Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Main Bhi SC/ST Banna Chahta Hoon

Genre: Current Affairs

Over the last week thousands of protesters belonging to a certain Gujjar community have camped themselves- lock, stock and barrel on the railway tracks in Rajasthan holding India's economy and peace at ransom. Latest reports suggest that the Indian Army has laid a siege on the protesters from both sides and cut off their food supply lines and communication links. This type of strong action is usually associated with a war but here the "enemies" thet the Indian Army is fighting against are Indian citizens themselves. A shameful day for India indeed!

What forced the Army to take such a tough stand? People who say that after all it is just one railway line that the protesters are blocking do not realise the socio-economic implications of this move. The blockade has forced dozens of trains on the busy Mumbai-Delhi trunk route cancelled every day and effectively left tens of thousands of travellers in the peak holiday season in the lurch. But this is not the major problem. This railway line sees a heavy traffic of an average of thirty container freight trains per day which carry a major chunk of India's imports from JNPT in Mumbai to Tughlaqabad depot in Delhi from where it is distributed all over India and in the other direction bring a huge percentage of India's foreign exports to JNPT to be loaded into waiting container ships for their trans-oceanic journey. Blocking this link is in effect blocking India's economic aorta.

More than the way of protest, what is interesting is the reason for protest- the Gujjars supposedly want a Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for themselves. Now, why on earth would someone want oneself to be declared "Backward"? If you are in India, there are more reasons than one. The host of undue advantages that the SC/STs get thanks to the votebank-oriented myopic caste-based reservation policy of the dungheaded Indian Government makes it very lucrative to be a SC/ST. Ironically, the reservation policy which the dumb pigs sitting in Parlaiment House justified as "a means to bring the Backwards Class into the mainstream" is encouraging more and more people to count themselves as "Backward Class". And if the Government budges in this case and gives in to the demands, starting tomorrow we will have any Tom, Dick and Harry going out on the streets, uprooting railway tracks and refusing to move unless their caste is also declared as SC/ST/OBC. Then what next? Declare the entire population of India as SC/ST?

The solution to this problem can be arrived at only by cancelling all caste/creed/religion based reservations that have been introduced year after year by creepy chair-loving vote-begging politicians; but the question is- who will bring about this reform? In the present state of anarchy that India is going through, the need is ripe for a strongly nationalist Leader who can mobilise the masses, take a few tough decisions if required, inject a feeling of strong patroitism and nation-building among the citizens and possess a charisma which would make the whole nation look upon him with trust and respect. Has there ever been such a leader in the past? Yes, you guessed it right- Hitler.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Gastronomic Gujaratis

Genre: Life

A word of caution: Please do not ask for English transliteration of the words mentioned in italics in the narration below; not because I dont know them, rather because they simply dont exist.

Tell the two words- "Gujarati" and "Food" to anybody and immediately the third word that will come out as reply is "thepla". However those who think Gujarati food starts with thepla and ends with dhokla- think again.

The variety of food found in Gujarat and Gujaratis probably surpasses that found in food all over India combined. A typical Gujarati spends his morning jogging for an hour followed by a feast of jalebi-fafda, eventually consuming twice the calories he burnt while jogging! However if the person happens to be in Surat, the breakfast will invariably be locho- a speciality not to be found anywhere else in India. To a person who can barely distinguish between a khaman and a dhokla, if I tell that a locho is something that can be classifed between the two, he will only end up pulling his (or my) hair! But that's how it is- Gujaratis have made such a huge number of gastronomic inventions that the variety is eventually mind-boggling.

If there is one area which has seen maximum number of innovations by Gujaratis, it has to be Chinese food. Ofcourse all Gujarati Chinese food is pure vegetarian, there is Gobi Manchurian, Chinese Samosa and even Chinese Bhel! Feed any of these dishes to a Chinese guy and he will surely faint. The innovations do not stop here- while everywhere else in India, pani-puri (which is same as golgappa of the North Indians and puchka of the East Indians) is served with a teekha pani and a meetha pani, Ahmedabadis would have none of it. So here we have pani-puri served with a variety of no less than seven different flavours of pani. You name it, we have it! Even the humble vada-pao of Mumbai has not been spared. While the original variety simply has a vada stuffed inside a pao with dry and wet chatni thrown in, the Ahmedabadi vada-pao comes with a pao fried in liberal amount of butter and lasoon chatni and the vada dollopped with tomato ketchup!

There is no doubt about the fact that food brings out the best in Gujaratis- one visit to Law Garden in Ahmedabad or Chowpatti on the banks of the Tapi in Surat or any other khau-galli in Gujarat or Mumbai for that matter will prove this fact. Food unites Gujaratis cutting across age, caste and economic status. So, you will find local farmers sharing space with hip teenagers in their swanky Hondas and Skodas at the traditional bullock-operated sugarcane juice centre near Maroli Sugar Factory on the state highway at an hour's drive from Surat. So famous is this non-descript joint that travellers on the National Highway take a detour to visit it and families from Surat and Valsad specially plan an outing to this place in sugarcane-cultivating season. And the popularity is not unjustified- after all here you get the freshest possible sugarcane juice extracted in the traditional way and served on cots laid under peepal trees in a tranquil field; and at Rs. 2.50 per glass, it's a steal! The same is the case with the bhajia wala at Tithal Beach- once the Gujaratis get attractes to a place, the attraction lasts for generations.

It is this love for food of the Gujaratis that has made even the multinational companies take special interest in keeping them happy. So, on entering a popular mall on the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway, you will come across a huge signboard of McDonalds- written in Gujarati and Domino's and Pizza Hut outlets serving Jain Pizza. It is for same reason that a sleepy town like Valsad which is till date struggling to have one good cinema hall or a shopping complex, already has a US Pizza outlet!

Gujaratis may have been experimenting recently with international cuisine but that has certainly not changed the love for the native dishes. Even today, a visit to Surat is never complete without a dish of Undhiya or nobody who visits Baroda misses to have the Cold Cocoa- an ingenious chocolate based cold drink that originated here and grabbed the attention of the entire nation when Amul started selling it in tetra-packs and cans; however anyone who has tasted the real thing once will swear that this commercial variety does not taste even half as good. The same goes for goti-soda and malai gola- both having their origins in Rajkot.

It is this undying love that distinguishes Gujaratis from everyone else and at the same time unites Gujaratis from all over the world. While others eat to live, the Gujaratis live to eat!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Conflicting Images

The Kargil War Memorial, Leh.

Everytime I think of this place, my blood starts boiling and my heart goes out to those hundreds of kids who lost their fathers and the hundreds of women who lost their husbands fighting those bloody Pakis , disguised as "jehadis". Yes, we did manage to shoo the creeps out of our territory but in the process 455 countrymen had to pay with their life. Why dont we just kick their asses off once and for all so that in the future we dont have to deal with their crappy ways all over again...

International Border, Wagah

And then, every time I think of this image, only one thing comes to my mind - why are we two different countries when everything is so exactly the same on both sides- same people, same food, same fields which grow same crops- so much so that from this photo you can't even make out which side is India and which side is Pakistan! Can you?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cheer-less Leaders

A short interview with one of those pot-bellied white-capped creatures roaming around in red-beaconed Ambassador cars-

Reporter: Sir, the inflation is growing by leaps and bounds every day, prices of crude oil have crossed $110 mark, the farmer suicides in Vidarbha are not stopping, its scorching summer and cities across the state are facing upto 15 hours of powercuts. What steps is your Government going to take to tackle this problems?

Neta: This are all trivial matters. We have a more important issue at hand that needs urgent attention. In today's Assembly session, our top priority will be to oppose the Opposition's recommendation that that the length of skirts of the cheerleader girls in IPL matches should be 6 inches. We have proposed that a length of 7 inches is ideal and our party is committed to fight till the end to ensure this crisis is solved.
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