DM21C: Watch Your Back(pack)

I have lived in many cities and towns and regions, but I spent most of my initial life, till I graduated from an engineering college, in a state of India that is known as the ‘Desert State’. As I had to point out before to a lot of people in various parts of India, that appellation is not quite accurate, for the said state, Rajasthan, is now the largest state of India in terms of area (it used to be the second largest before Chhattisgarh was carved out Madhya Pradesh), and it has a very varied geography and climate. It has places where it rains so much and which have so much greenery, that you might get fed up with both. It has places on the northern border which are almost like those in Punjab, because they are on the border of Punjab. There are places which border Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and they resemble places in those states, i.e., they are not part of a desert. It even boasts of a famous hill station and one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, even though these ‘mountains’ are more like hills or hillocks, so much so that when people from the Uttarakhand (from the Himalayan region) see them, they mockingly refer to them by using a colloquial term used for a part of the female anatomy. Still, a considerable area of Rajasthan is part of the Thar desert, which includes areas in the bordering Pakistan. Moreover, the desert is said to be spreading, not just now, but for a very long time, in a process that may be a part of the climate change going around the world.

Though I spent the initial (long) part of my life in that state, I have lived in various places all over the state. After that I lived in some other cities, but all these cities had a climate that lacked one thing which is rare in a tropical country: It does not snow in any of these cities. Although, again, India has an even more varied geography and there are the Himalayas in the north and lots of places in India where it does snow a lot, I had never before seen snow in real life. I had seen it only on the screen or in photographs. Even when I visited Kashmir sometime ago (for the first time), I avoided visiting any places (such as those where you can see snow) as a matter of principle, given the historical (and other) contexts in which I went there.

A couple of months ago, it snowed for several days in several parts of Europe, including in France and in the part of France where I currently live and work. It was not the first time this season, so I had already seen it snowing at least once. But on this day a couple of months ago, when I went out for work, it was white everywhere. Everything was covered in snow. Now, I might be half dead (as many have said to my face, some going even further) and I might be in a state where it is difficult to take pleasure in anything, but I couldn’t resist the charm of that sight. Not completely, at least.

I walked up to the train station, looking at the cars and houses covered with snow, the sidewalks covered with thick snow, so that you had to walk on it, and even the trees covered with snow. A sight to behold for a person from the Desert State and from a tropical country. I looked at it in a way a country boy looks at skyscrapers when he first comes to a big city. Though I tried to make it more like a world-weary person looking at charms he has little time for.

I took the train and walked up to the bus stand to get the bus to the work place. The bus took a long time in coming, and I (and the others there) waited for it. I stood in the place where I usually stand, that is, next to the bus shelter, not inside it.

The bus came and I boarded it. All through the ride, there was person in front of me, who kept glaring at me, almost unblinkingly. I tried to avoid noticing, but I couldn’t because he really was persistent. I don’t think he even once shifted the gaze from me. But it was glare, not a gaze. It was not ogling either.

It turned out that the bus was not going all the way to the place where I (and others working there) normally get down. Instead, it was going in a different direction. It was the right bus, but there was some work going on the road leading up to my bus stop, so the bus took a different route. I had received a mail about this, but I forgot it, and anyway I was still under the spell of the snow.

Since the bus was taking a different route than usual, the driver announced it (in French). I couldn’t understand all of what he said as I am still struggling with French, especially spoken French. And I had forgotten about the route change. But since many others got down, I understood I had to get down too (these things happen in India also, you know). However, I understood a bit too late, so that I did not get down at the place which was near to my office and from where I knew the way. I got down at the next stop, which was around one and a half kilometer further down the road and in the wrong direction for me. Now I had to walk to the office from there and I had to find my way.

There was another person who got down with me. A colleague, sort of. As I was walking this way and that, trying to figure out which way to go, as there was no one around to ask, he came up to me and asked in English whether I knew the way, because he didn’t either. The place where we had got down, being an open space, was covered even more with the snow. I couldn’t resist taking some photos with my small mobile phone camera, although I have almost completely stopped taking photos for the last several years. Why is that so is another story. Story not in the fictional sense, but in a journalistic sense, just like this story that I am narrating now.

So the two of us walked this way and that, trying to find our way to the office. We even asked one person who came along, but he couldn’t help us, partly I think because neither of us spoke much French and he didn’t speak any English (or our respective mother tongues, which are not English or French).

Finally, we found the way and I reached the office. I carries a backpack with me to the work, like always. The backpack is for the laptop. And an umbrella. I put down the backpack and it was only then that I noticed that I was made a spectacle of all the way from the bus to the office. For my backpack was all open. Its zippers (if that is how they are called, in Hindi we call them ‘chain’) were open from end to end. If you are familiar with this kind of backpack, you might recall than the ‘chains’ of these backpacks run from the lower end one the one side to the lower end on the other side. The lower end is almost at the bottom. Thus, if the chain is open from end to end, all the entrails of the backpack hang out. And it was not just the chain of main container that was open from end to end, even the other large pocket, in which I keep the umbrella, was also open from end to end. That means, all the entrails of my backpack, the major container as well as the minor container, were hanging out for all the world to see. The only reason why the laptop did not fall out was because it was kept in a slot within the open container that such backpacks have for laptops.

Now I do sometimes forget to ‘close’ the chains while picking it up and going somewhere, but I am very well aware of that and so I try to make sure that I don’t. This was not something that had happened to me for the first time. It happened several times in India, but there I thought it was a prank by the students. When I noticed it the first time (in India), I thought I might have forgotten it, so the next time I made sure that I had closed it. And on such occasions when I had made sure that I had closed the chains, I still found after going from one place to another that they were open. But all these times, they were open only a little at the top and only one container, minor or major. Open enough to take out the laptop, no more. That is how I open the backpack too: just enough to be able to take out the laptop. I never open it from end to end. Why would I? Except on special occasions, but then the thing is so visible right in front of you that you can’t forget closing it back.

There is no way I could have opened it (both containers) from end to end and forgotten to close it, especially when I know that I sometimes do forget it. But when I do forget, as I said, it is only one container and only enough to take out the laptop. That is why it is not so visible and that I why I forget in the first place.

Who could have done that? Looking back at the sequence of events, I am pretty sure who did it. At the bus stop, a person came and stood right next to me, between me and the bus shelter, which was unusual in itself as there was little space there. Then he moved behind me, between me and the wall. I wondered at that time why he had moved behind me, but I did not look back. This is a posh area, a completely gentrified area, where no riff-raff is usually to be seen. It used to be a banlieue, if I am not mistaken, but it is not that now. All those who wait there are usually sophisticated people, most of them researchers or academicians, as this is an area with a number of academic institutions and research centres. That is. higher level academic institutions. The person who moved behind me looked no different from any researcher. In fact, he looked better. It was at that time, during the wait for the bus that he mush have done it.

And, looking back, I am almost sure that the person who glared at me during the whole of the ride was this same person. Reconsidering, although he looked sophisticated and no different from a researcher, he also could be seen as a tough looking man. It was as if he was looking at his handiwork and passing on a message to the object of that handiwork.

But this is not the part that jolted me most. The opening of the backpack by some tough but sophisticated looking person. May be he just wanted to have some fun.

What I can’t get out of my mind is the fact that when I got into the bus, all the entrails of my backpack were hanging out, visible for anyone to see, so much so that it would be difficult to resist looking at it. And if you have some kindness or decency in you, you might point out to the person that his backpack is all open. Everyone there must have understood that the backpack had a laptop in it. But no one, not a single person even glanced at me or the backpack, let alone telling me about it. It was as if they didn’t see it at all. If it was involuntary on their part, it was something way beyond my overlooking to close my backpack. And if if was voluntary, it was a remarkable achievement of a sadistic kind.

Then there was the person who got down from the bus with me and who searched for and walked all the way to the office with me. The colleague, sort of. Since we were stopping at various places and waiting for each other, as one of us did some exploration, he was several times directly behind me, so there is no way he could have avoided seeing it. I, meanwhile, stopped at several places to take photos of the snow. Not once did this person even hinted with his eyes or otherwise that there was something unusual on my back. Let alone telling me that I should put my backpack right.

For it was raining.

It was raining and the rain was getting into the backpack. Had we taken longer to find the way and reach our offices (he works in the same place but in different building), water would have reached inside the laptop. And my laptop is my most precious possession here, as anyone can guess who even knows me slightly. When I put down the bag and took out the laptop to check, there was indeed some water on it, but fortunately it was still working.

I may have a number of shortcomings as human being, but I know for sure that if I saw something like this happen to someone else (whether deliberately done by someone or happened accidentally) and I walked with that person trying to find the way to the workplace where both of us worked (while we even had some friendly chat), even if I hated that person, I would let him know that not only was the backpack open all the way on all sides, the laptop could be damaged, so he should close it (if he wanted to, and why wouldn’t he?).

I have not overlooked another possibility. That it was this person who did what was done to the backpack, and not that person on the bus stand. If that is true, unlikely as it is, it would be even worse.

I have a feeling, pardon me for saying so and for banging on this theme so much on this blog, if it had been the 20th century, this kind of thing would not have happened. May be I am wrong and it would have happened even in that century. But I also have the feeling that in the 21st century, this kind thing would be a norm, not an aberration.

And it would be so in any country you might go to, if you happen to be in a situation that I am in. Or perhaps even otherwise. Perhaps just because you are not ‘one of us’.

You would be told, and told in a perverted way, to watch your back. And your backpack.

And to give you a treatment to cure you of the audacity to admire and be attracted to ‘our (developed) snow’ and appropriate ‘our (civilized and cultured) heritage’. Especially if you also have the audacity to question what is happening in the world, including the ‘developed’ world.

This, and all such things I have described here (on this blog) are literally true. They are, I would say, borrowing the words from Kenneth Chamberlain, ‘my sworn testimony’, as I wait for worse things to happen.

But wait. This is not the end of the story.

It was on that day that I found out that my one year contract was not going to be renewed. That did not upset me very much, because I was prepared for this.

What happened further on that day is that I went from the office directly to a supermarket to buy the groceries that I had run out of. I don’t eat outside (almost ever) and I rarely go anywhere. I go to a supermarket, because it is the place where I can get most things I need in the least possible time so that I can get back to my room as soon as possible, so as to avoid unpleasant experiences. That is how it has been for the last several years. I go to the supermarket around once or twice a month, bring a large bagful of groceries, and manage with that throughout the month.

As I got all that I needed and reached the counter, two men came behind me. They were, again, tough looking men. One of them, by the way, looked similar to the man at the bus stop. They were not actually there to buy anything. One of them just picked up some little thing to make it appear that he was there to buy something (I have seen this drama before) and got directly behind me at the counter.

And then he said loudly, very clearly, and with a long pause after each word, so that I simply could not *not understand* what he was saying. He said that loudly for everyone to hear, but addressing no one in particular, and he said it mockingly (and dare I say sadistically?).

He said:


Then he repeated at least twice, in the same loud and clear voice, even more mockingly, full of hate:



I work. That’s what he said. I work. Tomorrow. Like always.

“I work”. That was a phrase I had used earlier in the day. “Like always” was also a phrase I had used.

And believe it or not, although I had every intention of going to work the next day, and I was not much upset (as these things keep happening and I have learnt to live with them as much as possible), I had such a horrible night that I could not sleep and I was in no shape to go to work the next day. It was as if a chemical had entered my body that did not agree at all with me.

This too has happened before (and after), but on that day it was particularly bad. I know my health problems, to the extent they are present (I don’t have any major disease, as far as I know: never had), I am familiar with all the symptoms, but this thing is unlike any of the usual things. And for some strange reason, it usually happens on the weekends. It starts on Friday evening and is the worst on Saturday and subsides by Sunday evening. It had stopped happening for some months, but it reappeared after (whether there is any relation between the two or not) I went out to see one of the Paris sights on a Saturday a few weeks ago. If it sounds crazy, I can’t help it, because I am just narrating the literal truth with as little interpretation from my side as possible.

But that particular day was not a weekend day. It was not even Friday.

As I said, this is my sworn testimony. Just a small part of it.


Today, i.e., the next day after writing the above, I woke up to find this mail in my official mailbox, addressed to all in the mailing list:


Selon les dernières volontés du testateur, il n’y aura ni fleurs ni couronnes.
Un registre est mis à la disposition des personnes qui désirent laisser leur témoignage.

Donc, dorénavant :

After that, there is a list of people’s names and their tasks, as in movie credits. It doesn’t say anything else.


One day after, that is 29-03-13, I had to go for giving a presentation for a possible job at a city near Paris. I prepared the presentation and saved three different versions of it yesterday. I made them on Linux, saved them on the Windows partition, opened Windows and checked that they were there and I could open them. I have to do this because my notebook does not work with projectors when in Linux. I have to use Windows if I have to give a presentation using a projector.

As I was closing down my system, the display configuration window automatically (where you select the monitor/projector in my version of Linux) opened. I didn’t give it much thought.

I should have. Because today morning, as I was preparing to leave the presentation, I started Windows and tried to go through the presentation as I had some time. But I found that all the three versions were gone.

I tried a data recovery tool to try to recover them, but even that tool won’t show them. Since I had to leave, I gave up and started redoing the presentation. I thought I would complete it on the train ride, as I already knew well enough what was in it.

I went to the train station. I had the e-ticket confirmation, which has a file number. With that file number, you have retrieve your ticket from the kiosk at the station. I entered the file number, and the machine accepted that. Then it asked for my name. I entered my name, but it said the name is unknown. I tried various combinations of my names, but none of them worked. At the counter, there was no one there to ask. So I had no option but to return.

I had applied to more than a dozen places and this was the only place from where I got a (non-negative) reply.

I come back to my apartment and send a mail about this to the concerned person that I will not be able to come for this reason. Then I open switch to another window, the one that lists files and folder (Nautilus). And, magically, all those three versions of the presentation are back! Right where they were.


A few hour later, on the same day (29-03-2013), as I take backup of my laptop (which actually a small notebook), I have almost completed the process. I come to the place where I  had saved those presentations, and they are gone again.

Along with that, the complete folder in which I download and keep Democracy Now! videos everyday is also gone.

On closer inspection (using some Linux commands for checking disk space), it seems almost certain that they are not actually gone. that is the data is still on the disk. However, it is not visible or accessible, like deleted. The other folders and files (at least most of them) are still present. In the same partition, even in the same folder.

I go back and check if they have magically come back again. They haven’t. Not so far.

The Sadness of the Singh Song

Pardon me for the corny title, but I was not in the mood to write today. I am just waiting for something on my laptop to finish and I cannot start the next thing that I have to do before that thing finishes. The corny title is the product of half-heartedness and laziness. Let’s hope the rest of this article (I am trying to build self-esteem by not calling it a ‘piece’) will not be of the same nature.

Yesterday someone sent me a link to a Wikipedia talk page where a ‘silly’ discussion was going on as to whether Bhagat Singh (about whom the concerned article was) should be referred to throughout as Bhagat Singh or should he only initially be called Bhagat Singh and from then on as only Singh.

Bhagat Singh, of course, is one of the best known names in India, indeed the in entire Indian sub-continent, that is, in South Asia (barring, perhaps, Afghanistan). If there is one person who rivals Gandhi in popularity and in stature in the history of Indian independence movement, even in the whole of 5000 years of Indian history perhaps, that person is Bhagat Singh. He was socialist revolutionary, and a freedom fighter. More the former than the latter, which is something that many (especially on the Right) are not willing to accept.

A lot could be written about Bhagat Singh and a lot has been written. But this articles is not about Bhagat Singh, but about just Singh. About any Humble Common Singh. Or Proud Uncommon Singh.

Singh, in Sanskrit and in Sanskritized Hindi (and in many other Sanskritized Indian languages) means lion. The rulers and the feudal classes of northern India, who considered themselves great warriors (though for nearly a thousand years they were ruled either by those who were foreign invaders, or were descendants of those invaders, or else they accepted the suzerainty of those invaders) started calling themselves Singhs, that is, lions. In today’s India, of course, few have such delusion of grandeur (they have different delusions now), but there are still some who think along those lines. In today’s India, Singh hardly means anything. It is just a name.

But it still has a significance. Although it is not a caste name, that is, the name of a specific caste, it still denotes membership of a broader caste. The caste system in India does not consist of just four castes, the four ‘Varnas’. (If any Yoga-peddling Indian ever tries to convince you that it does, check your wallet.) It is a phenomenally complicated system with a criss-crossing hierarchy that even those Indians who still practice it are barely familiar with. Most practicing casteists have seen only a tiny part of the blood splattered giant caste mural that spreads across the ‘four corners’ of the South Asian sub-continent.

And it is significant not just for South Asia, by the way. What do you think Norodom Sihanouk owes his name to? What is the origin of the name Singapur? None other than Singh.

The significance, moreover, is not just about the caste name alone. There is a whole system of traditions and customs and taboos and rules and regulations that is associated not only with each caste, but with their relationships with one another.

Just to give one example, I was once attending a class on socio-linguistics. The teacher was an expert on socio-linguistics. She said during one lecture that under the Indian caste system you are supposed to marry a person of your own caste. Now that is roughly true, but there are complications. In the caste that she belonged to, it is certainly true, with the prohibition that you cannot marry any relative and any one who has the same ‘gotra’ as you. ‘Gotra’ is another complicated concept with various interpretations, but let’s not go there. In my caste, however, I pointed out to her, a very important prohibition is that you are not allowed to marry within your sub-caste. That is, if you are a Rajput, and your sub-caste is S, then you have to marry someone from a Rajput family (subject to the above proscriptions), but you simply cannot marry someone who is from the same sub-caste. You can marry a C Rajput or a B Rajput or a T Rajput, but not an S Rajput, because that would be considered incest. This is further complicated by the fact that there is no common agreement about which is the caste and which is a sub-caste, because it is not a a two level hierarchy. Now, she was not aware of this and she found it hard to believe. But we then had another argument after some time. I mentioned that in Indian villages, even the language is different for different castes. At least it is different for upper and lower castes. Those from the ‘lower’ castes are not allowed to speak the language of the ‘upper’ castes, but the vice-versa is allowed. There may be places where this does not happen, but there are many where it does. She was not aware of this either and at this point she thought I was just being obnoxious and was peacocking. She did not exactly say that (I have borrowed that P-term from the Wikipedia talk page) but those were the feelings she expressed effectively.

Not that I am an expert in the caste system. I was brought up in a nuclear family where the caste system was not present so much. I was fortunate to be able to free myself from the caste prejudices at quite an early age. The point is that even those you would consider knowledgeable about the caste system in India know very little about its complexities. And she was not aware probably because she came from a somewhat elite background, where there is comparatively less direct encounter with the caste system.

Coming back to the theme of the article, my name has three parts. The last part, the third part, is Singh. The last name of the person who sent me the link is also Singh. The last name of the current Indian Prime Minister is Singh. The last name of the prime accused in the recent Delhi gang rape case (who hanged himself or was murdered in jail) was Singh. The name of the rape victim who died also had Singh in it. I am sure that many among the protesters against the rape, as among the prisoners in the prison, had names ending in Singh. All my family members and relatives have Singh in their names.

The gist of this Singh song is that there must be a few hundred million people in India, definitely more than one hundred million, who have Singh in their names.

How is that so? This is how. The last (tenth) Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh decreed, in the days when the star of the Mughal Empire in Delhi was waning and the star of the long oppressed Sikhs was starting to rise, that all male Sikhs must henceforth call themselves Singhs. That they should have Singh as their last name. And so all Sikhs added Singh to their names. But Singh is not usually their last name. The last names is usually the caste name. Singh is generally the second last name. Sikhism, in theory, has no place for the caste system, but that’s how things turned out. That is the power of the caste system in India.

Then there are the Rajputs (literally, sons of the royalty). They are not called Rajputs everywhere. For example, in Rajasthan (former Rajputana) they proudly call themselves Rajputs, but in Uttar Pradesh (where they are found in the largest number) they call themselves Thakurs. ‘Rajput’ in Uttar Pradesh is the name of a lower caste, so no Thakur would call himself Rajput. That is the fun of the caste system.

All Rajputs/Thakurs have Singh as their last, or more commonly, second last name. Some upwardly mobile, convent educated Rajputs/Thakurs have now started to drop Singh from their names, but they still keep the last name, i.e., the caste name, which still identifies them as Rajputs/Thakurs, with a little risk involved. For example, if you are name Mr. X Singh Y, and you start calling yourself Mr. X Y, then even though Y is the highest sub-caste among the Thakurs, there are lower caste people who call themselves Mr. X Y. But the risk is not much if you have already moved up the ladder, because the context will vindicate your pedigree. Fun continued.

All male Sikhs are Singhs. And all Rajputs/Thakurs of both sexes are Singhs. (There are a handful of exceptions, of course.) The latter are much larger in number. But these two are not the only Singhs.

During all of Indian history, one major mechanism for social upward mobility has been to climb up the caste ladder, because that was pretty much the only way it could be done, unlike now, though caste is still very important even now, albeit in a less overt way. Thus, it was common for families, and sometimes whole communities or villages or localities to have deals with those in power to give them recognition as members of a slightly higher caste. In fact, that is how most Rajputs became Rajputs. There is a theory that says that there were people who originally came from various places, say, from Turkey or Persia, who got themselves accepted as Rajputs because they were at that time in a position to bargain for such a deal of social mobility and acceptance. This may not be a complete explanation, but I think there is quite a bit of truth in it.

So much for the supposedly racial basis of the caste system. But the racial basis is there in a very different sense, if you know what I mean.

Leaving aside the racial basis, what I am driving at is the trend, still very much present, a sad (as well as amusing) trend, of people of ‘lower castes’ adding Singh (or some other marker of an ‘upper’ caste) to their names, much to the annoyance of the Rajputs/Thakurs. That is why it is a common practice to get the caste verified (unofficially, because official India, in theory, bans caste-based discrimination), before a marriage, by members of the extended family, of the prospective bride or the groom.

Just to set the record straight, the Rajputs/Thakurs were calling themselves Singhs long before the decree by the last Sikh Guru. He was, in a way, saying that we are as much of warriors, if not more than, as the Rajputs. The Sikhs then were the people resisting the Mughal Empire, whereas the Rajputs (most of them) were collaborating with it. The Sikhs later resisted the British Empire too, till they were subdued and started total collaboration with the British. Till Bhagat Singh and party came along.

There is a lighter aspect of the Singh song too. People often have fun at my expense because of my last name, which, as I said, is Singh. I leave it as for the reader to guess why and how. These are gentler people. And this happens more in South India, or East India or outside India. Not in North India, because about, may be, 20% of the North Indian population is (last) named Singh.

There are less gentler people who have fun at my expense with my first name. This fun is of a nastier sort. Because nasty people like nasty fun.

It is better to finish with gentler people. I was once attending a major international conference in a South Indian city (as if the name is a secret and as if I am a great researcher) and there was a cultural program in the evening. There were performances by folk (or psuedo-folk) artists from different parts of India. A South Indian student from my institute (which was organizing the workshop) was introducing them. One of the performances was by artists from Punjab, who were, naturally (there is a story there) Sikhs. This student, a good natured person, kept referring to them as ‘Singhs’ and made some good natured joking remarks about them as ‘Singhs’. I later approached him and tried to tell him, for the sake of accuracy, that not all ‘Singhs’ are Sikhs. That a large section of the population of several North Indian states is made up of ‘Singhs’.

You see, people may have fun with my name, but they have much more fun with the Sikhs in general. Sikh jokes in India are endemic. But Sikh jokes, which, by the way, you might hear from the Sikhs themselves, do not refer to them as ‘Singhs’. They refer to them by the term which is used to refer to any Sikh all over India, especially North India. That term is ‘sardar’. The word literally means ‘the leader’ or ‘the chief’, and it is still used in that sense, but as soon as you are going to tell a joke and you say, “There was a sardar…”, you have got the makings of a successful joke. A sardar joke is the safest joke in India. In South Asia, I should say. It will never fail. The word itself has become a joke, but usually a good natured joke, because the others are a bit scared of the Sikhs too.

And yet, one of other prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement, Vallabhbhai Patel, the person who is credited with having unified the hundreds of principalities with the Indian nation after the independence, was given the honorific ‘Sardar’. And the man who now claims to be his successor, the man who oversaw a pogrom on a massive scale, a man who is a proud Fascist of the worst sort, has been given the honorific ‘Chhota Sardar’ (the Junior Sardar). That is a tragedy not directly related to the caste system.

I guess when I informed that student about the difference between ‘Singhs’ (there is really no such thing as ‘Singhs’) and Sikhs, I was secretly worried about being considered a ‘sardar’. Many people there did, in fact, think that. No one wants others to have perpetual fun at their expense. I don’t think even the Sikhs do. They just can’t stop it, so, to keep their dignity and to not seem like spoilsports, they join in. But if you remember, there was resentment against it during the days of the separatist movement during the 80s. The resentment must have been there all along. It just came out then.

And among the ‘Singhs’, the Sikhs, there are the ‘lower’ castes. The Majabi Sikhs, as opposed to the Jat Sikhs. These long oppressed Sikhs are now coming out with their own resentment against the caste system. Being made fun of is bad, but being oppressed and persecuted (by the people of their own religion) is worse. That is the sadness of the caste system.

To put it very mildly. Almost offensively mildly. Almost obnoxiously mildly.

The Mysterious Video

These days I sometimes see old, publicly available films on YouTube. I also sometimes see other videos, mostly about films and politics and sundry other topics.

I see a large variety of videos. I don’t stick to one kind. And I don’t go by channels or in any other organized way, just as in the case of books.

When you open YouTube, it shows you some videos, based on whatever criterion. And, when you have seen one video, it shows you some other suggestions. Everybody knows that, of course, I am just prefacing things. What I have observed for the last few months is that there is one particular video that keeps appearing as the top suggestion. Whatever video I have just seen, whenever I am trying to see one, suddenly this one video is in front of me. Time and again.

There are zillions of videos out there. And, to make a confession, I have seen this one once. I remember it as a silly video, as silly as they come. I don’t even remember what was in it.

Now, I like looking at beautiful female bodies as much as the next person, and, on the other hand, I am as much against objectification of female body as anyone else, but this is really getting on my nerves.


Why the hell would one particular silly video (let me see how many views it has got – wait a second – oh boy! it has only 212 views!), why the hell would it come up as the top suggestion in front of me again and again. I have seen many videos before, including such silly ones. Some I have seen more than once.

And it comes with different headings. This time, as you can see, it comes as the top entry when I search for ‘Accatone full movie’. It has come with this same heading. It comes as the top entry no matter what I am watching or what I am searching for.

Note the fact that there are only 212 views. But these views are only for this particular avatar of the video, i.e., as ‘Accatone full movie’.

There are other weird things that I have observed, but this one, by its sheer frequency and relentlessness, has compelled me to write about it.

One weird thing for example, was that when I started YouTube today, I got a screen saying “Let us get you started”. The screen would not let you proceed. On my small notebook, the button to be pressed was not visible at all. I zoomed out. I zoomed out three times or more. Finally I saw a small ‘Next’ button. Since I just wanted to get past the screen, I pressed the button, and hey! presto! (as they say) I was subscribed to not one, not two, but fifteen channels. Never in my life have I been subscribed to two YouTube channels, let alone fifteen.

And what came with these fifteen channels? All I could see in in the thumbnails were female bodies in, as they say again, in various degrees of undress (is that how they say it?) and various degrees of entanglement.

Now, as I said, I like looking at beautiful female bodies as much as the next person (it is worth repeating). However, in my condition (knowing that I am on the show, among other things), such an eventuality (what happened to my vocabulary?) reminds me of the testimony of that released (innocent) prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay prison, now working as a journalist for Al Jazeera, who detailed the way he was tortured.

Weird things, of course, happen to me offline too. Even more so.

Whenever I go out, like most people here, I take the local train. So the train stations are among the places where these weird things happen. As I had written once before, usually no one sits next to me (on the station benches, that is). When someone does, it has usually turned out be an experience of the nature I am talking about. Namely, weird.

About more than two months ago, while coming back from the office in the evening, there were not many people at the station. Since the train was to come more than ten minutes after I reached the station, I decided to wait in that covered place with chairs or benches where people wait (vocabulary!). When I went inside it, there was no one there. It had two gates. I was sitting on the middle chair. The two gates were on either side of me. All the other chairs were empty as there was no one else there. Then came two women. One was a middle aged one. She came from the left door. The other was young. And she was very good looking and what you would call – well, I chicken out – she had a very attractive figure. She came from the door on the right. Since weird things have happened before, I did not even properly glance at her, let alone ogle. I just had an impression from the side of my eyes. Something that you can’t avoid as long as your eyes are fully open.

What happened? Well, the middle aged woman sat down right next to me on my left, almost touching me. And the young one came and sat right next to me on my right. Almost touching me. But not quite.

As I said, all the chairs were empty. Usually, as long as there are enough empty chairs, people (leaving aside myself) take seats in such a way as to leave one empty between the next person sitting there, if you know what I am talking about. I mean, if there are ten seats and only one person is sitting there and two new persons come, it is very unlikely that they will both sit right next to the person already sitting. And much more unlikely if that person is me.

Perhaps there is a theorem about it in mathematics or computer science. I know that there are about some similar things.

Now the older woman not just sat there. She had a crooked smile on her face. And with that smile, she looked hard (and long, and pointedly) at me. And she looked across me to the other girl. Both were very respectable women from respectable families, so don’t get the wrong idea. It would be fair to say that she was looking at me with mocking, almost sadistic smile. The young one, meanwhile brought out a mobile phone. She stretched her legs. She performed some exaggerated gestures with phone and she made a call. She was talking in French. Not many sentences were exchanged. I could hear and understand the last part which was said a bit more loudly. Loud enough for me to hear and clear enough for me to understand. The person at the other end apparently asked some question.

She replied with two short sentences, which marked the end of the conversation. She said, “Ce mourir. D’accord?”. She said it, again, in a mocking and almost sadistically sweet voice. She said it in an artificially sweet voice, the kind fit for villainy in cinema. Then she hung up the phone and made some more gestures with the phone.

I have experienced variations on this theme on various other occasions and in various other places.

That video reminded me of this too.

I am going to watch it again to see if I can get some clue.


Well, I can’t watch it. Because it is not actually there, although it is everywhere. Could you help me find it so that I can watch it? It seems to be connected to my fate (not in the Gita sense).



Did I say it seems to be connected to my fate? Well, it is uploaded (in all these disappeared avatars that come in front of me) by someone nicknamed EuraButz, whose country is mentioned as India. And this person created this account on 1st May 2012, the day my work contract here started. And if I remember correctly, I had watched it around that time, though I still can’t remember what was in it.

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