphere to pollute and species to make extinct and ozone layer to make holes in.

Yet there is hope. If you really think about it, the ‘end’ not happening on December 21 may not be a cancellation, but merely a postponement. The end of the world is not an event, but a process. A process orchestrated exclusively by the human species. And you and I are either passive participants or active agents of this process.
So, to come back to the main issue: crapping into a square pot every day instead of a round one is not the end of the world, is it?
THE END — haha

Who will mourn Man’s extinction?

In Humour, Satire, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless piece of shit.’
—Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto

If you were in Delhi this past week, there was no way you could have escaped being affected by the public protests over the (I’m not going to bother saying ‘alleged’) gang rape of a 23-year-old in a moving bus last Sunday.

The rage in the air was so thick you could have cut it with a shaving blade. But it was frustrating to see the business-as-usual, TRP-driven spectacle of assorted talking heads and politicians and cops and news anchors engaged in competitive verbal flatulence.
Not one TV channel or newspaper was asking the really important question: Are men necessary? Let’s begin from where we want to be: A world where men won’t rape women. What then is the most logical solution? A world without men.

This is not my idea, nor is it an original one. Such a solution has been imagined, and proposed, many times before. The most celebrated of such proposals is the American radical feminist, Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto, published in 1967. In case you were wondering, SCUM stands for Society for Cutting Up Men.

“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.” Thus begins Solanas’ scintillating ode to the utter redundancy of the human male.

Solanas calls for the elimination of men as the only way to secure a life of meaning and dignity for women, and also for men. And if there’s one place in the world where her argument would be irrefutable, it has to be Delhi, the rape capital of the world.

Solanas wastes no time trying to buttress her case with sophisticated philosophical arguments. In any case, “the male,” she points out, “is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion… to be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited… Women don’t have penis envy; men have pussy envy.” Hence the male compulsion to keep women under subjugation, both physically and psychically, with the most direct embodiment of this being rape.

SCUM, by working to destroy the money system, government, law and order — the whole male-erected system of society — will pave the way for a world where male violence would be unimaginable.

In literature, the most deadly, most beautiful (her role was played by the late Aaliyah in a botched Hollywood adaptation) and personally, my most favourite, advocate of genocide against men is the vampire queen, Akasha. The eponymous villain of Anne Rice’s best-seller Queen Of The Damned (Book III of The Vampire Chronicles, and the sequel to the sequel to Interview With The Vampire) is the only woman in the history of the world, real or imagined, to have carried out a systematic pogrom against men with the objective of nudging mortals like you and me toward a world without rape, war or random acts of male violence.

Akasha is an ancient, powerful vampire from pre-Biblical Egypt, which had a matriarchal society. When she is awakened in the 20th century, she is so appalled by the wars, rapes, assorted atrocities, and general mismanagement unleashed by men in positions of power that she concludes that the best way to bring peace among humans is to have one male for every 99 females. The males would be kept purely for breeding and recreation purposes, nothing more. “Can you conceive of bands of roving women intent only on destruction? Or rape? Such a thing is preposterous …. The possibility of peace on earth has always existed, and there have always been people who could realize it, and preserve it, and those people are women. If one takes away the men.” That is Akasha for you.

For once I was rooting for the ‘bad guy’ to win. But alas, the gorgeous Akasha, being a vampire, could not be allowed to triumph over humans — it would go against the norms of the vampire genre. Rice would go only thus far, and no further. But I, like Solanas, would have no objection to an ethnic cleansing of the ‘dented’, ‘tainted’ race. Neither would Mother Nature, I’m guessing.

Killing is fun when it’s for a cause

In Humour, Satire, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm

People who know me well would testify that I am a meek, amiable, and peaceable creature, not given to acts of violence and bloodshed, especially during daylight hours. But then, as you may have read in the papers, people change. And in the last couple of weeks, I have seen myself change — from a gentle peacenik into a bloodthirsty mass murderer — and all for the greater common good.

It all began with this mosquito swatter I saw at the local supermarket. This happened shortly after I had read about the death of a powerful movie mogul at the hands of a dengue mosquito. This man’s death affected me deeply, and I had barely recovered when Arvind Kejriwal came out of the closet and identified himself as a dengue mosquito. I had no choice but to arm myself with as much knowledge as I could get my hands on about this creature and the virus it carried.

I learnt, for instance, that ‘dengue’ is the name of the virus and not the mosquito. The mosquito that gave you dengue is apparently called Aids – don’t ask me why. And how do you distinguish a dengue mosquito from a ‘normal’ mosquito? By looking at legs – the mosquito’s legs. As someone with ample experience in this department – it was simply a matter of redirecting my optical reflexes – in no time at all I became an expert at racial profiling of mosquitoes and identifying the dengue ones.

Just for your information: a dengue mosquito looks like what an ordinary mosquito would look like if it wore black and white striped pyjamas – that’s how its legs look like. And the creature does have really long legs (though not as long as Deepika Padukone’s; but then Deepika, as many observers have pointed out, and correctly so, in my opinion, is not a dengue mosquito).
Also, the dengue mosquito keeps regular working hours: it bites only during the day, nine to five. So it’s easier to track, and to kill, and this is what’s kept me busy these last two weeks – give a man a little power, to play God, and see what he does with it.

So as I was saying, the moment I saw the mosquito swatter, I knew I was destined for it — like Thor was, for his hammer. I was at a grocery store, and a boy working there was wielding it with the elegance of a Federer backhand and the viciousness of a Ponting pull. Each time he made contact with a mosquito, it produced a delicious, electric pop and you could actually hear the insect getting fried as its soul departed for mosquito heaven.

For those of you who’ve never seen it, an electric mosquito swatter looks a bit like a child’s badminton racquet. It is made of plastic, and comes with a retractable plug for charging, and a sweet spot bigger than in a conventional racquet.

These days, every evening, around dusk, I go to the balcony and indulge myself with a nice little massacre, Kill Bill style. I have discovered that I love killing, especially when it has no consequences.

Swatting mosquitoes is also more fun, and more effective, than plugging in a liquid cartridge and waiting. Today’s Twitter generation of mosquitoes have shorter attention spans, and they don’t have the time or the patience to be slowly suffocated to death by poisonous fumes. They’d much rather die of the electric swat.

But swatting them is not as easy as it may seem. The dengue mosquitoes, in particular, are very clever. They mostly turn up when you’re without your weapon. I would go to the kitchen in all

innocence, to wash a spoon, and the moment you open the tap, you’ll see two of them take off from the little pools of water in the basin.

I’d rush to get my racquet, but by then, they would have vanished. And this has happened so many times that I now carry my weapon with me at all times. To me, my red swatter is like Arjuna’s bow or Hanuman’s — what do you call that
weapon of his with the spherical thingie at one end — I think it’s called a donkey, if I’m not mistaken. And I use it to kill for a cause — a dengue-free, malaria-free life.

Why did I tell you about my mosquito massacres? Because I believe there is a lesson in all of this somewhere. Only, I’m not sure what it is just yet.

Is cricket turning you into a SHIT?

In Cricket, Humour, Satire, Sports, Uncategorized on April 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’ve finally decided to start a self-help group for the Indian cricket fan who, despite being in constant pain, is unable to wean himself off the game.

Modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous, it will be called Suckers Hurt by Indian Team (SHIT). Members of the group will gather on alternate Fridays in an empty classroom or an available conference room. Each speaker will start by saying something like, ‘My name is Sampath and I am a sucker hurt by the Indian team,’ before going on to share his/her horror stories about obsessively watching cricket and irrationally supporting Team India and the extreme suffering and self-flagellation they’ve had to endure on account of being an Indian cricket fan.

Regular readers of this column would know by now my views on jingoism, idol-worship, nationalism and flag-waving. And yet, when it comes to cricket and Team India, it’s as if some primal neurological reflex kicks in – a bit like VVS Laxman outside off-stump – and I go fishing for some vicarious glory that every rational cell in my body knows is simply me asking for the spectatorial equivalent of water-boarding.

But then, isn’t that how addiction works? Your intellectual comprehension of the utter stupidity of expecting some happiness from watching a game of cricket is powerless to save you from subjecting yourself to another session of pulling your hair out in frustration. (Now you know what happened to the hair on my head – yes, the BCCI took it. You can see it on display at the CCI.)

I’ve been following the game for a quarter of a century. Guess what, I’ve also been trying to stop following the game for a quarter of a century. But I realised recently that I have the same problem as Sachin Tendulkar – can’t call it quits though I know it’s time to do so. And this is not surprising, for Sachin and I go back a long way.

As a school boy, around the time Sachin was putting together that marathon partnership with Vinod Kambli for Sharadashram Vidyamandir, I wasted my afternoons following North Zone versus East Zone on the radio. I nearly flunked my class XII Boards because I couldn’t not watch every single game of the 1992 World Cup which, held in February-March, clashed precisely with the one-month ‘study leave’ you got to prepare for the exams.

In college, there was a phase where I would watch the whole game, from 9am to 5pm or whatever, if it was an ODI, then catch the highlights at seven or eight at night, and then watch the video-recording of the match from ten till five in the morning, managing just two hours of sleep before waking up to go for my classes.

My cricket addiction reached its peak during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. I think I must be one of the few elite losers on the planet who managed to watch every single match of this tournament live, including the Canada, Namibia and Holland matches, and then followed it up by reading all the World Cup-related coverage in three newspapers, memorising the scorecards and fall of wickets and bowling figures and the number of maidens and no balls and wides delivered by bowlers who I didn’t even know existed until the World Cup, like Sanjayan Thuraisingam, for instance.

Of course, those were the years of magical thinking, which usually centred on a boy with the curly hair and the straight bat. Even if India was decimated, and literally had its nose rubbed in the grass, as happened almost every time we played abroad, you at least had the satisfaction of watching a Sachin straight drive; or a Sachin leg glance, or at least a Sachin adjusting his crotch guard by doing half-squats, which was still an endearing novelty in those days.

But then, there comes a time when every Indian cricket fan has to confront the reality of being a SHIT, and for me, that time is long past. In my 25 years of cricket addiction, four things have not changed: one, BCCI’s mismanagement; two, the inevitable degeneration of fresh-faced, noble talent into selfish, greedy mediocrities who take the team down by holding on to their places long past their sell-by date; three, idiotic team selections, and four, our infinite genius for conjuring defeats no matter how strong our talent pool, how favourable the conditions, or how weak the opposition.

The ongoing series, where we should have been on our way to thump the Englishmen 4-0 but are now likely to go 1-2 down, is the 33,970th time (that’s one more than the runs scored by Sachin in Tests and ODIs together) I’m telling myself, ‘Buddy, give up! Stop being a SHIT!’

So all you SHITs who want to make it to the first SHIT meeting, mail me and I’ll send you the venue details. Until then, if you really have to watch a sport, my advice: stick to beach volleyball.

Why gymmers should swap roles with workers

In Labour Rights, Lifestyle, Satire, Social Commentary, Uncategorized on October 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm

In his memoir of running, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami lists the advantages of running versus other kinds of sport: “First of all, you don’t need anybody else to do it, and no need for special equipment. You don’t have to go to any special place to do it. As long as you have running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content.”

Evidently, Murakami, who runs a marathon every year, has never tried running in India. If he had, he would have known that there are cities where you do have to go to a special place to run (a park or a ground or a gym) because the roads are too crowded and too polluted.

So going for a run outdoors is not easy if you’re in an Indian city. I can say this with some assurance because I’ve run in most of the Indian metros. I began running on a regular basis as a student in Hyderabad. I lived in a big, green campus where there was no dearth of running tracks. My only problem was getting up early. If I woke up late, it would be too hot to run. In the evenings, it remained too warm to run even till 7 or 8 pm.

During vacation time I’d go home to Chennai, and try to keep up my running schedule. But invariably I would fail, and have to start again with lazy, temperamental muscles when I got back to the university. The problem: Chennai’s street dogs. Running isn’t much fun if you keep getting chased by a bunch of half-starved animals barking their guts out and snapping at your heels.

One of the better cities for running has been Pune. In the late nineties, it was ideal – clean air, not much traffic, lots of greenery. Those were my best running years, in terms of timing, distances, and sustained fitness level. The gentle slopes added variety. But precisely because it was such a great place to run, I pushed myself too hard, and the tarmac almost killed my knees.

I console myself with the thought that in this regard I’m in good company – the great Shoaib Akhtar also ruined his knees running on city streets, and was a goner before he played his first match for Pakistan. That he still managed to make an impact just goes to show what an extraordinary athlete he was.

After Pune ruined my knees, I quit running. It took almost a year of physiotherapy and some very expensive footwear before I could hit the streets again. But I had to mix my road-running with ‘softer’ runs on a treadmill.

But I get quickly bored on a treadmill – it’s the same scene in front of you from the time you get on the machine till you get off. You’re either looking at your own mug in the mirror or at a fogged up window.

Most people try to ward off the boredom with headphones. But whether it’s music you’re plugged into or Emily Dickinson, it cuts you off from your immediate physical environment. Which of course is no big deal considering that a treadmill is itself a form of withdrawal – from the very ground beneath your feet, and you bounce instead on a rolling belt of ground-substitute.

With most public recreational spaces either swallowed up by construction or usurped by private parties, Indian cities are not runner-friendly. So the well-heeled, those for whom running is a part of their daily fitness routine, end up going to a gym. When I see all these grim, sweating faces I can’t help but wonder what a criminal waste it is – all these people huffing and puffing, consuming energy (the treadmills in most high-end gyms run on electricity) in order to expend energy.

What if all those calories being burnt can somehow be captured and channeled to some power station which would then convert it into electricity? Wouldn’t that light up a few thousand villages at least? In fact, Gurgaon, which is facing an acute power crisis and also has several up-market gyms, should seriously explore this.
I’m serious, this isn’t as dumb an idea as it seems. At least no dumber than the way we live. On the one hand you have millions of people who are forced to do hard, manual labour to save themselves from starvation; and on the other, another million or so engage in intense physical exertion that consumes a lot of energy (their own and those produced from power plants) and produces nothing but sweat.

What if everyone who has to work out and is currently paying a gym for this privilege, volunteered to do hard manual labour (for example, by carrying cement at a construction site) for as much time every day as their exercise time, say 30-60 minutes? Or maybe put in some time at a factory in Manesar or Faridabad?
This would be a win-win for everyone concerned. You are happy – you get your workout for free and stay fit. The workers are happy to let someone relieve them for an hour or so. And your gym owner is happy because he can do some cost-cutting by switching the treadmills off and reducing his power bills. To top it all, it would also better acquaint India’s gymming class with the life of the working class. Now that’s a ‘labour reform’ and a healthcare masterstroke rolled into one. Are Santa and Banta listening?
G Sampath is an independent writer based in Delhi.He’s reachable at sampath4office@gmail.com

Stop insulting Yo Yo Money Singh

In Celebs, Politics, Popular Culture, Satire, Uncategorized on October 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

To call our PM a “tragic figure” is not only insulting but also inaccurate. As it turns out, it wasn’t the Washington Post (WP) as such but historian Ramachandra Guha who called him that. Oh wait, Guha said what he did, not to the WP but to an Indian publication, Caravan. And hey, he said it not now, but in 2011.

But nobody made a fuss in 2011. So why now? (Clue: name of the paper). Right! The Washington Post is a white man’s newspaper, published from the white man’s HQ. And we neo-colonials know instinctively that when the white man talks, the brown man must listen.

It is amazing how short public memory is, but hey, India was a colony till recently – it was still one when our PM was born in 1932. Here’s what that good and intelligent man Jean-Paul Sartre had to say about the political leadership of newly independent former colonies: “The European elite undertook to manufacture a native elite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western culture … After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing to say to their brothers; they only echoed.”

Today, it is Sartre’s whitewashed adolescents (Manmohan was thoroughly whitewashed in the “mother country”— in both Cambridge and Oxford) who have hijacked what somebody once non-jokingly referred to as “India’s tryst with destiny”. Discarded now are the ideals of social justice and equity that informed the vision of our freedom fighters.

Reading the papers everyday makes you wonder: Why did our forefathers drive the Brits out? I wasn’t there when it happened, but here’s my guess: because the white man was looting India’s wealth, especially natural resources; they were giving a hard time to most Indians, especially farmers; and while a small class of native businessmen did well for themselves, millions starved, and thousands of political activists went to jail; the colonial police massacred innocent civilians, and forcibly evicted ‘native peasants’ from their lands, pushing them deeper into destitution.

I can’t see that things are any different now, under our own ‘brown rang’-ed PM, Yo Yo Money Singh (no relative of Yo Yo Honey Singh, but related to three mega-scams: CWG, 2G and Coalgate). Having embraced the Western model of capitalism, but without the luxury of colonial plunder on which to build its capitalist infrastructure, India is at a crossroads where it faces the prospect of cannibalising itself, eating parts of its own body politic — such as adivasis (or religious minorities). Talk to the average CEO, and his attitude to India’s tribals would echo that of the white coloniser’s toward the ‘natives.’

The reasons for terming our PM a “tragic figure” are predictable: one, corruption has proliferated under Singh, and guess who’s to blame – the degenerate natives; and two, the PM has slowed down on economic reforms, meaning that he’s not taking proper care of the white man’s money, which should be freely allowed to come into this former colony and profit from its resources.

One of the worthies quoted at length by the WP article is Tushar Poddar, a Mumbai-based managing director of Goldman Sachs, that illustrious standard-bearer of destructive capital which had a starring role in the 2008 financial crisis. WP quotes Poddar as saying “[The 2009 election] was a victory for him, but he did not step up to claim it — [Manmohan’s] lack of leadership, that lack of boldness, lack of will — that really shocked us. That really shocked foreign investors.”

That’s what it’s all about: foreign investors. FDI in retail, anyone? Yo Yo Money Singh is a “dithering”, “ineffectual” and ultimately “tragic” figure because, in recent times, he’s been a disappointment in his assigned role. And pray what was his assigned role?

In The Wretched of the Earth, the great post-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon showed how the national middle class’s “historic mission” is that of the intermediary. “Seen through its eyes,” he wrote, “its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neo-colonialism.”

Singh’s designated role, as the chosen (but never elected) representative of the national middle class, was to function as an intermediary between the nation and foreign capital, in Fanon’s words, to be “Western bourgeoisie’s business agent.” Seen from this perspective, it’s obvious that Singh has done a terrific job, but the greedy white man and his native brown counterpart want more, and they want it now! Though Singh has done a lot, he cannot do everything because, well, India is a democracy, you know? It’s not his fault, really.

So let’s not insult the PM any more – he’s just a child of history. He’s served his masters well. Now he has to move on – hence the timely nudges from the CAG, Team Anna, and of course, the white man’s press (Washington Post, Time, The Independent et al).

He has to make way now for another man, someone less likely to be hindered by democratic forces, someone who will not display the “lack of boldness” or “lack of will” that so “shocked foreign investors”; someone who’ll show “leadership” given the tougher tasks ahead – such as crushing revolting natives with an iron fist, showing no weakness; see issues only from the investors’ point of view; and show the working classes and minorities who’s boss. Something tells me this man is already here. Clue: he has a beard too.

 

G Sampath is an independent columnist based in Delhi.
He’s reachable at sampath4office@gmail.com

Finally we know what India’s poor really want

In Politics, Satire, Social Commentary, Uncategorized on October 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I learnt something new today. Do you know what the poor need the most in their lives? Take a guess.

Did you say three square meals a day? Wrong! C’mon, the poor don’t need to eat so much. If they eat as much as we do, food prices will shoot up and the already inflated inflation will inflate even more.

Shelter? Oh no. We build homes only for two kinds of people these days: the rich, and those who can take a home loan. People below the poverty line (BPL) are obviously neither, so they don’t qualify.

Free healthcare? Don’t be silly. What if they flood our hospitals with their dirty, malnourished bodies? We can’t have that, can we?

Give up? Well, what the poor really want, what they really-really want, are mobile phones. That’s the earth-shattering discovery made by the babus and netas running this country. And they’ve set aside a cool Rs7,000 crore to gift a cell phone to every BPL family in India.

As per media reports, the PM will unveil this ‘welfare scheme’ (we’ll come back in a bit to the question of whose welfare), titled Har Hath Mein Phone, on August 15. So come Independence Day, six million of India’s BPL families will walk out of poverty into a new life — of cell phone-enriched poverty. And that’s not all. Along with a handset, the state will also bestow a bonanza of TWO HUNDRED MINUTES of FREE local talk time!!!

I can already see people jumping up and down in joy at this largesse. Only, somehow, they don’t seem like people below the poverty line. Some of them look like cell phone manufacturers to me. Others look like service providers. And the rest look like politicians. Not your typical BPL lot. How come?

The Rs7,000 crore, or whatever government funds are eventually spent on this scheme — guess whose pockets they’re going to end up in? Not with the BPL families – they only get a cell phone, remember? Plus 200 minutes of FREE talk time. A little bird tells me the bidders who win the right to provide the service are set to rake it in. Our famously incorruptible ministers and bureaucrats will honestly ‘evaluate’ bids from the private sector, and of course, none of the bids will be from companies set up expressly for this scheme by some politician or the other in the name of his brother-in-law or daughter-in-law.

But it’s not about the money alone – please don’t underestimate our political class. Reportedly, the government is excited about this scheme also because it will “provide an opportunity for the ruling dispensation to open a direct line of communication with a sizeable population that plays an active role in elections.”

Assuming “plays an active role in elections” means voting, basically it means the UPA can spam the poorest of the poor with text messages urging them to set aside trivial concerns like where the next meal’s going to come from, and instead go and vote for their candidates. After all, we gave you a cell phone, didn’t we? And 200 minutes of free talk time? Have some gratitude, you poor people!

Apparently, the government wants to pitch the Har Hath Mein Phone scheme as a “major empowerment initiative of the UPA 2” with an eye on the 2014 general elections. Maybe I’m missing something here, but can someone explain how a BPL family, a family that, more often than not, comprises indebted, semi-literate, chronically malnourished persons with almost no prospects other than a lifetime of poorly paid, exploitative casual labour, is supposed to become empowered by the sudden ownership of a cell phone (and 200 minutes of free local talk time)?

How? My neighbour, for instance, tried very hard to empower her maid by giving her a cell phone. But the poor thing (pun intended) apparently didn’t want to be empowered — at least not telephonically. Each time my neighbour gave her a cell phone (I must add it was for her own convenience, so that the girl could inform her if she was going to take leave or be late for work), within a month or two, she would come back and tell her she’d ‘lost’ the phone. This happened three times before my neighbour realised that the girl perceived more empowering properties in hard cash than in a handset (which she’d been selling off).

So what are the chances that the BPL families would sell off the phones after using up the 200 minutes of free talk time? Maybe they’ll sell it even before they use up the talk time. And that’s assuming they get these phones in the first place and some low-level clerk doesn’t divert them to the grey market.

But let’s assume that all the six million targeted BPL families get the phones. And that they don’t sell them. What are they going to do with them? Download free anti-hunger apps? Perhaps there are anti-malarial apps that can be downloaded directly into your bloodstream. Or maybe they’ll look for road-laying work on naukri.com.

You never know. Perhaps the bold visionary genius of the likes of Nandan Nilekani and Montek Singh Ahluwalia will come up with some new technology-driven solution to poverty and hunger that can be solved simply by giving everybody a UID card and a cell phone.

I have a better idea though. Better than Har Hath Mein Phone. It’s called Har Hath Mein Gun. Give all the BPL households a gun, a free bullet for each family member. Tell them to shoot themselves in the head.

G Sampath is an independent writer based in
Delhi. He’s reachable at sampath4office@gmail.com
linbox@dnaindia.net

10 questions you wish somebody would ask Sachin

In Celebs, Cricket, Humour, Popular Culture, Satire, Sports, Uncategorized on July 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

There is only one thing more boring than a Sachin Tendulkar interview, and that is a self-proclaimed Sachin fan ‘defending’ the man from the 0.00001% of the media that dares to criticise him.

The past week has seen newspapers excreting massive interviews with the selfish gene-cum-genius. And the general format remains the same as always: cleverly flattering questions followed by seriously vapid answers.

Since I am in the enviable position of never having to call Sachin for a quote ever again, and never having to ingratiate myself with the numerous cockroaches that survive on the branded crumbs that drop off his table, I would like to share a list of 10 questions that I have waited for somebody to ask him, in vain. If anybody can get him to answer these questions, I hereby publicly undertake to buy anybody a drink.
So Sachin, here are my 10 questions:
1. In 1999-2000, Indian cricket was rocked by the match-fixing scandal. You were a key member of the team that was captained by Mohammed Azharuddin, and Ajay Jadeja was your teammate. But you didn’t say a word. When asked why you remained silent, you said: “The only reason I did not speak about it is that I didn’t know anything about it. I would have given a statement if I knew something.” So are you lying, or are you being a cretin when you say that you had no clue about match-fixing going on?

2. The whole world knows that you (and subsequently MS Dhoni) are the reason the BCCI has been stonewalling the ICC’s move to make DRS (Decision Referral System) mandatory in all international fixtures. What exactly do you have against the DRS? Is it that, without technology, the benefit of the doubt (especially on LBWs) goes to the batsman, and you, knowing that there will be far more LBWs with DRS than without, don’t want technology messing with your averages and milestone-hunting?

3. You are richer than anybody can ever want to be. Why then are you forever, and shamelessly, asking or accepting favours from the government? Be it having to change the law (Customs Act) so you don’t have to pay duty on an obscenely expensive luxury vehicle, or petitioning the government to relax the FSI regulations for your bungalow in Bandra, why can’t you just graciously accept the rules that apply to everyone else instead of cashing in on your celebrity status to seek favours?

4. For most, nay, all, of your adult life, you have been a very influential person, with access to the highest corridors of power. Yet, not once in your life have you ever taken a stand on any issue — not even on sporting ones. Do you then seriously expect to make a meaningful contribution to any of the debates in the Rajya Sabha? If not, why did you agree to become a Rajya Sabha MP?

5. And having become a Rajya Sabha MP, you say ‘cricket comes first?!!’ What were you thinking? That being a Member of Parliament is a nice hobby or what?

6. Why is your captaincy record so abysmal? If your cricketing intelligence is so great, and if you are a thorough professional, and if you are a nice guy, how can you not be even an average captain, like, say, Anil Kumble was? You’ve got to have something that the other guys don’t have for you to be such an extraordinarily poor captain. What could this be? You ever think about that?

7. Against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup this year, you crawled to your 100th hundred (114 in 147 balls on a flat track against a bovinely gentle attack) at 4.5 runs an over, and actually slowed down in the slog overs when the team’s interests dictated that you score faster. And it was because of your milestone obsession that we lost the match to Bangladesh, which cost us a place in the final. This is not a one-off incident, but the culminating irony of a long career marked by the relentless deployment of individual talent for individual glory, though last I checked, cricket was a team game. Now that you’ve got every record in the book, will you, at least in the last remaining matches of your career, either stop playing for records, or stop paying lip service to how you are a team player — because it’s too brazenly hypocritical to do both?

8. Why is it that when the chips are down, and India is chasing, you never (save the Sharjah hundreds way back in 1998 on a flat track) ever take India home? Don’t say, ‘check the records’ — because the records tell me very clearly that you’ve never single-handedly (like Dravid did in Adelaide or Laxman did while batting with a number 11 to take India home against the Aussies) taken India past the finishing line in your 22-plus years of international cricket. And what kills me is that you had the ability to do exactly that — if Yuvraj could, Laxman could, and Dravid could, so could you. But you never did. You just cannot bat for the team under pressure, is that it? Or is it that you never cared for the team as much as you claim to?

9. I’ve been pondering this one for ages. How did you become such a boring person — open your mouth and everyone goes to sleep?

10. This is an easy one. Do you like journalists who suck up to you?

G Sampath is an independent writer based in Delhi sampath4office@gmail.com inbox@dnaindia.net

So who would you like to see ‘disappeared’ this week?

In Humour, Satire, Uncategorized on July 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

When I have time on my hands, I play a little game to entertain myself: I ask myself who I’d like to erase from the face of the earth. I’d recommend it to you — you can play it by yourself, or with other people. It’s a great party game, too, though it could lead to heated debates when choices clash. But it’s never boring, and you can play it as long as you want because there are so many people still around who deserve to be ‘disappeared’.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mean to have them killed or something. This is no Nazi-type send-them-to-the-gas-chamber idea. It can take different forms, depending on your inclination, the only proviso being that the person concerned ceases to exist in their pre-existing form.

My wife, for example, when I play the game with her, turns the person she wants disappeared, into trees. Technically, of course, they don’t really disappear because they continue to exist in the form of a tree — but they do disappear as human beings, which is the point, really.

I follow different methods depending on my mood. Usually, when it comes to politicians, I turn them into lamp posts so that they can be of use at least to dogs. In fact, there is a long lamp post-lined avenue somewhere in my fantasy world — and every dog that lives on that street has its own preferred lamp post.

When it comes to sportsmen, I am a little more kind. Last week, for instance, I had no choice but to ‘disappear’ Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. I didn’t want to turn them into lamp posts — that would be rude. After considering their problem from every angle, I finally turned them all into balls, tennis balls — packed them in the same box, and dispatched it to the Olympics where they will all feature in the same match — the men’s doubles final.

But sometimes, when you are playing the game by yourself, disappearing people individually, one by one, can get tedious — it almost begins to feel like hard work, and I don’t want to do hard work. Like your boss, I want to get a lot of work done with little effort. In other words, occasionally, I’d like to disappear a whole bunch of people in one go. Like clearing your desk of all its occupants with one sweeping motion of your hand. Without these mass disappearances once in a while, you’re not going to be able to make a dent in the massive quantum of ‘disappearables’ out there.

So I was in this mass disappearance mood this week. Much like the Indian state, which has been busy disappearing so-called Naxals, alleged terrorists and assorted tribals and ‘wagers of war’ against itself (the Indian state). So I did some research, drew up a short list, and performed a thorough analysis on which category of people was the most deserving of being disappeared. The conclusion I came to should surprise nobody: economists and financial experts. In my Disappearance Worthiness Index (DWI), they outranked even journalists and BCCI officials as the one group that deserved to be vaporised into nothingness, en masse, every single one of them.

Just imagine (I know it’s hard but try) a world where there are no economists, a world where economics as a discipline, nay, even as a word, as an idea — does not exist. I think that would practically work out to be the closest secular approximation of paradise.

Wherever the practitioners of what Thomas Carlyle called the ‘dismal science’ wield power and influence, life for the majority has turned progressively dismal.

Indeed, it is no coincidence that a renowned exponent of the dismal science is the prime minister of this dismal country.

Apart from an acute disgust for the very essence of their being, and for all that they do and represent, I also have some sort of logic for wanting all economists to disappear: I want to ‘disappear’ economists because economists ‘disappear’ human beings. In fact, making humans disappear is at the core of what they do. They take agency away from humans, grant it to abstract constructs like Capital or Market (which even has an ‘invisible hand’, they tell us) or Technology or Growth, and reduce humans into factors (‘factors’, kindly note, do not possess messy properties like life or human rights and they do not bleed or shed tears) of economic production.

And it is with this perverse view of reality that they make their ‘policy prescriptions’ and recommendations for ‘second-generation reforms.’ Reforms have generations, but future human generations are not a recognisable part of the economist’s vision. Growth is an economic entity, something that can be represented in graphs and charts. Nothing that is human can be represented in graphs and charts. Thus, the economist’s very existence as an economist is predicated on a sustained denial of humanity. If this is not a good enough reason to make them disappear, I wouldn’t know what is.

In the meantime, I look forward to suggestions from all of you on how to make them disappear. Right now, I am thinking I’ll make toilets out of them and have them installed all over the city. Why toilets, you ask. Well, because they are full of shit already.