Author Archives: NBD

About NBD

Citizen of Beautiful but Frustrating India. Liberal in Spirit. Radical in Thought. Curious. Creative. Animal Lover. Traveller. A Work in Progress.....

Anatomy Of An Indian Liberal

Anatomy of An Indian Liberal Pre – 2014

Class – Privileged
First Language – English
Religious Denomination – Convenient Atheist
Except Grihaparveshs, Naamkarans, Weddings, Cremations. when every ceremony old & forgotten is dredged out, flaunted.
Celebrations – Eid, Easter, Christmas, Diwali, Holi…
Food Habits – Private

~ Personal Statement ~
Ram Guha thinks. Therefore, I am.
Romilla Thapar thought. Therefore, I was.

The Mughals gave us art, culture, architecture, cuisine & the Brits gave us English, railways & Nehru.

~ The Beauty of Poverty ~
Knowledge of India extends to 4 people in the servant quarters, Goa which tragically is losing its Portuguese flavour & our hills which no longer remind one of Scotland.

~ Syncretic Culture ~
Bound by single malt, kababs at Karim’s, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Joy to the World …

~ Social Register ~
Ticked off as ARRIVED if nephew’s wife’s brother connected to the NAC and/or runs a NGO.

~ Lexicon ~
The vulgar includes a few French terms with Fcuk.
Never the vernacular even at the most vilest.

~ Mission Statement ~
People Like Us Are In Charge
So
The World Is Beautiful.…💕

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Anatomy of An Indian Liberal Post – 2014

Class – Privileged
(Aspirants remain foot soldiers. Till you are an alumni of any of the 4 schools, 3 colleges, member of IIC, IHC, DGC, Delhi Gym & one of the 6 residential localities of Delhi & 2 of NCR -don’t even dare ………!)

First Language – English

Religious Denomination – Defiantly Atheist
Parties on special occasions except whole hog at Wedding Ceremonies (can’t deny a bride & groom their Bollywood moment)
Cremations…Abh jaate jaate kya ladhna …?
Nonpolluting electric cremation

Celebrations
Eid – Owaisi is my Biryani Buddy.
Easter – Hail the Resurrection of Christ.
But it’s not as regressive as Karva Chauth & Raksha Bandhan…
Christmas – Christmas Lunch & Carols where Father X of letter writing fame is invited.

Celebrations
Polluting Diwali. Ram was anyway a chauvinistic pig (Audrey Truschke)
Misogynistic Holi. Waste of water & Sagarika Certified semen filled balloons -Ewwww!

Food habits – MEAT EATING.
Check FB & Instagram for fillet & steak pics, giraffe head & rhino bottom.

~ Personal Statement ~
Love Aurangzeb. He was the best. Tipu rocks !
Thank God we were saved by colonization.

~ Opinion ~
Critical on anything Hindu.
Silent on Islam – Marna hai kya?
Christianity – Awww! Mulled wine?!?

~ This Is Not The India We Knew ~
Knowledge of India extends to now only 2 in the servant quarter (good staff is very difficult to find & thanks to Modi they are doing this, that & whatever in their villages )
also 3 in JNU
& Uber/ Ola Cab drivers

~ Beauty of Subterfuge ~
Urban Naxal from my well anointed drawing room.

Terror apologies keeps those wine cellars chilled.…
(BTW Geelani Sahib & Mirwaiz Sahib are the epitome of Kashmiriyat & don’t talk of those sobbing Pandits. See how well N is coping)

~ Syncretic Culture ~
Bound by single malt the kababs at Karim’s, Yasim Malik, Joy to the World & yaar, find me a Dalit to invite for my dinner party.…

~ Social Standing ~
Desperate.
NGO flush funds have dried up.
NAC is disbanded.

~ Lexicon ~
Vulgar still includes few French terms with Fcuk.
But the ones that really touch a chord – Go drink Gaumutra & Low IQ Sanghi. Absolutely melodious from those of us who understand Default Setting & the difference between Profit & Loss)

~ Mission Statement ~
We will battle to bring back our beautiful India of peace, love, equality & secularism that has all but disappeared thanks to Narendra Modi.
We miss those days when Soniajee met World Leaders in those gorgeous sarees & MMS… well, MMS…

~ Motto ~
Noi mangeremo di nuovo. Avrai anche la possibilta di mangiare di nuovo.

Loosely translated with due apologies to the Doyenne of Loose Translations, Mme. Trushcke.

Hum phirse khaayenge. Aap ko bhi mauka milega.

~ Toast ~
Bring down this Govt of Plebs!

 

x ——————————————————————— x

You’ve Always Been Here But I’ve Just Got To Know You….

IMG_4392

Up on a mountain, tucked away in a beautiful corner of the country, in an old school with sun streaming class rooms, sat little girls at heavy much-used teak desks. Sharpened pencils in hand, rulers & erasers close by, awaiting the subject they had to write on.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up was usually most popular with English teachers & also with Sister Carmelis, by every standard a good educator & a popular nun.
Generations of students swore by her & returned in the summers to say hello, pay their respects, get their cheeks pinched & then leave their daughters in her charge.
Like an aged much-loved star she had a few classic lines –
Naughty, naughty baccha.
No shaitaini.

And how she was loved for it.
After all it’s not everyday a British woman gave up her life of privilege in her country & came all the way to India to teach native children, in the service of Christ.

We woke up to the Lord’s Prayer. Said Grace before meals three times a day and Hail Mary at bedtime. All with fevour & respect.
However, when the lights were switched off & homesickness got the better of some of us, we whispered our Gayatri Mantras.

Her classes however, were a part of the day that we looked forward to.
Besides pronunciation & articulation we were taught to be Little Ladies & not as she said, Bold Pieces.
At least once a term her class was expected to write on What I want To Be When I Grow Up…..
Simple enough you would say, but not as simple as you will see.

The basic rules of essay writing were elucidated in her brisk, crisp, Scottish burr.
The introduction.
The body
& the conclusion.
In the introduction we were expected to give the reader an impression that we had given much thought to the subject & then made an informed decision on what we wanted to eventually be.

In the body of the essay we were to reveal our ambition.
Well, not ambition exactly, as that wasn’t a ladylike virtue.
Neither could we say – want, because that was selfish.
So yes, wish was more appropriate – What I Wish To Be When I Grow Up.
And if one chose a historical personality to serve as an example then that would be as Sister Carmelis would say – Simply Perfect !

Now as most students know there’s no point in rocking the boat & raising hackles over nothing. The entire exercise of this education was to obtain good marks, please the teacher & in the bargain please the parents when they saw the report card.
Keeping these three points in mind What I Wish To Be When I Grow Up was determined.

Through a method of elimination all seventeen of us knew who we didn’t want to be.
Noor Jehan – devious & ambitious.
Mumtaz Mahal – only remembered in death.
Helen of Troy – cause of a war & probably a Bold Piece.
Laxmi Bai – fought the British. (Hello, Sister Carmelis was British. Want to fail, what ?)
Marie Curie – at age ten we had still to wrap our heads around what she had discovered.

Till we hit upon Florence Nightingale – British social reformer & founder of modern nursing. Yaaay !
The Lady With The Lamp found much enthusiasm in our class & we all wanted to be like her.
The conclusion of the essay thus emphasised how we believed in selflessness, devotion & hard-work. In fact a calling from God himself.
Erm… which God ? Sister Carmelis’s God, of course.

______________________________________________________________

A common thread which ran through colonised societies was the ability of the upper classes to cope being astride two diametrically opposed cultures & being constantly fed that they belonged to the inferior one.

So the Brown Sahib who took over at Independence from the Burra Sahib was not only proficient in the Sahibs language but perhaps even better at it. However, having spent a lifetime being obsequious Brown Sahib never allowed Burra Sahib to think so.
Dropping the occasional quote or a verse of poetry just to impress enough & being clever to feign ignorance in matters of his own belief & faith.

You can still recognise the progeny of these Brown Sahibs when they speak to compatriots not proficient in English. A noticeable decibel louder as if one is speaking to the deaf.
Kaise ho Krishan Lal ? Sab theek hai ? Kal bete ko bhej dena… dekhte hain kahan laga sakte hain …

In the early years, post Independence & upto the late 70s Indian children in English medium schools, especially the missionary ones were up on Wordsworth, Robert Frost & Shakespeare.
Very few even knew of Kalidas, Tulsidas & Munshi Premchand more than the perfunctory single or half chapter of their Hindi reader.
Yes they did sing Tagore’s English translation of Where The Head Is Held High….

They were fined if caught speaking a ‘vernacular language’ & were expected to remove every vestige of their faith & festivals- raakhi, mehndi, gold wire piercing in tender ears.
On the other hand, Easter eggs were enthusiastically painted & Nativity Scenes with Mangers were the norm before school closed for Christmas holidays.

Our top boarding schools which churned out bureaucrats, judges, military men, lawyers, leaders, future teachers, influencers, rarely encouraged their students to show or learn about themselves.
It just wasn’t cool.

Familial influences in day schools helped but the boarding school lot had brief interactions with grand parents & perhaps the extended family in the winter holidays to imbibe customs, beliefs or any festivals that fell during that period.

But seventy years on what is unforgivable is that our education methods and syllabi haven’t moved with the aspirations of those born free. The colonisers have left but we remain chained….

Our own literature & classics lie unknown to our children & have no place in their education. Our whitewashed, sanitised history is another subject altogether. A knowledge of Latin is obligatory to understand ancient texts whereas here Sanskrit is relegated to an old shelf.

Even today many speak our own languages with what we believe is an accent.
One has to see most Delhi based English channel anchors, journalists  (with some notable exceptions) struggle in Hindi & bring down the level of questioning to aap ko kaise lag raha hai ?
Or worse to talk down to a panelist who isn’t as fluent in English as the rest.
The unnatural ness of it just doesn’t strike them.

In this limited, closed world of denying our identity, Atheism is a corner one can hide in & yet give scathing, uninformed comments without ownership.
From Sister Carmelis’s class it gives ‘an impression that we have given much thought to the subject & then made an informed opinion’.

Hanuman is suddenly aggressive.
Ram is regressive. Krishna was haha ! a Casanova.
13th century Jauhar is discussed and ridiculously nuanced & compared with 21st century isms & sensibilities.
(That said – a question worth asking is – Why hasn’t Easter reduced some women to an egg ? After all the festival is a celebration of a woman’s fertility )

The easy slide between Atheism & practise is also astounding.
Very few ‘Atheists’ are known to opt for a registered marriage. They meticulously plan & go through the entire mehndi, sangeet, haldi, sehra, traditional ceremony with a pandit around the fire. The now on & now off convenient Hindu, aka Atheist, also remembers the Griha Parvesh, for luck.
Nothing wrong in that at all because Hinduism has space for the doubters & part-timers too. But why judge the more consistent ones ?

Is it a wonder then a revival & pride in Hinduism scares them ?

They know nothing of it.
It’s not only a mirror of their own lack of knowledge of the subject but also the arrogance of a class that believes that without the vetting of their Historians, their Social Commentators & their Influencers there cannot be a movement or pride in something of our own. And worse, they believe what kind of revival is this that includes the unwashed masses ?!?

Humare time main sub apna apna jagah janta tha…

“The most serious blow suffered by the colonized is being removed from history and from the community. Colonization usurps any free role in either war or peace, every decision contributing to his destiny and that of the world, and all cultural and social responsibility.”
― Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized

~ Rome Was Not Built In A Day. It was Built Everyday ~

Many like myself were disgusted with the Congress & ashamed to have a PM who had demeaned his office to such an extent that he was a parody of himself.
There was not one cabinet minister who wasn’t arrogant & infuriating. A constant musical chairs of incompetent but loyal to Sonia Gandhi men & women shunted from one ministry to the other in cabinet reshuffles.

Sometimes it felt she took perverse pleasure in pushing in our face, party members, allies & even a President who were known to be obnoxiously corrupt or compromised.
To make matters worse, her dutiful puppet every once in a while, declared that he was only keeping his seat warm for the untested & by all accounts, irresponsible & intellectually deficient, Rahul Gandhi.

On the other hand, the choice before us was a lack lustre BJP.
LK Advani wasn’t in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee mould but neither had he anything new to offer for himself. Sushma Swaraj & Arun Jaitley’s oratory was par excellence & when compared to the jarring Sonia Gandhi & the monosyllabic Manmohan Singh it was indeed music to the ears.
However, it did not escape many of us that despite the din in the Parliament & all the walkouts almost every UPA bill was passed.

So, what exactly did the BJP stand for?
Was it in reality only the Indian National Congress With A Cow & the Ram Mandir vaguely looming in the background …?

In this very disheartening, lack lustre & almost hopeless scenario Narendra Modi was declared BJPs Prime Ministerial candidate & as a consequence we witnessed a definite electrifying effect on the political scene.
For many of us it was as if a defibrillator had been applied & the jolt woke us up from a helpless, depressing slumber.
From the howls of rage heard across the media & the establishment we gathered it was a terrifying moment indeed for others.
A Narendra Modi victory could well mean years of privilege, access to high echelons & the gravy train coming to a stop.

The election itself was hard, gritty, nasty.
But suddenly there was so much hope. A hope that could be clutched, touched & held despite a panicky mainstream media who attempted putting out what was nothing less than a forest fire by stomping all over it.

A successful CM, a self-made man, with no dynasty behind him or before, brought a newness never experienced. But in our hearts, we did have a moment of worry for this man new to the clawing, ruthless network of Delhi that had for centuries, chewed & spat out lesser men & women.

We watched with some doubt & trepidation the chosen Lutyens’s acolyte who was given the task of manoeuvring the power corridors for him. But what the hell if it was required, so be it.

We looked forward to governance, accountability & a surge of infrastructural, educational & healthcare projects that would improve the quality of life of our neglected masses.
We hoped for a foreign policy whose hallmark would be unapologetically pro Indian & a revival of the economy.
And of course, that appeasement which made us feel that we were of a lesser God would be done away with Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas.
We also believed that looters & thieves of the last regime would pay dearly for their misdeeds.

It must be said that there have been several successes & moments of great pride for a desperately parched Nation… & a few missteps too.
There is no doubt so much more must be done. However, integrity & intent are there to see & must be appreciated & applauded. We remember this time, five years ago, all that we could discuss was scams, scams & more scams……

There has been a deep disappointment that old crooks & power brokers still abound fearless in their invincibility.
Still, it has been an education in itself to see the serpents of the old ecosystem bare their fangs & coil themselves protectively around one of theirs. An indication of the dangers that lie in poking the nest.
Nevertheless, it will have to be eventually done but on the day of one’s choice & preparedness.

Then there are many others who expected much more from a BJP government.
Not only an end to the insulting appeasement but a rectifying of decades & might one say, even centuries of injustice. In places of worship, education, history, tradition, culture so criminally neglected by past establishments & their entrenched eco systems for reasons that can be discussed till the cows come home.

Its accepted that the job of any elected government is to provide temporal relief, to win elections, make inroads into new vote banks & to stay in power so as to continue the policies & work it set out to do in the first place.

Citizens, pressure groups must demand & leverage the rest. For a government to comply, a movement must be seen. The first step was taken with the consolidation of the Hindu vote….
Civilizational changes don’t take place while we are away at work or whatever we do. It’s something that people make happen.

In the first month of 2018, a year away from the next general elections many BJP supporters are voicing disappointment. They feel let down & not motivated enough to go out & vote for the BJP again.
They will go NOTA they say. Not voting for the BJP but not voting for the Congress either.
Gujarat has made us aware of the pitfalls of such voting patterns & how it helps the Opposition claim a hollow but ‘moral victory’.

And here is where I ask them to re consider.

Our history is such that there were many among our forefathers who invited what they thought was a lesser enemy to fight a bigger one. And then they learnt to their peril that it was not a smart idea at all. They were many others who promised their band of soldiers but then didn’t turn up for battle or worse, opened the gates for a few pieces of silver, a Jagir or a place at Court.
For those mistakes, we have paid very dearly.

However, we mustn’t forget that they were also those who fought battle after battle against what seemed an invincible, cruel, unscrupulous enemy. Ignoring danger to life & limb they went back to fight another day.

Imagine the determination.
That courage to fight day after day, year after year, decade after decade for generations to come. If we are still here it’s only because of them.
It would be such injustice to our future generations if we give up after a mere five years. When after seventy long years we have both – opportunity & a leader of calibre.
This journey is for the long haul & not for the faint hearted.

There are millions of educated Indians who only read mainstream newspapers, watch the standard dozen panellists on TV & forward WhatsApp messages.
They are completely unaware of the discriminatory nature of RTE, have no knowledge that their temples, unlike mosques & churches are under the control of the government or how we barely escaped, by the skin of our teeth, the devious Communal Bill.
But yes, they have noticed that the festivals & traditions that are held dear, have over the years been subliminally & cleverly nibbled away. It must be noted that they are primed for discussion & debate.

So, wake up every morning, strap yourself with the weapon of your choice & then fight the battle in your own small way. Inform, educate, spread the word.
Didn’t anybody tell you civilizational wars are not won in a day?

Forget about hearing you, the other lot don’t even see you.
So, demand, extract & most important – make a dent, do your bit. But don’t, don’t let this opportunity go. The future will not be forgiving.

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~The reason most people fail instead of succeed is they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment~

Drain The Swamp

So we ran out one hot, dusty, desert afternoon in flapping Hawai chappals on the burning sand towards a rickety bridge.
Look, look they pointed towards the placid waters below.
Except for our panting & giggling there was no sound, no movement, nothing. The waters were quiet, thick & green.
Take this stone & throw it in the pond they urged.
So with all my might I did.
As soon as it hit the surface a sight that has never left me all these years emerged.
A mass of writhing, squirming, jerking, intertwined, twisted, coiled serpents came up with such force almost hissing in our faces, twelve feet above.
Recoiling in terror I could hear someone screaming till I realised it was I.
When I found the courage to look down again, the waters were thick, green, placid once more.
No sign at all of what was beneath.

Over the months a sort of a nervous nonchalance crept in.
While passing one would plop a stone and on cue the mass of hissing serpents would rise & then slither back quietly into their lives below.
It became an initiation of sorts for anyone joining this little band of friends to be taken to the rickety bridge.

This mere dot on the map, at the tethering edge of the Rann Of Kutch had lived alongside the putrid waters for decades.
Not many remembered when the snakes took over & began dictating their lives – when to cross the bridge to avoid the sunning reptiles, how hard to tap the stick to warn them of approaching humans, how to collect the rich dark clay from the banks without getting bitten.
With years came the stories, myths & legends & the snakes took on a life of their own.
Not one Additional District Commissioner could take the decision to clear & clean the place. Either because of his own fears of terrible repercussions or because the citizenry who wanted to let things be.

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In May 2014, once the Lok Sabha election was done & dusted & the euphoria of the mandate had barely seeped in when the placid waters began hissing with activity.
We woke up one morning & discovered that the Christian community felt insecure & threatened.
Julio Rebiero poured out his angst in a national daily.
On cue breathless Barkha Dutt had him on her show & then Admiral Sushil Kumar reiterated similar sentiments.
Aamir’s Khans wife wanted to leave India, or so he said & then with a little prodding Shahrukh Khan was not far behind.
For two shattered glass panes an entire country was tarred intolerant.

A close Christian friend in Singapore called one evening wondering whether she should make that move to her sister in Canada & only return to India to pack her bags.
Another friend recounted her surprise on how Christmas morning at a Delhi Church ended with the young Priest warning them of terrible times ahead & how only Arvind Kejriwal was that wall between the Believers & the Hindu hordes.
What happened overnight & how did it ?

Confronted with a completely unexpected onslaught, Social Media was quick on the uptake & tore into the narrative that was being constructed.
Challenging & countering it all the way till the hissing stopped & the serpents receded into the turgid, green waters……

http://www.firstpost.com/india/crying-wolf-the-narrative-of-the-delhi-church-attacks-flies-in-the-face-of-facts-2101105.html

The second stone plopped on the pond & Dadri’s beef episode hit us in the face.
The incident, the victim, the villains were ready & waiting when every media fatcat & his camera man descended upon this moffussil town.
Now suddenly we all had become a nation that killed people for what they ate.
Never mind the theft.
1

Writers, poets, filmmakers came out to return awards.
That is the certificates, but not the cash which they had spent & enjoyed.Or for that matter, the accommodations in which they were ensconced.
It was a message to the Government, so to speak, only to the extent that was convenient.
2

Shrill voices of panic from sound proof tv studios gave the impression that the country was burning, man was turning on man in the name of faith & food.
NDTV journalists asked loaded questions of visiting foreign CEOs poking & prodding them to get the reactions they wanted.
3

A small scale industry of journalists wrote dramatic school essays on Secularism, The Idea Of India, the India of their Childhood while Arundhati Roy with a chilling sweetness recited a litany of crimes committed by the new government & its controller ‘RSS’ with no regard for facts & dates.
4

Inane, obscure people were plucked out & presented by the Opposition parties in cahoots with certain influential sections of the media as the Next Big One to take on Narendra Modi.
The desperation was almost pathetic considering we all had barely recovered from the Last Big One, Arvind Kejriwal.

By the time the Surgical Strike took place & the panic stricken howl from the usual culprits emanated, most people in the country understood that this was something much more sinister.
These episodes, the build up with doomsday op-eds was not merely a noisy, argumentative, circus democracy where a billion opinions were clawing to be heard but a cabal, a dangerous & incestuous club that had been deeply threatened & was going to fight to death for the lucre it had sold its soul for.
Damned be the country & its national security…. And they didn’t even make an attempt to hide it.
5

At that epiphaneous moment it became crystal clear.
The enemy was within and the surgical strike should have first cut off this gangrenous limb that poisoned the body.
Venom knew no bounds after an initial state of dumbfounded-ness that Demonetisation reduced us all to.
Those most effected showed themselves up with spluttering rage & predicting doom for Narendra Modi’s political life while assessing the devastation in their finances.
6

To its credit the country stood behind the Government.
The ordinary man reconciled himself to queues & the inconveniences for the greater good.
And yes, the people believed & trusted the Prime Minister for working towards something unimaginable, almost impossible till now.
There’s no doubt a fatigue of sorts had set in at the amateurish, ham handed attempts at propping up paper tigers, reasons & agendas for questioning decisions & of course the rah rah team of a reluctant heir who would rather be on some beach than at an election rally.

We also came to recognise the names & faces of the old order who had been till then supremely content in their genteel environment which camouflaged a mercenary grittiness.
A tight little tribe, secure in the power they held & vicious in their fight to keep it.

They have been victories big & small. There have been missteps too.
There seems to be sometimes a certain discomfort with power.

Modi Govt in Office Not in Power by Minhaz Merchant
https://www.dailyo.in/politics/diplomacy-government-lok-sabha-polls-2019-bjp-congress-narendra-modi/story/1/21577.html

Whatever said, this four year journey has been a watershed.
How many of us realise its historic importance?

The big names we have always known, even grown up with – so many writers, authors, poets, Intellectuals, historians, social commentators, political pundits have fallen by the way side. Did they let us down or did we out grow them?
8

Today what was to be a Hunkar Rally was reduced to a damp squib.
Aspirational India it seems will not be distracted by caste despite ancien regime writers & intellectuals force feeding us.
9

Today, what could have been a stirring visit by an Opposition leader on foreign shore was just a weak & feeble attempt for him to gain much lost ground. The only interest, if at all, was if any hilarious bloopers could be shared.

However what has not escaped the people is that though the Opposition Leader & PM aspirant lacks intellectual depth, his Machiavellian handlers are not to be taken lightly.

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The new young District Commissioner who took over from his predecessor was warned to leave the waters untouched, to skirt around the pond & to avoid the snakes.
However, one morning the people woke up to a bulldozer, a dredging machine & huge fishing net.
The entire exercise took a few days as we watched aghast the protesting mass of writhing, squirming, jerking, intertwined, twisted, coiled serpents were scooped up & taken away.

Was this even possible? How could something unimaginable such as this have happened?
But it did.
The waters & banks were cleaned & green. The rickety bridge reinforced & strengthened for vehicular traffic.
Before long, the snakes were part of folklore & we learnt to dabble our feet fearlessly in the pond.

The young District Commissioner was remembered for years as the man who undertook the impossible task & then his name faded away as others took on the mantle & saw to it that the pond remained clean & the snakes didn’t return.

_____

Perchance one day, several years later, in my adulthood I learnt that water snakes are probably the least poisonous.Yes, dying of shock was possible but dying of water-snake bite improbable.

Drain The Swamp

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History On The Big Screen

Countless, absolutely a countless number of films, documentaries, TV series have been made by the French & the British on their Kings, Queens, Mistresses, Popes.
Similarly, on the French Revolution, World War I & II, its famous personalities Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt, Hitler, Stalin, Charles De Gaulle, the Normandy Crossings…..
So many histories, threads, truths & untruths, a cause for controversy indeed.
However, each film is a body of work with its opinion, creative license, artistic liberty & it goes & settles in its own niche, claiming its own fame & notoriety & complementing a whole, from which one can draw ones own conclusion.

Reasons for demanding changes & or, censoring any recent film in the UK have been for explicit violent sexual content, cruelty to animals & children, DIY films on bomb making.
The days of protest for inter-class sexual escapades were forgotten after Lady Chatterley’s Lover & Lolita looks like a bed time story today.

France’s own very liberal attitude towards the Arts is legendary. In comparison the UK & US come across as prissy & puritanical.
Withstanding, till the early 1990s the Catholic Church in France gave its own recommendations for films, books & art.
In TV magazines one got to read the review of the CNC – Centre Nationale De Cinema et L’ Image Anime as well as the Catholic Church.

What is however exceptional about France is, that it’s not only a nation so proud & overtly so, of its history, culture, cuisine, language but it’s irreverence to it all, is as much a national characteristic.

It’s noteworthy however that no protests by any faith, community or racial group has been given consideration for the release of a book, film, play or art in both these countries though they are very much multi racial.

Closer home in Malaysia, most biblical films like Benhur, The Last Testament of Christ, Da Vinci Code were banned for ‘religious’ reasons.
With a predominantly Muslim population, Buddhist, Hindu & Christian sensibilities get short shrift.

Babe was banned because it showed a pig in a positive light & then released only on VHS. Whereas, Schindler’s List was considered a propaganda film, seeking sympathy.
Brokeback Mountain wasn’t released because it was empathetic to homosexuality & Wonder Woman because its leading lady Gal Godot had served in the Israeli Army.
The populace doesn’t have much say in any of these decisions. However, the State in its wisdom acts on the behalf of the Bhoomiputras.

A case in point is Kamal Hasan’s Vishwaroopam. It was initially shown in Malaysia but withdrawn in a couple of days as it was thought to show Islam in poor light.
This it seems had the approval of the citizenry at large but they didn’t mind seeing the heavily cut version on VHS in the privacy of their homes.

Malaysia’s own home grown films are now starting to focus on family, social issues & historical values.The most popular being The Iban Warrior, a story of a national war hero fighting against communists. Sticking to known facts, its considered a very popular classic.

Where then does Indian film sensibility lie in regard to the UK with whom we share a language, our parliamentary system, education system, our laws & an important slice of our history?
With France, who gave the world hope with Liberty, Equality & Fraternity & is as proud of its cultural heritage as we are or perhaps a once colonised Malaysia to the East, which carries four distinct diverse faiths & languages…?

For a country like ours so rich in history & folklore we can probably only list a dozen period films with famous historical personalities.
To name a few there was Prithviraj Kapoor’s Alam Ara, Sorab Modi’s Sikandar & Dara Singh’s Greco-Roman action packed entertainers.

However it was Mughal-e -Azam that caught the nation’s attention.
It can be said that it kept our new cinematic sensibilities in mind & didn’t touch on the historical or political aspect of a well documented time & emperor. But chose instead, to tell a little known love story of his perpetually smitten son.

The big screen mesmerised us for its songs, Madhubala’s ethereal beauty, Dilip Kumar for his lovelorn role, Prithviraj Kapoor’s acting prowess, his voice & bearing …..
But did Anarkali actually exist?
Was she really condemned to be bricked up in a wall for the crime of falling in love with Jehangir, an important heir & prince, future king of Hindustan?
We do not know & nor do we care. Is it because as long as it brought tears to our eyes there must have surely have been some truth to it?

In the 70’s Fatehpur Sikhri’s guides were disdainful of the Anarkali story. However on a recent visit a young guide pointed out with great authority to a wall Anarkali had been bricked in. He informed us that there was a tunnel to Lahore right beneath us & that’s how Anarkali & her mother escaped with the connivance of Akbar’s courtiers, probably with the approval of the king himself.

To those who say – It’s only a film –
Was myth turned to reality because of a film?
Or fact finally acknowledged?

It’s tragic indeed in one of the world’s largest film industries there isn’t another single film or documentary produced to offer the ordinary film going audience a contrary version or another perspective at looking at the same story.

Jodha Akbar comes to mind as a recent period film which made an impact.
We loved Aishwarya & Hritik in their roles. But, for some sketches in our school history books, we had & still have little idea how the man looked & much less his Hindu wife.
The colours, the extravaganza, the haunting music …three hours of that love, romance & that ultimate tapestry of cultures that should have amalgamated & been the norm, if only history had been, as taught….

But then- someone threw a cold bucket of water on our beauteous Jodha & asked Jodha Who?
Is there another film, documentary or TV series that we can turn to?
Another director’s artistic license, perhaps? Or a brutal taken down? Sadly not.

To cover the Revolution for a history class in France an average school student could take to the school library, the district library & the film archives at the museums.
In the mid 1970’s one could access over 3000 documentary films, French & foreign TV series & other films on the subject.
One had to book a time, mention the subject of interest & if one required assistance.
Then in a booth one could watch films, making notes. Some films were unknown but critically acclaimed, others world famous but most were meticulously detailed & researched UNLESS specifically mentioned so.

And that brings us to the question : Why Are We So Touchy ?
Perhaps for two reasons.
One, the cinematic treatment in the ‘facts’ department is meagre & mediocre.
Two, the political twist doesn’t help matters.

We have only one single popular film on Akbar & his Jodha.
(Around 30 on Queen Elizabeth I, including rip roaring comedies)
It is as if a national monument was raised & because of its permanence we wanted it to be perfect. If the past is anything to go by, we knew that this film would be the last cinematic word on this subject for decades to come. A Go To film hence, every aspect deserved attention, every detail mentioned & the veracity of historical facts checked & rechecked.

Many among us are are content with the pretty-pretty & then there are those who want to scratch every wound because for them pride, honour or simply the healing process requires it.

Between weak-kneed film makers whose scriptwriters & research teams have little scholarship & politicians greedy for vote banks, we have an exacerbated situation where they give in to groups that claim to be offended & insulted.
With doing this once, the flood gates are opened for the next group demanding the same.
To then use the argument of creative license is insulting & unfair.
It’s not difficult to comprehend that one rule should hold for all or expect ‘artistic liberty’ to be manipulated & threatened.

The tragedy in this complicated story is that the people on whom we bestow this responsibility of raising a monument, are not necessarily up to the job. Withstanding their own pretentious opinions of themselves.
They excel in fantasy, a pre-set formula that sells, where king meets queen & to hell with recorded facts because blow fans tossing beautiful hair, will do the rest of the story telling.

A change can only be expected if cinematography of a higher calibre is encouraged & when film directors break out of the mould.
When history taught does not merely mean learning dates by rote but by researching, assessing & questioning.
…..Till then we are chained to a cycle of mediocrity, obfuscations & a lazy manipulation of the truth.

Its not just a film –
The Art of Filmmaking Is The Most Influential Form Of Art That Has Ever Existed Throughout The History Of Human Artistic Endeavours

Dera Sacha Sauda – An Encounter

Dera Sacha Sauda, hitherto unknown to most of us, has in the past few days occupied much mind & conversation space. Our senses have been battered, from the ridiculous, to the evil, to the inexplicable fervor of the followers.

Who are these people & why would they even look up to this Neanderthal creature of puerile sensibilities in Lycra, sequins & special effects?

So, it was a strange coincidence indeed, that I actually met a devotee of Dera Sacha Sauda last evening at a close friend’s!
Strange, because not once did I think, that I may know someone so removed from my life, in a place that I considered as good as home.

In the course of the evening I made conversation with a woman in her late forties, visiting from Canada, to trousseau shop for her daughter.
The conversation flitted from ‘designer’ lenghas in Chandni Chowk, to the extravagance of genuine ones, the choice available today &….. all things mothers discuss when they’re as excited as their daughters but tempered down by looming bills.
Her husband she said, works for Vancouver City & she, for a real estate company after years of being a home maker.
Before we fly off, she said, my daughter had hoped to take the blessings of our elders at the Dera, but this time it’s not to be.

Dera.
A word which had no place in my lexicon till last week perked my ears – Which one? Where?
~The one that’s on TV~

At the risk of sounding snobbish or was it ignorance, that I couldn’t for the life of me associate her with the image I had in my mind.

Her in-laws & a dozen other families, Dera followers, immigrated to Canada in 1950s & 60s.
And though Sikhism frowns on the caste system it’s actually a reality with Jats being on top of the pecking order.
The lower castes, marginalised, landless, with few opportunities, left as labour for New England fruit orchards & lumber jacks in Canada.

With the connections & the association of the Dera they belonged to, they stayed close at Gurudwaras, Langars & Kirtans.
They socialised & offered emotional support to each other.
The feeling of belonging & having someone of their own was comforting in foreign lands.

After all these years their ties with the Dera were strong. It is a close-knit community that remains eternally grateful for the start & opportunity given to them.
The second generation is educated & largely successful.
They organise Deras & Bhandaras in North America. Some of them hold positions of authority in the overseas organisation & also collect huge contributions. The figures were actually mind boggling.

Their children are encouraged on vacations, to return home & spend time at the Dera for Seva, to connect with their roots.
Doctors, engineers, architects offer gratis expertise to the Dera’s works & projects. In fact, a devotee parfumier was working on a perfume for their store.

Articulate & with an astonishing frankness she answered many curious questions.
We get a lot of respect at the Dera, she said. Others look up to us & our success. It gives hope to the less fortunate that they too can make a good life with hard work & perseverance.

The family who remains in Bhatinda is associated on a daily basis.
A cousin is a manager in the Dera’s dairy. Others also find employment, social interaction, affinity through arranged marriages. A club of sorts.

But what about the horrors & crimes of Gurmeet Ram Rahim?
~He’s a Baba gone rogue. Punish him. Let the law take its course.
With your closed minds & lack of understanding of our position in Indian society don’t condemn an entire Dera and the work its done – the security, the opportunities, the employment, the solace it has offered to thousands of people.

The Radha Soamis also have the same kind of organisations.
Beas follows the hereditary tradition, Dayal Bagh is like ours. Is it because their followers are wealthy & well connected you aren’t critical of them?

No, I’ve seen the Radha Soamis up close I told her. The community service they do is highly commendable. The bonding they offer is good for those who seek such ties but it makes me wary that the Huzoor, Guru or Baba is almost God incarnate & his word & wisdom is taken as gospel (pun intended).
That ardor & devotion can test a lesser man.

Yes, she said, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was that lesser man.
A speck. A shameful blot. The Dera is bigger than that.
He can go to prison but my family and I are forever grateful to this Dera & nothing will shake our faith

After all these years in another country, a different life what ties you to the Dera?
~Our roots & culture. Most of you wouldn’t understand because you’ve never spent a day in our shoes.
Do you know what it feels like, if you are stopped from singing at your place of worship because it disturbs the higher castes? Do you know that our Gurudwara decorations can irk them too ? Our people get protection at the Dera. Can you even begin to understand that? ~

Did you know what he was up to?
~ Many benefited from his misdeeds. Others were scared & kept quiet.
When ordinary people see powerful politicians & administrative officers hobnobbing with the Baba, they know they have no recourse – be it for rape, murder or extortion – as both are in cahoots.
In fact, I blame the politicians who gave him a free pass. They emboldened him ~

Who were these people who descended upon Panchkula?
~ The foot soldiers, who Gurmeet Ram Rahim used & took advantage of & a large number of political goons added to the mayhem.

But her passing comment, turned the evening’s conversation upside down-

The word at the Dera is that the BJP laid a trap for Gurmeet Ram Rahim. They assured him that nothing would happen to him & he should come to the Court with his cavalcade, in full regalia & style. He walked right into their trap.

You’d be surprised how many of us are grateful for that ~

Headline : Chandigarh Stalking

Nirbhaya was brutally raped, thrown on a road, stripped off her clothing, her intestines pulled out, when like any ordinary city working girl she simply decided to go for a film with a friend & take a bus ride home.

Sunanda Tharoor wife of a cabinet minister checked her self into a luxury suite at The Leela & was found dead with bruises & bite marks.
The sham investigation that followed this high profile case didn’t even feel the need to make excuses for its cover up.
How many expected something to come out of it ?

Stalking, harassment, kidnapping, rape & murder abound in a country of 1.2 billion.
The media selectively plucks one out ( usually People Like Us ) from which they can derive the maximum TRPs & we unquestioning their choice, discuss on cue, lack of policing, dismal security, shoddy investigation, CCTVS that don’t work or exist.

TV channels have spawned these talk shows & candle light marches. We willingly change our Facebook & Twitter DP happy to have done our bit & ravenously pore over sanctimonious & smug op-eds of pop psychology that capitalise on our 30 day attention span.

Because we only follow up from headline to headline the fact remains that our cities are terribly unsafe. Our police ill equipped. Law & order dismal. Promises of CCTVs & Helplines forgotten.

Nevertheless TV anchors & their panelists play out the circus breathlessly –

Dear viewer.
We bring to you the very first stalking.
Scary. Frightening.
How do you feel ? What do you think ?
The victim is going to fight it out. The victim has since died but her parents will fight on.
Hashtag IndiaWithXYZ

Dear viewer.
Here is this politician’s spoilt son.
A goon, a drunk. The first man to harass a woman in this country.
His father needs to resign. The Govt needs to go.
Hashtag NeedsToGo

Outrage. Hysteria. Outrage.
What a bloody farce.

If our governments have no intention of providing security. If they have no intention of enforcing law & order & if we are going to allow them –
then this is just another God given opportunity for the out-of-power ones to fix the ones in power.
A chance to be gleefully back in business.
To gleefully scavenge on someone else’s trauma & use it for ones end.

For systemic change we civil society & all its components must demand every hour, everyday of the year that our cities must be made secure as modern, urban population expect all over the world.
We must demand police reforms.
We must demand our law agencies are allowed independence to enforce the law.
We must pressurise a lazy & fearful judiciary to dispense justice.

This is not to say that in civilised societies, mature democracies there isn’t an attempt to protect one’s own. But with the system & institutions in place, the checks & balances make it that much more difficult to do so.
……Or else it all remains a merry go round of hollow, empty rhetoric for which we must share equal blame.

We might not care to recollect those three young girls found hanging from a tree after they went out into the fields one night to urinate. Just like their mothers & grandmothers have done every day of the year before them.
That story is too remote & too far removed from our lives.

But instead please care to remember closer home – Nirbhaya’s parents.
They still live out her brutal rape & slow death every minute of the day. To say ~ time heals ~ would be insulting to those who endure such physical & mental anguish.

However, these very same professional wailing banshees have forgotten them like yesterday’s newspaper.

~ Law & order exist for the purpose of establishing justice & when they fail this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of progress ~

Sent from my iPad

Kuch Nahi Hone Wala Hai

Kuch Nahi Hone Wala Hai
How often do we hear it & say it ourselves in regard to –

Traffic
Pot holes & roads
Pollution
Garbage & debris disposal
Wastage of resources
VIP racism
Small crime
Big crime
Small level corruption
Highest level corruption
Terror & it’s tentacles
National security issues….?

This hopelessness, the resigning one self to, has been the soul destroying, spine breaking & single biggest achievement of our political class & establishment.

Our state of perpetual gratefulness when we procured a berth in a train, hospital bed, a telephone & LPG connection & when we came out alive with barely our shirt on but our wallets much lighter after meeting a Babu, kept us distracted & unquestioning for decades regarding the larger issues of governance & our rights & duties as a citizen.

In the business of making a basic life & as the French put it so succinctly-
Metro Boulot Dodo or Metro Work Sleep we only got excited over Cricket that bound us, Bollywood that dumbed us & Corruption Chatter that only ‘ate away our innards like an angry cancer but diminished our instinct for innovation & creativity’….

We forfeited our voice to a few, who we believed, spoke for us & had our good foremost in mind, with their education, position in society & yes, their proximity to the powers that be.

So when the Government of the day actually declared Swacch Bharat & even though the PM took it on personally, our first instinct was as usual Kuch Nahi Hone Wala Hai.

We actually had well known & respected citizens take pictures of garbage piled in their localities or at landmarks & scoffed the PM for his initiative.
Did it not occur to these people that in this day & age of 24 x 7 media & other platforms the local municipality & it’s functionaries could be brought to task ?
That they could be named & shamed for not doing their job ?
Did their schools forget to teach them that the police are the public & the public are the police ?
But instead the focus was on simply criticizing & calling out the movement as unsuccessful.

To mention the reaction of other political parties & their – We Did /Thought Of This First – would be digressing because this about us & us alone – The Indian citizen.

When construction of toilets was taken up on a war footing the most common comments & questions heard were –
Who is making money in this project ?
Wait and see they’ll be no water & disposal system.
It’s a such a sham.
Our people are like this & will remain so.

How many actually took it further & offered their staff at home or at their work place loans to build a single basic toilet ?

Surgical strike, Demonetization, GST…..
Raids, Enquiries, Law Suits on the mighty & powerful. Yes, not all, not enough, but no doubt a beginning……

We have to admit we’re now live in unimaginably different times.
In our hardened cynical souls, battered & beaten down by a system that respected & rewarded dishonesty we now see a flicker of hope.
How else could you explain this impatience & desire for results in 3 years when we were uncomplaining for more than 6 decades ?

As citizens we have much to re learn if we still believe that we’re subjects & our rights are favours bestowed by the dispensation. Basic amenities are either procured through connections or awaited for, like crumbs flicked off the high table.

The first lesson in fact has come quick, hard & jolted us.
Were we mistaken about those who spoke for us & had platforms to ask questions ? Were they so comfortable on their pedestals, that they now mocked our aspirations & our beliefs ? And worse, turned on us when we questioned their disconnect ?

The fact of the matter is fellow Indians –
One man has planted a seed. But it has to be watered & nurtured by us & us alone.
And if we leave it those whom we had forfeited our voice to –
Kuch Nahi Hone Wala Hai.

~ The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy ~

How Nations Confront Their History

The gates itself were intimidating.
We were led through a Jewish prisoners arrival & life at Dachau.
First the rail wagons on which the prisoners arrived packed like cattle, clutching their scant belongings.
The barking dogs & guards who separated families & pushed them into different areas.
Shaving of heads, the fumigation of people who were till last week doctors, lawyers, teachers, bakers, bus drivers …..
The barracks, the work houses, the kitchens all leading to each other via gravel paths.
The crunch crunch of gravel, the barbed wire fencing, the tower guards, the walls & huge seven feet tall pictures of life at Dachau bore down on us. Healthy men & women turned into skeletons beaten down by work, batons & starved on gruel.
Dogs tearing into & eating prisoners in full view of others, children with dead eyes, that basic concentration camp striped uniform & sabots.

The other visitors were European & American Jews.
Some hard faced & others sobbing unbearably.
Members of a French Book Club and an Austrian school trip.
The Germans were there too, taking their young children around showing them what two generations before them had done.
Perhaps some had grandparents or grand aunts & uncles who had been guards at Dachau or train drivers bringing the cattle containers with Jews or just administration staff weighing the hair of gassed prisoners , their gold teeth or making an inventory of the bones for tea sets & cutlery handles.

The guide then moved back as we walked into a large room.
Behind us the doors slammed. There was a moment of terrified silence.
From behind a glass panel she asked us to look up & through hundreds of nozzles we were told DDT was sprayed on the prisoners who, because of the lice in their hair & mites on their body, were grateful for it.

Next they were led to the ovens.

These were all men & women who were no longer able to contribute to the Nazi industrial machinery, sweat shops & factories.
Hence were disposed off. Simple. Easy. Cruel beyond imagination.

From the chimneys dark smoke emanated & the village of Erlangen an hours drive away, never once questioned the smoke & why were the chimneys letting it off day in and day out.

Today we know 31951 Jews were killed at Dachau & the Germans see it, hear of it & confront their past every day while driving through or living in Erlangen.

700-900,000 were killed in Treblinka
11,00,000 in Auschwitz
50,000 in Bergen-Belsen
600,000 in Belzec
200-250,000 in Sobibor.

All of them are museums open for viewing.

The visitors ran their hands over names they recognized …or was it over their carcasses ?
Feeling each bony rib, each emaciated arm & leg, the spiky hair over brutally shaved heads. The pain was piercing & real.

In the oven room we recognized one single Indian name – Noor Inayat Khan.

For me, a 15 year old girl from India in the 70s, Dachau was my first life changing moment. There were two others much later but Dachau….
The girl who walked in was an entirely different person from the one who walked out three hours later.

It was an epiphany -a peek into a world of grown ups & what horrors they were capable of.
It seemed judges, teachers, doctors & ordinary folk all contributed in the murder of 6 million Jews & 14 million other nationalities because they believed it to be justified & mostly they liked it – quietly.
O yes there was the silent majority. But that majority was worth zilch because it was silent.

I returned to school in Paris & discovered the Cine Club of which I was a member & where I only watched French heart throb Alain Delon or the beauteous Catherine Deneuve films, had an archive on the Holocaust.

With an awakened interest, I watched over two years more than three hundred films.

Heyy Hindoo ! Were you a Jew in your last life ? Who knows ? Who knows ?
(All Indians were known as Hindoo in French & for some reason only Red Indians were called Indians)

Polish Hungarian Romanian German French American…. films from a Jewish child’s point of view, a Jewish music conductor, prostitute, seamstress or a Kapo, a Jew prison functionary.

Then there were films of the German side. The commandant & his wife living a genteel life of culture in the midst of a death camp, of camp female guards, of young girls caught up with the latest fashion, crushes, war, hunger & the mystifying smoke from a camp.

Two members of in our club were Jewish. One had lost her entire family at Treblinka & the other’s grandmother still bore the tattoo of Auschwitz.
As per club rules because we were a group of eight plus we could invite guests & the grandmother with the Auschwitz tattoo came to give us a talk.

In those days the French Education Minister Simone Veil proudly wore her prisoner number on her arm & was not shy of talking about what some believed was France’s dishonorable role during WWII & Marshal Petain acquiescence to the Nazis.

There were open secrets too.
How collaborators had been whitewashed & found their way to the highest echelons of government machinery & society.

The uncle of our school book shop owner had been a member of the French Resistance. He volunteered to take us through the streets on cycles weaving a path from safe houses to Gestapo offices & meeting points along the Seine.
Can we wear a trench coat & beret, please ? After all 15 year olds can only be 15 year old…
He had guffawed – And Ladies don’t forget the red lipstick !

Lesser known directors and actors from the films we watched spoke to us on the subject, the emotions, the demons & the catharsis.
This wasn’t even an institute of film making. A mere school cinema club of teenagers.

This was history out there in the open. For us to see, feel & deal with.

Then on Friday night from what looked like a beautiful study with plump sofas and winged chairs, in a manner so French, Bernard Pivot with a glass of wine in hand, conducted Apostrophes.
Pivot ran this very successful program for 15 years, watched weekly by 6 million viewers, occasionally visibly drunk.
An hour devoted to books, authors and literature. World famous personalities were invited to an open discussion which was interesting, exciting and often volatile.
On Monday afternoons in school we had a class to discuss the topics Pivot had taken up earlier.
Legal abortion was big, WW2, what it meant to be French, antisemitism & ….the Holocaust.

By eighteen I was back in India.

One summer evening sitting in the garden after Krishi Darshan at 6:30 pm and before Chitrahaar at 8pm, I was telling my grandfather about my school & the subjects I had enjoyed & why I wished to pursue History in university.

He watched me animatedly speak of films & the subjects that interested me.
He was shocked at how history was discussed & taught in France.
But that’s keeping hate alive he said.
Look at us. How we suffered Partition. How we were left penniless.
What we left behind. That fear & that panic for the safety of our women still engulfs me on days.
But we have buried it deep. We don’t talk about it. We must not.

This- Must Not – was all over.

My university’s history under graduate syllabus didn’t cover Partition.
When I asked why isn’t an event that claimed millions of lives, the largest displacement of population in recent history not taught? It was met with a stoniness that led me to fear that my professor had already judged & slotted me.

Getting into the National Archives was like having the temerity to ask for Indo-Pak war plans.
Requests for entrance were met with the same encouragement the Indian State excels in. Attested copies of this & that. Proof of research etc etc.
JNU Library was then the most wondrous place to be and many hours were spent reading, searching …. quite unaware then of the Left’s Great Silence & their criminal role in sanitizing history.

Book stores had a single half empty shelf of that period. Kushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan being the most popular. Certainly there must have been books in other languages but I was handicapped by not being proficient in them.

Till 9 years later, we watched Tamas on TV.
That evening, the drink was nursed & dinner somber unlike others. That night in a single air conditioned room where the beds were laid out, my grandfather dredged out from deep within him an experience that could only be spoken of with the lights switched off. The five people in that room changed forever – one film, the images, the characters & a desperate journey had prised open a chest filled with pain.

He then slowly became open to speaking about the Partition.
For a stoic soldier of WW2 vintage having fought the Japanese in Burma, witnessed his country torn asunder, having left his beloved malta orchard in Sargodha, it took some doing.

By the time we watched Train to Pakistan in 1998 I was recording his stories.
He had taken to inviting fellow travelers from that time for drinks, dinner & conversation so that young people could learn their history.
We learnt of people we knew & how they had coped or succumbed.
Of that journey.
A beloved uncle, a mustachioed much decorated soldier, orphaned during a terrifying train journey ended up rolling out rotis in a refugee camp.
We heard shameful tales of well known pillars of our society. The compromises & the betrayals.
We met people who were completely forgiving & others who still carried a dagger in their heart.
And no he wasn’t that sort of Punjabi who yearned to see Sargodha, Lahore or Quetta. He wanted it out, out of his system. Cleansed forever.

Urvashi Butalia ‘s The Other Side Of Silence & Shauna Singh Baldwin’s What The Body Remembers were published years later & are simply superb. testimonies of those turbulent times.
There must have been several wonderfully researched books & documents available for scholars but very little for the pedestrian reader & viewer. And if there was so little to read at my age what was being taught in school ? The project it seemed was to bury deep like shame.

Kirron Kher’s Pakistani film Khamosh Pani was released much after my grandfather’s passing.
That story would have torn his heart out or perhaps his spirit would have been freed if he had known earlier that there were deep wells in other people’s lives too.

Art, culture, history taught & spoken are soothing balms for wretched souls savaged by violence.
Our leaders, historians & thinkers in their wisdom never utilized these means to assuage a new country & it’s trauma. They were blind to how other nations handled their demons and attempted healing.

So with maybe four films & a handful of books dedicated to the Partition, we watched an Englishman’s version of Gandhi.
We couldn’t trust ourselves to make a film on him. A Sanjay Leela Bhansali or a Ashutosh Gowrikar would have left us cringing or perhaps even more damaged.

The unforgivable tragedy is that we were deprived of National Therapy, a collective conversation to reveal, speak, discover others equally wounded and above all question.

To make it worse we continue to repeat our errors by obfuscating the truth. And in obfuscating the truth we refuse to name & recognize the gangrenous nature of what was once our limb.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

Thank you very much for the greetings on my birthday. It was a surprise and much appreciated.

May I ask for a favour?

Today, I am an 84 yr old officer commissioned in Dec 1952 and belong to the 1st Course of the National Defence Academy.
From Jan 1949, when I joined the NDA, I have only seen a steady decline in the status and financial state of the Armed Forces. If this decline is not arrested we will have an abundance of fine soldiers (due to unemployment) to be lead by mediocre or below par officers.

Field Marshal Carriapa said at our Passing out Parade in 1952 that the Jawans are always good, it is the officers who have to be capable of leading them.
It is sad that due to the neglect by successive governments only mediocre or below par officers are being inducted as the cream of the youth available has been skimmed off by the civil services and the corporate sector due to poor financial and social status.

Till mid 1950s we used to be equated to the British company officers and the civil services were considered nowhere near AF Officers.
Most senior officers in the police were seconded from the Army who were medically unfit for army service, and the senior most officer in the police held an appointment of Inspector General which was junior to a Brigadier.

Unfortunately, the scene has changed completely.
The AFs are being undermined consistently and relentlessly as though the bureaucracy’s only agenda is to belittle the soldiers.
Previously, the governments were least concerned and aim was how to stay in power and milk the Nation.
While the AFs continued protecting the sovereignty, with inadequate equipment due to rampant corruption, the civil services quietly continued up grading themselves vis a vis the soldiers.

After the biggest national victory in 1971 the slogan being chanted was “India Is Indira & Indira is India”.
While the 3rd CPC inflicted the most grievous wound on the AFs, by lifting the pensions of civil servants, reducing the pensions of JCOs and OR and not giving any additional benefit to the officers.
It looked as though it was the civil servants who had created a new country and taken 93,000 POWs.

The cunning and cussedness of the IAS started from the time FM Ayub Khan declared martial law in Pakistan.
They started putting fear in the then government that the Indian Army may also take over the nation. By playing on these fears and the insecurity of inexperienced politicians the IAS ingratiated itself with the ruling party and started eroding the status of the AFs while consistently upgraded themselves.

When I was commissioned an IAS officer felt that he would be happy if he retired as a deputy secretary at age 55.
The AFs aspired to retire as Lt Cols at 48 yrs after commanding their regiments.
The difference was in their pensions.
A Dy Secy took home less than Rs 400 pm while a Lt Col took Rs 675 pm.

Now every civilian entrant, whatever be his performance, retires as an additional secretary at age 60, while the Lt Col retires at 52 and both take home 50% of last drawn pay.

As the IAS had to carry other civil services along, except the AFs, crumbs were thrown at them also.
Now these services have more additional secretary level officers in a cadre strength of about 15,000, than all the AFs together, which have an officer strength of about 60,000.

Something is radically wrong in the cadre management, which is costing the country a pile while providing poor administrative support to the citizens.

I would like to bring to your notice that in the military academies, the Sword of Honour winners among the cadets do not become the Chiefs of the services.
The order of merit (O of M) is decided on the performance during training and then it is revised based on the performance during an individual’s service.
However, in n the civil services the O of M is decided by the performance in the UPSC entrance examination and they carry it through out their service, whatever be their contribution to the nation’s well being.
It is ironical that with NFU the civil services have thrown performance linked promotions out of the window, which is ensuring that we stay at the bottom of the comity of nations despite paying much more than our civil servants deserve.
Ask any HR professional and he will give an adverse report within minutes, on the way the cadre management of civil servants is being done.

The worst part is that to maintain the supremacy of the civil servant this gang will not hesitate to feed wrong data to any committee being set up eg., the 7th CPC.
They have become so confident and brazen that they are not even worried about committing contempt of the Supreme Court by supplying wrong data, just to prove their point.

I had written to the RM a few months ago that the integration of the MOD with the AFs must be done, as recommended by a knowledgeable civil servant, Mr K Subramaniam in his report, post Kargil operations. This will ensure that decisions by the civil servants in MOD are not taken in silos and the RM receives well considered advice.
Otherwise, he will always keep telling the Services, “I will look into the matter” after every biased decision is announced by the MOD.
As it happened after the recent announcement of an unfair revised equation between defence officers and civil servants, in the MOD.

This one sided decision making is not new. In 1975 when I was Military Attache in our Embassy in Paris I was paid Foreign Allowance (dearness allowance abroad) equal to a 1st Secretary, even though I was entitled to FA equal to a Counselor as per a MEA letter, because the MOD had issued a letter giving arbitrary equations.
It is still happening because the MOD is always looking for ways to belittle the armed forces.

May I therefore, please ask as to why the government is ensuring that the soldiers not only have to fight our enemies on the outside, but also the known enemy within?
The latter fight is more debilitating and demoralising.

Your government has its objectives clear, but regretfully a major portion of the bureaucracy is not with you, as it still owes its loyalty to earlier masters.

With warm regards and wishing you and the Nation a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Diwali, under your leadership.

Lt Gen SK Bahri PVSM

birthday-greetings