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.
I’m back in Mumbai after three days in Hyderabad, where I was attending a conference on liberalism organized by Barun Mitra of The Liberty Institute. I met many interesting people there, and some enlightenment happened amid much conversation. One high point: while casually discussing popular slogans that could spread ideas of liberty, Sauvik Chakraverti suggested “Rukawat Hatao!” I thought that rocked, not just because it plays on the frustration of Indians at the many rukawats our government places in front of us, but also because it encompasses “Garibi Hatao.” If you hatao the rukawats, I believe the garibi will also go.
* * *
The conference was at Ramoji Film City, and on the second day we were taken on a tourist trip of the place. The Ramoji Film City essentially houses sets of all kind, most of them built with plaster of Paris. There was the Gateway of India, with the Taj Mahal inside. There was Mumbai’s Central Jail, with a beauty parlour inside. There were plaster-of-Paris imitations of slices of landscape from Switzerland, Hollywood, London, Kolkata and Benaras. There was an empty square about which our guide told us, “You can make this whatever nagar you want. Put a statue of Shastri, it is Shastri Nagar. Put a statue of Gandhi, it is Gandhi Nagar.” There was a railway station, with the trains being moved on tyres, for those were out of sight. There was a “Forward Planning Garden” and a “Family Planning Garden,” and much artificial greenery all around.
Then we got back to the hotel for our conference, and even the real building seemed like plaster-of-Paris to us. My only regret in all this: they didn’t show us a plaster-of-Paris Hilton.
* * *
Yesterday, with the conference over, I hopped over for lunch to my friend Sridala Swami‘s place. Her son charmingly gifted me a couple of drawings of cows, and then gave me a tutorial on how to draw cows. First he drew a cow, part by part, carefully explaining the process. Then I drew a cow. I am a slow learner, and the boy was upset. “All the udders can’t be the same size,” he told me. “And you’ve got the hooves all wrong. Also, why have you drawn a smile? Cows don’t smile.”
“That’s not true,” I said. “I’ve seen cows smile. Cows are always smiling at me.”
He looked at me strangely. “I have never seen a cow smile,” he said, with an air of finality. The subject was closed. He moved on. “Here, let me show you how to draw a buffalo.”
The lad no doubt inherits his artistic temperament from his mother, who is a poet. Sridala gives a reading of some of her poems in Mumbai on September 13, so drop in if you’re interested. (I’ll again be out of town, sadly.) I don’t understand poetry, being deficient in such matters, but here is a nugget from one of her poems that I rather liked:
I want to be like a tree
on which the birds rest
but when they fly away
there is no pain.
* * *
Yesterday evening was memorable, as I met up with friends and bloggers I respect a lot, Nitin Pai, Ravikiran Rao, Gautam Bastian and Naveen Mandava. Nitin was at the conference with me, and is always stimulating company, besides being a great guy. Ravi, Gautam and Naveen are based in Hyderabad, though the first two had once been in Mumbai, before deserting. We spoke much about economics, politics and chicken chettinad, and Nitin and I had a fierce argument on whether India should have sent troops to Iraq. (He argued yes, I vehemently argued no.) We hung at Barista, then hung at CCD, and in between, Nitin picked up a slice of Paradise, for his wife had warned him that he won’t be allowed inside his house if he doesn’t have lots of biriyani with him. Yes, Mr Pai is a hardliner on foreign policy, but when it comes to domestic matters…
(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95.)
Sita Sings the Blues: The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told
Dev.D doesn't flinch from depicting the individual’s downward spiral
9 across: Van Morrison classic from Moondance (7)
6 down: Order beginning with ‘A’ (12)