THE WHOLE NINE YARDS “POLITICAL ‘CLEAN CHITS’ HAVE BEGUN TO LOOK DECIDEDLY DIRTY.”ALL WRAPPED UP INDIAN

In Soniaspeak, design means ‘Never having to say you are sari’

bachikarkaria

Extinction looms large over traditional textiles, so Sonia Gandhi’s NIFT-y tips need to be taken seriously. Addressing the graduating students of the fashion institute in the family’s pallav-borough of Rae Bareli, she stressed on the need to KISS and hug. To ‘Keep It Simple, Stoopid’ and to embrace our unparalleled heritage instead of overdosing on the chak-mak. The impeccably sari-ed Sonia was eminently qualified to give this advice.

Her paratroopers may have swung into overreaction against El Saro Rojo (The Red Sari), Javier Moro’s transparently biographical work of fiction two years ago. She may occasionally sport what Punjabis call a ‘suit’. But it’s the handwoven sari that Sonia showcases best. So, she should have taken an even stronger stand for it on the NIFT platforma

The young seem to have abandoned this graceful wrap like yesterday’s boyfriend. When they do wear it, it’s mainly for the seductions of its upper accompaniment. Designers have encrusted the choli with all the Sonia-denounced embellishments, and have tried to turn it into a zone more erogenous than the bare midriff which the sari permissively allows. The ubiquitous backless variety, held in place by two threads and an invitation, reveals that, in fact, choli ke peechhey kuchh nahin hain.

Blame Bollywood for this sari state of affairs. It has dumped the rich, traditional weaves, and been blinded by the razzle-dazzle of sequins and Swarovski. With the commendable exception of the timeless Rekha, no film or filmi event reflects the sensuous excitement of the 17th-century English poet. Robert Herrick gaped and gasped, ‘Whenas in silks my Julia goes/ Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows/ That liquefaction of her clothes.’

Today’s hard-pressed working woman has no time to iron saris. She has no option other than the mass-produced, drip-dry polyester instead of the handloom cotton variety which is both highly priced and high-maintenance.

Some corporate queens may still wear it, but the power sari has simply not acquired the cachet of the ‘power suit’ chosen by western headhenchos and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Meanwhile, the Kareena-wannabes have fallen hook, eye and blinker for the bling which, like some designer algae, unrelentingly swamps every inch of faux ‘French’ chiffon. Khadi has attracted a Dandi march of designers, but traditional weaves have few stakers. Sally Holkar may try to do what Maharani Ahilyabai did for the exquisite Maheshwari; some fight the invasion of the Chinese Banarasi; but here’s been no worthy successor to the omnibus success of the late Pupul Jayakar.

Sari borders separate our netaranis. Sonia favours the tangail jamdani. This may or may not be a deliberate come-uppance of Mamata, who is a striding, strident insult to the exquisite handlooms of Bengal. You may fault Ms G on the starchy, no-nonsense way in which she dons rather than drapes the elegant sari, but that’s preferable any day to the way Ms B slaps on her limp homespun – as if it were a kitchen jharan.

Mayawati is an exception in her Gunj-chic ‘suits’. The spreading Jayalalithaa wisely abjures the flamboyant Conjeevaram; Jayanthi Natarajan wears these to great effect. Battleship Renuka would seem incongruous in the delicate kalamkari prints of her native Andhra. She forgoes its theatrical teliya roomal too, which would better reflect her personality, but would further enlarge her frame. Her TV sparring partner, Nirmala Sitharaman’s nondescript wardrobe is happily less dour than her patented expression. Sushma-ji, the BJP’s main powerani, deliberately projects the kind of saris which traditional pakoranis prefer, albeit with that manly, silly, sleeveless desi jacket.

From the evidence at hand, it would seem that the market, is not particularly marketable. The default position of most political parties borders on a deep mistrust of reform, and even those that fly under the flag of right-wing policies are no different. A curious paradox is on display- at one level, most dominant political alignments seem to implicitly agree on the broad market-facing economic direction that the country has been taking for a while now, at another level, they are extremely reluctant to take definitive positions on the subject- if anything all the noises that they emit hark back to what is seen as a crowd-pleasing version of the old reflexive socialistic tendencies. Reforms when they do happen, seem to be a product of having no other options, and no time to waffle on any longer. Long term policy constipation gives way on these occasions to a flurry of reform evacuations, and the cork is then back, jammed as tightly as ever. The Congress rally might have backed the initiatives announced but no longer term roadmap for continued reform was outlined. It would seem that the new found public affection that the party has expressed for reform is largely an act of desperation- having been pushed to the wall by an endless succession of scandals, it is seeking to regain some semblance of control over the discussion about its poor performance on all fronts.

The reluctance to market the market needs greater examination. Why have such few attempts been made to market the benefits of economic reform? It is true that the manner in which the market mechanism works is not self-evident- the link between opening out the market to multinationals, for instance and delivered prosperity on the ground is far from clear at first glance and is open to challenge. Politicians have preferred their own mechanism- political transfer payments like that selectively create and nurture constituencies, using power to chisel out a mutuality of interests.  Reform in its purest sense, needs too much transparency and involves shedding transactable power. It needs institutions to work as intended across the span of delivery systems. It calls for the building of a new political grammar, one  where a new cause and effect relationship must be established, this time between overall development and economic growth with an individual feeling of goodwill. The general must convert into the specific and policy must become experience. This calls for a longer term orientation and great belief in one’s ability to bend the system to a new way of working. There are some who have attempted this with some success at the state level, but the degree of difficulty here is daunting enough for this not be emulated on a larger scale.

More intriguing than the silence of political parties is the reluctance of business to market the market. Its dominant reaction has been to play the existing system to its advantage, and the torrential tumbling out of skeletons from the corporate cupboard is evidence of the opportunistic stance taken by significant sections of the business.

Much like political transfer payments, the advantages that accrue out of massaging the system instead of changing it, are that the gain is ownable by individuals at the cost of others. Rigging the system ensures not only victory for the self but guaranteed defeat of the others. Even when the attempt has been more systemic, business has tended to limit its interest in the organised sector, and within that the corporate sector. Narrow interests have been represented narrowly. This world exists of a few industry leaders, a few media outlets and the state; a vast amount of verbiage gets generated within the confines of this small universe; everyone else is a mere spectator to this conversation and large parts of India are excluded entirely from it.

Reform has thus been sneaked in, one wink at a time. In a small enclave of the like voiced, it stands for  staggeringly self-evident wisdom, and any regime is measured largely from this standpoint. But because reform is enacted so stealthily, and cheered so noisily by the very visible, it neither gets meaningfully debated nor genuinely accepted. The great tragedy of reform in India is that it has few believers but many users. As a result reform in India is an occasional starburst of policies, but without the kind of systemic support that it needs. There are reasons to embrace the market and reasons to curb its influence, but without an open and transparent conversation on the subject, no one’s purpose will be served- neither of its proponents nor of its critics.


Yes-ji, there’s a world of difference in the way each sings Sari Jahaan Se Achchha.

 ”Political ‘clean chits’ have begun to look decidedly dirty.”

We Indians love celebrations of any and many kinds. We are truly blessed to be born in a part of the world that embraces a plethora of faiths, customs and beliefs, thereby multiplying our opportunities to celebrate and providing a much-needed respite. Not many countries are as lucky as ours and at the same time, not many countries are as unlucky as ours. India’s strength lies in her pluralism, India’s weakness lies in her fragmentation. A see saw society that struggles to find equilibrium, continues to evolve and yet continues to regress. For every two steps forward, it takes one step back. For every opportunity there is to celebrate, there is an equal opportunity to mourn. For every new innovation, there is a bloody stab to its advancement. When there arises a flame, a heavy downpour sets in. Very rarely like a little flicker from the weakest ‘diya’, a few arise in an attempt to quell the darkness that India is made to plunge into.

When Aseem Trivedi attempts to summarize the current state of India with his ‘Gang rape of Mother India’ cartoon, many believe that he is very accurate not only in his choice of words but also in his depiction of Mother India being plundered. She  is shown as being pinned down by a politician and a bureaucrat and lustily watched by the devil called corruption who readies himself for the rape. Even as Trivedi deftly converted the Parliament of India into the National toilet, he is not far off the mark in the opinion of many. These two cartoons symbolize the frustration of the common man as he watches the on going proceedings of the ‘rape’ and the flies that swarm around the toilet bowl quite helplessly. And when on rare occasions there is somebody who voices the opinion of the common man, he is mocked at, ridiculed and an army is hastily deployed in decimating any well-founded agenda. This army of course remains powerful; after all it is politically backed and is well  augmented by corporate honchos and media czars. This is an army that becomes virtually impossible to defeat.

When Kejriwal is compared to Rakhi Sawant by senior politicians like Digvijay Singh, the political discourse of India remains trivialized. Important issues continue to be swept under the mat, as frivolous talk and trivia becomes the focal point. Instead of addressing earth shattering issues likes scams and corruption on hand, the political discourse extends to item girls and ‘fifty crore’ ladies. Nobody has time to provide adequate answers to a Kejriwal or a Swamy. A laugh, a snigger and a mocking denial are all that one hears backed by the arrogance that it would be difficult to find ‘proof’. Kejriwal is stupidly likened to a mosquito by Kurshid, a pesky irritating insect that can suck very little blood. One he can perhaps swat with a newspaper? Not likely thinks Kejriwal; his dengue carrying bite can be quite lethal. We need more of such dengue carrying mosquitoes as one or two are certainly not enough.

Far removed from dengue carrying mosquitoes, far removed from bites, pains and agony of the common man is our Prime Minister who remains at bliss. With another Diwali that has come and gone, he is almost at the point of reaching nirvana despite the fading light, despite the reduced celebrations. He remains uninspiring, he looks tired and feeble. When one almost feels sorry for him, one is reminded of the troops he leads and any sense of remorse is quickly dispelled. Frankly, Obama’s single message to all those who celebrate Diwali is a lot more inspiring than every single speech that our own Prime Minister has come up with in his current term. Of course, there is no comparison whatsoever between the two leader’s oratory skills but one cant help but unashamedly wish that we had a popularly elected leader who connected with the people. I cannot even remember when was the last time I had listened to a speech from our Prime Minister that made me sit up in rapt attention. Most times I am stiffing a yawn instead. So, as we bring this Diwali to a closure, as we watch the fireworks light up the evening skies, as we devour the savories and enjoy the current times, lets not forget that India remains in darkness. The day when India is well and truly aglow is when everyday will be celebrated as Diwali.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light – Plato

The President of America’s message this Diwali.

We Indians love celebrations of any and many kinds. We are truly blessed to be born in a part of the world that embraces a plethora of faiths, customs and beliefs, thereby multiplying our opportunities to celebrate and providing a much-needed respite. Not many countries are as lucky as ours and at the same time, not many countries are as unlucky as ours. India’s strength lies in her pluralism, India’s weakness lies in her fragmentation. A see saw society that struggles to find equilibrium, continues to evolve and yet continues to regress. For every two steps forward, it takes one step back. For every opportunity there is to celebrate, there is an equal opportunity to mourn. For every new innovation, there is a bloody stab to its advancement. When there arises a flame, a heavy downpour sets in. Very rarely like a little flicker from the weakest ‘diya’, a few arise in an attempt to quell the darkness that India is made to plunge into.


When Aseem Trivedi attempts to summarize the current state of India with his ‘Gang rape of Mother India’ cartoon, many believe that he is very accurate not only in his choice of words but also in his depiction of Mother India being plundered. She  is shown as being pinned down by a politician and a bureaucrat and lustily watched by the devil called corruption who readies himself for the rape. Even as Trivedi deftly converted the Parliament of India into the National toilet, he is not far off the mark in the opinion of many. These two cartoons symbolize the frustration of the common man as he watches the on going proceedings of the ‘rape’ and the flies that swarm around the toilet bowl quite helplessly. And when on rare occasions there is somebody who voices the opinion of the common man, he is mocked at, ridiculed and an army is hastily deployed in decimating any well-founded agenda. This army of course remains powerful; after all it is politically backed and is well  augmented by corporate honchos and media czars. This is an army that becomes virtually impossible to defeat.

When Kejriwal is compared to Rakhi Sawant by senior politicians like Digvijay Singh, the political discourse of India remains trivialized. Important issues continue to be swept under the mat, as frivolous talk and trivia becomes the focal point. Instead of addressing earth shattering issues likes scams and corruption on hand, the political discourse extends to item girls and ‘fifty crore’ ladies. Nobody has time to provide adequate answers to a Kejriwal or a Swamy. A laugh, a snigger and a mocking denial are all that one hears backed by the arrogance that it would be difficult to find ‘proof’. Kejriwal is stupidly likened to a mosquito by Kurshid, a pesky irritating insect that can suck very little blood. One he can perhaps swat with a newspaper? Not likely thinks Kejriwal; his dengue carrying bite can be quite lethal. We need more of such dengue carrying mosquitoes as one or two are certainly not enough.

Far removed from dengue carrying mosquitoes, far removed from bites, pains and agony of the common man is our Prime Minister who remains at bliss. With another Diwali that has come and gone, he is almost at the point of reaching nirvana despite the fading light, despite the reduced celebrations. He remains uninspiring, he looks tired and feeble. When one almost feels sorry for him, one is reminded of the troops he leads and any sense of remorse is quickly dispelled. Frankly, Obama’s single message to all those who celebrate Diwali is a lot more inspiring than every single speech that our own Prime Minister has come up with in his current term. Of course, there is no comparison whatsoever between the two leader’s oratory skills but one cant help but unashamedly wish that we had a popularly elected leader who connected with the people. I cannot even remember when was the last time I had listened to a speech from our Prime Minister that made me sit up in rapt attention. Most times I am stiffing a yawn instead. So, as we bring this Diwali to a closure, as we watch the fireworks light up the evening skies, as we devour the savories and enjoy the current times, lets not forget that India remains in darkness. The day when India is well and truly aglow is when everyday will be celebrated as Diwali.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light – Plato

The President of America’s message this Diwali.

We Indians love celebrations of any and many kinds. We are truly blessed to be born in a part of the world that embraces a plethora of faiths, customs and beliefs, thereby multiplying our opportunities to celebrate and providing a much-needed respite. Not many countries are as lucky as ours and at the same time, not many countries are as unlucky as ours. India’s strength lies in her pluralism, India’s weakness lies in her fragmentation. A see saw society that struggles to find equilibrium, continues to evolve and yet continues to regress. For every two steps forward, it takes one step back. For every opportunity there is to celebrate, there is an equal opportunity to mourn. For every new innovation, there is a bloody stab to its advancement. When there arises a flame, a heavy downpour sets in. Very rarely like a little flicker from the weakest ‘diya’, a few arise in an attempt to quell the darkness that India is made to plunge into.

When Aseem Trivedi attempts to summarize the current state of India with his ‘Gang rape of Mother India’ cartoon, many believe that he is very accurate not only in his choice of words but also in his depiction of Mother India being plundered. She  is shown as being pinned down by a politician and a bureaucrat and lustily watched by the devil called corruption who readies himself for the rape. Even as Trivedi deftly converted the Parliament of India into the National toilet, he is not far off the mark in the opinion of many. These two cartoons symbolize the frustration of the common man as he watches the on going proceedings of the ‘rape’ and the flies that swarm around the toilet bowl quite helplessly. And when on rare occasions there is somebody who voices the opinion of the common man, he is mocked at, ridiculed and an army is hastily deployed in decimating any well-founded agenda. This army of course remains powerful; after all it is politically backed and is well  augmented by corporate honchos and media czars. This is an army that becomes virtually impossible to defeat.

When Kejriwal is compared to Rakhi Sawant by senior politicians like Digvijay Singh, the political discourse of India remains trivialized. Important issues continue to be swept under the mat, as frivolous talk and trivia becomes the focal point. Instead of addressing earth shattering issues likes scams and corruption on hand, the political discourse extends to item girls and ‘fifty crore’ ladies. Nobody has time to provide adequate answers to a Kejriwal or a Swamy. A laugh, a snigger and a mocking denial are all that one hears backed by the arrogance that it would be difficult to find ‘proof’. Kejriwal is stupidly likened to a mosquito by Kurshid, a pesky irritating insect that can suck very little blood. One he can perhaps swat with a newspaper? Not likely thinks Kejriwal; his dengue carrying bite can be quite lethal. We need more of such dengue carrying mosquitoes as one or two are certainly not enough.

Far removed from dengue carrying mosquitoes, far removed from bites, pains and agony of the common man is our Prime Minister who remains at bliss. With another Diwali that has come and gone, he is almost at the point of reaching nirvana despite the fading light, despite the reduced celebrations. He remains uninspiring, he looks tired and feeble. When one almost feels sorry for him, one is reminded of the troops he leads and any sense of remorse is quickly dispelled. Frankly, Obama’s single message to all those who celebrate Diwali is a lot more inspiring than every single speech that our own Prime Minister has come up with in his current term. Of course, there is no comparison whatsoever between the two leader’s oratory skills but one cant help but unashamedly wish that we had a popularly elected leader who connected with the people. I cannot even remember when was the last time I had listened to a speech from our Prime Minister that made me sit up in rapt attention. Most times I am stiffing a yawn instead. So, as we bring this Diwali to a closure, as we watch the fireworks light up the evening skies, as we devour the savories and enjoy the current times, lets not forget that India remains in darkness. The day when India is well and truly aglow is when everyday will be celebrated as Diwali.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light – Plato

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