Mar 28, 2010

Cats and CNN-IBN Hero Awards

It was the annual day concert at D’s school today. I don’t much think of the schools in mumbai’s suburbs, having enjoyed some terible teaching experiences in them. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when D announced one evening over a month ago that she was participating in a concert called 'cats' where their song was called skimbleshanks. As any T.S.Eliot fan will tell you, these simple words are enough to recall one very funny book – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. The plot is fairly simple:

“Cats expands on the theme of wisdom by depicting Deuteronomy as the leader of the show's Jellicle tribe, providing comfort and guidance to the other characters. Deuteronomy also has the task of making the "Jellicle Choice" and choosing the cat who can ascend to the Heaviside Layer (Also spelled "Heavyside"). Much of Cats' plot is fueled by this; several characters perform and try to convince Deuteronomy to choose them. At the end of the show, Deuteronomy is kidnapped by Macavity and restored by Mr. Mistoffelees. He then persuades the other cats to listen to the outcast Grizabella, selects her to be reborn, and escorts her to the Heaviside Layer.” Wikipedia

Skimbleshanks, Macavity, Rum Tum Tigger, Bustopher Jones and Grizabella are some of the other cats, each vying with the other to be elevated to Heavenside Layer and be reborn.

Classes Jr Kg to Grade 3 put up the spectacular 2.5-hr musical. The sets were splendid, the costumes varied and imaginative, the selections from Andrew Llyod Webber’s music were thoughtful. Again, the whole idea of kindness and charity, even toward those who have once wronged us, is at the core of this musical. Grizabella, who is now old and repenting, wants to be given a chance to be reborn. In her youth, she was the most glamorous amongst the cats and was selfish, vain and proud. Now, realizing fully well, the transience of beauty, youth and earthly glory, all she wants is a chance to be accepted by her feline brethren again. You will not be dry-eyed as she sings:

All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again”.

(after the show, i rushed back home to play my personal fav - Streisand's poignant renedition of 'memory'. Listen to it, if you havent.)

I am not the kind of mom who celebrates everything her child does; somehow I marvel at mothers who can summon such degree of enthusiasm. But watching D roll in her railway cats act and again at the end move her tail to such gay abandon, I felt utterly grateful to God for his gift. I’m now searching frantically for Eliot’s book and we have both been poring over Youtube watching acts from the Broadway musical Cats. Much fun.


I don’t much watch TV in India. The shows are pathetic and there are too many distractions. With D sleeping, the maid away and some free time, I was flipping channels when I caught the CNN-IBN Real Hero Awards in the evening. Truly inspiring, most of their stories. As Smriti Irani aptly put it, “Today, by making her (one of the winners) stand beside Nita Ambani and Sachin Tendulkar, you have given her respect and recognition.” Rahul Bose was his usual sensible self when he spoke of the invisible indian who keeps doing what he does in the hope that it does make a difference (how easily we say that no matter what we do, it won't make any difference.) nita and mukesh ambani were restrained and dignified; rajdeep was grinning like the baboon he resembles and came across as unusually pompous and grating; aamir khan was polite and predictable; jonty Rhodes elucidated on team effort by saying how he always tells the MI team that if every member stops a run each while fielding, they are that much closer to winning; zaheer khan was eloquent and dignified.

I don’t want to dwell on the winners as they all have fantastic stories to tell. You can explore them if you’re really interested. But sruti mahapatra, ramesh babu kushwah, uma preman and T Raja have stayed in my mind. What amazes me about these people is how truly courageous they must be; of what mettle must they be made of that they stand tall despite having suffered so many blows?

Mar 25, 2010

Two Bills, Two Stories

A friend and (one of the few martians who traverse the path of this blog) asked me why I hadn’t written/commented on the Women’s Reservation Bill. “What’s to comment”, I asked. Any Tom, Prick or Scary can tell you that Sonia Gandhi is one lucky lady; madam will be credited with ushering in one of the greatest legislative reforms of all times. Good for her. I have been tracking opinions, arguments, counter arguments and almost all of them make some sense. Even if I don’t support the Bill, I certainly cannot abide by those sanctimonious Yadav bastards (Mulayam and Lalloo) who have suddenly woken up to the exploitative measure of quotas.

The one thing – and forget talk of the Bill actually being regressive and manipulative, etc – that does bother me is this: according to the Bill all constituencies would be eligible for reservation on a rotational basis. What happens if a really able, committed male politician has spent the past 3 years securing and working for his constituency only to discover during election year that his constituency falls under the 33% reserved quota? Wouldn’t this ultimately translate into a loss for us, tax-payers and voting citizens who have professed faith in a Ram Naik or a Murli Deora only to have a Rameshwari Kumari or Puja Tripathi thrust at us in their stead?

Also, I think by now there’s lil doubt in anyone’s mind about the actual empowerment quotient of such reservations. One needs only to cast an eye at the tribals and adivasis of Bihar, AP, Kerala, etc too gauge how far SC/OBC reservation has benefited the intended beneficiaries. In this misguided thrust towards ensuring equality, aren’t we actually robbing our democracy of true and meaningful representation based on merit?

There’s something else that has been troubling me deeply. It’s the govt’s efforts to pass the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill. Understand that the Bill is imperative as foreign companies (American) have refused to supply to India the nuclear equipment that this country needs if it has to meet its nuclear generation targets. However, surely the way ahead is through negotiations, dialogue, and winning support from select groups rather than short-selling the rights of the country’s citizens? What the Bill purports to do is this: it caps the amount of liability that the foreign company will have to bear in case of a nuclear disaster, or accident. It caps the amount at Rs 2800 crore of which the company (foreign or indian, pvt or public) operating the plant would be liable to pay only Rs 500 crore. The foreign company supplying the nuclear machinery or material will be free of all liability even if the accident is a result of some defect or fault in the material or equipment being supplied by the foreign company. Even ex-attorney general Soli Sorabjee has protested against the Bill saying it flouts the fundamental rights of the “victims of accidents” under Article 21 of our Constitution. Earlier last year, novelist and NYT columnist Suketu Mehta wrote a precise and moving editorial arguing about the principle of ‘polluter pays’ and calling for Union Carbide to clean up the site of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and bring its absconding CEO Warren Anderson to justice. What is truly galling about America is the supreme indifference with which it arm twists its way to sail smoothly across the most trying situations and emerge triumphant (look at the way we were told to suck our thumbs in the David Headley extradition request or even the simple request to grant our investigators the opportunity to interrogate him.)

By proposing a cap on the amount to be paid in damages, are we not trying to put a universal price on human lives when it should vary from every situation, circumstance, degree of damage accorded, etc? When will we grant our citizens the empowerment they truly deserve instead of handing out these quota carrots periodically to stem the flow of discontent and simmering anger?

What hurts is not when the U.S. or other foreign nations wants to rip us for their benefits – that always gives rise to righteous indignation and anger. When our own government behaves in ways that are so openly craven, there is a feeling of despair and alienation so complete that one wonders what is left for any of us to continue staying here.