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Twenty-two is no age to die. Not when you are young, vivacious and ready to take on the world as you follow your dreams, which before you can even blink, go on to assume monstrous hues.

And twenty-two is certainly no age to die when you are in love. When you see the world through rose-tinted glasses and know you can change it. When you are content holding hands and staring endlessly into each other’s eyes, thinking that the power of your (combined) love can put God’s best-laid plans to rest. When having the object of your affection by your side is strength enough to take on all adversities in your stride.

For Nirupama Pathak that was not to be.

Love turned fatal for this young journalist, found hanging in her Koderma home on April 29. Her family alleged that she’d committed suicide, their claim substantiated by a suicide note.

However, police investigations revealed that her family was upset over her relationship with Priyabhanshu Ranjan, a batchmate from Delhi’s prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication. They had apparently expressed their displeasure on numerous occasions as Ranjan happened to be from a different caste.

The post-mortem report further confirmed that her death was caused by “asphyxia as a result of smothering”. It also revealed that she was three months pregnant. While her family maintained a studious silence on her pregnancy, Ranjan in a CNN-IBN show said that “he was not aware” of any such fact.

Disturbing. Sad. Horrific. Just some of the things that have been going on in my head ever since the story broke.

Disturbing to know that love still doesn’t transcend intra-state borders, forget inter-state borders in modern-day India. Disturbing (but true) that Bharat vs India conflict is not just about cosmetic changes and consumerist behaviour and has started affecting the social and mental make-up. Inside India, the struggle between tradition and modernity is only getting serious as people grapple with English education, economic migration to bigger cities, smaller family units and changing social mores and value system.

Sad that a fellow journalist and an alumnus of my alma mater had to meet a tragic end in love. Sad but true that the power of love couldn’t give her strength to overcome this. Sad that a young person with dreams in her eyes couldn’t have the life she wanted. Tragic too that most choices in life that one makes is often about what others want, and hardly what you yourself want.

And horrific to know that in your hour of need, it’s often your own who can turn against you. History has seen this across the world in various societies. Twenty-first century Bharat still sees it.

RIP Nirupama.

Cause love is a lonely song

And you had to sing it alone.

Ok. Takeaway for the week going by: All’s well that ends well. In love. In impending marriages. In televised romance-turned-betrayal-dramas which transcend borders. And otherwise.

If you happen to have been watching the idiot-box during the past week, you will know what I am referring to. For the uninitiated, it’s of course the

"Hyderabadi biryani"

After high drama, India's Anna Kournikova has found her Enrique Iglesias across the border in cricketer Shoaib Malik

– more like the pati, patni and woe – that had captured popular imagination.

One man’s ecstasy is often another man’s agony. In this case, both men are the same – Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. The former Pakistani skipper vascillated from outright denial to prove-me-I’m-lying to finally admitting that yes he’d married Ayesha Siddiqui, confined to popular imagination only through photographs, in 2005.

While millions of heart-broken men wondered what the Indian version of Anna Kournikova saw in Malik, whose credentials came under question after the match-fixing scandal broke out, our Hyderabadi lass sent the message loud and clear: she stood by her man.

Monday blues dissipated as Mirza articulated at a press conference in Hyderabad how the media needed to treat the story with a little more ‘sensitivity’. And how, instead of pre-wedding jitters, she was having to deal with the paparazzi and their prying eyes! Malik, awed by his soon-to-be-better-half, stood in the sidelines, communicating in his broken English of how the truth will come out and how he would be vindicated.

Well, in X-Files style, the truth emerged. In two days time, precisely. Unable to handle the pressure and the diplomatic proportions that this saga threatened to assume (Malik’s passport was impounded and he was called for questioning by the cops), the wedding itself looked it was headed for anything but a fairytale finish!

Come Wednesday, and all such claims of Malik’s innocent-until-guilty, along with mid-week blues, vanished into thin air as the Siddiquis, chaperoned by Abid Rasool Khan, the General Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Congress, came out in the open and said that Malik had divorced their daughter and a relieved Ayesha could now go back to living a normal life. Providence intervened as mutual family friends of the Mirzas and the Siddiquis negotiated to unite the lovers. Your guess is as good as mine as to what actually transpired between the two sides and which side made the first move.

By now you know that the power of love transcends all. And while the lovebirds get ahead in life, dreaming of a life of togetherness in Dubai (where there’s more love, warmth and sunshine and low rentals, presumably!), one can only say that Malik gets to gain more than any one else.

Cause either way, Shoaib Malik still gets to taste Hyderabadi biryani!

(P.S.: I have forgiven Ekta Kapoor for the decade-long torture that she’d unleashed in the form of ‘saas-bahu’ serials. Hope this saga doesn’t lend her any inspiration!)

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. A day when almost all communication across print, visual and social media screamed that Woman Power needed to be feted. That the female ego needed to be massaged. And that the second sex needed to feel good about themselves – at least this is what most retail brands also felt. Hence they all rushed in to offer huge discounts, happy buys and other feel-good thing-a-me.

Yesterday was also supposed to be a historic Monday in the making with the Women’s Reservation Bill being passed in Parliament. But what ensued was high drama, histrionics and (display of) horrible behaviour in the misnomer of House of Elders. Action in the Rajya Sabha was anything but what is deemed fit of elderly citizens. And in this case, elderly nominated citizens.

But it’s yesterday no more.

The day after, retail brands have gone back to doing their usual stuff — targeting Rahul, Deepak & Hari. And not women per se. The plethora of status updates across social media show no signs of nursing a hangover. “More woman power”, “HWD” and their ilk have remained Monday-only icons, I guess.

The day after, there was also unfinished business in Parliament. Deliberations were supposed to be carried forward from a Manic Monday. Decorum was supposed to be reinstated after yesterday’s shameful show by our Elders in the House as they harassed the Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari who, incidentally, also happens to be the country’s Vice-President. After numerous adjournments, the House finally decided to put itself in order. Literally.

As I write, the voices of (in)sanity in Parliament, cutting across party ranks – Arun Jaitley, Brinda Karat and Jayanti Natarajan – have, for once, agreed to agree. Almost disconcertingly, the trio, individually, have just finished espousing the cause of Nari-cracy, about why this democracy now needs a Mis(s) Mandalisation of politics.

The darkest hour is before the dawn, they say. For modern India, the darkest hour is here, with no promise of sunshine anywhere on the horizon. An hour of prolonged regressive gender politics that will, eventually, not do any thing for the cause of woman empowerment or emancipation. Remember Mandal.

Reservation of all sorts is dangerous, especially in a society like ours where it mostly ends up becoming an instrument of electoral politics. Even as the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has taken the cause of this Bill much like a personal (ego-tinted) agenda of sorts, it’s amusing to see sudden unity among our politicos, some agreeing to disagree (Mulayam, Lalu) while others doing the opposite.

Inclusive politics, fair gender representation, victory for womenfolk – these are some of the phrases that have been in circulation ad nauseum over the past few days. And I don’t agree with either. Call me a cynic who is missing the bigger picture. But I fail to fathom how reserving 33 per cent seats for women can ensure good, non-corrupt leadership that will deliver on promises made? Women, the world over, have proved to be astute politicians and kudos to them for that. But more often than not, women in power have also misused their positions to seek favours. And history is witness to that.

More importantly, what happens to merit, excellence, hard work? What is the guarantee that a (reserved) woman representative would be more deserving meritorious than her male counterpart? What is the assurance that a candidate from a political dynasty won’t get preference over her non-politically networked woman competitor? Doesn’t that, in itself, qualify for double reservation?

For all our shouting from the rooftops that education has been an equaliser and has brought Bharat and India closer, the passage of this Bill has been an education in itself. It has shown yet again that our elected representatives don’t know how to conduct themselves in the public sphere.

Caught in a time warp, this Bill takes us back by a couple of years. It questions strides taken by women in various spheres. It almost belittles the achievements that so many women have managed and continue to do so in their day-to-day and not-so-ordinary lives.

And like all things Indian, this Bill has now assumed more than a political tinge. And sadly, that will be the colour in time to come.

By now, it’s no secret that Amar Singh makes for some real good entertainment. Whatever he does, he does in style. Be it a weekday or a weekend, Mr Singh sure knows how to keep the media busy. And in a tizzy.

With his pearls of wisdom, political and otherwise, here’s a man who says things, straight from the heart. And more often than not, that heart of his seems to have been his cause of hurt.

The Happy Family

How else do you explain the angst-ridden behaviour Mr Singh has displayed over the past few weeks? His tiff with Ram Gopal Yadav, brother of Mulayam Singh Yadav, his resignation from the Samajwadi Party posts and his subsequent statement that “physically invalid people like me are ready to be dumped” with a not-so-subtle reference to his mentor.

Dumped, did you say? But dumped, I thought, only happens in literary and real-life ‘boy-does-not-get-girl’ romances. And dumped happens in movies. And dumped happens to people like you and me in real life when the man says he’s got “issues” or the woman says she’s “not sure”.

But, ji, “dumped” doesn’t happen to folks like Amar Singh.

“Dumped” doesn’t happen to people who have the who’s who of Bollywood at their beck and call and themselves are on their speed dials. “Dumped” doesn’t happen to folks who are seen hobnobbing with the powers-that-be and the powers-that-will-be in the cold corridors of New Delhi.

But then, separation has never been easy – the world over. For friends. For lovers. For spouses. And for political mentors and their protégés.

For Monsieur Singh, the breaking away from Mulayam has not been easy. And it is showing. From a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, he has become a man who has worn his hurt on his sleeve in this winter of discontent. Like a cross between a lover spurned and a petulant child, he is now pointing fingers at his mentor’s coterie, conveniently seeking refuge in Short-Term-Memory-Loss and obliterating the fact that many a finger was raised at him during his kinship with Mulayam in happier times. Shifting sands, eh?

Last weekend, as a dejected Amar Singh poured his heart out, as only he can, one could sense a change. The histrionics were understated. Gone was the ferocious cry. Instead, it was replaced by plea and longing, much like a lost sheep wanting to be taken into the fold – any bosom will do for now. The angst was palpable, the hurt and betrayal peeping from the corners. And, above it all, the accompanying message remained: time to know my friends, seek new partners and make new resolutions (read: revive my political career).

For his friends Jaya (Bachchan) & Jaya (Prada), the sight of an almost-vanquished Singh is not happening. Which explains why the latter has lashed out at his detractors and asked them to back off. She also urged Mulayam to stop personal attacks on Singh, whom she sees as friend. And what is (political) friendship if you can’t quit together! Sanjay Dutt is a good friend, surely.

Crisis, it is often said, is a great unifier. Which is what explains his peace overture toward his once-upon-a-time sworn enemy, Mayawati. On hindsight, he may now attribute the enmity to being more a shared one (courtesy Mulayam) than an actual one. Since the separation, he has also been particularly kind to the lady at 10 Janpath. But then, there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics after all!

For some, moving on is not easy. The baggage of history, coupled with expectations, can be a killer combo. Ze Man knows zat — which is why he’s probably wondering if a known devil is better than an unknown one! Till the time he actually decides to pick the chosen one, no one quite knows what’s going on in his head. Or rather, in this case, his heart.

‘Cause, if you’re Amar Singh, then dil to definitely bachcha hai ji…

This was what I felt after meeting The Man. And couldn’t get over the feeling for a fairly long time.

Cause, after all how often do you get to meet the phenomenon called Mr Amitabh Bachchan? One life seemed just enough for this. Just for this…

Sometimes, it also takes more than two…

A friend sent this
Watch it, it’s sweet…

An Apple a day

keeps Steve at bay

But if the Job(s) is good

Keep the Apple away

🙂

That’s what his sonny boy Ishaan has to say…”He is an idealist, but also likely the most well-read man in the Indian parliament—his lack of political experience is handily made up by all his worldly knowledge and years mingling with—and charming—world leaders. He can be pragmatic when he must, and will certainly get things done… “

Wonder what 10, Janpath and our technocrat PM have to say to that? “Fear not, the child doth not know what he speaks…”!

Cricket triumphed over terror at the prestigious Lords on Sunday. It was great to see two strife-torn nations, riddled by bullets, indulge in some good sporting spirit. If ordinary Indians rued MSD & Co’s early exit, advertisers @ home were a sulking lot ruing the loss of million bucks. I for one, was supporting the Lankans. But am still glad that the trophy came home, albeit across the border. At the end, good cricket won!

Footnote: Wonder how many little Afridis were conceived on that Sunday night…

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