Santa jingles...

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 8:58 PM in ,
Take two... my second attempt at writing this post. First draft lacked structure and sounded random. Writing television news has changed the way I write. My sentences are shorter, English is simpler and I am almost always writing for some imaginary audience. No more, not here... no sir.

Writer’s block had yet again jammed the grey artilleries in my brain. The juices aren’t flowing like they once used to and the mind requires some literary exercise. I haven’t written for this space in a while and I feel lost. Lost in the crowd and lost in the flurry of action & activity that defines my life right now. Little time to smell the roses and even lesser time to replenish the essentials that wholly constituted my life before the madness began. But I vowed to myself to not get lost in the maddening crowd... and I am back at my favourite place to reflect some more on life and times. Blogging helps me channelize my thoughts in a crystal-clear way...

Life has simplified a bit. There are fewer things that demand attention. Friends have become busy and the pressures of maintaining an active social life have soothed. Not that I didn’t enjoy mingling with my favourite people. But everybody is hooked now, as am I. And luckily, the bonds have remained... only to be rekindled on stolen trips back home or wherever these hidden treasures reside.

But while things have simplified in some respects... a greater investment of my time is needed elsewhere. The quality versus quantity debate seems to have crept into the picture and I know I have grown up. The last year or so had been fast and energetic. My endurance, patience and comfort levels have been tested like never before. On the personal front, things have evolved too. I have become more content and satisfied as a person. Existing bonds have solidified. Temperaments and rationales have passed the test of time...

Life has come a half-circle, as opposed to a full one, and I feel ready to experience more. Christmas and New Years are just around the corner and Santa has also popped out, buzzing with jingling bells in my head. Emotions have passed through the prism of time and split into a rainbow of jubilation and exhilaration.

Random, erratic thoughts are the essence of this post... but I shall be back to write and share more. Stay tuned ;)


A new perspective on Tharoorgate…

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 11:41 PM in , , , ,
Victimized by voyeuristic television news channels and penalized for his liberal utterances on Twitter, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign.

A saga that was first publicized by Headlines Today, about his alleged affair with Dubai-based Kashmiri Sunanda Pushkar, spilt over to something much bigger. I am sure when the channel first rolled out this story last week, the intention was just to stay in tune with the general flavor of its content (entertainment based) policy. When Lalit Modi picked up a cue from the dole-out and tweeted about the specifics of the Kochi franchise of the IPL, the matter gained ugly proportions. The slug-fest, prompted by Modi and Tharoor, and carried forward by all four major English news channels (one look at their prime-time discussion shows would have proved my point), resulted in the inevitable ouster of Mr. Tharoor.

It bothers me to see him go. Because the way I see it, and a lot of other news mediums don’t, is that I see it as the end of an era of new-age politics even before it began. An epoch where everybody in the position of power would be allowed to speak their mind and express earnest opinions on even social networking platforms (like Twitter). Not one person in this country seems fully satisfied with our governance mechanism. All of us love to hate the government and everything that it does. When a politician comes along as a new beam of hope for a change in standards (think Obama and Al Gore), instead of appreciating him for what he stands for, we join the chorus of news channels in beating him about the smallest slip-ups. Yes, change is uncomfortable. But change is also essential. Especially when you dislike things the way they stand.

We envy foreign politics for the quality of their people and their connect with the audience. When one of our own politicians makes an attempt to reach out and divulge his correct views on government’s policies and procedures, we shred him apart for being imprudent. Where is this country headed in given circumstances? As people, we appreciate newer concepts like ‘younger politicians’, but bash honest opinion-givers because they deviate from the norm of towing the servile line?

Did we, or them, expect the former dipomat in Tharoor to stoop to the levels of a Narendra Modi who uses forums like Twitter to further his political propaganda? Does he even have a political propaganda? Doesn't that set him apart? And whatever happened to the good sense of our television news channels? One channel might be reckless in its depiction of certain personalities. But if the rules of ‘competition’ dictate that every other channels needs to pick up the bait from here and be equally foolish in their conduct, then I abhor such competition.

For those of you reading my post and nodding in disagreement, I shall come to you for your views when eventually the IPL is banned for proving to be a breeding-ground for ‘match-fixers’ and ‘fiefdoms’. Because trust me you, if a Lalit Modi ouster is on the cards, the reputation of the IPL wouldnt be left unscathed either. It's future could be put into jeopardy.

Tharoor, till the very end, maintained high standards of dignity and composure. Without once denying his close friendship with Sunanda Pushkar, he gracefully offered to resign when he realized that things weren’t going his way. He might have over-stepped his powers as the MoS in the Kochi franchise auction, but he managed to retain his standards of correct conduct. Pushkar in return agreed to give up her Rs.70 crore stake to uphold Tharoor’s position. The Congress, already up in arms and tired of Tharoor’s constant tweets that contradicted their government policy, took this as an opportunity to show Tharoor the door. Of course being a shrewd party that it is, Lalit Modi’s head is lined up next for the guillotine.

The ouster of Shashi Tharoor was sad. With him we lost an educated, refined, polished and erudite politician. Something that our country, standing on the brink of political dubiousness, badly needed. We all seem to realize that development is difficult with the given quality of our politicians. With Mayawati who doesn’t tire of building her own statues, to Varun Gandhi who spews venom each time he opens his mouth, to Karunanidhi who is unable to untangle a messy succession battle, to Narendra Modi who is confused about which community card to play next to expand his voter base, to even a P.Chidambaran who is facing the ire of critics for his failed Naxal strategy after the Dantewada massacre – we are all confused about what we want from the ‘ideal Indian politician’. The UPA government which has so hopelessly failed to either control the spiraling food prices, or even failed to punish an obvious-accused like Ajmal Kasab, has fuelled our desire to scribble more furiously in our mental ‘complaint registers’. With Shashi Tharoor came the ray of hope of a new age of politics where politicians would have been free to drop all pretensions and speak their mind openly. An age where politicians reached out to the people and felt free to share their opinions about things that mattered. We need politicians who dare to deviate, those who refuse the tow the proven line with blindfolded eyes. We need thinking politicians who look beyond themselves towards the greater good of the nation. And we also need politicians who come equipped with a global perspective to take us forward. Tharoor might not have been the ideal politician, but he was definitely a beginning. By losing him, we've done a big disservice to ourselves.

Television channels, so consummated by the short-term joy of higher TRPs, offered cheap thrills to the people in the name of the ‘Tharoor-Sunanda-Modi’ saga. A host of benami IPL transactions still lie under the wraps. It is unfortunate to see this melodramatic saga of public muck-fest conclude the way it did. It is even sadder to see the (as somebody pointed out) 'conditioned' editorial chiefs of our television news channels undeterred by the damage that they have, knowingly or unknowingly, caused to the long-term goals of our country. They sabotaged a new dawn of Indian politics by stealing an example who could have been an inspiration to many others like him. Here in India, it is almost a crime to be erudite and educated. Maybe as a nation who cant move beyond envying western culture, but is unable to acclimatize itself to a liberal way of governance; we deserve to mire in the shackles of poor-development. I feel truly saddened by the complete lack of perspective on the Tharoor issue…

Post Script - By this post, I do not imply to absolve Tharoor of the charges that have been pressed against him in the Kochi franchise. But think about what would happen if we applied similar standards of judgement to our other leaders. Maybe this country would be left leaderless. Cruz remains, we cannot overlook Tharoor’s goodness.


Shoghi-Shimla-Kufri Trip 2010

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 11:52 AM in ,

It gives you a high when you begin your year in the valleys with close friends. I started mine in the with a train trip to Himachal Pradesh…

Jan 1, 2010
Kalka Shatabdi leaves Delhi at around 7.30am in the morning. We reached at the nick of time, thanks to a very slow taxi-driver who despite our constant protests, insisted on stopping at the red-light outside the New Delhi Railway Station. Once boarded, and we were traveling first class, I remember looking out of the window and seeing beautiful landscapes slip by. Amidst the pink ambience of the interiors of my train, it was a joyride all the way to Kalka.

Upon reaching the destination, a taxi took us to Shoghi. The driver this time was a Sikh who, I distinctly remember, stopped at a highway dhaba to fill up his stomach with tandoori chicken (or was this detail a fabrication of our idle minds?).

Shoghi was beautiful. Valleys were steep (:O) and we were staying at the emerald-queen of Shoghi vacation stays, Parkwoods Rustic Resort. My cottage was plain wood and basic, the bed was wrought-iron, and the bath-fittings were decent. Everything run on LPG… right from the geyser, all the way to the heater (prolonged use of an LPG heater can give you a headache, by the way).

While the day was spent in settling down, advent of the night saw a bonfire. Argumentative as we are, discussions followed. Tempers flared. Drinks flew around. Ashes left a weird stench in my locks. Retired for the night post 1am… slept almost immediately upon hitting the bed.

Jan 2, 2010
And woke up early. With a throbbing headache. Picked up a high-resolution Canon camera and stepped out to shoot after popping in a crocin. The high valleys and hammock, the scattered pine-cones and the early morning mist, interesting flowers and beautiful hills. I clicked some of the best pictures of the trip here. Wooden huts with chairs and tables outside. The grey ashes of our previous night’s bonfires were still fresh.

In the afternoon, we set out for a mountain trek. It might interest you to know that the author of this post suffers from vertigo. So basically for the most parts of this 1.5hrs trek, I was a nervous wreak. At one point, I even remember asking our trek-guide if anybody had ever slipped from these valleys and died (:O!). He was kind enough to just smile. Others laughed (grrr :P).

Post-trek came the body massages. Callous village people were called to ‘massage’ us with mustard oil (think: dara singh champis). After my turn, I was impatient to take a bath and get all the mustard oil off me. What an ordeal. For everybody traveling to Shoghi, please skip the oil-massages.

The beautiful night saw another orange-aura bonfire. Food was delicious, I got served Top Ramen on request. Someone was kind enough to hand-feed me because I was feeling whimsical. That same someone lit up the night with resplendently-sung soft Hindi songs and ghazals. I made a video. This someone made the trip worthwhile. There were no arguments this night. Only discussions about a game of Scrabble played earlier in the day, and some nostalgic school talks, and lot of reminiscing. I slept like a baby that night too.

Jan 3, 2010
A cab was called to ferry us to Shimla (15kms away from Shoghi). Although distance wasn’t much, the route felt longer with all the circular mountain tracks of Himachal Pradesh. This time the taxi guy was calmer (and not a Sikh!). A friend insisted we stopped along a grocery shop on the way because he had to (had to!) buy his cans of Diet Coke. Almost his staple diet, I’d say.

In Shimla, we zeroed in on an ITC hotel for our stay. The wooden interiors were missing, but this place was more swanky (obviously!) that our Shoghi place of stay. A walk on Mall Road proved good. Some scandalous pictures were clicked on Scandal Point. The clouds overpowered us mid-way and it started to pour. Amidst the cloud-walk, we foot-soldiers struggled to find a shelter. Café Coffee Day was encroached upon after satiating our hunger with hot pakoras on the road. I splurged on a sinful, but fuzzy serving, of Chocolate Excess. Temperatures outside were sub-zero. I could almost see virtual cats and dogs in the rain.

After a cozy-cum-splashy walk back to our plush hotel, our jeans were wet. Snacks and food made an appearance in our beds that night (aka room-service). Scrabble was out again, I won a wonderful game. Proved some girl-power. A card-game of Bluff was the highlight of the night. Needless to say, yours truly won again.

That night I slept late… a stench of onions with chicken tikkas stayed in my head.

Jan 4, 2010
Early morning cab to Kufri. Snow has bestowed dear Earth with whiteness. We were going to Kufri to have our share of snowball-fun before catching the train to Delhi. Kalka was 4-hours away from where we were. Cab-ride was fun. Everyone jumped at the slightest sight of snow.

Cars were skidding, we decided to step out and play foot-soldiers again. The walk up the mountain was fun. Our pony-rides to the top of the mountain were more fun. Angers flared as we got a little late in returning to the cab. Some feared we would miss our train.

And train we did miss. But what followed later could have been worse. Destiny put all its forces together to get us late. On the 4-hour drive back from Kufri, we found ourselves stuck in a 6 kilometers long highway jam. No place to run. Hard mountain on one side, deep valley on another. Someone checked his watch 30 times in 30 minutes. Consequently, we missed our train by just five minutes. Cab guy was kind enough to arrange another cab to Delhi for us. Charged us quite a bit (scoundrel?). We hit town post 12am, I was in bed by 1.30. Before I drifted off to sleep, I smiled selfishly at a year begun adventurously. Lo and behold outside-world, you have enough reason to be jealous :) Amen.

P.S. Television writing in college has screwed up my sentence-length!

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