Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
It’s that time of the year when newspapers and TV Channels round up the year with great ponderousness. Well, I’d like to present some snapshots from the year as well, but not one that looks at big events of great importance. Instead, handpicked from my blog India Uncut, here are some WTF moments from 2007. (WTF, if you must pretend not to know what it means, stands for What The Fug.)
The year begins with reality-show WTFness. In January, Rakhi Sawant steams it up on Bigg Boss, with one choice conversation being the bit where Roopali Ganguly tells her that she hasn’t been kissed in three years. “Tere hont kunwaare hai,” Rakhi tells her. “Tujhe jung lag chuka hai.”
Meanwhile, Shilpa Shetty enters Celebrity Big Brother saying “I’m very synonymous with glamour”. While teaching Yoga to a fellow contestant, she says, “You’re not breathing right. We’re so occupied with life and the stuff we have to do that we don’t breathe.” Later, a racism row erupts, and the Indian government wastes taxpayers money protesting, panting and puffing while Shilpa stays calm, presumably breathing.
In February, a report informs us: “More and more couples are exploiting Caesarean sections to manipulate the horoscope of the baby.” A Bajrang Dal actvist protests Valentine’s Day because “exchanging cards at a young age is against Indian culture.”
In March, astrologers such as Bejan Daruwalla and Sanjay B Jumaaaaani give us their predictions for the World Cup, and get it wronggg. An astrologer in Tamil Nadu gets into trouble by “allegedly predicting a long life for a dead man.” A gentleman from Mumbai approaches the Bombay High Court demanding that they declare him to be God. In Orissa’s Jagannath Temple, food worth Rs 10 lakhs, meant as a holy offering, is destroyed because a foreigner had entered it - “an act seen as defiling the premises.”
Cops bust a rave party, and we are told that the cops are “thinking of invoking provisions of the IT Act against them because the invitations for the party were sent via the Internet.” The All Kerala Drinkers’ Welfare Association, which “pledges to protect the rights of alcoholics … [presents] the government with a 15-point demand that includes a room for the lower-middle class drinker.” In Mumbai, the publisher of The Santa and Banta Joke Book is arrested for outraging religious feelings. Headline of the month: “Kalam trips and falls, is unhurt.”
In April, a controversy erupts against Sachin Tendulkar for “cut[ting] a cake in the colours of the national flag.” Narayana Murthy allegedly insults the national anthem, which promptly goes and sulks. The hit story of the month on television: a baby monkey with its head stuck in a bucket. Karan Thapar asks Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi what constitutes good taste and bad taste. The reply: “When the committee feels it’s good, it’s good, when it feels its bad it’s bad.”
The headline of May: “Train passengers asked to get out and push.” This is in Bihar. In Kolkata, a man throws his wife out because she wears salwar kameez. When the case goes to court, he tells the judge: “We are an orthodox family. We cannot accept such dresses, she should wear a sari.”
In June, Amitabh Bachchan is in the news. “Amitabh no Farmer” screams one TV headline. Filmmaker Robby Grewal then offers him the role of Krishna, and says: “Only Mr Bachchan can play God convincingly.” Amitabh, on another issues, clarifies: “Ash is not married to a tree! [...] It’s a challenge—please show me the tree she married!”
The headline of the month is a non-event: “Rani Mukherjee is not engaged to Aditya Chopra.” Also: “Abhi-Akshaye to star in lesbian drama?” Quote of the month: Bobby Deol saying “I am the son of Punjab-da-puttar.” Picture of the month: Himesh Reshammiya in a burqa.
In July, Renuka Chowdhury, the Women and Child Development Minister, announces that she wants every pregnancy in the country to be registered. (Big Sister is watching your foetus.) Pratibha Patil, who speaks to spirits and supports compulsary sterilization for people with hereditary diseases, becomes India’s latest WTF president.
Quote of the month: Murali Manohar Joshi saying, “I think the government wants to import the western culture of sexual relation between student relation to India.” Picture of the month: Lalu Prasad Yadav tying his pajama’s naada.
August is notable for Rakhi Sawant’s fabulous quote, “Item dance is not a crime. It’s an art and I pursue it with a vanity. it’s takes a lot of hard work to perform. Gandhiji also believed in working hard.” And there’s also Ram Gopal Varma: “I don’t think Gabbar from Sholay was a negative character. He was a villain who did a heinous act of killing people.”
Headlines of the month: “Chutiya tribe to organise massive agitation for ST status.” “China bans Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission.” “Bachchan crazy for wife Aishwarya.”
In September, the Allahabad High Court rules, “[I]t is the duty of every citizen of India under Article 51-A of the Constitution - irrespective of caste, creed or religion - to follow the dharma propounded by the Bhagvad Gita.” BBC reports: “Nepal’s state-run airline has confirmed that it sacrificed two goats to appease a Hindu god, following technical problems with one of its aircraft.”
The quote of the month comes from BP Singhal: “Anybody who wants to denigrate another religion, I call him a Christian. You must find out Ambika Soni’s religion.”
In October, we find that “some civic bodies in Madhya Pradesh are contemplating issuing licences to … genuine [eunuchs] to prevent the fakes from decamping with alms.” Mumbai Mirror speaks to a source who saw Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan dine at a restaurant, who says: “From the dishes that they had ordered, it was pretty apparent that Saif and Kareena love chicken.” Raima Sen says of her sister Riya, “She has breasts and hips truly measuring up to Bollywood standards.” S Sreesanth remarks: “I know I am handsome but all the actresses can wait.”
In November, the temple manager of Kerala’s Sree Krishna Guruvayoor temple reveals, according to IANS, that “the deity [is] unhappy over the entry of women in salwar-kameez.” Aburadha Sawhney of PETA, complaining about an SBI commercial featuring a chicken, says: “It is obvious that the chicken would never have done any of these stunts willingly.” Narendra Modi says, “Scavenging must have been a spiritual experience for the Valmiki caste.”
In December, a case is filed against Anil Ambani for sardarji jokes sent on the Reliance Network. BBC reports: “A judge in India has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to help resolve a property dispute.” Bushes and trees in Bangalore’s Lalbagh are trimmed “to ensure that young couples can’t steal a kiss behind them, all thanks to complaints from regular joggers.” Rediff asks its readers: “What do you think about Kangana going bald? Tell us!” It also asks Klaus Meine of the Scorpions: “Have you thought of introducing hip hop in your music to keep pace with the newer generation?”
Headlines of the month: “US says it has right to kidnap British citizens.” “Sushmita in a legal hassle over ‘virginity’.”
See? Our country is so much more fun than all this talk of nuclear deals and Gujarat elections and Nandigram and suchlike. Have a great WTF 2008!
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For more WTF posts by me, check out my WTF category page.
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