Sunday, April 27, 2014

An excavation of our pre-partitioned self

Peoples’ political and cultural choices are directly impacted by history, or whatever little scrap of history is allowed into our narratives about who we are, and it is a shame that most of us in India and Pakistan are either ignorant of the forces that led us to where we are, or have been actively misinformed. A God in Every Stone sets out to peel back some layers, revealing a part of our selves that lay buried under the dust of the 20th century.
I reviewed Kamila Shamsie's new novel for Timeout recently. Read it here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Because so much rupaiyya makes us blind

As citizens and voters, we are often stumped by the glaring lack of options. There doesn't seem to be anyone 'good' around. All candidates appear to be either directly corrupt - having been implicated in scams, or their family members named as beneficiaries of their time in office - or else, their politics is inherently corrupt. Their policies benefit a certain small group of people, heaping privilege upon privilege instead of levelling the playing field, and doing little to extend public infrastructure, that is truly public in the sense of being accessible to all. 

Why do they do this? 

As always, the answer is - money. Political campaigns are very big business, and therefore, likely to be pro-big business. The more expensive a campaign is, the more compromised the candidate is, no matter how good his/her intentions. India does not even have a precedent of candidates and political parties revealing the source of 'donors' to election funds. AAP has made a fresh start in this direction. I wish all parties would follow suit. Transparency must begin with political parties.

For voters, the mounting of a 'big' (expensive) campaign is especially problematic because it obscures the candidature of smaller parties or independent men and women. The Election Commission is supposed to monitor how much money is being spent, but there has to be a way for the media to play a more proactive role during elections. It is not enough to discuss the 'chances' of various high-profile candidates. That is not what the fourth pillar of democracy is expected to do. If the media is supposed to 'communicate' information to the voting public, is incumbent upon the media to discuss all candidates - their work, their track record, their manifestos, their background, their allegiances, their politico-cultural agenda - and give each one a fair chance. 

On the subject, a comic I wrote recently for Mint

I attempted to show why the few 'clean' candidates who want to serve as politicians are so invisible. We seem to only hear and see of people after they have spent a lot of money, and this is enabled largely through media. Click on the picture to see a larger image.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sharing, caring etc

Further musings on toilets and our shared existence as citizens, families, lovers etc. I do firmly believe that the day we all start leaving a public toilet cleaner than we found it, we will have understood the true meaning of patriotism.

I'd also like to say that there is nothing so unromantic as an unclean toilet, and that a nice, airy, really sparkling clean bathroom-toilet is a strong incentive to commit to someone.

The following comic appeared in Mint.

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