Beautiful, But Ugly


Rameez spent the day teasing his sisters for being ‘shorties’. “In another few months I will overtake you” he sang in a mocking tone. The sisters could be mean when they wanted, and height, apparently was a touchy matter in their world, and now Rameez had had enough.

They got back at Rameez by telling him that “Of course you will grow tall, very tall, taller than Ammi and Abba” Rabia had a mischievous look in her eyes when she said this

When this puzzled Rameez, they withdrew into a serious tone and Razia added “You see Ammi and Abba always wanted to have a boy, but Ammi did not want to carry a heavy weight for one whole year, so they borrowed you from the lady who comes to sell vegetables”

“No!” said Rameez “That is a lie”

Rabia took over the tale “Can’t you see? She is taller than Abba even; that is why you are growing tall. Why else do you think she gives you an extra carrot every time she comes here”

“So that I can run fast!” Rameez claimed

“Yes, Yes, she loves you sooo much” they sang back to him this time.

They went on and on, giving him various reasons why he was not really part of the family. Finally Lubna, their Ammi, having heard the last part of the exchange stepped in and admonished the girls, telling them to go mind their own business.

The end of the episode saw Rameez retreat into one of his dark moods where he spoke to no one and spent time locked up in his room. When his mother pestered him to go out and play with the kids in the street, he took out his bicycle and screamed away in silence.

He pedaled hard, feet kicking with anger; he wasn’t sitting, but standing erect to get that extra thump into his cycling. He did not slow down to take the turn, but when he took it, he saw a pack of street dogs rise up from their slumber and look in his direction. Rameez increased his speed, pedaling like there was a life to save -or take- somewhere. He headed straight at the first dog he was about to encounter. The dogs took a couple of steps towards him, barking and making vile noises but they soon sensed the madness that was approaching them and retreated. Rameez was bent on running over the meanest looking canine on that road, but the dog leapt out of the way at the last moment – scrambling to safety. Once he had gone past the pack, the dogs began chasing him again, but Rameez was playing catch up with the wind and he raced away towards the end of the road, took another turn, skidded, and was gone.

Minutes later he had reached the tall water tank tower. It was a place he and his friends used to frequent a year ago, back when they first discovered it. Slowly it lost its sheen after the boys found other exciting places to visit. Once in a while Rameez still cycled down here, as the place made him feel comfortable for some strange reason. He climbed the spiral staircase inside the wide and circular pillar that supported the huge water tank. There were a lot of stairs and Rameez would usually be out of breath when he reached the top. Today, he ran up the staircase, his bicycle had not been locked to a gate like his father had taught him to do, but was lying on the ground where he had left it. He was running up the metal staircase that was making a barrage of clangy-mangy sounds at his behest.

When he reached the top he was out of breath alright, but upon opening the maintenance door the breeze hit his face ever so gently – just like his mother blowing on his forehead after she had prayed for him –  that a calm came over him. He sat down on the metal slab, let his feet hang down through the railing, and began surveying the world around him. He could see the street where his home was situated, behind the street the rectangular ground where they played cricket, further down the main road from where he took the school bus.

It was Saturday evening and the traffic was light, there were a few kids on terraces flying kites; the season was just beginning. Further away, towards the horizon, the famous Ayyapan temple rose up into the sky, its glorious goburam attracting birds of the peaceful kind. Closer to the main road the half constructed shopping complex stood like an abandoned fortress, its guardians having retreated for a weekend of fun and frolic. What struck Rameez was the ghastly scene atop the work-in-progress terrace of this lifeless market place.

For a few scary seconds, Rameez saw what he thought were body parts of dismembered men lying naked to the elements. Soon though, to his disappointment, he realized what they actually were. They were those same elegant looking bodies that stood proud in shops that sold clothing. He had seen them often enough, slim and sleek in their shapes and adorning the most tempting outfits and hairdos that a store had to offer. Standing unmoved all day at the gawking of the shoppers and the amazement of small kids who thought they were real people. Those very same mannequins now lay broken down into their most basic structural parts – a few limbs lying scattered on the floor – hands being introduced to legs, a headless torso leaning against a bamboo – wondering where the rest of it was, and a couple of heads paying knock-knock against each other – beautiful but ugly. Some of the heads were bald, and the torsos looked like they belonged to a misunderstood woman. In spite of its now apparent benign nature, the scene still had a sting of malignancy to it. It set in motion such wild and fantastic ideas in the fertile mind of Rameez that time flew by on top of the water tank.

Text by Hameed Uddin

Top Photo by Shivam Sinha

Tis the Season (for the Slip Twixt The Cup and The Lip)


Amidst the continuing wikileaks saga, we Indians have had a bit of a foobar here in the media with a corporate lobbyist and a corporate titan airing (a bit more clearly) the various metaphorically-incestuous relations that abound between media, business and the government. it’s like an art-imitates-life version of paddy chayefsky’s network, summed up best by my favourite english language journalist, P. Sainath

Whether it is gas, spectrum, or mining, luxury private townships or other dubious land deals, the last 20 years have seen the consolidation of corporate power on a scale unknown in independent India. It would be wrong to disconnect the Radia tapes from this background. From pitching for licences, mines and spectrum using money and media power to pitching for ministerial candidates and portfolios by the same methods is not a huge leap. The same period has also seen the emergence of media themselves as major corporate entities. Today, we often have seamless movement between the personnel of some economic or financial newspapers and non-media corporations. An assistant editor goes off to Company ‘A’ as a PRO, returns in a more senior post to the same newspaper. Next, goes on as chief PRO, or maybe even as chief analyst or a business manager to a bigger corporate. But the newspaper’s door is open for his or her return, perhaps as resident editor.

The dominant media are not pro-corporate or pro-big business. They are corporates. They are big business. Some have margins of profit that non-media outfits might envy. Media corporations are into hundreds of businesses beyond their own realm. From real estate, hotels, mining, steel, chemicals, rubber and banks to power and sugar. Even into private treaties with other corporations in whom they acquire a stake. On the boards of India’s biggest media companies are also top corporate leaders. Some who find places on the Governor’s Forums of the World Economic Forum. Others heading private banks. And then there are top political leaders who directly own vast media empires. Who can hold ministerial portfolios (affecting these domains) while running their media fiefdoms. The dominant media are not pro-establishment. They are the establishment.

emphasis mine, though there is a bit in the article that my tinkering overshadowed.

to add a bit of context, these tapes have come out in the investigation into the sleazy actions of a recently excommunicated member of the Cabinet of Ministers, who handed out favours in charge of the telecom portfolio.

It’s a rather unhealthy time for our politicians, seeing as the Chief Minister of the state I live in also quit after a year of doing nothing, and members of the recently sworn-in state cabinet providing additional drama by quitting a bit later. and one of the richest and most corrupt politicians in the state has split off from the government to form his own party. And later on towards the end of the month is awaited a report that has kept this place uncomfortable for a year – the decision to carve out two states out of what now exists as a single one.

Happy December, everyone! If I’m alive, I will see you on the other side (and maybe make a few posts along the way!)

Media aiming to start a war?

today’s news headlines in india scream for war(or at least some sort of military action) with pakistan. with provocative headlines and molehill-into-mountain-making galore, with pak army supposedly ‘defying’ india or some sort of warmongering bullshit like that… while they conveniently ignore that the indian government is so incompetent that it can’t provide hard evidence about the terrorists though we have actually captured one. this is the same approach that led the US to a criminal and now utterly cruel and despicable war in Iraq. we are being led down the same garden path by similar assholes in the media and government.

Nearly a month after the Mumbai terror attacks, India has not provided the evidence needed for Interpol to help identify and apprehend the suspected masterminds, the chief of the global police agency said Tuesday.

Ronald Noble, speaking in Islamabad after a visit to New Delhi, said Pakistan has agreed to work with the agency to help investigate the attacks that killed 164 people in India’s financial hub last month.

But he said India has provided no names or information that would allow police in other countries to check their databases, calling it “not acceptable” for New Delhi to provide those details to the media first.

of course the pakistani establishment wants to use the indian one’s incompetence to bolster it’s own (rather weak) standing, but that does not mean it is grounds for war.

pardon my genius but…

i am reading a lot about pakistan this and that, the pakistani army is such and such. surely, the best thing that the Indian govt. could do to destabilize the Pak. army is to withdraw all it’s forces from the border areas and Kashmir and do it very very publicly. that eliminates most of their(Pak Army’s) raison d’etre, and would give strength to those voices in Pakistan calling for a reduction in the power of the military. Plus, reduce expenses on military spending in India itself.

unless of course, the aim of the indian state is to maintain the status quo so that all political parties involved can continue to exploit the fears of people to their benefit. but then, as peace-loving people we would NEVER do that, right?


The Supreme Court of India has upheld legislation for dramatically increasing the affirmative-action quotas at institutes of higher learning. the legislation effectively takes the quota to 49% and encompasses all sections of society that belong to scheduled castes and tribes(22%) and other backward classes(OBC’s who get most of the new 27%). This does not include those who are economically well-off, for obvious reasons.

Given the treatment meted out to the so-called ‘lower’ castes in India over the past few centuries at least, this is a reasonable first step towards social justice. now if only they could bring the same attempted fairness into agricultural policy and foreign relations, we’d be well on our way to a just state. i’m not holding my breath on this front, however.

For all the furore raised by certain sections of the news media about the system in institutes of higher education in india, the fact remains that the government has rather consistently stated that this will not affect the ‘general’ category and that the quotas will be met through increased capacities rather than restricting entry. of course, whether the government is willing to spend the necessary amount to bring the same quality or pulls a u-turn on this, effectively crippling the quota system, will determine the final outcome of the legislation.