May 28, 2014

POLL DIARIES: Secular Guts & Mardana Kamjori

Travelogues from Uttar Pradesh Heartland

Mukesh Pandey (Name NOT Changed) is a local media dabang in the Faizabad district. Young journalists, and even fresh political entrants, touch his feet at every press meeting that he chooses to attend. An expert on Brahmin gotras, as he himself belongs to one of the elite Shashilk gotra (one of the 26 direct descendants of Lord Brhama), Pandey is a revered figure among his tribe. However, the journo swears by his secular mindset. "Every festival of Eid, be it bakr-e-Eid (Eid-ul Adha) or Meethi Eid (Eid-ul fitr), I visit my dear friends in the city to enjoy the festivities and dine with them," he tells ET. But! Are there no problems with regards to his strict vegan routine? "I go there with a stone's heart," Pandey responds. "Upon my return, I take out a lukewarm bucket of water and add five table-spoon salt in it. I keep drinking it and keep throwing up till every lace of my gut is cleaned." But why such extreme measure when you eat only vegetarian food? Pandey quenstions back: "Have you seen the utensils that the food is served in? It reeks of meat preparations. No Brahmin worth his salt will eat out of it."  

Below the Belt
Editor and column writer Shekhar Gupta once wrote that if a reporter needs to judge the sociological changes in a region, he must read the graffiti in and around the area. Going by the learned adage, it will appear that Uttar Pradesh heartland is going through a male virility crisis. Large rural swathes of western and cenrtal UP fields are flushed with advertisements of Hakims (from Iqbal, Usmani and Zafar) claiming sure-shot cure for diseases likes swapna dosh, shighra-patan and mardana kamjori (night discharge, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction). Another disease which comes a close second in the graffiti--falling in the same belt though--is that of Bawaseer (piles). When pointed out about it, a travelling colleague's advice was: "Next time, a political opponent of the Samajwadi Party government tells you the state is bleeding, don't ask him to elaborate."

May 25, 2014


(My Observtions During 2014 General Elections)

Raibareily: Most UP denizens across the economic or social (read caste) bearings are given to chewing various brands (or combinations) of pouched tobacco from the local taxi driver adapt at opening his running car door to spit out, to a hotel owner keeping with a bin close to his seat. Although there are ample options for a 'high' here, starting from recognised govt vends for bhang (a form of cannabis), country liquor and Indian made foreign liquor, all these other 'highs' pale before the wooden kiosks strewn across the state with rows of hanging gutkha pouches. A desi liquor vend, named Madhushala (named after famed work of poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan) in Jagdishpur of Raebareli Lok Sabah seat although looked like an apology to the Hindi poet, the vend owner offered some insight against the state excise department. "When you can get a 24-hour high at less than Rs 20 daily by gutaka, why will you spend Rs 100/- for the evening tipple?" he posed. "And to mock us, the state has raised the excise charges by more than 65% as against Delhi. Who is going to set up breweries vends in this state?"

May 24, 2014

POLL DIARIES: Toilets Before Temples

(My Observations During 2014 General Elections)

Ayodhya: A brief visit to the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi site can be a harrowing experience for a city-bred agnostic. The lane to the site is hardly a 200-metre expanse from the narrow road that a taxi can take you down, but the moment one gets down from the vehicle, swarms of touts offering better views and parking slots descend upon oneself. As one manages to dissuade the pesky guides, sweetmeat agents, and others to advance on, one would come across a paid toilet-cum-washroom for the devout visitors. A visit inside can be an olfactory nightmare. The focus of the facility is more on the daan-patra (collection-box) than to flush out its excretionary refuse. A few metres down the path, there is an open (and free) urinal that can teach you a trick or two in breath control (without Baba Ramdev's tips). Next time, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate speaks about "Pahle Shauchalya, fir Devalaya (Toilets first, Temples later)", this reporter swears by his job to cheer for him.

pd: This post sounds the revival of this blog