Aadhar…Till The Cows Come Home !

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The writing was on the wall since long. And the Supreme Court’s judgement on June 09, 2017 only confirms that.

The Court has for the moment seemingly given a reprieve to persons not holding the Aadhar Card. They can go ahead and file their IT returns without the need to link/quote their Aadhar Card. But simultaneously, and more importantly, the Court has also validated the Government’s insertion of additional clause in Income Tax (IT) Act necessitating linking/quoting of Aadhar while filing tax returns. And if the Government’s claims are to be taken seriously, there are over 1 billion people out there holding these card. Make that 1 billion “proud” people. The others, it would seem are not so proud. That means that these 1 billion “proud” people will now have to link their cards to the PANs while filing IT returns. For the “not so proud”, “bakre ki amma kab tak khair manayegi…” 😛

All this of course is strictly as per the Supreme Court’s Judgement. The Government always has an option of flouting it and insisting compliance from the “not so proud” people too.

Further, the Court has shown utmost concern for privacy of us citizens and directed the Government to beef up Aadhar related data security to win the confidence of citizens. In a country where the PMO office itself can choose to spam its citizens with unsolicited emails to IDs which arent even registered with any of Government bodies, the lesser said about the Aadhar agents, the better. Probably that just means Mr Nilekani and his agencies will get to earn a few bucks extra in the name of protecting our data.

Funny thing is nobody seems to be bothered about where the money collected as tax, is going. Wonder if the Government can also introduce a “Sudhaar Card” for monitoring how public money is squandered by our politicians and public servants.

With the Government surreptitiously fast-tracking the Aadhar revisions to the IT Act and the Supreme Court delaying its verdict on Aadhar related petitions, between the two of them they have ensured that Aadhar will now be de facto mandatory even if it is not mandated de jure by the Supreme Court’s division Bench on privacy infringement. Remember, the Attorney General has decreed that citizens don’t live in vacuum and don’t have absolute right over their bodies. And that the State can always roger you long as it is in the interests of “national security“. And national security, as we all know encompasses everything including whether you eat beef or khakra. So even if one agency (which I suspect will be EPFO) deems Aadhar mandatory in the interest of “National security”, the “not so proud” herd, or whatever little is left of it, wont have any option but to fall in line.

Supreme Court’s Division Bench hearing on privacy infringement, if and when it happens, is but a matter only of academic interest what with most citizens already having thrown in the towel. Meanwhile, the Cows are a happy with this ruling. A lot of things have been going their way lately. They might even get full fledged citizenship and passports soon 😛 As for the handful of remaining Aadhar protestors, it appears to be all over bar the shouting !

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Musings of a Cynic

I was born with all my limbs intact ! As a child, I never suffered from dumbness neither, though I did speak less as a matter of choice. I never had to walk 25 kilometeres a day to attend school, for academics or otherwise. I never had to study in candle light. Not because there were no powercuts but simply because I never studied at all. I never had to sleep on an empty stomach. Always had 3 square meals a day. When I grew up I never had a hole in my heart or “impressive” diseases like lymphosarcoma of the intestine. It should be no surprise therefore that when I was in my late teens I felt lucky at not having to go through disabilities or “blips” of any kind if you will. Truth be told I never even thought about it.

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Then I became an adult. Just like we ‘become‘ adults. And started watching those TV programmes – Dance India Dance, Nach Baliye, Jhalak Dikhlaja, DID Little Masters, Indian Idol, Saare Re Ga Ma Pa, etc. Every second participant seemed to be suffering from some kinda life threatening disease/disadvantage and all of them invariably had had very trying childhoods. They’d made it to their current station by sheer hard work and persistence. Listening to their stories…. in fact listening to the melodramatic music accompanying their stories, I would get exceedingly disturbed. And touched at what I saw. I would cry my heart out every time.

Years and years of watching these tearjerker programmes and the “Stupendo Fantabulously Fantastical”, “Chummeswari” or “Super Se Bhi Ooper” performances finally took its toll. It had to. My body parts now fail to respond the way they did. And the lachrymal is no exception. Sometimes, the lack of pathos appalls me. Mind you I have been reared on hardcore Nirupa Roy and Dharmendra stuff. I should know a thing or two about being kind hearted, maudlin, compassionate and patriotic (oh yes, I was well up on my Manoj Kumar too).

But NO Sir. Hardly into middle age, I find myself emotionally dead. You could have innocent children wail around me the whole day and I’d still be unmoved. The more I watch these guys the more inadequate and inferior I feel. It appears to me that I’d feel better if one of my limbs was missing. That’s the power of Media ! It can have you believe that Sun rises from the West.

I avoid watching TV anymore. It makes me feel useless and obese.

I don’t go out on the streets. Beggars swarm me in no time. And when they dont, the shopkeepers oblige. My money is no longer in me pocket.

I stopped going to the theaters. I hate having to stand up everytime to prove my patriotism and pay the owners obscene money for a glass of aerated drink or a “tub” of popcorn. Just because I can afford it don’t mean I should.

I have stopped upgrading my mobiles and Operating Systems. Every Mobile/Operating system is better than the last. At smothering user freedom that is.

I don’t read the papers. Cause if I do, I’ll run the risk of believing that the government is trying its best to do me good.

Every dance is better than the last. Every movie is better than the last. And if that is true I’d rather watch people act than VFX.

Reminds me of a joke I once read in the Himalyan Drug Company’s compilation of “Laughter is the Best Medicine“.

A kid in his early teens walks upto a Chemist. Points his finger at one of those polythene packs kept behind the display pane. The Chemist takes out the packet, hands it over to the kid and casually asks him “Whom are you taking it for, your mother ?”. “No”, says the kid, handing over the money.

“It must be your sister then, isn’t it ?”, asks the Chemist again. Again the kid replies in the negative.

The Chemist is curious by now. “Well then my dear lad, who is it for ?”

The Kid looks around, leans forward and whispers to the Chemist – “I am taking it for myself. They show on TV that you can run, skip, cycle, dance and do a whole lot of things after wearing it !”

Ignorance is bliss. Never was it so true as today….

The Paheli of Duvidha

I don’t know what had become of me. But I was direly seeking refuge. Refuge from the subterfuge and terror surrounding me. And so that I could escape from this terror, I decided to watch horror. Horror movies I mean 😛  That was when I first came across ‘Duvidha‘. I was careful not to read the spoilers but from whatever little I could fathom, it had the makings of a good psychological horror ala “The Tenant” or “The Haunting”. I was sold.

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[SPOILER ALERT] The story is purportedly about a ghost impersonating a newly-wed groom to cohabit with his bride in his absence (which is for 4-5 long years). This ghost however, is conscientious and he discloses his identity upfront to the bride; so that whatever follows is with her full consent. As expected, things get tricky when the bride returns to his now pregnant wife about to deliver. His family takes him for an imposter and it is finally left to the local shepherd to trap the ghost and render justice. The concluding scene shows the bride sitting with her back toward a waiting husband and cradling the newborn. This was the scariest it got to. [SPOILER ALERT OFF]

The movie was later remade into Paheli by Amol Palekar with SRK reprising the role of the groom/ghost and Rani Mukherji playing the bride. The climax was also altered to make it more conclusive/decisive. I love anything by Amol Palekar but I’m not particularly fond of SRK, if you can take the hint. One SRK is hard enough to handle and here I had two. More than a handful. As WG Grace might have said – If the movie has SRK, give it a miss. If you have doubts, think for a while and give it a miss. If you have still graver doubts, consult a colleague and then give it a miss ! And so a miss it was.

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But I digress. Back to ‘Duvidha’. There are quite a few things remarkable about the movie. This was the 2nd of Mani Kaul’s (MK) many movies and made probably sometime in 1972, a time when storytelling in Bollywood wasn’t without a pall of inhibitions. Therefore, in-spite of his bold championing of contemporary issues, MK probably felt comfortable relating the story in form of a parable. No macabre, scary, disturbing, or erotic content. And that’s a huge plus. It makes the movie suitable for all age groups and audiences. For the innocent moviegoer, it is just another Rajasthani folk tale and yet it has more than its share of “food for thought” for someone looking to ruminate at the larger issues of Life. The other thing is the story is enacted in a very dispassionate manner, almost as if a case was being discussed before a learned court that’s actually learned ! Now any movie-lover worth his salt knows that cultivated expressionless-ism isn’t the same as being expressionless by default. The characters do very little talking. Add to that the white confines of limestone buildings that are so typical of Rajasthan, and you have a very unique method of storytelling.

Clearly, this was a movie ahead of its times. Under the garb of the ghost parable, MK wanted to highlight other issues including (but not limited to) ‘Marriage of Convenience’ and by extension ‘Workplace Romance’. If partners are physically separated, is it okay to latch onto someone else especially if s/he is to one’s liking ? Afterall carnal desires had better be taken care of in their own good time, failure of which might have other ramifications harder to deal with. And if duration of time spent were the yardstick, wouldn’t all workplace romances be legit ? Again if mutual liking is justification enough, isn’t it kinda hard on the fist guy ? Afterall he’s the one who’s got married and he’s the one who’s sacrificing his desires at the altar of his father’s whims and directives. Is that why societal justice (in this case ‘Gadariya’ justice) sides with him ? And what about the Compensation (in this case 5 gold coins paid daily to the groom’s father) paid to the guardian/overseer to keep attention diverted ? Can one buy his way into an otherwise forbidden liaison and thereby reduce his guilt ?

Funny thing is – on the crossroads of Life, one can find oneself in shoes of any of the 3 lead characters; possibly even two during Lifetime. The obedient son, the deprived ghost or the bride who must have what she must have, this way or the other. I haven’t read the book by Vijayadan Detha (on which both the movies are based) but MK has very cleverly chosen to have an open ended climax (apologies if this sounds like double entendre. It’s not meant to !)

I fancy answers to these questions would have been different back then compared to what they may be now. They invariably are !

Of Amnesia & Music

Amnesia isn’t such a bad thing. At least it gives you a chance to revisit and enjoy your favorite artists, musicians and writers over and over again ! Especially if you have already exhausted your favorites and crave for even more.

Come Diwali, I found myself cursing my neighbourhood. They had been tormenting me for a month now with their blaring loudspeakers. Not one or two but three-four speakers working in tandem from different directions. The cacophony was more than I could bear and there was just too much commotion out on the streets to merit any thoughts of going out. The dilemma was killing me. I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t stay in. After much deliberation, I decided to stay put and insulate my self from the loudspeakers by sealing my apartment.

Just I was about to draw the last curtain, a faint fleeting piece of music entered my ears. I could hardly make out the words – Ae raat tomar aamar….oi chaand tomar aamaar, shudu dujoner…. followed by one of those trademark whistles that needed no identification for me. Something as uneasily haunting as this could only be made by Hemant Kumar !
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Now, I am a sucker for anything by HemantDa. And this was more than anything. A bit of googling was all it took to identify the tune – “Ae raat tomar aamar” from the Bengali movie “Deep Jwele Jai“, the film that was later remade into the monster called Khamoshi. The tune itself was used in a Hindi Song “Yeh Nayan Dare Dare” in the movie Kohraa, which in turn was a remake of Rebecca. I had watched the movie a couple of decades ago but remembered very little, if at all anything. And so it was that my amnesia became a blessing in disguise as I set out to rewatch the movie and revisit the tune.

Kohraa explores more of the genre that was so successfully created in Bees Saal Baad, except that it just doesnt come out so good. The movie is typical of HemantDa’s style. Gothic backgrounds, wide scapes, mountains-trees-and-seas all rolled into one and tastefully shot footage showing nature in all its glory. Scenes of dark, gloom and foreboding cleverly alternated with sunshine and light to maximise the element of suspense and horror. They had even altered the climax to make it more palatable to Indian audiences. However, HemantDa’s contribution is a lot slashed here in terms of the musical input. He has two solos – the introductory Rah Bani Khud Manzil and Yeh Nayan Dare Dare – the object of my pursuit. The other song “Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat ” is the supposed equivalent to “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” in “Bees Saal Baad“. Its a song with a lot of wasted potential. Wasted since it falls short of being the theme music for the movie the way “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” was for “Bees Saal Baad“.

The movie was but of little interest to me. I was more keen on the Hindi rendition of “Ae raat tomar aamar“. Shot in tete-a-tete style, the song shows Waheeda Rehman play that elusive combination of stunning beauty, coyness and mischievous playfulness – a trait I haven’t seen any actress emulate ever after. But the mood is that of an unsettled wife being assuaged by a loving husband. To me it somehow didn’t go down well with the tune. Neither did the lyrics – “Main maan bhi loon kabhi haar, tu maane na….”. But who cares ! I got another piece of HemantDa’s haunting melodies to relive and I’m not complaining. One of these days I’m gonna die of overdose.
waheeda

I love my Mukesh and I love my Kishore. They make music worth dying for. And yet if you must breathe life into a soul-less corpse, nothing but HemantDa’s tunes can do it for you !!

Blenheim Bouquet

The complexity of Penhaligon’s fragrances is matched perhaps only by their variety. Post the no-tallow debacle, Penhaligon is one of the very few houses which continue to belt out their soaps/creams inspite of their reportedly low offtake.  Being impressed earlier by Penhaligon’s English Fern and Sartorial, the Blenheim Bouquet (BB) was the third of their soaps I tried. Got myself a refill and set it in one of those aftermarket aluminum boxes shown in the picture. The soap fit in perfectly and the thing looked elegant too.
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The scent is is the same bracket as DRH Windsor except that in BB the citrusy/lavender top-note is somewhat predominated by the black pepper. But as in all Penhaligon fragrances, the constituent scents are kinda refined; so that on their own, none of them threaten to assault the senses.

The soap is extremely easy to load thanks to the large size of the puck. During the initial days of my wet shaving stint I wasn’t too bothered about the size of the puck but nowadays I prefer my pucks large (~4 inches). It allows for sufficient splay and makes loading a joy, indirectly also lowering shedding.

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So far so good. Now for the part I was most apprehensive about. The lather. I’d been told the post-tallow formulations were absolutely horrible in terms of lather slickness and hydration. I was mentally prepared for a letdown. To start with, I found the soap rather easy to lather with the Simpson Commodore X3. A few swirls on the puck and I was ready to put brush to face. The lather didn’t take time to build up, although as I had suspected earlier, it did seem more on the airy side. As luck would have it, I was briefly interrupted and when I resumed I was disappointed to see the lather on my face starting to dry up. I short loaded again and proceeded with the first pass with a Supermax Platinum blade that had already been used 4 times. As a matter of practice I don’t usually use a blade more than 3-4 times since it starts tugging significantly. While I was enjoying the exquisite scent, at the back of my mind I was also bothered about the soap disappointing me what with the added hindrance of an overused blade. I went through the motions and soon got over with the 2nd pass too. I brushed my hand against my cheeks and chin and boy was I surprised !?

And pleasantly too ! A near perfect BBS with almost no hint of irritation ! At first I thought it must be the blade. One in 10 turns out to be really good even after 4-5 shaves. So I tried the soap with my Henckels 17 next time, all other things remaining constant. It couldn’t be same with a straight but sure enough the result was similar and I had an “above average” shave with the Henckels. I have since tried it 10-12 times since my initial shave and the BB continues to surprise me with its near perfect shave in spite of the airy quick-drying lather. I have absolutely no idea how that happens. And that heavenly fragrance. Absolutely fantastic…

I have found the lather to be sufficient for a 2nd pass shave (and touchup if required). To me the only strike against the soap therefore, is its prohibitive price. The fragrance however, is top-notch and every bit worth it. With Penhaligon’s BB, shaving isn’t as much about the closeness, smoothness and post shave hydration as it is about the fragrances and the memories of people and places they trigger.

To be able to wake to a BB intrigue is indeed a privilege in itself, one that I always eagerly look forward to !