My Indo-Pak TV Moment

At 5.45 PM today, Indian Standard Time, I was on television. You couldn’t see me. No, I had not magically transformed into an invisible creature. This was a phone-in where someone calls you and says you will soon go live on air. It made me check my breathing. Sometimes one does not feel so 'live'. Thoughts of me floating somewhere in the ether were quite tantalising. Then I could hear the host of the Pakistani channel (that is also beamed in the US) making important comments about some major political issues regarding India and Pakistan, and then I heard my name.

I mean, I have been called my name, and several names, many times. But someone telling an audience that here she is felt like a magician presenting a rabbit from a hat.

He was exceedingly polite and polished. I did what I always do – grrr…whirr…well, I had lots of opinions which should have stayed in their place, my head. The problem is that where this issue is concerned my views are rather unconventional. Here they were asking me about peace and I effectively said, what peace, we are antagonists. Why can I not just sometimes say things that sound good?

I also had the luxury of not being visible. This is a tip for people who do phone-ins. Please dress up as though you are on TV. I was in my home clothes, which might sound ridiculous to someone who does not know about home clothes. Home clothes are what you never ever wear outside the home. In fact, sensible people would not wear such clothes at home. So, I was, if anyone is interested in these details, wearing a rancid lemon T-shirt and a pale blue skirt that Monika Lewinsky would not wear even if someone else was on the phone. I gave this interview on Indo-Pak affairs lounging like Barbara Cartland. I know I should not state this publicly but it is all about sleeping with the enemy, no?

Then I had this bright idea of quoting a poem by a Pakistani woman poet. I have wanted to do that several times and always something happens. This time they had breaking news, so the poem went unheard. Nawaz Sharif came in the way. And I thought it was my use of the word “Damn’ that made the host say, “Humse baat karne ke liye bohat shukriya (Thank you for talking to us)”.

I think I sighed in reply.

Anyhow, I have no clue how it went and whether I sounded like Caligula doing a Cleopatra or Hamlet blowing hot air into a skull. I know it sounds arrogant to imagine that I got anywhere close to a Shakespearean tragedy. Maybe, it is much ado about nothing.

It isn’t the first time. Over a decade ago a BBC World correspondent wanted to talk to me about Indian sexuality. I met her at the hotel and she had this really big contraption into which I had to pout about Indian sexuality. She was quite surprised I knew so much. I said I was Indian. And, well, I read a lot about sexuality. I think she liked me because after she shut the contraption, she opened it again. This time she wanted to know my views about the bindi, the dot on Indian women’s forehead. I did not know these were two disparate themes and immediately jumped in about how the dot denoted something sexual.

A few years later, I got another call from the BBC. I started to get quite intellectually horny now. After all, we did have some good times, eh? Anyhow, the voice sounded like a gentleman's in the classic mould of gentlemen. I imagined him wearing a bowler hat and carrying a parasol as he walked down to the pub and sat on the leather chair, the wood-panelled walls making honeyed reflections in his glass.

He cut my internal monologue short with a matter-of-fact question about a high-ranking police officer who had misbehaved with a high-ranking female administrative officer. He had patted her on the butt and she had taken him to court. Because he was solving terrorist issues in Punjab, no one was taking any action against him. Apparently, the verdict had been announced and it was in her favour. So, what did I think? I wasn’t aware of the verdict. The Indian news channels had not yet announced it.

I honestly said I did not know. Well, I was not supposed to know because you see the BBC always gets the news first. I asked the gentleman to call back because I wanted to confirm it! I had an opinion, of course I did. And I said what I wanted to, including that it wasn’t just about the rear. It denoted a whole emotional and physical space.

Okay, thank you, it was wonderful speaking to you, he said.

It was? I can imagine him later chuckling into his glass of lager, the froth curving along with his smile.

I like to make people happy.
- - -
PS: It is hugely embarrassing that for an Urdu show - which the one today was - I requested to speak in English. I do not feel proud about it and for one who writes okey-dokey stuff in the language (or at least close to the language) this was not on. The reason I did it is because we were talking politics and I did not want to goof up more than I might already have.


  1. Farzana,
    You are a star like it or not.What's happening with your column in the news internatinal. Keep us posted as your work is published.

    kul bhushan

  2. I might start watching television again if they start featuring you or people like you.

  3. fv is on paki tv.......and it is not a surprise.........

  4. It would be interesting to watch you in Cartland form that is so different from how you write! What channel and time in the US? Better still it'd be great if you put up the recording.

  5. Adaab

    FV, did you think responding in Hindi might have offended the audience? I imagine you to be quite fluent in Bambiyya - being that you hail from Mumbai, it might have added authenticity to the discourse, not to speak of the entertainment. I mean you could have thrown in "aap" and "hum" instead of "sala tu" and "apun" and made it more palatable to your Urdu audience. Do you think your speaking farangi will have any lasting effect on the Indo-Pak relationship?

    Best regards to you

  6. Kul Bhushan:

    Oh, the way I wrote it was not meant to convey any 'stardom'. I write occasionally for The News and I do upload my pieces here since once I fall out with an publication, they try and remove my stuff!


    For that you will not need me or people like me but a replication of a Maurya Dynasty like show...but, thank you...


    FV was on BBC radio years ago and on Indian TV a little over a year ago...and I am surprised!


    It's all over now and I have no clue about timings. I have no recording and feel a bit awkward asking them for it. And I think I am better with the written word AND am a Cartland wannabe :)


    Kaiko apun ka taim khotee karta yeh adaab-shadaab daalkar? Kya lagta hai, sab Mumbai ka log bambaiyya bolta? Yeh bheje mein daalte ke aisa kuchh nahin. Apun bhi bolna mangta tau jhakaas urdu sher lion bol sakta, lekin kya hai ke woh ekdum confidence nikalna mangta. Agar bolta, "Oye, yeh aman-shanti ka vaat laga lega" tau woh log ko lagta he kuchch couple ka VAT tax marlela.

    Now, to answer your queries. I do not speak what is sanskritised Hindi, so what i know is Urduised enough for Pakistanis, who anyway are hooked to our films and tele-serials. And as I said, I do not speak that Mumbai patois unless to parody it. This was not an entertainment programme although if I did manage to be entertaining, then zeh naseeb...I do not think such shows look for this sort of 'authenticity'. Authenticity lies in the message not the medium.

    The host was aware beforehand, and he has interviewed the likes of Richard Armitage, who does not even speak real English, if ya know whadimean...

    Do you think your speaking farangi will have any lasting effect on the Indo-Pak relationship?

    Doesn't 'farangi' refer to foreigners and not to an alien language? Semantics aside, how foreign is English to us anymore? You communicate in it and I do and several others.

    What the heck has speaking in the language got to do with having an effect on Indo-Pak relationship? Subcontinental politics is far more complicated than linguistic jugglery.

    Thank you for taking time to read the 'farangi' :)


  7. fv;
    why do muslims have animousity towards hindi or sanskritised hindi? would like to know your views.

  8. I love it - you made me happy - so thank you. I generally agree with your comment, but you know there is a however.

    FV, did you really mean "authenticity lies in the message not the medium"? And yet without the medium, how does one deliver the message? I agree that it is about the message - the medium can muck it up.

    BTW - your thank you message wasn't lost, just had to make my point.

    Best regards to you.

  9. Anon:

    Animosity? And where do Muslims come in here? Do you have figures for Hindus veering towards Sanskrit? The idea is for language to be communicated in a mass medium. I don't many who can figure out persianised Urdu too. Hope that helps.


    Yes, the message is more authentic than the medium. And the medium, if effective, can employ any medium.

    'However', thanks again for getting the message of my thanks. Quite authentic, that!

  10. If possible, poem please.

  11. Oh we must be told before please!!Missed it

  12. Farhan:

    I want to use it well...so do wait.


    Nothing to write home about...and where would you watch it anyway?


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