Suffer little children to come unto me…

I am sure that if Jesus was the man the Good Book says he was, he would not just be distressed, he would be outraged. After all it was a relatively small incident, trading in the temple, turning his ‘father’s house’ into a marketplace, that caused him to fly into the only Biblically documented instance of his extreme rage. What would he do then to the many who have over the years abused and misused the power that they claim to possess in his name.

I saw a film a couple of years ago which filled me with anger. Titled ‘Deliver us from Evil‘ the film made by Amy Berg chronicled the deviant life of a self-confessed paedophile Oliver O’Grady, an Irish Roman Catholic priest who admitted to raping and abusing as many as 25 children during his tenure in Northern California, one of his victims a mere infant. What was disturbing even though O’Grady mouthed words of repentance for his acts was the matter of fact attitude with which he looked into the camera and spoke, his expression as hollow as his words, at times a smirk creasing the corners of his mouth. Perhaps I imagined it… but I wouldn’t be surprised if others who have seen the documentary observed the same. I believe it was there, his smirk, his face smug in the belief that having served just seven years in prison for destroying the lives of 25 known victims, he was out and free, living a life paid for by the Vatican, bought by the crushed spirits of his victims and others like them in countries around the globe. It seemed as though in reliving his crimes for the camera he felt a sense of elation, recollecting the power he once exercised over the powerless. His victims, afraid, not just of the horrors they knew awaited them when they were with him, since many of them were abused and raped repeatedly, but helpless, knowing that no one, not even their own would probably believe them.

I was angry for a while at Amy Berg for allowing him those moments of glory, giving him the floor to gloat, to talk about the letters he sent his victims many years later asking them to come and meet him, which they refused to do. But I also realised that it was her initiative in making this film that exposed another paedophile to the world and to me, who had never heard of Oliver O’Grady up until that day. I called my sister who lives in the U.S. and told her to watch the film… I don’t know if she did. I must confess that I cried at various points during the film. I even contemplated turning my back on the church, but then as I always have in life, I chose to take what was good out of my religion and leave aside that which is unwholesome.

My church is Christ after all, not his priests…

O’Grady took refuge in the confessional, claiming that his superiors were aware and did nothing, neither restraining him, or sending him for therapy, nor reporting what ended up being a series of heinous offences to the police. What they did instead was shield him and suppress all evidence of his crimes. It was the persistence of his victims that finally saw him face some form of punishment, not for the offence of rape or sodomy but for performing ‘lewd and lascivious acts’ on two minors, brothers, for which he received a 14 year sentence, serving just 7 before he was deported to Ireland. Since then O’Grady has roamed free, apparently travelling to the Netherlands where he worked in various parishes under an alias, mostly around young children.

The film also focused on the deeper cover up by the church, with O’Grady’s Bishop at the time, Roger Mahoney, playing ringmaster. In fact the film alleges that Mahoney’s attorneys cut a deal for O’Grady’s silence regarding Mahoney’s knowledge of his crimes, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money to be paid to O’Grady when he turned 65 years (i.e. in 2011).

In 2010 O’Grady was once again in focus when he was arrested in Dublin, Ireland, for possession of child pornography. Some of the photos and videos depicting children as young as 2 years of age.

In fact Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) himself came under scrutiny and criticism  for suppressing  instances of child abuse and transferring priests accused of such offences to other parishes where they continued to abuse helpless victims, a claim many of Ratzinger’s supports refute citing the case of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado who Ratzinger actively pursued against the wishes of Pope John Paul II under whose patronage Maciel thrived. It was only after the last pontiff’s death that Ratzinger in his role as Pope Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to a ‘reserved life of prayer and penitence’… an extremely light sentence by any measure considering that Maciel was then 85 years old and died less than two years later, having fathered six children, some of whom he allegedly also abused.

And now on the heels of so much that’s been a blot on the holy name of Christ, we hear of Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York recanting an apology he made in 2002 to victims of clergy related sexual abuse, stating that he never should have apologised in the first place as he did not think that anything wrong had occurred in Bridgeport Connecticut or New York during his tenure there as Cardinal. His statement to a Connecticut based e-zine, while reopening the wounds of many victims of sexual abuse by members of the Roman Catholic Clergy, many unacknowledged and suffering in silence for decades, has also once again brought to the fore the fact that the church even while attempting to sound repentant at times does not really see itself as responsible for shielding criminals. It’s flippancy and irreverence for the harm caused to thousands of victims, most of them children seems out of consonance with the stated teachings of Christ.

What I’d like to know is where on earth, heaven or hell do they get off?

3 pm at the Promenade

I haven’t ranted in so long my ranty shoes are pinching. I wonder if I need a new pair, or if perhaps a little wearing in will get them all supple once again.

Which reminds me that I need to exercise, so I went for a walk the other day. To be honest, it was more of a car ride, then a lunch halt at Saayba in Bandra, which still makes the most mouthwatering spicy seafood dishes this side of the suburbs. Though I wish they’d de-veined their tiger prawns in the special that I ordered. But my normally queasy constitution held up just fine. It probably was the Sol Kadi that did it… Oh and btw as far as Sol Kadis go, my vote would go to Central Lunch Home in Colaba. Their stuff’s real potent, and bloody delicious too. If you haven’t heard of Central, just take a trip down Colaba Causeway towards Sassoon Dock and ask for Saurabh hotel. That’s the Udipi place Gregory David Roberts aka Shantaram, Mumbai unofficial socialite tour-guide took Madonna, for dosas, and a whiff of the Sassoon dock. So go there and ask for Central, you’d probably get a cold stare, but you’ll find Central and the Sol Kadi. Believe me, it’s worth it.

So car ride, leisurely lunch (surprisingly light) and back into the car for a ride down to Carter Road, in the afternoon sun, which thankfully decided to play a bit of a hide n seek game with some clouds.

I decided to can the walk and just sit by the sea and watch the waves.

Dude… Where’s my wave?

But low tide can be such a kill-joy. So I stared at the rocks and the herons, and at fishermen mending their nets in the hazy distance, and at a group of crows pecking on… watermelon! Who knew? And at a young couple grabbing some alone time far out where the rocks were worn out enough to provide an unjagged seat.

The birds and the bees

At least someone was glad for the low tide that day.

And then as I perched on the ledge and dangled my feet off the edge I saw it.

Where have all the flowers gone...

Now, I’ve always said that we’re a hypocritical  and shallow lot. We preach and don’t practice. We want to end corruption and will rant and rave against the system, but we’re willing to offer a bribe if it means moving to the front of the line. Time is money, a friend who runs a business told me once, a month after she vociferously yelled her lungs out against corruption at a rally. We can’t help it, it’s ingrained in our systems. We’re perfect people in an imperfect world.

What’s wrong with sex determination and female foeticide, after all don’t we just love women. We even worship them, our plethora of female deities, lavishing their cold, lifeless but gaudily bedecked images with jewellery and expensive silk. Then we go home and probably slap our wives in the face because they don’t make the dal like our mother’s did.

Not forgetting our obsession with beauty, and the yardstick by which we judge it. All clamouring for white skin on Asian bodies, we even slap so much paint on our Gods, we forget their divinity as we dance around them to raucous Hindi film music. And then we rant about being colonised by the British, slamming everything we oppose as a western import, while still being slaves to the west, clamouring for American degrees, even if it’s from some back alley college without certification. And calling each other bros! Oh come on now, what on earth happened to the good old bhaiyya or bhai (brother). But bro it is, picked up by all and sundry.

Why even the girls use it… Pick up the code book while you’re at it chicas.

So no wonder Ganesh lies amidst the rocks, discarded and unclaimed. Feted while he was beautiful, and immersed into the sea amidst much pomp and revelry. Only to be thrown back by the relentless waters, stripped of his veneer, where he lies unnoticed and unclaimed, his hand still raised in blessing on an indifferent people.

God... But only with your paint on!


(Re-blogged from:  The Cook, The Baker and The Clay Boy Maker)

So the Christmas week finally draws to an end and the lights on the tree shine brighter as they get ready to bid an adieu to a year that’s gone by.

And 2011 proved to be quite a year – one that saw the end of tyranny in certain parts of the world and yet a continuation in so many others. Places where the superpowers of the world didn’t think it worth their while to intervene simply because it didn’t make logistical (read – monetary) sense. Human life is after all quite dispensable.

And then in my own country India, poverty continues unabated in some quarters, largely unseen and unreported, while political games continue to be played on issues like reservation based on caste, class and religion, while the large numbers who need to avail of benefits continue to live lives mired in abject poverty… or die trying to get themselves out of debt. Where political parties trade insults about corruption, and yet don’t deem it fit to clean up their own houses. Where crimes against women and children continue unabated while our lawmakers look on in apathy, feigning ignorance, some of them active participants in such offences.

And yet in keeping with the high traditions of the hypocrisy rampant in our society, we refrain from educating our children about their bodies, terming it unacceptable. Ironic isn’t it that sex education is taboo, but rape often results in some of the lower courts letting rapist off if they marry their victims.

All this while we worship a plethora of female goddesses and yet have an abysmal gender ratio of Male to Female births.

So as this year draws to an end I thank God and the angels and saints and the powers that be, for being there for me in myriad forms. For holding my hand through the toughest times, for protecting me and holding me in the comfort of a faith that has remained unshakeable through immense challenges. And I would like to say that, “I continue to trust in your direction for me, and I place myself in your loving care this year as always. And while it may not always seem that life is kind or rewarding, I know that in the greater context of things I am richer for all of these experiences”.

To my family and to the good friends who’ve stood by me, steadfast and patient, as I have ranted and raved on about things relevant and irrelevant, and I know I have, I must say – “Thank You! You know that I love you and that I’ve got your backs too,”

To all those who’ve stayed on the fringes of my world, taking the form of casual friends, acquaintances, colleagues or just people I’ve had the opportunity to encounter through social networking, or through the pages of this blog. “Here’s wishing you all that’s good, with the hope that life shall continue to enrich us as we go along, whether we encounter or continue to encounter each other in some way or in any way at all.”

So to everyone out there, here’s to 2012, and to peace, love, joy, good health, common sense, generosity, good conscience, tolerance and most importantly in a world that views most things in terms of monetary value, here’s to good jobs, money and a mortgage free life.

And in tribute to the immortal Robert Burns…

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne…

Chasing Durga

It’s Dusshera today… Vijayadashami, a festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and… a woman among other things.

And ironically in India despite the plethora of goddesses that we worship and honour – our women are not accorded the status that’s rightfully theirs under the law. I won’t say a right that’s theirs by birth since often even getting there is a challenge in itself.

Yet we claim to be an evolved society, with a history that goes back many thousands of years – and through it all we’ve learned in part to idolize certain women as deities – real and mythical, placing them in spots from which they dare not step down even if they desired. And then we also treat our women – wives and daughters, and everyone else’s sisters in particular with contempt – as though their taking birth is in itself an offence which we’re compelled to tolerate.

Makes you step back a second and think… doesn’t it?

If the Shoe Fits

How much does it cost to air- express a pair of shoes?

Mayawati’s perplexed at the unnecessary attention being given to her footwear. And they aren’t even Blahniks for crying out loud. Talking about Maya’s shoes, the poor woman was hauled over coals earlier this year when some lackey in her security detail wiped the dust of a pair of them.

What’s the big deal? Haven’t you people heard of chivalry or is that a concept alien in our part of the world? Walter Raleigh… Queen E the First ? Jogs the little grey cells eh?

And now there’s more on her footwear… come on give the woman some leg room. With the number of times she ends up sticking her well shod foot in it… its no wonder she keeps running out of them.

Cats–o’–Nine Tails–n–Nine Lives

(This was supposed to be a tribute to that doughty dame Sheila D, but then Anna stole her thunder.)

Anna Hazare’s at it again – cracking his whip and Sheila Dixit has nine lives.

I can’t help but mention them in the same breathe given the penchant that they have for courting trouble.

But the thing that draws me to them is that they’re both on mercy missions. While one is out to save the country from the corrupt Congress led UPA, let alone the fact that a lot of those who’ve jumped on his bandwagon aren’t exactly painted white… The other lets a podgy faced murderer out on parole… because Tihar doesn’t stock his brand of Scotch?

Talk of magnanimity.

Speaking of which, I’m compelled to take another look at these two beacons… One, whose claim to fame has been linked on and off to several politicians of varying political affiliations, including a certain heavyweight of the Maratha clan. And the other, equally diminutive in size and as hard-nosed as they come, who readily courts controversies like they’re best friends, and then wipes her slate clean… Poof!

I recall her saying that girls in Delhi should stay home if they don’t want to be attacked!

Never a thought about tightening security or making the police force accountable, huh… Sheila?

But Sheila’s got enough on her plate, and apart from fending off insulting references to her name from a land far away, she had work to do, like playing proud hostess to the CWG in 2010. Now, you can’t really grudge her for wanting to be house-proud, can you? So what if she over-stretched her budget a bit and some of her decisions came under the scanner. It was all in a day’s work, until that Puneri loud-mouth messed things up and turned the spotlight on everyone, forcing that gentle and honest Manmohan to institute a Committee to probe into all those allegations of corruption against his buddies.

So in the name of transparency, the Shunglu Committee socks one to Sheila… But the old girl sticks on, her posse, honest Manmohan included, firmly behind her. As one of her party-men later said, at least she was smart enough not to leave a paper trail. Which takes me back to the time when I was little and when even kindergarten kids knew that leaving a trail meant that you could find your way back home… as could everyone else who followed it.

So while Kalmadi sits in Tihar, pouring over ‘The Dummies Guide to Alibi’s’, rolling out the red carpet for our anti-corruption crusader who happened to drop by, and making plans to sign up for a lesson or two from that great man himself, Sheila stays, firmly entrenched to hoist another tricolor, on another Independence Day.

Does the woman have luck on her side or is it the company she keeps?

They say politicians have tough hides… if you haven’t got one when you’re elected, pick one up on the way out of your first session of parliament. But even that luck runs a bit thin at times and you’re compelled to call in for reinforcements, the kind that scratches your back if you scratch theirs. The kind that helps you out of sticky situations, like the time when the Auditor General of India went on record stating that the dear lady was involved in bungling crores of rupees in power privatization (apparently close to twelve thousand five hundred crore… no small amount that) and the Public Accounts Committee of the Delhi Legislative Assembly proposed a CBI inquiry into the allegation, which died a very quiet death even after being approved by the Assembly. Or the time when as the Chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board, she was held guilty of corruption by the Loyayukta, in the awarding of contracts, with a recommendation that the PMO take action…

We’re still waiting Mr. Prime Minister.

But talking of Lokayukta’s and corruption and the penchant that our politicians have for wiggling out of sticky situations I wonder if Anna Hazare is wasting his time and ours. After all the man does claim to be the voice of civil society, ergo, my representative, so I have a right to question, criticize and appreciate, in equal measure or as I will. So… while I’m glad Anna’s doing his bit to stir up the unconscious masses, shaking them out of their apathy and giving them a purpose, I would like to state that it would have been better for him to have pursued his agenda in a more legitimate way, by following the law, ensuring that we work within the legal framework, instead of exhorting the masses to break the law, and sanctioning what can be termed as sedition by some of his coterie.

How about following due process, or as we Indians prefer to call it – ‘Procedure established by law’ – the law to which we are subject, or haven’t you heard of it Mr. Hazare?

Which prompts me to inquire whether Anna Hazare is the sole repository of all that is moral or is his brand of tough-speak tinged with autocracy that pillories and stifles all those who oppose his methods? Is there space in his politics and I term it such deliberately, for those who have a contrary view?

I am no admirer of the UPA government, and have strongly voiced my opinion against them repeatedly, but they are at the end of the day a democratically elected government, one that has remained in power through successive elections… and can very well fall out of power in the next. But there is a process, a mechanism by which governments come into existence, and fall out of favour. It would take the loss of support in Parliament, perhaps some cash-for-votes orchestrated by some of your new found allies Mr. Hazare, and an unwanted and very expensive mid-term election to give the people a fresh opportunity to choose the next government – unless you Mr. Hazare and your band of merry men and women plan to come forth as dictators to the teeming masses.

Maybe that’s what people want.

Someone informed me today that the autorickshaw-wallah’s in Delhi have joined the anti-corruption crusade. This barely a day after one of them insisted I pay him fifty rupees when my fare came to thirty, all because there weren’t too many autos on the street on August 15th. Which makes me wonder if people really know what they’re fighting for, or is it the mob syndrome, like what happened in London recently. One person picks up a stone, soon its five, then ten, and finally the whole street… and we descend into anarchy.

The newspapers the other day carried an article about Mayawati crying about her inability to proceed with various development projects in the State of U.P. because the Centre has not released its promised funds to her cash-strapped state. So, what about the new bungalow you’re constructing Maya, because the old one was ‘unlucky’, or would you like to talk about the colossal waste of funds on all those statues and monuments of self-glorification… Oh, wait a minute I forget you have a word for that kind of ostentatious spend. It’s called ‘gifts’.

Mr. Hazare it seems does prefer to take sides, keeping his guns trained on the office of the Prime Minister and the higher judiciary, targeting the UPA while he side-steps all that’s going on around the country, even the Karnataka sham, which makes me question his political intentions, and marvel at the audacity with which he stays steadfast on course, while the mob he has whipped up into a frenzy hysterically follows, insulated by numbers, threatening to crush the voices of dissent that rise up against them.

As for Sheila, all she can do is count her many lives and hope that she hasn’t run out of them.

A Coloured Opinion

Danny Boyle showed Mumbai’s dirty underside to the world in Slumdog Millionaire, right down to its unwashed undies, and we didn’t like it. I recall Amitabh Bachchan raising hell and bitching out Boyle. Weren’t you the man who routinely played the poor guy who got slapped around by the system and bashed till you had watered down crimson paint streaming down in rivulets from various orifices in your body? The one who said that the poor were treated like the scum of the earth and had to stand up in rebellion… You said it and we loved you for it. But that was okay, we’re Indian and only we have the right to parody our own or tell it like it is… No white man’s supposed to do that. And making money out of displaying our poop and dirt is simply adding insult to injury. Getting the Oscar for it is akin to stabbing us right in the gut.

I was upset with Bachchan for bad-mouthing Boyle. I live in Mumbai and know it to be a merciless city for some. That beggars are maimed here, and in other parts of the country deliberately to increase their earning capacity is nothing new. A news channel had conducted a sting a few years ago, and a couple of doctors who performed these amputations on perfectly healthy men were caught and hopefully charged. But the world is a hypocritical one, and even though Chris Rock has free rein to splatter the side-walk with the N word, my five-year old nephew in America has to learn to be politically correct and not call people thin or fat.

“Excuse me, how much horizontally challenging content is in this milk… 1 per cent or two?”

I dread the day but it isn’t far off.

So now Freida Pinto goes and shows us for the bloody hypocrites that we are. She’s spot on… and even though the poor girl doesn’t have the required acting chops and probably never will, she does look amazing, beautiful, brown-skinned and saying it as it is… That people in India are fascinated by white skin.

It’s true… We gape at it when it alights from a flight at the international airport, we paw at it, molesting it at every opportunity we get, and no matter how dark brown we may be, we want to produce children that are fair-skinned, or acquire fair-skinned brides for our coffee bean coloured sons… God save the girl if she happens to produce a dark-skinned daughter.

Yes… we’re brown skinned and we hate it.

Much of our advertising budgets are spent on feeding into the psyche of the Indian man and woman, into that dark skin phobia. It’s nothing new, and everyone wants to make a buck. After all… a soap is a soap… is a soap… unless it can make you whiter.

My mother fair and light-eyed, recalls the visitors who came home or to the hospital or see us when we were born, my siblings and I. The old aunts and relatives who came to have a look, and would surreptitiously move the fabric that bound us, just to make sure that our hands and feet were as fair as our faces. What on earth did they think… that my mother had spent the entire morning applying foundation on our faces? But then the penny dropped… my dad is darker skinned, so they were curious that we seemed fairer.

So Freida gets a thumbs-up from me, and though after reading the reviews I refused to see ‘Miral’, I am actually contemplating buying tickets to go see ‘The Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. (I only hope she doesn’t have a big role.)