Category Archives: Politics

Birds

At Auroville, about 3 times a week I’d visit the center of the community – the beautiful golden dome called Matri Mandir. More than the dome, it was the meditation chambers around the dome, or petals as they call it, that i wanted to isolate myself in. They’re a marvel of art and tech. Unfortunately you won’t know anything about it until you actually visit it. I’m glad they keep it that way. I spent anything between 45 minutes to 2 hours in there every few days, and it was always the best start to my days.

My last day there, while I was walking out, I saw this guy talking to my friend Jonas i wanted to say goodbye to. I couldn’t help but ask this new guy his name – Yoann. His warmth i could feel from a few yards out. I told him i was heading for brunch to one of my favourite joints ‘Bread & Chocolate’, and he said he had some work, but he would drop in after.

This lovely girl Lea, who wanted me to teach a yoga lesson to her batch of yoga students from Paris had promised me lunch at B&C before i left Auro. So i get there with Jonas, who i love but he never stops talking. After he’s gone, Lea and i catch up on her India trip. In walks Yoann. He goes to the counter to place his lunch order and sits, politely, at a different table cos Lea is still talking to me. I’ve got this really strong urge to just hug the guy and I don’t even know why. So I ask Lea if it’s ok i invite my new friend to our table, and she’s totally fine with it.

They start chatting, and me, as always – playing the role of listener/observer/whatever while i shove my majestic banana-date-walnut smoothie down my throat, and then order another one. It’s during the course of their conversation that i get to know more about Yoann. He looked Spanish, he knew great French, but he was from Israel.

‘Don’t see too many Israelis hanging out alone.’

‘Me, i’m just traveling with my girlfriend and 2 guitars. In fact till i met my girlfriend, I’ve always traveled alone.’ Totally my kinda guy.

We talked about music, we connected too much over funk. About his time in Australia and the Philippines, where he gave me directions to the most amazing people living on a remote island fishing and farming and playing ukulele. And of course, we spoke about war.

Born in Paris, he spent 20 years there till he felt a strong urge to go to his homeland. And as is routine there, soon as he got to Israel, he was enrolled in the army.

I noticed the tattoo on his arm.

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I have yet to see a more balanced-in-the-head Israeli. If you heard him talk about the war, it was like he spoke about ice cream flavours. Calm, composed, and his contagious straight-from-the-heart smile never left his face.

‘I have friends who are Arab. When i meet them, there is no hostility or danger, i don’t even feel a little bit threatened. We smoke together, we eat together. I know I’m safe with them. Except on the battlefield. Then there’s no identity except for politician or corporation you’re representing. Nobody realizes it’s the same corporations delivering guns to both sides.’

You can’t expect them to have a bus full of school children shot up, and not react. We’re humans, that kind of ugliness has repercussions’, still smiling.

‘So why did you enroll?’, i enquired.

‘I was naive. I thought it was my purpose. I know better now, much better. No regrets though, none at all cos i made some amazing friends in the army.’

‘What’s the song on your tattoo?’

His smile got twice as beautiful, ‘knockin on heaven’s door’.

My heart sank a bit. I was conflicted between what a clichéd song it was and whether it was the Dylan version he liked or the GnR version. Either way, i did not really like that song too much.

Even if it was the first song I ever learnt on the guitar.

‘What’s the birds for?’

‘Oh these are for my two friends. Same team during war. Such good guys, hearts of gold. I remember this bonfire we had once, a few of us around the fire, and these two sang the most amazing version of the knocking on heaven’s door. And we promised that night right next to the fire that after the war, we’d take a looong holiday, go to India, and smoke a BIIIG FAAAT CHILLUM with the babas, the three of us.’

Just for a second, and only for a second, his smile disappeared, when he said ‘they both died two days later.’

It came right back with ‘so i came to India, and i smoked a massive chillum, and i know they know i kept that promise!’

And i hugged him.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were literally inseparable. He bought his guitars and came over to where i lived. I cooked while Maya & Jay from the same guesthouse brought a ukulele and then it never stopped.

Some connections lay perspective to the little issues and worries in our heads that we turn into gigantic blackholes.

Connections are important. Perspective is importanter.

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Trouble in Paradise

I reached Ctrl+Alt+Dance at 3 pm. A potential replacement for the annual ruckus in Goa during the last week of December, they promised gates would open at 3 pm. And my amigo/brother DJ Uri was slotted to play the first set, starting at 3 pm sharp. This was the sight at 3:30 pm.

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That dog was the only other being at the venue. First i thought i’d got there the wrong day. So i looked 4-5 times at the poster mentioning the day-wise line up. Then i looked at the date on my cellphone. It matched. Then i pinched myself to check if i had taken any mind-altering substances in the last 48 hours. None. Event finally started at 5 pm. By around 10 pm, there were about 17 audience members at the venue and 20 DJs. If I was the festival organiser, I’d take something to put me to sleep for 3 days straight, wake up in the new year, and hope all of it was a terrible nightmare. But this is all real. This is happening. And i hope the next two days have a better turnout for these guys.

Elsewhere I passed by Nikhil Chinappa’s WonderWall festival, and it looked the opposite of an Oasis concert. I wonder how Sunburn is doing in Pune. Where will all those rum-guzzling open-top jeep loving Delhiites go?

There’s a deathly silence as I walk past all the anjuna beach shacks. Lights are bright, music is soft. The remaining restaurant staff are glued to the TV, watching some trashy Bollywood movie. Most have been laid off within days of coming here. There’s nobody to serve. I probably passed by some 150 shacks, I saw around 20 people in all, tourists and travellers. Christmas was not merry. Business was not bad, it was terrifying. Most people coming in to work from Nepal, Himachal, Assam… they don’t know how they’ll provide for family next year. Add to that, they have sleepless nights about when they’ll get told to go back home by the shack owners. Most don’t intend on staying open beyond January. Modi’s 50 days is up, their terror is just beginning. Kashmiris outside the little jewellery stores still have a smile on their face while they chirp ‘brother want look inside?’.

No brother, I’m a writer, I’m broker than you are.

Out in Palolem, a tourist with no new notes is thirsty, nobody will take her old 500 notes for a bottle of water. A street urchin hands her a 100 rupee note. She bursts into tears.

A honeymooning couple from the UK come back to their hotel reception, the newlywed bride in tears – cos the beach was deader than a British beach in peak winters.

Parties that used to pack 800-1000 people until last year have around 150 people this year. Mostly fat uncles, that too. DJs be like ‘WTF bro, where are the titties?’. I don’t know, bro.

The uber rich have filled out 20k a night luxury hotels with their platinum cards. The rich are getting richer. A famous furnishing company booked out an entire hotel for labourers. People who generally live on 200 – 300 rupees a day, put up in 25k a night luxury suites. Harsha Bhogle was their host. A R Rahman sang some of his slumdog mill songs for them. 30 ‘lucky winners’ won Suzuki Balenos, 5 won BMW 7 series cars. Of course, everything’s legit, I’m certain.

As of Nov 20th, the death toll thanks to #demonetization was 55. By first week of December, that number was over a 100. Hello Prime Minister, Merry Christmas to you and your band of loyal chimps.

Another company pays 800 employees 3 months’ salary in cash, advance. The state of Kerala have formed a human chain from their southern tip to the north to protest. The stray dogs there are going to be happy for a while.

Foreigners have split, sick of standing in ATM queues for hours every day. The sun outside an ATM is not as pleasant as the sun on the beach. Not even a quarter of shacks in Goa accept cards. Some drunk Aussie get into the ATM and use multiple cards to refill their alcohol budget, while the entire ATM reeks of the 2 bottles of Old Monk he’s already downed. He tells his friends its a great idea. They do the same. Each dude takes 10-15 minutes inside. Goan aunty outside, who just shut her store and needs to get home to cook for the family, is not pleased. Curses start.

A big company dissolved 14 crores worth of black money through their hotel chains. The Ambanis are still offering free unlimited 4G services to their customers, which has now been extended from end December to some time in Feb. Of course, it’s just a coincidence, the timing.

Shack owners are losing patience, staff are losing patience, small hotels and store owners are losing patience, tourists are surely losing patience. Tempers will flare, things will get ugly, hopefully. When the Venezuelan govt announced a similar ban on currency notes, their citizens took to the streets and burned govt property to show their wrath. Us Indians, we took to twitter and got #fightagainstcorruption trending. We’re such a cool nation, aren’t we?

Next time I’m never going to a festival at the ‘gates open’ time.

Oh Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and some #BlackMoney to you too!


Feels… #but

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‘…but i’m bangin her sister now so it’s all good’

 

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‘…but for fucks sake try not to get shot’

 

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‘…only because coca cola had not entered the market yet.’

 

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‘…but not like that 9/11 flying’