Thursday, July 31, 2008


ਰੁੱਖਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਹੀ ਏਨਾ ਜੇਰਾ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ ਏ
ਕਿ ਕੁਹਾੜੀਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਵੀ ਦਸਤੇ ਬਖ਼ਸ਼ ਦੇਣ...

Rukh'han wich hi eina jeira ho sakda ey

ke kuhaa'rhian nu wi dastey bakhsh dein...

Only trees can have the mettle

to grant helves to axe - heads...

(Read recently somewhere...)

Ishmeet's Music

R wants me to put Ishmeet's music on her blog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ishmeet is No More

I am hurrying up the kids to finish their morning rituals of getting ready and eating breakfast. Just before I am about to go drop them at the bus stop, my mother- in- law tells me that last night, Ishmeet expired. Shocked, I am unable to register the news. She, on her part, has to decide about whether the singing program she is organizing in her college is going to be held or not. I have to decide what to tell the kids. I ultimately decide not to tell anything to them. Just when I call their van driver to pick up the kids in time, he informs me that the school is closed. That the vans will not be picking up kids. I call my daughter’s class teacher to confirm and she informs me that they will be going to school, but there is no point sending children to school.

Ishmeet was the alumnus of R’s school – a recent one. R adored him. When he had reached the finals of Voice of India, and needed votes of people to help him win, R simply told me to sit on net, use all my email ids and go on voting every single day. I don’t like reality shows, I despise the hot exchanges of judges, and I hate the disappointed looks on the singers’ faces when they are told they sung badly. I hate the sound of dreams shattering on stage, on camera and I cannot stand people trying to make money and audience deriving a morbid pleasure from the debris of broken expectations. But I recall that I had told a few of my blogger friends to support him because R wanted him to win. That was and is the only reality show I ever saw. I recall how R somersaulted atop the bed with sheer joy the moment she came to know of his victory. I asked her, “Would he come to know that his school mate, a little girl is risking breaking her neck because he won?” She giggled, said she didn’t care. She was crazy, she was shrieking, she was mad with happiness. I was happy for her. Her dad was happy for her.

How can I tell her now, that he is no more. She has a bond with him – she is his fan, like many others. I finally tell her, she is shocked. Her first words are, “I feel like crying mama.” Usually she doesn’t express her sadness like this. When she says these words, I know her throat is choked but she won’t cry because she cannot know if she is to cry or not. In a state of daze, she changes from her school uniform into her home clothes. She is not happy about the school being off today – she usually is not happy about not having to go to school. She takes up her abridged copy of As You Like It that she borrowed from her library yesterday and sits. Then closes it, says, “Mama, I don’t feel like doing anything.” I tell her to take a nap. But she won’t, I know she won’t.

May Waheguru give his family and parents strength to bear the shock. May his soul rest in peace . R is repeatedly saying, I cannot believe it. We all cannot.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Went to Miss Punjaban Pageant...2

Here is the second and final part of the Beauty Pageant experience.

The anchor, remember that damsel in westerns?, came and spoke Punjabi with an accent. On camera she would speak Punjabi, and off camera she would start speaking Hindi. I wanted to speak in the collar microphone they had pinned to my dupatta, “Oye, someone tell this female to speak Punjabi like a Punjaban.” Incidentally, did I tell that the mic they had pinned on my dupatta kept pricking me with those harmless but irritating little electic shocks they give in Siberia? (Okay, it was a big gapp, they never gave any shocks in Siberia.) It was the channel people’s revenge on my big mouthedness. LOL. Now I am again overdoing it, they in fact, gave me all the respect due to me.

Another thing about this fashionista - she kept forgetting K’s name. She kept asking his name again and again from him and made it visibly known that she had a trouble remembering it. Somehow I felt very sorry for his ego. I mean it might have been okay if she had forgotten mine or Capt D’s name, but forgetting a singer’s name was really bad. He is not a very great hit but then three or four of his very decent songs have been a blast. He would have liked it if she had cared to remember his name. At the end of the show, when she once again forgot or pretended to forget his name about 4th time, he smiled and whispered to me, “No problems, every dog has his day.” I liked it that he was so cool.

We all sweated, partly due to the sultry weather, partly due to a hot and closed environ, and partly due to the sharp, hot camera lights. The best part in the entire show was Sachin, the makeup assistant with a tireless trot and a wonderful smile. The moment the director shouted a number, he would run towards us. Number 1 was Capt D, I was number 2, and K was number 3. Sachin was a cute boy, very smart, very attentive and very accommodating. I tried to bully him into using my tissue but he provided us all with our individual pieces of very soft muslin cloth which he insisted on using on our faces. Before every shot, he would come running and would dab the ‘required’ person’s face with his/her cloth. “Required” because if it was No. 1’s turn to ask question, he would be freshened up for the camera, otherwise he would wait till his turn came, and so on and so forth. But we were all welcome to add to the question, which we all gracefully avoided just so the person asking question should have a free hand.

Okay, the girls started off, with the cue. On the yell of “action” they would walk towards the camera, stop on a round rug. Most of them would start with “sahsshri akaal ji” (they should have been saying “Sat Sri Akal Ji”) though we were fine with a ‘good afternoon’, or’ hello’ instead of a wrongly pronounced greeting. But they wanted to make it sound like a typical Punjabi setting, though some of them looked like they had walked the sets off the K-serials with their fake jewellery. A few wore traditional Punjabi jewellery but unfortunately knew nothing about it. Some of them were just out of school, some were the students of 11th or 12th grade, a few were there after their graduation, one was a law graduate, another an experienced lecturer. And I wondered what their dreams were, and if they were going to be realized. Except that they were not clear about their dreams. Whenever a question veered towards, “why do you want to participate in this contest?” they replied with, “I want to do charity”, “I want to do something for orphans,” “I want to do something for child education,” and the staple, “I want to promote my culture and heritage.” But if I asked what a maun (ਮੌਣ) is, they cut a sorry figure. Now, maun in Punjabi is the top brim of a water well and any girl who wants to represent Punjabi culture, should know what it is. Because well-sites were the women’s entertainment before the times of the Kitty Parties. If I asked one to name the Desi-months of the Indian year, she was lost.

All the while I was wondering, which culture are they going to represent, they are a lost generation themselves. They come here and try to speak their own language in an accent that wants to pretend they are Phoren-returned. They want to say proudly that they cannot write in Punjabi, and at the same time, we find they do not know how to write a straight sentence in English. Hindi is out of question for these girls. How do we expect them to represent a culture and at the same time be well versed with the Indian realities in the global context? They have dreams alright, but no efforts directed towards reaching for those targets. They want the stars to drop in their laps but they don’t make an effort to reach out.

One of them said “joking is my hobby”. Please ignore the bad English. It comes straight from their bio-datas. The singer K asked her to crack a never-before-heard-joke. She related a godforsaken joke which blooped up badly. I ended up laughing hysterically simply because I didn’t know what to make of the joke, but thankfully the girl never came to know why I laughed. I hate to be a part of that cruelty issued from the judgment chairs in reality shows though the organizers did try to spur us to give out a little drama. I didn’t tell him, but I know I am a very boring person and would not enact any drama for anything- not at least on stage or camera.

Lest you think that all of them were there just with looks and make up, let me tell you that some of them came up with really brilliant answers on female-foeticide, social problems, and laws concerning women. There was this pretty girl, very simply but elegantly dressed up in simple Punjabi attire. She, in her bio-data had written that she had a story to share on why she wanted to be a part of this pageant. (Basically we took the questions from their areas of interest as mentioned in their introduction in their entry form). She fell in my lot. I mean I was the one to ask question, I crossed my fingers and asked her what it was. She said it was personal but she would share it. I was amazed at her courage. She said, “When I was conceived, my mother was pressurized to abort the baby in case it was a girl because there were already two girls in the family. Somehow I survived. Through this contest, I want to show the world that I m the same foetus which might have been aborted.” I wanted to ask her if it was her mother who saved her, but then I thought she might cry on camera. I let her go and gave her the maximum points – for her courage, her presentability, for the way she carried herself. I hope to find more about her later.

Then, there was this girl whom I asked, if you were to be reborn, would you like to be born as a Rakhi Sawant, a Mayawati or a Maneka Gandhi. She chose Maneka Gandhi and in detail told us about her work for animals. It was brilliant; the way she responded was confident and very positive.

I was sorry for some of them who deserved far more than this. One of them was a wonderful singer who had earlier appeared on live shows on TV and made a great advertisement for herself when her turn came. But we forgave her that, after all she is a child of 18-19. All three of us thought that she should concentrate on singing and not waste her energy elsewhere.

All through, there was no AC; I wondered why the channel was pinching its pennies. If only they had rented a Kitty hall in some hotel, everybody would have been saved a lot of time, energy and water, because I could actually feel sweat running in streams down my back. On top of that there was the makeup which had finally found its way in the tissue papers and that cute muslin cloth. I asked for a mirror to touch up my lipper. An assistant came and asked what I needed, D said, “Madam ka makeup dubara kar do”. That smart assistant was baffled. He said, “Kya breakup kar do?” I was crazy with laughter. I said, “Rehney do, tumhara qusoor nahi, garmi bahut hai.” He was genuinely puzzled, went away nodding his head and we all couldn’t help bursting into laughter.

I must mention those three cute girls; I think they were assistants to the director. They sounded very sensible, practical and pleasant. Every few minutes, the organizers would turn the pedestal farratta fan after the director called CUT, K was sitting onto my left and the fan was to his left. Every time the fan was turned on, he would be lost in his thoughts, his papers would fly away and he would look helplessly at them. The spot boys would gather his papers and then the contest would re-commence. I was reminded of Uncle Podger’s antics. D needed spectacles to read but he did not wear them. I think he did not want to look old by wearing them. As a result, all the time he kept making tentative guesses on what might have been written. Some of these guesses were really really wild, irrelevant and funny. I was giggling inaudibly all the time at his plight.

At about 5, we were done with the entire grilling process and were looking like sweaty, shiny, grilled but hungry chickens ourselves. Then they fed us with some greasy poories with chanas and a sugary cold drink. So much for the beauty…

It was a great learning experience for me - in terms of human communication, human psychology and the working of TV shows on sites away from TV Studios. The crew was, all in all, a very supportive, energetic and decent one. The one thing I am happy about is, the judgment was fair and was valued; otherwise the channels are sometimes known for promoting their own favorite candidates and pushing them through the pliable judges.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Went to Miss Punjaban Pageant...

I participated in Miss Punjaban Contest-2008 today.

This is what I can say after spending one hell of a grueling day in the chair of a judge of a beauty-talent show audition. A regional channel of Punjab is organizing a gala (so they say) show and they had invited me to be one of the judges. At the moment, after spending about 5 hours in front of sharp camera lights, I am totally zonked out. I wonder why I go to such events again and again. I had done one such exercise before too, and had learnt my lessons quite well. After receiving a beautiful memento with my name printed on it, I had then vowed never to be a judge in a beauty show but there is a nerve in me that starts to twitch the moment I am invited to this job again. The reasons, I believe are that I find such programs as a forum to suggest the youngsters what they need to do and what they need not to do in such contests. Judging from what I am writing, by now, I bet that many of my friends perhaps believe that I have been an erstwhile Miss Punjab, or Mrs Punjab or even Miss India or Mrs India. No, no, no, no. I have not even been in close proximity to a venue holding such events, thanks to my strict parents who nipped any such talent in me in its bud. Just kidding. I never HAD such a talent. I have had just the gift of speaking and a big mouth which comes in handy while adjudging others on stage. How this channel got my name as a judge is anybody’s guess. They are about as famous as I am. LOL.

Okay, coming back to today’s event. It was one of the four- or perhaps five auditions to shortlist aspiring Miss Punjabs. I had no idea who my co-judges were. Later I found out that one was my old acquaintance, an ex-army officer - Capt D, now serving with the Government of Punjab, and the other was a moderately known Punjabi singer named K. It was a tortuously sunny day. When I reached the venue, I found out that all the watches around had been requested to forget that it was the stipulated starting time of 10 A.M. which had been postponed indefinitely. There was this pretty girl who was getting made up by the makeup artist. The moment she turned towards me, I was amazed to find her dressed up in westerns, with tight slacks and strapped up shoes. With a gaping mouth I turned to Capt D who was waiting for his turn for makeup. “Is SHE going to anchor the show?” I meant, is this what the beauty pageant for Miss Punjaban has come down to? Talking arrogantly, she made me realize that I had been one of the ignominious beings who had rejected her in favor of Japji Khaira in another semi-final of a Miss Punjaban show. And in the same arrogant tone, batting her mascara'ed eyelashes, she kept telling, well that is when I had begun my “career.” Ignoring her, I concentrated on the questions I was going to ask the contestants. Then Capt D sat in front of the makeup artist. The makeup didn’t make much of a difference to his face, but he was given the impression that he has been brightly made up. This made Capt D a very happy man.

Then came my turn to be happy. I sat before the makeup artist, conveniently forgetting that I cannot carry any kind of makeup ever. There are two reasons for that. One, in the month of July, there is no way that my make up would not bleed with the sweat. Second, that I cannot carry any kind of make up at all at any time. I wipe off my kajal with my sleeve accidentally and end up having black lines on my cheeks. Okay, I’m not that stupid, but yes I do tend to forget that I’m wearing kajal. The only thing I can carry elegantly is lip colour. So there I was, my face getting layer after layer of makeup, my eyes getting painted, my cheeks getting re-formed and my crooked nose getting a beautiful shape. (Remember Stephan Leacock’s With the Photographer?) Then the make up artist applied lipstick. And then I saw the mirror and then I gave out a subdued “EEEIIIIWWW, my lips are not that thick”. He said, “Madam this is the look.” I said, No way, you have made me look like a TV personality, I want to look like the humble teacher that I am. Kindly give back my lips the shape that they have.” The makeup artist was annoyed, but he was one of those jolly types. He wiped the lipper off. I heaved a big sigh of relief when I saw the results of the re-application. Back to my original self. I pinned up my dupatta, and as soon as I had finished, poof, the power vanished. Not mine, but the cooler, the fan and the exhaust fan stopped working due to a power cut. And then began the sweating. I looked at the makeup artist with the “See, I told you” look and he said, “Here is the tissue, don’t wipe, just dab.” Like the delicate damsel I’m not, I obeyed him.

I heard a diesel generator being turned on and the power was restored. Soon my adventurous spirit had the better of me and I tried to locate an AC room. Well, you got me right, I had contacts. Not in my eyes, but in the college that was the venue of the contest. So off I went to the Principal’s office. Was she happy to see me, and was I embarrassed to be there in that painted mask of a face I had on my shoulders. But she said she understood and we caught up with the old times when she was a lecturer and I was an honors student. Meantime a wicked messenger from the organizers came to tell us that we were getting late and we should start. Wow, as if we were holding them from starting it. By now, it was 1: 00 PM. I wanted to yell, “What becometh of my lunch, you wretched fellow?” But then my senses returned before he could yell back, “Lady, we are on a cliff hanging for our dear life, we gotta finish this event in time, and all that you can think of is your lunch?”

We came to the hall, took our seats and waited. Being the only woman in the panel, I was made to sit in the middle. What a scene! There was the beauty between two beasts. (I hope none of the two is reading this). The channel team took a bite, or byte, or bit… I don’t know how they spell it but they sound like they are going to give us a “bite of some food”. This bit was to speak good good things for the channel for about 30 seconds. Honest, I have never watched the channel. I confessed this and they were aghast. But I told them I watch cartoons all right. I counter-questioned them, “What is the full form of your abbreviation” and they giggled, “Even we don’t know”. Wow, they get paid by this channel and they don’t know the full form of this one-of-the many-three-letter-channels floating around. Then I decided to stop embarrassing them and sat quietly. However, I tried to be neutral by telling them that I m keeping my fingers crossed about how this event turns out. All three of us introduced ourselves to each other and then started the contest.

I m totally tired now, so it is to be continued….

Reality is that I didn’t want this post to be too long ;)

Monday, July 21, 2008


Life is

fast evolving as

a roller coaster ride

on the graph of time.

The crests touching the skies,

the falls leading deep down

into the abyss

below the earth.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Child on the Road

The child was barely 11 months old. She sat in the middle of the road to my place. She was clad in a thin frock, she had dirty patches on her skin and her nose was running. Her eyes had big blotches of kohl. A small Ziploc bag having 5 or 6 mangoes was lying close to her. There were a couple of pieces of Indian bread (roti) wrapped in a piece of cloth lying next to her.

I was coming by car, I saw her from afar. I thought someone with her would pick her up just in time. I stopped the car very close to her; there was that fearless look in her eyes that you associate with innocent ignorance. There was enough space for me to drive by her , but I was afraid I might hurt her in case she suddenly lunged towards the car. I came out of the car looking for the mother, or a possible guardian, which I presumed was a beggar. Finding none, I picked up the child as lovingly as I possibly could. There was a little room on the side of the road. I make her stand there and sat near her, asking where her mama was. She was dazed, she didn’t even cry when I picked her up. I touched her cheek, I m amazed it didn’t take much effort to touch her dirty cheek though I am always finicky about my kids being always clean. Then I picked her mango-packet and placed it next to her. As I went to pick the pieces of bread, I saw a scooter coming from the other side. The young boy might just have crushed the bread and rode off. I almost bullied him into stopping and picked the bread, wrapped it in the piece of cloth and placed it next to the child. My car in the middle of that small approach road - I sat with the girl, painfully aware that in case she was an abandoned child, I would not be able to leave her like that and go home. In that split second, I tried to weigh all the options I had, in case I had to do something about an abandoned child. Once again, I tried to look for someone who had left her there.

I wondered, hungry myself, who could have the heart to leave her like that? Meantime a waif of a woman, carrying another infant, a girl less than 2 months, on her side, came there. I was so angry that I wanted to slap her. I think I was louder than I normally am, “ Kaun hai tu? Yeh teri bacchi hai? (Who are you? Is this child yours?)” She had an expression of a dog just kicked. Sheepishly she pointed towards a gate, “ Haan, woh main wahan se kapde lene gayee thi. (yes, well, I had gone to get clothes from there)” There meant two girls standing near a bike. I guess those girls had promised her some garments some other day and today was the day of the fulfillment of that promise. I was least interested in her donors. “Tumne bacchi ko beech sadak mein bithaya houa tha, koi kuchal deta toh? (You had made the child sit in the middle of the road, what if someone had crushed her?) She again mumbled an ashamed answer. My anger was mounting up, I don’t know why. I almost shouted at her, “If you couldn’t take care of her, why did you give birth to her?” Immediately I regretted having said that. If she had a choice, she wouldn’t be a beggar. If she had a choice, she would probably not have given birth to a girl child. After all, then she would have had the choice of Pre-Natal Sex-determination.

Seeing me shouting at that woman, a man came towards me. He tried to add fuel to the fire. “A couple of minutes ago, when I came with my car, she had made the younger one sit in the middle of the road.” I was so full of my own wrath that I hardly paid any attention to him, which I know he didn’t like.

I wanted to yell at her, “If the wheels on the road leave her alive, the predators roaming about won't. She would be raped, maimed, abused and left to bleed and die. Why did you leave her alone on the road?” But I didn’t say that. I just said, “Dhyan rakha karo is ka” (Please take care of her). My voice was sounding more like a request than an angry shout I had meant it to be.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Who is a buddy?

A friend, a companion, a soul mate with whom you are comfortable. With whom you can laugh, cry, shout, yell and do anything to your heart’s fill. Well, we get so many mushy mushy emails everyday that describe buddies. Any definition that I give will possibly be totally inadequate.

Well, this is not what everybody seems to think. Last night, I received an email about bio-engineered buddies. So horrified was I after going through their website that I kept thinking for a long time if it was for real because all kinds of forwarded mails are doing their rounds on internet. And I kept wondering why 'this product' has not been banned. I was told later that the Customs departments of Qatar and Oman have not given passage to their packages. I wanted to post a picture from their website but then I couldn’t muster enough courage to do it.

The shock that I got on reaching their homepage is nothing as compared to the one that I received upon reading their FAQs. Their comparison to infants was something that snatched the beats out of my heart. We, the human beings, are admittedly the most intelligent organisms on earth. We can practically do anything. But do we really need to have these? Is it not a sample of our sheer crassness and callousness? Where is our aesthetic sense? Where is our quality of being human, whither humanity?

Or perhaps I am over-reacting? Maybe, but I had to share it with all of you.

Well, the manufacturers are able to market them means there are buyers who have placed orders. Or at least people are interested in buying these Genpets.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

With Apologies to the not-so-bad Cops

About 6 years back, I and G, who is a mother of two boys and is far fitter than me, used to go for a walk in our upcoming locality in our then mall-less, multiplex-less city. I call my colony upcoming because the civic amenities of a planned city were still far from it - people still had septic tanks instead of the regular sewage; in the name of water supply we had our own motor pumps and water tanks on rooftops; and the roads were maintained not by the government but by the elected governing body comprising of the colony elders. The apologies of roads would be in perpetual repair. On the days it was not raining, it would be dusty all over, and on rainy days one would have to jump over puddles with extreme dexterity. But city it nevertheless was. After all our postal addresses proudly carried the name “….city.”

Adjacent to our colony was a village. Yes, a proper village with its buffaloes tied outside. Complete with a hand pump that blessed itself for not being in Pakistan and thus having been spared its life simply due to its invisibility in the times of Sunny (Deol) Bhaaji’s Gadar-rage, dung cakes neatly pasted on the house-walls, open drains running adjacent to houses, carefree people sitting on home-woven single beds (manjies) out on the roads and enjoying the dust rained by vehicles passing them by. However, this village had hopes of being converted into a city sub-urb. Since our colony had congested roads, I and G used to walk in the open spaces (read broken roads) offered by a newer colony ‘cut’ between the village and our colony. Still we were happy because we could walk for those wonderful 55 minutes in complete absence of heavy traffic.

Now in a small area, you get immediately noticed if you are a pair of fast walking females in your walking shoes - moving fast enough to look like you are rushing to outdo the fire engines to put out a fire somewhere. Also if one of the pair (not me :D) is in tight jeans- considered totally out of sync with the dress code of the area that inhabits women in kameez salwars and their heads demurely covered with dupattas. We knew that we were arousing uncalled for curiosity. It was their problem, so we would ignore them in the hope that they would get used to us walking past them every evening, and with time, things would be okay. However, as they say in the vernacular proverb, the cat can nevertheless see the pigeon even if the latter covers its eyes.

There were some chits of boys, about 12-14 years, who would hang around some recording shops, cheap salons (I mean naii di dukaan), or even by the wall of the gurdwara that fell on the way. Every time we passed, they would pass some unkind comment which we couldn’t hear because we used to be engrossed in our own chat. They would also, on their part, try to pass it in such a low voice as to give them a perverse satisfaction of having passed a comment to two ‘females’, and at the same time the pleasure of not having been heard and thus saving them the reprimand from us. One of them went on to declare rather boldly, "go on walking, you wont slim down.” (ਜਿੰਨਾ ਮਰਜੀ ਤੁਰ ਲਓ, ਪਤਲੀਆਂ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋਣਾ) I felt like turning back to give him a nice heavy slap on the face. Did it matter to them if we were almost their mothers’ age? However, we thought that we could not stop walking if their attitudes were different, and even with our Amazonian looks, actions and spirits, we could not go on fighting every offender on the road and thus waste our precious walk-time and much needed energy.

However, you cannot go on pretending everyday that you are not bothered. And we were bothered big time! One day, we saw two Punjab Police cops armed with wireless devices, perched on a white bullet patrolling our area. Those were the days when the PCR (Police Control Room) bikes had just started to do rounds of the cities in Punjab. I think my eyes must have had that shine of hope when I looked at G, and suggested, “Girl we can go to these PCR cops and report about those boys; at least they can warn them.”

G is the older and wiser of us two. She cut me down with, “Yeah sure, they will take care of those comment passing boys, who will take care of them?”

By 'them' she meant PCR Cops.

(ਆਹੋ, ਇਹ ਉਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਰੋਕ ਲੈਣਗੇ, ਫੇਰ ਇਹਨਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਕੌਣ ਰੋਕੂ?)


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tag-Monsoon Showers

IHM had tagged me to this fun tag. I love doing tags, as long as I can handle them. This one asks me to take up a book closest at hand, open page 123 and write the lines six, seven and eight. The one closest at hand is Dan Brown's "Deception Point." Yes, it is the writer who gave us "The Da Vinci Code." However, he wrote "Deception Point" two years earlier to that bestseller. Anyways that is not what the tag is about. Let me not digress. Here are the lines:

Sexton felt an anger simmering. Now Tench was putting words in his mouth. He tried to counter, but Tench was already talking.
'So you're saying, Senator, for the record, that you would do away with the agency that put men on the moon?'

(Sedgwick Sexton is running in US Presidential elections, Marjorie Tench is a Senior Advisor to the President. They are in the middle of an important debate on CNN.)

The story is about a face saving device adopted by NASA during a presidential election, and the subsequent ruckus created by the higher ups resulting in multiple life-loss. Senator Sexton's USP (as he thinks) is the criticism of the overtly fund-guzzling NASA. He tries to prove that all that NASA has done is to take tax-payer's money and give nothing in return in terms of research and results. NASA is forced to vindicate its side, and it majorly misleads the sitting President who is painted very honest and upright. Incidentally he is running for a second term. This reminds me that thankfully Bush Chachu cannot have a third term. It never fails to amaze me that America, with its super omni-wisdom about the rest of the world, could be fooled into having a person of his IQ as its own President; allowing him a second term was absolutely outrageous.
The main character is Rachel Sexton, White House Intelligence Analyst and estranged daughter of the senator Sexton. She is sent by the President on a fact-finding mission. Suitably, she meets a handsome scientist at the Arctic base where she has gone to verify the authenticity of NASA's supposed discovery of an out-of-space-rock with proof of Extra-Terrestrial life. As reality dawns on her that it is a case of extreme scientific forgery involving a greater stake, she tries to make the findings known to the President. Then starts a struggle against a master plotter.
It has, in the typical style of the author, a lot of information that does tend to hang heavy at times, but which is necessary for the reader. Dan Brown is excellent at designing the plots and creating consistent characters. The leading characters are not just good looking bimbos. They are highly intelligent individuals with that edge over lesser mortals like us. It surely makes an interesting read.
Thank you IHM for tagging me on this for it has given me a chance to share one of my summer readings. As becometh a tagged, I must not let this torture stop. Hence, I tag Maverick, Gazal, MIP, Oceanic Mirages, Thought Safari, and Ramanujam. And of course, I would expect you all to tag at least 5 more unsuspecting beings.