The blonde on webcam

Sitting in a coffee shop, I am reading up some news items that might be deemed serious. At a table at the far end, she sits. Her blonde hair tousled with gel. I can smell the spray that holds it. There is a bright light before her eyes as she talks in a language I do not understand. She speaks loud, then laughs, her little girl voice now throaty, and then it drops to a whisper. She is on webcam and I cannot see the monitor but I watch as she winds her fingers into her curls and bends a little to reveal some cleavage.

It is obvious that she is talking to a known person. Maybe a husband, a boyfriend, but most certainly someone with whom she is intimate. There did not appear to be any obvious intimacy. She would not have chosen so public a place and there would be people who’d understand her language. I understood her language, in an unspoken manner – the language of distance, of pain, of pining, of sexual tension. It was evident as she inadvertently pulled out the headset and the male voice could be heard on the speakers; she plugged it in quickly, as though it were a cigarette butt left burning.

She did not say any goodbye. I only heard a sigh as she snapped close the laptop. She wore a skirt with a misaligned hemline and stilettos; her blouse clung to her tiny frame and her hair suddenly seemed too much, too big for her frame, for her face, for her body. It was like a camouflage for her person, since for a long time that is all I saw of her.

She went to the cash counter to pay and the jerkiness of her hand movements as she fidgeted in her purse and insisted that she did not need a bill even as she grabbed it and then ran her fingers through her hair, pulling out the tangles, almost straightening it, those curls now needing to be tamed into relaxation…she might go out for a drink and let the slight headiness weaken her senses or she might retire to her room somewhere and recreate the conversation. I can hear her voice in the breeze as it blows gently and then creeps in between the fronds with a whoosh sound that falls silent as maybe a leaf falls into a whisper.

She’ll find that breeze echoing in her room and envelope her body.


Obama's hawk policy in India

The most telling aspect of President Barack Obama's trip to India in early November is his planned visit to all the sites targeted in the Mumbai attacks of November 28, 2008. He will also stay at the Taj Hotel. Commentators have been quick to gloat that this move will corroborate American support to India's battle against terror.

This is the vile game the US is so adept at. Its one major encounter with terrorism has been transformed into a metaphor for world militancy. It is a myopic and inadequate example if we take note of the different kinds of terrorism being unleashed in various parts of the world, including by the American establishment under the garb of ‘support for democracy’. This has often translated in ruining thriving societies or pushing them into ‘backward’ mode as a reaction to the US standard McDonald idea of franchising its version of liberty.

-->More here at the Op-ed, Khaleej Times...



Booth capturing? Lauren goes Islamic...ho-hum

There is something about Tony Blair and his extended family that has an obsession with religion and these sudden flashes of light. His wife Cherie chose to wear crystals and do reiki to get her energy all up. Tony became a Catholic and maybe that inspired him to write a version of the Confession in his memoirs. Now his sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, has converted to Islam because of some “holy experience” in Iran.

"It was a Tuesday evening and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.”

Oh dear. She should tell this to the ayatollahs instead of giving interviews about it. They’d kick her peaches and cream English ass for such blasphemy. I know many people see religion as some sort of ‘kick’ and being lost in a sublime experience, but what about the rituals? Our Lauren has no problems. Her morphine shot has given her a headache fit enough for her to follow the regimen. As a report states:

(She) now wears a hijab whenever she leaves her home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque whenever she can.

Funny. Which mosques do women visit? Does the media not have any knowledge? I assume she leaves home often, so what’s the need to state that she covers her head whenever she steps out?

I don’t know about Lauren’s motives, but her timing is perfect. She is now dissing Tony for his book, saying that he is not a human being. I suppose she would have to study her new religion and figure out how not to address male members of the family in this manner and what qualifies as a human.

Before her spiritual awakening in Iran, she had been "sympathetic" to Islam and has spent considerable time working in Palestine, she said, adding that she hoped her conversion would help Blair change his presumptions about Islam.

Pother! Keep your sympathy to yourself. There are several Christians in Palestine and the media is unnecessarily clubbing her being “stuck in the Gaza strip” along with this news. Besides, you do not have to be a Muslim to change people’s perceptions. You just need to keep your eyes open. It is time for her to shut up and go beyond page 60 of the Quran she is currently at. Why are these minutiae of such importance? She could just as well read War and Peace for all we care.

Michelle O

It isn’t Michelle Obama topping Forbes list of Most Powerful Women that should be getting people all hot and bothered. It is a financial magazine attesting the role of First Lady. What did you expect? She has clout, she has money, she is the face of low-cal apple pie and high-end frocks.

Therefore, for a reason not many will be with me I endorse the fact that, in a rather circuitous manner, the ‘housewife’ as power figure is being legitimised. For those who scoff at it wearing their standard power suits and posing like Lady Gaga who is also on the list, let us get this in our heads – a lot of women in the world do not work out of choice (and career women are also mothers and wives). A lot of women are indeed homemakers because that is what they want to do. I meet such women, young women, who want to just get out of the career thing because they have started early and now wish to relax. I meet men who want to retire before they are 40 because they are done with the rat-race. But this is not about men; it is about women. And I see no reason why the magazine has to justify her as fashion icon, tout her law degree and emphasise that she is not a political interferer.

If her concern about children’s obesity has reportedly made Coca Cola and Kelloggs look into the calorie count of their contents, then it is due to her political stand. It will impact how her hubby will be viewed as well as how the White House pushes health care policy to at least a certain degree.

The Jackie Kennedy comparison is odious and unnecessary. Jackie O had the style of a wannabe Fedora; Michelle O has the fashion sense of a caged bird, given her penchant for fauna colours. The pictures here from The Telegraph, of course, are subdued. But those double string pearls are so stage-managed subtlety that is makes one wonder why she just did not string oysters. At least it would have revealed some libidinous intent.

So, forget fashion. Ms. Obama has got the top post because she is the female face of the US. For those who believe that Hillary was a more deserving contender, well, she was in the White House as First Lady. Oprah Winfrey earns big bucks for making people talk about fashion and tending gardens and men and women. Lady Gaga has got balls, which would put her in a different gender category. And, most important of all, they might all have liked to be within sniffing distance of the Oval office if they got a chance. So Michelle gets it for being at the right place at the right time with the right person – and what’s her dog’s name?


Kasab's Call

The Indian courts are spending huge amounts of money on Ajmal Kasab. That is not his problem. There appears to be no reason for his case to be delayed if all evidence was available to deem it fit for him to get the death sentence. So, why is this charade on?

Is Kasab in fact helping the Indian legal system by insisting that his case be heard in an international court? Isn’t India complaining about the constant terrorist threat? Does it not want world attention? Is it not being co-opted by the western idea of Dirty Harry?

It is interesting that Kasab’s demand for an international hearing coincides with the government counsel Ujwal Nikam’s sudden discovery that Malabar Hill was to be one of the targets. Why is such information seeping out slowly like water from dry taps? Did this not show up in any of the hearings and the thousands of pages in the dossiers? The mention of another elite locality – that too which houses the governor, the chief minister and other high-flying celebrities is well-timed. The American President is to come visiting and he will need to see how our progress is being hampered by a man in cargo pants who eats dates.

It all works out well. Kasab is the showpiece and will remain so. Denying him newspapers and books makes no sense. If he is to go to the gallows he may as well be well-read. Solitary confinement is supposedly making him lose his mental balance; this argument could well have been used earlier when he displayed far worse manic symptoms. His lawyers are instead merely going the route of his restlessness, which makes him spit into the webcam during a video conference. This incident was seen as contempt of court.

There is such black humour here. A man is to die. What is he expected to feel towards the court but contempt?

For those who believe that this case will be sorted out soon, it is time to lie back and wait for an endless saga. Kasab’s drama is not a one-act play and he is not the only actor much less the director. It is now indeed a production fit for an international market – a bilingual production, one may add.


Bricks: Eentein

Kuchch eenton ki aisi fitrat hoti hai
Ke jo makaan banaane mein khoye hue hote hai
Unko hi kamzor kar dete hai
Nasoor ki tarah
Gharoun ke jism mein phailkar
Eik-eik hissa aadha sa lagta hai
Oonchi imaaratoun ko dekhkar
Unke zakhm ka ehsaas nahin hota
Door se noor mein nehlaye hue lagte hai
Baadalon ke tauliye poch lete hai geelapan
Agar aansoon hai tau pehchanta nahin koi

Makaanoun ko door se hi dekhna chahiye
Kareeb aane par
Hari seelein aur dhoondhlate rang nazar aa jaayenge
Patthar sadte nahin
Woh kasak ki tarah chubh jaate hai
Deewaron mein daraar aur farsh par chhoti qabrein eenton ki mil jaayegi

Unko dosh bhi kya de
Jo maar kar khud marte hai
Kuchle hue phool se jo khushboo ki mehek niklegi
Uss band kitaab ke qissoun se hum ghar banayenge
Warna neend yateem ho jaayegi
Aankhoun ki aaghosh se
Parde nahin lehrayenge
Khidki kholkar chidiya ka ghausla dekhna padega
Choch mein shaakh liye
Ussey kuchch tootne ka khauf nahin

Hum bhi pattoun ka bistar zameen par bichcha lenge
Eenton ka jawaab dena laazmi hai
Aisa na ho ke khwaaboun ka khwaaboun se hi yaqeen uth jaaye




I blink
The eyes lose sight
Of a second's vision

~ ~

No one walks in the lane I live in
Yet footprints make claims
Over my street

~ ~

The moment
Lights are switched on
The moon hides its silver lining

~ ~

Feet dig
Into wet sand
Desert wind tears seep into soles

~ ~

Ocean tides ebb
Salt gathers on the shore
The storm retreats heavy with salinity

~ ~

Clock strikes midnight hour
Night turns its face away
From day stripped nude

~ ~

Hair pulled out in clumps
Form spider's web on the floor
Jasmine fragrant tales are crushed

~ ~

Mirror drips with water
I see myself swimming
In a dry riverbed

~ ~

Noises knock
On silent doors
Whispers sneak out of the windows

~ ~

Don't ask me about old wounds
A cold stone is freezing
Even new seas



Ayodhya: Where 1=2

My mind is numb. The Ramayana myth-faith is now winging its way into the judicial books, but it is Shylock that has claimed the pound of flesh. Today, nationality is being lent.

Like most citizens of this country I believed that the courts would decide on the fate of not just the land but what happens when history is revisited to annihilate the contemporary. The issue is beyond land. What next? Silence. Nobody wants to know.

A day before the verdict of September 30, I saw one of those anchor’s faces in profile promising to give a blow-by-blow account. She would be there, as we knew they would. I did not watch a single news channel on that day. I switched on Zee cinema; it telecast Mani Ratnam’s film ‘Bombay’ on the riots of December 1992-93. The Brahmin-kasai emotional war transmogrified into a street fire and bloodshed; what did not burn were the stereotypes. They still exist. Why was this film so pertinent to be shown on that day? To capture eyeballs and the public imagination.

Silence. I thought the law of the land would prevail. We are supposed to respect it. My judiciary has instead taught me a new math. One is equal to two. The 2.77 acre land has been divided into three parts – one for the master, one for the slave and one for the little boy who cries down the lane.

Has the judiciary defined what exactly it means by the term ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’? Does Hindus include those of the backward castes and tribes? Are they permitted to visit temples? Which Hindu group will have ownership rights over that one-third land and how will it utilise it? Will it have the acquiescence of all Hindus?

Who are the Muslims? Is every sect been taken into account? Can the Waqf Board claim rights over it? Is the Muslim Personal Law Board the rightful governing body over land issues? What would this generic group called ‘Muslims’ utilise the property for and will it be acceptable to the ‘neighbours’?

This secular democratic republic has copped out under the weight of its own mythology and given a verdict where religion IS the state. Let us stop pretending. This happens only in theocracies. And do not stuff the argument about the Muslim Personal Law on our faces. That has to do with a specific segment of society to deal with its personal issues and not about how they behave as Indian citizens. These rights are protected for every community, including the majority.

This brings us to the third portion – the demolished mosque. It “belongs to Hindus”. Which Hindus? From an ancient era? To those who decided there was a temple deep beneath the innards of the mosque that was built over its rubble? Or those who opened the locks of the mosque? Or those who took bricks along and finally razed the Babri Masjid? Which Hindus have any right to that space?

Did the judges even think about how careless their terminology is? Ever since stars started twinkling in the eyes of those who woke up to claim their ancient heritage, which is around 1990 right up to 2007, they started acting like architects. Artisans have been busy chipping away on slabs of stone to create pillars, beams and platforms. 65 per cent of the work is supposedly complete. To take a conservative estimate of what it has cost, let us imagine 50 artisans who worked at 200 rupees daily wages. Since it has been 17 years, Rs. 6.12 crore have been spent at the very minimum only on labour. Who is sponsoring this? Have any accounts been maintained? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is behaving like an employment agency and is already making plans of recalling the artisans, who incidentally earn a far greater deal of money than other construction workers. It is to “finish the work”.

Has the verdict taken cognisance of the fact that the case was subjudice all these years and no work ought to have been started in the first place? Will the judges order that any of the materials that have been placed inside or in the vicinity that falls within the purview of the ‘dispute’ be dismantled with immediate effect and only after the case has been completely cleared can it be resumed?

Many of us recall the early days when there was magnanimity expected of Muslims and many did start parroting the ‘let us gift the Babri Masjid’ line. It was ridiculous, for you cannot gift something that you have not created. Then there is the ‘Muslims should help in the temple building’ suggestion. All Dale Carnegie fans, it would appear: How to win friends and ingratiate yourself. Had such a scenario occurred, it would still not have solved the problem. Whose riots were those?

They forcibly placed the idol of Ram lalla inside a makeshift temple. On what grounds can any judgement go in favour of a makeshift structure? What is the basis for it? Aren’t people evicted for forcibly occupying land? Aren’t slums bulldozed?

This brings us to the moot issue beyond the structure and the land – the people. We are still waiting for the culprits to be brought to book. They include our top leaders. Everyone who was on the dais that day. There is evidence that they incited the public and the kar sevaks. There is evidence that they sat back and watched the riots. There is evidence of their harsh words against the Muslims.

There is evidence that they created an India that Partition had not envisaged. They have failed the country and have no claims to be called Indians.

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Published in Countercurrents, October 4

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UPDATED on Oct 5

The following is a note from a senior bureaucrat who wishes to remain anonymous. He has raised some important points, and therefore I am using it in the blogpost itself. Reproducing it verbatim:

For a variety of reasons I have no desire to join a discussion on the much talked about judgment. As however on many networks, including the present one, many speculative opinions have been expressed I feel it incumbent to set the record striaght on obseravations of Justice Sibghatullah Khan on the limited point of the place of birth and the reason for not ordering the removal of the deities.
Contray to the general impression, Justice Khan has not upheld the argument of faith and tradition. He has further drawn a distinction between the expressions "Janam Bhoomi" and "Janam Sthan" and held that the latter connotes place of birth and not Site of Birth. He has accordingly, upheld only that Ayodhya is undisputedly the place of birth of Lord Ram. Nowhere in his judgment he accepts that the very spot where the deities are presently placed is the site of birth. The reason that he has upheld that the deities may not be removed from the present site i.e. the place over which the central dome once stood, is on account of adverse possession (adverse possession which in persian legalese is called "Qabza-i-Ghasibana" means that if physical occupation for a long time, it will not be disturbed even if ownesrship does not exist). On this point, in fact, he is in a minority as the other two judges have relied on "faith", "belief" and "tradition" to hold that the site where the deities were wrongfully placed on 23rd December, 1949 is the exact site of birth.
I regret to say that people who are well versed in law and should have known better before expressing opinions on the matter without going through the texts of the three judgments which are contained in 27 pdf files. It is even more regrettable that hasty criticism in a particular case has gone to the reprehensible extent of questioning his religious beliefs which remids one of:

Zafar Adami usko na janyee ho woh kaisa hee sahib-i-fahmo zaka
Jise taish mein yade khuda na rahee, jise aish mein khaufi khuda na raha!

I hold no brief for Justice Khan (it is quite likely that careful reading of his judgment will throw many valid grounds of criticism). Clearly, however, the present line of adverse comments without going through his order is wrong and smacks of righteous indignation.