The Water Cooler
  • Ten years ago I lived in Mumbai, a name still newly minted for a city I shall always cherish by its Portuguese sobriquet. I lived in Mahim, close to the eponymous creek where the many mouths of the sea osculated with the many rectums of the land. My sparsely furnished rented apartment was equidistant from the pealing bells of Sitladevi temple, St Michael's Church -- ever-brimful of prayer, and the Dargah of Baba Makhdoom Ali Mahimi, which came into its own during the annual Urs. It was only the pull of faith that redeemed Mahim from being just another of Mumbai's teeming trash bins. Any way that wretched sea breeze blew, it swept blessings into your face.

    I shared my tenement with a colleague, a Delhi-bred Tamil Brahmin whose staunch vegetarianism Bombay's gastronomic temptations in flesh and gristle had not succeeded in quelling. Our mostly Muslim neighbors assumed that I too was of similar dietary disposition. Ergo, I was offered nothing but smiles and adaabs on Eid.

    Except early one

    Read More »from When Eid got my goat
  • It's almost Independence Day. More importantly for us holiday-crazed city-slickers, the long weekend is here. Those of us who are staying behind have enough to do. We could join other mall-rats as they flock in pursuit of enormous discounts. Or we could head for the binge fests that are beckoning Salivation Armies to food courts, or maybe go bottoms up many happy hours before Dry Day. And for keepsakes there are perfunctory tricolors in eco-unfriendly plastic being hawked at traffic lights.

    In the midst of such distractions, the nation's Fourth Estate is hacking away. While edit meets are abuzz with reheated clichés, the usual talking heads are polishing the platitudes they will inflict upon us in their allotted column-centimeters. Doubtless, there will be renewed praise of Gandhis and Nehrus old and new. The Sangh Parivar, disgruntled as ever, will disagree by dunking history in a vat of hot saffron. Doordarshan, which has just about stopped airing a worn Meri desh ki dharti, will

    Read More »from The freedom fighters we forgot
  • The morning after we learned of Amy Winehouse's death my friend, an indie musician doggedly loyal to the legends, posted on Facebook: "Did Amy say to herself: %^$# it, I'm 27, I want to be a legend and OD?"

    The Forever 27 Club, a sort of modern-day Dead Poets Society that posthumously enfolds Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and now, Winehouse, has been much fussed about. I'm tempted to imagine that my friend may be right, especially since Winehouse didn't have much going for herself in her last years. Then again, looking at the bright side (everything has one, doesn't it?), I'm relieved that it wasn't Britney Spears, who turns 30 in December, or Avril Lavigne — wait, she still has time.

    For better or for worse, the members of the 27 Club were falling stars in their own right. Joplin fell to heroin and Morrison to alcohol. Jones' rollicking career with the Rolling Stones began early but, going by Keith Richards' account of his sometime bandmate in his memoir Life,

    Read More »from Dead at 27: What’s the fuss?
  • Managing human-leopard conflict has to be recognized as an important priority

    Another brazen attack. Another fearsome mauling. Another leopard branded a man-eater pays for its crimes against humanity.

    You've read the news. Now, will you teach your kids to kill leopards on sight? Or will you join cause with the (seemingly hare-brained) minority and cry yourself hoarse to protect leopards from humans?

    Decide. We're out of time.

    I'm a wildlife enthusiast. I'm also a parent. And, like you, I have a ravenous appetite for bizarre news, especially horrible things that happen to other people. But I'm batting for leopards here. And before you hurl something at me, let me explain my stand.

    Leopards aren't exactly wild animals. A childhood conditioned by Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama has most of us believe that leopards are confined to forests. They are, in fact, the most cosmopolitan of large felids. Panthers, as they are also known in India, are very much at home in the jungle where prey is available in plenty but, being hardy opportunists, they will expand their

    Read More »from Man vs leopard: Time to change our spots?
  • An unusual radio talk show on All India Radio completed a hundred episodes on Tuesday, July 19.

    Called Karta Patrakarta (roughly, Journalist at Work), it is said to be the only programme of its kind in India, featuring a journalist every Tuesday from 8 to 9 am.

    Umesh Sutram, the AIR staffer who hosts the show in Kannada, is upbeat about its success, and plans to compile all the information he has gathered in a book. He answered some questions for Yahoo! India News.

    How did you hit upon the idea of interviewing journalists?
    Our station director Dr. Chetan Naik mooted the idea. He wanted to introduce journalists through AIR's FM channel. He entrusted the show to me because of my journalism background. I decided to focus on journalists' careers rather than their personal lives. This way we could talk about journalistic ideas and achievements.

    Who was your most difficult interviewee? Why?
    D C Nagesh, film photographer, had told me he wasn't a good speaker, but I was keen on documenting his

    Read More »from Unique talk show crosses a milestone
  • Not Again: Nakul Shenoy


    It is five days since the cowardly triple terrorist attacks that killed 19 and left about 140 injured, and the Indian security agencies are completely at sea with no inkling to the perpetrators of the ghastly crime. Yet our mind goes, “So what else is new?”

    The reactions of our eminent political leaders has only been disastrous (to be polite), with the honourable Home Minister adamantly announcing that “there was no intelligence failure” and “intelligence is being collected every hour through the year”. Just as one tried in vain to put a finger to the intelligence that Mr Chidambaram was alluding to, the Youth & Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi threw out admirable statistics: “More than 99 per cent of terrorist attacks have been stopped before they occurred”.

    There ought not be any hoopla when “less than one per cent of terrorist attacks” has seeped through some unseen chinks in our shining armour, and our government simply can’t understand this unnecessary reaction. There was a

    Read More »from Not Again: Nakul Shenoy

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