The fool on the hill

Killing people with statistics amounts to zilch if you don’t have an original idea to stand on its head and yours. When I started getting letters on my rejoinder to the Jemima piece, I was a bit perturbed. Someone said I had not ‘researched’ it. Heck, she got away with the Hermes scarf and I have to go through musty books to tell her off? I like using chalk over chalk and not wasting cheese.

Besides, if you have done your work already, you don’t need a bibliography. I am happy being the fool on the hill:

Well on the way head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices is talking perfectly loud
But nobody ever hears him,
Or the sound he appears to make,
And he never seems to notice,
But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.

(The Beatles)

- - -

Funny how simple ideas, conveyed simply or even simplistically, get completely destroyed with intellectual input. I enjoyed reading Foucault at one point in time and recently when I saw the complete bafflement regarding the theory of exceptionalism, it made me wonder. Is it really all that complicated, especially if one sees it in the context of India? Or does making it complex add to the intellectual quotient of the perceiver?

I decided to detonate it:

Theory A:

George Bush imagines there are WMDs in India and thinks this is an exceptionalist idea, so he bombs Pakistan.

Theory B:

1. McDonald’s divides India. With mayo, without mayo? Dishum-dishum.

2. Historians to study how it affects caloric intake, given the sweat factor.

3. In the post-quarrel context, it must be analysed whether the sesame bun is an exceptionalist concept although it is known to always go with the patty.

4. In its crudest form, Indians use heeng to prop up culture. They therefore become custodians of morality. Ergo, culture is moral.

5. While these individuals insist on heeng, they are not open to the idea of adding mudduku, zeera or dhania that belong to different regions.

6. Those who protest against too much freedom of choice are also being exceptionalist because they are taking exception to the exception.

7. There does not seem to be a problem with the latter, but still the violence at Big Mac needs to be understood before you decide to add heeng or zeera.

8. Due to this fast-food battle, some people believe that villages are safe from such influences. However, when there is a shortage of other ingredients in the village and the local tantric is called upon to get the ‘bhoot’ out (The Exorcist replayed, in reverse colonialism), the Big M types start imagining that those creatures are weird. Irrespective of all this the Indian free market thrives because Big M and KFC co-exist and everyone stands in line to get their chicken wings.

9. The right and left in India both believe everyone likes fast food. It is an illusion, though. What Indians really want is to be Indians. Only thing is they don’t know how.

10. Mayo and heeng in fact show us the leap from colonial to post-colonial India where both can cause stomach cramps. India is therefore a democracy.


Dis n Dat

Most men in the UK believe that the girls most likely to have sex with them on the first date are the ones named Kelly, according to a survey.

The name, made famous by stars like Kelly Brook, pipped Tanya. Debs or Debbie is third, Becky fourth and Steph fifth, in a poll of 1,000 men for global research web site OnePoll.com. Spokesman John Sewell told The Sun: “It’s strange how certain names have connotations. If guys have a good experience with a girl of a certain name, they tend to remember them”.


If I were Kelly, I’d take that website to court. This is so ridiculous. And to think that all this time I believed that British men were happiest with their hot water bottles.

And what does a comment like “If guys have a good experience with a girl of a certain name, they tend to remember them” mean in this context?

Do they go on a binge of “Kelly”ing. As in all their first dates would be with a person who has this name? Men are smart. In the throes of ecstasy they do not have to invent terms of endearment like “Babes”, “Honey”, “Doll”, “Darling” and others. Just stick to Kelly and you won’t be faced with a slap and the query, “Were you with her last night?”

PS: In India we have a male model called Kelly Dorji.

Students go through etiquette training at a vocational school in Beijing on Thursday.

About 1,400 aviation service students are undergoing physical conditioning and professional training in dressing and etiquette so that they are able to serve as stewards during the 2008 Beijing Olympics


How about showing us how the men will serve?

A painting of a young Sean Connery wearing only a skimpy pair of trunks has gone on show in a Scottish art gallery, revealing the James Bond star’s talents even before he hit the big screen.

The picture of Connery, who won third place in the Mr Universe competition as a young man, was painted in 1952 by jazz musician Al Fairweather, then a student at the Edinburgh College of Art. The oil painting shows the actor side-on, posing in a pouch-style pair of bodybuilding trunks. Fairweather went on to become a successful musician and his painting has gathered dust in the Edinburgh art school’s collection for over half a century. The college has now decided to include it in a retrospective exhibition of its past students which will run until January 19.


Well, thank you for telling us how men can indeed serve… “revealing the James Bond star’s talents even before he hit the big screen”. Wow. This was his talent? I understand that talent is sometimes inherent, not always acquired, but much as I like the …er…painting there is no way I would qualify anything in it as revealing of talent, except perhaps the artist’s.

Modi or Tehelka?

"Gujarat rioters brag about their killings: Tehelka Exposes State Role"


I dislike Narendra Modi; I dislike Tehelka even more...

But Tehelka is today's hero...so we must shut up and applaud. All those of us who have been saying the same things were accused of being 'whiners', of capitalising on the anti-Modi brigade...we were conjecturing, mere hot air (that's the word here, right?).

So? All these 'operations' start with conjecture, a doubt, a suspicion (get your own Thesaurus and find your words) and then they go out and collect 'evidence'. They tell us the same shit we already know. Yet, they get sanctified. Because they are they and we are us?

Samjhe na?

Oh sure, this is more whining, more gas...but helium flies higher and then bursts; but bubbles made from chewing gum stick to your face.


A Rejoinder to Jemima Khan

Imagining Serfdom in a scarf
By Farzana Versey
October 24, 2007, Counterpunch

She’s back because she never went back. Pakistan was a nice stopover. Hurrah! She’s a woman. She’s brave. She’s a moderate. She speaks good English. She’s Bristol-educated…ah, will make the cut. And she’s not bad looking either.

Now I am mimicking all of these opening lines that Jemima Khan used as she tried going for the kill to claim her pound of legitimacy. The Hermes scarf is the oh-so-flip touch that in fact endows both these women.

Which is what makes the critique a bit like Isadora Duncan’s scarf: “It is red and so am I”. What is precious is Jemima attempting to save world opinion from converting Benazir Bhutto into a martyr. It is unlikely to happen for the simple reason that the lady is so power-hungry that she calls people that have turned into corpses as evidence of democracy and an ‘inevitable’ fallout. Martyrdom requires a bit more.

Who should know this better than the new cleavage-turned-chador-wearing and back to cleavage Jemima Khan? Her nine years in Pakistan were seen as exile from Annabel’s and rather appropriately she was canonised as Blonde Power by the Western press. As I had once stated, there were breathless exclamations deifying her: Look, someone broke into her Fulham house and it was a politically-motivated act! Look, she was called a Zionist conspirator yet she wrote passionately about the Palestinian cause! Look, she campaigned with her husband in the heat and dust and spoke Urdu and a bit of Pashto! Look, she lives with her in-laws and shares her bed with her kids! Look, she took Lahore shadow-work to London! She did these in her capacity as the wife of a man who may have changed jobs but has only one profession: Being Imran Khan.

Of course, Imran is no Asif Zardari. He is rather sophisticated to settle for 10 percent of loot. However, he too is the sanctioned owner of hubris, a necessary requisite in subcontinental politics, unlike the West where it is an adornment.

What I find disturbing about Jemima’s analysis is when she says, “This is no Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her repeated insistence that she's ‘fighting for democracy’, or even more incredibly, ‘fighting for Pakistan's poor’.” I find it disturbing because she has a short memory; she has forgotten that Pakistan is still an Islamic Republic where democracy will follow at least some of the religious norms, and fighting for poverty is a slogan all politicians revel using. It is like the posh circles talking about limited edition solitaires.

Ms. Khan was herself being manipulated to reinforce the delusion of British superiority, almost in an Empire strikes back fashion. While Benazir may become a martyr only in the eyes of the West, Jemima became a martyr at the hall of matrimony that soon got consecrated as pedestal politics. Pakistan’s erratic electricity, water supply and the rumour that she did not even have a (shudder!) washing machine became tabloid chatter.

Pity-tinged headlines tried to recall the child of innocence caught in the jungle of Pakistani rough terrain. It might be pointed out here that the UNICEF ambassador post has come courtesy walking around with head covered through these very streets.

Therefore, when Jemima says that “Benazir is a pro at playing to the West. And that’s what counts. She talks about women and extremism and the West applauds. And then conspires”, it really brings back memories of how she was in fact pitted against the same woman by the West. And they found a precedent to harp on, no matter that it was a flawed one, to prove the compromises she would be forced to make: they said Benazir Bhutto gave up her slacks and opted for the shalwar kameez when she came to Pakistan. There are two problems with this. One is that Bhutto was head of the government twice, and represented a particular tradition. Surely, she wasn’t expected to traipse around in strapless gowns at official functions? Two, if Asians in the West wearing traditional clothes become objects of curiosity, if not amusement, then why should Western garb be exempted in Asia? Or is Western attire normal, while Eastern clothes are peculiar?

It was Jemima who became the one off-shoulder gown shoulder to fire the gun from.

She is absolutely right is accusing Benazir of doing nothing to repeal the Hudood Ordinance, but that is where she stops. For Ms. Khan is not in a position to be the total-recall feminist. She changed her religion, her name and her identity to ‘fit in’; it could hardly have been a desire to belong for there was always the charitable stance of wanting to do something. This is as political as it can get. Besides, Jemima still harbours a tunnel-vision of what constitutes gender disparity.

At what cost are women in the West better off? There are women who break through the glass ceiling in the West as they do in India and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I would say the areas of exploitation differ and we mistake them for degrees of exploitation.

The problem is that Jemima Khan appears to be grandly granting Benazir the vanity of looking good on Larry King’s sofa while making no attempt to discuss how in the interiors and even in the cities women are fighting against outdated laws every single day. Pakistani politics is a bit more complicated than calculating the euros spent on a Hermes scarf.

Funny bones

Am getting my chuckles from real-life incidents and real-real people.

Of late, of course, some people are very angry with me.

So, one of them asked me to “shut the *$%&#*$& up”.

It is beyond me why anyone would wish to deny another certain personal activities and I do wonder how the said activity can be 'shut up', as though there were a lid that could cover it. Anyhow, in the urgency to camouflage the unsavoury term 'F...', he has used 8 (Eight) replacements rather than the four that would have sufficed. I can only conjecture that it was over-enthusiasm. Bad spellings are bad enough, but to also err with cuss words is a bit sad.

- - -

Another has honoured me with what he says is an Irish curse: “May all those who fart only unnecessarily be also afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch with!”

At best I thought the activity was a necessary evil, but how can it be unnecessary ever? I also see no connection with the latter part. However, in the good old days when humans learned to walk, they used twigs to scratch, anything with bristles can do. They were civilised way back then…

What of course worries me is that this curse and several other cussed comments have come from one who has 300 people working under him and they are in charge of an important force in the country. Well, well, well…

- - -

Now, this one I really like found here.

General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa, while talking in Hindi had a tendency to translate English words too literally. He was visiting 50 Para Brigade at Naushera, whose Commander, Brigadier Usman was to be given an opportunity to recapture Jhangar. Addressing the troops, the General wanted to refer to India having become free and wanted to put the soldiers in the picture. Operations to capture Jhangar could be undertaken only after administrative arrangements could be completed.

He spoke:

O Para brigade ke afsaran, sardaron aur jawanon. Is waqt hum muft, aap muft, mulk muft, sab kuchh muft hai. Aap ka brigade commander saheb ne bola kih aap aage jana mangta magar ham pahile aapko tasveer ke andar dalna mangta. Aap abhi aage jana sakat nahin kionhki hamara bandobast ka dum bahut pichhe hai.

This roughly transliterates as -

Oh officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and men of the Para Brigade, today I cost nothing, you cost nothing and the country costs nothing, everything is free of cost. Your Brigade Commander told me that you wish to advance, but before that I wish to put you all of you inside the picture. You may not move forward because the tail of our arrangements has been left behind.

[Recounted by Major, later Lieutenant General (Retired), SK Sinha, who was the staff officer to the General during that period.]

- - -

This really takes the icing…

This picture accompanies the profile of an individual at a defence forum; please note the boy in the photograph is blonde (not proud enough to be Indian?) and below it are the words all Indians grow up with:

Satyam Eva Jayate” – Truth alone shall prevail.

I would love to know what is the truth here and in what manner it will prevail. A little boy cocking a snook at what?

How brave is that!


News Meeows - 11

One of Congress’ babalogs has come up with a new idea to revive the party’s fortunes in Uttar Pradesh. To counter the influence of caste politics — to be read as Mayawati and Mulayam — the plan is to spring Shah Rukh Khan as the chief ministerial candidate for the state.

Utterly shocking. I should hope this is just some tittle-tattle. The argument dished out is that film stars have been elevated to the top slot in the South, so it can be done in the North.

We have only the example of Jayalalitha and she had done a good deal of work with MGR. Irrespective of what anyone thinks of her policies and politics, this cannot be ignored. Shahrukh has no such exposure. And the reason itself is vile. Everyone knows about his run-in with Amar Singh and the simmering rivalry with Amitabh Bachchan. We cannot have leaders only on the strength of these.

Besides, only recently I read an article where the actor said he was too good-looking to be in politics. It is of course a casual comment, supposed to raise a few laughs. I only hope he continues to have such vanity and stays away from the field. ‘Capturing the imagination’ is not how the largest state, or any state or even tehsil, can be run.

It is also disturbing that the report comments, “It is to be seen if the idea finds favour with Rahul Gandhi. If the Prince gives his nod, then the party will go all out to chuck old style politics and King Khan might be seen in a new role.”

Prince? King? Where are we – in some principality being ruled by a monarchy? And whose Prince is Rahul? He has indeed been traversing through the UP landscape and has got the flavour of the state, but he still appears rather distanced. On what basis will he decide on the chief ministerial candidate? This is eerily reminiscent of the late Sanjay Gandhi. Fortunately, Rahul does not have the reputation of being a roughneck. That still does not permit him or whoever is trying to project him to make such important decisions.

Mellowing his stand against Muslims for the first time, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray trained his guns against Christians and attacked Congress leaders for cosying up to the US.

While I have opposed the nuclear deal, his other comments are pretty disgusting. He thinks Sonia Gandhi is fond of “Christian leaders like Margaret Alva, Union ministers like Oscar Fernandes and her son-in-law Robert Vadera”. He managed only three names and none of them is important enough in Indian politics, unless in Robert’s case (half Christian) keeping the daughter of India, Priyanka, happy in a marriage qualifies as leadership.

Margaret Alva is only a fairly regular TV face. Oscar Fernandes is rarely mentioned. I have no idea how Sonia Gandhi is expressing her fondness for them and how Balasaheb is privy to such affections.

Of course, his keeping quiet about Muslims seems rather worrying. Is it a diverting tactic?

In an interaction with her fans at New York, J K Rowling claimed wizard Albus Dumbledore was gay.

I have watched only one Potter film and quite enjoyed it. I like the magic stuff though this post is no place to analyse it. It would not have mattered what the wizard’s secual orientation was unless he did something really gay to earn his stripes.

Rowling is probably already bored that her last book on the subject is done with and she needs to keep that memory alive. The millions she made is not enough; money cannot buy you people’s recollection of what you produce. She is a canny businesswoman. During this year’s Durga Puja one tableau in Kolkata used the Harry Potter theme, including the castle. Rowling sent them a notice about breach of copyright and they had to dismantle it.

Come now, she could have just let it pass…her fans in India as elsewhere were queuing up to buy the book, part of the herd mentality zombies suffer from everywhere. (Ouch, it really wasn’t a swipe…) So urban kids stood in line like obedient students and shelled out the big bucks. Wonder if they would do it for our Panchtantra or Amar Chitra Katha stories (though again I think mythology isn’t the only way to learn) or even if someone brings out a really interesting children’s book.

No. I am quite certain. We just don’t have it in us to appreciate our own creativity.

Imran Khan on Ms. Bhutto

“Given the way that she has undermined democracy by siding with Musharraf, I don't know how Benazir has the nerve to say that the 130 people killed in those bomb blasts sacrificed their lives for democracy in Pakistan.”

Oh, she can, after all she referred to the tragedy as “inevitable”. Reminds me of the Rajiv Gandhi comment when the 1984 riots broke our and Sikhs were being killed, he had said, “there is a shaking of the earth whenever a big tree falls”

Potent pictorial comment

Caption states: Unable to take the strain of standing at attention for many hours, a constable falls in a dead faint at at Naigaon Police Hutatma Ground on Sunday. The constables and police officials had gathered at the ground to pay tribute to colleagues who died in the line of duty.


Jaswant Singh: "...the Army had better awaken to reality"

This is an excerpt from Jaswant Singh's book A Call to Honour - In service of emergent India by Jaswant Singh, Rupa & Co.:

On military training

Technically, there was little I found difficult in all this military training. It was all clearly so exaggerated, needlessly loud and overbearing, and especially concentrated too, so as to break us in quickly. And for most, that breaking-in was permanent. As I tried to cope with the daily assault on my sensibilities, and upon my incurably free spirit, this 'understanding' helped me arrive at just the appropriate response: 'I must preserve myself and not sink into the anonymity of totally submissive obedience. For this, technical excellence in the "externals" of what is being imparted is training, is all that is needed.' That brought me privacy, saved my self-respect and spirit, too. Was this not the aim of all this bullying and hectoring after all: to inculcate qualities of individuality, initiative, the ability to think and act on one's own? I doubt it. The system really works for developing conformity, not individuality, unthinking obedience, not questioning assent.

Military training gave me a very great deal, infinitely more than what it took. What I had to give was conformity and obedience, even a pretence sufficed. In return, I got self-control, a sense or regulating time, much greater self-discipline. Vigorous physical training, coming on top of an already led outdoors life and upbringing, became a kind of fixed deposit of value, of habit, of exercising the body daily. A certain military directness replaced the rounded courtesies of village dialect.

...The schedule and pace of military training was such as to leave hardly any free play in the mind. If you gave yourself up then it would suck you down, instantly.

On Commissioning

I already knew, had perhaps always known, that I was not going to be in the army for good.

On military service

My commissioned service in the Army of just about nine years, 15 December 1957 - 22 November 1966, has no place in this narrative. I joined in what I term as the 'golden age of cantonment soldiering' in India. We soldiered as we imagined fabled cavalry must have done at one time, therefore, we too must follow suit: 'Cavalry, Sir, is to lend colour to battle to add style to what is otherwise just an unseemly squabble', 'Officers, Sir, are to lead men into battle, not muck around all the time on piffle like inspections and parades and all that...' An officer at Jhansi railway station, aping the 'mythical' Brabazon to the flusterd and hapless station master, after being informed that the train to Delhi had gone: 'Gone?' the officer asked in a gimlet-soaked drawl, 'what do you mean gone? Get another, instantly, go and get another train, now.'

I realised soon enough that all this was empty posturing, this living as caricatures; that the Army had better awaken to reality. I sought a formal interview and asked for permission to resign. I had barely two years of service. 'Why?' a rather jovial, bon-vivantish colonel commandant asked. He was a great raconteur and he truly couldn't grasp what I meant when I said: 'To write Sir, I need leisure to do so, and I am losing time.' Astounded he asked: 'How old are you?' 'Twenty-one, Sir,' 'Twenty-one! You are mad! The maximum leisure is here in the Army, not outside. Look at me... I have all the time I want, so much that I don't know what to do with it.' I did not succeed then, but I was not deterred from my objective either.

As a reflex, I volunteered for all the impossible seeming missions, the many reconnaissance in the Himalayas that were then being ordered....

In 1966, I resigned. When asked to give reasons, I stated clearly: 'To join politics.' I had no pension, I did not want one, and, of course, no other 'terminal benefits' from the Army. My service with it was the great benefit, and what the Army gave me, taught me, left with me is my priceless pension.

The Army responds - 3

Here is a letter published, finally.

Matter Of Honour

Sir, The pen is undoubtedly mightier than the sword. But might is not proved by denigrating articles based on isolated personal experiences and apparent biases, such as In Arm’s Way by Farzana Versey (October 16). The absence of problems is Utopia — non-existent everywhere, including in the Indian Army. As it draws its rank and file from society, the Army is not insulated from the problems of society. To say that there are instances of corruption, sexual harassment and so on in the Army is thus no investigative journalism. But trashing an organisation with the credentials like that of the Indian Army, on the basis of a few aberrations, is naïve. It is demeaning to the thousands of non-aberrant people who are part of the same organisation, and tirelessly face privations, even death, so that citizens like the writer can enjoy the freedom to express her opinion at will. There have been cases of misdemeanour of different kinds in the Army. But is the Army "one of the most corrupt institutions in the country" because of that? Where is the data to prove the claim? The writer is also oblivious of the speed with which each manifestation of such aberrant behaviour is dealt with by the Army. As for her advice to the Army to "stop glorifying the profession and treat it as another job," in the course of which other job is a person expected to lead or follow his comrades into situations that are likely to cause grievous bodily harm, or even death? The soldier does not brave all odds and even lay down his life if required for the few thousand rupees that he is paid. He does it for izzat — his own, that of his unit, and of the country. Our nation will live to rue the day the Army stops glorifying the soldier’s job and starts treating it like any other profession.

Lt. Gen. (Retd) R.P. Agarwal

- - -

My reply:

October 21, 2007

Dear Lt. Gen. (Retd) R. P. Agarwal:

To begin with, let me thank you for addressing your views to the newspaper in the letter in today's Asian Age. I had been waiting for someone to do so since from the Tuesday it was published I have been inundated with feedback. The email route has been chosen only by a few; most have traced my blog and used it to spew the venom I have been accused of.

We shall come to that in a bit. Since you are not aware of the exchanges, I will have to repeat some of what I have been saying to answer your points:

- Does questioning certain negative aspects of an organisation, that too one that is considered noble, a result of "personal experiences and biases"? Will you be able to dispute any of the incidents, except perhaps of the Colonel who shot pigeons, which going by the way people have reacted appears to have caused a lot of anger? (Should I say it is due to some negative personal experience? Would it be right to reach such sweeping conclusions about people I do not know?)

- You are indeed right when you talk about the inability to have a Utopian organisation without problems. And of course the Army draws its members from society. Therefore, if I or anyone pulls up other aspects of society, then the Army is equally to be called upon to question. I have not spared the media's fake sting operations, either.

- I gather that you might read newspapers regularly. You do read of doctors who have carelessly performed surgeries that ended in death or who refused to accept patients. These cases are reported, citizens of this country and any civil society will have an opinion. It does not mean the medical profession is bad, but when you read about such instances folks who are dependent on such professions will question it. We can change our choice of doctors; we cannot do much about who joins the Army and how certain "bad eggs" conduct themselves.

- Had you read the article carefully you would realise that I did not "advice the Army" to stop glorifying the profession and treat it as another job. These were my words: "The number of soldiers who commit suicide or are killed by their colleagues exceed those killed by enemy fire. If only we stopped glorifying the profession and treated it as another job, then perhaps there would be less pressure on the need to be macho."

- The Army must glorify its soldiers, though it would be nice if it also took to task those that committed "misdemeanours" that you yourself have agreed exist.

- You mention that what I wrote is not "investigative journalism". May I venture to say here that I am glad it isn't, for there would have been far more damaging instances, all factually recorded? I have as a matter of fact followed a stringent self-censorship. I realise of course that the 'facile' examples have been commented on because they indeed have touched a raw nerve.

- I will add here that there have been two officers of your Force who have given me an insight into the real life of soldiers. They believe in the organisation, but are not blind to its flaws; they know the value of discourse and have indulged in it in the best way possible.

For the rest, it will dishearten you to know that there have been personal attacks by people who are hiding their identity. However, I will be providing the information to the gentleman officer who is in charge of the image of the Army. Perhaps he will know exactly what the brave soldiers do for the reputation of the organisation they claim to be fighting for and take any action that might be necessary. It isn't too difficult to trace the miscreants, I should hope.

- While I avoid using gender as a matter of discussion, the comments reveal a patriarchal mindset that has hit out at this very aspect. I do not wish to be treated like a "lady" but there is no way I want to be patronised or have hollow male talk thrust on me. Had anyone else indulged in it, it would have been deemed harassment. I hope you as an honourable officer, gentleman and human being will understand that.

- Information about me and my work is accessible and available to read and scrutinise. Therefore, it amuses me to listen to comments about "maturing in my career"…this is so typically sophomore that it does not deserve a reaction. Obviously, they do not wish to see the material that stares them in the face and tells them about the other work I have done for years, do and will continue doing. I do not know the credentials of these individuals, where they come from, or where they are posted. At the moment, they do appear to have a lot of time, though. If you read the comments you will realise that the example of the Colonel serves as a perfect metaphor for precisely this sort of chest-puffing.

- One has read about how political corruption is rampant. I could not agree more and it pains me to have some of these people be called our leaders. I can imagine the pain soldiers would feel when a scam-ridden politician dies and they have to offer him a gun salute.

- To end, I must say that despite the spamming on my personal blog by the 'brave' soldiers, I have learned a lot and there is enough material for at least a couple of more articles should I wish to do so. Unfortunately, they have not taught me about the good aspects. My forum now shows civilians exactly how some of your aberrant soldiers are as much as it has caused disillusionment to the officers I know.

- With the best possible intention of engaging in a discourse, I indulged the wrong people. I should have refrained and only talked to the genuine ones.

I am enclosing an article by Jaswant Singh as well as some of the comments and links. I have refrained from correcting the spelling and other grammatical errors in the attachment since it must not appear that I have tampered with them, for that is how they appear to the public. I am sure it will not further harm the reputation of the Forces in any way. If it helps, I cannot hold a gun, let alone shoot.

With very best wishes,
Farzana Versey

- - -

PS: Irony hit me: The Retd. Lt. Gen has also appeared on the blog! What can I say? May I add that the text of his letter posted above is the one that was published...what the officer has put in the post below is not the way it has appeared in print.

PPS: Until now I have permitted some people's comments to pass in the spirit of a dialogue, but they can and do have other space for personal abuse which they may utilise. This place has several other things I enjoy writing about. Besides, spamming is considered a cyber crime. Therefore, until they get their act together, their posts will be moderated and what I deem unsuitable and a repetition will be deleted from the earlier lot. Or maybe not. It is interesting that the officer while choosing to post his letter and that of another person did not look at the rubbish that preceded it.


Is this some ladies' club?

It is interesting to watch the manner in which men rise to the occasion when a woman is involved. They really get high if, say, a woman criticises a woman. I have been watching a few such tamashas where raising questions about BB’s credentials immediately proffers you with a “primitive mindset”.

Benazir Bhutto is planning to return to power; power has no gender, I assume. She is playing the game as well as any man. When men are critical about Musharraf or Nawaz Sharif does anyone imply it is envy or a locker-room run-in? There is a tendency for men to imagine this to be a little zenana item number they can enjoy; they do not understand that people may wish to engage in a dialogue or even an emotional outburst. Isn’t that what it is called when a woman says something forcefully? I have recently seen men say, “At least she will get laid now” and call her a “Brothel Bitch”…it seems okay, but women expressing their anger are “foul, mealy-mouthed”.

Some are. I am not. Yet I think BB sucks.

People who have always said Pakistan does not have an independent judiciary are now gung-ho about this same “independent judiciary” being allowed to try her on corruption charges…

Who is to even decide with such confidence that she is the only one who represents democratic values? Who says India can do business with her better than others? What the heck do they know? India has had the most effective peace measures during the reigns of Zia and Musharraf…if that is of any consequence.

She now happily blames Zia’s supporters. What a woman…isn’t it obvious she is tugging at the very past we are supposed to forget about? Zia killed Papa and Pinky must now take the people back to that time. That Zia and his party are dodos now does not matter.

Getting people to line the route is not always an indication of popularity; it is such an easy thing in the subcontinent. Come on, we all know about getting truckloads in India not just to say “Jeeye so and so” but even to win ‘democratic’ elections. Funny, how the men start talking about Pakistani democracy that they consider did not exist.

Madame BB is very much a part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and according to the Constitution she will have to follow certain rules. And she has shown us that it is precisely what she likes doing as long as her miyan can pocket the 10 per cent from the big bucks she makes. Aw, she is such a woman, ain’t she? She lets him keep the change…


RIP: Benazir Bhutto

Instead of having made the populist move of moving towards Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum, I would want to know what Begum Benazir Bhutto plans to do about all those killed in the bomb blast in Karachi while her caravan was taking her on a supposed victory rally.

The victory is that she has returned from a self-imposed exile of 8 years. This meant she fled her country. If she had the guts she ought to have stayed behind and not got holed up in those Dubai and London mansions.

With people like her around, Pakistan does not need enemies. Even before arriving she had declared that it was not the Taliban she was worried about (already playing to the gallery); the threat was from within. Then why did she agree to compromise with those within?

She now talks about her faith in god. I doubt whether any god can have faith in her.

She needs to build a mausoleum in the memory of those killed in the blast during her rally so that if, by a cruel twist of fate, she does come back to power it will constantly remind her that the democracy she wants has been created on the bodies of innocents, while she was “resting” in her van.

As far as I am concerned, it is RIP - Benazir.


The Army responds - 2

This note has been posted in the comments section. I felt it requires a detailed response. I welcome whatever criticism I get, but I think I have pretty much said what I have wanted to for now.

- - -

Dear Lady,

1 I read your article and was surprised on lack of understanding of how armed forces function because of a few bad eggs which is there in every org and society including foreign armies.

2 Next time you write another article disgracing Indian Army, consider following

(a) Every time I went on leave from a field/ops/RR or for that matter, reached Guhati or jammu , I felt it was a different world, nobody like you was aware how we were serving in what conditions..

( b) A common man even my own brother were never aware of how a dead body gets stiff within seconds, how a man loses his limbs in seconds on a patrol when RPG blast through a vehicle body or how a full family in a village or a town is destroyed when their son, brother or husband ie an officer/soldier becomes a fatal or nonfatal cas.

( c) Infact at Jammu I am surprised that there is no security conscientious on seeing a package kept in the bus and passenger absconding till a bus blast takes place and then journalist like you curse security forces.

( d) Infact we shift TV channels fast to see Sanjay dutt smiling and shaking handshake with Jail warden as we feel watching a casket of dead officer on TV is boring.

( e) We also feel sympathetic for SANJAY Dutt but no feeling for that widow of a martyr soldier . The TV also does not waste time on them as there will be a loss in TV ratings. Why don’t you haul up TV channels for all this nonsense as breaking news for them is anything other than an officer or a Jawan ha sided, it is a routine liner for all to read and forget about it and enjoy the sas bahu serial.

( f) We also allow you to claim that you have been pursing POW s status, Don’t we know it is for media mileage, how many children you have adopted or widows cared for or Ex Serviceman looked after. Have you visited a leper Colony in NE Along where the army has adopted the whole village.

( g) We also allow you to rubbish our Services on a few bad eggs, but we don’t hear you claiming Film Industry is bad because of Underworld nexus links or Industrialist not paying taxes despite being photographed for richest Indian in the world etcccccc because then you will not be invited for page 2 parties.

( h) I think you must make visit to real working conditions of J& K /NE of Indian army where motivated youngsters and Jawans are living in pathetic conditions and fighting enemy so that you can party around, making paintings etc. Every ni at least a million jawans are on guard all over the country so that you can sleep. Every Ni a boy dies in Jungles of J&K so that your boy/ relative can play around safely.

( j) Now why do you crib on those who are leaving, it is not wrong as every man has a right to grow in life. If not here somewhere else. At least they have given best part of their youth to this country when you were living a secured life,

2 Judge the services for what they are doing for your existence, not on a few incidents.

regards brando

- - -

My reply

Dear Brando:

Thank you for the detailed response. Here is what I have to say...

My article was not about how the armed forces function; let me clarify that, just in case it has not come across. These were about the bad eggs, and agreed they are there in every organisation.

I completely understand what you are saying, from the perspective of an outsider, and you will appreciate I am not making tall claims about knowing how it feels to be in your shoes; I cannot. I also accept that the public lack security consciousness (as well as civic).

I cannot even ask you to read my earlier posts to know that I have shown no sympathy for how the media portrays the film industry, industrialists, even NGOs and the so-called fast-track justice reserved for some favoured groups. I have taken up those issues, but I will not expect you to read those because it isn’t important enough. You just have to take my word for it. And I say this because you do not know me and feel the need to lay down my POV with regard to those others, since you have reached conclusions about me personally.

I have written against the Sanjay Dutt tamasha. And how TV channels went overboard with this. However, these same TV channels take film stars to different army postings and we see the jawans asking them questions and performing for them. I suppose you don’t mind that.

Do you think TV channels showing the casket of a dead soldier would help your cause? Wouldn’t it be of far greater importance if the soldiers had raised a voice against the infamous coffin deal?

You say, with much arrogance (and I am afraid I am not given to pussyfooting), “We also allow you to claim that you have been pursing POW s status, Don’t we know it is for media mileage, how many children you have adopted or widows cared for or Ex Serviceman looked after. Have you visited a leper Colony in NE Along where the army has adopted the whole village.”

You do not allow me, you cannot, because the claim is a reality and on record and been appreciated by those families who are pursuing the case without any help from your Armed Forces, whose business it should be along with the inept and completely heartless attitude of the various governments in power. You are talking about feeling sympathy for the widow of a martyr…what about those who had to pretend to be widows at that time? Is it history for you too? This will not dissuade me from writing about the issue again, if I think it should be brought to attention. Because I don’t feel the need to get defensive about my actions only because of a few disgruntled people who want us to accept that there are bad eggs, but do not realise that it is not a good thing to have them. The fact is you have not been able to counter anything I have said.

When I first wrote about the POW issue, it was on my own during a casual conversation. I was not even sure about what it would entail and I had difficulty getting it published. I don’t have organisational backing. If I wanted media mileage, I could write on film stars, right? By questioning my motives, you are contradicting your own assertion that those get more people interested. And do not forget it was the Army who invited Vivek Oberoi to join it; I don’t give a tosh for him or anyone.

I do not party at all, and do not get invited to these socialite ones, just in case it is of any consequence. I am sure the mess has many more of those; the Navy Ball in my city is a big hit. Incidentally, do you realise that there are some sections that I write about who do not even have the facilities and the basic skills to convey the privations they go through? Because they are illiterate, poor and lack marketing skills, if they even know what that is.

You, my friend, are in no position to allow me to write or not write on anything, okay? But if you have time, click on the labels column, article, media and you might find something that will show you that I do a little more than just paint. I don’t have any idea why these poor paintings have become a target. I am certain if an armyman painted, he would be feted in the same Page 3 you criticise and been quite happy about it. Oh yes, I have also been extremely critical of the Page 3 types…

I am not denying there are a million jawans posted in various parts of the border areas; I will even grant that in some ways I can sleep safely because of that…it might interest you to know that a few blocks from my secured existence (had to add special grilles during the 1993 riots) a retired armyman has bought a house worth Rs. 8 crore. I am sure he has earned his stripes.

I am not cribbing about people leaving the Services. It is a relevant question and after all that you have written about my secure existence and sleeping well while you guys are in some remote areas (all true), you should be wondering about it too. If you think “it is not wrong as every man has a right to grow in life”, then you are in fact suggesting that growth within the army is of less consequence, that an armyman is allowed to go out and seek better avenues whereas an ordinary citizen cannot paint or write and has to feel indebted to such an Army and not raise a voice at all…in reality it is not my criticism that is harmful but these people leaving that is a slap to the organisation.

You should also be asking yourselves why there are so many suicides, why armymen are killing each other.

You may ask me to keep quiet (that I won’t is another matter), but will you be able to stem the rot? It is heart-warming to know that the Army has adopted a leper colony in the North East; the Army has; not an individual armyman. Right? So, how and why do you ask me as an individual to do so? Do you know what I do for what may be termed ‘less privileged’ people, and not just by writing but contributing in any way I can?

I would visit those camps you tell me about, but going by your reasoning would you not accuse me of doing it for media mileage?

The idea is not to sound insensitive to what soldiers go through but to look at other aspects as well.

“paye fateha koi aaye kyon koi chaar phool chadaaye kyon
koi aake shammaa jalaaye kyon main woh bekasi ka mazaar hoon”

This couplet by Zafar could apply to anyone who is helpless…should we create a tomb for that or transform the helplessness into vigilance?

Best wishes,



News meeows - 10

PM briefs Bush on how Left blocked nuke deal

Confirming to the United States that its civil nuclear deal with India has hit a wall, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday explained to US President George W. Bush the circumstances compelling his government to put the deal on hold.


Oh dear, so he had to tell the US how those Commies really spoiled it all. This is perhaps the first time the Left parties in India have shown they can act; I have already stated they make for a great Opposition. Our PM all but seemed embarrassed about the deal going phus

So he went on to another subject:

Stressing that the key to the success of the round was agriculture, the Prime Minister said it was important to take care of the vulnerability of two-thirds of the population, namely 650 million people, dependent on agriculture for sustenance. "That meant that India needed some degree of protection through special products and safeguards, on which we need greater clarity," said the Prime Minister, pointing out that there was no clarity yet and "this issue is critical for India."


Ho-ho-ho, Santa Claus Manmohanji is so concerned about agriculture that he did not notice all those farmers committing suicide? And what the hell is India doing importing wheat? What happened to the great Green Revolution? Let us not forget that Sonia Gandhi in a speech a while ago went on the “bijli” track, trying to justify how India needed this nuclear deal for it. Darn, 60 years after independence we wake up and then go with a begging bowl.

And now we have news that US legislator, Mr Gary Ackerman, has launched a frontal attack on the Left parties

Urging in what was a clear message to the government not to "cave in" and allow a "minority" to "bully" it into giving up the nuclear energy deal. "Do not let the radical view hijack what is in your nation’s best interest ... in order for progress to be made, courage needs to be shown," he said.

Mr Ackerman said, "The ball is back in your (India’s) court). To those who would try to bully from a minority position, to tell the majority of people what is in their national interests and that if they don’t do as that group says, that they are being bullied, are themselves the bullies."


Woo-hoo…applies to you and your country’s position all over the world. Mr. Ackerman has no business to tell us what constitutes a minority. This is not an election where votes in favour or opposing the deal have been cast. Don’t tell us who is bullying whom.

An Indian, whatever be her/his political views is in a better position to decide what is in our best interest. We don’t need the Americans to preach. It is the caucus of industrialists that will support the deal, not the ordinary citizen or the villager who is supposed to benefit. Mr Ackerman can go take a walk because it is the radical view that saves nations.

I was always so proud that India would never have to cower before America. The Left is keeping that spirit alive.

Privileges panels summon Ronen

The Privileges Committee of the Rajya Sabha has decided to summon Indian ambassador to the US Ronen Sen, who made the controversial "headless chickens" remark to describe those opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal. The Lok Sabha’s Privileges Committee, expected to meet in the coming days, will take a decision on his remark.


Yes, what else can we do? Call a committee, sit and pontificate when we should be calling for his head.

Why did Ronenda do it, anyway? Our diplomats are known to be nice little boys. Simple. The NRI community is rather strong in the US, especially in political terms. They are spending a lot of money filling up the coffers of the fundraising for the forthcoming elections. Our ambassador knows that it is not the American establishment he has to keep happy but our Sant Chatwals and the Silicon Valley wallahs.

Hey, think about it, had he not called our MPs “headless chickens”, his head would have been in the tandoor. Ki bolchi, Babu Moshai?

EC shifts top Gujarat officials

Taking a serious note of representations followed by its own fact-finding, the Election Commission on Monday ordered the transfer of eight top Gujarat police and civil officers, including director-general of police P.C. Pande. These officers reportedly played a covert political role in the 2002 Assembly elections. The commission has stressed that these officers should not be assigned any poll-related duty.

Besides carrying a tag of being Narendra Modi loyalists, most of these officers played a dubious role during the 2002 Gujarat riots and had invited public ire for biased policing. The Gujarat government had transferred 41 IPS officers a fortnight before the code of conduct was announced. Gujarat is scheduled to hold crucial Assembly elections on December 11 and 16 and these transfers were viewed as "purely politically motivated."


Even though the reason for this is the coming Assembly elections, it will send out the right signals. Now if only the Gujarat junta throws the Modi government out of power…but that is unlikely to happen. In any society it is the rich that have their say and the rich in Gujarat, irrespective of which community they belong to, will keep this man in power.

Yet, the EC move shows a glimmer of hope.

Aamir kin to undergo mental test

The ninth additional chief metropolitan magistrate in Mumbai on Monday ordered that Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s brother Faisal Khan be sent to J.J. Hospital for five days for a re-examination of his mental condition.


What should be strictly a family matter is being dragged into the public arena and made into a soap opera – unsuccessful sibling, bad marriage, schizophrenia, parental differences. Can we not be a bit more sensitive?

There are several reasons why people do not succeed; there are cases also of two or more siblings being successful. Let us not make it into a public farce when it is a private tragedy and an intensely personal problem that Faisal has to go through if he is indeed suffering from the ailment.

World chess champion Vishwanathan Anand gets a rapturous welcome from fans after his arrival at New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport in the early hours of Monday.

He said he was "touched" at seeing the boisterous crowd. "It felt very special that everyone came to the airport for me at 1 am."

FIDE confirmed his status as the world's leading player when he topped the latest rating list at 2801, ahead of Vassily Ivanchuk (no.2, 2787) and Vladimir Kramnik (no.3, 2785). It was Anand's third consecutive appearance at the top of the quarterly list.


I am shocked. Imagine, we have gone beyond cricket. But, is it all merely a Chak De moment? Chess is not a game for the common wo/man. Therefore, a frenzy has a lot to do with how we run after winners without knowing anything. Get home the moolah/trophy and we see India shining.

Who better than the irrepressible R. K. Laxman to put it in this cartoon?