Tolerating the “Intolerance Debate”!!!

If you have been in India in the last couple of months, you will not be faulted if you came to a conclusion that the word “Intolerance” means something which adds 2% to the country’s GDP every year. Like they say of GST for example. The “Intolerance debate” revolving around if India has become a terribly intolerant nation these days has been hogging headlines in Newspapers, Prime time news and keeping social media busy. From whatever I have seen, there are 2 narratives in this debate. One which is typically the left of centre position that says that post Narendra Modi’s ascent to the 7RCR, there has been growing intolerance in India as manifested in day to today statements from ruling party leaders and the silence or rather the failure of the PM to rein in these. Apart from tearing apart the Govt. many from this side, kicked off what is now known as the Award Wapsi as a mark of protest. The other which is the right of centre – proclaims that there is nothing of that sort and all’s well. And they keep reminding that there were enough facets of intolerance before BJP came to power as well and that time there was hardly a semblance of protest. And may be the old patriarch L.K.Advani would like to call it the “Pseudo Tolerance” of the Congress times😜. The jumping of celebrities particularly into this “Intolerance debate” like Aamir Khan in the last week added combustion to this raging fire. As I write this post, the fire still lingers on.


As per me, India is as tolerant now as it was all along or it is as intolerant as it was all along. We have been seeing that for any issue, while there is a majority opinion which leans on tolerance there is a fringe opinion which is the opposite. Depending upon the issue in hand, this intolerance has been surfacing irrespective of the party in power. And intolerant behavior has emanated from all religious groups again based on the topic of the day. So to me, India has been always tolerant or intolerant whoever has been in power notwithstanding.

So why is this spectre of intolerance looming large today?

The answer is – “Blame it all on technology”. 10/15 years ago before the explosion of media and the advent of the liberator called social media, a loose intolerant comment by a political leader never got reported due to the tyranny of distance. Even if it did, it was in the local newspapers and never got amplified like it is today. Once reported, it may be discussed in Coffee House Addas in the evening in Kolkatta or if it’s Kerala in Nair Tea stalls the whole day. In Mumbai, may be in suburban trains by those privileged who managed to get a seat that is. Or lunch time discussions in offices. So acts or statements of intolerance had very limited scope for discussion and amplification. But today it is completely different. Thanks to 24*7 news channel proliferation and competitive journalism any statement by a loose cannon even in the remotest part of the country gets recorded and flashed across as Breaking News. And its tweeted by news agencies. These get retweeted. Copied and posted with opinions on FB walls. Gets shared on multiple WhatsApp groups (and I know of very few individuals who are not part of WA groups these days in Urban India😜😜). Blogs get written like this one😜. Memes get created and circulated. All this feeds the coal for the “Outrage factory” and it steams in with full capacity. So first the main stream media and then social media picks up any stupid, nonsensical or controversial rant/comment and provides what I call as the “viral velocity”. So opinions and counter opinions which were expressed only among few within four walls today are discussed, commented upon, value added thro social media vehicles and reach multitudes.  The result is there for all of us to see.

As the Finance Minister said that the other day and rightly so – some body from the party makes a provocative statement somewhere and the PM is expected to make a statement on the same the next day. In today’s “viral” times if the PM is expected to keep a tab of all these and make statements denouncing the same, then he needs a separate ministry called “Ministry of Condemnation” with a Cabinet Rank Minister😜😜.

India today is in the cusp of breaking its shackles and grow fast as an economy. The world is looking at us and wondering if this time it’s for real or we are going to flatter to deceive. Once again. We are at a sweet spot to lift thousands from below poverty and become a developed nation shackling our ever “Developing nation” tag. For that we need to focus on the economy and have minimum or no distractions. “A Distraction a day will keep India in bay!!”😃😃

The winter session of the Parliament should discuss and debate on the impending legislations which will add % points to the GDP. And not waste time on historical topics like socialism, secularism and Intolerance,…  If we have “tolerated” technology as a means of bringing positive change to our lives, we must also accept the side effects. Of aiding frivolous causes. So Aamir should relax and ask his wife to relax as well.

If at all as a country we needed proofs of our tolerance, there are the roads, our infrastructure and many politicians who continue to come in the way of our country’s march ahead. But for our benevolent tolerance of these we will still not be rooting for Bijli, Sadak, and Paani in the 21st century.

This is my 100th post. A big thank you for “tolerating” my posts in the last 3 years ever since I started blogging and gave wing to my New Year resolution in 2012. But for your tolerance, support and very liberal encouragement I would not have got the courage to continue. So if this one New Year resolution indeed worked, it is thanks to you🙌🙌

Toon Credit: Manjul

Eggs it is polls!

Afternoon on Sunday exactly a week ago in India, suddenly eggs went into short supply mode. Didn’t they all land up on the faces of psephologists and many pollster turned anchors in Delhi and other places??? For more than 3 months, India had been hijacked by elections in one state – Bihar. At the end of the tiring, long drawn 5 phased elections and just before the actual counting on 8th Nov (last Sunday) – almost all channels went on an overdrive with telecast of their exit poll results. The channels had used different agencies to conduct the same, extrapolate the vote share into seats and projected the results. However, in the afternoon when the actual results started coming in, it was clear that all the channels and their agencies were way off the mark. While all the channels had predicted a very close election with a wafer thin majority either in favour of the NDA or the Mahaghatbandhan (MGB from here), the actual outcome was more than a landslide win for the Nitish led MGB and a massive blow to Modi led NDA and ofcourse to the pollsters!!! Ironically the one agency (AXIS) which had got it correct didn’t get the opportunity to air their poll results. The channel’s (CNN-IBN) management thought it outrageous to telecast a poll which gave 169-183 seats to the MGB we are told!!! Amidst all this mass Exit poll debacle there was only one individual – Dr. Surjit Bhalla who stuck his neck out and gave 175 seats for the MGB just by his own forecast model (not exit polls) in his Indian Express article a few days before the counting and got it right.

This massive blow to Modi may be a 1st since his historic 2014 win, but for the pollsters this blow is not the 1st. Before the Bihar elections when Delhi went into polls this year, the same thing happened. While most polls predicted a close fight between BJP and AAP, the final result was clean sweep by the broom party. None of the exit/opinion polls captured that kind of a sweep. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections again it was only one agency – Today’s Chanakya which correctly called the outcome. Most others projected just a simple majority for the NDA.

Inspite of this way off their mark predictions what is the bet that the same agencies will not again carry out opinion polls/ exit polls the next time around?? These are competitive times for the channels and the polling agencies. As any election approaches (Central/State) these must be the first to salivate and glee at the prospects of increasing their TRPs with all the election related programming in which the opinion polls and exit polls are now an integral part. So we will continue to see the much hyped exit polls packaged as with new improved methodology, bigger and improved sampling next time over. Again.

Years ago when the idea of Opinion polls and Exit polls got imported to India from the US (I guess) it was fascinating. As mortals, there is this tendency in us to jump the gun. Those trips to palmists, astrologers and soothsayers of different hues to know our Aane wale kal explain this tendency. Similarly we feel excited to know who will be our rulers before the actual counting is done through exit polls though it is just a few days ahead. But US and other western democracies from where these concepts originated, are less complex and more homogenous as a society. So calling an election after an exit poll with a very small sample size and extrapolating the results there is a less arduous task I guess. (Even there Exit polls have gone awfully wrong) Ofcourse India is another kettle of beef (😁) altogether. We are repeatedly told that we have religion based voting, caste based voting, community based voting and what have you. But one thing which is missed in all this “______based voting” which the pollsters and analysts keep talking about is the New Indian voter’s “Brain based voting”!!!

As we saw now in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Delhi state elections and now in Bihar the difference in an election swinging one way or the other depends on the non-core party voters. Core party voters (members/supporters and sympathisers) vote for their party in any case. It is the Non-core party voters who bring in the swing in a particular party’s favour. They voted in a big way in favour of Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections and NDA got an overwhelming mandate. However in Delhi state elections the Non-core party voters who voted for BJP in the Lok Sabha elections voted for AAP and swept it to power. Similarly the non-core party voters pulled their might in favour of MGB in Bihar. So most of the non-core party voters in Bihar who wanted to see Narendra Modi as PM wanted to see Nitish as their CM. Perhaps. I didn’t get to see (or maybe I missed) this angle where the voters are getting smarter by the day in terms of their choices and do “Brain based voting”. So we get these results. Overwhelming mandate for Modi for PM. But Kejriwal for CM or Nitish for CM though they are entrenched firmly in different camps.

So the next time may be the pollsters should just identify if a respondent is a core or a non-core party voter and record to which party he/she voted instead of spending too much time if respondents are upper caste or Dalit or Maha Dalit,..,.. In which case, they will be in a better position to forecast how the actual swing is and save those eggs on their faces😜

MANJUL_060312irrToon courtesy:

Return of the Culture!!!

Pardon me for joining the “Return” bandwagon😉 But hang on! This piece is not on the “Return” which is in news in India these days! This is the time of the Navratri festival which is celebrated all over India with much gusto and gaiety though in different forms. In Mumbai where I live now being a melting pot of cultures it is, we get to see the Garba nights, Durga Pujo pandals of the Bengalis and ofcourse the South Indian way of celebrating Navratri in close quarters.

Before I landed in Mumbai in the early 90’s, I had not heard of Garba or Dandiya Raas,… During those college days, Disco Dandiya nights were popular among the youth who were getting drowned in the Remix wave. In Churchgate – cars with disco lights and blaring music used to be parked in the centre of the roads. Boys and Girls were seen crooning to the songs and rhythm of Garba all night long! I see less of them now. Today there are many Garba festivals almost in all suburbs featuring celebrities and wannabes where people let their hair down during the nine nights and have fun. Specialist singers and folk artists get imported from Gujarat for the same to belt out more traditional and original songs. (Doesn’t mean that there are no songs dripping with Honey Singh’s lewd lines and all that😁


There are also a few like Phalguni Phatak who have become celebrities by just making people dance to their tunes during Navratri. There are different types of Garba steps and in Mumbai a month before the season, classes spring up to coach people on those! I have been personally witness to the enthusiastic crowd in one of the classes in Mulund a happening suburb for Gujjus!!! Not to forget the crowd in outlets selling traditional wear like Gagras and Cholis! And talking of attire, these days the vogue thing is to follow the Navratri colour codes for the 9 days (even to office) so much so couple of days back which was a Green day – a ladies coach in Mumbai local resembled a cricket stadium in Karachi😁😁

This year, Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has an ongoing axe to grind with the Gujjus in Mumbai – wants to give their own “Marathi” twist to Garba it seems. They see Garba as another conspiracy of the Gujarathi traders to take over Mumbai. So at MNS supported Pandals (yes where there is money there is politics) as per party diktat no Gujju song is to be played and Garba will make way for Bhondla a form of Marathi folk music!!!

My exposure to Bengalis and the Durga Pujo (not Puja) festival was only after I started visiting Kolkatta on work. Bengalis are extremely proud of their culture. As oxymoronic as it may sound they are “passionate liberals” when it comes to their culture. For Bengalis, Durga Pujo is more than a festival which I understood in early years of my career. Once when I called for an important review meeting in the midst of the Pujo festival, I got a call from the wife of one of my team members from Kolkatta to reschedule the dates!!! Politely but firmly she said that her husband will not attend the meeting because its Pujo time in Kolkatta. I realized that Pujo was bigger than Diwali in that part of the world. Amidst the feverish pandal hopping they indulge in, eating, shopping and even match making happen feverishly! I see the Pujo pandals increasing every year in Mumbai as well. I don’t miss visiting atleast one Durga Pujo Pandal every year. I like the one at Hiranandani Gardens, Powai which is elegantly decorated devoid of too many ugly sponsor’ billboards.


Coming to my own backyard, I have fond memories of Navratri of my growing up days in Trichy. Every year we used to have our vacation to coincide exactly with Navratri after the Quarterly exams. Though it’s a festival which brings the ladies at home to the fore, at home we equally participated. The Kolu (tradition of arranging idols of Gods nicely in steps) at our place was popular among the neighbourhood. Apart from the Kolu steps we used to set up some theme based arrangement every year. Usually my dad threw the ideas and my brother did the execution with me and my sister pitching in with colouring and stuff. Those were not the days of Google or readymade clay, colours, models,.. Most of the stuff like a hill temple or an exhibition ground,.. were painstakingly constructed with waste material and made at home! Our mom was good at making different stuff made of beads which we used extensively in these theme based parks! We used to make some change every day which is what made our place👍

Nine days mean nine varieties of Sundal which is made and distributed to all who come as Prasad. If Bengalis do “Pandal hopping”, we Tamilians do “Sundal hopping”😁😁. Our decision to visit other house Kolus used to depend on the type of Prasad😜. Popular one being Puttu (Jaggery and coconut laced steamed rice flour). And generally houses which had paruppu masiyal (a very sticky paste like stuff made of dal) that day were given the cold shoulder😜😜. Navratri used to be the time those days when mamis feel much empowered sauntering in and out of the house wearing a different Kanjivaram every day and associated finery while mamas sit quietly in a corner reading newspaper😄 without much attention. One favourite question of the mamas to their wives was “Enna Innikku collection ellam aacha???😄” In those days of no WhatsApp, invitation to the Kolu needs to be done personally which is the job of us bachas. (Today a WA fwd does the job in a jiffy). As an interesting aside I vividly remember that in our one neighbourhood house in Thillainagar Trichy, during every Navratri there used to be a baby arrival!! This went on for 4 years in a row. Letting one naughty mama to comment – Koluvila dasavatharam bommaigalaa ivaa aathu pasangalaiye koodiya seekiram vechudalam pola irukke😁😁 (Soon we can keep 10 children of this house as Dasavatharam idols in the Kolu looks like)😁😁


As we grew and we went in different directions in pursuit of careers, the Kolu at home tradition stopped in our place as in many households I knew. But in the last few years I see the “return” of the Kolu tradition with a vengeance. Particularly the NRIs are in the forefront of the revival. From Dunedin to Dublin. I don’t know if the infectious enthusiasm has been fueled by social media. But these days FB posts and WA shares mostly are of pics of the Kolus and Sundal of the day. Another reason for one Mark and his friend Modi to be happy! Women these days assiduously prepare for the event including rehearsing nice Durga songs, scheduling their days (for hosting and visiting others) diligently trying their best to be at most places.

“How to throw a Kolu party???” is a caption of a news item today in today’s Bombay Times (Anything to do with TOI has to end with party I think😜). Well, the tradition of calling ladies for Vetthalai paaku (Haldi kumkum) for Kolu during Navratri has been given a very contemporary twist! The same piece also talks of a “Green Kolu” where instead of idols the steps are replete with plants of different sizes and shapes!!!

Among all the commercialisation that comes along with increased market activity and purchasing power and the lament that we are missing the cultural connect I do sense a “Return” of the people including the youth to their roots and Culture. And Navratri is a shining example of the same. And this “Return” is one we must be proud of unequivocally👍👍👍

1 year of watching Swachh Bharat Abhiyan!!!

Yesterday was Oct 2nd. Gandhi Jayanthi. Since last year, the date has acquired another significance. That is of the anniversary of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a social movement our Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off last year. Since the last few days, Swachata has been dusted again in India. (Pun intended☺️). There has been a slew of activities. The minister released a report card on the progress made since last Oct 2nd. (That a ministry releases a report card itself is a major progress).  A new anthem created by Shankar Ehsaan Loy and written by Prasoon Joshi where Sachin lends his squeaky voice has surfaced. Another one – Banega Swachh India Anthem by the Indian Ocean Group supported by Dettol has been aired and has been viralling since. (The many hands appearing frequently in the video “plug” the brand Dettol smartly ☺️☺️) There was a Safaigiri Summit and Awards nite yesterday organized by the India Today group where for different categories like Cleanest beach town, Cleanest ghat,.. awards were distributed. So on and so forth.

It appeared that the Abhiyan which was flagged off last year with a lot of fanfare was gradually fading away from the collective consciousness of the country. The many brand ambassadors who were nominated, after the initial sweeping photo ops, swept themselves under the carpet and got busy with their regular endorsements. Even the many cleaning drives undertaken by common citizens which were a regular feature on weekends till Feb/Mar gradually weaned. And in general, we Indians continued to exercise our Right to – spitting on the roads/walls, urinating in public places and littering everywhere.  I read some survey which claimed that 71% of respondents felt that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a flop. I had started to lose hope. Ofcourse I was certainly not one to think India will become clean in 1 year. Or not even in 5 years as Prime Minister wanted.

It seems all is not lost though. Behind the external veneer, it seems few positives have happened.

Like from the Govt. side Niti Aayog formed a sub group of State CMs to generate ideas for strengthening the program including ways and means of raising resources. It called for an additional cess on petrol and telecom to fund the program.

Like the Govt. seeking the help of external agencies to rank cities for cleanliness.

Like the Govt. apparently exceeding the target it set for itself for building toilets in the 1st year. I myself saw one E-Toilet suddenly springing up on the Thane Belapur Road near Airoli in Navi Mumbai which was not there before! Kudos!

Like the selfless efforts of some individuals like Temsutala Imsong from Nagaland.  Even the Prime Minister acknowledged the efforts of this girl yesterday for tirelessly working towards cleaning up few ghats in his constituency Varanasi.  See the difference she and her team has made here. Mission Prabhughat has been exemplary.

before after

Like few corporates pitching their own efforts to support the Cleanliness campaign.

Amidst all this dollops of hope there is no dearth of sceptics including me. While, allocating more funds, constructing enough toilets, providing enough dustbins and continuous cleaning are all important – India cannot become Swachh Bharat unless our own attitude changes. That attitude where we are happy about keeping spaces within our own 4 walls spic’n span while having no issues with littering public spaces. And in this lies the eternal problem. In the Safaigiri summit last night, the Prime Minister spoke passionately of the significance of the movement, the positives strides it has made and attempted to pacify the naysayers.  And rightly so. However my only issue was with the Govt’s initial attempt to put the whole thrust on the Abhiyan to “Cleaning” rather than creating awareness and awakening about “not littering”. Its’ still not too late.

From the PM’s speech yesterday it appears that there is a shift in the approach. Capacity building (Toilets construction, dustbins,..) need to go hand in hand with social awakening. Here the Govt. can very well co-opt the so many NGO’s who do wonderful work in the social sector to spread the message about “not littering” in the 1st place. The HR ministry should work with the academicia to include “cleanliness” in the curriculum in some form or other so that the next Gen Next learns about Science, Sanskriti and Swachhata in equal measure. And as a country we have to be united in taking this mission seriously. Recently we saw some political parties in the opposition deriding and announcing that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a failure of the Govt. and the PM. Well, we must have no pretensions that if Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a failure, it is a failure of all of us. PM doesn’t fail. We all fail.

And if we don’t want to fail, we must remember that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not about cleaning but a clarion call to cease the need for cleaning. Amen.

Pls help to share this post to reach the message wider. Thanks

Down Ganapathi lane!!!

It’s the Ganpati festival season now in Mumbai and as they say this city is the place to be during Ganpati time. Last Wednesday (the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi) as I was riding back home from the airport late evening, I could still see feverish activity in the lanes and by lanes of Mumbai – people thronging the market for last-minute purchases of Ganesh idols, lights, lamps, decoration items,…,… The cabbie mentioned that the markets will be open throughout the night. Well, the “Ganpati economy” is huge and thriving.  And over the years it has only been ballooning. What Lokmanya Tilak started probably as a movement In Pune to get people together during the Independence movement in the name of Sarvajanik Ganpati Utsavs are on different trips these days. Ofcourse so are Durga Pujo in Kolkatta or Navratri in Gujarat. The interesting aspect over the years I have noticed is all these festivals and expressions around them are immune to economic recession,..,… Irrespective of how the economy is, these festivals are observed with fervor only to better the previous year effort and budget.

As I watch the Ganpati festival unravelling around me now, I couldn’t help walking down the Ganapathi lane when I was in school. Vinayaga Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu was indeed celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. Trichy being the place of the Uchi Pillayar (Rock fort temple) was not an exception. With Vinayaga temples of different sizes and scales in every nook and corner of Trichy, the day of Vinayaga Chaturthi is extremely noisy with loudspeakers blaring Seerkazhi Govindarajan’sVinayagane Vinai Theerpavane’,.. on the loop. Once the songs were done, it was the time for playing the sound track of popular Ganesh movies, top on the list being Shivaji Ganesan’s Thiruvilayadal. If I can reel out even today the fiery exchange between Shivaji Ganesan (playing the role of Lord Shiva – one of his career best) and A.P.Nagarajan (as Nakeeran) and the antics of Baliah from that film, it is thanks to the over exposure on Vinayaga Chaturthi days.

After the Pooja at home and polishing off few Kozhakattais (Modaks) – sweet and salty made at home and savoring the ones made by neighbourhood mamis – it was time to literally walk down the many lanes to check out on Ganapathis. One of the favourite competition among friends was to check who sees the maximum number of Ganapathis on Ganesh Chaturthi day. And ofcourse tasting the different Sundals offered as prasad at each temple. My personal record was 65 I remember vividly – from Thillai nagar where I stayed till Main Guard Gate area in Trichy.  In Trichy, all these Ganapathis were mostly in temples and not in pandals as we see in Mumbai today. I understand that the Mumbai style of huge Ganesh idols being kept for public viewing and worship for 10 days and immersing the same in the sea/River on the 10th day have become popular in other cities like Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and even in Trichy today.

In Mumbai, from the 1st time I was witness to the mass Ganpati Visarjan at Chowpatty from the terrace of our college hostel and now, Ganpati Utsav has come a long way.  Corporates and sundry companies pour in big money. So don’t be surprised to see “Ganpati being sponsored by Baba Elaichi Pan Masala” at one place and Kailash Kher exhorting people to use Torex cough syrup from ugly hoardings in another place.


“Eco friendly” is the buzz word. From the idols to decorative items to the prasad bags – pandals try to be environment friendly. The latest innovation in this Eco friendly business is the campaign I heard today on Radio. Red FM’ Visarjan squad” – where they urge people to carry out immersion in artificial tanks instead of spoiling the waterfronts. Supported by corporates, in this campaign – you give a call and a Visarjan squad comes to your place with a mobile artificial tank and carry out the immersion. Cool isn’t it???

When we talk of cool and innovation can “apps” be far behind? Literally Ganpati Bappa this year has become Ganpati bAPPa!!! So you have a “Times BAPPA” app where you can decorate your Ganesha idol in the most creative way and then share it with your friends!!! Most liked and shared entries get points and get featured in Times Of India it seems. Ganpati bAPPa morya!!!

And for pandal hopping celebrities, the latest craze is ofcourse “Selfie with Ganpati“☺️ And so is a pandal showing Lord Ganesha taking a selfie with his parents☺️


or a muscular six-pack Ganpati as Baahubali carrying a massive Linga Idol ☺️☺. In these days of health and fitness can Ganesha be left behind. Is Ganesha’s tummy size reducing by the year????


The civic administration of Mumbai I would say comes out at its best during Ganpati I would say. From filling up pot holes in a hurry to controlling  crowds to handling traffic to managing the immersion at different spots in the city – things happen efficiently. Few years ago I was travelling on the next day of the Mega Visarjan. Much to my pleasant surprise, even early in the morning as I was riding to the airport, the Powai Lake road near IIT which is a major Immersion point was swept clean with hardly any signs of the crowds and revelry of the previous night. I was told that many volunteers of NGOs and Sansthas work with the civic administration for the massive cleanup.

In addition, there is the other “Terrorism attack” menace to be handled. So most pandals bear signboards goading people to call the Police if they spot unattended/suspected things!!!

After so many years 30 to be precise, I would like to again walk the Ganapathi lane in Trichy to see the changes in the Uchi Pillayar town during Vinayagar Chaturthi. Trichy being in the Govt.’s “Smart city project” list, who knows may be Ganapathi pandals will be free wireless zones to enable easy sharing of the “Selfie with Ganapathi” over WA ofcourse :) :)

Peepli Live Returns!!!

Peepli Live Returns or it could be Peepli Live -2 or may be Lagey Raho Peepli Live!!! In Bollywood these are some ways of naming a sequel. And there are more and more sequels these days. Peepli Live is an offbeat Hindi film released few years ago in the genre of satirical comedy. It did make the cash registers ring if not shatter at the box office. That film basically dwells around the way TV News channels make buffoonery around some trivial events happening around us and make a fool of themselves and may be in the bargain we, the viewers as well. Anyone watching the news channels in the past 1 week or so would realise that channels are dishing out the sequel of that Peepli Live franchise. I am referring to the non-stop, wall to wall coverage of the Sheena Bora murder case.


On 25th August, when news tickers started flashing of the Mumbai police arresting Indrani Mukherjea, the erstwhile CEO of INX Media, on her alleged role in murdering her “sister” Sheena Bora, it was just a blip on the 24*7 news radar. But the events in the next day and after turned that blip into a 24*7 national obsession or so it would seem. The coverage started hitting a shrill pitch when skeletons started tumbling down (literally) of the many relationships, the conspiracy (alleged as of now) and money trail. With accomplices in 3 cities (Mumbai, Kolkatta and Guwahati) more and more reporters and cameramen got busy “chasing” the various actors in the saga sometimes on the road at a signal, sometimes midair inside a plane and where have you.

I’m not surprised at all by the interest of the public or the media in this case. After all this is not an Aam Admi murder mystery. This is a case involving murder of a young girl who was all along touted as the “sister” of the female protagonist who was in reality her “daughter”. I’m not getting into the complex web of relationships which have become the butt of pokes and jokes. Indrani was an extremely successful woman having climbed the corporate elevator in her own way. Similarly her husband (current one i.e.,) Peter Mukherjea is credited to be the man behind one of the successful foreign channels (Star) in India. Together they were part of the successful elite that too in the media business and naturally part of the thriving Page 3 circuit. All till the fateful 25th August and that’s when they moved from Page 3 to Page 1. There is an increased interest when successful people fail. And more interest when successful Page 3 people fall. And even more heightened interest for the media when someone from their own fraternity fail and fall. So the frenzy in the media and the various “forward” jokes on social media (atleast 1 question from the next CAT/IAS exam/ KBC got leaked I would think 😄) in the next few days can be attributed to the overflowing sense of Schadenfreude all around.

But what was appalling was the nature of reporting, coverage and the now infamous media trial of this case. Instead of just letting the police to do the investigation and reporting on the progress made by the police, channels are till today conducting their own trial and delivering their verdicts. Thankfully and rightly so, the Mumbai police so far has been conducting themselves exceptionally well with restraint without falling for the arc lights of the media. Avoiding the trap of feeding news bytes by the hour, by the day or preside over press conferences every evening to sync with prime time “Newshours” of what has become a spectacle. It’s ironical that channels day in and day out debate with so called experts in “increasing boxes” trying to decipher the case and delivering instant judgements based on hearsay leaks from vested interests. Apart from debates you also have analysis as to whether Indrani was a psychopath or some other path😠😠

Is it wrong if the Mumbai police takes its own time to investigate the case thoroughly before filing the charge sheet? Don’t we remember what happened in the other high profile Arushi murder case?? There, within 1 week of the murder, police declared in a press conference that the Talwars were perpetrators of the crime. The media trial in that case swung between giving a clean chit to the Talwars and consigning them to be with blood in their hands depending upon leaks of the day. So it was good to see the Mumbai police commissioner committing that he won’t let Sheena Bora mystery turn into Arushi case. We will wait and see.

The other horrendous aspect was the height to which the channels were going, in the race to be exclusive and breaking first the ever changing twists and turns in the saga. Here I am not referring to twists like “Indrani Mukerjea ne sandwich khaya”😄. To see a reporter shoving his mike into Peter and persistently posing different questions as he walked out of his place and chasing him till the car sped away was comical at times and ironical most of the times. As also a clip showing a clutch of sleepish reporters and cameramen waiting in front of the police station only suddenly to be jolted and woken up when one among them spots one of the Ex-spouses of Indrani being paraded into the station for investigation. I would only say that seeing the coverage of the Sheena Murder case, irony would have committed a 1000 suicides😡😡

Come next week, there is hope. Hopefully, our ex-jawans and veterans would come to our rescue. Or may be already they have. The Govt. announcing the One Rank One Pension and the veterans’ not so favourable response to it may push the Sheena Bora case to the sidelines. Till the next grand press conference by police commissioner Rakesh Maria where hopefully he will establish the motive and bring this Peepli live – 2 to an end.

Postscript: Coming back to naming of sequels, the makers of Bahubali can afford to have just 2 parts and call them as Bahubali-The Beginning and “Bahubali-The Conclusion” respectively. But, in the case of Peepli Live one has to follow the Yashraj’s Dhoom model. Dhoom-2, Dhoom-3,.. where the protagonists are different but the investigating officer is same. No, that was a not a reference to one Mr. Goswami 😜😜😜

The “Next Monday” syndrome!!!

I don’t know why, but Independence Day season is the time I find most of the gyms in Mumbai promoting aggressively for getting new members. This year also is not an exception as I see many handouts fluttering in front of me announcing discounts and other throw-ins like free massage, diet counselling,… for members joining before 15th August. Except for a bit of rhyming what’s the connection between “Freedom” and “Fitness”??? I would have thought that the time around New Year would be a more appropriate time for this, isn’t it??? My own unscientific survey suggests that 8 out of 10 resolutions around a New Year is around knocking off a few kilos in the New Year. And joining a gym/yoga class/starting the morning walk routine,..,…. (All except eating less😃) are usually on top of the mind that time. Then I realized that marketing theory suggests that you don’t do a promotion during peak season. So in Dec. end, you see a lot of ads around New Year resolutions & Gymming,.. but sans offers/discounts. A resolute mind anyway pushes the head to join a gym– discounts or no discounts I guess.

It was one August may be 11/12 years ago, I saw such offers and thought for the 1st time that the time has come to work out and reduce. So I did the rounds of a few gyms in and around my place and finally settled with one. It was a Sunday when I paid the money and joined the gym. The girl in the front desk asked – “Sir, do you want to start working out today??” “No, No – I will start next Monday. I will have do some shopping 1st of all” – I said. The girl gave a wry smile and said “Next Monday😖???” I didn’t comprehend that sarcasm then😞😞

I did the customary shopping and turned up at the gym the next Monday. Being the 1st day they assigned an instructor who took me through some stretches and explained the different basic equipment there and how to use,…,… The one hour went off nicely and all was well until the next morning. The moment I woke up I found most parts of the body aching. “Should I go to the gym today with this pain? Lets’ see Next Monday”. In this 1st battle between the body and the mind, the body won. And it kept winning most of the times in the times to come.😝😝

Next Monday comes but I had forgotten to set the alarm and was late to get up. Tuesday comes and the mind says – “How can I start now mid-week. Let’s start Next Monday”.😝

This time the alarm is set and everything goes well, well almost. With a lot of zeal, I get to the car and start. The car sort of wobbles. Damn – A flat tyre that day screwed up my hope for a flat abs😔 ‘Saguname sari illa’ (The signs are not good). I get back and start worrying about what’s in store for the day and week. Gymming can wait for now. Well, actually ended up waiting till Next Monday.

The Next Monday comes and gym happens. Managed to go on Tuesday as well. Then a same day return business trip strikes. Back on Thu morning, the alarm goes off early in the morning only to be slammed hard. The living alarm goes next. ‘Gymmukku pogaliya’??? (Not going to the gym???) It’s the wife. ‘Adutha Monday paakalam’ (Let’s see Next Monday)

Come Monday, the rhythm has been sort of disturbed you see,.. and you don’t go for few weeks. Then a call comes from the gym –reminding you of a place called Gym. “Thank you for the call, I will start Next Monday”. The girl again giggles.

The coming Monday, in the morning battle, for a change the mind wins and you end up at the gym. “Hi, welcome back, long time no see??” A regular at the gym smilingly irritates you and moves on without waiting for your answer. His day is done I thought. I had a point to prove and the next 2/3 days the gym sees a determined me. Come Wednesday night as I was setting up my gym bag, the wife reminds me of the arrival of my parents the next day in the morning flight. “You don’t have to pick them up???” Oh yeah! So the gym bag is put in its place till the Next Monday ofcourse.

But many Mondays come and go after that. Its’ festival season in India. The body refuses to yield, get up and go to the gym on a holiday I tell the wife. (As if it does on other days, the wife nudges). And holidays are many from Oct. Either you have an Off or the Gym has or both😁😁

Its’ now December end/New year time. The season of slimming. Or more appropriately season of many slimming resolutions. On a Monday in January you start again only to find the gym overly crowded. The treadmills are all occupied. And there is a line for all machines. So the solution is to start 15 mins. earlier than usual 5.30 am! For 2 days 5.15 am happens. 3rd day it doesn’t. In the wee hours of the morning you realise the importance of 15 mins. when the body craves for that additional sleep😔😔

But not to worry. Things soon settle down at the gym. Come Feb, the gym is peaceful. Few new faces who beat the New Year resolution syndrome become familiar faces now. But you soon become unfamiliar to them. Because, early mornings are dark and cold even by Mumbai standards. So waking up early is not in the cards.

Finally when the so called winter is over, the Next Monday I am at the gym by when the year-end pressure at work mounts. Amidst achieving work targets, weight loss target goes for a toss.

Few weeks and then its summer and vacation time. You go on a week/10 day long vacation. Pile up the holiday fat and return on Sat/Sunday. The holiday hangover continues for few weeks and when the guilt pang hits you on a Friday – you decide to start hitting the gym again – the next Monday. The girl at the front desk welcomes you and starts explaining the different packages. You then remind her that you are an existing member.😒

Since you restarted on Monday after a gap, next morning you end up with a real pain in the neck. Again you decide to start the Next Monday.

By now the summer in Mumbai wanes off and monsoon sets in. You get up on Monday and then Tuesday, Wednesday,…,.. to see heavy rains in the morning. “Where you are going to the gym in this rain?? Just enjoy the rain and the hot tea”, the wife says. The mind readily agrees and junks any idea of going to the gym. As in the Indian parliament these days, the monsoon session turns out to be a washout😜😜

Somewhere in September, you run out of excuses and press the restart button for the gym. With some firmness Monday and Tuesday go off successfully. On Wednesday you see the invite for an early morning conf. call at office with the Head Office US team!!! With such legitimate reasons for skipping the gym, you have no guilt,… and you decide to go to work out the Next Monday😜

That Monday and many Mondays come and go. Been travelling excessively. The gym is forgotten. Till the call comes for renewing the membership again in the month of August. The wife reminds that looking at the number of days I went to the gym in the past year – it must be the most expensive self-indulgence😜. I ignore the taunt and renew to avail of the discounted package!

Now with absolute resolve to gym come what may – I hit the gym on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday – 3 days at a stretch is sort of a personal record. As I am walking out I see the notice – “Gym closed for 2 days for routine maintenance”!!! So now – Next Monday😜😜😜