nitish kumar votes for the dole

nitish kumar demands special status for bihar as his price and most of the media gleefully reports it. gleefully because the addition of one more saleable actor to the marathon election soap playing on tv channels now would mean more spice and drama to chew on in the next two days or weeks. but what all the reports failed to mention was how the bihar chief minister came down upon leakages in programmes like the pds, subsidies which went to big businesses rather than small farmers etc., before unveiling his demand that bihar be given special leeway and be allocated cash, instead of kind subsidies, by the centre which could be directly transferred to the bank accounts of poor beneficiaries' in the state. he was demanding support from the centre for, among other things, a dole. trust the media to miss the less sexy, but more important part of his speech.

i don't wish to know why manmohan singh or advani is better

while india's brahminized classes, like always, successfully managed to hijack the current elections for their own narrow, grubby ends, a few questions that remained unasked:

*what are they going to do about rural indians? a great majority of them have to move away from agriculture in the next 10-20 years.

*what are they going to do about universal education? more than a 100 million children of school-going age are not in school right now.

*what are they going to do about drinking water? around two hundred thousand children in one district, nalgonda, have withered limbs from drinking groundwater with high fluoride content. that's one district. while one paddy growing district in punjab probably uses/misuses more water, in one season, than the whole of delhi and its satellite towns in one year. or as much water as the whole of rural rajasthan probably drinks in more than one year. and to think that punjab doesn't consume even a fraction of the rice it produces.

* what are they going to do about hunger and malnutrition that over half of india's women and infants, among others, suffer from? luring punjabi farmers to produce more rice, so that more farmers in traditionally rice-producing states in the south and east lose their livelihood, and then looking away when the punjabi farmers commit suicide in droves isn't going to help. anymore.

*what are they going to do about primary health care in 6,00,000 villages? india has over 6,00,000 doctors of whom only 20,000 odd thousand work in the countryside. each doctor caters to around 60 villages, or 50,000-1,00,000 villagers. how about a doctor for every village, a tap and a toilet and electricity for every home? and schools and sanitation systems for every ward? that's primary healthcare according to the u.n. etc.,

*what are they going to do about people who work on medieval occupations like weaving to scavenging? probably around 50-75 million families depend on those occupations. and earn medieval wages.

*what are they going to do about immediate and sustained relief for the vast majority of workers in the unorganized sector (93% of the workforce in the country) who earn less than a dollar a day? social security for them would be useless if it comes in only when they get seriously injured. how about relief for today, this month, next month, next year- for as long as they can't retrain themselves to look for better work opportunities? or until better work opportunities are created?

*how about a mechanism for ensuring people who oppress dalits, women, children and others in every village are brought to justice as fast as ajmal kasab?


who is lucky?

i'd been working on this post for a while, or rather it has been working on me and therefore i couldn't finish any of the other posts i'd started on. (and also couldn't attend to any of the few comments on older posts. my apologies). i've decided i will publish at least a part of it so that i can push it aside for some time. i cut out portions of it, added some parts, edited, added- so i don't think it reads smoothly. should try to do a better job next time.
I see the country as a pressure cooker of unrealized dreams and ambitions. On one hand there is a class that has made great progress and earned a lot of money. It flaunts its new found wealth all the time. On the other hand, there is stark poverty. It is not easy for a common man, and particularly a poor person, to break through the innumerable barriers and achieve success. Of course there are some people who manage to succeed despite these barriers; they do so by being honest, enterprising and hardworking. But there are also people who want to do things in a quick way. They are also aware that many super rich and super successful people haven't reached the top playing by the rules. The rush to get rich and have a glamorous life has an awful effect on our society.
lucky pulls on a disguise when he takes off his turban. to look normal, like banerjee. but he is a cheat, like all others around him- like the girlfriend, her sister and her husband, his only friend, his brothers, his fathers and their women etc., all of them wear disguises, in a manner of speaking, but they aren't as successful as lucky in hiding that fact from you. other people in the the film, especially those he cheats and steals from, are only silly, foolish, and pompous. they aren't cheats- some of them succeed by being honest, enterprising and hardworking. we're not told how those people managed to overcome the innumerable barriers. and how some of the super successful didn't play by the rules. does it mean most of the successful played by the rules and were honest, enterprising and hardworking?

banerjee says the character is based on research, stories from his own life etc., but check on the news reports on bunty ('super thief') and you realize lucky is largely based on him. but also, as banerji says, lucky isn't bunty. we aren't sure who lucky is, while bunty is devinder/davinder singh/sharma/gupta. lucky is a sikh of an unidentifiable caste, bunty is hindu, upper caste. bunty didn't go to a government school, lucky, according to banerji, probably did. bunty was a compulsive womaniser, lucky sticks to one girl. bunty had a girlfriend who looked better than aishwarya rai, lucky isn't so lucky. one review says lucky isn't flamboyant enough- one news story says, bunty lived only in five star hotels. lucky doesn't understand what a pan card is, bunty has a passport from nepal. as you keep adding up these little differences, you begin to realize lucky resembles nadeem more than bunty.

bunty probably belonged to a family like the khoslas or the banerjees. banerjee disowns bunty by turning him into lucky, someone who grew up in a world populated almost entirely by cheats. someone like lucky, banerjee seems to say, could only come from a family that didn't value enterprise (education?), hard work, honesty. lucky isn't the black sheep in a particular family, the whole family has to be composed of black sheep. and the family itself could only be from a class composed entirely of black sheep.

who is lucky? banerjee has been compared with hrishikesh mukherjee, another film-maker who was interested in the middle class. khosla in khosla ka ghosla has been described as middle class in too many reviews. is lucky middle class? is he middle class in the sense khosla is? or more importantly, is his family middle class in the sense khosla's family is?

khosla has probably worked in a university, or as a babu or in a bank. he has savings. and kids who have been to good schools and college and can think of careers outside india with confidence. that's normal. what does lucky's father do?
Then came Lucky’s father. A cooler manufacturer from Rajouri Garden - putting his three sons through government school and maintaining a mistress in the house at the same time. Tough face, tougher hands. Dark, calloused hands that have shoveled knee deep snow in Kazakistan on a fake work permit, or wound miles of copper wire on industrial generators, or driven a beat up Bajaj Chetak eighty kilometers daily to and from the job, and had beaten a long suffering wife into silent submission. A hard, lined face, still holding on to the virility and strength of a passionate man. But giving in to the growing failure, frustration and futility of a life deadened by wrong choices.
(i actually know someone who fits the first part of the description almost perfectly- a cooler maker, who's worked in shah's iran and afghanistan- on large plants and ships in storms and other rough places and has calloused hands. and something was wrong with his papers so he came back to india. but the rest of the description is way off the mark).

one can see lucky's father isn't middle class in the sense khosla is.
khosla is an educated man, lucky's father definitely isn't so. khosla has probably worked as a babu, at a desk, all through his life. lucky's father has done mostly manual and semi-skilled work all through his life. khosla doesn't like being drawn into his son's scheme to outwit the landgrabber, lucky's father doesn't think much of two-timing his wife. khosla, the director makes sure we realize, has pooled his savings from honest, hard work, while we don't know if lucky's father has been as prudent, or as honest (he worked on a fake work permit). khosla doesn't beat his wife or children into submission, lucky's father does. khosla's children probably went to decent schools, lucky and his brothers are sent to a government school. lucky's ties to his family are weak, khosla's son displays great filial loyalty by giving up a successful career abroad to salvage his father's dream.

one'd think, because lucky is such a cheat his family probably had something to do with it. it was probably a family without a sense of values, banerjee is probably trying to rationalize. when banerjee talks of khosla, he thinks of families, of values, of lifestyles. and lucky's father spells failure, frustration and futility.

if lucky's father was somehow responsible for lucky, in banerjee's view, his father was also somehow responsible for him and so on, following the same logic. lucky, as i said earlier, could only be from a class composed entirely of black sheep. and what essentially separates lucky's father from khosla is the nature of work and associated values they've each inherited and passed on- manual labour and shudrahood, in case of the former, and education and skilled ('knowledge') work in case of the latter.

how did banerjee work on lucky's father's character? i think it's safe to assume he worked backwards from growing failure, frustration and futility of a life deadened by wrong choices to hard, lined face, still holding on to the virility and strength of a passionate man to had beaten a long suffering wife into silent submission to driven a beat up Bajaj Chetak eighty kilometers daily to and from the job or dark, calloused hands that have shoveled knee deep snow in Kazakistan on a fake work permit, or wound miles of copper wire on industrial generators to maintaining a mistress in the house at the same time to putting his three sons through government school. and when he added all that up together, what did he end up with? a cooler manufacturer from Rajouri Garden.

if banerjee had started with an educated man, like khosla, with a background of skilled work as a babu or in a bank (because by most accounts, i repeat, it seems very likely that bunty belonged to such a family)- would he be thinking of failure, frustration and futility?

why didn't banerjee believe that'd be believable? let's try and answer that question with another question- why wasn't khosla in khosla ka ghosla someone like lucky's father? imagine lucky's father in khosla ka ghosla with dark, calloused hands that have shoveled knee deep snow in Kazakistan on a fake work permit, or wound miles of copper wire on industrial generators, or driven a beat up Bajaj Chetak eighty kilometers daily to and from the job. and if he still made enough money to buy a plot of land that is grabbed by a land shark, would banerjee find that believable? yes, i think he would. you expect those kind of ignorant barbarians* to make wrong choices. to indulge in wife-beating, mistress-maintaining, sending-children-to-government schools. but who'd believe that those barbarians would be capable of outsmarting the shark, in the end? that requires knowledge and skills- something that khosla's son has and lucky doesn't. something that dr.handa, with a brother-in-law in america, has and lucky doesn't.

the values, or lack of them, that banerjee attributes to khosla and lucky's father, respectively: banerjee seems to imply that they inherit them. just as they inherit knowledge, or the lack of it. and the kind of work each does. therefore, it's my view that banerjee didn't work backwards, while working on lucky's father's character, but most probably started with a cooler manufacturer from Rajouri Garden.

* in one scene, jats are referred to as barbarians (in the subtitles). lucky probably comes from a rung lower, and less aggressive than the jats.
Add to Technorati Favorites