The array that is available is truly mind-boggling. There are ones filled with gel to give that jiggly look, then the underwired, low-cut, high-cut, cross-strap, no strap…there are ones for T-shirts and I know there are ones that specifically keep a tiny hole for the nipples to stand out. I have been seeing an ad on Indian telly where they are advertising a bra for salwaar-kameez. I have no clue how it works, but if it is being advertised then there is probably a market for it.
In school when we were considered old enough, it was made mandatory by the nuns that we should wear ‘bloomers’ during sports and physical training classes. They were horrendous blooming things that reached the high thigh with thick elastic to keep it in place, so when our uniforms rode up all you got to see were two grey fluffy clouds.
I also do not understand why we want satin/silk undies in humid climate…but we want it so bad that it is terribly sexy, just the wanting…which brings me to the thongs, highly-overrated thongs. The only clothes it comes in good use for are sarees and tight but flimsy pants, where the panty-line looks ugly. Darn it, how can any woman walk around with one strip of bandage being held together by a longer strip that circles the waist, with the butt and almost everything else being left to the elements? What is the logic? Does it have sex appeal? Yeah, a bit…but all the moving a woman does is only so that the damn thing in the middle stays where it is meant to be. It is all illusion…
- - -
This was written and deleted from elsewhere, most certainly not for reasons of prudence. Am reproducing it here specially for a friend who has often wondered about these things.
We live together. The poems have been a result of this close meshing. I would have liked to use the painting with them but the series of Ten Poems are sparse and anything intervening in those few words, even if it adds substantially, would make them fatter than they ever intend to be.
You could call these my cogitations on my lean and hungry phase.
The cult of melancholia has a different connotation.
During the early 17th century, a curious cultural and literary cult of melancholia arose in England. It was believed that religious uncertainties caused by the English Reformation and a greater attention being paid to issues of sin, damnation, and salvation, led to this effect.
In music, the post-Elizabethan cult of melancholia is associated with John Dowland, whose motto was Semper Dowland, semper dolens. ("Always Dowland, always mourning.") The melancholy man, known to contemporaries as a "malcontent," is epitomized by Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet, the "Melancholy Dane." Another literary expression of this cultural mood comes from the death-obsessed later works of John Donne. Other major melancholic authors include Sir Thomas Browne, and Jeremy Taylor, whose Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial and Holy Living and Holy Dying, respectively, contain extensive meditations on death.
A similar phenomenon, though not under the same name, occurred during Romanticism, with such works as The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.
In the 20th century, much of the counterculture of modernism was fueled by comparable alienation and a sense of purposelessness called "anomie."
Image: Slava Khodorkovsky
I see the world
In black and white
If you showed me your eyes
I would know how you would
I don’t dig for skeletons
The bones of your past
Still have flesh on them
Before your thoughts can reach me
I hear their echoes
Bring out your weapon
I have made it easy for you
By wearing an armour with chinks
Everyday is a torture
As you imagine the whip coming at you
When did you last see the lashes on my skin?
How can you hate my shit?
It was your words I ate
You built a sand-castle for me
The moat led
Towards a stormy sea
The spider died
I must create my own cobwebs
To embellish the ceiling
When you go away
Leave the door open
The breeze wants to claim its share of dust
...and see what you get for opposing the nuclear deal
Last night on CNN-IBN, just to be a bit different, they decided to ask viewers whether Prakash Karat, the CPI (M) general secretary, was a powerful enough politician in
I have never claimed knowledge of such mammoth subjects, but I have been reading up a lot. And anyone with half a mind can see that we are going to be the losers; what we gain in two-bit handouts will result in a major diplomatic sell-out. In brief,
This is crazy. The TV channel had nothing better to do so they kept asking the panelists whether Karat was a nice guy, you know his integrity etc. And who did they ask? That turncoat Subramanian Swamy.
As the Communist on the panel said this was a trivialisation of the issue. However, they continued giving us SMS poll results that said Prakash Karat scored about 20-30 per cent in the popularity stakes. What did anyone expect? How may people have even heard about him? Our electronic media, mostly American lackeys, project politicians that it finds convenient. Therefore, now they have got a nice little thing to beat the Leftists with – ah, they are playing for
The moot question still remains: what the hell will
Now, I called the Indo-US nuclear deal a “tutti-fruity” one. What is the reaction? Indians sitting in the
Of course, there is a prompt reaction: How can you call her a Leftist? What do they know about me? Ah, wait, they do… “Why is this surprising? FV's loyalties lie with pureland”. Someone else mentions with great authority, "She is the voice of jihad in the garb of leftie stuff”. Huh, they have been watching me while I dress? In effect, they are telling us that Muslim jihadis, as opposed to Hindu and Rastafarian ones, are Communists. They are not wrong. From the little I know about Islam it does talk about egalitarianism, sharing of wealth and other goodies.
However, I still cannot figure out how opposing the nuclear deal in my country makes me loyal to
So, some NRIs think they can call for a civil war and put a bullet through our heads. Just try it. Just you try. And let us see if you can get even one foot inside
And for those who have said I have a problem with foreign backpackers getting more attention in India than the respectable middle-class person because it is “perhaps FV's way of saying ‘look no one cares for me in India!!!’,”, I might remind them that if no one cared they would not sit and discuss a stray comment I make. Oh, and since when did I become a part of the middle-class. Were these not the same people who said that I was an elitist?
Strange. A swish commie jihadi envious of firang backpackers trying to belong to the middle-class. You tried beating me blue and coloured me pink. Better luck next time…if you can manage another one…
While looking for something in the overhead shelves, I saw my red suitcase. I recall the time I had bought it. I had chosen red. I needed red. To help me tell it apart from the blacks and blues and greys and browns. I often cannot identify my own bags as they jerk along the conveyor belts.
Usually, I am not even looking at the conveyor belt; I am just feeling a strange sense of anticipation as I think of the destination I am in – if it is a new place, then I take in the strangeness to prepare myself for what could be imminent alienation; if it is a place I have already been to, I regurgitate selective memories and look around to see if the kiosks are the same. If I am returning home, then there is both joy and sadness – it feels good to be back where one belongs, but I am sad at what I have left behind…often a fragment of myself.
With every travel I do not really know what I have left behind and whether it has been accepted, picked up, understood, examined, thrown away. I am glad I do not seek acknowledgment, but I only wonder whether it has registered at all – that piece of me that I have not taken back.
Getting back to my suitcase, it was so inviting when I first saw it. I probed into its outer pocket and found it deep. I love these deep pockets. I tend to need something where I can put in last-minute things that I can find without having to touch the rest.
Then I went to the main body of the bag. The salesman had sensibly placed the zipper opening at the horizontal end. The bag stood vertically and the number lock stared at me. I pulled the zipper, inserted the ends and I don’t know what I did, but the bag got locked. I could not open it. I tried several numbers, but what use was it when I did not have a strategy, a particular figure in mind?
The bag lay there. A locked empty bag. But then there was the deep open pocket…if one put in something one could always find it. The two sides of life…
Just when I was in deep contemplation, the phone had rung. I mentioned to this friend about buying a bag (even my most mundane stories start at the very beginning) and it had a number lock…
“And you don’t know the code…”
“Hanh, but how did you know?”
“I did not expect you to… How many bags and locks have you had to break open? You write the number on pieces of paper and lose the papers or forget where you have noted it down. Why don’t you just use a number that you can remember?”
I sealed that place where the number lock was. Now I use an old-fashioned one with a key. On the last trip the key had slipped out of the chain, but I could not lose its shining steel even in the dark.
That is all I have ever wanted: a key that can open locks.
Today morning, Annie died. I wish I had met her. She was in
What can I say if I don’t know? Here is something I just penned for the ‘river of fire’ and her…
Eik aag ka dariya
Ab tak log raakh ke
Makaanon mein rehte hai
Daastanon se koi seekhta nahin
Bas sadte hue jism ko nouchte hai
Iss dhuen se door yahaan nazar rakhna
Ho sakey to Khuda se maang kar
Har jalte hue badan par
Paani barsaa lena
“I seem to have carried my pathos with me,” said C.
“It means you are carrying along your comfort zone,” I said.
“Melancholia can be soothing, like a little rain with sunshine.”
Maverick: Ram’s Agni Pariksha
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, Aug 21, 2007
Is Ram Gopal Verma doing a Rushdie? Should we see the film Ramgopal Verma Ki Aag, a remake of Sholay, as analogous to Salman’s Satanic Verses? Are they not both about interpretation or re-invention?
I have never regarded Sholay as a cult film. It merely packaged the tried-and-tested with aplomb. Caricatures were camouflaged as characters. It was the triumph of hype. Verma may end up doing a Spiderman, as he said; he has to say something to justify a “tribute”. Purists, however, don’t like it. This is amusing. For, pop culture is only dignifying pop culture. What Andy Warhol did to Marilyn Monroe is considered hugely flattering.
Whether it is satire or black humour, there is the egotistical belief that the mindless millions must be given some cud to chew on while they are petting their holy cows. Which is where sweet justice steps in for it is the so-called moronic masses who cannot understand the nuances that are the first to pronounce a verdict. They don’t have time to indulge indulgences.
In a strange twist, those who want to do away with holy cows become the holy cows themselves. Salman Rushdie blasphemes religion and cultural liberals rush to uphold his freedom to express himself. Campaigns are organised to garner support for what they insist is an attempt to not let minds turn mouldy. Years before the Mumbai underworld and Uttar Pradesh hinterlands had become chic enough to have Macbeth and Othello transposed on them, some cultural czars had got pretty uptight when stylistic changes were made to the Bard in a theatre production. Today, in his own country young students will be given a “dumbed down quick text” version of his works in comic-strip format. Would Naseeruddin Shah still ask, as he had done then in a biting essay, “Why the hell can’t we change Shakespeare?”
The same query cannot be posed in the case of religious texts simply because we are dealing not with one person’s creativity but the very foundation on which a section of people base their concept of society. It is not about a playwright, a novelist or a filmmaker believing in that particular belief system but whether s/he has an alternative.
No one knows what to defend anymore. The creative world by its very nature is meant to be in flux, dynamic in the face of stodgy status quoism. But when can it be said that going against the tide has gone overboard? At every point in history there have been heretics. Even the messiahs and prophets immortalised in holy books have gone against the established norms prevalent in their days. Then, why is it that we cannot accept our latter-day heathens?
There are several reasons for it but by far the most important one is that the compulsions behind the creative person are not to change society’s outlook but to provoke. The motive is to use the licence rather than to work on a crusade. At a time when religion, myth, history and its geographical position are having a field day, one wonders how sanctified any stand can be. Synthetic attempts are justified as having universal appeal.
This is far from the truth for in the late Eighties we were being told that for a woman to prove her virtue she would have to jump into her husband’s funeral pyre, as happened with Roop Kanwar. Isn’t this itself blasphemy when we consider the world we live in and how outdated and reprehensible such ideas are? Must we not then give credence to those who are keeping their heads above such beliefs? This is a tricky situation.
Many attempts have been made to upset Valmiki’s applecart. In one, Sita gets quite incensed when Rama meekly agrees to renounce his throne. Accustomed to the good things of life, when Ravana makes an offer to elope, she jumps at it. When Rama traces and captures her, she shows no signs of repentance. She is ordered to be buried alive. A lot of people think of these interpretations as brave attempts, but do they really turn the tables? The Sita of this world could exercise her choice only within a clichéd circumference. Did she have to use Ravana as a crutch? She defied Rama by letting him bury her alive. It may have become a revolutionary statement but there is a cop-out and she is conveniently packaged as a patriarchal puppet in a glamorous wrapper to hide the warts.
To what purpose are such efforts when they strive to be solely a defiance of formula, not essence?
Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, an Iranian-American professor, has recently come out with a new English-language interpretation of the Quran challenging terms that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women. “Why choose to interpret the word (idrib) as ‘to beat’ when it can also mean ‘to go away’,” she wrote in the introduction about one such expression.
While I am all for changing with the times, why is it important to re-interpret religious texts? None of them are applicable in their original forms today. It is also a bit far-fetched to assume that several unlettered men who beat their wives are relying on the Quran to do so.
Now that we have a feminist version, someone may want a version palatable to the West, another group may ask for an Oriental one, yet another may demand a Sufi take on it. And there will be disputes regarding each.
Will Verma’s Basanti be asked, “Kitney aadmi the” and get away without being accused of nymphomania? No. That is the point. Poetic licence cannot ensure a parallel consciousness.
Returned home late last night. Found a box of chocolates. The box itself was a beauty in burgundy; the chocolates shaped like fish that are deemed auspicious were wrapped in coloured foil. A note wished me “Happy Navroz”. This was the third year it was happening. I don’t mind being mistaken for a Parsi or for anything, but it feels odd getting wishes that one has not earned, even if by default.
I just called up the organisation I have been receiving it from since I had also got a message on my cellphone.
“Vijay, you made the mistake again,” I told the manager.
“No, this time it was deliberate. I recalled our conversation of last year, but as I was about to take your name off this list I said, ‘Let her enjoy the chocolates anyway’.”
It seems life is all about hope and a little sugar…
- - -
I have already written about my Parsi memories. Let me share a couple of them with you:
Jimmy was driving me to his house; he would park his car in the building and then we’d take a train from
Three ladies in different stages of moisturised wrinkles appeared together to greet me. Jimmy went in. Ebony-coloured furniture was displayed discreetly. The napkins that came with the tea were lace-trimmed. The house smelled of talcum powder. The three of them sat across in stiff organza sarees and kept smiling.
Jimmy returned and was immediately given a special look. He rolled his eyes and suggested I hurry up but it would be better if I freshened up first, since it might be a few hours before we returned. I got up hesitantly and was directed towards a room. All three aunts followed. It was the bathroom attached to their bedroom. One of them brought out fresh towels from a locked cupboard. I tiptoed in and was afraid to even let the water in the basin run lest the sound break this amazing silence.
As I stepped out all of them were sitting at the edge of their bed facing the bathroom door. I thanked them and they asked me to join them for lunch another day. “Bye-bye, bye-bye,” they chorused as we left. Jimmy breathed out, “I live with them!” Three spinsters and a bachelor, all past what is deemed by society to be the marriageable age.
“Feedosssssssss!” That is my earliest memory of Parsis. There would be a scream in our house on spotting a perfectly harmless lizard on the wall and our neighbour, Mani Aunty, would solicitously rush to enquire, “Soo thaiyyu?” (What happened?) We would point out the slimy creature…she would go to the passageway that divided our houses and call out, “Feeedossssss…” Firdaus her son, would arrive, half-asleep, and be handed a broom. He would wield it like a baton and with remarkable precision hit the lizard; it would fall to the floor struggling; someone would ask him to fling it outside the window from where it would find its way. But this was a manly challenge and until it had been decimated, there was no reprieve. I am amused now that while the whole contingent of ‘junooni’ Mussalmans would be cowering with their feeble “shoo-shoo”, the peaceful Parsi had blood on his hands.
My childhood was full of these little neighbourly observations – sutarpheni (a sweet that looks like dry white grass and perhaps tastes like it, except for the sugar and pistachios) being sent to us on Parsi New Year; the daily chokh, a pattern made from rice powder, outside the door; Behram uncle, a soft-spoken man, standing in the balcony tying his Kusti (sacred thread) three times round his waist to signify good words, good thoughts, good deeds over his sudreh (a muslin vest) and muttering a prayer. This is his heritage from the moment he was initiated into the faith, not at birth but after his Navjote ceremony at the age of eight.
The family would always be dressed appropriately for the occasion. You wouldn’t find them shoddy. If they were going for a stroll on the Bandstand promenade, they’d tie scarves round their heads to protect their hair and ears.
This Irani household taught me about simple things and a language that was delectable. If Uncle as much as voiced his opinion about someone, then his wife would admonish him, “Marey-re, javaa de Bei-aam. Te taddan gadherro chhe.” (Damn it, let it be…that man is a complete donkey.) It took me a while to learn to pronounce Behram. I would mimic Aunty and after ‘Bei’ there would be a long inhalation before the soft whimper of an ‘aam’ was exhaled, almost like a meditative ‘
Of course, as one’s world expanded, I found it hard to believe that Parsis were an endangered species; they were everywhere. Haggling with hawkers, at the theatre to watch English plays (in which most of them were acting anyway), when choir groups or Western orchestras performed in the city, in parks, at the David Sassoon library, usually snoozing on one of the wooden armchairs, in clubs eating ‘akuri’ (an eggy mish-mash) on toast, sitting in their now-dwindling eateries where they put up signs that read, “No smoking, no combing hair, no discussing politics”, driving at a snail’s pace, usually in the Fiat. A “Parsi-maintained car”, although used, is still considered as precious as a virgin in the automobile market.
And then you have the colonies. It is an entirely different world where you suddenly hear the same sounds, encounter people wearing similar clothes and even looking somewhat alike. But the status is not always the same. You may enter Cusrow Baug, but if one flat has the Grand Piano playing Schubert, and another has a famous ballerina or a film-maker, there are smaller houses with little furniture and a lonely man sitting and gazing vacantly at the wall clock that chimes every half hour. I know how hard it is because as a stranger when I had knocked on such a door for an assignment, I was welcomed in and offered porridge at 4 pm.
I hate porridge at any hour, but when you have it with pent-up tears the taste changes.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” - Hodding Carter, Jr.
When I read this quotation, I began to wonder if there was any dichotomy in it or whether it could be extremely well-meshed. What if the wings you sprout want to take you away from your roots? And how does one define roots? Is it history, geography, relationships, emotions? I find my roots so easily in new things, new people...and then justify it as a spiritual connection.
Why do we have to justify and define everything? I have taken wings. My roots are in the sky. It is a peripheral life.
My signature has got cropped off during scanning; a part of the 'F' remains in the bottom right like half a thought. This was done in 1998. I think. Don’t feel like looking up the original. I know where I sketched it, though. An open lawn, a white garden chair, my feet propped up and the pad on my lap. I remember the marks of the lead left on my fingertips. I also remember a feeling of desolation. I remember how it contrasted with the greenery. I remember contrasts.
Why had I almost ‘desexualised’ the woman’s body even though there is a fair amount of skin? Why are the breasts barely perceptible?
Yet, she is unashamedly lifting her arms. Her eyes are withdrawn but her lips pucker. Are the face and the body two different entities? Does the hunger contrast with the starvation?
I remember I had my tea there with something to munch on. What was I looking for? Why did I not grab the flowers, crush them in my hands and spread their rotting scent on the paper? Why did I not take a blade of grass and push it up my nose and sneeze only so that I could tell myself, “Bless you”? Why did I not go to the small pool of water, green with algae, and look at myself in it? Why did I not touch the bark of the tree and knock on it hard, hoping that a door would open and I could see what was inside? Even woodpeckers have better sense.
I just sat there, sipping tea, and working with pencils of different thicknesses. Often, I'd bite on them hard. Their pain would draw the unlined lines. And as dusk would appear I would get up and walk towards an open door that seemed to have a padlock on it.
I remember contrasts.
I used to have a glass menagerie. Little animals and birds, coloured translucent. They had been packed in cotton wool. I removed each and placed them on the shelf, arranging them as I would to save the tame ones from the tough.
The gazelle about to sprint was in a corner, a beauty in peach. The tiger was kept far away, but in its magnetic appeal I found something disturbing, as though by seeing through that glass I was wounding it with every glance. The dog followed the camel; the cat lay in repose…birds perched haughtily. I did not know what to do with the fish. The brilliant blue made me feel helpless as I thought it would die. I could not create water in the shelf. Each time I looked towards it I felt that sudden feeling of being choked. I realised that it seemed imperishable. Not every fish seems to need water.
One day the shelf that held them toppled over. They crashed to little pieces. I had these charming colours on my palms as I picked each bit. There was no blood on me. They had the grace to spare me. Or maybe they couldn’t destroy because they were dead?
Mere glass cannot imbue you with life even if it shapes you.
My Friend, My Enemy
My sky too has a crescent and stars
My leaves too have sprung from similar trees
When I ask you who you are
You look the other way.
You are not born of your own womb
Your lids opened to another world
Forget those eyes you tell me
And find your truth.
One day your truth and mine
Were the same.
Today, for a few acres of your land
You deny me.
Conscience, soul, body, hungers
I satiate with eyes shut
But I feel burdened by history
I am not what you sought
The ballads sung to me sprung
From a different soil
I cross imaginary continents
To become rootless
In unaccounted-for miles
I grab your shadow
A child of the night
You say I let darkness delude me.
You fool only yourself
By shutting morning’s door
In my face.
I peep through the hole in the wall
And quench the thirst of my vision.
Try as you might
Can never break my prism.
Thi baat to do hi dinon ki
Magar lamhon ko tola karte nahin
Jab laboun ke hi pul toot gaye
Tau phir manzil ki bhi zaroorat nahin
- - -
Barson ko to khushi aur gham mein
Quaid karna padhta hai
Yeh to kismet hai sirf hamari
Ke kuchch pal ko zindagi keh sakein
- - -
Har kab’r par phool to murjha jaatein hai
Yaadein hi bas chubhti hai kaanton ki tarah
- - -
Agar aapko apni ungliyon par nachatein
To phir haath kyon khaali hote hamare?
The hypocrisy of the liberal Muslim is in evidence. Everyone does not have to agree with my views on Taslima, but the very people who line up outside my Inbox to laud me for speaking up for the riots are now silent. Reason? It does not sound right. By showing they are on Taslima’s side, they will prove that they are not that kind of Muslim.
I don’t give a rat’s ass how I am perceived. Some Muslim Intellectual forum has “condemned the attack” and is now saying it was “not by a conservative Muslim organisation but by legislators”. Whoa. Imagine if Ms. Nasreen pays heed to this. Her world will come crashing down. Oh, they are not Muslims? Then how will I butter my toast? I can hear her mutter…
So I am like really being nasty to her? As I just wrote to a friend who spoke about the hegemony of the West (and if it is of any consequence, he is a Hindu): “The strange response I get these days is that perhaps I have become a fan of the clergy! This is so far from the truth. The thing is that most people blindly wish to accept the West's version of Islam, and the liberals in our subcontinent swallow this. The idea has been to question their questioning of a group that itself has disparate streams of thought. Sometimes, I do feel like the battle is a losing one. The West has colonised minds and few are putting up a spirited fight. Even our concept of liberalism is borrowed. I wish it did not seem like a fight each time I tapped on the keyboard.”
- - -
We have a new Vice President. In his first public comment after being elected vice-president, Hamid Ansari on Friday night condemned the attack on Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. "Use of violence to make a point of view is wrong."
The V-P had nothing else to say? Hello, isn’t
If he is so concerned about violence, then why does he not talk about human rights violations, the treatment of under trials, encounter killings? Will he have the courage to even utter a word about this report which says that a 1993 riot victim is being hounded?
Yes, you heard it right. A victim is being hounded.
Farook Mapkar, who had received a gunshot wound in the Hari Masjid shootout in the 1992-93 riots, is being hounded by the
Mr Mapkar is one of the material witnesses to the unprovoked firing by sub-inspector Nikhil Kapse at Hari Masjid on Mumbai’s
The weightless wait
When I ask for a drop of water
It is not to quench my thirst
I am testing
Whether my beginnings
Will grow into something
A drop would not take me too far
Just as your hand holding mine
Can only give us sweaty palms
When the evening fades
And everything jades
I want that drop to remind me
That I had tasted you
Before you disappeared into the ocean
I can then lie in wait again
For the storm
To lend me a wave or two
On the Heels of Sir Salman
Taslima and Her Technicolor Boat
By Farzana Versey
August 10, 2007, Counterpunch
Taslima Nasreen, like many contemporary Muslim writers, is trying to portray the victim of religion. The best manner in which to do so since Sir Salman (before he was knighted) showed the way is through the dark Islamic tunnel. Let the pot sizzle with some concern for the backward Muslim world. Take large doses of the Quran, the veil, the Prophet and carefully carve it into little bits for easy consumption.
The problem is that Muslims are a bunch of fools. They imagine that most of these books will have an impact. They don’t. On Thursday, a group of activists from the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) barged into her press conference and apparently roughed her up. Television channels showed us this unruly mob get into a scuffle and throw bouquets of flowers still covered in cellophane. Taslima in her blue saree stood aside. No channel showed us what transpired before.
As always, they brought in a ‘conservative’ and he naturally said what conservatives do: she deserves it for constantly maligning the religion and the Prophet. The television anchor smiled and turned to the ‘liberal’ in the studio. This liberal has suddenly discovered she is a Muslim and the usual stuff about freedom of expression was dished out.
I don’t think Taslima or anyone should be physically attacked. What no one has bothered to find out, though, is that the organization that was involved is not a sanctioned Muslim outfit; not many Indian Muslims outside the city of
When Taslima Nasreen was not allowed to return to
If Taslima is all about this major literary voice being stilled, why is it that very little analysis is being done of her writings? Why is she always in the news for a perspective other than one of literary or ethical significance? Even when she wrote an autobiographical account in which several writers and political figures were mentioned, not for their role in damaging society but for sleeping with her, she was harping on freedom of speech. How different is this attitude from one of those
Give her complete freedom and she won’t know what to do with it. She has nothing much going for her. Lajja revealed what one always suspected since that day in July 1993 when a fatwa demanding her head was pronounced in
Does she imagine that
If there is no unity in the Islamic world – and most of us have been long saying so – then on what basis does she paint the whole Islamic world with the same brush? There are pockets of fanatics and she has had to deal with some. I have to belabor the point that a fatwa is an opinion by an individual or a group; it is not a sanctioned edict. If it were so, then all those who have fatwas on their heads would have been killed by now and not managed to write their life stories or create magic realism in
The only reason Taslima prefers
What is she trying to prove? Her ‘humanitarianism’, which hangs round her neck like an albatross, weighty, but drawing sufficient attention to her prized position? Or is she just another writer with perfect timing and a sharp marketing sense? Take the reference to a sentence in her first book: “Most of Suranjan’s friends were Muslim. None of them thought he was Hindu.” What does this mean? Was she trying to say that a religious person could not have friends from another community? Is faith designed to make you inhuman? Then Marxists should be the most human and humane people on earth, and she herself would have written about communal harmony in the purest sense instead of sprinkling stereotypes from Bollywood movies.
If she scratched herself, she would be faced with a truth she refuses to acknowledge: She is so insecure that she feels the need to deny her antecedents. Were it restricted to a personal position it would have been all right, but she uses characters insidiously to make generalizations only in order to anoint herself as a progressive.
Shrewdly, she has selected a time when Islamic or fringe Muslim societies are going through a phase when the red alert sounds every time their names get mentioned. She has a nice bandwagon to ride on.
“I have nothing to say today.”
“But you are saying it.”
“So nothing is not nothing.”
“Do words transform air into liquid or solid?”
“Then how does my saying I have nothing to say make nothing into something?”
“Because you are talking about saying, expressing…”
“Expressing is tangible?”
“No. It can convey the idea of tangibility.”
“Such as my saying nothing tells you about that nothing, it directs you to a hollow. It does not mean it can fill that hollow.”
“Therefore when you have nothing to say you are empty?”
“That part of me is empty that could have said something. The something has been denuded. Like a well without water.”
“What does it wait for?”
“What if there are no rains?”
“You can still lower a bucket in.”
“To come up with nothing?”
“Exactly. It needs to be labelled, too.”
“Then it gets an identity.”
“Yes, the identity of being nothing.”
- - -I had written about Nothingness and selfishness sometime last year. In the second part of it I wrote...It was a momentary thought: Why do people suddenly disappear? Are they giving you space? If so, then must they not find out whether you need that space? Or are they merely selfish and you are not of any use to them anymore?
Reminds me of an old couplet:
Jab padaa waqt tau gulistan ko lahu humne diya
Ab bahaar ayee tau kehte hai tumhara kaam nahin
Of course, I have never felt important enough to believe that my blood would make the roses redder. In fact, I would prick a few thorns. Would that turn them into roses?
But every spring has an autumn and in the end the end does not matter. Nor does the beginning which will end…
Just the other day A was telling me that we in
For many of us who had been exposed to and in fact got to study the New Wave cinema movement, Benegal is said to be the most likely successor to Satyajit Ray and also a pioneer of the ‘middle cinema’. I do not agree with either assessment. Benegal’s early films were primarily rural and wholly political. Who can forget Ankur, Nishant and Manthan?
My favourite Benegal films, though, are Bhumika and Mammo, the former based on the life of a Marathi film actress. How deliciously he recreated the era and all the characters that dotted the turbulent life of Hansa Wadkar.
Mammo dealt with the Indo-Pak conflict through the emotional prism of its protagonist when she makes the journey from
That has been Benegal. A strong political undercurrent running through most of his work but conveyed with sensitivity. Many have not liked
The films he directed for Shashi Kapoor were again a departure from what one might expect, but only just. Junoon had the backdrop the 1857 revolt; Kalyug transposed the Mahabharata to the contemporary environment.
Suraj Ka Saatwaan Ghoda, Mandi, Trikaal all had their moments. Personally I feel he was out of his depth with Sardari Begum and most certainly Zubeida.
Shabana Azmi wasn’t the best thing Benegal discovered. It was Smita Patil, starting with a small part in Nishant and going on to reveal her wonderful combination of smouldering sensuality and vulnerability in Manthan, Bhumika and Mandi.
His biopics include those on Satyajit Ray, Nehru and Bose, but I particularly liked The Making of the Mahatma.
What I would love to see from Benegal now is a story on the absurd political and social climate of Uttar Pradesh and the hype that comes with the baggage of the Amar Singh-Bachchan clique.
Can a house make a political statement? I think all homes do. How we live is how we think. Like politicians promises are made and broken inside these very homes; we have popularity stakes and competition and the level of how far we have reached is charted within the confines of these structures.
I think my sense of rootlessness is partly because of the homes I have lived in despite the love I got.
The house of my childhood had open doors; we walked in and out of rooms. I had found a couple of corners – one behind the bed, the other behind a door in the verandah. Behind the bed I would form house patterns on the tiles or take a pack of cards and prop each up carefully to look like a house. In the verandah I would find chimney smoke curling out in the form of clouds.
The next house was more closed-in. I was an adult and so I tried to bury myself beneath books, music and writing. I was away at work all day and would return to snuggle into pillows too sleepy themselves to care.
After marriage there was complete alienation. There were lots of cupboards, mostly with things I filled. I tried adding little touches to the room but each time I stepped out of my door I would feel like I was being swept away by a wave. I would run in again. Or away. For a few hours.
For a while when there was a plan to move to another city, I had waited for the apartment to get ready. I would visit the place often and with debris around I would imagine a home. I quite literally saw it constructed brick by brick. It was getting delayed and the only reason I was hoping it would be built was breaking. My marriage was like the loose wire that hung overhead. No current ran through it, yet the thought of touching it was filled with a fear that one might get a shock or destroy the connection.
The builder, unaware of these happenings, suggested I should get the interiors done. I was clear that I wanted a white house. So I met the guy at the furniture store. He had nothing in white. “We can make,” he said. So kitchen shelves, the bed, the dressing table…they began to take shape. It was an alien environment and I had problems communicating with the workers in a language I did not know. We would gesticulate. I wanted clean lines; they were accustomed to heavy ornate patterns.
The living room was bare. I had great plans for it. I picked up a beautiful bell lamp and hung it from the ceiling. Such a mockery it was. It looked like a church, a large room and just that light opening out into nothingness. I wanted to kneel on the floor and pray to that nothingness. Yes, I do, I do…when did I say that? And why?
I am back in the home where I was taught never to give up on dreams. I did not. Except that dreams grow old, and however well-maintained they are and well-coiffed, they too have a biological clock that ticks. They fall ill. They too get closer to mortality. And they live in upside down houses where their feet touch the ceiling and the floor hovers over their heads.
Is that how dreams learn about ground reality? Or is that how they turn to dust?
Patches have appeared again
They say it is the rains
Making my walls weep
In the blotches I see eyes
With mascara running down their cheeks
I touch the black marks
Nothing sticks to my finger
Even stains do not linger
I wish the walls would find another home
And leave me alone
A few showers
And they turn weak
But however much it tries
Water cannot break me
Maverick: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, Aug 7, 2007
Bluntly put, Mahatma Gandhi was afraid of his son Harilal. “To the people he was a father…To his son he was the father he never had” says the subtitle of the new film Gandhi My Father. This is itself a misnomer. Gandhi was never the father of the people; he was the father of the nation. To the people he was the Mahatma, a greater soul.
Like many fathers in the subcontinent, Gandhi was in competition with his son for the potential of him taking over as man of the house and his wife’s attention. To handle the first threat he denied him conventional education and for the second he adopted celibacy as a means of giving Kasturba the position of his mother. The son, denied his Oedipal attachment, sought out prostitutes.
Put sexual self-denial/destruction in the context of the family unit and you will see how universal the story is. The normal person here is the son and not the father.
Gandhi was at an age when he should have felt settled. He was not. When he talked extensively about his battle with lust, it would be easy to classify it as frustration. Harilal was mirroring it all the time and that must have been disturbing.
Individual angst is a microcosm of the dysfunctional nature of society and even larger political issues. When the son converted to Islam at the age of 50, it again brought to the fore Gandhi’s assumption that he was still a child who would go to the “highest bidder”. As he wrote, “Harilal's apostasy is no loss to Hinduism and his admission to Islam a source of weakness to it, as I apprehend, he remains the same wreck that he was before.”
The fact is that the father was struggling with his own spiritual moorings. He was trying to base a fight for freedom on the foundation of morality gleaned from epics. His political arena was an ashram. The son turning to a religion which would in effect brand the father a kafir was a blow not to his paternal instinct but to the idea of his own godliness.
Gandhi was essentially the Nowhere Man suddenly trapped in the standards of the new world, which his ostensibly simple sensibilities could not grasp. If you care to look out of your window and spot a man who is either smiling too much, or walking far too purposefully or getting more restless than is necessary, then this is the man who has no answers as to what went wrong, and how and why.
So, he regresses, hoping to unveil today’s revolution by using yesterday’s bravado. He starts at home with the new arsenal in his battle against an imagined opponent – his spouse. The only way he can assert that he is in charge is by making rules. Some lines need to be drawn for him not to break inside.
Kasturba became a caricature of a housewife forced into becoming an ideological sidekick. She was expected to get everything right, and be in control not only of external situations but of her emotions. She had the constantly pained look and fake smile of somebody who had to hold back.
Harilal was seeking a role-model and instead found parents prone to Kodak moments of lobotomised bliss. He naturally became obsessive, but there was clarity in his thinking. As he did not fit into a mould, he could fashion himself the way he wished. It is to his credit that his rebelliousness was positive in that he did not worry about playing to the gallery. It is here that a political statement comes out with the greatest force. Do we have to remain outsiders to be truly contented? Does being snubbed act as a spur to freedom?
In the devious little trick film Lage Raho Munnabhai, that is now considered a contemporary classic, the protagonist buffers the ‘spirit’ of Gandhi. Interestingly, we have a goon without a family lecturing a bunch of old men deserted by their families. All the subjects for the Gandhigiri experiment are what society deems to be dysfunctional people.
Therefore, let us forget whether he was a good father or not. Was Gandhi, the statesman without a state, a good father of the nation? His aphorisms amount to the inheritance of candyfloss that gets sticky after a while. In a nation that was to be created as a secular republic he was pushing the idea of god. When there was talk of an honourable settlement between the Hindus and Muslims almost a decade before Partition, he had said, “My faith in unity is as bright as ever; only I see no daylight but impenetrable darkness and in such distress I cry out to god for light.”
His idea of Ram Rajya has today become cause for an acrimonious second, albeit mental, partition. And what has happened to the Harijans, children of god? Don’t we realise that this whole toilet-bowl existence he sanctified as dignity of labour has left millions of people still in the Grade 4 category of jobs? It took an Ambedkar to truly empower them as Dalits. Non-violence? Is there such a movement today? We have a South African, Nelson Mandela, speaking up for it after having been branded a terrorist in the past.
Let us get real. We don’t need a Harilal to tell us that the Gandhi bubble had burst long ago and become a mere ghost along one more M.G.Road.