Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some more on section 377

Following the previous post on section 377, RK a long time reader and occasionally an agent provocateur, asked me why blame the Supreme Court for the legislature’s folly? Well, he does ask a legitimate question.

First, I must start by sort of summarising what I wrote earlier. All of us may have our views on homosexuality, we may be repulsed by it, be scared, be comfortable, believe it is wrong, believe it is a sin and so on and so forth. My point simply is, why should it be a crime? Someone may not like my eating beef or chicken or if he is a Jain, garlic. But, it is my choice and, as yet, I am not committing a crime eating garlic. Why should the same not be true of homosexuality? Okay, I may be drawing a rather bizarre picture, but I am sure you get the concept. Personal likes or dislikes do not mean that the matter should be a crime.

Now getting down to trying dealing with RK’s question. Here are a few points, none of which are necessarily sequiturs to each other.

1.     The Supreme Court is the highest Court in India. In 95% of cases the Supreme Court does not exercise original jurisdiction. This means that you cannot file a case directly in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is a court of appeal. This necessarily means that in 95% of cases that the Supreme Court hears, one, if not two judgements, that have previously been pronounced by a lower Court. This means that the Supreme Court has the benefit of the dispute already having being dealt with before reaching hearing. In this case too, the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal arising out of the judgement of the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court had by a detail judgement declared section 377 as unconstitutional. So, the Supreme Court could have merely upheld what the Delhi High Court had said. But, the Supreme Court chose not to do so.

2.    Yes of course the Supreme Court is not bound to strike down an incorrect law. It may well ask the legislature to do so, as it has done in this case. But, the point is, that the Delhi High Court had already as they say `done the needful’. So, what was the reason to overturn the Delhi High Court order and once again declare section 377 as Constitutional? I can understand the Supreme Court taking this kind of view if the Delhi High Court had taken a similar view. But, this decision of the Supreme Court is rather bizarre.

3.  The Supreme Court’s opinion that the law should be amended by Parliament would have been understandable if this was the consistent approach that the Supreme Court took. If, for example, as a matter of precedence, the Supreme Court rarely interfered and struck down laws, and asked the Parliament to modify laws, on a consistent basis, this approach of the Supreme Court would have seemed consistent and sensible. This too is not the case in this judgement. The Supreme Court has declined to intervene and strike down section 377 despite having intervened and struck down laws often in the past.

4.    As a corollary to (3) above, in several cases, as and by way of example, in the 2G scam, the Coal allotments, the Supreme Court has directly intervened and said that polices framed are incorrect, or illegal and have set aside a lot of existing functioning economic contracts, activities and investments. The losses caused by the setting aside of the 2G licenses, the cancellation of the coal allotments are all instances of direct intervention by the Supreme Court. In fact, one of the judges hearing the 377 case was part of the bench that set aside the licenses. So, intervening, striking down polices and laws is not something new or unprecedented.

5.    The most disturbing aspect for me is what appears to be the mindset of the two judges. This whole mindset issue is distressing. I understand that besides homosexuals themselves, the call for amendment of section 377 is most strident from liberals especially urban liberals. It is also true that the huge majority of Indians, probably the so called `Bharat’, are in some way largely homophobic. I may be stepping out on a limb here. This homophobia may stem from prejudices, half knowledge or just ignorance. Judges of the Supreme Court are supposed to be learned, and I mean that honestly. This judgement whereby they have declared homosexuality to be a crime, to my mind, shows a shockingly conservative and un-liberal and medieval mindset. This is deeply distressing.

So, did the Supreme Court act wrongly? Strictly speaking no. Did the Supreme Court act distressingly, unthinkingly, uncaringly, reveal a hideously conservative streak or mindset? In my view yes, yes, yes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Section 377

I start by making my position clear. The restoration of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1861 to the statute book by the Supreme Court is shockingly regressive, wrong, and extremely conservative decision, and the section needs to be modified at the soonest.

My point simply is that why does sex between consenting homosexuals/lesbians/gays need to be a crime? I stress on the word crime.

Before getting all worked up, I believe it is helpful to set down the section, and, what it means and how Courts have interpreted and applied it. Mind you, these are all facts, there may be very good reasons for the Courts to have made certain decisions.

Section 377, IPC reads as:

“377. Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation.—Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.”

Lacking precise definition, Section 377 became subject to varied judicial interpretation over the years. Initially it was interpreted as covering only anal sex. Later interpretations included oral sex and still later, interpretations covered penile penetration of other `artificial’ orifices like between the thighs or folded palms. The law made consent and age of the person irrelevant by imposing a blanket prohibition on all penile-non-vaginal sexual acts under the vague standard of ‘unnatural offences’.

Though, on the face of it, applicable to heterosexuals and homosexuals, Section 377 acted as a complete prohibition on the penetrative sexual acts engaged in by homosexual men, thereby criminalising their sexual expression and identity.

Christian religious morality does not approve of non procreative sex. This has meant that the Christian Church has frowned on homosexuality. Fair enough. The Church may frown on this, the priests may preach that homosexuality is bad/immoral/wrong etc. A homosexual Christian may have to make a painful decision of deciding whether and how to deal with his religious desires and his sexual orientation. Spokesmen of the Church will obviously never support homosexuality. But, the point is that even in countries with majority Christian populations, while the Church has its view, homosexuality is not a crime. The homosexual Christian may be mocked, looked on in ridicule by society, ostracised from the Church, but there is no crime.

Our own BJP has made two points. First, that the BJP believes that homosexuality is an unnatural act and therefore cannot be supported. The second is that a vast majority of the population is heterosexual and it is a small proportion that is homosexual. The call for amendment of Section 377 is from the elite, the liberals etc. Fair enough. While, I do not think that homosexuality is unnatural, I do agree with the other statement made by the BJP. Once again, so what? Yes, liberals are asking for amendment, yes, homosexuals are a small minority. But should it be a crime? When preaching your meaning of Hinduism you could certainly say that homosexuality is unnatural, but should this mean it remains a crime?

The position of the Muslim community is basically the same.

You yourself may be homophobic, and look at gays with fear, contempt, apathy, hatred etc etc. I understand. You do not have to like or be comfortable in the company of someone you suspect as being gay. But, I ask again, should being gay be a crime?

I really cannot for the life of me understand the need to retain section 377 on the statute book. Promiscuous behaviour, public displays of affection, outrageous behaviour are all punishable in any event. I understand that there are no bright line tests for what constitutes bad behaviour, but do we really need section 377 to curb this?

I am really aghast at this judgement. I must say we are painting a fine picture of India. Business wise India is bad with changing rules, retrospective amendments to tax laws. The 2G and Coal scam, whereby existing license holders have been penalised after they have invested massively in India have portrayed a deeply worrying picture. The unfortunate Nirbhaya incident, it’s pathetic handling by the government, the repeated sexual molestation accusations show that India is deeply unsafe. Criminalisation of homosexuality is making us the object of derision world over. What really is happening to us? Where is the leadership?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kundan Qaliya - Avadhi mutton curry

In a previous post, I had written about very good South Indian style Chicken Curry. This was curry had a coconut base. This post is about another curry, but this one is totally different in all respects. It is North Indian, it is made with Mutton and is very refined.

Do try and make this at home, it is simple, it has normal ingredients available at home [except for the Gold garnish], and it is really delicious. Let me assure you that once you make this curry and eat it, or, if you do serve it at a dinner party, no one will believe it is home made. All will think you are fibbing and that the dish is bought from a fancy restaurant.

The dish in question is called Kundan Qaliya. This is Avadhi in origin. It is a mutton [well goat for us Indians] curry. It is very aromatic, very regal and very sophisticated. Now you may well ask what is a Qualiya? And while we are at it, what is the difference between a Qaliya, a Saalan and a Korma. Well, I did some research and have not really been able to find any definitive answer, but here are some sort of definitions. Please take this only as a rough guide because the more you cook Indian food, the more you will find fault with these distinctions.

A Saalan can be a meat dish, with thin gravy. Just to make things complicated Mirchi Ka Saalan does not have meat and neither does it have a thin gravy.

A Korma is typically a braise [a braise is where meat is browned, liquid added and cooked on low heat covered] obviously using meat cooked with the addition of yoghurt. Onions may be browned with the meat.

Qaliya is a meat dish that has vegetables added to it. Pureed or otherwise. This was in effect a way, for the aristocrats to consume vegetables when added to meat

Don’t worry, this Kundan Qaliya has no pureed vegetables. The gravy in the Kundan Qaliya is quite special as it is a smooth gravy. This is achieved by straining the gravy, much like the French sauces are. And the gravy should be slightly thickened and viscous something like a cough syrup. The mouth feel is lush and luxurious. No ghee is used so the dish is reasonably light. If you find that the dish gets oily, do not worry or despair, simply using a spoon collect the oil and throw it down the drain.

Now as far as the Gold `Vark’ or gold leaf garnish is concerned, let me give you a tip. You could of course use silver, but if you want to use gold leaf, this is available in most Jain Temples. The Jains use this to cover their images. Do not worry about cost. A gold leaf is so light that a single leaf should not cost you more than Rs 50/-

Credit for this recipe must go to the Chef’s at ITC. We have made this several times, and the recipe works.

Kundan Qaliya
Serves 2 generously


Boneless mutton cubed
500 grams
Cooking oil
½ cup. You need a generous amount
Green Cardamom – Ilaichi. Whole, slightly opened to prevent them exploding in the hot oil
8 pods
Cinnamon – Daalchini
3 inches
Cloves – Lavang
8 cloves
Raw Onion Paste – simply peel and puree onions in a blender
½ cup
Ginger paste
1 tablespoon
Garlic paste
2 tablespoons
Turmeric – Haldi powder
1 heaped teaspoon
Yellow Chilli Powder – red will do if you do not have yellow
1 teaspoon [adjust later is needed]
Coriander – Dhaniya powder
1 tablespoon
Yogurt whisked – if very liquid then hang the yogurt to make it thicker. Slightly sour yogurt is ideal.
1 cup
Brown Onion paste
1/2 cup
Peeled almonds made into a paste
¼ cup

Ingredients for garnish

White pepper powder
1 teaspoon
Green Cardamom powder
1 teaspoon
Saffron dissolved in a bit of warm milk

Gold leaf
Pistachio cut into slivers


First prepare the brown onions. Heat oil in a pan and add thinly sliced onions. Fry till golden. Remove and set on paper to drain the oil. Once cool you can blend the browned onions with the yogurt. Set aside.

In the same pan you browned the onions, heat some oil and add the whole spices [Green Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves] and sauté till the spices crackle. Now add the pureed raw onions and stirring often start to brown this puree. When halfway done add the Ginger and Garlic pastes and sauté till everything is golden.

Add the Yellow [or Red] Chilli powder, Coriander powder and Turmeric powders and sauté for a minute, Now add in the pureed brown onion and yogurt and the mutton. Add a cup or two of water and transfer the contents of the vessel to a pressure cooker. Rinse and retain the cooking vessel, you will need it again. Cook under pressure to get the meat cooked. Release pressure and open the cooker.

Remove the mutton pieces from the cooker and keep aside. Using a strainer [one you use for juice/soup] strain the contents of the cooker into the cooking vessel. See how much liquid you have. If there is a lot for the quantity of mutton bring the liquid to the boil and reduce to desired quantity.

Add the mutton back to the liquid, add the Almond paste and bring to a boil. Now at this stage, not before, add the salt. This dish is now ready except for the garnish. You can now keep it away or continue on. If there is too much oil, this is the time to skim it off.

When you are ready to eat, heat the dish, add the Cardamom and Pepper powders, be careful they are potent. Add the Saffron. Pour into serving bowl. Garnish with the Gold leaf and sprinkle the Pistachio on top.

Eat with steamed rice or Paratha.

Kundan Qaliya - made at home

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beating Retreat - Navy Day 2013

My cousin is a senior naval officer. He very kindly invited us to watch the full dress rehearsal of the Beating Retreat ceremony on 3rd December 2013 at the Gateway of India. Before I go any further a few disclosures:

  1. The cousin is a dear cousin; we are all close to him, like him and his family and have lots of fun together. The observations in this post have no reflection to/on the relationship.
  2. This is not meant to be India bashing, but, I think people need to realise that the world has gone far ahead and past glory and amateurish performances really do us no good.
  3. To be kind, everything is relative [not as in cousin relative, but, in the Einstein theory of relativity – relative]
  4. Since you by now may suspect which direction this post will take, if you do not agree, stop reading now!! You are under no obligation to read further, get offended and then complain. Simply stop reading and get yourself a Pani Puri.
  5. I hope I do not go to jail on charges of Sedition.
Beating Retreat is an old martial ceremony, performed at sunset, originally to recall the patrolling units back to base. Today, Beating Retreat ceremonies are performed using the backdrop of some monument. In India Beating Retreat is performed on 29th January every year at the India Gate. This signifies the end of the Republic Day festivities. In Mumbai it is performed on 4th December by the Navy, to signify the end of Navy Week as well as to commemorate the attack by the Indian Navy on Karachi in 1971.This year, Navy Week celebration were cancelled as a mark of respect for the sailors who perished in the submarine mishap a few months ago. So, no Navy Ball, just the Beating Retreat ceremony.

Beating Retreat was at the Gateway of India, a rather magnificent backdrop. The area had been cleaned, cordoned off, comfortable seating organised and, frankly, the Gateway looked magnificent. The ceremony starts at about 5.30 pm and ends at about 6.30 just after sunset. There was a dress code, men were to wear a shirt and tie, naval officers were to be in uniform. The whole event was really well organised. Lots of Naval boys and a few Navy girls, all looking dashing in their white uniforms, checked our passes, escorted us to the seats and looked fairly busy. A good Public Address system had been set up, lights were in place and things looked good. The weather was most pleasant. Since Cousin is a big cheese, we got to sit in really good seats. While waiting, I was very happy to see that the audience comprised of many Javans and Sailors and their families. I was told that the distribution of tickets is very fair and the Navy tries to ensure that there is an equitable distribution over all ranks. That was really nice. The Beating Retreat is not for only `Bada Sahibs.’

The evening started with 120 persons marching into the plaza carrying all the ceremonial flags along with a large marching band. These troops had marched along P J Ramchandani Marg, which is the road on the front of the Taj Mahal Hotel. This caused much excitement. I can understand why. Once the band stopped playing commentary started. This was poorly spoken and even more poorly written. It was replete with every conceivable cliché, and sounded like a cross between an instruction manual and my school history book. Phrases like `brave sailors’, `annals of time’, ‘deeds of valour’ and so on so forth is what I am referring to.

Soon we had helicopters that hovered over the sea in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel, threw down ropes and the `brave soldiers’ `bravely’ rappelled down, and soon were hoisted up. Of course, despite sitting in the prime location we could see none of this as the sea is a good 50 feet below where we were sitting. Then there was more marching, more music from the marching bands. Sailors marched in formation, changed formation, marched across each other, crossed paths and generally did lots of marching. All thru this the band played.

Then it was time for the lowering of the flag fluttering atop the Gateway. That was done and it was time for yet another flypast by the helicopters. That being completed we had girls from the sea cadets who came on and did an Irish dance. Irish because, the commentary informed me, the Irish are great seafarers. This was energetically done, though totally amateurish. Then there was more music, including that horribly overdone Colonel Bogeys March, immortalised in the movie `Bridge on the River Kwai’. Since it had become dark, at a magic moment, the lights went out and the drummers used illuminated drumsticks and their drums sort of lit up when struck. You know that when all else fails, get the fires going. So now we had drumsticks that were lit on fire! Literally! Frankly, left me cold.

Then came the best part of the evening. Something called silent drill. Here a body of sailors did all kinds of formation marching, slapping their guns in unison, stamping their feet in unison, throwing their guns at each other, their leader walking down the middle of two rows of gun throwers, unscathed. Finally, fire again, guns were lit and leader walked thru twirling guns with fire!! That was good, honestly.

Then some more music. There was another nice moment. The band co-ordinated the music with the chiming of the bell probably atop the Taj Mahal Hotel. This was well done.  The band did have an odd choice of songs to say the least – Ghostbusters!!! Yes, “Who are you going to call? Ghostbusters!!” And to end the evening, a sort of really soppy, totally inappropriate Kenny G type song complete with romantic purple lights.

I came away very very disappointed. This was really a show which would have enthralled us 50 years ago. Total lack of imagination in the whole production. Performances that were childish. The fly past was a pathetic joke with 6 helicopters performing manoeuvres that are wholly routine in search and rescue missions, which is their job. We have seen all this ad nauseaum on the last 63 Republic Day parades. A marching band can be a thing of power, beauty and humour. Have a look at a marching band playing at most US Football games with their cheerleading squads. That is something. This I am sorry to say was an embarrassment.

Should this event have stirred nationalistic pride, should I have felt patriotic? I did not, not in the least, despite the National Anthem being played twice. Was this event supposed to stir such emotions? I do not know. Was this to showcase the Navy, its skills and diversity and above all its power? I do not know. Would a young impressionable 15 year old watching this be influenced to rush up to the recruiting office? My guess is no, certainly not in Mumbai. But the point remains, I was left cold and certainly uninspired.         

Would someone please tell the Navy that in a few days it will be 2014 and we, as a Republic, will be a year older. This is not 1950. Please also tell them that we were very happy that they did not impose on us that other cliché, 28 men on a motorcycle doing gymnastics!!!

The Gateway of India did look pretty. After the event it was drinks at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, another place stuck in a horrible time warp, and a sumptuous dinner at the Table, which you can read about in the earlier post.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Table

We were invited by Mr. And Mrs. Bagvala [names changed to protect their identities] to dinner at The Table, a Fine Dining restaurant at the Gateway of India. I must start by saying it was a fantastic meal, the food was top notch and more than that the food was really innovative. It was not the usual quasi Italian quasi Mexican quasi Oriental cheese and carbohydrate laden food that passes as Continental food in today’s restaurants. This was really new food. I will go so far as to say that this was the finest `Continental’ food I have had in India in the last 10 years. It was imaginative, well cooked, excellently presented in custom made serving dishes and above all, tasted excellent.

For those in the know, Alex Sanchez who was the Chef at The Table has since departed. I do not know if this is correct. The restaurant describes its cuisine as `ingredient driven, focusing on simplicity and purity of flavour, a philosophy inherited from Chef Alex Sanchez’s native San Francisco’. This is a two level restaurant done up in wood with a lot of wrought iron, pleasant to the eye with a bright red rather macabre painting at the top of the stairs. I was rather surprised that the restaurant was only at 50% or less capacity though it was a Wednesday night. By contrast Indigo Deli located just 25 meters away was packed to the rafters.

Soon after seating we were handed the menu as well as the wine list which I glanced at. I was not drinking as I was driving. The Wines themselves were not very many with what looked to me like a 33% Indian wine selection and the remaining global. Not impressive but not something to sneeze at. I know for a fact that the ITC Grand Maratha has a much larger selection, anyway, that is not the point. A bottle of Bodega Norton Malbec which sells at the ITC Grand Maratha for Rs 4,000/- was available here at Rs. 3,500/-. Is that expensive? A bottle of Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile which we drink at home costs Rs. 1,300/- at Shah Wines while it was being sold at Rs. 2,900/-. A decent price to pay at a restaurant.

A most decent bread basket

Mrs. Bagvala took charge and ordered starters for the table. She is a reasonable regular at the restaurant and was familiar with what was what. A most popular dish is Zucchini Spaghetti with Almonds and Parmesan. This is served warm with a Balsamic dressing. Mrs. Bagvala warned the waiter that she would not accept a soggy dish. I must say that the waiter’s promise of not serving a soggy dish was met. The dish was excellent. The Zucchini was cut into strands to resemble Spaghetti and probably sautéed. Parmesan was grated at the table. Really top class and something I have never had before. It was polished off in seconds. 

 Zucchini Spaghetti with Almonds and Parmesan - just before they added the Parmesan

The next starter she ordered was described on the menu as Boneless Chicken “Wings” with a Ginger Glaze. Total knock-out of a dish. This was a genuine creation, something I have not seen ever before. From what I could figure out Chicken Skin and stripped meat from the wings was probably pressed into a sort of cake and then cooked in an oven. Cubes were cut dressed with the Glaze and served. Fantastic dish. I am glad Mrs. Bagvala took charge.

The Chicken `Wings'
Then it was time for the main course. 3 of us decided on the Burger, cooked medium in a Brioche Bun. Mr. Bagvala wanted Bacon in his, HRH the Queen of Kutch requested Cheddar while I said I would like Blue Cheese. Folks, these were good burgers, really good burgers. Juicy, the bun was super and the fries that accompanied the Burger crisp and hot. The best Burger we have had in India. As good as what you get in the UK? No, but close. Mrs. Bagvala ordered Grouper Roasted in Japanese Aromatics with Spring Onion Fondue and Spinach. It looked really good and she declared it as excellent.

The Burger with Blue Cheese

Grouper Roasted in Japanese Aromatics with Spring Onion Fondue and Spinach

A few days after the meal I have written about in the previous paragraphs, we once again dined at the Table. In light of the excellent food we had eaten we ordered exactly the same things again. However, we had some additional people we were dining with. Senior Mrs Stonethrower ordered a Korean Barbeque Beef on a  Kimchi Pancake with Scallions, Mung Bean Sprouts and a Horseradish Cream. We all had a forkful to taste. This was a really good dish.

There was a Red Snapper also on the menu. This was served with Curried Quinoa, Fresh Fennel Slices and some sort of Broth. I am afraid I cannot recall what the dish was exactly. But this dish too was pronounced as really good.

The Red Snapper without the broth and then with the broth poured on. 

As I have said earlier, a really good meal, really good food and food that genuinely excited us. I regret the fact that I have not eaten at the Table before. I plan to remedy that and eat there a few times. Mind you it is pricey, the burgers cost Rs. 1,200/- plus plus but they are really good.

Go there soon. I recommend it. The Table is far superior to Indigo and certainly better than Indigo Deli. I do not think there a better restaurant serving `Continental’ food in Mumbai.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

KYC - Know Your Customer - What a bloody joke

First things first. We, as in the Stonethrower Family Unit, are law abiding. We do not steal, physically hurt, drive when drunk and by and large are honest. Of course, all these are relative standards. Compared to the wonderful Tarun Tejpal we are like pure driven snow. But, I am sure you get my point. We generally follow the law.

Secondly, all that I am writing here is what I have personally faced. It is not hearsay, it is not third party information.

One of the laws that our great country has, mandates, that banks should have a robust KYC policy. KYC means Know Your Customer. So, if you have to open a new bank account or if you have an existing bank account you have to provide your bank with documents and proof that you are you and not Ajmal Kasab. So in this process you need to prove your residence, your age, your sex, that you are not menopausal, that you are over the age of 18, that you have photographs and that you have thumbs which you place on a ink pad and do thumb impressions on documents and so on and so forth. I am sure all of you have done this or have had this done for you by your peon, father, driver or chartered accountant, and in the case of rich fat and lazy bastards – by your grovelling relationship manager.

At the start of this financial year, for a variety of reasons which I shall not go into here, the Stonethrower Family Unit decided to each open a bank account with the venerable HDFC Bank. So, we filled in the forms, stuck our photographs, put our thumb impressions and provided all manner of KYC. Lo and behold, our accounts were opened and we all patted ourselves on our backs on a job well done. We marvelled at the efficiency and politeness of the staff at HDFC Bank who performed so well. Mind you, our expectations are so low and the red tapism so high, that if we manage to have a bank account opened with just 2 visits to the bank we think we have achieved a lot.

A few months down the line I asked Sister Stonethrower if she was getting her statements from HDFC Bank. No was the answer. So off I went to the branch and told them so. They said we will send a duplicate set at once. A few weeks later I asked Sister Stonethrower if she was now getting her statements from HDFC Bank. Once again no was the answer. Mystified, I trooped of to the bank once again and complained. The man peered into the screen and asked `is her address 562 ***************’? I replied `no it is S-62’. Needless to say he did not and in light of what you can see in the photograph below, could not read out the rest of the address. On hearing this I thought, foolishly, Ahh haa!!! That was the problem a wrong address entered in the system. `Sir please fill in the address change form’ I was told. He also, very kindly, printed the bank statement. On looking at it, I was shocked. Please do have a look at the address! Please also have a look at Sister Stonethrowers gender. She has been classified as a “Mr.” I swear to you that I have not made this up. This is a photograph of the address on the bank statement edited for purposes of confidentiality of course. My question is why did you ask for all that KYC nonsense and what have you done with it? This whole thing raises so many questions, but, frankly, I cannot be bothered writing them all down.

If this was not enough, out of the blue, I got a letter from Central Bank of India – stating that a bank account standing in Mother Stonethrower name was not KYC compliant and asked us to provide the KYC material to make it so. This threw us all, we could not recall when and why we would have ever opened an account with Central Bank of India. So, off I went to the branch in question and found out that this account was opened in 1992 and was now marked dormant. It had a few thousand rupees. I thought I should get it KYC compliant and close it.

So, once again I went through the whole rigmarole of getting the KYC documents, thumb impressions and allied things done and went off to the branch to submit all this. The man at the counter punched in the account number into his computer terminal and then looked dumbstruck. `There are no signatures on record’ he spluttered, literally spluttered. He was so shattered that he called his colleague, also about 65 years old and they both looked like goldfish, wide eyed, innocent and dumbstruck at the screen and said, no signature on records. Apparently the bank had for whatever reason not scanned our signatures when having the bank computerised. And now the original signature cards were destroyed.

The officer, was in that sense cool about the whole thing once he got over his spluttering. He simply said, submit the KYC, we will activate the account and then regularise it as far as signatures are concerned. This episode is going to be fun. I am more determined than ever to take this matter to its logical conclusion. I want to first activate the account and then shut it, all when the bank has no records of our signatures. This should be fun, lots of fun.

After this hilarious episode, of which we have not heard the last of, I waltzed off to Citibank, all things considered, my bank of choice. I wanted to change the address on my bank account. So, in true Bharat Sarkar Babu style, I took my flat purchase agreement which showed that I was the owner of my flat.

I told my relationship manager, here is my `address proof’, please change my address.

She looked at me pityingly and said `Sir, you can do this online’.

`Online’ I squawked. `How could that be’? `Do you not require any proof’?  

`No sir’ she said witheringly, `we are now moving things online’ she said with utter contempt for me. She said that there was no need for `proof’ as now everything was online.

Then she said that I could use her computer terminal to log in and change my address while she would look over my shoulder and help me along the way. I did so, and yes, it was possible. However I was still sceptical, very sceptical but she looked at me triumphantly. I thanked her, apologised for doubting her knowledge and left the bank.

No sooner had I left the branch and walked some 50 meters that I got a call from her, asking me to submit the flat purchase agreement as `proof’. I did a quick about turn and handed over the `proof’.

I do realise that in a period of a just a couple of days I had dealings with three types of Banks that are common all over India on basically something that was common across all banks. A Nationalised Bank [Central Bank of India], a Foreign Bank [Citibank] and a home grown domestic bank [HDFC]. Clearly, the Nationalised Bank [Central Bank of India] had absolutely no systems in place but had staff that knew everything and which probably had a process \to do this with lots of paper affidavits and notarising and stamp paper. The Foreign Bank [Citibank] had all systems in place but unfortunately some of its newer recruits are clueless. Unfortunately, the home grown domestic bank [HDFC] has neither the systems nor the people.

Of course when you look at this you will realise how little this KYC nonsense means anyway. Mind you, as I said in the beginning, the Stonethrower Family Unit, are law abiding. We have no bad intentions. It is all very well having rigorous KYC norms in place, but if Banks themselves are totally negligent I am unsure how this can ever be enforced.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Long live the Khap

The preface to this post could take many forms. In fact, I wondered long, though not very hard, how I should start. Ultimately, I decided to go with the flow. So here goes.

I am a qualified lawyer. I studied, passed exams, served as an apprentice in a large law firm under a really nice immediate boss and some really nice indirect bosses. I absorbed, I stumbled, I learnt, I made mistakes and was and am reasonably successful. I suddenly realised that I have been a qualified lawyer for 25 years! Over the years I learnt many laws, I advised many clients and I was part of an entire legal `eco’ system. But, in light of three recent episodes, I am convinced that there is not much of a future for young budding lawyers. I had my day in the sun, now the sun is slowly and surely setting on the legal profession.

Many of you may know what `Khap Panchayats’ are. For those of you who do not, let me give you a short explanation. A `Khap’ is a system of social administration. Very broadly speaking, the Indian social fabric revolved around a village. Groups of villages formed `Khaps’. These `Khaps’ selected or elected a `Khap Panchayat’ which consisted of five members who are in charge of governance of that `Khap’. Over the years `Khap Panchayats’ have become a sort of quasi judicial body dispensing justice. They form their own rules, interpret their own customs and generally function totally independent of the established legal system. They have, over the years, become, to use a cliché, a law unto themselves.

That is quite enough of the prefaces. Let me get to the point.

Tarun Tejpal. What a lovely man! The man sends out an email to the colleague he sexually assaulted. The email contains the following paragraph.

“It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.

This email was sent by Mr. Tejpal totally voluntarily. He was not subjected to any third degree punishment by the police, no order of any court, nothing. The lovely man admits to the actions. Now what does he and his bunch of equally high thinking, deeply intellectual colleagues do? He admits to the crime, he himself atones; he dispenses punishment himself to himself by recusing himself from work, and gets on with life. `Khap’? Is this not an example of a `Khap Panchayat’ at work? The confession, the judge, the jury, the punishment all by one person. Wonderful.

Take the rag tag bunch who call themselves the Aam Aadmi Party [AAP]. With their ridiculous caps they look like Bombay Dabbawallas or, as an ex boss of mine Bhai Rege used to say, like `bloody Gumastas’. They get caught on camera accepting money and making promises to do such utterly petty things that it makes me sick. Why can they not be like the Congress ministers, take crores for allotting coal mines, or allotting Mobile spectrum, think big. Anyway, what do they do once this tape becomes public. Deny, say there is no wrong, say that they want the unedited tape, say that since the tape was not given to them but to the Election Commission they are now free to basically do what they want. They decide that by Saziya Ilmi not standing for election, all wrongdoing is washed away. `Khap’? Is this not another example of a `Khap Panchayat’ at work? The judge, the jury, the punishment all by the same gang. A law unto themselves.

Then take the case of our old friends the Campa Cola Residents. Many of them, generally the guys who bought on a resale, bought flats knowing full well that the buildings did not have an occupancy certificate. They bought the flats at a discount and thought they had a bargain. When the Supreme Court passed the orders mandating the Municipality to demolish the buildings, the residents stayed put, barricaded themselves in and wilfully disobeyed the Supreme Court orders. Anybody else does it they would be clapped into jail for Contempt, but not here. They had their own law, their own rules, their own perception of right and wrong. In fact they came from the two wrongs make a right school of law. `Khap Panchayat’ at work?

So folks, while all this is sickening, and we all careen into anarchy remember the good old days and simple village life. Long live the `Khap Panchayat’? My days as a lawyer are numbered, who needs lawyers anyway? If you have any kids wanting to do law, tell them to forget about it, waste of time, they will be sitting `velha’ and will want you to look after them. You just decide what is the wrong you have done, set your own punishment and get on with things. DIY - do it yourself!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A sickening week

The provocation is not far to see. However the immediate provocation was what my school friend Shilpam wrote on his Facebook wall. I quote him.

“We refuse to treat our parents as god's. We refuse to treat our god's as god's, but we will make a cricketer or an actor our god. Something seriously wrong in our interpretation of god or in us.”

I could not agree more with what Shilpam has written.

If you live in Mumbai or in fact anywhere in India, the past week was positively sickening. Not only did you have absolutely nothing new about Sachin, but you had to read, listen and watch all kinds of absolute genuflection, drivel, platitudes, obsequiousness, fawning and verbal diarrhoea about the God who is Sachin. It was as if there was nothing else happening in the world. Honestly, it was all too much.

In light of how things turned out, I am beginning to think that Sachin is really a God. Let me tell you why I say that. The first two days of the week were taken up by that other sickening story, Save Campa Cola Compound. First, I must congratulate the leaders of that movement. They did a brilliant job and achieved their objective. The building will never be demolished. This whole saga gave a new meaning to several established positions. Two wrongs DO now make a right. Just because there are other buildings that are illegal and no action is being taken, this illegality cannot be punished. Also please remember there was a final order of the Supreme Court ordering demolition. Every person speaking on the matter was in contempt of Court in criticising the order. However nothing was done. In fact, on the contrary the Supreme Court was `moved’ by the criticism and media frenzy and stayed the demolition. You know why Sachin is really a God? This story ended on Tuesday. After that we could focus all media on Him.

Oh yes, we made a really delicious Beetroot and Red Lentil Soup. Credit for this delicious recipe goes to Cyrus Todiwalla and Tony Singh. Let me know if you want the recipe. It is vegetarian, Jain, Vegan, Fat Free, Cholestrol free and bloody delicious. I am serious. Sachin was not harmed in making it! 

Now that He has played his last match and we have said our last goodbyes, can we please just move on to normal life?