Late MF Husain on creative freedom for an artist Aseem Trivedi cartoonist who was arrested on charges of sedition.

Television personality Padma Lakshmi arrives at the 2012 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. — Reuters pic

Salman Rushdie Padma Lakshmi divorce

 Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi.

– Iranian newspapers are reporting that a religious foundation has increased a reward for killing British author Salman Rushdie to $3.3 million from $2.8 million in response to alleged insults to the Prophet Muhammad.

The Sunday reports in the hardline Jomhoori Eslami daily and other newspapers appeared to be a reference to an anti-Islam film that sparked a series of protests across the Muslim world. The report said that the 15 Khordad Foundation will pay the prize to whoever acts on the 1989 death fatwa issued by Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini against the author of the novel “The Satanic Verses,” calling his book blasphemous.

The reward started at one million U.S. dollars and is occasionally increased.

Padma Parvati Lakshmi (born September 1, 1970 in Kerala, India) is an Indian Americancookbook author, actress, and former model who has described herself as the first well-known model from India.She has been the host of the US reality television program Top Chef since season

Lakshmi’s career began at age 20, when she was discovered by a modeling agent in Spain while sitting in a café. As she has stated, “I was the first Indian model to have a career in Paris, Milan and New York. I’m the first one to admit that I was a novelty.”

She has modelled for top designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti and done ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus. She was a favorite model of the photographer Helmut Newton, whose photographs of her often highlighted the large scar on her right arm.

She has appeared on the cover of CosmopolitanL’Officiel IndiaAsian Woman,AvenueIndustry MagazineMarie Claire (India Edition),Harper’s BazaarTown & Country, and Newsweek. Lakshmi also posed nude for the May 2009 issue of

Not to be out done by Alicia Keys’ coochie star, Padma Lakshmi arrive showing off her beautifulnipples in a totally see-though sheer dressat the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Gala Dinner attended by President Obama and his wife last Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Throughout the night Pres. Barack Obama must have been thinking how awesome it is to be the President of the United States. The Top Chef host’s dress totally sheer and her boobs were in full view depending what way the wind blew the ruffle at the neckline, her ensemble was riskier than most. Needless to say, Michelle Obama could not have been happy with what she saw as she greeted the guests with her husband. BTW, the monster scarhappen when she was 14 years old. Padma was involved in a serious automobile accident, causing an injury to her right arm that required surgery, which left a 7-inch scar between her elbow and shoulder

Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize winning Midnight’s Children, adapted to the screen by Deepa Mehta, may not be seen in India. Shot in Sri Lanka, though the novel is based in India, the movie premiered at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

No cinema distributor in India is willing to touch Mehta’s work. The reasons are apparent. The book is critical of Indira Gandhi, whose daughter-in-law, Sonia, is now at the helm of affairs in the country.

Also, Rushdie, whose Satanic Verses was banned in India even before Islamic Iran could do so, is not exactly welcome in the country. He cancelled his January trip to the Jaipur Literary Festival because of a death threat. He could not even go ahead with a televised conference, because protesters warned of grave consequences.

It seemed like a perfect union of literary acclaim and Bollywood glitz. He: a Booker Prize-winning author and one of India’s most acclaimed literary exports. She: a gorgeous model-turned-actress turned cooking-show host. Little wonder then that this week’s announcement that Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi are splitting after just three years of marriage is front page news across India, the country of their births if not their main residence.

It seemed like a perfect union of literary acclaim and Bollywood glitz. He: a Booker Prize-winning author and one of India’s most acclaimed literary exports. She: a gorgeous model-turned-actress turned cooking-show host. Little wonder then that this week’s announcement that Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi are splitting after just three years of marriage is front page news across India, the country of their births if not their main residence.

More surprising, perhaps, is just how rare divorce still is in India. Only about one in 100 marriages here ends in divorce compared with much higher percentages in the U.S. and in western European countries such as France and Germany. But the divorce rate is now rising in this country. In urban India it has doubled over the past five years, despite the fact that failed marriages remain a cause for shame in much of the country and that divorced people, especially women, continue to face fierce social stigmatization and often find it hard to remarry.

One reason for the rise in the divorce rate is that educated Indian women — or at least educated, middle-class women — now have the option. “Women don’t want to lie down and take it anymore,” says Julie George, a Pune-based lawyer in matrimonial cases. “There is a lot more independence, freedom. Women who work are financially independent and aren’t prepared to put up with a husband who harasses them.” While no one is suggesting that Rushdie was harassing Lakshmi in any way (Indian papers reported that she was seen partying with “another man” recently), the couple is splitting, according to Rushdie’s spokeswoman “because of her desire to end their marriage.”

But that’s only half the story. Lakshmi is hardly representative of the average Indian woman. And while middle class, urban women may be taking charge and sometimes just as likely to leave their husbands as their husbands are to leave them, in India’s rural villages, it’s still the men who initiate most divorces — often leaving women and children with no financial and little family support. “Poor women in villages are often just abandoned,” says George, who works for Streevani, a Pune-based non-governmental organization that, according to its website, is “committed to the empowerment of women in India”. “Some have no chance to remarry because according to the rules of their caste they cannot, even though the man can.”

Even middle class divorcees still find remarrying tough, though like so much in India, that’s changing quickly as well. Two weeks ago Vivek Pahwa, CEO of the website company Pahwa KBS, launched a matrimonial site that targets divorced Indians. Millions of Indians already use matchmaking websites to search for prospective mates. But existing sites tend to concentrate on giving a cyber hand to parents looking for suitable matches for their eligible sons and daughters, or for twentysomethings after a would-be bride or groom. One big turn-off in any prospective candidate: a previous marriage. (“shaadi” means marriage in Hindi and a number of other south Asian languages) gets around this problem by targeting the very people other sites find unpopular. “The idea was to attack a niche that had not been done,” says Pahwa. “Divorce rates are going up in India and a lot of people are getting divorced at a very young age — even 35 or so. It’s wrong to tell them that they can’t get married again.”

Since launching two weeks ago more than 1,000 people have created profiles on the site. A brief survey of a few shows that most people still list religion and caste details as well as whether they are vegetarian or “non-veg” (as carnivores in India are known) and whether they have kids or not. Though some Indian commentators have suggested that divorcees are less worried than other Indians about religion and caste when searching for a mate, Pahwa says his gut feel is they may “care as much — maybe even more, especially if they’ve had a bad experience the first time.”

Pahwa estimates the total matrimonial website market in India at between $15 million and $20 million a year. He hopes to grab up to 5% of that, and is convinced that the market of divorced Indians will keep growing. Just ask Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi.

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 drawings, sparking debate on freedom of expression.

An Indian cartoonist has been jailed for his drawings highlighting government corruption.
Aseem Trivedi has been charged with sedition for his cartoons that “insulted” the Indian government.
His supporters say the decision is evidence of political leaders’ growing intolerance of criticism and freedom of expression.

A few years ago MF Husain painted Bharat Mata in a way, it was objected by a section of society. He apologised, yet numerous cases were filed against him in different cities by several groups.

Though a celebrity painter, Husain didn’t say much about creative freedom or tradition of nude drawings in India. He was fiercely opposed by Muslims also, who opposed him in newspapers, on the streets and elsewhere too.

Intolerance plays at many levels in India.

We now have the case of a cartoonist, Aseem Trivedi, who was arrested on charges of sedition. Later, he was freed on bail.

Trivedi, who has been part of the anti-corruption movement in India led by the self-styled Gandhian, Anna Hazare, drew a cartoon where he replaced the customary lions in the country’s national emblem with wolves, their teeth dripping with blood. The caption read, Long live corruption.

Another of Trivedi’s cartoons shows the Indian parliament (non-functioning in recent months) as a giant toilet bowl.

Browbeaten into submission

India’s best regarded political cartoonist, EP Unny, wrote in The Indian Express, a paper where he draws:

“We got both our cartoon art and the sedition law from Britain. The two carried on all these decades, including those 21 months of national emergency and censorship in the mid- (nineteen) seventies, without coming to televised blows. Now Aseem Trivedi, a 25-year old cartoonist has been sent to Mumbai jail for the seditious act of insulting the national symbol.”

“The Indian state seems to be more loyal and lawful than the queen. If you Google Steve Bell, The Guardian’s editorial cartoonist, you would think he is cooling his heels in Her Majesty’s prison.  Through some 30 years of merciless cartooning, he gleefully tore into most things British, symbolic and otherwise. Often reduced to bottom wear in Steve’s work, the Union Jack still flies high over Westminster Palace.

“Do four Asiatic lions standing back to back and tall need protection from a doodler, however activist or agitated?  There is bound to be inherent tension between any national symbol and the cartoon. One is meant to be revered and the other is nothing if not irreverent. The two should naturally clash as they do in mature democracies. Between spats they manage to live together – the symbol on its pedestal and the cartoonist at the drawing board.

“Back in 1976 in a Playboy interview when Jimmy Carter confessed to having looked on a lot of women with lust, a cartoonist put a denuded Statue of Liberty into the Presidential thought balloon.  Carter didn’t wage a war on the cartoonist; he worked his way to the Nobel Peace Prize”.

Sedition laws can be meaningless in a democracy, a governance based on the principle of free speech.

A democracy asks its citizens to speak their mind. Provided it does not cause riots or public harm.

But when citizens do that in India, they are warned and browbeaten into submission – even sent to jail.  India’s sedition law was written in 1860 to empower the British masters ruling India to punish “natives”.

Yes, when a writer or cartoonist says what pleases the ears of the powers that be, he is encouraged to write or draw more. However, when he comments in words or pictures something critical, heavens fall.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the ugh-est of them all? That’s the question Aseem Trivedi seems to ask in his latest cartoon. Errr, Aseem? Yup. The same. This is what happens when an utterly nonsensical sedition case is filed against a cartoonist (high on anger, low on talent) — it’s called a oneday phenomenon. But here’s the upside to the controversy. The recent furor has drawn public attention to the growing antipathy against the ‘ugly politician’. It sure looks likes this is going to be the winter of our discontent.

First came the brutal attack on traffic cop Mohan Lal by a minister’s security personnel. Lal’s crime? He had dared to stop the minister’s convoy for jumping a red light. Then came news of some obscure cartoonist’s arrest in Mumbai. In both these seemingly unrelated cases, the strident howls of protest from the aam junta were similar in nature — they were more against the abuse of power by the high and mighty than in support of two wronged individuals . The big question in both cases — how long before we move on?

Mohan Lal may end up nursing a bloodied and bulbous eye all by himself, once the media pounces on an even grislier story. After all, Mohan Lal has not announced his intentions of joining a citizens’ movement or turning into an activist . There is nothing ‘sensational’ about Mohan Lal’s predicament. This beastly incident is just another tragic case of an earnest government servant paying a huge price for doing what he’s paid to — his duty. Congress minister Taj Moiuddin will carry on, unapologetic, unscathed and unmoved. His repeated chant that he doesn’t have eyes at the back of his head, will also be filed away indifferently and soon forgotten.

But what happens from this moment on to young Aseem Trivedi will be far more interesting to monitor. Here’s a likely scenario: as of now, Aseem is the newest darling of the media. He has been completely co-opted by those crying hoarse against an archaic law. So far, it reads like a meaty story. Aseem, with disheveled hair and wearing the mandatory black kurta, lends himself perfectly to the darkness of the moment , as he plays to the gallery, spewing contempt and talking of freedom of expression. He is also producing cartoons on command as apt photo-ops . That is, when he isn’t posing for shutter bugs, hugging well-known people like Dr Binayak Sen. Aseem’s minders may have taken over his image building, going by how swiftly he undertook an expeditious damage control exercise when the Dalit heat was about to get to him.

Once out of jail, what did our cartoonist friend do — he rushed to Buddh Vihar to pay his respects to Babasaheb Ambedkar, adding he had the ‘greatest respect” for the Dalit leader and the Constitution . He also grabbed a quick lunch at Mayank (India Against Corruption) Gandhi’s office, before addressing a packed press conference.

What does the future hold for disgruntled young people like Aseem when they are suddenly propelled into the limelight and converted into overnight martyrs? What happens when an Aseem becomes a pivot, a symbol, even a hero? Does collective anger find the outlet it seeks? Or does the initial emotional outpouring get dissipated , leading to absolutely nothing but a few dramatic media clips? Political parties are quick to swoop down on people like Aseem.

Any person who can grab headlines is worth courting . In such a cynical scenario, someone like him is a catch.

So far, he has presented himself as a somewhat naïve but reasonably sensitized young man, using crude cartoons to express his disillusionment . His life has undergone a 360-degrees change after the misplaced sedition charge. He is now owned by the media. He is hot property. He will make it to international publications and global channels. For a short while at least, Aseem will gobble up publicity and share front page space with movie stars and sports heroes. Someone smart will ask him to walk the ramp— for a cause, of course. He will be wooed to play showstopper during the unending Fashion Weeks. Reality shows will chase him. He may enter the Big Boss house. Get a publishing deal. His career as a budding cartoonist may end abruptly. But so what? For another 15 minutes, or perhaps 15 days, Aseem will be hailed as a bona fide celebrity , a star. The ravenous media monster isn’t done with him yet. And yes,he also drawscartoons for aliving.

Was that caricature really denigrating or obscene? Anyway.

You can see photos about Muslims objecting to his caricature on my earlier post. Husain couldn’t come back to India, settled outside the country and died. He must have been bitter but didn’t say anything critical of the country or the government.
Now, we have a cartoonist, Aseem Trivedi. In one of his cartoon, he shows ‘Gang rape of Mother India‘. These are the exact words which he mentioned in his cartoon. Mother India is shown wearing a tricolour Sari.
Politician is telling her, ‘Hurry up’, while bureaucrat [spelt wrongly by him] is also holding her hand while another creature [corruption] stands ready.He drew Parliament in such a way that it resembles a big toilet [commode] and as far as our national symbol ‘Ashoka pillar’ is concerned, he turned the lions into wolves.
Contrary to Husain’s case. Aseem Trivedi is not apologetic. He won’t say sorry. The cartoonist who was not too well known, feels that he has every right to draw it. He is quite clear about it. He has conviction, no doubt. Perhaps, good that he has taken a stand.
But the difference in this case is that political parties that right-wing Hindutva groups hounded Husain, but support him for these cartoons. They are not too engaging. But from Shiv Sena to MNS and even BJP, none of these parties feel that such cartoons, particularly, about Bharat Mata, and those tampering our national symbols are distasteful.
The law is clear about it. Yet, he has support from a wide spectrum. Is freedom of expression absolute. No! It comes with responsibility. You can’t abuse your neighbour, leave alone tampering with national emblem.
However, Aseem is right in the sense that slapping a case of sedition was unjust. Yes, these colonial laws are used selectively, often misused, and they must be reviewed. He is courageous in a sense. The fact is that he did what he thought was his right.
Sorry, I don’t like these cartoons & its my personal thought. They are not seditious but they do hurt my sensibilities. I won’t post them on this site. If you intend to see them, search elsewhere. But this is a watershed case.

The strong support the activist-cartoonist has got, political parties standing for his right to expression and state government forced to review its decision–all these are things that would be unthinkable in the past.

I won’t say double standards in the case of Maqbool Fida Housain vis-a-vis Aseem Trivedi. Press Council supports him for his right to draw the cartoon. He gets award for courageous cartoons.
No case registered against him under cyber laws or IT Act, which any other ordinary person may be booked for, if he/she simply forwards objectionable material.
So there is no question of patriotism test conducted on Trivedi. I am a fool yaar, I shouldn’t even think of it. What a silly comparison. Why would someone ever question his ‘deshbhakti’!
Or perhaps, there is a new dawn in India. Boundaries of creative freedom are getting stretched and people are imbibing the Western values as far as seeing and understanding art is concerned. Let’s hope, the standards remain the same in future as well.
It was just for the record

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