Kalmadi’s Chronic-ills (Chapter 1 – How to Plead Memory Loss and Get Away With It)

Suresh Kalmadi’s lawyer is busy working on his defence. In fact, I have a feeling that he was at it even prior to the Commonwealth Games, what with all the allegations flying around so hard and fast and the government having to parry them. And then the games opened, and Kalmadi put his foot in it, or did he… by referring to Camilla as Princess Diana.

Come on now Mr. K. You couldn’t have been serious. I mean, that didn’t even qualify as a faux pas. It would be more in the realm of a colossal blunder… and that’s assuming it was an honest mistake. But then again, that’s what we lawyers term as ‘laying the groundwork’.

That politicians tend to suffer from memory lapses isn’t something new. But now the DIG of Tihar Jail says that Suresh Kalmadi has been diagnosed with dementia. All too convenient isn’t it, and rather well-timed. Two months out in the boondocks and a person can survive, imagine that they’re on safari maybe. But a month more and reality begins to hit home, especially since they’re without all their creature comforts, no iPad, not even a laptop and they can’t even use the cell phone to call in for some take out, without having to treat the whole barrack.

I suppose life in jail is hard for those living off ill-gotten wealth. Why, even a desi don like Pappu Yadav wants his air conditioning. And Pappu’s an old-fashioned, straightforward sort of man right from the heartland of Bihar, with old school values and from a time when chest pains and obesity related ailments were enough to get a guy an air-conditioned suite at AIIMS. But time isn’t being kind to Pappu who’s back in Beur, in the mother country, with the jail doctor refusing to give him a fake medical certificate even under threat of death, and to compound his woes, the authorities go and install cell-phone jammers.

Can’t a guy do an honest day’s work anymore?

He misses Tihar and Delhi and Sheila aunty.

But now even Tihar is playing tough, and post Manu Sharma’s jaunt to the pub, even Sheila’s been lying low, playing by the rule book, which recently tweaked its medical policy.

The deal is now pretty simple if you’re a big gun in the hallowed precincts of Tihar.

  1. Clutch your heart and they’ll give you an antacid.
  2. Faint and they may just take you to the spanking new in-house facility.
  3. Collapse and you’d better be having a heart attack, because that’s what it’s going to take you to find your way to one of those air-conditioned suites at DDU or LNJP or AIIMS.

Speaking of spanking new in-house facilities, you’d think these guys would be grateful, being spared the muggy ride out. I simply cannot understand the resistance… Perhaps there’s something about hospitals that I’m unaware of?

… And don’t tell me it’s the custard?

Whatever it is – the fact is that chest pains aren’t doing it anymore. And what was once Pappu Yadav’s heartburn has been forced to take the uncharted road towards Suresh Kalmadi’s dementia.

But I’m seriously impressed. What better way to get out of jail, and feign complete ignorance about all your transgressions, than by picking a condition that has so many facets to it, it’s still an enigma to many. And that it is in a relatively nascent stage of awareness in India is just peachy.

What really jars in my mind however is the DIG, Tihar, R.N. Sharma’s sudden justification that Kalmadi’s family had mentioned that he was suffering from dementia in the medical history submitted to the jail.

When was this medical history submitted Mr. Sharma… before or after the dementia declaration?

Meanwhile, what has emerged from the entire CWG fiasco however is that Suresh Kalmadi is and continues to be a real piece of work. But there’s a part of me that would still like to believe that he’s not the low life people say he is, as much as I’d like to believe the Sports Minister, Ajay Maken’s statement that Kalmadi can’t escape the law even if he has dementia. Well Mr. Maken… I don’t think you know too much about the law or is it more a case of throwing scraps to keep the hounds at bay. Something, anything to throw them off the scent?

Whatever it is… and more importantly, in deference to the growing number of people who are actually afflicted with this condition, I’d like to believe that Suresh Kalmadi is actually suffering from dementia. Just as much as I would like to believe that pigs can fly and that Idi Amin was a victim of prejudice when the Nobel Committee overlooked him for the Peace Prize for his role in Entebbe.

Do You Have a Dog, Sanjay Manjrekar?

It rained this morning. Not much… just a wee bit. But after a couple of days of fairly heavy showers, traffic snarls, and delayed trains, I was glad. My mum had her cataract operation scheduled for around 10 am, and I was in a rush to make it in time to take her to the clinic.

My drive took me past the SNDT signal at Juhu.

Early morning traffic can be beastly in Mumbai, more so when it rains. And on a Tuesday, it’s usually hellish. Even a drizzle is often enough to throw things out of gear, and of course our roads are a (bleeping) mess. Bitch and moan all you want to your corporator at the LACC (Local Area Citizens Committee) Meeting, if he/she is nice enough to attend, and they’ll give you the standard, much rehearsed promissory answer that they’ll “look into it”. But then the monsoon comes and goes, and after you’ve spent a bundle on your car or on your clothes, depending on whether you drive or take an autorickshaw, you get the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation aka the BMC’s usual response – that they simply weren’t prepared for this monsoon… which makes me want to revisit my old geography books, though I distinctly remember learning that the monsoon was and still is a yearly phenomenon in Mumbai, except occasionally, when it fails, and then the municipal corporation imposes those water cuts and jacks up the water bill.  But even then, even when we’ve had one of those bad monsoon seasons, it still rains, even if it’s the odd drizzle or the occasional shower once every 10 days… if my memory serves me right. I can’t recall a year of… well… nothing.

“So what’s up with the promises?” I ask my corporator, when I meet him post monsoon, and he ignores me amidst the myriad voices that crop up, yelling out their grouses and turns to some ‘Sandra from Bandra’, who he knows voted for him since she was in his campaign party and asks her if the drainage system down her road, which he did have cleaned, works fine, and she gives him a smile that would make Jesus blush.

So yeah I’m on the pot-holed road, in my car, and I reach the SNDT signal and the first thing that strikes me apart from that lovely picture of Radhe Gurumaa in all her come hither splendour, is a large hoarding from some Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) lackeys wishing a certain ‘Asif Bhamla’ a very happy birthday. You can’t miss it… it’s huge, and it’s all there.

Happy Birthday to you...

And then just below it, a much smaller one, with the same greeting, to the same birthday boy, from another set of admirers, of obviously more humble resources, and from perhaps way down the pecking order.

So I whip out my phone and take a photograph as I wait patiently at the signal, and then I spot another banner across the road, but no… not directly opposite, because that spot’s taken by Mr. Nitesh Rane and his Swabhiman Sanghtana… so this one had to move a few paces down.

Now isn’t that nice? I think to myself, so much brotherly love and camaraderie and space sharing. After all it is everyone’s road isn’t it? Around Andheri – Lokhandwala all you get to see is hoardings from and of some guy called Baldev Khosa… oh … and his son too… at least on a couple of occasions.

And I go back fondly in time, to the relatively recent past, to February of this year, and to the Mumbai Mirror’s “No Chamchagiri On Our Walls Please” initiative, and to Sanjay Manjrekar and his maali, and to Mr. R. R. Patil, Maharashtra’s Home Minister, who incidentally belongs to the NCP and to his assurances that he would request his party workers and leaders to exercise restraint while putting up hoardings. And the fact that for a short while after that I didn’t have to crane my neck to peer through the banners to get a glimpse of the few trees that happened to still be there, along the side of the road as I drove by every day.

And I wonder…

“Do you have a dog, Sanjay Manjrekar?”

“Does he have a birthday coming up sometime soon?”

If ‘Azad’ means Liberty… then what happened to you Ghulam Nabi?

I thought the word ‘azad’ meant liberty… freedom. But a certain politician of the same name has recently come forth or rather retreated a million steps with his display of utter backwardness. I think a name change is in order.

What’s Kashmiri for pea-brained?

I’d like to know what you were thinking when you made that speech Ghulam Nabi, that too at a convention on HIV/Aids. Or perhaps as your party will be quick to point out, you were misquoted and meant that men should not have sex with women, after all what better way to curb instances of STDs than practicing complete abstinence. I’m with you on that one. Besides you’ve said that this ‘disease’ has come to India from developed countries, and while I know people like you would like us to be perennially under-developed, you’ve probably been bunking history class. No wait… someone tore down the library, burnt all the books and defaced all the statues, lopping off penises and breasts at will. After all we are Indian. We only rape our women and men behind closed doors.

So barely a day after the second anniversary of the Delhi High Court judgement that sought to decriminalize homosexuality by reading down that archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, our politicians do it again. After all don’t our governments have a penchant for miscasting their lead players?  I mean we have Manmohan Singh as P.M. on a string… I could go on but I like old Manmohan and besides I like to hear him speak. His soft, lilting voice can lull you into a deep slumber. Power nap just got a whole new meaning.

Anyway I doubt we can really blame the government, after all it’s a tough choice to make, choosing between aging sycophants and young thugs… oops… I meant turks, intent on their Swiss bankrolls. Besides we can’t always get lucky and get an Anbumani Ramadoss, who in 2008 as Union Health Minister went on record at the International Aids Conference in Mexico City, when he said; “Section 377 of IPC, which criminalizes men who have sex with men, must go”. But then that was an anomaly, a time when we actually got it right, appointing someone qualified for the job. A doctor as health minister… surely that was a first. It’s kinda like Sharad Pawar leading the BCCI and now the ICC. But then it’s so easy to forget that cricket is actually a game.

So it was strange for me to see the papers this morning, just a couple of days after I had written an article on Section 377, primarily to make the gay community – many of whom think that the section has been scrapped – wake up and smell their banana flavoured condoms. Guys it’s still on the statute books, nothing’s changed, so stop clamouring for marital rights along the lines of New York and put away those boas and silver hot pants. This is India… and it’s time to stock up on those ‘Get out of Jail Free’ cards.

The Picture of Simi Garewal

“If this girl can give a soul to those who have lived without one, if she can create the sense of beauty in people whose lives have been sordid and ugly, if she can strip them of their selfishness and lend them tears for sorrows that are not their own, she is worthy of all your adoration, worthy of the adoration of the world.”

Wrote that great master of wit and scourge of the witless, the incomparable Oscar Wilde, in his only novel…

So I turned on the TV the other day and a familiar face came into view. A woman whose acting skills were as much in doubt as the proverbial casting couch which spawned many of her generations brightest stars. So forty odd years down the line from her last known role in Karz, the lady has evolved. Still dressed in widows or virginal white, depending on her mood of the moment, linked inextricably with the lives of countless stars, colleagues who outshone her in her day, many of whom are now jaded or glitter with occasional spurts of brilliance as all dying stars do, before they get sucked into the ignominy of black holes, she now stands brighter than them all, refusing to bow out.

So she holds them up to the light, for those flickering minutes, kind and gentle, graceful even. I should speak kindly of her therefore, of her grace and her poise and her gentle prodding and extrication of facts and fiction, and of her voice, soft, bordering on the sensual, none of the grating raspiness of tone like Barbara Walters, flattering, prodding, coaxing her guests to reveal all what Devyani Chaubal had already and rather ungraciously pried out and splattered over tabloid pages decades ago.

I remember a particular episode a few years ago, one of those where she’d interviewed that fedoraesque superstar of yesteryear about the men in her life. Draped in a Kanjeevaram, tastefully bejewelled, the fedoraesque star spoke about the men in her life, from the superstar who had used and dumped her cruelly, and whom she still loved, to her relationship with her famous father, and the long conversations they’d had. Oh… wait a minute… conversations they’d had when he was… well… dead. It seemed manic. She seemed manic. But with her voice soft and gentle, the lady in white clucked like a mother hen guiding her brood across a crowded street, matching that of the superstar, extricating all that she could, matching her, intonation for intonation, while the star drawled on, her eyes distant, spaced-out, as though… and the camera pounced, lingering over those moments.

And then after five arduously long seasons of rendezvous’, or were there more… for it seemed to go on and on, with reruns and more reruns, we thought we’d seen the end of her and moved on to other things.

But now she’s back, with a new crop of young desirables, her trademark white now tinged with the hue of the evening, a subtle splash of fawn or mellow grey, hinging on silver. Her hair neatly in place, every strand accounted for, generously doused with enough hairspray to make the fire department send her a safety notice. In her late sixties nudging seventy, she looks the same as she did three decades ago, as she parries with those young enough to be her grandchildren… looking impeccable, youthful, as though she’s drunk of the fountain of eternal youth and will never change.

While in some dark attic somewhere lies a picture… shrouded.

Spring-cleaning the Self and Shelves

I’m off to meditate.

Ten days of peace and harmony being put through one of those old clothes-wringers. The manually operated ones that have to be stopped every now and then, just to rest the tired arms of the operator, before he or she starts again, slowly turning those handles while the cogs creak and the clothes squeak. It’s sadistic.

So you get a couple of moments where the cool air courses through every fibre, and then it starts again, that slow wringing out. I’d much prefer the dry cycle on my washing machine, no human intervention apart from flipping on a switch and turning a couple of knobs. Sure, it pauses, but just to cool off, but when it goes… it goes and then everything is wrung through. Dry as the Sahara in summer.

Speaking of the weather I’m glad the rains are here. But it also means I’ll have to dust down the book shelves and turn out my cupboards, putting in little dehumidifiers just so that the mould stays away. Which makes me wonder how much I’ve collected since I last sat down to meditate. And I’m not talking about those daily sittings, the fifteen minutes or half hour breaks in between the insanity of a Mumbai day. It’s those 10 or 30 days of silence, of observation, of introspective emptiness and realising rather sagely how much refuse one has accumulated and the passage one has to take, the rocky road one has to travel towards getting rid of it.

But its not all bad. There are incredible moments as well. Moments of understanding and of revelation… of everything arising to pass away. The good and the bad, the nice and the not so…

Anicca.

I used to be a regular at meditation centres… the quintessential dhamma bum. It’s a rite of passage. You’re born. You go to school. Then get a job. Work sixteen hour days. Make money. Party hard. Quit that job. Shave your head, grab your bowl and sit in contemplative silence. It’s enlightening. I’ve done that.

But its been five years since I last took time out to meditate and in the interim, I’ve changed, collecting so much mould and lichen, I need airing, a firm brushing… a sloughing off.

And my washing machine is on the blink.

Angela’s Ashes and Ear-less Bunnies

There’s a cute little ear-less bunny somewhere in Fukushima.

Damn those nuclear power plants and the Curie’s, Bohr’s and Rutherford’s of this world, the whole bleeding lot. If it wasn’t for science, we’d have no progress and no nuclear fission and we’d have bunnies with ears.

Okay, so I’m a pacifist and there’s nothing wrong with that. No! Not one of those bleeding heart sorts you’d want to throttle on sight, just the no first strike sort. No shoulder rubbing with the Mohandas Gandhi’s and Mandela’s of the world. I’m not proffering any cheeks.

Now Germany’s decided to nuke its nukes, and no one really cares. In fact I believe the guys at Greenpeace are planning a protest. They just can’t seem to accept the fact that they’ll have to knock Berlin out of their date-books. Life’s a bitch called Angela I heard one of them whisper, stretching his legs and folding up his tent outside Jaitpura, as he marked a huge red cross over Germany.

Yeah… life sucks!

By the way, I’m thinking of taking a trip to Japan. I like the Japanese, besides I haven’t been there and I believe the air is good. Okay I’m not really being honest here because I don’t know any Japanese people to like them, but I contribute quite significantly to their GDP, so I wonder if that gives me de facto status of any sort. I also like the fact that they’re such a stoic lot, controlled, tightly wound up. So when the tsunami struck I was surprised to see them thrown, but they recovered soon enough and in a couple of seconds, almost as soon as the waters receded. And the world watched in admiration as they stood in serpentine queues, calmly reading their newspapers as the hours ticked by… only to be told that the store had run out of whatever it was they were in that queue for. Then they’d move to another store, and another long line and patient wait… only to hear the same thing at times. No pushing, no shoving. I suppose that’s an attribute reserved for this part of the world.

They didn’t even flinch when those nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daichi blew, one after another, and the authorities lied through their teeth, downplaying the incident for the world, and it made me wonder if it’s because they’re no strangers to nuclear disaster. But this time the ghost of mushroom clouds past decided to stay away, WWII was bad enough, and once is certainly enough, even if ‘Tora Tora’ or ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ had you believing that they were the bad guys. It was a war for crying out loud, and there are always sides, it depends on which side you’re on… and then there’s Switzerland. But the world has changed a bit, and bad seems to have gone Middle Eastern… and there’s still Switzerland, only its neutrality isn’t the only thing in focus. So in fact nothing really changes. It just shifts around on its axis.

Axis… Well.

So Nuclear technology is seemingly the life-force that vitalizes the planet… too many Hollywood films about the sun dying on us, we’ve got to have alternatives. But there’s always the risk of something going wrong… we’re human and extremely fallible and God just likes to mess with us. In reality we ought to backtrack but we don’t, spreading the accessibility to and dependence on nuclear power as a cheaper and more viable energy source, when what we really should be doing is relegating it to the back burner, to be shelved. And then there’s nuclear warfare and arsenal that everyone wants to stockpile on, and no one wants to give up. The United States would do well to lead by example, but the progeny of Little Boy and his cousin Fat Man just won’t go. They’ve dug their heels right into that hard sand of the Nevada desert.

A friend in Japan tells me that the air around the Fukushima reactor gets a regular infusion of radiation from the broken down plant, and the winds carry that toxic air far. She and her neighbours shut their windows and doors, but she’s not moving anywhere even though she can. And she isn’t even Japanese. I guess resilience is contagious.

So this is the third major nuclear disaster, on land, after Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, and though there were no direct deaths reported from the first and the situation brought under control, it exposed the dangers of radiation, with several reported cases of cancers being attributed to it and then brushed aside. And then there was Chernobyl in the erstwhile USSR, where the number of casualties depends on whether you’d like to believe the official or unofficial count, and I’ll leave the report on the effects of radiation from that one to the experts.

But India’s a hard nut… we’re a tough lot… from combating incursions from outside, to throwing microphones and knocking each other out cold in Parliament, we’ve seen it all… and survived. Then the UPA government led by that tough bird Sonia and her man in waiting were desperate to show their stripes and decided to go forth and ink a 123 Agreement with the United States. No! That’s not an arms deal… Those generally tend to bypass us, heading straight to Pakistan, unless we’re having a good day.

The 123 is one of those treaties where the US flexes its nuclear clout and dictates who can play in that exclusive ‘no dogs and wogs’ club. And suddenly the door opens a chink, and we rush in euphoric, ceding supervision over our civilian nuclear facilities to the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency), which the Reds weren’t having and hammer and sickled their way out of the government. But the UPA stood, buoyed up by other bed-friends, while their detractors bitched and moaned and screamed the ‘C’ word. Get your heads outta the gutter people… I’m talking about corruption here. So we did good and one good turn naturally deserved another, so the IAEA gave us the nod and Uncle Sam… or was it George, asked the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) to waive us in… right through those plutonium gates.

Ho Hum and Bah Humbug!

Hey! don’t go off into flights of fancy. It’s purely for civilian purposes.

So we finally get endowed with that dubious distinction of being the only known country not to have signed the NPT to trade in nuclear tech…Great. Pats on the back and pass the laddoos please. Pappu pass ho gaya! And I’m wondering if the US has suddenly gone all loving on us or is it a question of economics, you know the kind of largesse that’s typical of Uncle Sam, who wants his share of the billions that India’s nuclear power plants are expected to generate. Nothing comes for free. Or am I just sceptical?

But time flies and we’re in 2011 and the earth rumbles and tectonic plates shift somewhere under the sea off the coast of Japan sending gigantic walls of water inland, and the nuclear conscience of the world hits the panic button. Meanwhile Angela Merkel looks at those terrifying images and shudders and turns off seven N-power stations. Seven with one stroke, just like that boy in the fairy-tale. Wear that on your belt! And everyone’s stunned at her sudden U-turn, when just last year, she and her coalition buddies were quite emphatic about keeping them all, including the ageing, run-down ones, up and running until 2035.

So what gives?

I guess it was the bunny.

Chalo… Chale… Jail Bharein!

I last visited Arthur Road jail in 2009. Shantaram had stayed there once, a guest of the Mumbai police, but there weren’t any stickers proclaiming the news, the kind you see on autorickshaws nowadays, promoting B grade films. But Ajmal Kasab’s still there, that boyish maniacal killer, who even the pacifists among us want to see hanging from the end of a very short rope. So security was naturally tight, but it still wasn’t the fortress it has become today. And Swati Sathe was in charge. A formidable woman, she wasn’t in uniform that day. Dressed in a salwar kurta you still wouldn’t mess with her. Her detractors can forever hold their peace and their RTI forms, but I liked the woman. She came across as matter of fact, didn’t gloss over anything, and though she parried our queries like a seasoned campaigner, she was friendly. I guess when you’re not in attack mode there’s no reason for her to go there either.

The inner courtyard area just outside the kitchen was full of under-trials waiting for us… legal aid clinic, that’s what they were told it was. A few of them had no clue what it meant and most of them didn’t know that they had the right to a lawyer. A few looked dazed, wondering what they were doing there and a couple of them cried for home, which brings into focus the old debate, apropos the Miranda, which I think is necessary to implement in a country like India, with its large swathes of illiterate populace, who routinely get hauled up on frivolous and often trumped up charges, and they often just blab out their innocence or guilt, mostly guilt, anything to get away from that stinging arm of the truncheon wielding law. So we need the Miranda, and the netas can call it what they will… Godbole or Godse, or name it after Rajiv Gandhi for crying out loud. There’s nothing left in a name nowadays anyway.

We interviewed a few of the men, most of them there on petty charges, nothing glamorous, though they wouldn’t let us near Emile Jerome, housed in a separate barrack at the time, with Abu Salem and the newly incarcerated Saji Mohan… they have paid counsel, seemingly some of the best. So we got the so called riff-raff, some of them with that air of… ‘Yeah, so what, I’ve been here before and I know your kind’, the lumpen elements, who viewed us with suspicion and amusement. But most of them were first timers. “Watch-out and be careful”, Swati Sathe said, as we deposited our bags and her men let us in through the inner gate and to that unfortunate bunch, some young enough to be called boys. The charges against most of them weren’t even framed, though their little name tags carried the sections under which they were arrested, some appeared to be trumped up charges, or so it seemed from their account of the events, and they appeared to be a largely naïve lot, most of them, and not hardened enough to be putting it on. Among them a young boy from Pune, a student, who had defaulted on his rent. He spoke English, the only one from that lot, dressed in jeans and a T shirt, he wore slippers that were a couple of sizes too big. The police had hauled him off barefoot. He had fallen foul of his father, he told us, but was now desperate to get in touch with him, this errant child with his scraggly beard. Only this time his dad had had enough, and wouldn’t bail him out. So there he was, in Arthur Road… growing up, waiting out his appointment before the judge.

And then there was a young boy from West Bengal, working in an embroidery unit, picked up on chain snatching charges… the chain was found he says, in the woman’s purse, right before his eyes, but the police were suppressing the truth. Though that’s not always true, it is at times, with quotas to be filled and packed jails to stuff, more often than not the police round up helpless innocents because they haven’t a clue, and someone has to be caught after all. It’s about the numbers.

So now there’s a call from a certain segment of the population to jail bharo, and I wonder… Where? Arthur Road presents a far prettier picture than many of the jails in India. I dread to think what a jail in the M.P. heartland or one in Bihar looks like. In our overcrowded jails, where there are often 400-600 packed into those holding cells meant for a hundred. Where they are compelled to sleep sitting, or pushed tight against each other with no room to breathe, and where tuberculosis or HIV are what you get as parting gifts when you leave.

Enthusiasm is great and I’m all for it, well fed and on my Japanese therapeutic mattress. So how about a debate, or perhaps an argument, even a holler, a zillion signatures campaign, a morcha, a few candle-lit vigils where we’ll wear white or black and get our colours mixed up. And then file a couple of RTI applications and even a few frivolous PILs if we can round up the money for the fine. But jail! A cell filled to capacity with a hole in the ground for a potty. That’s a different deal entirely. It isn’t romantic, and you could get your hair ripped out of your scalp by someone who doesn’t like your nose or suddenly has an urge to do you in.

Jails in India are grossly overcrowded, and the jail manual needs to be updated, to present a more realistic picture. Seriously updated, not just moving around a few commas here and there. Besides, those jail manuals need to be out in the public domain, for all to have access to and not just for internal circulation. But then our bureaucrats love taking those trips to Utopia… so they dream on, envisioning jails with large yards like those in ‘Prison Break’, and so while the jail may actually have capacity for 500, they are stuffed with thousands, and jail wardens like Swati Sathe lift their hands up in desperation, “we have no choice, we just get the numbers thrown at us” she said, bemoaning the fact that they had no option and not enough space in which to house them.

Jail reforms almost seem oxymoronic, the two seemingly at cross purposes, but necessarily bed fellows. So there weren’t any worms in the flour for the rotis that day as we peered into it, and the rice looked decent enough, bubbling away in huge pot, with that Maharashtrian staple, usal, cooking in another, I tasted some of it. Not bad I thought… Ehhh… pass the salt shaker please. But then again I don’t eat it every day. Besides I wondered if that was the regular fare, or if what they got every day was a more watered down version with wormy rice slopped in measured quantity onto a thali…

“Please sir, can I have some more?”

Chalo… Chale… Jail Bharein!

(Come… Come on…  Let’s fill our jails!)