The Prophet of Undemocracy had
waited 50 years in the city of Aryan for his proverbial ship to come in.† Finally, it arrived.† And the prophet said to himself:† “Shall the day of rejoicing be the day of
And the people of Aryan hailed him
and said, “Ere you buzz off on your ship, speak to us the truth of Undemocracy,
and we will give it to our children, and they to their children, and so forth
and so on.”
And the Prophet answered:† “People of Aryan, what can I tell you except
that which is already in your corrupt little hearts and beady little eyes?”
And the people of Aryan said,
“Speak to us of tax breaks.”
And the Prophet gave a gigantic
belch and said:† “My people, the
business of religion is the best business to be in precisely because of all the
tax breaks.† Besides which, you never
have to worry about anyone asking for a refund on the product.† When, for example, have you ever heard a
dead Christian crib about not getting to heaven or hell because the warranty
was bogus? When has a Muslim martyr gone to consumer court about not getting
his 72 virgins? When have you heard a Hindu complain that he would have
preferred to come back as Bill Gates the Third, rather than Laloo’s publicity
handler? Also, I’d like to point out that if anyone does criticize your
product, you can always counter by accusing him of being a Foreign Hand, a
terrorist, a false-propagandist, a bimbo-brain, or anything else that sounds
And the people of Aryan said:† “Speak to us of marketing.”
And the Prophet answered:† “ Preferably you should target a populace
with some IQ (so they will have enough to contribute to your coffers), but not
too much (so that they will readily imbibe your dogmas).† The ideal consumer is someone not too good
with logical thinking, who is frustrated, who has never read the Indian
Constitution or the words of the Mahatma, and who has disposable income.† And, you should always take pains to
convince everyone that your interpretation of the religion you are peddling is
the only true one.”
And the people of Aryan said:† “Speak to us of recruitment.”
And the Prophet answered, saying,
“Do not forget to instill a code of conduct in your consumers that stigmatizes
healthy human concepts such as Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Religion, and
Freedom of the Press.† At the same time,
you should subtly endorse Intolerance, Communalism, and the Pursuit of Absolute
Power.† Once you have enough of a
critical mass of consumers, you can reach out to the public at large by
repairing thousands of potholes, signing MOUs with like-minded conglomerates,
and hiring an extra 2000 cops to protect you and your interests.† Also, take the example of the Prophet
Hitler, may he rest in peace, and recruit cadres of the young. Organize morchas
and send them on Cox and Kings spirituality tours as incentive. If you get them
when they’re young, they are yours for life.†
This is true not only of successful religions, but also of tobacco
And the people said :† “Speak to us of consolidating power and
And the Prophet replied:† “For that you need an ideology.† Any ideology will do. But I like to say that
a good ideology is like a well-prepared pudding: light, palatable, and capable
of holding the shape of any mold in which it is placed. Therefore, your
ideology must be all things to all people. And for this, you need a body of
myths with an authoritarian flavour that offers to explain away all of life's
trials and tribulations. Of course, you could make up your own myths as you go
along like that Benny Hinn cult guy, but it is both preferable and easier to
draw from sources already embedded into our psyche: such as Genesis or the
Mahabharata. I realize that creating one's own myths might at first seem
advisable from a perspective of total control, not to mention that you would
gain the opportunity to reap enormous profits in book retailing. However, I
believe that view fails to take into account the advantages of using the large
and already established body of mythology in the world over the past several
thousand years. For example, over the past two thousand years, the Bible has
been used to rationalize both sides of every human conflict. It has been used
to support such divergent views as democracy, monarchy, science, superstition,
fascism, slavery, freedom, and Slobadov Milosevic. And imagine just how much
more weight and credibility you will have with the Vedas, which are even older.
Ay, it is like an ocean, which is to say: the possibilities are endless.
Whatever religion you choose, it should be replete with an ample supply of
previously accepted myths that can be twisted in a manner that will benefit you
the most and consolidate your power base.”
And the people said:† “Any last words?”
And the Prophet said:† “If you follow my marketing plan, you shall
control the hidden purposes in all things. And you will prefer darkness to
light. And we shall build our temple of Undemocracy.”†
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE
Something to think about (Gomantak Times)
I have been following the
escalation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians with foreboding.
Everyday, I watch Israeli tanks and helicopters crush the infrastructure of the
Palestinian Authority. Then I watch the coverage of the carnage from a suicide
bombing. Then I watch Ariel Sharon, who increasingly appears to me like a
Jewish Hitler, turn around and say Arafat is not doing enough to arrest
Palestinian guerillas and dissuade young Palestinians from killing themselves
and busloads of Israelis. And George Bush agrees. And Tim Sebastian, whose IQ
is possibly even lower than George’s but who, unlike George, can usually
express himself in grammatical sentences, acts like he’s George’s personal
spokesperson and grills the European Union guy on why the EU wants to impose
sanctions on Israel.
I change the channel, only to get a
dose of Vajpayee saying he can’t face the world because of Gujarat.
Out-of-control violence based on
fundamentalist belief systems seems to be on the rise everywhere. My mind
clicks on the fact that Gujarat is a lot closer to home than the West Bank. And
I get a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. I try to convince myself that
nothing like that could happen here, in our little tropical enclave. Come on, I
say to myself, Goans are so laid back, they don’t even have the energy for that
sort thing. And I look around. Under the current caretaking government, some of
our most corrupt politicians have been neutralized under what is coming to be
known as the “dossier system”. The availability of basic amenities and services
seems to have improved, the roads are being taken care of, the city is cleaner,
things work, traffic is better controlled, and every time I cross the Mandovi
Bridge after 12 pm, the cops are out there doing their job and protecting
Okay, I think, sure, some degree of
fundamentalism exists among Goans, like that time my friend of many years,
Ashok Chowgule, got mad at me because he thought I was the author of a Reuters
piece criticizing the VHP (it wasn’t me, although I am clearly not a cheering
fan of the VHP). But he’s a still a staunch VHP man and we’re still friends, so
how serious can the communal issue really be here in Goa?
I look at the palm trees swaying
and the gentle beating of waves against the shore, and it is so easy to feel
that nothing is really too out of whack in my little world (except for the
looming vision of the River Princess). Oh, but then I remember the mosque that
got wiped out, which somehow became a non-issue. And there was the church that
allegedly burnt down because of some candles. And there was that business
during the bandh which was declared after the Godhra incident, when thugs were
running around Goa threatening shop keepers and burning tires on the road, and
we were afraid to go out—that’s definitely a new thing. And, wait a minute,
wasn’t our man one of the kar sevaks who went rushing off to Ayodhya to help
tear down the Babri Masjid? Hmmm. Something for people to think about during
the upcoming elections.
Something else to think about:
April 18th is World Heritage Day. To commemorate it, Heritage and
Conservation groups plan to have a public celebration at the Panjim Municipal
Garden, starting at 5 pm. The objective is to revive the public use of the
garden, which has a noteworthy architectural heritage history. Accordingly,
musicians, artists, theatre groups are being invited to attend and perform for
the public. They have agreed to do this free of cost. The Police Band, which in
earlier times used to play regularly at the garden bandstand, is being invited
to kick off the event. Press releases will be out this week encouraging the
public to participate in the celebration. People are advised to bring some
candles, since the garden is not very well lit. Nobody is worried about the
bandstand “accidentally” burning down.
I personally hope this will give
the Municipality some alternative ideas on how this space can be utilized,
other than filling it with fake fiberglass mountains and absurd toilets in the
shape of castles. After all, the Municipal garden is not Disneyland. Maybe I’ll
see you there.
When I was first asked to contribute something on Goan identity for this
issue of Goa Today, I thought it would be a piece of
Goa is a state of mind† (Published in the August issue of Goa Today)
When I was first
asked to contribute something on Goan identity for this issue of Goa Today,
I thought it would be a piece of cake. But as the deadline approached and I
actually sat down to write, I discovered it involved more soul-searching than
culture is defined by certain characteristics, a commonality of history,
customs, belief systems, musical traditions, food preferences, etc. But all
that is too obvious and done to death where Goa is concerned. I want to find my
When I reach into
myself in an effort to grab onto that part of me that is quintessentially Goan,
what I finally come up with is a fistful of ingredientssights, sounds, smells,
and feelingsthat change and shift in the metaphorical palm of my hand. And I
suppose this is not so unusual or surprising, or even unique to myself, since
identity, like culture, is never static.
I was born at the
University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, USA. Ours was a classic nuclear
family, comprised of my parents, myself, and my younger sister, Fernanda. The
earliest bedtime stories I can remember are those my father would tell me about
a magical place called Goa, where people lived in big extended families,
sharing everything, and went for picnics together on beaches with white sand
like sugar. Where his sister lost a diamond earring, and his aunt threatened St
Anthony before digging her hand into the sand of Calangute and pulling out the
solitaire, which shone in the moonlight like a star.
I doubt that my
father had any preconceived notions about acquainting my sister and me with our
Goan heritage; more likely, it had to do with the fact that he was homesick. So
when my sister and I were old enough to travel, he began the practice of flying
our family to Goa every two years. The result was that I was hooked on Goa from
an early age.
I was six or seven
the first time we made the long haul from New York to Bombay on Air India. We
spent a night with friends and took a flight to Goa the following day. The
airport was a makeshift shack, and our suitcases were unloaded onto the tarmac.
It was hot and humid, and the air smelt like salt. My fathers youngest
brothers were there to pick us up in their pale green Ambassador. But before we
left the airport area, we stopped at a local bar. My sister and I were given
some kind of soft drink (ordinarily prohibited by my father), the adults drank
beer. What I remember most about the drive to Cortalim was the incredible
expanse of green for as far as I could see. Even at that age, it took my breath
away. While waiting for the ferry, the adults again stopped for a beer. After
crossing the ferry, there was yet another beer stop. And when we reached
Panjim, my uncles pulled up in front of the Olympics Bar, only a few hundred
metres from my grandparents city dwelling, for more beer. I had never seen my
parents consume such quantities of beer; they seemed perfectly content to drink
beer indefinitely. But when my sister threw a full-blown tantrum out of sheer
exhaustion, screaming I want to be INSIDE Goa, by which she meant inside a
house, they quickly decided it was time to complete the last leg of the
When we finally
entered the home of my grandparents, my great uncle Jorge and my grandaunt
Olga, and their son, Alvaro, were waiting with them. We were covered with
kisses and all our newfound family members took turns holding Fernanda and me
on their laps. Then Tio Jorge entertained us with hand shadows on the wall.
So, my first
memories of Goa, are of the heat, the smell of beer and salt air, the laughter
and the excited chatter of a number of people I didnt know, and the sense of
being enveloped in a big love blanket. Oh, and of not wanting an ayah to watch
me while I bathed, which was a stunning show of independence as far as my
grandparents were concerned. But my favorite memories are of summers in my
grandparents house in Anjuna, which involved a big production process of
packing pots and pans, provisions, and my grandmothers chickens, and where
sometimes up to thirty peopleaunts, uncles, cousinswould congregate, all
laughing and telling stories and dancing before dinner. And of Naguesh, my
grandfathers right hand man in his pristine white dhotis, who would bring me
tender coconut to eat. And of Muncu, who would take out my dist.
When my family
moved to Venezuela, it was almost like being in Goa; the Venezuelans are warm
and friendly people, with a great sense of humour and a love of music. Like
Goans, and unlike Americans, they have a strong sense of family. After awhile,
one of my uncles from Goa came to live with us. He cooked Chinese soup and
taught me chords to fados on the guitar. On the weekends, wed have
parties, and by the time I left Venezuela to continue my studies in America,
all our Venezuelan friends knew how to sing a mando.
A year after
graduating from college, I came to Goa to visit my grandmother (my grandfather
had died a few years earlier) and I was offered an editorial job in Bombay. I
decided to take it because it would make Goa and my family more accessible.
Several years later, it occurred to me that if I loved Goa so much, I might as
well live here. And so, here I am. Not a small number of people think Im crazy
to live here, when I have the option to live in America. And I suppose I would
be crazy if I were a rocket scientist. But Im a writer, and the advent of the
internet has made it possible for me to conduct my work from anywhere I choose.
And I choose Goa.
Awhile back, I met
a guy who struck me as somewhat deficient in the IQ department. Or maybe hed
had too many beers. People like you come to live here because its cheap, he
said as if he wanted to pick a fight. And it seemed pointless to educate him on
the fact that there are hundreds of cheap locations in the world that are just
as pretty as Goa, that many of the governments of these places are more
environment friendly, and more amenable to foreign residents. And actually, Goa
isnt exactly cheap. So, no, it isnt that.
I am not an
idealist; I know that there is a downside to Goa. I have seen men living with
their parents and remaining financially dependent on them right through
middleage, never becoming self sufficient, never striking out on their own, or
accomplishing anything productive. Just sitting around in their banyans on
their balcao, drinking beer or feni, and talking big about how
they taught this one or that one a lesson. And I want to tell them to get a
life.† Ive seen women marry the man of
their parents choice, rather than their own, and never having a moment of self
discovery. I have witnessed the steady rape and pillage of the land, the
gauging of hillsides and destruction of forests, the pollution of the rivers
and coastal areas, the demolition of heritage buildings, the increasing
polarization of the people. The Goa of my youth is rapidly diminishing. So
maybe one day, I will decide that Goa is no longer where I physically want to
be. But wherever I go, I will carry Goa with me. Because for me, Goa is a state
Posted on Saturday October 27,
2001, Navhind Times
By MARGARET MASCARENHAS
ONE day, about eight years
ago, Leonor Rangel-Ribeiro, founder of ACDIL, invited me for tea to discuss my possible involvement in one of her projects.
Her reputation as a UN Community Development Expert and founder of ACDIL, had preceded her, and I was pleased to accept the
The elderly woman who received
me at the door was of diminutive stature, with perfect posture, and a voice like the tinkling of wind-chimes. The features
of her face were of such refinement that I concluded she must have been beautiful in her youth. Her eyes were bright and her
manner charming. Her mind was razor-sharp. As I came to know her better, I would discover that few, if any, could best her
in a battle of wits. I would also discover that this was a woman with nerves of steel who had ridden a horse down a ravine
in Colombia to reach an impoverished community in need, who had fought and won a battle with breast cancer in her forties,
who had gone to jail after the Liberation for her stand that Goa should not be merged with the state of Maharashtra, who was
viewed as an equal among men of accomplishment at a time when the concept of gender-equality was even more unfashionable than
it is now, who was passionate about bringing heath-care and education to the disenfranchised, even at her own expense. I would
witness her compassion, when she gave out her guest room to a raggedy and crazy street woman who had no place to go.
Luckily, I was smart enough
to figure out early on that this was someone I could learn from. And that realisation marked the beginning of a long and enduring
friendship of which I have been the major beneficiary.
If memory serves me correctly,
it was Mickey Roonie who said, the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person. For eight years, I spent
a great deal of time in the `classroom of Leonor Rangel-Ribeiro, earning part of my degree in Life, where the lessons included
such diverse subjects as love, friendship, poetry, music, faith, family, gender issues, forgiveness, patience and humility
(the hardest lessons for me), growing old, death and the after-life, grief, world peace, and humour. We laughed a lot.
When I look at twenty-somethings
in this era of global strife and upheaval, rushing about purposefully, as if they know what theyre doing, I want to tell them
to go and visit their grandparents, an elderly professor, an old age home. Then I imagine them giving me a polite smile and
rolling their eyes as they turn away, because this would probably have been my own reaction at twenty-something, had an old
person wanted to discuss world peace with me. And it would have been my loss.
My classes with Leonor took
place several times a week, in her modest Miramar apartment, usually by window in her living room, where she could see the
budding rose bushes. And later, in her bedroom, where she waged an arduous and courageous battle with age and severely debilitating
illness. An illness she offered daily in prayer for the well being of others.
My last class took place one
day in May, just prior to my departure for America. She lay with her head on my lap and offered that days physical suffering
to God in exchange for my safe journey. Afterwards, she said, I would like you to sing with me.
What shall we sing? I asked.
Lets sing Amazing Grace, she
Leonor Rangel-Ribeiro died
on October 22, 2001. She approached her death as she had approached her life: with courage, with faith, and with amazing grace.
Mentor, mother and dearest of friends, I salute her.
Bye, Bye American Pie (Gomantak Times and Asian American Journal)
Bye, Bye American Pie (Gomantak Times
and Asian American Journal)
Today is September 11, 2001.† As I write, I am sitting in Ann Arbor, the
town of my birth, at a U of M cafeteria, watching replays of the American
Airlines and United planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers and the
smoke billowing from the Pentagon. The casualties are enormous. New York City
Mayor Giulianni appears for a CNN interview looking and sounding
shell-shocked.† The President is
summarily whisked away to an undisclosed location. Across the country, air
traffic is grounded.† Schools, major
shopping centers, corporate headquarters of American companies are closed for
the day. Even Disneyland. National Guard troops rush to New York City.† Major bridges are shut down. The military is
on the alert.† Aircraft carriers and
battleships move off the Eastern Coast of the nation. National security
officials are scrambling.† White House
grounds have been evacuated. A state of emergency has been declared.
This is not a movie. This is real.
You would think that with all the
spy novels and Hollywood films that have more than adequately depicted the
hypotheticals of a terrorist attack on the U.S. with Washington D.C. and New
York City as the primary targets, the American would be better equipped to ward
off such a scenario.† Or at least
conceive of the possibility.† And better
prepared to deal with it. This is not the case.† The U.S. State Department had no clue of any potential terrorist
threat; they have admitted as much.
With its ascension to supremacy in
the world, Uncle Sam has dissolved into complacency.† In my minds eye, he no longer looks like President Lincoln, but
like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, smug, fat, greedy.† Unreasonably self-righteous.†
Sooner or later unbridled self-indulgence catches up to you.† In this case, sooner, is now.
For years, the U.S. has relied
predominantly on satellite intelligence to obtain information on what is going
on in a world where it has the dubious distinction of being Chief Cop.† Effective human infiltration and information-gathering
was virtually aborted with the end of the Cold War.† This means that the U.S. has a diminished capacity to analyze,
much less anticipate, events of this nature before they occur.
Why, why? a young woman at the
table next to me murmurs repeatedly. A perfect example of the fact that most
Americans dont get the corrosive effect that years of economically driven
policies and support of oppressive regimes has had on the psyche of those who
have suffered the consequences of those policies and regimes. This is,
undoubtedly, the biggest failure of intelligence in US history.
Clearly, this is a country that is
out of touch with reality.† Having
lived, worked and traveled abroad for so many years, even I could have told the
U.S. government that.† And, in fact, I
have repeatedly commented to my American friends that the U.S. is too insular,
dangerously unaware of a steadily growing hostilitynot just in the Muslim
worldbut even among its so-called allies.†
To anyone paying attention, it was never a question of whether the
U.S. would ultimately have to face terrorism in its own back yard, but
when.† And now the suspense is
over.† There is only the grisly aftermath.† There is only damage control.† The U.S. spin doctors are insisting that the
government is in control of an out-of-control situation.† Beefing up security after the fact.†††
It doesnt help, that in the time
of the worst threat the U.S. has faced since World War II, the country has the
most inept of leadership.† Here is a
situation that requires deft handling, excellent response time, the brilliance
of a Robert Kennedy, the charisma of a Teddy Roosevelt.† George W Bush, the accidental President, has
neither the charisma nor the IQ to inspire confidence among the American
people. When he appeared on national television this morning, he looked like a
frightened Boy Scout (Daddy, what should I do?) spouting bravado rhetoric.
To those Americans who have been
paying attention to world affairs (a minority), it is pretty clear that Texas
Cowboy politics may not be what the doctor ordered. And as I look at the
bewildered faces of the students on the university campus around me, it is
pretty obvious that the average American is as scared as the President.
Reactions range from raging we should just nuke the bastards (who?),† to stunned disbelief.
Not since Pearl Harbor has the U.S.
been required to contemplate, much less confront, and act of war on its own
territory.† And whether the incumbent
U.S. government is prepared to come out and say it or not, this is, ladies and
gentlemen, an act of war.† The problem,
of course, is that the perpetrator is not readily identifiable.† Of course, the Bin Laden organization is the
most obvious suspect, being as it is, possibly the only terrorist organization
with the incentive, the money and the capability to execute such a
maneuver.† The Afghanis have issued a
statement denying involvement. However, if you will recall, it was only
recently that Osama Bin Laden nominated the head of the Taliban as the spiritual
leader of the Muslim world, and declared Afghanistan as the true Mecca.† The name Saddam Hussain is also being
bandied about by various American terrorist experts.
I watch some news clips of the
Palestinians celebrating the Attack on the U.S. And I phone a Palestinian
friend, a professor of economics, to get his take on this.† According to him, Americans are right now
getting a tiny taste of the horrors the people of many other countries have
suffered for decades, often with the endorsement, implicit or explicit, of the
U.S.† It is terrible what has happened,
but it was also inevitable.
The tragic price that so many
American civilians have had to pay for the negligent short-sightedness and
absurdly childish smugness of those they have elected to power has been the
worst possible kind of wake up call.† We
can only be proud of New Yorkers, but it remains to be seen whether the same
can be said of American leadership.
Anatomy of Indian Fiction Review (Gomantak Times)
Some time ago The Hindu carried an articleby T. G. Vaidyanathan wherein he critiques Manjula Padmanabhan's review of
Amit Chaudhuri's "A New World". Which, incidentally, I thought was a very good book indeed. A review of a review? How odd.
But actually it wasn't. Here's what he said: "That so consummate a story teller as Ms Padmanabhan should falter so completely
in her critical estimate of a contemporary only serves to remind us that criticism and creative writing are as different as
chalk and cheese. My sentiments when I read Anita Nair's review of my own work in India Today. My protagonist, says Ms Nair,
is rift with angst. Rift? Is my protagonist a valley, then? My plot, she says, is pre-ordained. But wait!Suddenly, in the
very next paragraph she makes a complete U-turn and says the plot evolves through a series of coincidences. Pre-ordained coincidences?
It isn't that one can't stomach a tough review; on the contrary, the toughest one I've received
so far was the one that appeared in The Statesman, (March 11, 2001,New Delhi) by Mita Ghose which was about 25 percent flattering
and 75 percent scathing. But it was intelligently and painstakingly written, with considerable literary merit and no axes
to grind, and I was more grateful for this review than the flattering ones that were flattering for all the wrong reasons.
As Vaidyanathan points out, it is not the job of a reviewer to second-guess the author and claim
more omniscience than the novelist him/herself. "[Padmanabhan's] essay bristles with a plethora of false certainties like:
'Even his divorce does not seem to have done more than have left a faint scar. We know that it cannot really be faint, and
that it did require a struggle and legal battle ...' One almost gets the impression that Ms Padmanabhan was an eye witness
of the events described in the novel."
While I think most authors fully anticipate, appreciate and accept the right and duty of reviewers
to point out discrepancies in creative work, there is nothing intellectually elevating about criticism for the mere sake of
criticism. In another strange review of my book, Manohar Shetty (Skindeep, The Hindu, New Delhi, dated April 15, 2001) allows
his distaste for feminism, or what he calls ferocious feminists, to adversely impact and severely compromise his reading comprehension
skills and reviewing capabilities. Hence, his several astonishing embellishments (otherwise known as fibs) in delineating
what he perceives to be the inherent narrative flaws in the book. These, Im afraid, go far beyond his irritation with the
paucity of likeable male characters in the book--a sentiment to which he is certainly entitled. What he is not entitled to,
however, is to discuss the implausibility of what is clearly a nickname (Pagan). At this very moment, I have a number of male
Goan relatives over-forty who, without any raising of the eyebrows whatsoever, go by such unlikely soubriquets Tu-tur , Bebe,
Capo, Nu-nun, Clamac , Paloo, etc. Which only serves to underline the fact that truth is often stranger than fiction. Shetty
is also not entitled to imply that I have somehow overlooked the entire history of colonial Portuguese distribution of wealth
and property, when he states so righteously and unequivocally, that in the novel Skin, there is not a single Portuguese character
or mention of their magnanimity in gifting large estates, coats of arms, and other titles and favours to their servile Goan
faithfuls. An apparently unforgiveable omission in Shettys view, and I would have agreed with him myself were it true.
I refer my readers, and Mr. Shetty in particular, to page 23 of the Penguin-India edition
[Dom Afonso] selected his friend the nobleman (earlier described
on page 22 as an enormously wealthy Portuguese patrician of minor title renown for his generosity and virtue) as godfather
to the child, and so, predictably, upon his death he had bequeathed a substantial sum of money to the boy. Also in his will
was a clause stating that he was appointing him as legal heir and administrator of his estate, and that he was transferring
his title to him.
In fact, at least half the estate of the protagonist family in Skin is donated by a Portuguese
grandee with title et al. This information is not in code; it is explicitly detailed at the beginning of the book.
My point being, that if youre going to torch someone, it should be done without leaving your own derriere exposed to
The Indian reviewer of fiction is a peculiar sort of bird, who is more often than not under
the misguided impression that a fiction review is about addressing issues of typos, synopsizing the plot, and judging fiction
by reality, rather than discussing narrative elements of style, technique, theme, language and readability. But, as I have
repeatedly said to my own creative writing students, the minute you get out on a public platform, you're fair game for all
and sundry even the illiterate and you have to take this in your stride.
My own editor, David Davidar, says that perhaps the first book to evince a wide divide ( the
word rift would be appropriate here) in critical opinion in India was Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. Similarly, Arundhati
Roy's The God of Small Things, which, like A Suitable Boy was sold abroad for a huge sum, received
reviews that were about 50:50 in favour and against. "Envy has something to do with it," said
Davidar recently in an interview. "When a mere book earns a huge amount of money in precious foreign exchange reviewers here
seem to feel compelled to examine it very critically indeed to see what on earth it contains to justify such largesse. So
far, I dont seem to have that particular problem.
Pretzels--weapons of mass destruction? (Gomantak Times)
My friend Robin emailed me: "I know I said this year couldn't be worse than
the last one; however, when I wake to hear that Bush collapsed with a pretzel lodged in his throat, but survived with an unsightly
bruise (in my fantasy his wife slugged him after he mouthed another of his more inane comments), I can only feel that we missed
a unique opportunity. Perhaps some Republican came back from the future (I've seen this movie starring Arnold Swartzneggar)
and pried the glob from his mouth to keep us all tormented with Bush-speak for the next few years."
What the hell is a pretzel? My Indian neighbor
asked. I explained that a pretzel is a type of bread snack. Some historians claim the first pretzels were made in 610 A.D.,
when monks in southern France offered them as a reward to children for learning their prayers. Others argue that the hard,
brittle, glazed and salted treat came from Germany in 1835, where the dough was actually shaped to form the letter B, and
stood for Bretzel. Still others return to the monk theory, only they insist the pretzel was first made by monks in 1800, who
spent long hours forming bits of dough in the shape of a person's hand in prayer. (If you look closely at a pretzel, this
theory is only believable if the praying person in question is double-jointed and also arthritic.
The only thing that is certain is that it was the
immigrants from Europe who introduced the pretzel to the US in the 19th century. Sneaky of them, wasnt it?
The first commercial pretzel bakery was established
in the town of Lititz in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania by Julius Sturgis in 1861. The modern age of pretzel making began
in 1935 when the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company first introduced the automatic pretzel- twisting machine. Prior to that,
most commercial pretzels were actually shaped by a cracker-cutting machine, then placed on baking pans and put into the baking
ovens by hand. This innovation made pretzels available in all parts of the country. There is the
soft kind and the hard kind of pretzel, there are large pretzels and small pretzels. At this time it is not clear which brand
of pretzel the American President was munching while watching an American football game. However, it serves him right for
watching American football, which isnt football at all but some incomprehensible mess involving 250 pound men in shoulder
pads and a ball which isnt actually a ball, but an eye-shaped three-dimensional thing which is rarely kicked, and often carried
to the goal line. The Americans really have no business calling it football, as I was known to frequently remark last summer
whenever asked to accompany American friends to a game.
Millions of American men spend Sunday afternoons
just like the President: wolfing down pretzels and watching American football. Allegedly, this has led the newly christened
Home Security Department to contemplate the true motives of the producers of pretzels, and to the concern that pretzels might
potentially be used by terrorists as weapons of mass destruction.
Bush, perhaps in an effort to calm an already unhinged
American public, told reporters he felt great. Bruised but unbroken, the President, offered advice when dealing with
this new potential threat to the American people, saying, "My mother always said 'When you're eating pretzels,
chew before you swallow. Always listen to your mother."
Well, I listened to my aunt, who is almost like my mother,
and she told me to read Wendell Rodricks column in Goa Today recently--all about his new year's resolution to teach
terrorists in Goa a lesson. According to Wendell, the breed of terrorist we have to contend with here on the home turf are
a group of free-loading non-Goans who try to poison us with oily biryanis and ugly meat dishes. On further investigation,
it was revealed that this group of six is led by a minor deposed king and his appendix. I recommend serving them pretzels.
Parties, Recycled (Gomantak Times)
Check out these little crackers
laden with cream cheese and caviar, topped with parsley.
these mushrooms wrapped in bacon and sprinkled with parmesan.Delicious. Sexy.† Would the masses would get off on such hors d'oeuvres, do you think?†
I mean, do poor people like caviar?†
Or little mushrooms?† Or
asparagus tips smothered in white wine sauce? Or little cheeseballs covered in
mashed up nuts?† All of which are being
offered by sprightly waiters in white carrying sparkling silver platters.† Other waiters are gliding about with the
mixed drinks--Black Label, Bombay Gin.†
Even Tequilla.† And French white
wine (very sec) for the ladies.† It's simply all so chic.
My poor darling, you must be
exhausted, someone is gushing to the hostess.†
Yes, it'll take me months to recover, she replies.
That's right.† It's the party season in Goa.† But, you might ask, if it's such a nightmare
to entertain, why do it?† And this
reveals the most gauche attitude, an
utterly profane ignorance of the fundamentals of LIFE.† Parties are an imperative.† These gatherings are what divide THEM from
US-- the glitterati from the geeks, the hep from the square, the conscious from
Do without parties?† Fat chance, sahib.
"I suppose society is
wonderfully delightful,"† wrote
Oscar Wilde, "To be in it is merely a bore.† But to be out of it, simply a tragedy."† And so it happens that, this month, tragedy
is being averted in Goa.† Tis the season
to be jolly, and irrespective of any other combination/permutation of
Armageddon such as jet-lag and indigestion, an invitation to a wedding or party
is not for lining wastebaskets.
Not too long ago, you would have
known the guest-list of a High Society function by heart.† But the main development in Goa is that,
over the past decade, those who were considered "establishment" now
have many friends they didn't grow up with.†
No doubt about it; Goa's social circuit is expanding its horizons, for
better or for worse.† The bastions are
crumbling.† The new boys in town are
moving in on the "Social Register" turf and the denizens are moving
Certainly, the large number of
travelling elite has been one contributing factor to the rapid growth of the
social establishment in Goa† A large
percentage of Goa's New Year party crowd is from Mumbai.† The emergent social retinue is therefore
based on opportunism, a reflection of the Mumbai influence.† At the same time it still retains its quota
of third and fourth generation families who consider themselves aristocratic
and who bemoan the infiltration of the newcomers.
Like all social establishments, the
one in Goa is exclusive--the concept being to keep social equals in and others
out.† In addition, the society crowd in
Goa is divided into cliques and circles, which sometimes intersect for large
events and blur into an indecipherable chaos.†
Yet, out of this disorder, there emerge certain distinctions that† set the elite of Goa apart from ordinary
society, characterized primarily by a sort of blasť self-indulgence, and an attitude of ENJOY AT ANY COST.† At the moment, it is still cool in Goa to
dress in designer† (Wendell or Sosa)
outfits and go to a party every night.†
This merely means that, due to the low population factor, the same
people meet each other repeatedly.†
Wannabes refer to this club as a tough gang of insecure snobs† who can snub a non-member or crasher as fast
as they can pop a martini olive.† Under
the veneer of polish lurk the scruples and petty politics of primitive
But actually, just who is or who is
not included in Goa's swirling social scenario is an elusive cast of
characters. The Glam Party Crowd list is usually comprised of Jimmy, Morad and
Jiva, Raj and Dipti, Lucio and Corine, some Chowgules, with some foreigners,
Mumbai socialites or YPO types and a few locals of the art genus thrown in,
like Mario or Wendell, for a creative mix. Among the local politicians only the
Ranes are considered "inner wheel". The Music Party Crowd consists of
Michael and Veena, Kevin and Sarita, Marion and Jehangir, Nandu, Leslie and
Michele and any jazz musicians or crooners available for the evening.† Then there is the Young Insiders
Businessman's Crowd--Verner, Pankaj, Vishwajeet, Srinivas, and so forth. For the
intellectual party-goer, there is a savvy gang of thirty-somethings like Vikram
and Gauri, Dean and Alice,† Apurva, Val
and Anjali, etc. The Portuguese Crowd is usually comprised of the Consul,the
Fundacao Oriente Director, the Portuguese Chancellor and, frequently, a bunch
of Goan stuffed shirts who sit around pretending to be in Portugal. But hanging
out with the Portuguese crowd is still preferable to attending the blue-blood
Margao do's where one of my friends was recently heard to remark, "What a
terrific party. Maybe later on we can get some fluid and embalm each
other." South Goa is not the place for a party.
A few people move with impunity
from one clique to another. Outsiders are occasionally invited to these trendy
do's for their entertainment value. Everyone else is simply scum.
Confused?† Don't be.† Basically, it's
just the same party, recycled.
Personally, I'd classify myself as
a literary charity snob.† For my own
party, anyone who meets the following criteria will be welcome:
(1) You must have performed at
least one act of charity this month equivalent in cost to your New Year's
(2) You must have successfully
expunged archaic words like "nay" and "alas" from your
vocabulary and be able to spell MILLENNIUM correctly.
Of cowboys and heroes (Gomantak Times and
Asian American Journal)
Today is September 18th 2001, one
week after the Twin Towers fell in New York City. Americans are still trying to adjust to a new reality:that they are not immune to terrorist attack on their home ground.For the most part, middle-class America has rallied round the flag; everywhere you go people are wearing it, waving
it from their cars and from their windows.The volunteer efforts andrelief donations coming from average citizens, many of whom have never even been to New York, are munificent
and moving. New Yorkers are actually hugging each other.Major Giuliani has established
himself by trial of fire as one of the most competent administrators in the country. The NYPD and the NYFD have emerged as
national heroes. Wall Street opened as planned yesterday and took an expected beating, but no one is discouraged. Many Americans
are buying stock to buoy the economy. At the insistence of Giuliani that normalcy must return, Broadway re-opened. Massive
memorial services are being held throughout the nation. Everyone is proud of New York and of the compassionate response to
calls for aid from a vast majority of American citizens.
I dont want to sound trite, said a U of M student the other day, but this may
be a blessing in disguise. How sad it is that it has taken a disaster of this magnitude to pull Americans out of their self-centered
In the political arena, and for the first time in years bipartisanship in the
American House and Senate is negligible, which on the surface might appear like a good thing. President Bush, is beginning
to both look and sound Presidential.But lets not get carried away.An analysis of actual content of his various speeches since last Tuesday, are enough to give most thinking
people the willies.Looking firmly into the camera and saying he wants Bin Laden
dead or alive, seems an over-simplification of what needs to happen here. To the objective observer, it appears that America
is unbelievably naÔve, flailing to pinpoint the blame and expecting the world will rally behind them.They are out for blood.Whose blood, is the question. In a
less than diplomatic way, the attitude from the Capitol is unequivocally: You are either for us or against us.
Not to detract from the horror of the deaths of over 3000 civilians, and the
billions of dollars it will take to rebuild in New York, but it might be pertinent to point out that numerous other countries,
of which India is one, have lost thousands of lives in their own battles against terrorism. I dont recall any world-wide playing
of the Indian national anthem when India lost so many to Kargil.I dont recall
the US giving those who train the terrorists who attack on Indian soil any ultimatums.
To give you an example of American ego-centricity at this moment in history:CBS anchor, Dan Rather went on the David Letterman show last night, and fell to pieces
at the thought of how much they, a handful of madmen, hate America. When Dave asked why they hate Americans so much, Dan said,
its because they are evil, and wept.Apart from being sickened by the sight of
a professional blowing it on national television, I was flabbergasted at the irresponsibility of such a statement. This is
because, just an hour before, I had watched 60 Minutes, where Dan Rather anchored a segment in which young educated Muslims
in Pakistan were interviewed.These young men were extremely articulate in their
support of Osama Bin Laden. They had Long Live Osama as their screen-savers. They told the 60 Minutesthat even if the Americans managed to capture and/or kill Bin Laden, there would be hundreds of other Bin
Ladens behind him.And, as current investigations indicate, there are a number
of governments and wealthy private individuals who support the cause of Bin Laden and his ilk. His network is believed to
extend across50 or 60countries,
including the U.S. A handful of madmen? Lets not kid ourselves. This is much bigger than that.
Meanwhile, speaking of madmen, the New York Times reported that evangelist Jerry
Falwell announced on public television that it was the gays, lesbians, feminists, abortionists, the ACLU who invited this
disaster upon America.
If I were Bush, instead of yelling war cries, one of the first things Id do is
lock Arafat and Sheron in a room and make them hammer out a deal that would take effect not in two months or two years, but
right now, in the next two weeks.
It is a fact that terrorists and their sympathizers, do not distinguish between
a government and its people. But there are many who argue that neither does the U.S. government. Thousands of innocent Japanese
were put into camps after Pearl Harbor. In Vietnam, civilians were killed by American bombers. The U.S. mined the waters of
Nicaragua. It has repeatedly supported tyrannical and anti-democratic regimes, and interfered in the sovereignty of other
countries for its own economic and/or military interest: South America, the African Congo, and, of course, the Middle East.
At this moment, Indian Americans have become the objects of hate crimes, especially
Sikhs because their turbans remind the perpetrators of the head-gear of Osama Bin Laden. How ignorant is that?
The American public needs to educate itself, if it is to understand why the world
may not be quick to rally round beyond lip service.American media should consider
participating in that education. American intelligence agencies might consider spending less time investigating the sex lives
of their politicians and more time protecting American civilians.