Monday, 22 October 2012


Dukh bhare din beete re bhaiya Ab Kejriwal aayo re!

Rang politics Mein Naya Laayo Re

hoy Hoy Dukh Bhare Din Beete Re Bhaiyaa, Beete Re Bhaiyaa

Dekh re paapi Kejriwal ka khulasa 440 volt ka current layo re

O dekh le paapi dekh le paapi

Chhup le Vadra DLF ki kholi mein, Khulason ki rut chhai re

O 440 volt jhatke ka yug chhayo re

Dukh bhare din beete re bhaiyaa, beete re bhaiyaa

Madhur – madhur mango-man gaaye apne bhi din aaye

O madhur geet mango-man gaye

Ho electric khulason se jeevan puran

O madhur geet mango-man gaye re

Aaj to bhaiyaa enjoy kar le ek naya khulasa har ek pal

Paagal, kal na jaane, mango man ko shayaad hosh aa jaye re

Hoy hoy dukh bhare din beete re bhaiyaa, beete re bhaiyaa!

Friday, 19 October 2012


‘THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH’ for Indians in Sydney

20 years back, in the  pre-reform days, Indians would walk into Heathrow, JFK, Sydney airport unsure of themselves, heads bent, afraid that they would hear the ubiquitous catcall ‘Paki’ from somewhere behind them. But today tides of skilled Indians are changing the social and economic landscape in many of these countries breaching borders and showcasing to the world ‘how the west can be won.’  Let me give you snapshots of some of these success stories I saw for myself in Sydney.

Let’s start the fact telling from literally the home of my dear friend Anup, working in Sydney, who hosted our entire stay in Sydney. Anup is at least ten years younger than me. He passed out from Delhi College of Engineering and then did his MBA from FMS, Delhi. He had made a name for himself as a marketing whiz kid in companies like Whirpool in India. He later joined Yum! and after a couple of years they posted him to Sydney. Anup is from a new generation - free from the baggage of the past. He and his wife Surubhi made a conscious decision to stay away from traditional Indian quarters in Sydney and opted for an all-white neighbourhood in Manly, an upmarket suburb of Sydney. When he moved in Manly, his immediate neighbour thought that he must be an ‘IT’ guy. After all aren’t all Indians supposed to be brilliant in maths and tech? Anup’s neighbour was surprised when Anup told him that he would be in charge of all marketing operations for Yum! in Australia. The point Anup was making was not lost on the Aussie. This new breed of Indians refuses to be tied down to ‘traditional roles’ that were once assigned to them. Anup is now literally teaching the Aussies how to sell pizza in their own country!

And why confine the new role of Indians just to work? Anup, every Sunday morning, goes ‘kayaking’ in the choppy waters off the Manly Beach. And one would have thought he would be following cricket in that country!

And then my wife and I met Warrier who could easily be one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Sydney. 25 years back the boy from Kerala immigrated to Australia and started work as a help in a Sydney restaurant. Today Warrier owns Majestic cruise liners that sail in and around Sydney harbour offering adult and cruising entertainment (see pictures). Warrier still retains his ties to Kochi – his hometown but he is always on the lookout for an opportunity where he can move in without fear or prejudice to set up new business.

And then there is Ron (Ranjyoti Barooah) and his wife, Seema, settled well in Sydney. Ron is my wife’s batchmate from the Tata Administrative Service (TAS). Ron was part of  senior management in Tata tea and fairly well known for his football commentaries on Star Sports.  His wife Seema was HR head for Nokia in India. And then one fine day, ten years back, they decided to put it all behind them and migrate to Australia. Ron and Seema are among the new breed on Indians who are willing to take risks with career choices because they are so confident of their abilities to strike out in new lands and unknown cultures.

I saw the same kind of spirit in Sunny. Sunny is the brother of my school batch mate Anil Kumar, a Commodore in the Indian navy. Sunny and his amiable Banker wife, Jo, are thoroughly enjoying the Aussie experience. They invited us to a pre Diwali festive gathering (celebrations there have already started!) of more than a hundred Indians in Sydney. Okay so some of the Indians there did seem to be stuck in some kind of a time warp wearing nineties-style Indian fashion clothing, but just about everyone in that laughing, drinking, belly-dancing watching, merry making gathering has made it big in Aussie land.

So how do the Indians do it? What is their magic mantra that works for them in foreign lands? The average Aussie, or for that matter the Westerner, would rather not work beyond 5.00 pm in the evening and weekends are sacred for them. But the Indian is industrious and willing to put in long hours, not afraid to take risks, and does not rest till he has brought in his entire family from India.

Someone rightly said that even in India we tend to move in certain parts of the city and have friends, relatives in say not more than ten to twelve families. Well the Indians in Sydney have transplanted such little India’s’ for themselves in Sydney without any apologies!

Tailpiece: An example of the Aussie way of working:  At 4.00 pm on a Friday Evening the RJ on the radio was reminding her listeners, every ten minutes, that “Folks, Weekend is an hour away ! “  Wow …… can we imagine that in India?

Thursday, 18 October 2012



No, I did not meet that creature during my recent Sydney vacation but the above mentioned title is the name of a hit reality show recently aired in Australia which caused quite a stir. So why should it concern you and me? Let me tell you why.

Some time back many Indians had been subjected to racial taunts and attacks in Australia, especially in the city of Melbourne. The Indian media had gone to war over these attacks as if Australia had become the new South Africa of the early sixties and seventies. A chance came my way to find out the truth in these allegations. Close friends of ours Anup and Surubhi had invited us to spend a couple of weeks with them in Sydney. I must confess that there was some bit of anxiety in my mind as my wife and I boarded the massive AB 380 Dreamliner Boeing jet bound from Singapore to Sydney. The last thing one would want would be to face racial abuse in an alien land and that also on holiday. I sank deep in the business class comfort of the new jet but my anxiety surfaced again as the plane landed and docked to its berth and my wife and I walked into Sydney airport. A friendly Indian face greeted us as we walked through the tube in the airport. And then from the airport itself and during our entire stay every third or fourth face I saw in the city was an Indian or a Chinese.

The racial mix hit me almost like a cultural shock because one had heard that till the late seventies, Australia had whites - only policy and immigration into Australia was frowned upon. Our host drove us through the city and I braced myself for the racial sledging behind the ‘How are you mate’ friendly greeting. Arnab Goswami and a host of other television channels had prepared us for that possibility. We reached our hosts upscale home in a largely white neighbourhood at Manly without an incident. The next few days rolled past as we hit the beaches, enjoyed the ozone depleted sun with skin creams, the sheer beauty of the Pacific rim, the malls and the cosmopolitan buzz of Darling harbour in Sydney. But the racial incident that was supposed to be waiting just round the corner never happened. And then it hit me. The Aussies are perhaps one of the easiest going people, a completely friendly lot and perhaps also a people who are misunderstood in many parts of the world, especially ours. That is not to say that there has been no racial tension in Australia. The racial riots that took place in Cronulla some years back dented Australia’s image. And there is some truth in the incidents of harassment that many Indians faced in Melbourne.

But then back home are we a society of seamless, communally happy people vested with moral authority to speak against societies and countries and condemn them at the slightest pretext? The truth is that countries like Australia like many in the developed world are fast becoming multi racial societies with incredible sensitivity to individual and community rights. The entire world is in the throes of incredible sociological change but we continue to lionise people who have been complicit in communal riots that killed thousands from a particular community.

The makers of the hit reality show ‘Dumb, Drunk and racist’ went into every aspect and detail of the racist incidents in Melbourne. They employed the unusual device of asking a group of three Indians to go back to the scene of the ‘crime’, to confront those who had tormented them in the past. What does this kind of a show achieve? It tells us that as a society they have nothing to fear but fear itself and that the wounds of the past are best cleansed by confronting the past and moving ahead course corrected in the present. Now can you imagine anyone in India doing a show where the victims of the Gujarat riots confront their oppressors?

Tailpiece: At a theatre show in a community college my wife and I and our hosts were the only Indians in an all white audience. During half time the lady behind the counter serving tea and coffee asked us whether we were visitors.
“Yes,” I said. “Our hosts live in Manly but we are from Bombay,” I replied.
“Oh you mean Mumbai!” smiled the old lady.

Monday, 15 October 2012


Hey Fruit! (Scientific name Prickly-Kejriwal)

Get a life, climb a tree or get lost from where you came from. Four weeks back when I left the country you were plastered on my TV screen waving arms, screeching revolution. Back from my travels you are still stuck on my screen like a squashed bug.

Get a life man… chase a girl, settle in a job or better still….. dab some after shave because you smell rank corruption and decay. We are also fruits of a garden growing the way we want, some turning to weed…. but not to worry…. because the gardener comes in every day and he is quite capable of uprooting those who have gone to weed, if not seed. But you are a mutated fruit born of frustration and ambition that had devolved further into a pesticide or pest that has taken on the self-appointed task of uprooting the weed.

We are fruits that have ripened and perished in this garden for centuries and we know, from experience, that you will remove the top soil, inject your deadly poison deep in the ground so that the earth will turn barren and, forget a fruit, not even a blade of grass would grow in the ground anymore.

We know your ambition to turn our garden into an alien Tahrir square, to import a deadly seed that will destroy the fertility of our home grown garden. We see the danger and we cry for help but, alas, the gardener has gone to sleep and left the garden unattended.

But an unknown force girdles and protects our garden and the fresh earth from decay. This same force earlier swept away the deadly ill winds of ‘total revolution’ and ‘garibi hatao’ because it sensed that behind the socialist spray, lay quiet and still the deadly serpent, looking for a new home, a new garden for his stay.

Mutated fruit born of artifice…. you will have your day, ripen beyond belief like an ill wind holding sway. But the fruit will burst, the wind die down and it would end abruptly, one day very soon, the same way it had sprung up and begun to blow in without warning or even a moment’s delay.


What did Shobhaa De, Mani Shankar, Suneet Aiyar, Prem Shankar Jha, Navtej Sarna, Rahul Bose, Deepti Naval, Bhaichand Patel, Salima Hashmi ( daughter of the celebrated poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz) and, yes, even yours truly had in common three nights in a row….. deep in the Kasauli hills? We took a bow to the master of irreverence - Khuswant Singh -  and spoke on and explored the themes of fractures and healing between communities, the emergence of a new kind of Sikh identity, the efforts to keep the hills alive, the shadow of terrorism plaguing relations between India and Pakistan and last but not the least….. all these heavy lidded themes laced with the joi-de-vivre remembrances of sex, scotch and the KS malice columns that kicked in a new kind of journalism and writing.
So was it all talk and no malice, maybe some stray gossip or the whiff of a scandal lurking around the presentation halls and rooms of the Kasauli club where most of the talking, drinking and if I may say the bitching took place? Of course not!  Shobhaa De fired the first shot when she gave us a tantalizing peek of her novel, ‘Sethji’ that would be released next month. I already had an idea what Shobhaa would speak about because at a lunch meet earlier she and I had compared notes over the publisher we both have in common, Penguin, and its editor in chief Chiki Sarkar who has taken the publishing world by storm.
“Juggi,” Shobhaa told me ‘both Chiki and I are alpha females and she is as kicked about Sethji as I am.” ‘Sethji’ is a take-off on an actual, real life fringe politician who is a sleaze ball and a sex maniac rolled in one. She gave dark hints but no confirmation about the identity of that politician, but then one has to read between the lines and if memory serves me right the name Sitaram Kesari had cropped up in her discourse!
So next month be prepared to sip a ‘Sethji’ drink at Barista  - that’s right that’s the new marketing gimmick Shobha would be using to promote her book!
Mani Shankar Aiyar was at his provocative best when he raided his favourite, right wing opposition party – you know the one I mean. But the real surprise was his absolutely elegant and charming wife who has written a scholarly work on Guru Gobind Singh. I never knew till the festival commenced that Suneet Aiyar was a Sikh lady! Absolutely bowled over by her gracious presence!
Mani was not the only one to stir a controversy when he raised the issue how Pakistan is completely misunderstood here in India. Senior diplomat Navtej Sarna seemed at odds with Suneet Aiyar over the vexatious issue of the Sikh identity. Suneet argued that the Sikh identity was changing, amorphous and certainly dynamic but Sarna appeared a hardliner when he responded that the external emblems and identity of the Sikh faith should not be tampered with.
Who says that arthouse stars don’t have the same nakhras as the regular stars? Rahul Bose looked pretty vexed that more people were not making a beeline for him for his autograph. Deepti Naval was caught looking over her shoulder that someone would recognize her from her early glory days.
As for me and my wife Sonu it was a great time because – just to pat myself on the back, my presentation was extremely well received and stirred some passion. We caught up with our dear friends Kim Lalli and Shveta – both high-flying corporate Lawyers from London, and often in the afternoons we would be having our own private parties!
But the festival would not have been the success it was if it wasn’t for the enormous effort put by Niloufer and her team and the absolute graciousness of Rahul Singh – Khuswant Singh’s son. Truly both Sonu and I are blessed to have Rahul and Niloufer as our friends! Let’s hope that the intimacy of the KS literary festival stays intact and it does not become a mela like the Jaipur festival plagued by socialites, wannabes and all those who pose for their mugshots for the camera!