Thursday, March 13, 2014

Being called ‘Hitler’ is perhaps the best compliment a leader could get in India today

No one will admit it in public. It’s a question of political correctness after all. How can you forget the gas chambers??? But then in an era of fleeting superficiality and skin deep strong beliefs, that’s a just a minor detail to be ignored. That’s where people come from when Hitler comparisons are denied in public. But the truth lies between this show of political correctness and the ground realities. Because if Rahul Gandhi does persist in comparing Modi to Hitler, it could prove to be unproductive to the extent of making people see Modi in a new, positive light. Yes, Positive. Because when you look at the big picture, Hitler in India isn’t a hate figure, a demonised person, a villain. Actually the truth is just the opposite. And here’s why I think so.

To put things in context look at the situation prevailing in India today. Lack of a strong leadership, and an Indian’s search for the same. A rising sense of (misplaced) nationalism, jingoistic in its nature. It is exactly here that Hitler, in the opinion of many people, scores, especially youngsters. And that’s all people know, or want to know. Here was a man who loved his country, a patriot, a strong leader who made his nation strong again. A disciplined man with leadership qualities to be admired.
And we Indians have always been prone to ‘hero worship’ be it sportsmen or politicians, and especially of military leaders. And Hitler fits all these very many moulds quite nicely. And the little matter of the belief that Hitler was a man who solved problems, and just got things done. A man who brought order to chaos, who replaced shame & anger with pride. Just this much is reason enough. But wait, there’s more.

All that above is just the state-of-play today. But what of yesterday? How does our past history affect how we perceive Hitler today?
Again, our history once again reinforces the fact that Hitler was a good man. It’s a fact that today’s youth hero worships Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose more than MK Gandhi. And remember, it was Hitler to whom Netaji turned to in the fight for Indian Independence. That makes Hitler India’s friend, even if it is – as it was – because he was the ‘enemy’s enemy’. So if Netaji admired Hitler, he can’t be all that bad. Many people still haven’t forgiven Gandhi for siding with the oppressor, Britain during the wars. For people who’ve read Indian history or rather know of all the theories and little trickles that went into making the larger whole, there is a strong and persistent view that had Hitler not weakened the British Empire through WW2, the British would have never voluntarily left India. This view finds its logical end in posts and books that proclaim that Hitler, not Gandhi, should be given credit for the independence of India. As an aside, when you have the time, also look up Savitri Devi, popularly known as Hitler’s priestess and how Hitler was for a while considered an avatar of Vishnu.

Back to the present and thousands of copies of Mein Kampf get sold every month at bookstores across the country. At last count there were at least a dozen editions that I know of, and there’s a new one every few months. It’s still a best seller in India. How would you account for this? The book’s literary merit? No. It is a rambling book, and a difficult read. I don’t think all those thousands of people who bought the book have ever finished the book. They only bought it not so much because they wanted to know more about Hitler but more as a token of their love for the man.

I could go on. About the restaurants that bear Hitler’s name. About how the whole ‘Hitler was racist’ doesn’t cut ice in private here, in India where we are as rascist as they come. About the movie(s) on Hitler. But as with the rest of the post, I will keep it brief and just enough to give you an idea of why I think that if someone is compared to Hitler, it may work in his favour. Why Adolf Hitler for all that he may be to the western world isn’t in India (necessarily) an evil man – but a hero, a role model, political correctness notwithstanding. I hope I’ve made enough sense to give you some food for thought.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why are military hotels called ‘Military Hotels’?

Military Hotel. You know, the places where you get all the Ragi Mudde and Chops. The donne biryanis and spare parts. Basically and almost exclusively non veg fare is what defines a Military Hotel, or Miltry Hotel as people call them. Actually the full and proper nomenclature is ‘Hindu Military Hotel’. But what’s with the military connection? I’ve had a lot of people ask me that, and am putting it down here so next time I can just mail a link to this post instead of subjecting them to my voice and wild gesticulations.
Now all this here below is what I’ve learned from my uncle and corroborated by relatives and a few people of the previous generation. That’s the only citation you’ll ever get if you ask. If you have heard of an alternative explanation or anything to add on, I would love to hear it. Anyways.
One logical explanation I’ve seen do the rounds is that they’re called Military Hotels because they’re run by ex-servicemen. Logical, plausible, but not quite right. The actual reason, as I’ve been told, is that back in the ye olde days, and I’m talking about the early post-independence years and up to the early 60s, the only non-vegetarian hotels and messes existing had cooks who were non-Hindu, mostly Muslim. So Hindus who were from non-vegetarian households would eat at home. But when it came to eating out, it was more or less a non-option for reasons stated above. This was a problem compounded for Hindus who were supposedly (or rather born) vegetarian but had acquired a taste for non-veg, because without the option of eating out they had to make do only with the occasional invitation to a friend’s house or say, a stray beegra oota. Remember also, these were times when towns were smaller than they are now and everyone more or less knew everybody else and his family.
Enter the military hotels to fill this gap for both kinds of people. Any hotel that called itself a Hindu Military Hotel (to use the complete & original terminology; though the word ‘Hindu’ has since been become redundant due to association of one with the other and due to changing times) was clearly suggesting, nay announcing three things:
• That it is a non-vegetarian hotel
• That the cooks are Hindus, and…
• No beef.
But still, why ‘Military’? Apparently the general perception amongst the people at that time was that everyone in the forces, the military HAD to eat non-veg irrespective of who he was or what his background and choice of food was. So ostensibly many of these places popped up to cater to the non-vegetarian food needs of soldiers on leave and ex-servicemen who had to have their meat but who couldn’t cook at home, or eat at hotels with non-Hindu cooks. Yep. It’s quite as simple as that. But the reasons are not so simple, but sort of make sense once you keep in mind the social mores of the time that food joints started calling themselves ‘Military Hotels’.
So there you go. Enough food for thought I guess, for now. Bon appetite!!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

NOT an open letter, but a heartfelt plea to Mr. Nandan Nilekani

Dear Mr. Nandan Nilekani,
It’s all become very creepy, very stalker-y now. It isn’t even funny any longer. You stare at me from hoardings all over the place on the roads I take, your face grins at me from all the webpages I visit, you smile at me from all over my FB timeline through your sponsored posts. If Big Brother was to be given a face today, I would give it yours. Though you’re not into surveillance and tracking (one hopes). The only thing left is for me to look in the mirror and see your face there also (Though that would an improvement on this mug of mine, still I don’t want it to happen). Sir, even Mr. Shahrukh Khan didn't try to stuff promote a bad product down our collective throats this much when he was hardselling promoting Ra.One. And that's saying a lot, wouldn't you agree? Surely that's not a record you want to hold.

Fine sir, I yield, I yield! I WILL VOTE FOR YOU! And you only. You can trust me on that because I am from Bangalore South constituency from where you are planning to be Congress candidate. Happy now? But in return sir, I only ask one simple thing. Can you now please stop spamming us now? Please.

Yours in agony and spam,
T. Gautham Shenoy
Registered Voter with Voter ID (who will now vote for you now)
Bangalore South Constituency,