Telegraph Calcutta

The Modi Test

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Someday very soon someone will commission a poll on who will be India’s preferred pick for prime minister in 2019, and the answer won’t be worth either the wait or the bet. It will be the same man who has consistently led such polls since 2013 or thereabouts: Narendra Damodardas Modi. His most credible emerging challenger, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, will probably have added a few percentage points to his lapel but the overwhelming odds still are Modi will re-emerge frontrunner by a fair distance.

There doesn’t exist in the field yet a politician that can match Modi on vital counts — reach, resources, energy, focus, impact; the ability to intervene and disrupt and, very often, cynically and dangerously distort for political purchase; a flair for communicating to his constituency with things said and left unsaid; a whetted, and occasionally diabolical, determination to retain grip on his reign. Modi is a consummate and unsentimental power creature like no other about. He hasn’t come under the lee of last week’s reverses suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he continues to loom over them, still quite a raved, even ravished, reputation.

But here’s the thing about reputations and public ravishment with them: they tend to quickly unravel, and sometimes they unravel without revealing upon the victim the approaching fall of fates. As happened to Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004, arguably the Leviathan of that time but one who had begun to gloat on the notion that he had conjured a Shining India. Or as happened to the Janata Party, so euphorically elected in 1977 as rap and replacement to Indira Gandhi and her excessive Emergency; the Janata jubilation soured so quickly and wholly, the widely despised and dethroned Indira Gandhi was brought back to power in 1980. Or even as happened to her son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi, who still holds the record for acquiring the largest-ever Lok Sabha kitty in 1984. It all got frittered in the space of less than a term; by 1989 India’s first pin-up prime minister had come unstuck. When the ground beneath shifts, the first it fells are those that stand tallest on it.

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There will, justifiably, be arguments over whether or not the ouster of BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh reflect on Modi, and if they do, to what degree. Modi, after all, was not a contender anywhere. Several reports off the field suggested that despite the adverse turn of public mood towards incumbents in the states, Modi himself appeared unaffected, that this was a local vote driven by local factors; the 2019 vote, with Modi at its centre, will be quite another in nature. Presidential, if one word can sum it up; if not Modi, WHO?

What there can be little argument about are a few other things that might also come to bear on the outcome of 2019. The first among them is this: a large chunk of the Indian heartland has now slipped under Congress rule and all of its governments will be freshly incumbent by the time Lok Sabha elections are held; power lends you key levers and in the three states the BJP just lost, those levers are with the Congress. For a party like the Congress, whose rank and file had turned infamously demotivated since 2014, three chunky handles on power will also likely mean an injection of energy and self-belief at the organisational level. At the leadership level, Pappu has already begun to fluster the authors of that moniker. And Pidi is no longer yelping or barking; Pidi just bit, not once but thrice. Rahul Gandhi is beginning to deliver what few reckoned he ever was capable of delivering: electoral victories and the shoots of a sense that Indian politics isn’t the unipolar deal that Modi’s raucous cries of “Congress-mukt Bharat” and BJP president Amit Shah’s claims of “ruling another fifty years” had begun to suggest to some. That question has been resoundingly asked as counter-echo to There Is No Alternative (TINA): Is There No Alternative (ITNA) ?

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The Modi-Shah duo has suffered reverses earlier, in Delhi, in Bihar, in Punjab, in Karnataka. But this may be different. This is about a piece of real estate the BJP believed to have exclusive rights over, its core ground, the Hindi-speaking, overwhelmingly Hindu cow-belt. And the loss of it has arrived far too close to the 2019 contest.

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There are yet more things there can be little arguing with. Up close to the end of Modi’s term, rural/agrarian anger swirls about its pocket-borough patch like never before, and the blame for that must lie at the Centre’s door much more than it lies with state governments. Seventy or more per cent of the populations of states the BJP just lost live in villages and depend on land — its produce and the buying power it generates or does not. The losses for the BJP in rural belts has been stunning as a slap. Thirty four per cent rural seat-share losses in Chhattisgarh, 30 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 49 per cent in Rajasthan. Those numbers turn darker when set in a Venn diagram to depict the overlap with the desertion of SC/ST votes. The BJP lost more than 61 lakh votes in just those three states; the Congress gained close to a crore and a quarter. A projection — purely mathematical as opposed to political, it must be emphasised — suggests the BJP stands to lose as many as 44 Lok Sabha seats across this geography.

The ground was adverse, angry. Which brings us to another, and probably critical, issue not many can argue with: Modi’s inability to turn things around this time. It’s what the BJP has come to invest great faith in — the knack Modi has of landing in the midst of a tough battle and extracting victory from the jaws of defeat, of turning things around single-handed, of turning the public mood with his oratory, of unleashing a surge of energy nobody else can. The Prime Minister barn-stormed the battlegrounds aggressively and provocatively, but he could not swing it. Whether the razor verdicts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were achieved because Modi was able to push and spur with his rallies or whether it was down to how popular local leaders like Shivraj Chouhan remained is a matter the BJP will best grapple with internally, but on the outside the patent truth is Modi could not make a significant difference.

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What can he do to intervene more decisively in the coming months, as he has often done in the past? Does he have a record to boast of, feathers to pin into his flamboyant pugrees? On the evidence of the campaign he just finished, there exists a poverty of positive talking points in his quiver. In the absence of credible claims he could make, he chose to rely on blame, on attacking the Nehru-Gandhis in particular. He often sounded surreal, as if they were still in saddle and he were launching into battle against the Nehru-Gandhi establishment. He no longer brags about demonetisation or GST, aware that the widespread verdict on both is palpably negative. The hope he generated in 2013-14 has turned to heated hype paid for mostly by the public exchequer. His fancy flagship initiatives have barely gone beyond claims and sloganeering. Unemployment is soaring, purses across the nation are pinching. (Or, it could be argued that farmers don’t carry purses.) Key institutions he has turned to a shambles over the course of his reign — Supreme Court judges found themselves compelled to call an unprecedented press meet and raise alarm over executive interference, the Reserve Bank lies wracked, the CBI is controversially riven and headless, the Central Information Commission has complained of manipulation, the armed forces, well they have never ever before been encouraged into overt ultra-nationalist political discourse as today.

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Modi did play hard at his default mode on the side — Hindu Hriday Samrat. He commandeered the VHP-Bajrang Dal and UP chief minister “Yogi” Ajay Singh Bisht “Adityanath” to wage battle for him. The VHP-Bajrangis renewed their oaths to a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, and were volubly endorsed by Shah and Ram Madhav. Bisht himself choppered about the campaign, addressing 74 rallies at reliable count. He had come from lavish Dussehra celebrations and the renaming of Faizabad as Ayodhya. He had come from rococo declarations of erecting a lofty Ram statue. He spouted such gems as calling Hanuman a Dalit; we know the Dalits were hurt, we haven’t heard what Hanuman thought of it. He forsook Ali for Bajrangbali. He wanted Hyderabad changed to something that few Hyderabadis had ever heard of. The BJP lost wherever he went.

When the public mood turns averse, not even God can help, much less the fabled poll mechanics and machineries Shah has put in place. Democracies live by another god, goes by the name of Voter.

PS: If it at all is an aid to perspective, India’s first cow welfare minister, Otaram Devasi, lost to an independent Congress rebel from Sirohi district in Rajasthan.

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Because We Turned Thereon To Abuse

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We turned away. We turned away from each other. But I am changing my tone now. I am not you. I am not part of this “we”. I am separate. I am removed. I am above. Remember. I am Mahadeb.

What did you ever think of me? That I was a chaiwala? A chaiwala aspiring to be, someday, TheChaiwala? Just because I served you tea? Endless bhaanrs of them that you still miss and come looking for around that forlorn cart? But that was not the sum of who I am. Sums are wrong. Sums are what you choose to pick and add; the fallacy of sums of what you forsake or forget to add. Have you ever tried summing up raindrops? Try. Then tell me how you did at that arithmetic. Walk into the rain some fortunate day and bring me back the sum of raindrops, if only the raindrops that fell on you.

I am more than the sum of my uses to you, greater than the sum of my body parts, larger than the sum of my vocation, higher than the sum of my station. I am higher. How much, I would not know, because I am from before the imperial or the metric system of measuring these things, the feet or metres, or kilometres or miles. What can measure me and my nearness or distance you have yet to figure or discover or invent. I am not human. I can be that, at times and moments of my choosing, but I am human and not often that. I am not a subject of your sums or summations. Look at me and recognise me. I am Mahadeb. Beyond. Above.

And I am watching. And I am listening. And I am observing. And I am analysing. And I am reaching conclusions. I know. I know what all of this was going to end up in. I always did. But I needed you to give me evidence of it so you wouldn’t say I am rash and unkind and unreasoning in deciding what I decide to pronounce as the truth.

I am changing my tone here, yes. I will do so more and more henceforth. I am revealing more of myself, my cosmic, immeasurable self, because I do believe the time may have come. Or the time may be approaching. Know me. I am Mahadeb. Your chaiwala. I am Mahadeb, altogether your chaiwala and altogether something else at the same time. I am who you may have suspected me to be sometimes. Mahadeb. Got it? Get it. Now learn your lessons. Look at yourselves and what you did and how you behaved and learn your lessons. But you may not. That is fundamentally why you are you and me Myself. You are human. You err. Then you, sometimes, turn to me and I have to tell you who you are.

I knew for a while this was going to happen, it was coming, just down the road. But I allowed it to happen. Because you must learn. You must learn lessons. The lessons from what you do. The lessons that are the consequences of your actions. The lessons that you must now draw. You turned away from each other. You stopped to whisper. You stopped to talk. You began to scream. You began to scream at each other. And you stopped to understand what was right with the whisper and what is wrong with the screaming. Whisper. Screaming. Both are fundamentally the same act — of voice given voice. Of decibels released. But there are differences. When you whisper, it is a function of nearness, proximity, a certain closeness of aspect. You whisper to someone close. When you scream, it’s different. You whisper to someone. You scream AT someone. There is, already, a distance inscribed in that verb: scream, to scream. You scream at distances. Physical distances. Or other kinds of distances. Distances are of many kinds. Like distances of viewpoints. Or distances of stature and station. Those that sleep on the street this winter and those that sleep quilted in bedrooms — there are distances, distances that are not merely physical. Distances make you scream. Proximities can do with whispers. You lost your proximities. You stopped to whisper. Think what you lost.

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Telegraph Calcutta

Requiem To Beauteous Bygone Whispers

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We spoke softly. The memory of it may now be buried in the dung heap of raucous decibels, be we did whisper once upon a time. We did not need to any more. Whispers were enough. Okay, not whispers all the time, but a softly spoken tone. Not weak. Not fragile. Not lacking in strength or vigour. In fact quite firm. And forthright. But softly so. We whispered away the mightiest global empire from these shores. We did not scream. We did not rave and rant. We did not raise arms. We did not fire a shot. We called nobody any names.

We merely stated, even of tone, that things were as they were and they ought no longer be so. We refused to cooperate when we thought we ought to. We boycotted when we thought we ought to. We consigned to holy fires what we did, all manner of things. As protest for what we would not have. As protest for what had been imposed on us. As protest for what we recognised as no longer acceptable, even though we were told it was much the vogue of the day. We shoved it. But we shoved it quietly and collectively. To the fires we put such things, and we returned stoic, as if nothing had happened but a protest. As if nothing more had happened than us putting our signature on it. We burnt. Oh yes we did. But we did not commit arson. There are differences.

As I keep saying, but nobody understands, or few do, there are differences. Differences.

There is a difference between lighting a candle or a diya and lighting a pyre, for instance. One is a beginning, the other the beginning to an end. All things that begin must end, but yet there is a difference between lighting a diya or a candle, and lighting a pyre. You understand, of course. Some differences you shall have to understand.

There are beginnings. And there are ends. There are rituals of lighting to beginnings and to ends. But there are differences. Once we set fire to things as a mark of our collective revolt and celebration. What has now become of us? What has now become of us that we set fires with animus, fires of animosity?

And we no longer whisper. We scream. And we scream so loud and so often that screaming has become not screaming but speaking. Screaming is how we speak. It is the new normal. We used to quietly light diyas and candles and we used to reckon their warmth sufficient.

We would very often take those lights out and light up our streets and lanes and bylanes. And whisper to each other glad tidings. It’s our festival. Oh it’s your festival? And your festival too? It’s our collective festival? Is it? Let there be light. Bah! Let there be light. Let there be lights!! But what has suddenly become of us? I mean, I am the all seeing one, Mahadeb. What has suddenly become of us that we are no longer lighting lights to the purposes we used to? That we are lighting things for other purposes? That we are resorting to setting things alight?

I am, as I said, and would reliably repeat to you, Mahadeb. Part of who I am is also destruction. Have you not heard of my Tandav? It is how I dance. And when I dance there is debris to be expected around where I dance. I am Tandav. I know a few things about destruction. Believe me. But I can see there are few who know it too —- Destruction. And how to go about it. Whispering is not one of them. Destruction comes with noise. Whispering comes with the umbra of silences: shhhhhhhh! It is nothing that can even get mention. Those that whisper silently pass. Those that scream stay. That is how we have become, that is who we are. Or you are.

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Telegraph Calcutta

Under A Hobnailed Boot — Through centuries the story of Kashmir has been one of area domination

Area domination is a term that comes with easy disconcert to folks in militarised, conflict-ridden zones — a daily, cloying intimacy, a shadow that won’t go away for any amount of shrugging. Kashmir is an area domination domain, probably, and wretchedly, our premier showcase of it — a sundered, splintered, plundered, barb-fenced, barrel-ridden, risked, fisted, rebuked, bludgeoned, bleeding, weeping geography trodden over by the hob-nailed heel of one ownership or another. Kashmir, a possession so precious it has to be had to destruction. Area domination — that’s first, middle and last name for Kashmir, you might almost want to spell Kashmir that way.

Through centuries, that’s been the story of Kashmir, the story of heckled, and often brutal, area domination: Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, Dogras, even the British through sleight of their residency in the Dogra courts. On the people of Kashmir, they were all harsh and excessive regimes whose memory lives on in the memory of their battered genes. Should you read Walter Lawrence’s The Valley of Kashmir, to this day probably the most definitive discourse on the nature of Kashmir and its people, you will get some sense of what also went into making the Kashmiri a crafty, and altogether changeable, survivor. It was brought on by mostly imported atrocity.

Kashmir, as we understand it today — and, arguably, there are many and disputed understandings of Kashmir — was re-birthed in another set of area domination enactments. It was the Dakota squadrons flying off Delhi’s Safdarjung (then Willingdon) airfield to unload Indian troops on the Srinagar airstrip on the morning of October 27, 1947, that blew off the Pakistan-backed tribal-military incursion and gave physicality — or geography, if you please — to the piece of paper called the instrument of accession. On the wings of the Dakotas droned in Tempests and Spitfires and Harvards, and surrounding earth and sky were soon secured, area domination established. It was a big bite of Kashmir, not all of it, but what piece there was was India’s, farsh se arsh, a thing of New Delhi’s suzerainty.

Since then, Kashmir has been taken by many tides and turns of area domination. The toppling of those that earned New Delhi’s disfavour (the 1953 arrest and internment of Sheikh Abdullah) and the installation of the favoured ones; a re-enactment of ruined loves (the 1975 Sheikh Abdullah-G. Parthasarathy accord) and, later, another rude annulment of it (the 1984 dismissal of Farooq Abdullah); the phosphorescent eruption of a bigoted military that bayoneted Kashmir’s Pandits out of their Valley homes and hearths; the government-backed counter-terror platoons of the Ikhwanis and their feared Special Operations Group encampments; the serial hijacking of the Kashmiri ballot; the many and long spells of governor’s or president’s rule by Delhi’s obliging proxies; the recurrent rumble against the existence of Article 370 in the Constitution and the very current judicial plaint on abrogating Article 35A (both bring essential guarantees to Kashmir and Kashmiris that underpin the accession and provide them the rather frayed solace of being a special people in a special place, which Kashmir is) are also, in more senses than one, an area domination exercise: expunge Kashmir’s special place in the Indian scheme, dismantle the guaranteed securities, render Kashmir un-special. A burning new argument has now been stapled to the assault on 370 and 35A — Pakistan has ‘completely changed’ the demography of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir! And so, as if to argue, why ever should we not? As if India, or the fundamental idea of it, were not imagined as a meditated contrast to the notion of Pakistan. As if India would do well to begin to aspire at a sameness.

The demography of Kashmir has already been violently and viciously altered once — on the Valley-wide spur of an armed militant insurrection in the early 1990s. Getting the Valley’s Pandits securely back to their shared homeland is the only demographic change this nation should reckon with. As things are, that, like far too many things about Kashmir, seems an improbable and doomed reckoning.

Those out on area domination duty in Kashmir offer little to what could minimally be called sensible, much less normal. In fact, what we have are violated figments of anything that can count as normal. The November just gone by has probably been the most pitiless in the memory of recent winters. Close to 50 people were killed this or that side of the fence that exists everywhere in Kashmir. More than 25 of them were marked militants, some of them were jawans, several of them children. There was, among the injured, a 19-month-old baby with a pellet-hole through her right pupil; Hiba looked a rag doll that the devil was just done with. She was part of the rites of area domination this month just gone. As were three Kashmiri youngsters, yanked off by dark hands and done to death — one of them by dagger or by sword run across his Adam’s apple — and made horrific examples of: Informers. Heretics. Deserving of the worst. That too is an area domination effort. How else are shadowy men with no license to use uniforms or arms or violence, men far fewer than the men licensed to chase and kill them, to establish domination over area but by terror, by frequent demonstration of an ability to strike with stealth and brutality on those they deem the enemy?

It is heart-warming, even poignant, that amidst such savage contenders for area domination also lurk a few seekers of ‘popular’ sanction who employ relatively benign instruments of area domination such as signatures on government files. The rushed jockeying for power by unlikely allies and unlikelier contenders that preceded the abrupt guillotine on the state assembly was charming evidence of it. There are those who still seek sanction. Omar Abdullah and his National Conference, Mehbooba Mufti and her Peoples Democratic Party, and now, too, Sajjad Lone and his People’s Conference, a tadpole party attached to a pole that has no Valley moorings. They have little else but flags — or back-room manoeuvring — to wage their area domination campaigns, and flags should be enough in democracies. But we are on Kashmir. So it’s probably a tribute to them they are still out with flags and slogans to effect their own kind of area domination. Vying for that nettled throne that has only ever bled the anatomies of those who’ve toiled and competed to sit on it. The chief ministership of Kashmir must rank among the most thankless — and painstaking — jobs going. A measure of gratitude should perhaps be extended to those who’d still take that job, even at the cost of brickbats, disapproval, often dismissal. Admittedly, sanction hasn’t been oozing from the people of Kashmir — oh yes, Kashmir is also a people, though we choose to forget so at our convenience. The truth is that the space for those that seek out public sanction and would willingly be cast aside when they lose it has shrunk; the dwindled numbers of Kashmiri voters on ballot day are proof.

But here’s the rub. Neither the military nor the militants — nor the majesty installed in Raj Bhavan — do Kashmiris have a vote on; the choice on whether and who they should vote for is for Kashmiris to make.

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Telegraph Calcutta

There Is No Place But This Place

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Bear with me. I begin where I left off.

Between the week gone and the week to come, I’ve waited here, on the stage and on the microphone, like well-brought up folks should wait. For their turn. I wasn’t finished when I left, I believe I am entitled a finish. An end to what was begun. I still have things to say. Surprised? You’ve all become used to it, haven’t you? Only that one voice. Only that one clamour. Raging on and on and on.

And there was a time, I do agree, that one voice and one clamour used to sound as if it were fed by ballast — the voice and the clamour too. There was a time. There was an occasion. It broke onto our ears, we gave it our ears. Give it a hearing. Give it a chance. Give another man a chance. That happened. Another man, we gave a chance. For what he said. For what he swore.

For what? That man is still saying. That man is still swearing. That man is still blathering on and on and on.

And now he has begun to sound like the voice and the clamour of an empty canister that there is nothing to beat with but itself. The sound of an empty canister beating itself, flagellating. Seventy years ago, mitron, this happened! Sixty years ago, bhaaiyon-behnon, that happened!! Fifty years ago, have you ever even heard of this, yeh huaaaaaa! Haaan! Fifty years ago, don’t forget! Never forget! Nana! Naaani!!! What did they do? This Nana!! Maino kya pata? Maino, I don’t know anything. Maino maaf karo. I don’t know what happens ji, Maino, when I think of Nana-Nani, it just, sort of, it drives me crazy, you know. The moment I hear Maino, I don’t know what happens to Maino? I can’t tell; you tell me. Am I crazy? And they blame Maino, but why don’t they blame TainoHainji? Tell me. Tell me, naa? Please. What am I to do but ask? And this Pardada aur pardada ke par. Dadi, Dadi, Dadi! Dadi ki aisi ki taisi. Frauds!

I ask of you today! What did they do? What did they ever do? Did they ever slaughter a man walking the road with his cattle? No. Did they ever stab the youngster wearing that sort of cap? No. Did they ever say you are all wrong to all wrong people? No. Did they ever banish your earnings and line you up to prove you were naked and starving and unable to access your rightful things and say prove you are really worth it? No. Did they ever say, if you can’t, go to Bakistan? No. Did they ever say Nathuram did what he did and that was the right thing to do? No. Did they ever say hamaarey paanch, unkey pachees and this is what the battle is about? No. Did they ever say mandir waheen banayenge? No. Did they ever make a supplicant of a homeless God? No. There.

TheChaiwala! His tea is meant to steam and talk, not he himself. He can’t serve any, you see, he is the serving. And he is the serving you ordered. A canister beating itself! Enjoy.

“These mist covered mountains Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Someday you’ll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn to be
Brothers in arms.
“Through these fields of destruction,
Baptisms of fire;
I’ve witnessed your sorrow, friends
As the battle raged higher;
And though they did hurt me so bad,
In the fear and alarm;
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms.
“There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones.”

I borrow your lines, mortal Mark, I borrow your lines. From behind the fields and the mountains, from beyond what lies reaped, the season’s bloodied harvest. Because I am stumped and stupefied, even though I am on the stage and on the microphone. But I remain stunned and stilled.

This is my place. And this is your place. And nothing moves that. And nothing changes that. I, Mahadeb, will speak. And you shall one day hear.

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Telegraph Calcutta

When Scream Is What’s Sacred

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Bear with me. I am still here. Weeks and weeks and counting. This has become a habit. But you’ll have to pardon me. I am prone to habit. To what inhabits.

I am a mere chaiwala. I am not inoculated against general malaise. Especially a malaise so prevalent. I am a person of folly. I have my foibles. Even if you shouldn’t believe so. What does it matter what you believe? Things are what they are.

There is this habit, you know, a well-known and often-derided, and rightly derided, habit: once you get hold of the stage, or only the microphone, you don’t let go. You hold it, you cling to it like it were a gifted part of your anatomy, and you go on and on and on until the microphone has withered from the assault of your words or your embrace of it. I was assumed gone. Worse, I was assumed dead. By you, by many others like you. Not your fault. What is one to assume of an entity vanished without trace? Without a forwarding address? Without any word on whys or wherefores? What is one to assume of such entities but the worst? But it’s never good or reliable enough, what we assume, or is it?

We assumed AchchheDin impended. But what we got were KachchheDin; and then we had holes bored into them kachchhe; multiple holes until we did not know we were wearing kachchhe with holes or holes with bits of kachchhe around them. So it may not be such a good idea all the time to assume. Doesn’t even work with such a simple thing as idlis all the time. I mean you may assume they’ll come piping and plump and soft. And then they turn out cold and plump and a real lump. Hard.

Like you might assume I am blabbering nonsense here. Am I? Think. Like you might assume men quietly whispering wisdoms to each other matter. Leh! Do you? Really? From one mouth into another ear? A wisdom transmitted, even a thing of eternal wisdom, although there may be no such thing, from one wise man to another and you’d think it matters? Beyond speaker and listener? No. No. No. No. Bhool. It is screamers who matter, not whisperers. Wisdom gaya bhaanr mein. Let’s just say in one of them bhaanrs I served tea in. You know where they ended up — in the bin or in the streets, reduced to crumbled bits underfoot, or licked by dogs and rats and such. That’s the truth.

Don’t be fanciful. That is how most things end. Licked. Or crushed. But if you scream, you may not get licked or crushed. Lickers and crushers may be wary of screaming things. A whisper they will unmindfully smother; a scream they might actually stand in thrall of.

Oh! A scream! Let’s listen. What’s the scream screaming about?

But actually it matters least what the scream is screaming about; it’s the scream itself. Try some day. Scream. Say your prayers to Munch, feel inspired, and scream. See what happens. Scream on Teetar. Scream on ChaseBook. Scream on Vinstagram. Phalana-dhikaanaAal-faalOol-jaloolHyana-tyanaEer-Beer-Teer-PhatteyMitron-Kachchhon-Chithhron! (Which may translate in Shakespearean as Friends-Underpants-Tatters!) Not mere balderdash but dashing all the balder there is to dash.

There have been famous screamers. And they had listeners. Even greater numbers of listeners than their screams could reach. So they screamed harder. And harder. And the tides and turnouts of their listeners mounted and became greater and greater. And so they screamed harder and harder. And so on and so forth until the Prince married the Princess and they became King and Queen and they lived unhappily ever after, or some such thing. Real life copy of the Great Dictator played by Charlie Chaplin in the movie, The Great Dictator. I am only Mahadeb. And I just got hold of the microphone. It’s only been a few weeks. Bear with me.

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Telegraph Calcutta

Calling Out for You, the People

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Four weeks it has now been that I have been going, twooting like an owl in this space as if it had become mine to twoot-twoot as I wished. Four weeks, the space in which an entire month is considered gone. Or has it been five? Who cares? I am not among the counting ones, what’s gone is gone, what lies in counting what’s gone?

How much time that’s now gone, fallen into that abyss most folks call history and keep rolling over out of preference and prejudice, this layer on top, no that layer on top, this layer to the dustbin, this new layer in lieu of it. All this shoving and shelving of what history is no longer required or convenient, all this showcasing of history that requires to be superimposed. Like history were some wok of tossed noodles.

How would they ever even know? Anything about history or what Really happened? How would they ever even know? They were not there. Were they? They did not know what happened. Did they?

We are here. Now. At this time. At this moment. A million years years later, how would they know what happened here? What happened now? What happened to us? What was done to us? What happened to others? What we did? What we the People did to you the People? How would anybody even know? A million years? No that’s too long a span, too abstract. Even five hundred years from now: how would they ever even come close to knowing what happened? On what authority? On whose authority? Who’s to tell the truth about what is happening today? To us? To them? Not people. Not a species. Not a kind. Not humankind. But Us. And Them. This religion or that. This sect or that. This race or that. This colour or that. This region or that. This language or that. This culture or that. This hemisphere or that. Eastern or Western. Southern or Northern. Oriental or Occidental. This denomination or that denomination. Continentals or Islanders. Meat eaters or non meat eaters. Such meat eaters and such and such meat eaters not. This meat yes, that meat no. Tuesdays meat yes and Tuesdays meat no. Sabbath people and no Sabbath people. Aryans and non-Aryans. Good clans and poor clans. Upper caste and Lower caste. Touchables and Untouchables. Coloured and Colourless. This sex and that sex; the fair sex and the unfair sex. Where’s the truth amidst us? And who’s to tell it? And who’s to believe? And there’s so much more of that now among us, what do they call it? FaKeNews. Not that it always was not there. The paragon of truth purveyed FaKeNews. Yudhishthira announced Ashwatthama dead. Or did he not? We do not really know. How are we to know? From an epic saga called Mahabarat? Story, that is.

I have come away from all of that. One of you discovered this place is round. Or no, that it is a sphere. Or no, that it is like an orange, bitten on top, bitten at the bottom. But anyhow, that means that should I keep walking and walking and walking away from where I left —- that bric-a-brac lane and the wooden cart upon the other side of it —- if I kept on walking and walking from there I shall get back, eventually to where I began. But I am not of this place, you see, not of this little sphere where everybody has become another body, somebody else, and nobody is part of People. I belong to large spheres. Although I do not even know if they are spheres. They are vacuums. Voids. Shapeless. Formless. Eternal. Where I am.

And some of them would give God a home, as if God did not possess an abode. What might they even think of themselves? They? Give their God shelter? They make my rules? Look at me. Look at my shape. I am gnarled. It is just what the shape of my limbs has turned to, journeying away. And away from it all. What will they do for me? Can they even imagine from the shape of my limbs the state of my body and my soul? What will they give me? Me, Mahadeb?