The pretty dead

Such a pretty girl and I did not put up her photograph. I didn’t. It was deliberate. Almost all newspapers that carried the picture of Ishrat Jahan and her friends who were shot dead had an inset of her fair, luminous face. She would become just that – a trophy for the media as much as she had been for the Establishment. She would become another Nida.

The good-looking dead grab more newsprint and TV space because we need a relief from eyesores of calamities and tragedies even if they come in the form of victims. Especially if they are victims. Our sorrow can get heightened. The argument is that had I shown her face before she died, then the tragedy would have hit harder as it would be transposed with the blood-splattered body.

I am seething. People are killed for no reason and it does not matter how they look, how they speak and what their financial or social status is. If we start building up the dead as embalmed beauties in our consciousness we will be as pathetic as those who indulge in murder and then camouflage intent beneath legalese.

Last night, after a long time, I decided to watch the news channels. I was looking for something on Ishrat at prime time. One channel showed two men grappling with an animal in a cage; it wasn’t Discovery or National Geographic. Another one showed a private airline’s pilots on strike and kept flashing images of the screen that showed cancelled flights, as though people are dumb. Finally, I reached Times Now. It did have a discussion on the fake encounter.

The anchor’s intentions may be honourable but did he have to screech and shout down the voice of the BJP guy who, needless to say, would indulge in technicalities? How many times was it necessary to say, “Oh, that is technical”? And was there any need to insist on seeming to appear to take a side when it is apparent to anyone?

Then he spoke to Ishrat’s sister, who ended with how those who helped her were non-Muslim. In fact, she interjected after she was thanked for being part of the show to tell us this. I feel for her loss and appreciate the family’s belief in Ishrat. I know they must have gone through five years of hell for being branded as part of a terrorist’s family. It would hurt. Her need to assert the support of people who were not Muslim came from deep within, an insecurity she had internalised with such intensity that she just had to say it. However, if there were people from other communities who were with them, then there were Muslims too.

The Muslim who spoke on the channel was well-known lawyer Majeed Memon. He said, among other things, that because of this labelling of Ishrat for five years, 150 million Muslims have been tainted. I wanted to ask him to stop right then. This is what Narendra Modi and his cohorts say. This is not what he has to state because it only gives further credence to a stereotype. We have all lived with it for almost two decades to some degree, but we are not the real sufferers. And we are most certainly not the spokespersons for 150 million Muslims in India.

Mr. Memon and I (to a much lesser degree) can at best voice certain thoughts. Mr. Memon does not read this blog, I am sure, but if there is anyone who knows him do tell him not to decide on behalf of a community about how they feel. Do not ride on the death of a young woman. Tell him that a couple of months ago he was sitting at the Atrium Lounge at Taj Land’s End, the table next to the large flower arrangement which is in front of the pianist. I was on the sofa diagonally across having my crème brule. Why am I mentioning this? To convey that Muslims do not have to be beleaguered creatures or hugely famous to enjoy a good time. More importantly, to drive home the point that Ishrat was far from his mind and mine.

We have a baggage to carry, no doubt about it. Let us do so as our burden and not someone else’s burden we are being forced to bear. This is about me and you, Mr.Memon, as individuals and as members of disparate groups. When I talk about Indian Muslims as a polity it is different from using the community to further my ends. If that were the case you would see me more often, eyes blazing on TV screens. Have you refused to appear on shows that try out different versions of the Muslim - liberal, moderate, unusual, out-of-the-box, secular, pseudo secular, atheist, agnostic, religious but tolerant, smokes but does not inhale, drinks but does not get drunk?

Do it. It will liberate you and make those channels find one less caricature.

The Rogue's Gallery

Anyone wants pictures? Here, these are the ones we should keep in mind. I have not been able to find any of police inspector J G Parmar and additional DGP PP Pandey.

Below are Gujarat's beloved chief minister Narendra Modi flashing a sword. Next is D G Vanzara, who has already confessed to killings earlier. And finally, then Ahmedabad police commissioner K R Kaushik in uniform.


  1. Atrium Lounge at Land’s End

    That would be the 5(7?) star in bandra...opposite the sea rock..you know..the sea rock bombed by you-know-who..

  2. Bad-looking people can grab media attention too if they look pitiable enough..remember the 'face' of gujarat riots

  3. Bravo! This had to be said and it applies to the rush here on the US as well.

  4. Mr Arjun please dont confuse matters.We read about what is in the news and this is important view for me.Thanks

    Beutification is also about making people famous to let TV programs get more trp

  5. Arjun:

    Of course we know bombed by who...because they were promptly arrested. 100 of them. Not all guilty. We are still waiting for those who killed in the riots prior to that to get their due. But never mind.

    As for the Atrium Lounge, I wish you'd learn to grasp the nuances of self-parody, irony and making a sharp point.

    Anyhow, here is a link for your exclusive pleasure..just like their limited edition cigars:



    Delighted that you chose not to be politically correct. Of course, the face of the Gujarat riots is Modi and he looked quite pitiable, especially when he tried to save his ass by his 'miyan Musharraf' raag.

    I hope I have got you right?!


    I know it is something that plagues all societies, esp. those that imagine they are upwardly mobile or already up there.


    You are right. The process of making people good looking for the purpose of ratings is there. Indeed, beauty can be even romanticising poverty.


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