We are hungry for surprises. Gift-wrapped thingies. Safe little items that we are already familiar with. Where is the surprise, then? Only because we were not told about the exact time, the precise place and the particulars about the gift?
Why do we get so afraid and disturbed if the surprise is another human being, another place, another thought process? Why do we want our tomorrow to be only as different as we would like it to be? Is tomorrow our chattel?
We enslave every minute of our day to our whims, our wants and even our fantasies. And then we tire of it, either because these are fulfilled or far from being fulfilled. We anticipate more of the same in the comfort zone of our limited motivations.
Tomorrow is the future, you will say.
Right. So tell me more. What do we know about the future? Is it a standardised, legitimately-approved and sanctioned goody that we must look forward to without the slightest sense of guilt or remorse?
For me the future is the next minute. The next minute is today. So the future is also today. Therefore, Today is another day.
A change in the calendar date and the time on your clock don’t take us forward. And even as we are propelled into a new dawn, we rarely think about it as new. The same old colours of the sky, the same old birds chirping awake, the same old milk at the door, the same old newspapers with regurgitated stories, the same old detergent washes and deodorised floors, the same old wires in sockets and wireless connections.
Tomorrow can be yesterday for all I care. Look closely and you will see that it in fact is.
If we want a real surprise, then listen to me: we need to shed our skin. Babies do, that’s why they can grow and watch the world with wide eyes.
Somewhere along the way you and I have stopped doing that. Some of us may go a bit to look down at valleys and scream from mountain tops. But every peak, once conquered, becomes a plateau.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to climb anywhere only to hear the echo of my own voice. I want to walk far and my feet will follow…one devotee is enough for me…
- - -
Here is wishing for more of the same. I just don't want to lose you! Seriously, let us hope that 2010 brings 20-20 vision, if not sight.
Where does it get its colour from? Scientists say it is due to smoke from fire or dust particles in the atmosphere.
I always thought that the tint came when the moon borrowed a bit of sky light in the day.
Isn’t it strange that what we find captivating has reasons that are less than enchanting? What fire smoke has reached it? Is it forest fires, fires that the poor light in winters, fires that are brought upon unsuspecting people, fires that destroy? What happens to fires that are doused before their smoke begins to curl upwards and find its identity?
Do these fires have a nationality, a faith, an agenda? Do they gather dust particles along the way?
Or are those dust particles independent and rise from the earth, from polluting substances, from muddied corpses? Do all the dusts meet and decide to attack the moon? Why does only that one moon get affected? Why is it so vulnerable?
Seven times a year it is assaulted. Smoke and dust wrap themselves around it, throttle it till it cannot breathe and turns blue in the face.
I won’t look up at the sky that night.
Imagine a statement like this coming from someone like you know who:
“Is all that worth it just in hope of making it difficult for a future Headley to recce? R we going 2 allow terrorists 2 make us less welcoming? 26/11 killers had no visas.”
This has been my position and that of quite a few people. Don’t know about the quite a few people, but we know what happens when I state this.
But, what are his reasons? He talks as though terrorists are spoiling the party when we had those cute pictures and sound bytes from tourists who ‘braved’ the 26/11 anniversary to be here, sat at Leopold with their beers, walked down the Gateway promenade and generally ‘challenged’ the terrorists.
Tharoor’s statement sounds a bit too smart and Obamaesque and falls straight in line with how the West thinks. Those governments may occasionally put out terror alerts, but they will make sure that they do not lose the India commercial connection. And sure enough, that is his concern: Tourism and business. He is one-dimensional in his approach, as has become clear by now.
It is our government and the opposition parties that have created the paranoia. Instead of tweeting about it, he should be discussing it with his ministers. By saying that the terrorists had no visas he is implying that our security is not up to nuff and anyone can indeed get in.
So, here’s a tweet for the minister: “Hol desntns full, Mum partng like crzy. Time 4 u to workout where Headley did n got Moksha. U cn get urs too. Hppy Nw yr n hand-on-heart sing Jana Gana Mana!”
*Moksha is the name of the gym that Headley often visited.
There was nothing in my demeanour that should have invited the stiff salaam. The attendant at the store took my watch, that I had taken for repair, and carefully placed it on a tray. He did the welcome to our grand place act before he saw the timepiece. He would have most certainly noticed the clothes, the dishevelled hair. This was not fashionable bohemian.
So, what was the deal?
I had no clue. I walked out and people stared with some amount of awe, if I may say so. Faces peeked out of car windows. People tried to meet my eyes. They could not.
I got home and the watchman who sits rooted to his chair as though he has adhesive stuck to his rear got up and came to open the lift door for me. From feeling a bit nervous, I began to enjoy my ‘fame’.
As I pressed the button and turned, the mirror showed me the reason for my irresistible appeal. A pair of outsize shades.
I love sunglasses.
They are an affirmation of the sun, of light. They give you a new face and they hide eyes or tempt you to look for them.
I pick them up often. Some are nice, some are quite silly. Nerdy black rim with piss yellow lenses? I've got them. There is the Sophisticate and then there is the Tart; there is Woman Who Means Business and then there is Woman Who Has No Better To Do. There are browns and reds and blues and greys and blacks. I remember buying a pair that was sold to me with these wonderful words: “Gives protection from front and also from side nothing will enter”!
I paid a pretty paisa for this no entry.
Now, I hear about this weird invention from Calvin Klein that lets you fit in your pen drive or any handy gadget that needs a USB dock. It fits into the frame and you can carry all your precious material wherever you go.
Not me and not for me. The weight of my eyes is enough. I don’t think I need anything more shady to be shaded within the shades.
So, what is this hullabaloo over a well-educated couple choosing “to battle an unremitting bureaucracy from the very start and refused to fill in the column titled ‘Religion’ in their child’s most basic document, the birth certificate”? Incidentally, the TOI headline was, "No religion please, we’re liberals"! The amount of time liberals take to discuss religion cannot mean 'no religion'.
Aditi Shedde and Aalif Surti are the Hindu Maharashtrian mother and Gujarati Muslim father of the special baby. Says the mother:
“A few months into my pregnancy, we had decided that we would not give our child any religious identity. We are not against religion, but who are we to choose a religion on our baby’s behalf? We will expose him to the values of different faiths and cultures, and when he grows up he will be free to follow any faith—or none if he wishes.”
That would have been possible even if they had added a religion. There are many of us who do not actively practise any faith even though we have been branded. Heck, we get branded anyway.
If it is different cultures they want to expose the child to, then they could have made him a Jew or a Christian. As it turns out they had to fill in “Others”.
“Others is just to facilitate the generation of the certificate. We know our child has no religion.”
I do not understand. If they insist the child has no religion, why make such a noise about it? It only draws attention to the fact that they have a religion which they are not practising. Adults make these choices. Their baby will grow up and make several others. He could take to certain habits they may not approve of (and I am sure they do have certain values they believe in) – will they leave it to choice?
Why give the child a name when he can choose it when he grows up? Or will they select one of those abstract ones or something from Greek mythology to make certain that their respective religions do not come in the way to brandish their views?
If both of them belonged to the same faith would they have done the same thing? I doubt it. I think this is more statement than a practical reality.
Over a decade ago, I had written this:
But religion per se cannot give anyone an identity in the fluctuating late 20th century society. It can only provide the much-dreaded moral fibre and a mistakenly-interpreted formula for living. Besides, it does colour our interpretation of the world.
If the child under discussion were to make the choice, is there any guarantee he will not be exposed to any religion anywhere? Why are the parents identifying themselves with the different faiths they were born in? What will they tell him when he grows up a bit and sees people around with tags? Therefore, it is about religion, anyway you look at it.
When I was a kid I was asked whether I wanted to have the muliyani come over and I refused. When I stopped participating in certain rituals – which were anyway a rarity at our house – no one questioned me.
Identity is larger than a label. If it is not, then we are in serious trouble and no amount of battling bureaucracy and having something fancy on a piece of paper will change that.
What if the child wants to change his gender later? Why put 'Male' in the form? I know this is stretching it, but how else do you reach out?
- - -
In an incident that worked in an opposite manner I once filled out a form for my mother and put NA in the religion section, but the person insisted it was required. I later informed her about it and she shot back, “Who has given you the right to make this choice for me? I am a Muslim and that is a fact. I don’t tell you what you should follow, so don’t interfere in mine.”
United States of Jesus
Pictures of these appeared on the Telugu channel ABN Andhra Jyothi for an hour before someone had enough of the pajama party.
I have a few technical queries, but first the details.
A woman named Radhika sent the girls in return for mining projects she was promised, the channel said. As the promise was not kept, she handed over some pictures taken by her.
“We have evidence (to back) what we have shown,” said the person from the TV channel.
Right. The woman who did not get what she wanted sent them as bait.
What are the women’s organisations that are protesting going to do about it? Here are some of their quotes…
The Progressive Organisation of Women:
“We have a woman President and another managing the biggest party in the country. We will petition them to take stern action against this man.”
All India Democratic Women’s Association:
“But such action is not taken against a person who holds such a high constitutional position and has besmirched the highest office with this cheap act.”
A Rights activist:
“We must cleanse Raj Bhavan with milk.”
Is this a sex scandal? As Governor, Raj Bhavan is his house. Was he using office space? Did he leave a meeting for the rendezvous? Did he physically abuse the girls? The media has referred to them as call girls – have they complained against him? Did he call them? No. Then, what ruse did they use to get in?
Now, for my tech stuff. The man is lying down. These are stills. Was he stripped? Did he strip the women or did they opt to do it themselves? Did he pay them? Who took the pictures if they were occupied at the task at hand and they were wearing nothing where they could hide a spy cam? Was the camera positioned beforehand? Was a staffer involved? Is anyone thinking about security risk?
The issue of Telengana is still causing hiccups. Perhaps, this was a diversionary tactic and a political manouevre. Opposition TDP president and former CM N Chandrababu Naidu said:
“The Raj Bhavan incident shows the low level of ethics. Everyone should be ashamed. The governor should either resign immediately or should be sacked.”
Ethics! What a lovely word it is, can be used for anything. Is it ethical that some woman wanted to get favours, chose to bait him and get pictures taken and then sent them off to a TV channel that telecast it? How does it affect people’s morality? Do the Andhraites consider N.D.Tiwari as a role model who they have been emulating and this act has come as a shock and altered their perception of sexuality and high office?
And why are some people wondering about the ethics of having the TV channel muzzled? Don't we sit and ask questions about the ethics of reality shows? How different is this and how will it contribute to social understanding of anything? If those shows are staged, then what about this one?
We are a bunch of hypocrites. Had he used one of the circuit houses that our hardworking babus regularly do, would it have been okay? Had he given that mine deal, would it be fine? Had the TV channel not aired it, nobody would know. Then what? Would anyone talk about ethics?
As regards washing the Raj Bhavan with milk, where are the ethics of wastage?
People do not consider politicians as paragons of virtue, anyway. What about other professionals or figures we treat with awe and the tamashas they indulge in? Why do they get hushed up?
This one will be, too. There have been many cases down the years, but we just don’t seem to be able to accept them. Oh, Nehru’s relationship with Edwina was platonic kind of stuff. A lot does happen. And if it is consensual, then why not? If we want saints, we will ask for saints. Let these men and women continue to do what normal people do or wish they could do.
There was another instance about someone claiming he was his father. ND has had such disappearing stints earlier, and once everyone buys enough time for Telengana things will be forgotten, including that mine deal.
Obviously, his spokespersons have denied it was him. Poor guy, trapped in this titular post, cannot even show off. Or he would qualify for the Viagra Ratna award if he did more than just lie down.
- - -
Image: The picture is about the paternity case and obviously old, for the boy brought it up when he was 29
Jab palkein hi murjha gayi
Jhuriyon ke beech andheri si galee hai
Usey tajurba kehne se roshni nahin milti
Ab kitne hi qisse nichod lo
Yaadein sookhi pad gayi hai
Wahaan mauzon ne angdayee lekar sab bujha diya
Yahaan reit neend ke liye taras gayi
Aasmaan ko fark nahin padta agar baadal bikhar jaaye
Woh tau itaraega unke beech se bhi
Deewaron se kharosh ki awaaz aati hai
Makaan bante waqt kuchch na kuchch tau toot jaata hai
Khushiyon ke jab parr nikal aate hai
Unke udd jaane ke aasaar bhi nazar aate hai
Agar bistar karvaton ka hisaab rakhne lage
Na jaane kitne maayoos sapnon ka haal mile
Aanchal ko lehra diya khidki se
Dhoop uski aaghosh mein sahara lene aa hi gayi
Jism ko dhaank kar kapde saazish ke haqdar ban gaye
Magar kahani tau silvatoun mein chhupi hoti hai
Creepy. Slithering. Slimy.
I think we waste words...
The other day, the pest control guy was called in. The marketing ploy of this company is that their product is safe and odourless.
He applied some gel in the nooks.
"Is it safe?” I asked.
"Yes, yes, very safe."
Then he started spraying the other rooms. The strong smell one had been accustomed to wasn’t there.
In some ways it was as though nothing was being done.
After he left and a couple of hours of letting the effect work, I went first towards my book shelf. I went too close to it and ran my finger over the glass.
That was the problem. I felt dizzy. Nauseous.
Think about it. Why does one need safe and odourless stuff to get rid of pests? How safe is it really? And what are we playing safe for – ourselves?
The strong-scented sprays and powders were horrible, but only for a while. This fancy new thing does not protect one at all.
Besides, it is pests that eat up things, destroy what you create -- well, try to… for termites can bore into wood, not concrete. And homes are sturdier.
Real homes where security comes not from walls and floors and freedom does not enter only through doors, homes where trust is not tied to a leash and happiness does not come as packaged gifts, homes where comfort can be found by just smelling deep into the fragrance of a life well-lived without anything to hide. Or fake. Or flaunt.
Sneaking pests only manage to survive in their mud and soot-ridden worlds.
I wonder how it must feel to carry another’s skull on their shoulders.
"For, what other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!" - Nathaniel Hawthorne
- - -
This was around but thought it was time to regurgitate it. All characters are fictitious!
I did. At school, a starchy convent where the most important thing we learned was how to cross our legs, Santa towered over us and made us go weak in the knees – with the weight of the books, toys, sweets, whatever.
Later we discovered that Santa was all fiction and it was the neighbouring school’s padre doing the honours. But older and wiser though we became, the fictitious bit was even more exciting. It was like a genie coming out of thin air to satisfy our needs.
All this has changed. Now when I see models wearing red caps and nothing else with just a banner covering their bodies that say, ‘Down with fur’, I know it is time for the fur to fly in more ways. All right, anybody can dress up as Santa, but will he be complete without a beard, without being a man?
I have thought of a few reasons why society cannot imagine a woman in his place.
Santa as wish fulfiller:
This is the most potent image. We have someone who comes quietly, and answers all our prayers and desires for little things. We would not dare give women that kind of power.
Santa as man comfortable with his girth:
No one would dream of showing a woman as huge, simply because it goes against male aesthetic sensibilities, besides being insulting to many a woman who has gone along with the corseted image for centuries. Here we have a man completely comfortable with his obesity, a kind of fertile god, pregnant with possibilities.
Santa as epitome of cheerfulness:
Have you seen Santa cry? Have you seen him complain and crib? Have you seen him lose his temper? Have you seen him throw a tantrum? Have you seen him get hysterical? Have you seen him being partial? Now fancy a woman not doing any of these!
Santa as representative of generosity:
Imagine this man sitting somewhere far away, patiently opening hundreds of letters from all over the world and planning out how to give, give, and give. And then he arrives, bearing a sack, togged up in red - a gratifying blood-life-giving colour, with trimmings in white, soothing and pure. If Santa were a woman, the first thing they’d want to know is: where did she get all that money?
Santa as no-questions-asked man:
A woman would want to know why, how, where, right? The male Santa does not. For him your wish is his command. He does not want to know your antecedents, your present status, and your future. He is only concerned with being there for you when you need him most.
And this is what I have begun to object to. It is a nice industry. Harmless fiction is nearly always lethal. Here in one figure we have been learning lessons in patriarchy, upholding of traditions as perpetuated by the male and of course the financial wherewithal and the emotional compulsions of the masculine gender to be the provider.
It is a questionable theory, but has remained unquestioned even in progressive societies where there is a large female workforce and it is many a woman who has filled her child’s stockings after saving up enough from her salary.
The strange thing is we cannot even mentally picture a female Santa Claus because the one that has been dinned into our heads is a guy who looks so nurturing, his cheeks rosy, cottonwooled against inclement weather. He goes through his selfless work year after year.
Being a ‘character’, he does not even need the burden of history. Who the hell is his mother? Do we care? We are caught in the web of Father Christmas as Power Mom. But, heck, aren’t we the ones who ask, why can’t a man be more like a woman?
So, Merry Christmas to all and a little lesson here: While teaching Eliza Doolittle, it was Professor Higgins who learned the more important lesson.
PS: What woman wouldn’t like a little Rhine in her spine?
- - -
Part of this was used in an article long ago.
qismat mein hai marne ki tamannaa koi din aur
Would Mirza Ghalib’s ghost have stood waiting near the coffee maker amongst neon lights for his post-dinner beverage?
The news that his haveli, which was restored only 10 years ago, was used for a wedding reception is rather appalling. Imagine people in their finery jostling amongst the poet’s personal belongings. A report says the floor was “littered with food crumbs, crushed plastic glasses and disposable plates”.
Why would anyone choose such a place for their celebrations? Do they feel culturally enlightened and wish to convey that to their guests? Is it some sort of antique value they seek? This isn’t something new. It happens all the time – old paintings, old mansions used by the nouveau riche to convey some connection with a background they often lack. Everybody has a right to strive to make money and awareness is not the jaagir of those born into wealth. But the term nouveau is used disparagingly and not without reason. There is a category of people who will flash whatever they have.
The bride and groom may not necessarily have an acquaintance with the poet’s work. What about the parents? Assuming they are fans of Ghalib, could they not respect the space? These days every little religious icon gets sanctified even if it is put up by some goon. Why don’t we learn to value those who truly contributed to our lives and their works have lived down centuries?
There are many farm houses in Delhi. They could have been given that old world look and trussed one up to appear like a crumbling haveli.
Marriages are now all about event management, so this seems par for the course.
On the other hand, there is news that Indians are giving up traditional functions (that coffee maker is an indication!). I read this from an article about fusion weddings:
One affluent and typical Gujarati family had hosted an English dinner after the dandiya function. The desi best man and maid of honour, dressed in coordinated traditional Indian wear, made speeches and raised a toast to the couple as aunties and uncles grinned behind clusters of flowers on assigned tables. The last few phera mantras were translated into English on the microphone by the pandit and the couple even exchanged I dos, says the wedding planner.
I am concerned about the English dinner. I have seen food stalls with Burmese bhel, paneer dim-sums, but since we are talking about vegetarians would they stuff the jacket potatoes with poha or dal dhokli? People do drink, but I wonder about the toast. Something like, “May Jitesbhai and Falguni ben leeve hep-peeli after”.
The sardars would go full throttle with a “Chak de phate, Hramindarr pra and Hramindarr pojai. Oye gud luck and many tandoori nights…”
When one passes the Marine Drive there are several garishly-decorated wedding venues. Some have thermocole elephants flanking the gate; others have a Venus ice sculpture. I have not yet seen David in the buff.
For a relative’s marriage in Toronto that I was present at they had traditional ceremonies before marriage, then a nikaah with an English translation (I got there late, so missed it), and the reception was a complete volte face. The bride wore a gown. There was a Best Man who emcee-ed the show and took off his shirt. There were speeches; the tables had bows and gifts for everyone. And the couple took to the floor with a waltz…dancing to the Bollywood number "Kuchch na kaho”!
The boy migrated when he was in his late teens; the girl went there after marriage. So, all of this must have taken some practice.
Anyhow, after the initial gliding softly, everyone came to their senses and started doing the bhangra and the dandiya.
Eats the time to dhisco.
by Farzana Versey
Covert, December 15-30
Those who left have it good. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants them to return home as “brain gain”, the right-wingers have been lauding them for precisely the same reason with an additional halo – the global revivalist.
In one of the fancy social satsangs at the altar of Mammon the luminaries wanted to know where Hindus figured on the world stage. There was no talk about India. It is precious, then, to talk about marauding Mughals and Christian missionaries. Does this not amount to merely following those notorious footsteps, the only difference being monetary power added to spiritual piffle?
Has anyone tried to understand how in those hundreds of years of occupation, India did not become a Muslim or a Christian nation? Those Hindus who converted to certain sects, like Bohras and Ismailis, are among the most educated and successful people in the country today.
In the world of the freshly-minted sophisticated anti-secularist, such details do not matter. To this mind the restoration of a hotel must be seen in the context of the Somnath temple which rose after each fall. It deviously disregards the fact that the rebuilding has been carried out by the management that has also generously set up a non- religious Trust to rehabilitate those who were affected in other areas as well. The global clock-turner is busy patting his back over restoration of places of worship and landmark sites, but there is absolutely no concern about resurrecting the ordinary citizen’s right to livelihood and dignity.
Listing the achievements of expatriates is typical of this tunnel vision. Of the few that become entrepreneurs or have prominent careers, there are thousands who perform ordinary tasks. Many have entered those western countries illegally or gone through agents after a lot of effort. Instead of wondering why this happens, this neo world citizen with a limited cultural baggage is basking in the reflected glory of achievers who had to go elsewhere to make their fortune and earn their fame because their homeland did not nurture their dreams.
The Knights and Nobel laureates refer to their Indian roots only when there is a bit of exotic drama required. How can they be considered a part of revivalism of ancient culture? Would they identify with the dubious idea of taking religion to new lands? They are on Forbes power list because of how much they influence society. Osama bin Laden is sharing space, too. If some build temples, then there are others like Swraj Paul who donate to the London Zoo. They pay huge sums to political parties in their adopted lands to get leverage for themselves and not their faith. It is quite simply business acumen and social opportunism at work. It has got nothing to do with keeping the flame of any potential Ram Rajya alive.
Yoga and levitating gurus is old hat and has little to do with healing powers and more to do with hype. It did not start with the new revivalists but old hippies. Being honoured and having festivals celebrated work as totems for ethnic minorities who may indeed possess talent. But, as Venkatraman Ramakrishnan made it amply clear, his “nationality is simply an accident of birth”. He would not want to be hailed as a global Hindu hero or be placed on the same pedestal as ashram evangelists.
In the excitement over the well-heeled, fossils of accruing mutual fund culture whose high-walled existence is no better than ghettos, the revivalist boasts that his religion is the only one that does not have a history of massacres. Loss of memory means ignoring the past of what some rulers did to demolish Jainism from South India between the 8th and 12th centuries, and the contemporary history of the Sikh carnage, the Mumbai riots and Gujarat genocide. To clothe these in the garb of a global phenomenon that has risen from the suffering of centuries is skulduggery and hypocrisy.
Perhaps it might do them well to ponder over a small fact that those Hindus who are today a part of the White House clique have been appointed by a half Muslim, half Christian.
Shall we call such resurrection a case of appeasement since delusional apocalypticism can only be a mirage?
Whose Euthanasia Is It, Anyway?
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, December 21 2009
She held my hand in a firm grip the night before she died. The room where she lay in coma was airy and it was home. The doctors had given up on my maternal grandmother, but we had not. I would sit by her bedside and talk to her or just read; I was told that voices registered. She probably knew when her time was up when she gripped my arm. Early next morning I started my monologue again, touching her wrinkled skin and looking into her beautiful grey uncomprehending eyes. In the need to convey my warmth I did not realise that her body was cold. She was dead. Was it selfish love that would not let her go? She went anyway.
The reason for this personal anecdote is the Indian Supreme Court admitting an appeal to end the life of a woman lying in a lobotomised state for 36 years. There are medical, emotional and ethical issues here.
Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai. On November 27, 1973, when she went to the basement after her shift, she was sexually assaulted by the sweeper Sohanlal Bartha Walmiki. He used a dog chain to strangle her, leading to loss of blood supply and oxygen to the brain. It debilitated her in so horrific a manner that she was rendered paralysed, blind and has been comatose for over three decades.
The plea to the court has asked it to direct the hospital to stop force-feeding her. A question arises out of this simple demand: Is she eating enough at all that the forced feeding would put an end to her life? She is subsisting on mashed food and chokes on liquids. Her body is skeletal, but she breathes. Perhaps it isn’t food alone that is keeping her alive. Why is there no clarity about how she should be relieved of her painful existence?
The lawyer asks, “Is not keeping the woman in this persistent vegetative state by force feeding violative of her right to live with dignity as guaranteed by Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution? She is beyond cure. Let the court inquire about what medical science has in store for her. It appears that there has been utter indifference of medical world towards her.”
* * *
The right to live with dignity is not merely a medical subject. The courts would have to look into other aspects of the idea of dignity. Since Aruna is not in a position to know whether her state lacks dignity, it would therefore follow that those responsible for her care ought to be granting her that dignity.
Years ago a doctor had spoken up for death by choice and said, “How many of us realise the meaning of euthanasia? It means a good death. We talk of ethics when we prolong a useless life, so where do ethics go when we carry out abortions? Even the foetus have life and we kill them happily just because it suits our convenience. Do we then pause to think that the foetus may have had a mind to live on, may have had a brain which was that of a genius? There may be thousands of Arunas in India and we keep them alive no matter what and incur massive expenses to keep a useless life ticking.”
After the reappearance of the case, there have been other points of view. Dr. Ravi Bapat, who was supposedly among the first of the team that responded to Aruna on the morning she was discovered lying under the stairway, is against the SC petition. “It is idiosyncrasy, no living cell ever wants to die…Aruna is like a mentally challenged person now. Would any parent of a mentally ill child move the court in a similar manner? It is sickening how every five years someone raises Aruna’s case just for publicity.”
Ironically, the only two parties who have not gained mileage out of this are her callous family, that did not have the means or the patience to see her alive as the symbol she was to become, and her doctor fiancé who after three years of caring for her realised that her case was closed and went on with his life.
That is what life is about – to make choices. There is no love that keeps her alive. Her family gave up on her; the rapist is free, and the hospital has kept her room locked for fear he may return. Is she in a position to give evidence?
It is crucial to point out that there is virtually no comment about the rapist. Reports mention that after his seven-year jail term he is working as a ward boy in a Delhi hospital. How do they know? Is someone in touch with him and for what reason? If he is using his real name, then were his new employers aware of his crime? He was sentenced for attempted murder and robbery – he made away with Aruna’s earrings. Why was no rape case pursued? Because he had sodomised her. It is rather strange that in a country where the law against homosexuality is only now being given a fresh look, this was not deemed as rape. Besides, sodomy is illegal in India. How did he get away with it?
* * *
In all these years whenever the ‘story’ was covered in the media, the emphasis was on Aruna and for the most part her fight in a locked hospital room, hunger, pain, soiled clothes, stiff immobile hands and legs, the voice beastly, the brain half dead. Today at 61, the routine continues. She whines, is still afraid of male voices; we get these same dispatches in graphic detail. Aruna’s helplessness is made to appear heroic.
This is not about a lone woman’s fight nor a miracle, for it neither uplifts the spirit nor her body. She does not even recognise that she has survived.
This is not the tale of a support system. The crime was committed by a hospital staffer in the hospital premises and the authorities have a reputation to uphold. There should instead be an urgent need to look into the conditions of public hospitals and also the general wards of some private hospitals. They are in a pathetic condition. With Aruna’s case, there ought to have been a greater need to examine the level of security. By cocooning her in a room, the authorities have got away without being answerable for such a lapse. They could have fought the case against the rapist who was their employee; they could have issued notices against him being employed anywhere else.
What use is a lifeless person when the perpetrator of the offence is free? Does it drive home a point at all, least of all about the goriness of such a gruesome act? Aruna is not seen as a rape victim but a caged human kept alive.
This is not a tale of sisterhood. The nurses have rallied around for professional reasons – it could have happened to any of them. Their compassion is based on a ‘special bond’, we are told. How is it possible? Most would be a new batch, younger women for whom she is merely a publicised character.
This is not at all a story about a spectacular beginning, a meaningful middle and a fitting denouement with a moral thrown in somewhere.
And that is alarming. No ethical questions about the crime and the system are asked. Once the courts grant her the right to die there will be demands to legalise suicide by those who feel their life is not dignified enough. There will be related issues where you may not ban books that tell you the easy ways in which to meet your end. You may not prevent a discussion by the Hemlock Society. And you may not raise eyebrows over the concept of assisted death.
In societies where penury itself is a sin and avarice a virtue, the prospect of such methods being legally manipulated by poverty-stricken families and greedy relatives is frightening.
Aruna Shanbaug needs a peaceful departure and it should have been done long ago, quietly and with dignity, and not until the story was sapped off its juice. She has suffered enough – first in the basement, then in bed and then relentlessly under the media glare. She may not be aware of the latter two, which makes it worse.
What right are we then talking about when she does not even have the consciousness to know how her life is being used?
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has been denied a visa to visit Pakistan for an international conference in Islamabad “in view of the political turmoil in that country’’.
Is Pakistan concerned about her as a genuine Kashmiri leader, or as part of the Indian establishment, or as a sympathiser of the secessionist forces?
Why would the Taliban want to harm or kill her – what would they have against Kashmiris?
If they do so, then the bugbear of the Talibs are coming to harm ‘lesser’ folks does not hold true.
Or Pakistan under attack, literally and politically from outside forces, wants to clearly demarcate the two issues of Taliban and Kashmiri militancy. This would be parroting the US stand.
In the oft-repeated TV clipping of (Hemant) Karkare donning a bulletproof jacket on 26/11, it can be seen that there is a large area below his neck that is not covered by the jacket. According to policemen, this is because the jacket was not worn properly; had it been strapped higher, the area under the neck would not have been left exposed.
Are we being told that the ATS chief did not know how to wear his BP vest? TOI should mention the stature of these policemen who have pointed it out. This is careless.
What has the ‘area under the neck’ got to do here when we are being given a different story of his killing? Why this constant change of versions and no reportage on the inquiry of it missing?
Any agenda here?
Do I have the right to walk around naked in my own house? Yes? No? Does someone who happens to see me in this state of undress have a right to file a case against me? Erick Williamson, a resident of Virginia, has been convicted because he was packing up some belongings in the buff in what is his house.
The cops, prosecutors and two witnesses are behind what I believe is a bizarre move.
Witness One: School librarian Joyce Giuliani was driving past his home when she heard some loud singing and turned to look. She saw Williamson standing naked directly behind a large picture window.
Witness Two: Yvette Dean was walking her 7-year-old son to school along a trail that runs by Williamson’s home. She heard a loud rattle, looked to her left and saw him standing naked, full frontal, in a side doorway. “He gave me eye contact,” she said, but otherwise made no gestures toward her or her son.
Both these observations happened within a matter of hours. It shows that this could be a one-off incident. That is besides the point, anyhow. The accusation is that he was not merely naked but was drawing attention to himself.
Imagine that a man is all dressed up in a tuxedo and he decides to hum a tune or make some other sounds in his own home; he could drop a glass or move a chair or even bang his head against a wall. Would these women who turned to look be offended? Technically, he is by their conjecture drawing attention to himself. What is the difference?
His naked body.
He rightly thinks this is an issue of personal freedom. Making eye contact with someone who is looking at you is not a crime. One might ask how a woman who is driving past notice the full nudity. Was she giving him the eye? He made no indecent gestures. Her son saw a man naked in his house. It is a natural state. He was not performing any act that might cause emotional damage to the child.
As Williamson said, “I think that being tried and found guilty of something like this is outrageous. I feel like I’m living in a fishbowl.”
The women say they saw more of him than they cared. There are several instances in everyday life where we see a lot more than we want. Switch on the telly and you have gross images of violence and stupidity. Walk down the street and you will find garbage heaps. You may hear pressure cooker whistle sounds and the smell of overpowering food at the neighbour’s. You could hear people quarrelling, things being smashed, songs being sung, and even some moans and groans if their walls are thin and the lovers next-door loud. Some of these one may complain about because they infringe on one’s space.
But if you are passing what is someone else’s private space and they are doing what they are doing without in anyway disturbing you, then tough luck if you find it offensive.
The two women even testified that they were not aroused! That’s good. At least they are upholding certain values of not letting their hormones overtake as they whoosh past in a car or walk their child to school.
Meanwhile, it might help if they did not get so turned on by sounds of someone singing or rattling.
Researchers at University of Toronto and Stanford University found that being paid by the hour had a greater impact on employees wellbeing as they give more attention to their pay than those who earn a salary.
Apparently, for those 60 minutes people think only about work and not coffee, silly jokes and the rest of the things that can make you wretched. Now, since all your efforts are rewarded within this short span of time, you just feel elated with what you get.
If we take these findings into consideration, then commercial sex workers should be very happy indeed. So, also housemaids, nannies, people who do odd jobs and errands.
Why are they looking for security when they can just be so happy? Does it mean that security and an assured paycheque cannot provide happiness? Are people who work the full shift and even overtime not focussed on their jobs? Is focus a good yardstick to measure happiness?
To me this sounds like looking at one tree all day when you are in the woods and the birds are chirping, leaves falling and luscious fruits hanging from branches and the fragrance of wild flowers gently settles on your skin. If this isn’t happiness, then I’ll take some misery.
But, if it is a question of making a choice of not doing a regular job, then we are talking about a different issue. Some of us did make that decision to explore perhaps something of relevance only to ourselves. Others see it as luxury, but it does keep you on edge. (And, hello, we aren’t paid by the hour…if that were the case then the sky owes me a hell of a lot of money!) We may work at a pace that is not fast enough, we may not have anything to return to since we don’t go out and slay whatever has to be slayed. And on days we may just sit and blog and hope someone reads and thinks we are worth the time.
So, come on, make my hour. Make me happy.
This is not some backward tribal region. The mob has not been given a name; they are not called terrorists. This happened on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 in Guatemala City.
The figures for this year read: 219 people lynched; 45 of them died.
The lesson here is that cruelty has different dimensions.
The picture of the Afghan woman being shot dead for a ‘crime’ is a potent one.
Here, you can blame the religious law as practised by a bunch of fanatics. The enemy is visible. But has any religious group been indicted for the Guatemalan lynching? Why was the woman's physical humiliation necessary when the crime has no sexual dimension? This is a democracy we are talking about.
In most societies, it is the women who have to bear the brunt of religious laws. All religions have arisen due to wars and been sanctified as such – it could be battles on the ground or battles of the mind. The seeking of supremacy is at the core of religious credos. There are other moral values that come along, but who has the time for them? It is about laws, rituals and a convenient interpretation that grants the male special powers.
A Somali man was stoned for adultery and buried alive. The Daily Mail had the caption, ‘Begging for his life: Mohamed Ibrahim appeals to Islamic militants not to carry out the execution as he is buried in the ground as his villagers are forced to watch’.
This photograph is by Associated Press. Were they invited, too? Could they not have taken along or alerted the Human Rights organisations? Were they too forced to watch?
I would pose the same query to RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)that holds copyright to the Afghan picture. There is no doubt that it works under extremely difficult situations with women in Afghanistan, but why the need to take those pictures? To show the world? Has the world helped in these civil issues? The world is interested in the behemoth of terrorism, not what happens to innocent men, women and children.
The Somali man in this picture does not seem to be begging and his persecutors appear to be talking him into getting buried. This is not to in anyway deny the reality as it happens. This does take place. There are a number of people ready to flex their muscles – weak idiots who do not care about religion but their own invincibility.
Besides, why was a man stoned for adultery? Isn’t this the sort of machismo that supposedly comes with the territory?
And what does one do about the Tiger Woods case? Does not the morality have its source in some early indoctrination?
On the flip side, I have been shocked at comments that say his wife should have known that when you marry a celebrity all this comes with the package and that she has now spoiled his career. The onus is on her. She should have chosen to remain a nanny or must take this in her stride.
Interesting how the liberals speak the language of the fundamentalists.
I recall that there was a column by an Indian feminist titled ‘Adam’s Rib’. I found it pretty stupid besides being regressive. Around the same time I had a column where I did rather cutting profiles of prominent men. I had called it ‘Eve’s Adam’...I guess I could spare some ribs!
Do remember that he has been in prison with no access to handlers. His lawyer was forced to quit. For him to alter his statements must take a good deal of confidence or he knows that, as I have said often before, this case will be kept alive for a long time. And now with Headley and the FBI, he can take big risks. Either go down and become the lone martyr and keep the case simmering or get saved and keep the case simmering.
Simmering is the operative word. More trials. More questions. More paranoia.
He now says that it was the other terrorist who looks exactly like him behind the killings. The cops saw the bodies and unless they are badly disfigured this could be verified.
Unfortunately for us, the statements may appear like “tall claims” according to the prosecution, but he has got our law down pat.
- His earlier confession was made due to fear
- Witnesses can be tutored
- Cops are not supposed to be present at the identification parade
- Anyone could have identified him because that picture was published all over the world
He is smart. Newspaper reports are not:
The core of Kasab’s implausible story was that he had been first picked up by the “local police at Juhu Chowpatty’’. “I had a passport and a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. Many youth from my village in Pakistan had earlier come to Mumbai. I was roaming around, thinking of going for a movie and looking for a place to stay. The policemen saw that I was a Pakistani and took me to a police station and later handed me over to the Crime Branch,’’ he told the judge.
Why is any of this implausible? People can get picked up at Juhu Chowpatty by the cops, especially if they look aimless. He says the police saw his passport and a mobile phone. If there was a real passport and he had not yet reported himself to the nearest police station then he would get arrested.
The law says that giving false accounts cannot implicate him. But the Crime Branch knows whether there was a passport and cellphone, and the External Affairs Ministry can clearly come out with the assertion that India, like Pakistan, does not issue tourist visas to the citizens of the other country.
Of all the major issues, the judge told him that a 10-year-old girl who had been shot at CST had identified him in court. To which Kasab shot back, “She’s just a kid; whatever they tutor her to say, she will repeat in court.”
What did you expect? What did anyone expect from the final evidence?
The case is far from over.
Side lite: A few days ago a report mentioned that Kasab now eats vegetarian food and does not demand meat. The reason they say is he is now unsure whether the meat is halal. If a man can throw tantrums and make demands, he would jolly well ask how they butchered the animal.
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There is fresh news about the bullet-proof jacket.
Apparently the consignment was tested in 2002 from a 100 feet range by an AK-47 rifle. The bullet pierced the jacket but got stuck nicely inside causing only a dent on the steel plate. It was given the A-okay.
As reported in the TOI:
Col (Retd) M P Choudhary, a veteran of Operation Bluestar, who later trained Mumbai Police commandos, says this is misleading. “This jacket is unlikely to have a trauma pack to absorb the power of the bullet and in that case the ribs of the man wearing it would be shattered by the impact and the shock would kill him,’’ he said. In tests by the army, this is what has happened to goats strapped with such jackets.
However, police sources say, at the time when they were purchasing the jackets, they had no idea that one day they would be used against terrorists. “When Mumbai Police issued a tender for the jackets in December 2001, gangsters were on our mind,’’ said a senior police officer.
Even if one assumes that the Police Force did not think it would have to deal with terrorists, it still leaves the question about who can use what sort of arms. Gangsters have access to the best weapons. In fact, they sell them to terrorists. Also, does one assume that while militants were infiltrating India the Mumbai cops were supposed to believe that nothing would ever happen? It need not have been an attack. It could have been an encounter. We have had riots, we have had bomb blasts.
This attitude is way too laidback. Do we have the arms? Is our strategy one of defence or offence?
And why is there such a noise by the establishment about the BP jackets now when they say that ATS chief Hemant Karkare was shot at in the neck? Talk about obsessions.
Side lite: Defence Minister A.K.Antony has reportedly reduced the troops in Jammu and Kashmir because:
“Whenever we feel the situation has improved or is improving we will further reduce the visibility and presence of the Army in the state... it is because of the presence of the army that we have been able to counter terrorism in the state.”Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America, said:
“I really do believe that ‘de-tensioning’ of (Kashmir) border is absolutely critical to long term stability in that region. And it is going to take outreach on the part of both countries (India and Pakistan) ."
So, has the situation already improved or are we going to improve (de-tension) it by withdrawal of troops? Since when have the US military personnel got a say in these matters?
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On another note: Goodbye and Hello Again
The BJP, the party with a strict protocol, has changed its constitution and made place for a Chairman. L.K. Advani is now no more Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha; Sushma Swaraj takes over.
Advani will be mentor. They need him. He is the face of the BJP.
The party that has dissed everyone for pseudo-secularism will have to indulge in a bit of jugglery:
But with the leaders of Opposition in both Houses and BJP president being Brahmins, the party will have to work out its caste balance.
Here we are really talking. The BJP’s symbol, Lord Rama, was a Kshatriya. Ravana was a Brahmin.
Does the sun look bald? I cropped away most of the sky, the trees in the foreground, everything that lent atmosphere. I would not know what a hairy sun might look like, or a sun with company, or a sun with a home among the clouds where it could find a few moments of peace.
I took away everything that belonged to the sun. I do that.
The sun has been sheared. Then I will go for the meat and watch it bleed. But as usual the sun has an ace up its sleeve. It will beckon the moon. In the dark I will lose the sun.
I do not wish to have the last laugh or the last cry. I have framed it, taken away the non-essentials. This is my sun. It cannot be killed. It cannot be destroyed. It cannot be poisoned. It cannot be torn away from the sky.
That was never the intention. All I wanted to do was hold its face in my palm and get burned. With me, loving it would mean not ridding myself of it but of myself.
The Bangladesh India Forgot
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, December 16, 2009
On December 16, a nation was cut off from a nation which was formed out of a larger nation. The second, Pakistan, was essentially a notion that took off from the larger idea that was India.
Today, as Indian states decide to lead microcosmic lives and even the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, believes it will make things more manageable if her state is divided, the need for Bangladesh stands nullified as an ideology. It was protesting the language issue, the cultural dissonance with an Islamic Republic. Neither of these aspects has given it a distinct identity other than a name. In fact, Bangladesh has its own terror networks and the Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen is being examined by the Intelligence Agencies for its role in bomb blasts and its ties with local groups in India. There is a suspicion that it may also have been involved in the Mumbai attacks in November, 2008. Its avowed aim is to replace the current state of Bangladesh with an Islamic state based on Shariah. Things do come full circle.
Those who rue the partition of India do not appear to have the same reservations about the splitting up of Pakistan. It is no secret that India was an active participant in the civil war between East and West Pakistan. It took almost two good decades after the creation of Pakistan for its Bengali population to realise that they were indeed different. Interestingly, those on the Indian side of what is still West Bengal looked down upon their Eastern connections, quite unlike the memories people in Punjab and the northern states of India have for Lahore or other parts of the Punjab belt of Pakistan.
On the face of it, it did appear to be a people’s movement. As writer-activist-politician, Dr. Enver Sajjad, told me, “If I were Mujibur Rehman, I would have said that the country was created with 51 % of our votes, so we have the legitimate right to call ourselves Pakistan.”
Mujibur Rehman, leader of the Awami League, had a different subtext in his mind and went through the Jinnah-Nehru sort of parallel ego trip with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He wanted to be Prime Minister. Bhutto, who was the democrat with ostensibly no interest in parochial politics, was the architect of the Language Bill and the confirmation of the nation as an Islamic Republic. While he managed to sneak in Sindh into the national Pathan-Punjabi psyche and made use of the Mohajirs from the Urdu belt of India, the Bengalis did not fit into any scheme.
The simmering discontent got shape and form when a quasi government was formed with a war force of freedom fighters – Mukti Bahini. The Bangladesh Liberation War was an Indian war. Indira Gandhi was moving out of her father’s shadow. There was the background of the 1965 war with Pakistan. This time it had an added halo of concern for the underdog. In a battle that lasted a fortnight, 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered. Indian prisoners of war were forgotten by their own prime minister. Indira was hailed as Goddess Durga.
K.F.Rustamji who founded the Border security Force has been quoted as saying, “The BSF boys started assisting the Mukti Fauj (later Bahini) in causing subversion and sabotage deep inside East Pakistan and even in district headquarter towns, where cash and weapons were looted and made over to the government of Bangladesh.”
The only instructions Indira Gandhi gave was: “Do what you like, but don’t get caught.”
The espionage had begun much before the actual skirmish on the ground. Could a war have been averted? The American and Russians entered the fray as more than observers. It became a big event primarily because India came into the picture. The call for war was given by Indira Gandhi. In 'The British, The Bandits and The Bordermen' there are detailed references to how the BSF played a role in not only the formation of the Bangladesh provisional government, but also in framing its constitution and selecting its national flag and national anthem.
What happened to the Bangladesh dream of language, region, democracy and, most important of all, independence? Was freedom merely a territorial dream?
What did Bangladesh get out of this? Thousands dead. Hundreds raped. An exodus of ten million people who sought refuge in the North Eastern Indian states and West Bengal.
Over three decades later, they are still seen as refugees. Many moved out from these border areas. You will find quite a few in Delhi.
Zuleikhabi works as a domestic help in four houses at Chittranjan Park. She does not dwell on home and sees no difference. She has not heard about Taslima Nasreen, although she does remember Tagore.
The Bard of Bengal brooks no territorial boundaries, his golden boat is laden for all who clutch at the stray straws of a life untrammelled, yet pregnant with possibility.
Zuleikha knows she is not wanted by the political parties, she hears about it at street corners where the menfolk congregate in groups, their common destinies binding them together for a few minutes of respite. She displays a rare pragmatism when she says, “Political parties everywhere do not want the poor. We were not wanted back home, too. But the people here do not seem to mind our presence. My memsaabs like my work and since they are Bengalis there is a common culture.”
Isn’t there resentment against them in the already overpopulated slums? “Here also people understand. We share our poverty. And many of them are refugees too – they have come from Bihar, UP…everyone is seeking shelter.”
The middle-class residents of the area support them on humanitarian grounds. As one of them said, “Many of them are staying here for years, and if we start shunting people out, then there are the Tibetans too. We fought the Bangladesh War for political reasons but now these people have come to look upon us as saviours. If the government is so concerned then they must try and stop the influx instead of letting Opposition parties make political capital out of it.”
Apparently, when the BJP was campaigning against them, the local Bengalis came out to protect the outsiders. As one academician put it, “With us, secularism and parochialism are one and the same thing. We will support each other in any part the globe.”
A project called ‘Citizenship, Identity and Residence of Immigrants in Delhi Slums’ by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties had revealed that workers of the BJP and Shiv Sena had been active in identifying Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants in selected slums. “The police conducted frequent late night raids in some bastis (slum localities) where many people suspected of being Bangladeshi nationals were taken to the police station…The active role of selected political parties in the identification and deportation of Bangladeshi immigrants, recognised for their bias against religious minorities, is very disturbing.”
Jaffer is oblivious to these wheels within wheels. He only knows that occasionally an inexplicable fear overtakes him. “Though there is nothing to be afraid of. What do we have that we must fear losing? Clothes? Vessels? Belongings? Nothing. But there is something...that feeling of not having anything to call our own. I came here in 1975 as a child and even today after 30 years I know that we can be thrown out.”
According to Reena Bhadhuri, an expert on Islam, “These are starving people trying to make a meagre living. How can they be connected to Al Qaeda and the Pakistani intelligence agencies?” On the other hand, there is acceptance of Hindu infiltrators in the North East. The deputy minister for national security during the BJP regime had agreed to give them special treatment. “If they have come here illegally, it may be justified because of the hostility they face in Bangladesh. Some distinction will have to be kept in mind.”
It is such doublespeak and double standards on the part of both India and Pakistan that have left Bangladesh as a fractured nation. It has no identity. Societies that are left with too many histories don’t think about the future. The future subjugates them before they can get there.
The two events may not be connected, but it is interesting to find some connection.
Milan, December 13: At a political rally the PM is left with a fractured nose, two teeth knocked off and bloody cuts on his lips after a man hurled a miniature replica of Milan’s gothic cathedral at him.
Brussels, December 11: At a meeting to discuss climate change, the Italian premier draws women’s inner wear and passes the papers around to other heads of state. It causes some embarrassment, some anger and some amusement.
What would you do?
I think I'd see it as a symbolic representation of how women coped not only with social mores but also with how they chose to cover up intimate parts of their body. It might seem like stretching it a bit, but from the warm Egyptian clime to the cold English one, the way these undergarments were worn does give inkling into the climate.
As a moral issue, one could ask two questions:
- Why did he choose women’s wear and not men’s? It is simple. He is not interested in men and men as nurturers of the womb of the earth do not have any totem value.
- Does it become a head of state to indulge in such flippant gestures? It does not, but he could have sketched and not passed them around and then it would have been a secret and they’d imagine he was deeply interested in the talks that were taking place. Ethically, to mislead is wrong. It is quite probable that he was merely revealing the complete uselessness of such summits, and if it comes from someone who is rich and powerful, then it does send out the signal that the world needs to look deeper (and no pun this) instead of merely talking heads.
I am quite certain that were he asked to draw his own underwear he would have gladly done so.
How does it in any way connect with his bloodied face later? Some people were shouting out calling the PM a clown. Clowns are laughed at by people who see them as entertainment or for being silly. They are not seen as vicious enough to be physically harmed.
Was the man who lunged at him a moralist? He has been described as someone who has a history of mental health problems. It could be that he does not like Berlusconi’s politics. It could be that he does not approve of the scandals his PM is involved in. It could be that news of his drawing those thongs and things really was the final straw and he used a Biblical image, that too a medieval one rooted deeply in a spiritual union with god.
He did not use a camera tripod, the way another attacker had done several years ago when Berlo was less tainted.
In both instances the instruments made a pointed statement, and were phallic symbols, if one may say so.
The FBI interrogation of David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani has, for the first time, confirmed what India has always known that a section of serving Pakistan army officers is working in collaboration with India-specific jihadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Really? If it was known then was it conveyed in those thousands of pages of dossier sent to Pakistan?
We will come to the ‘jihadi targets’ in a bit. Here is fresh news (italics mine). Do read it to see my response in perspective:
A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, confirmed the fact that a top policeman had spoken to a Pakistani handler during the first night of terror last year…the senior officer identified himself as a steward to the handler and said that an injured terrorist had given him the phone and asked for further instructions. The officer said that the terrorist was bleeding profusely and wanted him to speak to the handler. He spoke in Hindi but initially the person on the other end was not interested in giving any instructions, the source said. The handler insisted that the steward give the phone to the injured terrorist and asked for his location but the officer on the line said that since firing was going on, it was not possible to get him to the phone. At this, the handler directed the cop to pass on instructions to the terrorist to proceed towards the swimming pool and disconnected the call, the source said. The cops were taken aback by this instruction since it clearly showed that the attackers had detailed information about the inside of the hotel.
Why were the cops taken aback? Do they not familiarise themselves with sites that are in trouble? In the same manner, such groups will do some research. Today, one can find one’s way almost in any part of the world with exact driving instructions with Google maps. The inside of hotels or establishments might not be so easy, but it isn’t all that tough. As for the pool, you can just go to the loo of the new section of the Taj and walk along and take a right and there is the pool staring at you in the face. If you are in the old section, you don’t even have to do all this turning right stuff. Just go straight and beyond the lifts is the pool which is visible to the naked eye, even if you are myopic. You can go to shop for sarees and the pool is before that. What detailed information does anybody need?
What the cops should have been taken aback by is that one of the handlers, who are supposed to be smart chaps, agreed to even entertain the ‘steward’. Heck, back from all those years ago when one read espionage thrillers, these guys knew when to shut up. Let us not forget there weren’t too many of these fellows inside the hotel and terrorists, however smart they are, cannot assume that the security of any city would not hit them back with great force.
Why did the cop not fake his identity and pretend to be one of the boys? He could have muffled his voice and sounded injured. He might have been given more information.
How did the handler, without speaking to his man, ask that he be instructed to go towards the swimming pool? Did he assume the ‘steward’ might not pass on the information to a cop? Did the handler think that such instructions would indeed be passed on? It is too darned cocky to imagine that he could use the employee of the hotel, a hotel that has been attacked, to act as courier for the attacker.
We do not know if the cop-steward did go towards the pool and what transpired. It is, I am sure, something that needs to be kept under wraps to help investigations, now that the FBI has got Headley in its pockets. The poor fellow apparently was denied his hope of waging war against Kashmir because he was considered too old for military operations by LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
Look what happens. You get the US involved and they will bring in Kashmir. On second thought, we always bring in Kashmir because Pakistan has little interest in anything else Indian.
This brings us to the targets.
The names are clearly not those that might get Pakistan excited under normal circumstances. These are names that might rattle sensible Indians and Indian Muslims.
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar, Mumbai, RSS headquarters at Nagpur, BARC, Trombay, Jalvayu Vihar in Powai (where defence services personnel live), residential colonies at Kalina, National Defence College, Delhi.
Even if Kashmir is the big thing, these targets seem off.
Headley also revealed to the FBI that most of the targets in India had already been mapped for a fresh wave of attacks and these included not only important establishments but also well-known leaders whose killings could spark communal violence.
And how would communal conflagrations help Pakistan? Has it been of any assistance in the past?
Is this being done to put Indian Muslims in trouble? Or is Headley, now the FBI’s toyboy, being trained to say these things so that the heat is off Pakistan and the masters of Pakistan?
Are these people daft to think that if the leaders mentioned were made targets and there were communal riots, it would be started by their supporters? This again assumes that the security apparatus would not get it and is unable to stem the riots despite being aware that they have been incited by outside forces?
I am afraid the whole scenario is a bit bizarre.
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Found this portion of a quote used as a headline rather amusing:
‘Passion as important as apparatus’ - former director-general of police, P S Pasricha
This is revealed by a study ‘Mapping Human Genetic History in Asia’ which concurs that the human population originally came from Africa. It disproves something based on fossil data. It seems like a nice thing to do given that we have people willing to play fossils.
A hundred thousand years ago the humans in Africa figured out they had to look around a bit. They were focussed on this country, like the world’s eyes are on India stuff going on now. I can imagine them saying that they were moving because of the fertile soil, the amazing culture, the opportunities, and the natural beauty. The canny ones might have even thought this was reincarnation the moment they spotted some thick foliage just like back home.
Then, due to some genetic jugglery they began to show differences. Probably the umbilical cord was being cut off by twisting and turning. They started pronouncing R as L and used sticks to eat. In one of the first uprisings that possibly took place in unrecorded history, they decided to leave. They had to walk for days in the sun, which perhaps lends them the marked features of rather small eyes slanted to avoid the glare. All races have some distinguishing physical aspects. Such as Indians nodding their heads by tilting them towards left shoulder and then the right one at a 30 degree angle to convey yes, no, whatever.
To return to the early departing population, they settled in what came to be East Asian countries. What I cannot figure out from this study is how these nations were already there as prêt-a-porter countries. Were they called China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines? Why did the first group go to Thailand? Was the place tough on them and is that why they mastered the art of massage? Does the thriving business in Bangkok having anything to do with the lessons from the Kama Sutra they imbibed? And why did the second lot move to Malaysia? Are today’s Pakistanis following Malaysian Islam rather than the Saudi one they are accused of?
Why do Singaporeans have strict penal charges against spitting on the roads? Are they trying to get rid of their Indian roots of spitting any and everywhere? Is the Japanese penchant for making small things and being minimalist a dissenting response to the ostentation of Indian ethos?
These are not questions that engage the 90 scientists who took a sample of 1,928 unrelated individuals from 73 populations in 10 countries. They are more concerned about how this research “is also significant for understanding migratory pattern of human history and furthering the research in medicine. It has great potential for collaboration with these countries in finding treatment to many diseases like flu, AIDS and other pandemics”.
So, if you have a bit of fever and are coughing madly, don’t just gulp down that sweet syrup and suck on lozenges. Think of how the Japs would do it. I assume the fact that they bow on any given occasion is a halfway touching of the feet gesture by the majority population of India; it also probably derives from how they coped with clearing their lungs. You know, bend a little and the kho-kho-kho subsides.
All your ailments will now be seen in the light of how they are faring. If you are about to faint, then make sure to ask them to pass some smelling ajinomoto, please.
An Indian has been chosen as one of the top ten foreign heroes in the past 100 years for contribution to China. This report came in before the research was made public.
Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis treated Chinese soldiers during the Sino-Japanese war of 1938. Mao Zedong was mighty impressed and when the doctor died, he said, “The army has lost a helping hand, the nation a friend. Let’s always bear in mind his internationalist spirit.”
How internationalist China is we all know, especially during those days, but he probably felt some tug of a common heritage. I think these researchers must be right.
Incidentally, Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani was a film based on the life story of the doc. I am not sure how much of it was true, but in the celluloid version he cured the plague, was captured by the Japanese, fell in love with a Chinese girl and died, because of the plague not the girl. V Shantaram enacted the title role and Jayshree played the Chinese girl. All same-same, no?
Chith Dole - Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani
I had never seen a White Christmas. I did not know white can have so many shadows.
He agreed to come along on Christmas Eve to my friend’s house. She had ordered pizzas. There was wine. And a Christmas tree. She took out the little gifts I had brought her…we strung papier mache elephants beneath the lights. The anachronism was charming. Her partner smiled too much, my ex smiled a little. Both of us laughed a lot. N and I. After the meal she asked me to help her with the coffee. It was a bright yellow kitchen; the sort of kitchen where sunflowers grow and the sun wants to live. I pinched myself. Remember, this is winter.
She made me stand facing her and shook me up. “What’s wrong?”
“You are faking it. Leave. What are you afraid of? Loneliness? When you look back you will realise that this was the loneliest time in your life.”
It was. But in that yellow room on a winter evening when frost covered us like a blanket I did not know. I only saw elephants under Christmas tree lights that twinkled brightly.
We left. Together. We travelled through cities. Together. Our bags laden with sweaters, mufflers, mittens. Warmth in suitcases. I did the smiling pose near monuments that were dead. I stood erect, I tilted my head, I let my hair fly. I was the model. The model wife!
We took a coach to Edinburgh. It was New Year’s Eve. They have a huge party in the outdoors where bands play music that renders you deaf. It helped. Not having to listen to myself. I was talking to myself. I had to talk to someone.
I don’t know what music was playing. I don’t know if anyone danced. I sat on a bench feeling terribly cold. It was dark and faces were invisible. I pulled my legs close to me and felt like those homeless people you see in the streets. Suddenly, I was almost knocked off. A young kid had drunk too much and from the sloping grass up above he had fallen on the bench on which I sat. An emergency van arrived within minutes. He managed a weak smile. I wondered who needed aid, then.
We veered towards the centre where a large screen showed us what was really happening. There were broken bottles of alcohol on the floor; a few just lay there in repose waiting to roll off someplace. I moved to the corner. Most people were deeply occupied in emptying their bladders. I found my shoes in a dried patch of someone’s remnants.
In little niches of vomit I saw stories of stuff imbibed and undigested. Lives that live for a day and go on to the next. Lives where future is a Maybe.
I was a Maybe, hugged by a woollen jacket, a scarf grazing against my neck.
That year there was no White Christmas. I had to make do with ice forming on lips. Frozen memories that would melt away.
I would not want it for the simple reason that it is cheesy and I can’t afford it. But the arguments against it are rather amusing.
$23,000, they say, is the lifetime income of the poor in India.
Rich Indians buy Swarovski crystals and Gucci bags. They do not calculate how much the poor are worth.
One of those spokesperson types said, “This pen is really funny. Gandhi would say it should be tossed in the trash or, better, sold off to pay for water and power for the poor. Gandhi would have been ashamed.”
Nope. Gandhi lived with industrialists and he knew they manufactured expensive goods. And we also knew that people commemorate heroes after they are dead. He did not ask the rich when he was alive to give up anything for the poor.
His great-grandson, who got a neat cut, it is said, had a different take: “I consider the Mont blanc pen their acknowledgment of the greatness of Gandhi. They are doing it the only way they know how. His writing implement was his greatest tool.”
I thought non-violence and swadeshi (self-reliance and abjurance of foreign goods) was. He delivered lectures and spoke a lot. He did write but that is hardly any justification for this pricey little thing. And it is limited edition, accessible to very few.
This business of an India on the move is getting on my nerves. We were always a materialistic society; some sold products, some services and some spirituality. Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line (about $1.25 a day). They don’t care about Mont Blanc or any pen because most are illiterate. And they pretty much do not care about Gandhi.
We want to purr about some big cats making it big, then fine. Let them flash that pen around too.
It is aesthetically quite unappealing and would require great gumption to expose bad taste. It won’t transform them into Gandhi clones. Or Gandhi abusers. Or people who like quoting Gandhi because it sounds like such an awesome thing to do.
So, here is one: “Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed.”
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Now, we come to the other great marketing delight. Lindsay Lohan is in India to make a documentary on human trafficking. She tweeted: “Over 40 children saved so far... Within one day's work... This is what life is about... Doing THIS is a life worth living!!!”
Sure. I am sure it will keep her clean for a while. But did she have to sound like she is at some game keeping track of the goals scored? Is it all in a day’s work? Do we blame Twitter, the medium, for making everything seem so simplistic and easy? And why Lindsay? What was the BBC thinking? Role model?
Oh, and here’s a quote from her repertoire, too: “How can you not like Britney Spears?”