Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hostile Hearts

In Gaza, Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered the town of Beit Hanoun on Wednesday. A shell was fired toward a group of people between two houses, killing four, hospital doctors said. The total death toll in two days is 11, mostly civilians.
~ Agence France-Presse (AFP) September 27, 2007.


There is no letting up in the world’s most intense, passionate, well-entrenched, supported, hated, divisive, gruesome continuous conflict. By all accounts it is only exacerbating. Israel, the grizzled bully pounding the poor Gazans – once again -- after declaring the territory ‘Hostile’. Conspicuously every time there is a corruption charge against an Israeli leader [Ehud Olmert, the PM faces fraud charges currently] or a new thuggish defense minister wants to prove he is tough [Ex-PM and strongman Barak is Israel’s new Defense minister], the Palestinians end up paying the high price. Recently when Moshe Katsav [former Israel President] left office in disgrace after facing rape charges; for once there was no threat of a diabolical Israeli jet ravaging a few dozen Palestinian villages. The President’s post is thankfully symbolic in Israel.

One is forced to let out a gasp. Is it the same set of people, whose supporters swooped upon the visiting Iranian Prez in US, only two days back, grilling him for questioning Holocaust? My buddy – whom I spoke to last night in New York – interpreted it thus: Sam, “This community [Jewish] has suffered a lot during the run up to WW-II. One cannot afford to say that we need to revise Holocaust. It has been genocide.” Period.

My friend was perhaps being only geo-politically realistic. In the US they call it political realism. But should this realism provide a smokescreen to Israel to perpetuate wanton bloodshed in Palestine. The neoclassical realists of the world perhaps need to explain: Why does it not amount to genocide when the same touch-me-nots trample upon other people’s dignity, in full world attention and kill at will? May be we could dub it petite genocide, so that the Europeans may also understand.

A week back the Zionist state decided to declare Gaza hostile [Transliterated it means we are gonna go in and kill these folks and since we know no one can object, we just thought we should inform, lest the sudden increase of body count comes as a surprise]. Almost immediately Ms Rice [plastic smile always intact] said that US will not abandon the innocent Palestinians. [Source: CBS] Madame knew what was coming and added that albeit Hamas is an enemy to US also, the poor Gazans won’t be forsaken. In less than a week, Israel has cut electricity, water, communication and fuel supplies to the coastal strip. Close to a dozen people have already lost their lives. Palestinians have been forsaken, yet again. After all it is the holy land, where Jesus of Nazareth was also forsaken on the cross, more than 2000 years ago. No surprises here.

The current Israeli onslaught, we are told, is the result of firing of home made Qasam rockets into Israel from Gaza. Brazenly provocative. The Institute for Middle East Understanding says that the culmination of five months of killing by Israeli soldiers saw the number of dead so far at 382 Palestinians with 1,229 injured. In the same period, Palestinian rocket fire killed one Israeli. In the flawed arithmetic’s of the modern, civilized world, firing homemade rockets [which create a psychological scare to Israeli’s living near the Palestinian border], is terrorism. Severely punishing the Gazan population by completely cutting it off from the outside world [for electing a democratic government in 2006, which Israel doesn't like] and forcing it into extreme poverty, making it humiliatingly dependent on international aid, is state policy.
Terrorism/State policy. Tomato Ketch-up/Guillotine.

As a young Palestinian told a foreign news agency recently, “We are helpless, tossing these rockets -- which we know won’t really harm them -- is our way of telling them: May you also lose sleep in some imaginary alarm”. That is like a werewolf lording around a field, pouncing on leverets, which knowing they can’t fight the carnivore, throw carrots at it, tied to rocks. Almost 1.5 million Palestinians have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

Sources:
CBS www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/09/19/ap/world/main3274291.shtml

Sameer

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The great Ivy debate


It is not everyday that the son of a poor cobbler wows the prestigious Ivy League. For starters the illustrious Columbia University – part of an elite panel of eight premier American universities where an admission makes you are the luckiest/snobbiest person on earth – decided to invite the polemic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmad-e-Nijad. It was in the spirit of the famed American tradition of free speech.

No sooner did Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger announce his decision, all hell broke loose. Yeah, you guessed it right. The right wing media. The neo-cons. Hard line hacks. Those shrill Jewish organizations. The world attention shifted base – from the annual UN general body meeting to the Columbia campus. That is not much of a distance – Both UN HQs and Columbia are in NY -- but suddenly no one was interested in what those boring heads of states cared to say. A new stage was already set.

It was a game of brinkmanship. The atmosphere was clearly charged. Ahmadenijad came. The Columbia president was harsh in his introductory remarks. The protesters hollered. A frenzied media scanned every single pause and rune of the Iranian leader. Bollinger bollixed it up in the very beginning. He called Ahmadenijad intellectually bereft, faffing the fact that the Prez was a topper in academics and holds a doctorate in transportation engineering. In the next 40 minutes Ahmadenijad held Columbia -- and rest of the world -- captive and proved he ain't no simpleton. Ahmadenijad spoke candidly from the pulpit of America's highest academic atelier, much to the chagrin of White House, Israel Lobby and the distempered neo-con gang. And he made the Ivy dons look like complete fools.

If it was a battle of PR, the Iranians won Round-I. You can make that out from a quick gleaning of the US media. The rightwingers are clearly on backfoot, going to the extend of using swear words. [They often do that -- harass at the consecrated alter of big media, don't they] Bollinger, who is under much fire for giving the platform to Ahmadenijad began by saying, “Let's, then, be clear at the beginning, Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." He continued on with a litany of many of the most hot-button talking points used most often by neocon hacks but not at all proven and accepted as gospel throughout academia, or the world at large. Reading from a carefully prepared text, Lee looked like a petty, rude host and nothing more than a sidekick of the loud zionist mill.

Should Ahmadenijad have been invited to and allowed to speak at Columbia? Well, the guy is not without baggage. He has made loony, wild statements in the past but that doesn't make him an outcast. After all Bush Jr lied to his country about going to war with Iraq. Of course Mr Denijad should have been invited. The jeers come in because of Lee Bollinger's performance in berating the invited speaker. Iranian President Ahmadenijad was invited to speak. The whole affair looked in the end, and believe me this is the way it will play out in the Arab media and the Middle East as a whole, like Ahmadenijad played the Americans like fools. Ahmadenijad will be able to show how he manipulated the vaunted American Press and he will be quite correct.

Mildly chafing the Columbia dean, before begining his speech, the Prez said that 'Lee insulted the audience's intelligence because he tried to innoculate them without even listening to what I have to say'. "In universities we let people make their own opinions," he said to an applause [from a mostly hostile gathering].

Asked about Holocaust, he remarked, "Granted this happened, [but] what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?" Why should you deprive them of what is rigtfully theirs. When pressed on about why he wanted its revision, Ahmadenijad was categorical," Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished, forever done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that that's questionable? Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute for over 800 years. But new science has gotten rid of those absolutisms. There has been more research on physics than it has on the Holocaust, but we still continue to do research on physics. There is nothing wrong with doing it.

Not exactly the best of ideas but clearly worth a thought. Ahmadenijad was challenged by another audience member that Amnesty International figures showed that people were executed in Iran this year. "Don't you have capital punishment in the United States? You do too. You inject poison, we hang those on the death row, he remarked. Simple. The student quickly slunk back in his chair. What happens is that when countries [read US] disagree with other countries [read Iran], they spread these lies, [which are nothing but lies] Ahmadenijad added for a good measure. Mostly the Iranian Prez was impressive. Only once in response to a question about gays in Iran, he appeared weak. “In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who told you that we have it.” All one can say to Ahmadenijad is "Sir, of course there are gay people in your country" - but according to every known measure, you want to hide them. Please stop giving such holier-than-thou answers.

In hindsight, Columbia University was right in inviting Ahmadenijad; we need to see these people – first hand -- because clearly, we cannot hope to ever get real information about them from the folks currently in power in the US. But Columbia suffered a black eye in this face off because of the broadside issued by Bollinger prior to Ahmadenijad’s speech. Bollinger had the entire United States reputation in his hands. He elected to make the Americans look like school children trying to score quick points to stay in the game.

As a parting shot, Ahmadenijad quipped "From this platform, I invite Columbia faculty members and students to come and visit Iran, to speak with our university students. You're officially invited and welcome. There are over 400 universities in our country. And you can choose whichever you want to go and visit. We'll give you the platform. We will have our students sit there and listen to you, speak with you, hear what you have to say. We'll respect you 100 percent. It is our culture." Columbia was rent with cheers. An ovation followed. It was the final mortification of Bollinger, albeit in a more dignified, cultured way.

And instead the despot that America loves to hate, because the big media told them so, Ahmadenijad looked more the gentleman.

Sameer
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Pic: Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Prez Iran

Ivy Debate -- Update

Expectedly the praise for the Iranian Prez is fulsome. Time, one of the world's most respected news magazines, writes in its latest issue:

Despite the harsh words of his host, Bollinger, Ahmadinejad stayed on message, appearing relaxed, reasonable, open, even charismatic.

[Though Bollinger called him] astonishingly uneducated....the event was a resounding victory for the Iranian president.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Art of Sitting

Every single time I cross over to Kashmir, the first thing I always espy is the natives' Art of Sitting. I don’t know if it is a purely cultural thing but it is unique. No other place have I bumped into people hunkering down on floor to rest. Or eat. Or watch TV. Or fight. Or laze. Or prattle. I’ve figured out that there are many things exclusive only to Kashmir. Outside of the dell, it is usual for people to sit on chairs (in government offices and lower middle class homes), on ergonomic furniture (in corporate offices and media cabins), on benches (in schools, they can also make you stand up), on davenports (in British style cottages), on sofas (in well to do urban Indian homes), upon couches (in Indian film industry and fashion houses), on beanbags (every call centre executive at home), on charpoys (rural Indian homes) and so on and so forth.

The regular rule only deviates in Kashmir, like so many other things. From civil service guys (there is no corporate or private counterpart – only Sarkari Naukri matters) to your neighborhood sweeper, everyone hunkers down on haunches (Sits on his/her lion) upon the floor. That is standard. It is romance wrapped in novel nostalgia. It’s also the first feel you get that I’m home.

I reckon the ‘Sitting thing’ came from nowhere in particular. Since world over -- I beg your pardon, I know that is an exaggeration but that’s what the locals believe -- Kashmir is the best mother Nature has to proffer, Kashmiris consider being closer to nature is a blessing. Squatting on floor makes you feel nearer to ground, hence closer to the elements. Water. Fire. Earth. The heaven is like a playground with nice homes, castles, trees laden with fruits but no chairs. How do you think the chair addicts can adjust? Someone suggested after a deep thought. Instantly I was tongue tied. You don’t reason innocence, daftness, romance.

Kashmiri homes have the most exquisite flooring you will come across anywhere in India. Beautiful carpets, woven with an old world expertise over many wintry days and endless cups of pink salty tea, adorn most houses. The flooring is complimented with similar pillows. These throw pillows have pillow slips usually matching the room sheeting. The floor plan in most homes is aesthetic. The area rugs often go well with the drapes, which are tradionally crewel. The crewel is another key import into Kashmir from central Asia – like Islam -- but in their characteristic bravado, the natives will make you believe that it is authentically Kashmiri. Crewel is at least a thousand years old. It was first used in the Bayeux Tapestry in Europe but don’t even attempt to explain it to the folks.

Sitting is folk magic. Legend has it that sitting is a magical act that connects the person who sits, with other persons, states or places where he sat. So every major event in Kashmir is celebrated while sitting. Births. Marriages. The groom sits on the floor, so does the bride. Children will mostly pore over their books at home while sitting. Vegetables are cut whilst sitting. Sweaters are knitted in the same fashion. Many elders never get up from the floor, as if fastened. You eat while sitting. Naturally you pee like that. Everyone and his neighbor sit cross-legged. Tailor-style. Since all matters are discussed – threadbare – sitting, most policy decisions are taken from the soil. While sitting.

I was browsing through an online Kashmiri daily today. A visiting European Union delegation calling on the separatist leader Malik Yasin was hunkered down on the floor along with him in a picture.

True to its reputation, I smirked.

Sameer

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A Kashmiri offers Namaz by the Dal lake, in Ramadhan

Saturday, September 15, 2007

God bless

Tell your God to wipe this religion thing off.
Do you believe in such a thing as sin?


Two very special people – good friends of mine, both – separately gave me these pieces of prescription immediately upon knowing that I am fasting for Ramadhan. I smiled a little. Mortals…how trendy it has become to lampoon God. A la mode. It is interesting also. Asserting that you are godless does a lot of things to you: It absolves you of faith, to begin with. It sanitizes you from belief. You are free to go forth and transgress. Free.

I believe in God, although I’ve my adjustment problems with organized religion. I reckon, if not anything, the notion of God puts a beautiful sense of discipline in your heart. They say he who kneels before God can stand before anyone. I concur.

Faith is imperative. It is often redeeming, expiating. Faith helps you evolve in a million different ways. You can hang tough. Our individual beliefs are not simply trivial topics which come and go over time. They delve into the very fabric of our being and strengthen our character. Faith is like the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark, as Tagore avers.

It is strange that people confuse God with religionists. We flunk to understand that people can be bad – both in faithfulness or faithlessness. People fight for religion because they are either too ignorant about or misunderstand its tenets! Faith discourages all conflict.

Yet some of the biggest atrocities on earth have been committed in the name of religion – The Christian crusades, for instance, were the worst form of human wickedness ever, Islamist anarchy in the modern times is plain vulgar. A purely Jewish state commits little genocides each passing day. Faulting God for this human fallaciousness is like accusing your father for your misdemeanors.

History teaches us that people have pillaged one another since eternity. From antediluvian -- pre-religious -- years humans have been at each other's thoats. The Romans, Punic, Persian, Sicilian, Spartan, Syrian wars – all pre-date modern religion. People have always been murdering fellow people – as long as it was in the name of land, gold, greed or God.

Organized religion, let me concede, has bred superstition, bigotry, priests and rituals. Who was it that led to the supreme exposition, exploitation of these misplaced emotions, passions? Religion and not God. And ever since, people have done the most horrendous things in the holy name of religion. Such is the diabolical complexity of human brutishness. The god men, clergy, prelacy have only added to the confusion. It is indeed sad but does it still give us a carte blanche to curse God?

Indeed a large crop of thinkers, scientists and writers – who came in the last 300 years --have raised their voice against this abject irrationality that half-understood, half-baked religions spawn. As Swift puts it, we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.

In hindsight, I reason, may be there really is a need to know God. To understand the significance of God in our lives. Not because of sin or vice. Virtue or paradise. But because God is the only elixir to the spiritual hollowness and emptiness of our times.

As for all those blokes – who like to be dubbed godless -- maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman. And as they say -- any fool can count the seeds in an apple. Only God can count all the apples in one seed.

Happy Ramadhan

sameer

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flight 786 London to Jeddah via Islamabad

It was the most important journey of his life. Yet Nawaz Sharif kept sleeping most of the time on board PIA airplane flight PK-786, a symbolic Islamic number. Unsure of his fortune, the two-time prime minister of Pakistan kept his rendezvous with fate. In a laconic moment, flying over the vastness of central Asia, Sharif must have thought about those fateful moments during the fall of 1999 when a similar PIA aircraft carrying Gen Musharraf from Sri Lanka was not allowed to land in Pakistan, on his orders. Until that airplane ran dangerously low on fuel. Moments later, the all-powerful army took over. The Gen – of course landed safe – and Prime Minister Sharif was tied up, jailed and finally bundled into oblivion. To rot by the Red Sea, in Jeddah.

Not the one to take his fall from grace lying down, the billionaire Punjabi Nawaz Sharif, decided to wait his time out. With politics in his DNA, the Kashmiri-origin Nawaz who is often called the Titan/Lion of Punjab (He is a Punjabi, with both his dad and mom of Kashmiri ethnicity – a terrific combination in Pakistan, where three ingredients matter: Wealth, Faith and Kashmir) decided to strike back. Sharif, also called Mian Sahib by his followers, shifted base to a more political London from lavish Jeddah. Thames is a better idea than Red sea, as most of us would know. Aware that the Gen is considerably weakened by the sudden judicial activism in Pakistan, Main Sahib decided to return home – to Pakistan.

Mian Sahib is the quintessential Punjabi. He is fabulously wealthy. Sharif made a huge fortune during his days as a powerful finance minister under the dictator Zia. His family, immigrants from Shopian in Kashmir, made their millions in steel [Ittefaq Industries] before moving into sugar and textiles. Most of Pakistan's political elite has tended to come from the agricultural, rather than industrial sector, so Nawaz is an exception. The Biryani-loving Main sahib used to talk in chaste Punjabi and Urdu and was considered something of a conservative. His exile did two good things to him. He got an image make-over and improved upon his English. Sharif is now clad mostly in Seville row tweeds and has a new hair crop, thanks to a quick hair transplant. Not surprising from a man, who wanted an amendment in constitution of Pakistan during his second term as PM, to designate himself as the ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’ [Leader of the faithful], a politically loaded Islamic title.

So back to the flight. A planeful of world media in tow. Members of the British parliament sit by his side. His aide-camps. There is suddenly a heightened world attention. White House, we learn, is closely tracking the plane’s route. Could he scuttle their war on terror in Afghanistan? The Saudi King – Custodian of the two Holy Mosques and world’s oil boss – is watching developments with a strange eagerness from his Mecca palace, where golden threads are reported to fall off drapes when the servants dust them each morning. Meanwhile in Pakistan an all time high sympathy wave awaited Nawaz. It is a much leaner looking Sharif, with transplanted mane. Did he feel a sense of Déjà vu? Like time coming back to gnarl as distances shortened between him and his beloved homeland.

Flight 786 landed with fuel to spare. Mush had already gagged Nawaz’s supporters. Barricades were set all over. Violators threatened with dire consequences. Phones jammed. Military style. Tough, no-non-sense. Often enough in Pakistan’s history -- in the tussle between its military and civilians -- the former hold down the latter. Perhaps instructed to be rude, low level airport officials, the Pakistan media reported, misbehaved with Sharif -- the guy who is credited with detonating Pakistan’s first and only nuclear bomb. A once powerful man -- Mian Sahib -- could only utter: No body dares touch me. The feudal splendor was intact. The News, Pakistan, writes that the ex-PM broke down at one point and sobbed slowly when repeatedly misbehaved with. That is abominable. The rich and the respected should not cry. If and when Sharif – the mature politico – comes back to power (I have no doubt he will) he can always have that lowly, poor immigration officer slowly char-grilled, along with his superiors. No worries.

Sharif was immediately sent back. Such is the nature of Pakistan’s vindictive politics. Mush has once again, proved he is no different. Dispatching him back to the boring Red Sea palace – called Nawaz Palace – Musharraf displayed a complete lack of ethics and contempt of court – which allowed Sharif's homecoming -- and a vengeance that has become typical of the Gordian knot that is Pakistan.

Mush, the so-called savior, has -- alas -- become a silly suzerain that they all end up as.

Sameer

Friday, September 07, 2007

The malady of media

Beverly Hills is West Hollywood, California. The city is entirely surrounded by Los Angeles (LA). Woody Allen once famously remarked, “In Beverley Hills, they don't throw their garbage away - they make it into television shows.” The brilliant satirist couldn’t have been more candid about the kind of content that modern television beams. As globalization gradually paints every last nook of the world -- in its often outlandish colors -- we have become witness to an era of mushrooming TV channels. There is a new news culture. Everyone and his dog is well-informed. The only problem is that the information is mostly run-of-the-mill and garden variety, doing nothing to add to their intellectual prowess.

Sample this: Sanjay Dutt, a movie star, is going to visit a goddess in the hills. Breaking news: Dutt has now ridden a brown pony. Our channel is the first to bring you these live pictures, as Dutt crosses milepost # 6 en route to the hill goddess. His girlfriend is on another horse, but wait Sanjay’s pony has stopped. Let’s go and see why.

This is just a slice of what passes as journalism and TV reporting in India. If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons. Marsh was so very right. The problem with TV news in India is that it is still in its infancy. At a nascent stage with naïve people running the show. So you have bewildered boys and girls, fresh out of journalism schools, thrusting microphones down the throats of any one who can be remotely called a celebrity. It can be yesteryear film villains or former cricket players or anyone for that matter. As long as someone has Fluff Value.

We have a large crop of TV news channels, most of them Hindi, in India. By far, the Hindi chaps presenting the 24 X 7 news, are the worst of the lot. The reporters are homespun kinds, mostly mediocre. The reports are average. The other day, my attention went to a solitary TV glaring, as I ambled across a room. The hacks were following some former model, who perhaps unsuccessful in the fake fashion world -- and unable to cope with it -- had gone penniless and turned edgy and high-strung. She begged the reporters to let her be but our Boys-Without-Brains won’t relent. What followed was a sickening invasion of the poor girl’s privacy. Ethics, Responsible Journalism! Are u nuts? The Mike-goons have to have a story to be fed to the insatiable belly of the Non-stop news culture.

It is amazing that the news culture has dropped to such hollowness. My friends in TV tell me that they do it for TRPs. That there are no real issues to cover and if there are any, no one is really interested. I reckon the real truth is far more sinister. The Hindi news czars have identified their target audience: The hoi polloi. The segment includes everyone from your neighborhood paan-waala to an average office going guy, who has no understanding of how the junk news is manufactured and packaged. Some stupid Baba, making villagers drink some unholy concoction, so that they can make only male babies. Or the same, old, trite, beaten terrorism theme. Show some bearded guys in skull caps and talk in fluent, loud Hindi phrases, complete with silly reporters at ten places (talking to unintelligent passersby, who can’t even spell terrorism) and you have a full package. The problem is compounded by the fact that the entire exercise has to be repeated over and over gain.

And it is not like the west. TV news in US, UK and most of Western Europe is very balanced, produced and presented by the very best and mature people. They are seasoned and mostly original, with occasional ideological tweakings. In India you get – for example -- a very uncouth looking Prabu Chawla, shamelessly aping Tim Sebastin in Hard Talk (BBC World). Our balding Prabu anchors Seedhi-Baat (Straight talk…Hard talk, Loose talk…Naughty boy, Copy-Cat). Call it his puerility, but no one has explained the cultural gap between UK and India to our local James Bond. Tim is often confrontational and bellicose in his interviews and that is conventional going by the stiff upper lip British standards. Simply filching his style and talking to your Hasti (Important Figure/Personality….that includes a gawky item girl, et al) is simply childish. Prabu’s channel, Aaj Tak, I forgot to add, is a rage with the masses.

TV news in India has become a euphemism for cacophony. They distort facts and coax at will. And they holler a lot, like farmers. It is trash and it is a huge threat to the intellectual fabric of the people who are its supposed viewers. As they often say…Theatre is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture.

Sameer

Monday, September 03, 2007

Addendum

Just to chronicle for posterity -- and present if people still care. I’m happy to note that I was not too wide of the mark when I wrote about the coolest brands doing the most un-cool things to better their bottom lines. As if to validate my point, my fav newspaper – which I daresay is the world’s best – The Guardian, London carried its lead story on similar lines on Monday (Sep 3, 2007).

What connection between reader and the paper. An alignment of ideas.

The sweatshop high street - more brands under fire, the banner headline hollers. Go to http://business.guardian.co.uk/retail/story/0,,2161302,00.html for a better idea of how the biggest and the best brands do business.

Cheers
Sam

Saturday, September 01, 2007

To tag or not to tag

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
~ Coco Chanel
French Fashion designer, King of Parisian haute couture for six decades, 1883-1971

The takeover is complete. Every single inch of their consciousness overwhelmed, stupefied by the dazzle that modern fashion is. And it has permeated deep down, to the level of fathomless obsequiousness. I can't help smirk when I see fashion-toadyish bands of boys, raiding branded stores, laden with disposable incomes. Linkin park loving. Rapcore fans without following a word of what is being sung. I can understand an African-American teenager – with his soggy pants - in the 1970’s crooning the un-intelligible hip-hop, swear words and all, as a means of breaking free of the dominant discriminating attitude of those times but what has become of our fellas.

Sadly it all passes as Fashion. Sporting a Nike is mandatory. That is being branded. Rich. How does it matter that Vietnam Labor Watch, a respected activist group, painstakingly documented that Nike violates minimum wage and overtime laws in much of the poor world, where their goods are typically manufactured. Sources of this criticism include Naomi Klein's book No Logo and Michael Moore's documentaries. A $ 15 billion company knows how to gloss that over. Fluent sales gals in ultra-stylish showrooms -- showcasing the latest apparel to our Linkin park-adoring guys -- do the needful. In an intellectually-bereft generation, everything is cool.

Donning famed tags is not a problem. I – for record -- wear a branded perfume, wear Lee. As someone’s correctly pointed out, the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans; it's an open mind. It is about sensibility. Recklessly aping the west to the extend of deranged fascination, bordering on sublimation, is not sensibility. It is fakeness and it smothers originality. As they say, it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

The media makes the plebeians think that imitation is cool. That behaving in a certain way is hip. Ironically what we read and hear is Corporate Media. Media, funded by the same companies, which sell you a floater for a ridiculous four grands or make you shell out a fortune for some nutty, cranky gizmo. Fashion! So we have neo-fashionists with often no sense of style. You can be fashionable but the style quotient cannot come without proper exposure. Understanding one's culturescape is also key. Fashions often fade, style is eternal.

True, in a globalized world, we can’t question the west’s flooding of our markets, music and minds but shellacking its impact is important. To tell clever marketeering from genuine fashion. The problem is that we are all carried away by the high pitch hype. It has gotten too shallow. Ad-gurus with their finger on the society's pulse, know the Bull's eye: The collective psyches. Results: Free SMSes. Premium packages. Discounted apparel. Keep them transfixed, sucked up!

Market forces will rather have you take an extra something – Coffee shots for example -- for a price, which can buy you a work of John Paul Satre, the greatest thinker of our times. The gentleman refused the Nobel Prize in 1964. But who cares? We got to send another scrap to another chum – who by the way we not too chatty with -- on Orkut.

Such is being cool!

Sameer