Friday, December 21, 2007

welcome home Urmi

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married and changed into a sari now

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another angle

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Here comes the gorgeous bride

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Jai Mala


riding to go get his bride

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maulis being tied on the horse by sisters


the groom gets on a white horse

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White Sardars

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Chura Time

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Mehndi Time

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Shawn and Leela Kutty

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shopping for bangles

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amba and mira at the mehndi

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Mira selecting bangles

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Shot Central

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The Happy Parents Geeta and Nayan

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Happy Birthday Kabir

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Bari Mama Dancing

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Aish striking a pose

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Geeta and the Groom at the sangeet

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The newly weds Amit and Urmila


All photos by Pradip Dalal
To all the gentle readers
the earlier outburst was not for this wedding. This wedding was a beautiful family affair, just how weddings can still be.
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Such Ostentation

Such ostentation

I went to another wedding sangeet yesterday, and now I feel I have had it with Punjabi big fat weddings, and this one was really that. Indians pride themselves on their simplicity, thriftiness and lack of consumption, but this is no longer in evidence at a Punjabi wedding.

This sangeet was in a hotel, it did not start until about 10 pm. When it did start, there was a ring ceremony, with video cameras and their attendant bright lights shinning on faces.

The women were all very dressed up; the focus was on the jewellery. Women were wearing 20 carat diamonds encasing their necks. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds dripping off fat women’s, noses and ears. The women were trying to out do each other, when they said hello, they looked first at the neck, judging whether the woman was worthy to talk to before moving on the next neck. The men pretended to talk while looking to the left and right to see if any one more important was nearby.

After the ring ceremony, there were dance numbers by young kids, then by young women, followed by older women. They danced to popular Bollywood hits like Mouja Mouja and Om Shanti Om. The dancing had been choreographed and obviously much practiced. All this was watched by the passive audience while stuffing their mouths with cheese puffs, spinach quiche and galoti kebabs.

The dinner spread was a mile long; they had about fifteen dishes of Indian food like biryani, rotis, rolled up paneer, kababs and dahi bhallas. There was a fresh pasta bar, followed by a zillion roasted, stewed and curried vegetables, fish and chicken. There was a salad bar, which was built like a mountain, with breadsticks and five kinds of bread, followed by olives, salami, ham, sushi, kimchi, asparagus and fresh tossed salad. The deserts were frambed fruit in brandy, cheese cake, gajar ka halwa, ice cream and chocolate sauce.

All the bases of everything were covered; alcohol flowed freely with scotch, champagne and wine heading the list. The richest Punjabis were all in attendance dressed to kill, every possible type of delicacy was present. Lest not anyone say we did not have this or that at her wedding. They went all out, over and beyond any imagination.

As I lay in bed recovering from what I had seen, I thought how much nicer it would have been if the same food had been fed to the poor, who live so close by us, for this one day of celebration. Let them experience how we live in our irreverence, our ostentation, our addictions and nihilism. Let them live this life just one day to experience it for themselves. How the rich Indian lives, splurges, clogs their livers and party another night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tejeshwar Singh


shocking news of the untimely death of Bunny. My heart goes out to Brinda, Aamana and Shonali, the brave wife and daughters and the larger family who are all feeling deep loss of Bunny's larger than life presence.

NEW DELHI: Tejeshwar Singh, publisher, theatre actor and television news reader, whose deep baritone demanded compelling attention from the viewer, died in Mussoorie on Friday night of a sudden heart attack.

He was in his early sixties. Singh founded the Sage Publications (India) in 1981 and nurtured it into a prominent publishing house within a decade.

Son of distinguished diplomat Gurbachan Singh, he was also a famous television newsreader on Doordarshan in the 1980s and early 90s. His voice left a lasting imprint on television viewers of an earlier generation. He was also associated with theatre and cinema.

Sage Publications sources told IANS that Singh had a heart attack while watching television.

Sage gave other established names in the publishing world a run for their money. Singh did this by grabbing the outsourced work from Europe and the US.

He also developed a niche distributor network and with this weaned away many authors and academics from other reputed publishers. A clear-headed visionary in the field, he said that Sage, unlike some of its competitors, would not get into retail on a large scale.

"Sage is run not by these bookstores but the libraries," he said. He argued that since Sage was not selling novels, the retail market was not important.

Tejeshwar was an established publisher when he ventured into news reading on Doordarshan, the national channel. Those were heydays of Doordarshan - it had no competitors as cable TV had not arrived in India- and Tejeshwar became a household name with his clear diction. His heavy voice and salt and pepper beard made him stand out among other newscasters on the small screen.

Another obit from the Hindu below.

New Delhi, Dec 17: Tejeshwar Singh, publisher, theatre actor and television news reader, whose deep baritone demanded compelling attention from the viewer, died in Mussoorie on Friday night of a sudden heart attack.

He was in his early sixties. Singh founded the Sage Publications (India) in 1981 and nurtured it into a prominent publishing house within a decade.

Son of distinguished diplomat Gurbachan Singh, he was also a famous television newsreader on Doordarshan in the 1980s and early 90s. His voice left a lasting imprint on television viewers of an earlier generation. He was also associated with theatre and cinema.

Sage Publications sources told IANS that Singh had a heart attack while watching television.

Sage gave other established names in the publishing world a run for their money. Singh did this by grabbing the outsourced work from Europe and the US.

He also developed a niche distributor network and with this weaned away many authors and academics from other reputed publishers. A clear-headed visionary in the field, he said that Sage, unlike some of its competitors, would not get into retail on a large scale.

"Sage is run not by these bookstores but the libraries," he said. He argued that since Sage was not selling novels, the retail market was not important.

Tejeshwar was an established publisher when he ventured into news reading on Doordarshan, the national channel. Those were heydays of Doordarshan - it had no competitors as cable TV had not arrived in India- and Tejeshwar became a household name with his clear diction. His heavy voice and salt and pepper beard made him stand out among other newscasters on the small screen.

He made a brief foray into Bollywood, essaying the role of a villain, who went under the moniker ‘DD’, in Naseeruddin Shah starrer Jalwa in 1987 before settling down in the publishing business.

Tejeshwar Singh (1945-2007): A Cut above the Rest

by T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan
New Delhi, December 17, 2007
Courtesy: Business Standard
Pics courtesy The Hindu

Saturday, December 15, 2007

David Barsamian

I went for an interesting lecture by David Barsamian, the founder of alternative radio at the Attic.
A description of the talk is below. He had just come back from Pakistan and Iran and he spoke about his experiences their. Pakistan he said was filled with protests, using the revolutionary poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, not wanting military dictatorship but wanting democracy. Jamuriyat Zindabad, Amiryat Murdabad. He felt the citizens of Pakistan were aware of the lack of real choice between the lack of conscience Benazir Bhutto and the utterly corrupt Nawaz Sharif. He felt America treated Pakistan like an object, a place where it can set up military bases.

An Islamic Fascism awareness conference had recently been held in the States, where right wing commentators like Ann Coulter, had proclaimed the Muslim world should be occupied and the people converted to Christianity. The council on foreign relations a NY based think tank divides the world in to different spheres, similar to the Monroe doctrine. Iran has oil, that is why it is so strategicalsly interesting to U.S. foreig policy. The organizing principle for U.S. foreign policy seems to be the fight against Islam or the Al Queda.

In reference to Iran, he gave the figure of 5 billion dollars as the Iranian military budget, while that same amount was what was being spent in a week by the U.S. in Iraq.

He did not feel any of the current U.S. presidential candidates are substantially different from each other in terms of policy. He was critical of U.S. media that obfuscates the real issues and focuses more on Britney Spears custody battle. Also the media and the politicians who are hand in glove, keep repeating the same words together..Islam, 9-11, Al-Queda, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Oil, Pakistan. Once these words are heard often enough people start making connection and are subsequently misinformed. Democracy runs through money exchanging hands from politicians to the media.

He was fluent in Urdu, a student of the sitar and critical of neo-Fascist ideas in the US. His talk was also heard by Arundati Roy, who was in the audience.

‘How to demonise a country – Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran?’ a talk by David Barsamian.

The Taliban was first demonised and then a country destroyed. The “illegal and immoral” war in Iraq was preceded by a ‘manufactured consent’, through a spoon fed media for an imperialist war of aggression. Iran is now staring down the barrel of a gun to appease the insatiable appetite of the US Neo-cons for unending war. : “There is a structural relationship between media and state power. They are closely linked. Who are the media? Not just in the United States, but around the world, they’re a handful of corporations that dominate what people see, hear, and read.

I’ll just give you one example: the New York Times, this great liberal newspaper, had 70 editorials between September 11, 2001 and the attack on Iraq, March 20, 2003. In not one of those editorials was the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Tribunal, or any aspect of International Law ever mentioned.”

David Barsamian talks this evening about a wide range of subjects: Illegal wars and war crimes, the servility and sycophancy of journalism and his interviews with the cream of alternative voices – Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Eqbal Ahmed, Edward Said, Tariq Ali and Arundhati Roy.

David is a radio broadcaster and writer and director of Alternative Radio, a syndicated weekly talk program heard on some 125 radio stations in various countries. His interviews and articles also appear regularly in The Progressive, The Nation, and Z Magazine. He is best known for his series of interviews with Noam Chomsky, which have been published in book form and translated into many languages, His other books include Confronting Empire (2000) (interviews with Eqbal Ahmad)

Culture and Resistance (1994) (interviews with Edward Said)
The Future of History (1999) (interviews with Howard Zinn)
The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting (2001)
The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile (2003) (interviews with Arundhati Roy)
His latest books are ‘Targeting Iran’ and ‘What We Say Goes’ w/ Chomsky.

Lama Surya's weekly words of wisdom

Life is the gift of nature,
But beautiful living is the gift of wisdom.

~ Ancient Greek adage

Saturday, December 08, 2007

An arrow to the heart review

Here is a review of Ken Mcleod's new book in the Huffington Post.

By Ken McLeod
(Trafford Publishing)

Let's say right off: you don't have to be a Buddhist to read this book. In fact, you don't need to be attached to a religion of any kind. But if you're the least bit interested in some of the more profound mysteries of the life of the mind, you'll find a great deal of guidance and inspiration in its pages.

That said, let it be added that as a student of Buddhist teachings myself, I have struggled mightily with The Heart Sutra. It is one of the key texts in the entire canon--the one that serves up this eternally enigmatic gem:

Form is emptiness
Emptiness is form
Emptiness is not other than form
Form is not other than emptiness

You'll be forgiven if your response to these words is a befuddled "Huh?" As McLeod is quick to point out, that's a perfectly normal first reaction. Many students much further along the path than I have occasion to mutter much the same as they progress through this poetic and mystifying text. I applied myself valiantly to the recent Red Pine translation and commentary, The Heart Sutra (2004.) Red Pine aptly calls the sutra "Buddhism in a nutshell," and "a work of art as much as religion." His book is a meticulous reading of the text based on years of study and sheds much light on the subtleties of its meaning.

But it wasn't until I picked up McLeod's book that I began to "get it." What a relief! I didn't have to "understand" the sutra after all--at least not in the purely intellectual sense. Having read McLeod's earlier book, "Wake Up to Your Life," for review in the Los Angeles Times, I was expecting something different. To put that earlier work to its intended use required weeks of reading--along with hours of meditation, exercise and practice. An in-depth practitioner's guide to the teachings of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism adapted to the Western mind, it's an immensely demanding--and immensely rewarding--read, an intricate map to the liberation of the mind from those reactive patterns that tend to dominate our lives without our realizing it.

If Wake Up was epic in its scope, this Arrow is its potent lyrical counterpart. Like a good poem, it chooses not to explicate but rather to evoke, arouse, suggest, inspire. It shines its light into surprising corners of the reader's own imagination, allowing the words of the sutra to maintain their mystery even as it aims the arrow to its heart. McLeod's arrow flies, however, not as arrows customarily do, in a straight line, but along its own mysterious, often errant paths--and remains always on target nonetheless. "By indirections," as Polonius said in Hamlet, we "find directions out."

McLeod's strategy is to feel for the cracks, as it were, in the sutra's surfaces and deftly open them up for readers to experience for themselves. To this end, he "riffs"--his term--on each part of the text, line by line, sometimes word by word, first with a short, image-based poem, then with a prose passage, and finally, on a facing page, with illuminating "notes," teasing out meaning as he goes. Quotations are scattered liberally throughout, from sources as varied as Lao Tzu and Leonard Cohen, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bruce Springsteen. Their effect is not only to weave a rich tapestry of multiple associations, but also to create a broad cultural and temporal context in which the words of the ancient text begin to resonate throughout history and in our present world.

McLeod further challenges his reader with unanswered--often unanswerable--questions, Zen koans, pithy stories and parables, and scraps of ancient wisdom culled from a wide variety of philosophical and religious sources. It's a strategy that could easily become heavy and sententious, but McLeod juggles it all with a light hand and a spirit of unpretentious playfulness that make his book a lot of fun to read. He manages to make a pleasure--and experiential sense--out of the contemplation of such complex Buddhist notions as emptiness, groundlessness, self versus not-self, "reality" and delusion.

Readers will feel invited, as I did, in these pages. The generous white space that surrounds the printed text works as a silence in which the reader's mind contributes its own spontaneous riffs, spinning off from McLeod's provocative suggestions into endless projections and associations of its own invention. At each step along the way, too, a quick, light-hearted sketch by Dick Allen enlivens the words with a touch of insightful humor--adding a welcome smile to the more serious work at hand.

Like Wake Up to Your Life, An Arrow to the Heart is not a book to be read in linear fashion, page by page until you reach the end. It's a book to be savored, as its author suggests, "a page or two at a time," as one might read a volume of poetry. It will surely delight those readers who allow themselves to be led into its dance of language, image, and idea--and it will surely shed more light on the Heart Sutra than many a more academic text

Rab Rakha Febrile Convultion

Febrile Convulsion

The most scary experience in the world is watching your child having a convulsion, you can just watch in fear as her limbs move out of control, her head jerks and her eyes have a far away look, as though she is a doll performing, a move with a remote.

No soothing helps, the sound that she makes emanates from deep within, a non human sound as though the battery is stuck in the same place, ai, ai, ai, her eyes glaze and her mouth is wet with spit.

The doctors advise holding her on her side and not interfering while this is happening. A part of you is dying watching this happen, the synapses overworking, the brain working rapidly attempting to break the strong hold of the fever. She was fine all day, suddenly without warning she is so faraway, I can’t soothe her with my touch or smother her with my kisses. She is distant; she is a doll with a remote inside of her. She does not smile, she looks faraway.

I catch hold of her and take her in my arms, and run out of the room. Something is wrong with Mira, I tell my brother. He gets up and rushes to see what the matter is. He hears her primitive sound and her jerking movements. Aish he calls, she comes in running, and she takes her from my shaking arms and holds her. We all decide we don’t know what is going on. I think she is having a convulsion. I saw my young cousin have a convulsion after a dog bit her, a long time ago.

We call the doctor; she says hold her on her side, make sure her breathing is not impeded and rush to the Emergency Room of Ganga Ram Hospital. My knees are shaking, my head is foggy. I pack a bag and we are off to the hospital. My baby’s eyes are shut now, her breathing disturbed. It is 12:30 at night on a foggy Delhi night.

We reach the hospital, the casualty is well labeled, and we rush in. Inside we hear a loud howl of a baby, I look closer she is nine years old, with an oxygen mask on her mouth. A needle piercing her arm. Her mother and father pressing her legs and arms, soothing their crying child.

My baby is made to lie down on an emergency bed. I see the blood on the sheet. Perhaps an earlier patient. There are no doctors piercing or prodding my child, I hold her as she lies down. My brother holds her little finger, she clutches on tightly to him.

The doctors are busy; a male nurse attaches an instrument to read her pulse on her toe and finger. Her pulse is quite high. They take her temperature, it is 100.6. She is watching the patients coming in and out. I wonder what is registering in her young mind, is she afraid of what she is seeing. She looks at the girl who is crying in pain next to her.

A pediatrician comes to assess the young girl next to my child. I watch the young girl’s hands and feet slowly turn blue. Her mother is awash in tears; her father is pressing his little darling’s arms and feet. Give all her pain to me, I can feel him say. Let me suffer; let my little darling be pain free. The doctor says take her to ICU immediately, she has Leukemia, and is suffering. The father does not move, he is immobilized. The doctor’s words are floating. The mother’s tears are streaming silently.

A gentleman appears from beside the next patient who is coughing uncontrollably. Give me the paperwork, brother; I will get the room arranged. You be here with your daughter. The father is in a daze. The man takes the papers and disappears into the hospital. The mother’s face is wet with tears, another woman appears and holds this mother, “do not cry sister”, she says. “You cannot show tears to your child, you need to be brave for her.”

The mother wipes her tears defiantly, suddenly gaining strength to fight another day to save her daughter’s ebbing life. My daughter needs to see me brave, she seems to be saying. The gentleman reappears, he has arranged a room for the girl. “Let’s go” says the male nurse. The father picks up his precious darling in his arms. She has tubes dangling from her arms. The mother holds the medicines that are being injected into her darling’s arms.

The pediatrician then takes a look at my baby. My baby has woken and is responding now. She sits up as the nurse has her sip Crocin, to bring her fever down. The doctor checks her responses and decides to keep her under observation for the next hour and recommends a medicine if the convulsion happens again.

My knees have stopped shaking uncontrollably; I am steadier now as I hold my baby. The nebulizer’s cold steam is helping to clear my baby’s nose.

I think that the hospital experience made me realize that my fear was nothing compared to the trauma that the nine year old girl’s parents were facing. I wish them all the strength and courage to face each day, as they watch their child suffer in pain.

We head back by 2:30am, I see the bright lights of Rakab Ganj Gurdwara. I say a silent prayer of thanks for protecting my baby today and always and for the little girl that was suffering and for all parents.

Rab Rakha

For more information on this condition see

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the problem with Christmas

Alternet has an insightful article on the problem with Christmas. I support this notion that buying green does not make it a better Christmas, we are still consuming stuff we really do not need or can afford.
The problem with Christmas is not the batteries. The problem isn't even really the stuff. The problem with Christmas is that no one much likes it anymore.

If you poll Americans this time of year, far more of them regard the approaching holidays with dread than anticipation. It has long since become too busy, too expensive, too centered around acquiring that which we do not need. In fact, it's the perfect crystallization of the American economy -- the American consumer experience squeezed into a manic week, a week that people find themselves hoping will soon end so that on Jan. 2 they can return to the mere routine hecticity of their lives.

From that central truth, a few propositions follow:

Replacing regular stuff with green stuff isn't getting very close to the root of the problem. If for some reason you need to give someone a motorized spice rack, then a motorized spice rack with a more efficient motor is quite clearly better. But it's also quite clearly beside the point.

Stuff itself is a problem less because of its environmental toll (though that is quite high) than because it's increasingly meaningless. Think of your friends. Are many of them lacking in stuff? Or is the first question that forms in their minds when a new gift arrives from under the tree: "Where am I going to put this?"

But this pleasure gap allows for a concentrated opportunity to begin rethinking our economic life. If stuff isn't valuable anymore, what is? Time, clearly. A gift of time -- a coupon for a back rub, or a trip to the museum, or a dinner prepared someday in the future -- is a gift whose exchange rate is figured in a stronger currency (if you're an economics major, think euros vs. dollars). Or gifts can come embedded with time already spent: a jar of homemade jam, a stack of firewood in the back yard.

Gifts can also be reconfigured to remove some of the hyperindividualism that marks our consumer society. Ask yourself what you'd rather receive: another thing, or a homemade card saying that, say, a cow had been purchased in your name and was now providing milk for a Tanzanian family that hadn't had milk before. (Note: this line of reasoning is probably especially strong for those of us who are Christians, and recall that the occasion we're celebrating is the birth of a man who said to give all that we had to the poor.)

Since Christmas has long been in the business of baptizing consumption, it's a good place to start eroding consumption's allure. Newfound pleasures from a simpler holiday -- some silence, some companionship -- suddenly start to seem attractive. Maybe that attraction will remain with us even unto February.

That would be good, because our environmental problem, at root, isn't that the stuff we're buying uses too much energy or too much plastic, or that its paint has lead in it, or that it's been shipped too far. Our environmental problem is that we consume way too much because we've agreed to try and meet basic human needs -- status, respect, affection -- with material ends. And no time more so than at Christmas, when Santa rides in on a Norelco razor. It's a kind of joint conspiracy that few of us dare break out of, even though we all understand at some level that it's not working. What if you don't give your kids a "proper Christmas"?

But the second you do break out of it -- the second your family becomes one of those that exchanges used books at Christmas, or decides to follow St. Francis' Yule tradition of wandering the park and throwing seed so that the birds too could celebrate, or makes it an annual custom to serve turkey dinner at the homeless shelter -- then you start sharing in the deep human secret that consumer society is set up to obscure: the things that please us most are almost always counterintuitive. We need to be out in the cold air, we need to think about others, we need to serve.

There are, of course, some who will say that a course like the one I'm describing here will damage the economy -- that anyone who proposes a different Yuletide is a "grinch." (This, by the way, is a major literary faux pas. Close reading -- even cursory reading, or even viewing the annual television special, will remind one that it was in fact the grinch himself who believed that Christmas came in a box. He turned out to be wrong, as the Whos of Whoville, those communists, made clear.) You could answer those people by saying, "Well, it won't all happen at once, and the economy will have time to adjust." Or you could answer by saying, "Maybe you're right. And maybe the economy isn't therefore quite as rational and as obvious as we would like to believe, if in fact it depends on a corrupted celebration of Jesus' birth to stagger on for another year."

The second answer appeals to me. We need a kiss to break our enchantment, and a kiss (a coupon for a kiss! Or a dozen!) is a perfectly fine gift to give for Christmas.

Bill McKibben is the author of 10 books, most recently Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What women want

A fun article in the Tehelka about what women want, even though Bollywood has tried to update the stereotype, women still seem attracted to dysfunctional men alas!
Wax In Vain

After OSO and Saawariya, the updated male sex symbol is the talk of the town. But NISHA SUSAN’S random chats with women point in a completely different direction

TWO WEEKS ago we saw Ranbir Kapoor draped atop a piano, caressed by a sheer curtain, romping about in a precariously tied towel of equivalent sheerness. The same weekend we saw Shah Rukh Khan cavorting tirelessly in what appeared to be stripper gear. Were the chiselled male bodies of Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, Bollywood’s attempt to actively offer women what they think they want — the overwrought male bodies that are suddenly everywhere? More importantly, did it work? Our random survey indicates that the Diwali weekend’s cinematic offerings of muscular male beauty seemed to have been remarkably uninteresting to women. As one woman put it, “Ranbir is cute but he might as well have been doing a Horlicks ad.”

Shobhaa De was one of the commentators who heartily applauded director Farah Khan for objectifying Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. She wrote that emphasising Shah Rukh Khan’s abs was “a good move that got the chicks drooling.” Was Shah Rukh Khan himself worshipping at the cult of the body beautiful in Om Shanti Om or was he mocking Bollywood’s fetish for waxed chests and, as De put it, “nutmeg nipples”? One can only guess. But even ardent Shah Rukh fans in our survey were more inclined to deplore, than drool. There are two things you learn when surveying women about the sex appeal of Indian male celebrities. One, Bollywood is looming amiably over our collective sexual imagination, leaving barely any room for cricketers, sportsmen or politicians. Two, Bollywood seems to have managed to create male sex objects for heterosexual women, despite its more conventional efforts.

A few months ago Ekta Kapoor was on Koffee with Karan, along with the male leads from three of her most popular shows. “In Bollywood, the heroes are the subject and the heroines are the objects of sexual fantasy. In television, it’s the other way around. The men are the objects of sexual fantasy.”In an extraordinary television moment the three big, meaty men sat breathing softly, as Ekta explained with relish why she had picked each one. This one with his urbane sophistication, you would want to take to bed, she said. This one, would be cooed over maternally by older women but also fantasised about. Ekta, as usual, had got it right. Women are turned on by elusive qualities — incredibly difficult to bottle, impossible to mass-market. Perhaps that’s why everyone remembers Rakhi Sawant’s “office-porn” music video but can barely remember the classically handsome model who appeared in it.

This is probably also why actual male sex symbols are never just flavours-of-the-month.It seems like nothing new can be said about sex but what straight women find erotic remains shadowy and less apparent than men’s choices. Guru Dutt in Pyaasa, bitter and betrayed; SRK’s ‘aur paas’ scene in Dil To Pagal Hai; SRK in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, saying he would never take advantage of Kajol because at heart, he’s Hindustani; his brooding seriousness in Chak De; George Fernandes in the 70s; Rahul Dravid batting; Milind Soman making lunch in Rules: Pyaar Ka Super Hit Formula; John Abraham in most contexts, Mithun Chakravarty disco-dancing; Saif Ali Khan in his dhoti comforting a weeping Vidya Balan in Parineeta; Jeeva in Tamizh MA.

A montage of what women say provides sexual frisson would make for a decidedly odd YouTube video.While this montage would include conventionally sexy moments, the erotic remains the last bastion of the politically incorrect. Sophisticated young lawyers desire the unpolished Other; the liberated want the masterful alpha-male; the bohemian wants the uber-competent; and the snappy dressers dislike men who seem to be overly interested in clothing. (“Shashi Tharoor is a turn-off,” one woman said vehemently).Men are appealing for their elegance, competence and restraint (Rahul Dravid and Shekhar Kapur came up) but the seductive capabilities of the flawed man is near universal.

Malavika Vartak, an activist in Delhi, says “everybody wants a man who has a problem. Women want to be able to walk into a man’s life and feel like they can make things magically better.”If there was a Lonely Planet guide to the sexual wilderness it would have to explain the word that crops up most often in women’s descriptions of sexy men — Intensity.SRK’s intensity is often cited by women, but it is Irfaan Khan’s brooding, bloodshot gaze which has women’s unwavering attention. “He makes a chhota recharge for Hutch sound like something I need right now,” says Anna Thomas, an analytics manager in Bangalore. Ajay Devgan is another star who scores high by this parameter which renders otherwise unattractive, even ugly, men magnetic.

NO ONE is denying the pleasure of gazing at a beautiful body though. “When I see those underwear ads on hoardings, my head turns. Those boys in white underwearare eye-catching and alluring. But it is not seductive. The eyes have some logic of their own. I would feel the same way about a length of purple silk. But they don’t appeal to anywhere lower than the eye,” says Polly Hazarika, a researcher in Bangalore.Women allow themselves a fascinating rapaciousness when discussing their unsuspecting, far from object-like sexual objects. Hazarika says, “One night I dreamt that Aishwarya was jumping off a cliff in her Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam costume. And I remember thinking, good, good, let her break her neck and I can marry him. That was before Abhishek got his hairband and that married man look.”

Anita Roy, an editor at Zubaan Books says, “I think what they did with SRK’s abs in Om Shanti Om was fascinating because it wasn’t being codified as gay. In the West the sexualised male body in cinema is only available in the gay tradition.” While we cheer our singing, dancing, crying men for unabashedly remaining their peacocky selves we must speculate that Ranbir was, perhaps, not dancing for the women at all.
Here is the

Martha Nussbaum

Tehelka has an interview with Martha Nussbaum. I think she is currently one of the most seminal philosophers, articulating Indian identity and reality.
‘The IIT mindset feeds into the fascist nature of the Right’

Noted American political philosopher Martha Nussbaum speaks to SHOMA CHAUDHURY about her new book and the roots of Hindutva.

What’s the central premise of your book?
The book’s main thesis is that we should understand the real clash of civilisations as a clash that is internal to all modern democracies. A clash between people who are willing to respect and live with those who are different, and people who anxiously seek domination. Then, agreeing with Gandhi, I say that at a deeper level the real conflict of civilisations is the clash within the individual self as the desire to dominate other people contends against compassion and concern.

What about India makes it susceptible to the hate ideology of the Hindu Right?
When I started the book in 2002, I thought it would be a grim story about the collapse of democracy in India. But it became a story of resilience. There is something about the political culture of India, including the strength of its press that enables it to survive. But there are real weak points. The key one is the system of education. There is not enough attention on critical thinking and independence of mind in India. Not enough on stimulating the imagination. We all have the capacity to understand what happens when we inflict pain on others. But this capacity needs to be trained and developed through the arts — dance, music, theatre. Tagore understood that, Nehru less so. The people behind Hindutva, on the other hand, have been very clever about culture formation. They have formed people into a killing force by using fun and games, the lure of solidarity in the shakhas, the clever use of symbols and rhetoric, and by a genuinely altruistic and self-sacrificing ideology which is very appealing. After Gandhi, this has been completely missing in the Left. They have left symbolic cultural formation completely to the Right. Partly because they felt economic issues were more important and partly because of the contempt for religion that most in the Left had.

It’s five years since Gujarat 2002, are you still feeling optimistic about India?
It’s lucky for the progressive forces that the BJP has no competent leadership at present. They haven’t found a younger generation that can appeal to voters. I do not think Arun Jaitley can, and after the death of Pramod Mahajan —

What about Modi?
I cannot imagine he will ever make it on a national level. Even the Right wants a leader who can woo the US, and he can’t even visit there because of his record of criminality. For the US to revoke an official visa is pretty amazing. To return to your earlier question, what I’m really discouraged by is the growing dominance of a technocratic middle class that is anti-political and for whom the suffering of excluded people doesn’t mean a lot. This IIT mentality — become technically competent
engineers, forget about human values — is very dangerous, particularly for a country like India. I’m afraid the need to make deals with the US is adding to this skew. I find that Sonia Gandhi says the right things. I think of her as somebody with a keen moral imagination, who really understands what women went through, say, in Gujarat, but of course she has to play her cards really carefully.

You argue in the book that one of the reasons a fascist Hindu Right mindset has taken hold is that the creative, sensuous, almost feminine ideals of Vishnu and Krishna have been replaced by a militant, virile masculinity. Can we go back to the old view?
This is what attracted so many of my generation to the study of India in the first place — the idea of a counterculture to American masculinity. In the Vietnam War era, they wanted to turn to a culture of love and peace. That’s why so many of them wanted to write about sexuality and the sex lives of gods. I think Gandhi knew how to give those ideas a modern form, of course it was a very ascetic form; it didn’t have the playfulness and the sensuousness. Tagore captured that in his school and in dance. He could certainly make that ideal very charismatic and viable. But today, I think the last refuge of this is in Bollywood — not the feminine forms of the Geeta Govinda exactly, but there is a kind of sensuousness to Bollywood stars when they dance or sing. Part of the appeal is that it isn’t a purely military use of the body. It’s also interesting that Bollywood is the one place where Hindus and Muslims intermingle and intermarry and there is not any great sense of the gulf between them. Maybe that’s where the softer ideal still exists.

You mentioned how the Left has distanced itself from any culture formation that involves the positive use of myth, emotional or religious symbols — ceding that ground to the Right. How does one combat this?
I think it is very hard now because when people here say, we should be studying the Ramayana, others turn to them and say, oh you are becoming communal. I have friends who’ve had that experience. And because the humanities are so devalued in India, intellectuals who might have been able to lead the way to a more progressive appropriation of tradition have moved to America and are happily teaching the Ramayana there! Dipesh Chakraborty can be a leading Left wing intellectual in America, but here he wouldn’t be respected. In the US, it was great that the civil rights movement was able to latch on to African-American music — it was the only creative musical force in America at that time. Blues, jazz — everyone could relate to that. Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” — about a black man who’s lynched —pulled at everyone’s gut, all over America. I think in India, the challenge is to find such a meeting ground in popular culture. Tagore did that by writing songs that everyone could sing. But that is wearing thin — even Bengalis find Tagore a bit tedious now. I think the women’s movement can play a big role. And Bollywood, of course, has great possibilities, if it would use that power. The other area is vernacular literature. The English language market is too commercialised and too aimed at Americans, so it only touches these issues superficially. It’s really in the vernacular literature that people are confronting issues of communities and diversity. Keeping the vernacular literary and theatrical cultures going is important.

Can a utilitarian, globalised, technocratic society — with no interest in identity politics — lead to an uncommunal world?
No, I don’t think so. The minute you start thinking of people as simply inputs into an economic calculus, you’ve moved away from human respect and the ability to imagine others empathetically. This is reminiscent of the Nazi technocracy which was very efficient and found it very easy to talk about humans as things — as cargo — and this was a big part of what made the atrocities possible. I have a lot of colleagues who are economic libertarians, and they think a technocracy will be benign because people will follow their economic self-interest and hire anyone because it’s in their interest to do so. This is exceedingly naïve. People can hate others and refuse to employ them simply because of the stigma. My father was born in the deep South. He lived most of his life in the North but never lost that hatred of African-Americans and he really believed — this is a man who was a high-powered lawyer in a major urban firm — he really believed that a black person would contaminate anything he touched. When I married a Jew it was not quite as bad as if I’d married a black but he didn’t come to my wedding and didn’t speak to me for years. In some ways this has a lot to do with images of masculinity. I think, for my father, who grew up very poor, the son of factory workers, and who brought himself up, there was always deep insecurity, and the strong need to be above someone else. This operates in India in a different way. The insecurity here is historical. Hindu men have been dominated for centuries, first by Muslims (though that was not always an ugly domination) and then by the Raj. So the idea — enunciated strongly by Golwalkar — is that we have been dominated because we were weak and now we must strike back by showing that we are more aggressive even than the ones that dominated us. This is the sentiment that played itself out so horrifically in Gujarat, complicated by the fact that Muslims were economically stronger there than the elsewhere in the country.

Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer

A simple idea teach where the kids are at..