the great escape

I look around and eye the **exit** my great escape, the red flashing sign, the word EXIT, written up, loud and clear, I eye it. And I make a run for it. The two hosts grab me before I even take a step, each with one arm locked into mine, they **crack a joke** about me, the audience laughs. They hand me a metal statuette, I hold it --the heaviest thing I’ve ever held on to-- it falls through the stage, through the wooden floor, with me holding tightly onto it, through and through. “Ladies and gentlemen we just witnessed **a great escape** for the first time in the history of this event, has the winner escaped in such a dramatic fashion, and without giving a speech either.”

Friday, February 6

Is India's Hindu-right ready for 'The Taliban Hall of Fame' yet?

According to recent media reports, a new front of Talibanization appears to have opened up. The latest host is none other than emerging superpower India. Several women were attacked in a college pub in the southern city of Mangalore, leading to comments by the Indian Women's minister describing the event as "an attempt to impose Taleban-style values". Sri Ram Sena (The Army of Lord Ram), a reletively unknown right-wing Hindu group is now being dubbed by the media as "India's Taliban".

The appeal for this Taliban-style has started spreading more rapidly in recent years. The original Taliban (called simply Taliban, not The Original Taliban) derived from way-of-life movements springing up in schools all around Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war. After the many successes and blunders of the infamous "Taliban in Iraq", comes the latest hub of this Taliban groove in the lawless wild-wild-west of northern Pakistan.

Forget that the word "Taliban" means students, Taliban related outfits in Pakistan have perhaps been too preoccupied lately, blowing up girls' schools, NATO supply warehouses, bridges, ammunition depots, killing spies, and mutilating dishonored women's faces with acid in Swat and other tribal regions, to even notice that they have become a growing trend across the border in India where inspired individuals from the Hindu-right have started giving alcohol consuming women quite a thrashing.

Of course the Hindu-right's aspirations to truly be Taliban-style (and not be fakin' it) are still young, only after months of strenuous practice and training will these determined right-wing Hindus acquire the physical skills, mental discipline, and spiritual strength required to successfully apply their vision of moral purity more forcefully. They would best be able to project themselves in the "right" light only through bigger badder operations-- like blowing up pubs, bars, cocktail lounges, waxing salons, and lingere stores. Though this would have quite an impact on the booming urban food, drink, and fashion industries – but isn't ruthless competition what free market capitalism all about anyway?

Talibanization is probably the only industry where Pakistan still seems to maintain a significant comparative advantage over the emerging economic powerhouse that India is becoming. Trade liberalization doctrines would dictate that it would be best for India to outsource its Talibanization logistics to Pakistan, who apparently has significantly advanced training and research capabilities, development infrastructure, as well as the most advanced technology and expertise in the area. India's booming market for Talibanized products and services would provide the booming cash flows neccesary to launch this potential cross-border venture to take global proportions.

The Pakistani Taliban appear to have progressed with leaps and bounds in their quest for universal moral decency. Their latest prize, an agreement with the government of Pakistan, on making parts of Swat an airtight morality zone for the implementation of Shariah Law-- complete with a parallel judicial system, and legislative structures, not to mention their very own rockstar Maulana "Redoo" Fazalullah (the "Redoo" is for the Radio in "Mullah Radio"). This literal state-within-a-state is the fruit of the seeds sown by the hours of tireless training spent jumping through hoops and running through tires in their training camps. If the aspiring members of Sri Ram Sena seek to enjoy similar heights of success, they should expect to put hours of strenuous practice and ingenious plotting into their operations.

So far it seems the Sri Ram Sena has its work cut out for it. Not only is the police cracking down on them to preserve India's liberal image, angry women in Indian cities seem to have organized themseves as "a consortium of pub-going, loose and forward women". This reactionary group of pink panty flaunting women -- reacting to the violence of conservative minded men, who in turn are reacting to the westernization of their ancient culture, which in turn is a reaction to the ancientness of the culture itself-- have already done the first common sense thing any such group would do: start a group on Facebook!

Now this cause is a recognized and trademarked social networking phenomenon, complete with satellite blogs providing minute-to-minute updates. The BBC reports over 5,000 members already. These passionate defenders of life and liberty, it appears, have decided to fight fire with fire, setting the battle stage on Valentine's Day, which, it turns out, comes from a rich tradition of defending values (the word valentine being a term of reverence for a martyred saint in Christianity). Apart from flowers, chocolates, and greeting cards, the days leading to February 14th this year would record a suspicious surge in the quantity of pink underwear purchased by women (and men) inspired by the Facebook driven "Pink Chaddi Campaign". A mail delivery of massive quantities of pink undergarments should be expected any day at the doorstep of Mr. Pramod Mutalk, the head of the infamous outfit.

While Mutalik, had sworn that the group would continue its efforts to thwart any "Western deviations" from Indian culture, in retaliation the Save the Earth Foundation sanctioned the deployment of martial-arts trained volunteers to areas where couples doing couply things might be threatened by these self-appointed defenders of morality. To an outside observer this Valentine's day in Indian urban centers like Mangalore would emulate a fusion between a B-rate kung-fu picture and a Bollywood gang fight sequence complete with damsels in distress, forlorn romeos, bouquets flying, the works.

The mere fact that there is both material and online resistance to the Sri Ram Sena's vision of moral goodness (and all-male pubs) suggests the need for a different strategy than those successfully executed by the Taliban on the Pakistani side of the War on Westernism. The women, for one, seem much more submissive, at times even cooperating to further the materialization of the Taliban's dream-society. This was evidenced by the emergence of the ninja-clad staff hurling ultra-violent band of Jamia Hafsa women in the midst of the Lal Masjid episode in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad. Not only were these women fully cooperative in the efforts to morally cleanse the surrounding areas of the masjid, they proved instrumental in the initial efforts to unsettle the government by kidnapping a sleuth of massage parlor workers, taking a nearby children's school by storm and holding hostages for safe passage guarantees, while zealously guarding moral diktats.

Converse to the "loose" women's reactive response, Taliban related movements currently operating in Swat and other tribal regions of Pakistan have faced absolutely negligible resistance on Facebook, and have certainly not received any pink underwear in the mail. Heaven forbid, if they find out such a thing exists they would be morally obligated to blow up all knitwear and garment factories in the region. Then the women of the region would not only be deprived of primary education, but also essentials of feminine hygiene.

As Talibanization spreads into the cities of Pakistan, it seems that the brunt of the moral cleansing is coming down even stronger on post-pubescent men of all shapes and sizes. A recent report suggests that the Taliban were able to successfully eradicate all pornographic material from a CD/DVD bazaar in Lahore with the mere threat of blowing their haram electronic media sky-high.

Unfortunately for the Talibanized groups on the Indian side of the border, their campaign did not see any pubs shut down, or any Valentine's memorabilia set alight. Only six arrests and minor incidents of socially disruptive behavior were reported in Indian cities this Valentine's day. These unimpressive results suggest that groups like the Sri Ram Sena have to get back to the drawing board and seriously chart out a new plan of action that would win them more support, and possibly even defect some disillusioned women on their side as well. A comment posted on one of the blogs following the Pink Chaddie episode advises the Ram Sena activists to "work through" the public opinion which is "actually on their side". Truly it seems that the decency campaign is yet another battle of hearts and minds, involving lots and lots of training.


Vijay Saradhi Satluri said...

can't believe that I have become a fan of a Pakistani.. Great stuff..

Madhavi said...

Excellent take on the issue....

Soundarya said...

You're hilarious!!!
To an Indian girl who is absolutely disillusioned with politics on both sides of the border, you come as a breath of fresh air.

I honestly wish you would write for some Indian magazines as well. Your words provide such an interesting spin on the most serious of situations and make me scream with laughter :)

A true maestro of both English and wit. Count yourself another reader won and carry on the good work :)

e_scape_artist said...

@Soundarya Thanks so much for your positive feedback.. I sometimes feel similar to what you described, finding oneself stuck between senseless opposing ideologies. I've found that humor and common sense can help a third wave of thinkers and feelers emerge from the silent majority. Your comments are extremely encouraging in that regard.

As for Indian magazines, I'd love to write for them, but I don't really have any contact with any.. feel free to put me in touch though.

Soundarya said...


Yes...there are too many ideologies floating around, but I think humor can build quite a few bridges :)

Well, I am just a reader of Indian magazines and newspapers and don't know anyone who works for them. But I can assure you that many articles in the editorial section of the Times of India lack the flavor and quality that characterize your work.

Maybe you should contact them directly? If you haven't already, you could compile a list of some of the top magazines and papers such as the ToI (Times of India), The Deccan Herald, The Hindu, India Today, Outlook, The Week etc. ToI is the group that is involved in the Aman Ki Asha initiative along with the Jang Group. They also have a 30 page weekend magazine issue (Crest Edition) and your works would be right at home there :)

You really do have a lot of talent. I hope to see more of it and hope that others see it too. Good Luck!