FooDie

Once upon a time (oh, yeah that is how long back it seems), there used to be news, then there used to be breaking news, and then there used to be OMG-I-am-so-appalled kind of breaking news. But now in this day and age when just about anything is discussed at prime-time, and multi-tasking of an It-Baba by manufacturing not so swadeshi fashion garment in Swades makes it to the headline, it is not appalling that news no more is appalling. Amidst all the brouhaha created by media and/or social media about anything and everything happening around us, very rarely does some piece of news still manages to appall me!
Although I know statistics, in general, are as accurate as the Indian meteorological department is about the weather forecast, one of the statistic that caught my eye, and really pained me, was about how India wastes approximately 67 million tonnes of food every year – a number higher than the national food output of countries like Britain. This amount is enough to feed the entire population of Bihar for a full year. And trust me if we keep Bihar well-fed, we will probably be successful in reducing the collective aggression of this country by one-half!

2-cartoon-sumantabaruah-unep-wed-2013This statistic is gloomy- especially for a country that has more than half the population starving (even if we don’t count all the people on diet). Just to put things in perspective, the value of food lost amounts to Rs.92, 000 crore, nearly two-thirds of what the government spends under the National Food Security Programme to feed 600 million poor Indians with subsidised rations. That’s a lot of food!

There are lots of reasons for this situation.

A lot of this food is wasted even before it reaches the consumer. Because of no storage or cold storage facilities, redundant transportation mechanism, food sorting, etc. So basically half the produce doesn’t even reach the market, and the rest half is washed, coloured, dented and painted, before it reaches us!

This brings me to another major reason for food being wasted- how it looks! A lot of fruits and vegetables do not look “up-to the mark”, hence the vendors find it very difficult to sell them, and they eventually deteriorate and are thrown away! We are spoilt for colours in this time of fashion-supermarket, that we want our apples also to be that perfect shade of Red! Not, “Red” Red. But Red!

While our farmers do not have storage facilities, we do. And hence we stock up on all the food that we think we might for the next fortnight, if not less. But two days later, someone not so important remarks about how our weight has increased by OMG 500 grams!! While we don’t throw away the packaged food that we have – for stress eating of course- but end up throwing a lot of this stored food eventually.

And finally, something that all of us can practice every day three times a day is-Take what you eat. Eat what you take! Nothing is worse than affording, buying, cooking and then wasting food!

Dear Ganpati Bappa,

It is always great to have you! We were all prepared to welcome you with immense love in our heart, and even more traffic on our streets. I think you must have had a bumpy ride till the pandals/home – with an undercurrent of very melodic honking sound, I am assuming you would understand our yearlong plight. What? You don’t find honking melodious. You just don’t have an ear for it, I say!

We welcome you by reciting many shlokas and a couple of aartis’ which essentially mean that Ganesha is the lord who provides joy, takes away sadness, and removes all obstacles in life. I understand that some of us may not be trained singers, and thus, the offbeat singing can be a tad-bit problematic, but that’s our way of testing the relevance of “obstacle remover” God! Ha, take that!

Well well Bappa, I am not sure if I am looking at removing larger-than-life issues like solving the Kashmir problem, letting women decide what they should or should not wear, or increasing the collective IQ of the Indian bureaucracy. I mean these problems seem too big to be solved, even for the greatest Vignaharta of all times. But if you could help us fix the smaller day to day obstacles, like taking the clutter on the streets and the people who clutter with you, there will definitely be less clutter in our life then!

ganpathi-and-fuel-1Since a few of your idols have already been immersed, you would know that out water bodies are not really umm, safe, and can suck the life out of the dead as well. I mean for people who hop, skip and jump over with life as if it were potholes, we deserve a better death. But alas, as you can see, there is no sign of the promised Moksha for us!

We anymore do not invoke you for auspicious beginnings, but for completion of what has been started years ago. Nor for deliverance from the cycle of birth and rebirth; only from the unending cycle of laying and re-laying of pipes and pavements. I understand that amidst the Niagara of noise and preposterous display of devotion, it may be a little difficult for you to hear my prayers, but I promise you, next year I will make use of the recently launched very “innovative” air pods, to help you multitask while listening to my never-ending rant.

Anyway, how has your stay for the past one week been? Now that we are half way through the festivities, I am already getting withdrawal symptoms!  There won’t be any more ‘Selfie with Bappa’ contests on twitter, or sale on extra-large products to mark the festival of a God with extra-large heart on any of these merchandise websites. And obviously I being an extra-large girl with an extra-large heart but extra-small budget, am sad, for one!

But today when I look at you looking at me, we both creators of each other, I sense there is one thing we both can definitely be grateful for – Modak!

Happy Holidays, Bappa!

Jeeto Rio

“Padhoge Likhoge Toh Banoge Nawaab,

Kheloge Kudoge Toh Banoge Kharaab”

It’s cute when a country, which teaches and preaches this and instills it into the young impressionable minds of their children, criticizes without batting an eyelid when we are not at par with other nations playing at the Olympics happening at Rio right now. And I have a problem with this attitude.

So the Olympic Games have been happening for the past two weeks, and everyone here in India are wondering why kho kho is not a part of it – after all tagging someone else to do the work is our forte! But how does it matter? I mean one could say its a widely seen event, after Euro Cup, Cricket World Cup, IPL, Sultan, Girls’ Hockey team in Chak De, and NPL. What? You have no idea what NPL is? It is world famous Nashik Premier League. And I am not even making this up!

Some of our players have put up a great show this year! The Olympics for us started with very talented Abhinav Bindra, Dipa Karmakar, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna missing the medals by a whisker, but made our country extremely proud nevertheless. Amid all the hoo-ha, a certain Ms. Ashubh De, who I render wouldn’t even pick up a toothpick by herself, had a problem with players “wasting” all the money to go to Olympics only to click selfies. Ma’am, don’t worry, however much they try, they won’t take you on in your own game! *pout*

Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu have made India so proud! It was a women’s year for India altogether! On a side note, contrary to what Virendra Sehwag tweeted (Sakshi Malik is an example of what can happen if you don’t kill a girl child) – Haryana, you do not “need a reason” to save a girl child. I can talk about Sakshi Malik only when I find my jaw I dropped. Fun Fact – PV Sindhu was born after Hum Aapke Hai Kaun was released! I feel so old. And useless. Well, nonetheless.

Even as the Union sports minister, Vijay Goel, and his unruly cohort bring disgrace upon the nation by bullying their way into prohibited spaces at Rio, our sports persons have brought us glory. There are many more that I haven’t named, but the fact that they all made it this far – despite the our beloved government’s best efforts to ensure otherwise – is no small feat. If only hypocrisy was one of the sports at the Olympics, we would have been effortless gold-diggers.

The reasons for this apathy are plenty, and everyone knows them. We need to improve our infrastructural facilities, we need better coaches, we need to stop making sports an extra-curricular activity – only to get “grace” marks, we need Rakhi Sawant to promote sports so that more people take interest, and blah. Alas, after they have had their share of fun without doing their share of work, all I hear one minister, say to the next is – Kho!

dipa-karmakar-achievements-indian-gymnast

No Brain, No Brawn

Welcome. Welcome to the grave new world, the new graveyard world.
Beyond all territory, they belong! They come from nowhere, for their actions are from the land of the devil, stained with blood of the innocent.
Beyond all language, they communicate. They talk no language, but still shriek louder than any! The social fabric of the world is drowned in the sorrowful yell of loss, of mourning, of distress and suffering. And all of this deafens the- deafens them to the call of humanity, of kindness.
Beyond all mindset, they approach. It is blurred with visions of castles built of gold, on foundation of broken bones.
Beyond all roots, they instigate. For they get their power to survive not from heritages, and ancestries, but from heaps of cruelty and malice. Oh so vindictive that it’s difficult to trust that they exist!
Beyond all categories, they act. They dream of ruling the planet by assassinating every single source of life, based on their lame cowardice.
Beyond all caste, they seemly fit! They only belong to the caste of the devil- the one that believes that the vibrant life can be crumbled by their tiniest provocation.
Beyond all character, they appeal! Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. But their deed is a contrast to the even the weakest of the characters.
Beyond all government, they govern. In this political, dogmatic fabric, they seamlessly disappear, and thus dyeing the whole institution in the colour of their greed, their desires, they immorality!
Beyond all temples, mosques, monasteries and churches, they are found at the mortuary of the monster, serving an explicitly inconsequential purpose, with a blindfold over their minds, and thinking with the brain of a pea.
20150107-Charlie-hebdo-FINAL-for-web-1-e1420671132323The world is once again stunned and grieving over a brutal terrorist attack. This time it was in Turkey, where three suicide bombers killed at least 41 people and wounded more than 200 others at the international airport in Istanbul. The timing on Tuesday was especially cruel for a Muslim majority country, coming during the 10 holiest days of the holy month of Ramadan.
Terrorism and mass shootings are intimately connected to the global architecture of wealth extraction. Those who rig economic systems to hoard wealth and power create the conditions for desperation and the breakdown of society.
Hours after the attack, US presidential candidate Donald Trump responded by tweeting “We must do everything possible to keep this horrible terrorism outside the United States,” echoing his earlier calls to ban Muslims from the country. Trump is positively obsessed with the idea not only that America is weak, but also that they will be thought of as weak by others. And perhaps most importantly, that once others decide they are weak, they’ll laugh at us. Ha! Aren’t we already, Mr-nobody-hopes-you-become-the-president?
Those of us with the integrity of heart and soul who understand what is happening must now find the courage to voice that we have had enough. It is finished.
No more failing to connect the dots between exploitative economic policies and human suffering.
We can do better than this. We must do better.
Onward, fellow humans.

A Very Stretched Piece On Yoga

Before we begin- take a deep breath in, and slowly breathe out!

This was just to get you in the zone.

This week the world is going to celebrate its second International Yoga Day. I am assuming you are reading this in Malasana (The Squat Pose) – on your yoga mat, and not on the pot. As we all know, yoga is an ancient practice that we love, from the moment we came to know that the west endorses it.

Yoga is a stretchable, bendable, flexible, malleable form of exercise, originated in India. Ask me. I am an expert on yoga. I survived the intensive training sessions for all of 4 days!!

Yoga teaches you to put your leg where your head is supposed to be, and vice versa. Unlike all other forms of exercises where leg is exactly where it’s supposed to be, and head is exactly where it is supposed to be – in a protein shake! It teaches us to learn to ask- Why does anything has to be the thing you expect it to be?

Let me explain. When a builder promises to deliver a residential building in 3 years – based on which you start paying EMI- why does it have to be three years? Why not seven? Why finish it at all?

Ahem, moving on!

Well, I sincerely feel that yoga isn’t that appealing because it is not endorsed well. Baba Ramdev, for instance, is cool only if you have been alive for more than 60 years now, or Shilpa Shetty is cool only for Raj Kundra. And from the looks of it- and I am saying this in the nicest possible way- that Yoga may seem a tad-bit boring! Just a little bit. Also the fact that if you are not into yoga, your exercise regime is probably jumping to the tunes of “DJ wale babu mera gaana chala do”.All of this put together doesn’t make yoga so palpable.

Until of course we stumble upon a video of a white girl performing “Sun Salutations” in her gym clothes. Oh, yoga just turned into the coolest thing ever!

But it comes naturally to us, here in India. And it definitely reflects on the rest of our day- in our business and otherwise. Bending the rules, stretching our limits, flexible timings- are our natural traits, just to name some.

A few of my favourite new-age asanas, which I religiously perform all day, are:Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 7.58.32 PM

Taptapasana (The Tapping Pose) – Where I use my fingers to melodiously play on the keyboard- for specific purposes like trolling, and attacking Bhai-haters. Because, #BhaiRoxx.

Shoutasana (The Shouting Pose) – Wherein, the bigger the mistake, the louder my voice – to put the blame on anyone who isn’t good at this particular pose. It’s a part of my couples Yoga class!

Shirksasana (The Ostrich Pose) – Wherein you lay in mud all day on one leg, with so much free time that you write useless articles like this.

Well, before you drift off into Shavasana (The Awesome-most Pose), take a deep breathe in and do yoga for non-political reasons, and not just because your government said so!

Lights, Camera..Cut!

Warning: This column is not yet rated.

A scientific study has proved that about 90% of India’s economy is dependent on important people giving stupid statements! (The rest is powered by subah ki ek cup chai). Only this can explain why day-by-day our newspaper headlines are about politicians turning into pre-primary school teachers, and treating everyone in the country like toddlers. By proposing 80-90 cuts in the movie Udta******, the censor board not only showed the film-makers their place (i.e. 18th century), but also revealed how the certification board is merely a political puppet.

A lot of the concern comes from how films might affect kids. This argument is as tiresome now as it was when I first heard it- as a kid. It is like taking a kid to a pub, and fighting for Junior’s joy box. I’m sorry, but you cannot enforce public policy based on the opinion of your child. What are you – the Congress party?

In this particular movie, the controversy is around showing Punjab in a bad light. I mean, come on! We belong to a country where our favourite pass-time is to make babies, and kill the female ones. A team of 4-5 Aloknath-bred so-called moralists don’t have the right to moral police the entire country- on screen. Because off-screen, we could really do with some censoring of our actions, our mentality, our collective conscience.

The controversy over cuts made in the film Udta Punjab reveals a deeper dilemma about the role of a film certification board in a modern democracy. Does the Board stand as the self-appointed guardian of community and religious sentiments, which are to be interpreted as it likes? CBFC stands for Central Board of Film Certification, yet it is known as the censor board in popular parlance.

censorshipNobody gives you the right to interfere with somebody else’s right to freedom of expression. Five people cannot decide what millions and billions of people should or should not watch. The whole censor board itself is a farce in a democracy. And I think, we’re the ones to blame for this. Of course, when I say ‘we’, I don’t mean myself. I’m talking about people with stupid sentiments.

British essayist George Orwell rightly said that “threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen”.

Also, it is perfectly okay to not like a movie. You don’t have to like everything you buy a ticket to, be it a movie, a play, a comedy show or the midget bowling alley. You have the right to come out and tell people what you thought of it. What’s worrying is when you use your personal opinion to stop others from forming their own. Seriously, go away. You’re not a….

…[The censor board did not let me finish my article]

 

PS: Just in. Kudos to Advocate Dharmadhikari (what an apt name) for saving us from taking baby-steps to becoming North Korea. He said – “We want creative people to survive, and an industry to survive. You have to show the reality!”

Oxy-Morons

What I am going to write about now is a actually a paradoxical situation, but I never leave an opportunity to use a bad pun! 😉

Morons – that’s what they actually are.

With ‘they’, I mean people in authority, people who think they have a right to decide who gets what resources, and impact the lives of millions, and people who actually do, but are not responsible enough!

With the work I have chosen to do all my life, I have to visit these tiny villages, sometimes located in the most mesmerising locations! This little world of people has a world of it’s own problems. Here they are struggling to live. To live at least till the next moment, next day. When you visit them, you realise the whole futility of trying to find life somewhere else when we can’t even respect most of them here. Now. At this moment. Alive.

Last week I set out to go to a tiny place, near Kasara.

At the first glance, it was a breath-taking view! Wow. What more could one ask for! I mean people pay crazy amounts to go live in a place like this – be it only for 5 days! I was standing at one of hills surrounding Upper Vaitarna dam, and this village was right in front of me on another hill. What beauty!

But there was no road to get there. So we climbed down the hill we were standing on, and climbed up the adjacent one! No connect, no roads is the just the beginning of their miseries. It did not hit me so hard till we actually reached the village, and oh my, what I saw was what I used to think was just a sure-shot formula for a successful movie! People had no water to drink. TO DRINK. Forget spa, jacuzzi, have a bath, or even cook! Let us not even speak about water therapies! They did not have water to drink, when they were surrounded by a dam, that gives water about 200kms away! I cannot emphasize on this more!

Government is trolling them. In their face!

Can you see the little rocky trench? Can you see a little wet portion above the 3 buckets in the trench? So what actually is happening is, there a few drops of water coming out of those rocks – and this is “paani aaya” situation for them! This is how they fill water. Drop-by-drop. And can you see the queue of vessels? By the time even one fills up, we would have wasted 10 of those – just putting things in perspective!

We have heard this a lot. I mean I won’t say I haven’t seen millions of pictures (award-wining) or videos where people are struggling to fill their bucket. It doesn’t hit you so hard, till you don’t see it. For yourself. It was the saddest, the most helpless moment of my life for me. Very clichéd,  but this was like a “swades-moment” of my life.

I know for a reader like you, this will yet again be another story, heard from someone else-you will empathise with it, may be even agitate a little, but it will not make you think twice before the hot water shower bath! Still, on my end it is attempt to show the reality. And our so-very-efficient government!

You know what was worse? I came home and told about this to a few people, and the reaction I get is – “yeh toh kuch bhi nahi hai, waha toh aisa hai, yahaan toh waisa hai, aur woh toh sabse bura hai!”

Seriously?! Signing off before I can’t stop myself from adding another bad pun!

50 shades of Ban

No one told me when the Make in India was replaced by Ban in India. It is not even funny the number of things we have banned in the last one week.

The only thing that is common in all these bans is our inability to tackle sensitive issues. Banning is running away from the scenario. It is a reflection of our hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, bias, and cowardice. It shows that we have no faith in our thousands of year old culture and value system, that we are questioning its sustenance.

Having said that banning does not deter the fact that we are what we ban.

I mean if we have to ban anything, implies that it exists, that it is our value-system, a trend now. And banning a video doesn’t change that! Whom are we kidding? Do the policy makers really believe that banning products, actions, videos, and words really curbs their use?  In fact, all it does is people looking for more illegal ways to do “it”, eat “it”, watch “it”, and all this while saying “it”.

Seriously, don’t we all know where to find alcohol in Gujarat? And by now, beef in Maharashtra? Don’t we all use cuss words? Haven’t we seen the AIB Roast or the documentary? In fact, banning the video gave it more popularity, and all the people who did not even know AIB exists, have access to the aforesaid video. And don’t even make me question banning 50 shades of grey.

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I think this simply shows the power of the words don’t, no, ban has. We just have to do it. Cannot explain the psychology more simply. That exactly is how it works, government! “Ban” is not the solution.

There are 50 shades of our mentality to be tackled, and putting even a fraction of our energy in that direction will get a lot more achieved than banning these things.

PS – Let me know when we Ban Janata Party!

Dog-Opoly

A city of dogs – underdogs of the city!

Dog-Opoly is a dog version of the famous board game Monopoly, but it really is the monopoly of dogs on the Indian streets!

And for a dog-fearing person like me, I have always wondered why is the stray-dog population in India so high, as compared to the negligible numbers in the west? Besides being a nuisance to the locality, chaotic, catastrophic for children, unhygienic, noisy, etc., it can actually be quite scary to walk on the lonely streets at nights with howling noises in the background. The fear quotient in me is so high, that it almost makes me feel that I am a part of a “Conjuring” for real! While it may not be appropriate to generalize, but stray dogs have proved to be calamitous for humans in quite many incidents and places. In fact, a number of road accidents occur, of which a few prove almost fatal to a person walking, in order to save the-dog-sprung-from-God-knows-where, and I am not eliminating the chances of their deaths here as well. Thank God for the law in 2001 that forbade the killing of dogs, which was a good-step but has further added to the stray population. “Why doesn’t government create better infrastructure?”, a dog-lover or any person-with-a-heart may ask. But in retrospect, we do not have proper facilities for more than half the population, let alone the thought of the thick-skinned people on top melting at the their plight. And we haven’t even started talking about pigs, donkeys and other more “bechara” animals on streets yet!

Quite a few people by now probably must already have started hating me for my perspective on this particular situation, but in all practicality it makes sense. I mean I understand that they also are a breathing, eating, pooping, moving, barking-but-unable-to-talk-and-express-their-plight (and so are chickens we eat?) kind of creatures, but in my view we need to re-think the extent to which we take things emotionally and start introducing practical solutions to the existing grave problems- a journey from sensitive to sensible.

When I did my research I realized the main reason was our hygiene habits. It is the unattended litter on the roads, which actually is a feast for the strays, and hence they survive for long and strong. This is the prime reason. We as a culture are quite messy, always blame the incapable and inactive government for improper infrastructure, and on the other hand don’t even maintain sanitation regime on personal level! We really do not need to wait for a few intellectuals to instruct us, “do not litter” boards everywhere, Satyamev Jayate, or a Prime Minister to start a ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan’ to know the importance of cleanliness. It is only clearing of litter, and not killing the strays, that will solve the problem – quicker than anything! It is common sense to not litter, and should be followed as a protocol, otherwise the efforts of a handful will go to the dogs. Literally.

Apart from that, there are a lot of organisations that neuter and vaccinate the stray dogs – all thanks to the unlike me dog-loving people out there. Let us at least help them help us using whatever way we can – volunteer, provide resources, financial aid, inform about unattended or bruised stray dogs, adopt and get them vaccinated etc. Also encourage more and more people to make stray dog as pets, instead of buying ’em. These solutions may not be quick in their eradication, but probably are first few steps in the planned scheme of reducing their numbers!

Every dog has its day, but with our collective efforts these dogs will have a life. Amen.