Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Blogging

Blogs, how much ever personal or "from the heart" or "my space, no one else's" spirit they are started with, soon become an audience pleasing exercise. Initially, the audience will be less, and your spirit to write will be high. Down the line, both trends reverse. People soon start looking for interesting topics to blog about, etc. They go on trips and watch movies with this purpose in mind. This, if it was for a magazine or newspaper with a fixed aim (like money or political), would have worked fine (that's their aim), but for an individual blogger, blogging "just for fun", it soon means that "he is being watched", "he should write well", "the audience may not like it", "this topic does not fit into this blog and its audience". These pressures work out differently for different people: I normally end up hating my blog.

The audience is not the problem: acceptance (and may be commaderie) is a major aim of writing blogs. I am not interested in writing a closed-to-all blog, which only I can read. Audience affecting the author becomes a problem. The initial idea of blogging just for fun will change, and different people accept this differently.

The dynamic nature of blogging, where we just type something and press "save", without the strong thought and the endless re-reading and re-writing process of an "article" (say for a magazine), tend to end up as "informal" "rants". Blogs are written instantaneously, and I wounder how much "insight" we can get from such a form of writing. They capture so much of the emotion of the moment of writing, and may be it is like a diary; just to mark our stray and fleeting thoughts. I mostly blog on stray thoughts rather than my few time tested opinions.

If all you wanted was to share your opinion, another way to do it would be to use static websites or blogs without commenting option. Some people choose this option, and perhaps its a good choice to remain detached from the blog.

Lets see what will happen to this blog. I want to give it only a "second rate" importance, just as a once in a while hobby, so that it wont end up affecting me and my emotions. I am trying to be brave, and enabling the comments for the blog for the time being.

Making sense of surveys

I was looking for numbers to support/refute my simple, not so original hypothesis about Kerala's political dynamics. I tend to mostly believe CSDS data: because I mostly find Yogendra Yadav's analysis agreeable. At any rate, he is the better than the clueless TV journalists and newspaper editors like Shekhar Gupta and Veer Sanghvi.

However, in the data that appeared in yesterday's Hindu: it says the LDF lost 13% of Nair vote between 2004 and 2006, and the UDF gained only 4% of the Nair vote. So the 9% would have gone to the BJP or independents. The BJP's total votes came down from 10% to 6%, and Nairs and upper caste Hindus are the social groups they find some acceptance, thus "ungaining" say: 10% of total Nair vote. Now we have about 20% of Nair votes "swinging", yet the UDF has gained only 4% (as per CSDS).

The overall polling percentage increased by about 2%, so nothing there to account for a 10% of a group that makes 13% of total electorate not voting at all . 10% of 13% of 73% of 2.2 crores is about 2 lakhs - the most famous "independent" Neelalohitadasan Nadar - who might have mostly got Nadar votes - got only 1 lakh votes(only 50000 Nairs would have voted in TVM anyway, and mind you, Shashi Tharoor is a candidate that would have absorbed all upper caste votes, and also, we have a stronger BJP presence in TVM). Considering the BJP's swings as well, we have to explain for at least 4 lakh Nair votes.

Apart from Nairs, the only other group that shows a major swing as per the survey is the Christian group (13%). The rest, with swings of 5% or less, and considering the sampling errors of the survey, throw very little in terms of "which group voted for whom differently this time". I don't know what to make out of the survey, and to what extend this kind of data can be used to gain any insight into what actually happened.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Passenger and Bhagyadevata

Passenger and Bhagyadevata are reasonably good films, especially when compared to the trash we have been receiving in Malayalam cinema for many years now. There are problems with these films of course, but I found some moments of brilliance as well, so I would recommend a watch.

(Some thing about the plot below - so please dont read before watching)

1. I liked most of Passenger, especially most of the things that happened with trains as reference. The main problem I found with the film is the highly incredible plot created by the villain (Jagathy - the corrupt Home minister) to kill thousands of people with a plane crash so that some mining lobby is saved. Killing a few people for a  private industry is plausible, but wiping out a whole area, that too with the crash of the private jet of a liquor baron... the minister must be afraid of the noose... wont he?

2. When I watched Bhagyadevatha, I found it better than Passenger, except for the "climax". An anti-dowry film ended up in the most conservative manner, and almost pro-dowry, pro-establishment, pro-chastity, etc etc. Note: The film's associate director - Sreebala Menon's book - 19 Canal Road is one of the best "light" books I read recently(i.e one year back!), and I highly recommend that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Learning and researching history

I was thinking of the results of "Learning and researching History". Overwhelmingly, the political results come to my mind. The children are taught history in school so that 1) They become nationalistic, proud of their history 2) They understand the rights, and more importantly, the wrongs that happened in History - the holocaust, or the Stalinist purges, Fascism, Imperialism etc - so that their political beliefs are developed accordingly. I wonder if there is any country in the world which do not interpret history selectively so that 1 & 2 are met.

History is always used by politicians to prove their point. The Hindu nationalist sees a glorious "Akhand Bharat" of the olden days - united, successful and homogeneous from Afghanistan to Kerala - tarnished to the present one by attacks from people of other religions. The Dravidian politician sees himself as a defender of the Dravidians - a Superior race traditionally, and the inhibitor of Akhand Bharat, that fell into bad means and pushed southwards due to the attacks from the barbarous Aryans, and sees many of the social ills as the product of Aryanization. The dalits see an entirely different history of the country (which provides reasons for their current state). Elsewhere in the world, Hitler interpreted history to create the myth of Aryan supremacy, and the glorious "Reichs" of olden days. Some Muslims (especially in Pakistan) and Christians (in India too) find Indian history as a thorough civilization process by them of the idol-worshiping, superstitious, cast-ridden Hindus. Communists of Kerala and the state's text books painted a glorious picture of the erstwhile USSR and the regime of Stalin even when they were taught in the most negative terms elsewhere. The US thinks of themselves as the saviour and crusader of Democracy all over the world, even though it does not mind meddling in the internal affairs of several democratic countries, keeping the likes of Saudi Arabia in its own backyard. Chavez invokes Bolivar to gain legitimacy to himself, Marx and Engels made history the basis and a kind of proof of their theory of Historical Materialism, of social systems converging to communism at the end of their evolution.

I wonder, is the use of Learning and researching History is only to score political points, and to refute them (again for a political reason)? History is always hazy, and it is very easy to selectively interpret it. Most nationalist movements do this.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Trying to analyze Kerala politics

Its majorly middle class population and strong politicization makes Kerala's political dynamics different from the National one. Kerala, with only 13% of people below poverty line, or half of national average (at 26%) (NSSO statistics), and with a huge middle class (nearly 70% - cant find source now), is having only less than 30% (and may be even about 15%) of its people directly impacted by the welfare schemes of the government. And majority of these poor people have traditionally been supporters of the Left Democratic Front (LDF - the communists' alliance). So it is very tough to come to power by means of just running welfare schemes for the poorest of poor- there are no major "swing votes" here - and even among the few present here it is tough for people to filter out state government welfare schemes from central government schemes so as to reward the respective governments through the ballot box.

Among the rest of the population - the vast majority - mainly middle class or above - a majority should be traditional UDF (Congress, League, KC) supporters (since LDF should be sweeping the poorest's votes), and a minority will be LDF supporters (traditionally). This is the result of historical factors, social struggles, religion and caste and to some extend the presence of sister organizations of these political parties, and mainly that of CPI(M)- like DYFI, CITU and SFI. The remaining few (quite small in percentage - 4-5% of total population, perhaps) in the middle class, not too affiliated with either combinations, rather apolitical, but who do vote , always vote against the current state government.

This is because, every single government in the state (like elsewhere) is not free from scandals: corruption allegations, violence, nepotism, factionalism and such fights, allying with goondas or corrupt businessmen or politicians, sexual harassment charges, communal problems etc etc. This is ensured by not only by the actions of the party in power, but also the active state of politics in the state, with a strong opposition party and energetic youth movements (like DYFI and SFI), along with a media hungry for scandals (rightly so) and above all a population for which political discussions and news is a national past time - who wouldn't just let the government get away with it. At the end of half of a government's term in office, the government will be having a poor name. Everyone (mainly from the apolitical middle class I spoke off) will become critics of the government, and the inevitable will happen. Rolling out doles for the poor - whatever good it does to them - alone will not win elections. And the condition of this "normally apolitical-yet voting-middle class" is such that, some good things affecting them done by the government (say: improving roads, or electric supply) will be offset by their morality and righteousness ("this government has been horribly corrupt, and I should protest by voting", etc).

Hence, it is perhaps impossible to win a consecutive term in Kerala, unless you have some kind of a wave(national, like the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, or local, like what happened in Manjeri in 2004) (and unless you manage without any scandals, quite impossible). If this is to be proved wrong, you must reverse the trend with the "normally apolitical-yet voting-middle class", by getting into their moral good books. Like how VS (current CM) is doing now: even when the LDF was trounced in the election (the result of a simple 3-4 % difference in vote percentages resulted in 16-4 in LS terms and 100-40 in assembly terms), VS beat the UDF's CM candidate and current Leader of Opposition, Oommen Chandy by more than 10 percentage points (CSDS survey). VS achieved this by showing up as a crusader against all forms of corruption and nepotism, not stopping even against his own party's all powerful secretary, even by putting into risk his own stature and future in the party. The swing votes (the apolitical few among the vast middle class) need scapegoats, if anti-incumbency is to be beaten. Unless of course the government becomes too good and comes out with no major scandal.

Update: There must be some swing votes between Congress and BJP, mainly in upper caste Hindus, which wont go to the Left. This goes to the Congress when Congress is in the opposition (and the ruling Left Front is dirtied by various scandals, and these few upper caste voters want to defeat the Left and bring back the Congress), and to BJP when Congress is in power.

There will certainly be much more to the political dynamics of Kerala, especially local factors and candidatures, however I feel the overall mandate is largely the result of the above phenomenon.

Update: I feel that there is a dangerous message in this post: that there is no need to care for the poor in Kerala to win elections. It is easy to see that it is my detachment with politics for the poor is what that allowed me to write this. What I wrote may be right or wrong, but this detachment makes a difference between how the middle class and the poor see politics. If I was more sensitive about this when I wrote this, may be I would have done a lot more homework.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A funny conversation from C&P (Are some progressives fools?)

We had a debate lately on the question: Has a member of the community the right to enter another member’s room, whether man or woman, at any time … and we decided that he has!

[Luzhin]‘It might be at an inconvenient moment, he-he!’
Lebeziatnikov was really angry.
‘You are always thinking of something unpleasant,’ he cried with aversion. ‘Tfoo! How vexed I am that when I was expounding our system, I referred prematurely to the question of personal privacy! It’s always a stumbling-block to people like you, they turn it into ridicule before they understand it. And how proud they are of it, too! Tfoo! I’ve often maintained that that question should not be approached by a novice till he has a firm faith in the system.


‘Because I don’t want in your free marriage to be made a fool of and to bring up another man’s children, that’s why I want legal marriage,’ Luzhin replied in order to make some answer.
He seemed preoccupied by something.

‘Children? You referred to children,’ Lebeziatnikov started off like a warhorse at the trumpet call. ‘Children are a social question and a question of first importance, I agree; but the question of children has another solution. Some refuse to have children altogether, because they suggest the institution of the family. We’ll speak of children later, but now as to the question of honour, I confess that’s my weak point. That horrid, military, Pushkin expression is unthinkable in the dictionary of the future. What does it mean indeed? It’s nonsense, there will be no deception in a free marriage! That is only the natural consequence of a legal marriage, so to say, its corrective, a protest. So that indeed it’s not humiliating … and if I ever, to suppose an absurdity, were to be legally married, I should be positively glad of it. I should say to my wife: ‘My dear, hitherto I have loved you, now I respect you, for you’ve shown you can protest!’ You laugh! That’s because you are of incapable of getting away from prejudices. Confound it all! I understand now where the unpleasantness is of being deceived in a legal marriage, but it’s simply a despicable consequence of a despicable position in which both are humiliated. When the deception is open, as in a free marriage, then it does not exist, it’s unthinkable. Your wife will only prove how she respects you by considering you incapable of opposing her happiness and avenging yourself on her for her new husband. Damn it all! I sometimes dream if I were to be married, pfoo! I mean if I were to marry, legally or not, it’s just the same, I should present my wife with a lover if she had not found one for herself. ‘My dear,’ I should say, ‘I love you, but even more than that I desire you to respect me. See!’ Am I not right?’

Some opinion of TV journalism in India

I watched the election discussions in the telly for the last two days.

I used to watch it at the time of last general elections. That time, I remember, we used to have a lot of panelists from corporate India- like the head of Morgan Stanley in India, and people like Gurcharan Das, along with politicians like Arun Jaitely, Jairam Ramesh etc. And Rajdeep and other anchors will side with the corporate guy, attacking the politician, making fun of them, etc etc.

Ever since the UPA came to power in that election, my TV watching came down. Especially the news channels. I started to feel that these TV journalists are not journalists at all. Starting from Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt to the wastes in Headlines Today, Aaj Tak etc. It is like reading the Times of India. I wonder why there are so many commonalities between these channels and the TOI kind of reporting.

Anyway: why I stopped to watch this again day before yesterday is: 1) I had no other plans 2) The panel had P. Sainath, Ram Guha and Yogendra Yadav in one channel, and N. Ram in another. These people, whether I agree with their views or not, are serious journalists (not Guha - who is an entertaining historian), and do not normally appear in TV: the TV is happy with Shekhar Gupta and Veer Sanghvi type of journalists, and getting Morgan Stanley MBAs to comment on politics, who can make a program "entertaining", than those like Sainath, who would be mainly tirading about the TV journalists themselves. I was surprised to see Sainath in Rajdeep's panel. Perhaps he thought, through TV, he can spread the point he has been trying to make, that perhaps he can correct the TV journalism. (About the Morgan Stanley guy missing this time: did he lose his job ?)

I feel that he failed in his task - if it was one - emphatically. The pace of TV journalism - NDTV/CNN-IBM style- doesnt help serious discussions. Sainath's points were deeply at cross with the crass generalizations that Sardesai tried to make, and as soon as Sainath starts explaining them, just after his first sentence, Sardesai will take the tail of that sentence and jump the gun: he will ask the next panelist: "do you agree with it?". I felt that Sainath couldnt get across any of his points across.

I am also reminded of how distant these TV journalists are from reality. Yogendra was saying, based on his survey's statistics, that even in Central elections, the activities and the image of the state government counts more than that of central government, and this trend has been increasing. At this time: Sagarika Ghosh was absolutely surprised to hear that the voters do not give much thought to the Nuclear Deal issue. Yogendra completely brushed aside that this issues like this will make the voter change his vote.

If you are aware of a few average common folk who vote, it can be easily guessed that no one would care much about the nuclear deal and its repercussions. When the deal was an issue, when it appeared in the newspapers, they might have read about it (Yogendra's statistics say only 50% read papers, and only 50% watch TV), but would have soon forgot it. Normal folk just "glimpse" through newspapers. They might read more on things that interest them (many a times just to feel convinced about their convictions more and more by selectively reading the news), but I completely fail to see how such a thing like Nuclear Deal can affect the voter's memory so much that he makes sure that he will vote for x party in the next election because of this issue. Its so simple, straightforward, common logic. And it made Sagarika - one of the country's foremost TV journalist - surprised.

Lets come to Prannoy Roy himself. The man who shows a little more grace. He started yesterday's session with Kerala: he said his exit polls predict 10:10 in Kerala for LDF:UDF, LDF's tally coming down from 17 last time. Then he went on to analyse the results further, saying: the LDF:UDF vote for Muslims is 45:55 and for Christians is 26: 60 (or some similar number), and this loss of votes among minorities is what is costing the LDF 7 seats.

Let's forget for once that LDF won 18 seats last year (Prannoy must have missed the CPM-Independent Sebastian Paul). But, saying that a vote ratio of 45:55 among Muslims and 26:60 among Christians is what is leading to LDF's loss from last time is so naive, if you know at least the basics of Kerala politics. Traditionally, for decades, the Christians, Muslims and upper caste Hindus have been voting en masse for UDF. This unity lead to the fall of the EMS government in 1959, and the UDF has always won Christian/Muslim majority areas like Mavelikkara, Moovattupuzha, Ponnani and Manjeri, by large margins. It is pure as daylight the fact that a vast majority of the religious minorities in Kerala vote for UDF: nobody will dispute it. But with the rise of Pinarai Vijayan as the CPM state Secretary, things have started to change, with him trying to woo Muslims to vote for LDF by aligning with some hardline Muslim leaders. That contributed to the LDF win in Manjeri last time. However the UDF won Ponnani by a landslide, as always.

Last time's LDF wave was due to the wrath of the people against the horrible factionalism, nepotism and family inheritance within the UDF, in addition to a poorly performing, weak AK Antony government in the state. This, again is quite indisputable, if you know the politics in the state. This time, the wave simply does not exist! So historically, the Muslims and the Christians vote en masse for the UDF, which is my point. If LDF wins 45% of Muslim vote this time, I would say it has improved its tally there. And the Christian vote remains more or less the same.

Of course, Prannoy and other TV journalists cannot be expected to go to these levels.

For example: about Sheila Dixit winning in Delhi for 3 times in a row, the analysis (between Sardesai and Guha) was that the Delhi populace - with a strong urban middle class, a variegated crowd that includes South Indians and Foreigners (according to Guha) - now looks for English speaking, Convent educated leaders to rule them than the old Madanlal Khuranas. In my opinion, this is very silly. Statistics shows that the Congress won in Delhi because of the support from the poorer section of the populace, not the "variegated middle class that want convent educated politicians". Sardesai's thesis falls apart here, and yet, I wonder if the variegated middle class actually want "convent educated politicians" to rule them.

They also made a similar analysis about Bombay (that Shiv Sena has been losing for some time now, or some such), and wanted to generalize the "convent educated English speaking" crap. Sainath begged to differ, started to explain his point, at the end of first sentence of which, Sardesai again jumped the gun, and shot something for the next panelist.

However, the silver lining is the fact that we have people like Sainath coming to newsroom now. That means Sardesai wanted to have a (seemingly) balanced panel (notwithstanding the screwing up of Corporate financial sector, which might have made the bankers too busy for the newsroom). IMHO, this was different from the time of the last general elections, and even that of the Mumbai attack (when celebrities and candles ruled the TV). But I wonder whether it will go anywhere better from there.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Crime and Punishment and The Hindu

I am reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment now. I had read the book in part some years back, but could not complete it due to some other reason. So I am rereading it from the beginning. I must admit this is the first "classic" book I am going to complete - Dicken's Great Expectations was left at 200 pages 4 years back. But I am sure I am going to complete Crime and Punishment, because it is such a great, deep book.

It is really a deep book in that it shows us the state of life and ideas in Russia and St. Petersburg in the 19th century with remarkable clarity and more than everything, it explores the inner most layers of the human mind, its emotional and rational side. It is so deep because, some of the current unsettled questions (in public sphere, may not be by science): like whether greed is good, or if science says man should be greedy, or if all of us are greedy and does not harm others everything is going to be al right and everybody will be happy, things like that, is discussed in the book. Even though it was written more than hundred years ago, its content is not old at all. When Luzhin says, I am paraphrasing - "Science wants us to be selfish", "I am a man of Science and modern ideas", "She is old, having some old, romantic ideas, not to my liking", or when Razumukhin says about the self-proclaimed Progressive publisher who entrusted to him work to translate "Natural Science" and "Progressive" books from German to Russian:
He's doing publishing of a kind, and issuing natural science manuals and what a circulation they have! The very titles are worth the money! You always maintained that I was a fool, but by Jove, my boy, there are greater fools than I am! Now he is setting up for being advanced, not that he has an inkling of anything, but, of course, I encourage him. Here are two signatures of the German text—in my opinion, the crudest charlatanism; it discusses the question, 'Is woman a human being?' And, of course, triumphantly proves that she is. Heruvimov is going to bring out this work as a contribution to the woman question; I am translating it; he will expand these two and a half signatures into six, we shall make up a gorgeous title half a page long and bring it out at half a rouble.
When we have finished this, we are going to begin a translation about whales, and then some of the dullest scandals out of the second part of Les Confessions (Rousseau's autobigraphy) we have marked for translation; somebody has told Heruvimov, that Rousseau was a kind of Radishchev.
things like these bring to my mind some of our newspaper editorials and publishing houses, who are still acting like Luzhin and Heruvimov.

Or the below conversation:
'He's got round her,' Nastasya murmured, smiling slyly.
'Why don't you put the sugar in your tea, Nastasya Nikiforovna?'
'You are a one!' Nastasya cried suddenly, going off into a giggle.
"putting sugar" - which is a common expression even now, I did not know that it was there so long back even, in such an alien country!

Many of the things discussed in the book are so eternal, I can quote the whole book as an example. And this is not just about ideas: the whole emotional landscape described by the book appear eternal to me. Current fiction works can never hope to match the depth of such books.

Thinking in these lines, about how poorly current literature bestsellers compare with C&P (and perhaps other russian classics), I could see another parallel: The Hindu vs other Indian newspapers. The parallel is about thinking in terms of global, eternal ideas than some short term idea that might give way to something else in future, but that might disguise itself as though it is eternal. When all other newspapers - Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times - along with the rest of the mainstream media choose to celebrate and cheerlead "greed is good", "end of history", "cut government, more free market", "US is the king - an eternal reality- and we better be its servents" , "world is flat", and "leftist ideologies have been buried" as though everything had been proved mathematically, as though we have seen the end of ideological battles in History. The Hindu choose to follow the middle path, reporting news as it is, giving perspectives from all sides, not mis-judging the local extrema as the final, universal extrema, strongly believing in its left-of-center conviction. The Times had climate change deniers among its senior editors and had advertisements disguised as news and preferred showing tits over publishing news on farmer suicides. It has a loyal set of followers who call The Hindu old, leftist and boring.

When the financial system - cheerleaded by the likes of TOI - is in peril, when the land of Bush and imperialism gave way to the land of Obama and liberalism, when Mr. Obama says that uncontrolled greed is not good, when YV Reddy asserts that it was the RBI's steps to regulate the banking industry strongly in spite of protests from the private banks and free market cheerleaders that lead to the remarkable survival of its industry, when Obama goes about the world batting for peaceful coexistence and talks about thawing the ice with Iran, Cuba, Turkey and Islam, I can see the chubby cheeked China lover, or the editor-in-chief of the boring, South Indian, "Communist" daily, laughing.

Update: On second thoughts, I doubt if the "putting sugar" expression is the result of the translation to English, done in the second half of 20th century.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Liberal p.o.v in Indian blogosphere

Once upon a time, the Indian blogosphere was dominated by a set of bloggers who were called as the "libertarian cartel". Most of the famous bloggers who wrote on politics, economics or foreign policy were either libertarians or (to a lesser extend) right wing conservatives (anti-reservation, Hindu nationalists). There were some bloggers who offered the point of views from other sides of the political/economic spectrum, but the fact that the blogosphere was dominated by the "cartel" says something about its state. As an ardent blog reader, who spends a lot of time in office reading blogs, and who likes to hear good news from the liberal end, I used to feel bad sometimes ;-)

Currently, I find a set of excellent scientists/academics have started into regular blogging, and I find their blogs extremely interesting. All of them are eminent researchers, are extremely well read, comments on a large array of fields (from politics to music and food), very liberal and almost activist- like. They are from the elite Indian research institutions like IMSc, TIFR and IISc. (Though I doubt if a random sample among Indian academists from the better known schools and research institutes (like TIFR, IISc, IIT) will give us such people: in fact I doubt the average Indian academic (on a random sample) might have a U-namam on his temple. )

So: perhaps this is the liberal answer to the "cartel", at least as far as I am concerned. Here are these blogs:


Now who will N. Ram recruit?

N. Ram's sidekick vis-a-vis China and Tibet, The Hindu's China correspondent, Pallavi Aiyer is moving out of China. She writes in her "farewell article", through reporting on China:

Instead of answers I only found more questions. What is the real nature of freedom? Can a society free to become rich but not to criticise be called free? From what source do governments gain their legitimacy? Can stability and social justice legitimately be prioritised over free speech?

Ultimately, I found myself increasingly eschewing black and white, while my fascination for the shades of grey that permeated China, grew. This was a country of oxymorons; an officially atheist country in the midst of a religious revival; a country of dynamic bottom-up resistance in a top-down system. It was a country, moreover, where every street and every contradiction was shot through with the irrepressible spirit of Chinese-ness.

I used to find her articles really boring, and her articles almost never reflected the "shades of grey": rather, it was all rosy, even though she is saying that even she was confused about the whole thing!