Bombs and Nabobs

Maverick: Bombs and Nabobs
by Farzana Versey
The Asian Age, Op-ed, Nov. 27, 2007

Wajid Ali Shah in an angarkha, his one nipple exposed, is a painted image that would have stayed with me. Until I walked into the airport lounge.

A petty government official entered, followed by someone carrying his tiny 11”x17” attaché case. Every few seconds he consulted his golden watch. Two minions sat across him. He ordered some water. A green plastic jug was brought out. He held the glass aloft and deposited some liquid into his mouth, gargled and drank it. Precisely two sips.

One of his lackeys excused himself. Our man waved his hand indicating assent. Then he asked the other chap, “Ooka kaam-dhaam ka hai?” (What does that fellow do?)” Some mumbles later, our Babu seemed satisfied. “Haan idhar-udhar ka!” Suddenly, he lifted up a buttock, let out a swift fart, and tucked one leg under the other in a shaky bucket seat and started to grind some tobacco in his palm.

He had declared his presence, authority and culture in one fell swoop. This is Uttar Pradesh.

The recent bomb blasts outside the civil courts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad merely give India’s largest state a reason to pontificate.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a state bandh, its chief Ashok Singhal declaring, “The manner in which terrorists have struck on Friday simply reflects the gross impotence of both the state and the central governments in containing terror.”

It is another matter that the saffron parties had done their cake-walk there in 1993. The reason I am mentioning it is because terrorism expert B Raman informs us, “I believe these blasts have the stamp of jihadi terrorism…These blasts have been carried out just a few days before the 15th anniversary of the Babri Masjid (demolition).”

Apparently, people who know about these things are saying that the main motive was to disturb “communal harmony”. This is indeed gratifying. One thought it might be to make sure that the cases against terrorists going on inside the courts would get some rest. But communal harmony is the only way to get a reaction.

The last time blasts took place at the Sankat Mochan temple I got into trouble for saying I did not see dead bodies and instead saw what looked like a huge boulder in the middle of the Ganges. This was a real past occurrence to underline a metaphor. How did it end up in the river, was it a natural formation?

Nahin, nahin,” the boatmen had laughed. “Murdaa hai…” It was the bloated carcass of an animal.

The meaning of mortality rose as smoke from distant pyres. Corpses lay waiting to be cremated. Sometimes relatives of those who could not afford it or just could not wait threw the bodies in the river. They turned blue and unrecognisable.

Yeh to roz ki baat hai,” I was told.

Outside the area of the ghats too this has become a regular occurrence; the only difference is that it has politics riding on its waves.

Since such democracy has led to blatant openness even the common man knows what is happening. Maqbool Hussein, a tourist guide, with his knowledge of history, would have been able to put feudalism in its proper perspective. “You don’t know much about Wajid Ali Shah except for the British propaganda against him. True Lucknavis revere him because for every prayer he missed, he laid a stone which would build an edifice.”

The nawaabs are dead. Feudalism is alive. Bureaucrats are made to sit on the floor. Even peons desirous of getting a job in the money-raking excise department have had to cough up thousands of rupees; for higher IAS postings the rates could go beyond Rs. 10 lakh.

No one can miss the smiling face of Mayawati. Huge colour hoardings show her as fair with a pink blush on her prosperously plump cheeks.

Illusion is more than the name of the chief minister. The UP culture wallows in ignorance and delusion.

The hookah, Lucknow’s very own symbol of refinement, looks lost as its soft, snaky pipe comes in the most garish shades of pink, green and turquoise. The delicate chikan embroidery has to jostle for attention with synthetic garbs flowing sensuously. The Urdu zubaan has been out-talked not only by cuss words in Hindi but also Haryanvi. The galauti kebabs meant for toothless nawaabs now cater to the sharp incisors of those with more plebeian hungers.

As Mayawati had observed several years ago, “Bahujan Party ke andar satta ki bhookh jagne ki zaroorat hai.

That hunger for power has been satiated. What external factors can be blamed when in the busy chowk area shops selling sweets are outnumbered by those offering guns? There are illicit factories manufacturing cartridges. How many of these get arrested? Anyone can get ammunition by talking about “safety of life and property”. ‘Jihadi terrorism’ as a blanket term is a bit facetious when you think about what the Advani-Sadhvi Rithambara-Kalyan Singh caucus managed to do. The totem ‘Maulana’ type politicians were no better.

If the party official at the beginning of the column represented in a nutshell all that is UP, then today it is merely a playground for power politics of the worst kind.

A more eloquent summation would be difficult to find for a place that has a granite past, a Statue of Liberty wannabe Udyan for its future and rotates its present on a fragile axis.


  1. FV:

    Welcome to my homeland, Ma'am...
    And I happen to spend some time in war-torn Africa as well. There ain't much difference between the two.

    But pray, what is the solution?

  2. FV:

    Apologies for the double comment, but couldn't resist putting this corny one-liner:
    Grammatically speaking, I find UP's past perfect, present continuous and future tense.

  3. Pune S:

    Most lands are doomed because we are a doomed people. We don't raise our voices and if w do we are called names...

    I liked the 'corny' line.


    I assume you liked it. Thanks, damn cool!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.