Friday, August 12, 2016

The Bourgeois Question and a summer in Kashmir.

As the saying goes, it is always easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them. In Anurag Kashyap’s film Gulaal, which I regard as one of the finest movies ever to have been made in Indian cinema, the rebel leader Dukkey Bana in his fiery speeches urges the Rajputana bourgeoisie that unless they empty their treasures, shed blood for the cause, freedom is a far off reality.


I'm fresh from Kashmir, so I allow myself to take some liberties. Being skeptical is certainly one of them. More than anyone, I kept questioning myself. Truth be told, I’ve never taken part in any Azadi procession, except way back in the spring of ’90, when almost entire Srinagar was on roads, leading a march to UN office at Sonwar. It was a surreal experience. Sitting atop on the shoulders of my elder cousins, I shouted, ‘Hum kya Chahte Azadi.’ That spring of ’90 had some other touch. In me that seed of Azadi was sown I’m sure on that bright spring Kashmir day. Why did we lose it then? Where did we fail? Why couldn’t we nourish it?


Coming back to 2016, this whole month, while I was on my vacation, and state imposed all sorts of restrictions, I managed to sneak a look at social media few times. The last time I checked, visibly irritated, I logged out soon. The glaring difference between what's on the ground and what's on social media disgusted me. Two lakh people took part in Burhan’s funeral, someone else quips deviously, 4 lakh did in Sheikh Abdullah’s. Remember, there were only 11 people on Karl Marx’s funeral.


One of my friends had checked-in at a restaurant in Delhi; Kheyn Chen or something of that sorts. Poor guy was rebuked. People are dying and you're dining. Fair enough. But the affluent class are having their tummies satiated with Maaz and Koker every day. Why then this tendency to turn suddenly into an activist on social media?


The supply has not stopped one single day. Early mornings, late evenings, domestic helps in our part of the forsaken Valley would go out and buy all such luxuries. I, for one, tasted some of the freshest vegetables in K in a long, long time. On early morning, with the grass still wet in our lawn, freshly plucked vegetables were being sold from Piaggio pick-ups. Elderly, mostly retired government officers (Ex-Engineers, Commissioners, HODs) in their snow white prayer caps, would flock together on a curve or a nook inside our lanes, discussing Rajnath Singh's latest blurb. They would quietly retrieve into their homes after another few minutes of meaningless discussion.


Moving on, everyone I met had only one thing to ask/ advice. When are you going back? Why did you come here at the first place? There is nothing left here. Beta, leave Kashmir as soon as possible.
It’s almost as if we have handed over the reins of Tehreek into the hands of few who decided to stay back. Keep the flame of Azadi alive, so to speak, while I secure mine and my children’s future.


The larger point that I’m trying to make is that in the many hues of narratives that Kashmir throws up, we are conveniently silent about this one: the bourgeois have to come out of their comfortable zones and join the call of Azadi. Against the will of the people India cannot hold Kashmir forever. May be not today, not tomorrow but one day India would have to leave Kashmir. We only have to read history. Replete with struggles against mighty powers, the will of the people always wins. In the French decolonization of Algeria, where a civil war was actually fought between the pro-Algerian colonists and the pro-freedom sections of society, the battle lines were clear. At the height of cold war, who would have imagined Russia’s disintegration? However, for us to realize this reality, it’s not just the proletariats who have to fight the battle. The Bourgeois must take part, and in a sustained manner.


Quoting the rebellious Dukkey again in Gulaal, 'Ager tum log aise he bachchon ko videsh bhejte rahe, tou mai krantikari kya Kashmir se laon?' He obviously would not know, we have already left K.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Babam ve Oglum



In the long summers of my childhood, like Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, I was convinced that life was beginning over again with the summer. Each year. Over and again. The summers were long, in our neck of the woods, so long that they stretched out our lives. Every little possibility marched into the long shadows that our vacations threw. Games flared up suddenly; cousin sleepovers, hopscotch, the fingertips tried touching the skies, endless mirth grew louder with the crickets of August. I threw myself open to new adventures, while long days, never changing, grew heavy with endless possibilities.


I had heard tales of other voyages, out beyond the ends of the town, high up into the clouds. As a boy I had gone up so high, like a balloon that grows smaller and vanishes suddenly into the blues, beyond any sight. There were towns up there, so they said; white cloud towns, with tapering tops. Up there, beyond the blue, there were rivers and streams, birds with rainbow colored tails; cities of snow. Stories I believed in. Cities I believe existed. A world that was mine.


What happened then, eh?


Let’s say life hasn’t been so smooth lately. A major health scare, that luckily wasn’t one, got me thinking at many levels. Like many of those who bear the brunt of this capitalist lifestyle: earning, spending, earning more and spending more, forever running a race that literally seems to have no destination. I’m many times lost in the maze of it. The abject futility of the exercise had fatigued me to all ends. A sense of despair loomed at large.


While a part of me always encourages to question, yet I began wondering if these are essentially armatures for my aphorisms and philosophical aides. Free standing baubles? I carried on nevertheless, carrying the weight on my back. Unable to make any sense of it. I would wake up each morning, sluggish and heavy headed. A weariness - like sadness, I would plunge into sleep every night. I could feel darkness ripening within me; unwittingly I kept losing myself.


A good positive mind set has the powers to turn tables, let alone fortunes- that old slick lady who knocks on our doors often. While I wasn’t exactly worried about my own self, I’ve never bothered to take proper care of myself, but here I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was no longer what I was. I was a husband now. A father to a son, who believed and lived in that world, where some years back I glided.


In truth life is impossible. People deceive. Friends leave. Love fails. Job bores. Good news is all this can be changed; if we accept it.


One evening wiping the morose sweat globs from my brow, I suddenly glanced at my son. He was busy as usual in his impishness; talking endlessly to himself, creating non-existing characters in his mind, talking to them, making up stories. Trying to explain to me how his day went by. I just pulled myself from where I was trapped, and I looked at all this; this whole scene as an outsider. For few seconds, I kept looking at my son continuously. And everything cleared out. The haze cleared up. The curtains drifted apart. Walls disappeared. The sky was blue. Again. A sunny strip of road had long shadows sprawled over it, a small white cloud hang up in the middle, just when my son stood up at the window and shouted in his twisted words, ‘Baba aeroplane’, flying like a carpet. The empty sky was so blue, so richly and thick blue, that it seemed a thing I ought to feel. Like my son.  


Children are best teachers, as the saying goes. On that one evening, my two year old taught me a lesson: Your mind is the sum of the whole world.  



P.S: The title is inspired from a Turkish movie- My Father, My Son.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Free Man ~ Aman Sethi




If you hover in the air around Bara Tooti Chowk, Sadar Bazar, Pahargunj, Azad Market on a Alladin Carpet, straight out of an Arabian Night spaceship and point your finger on one of the thousands, millions of Delhiite denizens, scurrying for space beneath; some pedaling on their rickshaws- transporting over-weight passengers from New Delhi railway station, ploddering, exhausting last bit of their muscle energy, at times standing tall on their rickshaw pedals, to thrust it forward with force; occasionally spitting pink gutka with equal burden on the road below. 

Or you turn left and put your finger on this beedi smoking, reed thin laborer standing at a junction below Daryaganj flyover, amidst a gaggle of laborers, perhaps looking for work. Slightly drowsy, may be from last nights excessive drinking. 

Or you may look far ahead below where a govt. hospital stands. Weak, dispirited patients; angry, confused, cursy' attendants, all waiting in mincing patience. A lull of gloom is suspended in the air around; some of it lingering on these faces, from a long long time. 

It seems Aman Sethi was up on one of such Alladin Carpets, where he chose to pick amongst the million Delhiite, stone broke under privileged non-native dweller. In this story he has a name: Ashraf. 

Aman Sethi’s, ‘A Free Man’ is a drama-less memoir written in exquisite style. Never once did I feel out of sync with the story. He held me there, with him and Ashraf. I finished the book in 2 days, in the middle of the week. 

There is something Delhi can give you- a sense of azadi, freedom from past, says Ashraf in his own blasé style to Aman in one of the many interviews, that Aman conducts over a period of few years, following Ashraf, chronicling his story with method and empathy. There are two types of people here: those who pull the trigger and those who survive the shootout. In a very non-philosophical tone, Ashraf states a very basic fact of living and settling down in the city. For those who come to Delhi from neighboring UP, Bihar and Jharkhand in search of unbound wealth. 

The story is written in times when Delhi was surging towards this monstrous metropolitan that it has turned into now. With growth, comes desolation. A glass ware built on the ruins of poor. With Common Wealth games scheduled in 2010, the Delhi Municipal Corporation went on a spree of demolishing unregistered settlements. The violent displacement of slum dwellers around Sanjay Amar Colony was hardly given coverage by the national press who described the process as necessary for urban renewal. The working class once more crucified at the altar of crony capitalism. How it affected an entire population is where Aman Sethi’s story comes alive. 

While the basis of the story may be grim, but, Sethi doesn’t fail to see the humor that visibly exists in these dungeons. 

Hope, perhaps, is what binds these countless marginalized to a city oppressive to their right to live with dignity; quite brilliantly exemplified in Rehaan’s story- one of Ashraf’s accomplice, who on one afternoon under the shade of a Gulmohar tree, while sipping chai, reveals emphatically his dream business, that could turn him wealthy overnight.  The business starts with buying a goat, from where he would switch to rearing pigs and extracting sugar, from a sugarcane distillery. When everything seemed to be worked out, Rehaaan regrets that it isn’t possible because his father is a devout Muslim, and would not allow him a mere mention of pigs in his presence. The plan crashes down under its own weight. The wacky irony in the whole narration is brilliant. 


Aman Sethi's debut book is not about triumph or making it big, rising through the ranks- a rags to riches story.  No its not. It is just a story that he picked from many countless alleys, crossings, heaving markets, deathlike willy-nilly plastered hospitals with rickety benches and stenchy' bed sheets, where each grain of thick summer air holds death and despair in it.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Of February, Stones, Despair, Camus and Sports.


It is quite extraordinary what sports means to us. And there is a reason why I’m bringing it up in my mind, while sipping another cup of tea, on this late hour.

Well, February, the second month of year 2016, has been one such back-breaking, literally, month. Difficult. Extremely onerous at times. To cut the long story short, my health has been not well; I was operated for a Kidney stone, third time in my life span of 33 years. Quite high, you may say so. I don’t know, why and how I develop these God awful stones. The pain was excruciating for two days, when the Urologist finally did some tests, held his hands up in the air and declared, “we have to operate in emergency, there is a chance that the Kidney may fail. Grade 2 Hydronephrosis. Bastard had blocked the Ureter- a 5 mm diameter pipe that takes out excreta from Kidney into the Bladder. The right Kidney was bloated. 

Well, so, lo and behold, the stone was out, few hours later. But this isn’t the end of the story. It cannot be. 

As it goes, I had recently changed my job. New visa, emirates id blah blah. But the God cursed insurance card was not yet processed! I called my HR, my manager, we tried to fix up; to have the card at the earliest. They said it will take 2-3 days for the card to be issued. But, we could not wait. As I said I was suffering from Grade 2 Hydronephrosis. At Grade 3, Kidney gives up. Doctor had to operate. We could not wait for the card. So I ended up paying around 13,000 AED. Which roughly comes around 2.5 Lakh INR. We thought of trying reimbursement later, which I did now. I’ve submitted all my papers: invoice, discharge summary, cash receipt et al. Waiting for the approval. However, truth be told, I've very less hope of reimbursement. They have many reasons to reject.  

Meanwhile, I joined work back after a break of almost 2 weeks. Anyone would tell you, a new job, in a new position isn’t easy. I was only finding out myself in the
scheme of the new things, when this episode happened. But, then eventually we somehow make out. Humans have this great quality. Adjusting. 

The two weeks so as to speak were not a waste by any stretch of imagination. I finished 3 books, and 1 unfinished one- the one that was untouched from last 3 years. It stood there quietly on my bookshelf with a bookmark in place- an ancient Egyptian calendar that I had picked up years ago from Global Village Carnival. I was glad to find the bookmark. I’d probably forgotten about it. I watched a few of my favorite movies too. Again. The first night after operation I could not wrap my eyes for a second. So I ended up watching Color of Paradise- using up truck loads of tissue paper. I cried like a child. I always do for Mohammed and his faith. His faith of finding the touch of God. A few other favorites in the course of next 2 weeks were re-watched; Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Dog Day Afternoon, Wind Will Carry Us et al. 

In the days that led up to this miserable February, me and my couple of like minded friends, decided to pick a book and circulate it amongst us. Each one giving his review at the end of it. Of what he picked in the book? This way it would keep our interest aglow and we would read with much more attentiveness.

So, the first book we chose was Albert Camus’s, ‘The Stranger’. Nature, God, divinity, coincidence- call it whatever, has its own way. I read The Stranger in my recovery period, completely lost in the reverie of Meursalt. Of how he sees the world around him. A conventional world. A normal world. Its absurdity at the core of his existence was naked to him. But he was a stranger. An oddity.  He is a perverse, delinquent guy. A question to the society, that is not used to providing answers. So, the world condemns him. Camus’s if we dwell deep, through the book, says each one of us in the world is condemned to his own. However, we bluff. We justify our act. Hence we live. But only delay what is inevitable. Death. The absurdity of our existence, bared, in the end.i 

So, you can imagine my on pins and needles state in all these weeks. So what really transpired today, that got me thinking so long, when I have work tomorrow, yet I’m typing up this late on my Mac Book, frantically looking for a socket every 10 mins, when the battery clock beeps. 1 percent left! 

Pakistan is playing India. Mother of all battles; by all means, sir. Upset with the events of the day, waiting in the queue for Doctor, doing post operative check ups, I slept in the afternoon once I got back home. More from the need of being shut from the world; than tiredness. When I woke up, Pakistan had skittled out for 85. Down and dusted. The day couldn’t go any worse. One of my fears was, what laid next in store? Least interested in the game, I kept on sipping tea from my Marx imprinted mug. India came out to chase. By the end of Aamir’s second over he had 3 back in the dump. With a disjoined, dispirited guy, thousands of Kilometers away, in his apartment, inconsequential life, throwing up his arms, clinching his fist at every wicket. Yes, yes. Annihilate them. And right there it stuck me. What excited me so much, when barely moments ago I was questing the futility of my existence. 

That is the beauty of sports. That is what sports can do. That is its power. And in the end the futility is run over by hope, in a matter of few deliveries from Aamir.
Long strides. I got my answer. I got my touch. 








Saturday, December 5, 2015

Of Memories, Abba, Murakami, Sufiana Mousiqi and Radio Kashmir.

                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ebgYAvzBA

I've been reading lot of Murakami lately, especially with these holidays we had this week. Lost many times in a maze of memories, Murakami does that to you, took me to that window sill of our house in Kashmir; where grandfather's Philips radio played Sufiyana Mousikee by G M Saaznawaz. On dull, morose winter days, through this window a fading light, straight out of a Guru Dutt effect, would fall into our living room. Abba would be lost in the reverie, many times eyes enclosed. The effect of Ustaad Saaznawaz's santoor and voice had strange tranquility about it. The lines, the notes swirled in our living room.

There is so little, so much to remember of anyone. A conversation, an anecdote, a window sill, a radio. Memories are like diaries that we carry always with us. Taking a note, every now and then. Going back to the journal, as I did today, I opened that page I wrote many moons ago, on those winter days of early 90s. The warmth of my Grandfather and the oblivion of a ugly world outside kept me in stood steed. When did it all change, while Jhelum still winded past. I would not know. Memories are such. The good ones and the bad ones.

People leave strange memories behind when they go says Murakami. I would give anything to be back in that moment. Of affection, of large joint family, of a long long mirthful winter break and Abba's Radio Kashmir.

I sometimes fail to add up the gains of living away from home. A pittance gained, a life lost.




Friday, September 4, 2015

Aylan Kurdi.


Aylan Kurdi drowned in the Aegean Sea last night, in a way symbolising the refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq, that world has ignored coldly. The family of three were making a desperate attempt to flee their war ravaged town Kobani, which is in the midst of heavy fighting between Kurdish fighters and ISIS. Their boats from Turkish coast capsized overnight enroute to Kos, Greece.

As a parent, as a father, I could not bear to see the pictures. For a long long time I could not get a grasp around myself. How should I react to it? I just do not know. I don’t know what else to do with it other than write. I mourn this existence. I mourn my helplessness, in my inconsequential ways, which no way can make the plight of many more Aylan’s better: A boy who deserved to live.

The story goes like…

Once upon a time there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of the field that no longer exists; where he rode through the woods on a brown ox; where fairy tales had been his first experience of a magical world. A stick that could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. In the widest imagination of his secret world, the possibilities were vast and many.

The magic dragon would come and play in spring time, while summers were spent in open fields. The thought of water would tickle a glint in his naughty eyes, while he would rush to throw himself in. In the autumn light, his air shone like a King’s crown. He would shake the soot off his pockets and scratch his butt and wipe his nose, all the time. He jumped and jostled in and out from a meagre hut his parents lived in. A pause in the day’s occupation of his mother would be his smile. The one that lasted till the last glint rays of a setting sun would perch through the sills of a window that faced their garden, where he would eat his dinner from a terracotta bowl, at the howling of dogs.

Once upon a time there was a boy, who threw his arms open in the lap of his father. A man used to grief and grey clouds, battered by the vagaries of war, he would thrill at the thunder of his golden locks and shake the dust of his feet, while standing on a ground too good to last, too solid to be true. He could sense craters but kept quiet. The boy’s innocent smile carried hopes from some other world; he had no idea of, yet he believed. They collected the world in their handfuls, this father and son duo.

Once upon a time there was a boy, whose laughter was a leaflet; who shook us from the pits of hells. He said up in the heaven they got harps in arm pits and dangling panpipes that blow a bugle. They are plotting and planning here. This dinghy rowing in this sea is too small for a world I imagined. They climb into my turret he protested, while the fairies devour me with kisses. There was a whisper and
then a silence. He broke the walls. Aylan knows that a thread of a story, stitches a wound.

And so he died… and we cried.

While the loss of this child and pictures being widely shared over social media have stirred a hornet’s nest, yet I could not stop myself from keeping the political side out of it. The abject silence of the Arab world in this matter is a rude reminder to all the self-righteous Muslims who claim tall about Ummah and Khilafat. Come out of this utopian dream. We leave no attempt in admonishing the west and its policies against Muslims at large. While it is this same west that opened its borders to these refugees. No Saudi Arabia, no UAE, no Qatar. Yes, the so called Kuffars’s have come to their rescue. What does this speak about us? Not that I had ever any hope from this petro dollar economy. Zing zany roads and glittery buildings. You have a cold heart. Let Aylan sleep somewhere, where it’s warm.

“Yes, there is a Nirvanah in putting your child to sleep,” says Kahlil Gibran. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Delhi Sultanate of India.






Mahmud Ghazni; Turk Invader (971-1030)

Muhammad of Ghor: Ghurid Dynasty near Afghanistan (1149-1206)

Muhammad Ghori appointed Qutubuddin Aibak as ruler. The rulers who ruled Delhi between the period 1206-90 A.D. are popularly known as Slave dynasty. But neither of them belonged to one dynasty. Qutubuddin Aibak was the founder of the Qutubi dynasty, lltutmish that of Shamsi dynasty and Balban of Balbani dynasty. They were also called the llbafi Turks or the Mameluk Sultans of Delhi.

Qutubuddin Aibak (1206-1210 A.D.)
Shamsuddin lltutmish (1210-36 A.D.)
Sultana Raziya (1236-40 A.D.)
Balban (1246-86 A.D.)

Khilji Dynasty (1290 - 1320 AD.  Ruler of Khilji Dynasty was Jalaluddin Khilji)

Tuglaq Dynasty (1320-1412) Ghazi Malik.

Timurid Dynasty.Timur (1336-1405 A.D.) was a great military commander and conqueror of Central Asia. He conquered one kingdom after another. In course of a fight, his one leg was wounded and he limped for the rest of his life. Thereafter he came to be known as Timur-the Lame. The Persians called him ‘Timur-i-Lang’

Timur, a Turk, invaded India in 1398 during the reign of Muhammad Shah Tughlaq , the last ruler of Tughlaq dynasty. His army mercilessely sacked and plundered Dellhi. Timur returned to Central Asia, leaving a nominee to rule to Punjab which ended the Tughlaq dynasty. He was the great great great grandfather of Babur.

Sayeed Dynasty (1413-1451)

Lodhi Dynasty (1451-1526)

Mughal Dynasty (1526-1857)