Wednesday, September 30, 2009 Goa

When Venu proposed this idea of ‘unwinding’ I didn’t know that it would goad me into a Goa-bound train just 45 minutes later. That’s exactly what happened. After a quick last minute read I filed the interview copy, lied to my marketing colleagues with whom I were supposed to go for a Sunday outing and hurriedly backpacked.

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The people along the Western cost, be it Keralites, Mangaloreans, Goans or Konkanees should thank Western Ghat and Arabean Sea. The sea sends water vapour winds which are stopped by the mountain, leading to an abundant splash all over the region. Thus we have rain-fed richly green mountains with dark deep forests, midlands with bountiful farm fields and awesome beaches. The midlands of Goa and Kerala are identical. The type of vegetation, laterite stones, tiled roofs and of course crosses remind one of Kerala. It was a breather for somebody who was missing it for many a month.

In all fairness, Goa’s greenery is richer and it maintained many of its traditional tiled roof buildings. In an ugly display of opulence, monstrous concrete houses stacked with petro dollars displaced most of the simple houses along the waysides of Kerala. Goa outrivals Kerala in density of Churches as well, which forced priests posted there to complain Portuguese King “Our bell and their bell. Our choir and their choir. There is cacophony here”.

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When in Goa be Goans. When a small bottle of Carlsburg ejected that rough edged calcium stone from my bladder last year mom told me “that’s fine, but don’t make it a habit”. But, it might be the fear of its recurring tendency and beer’s digestive property that made me an occasional beer drinker. One bottle of KF is a given. About fenny, it is after all a country liquor brewed from the juice of cashew apple. You know, I am all for local inventions and organic products. But the danger was I had three unmixed fenny shots (the last one was an accident, I mistook fenny for water). It’s only then I realised how much I love my brother, how well I can engage my father in a conversation and how funny the chat with mom can be.

I talked about house construction and finance with brother, then discussed stories and career with father and chatted about all that happened in the day with mom (including the virtues of fenny). Anyway, mom didn’t call me the next day. May be she didn’t want to hear my fenny-inspired ‘gunavathikaaram’ (blah-blah) for the second day. All said, I still consider myself a teetotaller, just like fish-eating Bongs consider themselves vegetarians.

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A little intoxication can sometimes bring out your hidden faculties. Venu found it hard to open the door and applied further pressure. The key broke into two pieces. The rest was a drama. ‘Hurt’ by a bizarre incident, an enraged tourist – that is me - rushes to the reception and complains about the ‘subquality’ key. Only later that everyone realised we tried entering the wrong room! But by the time we successfully put the blame on the management who procured fragile keys for the hotel doors. But in the absence of a spare key, I had to climb over the balcony and do a spiderman to unbolt the backdoor.

The next morning when we checked out, wisdom dawned on the hotel people. They demanded penalty for breaking their key by trying it on the wrong door. We stuck on the ‘subquality’ argument. Now we had additional points; the security of the hotel. Someone could easily sneak in through the backdoor. What if a thief adopts the same way, just as the tourist with the misplaced key did the previous day? No fines, nothing, only thank you!

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Each time I enjoy the soft and not-so-soft beatings of sea waves, which come one after the other, I remember one of my earlier visits to seashore. That was when I was in seventh, I guess. Just before V.P.Singh’s rally, we – father and me - along with the fellow party workers from our hilly village had a sea bath. When he took me to the shores father reminded me of those popular lyrics: kadalile olavum karalile mohavum adangukillomane adangukilla…(the waves in the sea and desires in the heart will never stop).

And that day I saw how drunk and crazy he can be which made me threaten a sudden return. This time in Goa, I was perhaps five times less drunk and crazy. But I was at least slightly drunk and slightly crazy. I think once in a while it is good to have a sea bath and to be a little crazy. Preferably, at Kolva beach.

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Having left Goa, one thing I miss the most is fish curry rice. The Goan fish fry with coarse rice flour will make you all the more joyous. We had a repeat of the same for the second day lunch. From an unimpressive wayside eating place in Old Goa, each of us had two bowls of rice and half a dozen fish pieces, along with other side dishes. All for 80 bucks! Oh forgot to add, the boy took two clicks of us enjoying lunch. By the time I returned, the stomach has become a small aquarium.

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The third and last day was not meant to be fully fun. We were in the village town Koodal where Maharashtra politician and onetime chief minister Narayan Rane is contesting elections from. Two and a half hours away from the Goan town of Mapusa, this Konkan village town has narrow roads, old buildings and Malvadi-speaking unambitious farmers. If he gets elected yet again, Rane should ensure one thing that many more banks will open their ATMs there. It was scary to walk pennyless for about one k.m. only to find the omni-present SBI ATM is shut. The 12th person we asked did help; there was an Indian Bank ATM on the other part of the town. Thank God.

Talking about money, I don’t know how we can plan out an austere trip. Perhaps, a totally unplanned one would be better. The three-day Goa trip cost each of us in the region of Rs 2500!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What happens in BJP

Caught in a busy week I thought the topicality of the issue would fade by the time I sit down to write. But thankfully, the BJP leaders have kept the issue alive till I am finally ready to attempt typing down my thoughts on the current crisis.

A book analysing the moderate facet of Jinnah showed the way out for an already alienated Jaswant Singh. Yaswant Sinha, another leader who does not find much scope for himself in the generational shift that is taking place in the party, put in an angry resignation. The third one, Arun Shourie who has been a key figure in the saffron intelligentsia, provokes party leadership with his characteristic verbal attack. And Sudheendra Kulkarni, a political professional timed his VRS with these high profile departures.

The exit of these leaders who have no mass base may not have immediate electoral impacts in states where the Party is facing elections. However, given the profile of these leaders what the BJP lost was its remaining moderate trappings.

In my view, two forces have led to the present situation. One, the retreat of the BJP into its original hardline position. That is, a conscious decision to harden its hindutwa postures by shunning all secular cosmetics. These leaders with non-RSS background would naturally find it hard to earn a place in the current scheme of things guided, designed and perfected by the Sangh.

In fact, they are part of the Vajpayee era, a master tactician who successfully balanced the core Hindutwa agenda of RSS and mainstream democratic politics. As Jyotirmaya Sharma once pointed out the arrangement between Vajpayee and RSS was mutually beneficial. RSS got a moderate mascot and in return Vajpayee enjoyed power and position.

Demolition man Advani could never grow to this space no matter how hard he tried. Having found that moderate pretensions to reach out beyond the core hindutwa constituency is not working, RSS has decided to consolidate and expand its core. In the process, it inadvertently or otherwise, underscored the fact that BJP is mere a political outfit of RSS and weeded out ‘alien elements’ in the party. (Muktar Naqvi and Shanavas Husain better watch out).

Another force that paved way for the exit of these leaders was the desperation and internal contradictions within them. By learning, experience and personal convictions, all of them are not fully in sync with the annihilation-driven ideology of RSS. In spite of Babri, Bombay and Gujarat, what glued them to the BJP were crumbs of power.

Jaswant, Sinha and Shourie were key ministers in the Vajpayee cabinet while Kulkarni enjoyed considerable media glare. Now the positions of power are increasingly few and far between. The association with a party with aggressive rightist character is not paying commensurate political benefit while its solidifying hindutwa postures discomfort them. So, at least Jaswant might have thought that this is time to escape the wrath of history and save some honour for himself professing syncretic culture and Hindu-Muslim unity.