Saturday, November 27, 2010

My good self at a Clarion reunion.

Excuse me but I’m a bit allergic when it comes to reunions. I don’t quite fancy gassing about good ol’ times half of which I cannot quite recall with guys I once knew well but have been out of touch with for a long time. I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings when I state this. But then as time goes on, people change. I am not the Deepak I used to be in Clarion-McCann. Anyway, an email invite from Rajan, a follow-up call from Jitu Kothari and a not-so-gentle nudge from Ujwal sent me scurrying to Pritam Restobar in Dadar – a place I don’t much care for – on Saturday, 27 November, a day after the second anniversary of 26/11. It was good to meet the Clarion crowd, though, despite my apprehensions. There was good ol’ ARK Pillay, then accountant now heading several NGOs, reminding me that I was somehow responsible for getting him his first landline connection through my friend Vairale. There was young Bhawsar, then art director now graphic designer/"tutor", gushing about how active he is at his age despite his heart condition and diabetes and how he will be going for the umpteenth time to the US of A next year. There was Jitu who hadn’t lost his talent for keeping in touch with people out of genuine affection and who reminisced about a crisis he faced when the journalists he was herding did not reach a CIDCO inaugural function in time because of a mix-up about the address of the site. There was Robin, then an Account Executive and eternal victim now a happy retiree in Goa, sounding really excited over the cellphone about hearing my voice. There was one gentleman who apparently joined Clarion much after I’d quit and whose name I didn’t quite catch. And, there was ever-smiling Rajan, then AE now heading his own ad agency in Chennai and an acknowledged expert in rural marketing all over India, telling me how much he had enjoyed living his life, handing me a copy of his self-published autobiography and asking for a feedback. Mrs Rajan was there too watching the proceedings with a half smile. A couple of mugs of draught and a vegetarian meal rounded it off. Short, sweet and memorable.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Chicago Manual of Style.

The Windy City and I are not even on nodding terms. My only and somewhat tenuous links to it are the eponymous Oscar winner and The Chicago Manual of Style. I happen to possess the 14th Edition of it in a rather shabbily brought-out Indian reprint by Prentice-Hall of India, New Delhi, in 1996. I managed to get one of the advanced copies through the kindness of my late friend, Shoiab. The reason I’m reminded of it (Can’t say I’ve used my copy very much – I had to really search in my book cabinet to find it!) is because the 16th Edition with “state-of-the-art recommendations on editorial style and publishing practices in the digital age” went on sale in the US end-October. As the very idea of an authoritative and seminal guidebook on style and usage has always fascinated me, I thought that a timeline of how The Chicago Manual of Style evolved was worth looking at.

1891 The University of Chicago Press with own compositing room and experienced typesetters opened for business. A common set of rules for the process of typesetting to ensure consistency in usage and style (a style sheet) was evolved. It later became “the University Press style book and style sheet”.

1906 The 1st Edition of Manual of Style: Being a compilation of the typographical rules in force at the University of Chicago Press (200 pages) was offered for sale for 50 cents plus 6 cents for postage and handling.

1949 The 11th Edition of the Manual went on sale.

1969 150,000 copies of the copiously rearranged, expanded and updated 12th Edition of the Manual were sold matching the combined sales of the all the earlier editions.

1982 With the publication of the 13th Edition of the Manual, the nomenclature was changed to The Chicago Manual of Style as at present. Among the then current issues it addressed were the new US Copyright rules, the emerging typesetting technology and the PC and word processor.

1993 The 936-page 14th Edition dealt more systematically with the style, usage and technology issues concerning the wide spread use of PCs. Sales soared to 500,000 copies; cumulative sales to over one million copies. (I own a copy of this Edition.)

2006 The Chicago Manual of Style Online debuted attracting more than 200,000 recurring visitors by 2010.

2010 The latest Edition appeared in October simultaneously in print as well as web formats.

Monday, November 15, 2010

History of India after 1947. Redux.

There’s much chest-beating and heart-burning every time Arundhati Roy’s recently expressed view that Kashmir was never a part of India is discussed. If you were to realistically and unemotionally look at the geopolitical status of pre-Independence India, it was as follows. The British Raj consisted of British India directly governed by the Governor General – and, later, Viceroy − of India for the Emperor of India and close to 590 Native Princely States under suzerainty of the British Crown, supervised by Residents. There were also Portuguese India comprising Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Pondicherry (now Puducherry), Karikal and Yanaon making up French India. India was pretty much balkanized as of then as it used to be before the East India Company took over the governance. Come to think of it, even with the so-called Mughal Emperor in Delhi or prior to that reign, balkanization was the rule rather than the exception. The Undivided (except for Pakistan) Independent India was an idea of those to whom the absconding British transferred power in unconscionable haste in 1947. These latter worthies with eminently Middle Indian values, sensibilities and concerns used the stick and the carrot route to fashion a federation out of it. Along with the transfer of power, the departing Imperialists also left behind with their successors their arrogantly domineering Imperialist attitude and style of governance. The inheritors promptly picked up where the British Raj had left off. For their own first colonial conquest, they chose the native aborigines and tribals and the rural masses to play the role of the victim. Arundhati Roy summed it all brilliantly in her The Greater Common Good. "The Indian State is not a State that has failed. It is a State that has succeeded impressively in what it set out to do. It has been ruthlessly efficient in the way it has appropriated India's resources – its land, its water, its forests, its fish, its meat, its eggs, its air – and redistributed it [sic?] to a favoured few (in return, no doubt, for a few favours). It is superbly accomplished in the art of protecting its cadres of paid-up elite, consummate in its methods of pulverising those who inconvenience its intentions." And: "India lives in her villages, we're told, in every other sanctimonious public speech. That's bullshit. … India doesn't live in her villages. India dies in her villages. India gets kicked around in her villages. India lives in her cities. India's villages live only to serve her cities. Her villagers are her citizens' vassals and for that reason must be controlled and kept alive, but only just." (pp.14-15, IBD, 1999) There have apparently been 60 million oustees ever since 1947 as a result of these river dam projects. Numerous atrocities have been and are being perpetrated by forestry department’s official, police personnel and contractors on tribals with impunity. The first one of them was at Pararia in West Bengal in 1991 where the guilty went scot-free. In the second instance, a few years later in Sagbara District in Gujarat, the two policemen who raped Guntaben, a young tribal, were imprisoned for ten years thanks to the intervention of Amnesty International on her behalf. The other instance happened in Nandurbar, Narmada Valley, where the tribals were displaced four times, literally hounded by the officials all the time. The motive for the horrendous treatment is to demoralize the hapless victims who have nobody to turn to, nobody to fight on their behalf. (The Dalit at least have a champion in the shape of a political party to take up their cause.) In the very first major river valley project, Hirakud in Orissa, the oustees living on open land were relentlessly harassed by the forestry personnel. The story repeats itself in Singrauli, also in Madhya Pradesh, where the tribal oustees were displaced at least three times in three decades. Felix Padel, the co-author of Out of This Earth (Orient BlackSwan, 2010) and the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin, hazards a guesstimate of displaced persons in India since Independence at 60 million and in Orissa alone by the Aluminum Cartel at 3 million. Given the scenario of virtual genocide of the tribals and the continuing armed occupation of Kashmir, why should the Maoist upsurge and the Kashmiri call for azaadi outrage us?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Would Ripley believe it? Or, not?

There is a self-confessed manic depressive living in Colorado, US of A. His name is Philip R Greaves II. His claim to fame is The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover's Code of Conduct. This self-published work became available for download as an eBook last week at $4.79 a pop in the Kindle store and immediately whipped up a storm. It attracted 100s of angry reviews, calls for boycott of the website unless it stopped selling it − and just one sale according to the author. Although has refused to comply on the grounds of its opposition to censorship, freedom of expression (First Amendment?) and the customer’s right to choose her/his own reading material (they say they won’t sell porn, though; apparently, they don’t think this book belongs to that dung heap), the download link does not seem operational right now. The 404 Error message reads: “Looking for something? We're sorry. The Web address you entered is not a functioning page on our site” and redirects you to the Home Page. Would Ripley believe it? Or, not? Believe it or not, Mr Ripley, in early October, the United States Justice Foundation had faulted for "contributing to the potential rape and molestation of children" by offering for sale Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers by David L. Riegel and threatened it with protracted litigation if the book was not removed within 30 days. The link is still operational at the time of writing. There is even a “Look Inside” option there.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Next of kings.

I’m at my wit’s end. To get to the bottom of my puzzlement, you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the list (please see below) at the bottom of the recent email I received from “Coca-Cola Company”. It informed me that my email address had won £500,000.00 in the “just concluded annual final draws held on the (21st September, 2010) by Coca-Cola in conjunction with the British American Tobacco Worldwide Promotion”. To claim the prize, I had to send them the following details:

“1. Full Name:
2. Country:
3. Contact Address:
4. Telephone or Mobile:
5. Marital Status:
6. Occupation:
7. Ticket Number:
8. Sex:
9. Email:
10. Age
11. Ballot Number:
12. Next of kings:”

Could it be a case akin to a serial murderer leaving clues so that the investigators can catch him? I rest my case, members of the jury.

Monday, November 01, 2010

“Let my people go.” Fate of Kashmir.

I’m no Old Testament fan. Leonard Cohen, Woody Allen, The Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, MC Escher, George Gershwin, Dorothy Parker, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and the clueless Rabbis in the hilarious Rabbi jokes are some of the Jewish folk I admire. So, why am I quoting from Exodus 7:26 wherein God orders Moses to tell Pharaoh to “let my people go”? Syed Ali Shah Geelani as Moses, the Indian State with its occupation forces in Kashmir as the Pharaoh and India’s multiple vicissitudes in the valley as the ten plagues let loose on Egypt by God somehow seem to be the perfect metaphors for the current scenario. You cannot keep an entire tribe captive against its wishes indefinitely. The Pharaoh learned it the hard way. So has the Indian State. It has tried the carrot (Special Status within the Indian Union) and stick (armed occupation) approach. Now it’s probably the time to follow in the Pharaoh’s wise footsteps and bid adios to the crisis. Give the Kashmir Valley the “azadi” it is clamouring for with a clearly agreed proviso that once it leaves the Indian Union, both of them shall have nothing whatsoever to do with each other: no military and financial aid, for instance. A clean break is most likely the best solution.