Of Open Doors And Cracks

15786098938_23d7f4c048_m“All doors are open.”

No, that’s not a pitch from a real estate agent confirming Vaastu compliance of a villa. And no, it’s not double entendre from the latest erotic thriller either.

That’s the way Indian politics is being run these days. When in doubt over who should be your alliance partner, keep your doors open. You never know who may walk in.

The recent J&K elections, or the aftermath rather, was replete with this curious one-liner doing the rounds. All doors are open. Every politician worth his salt (or wood) was found mouthing this rather inane but handy obfuscation that said everything without revealing anything.

Take the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for instance. Reacting to media inquiries on possible suitors for government formation, an IBN article quoted the delectable Mehbooba Mufti as saying that she was “in the process of exploring all possibilities”. Clearly, all her “doors” were wide open.

Not to be outdone, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah’s doors were also open, if only wider. In a MilleniumPost article, he admitted to as much: “All options are open. The option of forming a BJP government is open. The option of supporting somebody is also open. The option of joining some government is also open… All three options are open.” If Shah’s doors were open any wider, he could have as well been sitting in an airplane hangar.

Snooty Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) went one better in a FirstPost article and said that “there is a crack (in the window) open for the PDP.” Whatever that meant. This, after allegedly hobnobbing with the BJP top brass. Clearly, he wouldn’t bet his cojones over a crack.

While party mouthpieces went around knocking out statements about doors and cracks, there was hectic canoodling going on behind the scenes, with the PDP sending out coy glances through the window to all and sundry while waiting for the BJP to knock on its doors, the BJP running a door-to-door campaign with “marry me” written all its lovesick face, and the NC pretending to have closed-door discussions while vainly positioning itself as a “key” player.

This fetish for doors is not new in Indian politics. In the run-up to the 2014 J&K elections as reported by IndiaToday, PDP had exhorted the people of the troubled state to “show the door” to the NC and the BJP. After all, only if someone drives out these parties can the PDP then make a show of inviting them back in. Hence the doors.

The BJP too is no stranger to slamming doors or opening doors or generally keeping them open. They adopted similar watch-my-door tactics with their now-hot-now-cold ally, the Shiv Sena, after the 2014 Maharashtra elections. If only to prove a point. That it was no one’s doormat.

There are various other door types and sizes in operation. Parties like the Samajwadi Party revel in opening specialized doors to welcome individuals as opposed to entire parties, as they did for BJP rebel Jaswant Singh earlier in the year. Evidently, it was a much smaller door.

And then there are others who announce formation of mega-parties when the constituent individual parties cease to have relevance. Like the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party and a clutch of other hopefuls did when they ganged up to form the Janata Parivar. In this case, there were more doors open than one could count. Not that anyone was.

A curious exception to this new-found malaise in political parties of using doors, cracks or doormats to woo or shoo alliances after (or before) elections is the Congress. But, not because it’s principled or closed to post-poll alliances.

No, the reason for the Congress’ exclusion from these dour antics is frustratingly simple. For keeping doors open to potential allies after elections, you need to have doors in the first place.

The Congress, battered as it was by the Modi tsunami during the 2014 parliamentary elections, seems to have no doors left. Last heard, the party was still busy finding wood strong enough to stand in place and replace the deadwood the party finds itself saddled with.

Forget the politicos. Think about the average voter. Think about you and me. What about the stink bombs that politicians throw around just before elections, promising everything under the sun, inevitably ending up as the wind that passed by after the elections? Ah, keep the doors open, silly!

NOTE: This post is part of the Here and Now series (a satirical take on everyday happenings) on this blog. Read the previous post in this series: A Case Of Sour Rapes.

A Case Of Sour Rapes

13439475873_7bd2c2be0e_mI must admit this piece got inspired (wrong choice of word, I know) by How Not To Get Raped And Other Dumb Ideas by Diya Banerjee which washed up on The Huffington Post the other day. To people who still have no clue as to what I’m talking about, it’s about the numerous instances of heinous rapes that have started dotting a once-civilized country called India.

Well-meaning activists and pressure groups have been dishing out the standard fare when it comes to solutions: increased security for women, more stringent laws, speedy and time-bound delivery of justice, setting up of fast-track courts, “women only” service providers, sensitizing men and boys, raising noise levels by organized picketing, lobbying for banning of radio taxis, protesting the ban after the government bans them, yadda yadda yadda.

Bollocks, I say. These are duds at best. Been there, tried that, didn’t work. Can’t blame the poor sods who suggested these measures, either. There are only so many “sane”, “implementable” solutions to go around.

Now, perverts are everywhere. Like houseflies. You can’t just wish them away. You have something that he doesn’t, but wants. Clearly, a case of sour rapes! So, you can’t wish away the rapes either.

You need solutions that have more bite. Erm, at least more teeth.

Like the following.

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Why The Blurb Is An Author’s Wormhole

2215722962_169fd088c8_mImagine a wormhole in all its beguiling, seductive allure. Two twisting ends in interstellar space joined by a funnel. Two entirely different universes connected by a seemingly implausible conduit of empty space. Two sets of space-time coordinates separated by an esoteric bridge.

You have here a freaky concept that debunks all logical premises and promises to transport you magically to a world that is otherwise beyond reach and imagination. You are allowed access to a universe that had hitherto existed only in your imagination. Or one that you couldn’t imagine.

It is every author’s dream to suck the reader into his story and transport her to the universe of bewilderment and intrigue the minute the reader lays her hand on his book. Newbie authors often admit to a twinge of wistfulness when a browsing reader picks up his baby, gives it the once-over and promptly moves on to the book next to it.

Enter the author’s wormhole – the back cover blurb.

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Hiss Of Love (The Indian Chamcha’s Take)

2756144771_a7ee033e9f_mPhone calls from people who you thought had long fossilized themselves in the upper echelons of the corporate world are always unnerving. Not to mention hil-effin-arious.

This one came from a batch-mate of mine. We go all the way back to business school, yet hadn’t managed to keep in touch during the years after. Until now, that is.

Said batch-mate was a die-hard ‘Chamcha’ (that’s what a butt-kisser is called in India) at work, so much so that we’d rechristened him ‘Bruce Chamcha’ (Die Hard? Bruce Willis? Get the connection?). Anyway, a well-meaning chap, even if generally confused most of the time.

So, Bruce Chamcha called. He had just returned from Australia and was apparently gung-ho about a new campaign called ‘Kiss of Love’ that had taken urban India by storm. Before I could explain to him that it was just a protest against moral policing by publicly kissing your loved ones and not an avant-garde reunion of butt-kissers to celebrate sycophancy, he was off.

Here’s what transpired between him and a right-wing nuttie who was protesting against the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest.

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The “Maa-Behen” Of It All

Every civilization the world over is characterized by a word or phrase that immediately places it in a class by itself and uniquely identifies it. For 21st century India, it’s “maa-behen”. For the Hindi-challenged, it literally means “yo’ mama & sista”.

It all started with the “gaali” (cussing). If you ever want to swear (which may be more often than you want if you’re in India), you have the maa-behen gaali, which is an evolved and eclectic class of invectives that includes the Indianized version of “mofo” or “mutha-fucka”.

Pound for pound, a maa-behen gaali is the meanest badass when it comes to linguistic intimidation, achieving in a short volley what other words struggle to do even with increased decibel levels and aggressive body language thrown in. Because it hits where it hurts the most – below the belt.

So, let’s say your buddy ditches you for a late night romp with his current flame, who do you take it out on? That’s right. The poor sap’s mama. A “teri maa ki…” (your mama’s…) settles scores quicker than your buddy can remember his mama’s name. Those three innocent-looking dots there? Use your imagination, silly! Effective, no?

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5 Killer Openings To Hook The Reader

14719579639_c596f9bc4d_mDo you dive into a swimming pool straight away without dipping your foot in first? Do you buy a perfume without doing a skin-test first? If not, then why do you expect a reader to fall for your novel without skimming through the opening first?

There are three ‘hooks’ that can grip the reader as she browses through the millions of titles available for purchase on a given day – the book cover, the blurb at the back of the book, and the first three chapters (or the opening). Well, make that four if you want to include reviews on the cover, but many authors, especially newbies, do not have the luxury of having marquee reviews to crow about.

While the other hooks can be the subject of separate posts by themselves, the opening or the first three chapters are really your first, and perhaps your only, chance to grab the reader and throw her headlong into your story.

Anybody who’s somebody that matters to your book’s publication and its success – agents, publishers, reviewers, readers – is going to invariably sniff at the opening first. Smells good? They dive right in. Stinks? They throw your book back where it belongs – in the pile along with the others.

So, here are some quick and simple ways that newbie writers can use to create that irresistible hook.

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The Sex-ahon Line

An interview with Farhan Akhtar, an Indian actor, brought out a curious phenomenon unfolding in India these days – separating the sexes and chaining down the fairer sex. While the actor fumed at the developments, I’m happy that it’s happening.

Yeah, you heard me. I’m happy that finally women are being chained down by diktats and are being denied access to proximity with men. It’s time to draw some lines around here.

And why not? There are scores of lines (both real and imaginary) drawn around the country to tell our intrusive neighbors to keep their hands off. Like the McMahon Line that separates India from China in the north-eastern part of the country.

So, isn’t it time we drew some (lines) INSIDE the country? After all, we’re a country known for “lakshman rekha“, “maryada ki rekha“, and all kinds of “rekhas” (including, of course, the glamorous actress of yester-years who goes by the same name).

So, let’s draw one to chain down the women of India (by corollary, to keep the men away) and call it the “Sex-ahon Line”.

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5 Ways To Get Off Your Newbie Writing Ass

3231204621_9c36166cfc_qI’ve had quite a few wannabe writers coming to me with that pin-up one-liner: “You know, I have a lot of ideas but I don’t know where to start.”

Or this: “I don’t know if my writing’s any good.”

I didn’t either, when I started out. I still don’t. And that’s what eggs us writers on. To better ourselves (and not to become another King, Rowling, or Hemingway).

Here are a few ways you could get off that butt and put actual words on paper.

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Down In The Dumps? Take A Dump!

4649075746_05863b83ab_mAn entrepreneur friend of mine from Delhi landed in Bangalore (where I live) the other week. Huffing and puffing, he barged in through the door and plonked himself on the couch, exhaling loudly as he ripped off the metal clamp that he had inserted his nose into.

I looked at my watch. He was a good five hours late. I was about to ask him the reason for the delay in his flight when he silenced me with a stinker. “Yaar, what the eff is wrong with your city?”

I asked him to relax, not knowing what the eff he was talking about.

The friend snorted, beckoning for a hand-held fan. “You know? It was easier to find Bangalore from the air earlier. It used to be a patch of friendly green when you looked down. Today, the pilot circled for two hours but couldn’t spot the darned city!”

Obviously, the three-hour flight plus the five-hour delay had somehow tickled him the wrong way (or in the wrong place). But Bangalore is still green, I protested.

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Don’t Just Bleed. Hemorrhage.

8733875890_a377fe7bb8_mSomeone once asked me what writing was all about. I was tempted to answer in superlatives of prose – a fulfilling reverie, a cathartic epiphany, a literary orgasm that leaves you happily spent.

But, I bit back the momentary gush of verbiose. For writing is none of those glorified, intellectually rarefied and abstract moments of feathery flourish that people will have you believe.

No, writing is far messier. It’s about having your nose to the grindstone, not knowing when the grinding will stop. I remember laboring over one of my manuscripts for ten months. Yes, you read that right. TEN MONTHS. That’s like eons in writing years.

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