Walk The Line

In the end, you get what you deserve. The only issue is how swift the retribution is. Till Wednesday, two of Delhi’s top businessmen — Gopal and Sushil Ansal — were lucky on the second count. They did all that they could — moved all levers of power — to roam free while the family members of the Uphaar victims struggled to come to terms with their painful memories of that fateful day. But the Supreme Court order on Wednesday changed all that.
The apex court cancelled the bail of Sushil and Gopal Ansal, owners of Uphaar cinema where 59 cinegoers were killed in a fire tragedy in 1997, for tampering with judicial records. In a hard-hitting statement, the Bench said that tampering with records is a crime worse than “murder or dacoity”. The real estate tycoons surrendered on Thursday and were sent to judicial custody for 14 days. Now, the case will go back to being heard in the High Court where the builders have challenged the guilty verdict against them.
The court order is no doubt a huge morale-booster for the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy who for years have been struggling with their own memories as well as against the accused; and also for all those who still have some trust left in our slow and creaking judicial process. The importance of the order can be understood better if we look at what the Ansals have been accused of destroying — evidence that proves they were involved in the day-to-day running of the Uphaar cinema. By doing so, they hoped to distance themselves from the fact that they were involved in the management of the theatre. More surprisingly, crucial case documents were filed in court but went missing almost five years ago. Do we need any more evidence of the collusion between officials and the builders?
As the court order shows, their attempts have come to naught. The muck was always there, but this order has made sure that the stains will be difficult to wash away. The order will also be a handy precedent for cases that are in the pipeline but have been faltering because evidence has been tampered with.


Sab Maya Hai

Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend on the rise and rise of Mayawati. S, a senior MNC executive, was at the Dubai airport, waiting for his connecting flight to Jeddah, while I was nicely ensconced somewhere in Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Here is what he had to say about M:

14:56: How could people project Mayawati as PM!!! We should now vote for a majority government…
14:57:  regional parties can exist at the regional level but at the national level they have to support one big party. She was Kanshi Ram’s mistress, right?

A second later, he admitted that the last sentence was not politically correct.

14:59: there is a huge theory on women as leaders….. as women leaders sense power they become far more corrupt and power hungry than men because they need to fight a glass ceiling battle…. so they need to prove themselves… of course this theory is made by men …

Cut to an editorial meeting at a national daily. A senior journalist said she would leave the profession if M becomes PM. “Her horrible pink silk suits and those diamonds…oh my God…”.

I guess we sneer at M because she is not one of us, the Fab India kurta-wearing types. Nevertheless, I am amazed at these reactions. I wonder whether we can dismiss an idea whose time has come; I think we are refusing to accept certain changes that are sweeping through India, the other India.

Last month, I was at a small Dalit village in Uttar Pradesh. During a discussion on politics, a young man told me that M victory has given them the courage to speak up against police atrocities and corrupt government officials. I guess this is where M’s power comes from.

A colleague (her hometown is Bareilly, UP) says that M is ‘far better’ than MY (Mulayam Singh Yadav). Why, I ask her. Her explanation is fairly simple: “See, I agree M takes bribes but at least she ensures that some of it goes to the people, even to non-Dalits. But during their regime, MY and cronies would pocket 100 per cent. Only some Yadav pockets would get something.”

I was never very much interested in UP politics but I must admit that the rise of M has changed all that. Whether I like or not, I am convinced she is the woman to watch out for. No wonder, therefore, I am reading Ajoy Bose’s new book: Behenji, A biography of Mayawati.

Last week, residents of Hyderabad were in for a shock when the state government announced that there would be no electricity for two to six hours everyday. As for the industrial areas, there would be a one-day ‘electricity holiday’ every week. The reason? A shortfall of 1,000 MW. Is there any way out? Click here to know more:

Inside the Jain colony

Inside the Jain colony

Its stories, wafting aromas, heritage and architecture; just a few of the reasons for getting lost in the gallis of Shahjahanabad



Amid the worn-out heritage structures of Chandni Chowk, the glare of the yellow ‘M’ signalling a McDonald’s outlet looks out of place, and time. “My grandfather tells me this was a cinema hall before it was converted to a ‘McDee’ outlet,” the INTACH walk leader tells me as we set off to explore Shahjahanabad, the capital city built by Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658).

The walk, ‘Exploring Shahjahanabad: A walk in Old Delhi’, starts from the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, located opposite the Red Fort. Standing in front of the mandir, believed to be the oldest Jain temple in Shahjahanabad, we get a crash course on the old city.

Designed by Jahanara, the Emperor’s favourite daughter, Chandni Chowk was one of the main thoroughfares of the capital city. Where did Chandni Chowk get its name? There are two stories: a pool existed in the area and because its water shimmered in moonlight, the place was named Chandni Chowk; second, the area was named after its silversmiths and the word ‘chandi’ (silver) became ‘chandni’.

Down the main road is the State Bank of India building, built on an estate owned by Begum Samru, who headed a mercenary army. The building has high ceilings, colonial-style gateposts and large jali openings. A few steps ahead is the Central Baptist Church, one of the oldest churches in the city. Right opposite is the Sis Gangj Gurdwara, the site of the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur and the Sunehri Masjid. Chandni Chowk has the distinction of being perhaps the only trade market, which houses so many places of worship of different religions.

From here we entered the sinews of Shahjahanabad: Paranthawala Gali, Kinari Bazaar, Katra Kushal Rai and Dharampura. As we negotiated the narrow bylanes, someone mentioned how cool the place is. A smart piece of planning made sure that too much sunlight did not enter the area, we were told. The day was yet to start in these gallis, only some eateries in the Paranthawala Gali were doing brisk business. The smell the fresh ghee on the paranthas wafts through the galli. To woo customers, most eateries have strategically placed old photographs of politicians and Bollywood stars devouring paranthas made by them.

Inside Kinari Bazaar is Naugharana, a row of nine traditional Jain houses and the Jauhari temple. From Naugharana, we entered Katra Kushal Rai and marvelled at the intricately carved havelis. Then a ‘secret’ alley took us to another Jain colony, Dharampura. This area houses the stunning Shri Digambara Jain Naya Mandir. ‘Naya’ here means built in 1807! Further on, an elaborate gateway leads to a kucha where Ustad Hamid, Shah Jahan’s master-builder lived. Another turn and we are in Gali Guliyan, which ends at Jama Masjid, the last stop of the walk.

As we exchanged notes at the end of the tour, we deliberated whether we should take the lanes back to Chandni Chowk — on our own. Yes, was the unanimous answer and with the map in hand, we started the treasure hunt all over again.

My heart go out to all those men who have been pumping iron daily in the desperate hope that they will end up looking like Vin Diesel or Jean Claude van Dam. And to those trying to copy that ‘make my day’ swagger a la Clint Eastwood. The reason this sympathy is the findings in a study done by St. Andrews University that says the Ben Stillers and Orlando Blooms of the world rank much higher on the women’s most-wanted list than the Diesels and Eastwoods. The study adds that women see macho-looking men as less faithful, less warm and potentially poorer fathers. Men with more feminine features and a healthy visage are judged as being a better bet for a long-term relationship. The team asked nearly 100 women to make snap judgments on a variety of factors including the man’s social dominance, parenting skills and desirability after viewing images that had been digitally enhanced to emphasise masculine or feminine features.
An interesting bit of information, I must admit, but probably not very new considering men got a scent of this much earlier than we guessed. So they found out nice, market-savvy tags like metrosexuals, retrosexuals and ubersexual to describe their finer qualities. And, the movie world, the ultimate barometer of new social trends, was fast to cotton on and introduce ‘feminine’ male actors.
Now this frills and femininity is all very fine. But how many women want competition from their men? How many heroes do you find in say, Mills and Boon, who are busy getting in touch with their feminine side. No, we still fall for tall, dark and handsome. So Clint Eastwood has nothing to fear, he’ll still give the pretty boys a run for their money. The mystique of uncaring bad boys still holds great fascination for women. And no one is likely to muscle in on that for a while.

All Play and No Work

The babus are angry, very angry. And, they are threatening to protest in their patented style: go on mass leave, and that too on a Friday. The reason for such annoyance is a report from the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India that says people working in government offices and state-funded institutions work in ‘stress-free zones’, while their corporate counterparts are busy firefighting all the time. There is nothing earth-shattering about the report; it just reiterates what we discuss all the time behind their backs: babus have it nice and easy.

Babus, on their part, can blame their enthusiasm-deficiency syndrome to low salaries, multiple bosses, dingy offices and lack of corporate-style incentives to work harder. But what would you tell the mother who got back her kidnapped son three days after he was rescued? The designated venue at which he was to be handed over was shut thanks to some babu who declared May 11, a Friday, a holiday to commemorate the 150th year of the Mutiny? And, these sundry holidays are not even a part of that hallowed list of that makes lesser mortals like us green with envy. Our combined fret barometer goes up a few notches more when we see them lazing around in the winter sun, way after the scheduled lunch hour. Small perks of a low-paid but secure government job, we console ourselves.

Who are on the other side of the fence? Project developers, courier companies, retail sector bank employees, and journalists. We can vouch for the last category at least, because unlike our counterparts in and around Raisina Hill, we don’t even have the luxury of passing the buck (read files) to the next table.


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  • Ram Manohar Sah: Hi All, Kosi (Kaushiki) furry reminds old saying "tying knot in the snakehead". Hydropower, irrigation and flood management are conflicting objecti
  • Alex: Your blog is interesting! Keep up the good work!
  • Nandan Jha: M has done wonders with here Dalit-Brahmin pitch (Sarva Samaj). Even though it was mostly to Mishraji's brilliant plan but if you look now, she could