Is the Aga Khani only half a Muslim?

Recently there were some nasty remarks made about the Aga Khanis. I responded where it needed to be responded to. This, despite the fact that I have been critical of some aspects of the community (I think where it mattered) and some of its overly enthusiastic members have lashed out at me in the past. It is often that people strive to be more loyal than the king. Their comments were ill-informed, at best...

Here is an article I had written about a group that not many know much about...posting it in full...

Is the Aga Khani only half a Muslim?

She was a Farzana too. Beneath the grey pinafore that was our school uniform, she wore a white shalwaar and her dupatta was neatly pinned to her shoulders. My hemlines would have to be ripped open on inspection days and the stray threads would tickle my knees. Farzana was a Muslim. And I?

It was then that I realised we were different. What appears as confusion today stems from this. Just the other day I was told that my link with the religion is weak. We are the cowards allowing ourselves to be butchered.

When you are born into a community that seems to be an unholy alliance between several streams of thought, you feel like a leper clapping his hands in glee but unable to produce any sound.

Being an Ismaili has meant never being sure whether you are right or wrong, coming or going or already gone. That the head of this 20 million strong community is not cast in the mould of a typical godman does not seem to worry his devotees one bit. Prince Karim Aga Khan remains the god-head anointed in 1957 in preference to his flamboyant father. It is a small community, two per cent of the world’s Muslim population, but it is spread across the world.

A few months ago, I accompanied my mother to the old Ismaili mosque in which there is a small shrine of Hazrat Abbas. Aware of my lack of interest, she asked me to just stand near the strings of flowers. I do not know how and why it happened, but there I was shamelessly weeping, clutching at a wilting red rose. Off the marble platform there was this ‘well’, where people would fill sweetened milk sprinkled with almonds; memories came flooding back. Of walking down the street especially for the sticky toffee. Of stopping at the ittarwalla’s shop and being handed a plastic rose with a cotton ball soaked in the incense; I hated the scent, but loved the kitschy gulab. Of waiting as the smoke rose from the coals where skewers of kebabs were being readied for us to take home. Now I wanted none of this. My moist eyes told me I did not know what I wanted.

Whatever ties I had with the community were snapped early in adolescence, less as a protest and more due to the desire to fulfil my 15-year-old yearnings. Religion does take up a lot of time. But distance makes you question. How can ‘god’ own an island and race-horses? Why has he, who talks of cohesiveness, married outside? Why does he stay away from his people, most of who live in the Third World? If he is an Imam, as Ismailis believe, and a man of god, why do the believers insist on clothing him in royal raiments and refer to him rather quaintly as His Highness Ya Noor Maulana Shah Karim Haazar Imam?

Yet today if the Ismailis can walk with their heads held high it is not so much because of what they are but because of who they owe allegiance to. Belonging to the Aga Khan, so to speak, has tremendous snob value. How many people can claim to be followers of a man based in Chantilly near Paris, who has a British passport, is a Harvard graduate, owns and breeds 600 horses, has investments in a luxury chain of hotels, a newspaper publishing empire, a Mediterranean airline and a tourist resort? How does it feel to be a part of a community where the spiritual head issues a firman, no less, that the followers’ behaviour, even in superficial matters, must be in keeping with the country they live in? Do in Rome as the Romans do. So, one often got an eyeful of fat, middle-aged Africa-returned relatives in swirling skirts attending the prayers while on a visit here.

What was it like being an indifferent believer in those days? To be honest, it was fun. There was pride in the fact that you rarely saw an Aga Khani beggar – there were scholarships, free education, developmental programmes, open to everyone.

A visit to the jamaat khaana (the local mosque) was a social event, with men and women often sharing the same space on two sides of the hall; it was a social event, especially on chaand raat every month. Gathered around would be perfumed women in their best chiffons, clutching fancy purses from which they would remove fancier prayer beads with tassels; the men would be dressed quite dandily, sometimes even tossing on a jacket, the fur caps they carried with them put on at a rakish angle.

The prayers themselves were eclectic – ranging from the dua (prayer) in Arabic to the tasbeeh, where the faithful beseeched HH to shower blessings so that the country prospered and all calamities were averted. There was a lot of getting up and sitting down to be done, which was a true test of devotion. And when you finally got to plonk down, there was s small dua during which, and you must believe me, we took the hand of the person nearest us in a light handshake and said, “Shah jo deedar”. The idea being that we saw him in each other’s eyes.

A real deedar is something else. To soak in a glimpse of the divine presence the devotees start planning days ahead. Most big jamaat khaanas are in the smaller mohallas in Bombay, so security would be a problem. But the Ismaili community trains scouts and guides. The one deedar I attended was most revealing. People did take the trouble to be dressed and waited for hours to find a strategic place. But the conversation was pure gossip – household woes, marriages to be fixed.

Till the Aga Khan walked in along the red carpet laid out for him, followed by his then wife, Begum Salima, the former Lady Sarah, looking serene, dressed in a mauve saree, her feet unshod like the rest of us. There was a hush, some tears, some smiles; after he had passed the length there was an audible intake of breath. Tidbits were exchanged about how his face shone, about the unseen halo. After minutes it was all over and people rushed to the canteen, which is as much an integral part of the jamaat khaana as the prayer hall.

For an outsider this might sound nothing even remotely like a religion. The Ismaili seems to in fact blaspheme the very presence he deifies. How else can you explain all those shoe shops where the Aga Khan’s photograph is displayed, jostling for space among calf-skin boots and suede shoes? I find it dichotomous, this complete submission to a living person and yet the need to embellish one’s material lives. The closest analogy I can think of is the divine right of kings. For, isn’t it true that Islam does not permit idolatry?

But then the Ismaili is hardly Islamic. Converted generations ago, the influences are varied. There was a time when the jamaat khaana would be lit up during Diwali, a cake would be cut for Christmas and even the Parsi Navroze was celebrated with haldi-covered eggs. Even today the Aga Khan’s birthday is celebrated the way Navratri is, with dandiya raas, including the disco version. Not many Ismailis offer the namaaz on a regular basis, though the Aga Khan himself does. I suppose the catholicity of his beliefs makes the devotees supra-Islamic.

There is the Christian element too. Every jamaat khaana has a mukhi-mukhiyani (sort of local head) team, usually a married couple, whose only qualification is that they must be believers willing to give their time. They could be given to boogeying every Saturday night; that does not lower their status. Once a month some people out of choice, after the regular prayers, sit before this couple and ask for forgiveness silently, which is akin to the Confession, except that nobody is made privy to our sins. After this, holy water is sprinkled on our faces.

This Islam with a pinch of salt and spice has a major fallout. No Aga Khani male can have more than one wife. He will be excommunicated, perhaps the only time such a drastic action is taken. There are also no birth and death taxes, unlike in some other communities. An Ismaili is born and dies at his own risk!

In spite of all his popularity the position of the Aga Khan is a bit of a dilemma to himself. Some Ismailis in the frenzy of devotion tend to equate him (the only branch of Islam with a living hereditary Imam) with god. Although Prince Karim, like his ancestors, denies possessing any god-like qualities, he cannot do much to prevent the followers from exercising their right as believers. They want the euphoria of a magical moment.

His being the 49th imam is contested by the Shias and Sunnis. Ismail was the son of an 8th century Shia imam from whom the Aga Khan is said to have descended. However, all disputes were put to rest when a case came up for hearing at the Bombay High Court. Chief Justice Sir Joseph Arnold pronounced that the Khojas of Bombay were part of the larger Khoja community of India whose religion was that of the Ismaili wing of the Shias; they were a sect of people whose ancestors were Hindu in origin; they were converted and have abided by the faith of the Shia Imamee Ismailis, which in turn is bound by ties of spiritual allegiance to the hereditary Imams of the Ismailis.

They had been converted over 400 years ago by an Ismaili missionary from Persia, and had remained subject to the spiritual authority of the king of Ismaili Imams, the latest being the Aga Khan. These Imams were descended from the lords of Alamut, and through them descended from the Fatimid Caliphs of Egypt and, ultimately, the Prophet.

Justice Arnold delivered this judgment on November 12, 1866. Since then no one has contested the lineage.

Someone had once asked me cheekily why my forefathers had not converted under the pressure of Mahmud of Ghazni and waited for the Aga Khan’s ancestors. I suppose that holding enviable positions in the courts of the Shahs of Persia and later the British Raj must have been seen as an awfully charmed existence. In fact, the title Aga Khan itself lends the position a certain accessibility while also being a titular head – it can mean a friendly brother or great chief.

The earliest Aga Khan seemed to promise release from the constraints of one religion and the diffused loyalties of another. The Islamic veil and licence for four marriages are looked down upon by the Ismaili and the idol worship of the Hindus is not permitted.

Westerners like to see the present Aga Khan as essentially an Occidental gentleman and his empire as a corporate enterprise. Which he is and isn’t, and it is and isn’t. The truth is that although his grandfather’s sympathies were with the British, through the Foundation and Fund for Economic Development he has built over 300 schools, 200 medical centres, universities, insurance houses and rural development projects to encourage Third World enterprise.

The community supports itself but has not yet fallen into the quagmire of ghettoisation. The point is: can the spiritual leader cope? He has set his followers free to lead a modern life and catapulted them to the technological league. Yet he has to accept their obeisance.

I always looked on the tamasha with cynicism till I realised that all of us are following our different paths and nobody finds it strange. Someone believes in doing the maatum during Moharram, another has declared he identifies with the Sunnis, yet another is an atheist…you can be all of these and yet belong.

And today when the image of the religion is getting a beating and I am being questioned from both sides (“Hindu basher”, “Islamic pretender”) I do believe that this state of constantly ‘becoming’ is liberating. And it started years ago on that chaand raat day when everyone was dressing up to go to the jamaat khaana. I could smell Nanima’s lavender talc and watched as she put on her salmon pink dupatta. I kept sitting in the arm chair. “Chalna naheen hai?” she asked. I said, no. “Kyon?” I don’t think I am sure I believe in all this, I said. And that was the end of the conversation, never to be brought up again by anyone. I was set free.

It would be tempting to state that in the cross-cultural clashes the Aga Khani is a nice balance, the process of religious bastardisation giving him legitimacy. But the fact is that he will not give the tolerant majority the benefit of basking in the role of Big Brother, and since the Aga Khani does not fit a stereotype the believer cannot be recognised. Neither will he put his lot behind fundamentalism, so he has no battle scars to show. It is unfortunate that despite the confluence of influences he is not above suspicion. Today when everyone wants an identity, the Aga Khani is really in a dilemma. So rather half-heartedly he scrawls: wanted an Allah. Dead or alive.

I cannot decide whether it is half a life or a very full one.


Paris Hilton, Hugh Grant, Posh Spice and the celeb machine

The lady – and I use this term loosely here – has just confessed that she isn’t all that smart. “Like I really ... I don't remember. I'm not like that smart. I like forget stuff all the time.” Wish she had forgotten, like, she was not a sophomore anymore.

Smart she may not be, but she is a shrewd cookie. As a huge fan of trivia, but not trivialisation, I like to keep track of these ‘events’. So, we must not forget that the first time she was noticed was because of some steamy video she had shot of herself with her lover at the time. This made the rounds of the Net and suddenly she was going around with her Chihuahua tapping on her bosom to signify a fashion statement. What we do not realise is that those who get excited by others’ thrills would get off even if they watched a raunchy video of Attila the Hun.

The least Paris Hilton can do to legitimise the publicity she gets is behave like a star. While I think it is cool to hire an agent just to make you famous for being famous, as she has done, I really wish she’d display some class.

Instead of looking and acting like the heiress she is, she goes around like a tarted-up tramp on social security. It is disgusting to read reports about her being thrown out of a New York nightclub, of her weeping in the street, of her gate-crashing parties, of her not being wanted at some real tony gatherings…

Does she not feel humiliated? And why the need? She has got loads of wealth, she can afford the very best, yet she chooses to make a mess of herself and all that celebrity ought to stand for.

Then there is Hugh Grant. I saw pictures of him at some posh do with Jemima. He looked bored and a goner. Too much has been made of his foppish charm. He really is a caricature of the essential British gentleman and not the real thing.

A while ago one had read about that absolutely sickening act by his ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley at a party – a sit-down dinner at that – where in full public view she had taken his hand and began sucking his finger which led to Jemima walking out in a huff.

It is strange that such behaviour is acceptable and the people continue to be lionised. This is gauche, crude and so very unbecoming.

In this respect I’d give Victoria Beckham some points. She really upped her regal quotient when she dumped the Posh Spice tag to become a fairytale princess of David, prince of the football field. If you see her in her low-slung jeans you might be put off bones forever, but she has managed to elevate her status. A status she does not deserve, but, heck, it works…


Osama cannot die

Osama bin Laden dead? Not a ghost of a chance. Not with George Bush alive. If Osama dies – and that too of typhoid and not because he has been trapped and killed – then the whole Bush cottage industry will crumble to bits. How will it justify its aggressiveness? It tried hard to make Saddam Hussein into a proxy, but it did not work. It cannot.

Osama has never headed any government, has no palaces, does not have an address, and has no specific group of followers. Whatever be anyone’s views, he is a phenomenon beyond any contrived PR exercise. He is Elvis without the crutch of Graceland; he is Michael Jackson without the oxygen mask.

One thing comes out clear: Bush would be in no hurry to feel triumphant. He needs to pretend to find Osama, and he can find him only if he is alive. So, W will try hard to deny that his nemesis is dead. He will imagine a threat from some other country and again the charade of an Osama-like dictator will be touted before the American public and the world.

More patriotism would be whipped up. I can imagine the US President saying, “Gaad, Lard-in cannot just die of tie-fied. It ain’t like a new-monia, y’know? You gotta be kiddin’. The guy’s in a cave in Pack-is-tan. Ah am tryin’ to ged their Prez to send his men in dem caves and ah-ll help him with that Cash-mere prahblem. That ain’t so bad. Been readin’ Camus. It’s all ‘bout outsiders. Darn, these Eendian and Pack-is-tanians jest don’t read books. I haf-ta thank Laura and the Lord…”

I am one!

Last year on this day when I started this blog, I did not anticipate that I would keep at it. I know I can last long, but to stay the course on a fairly regular basis was not something I thought I would do.

Blogs mean different things to different people and some have their work cut out for them. I admire such single-mindedness; it is not something I can follow. Cross connections is just whatever comes to my mind -- I think modesty is an over-rated virtue because most modest people go around flaunting their modesty. That itself ceases to make it a virtue.

So, this is about me and mine. I muse, I crib, I laugh, I cry, I throw a fit, I walk, I run, I sleep, I shit, I crave, I abstain, I love, I leave, I hit, I hurt, I strip, I cover myself with a gauze sheet…and some of you have journeyed along, sometimes watching with amusement, sometimes with empathy and almost always with decorum. When I recently wrote about a couple of extremely personal moments, I could feel your silence more than your words.

For one who is unashamedly a political animal, I do get surprised when my internal monologues seem to strike a chord. This happened even when I wrote my journal on the website where my political articles appeared. Those who got in touch were brutally honest: “Is this really you?” or, “We cannot agree or even understand your political views, but your logs are…well, they could be about us…”

While a comment like this ought to make me feel good, I should hope people’s lives are certainly not like mine! I suppose there are deep connections that cleave through the bone and reach the marrow.

I have made a few friends and, surprising as it may seem, this group includes academics who have nothing to do with the subcontinent and a desi mind, and very little with my let-my-emotions-hang-on-my-sleeves style. I am too scared to probe the reasons, for often when we try and prod too much and keep poking the soil we end up killing the undergrowth.

From the, “It is after years I have felt something like me and it is frightening” and “I feel so helpless, I can’t even hate you” remarks that reach my mailbox to the person who set up a blog only to post a comment here to mislead me, it has been more than I imagined.

I must thank those who pointed out the flaws in my earlier font, colour, and choice of photograph…

There has been one rather strange but interesting allegation about the current picture: “You are being a tease!” At one level, perhaps. But for me the play of light and shadow is what people are all about…if it seems enigmatic, then so be it.

Some have wanted to know about the ‘very short conversations’ I put up. Are they for real? Indeed, they are. They could be abrupt, sharp, probing or just stream of consciousness, but they have taken place. If at all there is any creative licence I have taken it is probably just to chop off the pauses!

I do hope to enter this new phase with mostly the same old ways. I did try out a few other templates, but then I wanted to change the font colour too – and you know how many entries I have! So, for those who like old wine and old bottles, let us continue to share a drop or two…


Ramzan, fasting and hunger

“Will you fast this Ramzan?” asked my friend from Lahore.

“No,” I said. “I don’t.”

“You aren’t religious?”


“So what do you believe in?”

“Myself. It is a self-centred belief but I feel I should be happy; if I am happy I can make others happy and contribute to their lives. If I can think and feel with my conscience, I have found my religion. I do not follow rituals, yet for those who do it serves a symbolic purpose, nothing more, and nothing less.”

“I think I will use this definition next time.”

“But you had once told me you were religious.”

“I must have said something when I was drunk. I think people like us are needed to make others feel they are following god’s word.”

“If it requires bad people to feel good, then they must not be very good to begin with. Such ‘badness’ is often better than their ‘goodness’.”

“I understand, but explain it further…”

“In their tunnel anything that flutters over their heads is a bat and they duck it out of fear. And they fumble in the darkness till they reach the light. Their ‘goodness’ is something from the outside; it is not inherent. They do not have originality of thought or their own emotional resources to find the light. So, when they come out of the tunnel they have to blink because the light hurts the eyes. They foolishly believe this is a miracle. The real miracle would have been if they had fished out a matchbox, lighter or torch and lit the tunnel. Anyone who manages to do that is ‘bad’, according to them. Because blind believers cannot accept self-sufficiency in others since they do not have it in themselves.”

“Are you a Sufi?”

“No, just eternally hungry!”



A school in Lucknow was recently the scene of a Jesus controversy. Loretto Convent had what has come to be called an ‘occult session’ where a man claimed to be Christ and some students reportedly fainted. Right-wing Hindutva groups broke into the school, throwing things and damaging property.

The behaviour of the goons is condemnable; the protests were essentially against subjecting students to such things.

I believe an institution that is run by missionaries has every right to choose how it conducts itself. When the parents admit their kids they are well aware of who runs the show and what it might entail.

Being a product of a convent school, I regularly went into a swoon during morning assembly…the reason being I suffer from claustrophobia (yes, I hate being crowded by anything and anyone!). So, there I would be weak-kneed and in a sweat, often seeing stars before my eyes. I believe people use these descriptions for love too.

We would sing hymns and Father Francis from the neighbouring boy’s school would visit us on Saturdays and give us a lecture. It was not about Christianity. There were nice moral lessons delivered with humour and a gleam in the eye. Of course, his being male contributed a great deal to take away the tedium of being surrounded by females for seven hours five times a week. Except when we were in the playground. And that too when we were in the volleyball court.

A small wall separated us from a Chinese restaurant. The chef, cooks, waiters would be in their vests watching us. Their eyes would get smaller and smaller as we lunged higher and higher with our hands poised up in the air. On sports and physical training days it is no wonder we were made to wear bloomers over our undies.

Like most impressionable young people, I too was fascinated by the nuns. As one grew older and began inching towards womanhood, fascination gave place to curiosity. I learnt for the first time that nuns menstruated when I had to go to their quarters to get a sanitary napkin for myself.

I still recall the door being opened and a Sister I did not know went in and brought me one ST and said before handing it to me, “Get it back tomorrow”! Of course, she meant I had to get a fresh one…

Then I began wanting to know if they waxed their legs and arms and several other things.

Once the school decided to have a sex education lecture. The seniors were in the hall as an ‘expert’ drew all kinds of vague things on the blackboard. This sounded like work when we had already begun to realise that our bodies were giving out entirely different and pleasant signals. There was a good deal of giggling and a few nuns who were around tried to shut them up.

I decided to pay no attention to the goings-on and concentrated on day-dreaming, as I did in almost every class.

This paid rich dividends later in life.

So, how would I have reacted to someone saying he was Jesus? It would depend on how he looked. If he came anywhere close to the images we see, I might have believed it for the time he was around. Swooning, as I said earlier, would have happened anyway. And the family? How would they react? I suppose in today’s times where the fissures are deep, there might have been some tut-tuting. In those days, I remember only one occasion when an uncle asked me about morning prayers and whether I took part in them. When I said yes, he told me I didn’t have to. It was not part of our religion.

I recall my mother telling him, “Drinking alcohol is also not a part of our religion, so you stop that too…” Of course, everyone had a good laugh.

Towards the end of my school years we started having secular prayers and morning assembly had stopped, so no more swooning. Over the intercom a few girls would sing, “Hum ko man ki shakti dena”, “Allah tero naam…” or some such.

We were given extra marks if we attended flag hoisting on Independence Day; I decided not to fall prey to such bribery. To prove that my country was free I would spend the morning making boats with the paper flags and releasing them in the small pool of water that would invariably be there in some part of the building.

Next day the good girls and the bad girls were demarcated. We would be given a small lecture about how we should participate and be good citizens. Most of the rambling would not register. I was busy dreaming about the time when I would be prime minister of India.

With all this information, I do not think any of you can fault my convent education. Though I do believe some people think it would have been a huge relief had I chosen to become a nun.


9/11: Why should I remember this date?

Where were you when the Partition of India happened?
Where were you during the Bangladesh War?
Where were you when Indira Gandhi was assassinated?
Where were you when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was executed?
Where were you when the anti-Sikh pogrom took place?
Where were you when Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber?
Where were you when parts of Eastern Europe were
being spliced?
Where were you when the Gujarat earthquake happened?
Where were you when the Bombay riots of 1992-93 took place? Where were you when the Bombay blasts happened soon after? Where were you when Godhra happened?
Where were you when the Gujarat riots were taking place?
Where were you when Iraq and Iran went to war and
stayed that way for eight years?
Where were you when the Gulf War happened?
Where were you during Operation Desert Storm?
Where were you when the US started bombing Afghan civilians to look for a man in a cave?
Where were you when America attacked Iraq to look
for weapons that they have not yet found?
Where were you when Kargil happened?
Where were you when the recent blasts happened in India?

There are so many reasons to know where we were…and these queries are not posed to you. For, even I do not know where I was when most of these disasters/calamities took place. So I do not know where I was when 9/11 happened.

But you are supposed to know. The media in our subcontinent will remind you because they cannot feel left out. People who do not want you to think about other societies would also think this is important enough to recall.

I can understand those who live in the US/Canada having vivid memories; or those who have relatives there being worried, but I do not see why that date should become a part of our local psyche. To be concerned about the new world order, terrorism, religion and politics is of course important, but to deify a date? But then we also remember when Princess Diana met with that fateful accident.

Therefore, I wonder if those living overseas could check with the Americans and the Brits if they recall any of the incidents I have mentioned. Do they know where they were -- do they even know that such places exist?

If we wish to talk about a world where equality must reign, then knowledge of other societies is a great equaliser.


Isn't this abuse of Vande Mataram?

As many in India will today be paying tribute to the national song, perhaps someone should tell us how we can do so when in one of our more developed cities a crime so dehumanising has been committed that one recoils with horror.

A teenager rapes an old woman and later kills her and is later joined by two friends who have sex with the corpse. Vande Mataram?

Will putting these children in a remand home (the excuse will be they were on drugs) help? Will they learn any lessons in that crass cocoon? This report appeared on page 15. The shameful acts get space in the back pages. Car insurance, Mother Teresa’s death anniversary (where a young woman is clicking pictures of the mourning nuns!), Goa going the Las Vegas way with 10 new casinos, a politician’s daughter’s financial assets, and the reason why Zidane went head banging…these make it to the front.

Would you not think we need to fight this war on terror?
- - -

The full report: SHOCK AND SHAME

Youths rape, kill 72-yr-old

Chandigarh Police Say 3 Addicts Had Sex With The Corpse As Well

Chandigarh: It’s been quite a while that people have stopped calling Chandigarh safe. But the city, turning increasingly dangerous lately, was still not prepared for what the UT police announced on Tuesday—the rape and murder of a 72-year-old helpless woman by three youths, one of them just 16.

Even the police recoiled in horror. They said there were indications that the youth may have had intercourse with the dead woman.

Sarla Devi was alone when the trio, all drug addicts, barged into her house on Saturday—she lived alone in her Sector 15 residence—and strangled her to death with the intention of robbing her. But three used condoms at the site of the crime indicated that she had been raped too.

Members of the the Special Investigation Team, which arrested a drug addict involved in the ghastly crime, a 16-year-old, said his revelations sent a chill down their spine.

“One of them first raped her and then they killed her in fear that she may make a noise. And then these perverted youth raped her again,’’ a police officer told TOI. But the law is ambiguous on sex with a dead woman, or if it can fall under the ambit of rape.

One of the accused lived in a house just behind that of the victim and knew in detail about her movements. He also was “sure’’ that she lived alone. In need of money for drugs, he soon hatched a plan to kill his neighbour. It was then that his accomplices, Anil and Aman, both 19, and residents of Naya Gaon, came into the picture.

DSP S S Randhawa, who is also SIT in-charge, said jewellry, fixed deposit certificates and an old ATM card that were stolen from the old woman have been recovered from the youth.

SIT sleuths got the first clues when they recovered a polythene bag containing addictive liquid that they used to inhale. It was clear that the crime was the handiwork of drug addicts and those who knew the victim well. They soon got a whiff of “a teenager who was absconding and had gone to his maternal home in Solan’’. His accomplices were with him initially but went their own ways.

The stunned father of the main accused said his entire locality was shocked. “My son should be given appropriate punishment,’’ he said. “His own grandmother is 60 years old. How could he do such a thing?’’


Brave new world?

The room was filled with smoke. I came out of the bathroom and thought I was turning blind. I blinked several times...it was idiotic. In the urgency to try to see, I was not smelling anything. Something was burning. The airconditioning had a major problem, some wires were on fire...

Do we notice what we are supposed to?

The next day the technician said that had I been sleeping in the room I might have choked...choked how, to what extent? The blue-white haze that had enveloped me as I came out fresh-faced smelling of talcum powder made me feel like I was entering a new world...

Do all new worlds choke you, burn you?
- - -
Yeh duniya yeh mehfil
mere kaam ki nahin

kisko sunaoon haal-e-dil beqaraar ka
bujhtaa hua charaag hoon apne mazaar ka
ai kaash bhool jaaoon magar bhoolta nahin
kis dhoom se uthaa tha janaazaa bahaar ka

Yeh duniya yeh mehfil
mere kaam ki nahin

(Kaifi Azmi)

Bashing Bollywood: What are Brit-Pakistanis upto?

Britons of Pakistani origin seem to have got into a tizzy...they are rapping against Bollywood.

I found the stuff they are spewing inspiring enough to pen my own little hip-hop ditty. Here goes...

Hey, stop ranting against video stores
Selling your imaginary whores
Allah isn’t interested in Bollywood
So just chill you boys in the hood
If sex were bad
You wouldn’t fall for the houri fad
Why should people have to choose
Between actors and a godly muse?
Salman is not about Islam
Shahrukh has nothing to do with the Book
Aamir was never a
And by swinging your ass in Bradford
You just can’t save the real Jannat...

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The full report:
Brit-Pak Muslims bash B’wood
Chidanand Rajghatta TNN

Bollywood may wear its multi-religious pluralism as a badge of honour, but for the angry young British Muslims of Pakistani denomination, it’s all a sham and therefore a matter of extreme discomfort. As India’s oversized filmdom stampedes across the world winning accolades, a group of British Muslim youth is trashing the Bollywood genre, warning that the “cheesy second-rate imitation of Hollywood...is overrunning Pakistan and brainwashing musalmaans’’.

In a rap-video posted on youtube.com that is being widely circulated in Pakistani circles, the group reserves much of its venom for Bollywood’s reigning stars, many of who happen to be Muslims. “What do you want to give your kids?/Is it Salman Khan or Islam?/Is it Shah Rukh Khan or Allah’s book?/ Is it Bobby Deol or save their souls?/ Is it Amir Khan or imaan?’’ intones a singer, preferring a hip-hop style to convey the message.

Hiphop is an African-American influenced musical and cultural movement that has itself attracted criticism for its language. YouTube is a social networking website that allows users to upload, view and share videoclips and it too has attracted criticism for encouraging violence and copyright infringement.

But for the extremist Brit-Pak brigade, Bollywood bashing comes first. “Everywhere you look/It’s that kufr Bollywood/Video stores selling whores/Semi-gay actors with Muslim sounding names/With Hindu propaganda designed to create chains,’’ goes one rant.

‘It’s a conspiracy to export Hindu culture’
Unnamed British-Pakistani groups that depend heavily on clips and posters from Hindi films to produce their videos allege a conspiracy to allow Hindu culture through the backdoor, as “Bollywood movies are officially banned in Pakistan but are freely available on pirated videos and DVDs’’, they say.

Reports from Pakistan speak of the movie Fanaa being a big hit in the country’s underground circuit. Songs from Fanaa and other new Bollywood blockbusters are played openly in taxis and private transport.

The Pakistani elite and the ruling class lead the ranks of Bollywood aficionados, a fact that seems to rankle the British Pakistani youth who are in the limelight for their extremist views and fondness for madrassas.

“They kill Kashmiris but you still watch Mission Kashmir,’’ they admonish Pakistanis in one passage. Another rap passage wonders: “Bollywood Bollywood what’s the future hold/ As film by film you get ever so bold/ Stories of lesbianism enter the fold/ Now you have to heat it up as it starts going cold/ Topless movies or is it incest next/ All the time it is sex sex sex.’’