Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to endorse Islamophobia in one easy speech (and in one easy news report)



Eminent (street-cred yo’) British (Empire Strikes Back!) Indian (coz brown skin is the new cool, yea) author (Booker of Bookers, and dontcha fuggedaboutit) Salman Rushdie has attacked the “mangled” (brutal, animalistic, grrrrr) language of religion which is turning British Muslims (but remember, there ain’t no such thing as Iranian Muslims or Iraqi Muslims or Syrian Muslims, okay?) towards extremism.

“The language of religion has been horribly mangled in our time, by Christian extremists in America and by Hindu extremists in India but the overwhelming weight of the problem lies in the world of Islam, and much of it has its roots in the ideological language of blood and war emanating from the Salafist movement within Islam, globally backed by Saudi Arabia,” the Booker Prize winner said while accepting the PEN/Pinter prize this week.

(Christians have extremists. Hindus have extremists, Islam – no extremists, JUST TOTALLY EXTREME. Blood, war, Salafi, arrrrr. I mean this quote is so awe-inspiring, I’m gonna just let it sit there in its entirety without comment. Except: Awards, awards, GIMMEMOAR.)

Mumbai-born (Nothing says street cred like being born in Mumbai yo’) Rushdie said he fears that the language of “jihadi-cool” (coz he was a brown Muslim once okay? So he was born knowing what “jihadi-cool” is) is seducing (ooh Islam as a seductress, nothing orientalist there, noooo) young British Muslims (HEY they’re young and British, so being Muslim is okay, okay?), many via Twitter and YouTube, into joining the “decapitating barbarianism” of IS (Always knew Twitter was from Satan. I mean T follows S for A REASON, dontcha see?)

Rushdie defined “jihadi-cool” as “the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism (yeah, “E Pluribus Unum” and “NaMo NaMo”, ain’t medieval fanaticism, whatiswrongwithyou), backed up by modern weaponry”, saying, “It’s hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric (only the Muslim kind loljustchill), pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics (OMG BROWN THIRD WORLD PEEPS) into the ears of angry young men (OMG WHITE FIRST WORLD PEEPS), has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today”.

The New York-based writer (more street-cred yay) was the subject of a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 (25 years!!! Silver anniversary yo’) for his novel the Satanic Verses and had to spend years in hiding (in First World five-star hotels with top-notch security man, whatcha think, he be like Osama in the caves, lol?) 

In his lecture at the event, he added, “What is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture (imported and Made in USA fuckyeah). To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events” (Oh dear, I’m so averse to beheadings, such nasty business that makes me want to stop drinking my Earl Grey with my pinky up these days dah-ling). 

“If I don’t like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don’t like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side,” he said. (No he’s right, the only ideas ring-fenced are those that can claim to have drones on their side)

On a more serious note, most of the appalling ways in which brown Middle Eastern Muslims can be made into a monstrous Other are catalogued so beautifully here, it is hard not to be impressed. Especially when voiced by a Mumbai-born, Muslim-bred, New York-residing British citizen and fatwa victim with Bookers and a PEN award credentialing him.

And just for the record, fatwas are bad, violence is bad, ISIS is bad. But white imperialist language and institutions, also BAD.

NOTE: All of the above comments in parantheses in green are mine, while the rest quote the Outlook article.

Ambedkar and the savarna classroom



IN10_AMBEDKAR_22583e.jpg (318×451)

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

[Note: This post is a result of several discussions with friends and acquaintances on the recent publication of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s ‘Annhiliation of Caste’, by the publisher Navayana, with an introduction titled ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ by Arundhati Roy. Since then, based on the criticism of Brahminical hegemony it has evoked from Dalit sources, several academics, journalists and commentators have criticized the objections as being ‘essentialist’ and ‘reductive’. Read Dalit Camera’s ‘Open Letter to Arundhati Roy’ and ‘Arundhati Roy replies to Dalit Camera’, for some context, and below those posts on Round Table India, do read every single post by critics contributing to the debate around the introduction and what it represents.

This post is my own attempt to sort through the issues with my experience in academia, and to explain why I agree with those in Roundtable India on the appropriation of Ambedkar’s work and legacy.]

… I cursed another good hot curse.
The university buildings shuddered and sank waist-deep.
All at once, scholars began doing research
into what makes people angry.

– Keshav Meshram, ‘One day I cursed that mother-fucker God’, (trans. by Jayant Karve, Eleanor Zelliot with Pam Espeland)

Read the rest of this entry

On subversion and masala Bollywood (Part 1) — the case for ‘Shanghai’


I don’t get cinema. I don’t say this as some sort of grand  sweeping statement, but as a disclaimer. Though I should actually say, “I don’t always get cinema”, because I think the times are a-changing. My film education has been almost entirely Indian cinema, and mostly Hindi films (thanks to meri Ma, appropriately), but even so, I find it very hard to articulate a theory of Bollywood aesthetics. There was a time when I lived abroad that I used to explain Bollywood to my firangi friends as entertainment, not art, and ‘art cinema’ in India as being very different. But over the last few years, I have started seeing film, and even music as a text of sorts with its own narrative, character and textual aesthetic. To put it simply, I have realised that ‘literary’ can extend beyond just text. And films with their visual narrative open up wide levels of understanding about literariness and what makes for art (not exactly an original Eureka moment, is it? 🙂 ).

But I think what’s also come out of it, is that I’ve stopped seeing this divide between high-art and low-art, a Bollywood vs ‘art cinema’ polarity in films, and that has been a sensational epiphany. It feels like I can come out of my closet and express some Bollywood-love and defend it without sounding anti-intellectual.

And I think this perspective is strengthened when you read Rasa theory and realise that aesthetics in India used to specifically involve depicting the eight/nine rasas (emotional states) and evoking emotions from the audience. Performance arts like classical dance still utilise rasas heavily through practiced expressions and movement. But in film, and through some other traditions of Urdu theatre, the framing of sequences and shots, the narrative structure and dialogue also thoroughly imbibed elements of the rasas. Actors in Indian cinema are not expected to be ‘method’ actors who live and breathe their roles to become the character, but are instead mainly expected to portray emotions in a way that resonate with the audience. In that sense, in Indian films, the power lies with the audience — in whether the audience was able to empathise with the character’s emotions, and not in whether the character was believably portrayed. That is at the core of the realist aesthetics of Indian cinema, in my opinion, and where it differs wildly from the Western aesthetic.  For instance, if you were to  look at the rasa of ‘shoka’ (grief/sorrow), where Hollywood may choose to show sorrow through a character’s body language and behaviour in a natural set of circumstances (the classic show-don’t-tell), Indian cinema usually depends heavily on facial expressions and stylised body language – think Nargis in Mother India, the classic pose of carrying the plough, the head tilt and the expression on her face. Mother India (1957) in many ways represents a very classical Indian style of filmmaking, one that influenced Hindi cinema for generations, and that still exists in much of regional cinema.

However, modern cinema has changed that aesthetic significantly. Western elements have invariably seeped in, and there is now an interesting aesthetic shift that commingles disparate aspects of both. I think Shanghai and Gangs of Wasseypur are mature realisations of this aesthetic shift and offer a very interesting mix of both styles, using a very specific technique in storytelling – subversion. I’ll come to this a little later.

A second disclaimer: this is not going to be a review. In fact, it’s going to be a review of reviews that these films have received, in particular Shanghai, which seems to be facing the brunt of claims of misrepresentation, unrealistic characters and stereotyping.  So if you haven’t watched  these films, then be warned, most of what I’m going to discuss involves spoilers, big spoilers and endings and climaxes and whatnot, so this post is best read after having watched the films and read the reviews.

Read the rest of this entry



I started a new job last week in a suburb called Nunawading and came across this little piece of Nunawading that elicited both promise and despair —  McLeods Books.

I stepped out of the railway station, and this little gem stared at me from across Station Street, beckoning like a houri to the afterlife (non-conglomerated bookstores tend to affect me that way).

The display window should have given me a hint, but I thought the owner may just be creativity impaired.(If you’re any kind of bibliophile like I am, the following images can be very disturbing.)



No premonition from that whatsoever, but I walked in. Assailed by the scent of old paper and ink, I was speechless from the sight.




There was no order, no rhyme or reason to how the books had been shelved. Dostoevsky sat next to Nora Roberts. Historical tomes were piled next to a shelf of erotica. Books tumbled like the Tower of Babel felled by a mysterious wind.

And then the clincher — an old man, ancient as the Diamond Sutra, and no doubt the owner of the shop, sitting on a creaking chair at a creepy nook amidst this sea of books doing what? No prizes for guessing — WATCHING AFTERNOON TELEVISION. 😐

Oh, I could have cried then.

Instead I disappear to some other obscure cranny to click these pictures.

On my way out, I notice a sign by the door stating “We are not buying any more books unless a sale of $10 or more”. There’s a good sales tactic.

I wondered if I could ask him to hire me to revamp McLeods. I’d take crappy pay and overtime work hours for that job any day.