Omar's orgasm

I have not spoken as an "authentic" Indian Muslim voice, but my post on Omar Abdullah has got a lot of people angry.

So I watched him on NDTV's Walk the Talk show last night.

He is speaking with a forked tongue. Did he not say something about his conscience post-Gujarat? Okay, here is is talking about how he admires Vajpayee...the same man who as prime minister did precious little and kept quiet and took up for Modi in Gujarat.

All these guys are now gushing about Omar's role in national politics. He is smiling like a cat that has licked all the cream and looks doodh ka dhula hua. Let him milk the issue dry.

Have fun. As he did in his "3-minute" orgasmic speech.
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Note: For those interested, a longish extract (an encounter with the poet Ahmed Faraz) from my book is in Dawn as well as uploaded on A Journey Interrupted blog.

Of sleeping dogs and Indian Muslims

This is a response to a gentleman's kind listing of Muslim ‘contribution’ to India I read about. Had he talked about some kinds of Muslims, one would have accepted it and let it pass. Now, since this is a general tarring of IMs, listen up…

His list:

1. Demolishing 2000 Hindu temples.

2. Aurangzeb

3. Jazia

4. Partition

5. Terroism

Then, rather sweetly, he asks, “Am I missing anything?”

It doesn't matter. You are missing the wood for the woodpecker. If you want to move on, then why keep pecking on the same old tree?

1. Yes, Hindu temples were demolished. How many Jain and Buddhist temples did the Hindus destroy? Oh, but that does not count, because Hindus consider Jains and Buddhists as their own.

2. Yes, you had Aurangzeb...and Akbar, Jehangir, Shahjehan...they performed a puja at the Taj Mahal recently, just because they felt like it. I mean, how many Muslims go to temples as tourists and fall on their feet to offer the namaaz because they were there and just felt like it? Oh, but Mussalmans are like the British, everything time-to-time, as we Gujjus say.

3. Yes, Jiziya...Mughals levied tax on Hindus. What can I do about that? It was wrong but they had come as conquerors and not democrats, na? And don’t you put money in McCain's and Obama's chanda boxes so that your future is safe in America and you can get that French kiss from the statue of liberty symbol?

4. Yes, Partition was a Muslim contribution. They made it easy for us to have another country to blame. India was made up of so many principalities with nabobs and maharajahs living in those palaces which had pink chandeliers and vomit-yellow carpets. The departing Muslims left you with these to get dollahs from tourists to peep through some stupid filigree.

5. Yes, terrorism...our ‘contribution’ is that we too sat and took it. Now, as one report says, car bombs have made their “debut”...so IMs were virgins until just the other day, right?

And then the gentleman says:

"We could have let sleeping dogs lie after partition. Wasn't that the point of partition?"

The Partition wasn't about letting sleeping dogs lie, get it? It was a response to the behaviour of Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah separately and for different political reasons.

"Yet these bastards chose to keep on occupying our land, agitating for their own laws and rules, and explode bombs."

Your land? The Bay Area, SF? IMs are 'occupying' the land we were born in and tilled. Get that in your head. Now. Yes, some are agitating for separate personal laws because the politicians like playing ball with them and they like playing ball with the politicos. But, don't the Hindus have their own civil laws? The Parsis, the Christians? I am for a Uniform Civil Code, but it has to be based on secular ideas, not the idea of the majority community. No way. Yes, some Muslim organisations explode bombs. How many IMs support them?

"What the fukk do they want?"

That you learn to spell correctly without fear. After all, you have not studied in some madrassa where they shake their heads, right?

"For the flag of Islam to fly on Red Fort?"

No, I don't think IMs want the flag of Islam on the Red Fort; they are happy enough with Delhi Darbar and Karim's.

"Every few years we need a fucking pogrom just to keep them in line. Haraami kee aulad saaley, they wan't nothing in life but to die and kill."

I can feel your pain. And really sorry about all the trouble you guys have to undergo to organise those orgiastic pogroms, get saffron bandanas, and write all those slogans (hey, you did not take SRK to task for misusing your religion with ‘Om Shanti Om’? Isn’t he too a "haraamee ki aulaad"? Oh, I forgot, he pays lotsa jiziya to the IT department...)

"In any case, this is between Indian Hindus and Muslims who live in India. Its not really a Pakistani issue is it?"

Interestingly, now you are not blaming the Pakistanis. Why? One more Dunkin' Donuts trip being planned? Or that Sufi dance at the Daata Ganj Baksh in a ganja trance?

As Pooh would say, tell me how it was…

Now time for a siesta…yeah, let the sleeping bitch lie…

Just a note....

The article below was written before the bomb blasts of Bangalore and Ahmedabad. I have marked some portions in bold because this is going to be (already reports trickling in) precisely the 'defensive' and silly fallout from the Indian Muslims - yet again.

There has been an anonymous comment:

this is the price we are parying for keeping the muslims here after independence.Gandhi and Nehru are the biggest mass-murderes for letting the cancerous muslims stay on.

Has no Muslim died in any of the bomb blasts that have occurred in our country post-Independence? Has no Muslim been part of the struggle for Independence?

No one is "keeping" Muslims here. We were here, are here and shall remain here. Indian Muslims are not asking for a separate state quite unlike some other 'separatist' movements in India. So shut up.

More later. And there will be more later.

Taming the Islamic Shrew

The Stiff Upper Blip:
Taming The Islamic Shrew
By Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, July 27

The term British Islam has been used quite a bit in the past many months. There is no American Islam, Indian Islam or even Saudi Islam. Does religion need to have a nationality?

An organisation that is as yet nameless has been set up by the government of Britain a few days ago. The board will have 20 Islamic thinkers from academia and the community. Its purpose is to tackle terrorism and to ensure that there is no conflict between being Muslim and British. A report says, “The new British body will see Oxford and Cambridge Universities host a group of scholars to lead the debate on key British Muslim issues such as women’s rights and responsibilities and loyalty to the host country, Britain.”

Since when have women’s rights become solely “key British Muslim issues”? And how does one ensure that an organisation that is to be promoted by the government will teach loyalty and responsibility to the country without prejudice?

This is the same country that has ‘outsourced’ torture of its citizens of Muslim origin to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Labour Party lawmaker John McDonnell admitted to The Guardian, “I believe that there is now sufficient evidence to demonstrate that British officials outsourced the torture of British nationals to a Pakistani intelligence agency.”

Incidents of abductions of Muslims in Britain who are considered suspect, especially following the bomb blasts of 2005, are now coming to light.

Human rights and other such groups do talk about this being “unacceptable”. Will they raise their voices against the ridiculous government-sponsored attempts to make Islam conform to their idea of nationalism and patriotism?

Why is Islam being singled out? One of the spokespersons of the group said, “We need to encourage and create safe places for sensible debate around issues that extremists can seek to exploit and make sure that young British Muslims recognise their faith teaches shared citizenship values.”

Extremists, of the Islamic persuasion or of any religion and ideology, do not follow the dictates of that faith or ideology to further their agenda. And if they knew their faith then they would not need to be taught what is there. Predictably, there has been a reaction from an Islamic group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose spokesman Taji Mustafa stated, “It is a supremacist war that aims to force one system, capitalism, and secular liberal values on the whole world.” As someone rightly pointed out, this is a “transparent ploy to create a British state-sponsored Islam”.

There is cockiness in such transparency. It is almost as militant in its motives as any terrorist activity. Is this merely an attempt to ensure that a radical version of Islam does not reach these people or is it exclusionist in its intent? And what is Britain’s idea of “hate-filled teaching”? That it is designed to destroy the Western “way of life”, as has been reported.

This is extreme xenophobia. Would any westerner be in a position to define this way of life? Is it uniform throughout Europe, America? Does it refer to the English-speaking people of the world? Or is it about those societies in the West that still suffer from imperialist tendencies and unabashedly go about decimating little nations or countries that do not understand their way of life?

Of the 1.6 million British Muslims, how many do not understand what their citizenship entails? If you are teaching them about duties, then how about teaching the government and its satellite bodies about their rights? Do Muslims in the UK have the right to be Muslims without being tagged and questioned each time they wear clothes that might identify them as being part of their religion? Does a person with a Muslim name have the luxury of not being frisked a bit more?

If 600 of Britain’s 1,400 mosques run by Deoband-affiliated clerics are taking lessons from the recently issued fatwa by the same group in India, then this is one more publicity stunt. It wasn’t spontaneous. It was the brainchild of an ad man, Alyque Padamsee, who in fact heads the London-based Institute of Corporate Training. He has been quoted as saying, “Terrorists were misusing the name of Islam and the media was maligning the religion. I couldn’t understand why the Ulema were not issuing a fatwa against terrorism.”

He got hold of all the right-sounding secularists and roped in the general secretary of the Jamiat-ul Ulema-I-Hind, Maulana Mahmood Madani. The ad man and the mullah sat in the plush environs of his house. He told Madani, “…a fatwa carried weight, and created a buzz. I recalled how Imam Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie hit the headlines. I wanted similar publicity for the anti-terrorism fatwa”.

This is utterly shameful and also ironic. People who call themselves liberals and oppose the edict against Rushdie now see in it the potential for a marketing gimmick.

All those placards carried by skull-capped Muslims (as though there aren’t any other types) saying “Islam means peace” and “Terrorism is the enemy of Islam” were the result of this exercise in creating a buzz. What is worse is that a man not known to align himself with religion got onto the bandwagon. And rather patronisingly he tutored the maulvi that, “like Martin Luther, he should talk of a dream: to stop Islam from being maligned’’.

People who are in charge of selling soap with models in bikinis under waterfalls are now telling us about how to save the fair name of Islam. This is as Occidental as it can get.

It appears to be all right for the westernised elite to play the ingratiating Uncle Tom while at the same time being blindly worshipped by the Muslim ‘intelligentsia’ for puerile utterances. However, if the non-intelligentsia are blind believers of a holy book, then all hell breaks loose. And who is this group that comprises of the intelligentsia? Why do they not have anything to say for themselves? Does it not strike them as odd that they would not garner much space, forget respect, for holding the very same views as the fake liberal sympathiser?

Returning to the question of ‘British Islam’, it is so easy to exercise control given that most Muslims are located in specific areas. Why then is there the need to flaunt citizenship and loyalty issues when the government, the police force, and the judiciary wallow in callousness and corruption and can co-opt the people?

Late last year, Oldham town opened its doors to what was referred to as Britain's first Islamic ‘pub’, the Halal Inn. The ambience is 19th century; the drinks served are juice and fizz; the music in the background is the sound of nasheeds, Islamic hymns. There is a prayer room, together with a restaurant, study room, business lounge and steam room.

This will probably warm the ale in the hearts of many a Briton: a stereotype that works within the parameters set by the system. These are the readymade slaves that the new organisation is looking for to educate about British nationalism and anti-terrorism. How precious it is to know that the man whose name today is synonymous with such fanatical activities and who made the cave so hip and 21st century a dwelling spent hours not in a halal pub but with a glass of Campari.

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Also published in Counterpunch


Chatterati and Chatterjee

Read this rather whatever-you-want-to-call-it piece by Pakistani writer Moni Mohsin. She was talking about how women are addressed in Pakistan (“Baby” and then “Baaji”, then “Begum sahiba” etc.) What intrigued me was her recollection of a recent trip to Jaipur and how she was feeling slightly bored as her Indian friend went through the sarees at a store. (Oh dear. Most Pakistani women love sarees, but I guess the trip here is something different.)

Now in her words:

“I continued to sip my Coke. He (the salesman) picked up a sari and thrust it in my face. Yeh pasand hai, memsaab? I looked over my shoulder. There was no white woman. He was speaking to me. Me? A memsaab? A memsaab in my mind is a white woman in a calf-length belted dress and a wide brimmed hat. She has firm opinions, a loud voice and belongs to the Raj novels of Paul Scott. I fail to qualify on all counts. Something about my demeanour or dress (a salwar kameez) may have signalled my foreignness to a particularly observant shopkeeper, but surely I didn’t look like a mem? But Indian friends informed me afterwards that the term was not meant personally. Memsaab in India is as generic as baji in Lahore. Indian ladies have also become memsaabs. Why it should be so remains a mystery, but so it is.”

Two observations from me:

* Terminology evolves over time. Men are routinely referred to as Saab, right? No problems with that? Such stereotypes really. So, how many women in Lahore are begums that they qualify as Begum sahibas? Does she turn around to look for some nawaabi thaat, a pankha, maybe a palanquin?

And why assume only white women have firm opinions and loud voices?

* Since when has the salwaar kameez come to signal foreignness for Indians? If she had looked beyond the straw of the Coke at the street, she might have watched women riding scooters wearing salwaar kameezes. Puhleeze. You want to sound exotic, try saying you were wearing a Lahori sombrero or something.

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"Aap ka kya pareshan hain?" (When he really wanted to know what the problem was.)

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, in his broken Hindi, to a disruptive member during the trust vote.


Different angles - 4

Zardari's security officer assassinated?

Khalid Shahanshah, the chief security officer of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was assassinated on Tuesday afternoon outside his Clifton residence, police and witnesses said, according to Dawn newspaper.

How is the word assassination used here?

Here is what I read:

Assassination is the targeted killing of a high-profile person. An added distinction between assassination and other forms of killing is that the assassin (one who performs an assassination) usually has an ideological or political motivation, though many assassins (especially those not part of an organization) also demonstrate insanity. Other motivations may be money (contract killing), revenge, or a military operation.

The assassination euphemism targeted killing (or extrajudicial punishment / execution) is also used for the government-sanctioned killing of opponents. 'Assassination' itself, along with terms such as 'terrorist' and 'freedom fighter', may in this context be considered a loaded term, as it implies an act in which the proponents of such killings may consider them justified or even necessary.

Does the newspaper have any information that will justify its use of the term? Why has it then not been explicated?

Its own report says a case has been registered against "unknown assailants".

Why do reports use words so loosely?

Ooh la-la-land of Omar Abdullah

So everyone is mighty impressed by the mighty heart of the cub of the cub of the Sher-e-Kashmir.

I am not biting this ‘dignified’ speech. Only because Omar Abdullah was not flashing a wad of notes does not mean one has to go along with his highly apologetic tone about how Muslims are not this and not that and then say, with some bloody audacity, that being Muslim and being Indian are not mutually exclusive. Why does he even need to say it? Why?

Here are some of his bon-bon mots, and let me respond:

“I am a Muslim and I am an Indian. And I see no distinction between the two. I don’t know why should I fear the nuclear deal. It is a deal between two countries which, I hope, will become two equals in the future. The enemies of Indian Muslims are not America or deals like these. The enemies are the same as the enemies of all those who are poor — poverty, hunger, lack of development and the absence of a voice.”

It isn't about you, Omar. It is about Indians. Not two abstractions called ‘countries’, please. If you personally do not fear the nuclear deal you can go and figure out some way to cook up something in your outhouse. Don’t mess with an issue that is larger and has greater ramifications. And stop this thing about India and America being equals in the future; this conveys that we are unequal at present and in view of the current deal sends out the message that India is therefore playing an inferior role. It is in fact doing so, which is what the ruckus has been all about. But Omar wants to be like America. And he is quoting the same thing about the real enemies being poverty and other stuff, which everyone knows. It does not mean there cannot be other enemies and America will ensure that India does not get too far. Look how it has got to Pakistan…

“Today, the Left is telling me that all secular parties should stand with the BJP to bring down this government. The same Left treated me like a political untouchable when I was with the NDA.”

You were a political untouchable because you were with the NDA. The Left is asking you to support the anti-nuclear stand, which happens to be the BJP’s purported stand. Understood?

“I am not a member of the UPA and don’t aspire to be one. I made a mistake to be with the NDA, especially after Gujarat riots happened. My conscience had asked me to quit NDA but I didn’t. My conscience has still not forgiven me.”

Go give a jadoo ki jhappi to your conscience and next time listen to it. Unless you don’t want to so that when the opportunity arises you can bring it out as a viable ‘dignified’ stand.

(On the Amarnath issue that Leader of Opposition L K Advani had highlighted in his speech yesterday, Abdullah said he had fought for the cause since it involved the land of his people. He dared the BJP to name a single leader from Jammu and Kashmir who had opposed the Amarnath yatra.)

“Until the day there is even a single Muslim in Kashmir, from Srinagar to Amarnath, the Amarnath yatra will not be allowed to stop.”


Now takhliyaan...that is, over and out…

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For the other tamasha of ‘live’ bribery, you may want to watch this.


Different angles - 3

Sorry, Mr. Sainath…

…but what were you doing with Rahul Gandhi?

There are few people one can respect for holding on to values. P Sainath has been one of them. He deservedly won the Magsaysay Award for his relentless indepth writings on rural India that culminated in the book Everyone Loves a Good Drought.

It was, therefore, surprising to see him walking behind Rahul Gandhi, when the latter decided to tour the districts of Vidarbha to look into the cases of farmers’ suicides. It is laudable that the local administrations were not informed but then there was no need to highlight Mr. Sainath’s role.

Besides planning an itinerary, what else did he do – provide inputs, mention specific cases, give a detailed report on misuse of funds? From what I gather these are, if the journalist knows about them, to be part of the public domain and Mr Sainath is the sort who would do so. Therefore, are the reports true that he left with Margaret Alva and Rahul from Delhi together?

I am afraid I find the idea of journalists becoming advisers to politicians dangerous. People like Mr. Sainath have worked to earn their stripes and this association with any political party could lead to questions.

Of course, you may agree with the ideology of a political party and write about your ideology. That is different.

It takes very little for politicians to look for media groups to promote their viewpoints. Many of our heroes were clearly nursed in such factories because of the owner’s beliefs.

P Sainath is not tied up with any such group and one hopes his role has ended and Rahul Gandhi can do his own fact-finding.

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I have become so disillusioned. Discovering that the people I held in high esteem as grassroots journalists were in fact helping grassroots politicians. Most of them got their sources on the telephone and did not walk anywhere, forget on grass.

At least now we can grudgingly applaud arm-chair opinionated critics. They use their own arm-chairs and their own opinions at least!

Tearing into the trust vote

Tomorrow a bunch of parliamentarians who we the people have elected because they believed in a certain ideology or belonged to political parties with a certain ideology will decide which side their bread is buttered.

The Left parties had the best intentions when they removed their support to the UPA alliance, but what are we left with now? If the issue was morality, then morality is what is being dumped. By staying with the alliance they would have managed to work within the system and create nice little impediments.

Now, we have the worst of the lot – for heaven’s sake Amar Singh? Shibu Soren? – joining forces. The Samajwadi Party had fought the Congress with such vitriol and now there is a coming together on the issue of “secularism”. Wasn’t Mulayam called the ‘Maulana’ much before this time? I shall not even comment on how the nuclear deal is either supported or opposed by Muslims. This is most ridiculous to even get into.

There are a few interesting points I wish to respond to. The points raised are courtesy of NDTV.

What if the UPA sails through the confidence motion?

# It will be a go-ahead for the Indo-US nuclear deal the issue that led to the exhibition of strength by the government.

Yes, a go-ahead for stabbing its allies and the Indian public in the back.

# The UPA will push through its unfinished economic reforms agenda, which has experienced from the estranged allies of the government, the Left.

Really? It is unfinished because some babus are busy pushing files. Economic reforms in fact took a new turn in the Left bastion West Bengal, at the cost of villagers. Forgotten?

# The Atomic Energy Act may be amended to bring a domestic equivalent to the Hyde Act of the US. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani has often raised the demand for such an act.

So, is it time to clone the BJP? Traces have been visible for a while now.

What if UPA loses the trust vote?

The government would be expected to resign. If it refuses, the President has the power to remove the Prime Minister - called dismissing the government. But in practice, no government would refuse to resign.

However, according to the precedence, there may be three situations, which are possible in this case.

Situation 1: Third Front stakes claim and BJP gives outside support.

This would be fun. Mayawati, the light of the backward classes, getting the support of the snotty Hindutvawadis. Wherefore ethics?

Situation 2: BJP stakes claim and UNPA supports from outside.

This would be funnier.

Situation 3: Nobody claims majority and the President might ask Manmohan Singh to continue as caretaker PM (according to Constitutional provisions and rules of the procedure of Parliament). Theoretically, it has the same powers. Again, as a convention, it would not take any major policy decisions, for Parliament would stand dissolved to pave the way for general elections. It would be expected to refrain from committing to any important legislation or agreements -- although in case of emergent need it does have the power to promulgate ordinances.

This is not likely to happen because our greedy MPs have been selling themselves in the market at high rates and the buyers have done their calculations.

However, this is the situation I would like. I would like to see a government that has its hands tied down and yet is supposed to rule. It will have enough time to find new allies and the public will know who is with whom. Right now, with the SP and its money power, the Congress and its ‘legacy’ and the fringe parties with goon power can muck things up badly.

Unfortunately the common Indian does not know much about the nuclear deal and it will benefit India and what we are giving away to the United States of America. But then the ordinary Indian does not know about many things. Like what the hell is a trust vote?

PS: I am having a good chuckle over the NDA supporting the nuclear deal. Leave everything else aside. Narendra Modi will always get an American visa.


Different angles - 1

I have got a whole bunch of these photographs taken from a certain angle. Amazing, isn't it, how things seen from one side give a different image, thought, idea?

That is why it is said, "Aankhein bhi dhoka kha saktee hai".

The eyes too can be deceived. And here I thought it was only the heart.
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PS: These have come in the mail; no photographer mentioned.


On and off – 4

Not on…

Angelina Jolie gives birth to twins. A boy and a girl. She and Brad Pitt are willing to – in fact will – sell pictures of the babies for millions. It could be between $10 million to $20 million.

It isn’t the first time. They aren’t the first ones. What I find reprehensible is the pre-publicity about how the money will go to charity. It gives everyone a nice halo. It is as bad as glossy brochures by international agencies covering hunger and devastation portraying snotty little kids with bloated stomachs and overly large eyes in hollowed sockets.


Nicole Kidman and hubby Keith Urban have turned down several offers worth millions of dollars to publish the first pictures of their newborn daughter.

They are not making it into a moral issue. They said they understand public interest and may release the photographs, but it will be for free.

At least their daughter won’t grow up to live with the story of having a ‘sold’ tag at an auction…for the larger good of humankind, of course.


The pigeonhole, please

Perception is a bitch; it is also a mirror.

As a mirror it can have tremendous value. But is it often intended to? What do you do with cracked mirrors, blurred mirrors – is it necessary for one to have to see oneself in them only to prove that one is open to another point of view?

As regards the bitch, how many barks translate into a bite?

I was chortling when I read somewhere that the reviewer had done a decent job but this book ought not to have been written! It is hilarious. The review is positive. So, if someone likes what I have written and is being commended for it, then isn’t it natural that he thinks I did a good job and therefore if you like what he has to say and he likes what I have to say then you must therefore like what I have to say? You can’t say, “Hey that T-shirt looks good on you, but it should not have been a T-shirt”. Weird world.

However, let me get to the real strange stuff. Apparently, writing about the identity question is a bad thing. It is passé. Oooh, I am so outdated…everyone else has completed their journeys and I am still unable to negotiate it.

Heck, if they had then they wouldn’t be spreading themselves thin over a ‘non-issue’, would they?

But, of course, an Indian Muslim Woman seems to be causing a whole lot of anguish. An Indian Muslim Woman writing about there has got to belong there.

Apparently, the term Indian is just an add-on. Sure. Ah, yes, I hear it said that the only reason I am not there is because I don’t want to let go of my jeans and expensive coffee.

This should be enough reason to laugh in these people’s faces (faeces?). Pakistani women don’t wear jeans? You don’t get pricey coffee in that country?

These are supposed to be our global citizens. The ones who don’t even know if they have an identity. Unless being incognito counts. Straw warriors.

Make hay, honey, while my sun shines.



I have promised to put up some things about the book, the launch etc, and it hasn't happened. Mainly because post-launch other things have come up.

I do not wish to reduce anyone's attempts at wanting to write about me; having been in the profession I know all about the stuff, or at least most of it.

Now, I read an interesting piece about book launches and while mine was given the thumbs up and the book was called a "tremendous and gutsy effort", I cannot imagine myself responding to a query like:

"But why did she choose Pakistan as her subject? For that reason, why are all so-called secular Muslims in India still obsessed with our cousins across the border?"

with a reply like this:

"Only because Pakistan is our neighbour and Pakistanis are our brothers and sisters."

The neighbour bit had a context, as to why we cannot explore that area, but brothers and sisters? Do I sound like I would use such a phrase that seems straight out of our old textbooks?

Anyway, it had me chuckling.

And if you want more chuckles at my expense, go to the Journey Interrupted blog for a slide show!

News meeows - 16

One month to the day that she was widowed in Lahore, Asha Patil landed in Mumbai. “I’m very happy to be back. I’ll meet my parents. The Pakistani government has helped me a lot, so have the Indian authorities,” she said.

Patil will soon return to Pakistan to embark on the ‘umrah’, a pilgrimage to Mecca, which is being sponsored by the PML(N) government of the Punjab province. She has also secured a share in her husband’s property and the promise of a Pakistani citizenship.

This is news. The Pakistani government has on earlier occasions reacted with much suspicion about such cross border alliances and now when her husband and first child are dead, they are offering her all possible help. It couldn’t merely be her acceptance of Islam or the promise to make her son (she is expecting a baby and it is assumed it will be a boy) into a ‘Hafiz-e-Koran’, one who memorises the Holy Book in its entirety.

I do understand that she may have attachment to the place where her spouse and child are buried, but I do not understand a political party getting into the act to ensure her personal beliefs and desires are fulfilled.

How many Pakistani women can claim rights over property? How many single women are assisted in their attempts to undertake a pilgrimage? How many women are given the assurance that the government will step in if they are harassed by their in-laws?

I find the case getting curiouser and curiouser.

- - -

Criticising the UP police once again for their alleged irresponsible handling of the Aarushi murder case, Union minister for women and child development Renuka Choudhary said that the family should sue the police. “The family should sue the state police and those responsible for bungling the case must be suspended,’’ she said.

This isn’t mere concern about how the case was handled and the character assassination of Aarushi’s father Dr. Rajesh Talwar. It is about party politics.

This is a way to make the Mayawati government accountable.

It is true the police was most shabby in how they went about getting evidence, but why did the Talwars not mention their compounder Krishna’s name right then? Now he is the prime suspect. The question also remains as to where the parents were when the murder took place and how soon did they inform the police.

And just for the information of the minister, it wasn’t merely the cops who tarnished Aarushi’s name; the media went haywire. There was no need to report all that and no need to show all those teachers and students certifying the girl’s reputation. All this only draws attention to something that may be untrue but gives enough scope for rumours.

- - -

A Las Vegas man who devised a “Men on a Mission” calendar that features shirtless Mormon missionaries is facing a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication because of his “conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”

“I wondered what would happen if we took that perfect Disneyland image that the church spends millions of dollars cultivating each year and shook it up a little bit,” Hardy said.

Interestingly, the ‘models’ have not faced any action. I have no clue as to why they did it, but is it possible more people will go to church now?

Our sadhus go nude often, of course they are doing some sort of bhakti. Mullahs will not do this sort of thing publicly, though Osama (no mullah but at least a wannabe) baring his torso would make a greater impact in all those videos he sends to Al Jazeera.

The Kashmir Chiaroscuro

Why is a shrine a cause celebre?

The Kashmir Chiaroscuro
by Farzana Versey
Counterpunch, July12/13 Weekend edition

Kashmir has been suffering for almost 20 years due to what is dismissively referred to as “insurgency”. It did not need a phallic symbol that turns to ice in a cave and has religious significance to further become a hotbed for political machinations.

Several thousand feet high up in the bosom of the Himalayas, devotees have been visiting the cave every year on a pilgrimage to watch this amazing sight where Lord Shiva is said to appear. The pilgrimage has been taking place for 150 years. This year, before it could begin, the Congress government decided to transfer the adjoining land to the Shree Amarnath Shrine Board with the understanding that they would not construct permanent structures and only provide temporary sheds and facilities for the visitors.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) removed its support to the Congress, and the National Conference, the Opposition, protested. The land allocation was cancelled just as soon as it was made. Jammu burned. The rightwing Hindu parties created havoc in other states – public property was destroyed, civilians injured in firing.

Instead of seeking a vote of confidence, the chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned but not before informing the media that his decision to give the land was an administrative issue and in the national interest.

Why is the Congress suddenly interested in toilet facilities and how have sleeping bags become a matter of national interest?

Why did the National Conference protest? Wasn’t its leader Omar Abdullah who asked the Centre to provide insurance facilities for foreign tourists?

Why did the PDP that has been talking about the Sufi heritage of Kashmir object?

The worst form of politics is being played out and the ones who are being maligned are the mullahs by bigots in sophisticated clothing. Take Francois Gautier. Sitting in Paris, this French journalist, much in the manner of Koenraad Elst, has been fanning the fires of the intellectual elite. He talks about Kashmir being the seat of Shaivism where yoga was practised for thousands of years and many saints attained nirvana, self-realisation.

If he put that glass of Chardonnay down, he might like to understand that while we must respect history (more appropriately, mythology in this case), we cannot relive it. He shows his complete confusion when he says, “Millions of devotees have flocked to Amarnath over the centuries―and Muslims from Kashmir should show them generosity, because in India, although Muslims have been a minority since the beginning, Hindus have always respected the religion of Islam. Indeed, Muslims in India have had a freedom that Hindus or Christians do not enjoy in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.”

The pilgrims have been visiting every year, so there is no question about showing generosity. As regards Hindus respecting Islam, for one who is obsessive about what happened thousands of years ago, a decade or so is of no consequence. He forgets the Bombay riots, the Gujarat riots, the undertrials in prisons. He also forgets that both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are Islamic nations, in that their constitution is not obscure about this. If, as in Pakistan, someone gets elected to a position in the government or government-affiliated body, she/he has to take the oath of office in the name of Allah. It is clear. Therefore, the polity is not striving for ‘equality’.

India is a secular democratic republic and therefore what Muslims or any other minority groups get is a matter of right and not a result of anybody’s generosity.

Monsieur Gautier appears to be in a pugnacious mood when he questions, “Perhaps our outrageously petty minded and self righteous Muslim leaders of Kashmir will tell us what the only Muslim majority state in India does in return for the Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir?”

When the land transfer order was revoked, it was the Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board, the custodian of the shrine, which insisted that no political speeches would be allowed at the thanksgiving planned at the Hazratbal shrine.

One report stated that for the first time in the troubled history of the state, the anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) was asked to step in as violent protests spread.

While Islamic fundamentalism is supposed to have caused the problems this time and the government is said to have copped out to cater to the Muslim vote bank, no one seems to realise that people continue to be killed in the Valley. Since most Hindus have left, it has got to be Muslims dying. So, why is this happening? Why are innocents being arrested in a Muslim-majority state? What special provisions are made for those civilians who continue to live in the Valley and cannot even go to the local mosque let alone a pilgrimage?

In 2003, when 24 Pandits were shot dead in the hamlet of Nadimarg, BJP leader L.K.Advani was at the scene of the carnage almost immediately after a special 90-minute meeting was held to discuss a “healing touch policy”. Rs. 1 lakh compensation was offered on the spot. Security was beefed up for the 28 survivors and in other areas as well where the minorities lived. Did no one notice that the last rites were performed by their Muslim neighbours?

A year prior to that the then prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who took one month to visit Gujarat after the establishment-buffered riots and killings, made a trip to Jammu and Kashmir within a week following the terrorist attack on the Kaluchak security camp.

One police officer told Human Rights Watch/Asia, “The government has recruited criminals who loot and steal and extort and these criminals are living in security force camps. This is the third force—the renegades. It is completely true that they exist...It is 100 percent true that police investigate crimes, arrest individuals and then the army interferes and lets them go so they can work with the army as renegade forces.”

Are only Hindu religious places threatened? Wasn’t it a Muslim who blew up the Charar-e-Sharif? Had the Kashmiri Pandits stayed back they might have no doubt been under threat from terrorists as are the rest. But no Kashmiri Pandit has ever been arrested by government organisations. Therefore, it is unfortunate that such groups make it seem like the local population has talked about the extermination of Hindus.

When a delegation of them visited Srinagar in 2005, Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the hardliner faction of the Hurriyat Conference had observed, “The government will not take the Kashmiri Pandits back. They (the government) have made the Pandits a museum piece so that they are able to show any foreign dignitary visiting the valley that look what has happened to our people by militancy”.

While we blame the Valley population for wanting a separate identity, the Panun Kashmir movement blatantly propagates its own separatist ideology and as early as 1991, two years after the real trouble started in Kashmir, it talked about its determination “to carve out a union territory on the soil of Kashmir”. They say they will act as a “buffer against the export of jihad into India” and yet they have been asking for a separation on the basis of their religious identity.

The Kashmir issue has from the very beginning been about self-determination and not religion, much as the Palestine issue. However, in the past few years, ever since Hindu fundamentalists have begun to assert themselves with greater vehemence, a transformation has taken place.

Now, there are objections being raised about “tens of thousands of mosques” being built by Indian Muslims returning from the Gulf. No figures are provided. Those returning from the UAE have indeed built lavish homes, often kitschy. That is the only appalling aspect.

On the other hand, Hindu refugees from Kashmir are being rehabilitated by the state government in ‘safe zones’. To demand more in the name of integration, a Pandit group has asked for reservation of three seats in the assembly and one in Parliament for the community.

This news does not get prominence. It is the state government that is taking the initiative. So where are the safe zones for the other Kashmiris? Where are the reservations for those who lead unprotected lives?

Geelani had once said: “When one of our study groups started work to compile the death toll, they were jailed.”

Now the battle is between calling the establishments “Indian agents” and “Pakistani agents”. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq has often been asked why the separatist organisations do not contest elections. Everyone knows about the low turnout at such polls. Besides, how involved would the Hurriyat itself be in an election process where the state machinery would be working against it?

The government is smart about playing one group against the other, which is the reason there is factionalism. When Abdul Ghani Lone was killed, the government moaned for the “moderate voice”, although he had made it clear that he had no truck with the Indian government. Why was his security cut down by half? How many times did our government sit and discuss issues with the “lone moderate voice” of Kashmir? Was this just a way to create a cleavage among those who fight for the spoils of unsolicited martyrdom?

Is religion being made the new martyr in the state? By suggesting that they have been excluded from negotiations on Kashmir, the Hindu groups are being tutored to make it into a communal problem. They are playing into the hands of politicians who do not wish to solve the Kashmir issue. This is their cash cow.

No one is interested in the Amarnath Yatra except for electoral gains. The number of pilgrims has increased from 12,000 in 1989 to 450,000 in 2005, and is all set to cross 500,000 this year despite the prevalence of militancy. These figures should tell their own story. Kashmir wants self-determination not a war with its own people.


Sir Salman wins the Booker again

So Sir Salman has won the 'Best of the Booker' prize for Midnight’s Children to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the world's most prestigious literary awards. Good for him.

In 1981, when he was first awarded the Booker, it was by his peers. Now it is through an online poll.

Victoria Glendinning, chair of the panel who drew up a shortlist, said: “The readers have spoken in their thousands. And we do believe that they have made the right choice.”

Now the “thousands” really numbered 8000; Rushdie got 36 per cent of the votes among the six shortlisted writers, which amounts to 2880.

Two thousand eight hundred and eighty people around the world cast their votes for his book.

The report says: “At least half the voters were under 35, and the largest age group was 25-34, 'a reflection of the ongoing interest in quality fiction amongst readers of all ages’.”

A couple of things can be concluded from this. Young people are hugely interested in the Partition, so for those who say who cares about it, here is your answer. Two, Salman Rushdie has the baggage of the martyred Satanic Verses. It isn’t merely interest in quality fiction – did those who vote confirm that they had read the book and were they asked specific queries pertaining to the work? – but Rushdie’s reputation.

Even a simple account of the award could not do without mentioning how there were riots in the Muslim world (did not know we had a special world, now we need our own planet too, I guess) and “culminating in a death edict against Mr Rushdie by Iran's supreme religious leader, forcing the author into hiding for nine years”. The Ayatollah is dead and nine years are over.

"How will the Islamists react?" Oh dear, if you so desperately want them to, why don't you stand outside some mosque with your own loudspeakers and try it out?

Stop feeding this to those who voted; they were on an average still in kindergarten when Midnight’s Children was released.

MC, like much of Rushdie’s writings, is luscious and iconoclastic.

I still prefer Shame, but I have said this before.


Ask the vexpert - 8

Question: I am 45 years old. Is spirituality connected with sexuality? I accept sex as something that's spiritual but then why does society seem to hate sex?

Sexpert: Every male has a sex pleasure centre in the brain which is meant to stimulate the body to have sex so that fertilisation takes place and the human race flourishes. Few if any, do not like sex. Traditions and customs often disturb their pleasures.

Me: Spirituality is most definitely connected with sexuality which is the reason all the sex symbols are heavily into religion, whether it is the Jewish Kabbalah, or Christianity or visiting temples and mosques. Those who are a little iffy about their sexuality choose Scientology because that is iffy about religion.

Places of worship are the best grounds for preparing yourself, what with the movement of several muscles during prayers. This makes the limbs supple. It also takes away the guilt that is associated with sex. It is like getting an A-Okay from god.

Society does not hate sex; it resents it that people are enjoying themselves. You are one smart cookie that you have already seen it as spiritual; this will make you a fellow with a halo.

What after halo? Ensure that it isn’t a case of the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Then just do your thing, levitate if you can manage to rise that high, and keep it between the sheets.

- - -

Question: I am a 22-year-old man and have a wheatish complexion. I lead a healthy life but have a problem. My penis is black. What could be the reason? Will it affect me in any way? Any suggestions to cure this?

Sexpert: As long as it carries out its functions efficiently and satisfies your partner it doesn’t matter whether your penis is purple, green or any other colour. Why worry about trivial issues? FYI, it is darker in colour because that area has more pigments as compared to other parts of the body.

Me: This is a psychological trauma. Perhaps, while watching some heart-wrenching news item on race discrimination your organ was accidentally exposed to the sight. It seems like an overly sensitive guy and it is entirely possible that empathy has made it take on the colour; since it is said that the penis has a mind of its own, it is likely that it is testing your attitude towards racism that is prevalent in India but never talked about. I am concerned as you have specifically demarcated an important part of your body from the rest of you and are in fact looking for a cure. The issue is not only about performance. Did the thought of using fairness creams occur to you? Are you aware that this could lead to a backlash from environmentalists, sociologists and liberals? What if your partner is a feminist? She will be deeply reviled by this discrimination on your part.

On the other hand, if she is a racist, then you will have to handle the situation tactfully. Make sure that she notices the rest of your complexion at all times while being aware of the ‘black’ one. It would indeed be a good idea if you did not permit her to see that at all. Or keep the lights switched off.

Also keep gifting her dark chocolate.


In search of an identity

If any of you want, here is an interview and review that has appeared in today's The News, Pakistan. Also uploaded on my other blog.

Talking of interviews, a small one appeared on July 4 in The Asian Age pull-out section. Damn, I have been misquoted so badly...when I said some Pakistanis wonder how I (as in an Indian Muslim) can live among idol worshippers and those who kill Muslims - and these were real quotes from people - the quote has been attributed to me. As in according to FV, "How can I..." blah, blah...

Such a long journey...

So, it happened. The formal book launch. And we forgot to launch the book!

There were some people already there and I reached by 6.30 PM for the 7 PM function.

Someone had told me before, “Oh, what is this discussion nonsense? I have been to 120 book readings. Authors get someone famous to read or read it themselves. Discussion!”

Yes, we had this interesting discussion. At first I read out Parveen Shakir’s poem. Then the Prologue. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and academician and Indo-Pak peace activist Ritu Dewan, flanking me, co-read a few portions with me.

Detailed report will follow in the Journey Interrupted blog with more pictures.

Here, let me mention a few sidelights:

I did not know my co-panellists until the day I called to ask them two days prior to participate. May I add that several people did want to be a part of this debate; some are well-known names. I did not call them for that. If that were the case, it would have happened long ago. These are people who are known for being committed to the issues they stand up for. I shall therefore not flaunt those names here. It is more important to highlight that my city has the right attitude. None of them knew me personally. Just as I cold called Mahesh and Ritu. Both agreed and read most of the book before they got there. This shows just how seriously they took it; they could have chosen to take the easy way out and talk ‘generally’.

At the event, when I responded to something about people’s animosity and added that “There are nasty people everywhere…(pause) I too can be nasty”, this former MLA immediately shot back, “Farzana, that is such an understatement!”

Interestingly, on the crucial issue of peace measures and Kashmir, we – Mahesh, Ritu and I – disagreed; I was alone…and do believe that most in the audience was with them on this.

It was touching to see a very old man come up to me with a wrinkled piece of paper that had his name and address. “I have great respect for writers and I know your work,” he said as he handed me the chit. Or the other elderly gentleman who remembered Lahore.

The SMS I got later that said, “I was the young man with the persistent questions. I freelance and want to do a Q & A with you.” I called back the next day; he was surprised; he did not expect a call so soon. I always call back strangers (this is lest some of my friends jump in to say ‘Boo’). The reason was that he had not written his name. Later I got another SMS apologising for the oversight: “Had it been any other author it would have been the end of my fledgling career.” How could I tell him I had made many such goof-ups in my early days?

And I continue to make them. People must have wondered why I would not let go of my handbag and kept it near my feet. The reason is that I was carrying medicines and was in fact not feeling too well at all. Or the time I dropped the papers...

I could not talk to most of the people I have known; some left their visiting cards. It was touching, since I had not even personally invited them.

When the discussion was over, someone pointed out that I had not formally launched the book. So the copy wrapped in red with a satin ribbon had to be opened. The ribbon part was easy; I was gingerly trying to prise the tape when Mahesh said, “Just tear it”.

I tried and mumbled, “Must make this copy feel like Draupadi.”

It had been about two hours of reading, talking, answering…and I wanted to slump down. A Doordarshan camera appeared in front of my eyes and I had to say something; then some other channel walla wanted to know if I could speak Hindi, I said “Bilkul”, and then kept using words like “Nazariya”, “Daayra” and I thought it was quite impressive. He quickly finished his queries and said, “Bas, theek hai”. Earnest kid. Wanted me to sign a copy. I wrote his first name. “Khan bhi…” he reminded.

Woh khud likh dena.” My pen was not quite in great shape.

I don’t know if anyone who reads this blog was there, but my thanks to every single person who attended. And to Ritu and Mahesh. I knew we are all different people and that was the idea.