Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Methinks ... this one is Mushy-Immy-gate! (Part-II)

Author's note: You can read the 1st part here.

Then reports emerged: of hush-hush meetings in the dead of the night - to save precious daylight and keep the environment green, obviously. Gen. Pesha is said to have had several meetings with Mr. Immy Khan in the presence of the US(eful) Ambassador to Pak - Mr. Cameron Muncher.

Thereafter, Mr. Immy Khan thundered at a huge rally, of about 50k people (suspected to be facilitated by you-know-which "angels"), but made to be over 1 lakh people (according to starry-eyed and extremely generous estimates); but billed worldwide as equivalent to the 1986 homecoming-rally of Benazir Bhutto ... attended by millions. This "equivalent to Benazir Bhutto's homecoming-rally" has automatically "equaled" Mr. Immy Khan's "stature to that of Benazir Bhutto", according to several experts, analysts and media-wallahs, domestic and international, including the one possessing unimpeachable integrity, comrade Bariq Ali. And naturally, all this ... has undoubtedly underlined, sealed, and delivered Mr. Immy Khan's new-found "game changer" status.

Recently, another "game-changer" joined him - after losing his job to Birkin bagwati. But let's not digress.

Unknown to others, Immy Khan's new-found "stature" has also bestowed him with immense psychic powers; therefore he was able to "foresee" or "gain knowledge" about this 'secret memo' and the "brain" behind it, even before anyone, including the press-wallahs got wind of it; i.e. even before it was revealed to the press! But mind you, nothing more should be read into his subsequent act of talking loudly about the 'memo' (to Gen. Mike Melon), and even naming the "writer" of the 'memo' - Mr. Hussain Luckyani, at his "huge" rally, that turned him into "the game changer". The same psychic powers are responsible for his prior knowledge that "game changer II", the one elbowed out by Birkin bagwati, will join his party ... several days before the actual announcement. No daylight-saving involved here, only pure unadulterated psychic powers, wokey?

Though coincidentally coincidental, recently there was news of Mushy visiting the US(eful) Department of State and hiring an expensive lobbyist in the US of A; to liaison with various power brokers and king makers. Perhaps he was getting bored of lecturing and dispensing pearls of wisdom, and wants to smoke cigars and show his fist instead, and so, he once again wants to "save" his country.

Though the US(eful) Department of State denied the visit and called him a "private citizen", Mushy himself confirmed the bit about hiring a lobbyist.

Strangely, while Daring Thapar interviewed Immy Khan where he talked like the next PM of the 'land of the puree', Mushy was interviewed by Darling Dutt, herself of a certain "gate" fame. And here he indicated that he may return to his country earlier than 23rd march, 2012 - his stated timeline of return, to what else, but "save" his beloved nation from "corrupt" politicians. He now talks about delivering himself as the New Year gift to his countrymen, since they are unable to buy any themselves due to inflation and noise pollution; he will also bring along Chengiz Khan - in the form of a soft toy, according to some soothsayers.

Umm, Gen. Kayamat, Gen. Pesha and other domestic and international well wishers were instrumental in ensuring a "safe passage" along with a guard of honour for Mushy - and are seeing to his comforts and security too. They endorsed his views on: creating a mindset even before an investigation could begin, along with "authentic" tapes, sunroof-lever theory, disappearance of a certain dupatta, thorough cleansing of a certain vehicle, immediate hosing down of a certain site - that also washed away precious evidence, since "crows and vultures were circling overhead", uploading of dubious videos, plus much else. They have also seen to it that he remained untried.

So, they must have some "role" in mind for him still - they are yet to squeeze some more things out of him - willing and rootless that he is. It is easier to deal with someone like him than a popular leader and a popular party with deep roots among the people. But then, now the "popularity" bit is no problem at all - since Immy Khan with his "hugely attended rallies and popularity" (according to international polls) - will take care of that. After all, he now has a stature "equivalent to Benazir Bhutto"! So silly of me, how can I forget! [Note to self: I must stock up on Brainolia].

Btw, let me tell you, this "miracle" was not achieved in a day. No sir! It required a lot of "hard work". Books had to be written. Yes sir, books! Just as when the once "heroic and holy fighters" had to be given a complete makeover, books were the preferred way; including one penned by the author who shares one half of his name with our Bollywood shirtless thunder. There were/are others too: Bariq Ali, Hatrick Frenchman, Billy D, Decline Walsh, an aged turbanator, and a famous niece, among others; books, op-ed pieces, columns, articles, commentaries, media appearances, the works ... have been taken care of.

Let's step back a bit.

Two-and-half years ago, a biography of Immy Khan appeared. Nothing wrong with it's appearance; just that, wonder how many people would have been keen to read a book on Immy Khan of all people. Nevertheless, it claimed of a "roaring affair" between Immy Khan and Benazir Bhutto during their student days at Oxford University. Even of a "close sexual relationship" for two months at least, and a supposed attempt by his mother to "arrange a marriage" between them - all this without a shred of evidence! Strangely, it was these very pieces that made it to every media and communication outlet all over the world.

Predictably, it fell flat - being the heights or lows (whichever you may call it) of purple journalism, with folks dismissing it as a cheap marketing ploy to market the new biography of Immy Khan.

Jemmy Khan would have been devastated though. Had the people, I mean readers and viewers fell for it, she would have played the "martyr" to the hilt, glycerin and all; not unlike her once-best-friend, a now deceased princess. Then she might have been dubbed as the "new princess you-know-who", a la how the now-famous niece is being touted as "the new Daughter of the East".

A few months ago, another biography appeared, this time penned by an Indian author who writes under a phoren-sounding pseudonym. In that, Immy Khan "denied" rather "pooh poohed" suggestions of any "affair with Benazir". Again without a shred of evidence! Never mind who made that "suggestion" in the first place, but this bit too made it everywhere, around the world, yet again!! Nobody believes it, but purpose is served, na? Public-city tau baj gai!

These were followed recently by Immy Khan's own official biography dubbed as a "personal history"; one that suspiciously appears to be a much-laboured or contrived effort to somehow resemble, echo or be on the same lines as that of Benazir Bhutto's last book, titled: "Reconciliation".

And: since a documentary on the late PM's life took a bow at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2010, and has since won some awards; can craggy winter be far behind? And sure enough, a film on Immy Khan's life titled "Kaptaan(i)" is now under production. 'It explores the experiences of a man who dedicates his life to his country while also struggling with personal and spiritual anguish.'


Immy Khan himself was of course reluctant at first and claimed that it was more important to focus on other aspects of the country, but the filmmaker's persistence finally paid off in ultimately convincing him, just like those biographers' enthusiasm had paid off earlier, wokey? Don't read too much into it.

All this while a now famous niece was/is busy buzzing all over the globe, wherever it matters that is, with her "must read" book.

And then ... along came the 'secret memo'.

Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.

She is quite a prolific parroter, err... author. The famous niece, I tell you. Her next book is regarding a city that is solely responsible for British Telecom's profits in this part of the world. Anyone who is clued into the goings-on in the 'land of the puree' should be aware of/be able to guess the stuff that would be resting within it's pages. And it would undoubtedly go on to become yet another "must read" book, no prizes for guessing.

Incidentally, the folks whose talk time ensures British Telecom's profits are close to Mushy, having been infused with life (after being in danger of rigor mortis earlier), during his moderately-enlightening reign, apart from community feeling, of course. Umm, w.r.t the 'memo', a joint venture or a partial gurudakshina cannot be ruled out. Also Mushy wants to land in British Telecom-land - when he arrives back to "save" the nation from "krupt politicians". And since the folks responsible for BT's profits ensure large gatherings periodically, where even crows and pigeons do not dare to "white wash", Mushy can assure himself of a grand reception minus any fireworks. Plus, Immy and BT talk-time-wallahs seem to be quite pally these days. So a multi-venture cannot be ruled out too.

Who are the puppeteers and who the puppets, it is not difficult to decipher. And once you connect the dots you will know who are working together for which common goal, which are the scriptwriters and who the choreographers of this magnum opus con. Frankly, now that that well-known-yet-trying-hard-to-be-latent pie-in-the-sky Ponzi scheme that walks on two legs, and goes by the name of Immy Khan has been trotted out, err... floated, it is not rocket science to figure out what that magnum opus con is all about. I rest my case.

Btw, this Mushy-Immy team works perfectly. Mushy has the "expertise and experience" while Immy brings on the "popularity". Plus Mushy at 68 and Immy at 59 - not much of a generation gap there, but it is a nice insurance against any "natural calamities". What?

Note: It is being stated that Immy Khan has finally "arrived" after 16 years of "struggle" and being in the wilderness, since he did not "inherit a legacy like Benazir did". But why was he on every media outlet parroting his pearls of wisdom against a certain personality in 1996 and 2007, then? Why were his words and views (along with a certain fiery niece's) given so much importance (by analysts, think tanks, press and media; domestic and international) and touted all over, if he was someone in the wilderness then and has "arrived" only now? Good questions, no answer.

He made his due appearance in the "title role" during some events in 1999 and 2002. He is "active" at other times too, but usually in side roles: cameos and guest appearances. "Title roles" have been four in the past 16 years: 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007 and currently as well, so that makes it five; or four-and-a-half, if you may. But what was the plan and what was achieved during those previous four starring-roles ... a closer look can easily decipher.

Come to think of it, his casting in the "title role" of a "saviour" has happened twice before (
in 1996 and 2007), apart from the current one, that is. Take a closer look and you'll know what his "role" required him to do then, what he did, and what was the outcome.

Btw, in his 1996 "title role" - he blamed someone for using mineral water for everything, while her husband fed his 40 horses with jam, jelly, marmalade, ice cream and milk shake; this while the poor people went to sleep empty stomach.

I kid you not!

My only regret is that: in all my life I am yet to see even a single horse that eats: jam, jelly, marmalade, ice cream and milk shake. But let's not digress.

The media - domestic and international, immediately caught on and feverishly relayed those "gems", and in the process also turned Immy Khan into an "Oxford-educated, legendary, handsome and dashing Pathan Prince". While the BeeBeeC ran a program titled: "The Princess and the Playboy", directed at you-know-who.

So, while Immy Khan was a charismatic, charming lady-killer, a successful man-about-town, on whom women threw themselves and who made them swoon; the husband who apparently had 40 horses feeding on jam, jelly, marmalade, ice cream and milk shake was a "playboy" and "so-and-so's 'horse-mad' husband", without a shred of evidence, yet again.

In 2002, when Mushy held yet another one of the 'land of the puree's' "free and fair elections", Immy Khan was allowed to participate, since he held a third-class degree from Oxford University. While a certain lady who apparently used mineral water for everything and thus 'increased the gulf between the rich and the poor' was barred and declared a non-graduate, 'coz she possessed a first-class degree from the same university! The domestic and international media, etc was quick to dub her as a "non-graduate" too.

I kid you not!!

No wonder, the state of education in that sorry mess of a country is sooo brilliant. They think that a first-class degree being only "1" is lesser than a third-class degree, since it is greater than "1". More precisely: since it is "1" then "2" and only then "3", therefore, undoubtedly 3 is greater than 1 !!!

And oh, before I forget (since I have run out of Brainolia) - Mr. Immy Khan does not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution; 'coz he thinks that the one and only Almighty - the one he shares a steady hot-line with - created two types of humans. One was 'Insaan' and the other 'Pathan'!

I kid you not!!!

(More later…)

Picture: Courtesy link.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Methinks ... this one is Mushy-Immy-gate! (Part-I)

These are interesting times indeed ... and a time for building 'gates'.

Let me clarify before you ask; that Bill Gates has absolutely nothing to do with these.

So, while India has successfully come up with several engineering marvels like: Chara-gate, CWG-gate, 2G-gate, IPL-gate, Radia-gate, Barkha-gate, Sanghvi-gate, and the like; our estranged western neighbour has now come up with a stinking gate - "Memogate"; styled after the original "Watergate", that nixed President Nixon.

What is this Memogate, you ask? Well, it is apparently a "memo" - the news of which a smarmy businessman-cum-lobbyist of Pak origin, a citizen of America and living in the US of A, has circulated via the foreign press (especially the "Financially Yours Times") and media, that in May 2011, the (now former) Pak Ambassador to US - the foxy Hussain Luckyani - had apparently sent to the President of the US of A - the great and nobel B.rack-ed Obma - on behalf of the Pak President - the smiling Hatim Tai Zardari, via Admiral Mike Melon - the now retired Joint Chiefs of staff (US), who was then very much in action; via an intermediary, the former US National Security Adviser - James 'Bond' Bones, through the smarmy businessman of Pak origin, Mansoor Ijaz-zat.


Bhool Bhulaiya of a different kind, right? But this one is/was not 'made in Bollywood'; so read on.

According to the swarmy businessman-cum-lobbyist, a paranoid Zardari - "too scared" after the big "O" was "taken out" unilaterally, by US Navy seals, in the 'land of the puree' - "feared a military coup and wanted a US hand on Gen. A. Parvez Kayamat's desk."

Zardari apparently even agreed to come up with a "new security team" that would co-operate more closely with the US led 'war on terrier' on Pak soil and was also "
ready to hand over 26/11 culprits to India."


That the holiest of holy cows in the 'land of the puree' - the ones that wear shining boots - were the ones under tremendous pressure from the public after the big "O" episode, so much so that even rickshaws there displayed slogans like, "Horn aista bajaye, army so rahey hain"; was conveniently side-stepped. [Note: Horn aista bajaye, army so rahey hain, translated: Please blow the horn softly, the army is asleep.]

Now, why the big "O" was not made a spectacle of - a la Sad-dam-ed Hussein and Muahmuah Gaddafi - and his 'body' dumped into the waters of the A. Sea instead, is a trillion dollar question.

We were shown the picture of a corpse of course (along with much chest-thumping), but whether it was a dated one or that of a 'frozen' body, we cannot be sure.

We later saw the pictures of a smiling Obma, showing all his pearly-whites, on-board the ship or submarine or aircraft or whatever those said Navy seals supposedly traveled in to "take out" the big "O".

But before I proceed, I would like you to read
this and this.

The latter clearly states that: "There has been little out of Washington DC since the "world domination" cabal, PNAC (Project for a New American Century) or the Brzezinski "World Chessboard" counterparts outlined the need for a "Pearl Harbour scale" event with a "cardboard cutout" boogeyman to act as backdrop for re-engineering the face of the planet. After the "event," we would see the seizure of Central Asia's hydrocarbon resources, the collapse of the world's monetary systems and a political upheaval to spread across the world that would leave every political institution in every country vulnerable to the dictates of an unseen "globalist" hand.

Is there any surprise that the "reported" killing of the big "O" has not been accepted in the United States as more than "ho hum" news?"

... And what do we see around us?

A while back, another person had stated that the real powers in the cowboy country want to "take out" seven M. nations: Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon (or is it Yemen [?]; pardon me, I forget), Syria, Iran and Pakistan. Jingoistic cowboy media predictably promptly drummed out his voice; but what do we see around us?

Some have already been "taken", and the recent surge in rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions combined with a concerted effort to dislodge the Assad regime in Syria, give us hummus for thought. Strangely, even the Russian strongman, Putin, was recently roundly jeered during a sporting event that he was attending - in Russia! And there are routine talks of a "Jasmine revolution" engulfing China with it's "fragrance" - sooner rather than later.

We in India should and must be concerned. If there is trouble in our neighbourhood, if our neighbourhood is burning, we too cannot escape the heat first and then the fire.

For years we were shown long-distance shots of a man sitting on a rocky dry terrain; or the back of a man draped in heavy shawls or blankets, apart from cassettes that seemed to appear at periodic intervals, of course. We were told that the man was the big "O" and that those cassettes were from him - by you-know-who.

That brings me to an interview given by the assassinated Benazir Bhutto to Sir Daveed Frosty on "Frosty over the World" in Nov. 2007. There she had categorically stated that she knew for a certainty that the big "O" had already been "taken out", and that she knew the identity of the person who had done the job.

This was thunderclap, wasn't it? But Sir Daveed Frosty did not miss a beat and quickly moved on to other "more interesting" topics. Recently, when the BeeBeeC aired the said interview, it was minus the "offending" bit - that part had been neatly edited out!

Let's get back to the 'memo' then.

Now, Mike Melon, the good gent that he is, denied the existence of such a 'memo' and stated that he had no recollection of ever receiving it.

The Pak Presidency as well as the (now former) Pak Ambassador to the US too denied having anything to do with the offending 'memo'.

This prompted Mr. Ijaz-zat to quote a classic dialogue of the big-screen character of Gordon Gekko - the main antagonist of the 1987-film, "Wall Street" and the antihero of the 2010 "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps": "If you stop telling lies about me, I might just stop telling the truth about you".

Thereafter, Mike Melon through a spokesman "clarified" and owned up to the existence of such a 'memo'. Apparently, he went back and searched through piles of files and reams of paper ... and found a copy. We were also helpfully told that earlier - on receiving it that is, he had dismissed it as not credible and took no action.


The 'masala' or 'formula' has an unmistakable smell rather flavour on them. This one got to be a joint production of 'Hollywood' and 'Lollywood' - also the name that the film industry in the 'land of the puree' goes by. But those who are discerning and can read between the lines will know what I mean.

Now, why would Zardari of all people even dream of sending such a boomerang-style memo to Mike Melon - who is a "close buddy" of Gen. Kayamat and his friends, past and present, and who was also instrumental in getting the thorough professional and a soldiers soldier - the chain smoking Gen. Kayamat himself, a three-year extension (beginning Oct-Nov 2010) - thus ensuring that the next election would be held under him and not the sitting President?

Plus, it is a common knowledge-cum-open secret that the pure and green generals in the 'land of the puree' and their cronies only act after a green signal from you-know-where.

And why send such an aa-bail-mujhe-maar-worded 'memo'? That too through the discredited Mansoor Ijaz-zat, who had claimed prior to the iRaq War ... about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the then Sad-dam-ed
iRaq, and also talked about ties between Sad-dam-ed Hussein and Ally Q - that had led the-you-know-which forces to invade that hapless oil-rich nation!

Mr. Ijaz-zat commented on the big "O" and New-clear Proliferation; articulated opinions in support of the Am-Bush-ed White House (that considered Mushy to be a "tight buddy"), and neo-conservative foreign policy. He was a Fox(ed you) News Analyst and played a popular role on (Es)Special Report; he was the most popular guest on the show and appeared on Fox(ed you) on more than 100 occasions.

Now, media mogul Rupee Murdoch owns Fox(ed you), one of the pioneers of unethical and illegal news-gathering practices, as demonstrated by the recent phone hacking scandal. It has been also found that private data of Hateem Tai had also been targeted by some private investigators hired by 'The Sunday Times', a newspaper owned by Rupee Murdoch.

Apparently, the ISI-certified chief, Gen. Pesha - who too is on an extended extension, courtesy you-know-who - had flown halfway around the world to hold a secret meeting with Mansoor Ijaz-zat, without the knowledge of the supreme commander of Pakistan's armed forces (President Zardari himself).

Gen. Pesha "authenticated" the evidence produced by Mr. Ijaz-zat; 'coz the former had apparently carried a forensic lab in his hip-pocket and was thus able to "forensically test" Mr. Ijaz-zat's blackberry ... or blueberry, whatever it maybe; but grapes it was definitely not. Actually, Gen. Pesha was only testing/conducting his pesha on you-know-who.

In India, we are well aware of the state of our investigative agencies, and know fully well the outcome, if they were to ever behave (or test or try to conduct their pesha) in this manner. They are not ISI-certified but more into Quality Control via ISO, copyright, trademark and Agmark certification. But then India is a different country, and thank god for that!

And by now, we also know of:
Vajpayee's 'bitter lesson' on Kashmir with Mansoor Ijaz-zat.

Hmm. Hmm.

(More later...)

link. Suits, no?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prey By The Ganges by Hemant Kumar

A fairly taut and gripping tale, Prey By The Ganges does manage to hold your interest until the very end.

Debutant author Hemant Kumar has impressed with his maiden offering and will certainly be someone to watch out for in the future.

The book jacket cover instantly grabs your attention; you want to read it, and once you start ... you cannot really put it down until the last page has been turned.

The book feels good to hold and I don't really recollect any editing errors; so if at all there were any, they must have been really negligible. And that certainly added to the reading pleasure.

Though the book cover does give away some clues about the story resting within its pages, it still manages to withhold most of it.

The storyline: Set in 1948, deep in the heart of eastern India, this is a story of fate, of fortune, of friendship, of rage and resistance, of indefatigable courage and steadfastness; and of relationship in all its myriad shades.

Stories of women and some men - reaching across great divides - in one of the most treacherous terrains on earth where turmoil reigns and violence against women is unchecked.

I won't exactly call this one a "slice of life," but one that borrows copiously from it; it is an intense tale woven with poverty, abuse, lies, trickery, and mayhem ... but is ultimately a tale of survival.

It is full of everything; lust, sex, horror, grief, etc. are all in abundance on the grounds surrounding the mighty and holy Ganges River, whose waters bring salvation from the cycle of rebirth, and who mutely witnesses it all. Or does she? Can the river - Ma Ganga - heal the healer?

The plot: Two feuding brothers - both young and handsome Thakurs - each with a personal army; they are fighting an endless battle of wits, guns ... and lives. Who wins?

An idealistic young man, son of a traditional bonesetter, picks up the paintbrush instead and goes to live in the mountains, shunning his destiny as a "vaidya". Why does he want a priceless diamond then?

A son of a jeweler, fate makes him a "vaidya". But why is he after the diamond too?

What makes him, a non-violent, unarmed man, handsome and in the prime of his youth, risk his all to douse the anger in his heart?

... And in the process - his journey - does he discover much more? Much that words cannot express, much - that is coveted by all; much that is so invaluable that even a rare priceless diamond pales into valuelessness in front of it?

Prey By The Ganges is the story of one violent night across the Ganges. A cold, rainy night in a forest across the Ganges to be precise - it is the setting for a grisly, soul-shattering bludgeoning; one that elicits a stirring vow from a friend who is more than a brother, a desperate cat and mouse chase and much more. This is also where a young man lies in a ditch, in excruciating pain and bleeding heavily, with a knife through his stomach. Will he die?

Well, don't expect me to play the spoiler. I will not reveal any more than I have already done. So if you want to know more, get hold of the book and read all you can.

The decadent and perilous world of the powerful lords of the land, the dangerous secrets they protect, the liberties they don't hesitate to exploit, are laid bare before our eyes.

Hemant has an eye for detail. Every encounter, every twist and turn, the dialogues, the setting, is reasonably well done.

And even the names - Thakur Gajanan Singh and Thakur Suraj Singh, Thakurain Leelavati and Thakurain Rajni; Gajanan's underlings - Ashok for the slightly respectable one, since he is somewhat of a majordomo; and Baabu, Laalten, Kariya and Bhondu - for his henchmen. Etwari - for the child-woman that Thakur Gajanan ravishes at will; Bahuteri for her mother. Shambhu, the Vaidya and Ravi, the painter. Dhibri - the man who burns corpses, and Hariya - the old ranch hand with angry welts across his body and soul.

Each is a pawn in this bizarre game of life and death, and each with a story to tell. Or hide.

The two characters that stand out are those of Thakur Gajanan Singh and Vaidya Shambhu Nandan. And despite everything, Hemant has somehow managed to de-evilize Gajanan, if I can say that; not unlike what Vikramaditya Motwane did to Ronit Roy's character in Udaan.

There is a sneak peek about corruption and patronage, of monopolies and cronyism, about the rakshak and the bhakshak; and what "independence" did to these monsters. How much has changed, if at all? Has anything changed really?

Hemant has been able to weave what is essentially a violent, rustic and evocative tale with polish and substance.

The limpid writing style blending violence and fear, quiet strength and raw courage, searing hatred and calm compassion, white-hot passion and serene romance, plus much else, in a neat package, is a readers delight. It pulls you into the narrative and keeps you there.

However, one is also left to ponder over whether being armed with moral courage, fearlessness, honesty, sensitivity and all that jazz, mean anything at all, against firearms and weapons.

Time to put on your thinking cap and stop those gray cells from graying.

The author had mentioned during our correspondence that he has written his debut novel with heart, and after having read it; I cannot but agree on that one.

My two pence: The opening chapter is very well done, quite fresh and riveting. But somewhere down the line, some events and characters get too predictable and over done; and that interferes with the taste - slowing down the pace apart from eating up space. While the unmistakable Bollywood flavour leaves the fiction loving epicurean in me less than completely satiated.

Instead of some of the stuff that needlessly drags on, I would have liked to know a bit more about what happened to Etwari between her first 'encounter' with Thakur Gajanan Singh in his inner chambers, and her arrival at the shed - to her parents. I would have liked to be a part of her transformation, her inner journey. That would have been interesting and insightful too ... especially from someone so young, given her history and background.

... And I was and am curious to know what happened to Somwari? I feel her character should have been a little more fleshed out. After all, she made a young man with a promising future leave his world behind, and it is she who is there in the final page too!

Hariya's faith and belief in Rajni, that she would have somehow saved Etwari ... had the latter's father appealed to her instead of meeting the Thakur. Why and how?

Shambhu is too pristine and too 'white' for my taste; a dash of colour and a hint of naughtiness or rakish charm would have settled well on him.

The two main characters in this novel need not have mirrored the popular perception of the two main characters from one of our great epics.

Come to think of it, Gajanan does remind me of the handsome, swashbuckling and horse-riding villain, the devilish Mayurbahon, from one of ace director Tapan Sinha's master creations; his adaptation of Anthony Hope's "The Prisoner of Zenda." Based on a story by Saradindu Bandopadhyay, the creator of Byomkesh Bakshi, "Jhinder Bondi" (1961) was a roaring success. And the young Soumitra Chatterjee as the handsome and dashing Mayurbahon, managed to overshadow the matinee idol of Bangla cinema, Mohanayok Uttam Kumar himself.

So while Shambhu does have traces of the noble-hearted Shonkar Sen - essayed by Uttam Kumar, Prey By The Ganges too reminds me of Jhinder Bondi in bits and pieces.

There is also one or two other minor inconsistencies that could have been easily pruned out, not that they interfere or take away from the narrative.

That brings me to the book cover - it is all-good, very good in fact, but somehow the bare-backed woman does not seem to belong there.

My rating: I am going with a 3.5/5 for Hemant Kumar's debut novel.

Prey By The Ganges is a compelling read; it will appeal to a wide variety of readers. For fans of good fiction - this is one book you'll love to sink your teeth into; that the taste and flavour is slightly different, should add to the appeal.

I look forward to Hemant's future writings with interest.

Parting shot: With an eclectic cast comprising of interesting and solid actors, under the baton of a competent director, I see Prey By The Ganges as having a lot of potential for the big screen, with some tweaks of course.

It could fit snugly into the genre of films classified as 'low-budget movies,' several of which have hit the marquee lately. And I somehow feel that Vikramaditya Motwane would be perfect to helm this one too.

Details of the book: Prey By The Ganges/ Author: Hemant Kumar/ Publisher: Chlorophyll (an imprint of Wisdom Tree)/ Publishing Date: 2011/ ISBN-10: 8183281869/ ISBN-13: 9788183281867, 978-8183281867/ Pages: 382/ Price: Rs.295 (Rs.221 @ Flipkart.)

Picture: The book jacket cover of Prey By The Ganges. Picture courtesy:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

7 Secrets of Vishnu by Devdutt Pattanaik

Well, to begin with, I am happy to be among the chosen ten to review the latest book by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik. So, thank you BlogAdda!

For those who haven't heard of Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, he is India's renowned mythologist and has penned several books, like: Myth = Mithya, The Pregnant King, Jaya - An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, 7 Secrets of Shiva, 7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art, among others. Actually he wears many hats - that of author, speaker, illustrator and mythologist - and is a medical doctor by training, a marketing manager by profession and a mythologist by passion.

7 Secrets of Vishnu attempts to unravel the mysteries and secrets of Shri Vishnu - one of the Hindu Trinity (trimurti) who is essentially known to be the preserver, the balancer or the sustainer.

I have not read any of the author's previous books and therefore I went about reading this one with a clean slate - unaware of how much about Shri Vishnu he has already revealed, rather explained in his earlier books.

Book Summary of 7 Secrets Of Vishnu: It is significant that the stories of Vishnu rose to prominence after the rise of Buddhism. Prior to that, Hinduism was the religion of the elite-based complex rituals known as yagna and esoteric speculations captured in texts known as the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. These seemed very distant to the common man who focused on fertility rituals, worship of plants and animals and nature.

To help readers unravel the secrets of Vishnu, the chapters have been arranged as below:

* The first chapter focuses on how gender is used to explain fundamental metaphysical concepts integral to Hinduism.
* The second chapter discusses the difference between man and animal.
* The third and fourth chapters focus on the Devas and the Asuras, both of whom are unhappy, as one struggles with insecurity and the other with Ambition.

The fifth and sixth chapters revolve around the Ramayana and Mahabharata, as man struggles with his humanity.

The seventh chapter is about the wisdom of letting go, with faith in renewal.

Frankly, this is not a quick, breezy read that one can curl up with and read for fun or entertainment purposes. Do not expect to skim through the book coz this is no cursory read. It demands your full attention and is worth every bit of it. One needs to pay attention, visualize as well as exercise one's gray cells - simultaneously - in order to fully grasp what the author has tried to convey.

Devdutt has tried to explain several things; words, events and aspects that we may be quite familiar with, yet may not be aware of or understand very well or perhaps are unaware of their full significance. These are: Vishnu, Brahma, Prakriti, Purusha, Brahmanda, Maya, Maha-Maya, Yoga-Maya, Yoga-nidra, Atma, Paramatma, jiva-atma, Narad Muni and his nature (which is akin to that of a gossipmonger or that of any popular tabloid, I dare say), Shiva, Mohini, Lakshmi, Panchajana, Pralaya, Garuda, Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Adi-Ananta-Sesha, Balarama, Varna-dharma, Shri Ram, Shri Krishna, Hanuman, Kalki, pravritti-marga, nivritti-marga, Buddha-avatar, various symbols, Vadavagni, Hayagriva and much more.

He also explains various mythological stories that we have heard sitting on our grandparents' lap or courtesy Uncle Pai and his Amar Chitra Katha: Rishi Durvasa and Indra, Samudramanthan, Devas, Ashuras, Nagas, Prahalad and Holika, Hiranayaksha and Hiranakashipu, Krishna-Yashoda, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Yayati, the killing of Kamsa, other stories, symbols, rituals and the like.

The book perhaps consciously uses black and white renditions of stone, brass and wood carving, temple art and wall sculpture, painting including miniature painting, mural, calendar art and clay dolls, so as not to distract the reader from what is being conveyed through the text.

The book also feels good to hold and the cover art is very attractive. Hindu households often have calendars with images of their favorite gods and goddesses. And so does temples with their intricately carved walls and painted ceilings and murals. But what do these images signify? Only a handful take a keen interest and stop by to have a closer look and are perhaps aware of their significance ... to an extent, that is. Most "see" them but do not "notice," let alone think; busy as they are posing and clicking pictures or elbowing out others to have a better "view" of god. Hindu mythology is as vivid as it gets, and the more you read about it the more intrigued you are. 7 Secrets of Vishnu employs art as a metaphor to unravel several myths and interesting tales from that treasure-trove.

I must say that the author is very crisp, precise, informative and imaginative in his narration. The book makes for a very interesting read indeed. But do I agree? Well, I would like to reserve my opinion on that one.

I will not reveal the author's thoughts and explanations in detail and play the spoiler. That is something I will not do. So if you want to know more, go ahead, get hold of this book and read all you can!

And here's my two pence: As we all know ... a weak spine cannot support a strong and righteous mind. So, whether Buddhism and its (excessive?) message of peace and renunciation weakened our spines and left us vulnerable to all sorts of marauding hordes from the east and the west is for us to ponder and wonder.

The day we can answer that one, we will be back on track.

One cannot renounce (tyag) anything unless and until one has experienced it (bhog).

Hinduism on the other hand has space for both - the active and the renouncer.

The verse "gnanayogena saankhyaanaam, karmayogena yoginaam" comes before "Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani" in the Srimad Bhagavat Gita - universally renowned as the jewel of India's spiritual wisdom.

It means, "People who already have a meditative bent of mind can take up renunciation, while the rest of the folks (including Arjun) who are yet to have that mind set are better off taking to an active lifestyle."

"Dvividha nishtha" or the 2-fold path is not exclusive of "Karm Yog" - the art and science of achieving perfection in action.

People who already have a meditative bent of mind can take up renunciation – that is their Karm Yog.

While the rest of the folks (including Arjun) who are yet to have that mind set are better off taking to an active lifestyle – that is their Karm Yog.

Hinduism - was never envisaged as a 'religion' as we understand today. It was an accumulation of the wisdom of the ancients over the ages. This faith was a 'way of life' and the stress was on 'dharm' meaning 'the path of righteousness and doing one's duty no matter what obstacles appear'. Today 'dharm' has become 'dharma' and is automatically taken to mean 'religion'.

The word 'religion' never existed in this ancient Vedic faith, called "Sanatan Dharm". 'Sanatan' means
'ancient' and 'Dharm,' refers to 'righteousness'. 'Dharm' did not mean 'religion' as we think or know it today. It was given the colour of religion by later day interpreters who either misunderstood the words/phrases or did not have adequate phonetics/words/vocabulary in their language. Or maybe willfully misinterpreted it.

I think the ancient Persians called the people living east of the Indus River (Sindhu Nad) as "Hindu" since they could not pronounce the Sanskrit "Sindhu" in their language. Then came the Greeks (especially Alexander the Great) who too could not pronounce "Sindhu" in their language, and so called them "Hindu" instead. That is how the people of this land began to be known as "Hindu".

Something akin to 'Shammi Kapoor' becoming 'Shami Kaboor' in Iraq, 'people' becoming 'beoble' in Egypt and 'Kapaleshwar' becoming 'Kabaleshwar' in Tamil.

Hinduism is not a religion such as Christianity or Islam since the particular 'ism' did not have a single founder nor is it a cult movement to unite people under a single founder.

The people of India/Bharatvarsh or the so-called "Hindus" followed a pattern of life that was unique. They believed in a Single Supreme being in whom all the Power and Energy of the Universe resides and also from which it emanates much like the source of a river.

They believed that this Power and Energy could be broadly branched: Brahma - the Creator, Vishnu - the Preserver and Shiv - the Destroyer.

This region - large parts of India and places as far west and north as modern-day Afghanistan and Xinjiang, had become entirely Buddhist. By the sixth century or so this Buddhism had also become adulterated with diverse forms of animism, occult practices, promiscuity, and the like, something in the nature of what is known in Hinduism as "vamachara" and had degenerated into a loose faith. The great Sankaracharya (Sri Adi Shankaracharya) set out on foot from faraway Kerala to set right this state of affairs and in a short life of only 32 years got the country firmly back into the Hindu fold. It is possible that the great Acharya could not reach the eastern parts of pre-independence Bengal because of the relative inaccessibility of the delta. In fact the delta of Eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) is known in legend as "Pandava Varjita Desha" - the land that even the Pandavas avoided. The population here therefore remained Buddhist-Animist, and easily converted to Islam when the marauders from the west came to Bengal. Extensive ruins of Buddhist monasteries are found at Paharpur and Mahasthangarh in the northern parts of present-day Bangladesh. The Buddhist teacher and pandit - Dipankar Srigyan (Atiśa Dipankara, Shrijnana) had set out from a village called Bajrajogini (in Bikram Pur) near Dhaka to convert the whole of Tibet to Buddhism.

The ancient Tibetans were fierce warriors and were widely known for their skillful horsemanship. What Buddhism has done to Tibet and Tibetans - we are all well aware of.

Till today (or at least until recently) Hindu Bengalis, when they choose to be err ... abusive, refer to Muslims by the term "Neray" (with a stress on the letter "r"; it is a diminutive of "Nyaraa," meaning shaven-headed.) And a lot of Bengali Muslims do tonsure their heads - believed to be a custom inherited by them from the Buddhist viharas (monasteries) that their ancestors attended. All these bear eloquent testimony to the hold of Buddhism in erstwhile East Bengal.

My two pence but I digress.

My rating: Do I agree with the author's thoughts and interpretations? Well, like I have already stated above, I would like to reserve my opinion on that one.

But is the book informative? Yes, it is. Interesting? Yes. It also holds your attention, makes you think and of course provides a different perspective on the stories, symbols, rituals and aspects that have been our staple diet for generations but of which there perhaps cannot be a single answer or interpretation.

I am going with a 4/5 for Devdutt Pattanaik's latest offering.

Details of the book: 7 Secrets of Vishnu/ Author: Devdutt Pattanaik/ Publisher: Westland/ Edition: 2011/ Language: English/ ISBN: 9380658681/ ISBN-13: 9789380658681, 978-9380658681/ Bookbinding: Paperback/ Price: Rs. 250 (Rs. 163 on
Flipkart)/ No. of pages: 219.

Photograph: The cover art of '7 Secrets of Vishnu'. Picture courtesy:

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

Friday, November 4, 2011

What devoured glamorous Pakistan?

Author's note: I chanced upon this article while trawling the net. And though the author - Vir Sanghvi - as we now know is a direct descendent of Raja Harishchandra [*wink wink*] it made for an interesting read nevertheless. So, read on folks!

I wrote, a few weeks ago, about how much the attitude to Indians had changed in the West. Once we were regarded as losers, people who inhabited a desperately poor country, continually ravaged by famine or drought, incapable of making a single world-class product, and condemned to live forever on foreign aid. Now, we have the world's respect and, more tellingly, the West's envy as more and more jobs are Bangalored away from their high-cost economies and handed over to Indians who perform much better for less money.

That piece was prompted by a visit to London. This one too has been inspired by a trip abroad and by saturation coverage of the Pakistani cricket scandal in the press and on global TV channels. But my concern this week is not with how the West sees India.

It is with the transformation of the image of the global Pakistani.

I was at school and university in England in the Seventies and lived in London in the early 1980s. This was a time when Pakistan was regarded - hard as this may to believe now - as being impossibly glamorous. The star of my first term at Oxford was Benazir Bhutto. In my second term, she became president of the union and was the toast of Oxford. Her father was then prime minister of Pakistan and lucky students vied for the opportunity to visit Karachi or Islamabad as guests of the Bhuttos. They came back with stories of unbelievable hospitality and spoke knowledgeably about Pakistan's feudal structure, about landowners like the Bhuttos, about an autocracy that had reigned for centuries etc.

Even on the other side of the ideological divide, Pakistan was all too visible. He had come down from Oxford nearly eight years before, but a former president of the union, the charismatic Trotskyite Tariq Ali was still the sort of chap who made English girls swoon. For her first debate as president of the Oxford Union, Benazir asked Tariq Ali to speak. He agreed but then, rather inconveniently, he was detained by the police on a visit to Pakistan. No matter. He phoned Benazir who spoke to daddy and - hey presto! - Tariq was out of jail and on a plane to England. Pakistan was that kind of country, the British chortled delightedly.

In those days, us poor Indians hardly ever got a look in. The Pakistanis were dashing, far richer (they spent in a week what we spent in the whole term), always going off to chic parties or nightclubs in London and charming the pants off the British (often, quite literally).

In that era, the Arabs had just emerged on the world stage (following the massive oil-price hikes of 1973/4) and the Pakistanis were almost proprietorial about them. A Pakistani graduate student at my college, even affected Arab dress from time to time and bragged that he had taught Arabs how to fly planes.

My college-mate was merely reprising Z A Bhutto's philosophy: the Arabs were rich but they were camel drivers. They needed Pakistanis to run the world for them and to teach them Western ways. It was this sort of thinking that led to the creation of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the first global Third World bank, run by Pakistanis with Arab money. For most of the 1980s, BCCI was staffed by sharply dressed young Pakistanis who entertained at London (and New York's) best restaurants, hit the casinos after dinner and talked casually about multi-million dollar deals.

Their flamboyant lifestyle was matched by other rich Pakistanis. In his autobiography, Marco Pierre White, the first of the British super-chefs (he was the original bad boy and Gordon Ramsay worked for him), talks about the Pakistanis who were his first regulars. Michel Roux, then England's top chef (three Michelin stars) would fly out to Pakistan to cook at private parties thrown by wealthy individuals. In the late 1980s, a friend of mine went to dinner in Pakistan and was startled to be asked to guess the vintages of three different bottles of Mouton Rothschild, one of the world's most expensive wines.

In that era, Indians knew absolutely nothing about wine or French food and the few Indian millionaires who vacationed in London were vegetarians.

Pakistanis were sex symbols too. The first international cricketing stud was Imran Khan (who finished at Oxford the term before I got there) and his sex appeal was so legendary that even Benazir joked about it. Told that Gen Zia-ul-Haq called him the "Lion of the Punjab," Benazir said, "Yes but Zia pronounces 'Lion' as 'Loin' and this is appropriate." Years later when Imran spoke about his love for Pakistan, a British columnist sneered, "His heart may be in Pakistan but his loins are in the King's Road" referring to a trendy (and expensive) London area.

Even Pakistan's millionaires were more glamorous than ours. In the Eighties when the Hinduja brothers ("we are strictly vegetarian") first emerged in London, the Pakistanis stole the show with such flamboyant high-profile millionaires in Mahmud Sipra who financed feature films and kept a big yacht in the South of France.

So what went wrong?

It's hard to pin point any single reason but I can think of several contributing factors.

First of all, much of the Pakistani profile was based on flash and fraud. BCCI collapsed amidst allegations that it was a scamster's bank. Mahmud Sipra left England with the Fraud Squad in hot pursuit even as he declared his innocence from beyond Scotland Yard's jurisdiction. Many big-spending Paksitanis turned out to be heroin smugglers.

Secondly, Indian democracy came to our rescue. The Brits who bragged about Bhutto hospitality and the Pakistan aristocracy missed the obvious point: this was a deeply unequal and therefore unstable society. When Bhutto rigged an election, this led to his downfall.

Thirdly, Pakistan signed its own death warrant by trying to out-Arab the Arabs with a policy of Islamisation. This reached its peak under General Zia who declared a jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan and invited Arabs such as Osama bin Laden to come to Pakistan to fight the holy war. Ultimately, fundamentalist Islam devoured what was left of glamorous Pakistan.

Fourthly, the world just moved on. Flash can only get you so far. In the end it is substance that counts. And plodding, boring India came up with the substance.

It is hard to think, when you look at today's Pakistan team, that Pakistani cricketers were such sex symbols in India in the 1980s that Imran Khan was able to brag to an interviewer "Indian actresses are chickens. They just want to get laid" (In all fairness, Imran later said he had been misquoted.)

Get laid by today's team? You must be joking.

Even the Pakistani playboys who are still around no longer seem exciting or glamorous. Poor Imran just looks tired. And the rest look like Asif Zardari - pretty much the archetypal glamorous Pakistani of the Eighties - though perhaps not as disgustingly sleazy.

Of all these factors, two remain the most important. A nation created on the basis of Islam was destroyed by too much Islam. And a nation dedicated to democracy flourished because of too much democracy.

Photograph: Courtesy link.