Can you handle breaking news?

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I suggest you hold on to the chair and keep the door open when you read this post. When you fall off the chair, clutching your stomach and shake with laughter you might need help from your concerned family members. Cacofonix is back........

When we were kids, newspapers had 10 pages with very few ads, news on TV had 3 headlines with no  ad breaks.  We followed the News for things that were important.  Interesting.  Unusual.  A definition that has since been eliminated through a sustained conspiracy hatched by the media to propagate mediocrity and generate employment for shoals of people who think, if the plural of medium is media, then the plural of tedium is tedia.  Friends, bloggers, countrymen, with or without ears that could be loaned, let us bring News back to those good old times!  Let us save newsprint, ink, electricity, water, diesel, trucks, traffic, fresh air, paper wallah’s sprained shoulders, stray dogs, subscription fees, ground reporting fatigue, coffee and cigarettes and become carbon footprint champions so that our children can continue to enjoy Nature’s bounties the same way that we have done!  These would be “breaking news” under the new dispensation:
a)   Minister reads his own speech”:  Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna read his own speech at the United Nations session on global disharmony.  A visibly emotional Mr Krishna addressed the Press soon thereafter and thanked them for their continual support and criticism which made him adopt advanced techniques from yoga guru Ramdev and fitness guru Jane Fonda’s latest book, to revitalize him and get his many cells working again.
b)   Virender Sehwag scores runs”:  Sehwag was smiling from eardrum to eardrum on scoring 13 runs in the second one-day cricket match against Botswana.  The belligerent batsman, having scored zeroes in 13 matches on the trot, lending an altogether different meaning to the phrase “getting your ducks in a row”, suffering from impaired hearing after having a blast, literally, in front of Bose speakers at a loud nightclub, and having to hear his wife keep on shouting “you just don’t listen to me anymore”, could finally discern, faintly, the sound of the ball coming at him.  On asked if he was dissatisfied with his dismissal, he retorted “I was on 13, what else do you expect?”
c)     “Amitabh Bachchan to retire”:  Unable to keep pretending not to know ‘kaun banega crorepati?’, where evidently it was really only him, Amitabh Bachchan has chosen to leave the world of glamour and modelling and some acting, and retire to the Hills.  Pali Hills.  Where he has built a humble house with two bedrooms, one for him and one for Jaya, with Binani Cement and Jai Ambe sariya.  His bathroom has a separate closet for storing Laal Tail or ‘red oil’ which can be applied to his hair, or ingested or applied somewhere for vitality, depending on his mood or what he remembers of that ad campaign.    

The Wrath Of The Feminine
1989-90 Satellite television had still not invaded our drawing rooms.  Back then the idiot box was not that idiotic and it brought the family together rather than divide it.  I still vividly remember the kaleidoscope of images flashing on the television screen - Romanian dictator Ceaușescu being bundled into a vehicle and later sentenced to death by his own people, the Berlin wall coming down amidst jubilant cheers, pro-democracy students being slaughtered by their own government at Tiananmen Square, the mighty USSR crumbling into small countries.  It’s a period no one will forget in a hurry. 

2010 – 11 It seems as if someone has pressed the rewind button.  This time it is the Arab world shaking off decades of cowed passivity under dictatorships.  India readily succumbed to the heady fragrance of Jasmine and its simmering discontent found a vent in the proposed Jan LokPal Bill.  It was an uprising that took the elected by surprise. 

The world is in a period of transition again - a difficult time marked by impatience and disappointment of the people in rebellion.

If you have been following these upheavals closely, you will observe the pivotal role the youth has played in these movements.  In Egypt, it was not the traditional opposition groups, but tens of thousands of the youth who braved tear gas, rubber bullets.  They gathered support through social media and mobilized public opinion.  For a change the young were ready to take the reins of change they had been dreaming of. 

It is another matter that the Arab Spring has now turned to Arab hell, as dictators like Assad and Gaddafi strive to curb rebellion ruthlessly.

The young and the restless can be a volatile mix and leaders have discovered it at their own peril.  

 There have been countless debates on what could have possibly triggered these revolts. Dissatisfaction with the elected, rising expectations, impatience for progress...But what you probably did not know is that the skewed sex ratio is also touted as one of the factors behind growing social unrest.  Asian countries with severely skewed sex ratio have given rise to a generation of boys with pent up testosterone and nowhere to go.  Imagine a pack of strappy boys having to vie for the attention of 3 remaining girls in the village and one of them prefers spending her time wrestling in her Dad’s akhadaa.  In this battle for the few remaining women, it is money that wins, leaving the poorest unhappily unmarried.  Now couple it with unemployment and you have a platoon of angry young men ready to spit fire at the slightest provocation. 

It’s all about tender loving and care, stupid!

Remember Jane Fonda? In her younger days she was regarded more as an activist rather than an actress.  Now, at the age of 73, she is out to lead a revolution in the bedroom on behalf of her fellow pensioners.  About 50 pages of the actress’s new autobiography, Prime Time are devoted to explaining the joys of sex after 70.   According to Ms Fonda, it’s important for everyone to know that people in their 70’s can be sexually attractive and active. I am praying Rakhi Sawant does not get hold of this explosive piece of information.  The thought of her giving come hither looks to septuagenarians is not exactly comforting.

I can’t claim to have watched too many of Ms Fonda’s movies – for me she was the more heard rather than seen.  But I do have hazy memories of her workout videos in leotards.  But back then as a stick thin teenager, fitness was an alien concept to me.  I loved her leotards though! And now I love her for giving me hope for old age. 

I may be decades away from 70 and if the Mayan’s were right I might perish with the rest of the world in 2012.  But that does it stop me from thinking about my old age does it?   It’s surprising how our perception of “old” changes with age.  When I was seventeen, twenty eight was senile.  At twenty eight, 40’s was over the hill and now when I am treading the 40’s mill, I think this is the best phase of my life.  So who knows at 70 I might be a rockstar, smoking a beedi, singing Janis Joplin in my cabin in the mountains and proving Jane Fonda right.        

India and its many Acts

Presenting Cacofonix my guest blogger , who prefers staying away from fixated views and beliefs.  He seeks the mellifluous in the world of the cacophonous. And gets peeved enough occasionally to pen his thoughts.

Acts of Parliament.  Acts in Parliament.  Acts on celluloid.  Acts on national news.  We love drama in India.  As the Anna Hazare charade plays out though, the one thing the milling, frenzied spectators haven’t figured out is this – how will it end?  Rather, how do they want to see it end?  No disrespect, corruption is an issue.  But I still can’t visualise the final scene of this seven-act play, just before the credits start rolling.  A bloodied Anna, his white kurta in tatters, his sword of righteousness thwacked through Kapil Sibal’s evil lipid-laden heart, as ‘civil’ society gathers around, cheering?  What after that?

Anna Hazare has done a few good things in life.  But he is no Gandhian.  Let us not bestow such titles so casually.  Like every other musician from a Muslim family being given the appellation ‘Ustad’, or from a Hindu family, ‘Pandit’.  A generation ago, such honours had to be earned through a body of work and demonstrated competence.  The question rather is this – why are so many people rooting for him, even though they don’t find him particularly charismatic, noble or likeable?  The answer is very simple – we don’t have a charismatic, noble or likeable leader in civil society who can lead Change.  Anna’s is a case of national greatness thrust upon him by an eager populace, ‘andolan’ and ‘revolution’ being catch words.  Aided by a national mood of despondence at the slew of financial scams and political scandals.  Scams that were always there, but has caught our imagination because some people got pilloried for it.

My point is this – will an Act of Parliament cure us of corruption?  Every time a more stringent law comes into force, the inconvenience and ‘look the other way’ fees go up a notch.  That’s it.  Our systems are made that way.  They work that way.  They work no other way.  The receiver expects it, the giver dreads it in the beginning, takes it in stride as an unavoidable nuisance in the end.  Lawmakers, Law enforcers, Law adjudicators – everyone perpetuates this.  Explicit or implicit.  Of course, there are some who exercise probity in public life.  Our Prime Minister and Home Minister may have income tax records as squeaky clean as their starched white clothes.  But, with their personal and political intelligence, isn’t it hard to believe that they have no idea of the underhand dealings they are letting prevail so that the party remains in power?  What use is their moral rectitude then?  How will a Lokpal bill change that political reality, even if Anna’s version sees light of the day?  What stops the government and bureaucracy from stonewalling cases that are filed under the Act?  What stops them from coercing intelligence agencies to destroy or fabricate evidence as convenient?  What stops them shunting out an upright police officer because he is finding out the truth?  What stops judges from going slow on cases in a ‘quid pro quo’?  

Starry Gyaan

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Twinkle, twinkle little I wonder what you are.  When I was young and naive, I actually used to think they were up above the sky so blue – till I started watching movies.  I then saw them in polka dotted minis and maxis, in buttercup yellow bellbottoms beating up baddies, wearing oversized shades and strumming the guitar. Nothing was impossible for these celluloid stars who came in all shapes and sizes.  These larger than life creatures made us laugh, cry and sometimes even swoon.    

Soon came a time when these heavenly bodies descended from the large screen to our living rooms to peddle shampoos, soaps and coke.  Just for our convenience. See how much they care for us? 
I now get valuable guidance from my favourite stars who guide me through a quagmire of mind boggling variety of cosmetics, electronic appliances, washing powder and what not.   So many handy tips on - how to remain thanda-thanda, cool-cool, how to make it large, how 3G can save the nation.... Thank god for celebrities, I would feel so lost otherwise. 

After hours of watching TV, with annoying movies and sitcoms spoiling the fun, I often get dark circles under my eyes.  But guess what! All I have to do is pick up Dark Circle Corrector now tinted recommended by Priyanka and voila I am shiny and new like Madonna. 

The other day I was intently watching Kareena slathering soap that makes her skin so baby soft. Looking at her I realized I bathe like a village bumpkin.  I never pout or coyly look over my shoulders.  Enriched with tips on how to bathe with what, I tried pointing my toes ballerina style towards the ceiling and fell down with a loud thud.  I made sure that the husband signed all the hospital bills with Linc pen, endorsed by King Khan.  Zindagi judi hai Linc se!
When I am at the supermarket I can almost hear Shilpa, Bipasha, Katrina and Aishwarya screaming pick me up please! I will make dandruff vanish from your hair, make your tresses shine like a 40 watt bulb because you are worth it!  At the baniyan counter, I am a nervous wreck – Saif likes Amul Macho but Salman prefers Dollar Club and Hrithik wears only Macroman - damn I will take them all.

Do You Think You Are Free?

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The weekend ahead looks promising.  On Saturday most sisters will be rushing to their brothers to renew the lifetime protection warranty.  Independence Day on a Monday is an added bonanza.  It seems all these years of singing Just another manic Monday Wish it were Sunday has finally borne fruition

Many of my friends are planning a weekend getaway to a nearby hill station and for the rest of us it will be an excuse to shop some more and eat some more.  An extended weekend is like a windfall so why not make the most of it.   

But what many of us will not do, is ponder upon the historic relevance of a day which marks the birth of a free nation. 

In our country we don’t exactly celebrate our Independence.  School kids are herded to Red Fort and made to sing patriotic songs in the searing heat.... a lacklustre speech by a Prime Minister who prefers silence to action and does a Dhritarashatra to the misdemeanours of his colleagues....  It almost seems hypocritical to celebrate 64 years of emancipation from British rule only to have most of our elected loot the country’s resources and empty its coffers.  It’s tough to be a proud citizen of this country. 

Which brings me to the question – what does freedom mean to you?  When I asked around, I got interesting responses.  To be able to drink straight from a carton of milk.....freedom from accepted norms of how I should be free of control that others exert on our be capable enough to course the chart of my life without having to depend on anyone for be able to throw my wet towel on the floor.

Freedom is how we perceive it; each of us interprets it in our unique ways. 

Pass-outs from Tihar University

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Education is blooming at the unlikeliest of places.  Schools and colleges are just time pass for most of our cool as cucumber kids. Not even in our wildest dreams do we expect them to be bothered with such trivial pursuits such as studying.  Why disturb them when they have better things to do – such as uploading ossum pictures of last night’s party on FB or getting their adrenalin rush from the Playstation that Dad gifted for scraping through last semester. 

The unlikeliest pupils are a gaggle of convicts who are turning studious with a vengeance. The trend started with the trigger happy former DIG of Gujarat police DG Vanzara, who is now lodged in jail for masterminding a series of fake encounters. The gent has just completed a Post Graduate diploma in Value Education & Spirituality.  I quite like the logic of earning good karma while twiddling your thumbs in jail.  So what if the realization came after killing scores of unarmed men & women for political gains.

Apparently Vanzara is not alone.  No, I am not talking of the ghosts of the dear and departed that haunt him or the jailed criminals dying to teach him a lesson.   There are other jailbirds who have shown penchant for uplifting pursuits.   Hardcore Islamic militants have also completed the same course from their cells in Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad.  So happy are Universities with this development that they are clamouring to open study centres in District jail.  

Are prisons the new temples of learning? 

These prisoners have also turned into voracious readers and are lapping up Gandhi’s autobiography. 
So, if my daughter doesn’t get admission to any college after she completes school, I know where to send her.  Gandhi will help her get rid of her vampire fixation and she might end up with a PhD if she stays there long enough.   Plus she will get to eat free healthy meals. 

Have you been hit by boredom?

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My daughter discovered boredom at a very early stage of her life.  At the age of six she made the sublime declaration “I am bored of getting bored”. 

Not just children, even we adults have been through a phase when we felt stagnant, listless and bored out of our wits.  Most of us will choose to ignore it.  Why risk moving out of our comfort zone when we can wallow in misery instead?  For a while we do try our best to fill the void with a bungee jump down a ravine or holing up in a forest reserve for days. It is rejuvenating, gives us a high but it is temporary.  

A select few take it as a wakeup call and try to break out of the rut – walk out of a stifling relationship, rethink priorities, forsake the boardroom to live a life less lived.  Unfortunately, not many have the liberty to renounce comfort for the sake of dreams.  

Many of us have the tendency to drift off towards distractions during phases of boredom.

Tedium is a scary thing – it can be constructive or destructive.  It all depends on what you choose to do with it.


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