Telegraph Calcutta

The Hug That Hurt

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This one had all the elements of a surgical strike and more. It had surprise. It had stealth. It had precision. It had transparency too – a strike carried out in full view of whoever cared to watch, a strike mentally pre-meditated, a strike dealt with easy deliberation. A smiling assassin’s strike.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has got himself marked the world over as the man who hugs; whether it is a welcome hug or warmly received or not, Modi hugs. And it is he who springs the hug. On Friday, he got sprung upon.

When Congress president Rahul Gandhi closed what must rank as his finest hour in Parliament on Friday afternoon, it had struck few he wasn’t done yet, that he planned to put a seal on his performance with an act that would become the indelible emboss and image of the day.

He had just closed his blistering attack on Narendra Modi raj with a disarming hail on the Treasury.

“No matter how much you hate me, no matter how much anger you spew at me, no matter that you call me Pappu, you and your followers… you can call me all kinds of names. But no matter that you call me Pappu. I am Congress, and all these people are Congress, the sensibility of the Congress has made this country, do not forget. That sensibility is inside of all of you and I will extract it from inside each of you. I will draw the love out of you, I will convert all of you to the Congress….”

The House was still abuzz, when Rahul left his second row on the Opposition benches and began to manoeuvre his way round the arched note-takers’ row in the well towards the Prime Minister. In no time, he stood across Modi, hand extended. Modi took it. Some in the benches behind him stood up to applaud. From the Speaker’s chair, Sumitra Mahajan smiled indulgently.

Just then, the strike.

Rahul fell upon Modi, chest full on upon chest, cheeks, one clean, the other famously stubbly, in historic proximity. They could have whispered sweet nothings and nobody would have known, the Lok Sabha’s sensitive microphonics notwithstanding.

“This is not done, this is no way…” Mahajan began to protectively protest on behalf of the Prime Minister, but the deed was done by then.

Modi had been taken by the Rahul strike. Smothered. Defenceless. Aghast too a bit on who had come to drop on him. Stills from the moment would reveal to you a man rendered helpless and stricken, for once not a man who commanded the cameras but had been shown up by them.

He recovered only to gesture an offended surprise with his palm. Then he recovered a little more and took Rahul’s hand. Then, as if suddenly conscious of the cameras and keen that they remain kind on him, he recovered even more. He motioned Rahul back, took his hand again and said something and guffawed. It’s moot whether he was indeed amused.

TT Link

 

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Telegraph Calcutta

Hashtag: Talk to Me, I am Human

But will you? Are you willing? Do you wish to? What about? Should I be afraid? Should I be pleased? Should I be apprehensive about it or should I await it? Your talking to me? What will you tell me? What will you ask? Will you ask after me? How I am? What may I need? What may make me feel a little better in this churning chaos of a world that we have been flung into the vortex of? Will you talk to me about good things or ghastly things? Will you ask me how can we make all or any of this better or will you tell me I am the reason all of this is not good or better and tell me I am the correction required? Am I afraid that you will talk to me? Should I be afraid you will come talk to me? Should I take precautions? But what precautions can I take? Can I plead I am eighty, please spare me? Can I plead I have done nothing wrong? Can I plead this is how I dress? Can I plead this is how I pray? Can I plead this is what I eat? Can I plead this is my given name? Can I plead I am one of us? But before all of that, will you tell me who you are? Or is that your right? Will you begin to ask? Are you Ech? Are you Em? Are you Ess? Are you Cee ? Are you Jay? Are you Bee? Are you Joo? Joo? Oh are you? So how does it feel? To be any or one or many of such people? Do you feel human? Do you feel a being? Do you have skin? It is meant to feel, but is it so thick it cannot? Do you have eyes? Are you able to see? Clearly? Right from Wrong? Do you have a nose? Do you have ears? Do you have limbs? Hands? Fingers? What do you do with them? A mouth? What do you do with it? A back? A backbone? A neck? A stomach? Lungs? Ribs? Kidneys? Intestines? A head? Does it allow you to think? Do you allow it to think? Do you have a heart? Or are you heartless? Does it bleed? Or is that something you do unto others? Bleed them? Are you God? Do you know God? Which God are you? The greater God or the Lesser God? A touchable God and an untouchable God? Do you believe there are many Gods or only one? Do you know how many there are? Can you show us where? Can you provide a manifest of Gods? Names, addresses, age, special qualities, interests, etc. etc.? So it would help us discriminate and choose which God fits our interests best? Is your God up for election? Is he campaigning somewhere against some other God? Names and manifestos please? So we can make a choice? You know we are a democracy, and a welfare democracy? Do you know we have choice? Many choices? Does God need your protection? Does God need you to build a house for him? Does your God not have one? Does your God tell you to build one for him? Does your God tell you to kill if that is required? What does your God tell you, if anything? Does your God tell you to pounce upon His creation because of what he or she eats or drinks or wears or believes? Or does not believe? Do you listen to your God? Are you part of a mob? Do you kill your fellow humans? Do you disparage and threaten them? Do you abuse them and bully them? Have you killed them? Which God told you to do that? Can you name such a God? Are you in danger? Can your God not protect you if you are? Are you the danger? Are you the mob? Are you lynching? Are you the lynched? What did you do to be lynched? And what drove you to lynch? Was that God’s command? Will you name that God? Can you produce the sanction of God? Or is lynching a matter of your faith? What faith is it? Will you please name that faith? Or are you above question?

Are you Mahadeb, by any chance?

And, by the way, Mahadeb, where are you? Should we not ask? Should we not tire of asking? Where are you, Mahadeb? You who used to call yourself Indian? Bharatiya? Jinhen naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hain? Are they lost? Are they trapped in a haze of not knowing what is right and what is wrong? Of not knowing what to do? Have they become nameless people? Where are the Indians? Who believed in God and crores of them and just let the other believers in other Gods be? Have they gone so far as to be lost? So lost as to no longer recognise what it is to be Indian? Or to be human? So removed from the gift of insaaniyat that one may be sadly prompted to say:

Tuu Hindu banega
Naa Musalmaan banega
Haiwaan ki aulaad hai
Haiwaan banega.

TT Link

Telegraph Calcutta

Layak Nahin Naalayak Hoon Main

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This too. That too. Ivy too. Poison too. League too. Beleaguered too. Neck too. Tie too. Garland too. Noose too. Murder too. Mubarak too. Eulogy too. Apology too. Layak too. Naalayak too. Poot too. Kapoot too. Baap naalayak. Beta layak. Baap layak. Beta naalayak. All in the family. SangParivar – hum saath saath hain. There is khoon. And there is ApnaKhoon. Rishtey mein to hum tumhaarey Baap lagtey hain, naam hai ( Baap re, unka naam naa lo, Bhagwan ke waaste) Shah. OmAdyaNetwork. Rings any bell, anyone? That famous network? Check it out. Check out its funds. Check out who it funded. Check out who brought those funds. OmAdya. Layak beta. Networked. Perhaps we are getting the spellings a bit mixed up here. OmAdya? Perhaps there is a different way to spell it right. But what’s to be done? Happens. We mix up spellings. We mix up much more than that. We mix up sophistication with sophistry. We mix up Ivy and Poison. We mix up garlands with nooses. We mix up Layak with Naalayak. We mixed up hope with hype all those years ago, don’t you remember, bhaaiyon aur behnon? AchheDin!!!! AchheDinn!!!! AchheDinnn!!!! We got mixed up. It was all KachchheDin! You can at least afford kachchhe, can’t you? You get the drift, mitron, don’t you? That’s half the job done. Next term. Give him a next term, and you’ll know. Can’t you be naked for your country? Are you an anti-national? Are you really going to complain you have been stripped naked? That you have no more than a kachchha? No. Can you not see your Emperor? In his new clothes? He’s rendered himself naked too, so you can see all of those famed inches called Chhappan, no less. Behold. Flinch. Lynch. Pay your respects. Shame on you that you complain about being stripped naked. Now you know. Yes, now you know. Relax, listen to a bit of MannKiBaat, calm down. But you’d agree we do mix things up. We should not be surprised, it’s so unkind on ourselves.

Why be surprised by ourselves? Our own image in the mirror? It’s us. It’s we who did it, We The People. We are flaw abiding citizens. We are committed to our flaws. We respect them, we salute them. Oftentimes we also welcome them and garland them. This is something that has made all of Vasudhaiva jealous and envious of our Rashtra – of how sublimely flaw abiding we are. So much that Vasudhaiva pines to be Kutumbakam with us. Where will you find such a flaw abiding citizenry? So many millions that together, and with all their collective and single-minded devotion, uphold the FoolOfLaw? Such a culture. Such vultures. Such devoted contributors to RitualFunds. Sahi hai, yaar! Garlanding. Invest a few garlands, the returns will be great, have patience, have trust, it’s a RitualFund, it shall pay dividends. Check it out. Go to RitualFunds.Com. SahiHaiYaar! Mahadeb? Listening? Looking? With your shuteye or with your blistered one? See, here are differences. An eye won’t see. An eye cannot for it is a blistered eye.

There is IvyLeague and there is PoisonIvy. There is cosmopolitan party and there is a lynchopolitan party. There are bankers and there are vote-bankers. There is an eye and there is an I – a shuteye and a blistered one. Then there is sherry and there is blood. Yeh laal rang kab mujhe chhodega? When did the cocktail party end, when did the mocktail party begin? When did we lose sight of the difference between sherry and blood? Did we spill blood or was it only bloody sherry? How much? How many were they? Can’t be enough. They are too many, far too many. Go to Bakistan, or else… Raktbeej. Pogrom. Encounter. Murder. It has happened. Rampantly. Blood is on our hands, it’s just that there is no data. How many? How much? Not enough, not quite. We need more. Clean the place up, SwachhBharat ki jai!! Bring on the flowers, perfume the air. There’s still the smell of Them around, be done with them. Bring on the garlands! Naalayaks! Bring on the garlands! Forget the necktie, hand me the noose. Spill the sherry and fill the goblet up with blood. Be not mixed up, be not confused. Give me their blood and I shall give you your garland.

And put it round your neck

And tell the wide world

What the heck

It’s only a flower hurled.

TT Link

Telegraph Calcutta

Come ye all to our collective Fall

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Ever been to Rupaiyah Falls? No? Are you quite sure? Check again. Look down, look hard, and please take precautions against vertigo, if you have the tendency. Conditions apply to looking down, it could be injurious to your health. To the health of all others. You won’t find Mahadeb there in case you’re wondering why you are being exhorted to look down. Mahadeb is not a fallen person; he has a cart and a high stool to sit on. He is not down there, he is just gone, laterally. But there can be no denying where you are. The GPS location ping of a billion and many many many more is stuck at the same point: Rupaiyah Falls. It cannot be said this is a good or recommended location, but some things can’t be helped. Like someone spewing lies all the time, day in and day out, day after day after day. Can’t be helped. Like someone talking like they never had the benefit of education. Can’t be helped. Someone who thinks Alexander came right down the Gangetic plains to what is now Bihar; someone who confuses Taxila with Vikramshila; someone who recalls the time Kabir, Gorakhnath and Guru Nanak sat together in a conference of mystics; someone who says Ganesha was the outcome of plastic surgery; someone who says #NothingHappened before I arrived on the scene and after I did #EverythingHappened; someone who says he is a Chaiwala and a Chowkidar and Pradhan Sewak all rolled into one. Can’t be helped. Which Chaiwala or Chowkidar or Pradhan Sewak could afford changing clothes every time they appeared another time in public? Which Chaiwala or Chowkidar or Pradhan Sewak could imagine ordering a pinstriped suit monogrammed with their name? And then proceed to preen in it? Just can’t be helped. Which Chowkidar deserts station and loafs about the world? What Sewak can spend many hundreds of thousands getting himself shot while he does a wellness walk around his fairy garden and then falls convex upon a boulder? But it can’t be helped. There are so many things that can’t be helped. There are jobs, you see, there’s just no data. Can’t be helped. There’s no climate change, folks, the truth is we have changed. We have electrified each village in the country, but transmission and distribution do not work. And most of that is not someone’s fault because it is not in someone’s hand; it is in private hands. Can’t be helped. The Ganga isn’t filthier than it ever was, it’s just that you got the wrong sample from the wrong place. Too many people defecate there you know, the faecal content has doubled. And that has happened because folks have begun to heed the call of Swachh Bharat and are not defecating in the open. They are defecating in the water. Can’t be helped. And in quite the same manner, it can’t be helped that we are all at Rupaiyah Falls. Just the other day it had taken a charming little further fall and become the shape of two integers shaped like the opposite of each other and separated by three intervening integers. It is supposed to mean something when those two integers, which are separated by three integers, form a union. Not sure quite what that is supposed to mean but folks were going nudge-nudge wink-wink in a rather meaningful fashion when those two integers separated by three integers met and became the shape of Rupaiyah Falls. Since then, of course, Rupaiyah Falls has made amends and forsaken that shape and recovered some shame. It has also exhibited an anaemic will to defy gravity and decided to fall a little less than it had fallen. That was a record fall; some even likened it to some sort of shameful level of fall. But that happens at Rupaiyah Falls; it’s a yo-yo place, it falls then it recovers, then it falls again and sometimes it falls to depths of shame. Can’t be helped. A while ago parts of Rupaiyah Falls were suddenly ordered frozen, and we all know what happened: parts of all of us froze. Then, slowly, it began to flow again, in different sizes and colours of runnels, but it was never quite the same again. And since then, it has been falling and falling and those that railed and screamed about Rupaiyah Falls being such a treacherous and precipitous fall are saying nothing no more because they are part of why it is falling. Can’t be helped.

So come, be not shy
We’re all in it together
It’s not ours to ask why
Or if or but or whether.

TTLink

Telegraph Calcutta

Shadowy Victimhood — Each of the attributes of Emergency Indira finds reflection in Narendra Modi

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Just a footnote, if you will, to the annual rite of fuming and frothing over the Emergency, now that it is beginning to ebb and settle: there were many more that suffered and refused to submit than those that each year parade the stage, brandishing medallions of victimhood and rekindling rage. The drumbeaters and town criers of the sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party would have you somehow believe by their sheer orchestration of decibels that the Emergency was an atrocity intentioned at their creed and leadership; the truth is it was an offensive against the Indian nation, and it was the Indian collective that eventually shook it off. Some of the most stirring and resonant opposition to Indira Gandhi’s 19-month tyranny came in fact from those that are no longer around to claim ownership of those voices, much less trumpet them.

Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and his laconic challenge that was to become a popular cry: Singhaasan khaali karo, ki janata aati hai (Vacate the throne, for here come the people). Dushyant Kumar and his cutting turn of verse: “Woh kehti hain humse cooperate keejiyechaaku ki pasliyon se guzaarish toh dekhiye (She says cooperate with me, such is the entreaty of the knife to the ribs)”. Nagarjun and his easy sarcasm: ” Induji Induji kya hua aapkosatta ki masti mein bhool gayeen baap ko (What happened to you Indu ji, just what; in your lust for power, you forgot your father)”.

Perhaps only a war could do what the Emergency also did – put together a coalition of diverse and disparate sets – socialists and communists, republicans and conservatives, writers, painters, journalists, students, teachers, rights activists, minorities and majoritarians – a multitude of the ordinary Indian who rallied in unprecedented ways and, when the opportunity arrived, effected a popular and peaceful putsch against the spell of dictatorship; only a few of them were votaries of the sangh or the Jana Sangh as the predecessor entity of the BJP was known. Yes, there were among the select victims such names as Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Balasaheb Deoras, Subramanian Swamy, Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley.

But there were others – many others -who were subjects of excesses and who fought back – Morarji Desai, George Fernandes, Charan Singh, Karpoori Thakur, Parkash Singh Badal, E.M.S. Namboodiripad and A.K. Gopalan, Devi Lal and Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury. And, later, Jagjivan Ram and Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna. Among them was also a man called Chandra Shekhar, whose death anniversary falls this weekend. And they all rallied around the frail risen finger of an ageing warrior called Jayaprakash Narayan, or JP – Congressman, socialist, rebel.

But then, the sangh‘s appropriations committee is a hungry, though unthinking, beast; it will grab at anything within sight to feed its appetite for grandeur that it has never deserved with astounding far-fetchedness. It has tried, for instance, copy-pasting Bhagat Singh to its rather poorly gallery of icons – a professed left-wing atheist snatched away and planted as motif of the sectarian, majoritarian, exclusionist Right. Not very dissimilar is the sangh‘s effort to appropriate Emergency victimhood. Its Emergency record is, at best, chequered and, very often, dubious. Its leading lights wrote missives to the Indira regime pleading submission and often support; they begged out of jail pledging “good behaviour” and abstention from participation in any manner of politics. Some of that pusillanimity led Subramanian Swamy to remark once that the sangh‘s claims to Emergency valour were “ludicrous”.

It is essential to remember the Emergency – as something that should never be allowed to happen again, as something the citizenry should forever be vigilant against. It was an alarming decree by an insecure leader whose legitimacy to remain in office had been bluntly vacated. Indira Gandhi and her coterie of extra-constitutional factotums resorted to blatant abuse and subversion to not merely cling on to power but to chain, gag and torture the nation with them. Surely there would have been sneaking approval in sanghi quarters of some of Sanjay Gandhi’s roughneck tyrannies, especially his shotgun sterilization campaigns, his bulldozer run at Turkman Gate. And where, pray, are Sanjay Gandhi’s legatees today, Maneka and Varun Gandhi? In the BJP. A case can fairly be made that with all its reputed Hitler-love, the sangh would have been rather enamoured of the Emergency Indira – authoritarian, cultish, absolute, demanding deference to outlined purposes of the nation which were actually the purposes of her own hold over power – Indira is India, India is Indira. That, in fact, is a power profile that sits remarkably, and alarmingly, well on the Narendra Modi scheme. Each of the attributes of the Emergency Indira finds reflection in Modi whose essential manner is of a hectoring command creature that would brook nothing less than compliance, not merely from his party and government but at large. He seeks, just like Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, a “committed” bureaucracy and judiciary; his tableau of the faithful raucously and unabashedly conflates party, government and nation, and Modi’s own interest as the supreme national interest. If Indira was compared to Durga, Modi has famously and repeatedly been labelled avatar of god, not merely god’s gift to India but god incarnate.

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For all that sameness, though, we are not in an Emergency. No. At least not yet. If it helps perspective, here are a few things that did not happen during the Emergency.

Mobs didn’t tie up Dalits, they didn’t whip them and they didn’t film that whipping. A Hindu woman marrying a Muslim man was not called a victim of love jihad. She was not sought to be separated from her spouse. She was not asked why she has not changed her name, or why she should be granted a passport. Prime investigating agencies were not assigned to probe inter-faith marriages. Elected representatives did not issue sectarian calls to kill. They were not, then, celebrated for what they had done. Nobody was asked to go to Pakistan. Governors did not sit in Raj Bhavans and spend their time trying to excel at bigotry. Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin was not openly and defiantly propitiated. Maharana Pratap did not defeat Akbar in battle, and myth was not daily dished out as history. Journalists were jailed, yes, but later released; they were not shot at their doorstep. Nor were they routinely labelled presstitutes and anti-nationals. Mobs did not go chasing after cattle-traders and beat and lynch them. Mobs did not burst into someone’s home, sniffing at offence, following the scent of meat and killing the ‘offender’. Rumour was not a lynch mill. A young man was not tied to the front of a jeep and made a shoddy example of. Such atrocity was not thereafter officially commended. Senior ministers of government were not subjected to a hail of abusive trolling and threatening. They were not left to fend for themselves. They did not have to feel that the hounding was an insider job, that the hounds were at work under proactive encouragement from the master.

All of this, and worse, are happening now. Lest we forget.

TT Link

Telegraph Calcutta

This World And Other Worlds

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Never mistake one for the other, this world and the other world. Or worlds, who knows how many there might be. What we know is merely the cognisable, merely a pinhead. Look up the skies someday and if pollution will spare you the sight, glance at the stars. Each one might be several times the size of the puny planet we live on. And they are such an abstract distance away, they probably aren’t even there; in the time their twinkle has taken to reach us, they’ve rocketed elsewhere. Or exploded. Or become welded in effusions of white heat to another and become something quite else. Who knows? And some of us commit the daily folly of believing we know. We know only very little, or rather, broken fragments of what is very little. What do we know? We do not even know where Mahadeb is, a dear one among us who is gone from our midst. We do not know such simple small things.

It isn’t in our power. Yet some of us happily infect ourselves with the temerity of possessing power, of thinking ourselves powerful. Power over what? Look up. There’s much much more around than we know or even have the faculties for getting to know. Never confuse this world and the other worlds. What transpires here is earthly and it passes; what transpires there is celestial and eternal. Or at least so we believe. We do not know. But it cannot harm to know differences. There are differences. Always. Like we all know there is a BossOfBenaras and there is a BossOfBenaras who is also the BossOfBrahmaand. They are different. One is up for election. The Other elects. Just does: elects. One shall pass. The Other is ever-present ether. Indestructible. Not a thing of time and its ravages. An Entity quite beyond the scheme of time. We play at it. We play at telling TheBoss. We play at guessing his game. We play with our many instruments at what will happen when, or why. We often do it with a measure of convincing. Like when we tell an eclipse, when even the green turns black and even what gives light can beget the absence of it, and darkness can descend upon noon, and day and night can turn upon each other like tabbies at play. We can tell sunblock. But we can never be sure we can witness it. A cloud can float in on the diktat of unworldly power and efface worldly prediction. Call it astral, call it astrological, call it a consequence of lunar intervention, call it Rahu and Ketu’s pyrrhic smash and grab, the sky will turn a theatre for pure black magic as it were. Should there be rain, or too much cloud, there’ll rise a clamour of cursing – the great rain robbery! An eclipse over an eclipse. There are things we can tell, there are many more we cannot.

There’s a haze there that nothing will scatter, a haze that never seems to end. It is where our knowing ends and unknowing begins to roll. Remember that song, some of you folks? Ek dhundh se aana hai/Ek dhundh mein jaana hai, we have to come from a haze and go into another. It’s how we all come and where we all depart into – a haze nobody knows. Wasn’t it this, or some such, that some Greek philosopher told another? That the time has now come for us to part, you to life, I to death, none will know which is better? Such thought is why they came to be called philosophers. They had a sense of differences, they knew interstices, where certain things cease to be and where others begin to unroll and what ineffable lines define the lines in between. There is science. There is salvation. Both are things, true things. One we have to some degree acquired, the other we, or some of us at any rate, aspire to. They may be conflicted. But both are. There are differences. Never mistake one for the other.

TheBossOfBenaras is different from TheBossOfBenaras. Recognise that. Recognise differences and perhaps something will come from such essential recognition. What appears permanent often is a passing blip. What is permanent is so mysteriously permanent, it is above cognition or understanding. The evil hour is often, and again and again, upon us. Like sunblock hour. Like that sudden darkening of everything.

Keep watching, but keep your eyes well-shielded. It lifts, it eventually all lifts. Even the bitten piece of sun, or the entirely gobbled sun, emerges and begins to shine again.

So wherever you are, be patient
What is, won’t always be
This is only a temporary tent
Eventually we’ll all be free.

TT Link

Telegraph Calcutta

To Write The Right With Rights

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Sometimes you look out the window and you do not wish to see what you see. For a while now, that has been predominantly the case, you do not wish to see what’s happening out the window because it is such a rabid upturning of right things. Imagine men being killed for imagined evil over what they rear and for generations have traded in for the profit of others and their own. The milk thing, you get what I mean. But sometimes windows help; they go opaque, they do not afford a view of the outside. They keep out what is unnecessary and uncalled for, to put it mildly. Then the gaze turns inwards. It turns to necessary things that may not be out the window. Mahadeb, for instance, isn’t to be seen out the window. But the wonderment over where he is and how he might be can progress behind opaque windows. In that kindly, and widely disregarded, thing called solitude. Why is it that Mahadeb has come to be so sorely missed? Only a chaiwala, after all. But no ordinary chaiwala, The ExtraordinaryChaiwala, notwithstanding. There is something about Mahadeb; perhaps it is how retro he is. An earthen stove, a coal fire, a pan, or three pans, and what nature springs in the gardens and what cows give, daily and dutifully, off their udders. No vends, no dispensers, no plugs no points, it is all just the pure thing of the jugglery of his hands and the elements. Mahadeb’s charm is about fading charms. Like it is about so many other things. Like the writing – or filling, most times – of this column you see. Like how we used to write and how we now write.

Where’s the wastepaper basket? It used to be at the foot of the table. You wrote and ripped and trashed. You wrote and ripped and trashed until the garbage lay piled and the foolscap had become a clean, well-typed space, the rubbish purged by the ripping. That’s how the mind used to work. It was a hard grudge-bout between brain and bin. Then the computer knocked out the typewriter and the mind was suddenly eased of the requirements of rigour. You had spellcheck to tell you you had got colour wrong and aging right. There were other helpful prosthetics.

Delete. Cut. Copy. Paste. Transpose. Prose didn’t need to happen in the mind, the mouse had mastered its metre. Thought didn’t need to be a mental process, it became a screen technique – write the last para first, save, press pagedown, go pageup, do the middle last. The Internet came, and with it, worldwide wisdoms.

It was okay not to have a mind or memory; outsource them to the www. Wondering where the wastepaper basket’s gone? It’s surely not at the foot of the table; it’s probably become the shape of your head; Google may have become our Gospel.

The Net has us plonked on a stunning tech-toboggan; as we zip past the novelties with nightmarish velocity, we know there’s more of this coming that hasn’t even knocked on our imagination. Every day is a blitz of energies. Buy one, get four free – website, wiki, blogspot, vlogspace. And there’s Twitter, the new axis on which our planet revolves. Strapped on this search engine of new frontiers, it is easy to become blissfully numbed about your critical faculties or their great uses. Left click and you are on the information highway, right click and new windows of opportunity are cascading.

But we must dwell on where technology stops to enhance and begins to impoverish. Even at the risk of sounding like a latter-day Luddite, or, worse, a hidebound no-changer, it must be said that technology’s ingress into our lives is not an enrichment story all the way. Sloth of mind and of body strike immediately as alarming consequences of what the Net readily provides us. There is a whole range of other abilities that could stand diminished by idle and arbitrary application – the rich fruits of time, thought, privacy and solitude, the faculty to judge and to discriminate, the talent to order and organise, the skill to feed intelligence rather than be fed by it. There is a lot about the Internet to celebrate; there is a lot that it imperils as well. A good way of dealing with that would be to remember the location and uses of the wastebasket. Fortunately, it’s a standard icon on your screens.

Let’s have the right
If we are to write
Please stop to bite
Writing’s our right.

TT Link