LazyEye

Main ye soch kar apne dar se utha tha

There were a fair few thoughts and musings darting about there, at that point. At that moment I got up and I thought I should go. If for no other reason, to merely alter position, from a stasis of sorts to a little moving and shaking of things — feet, ankles, shins, knees, the connector bones and tendons. Is cartilage involved too? I wonder, such a supple and succulent thing. Cartilage, I mean. Anyhow, when those things move, they carry other things along, all of those things that come attached, a whole construct as big as a being begins to move. That is how we have been made, a collection of connected parts condemned to unison.

Try keeping your belly behind when you go out for a walk, if only to lighten things and be able to impart swiftness to your feet. But what would be the point of it? It’s to slash that belly that most folks go out walking, what a waste to leave it behind gathering fat and whatever else there may be on the bed? Or imagine leaving your head behind and walking off with merely your fancy wig stuffed in your pocket? But what would be the point of that either? If your head’s been left behind, what worth would be the weight of that wig? Who’d you be trying to convince about anything? That you have a thick and handsome mop of hair? But no head to plop it on?

But the strangest things happen. And that is the strange thing about strange things; they too come to happen. Sometimes body parts leave other body parts and wander off, without feet or ankles or knees or bones or tendons. Without cartilage. Without many more body parts. But one of them will suddenly and for no apparent reason, get up and leave.

The eyes leave, and begin to gaze on faraway things, vistas never before visited, locales nobody has ever showed you and you have never seen, dreams that are a shudder to dream — like dreaming that two fellows have arrived from somewhere and taken a billion people by the scruff of their necks; they are laughing and most of those being gagged are laughing too because they believe they are merely being paid attention around their necks. Such unreal, horrific dreams.

Or the heart flaps away, like a butterfly, silently, while the rest of the body remains idle. It floats and swims and then is slapped by a gust and it is either hurried back or is irreparably broken.

Or the brains toddle away, with or without that mop of hair, not caring whether a wig was in order, and begin engaging in imaginations. You’ve been static, the brain’s gone on some autonomous wander, striking conversations with back-of-the-brain ideas and folks, strange folks with whom you’d never imagine a meeting much less a conversation. Folks like BlondieDuck. Or HarHarGodi. Or OmitBlah. Or BoringBlondson. Or BiwiYahoo. Or TabiyatAurDoJaan. Or LaaDeMirPutIn. Or ImDim. Or, if you are beginning to miss him dearly in this list, ElevenTingMing, also known as Chini. How sweet! Can you imagine the nonsensical things the brain gets up to when it leaves you there and drives off on its own? But strange things happen, that is what they are meant for. Like you wake up and look up at the dawn and see a black sun rising, and everything is swathed in a light of darkness. Or you may think it is spring and rush into a garden and see ash blooming all around, and leaves the texture of dust.
Phullan de rang kaale
Surkh gulaaban de mausam vich

This season of crimson roses
The flowers have all turned black;
This season of ominous poses
Your shadows are keeping your track.

Miscellaneous

Home is where the heart is (October 28, 1995)

There is perhaps no reason for an inconsequential little dead girl to be occupying this space. perhaps the editorial pages of newspapers should concern themselves with larger things — with men and women and events that make eras and epochs and history, however horrible a job they do of it. So why this inconsequential little girl? Why Shahida? She made no history. She made nothing; her life, in fact, was a life of constant and dreary unmaking.


She became a mother before she could fully become a girl — at 14 — and died before she could fully become a mother, eaten up in a hospital ward by a host of predators, including anemia, pulmonary tuberculosis, jaundice and that most terrible killer of them all: poverty. The fact is Shahida initially only had a few burn injuries in a domestic accident, the kind of injuries that are easily treatable these days. Her real problem lay not in her injury, her real problem lay in herself: she was poor, as poor as a million others in this country who die the way she did last week at age 16. But then Shahida died in Calcutta. That gave her death a signature. 


In no other city would the death of Shahida Khatoon, pavement dweller, have made news. But here in Calcutta, she was on the front pages. Perhaps that is why she can justifiably occupy this space as well. Insensitive and crude as it may sound to Shahida’s kin, this has not so much to do with Shahida as with Calcutta. For all the stains on her stars there was one bit that shone for Shahida: she was born to Calcutta and she suffered and died there.


It rained the morning she was reportedly lying at the gates of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters. She had been very badly burnt, trying to save Jarmina, her one plus daughter, from a stove flame. She was frail and lacerated, she was in urgent need of attention and she had nowhere to go because she hd no money. The old man walking up to the gates of the CMC in the steady drizzle that morning must have read all that in the newspapers and that spirit called Calcutta must have driven him out of home, umbrella in one hand, a few crumpled notes in the other. It wasn’t a morning for limping old men to go out walking but this one was there, desperately seeking Shahida. Shahida wasn’t there that morning; the rain had pushed her out into a bylane by the piggery on New Market’s northface. Mother Jubeeda was there — she perhaps knows Calcutta well.  she knew for sure that morning Calcutta would send out a few of her human beings. She was waiting for them right there at the CMC gates, where Shahida was supposed to have been. That is where she met the old man who had come with a plamful of rupees for Shahida.


It was a classic Calcutta moment unfolding: around the face of Jubeda. The old man stood there, rupees on his palm like crushed rose petals for offering. And Jubeda stood there grabbing the notes hurriedly and pushing them down her blouse, furtively ensuring nobody saw and loudly assuring the money had gone to the right place. It was poverty extracting the price of its spectacle. It was a scene out of a Ray film, or an avant garde documentary that routinely gets lambasted around coffee tables on one side of the intellectual fence for selling poverty in exchange for pelf. Jubeda that morning was definitely the face of a woman expecting and demanding money for her misery. She was the face of stereotype that had successfully been sold off as Calcutta; perhaps a white man in place of the old calcuttan would have given that stereotype the hype and edge you sometimes require in documentaries. 


But depending where you were looking at the scene from, or depending on where the camera was positioned, there was another Calcutta moment unfolding: around the face of the old man with the umbrella and the palmful of rupees. He was no do gooderchasing fame; he had not brought reporters and camera crews in tow and it was clear he intended to do what he had come to do with the minimum fuss and in the littlest time required. He was no Richie Rich trying to get donation rebates on his taxes either; he hadn’t come with receipt books in his pocket. There wasn’t anything there apart from the crumpled notes he had come to give. He did not seem like a man who would have too many tax problems; his chappals were torn and the rain had worsted them more. Scarcely anybody noticed him arrive, give and leave. before Jubeda could put away the money he had brought the old man had become a walking umbrella among many walking umbrellas on Corporation Street. You won’t find that kind of man in too many other cities. In Calcutta, you won’t have to look too far. There is enough concern to be found, even in the time of the cholera of crime. Collapse on a street in New Delhi and collapse on a street in Calcutta, you’ll know the difference. 


In no ther city would Shahida have died cared for and mourned as she was here. In no other city would they have had time for her. Calcutta has time for its dead, and a little bit of honour (if space in the newspapers could mean that). Which is why life still lives here. 


For the India flying into the 21st century in Kentucky fried wings, satellite dish tucked in armpit, cellular phone in hand, this might be a great area of darkness. Why India, even for the Calcutta south of Park Street the city might be the great area of darkness where there are no air-conditioned Wimpy’s burgers and no Mexxs next to Allen Sollys. The prided Mero might have been sneaked afielf underground breaking the great north-south Calcutta barrier. But then, isn’t the poor northern underside responsible for the mess that the Metro currently is in? Those fellows in Shyambazar and DumDum do not know how to use modern tansport, they ruined it for Calcutta.
But no, South Calcutta is not Calcutta. Not, at any rate, the Calcutta that is the area of darkness, the Calcutta where life still lives, the Calcutta where Shahida belonged — vibrant, throbbing, terrible, miserable, colourful, dark, bright, dead, alive. That is the Calcutta of the street and the slum, where man comes against man without his name, address or social label attached. That is where Calcutta scores.


Bombay has its showpiece in Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia (that’s something to take pride in)  and a convenient set for the film industry. What would they do without Dharavi? New Delhi has its share of shanty towns — the JJ (jhuggi-jhonpdi) colonies they call it. When the capital holds its big festivals — a non aligned movement summit for instance — its rulers put bamboo screens across the JJ colonies so its honoured guests are spared the ugliness.


Calcutta lives with its heart poured out onto the streets, nothing comes between people and their lives, not even the misery of poverty. take a ride one late night across Park Circus and Raja Bazar or Kadapara. It might teach you that life or joy does not necessarily have to do with that thing called money. bathing under streetside gargoyles can be more fun than eating a Wimpy’s burger — at least it is more unrestrained, more unrestricted fun. Or just be in Calcutta during the puja. It is celebration and everybody celebrates. There is, after all, no toll on being festive, not yet. And during the puja Calcutta is festive like no other city can be. And the important thing about the festivity of Calcutta is that the beaten underside of Narkeldanga, tied down with all the difficulties of a dying-dead economy, can be as festive and funfilled as posh Alipore or Ballygunge, The underside certainly is more unrestrained, more felt, more pristine joy. 


Their lives and conditions would make the festivities seem so out of place — there is very little in Calcutta not to complain about. But there is very little calcuttans complain about. Perhaps because they are too busy living and making a life of it with a smile where there is so little to smile about. Shahida may be dead and a hundred others may be dying but they are less inconsequential than they might have been elsewhere. This is no dying city, this is a city trying to live. Someone got it terribly wrong.     

Telegraph Calcutta

Our nation to keep and guard

From Shaheen Bagh

Someone in the shivered hubbub around the Shaheen Bagh picket did bring up the mention of Sharmila Irom of Manipur and how long she fought against the AFSPA before she pulled out the feeder tubes, ended the hunger strike and proceeded with her life. Sixteen years she battled. Irom is now off stage; AFSPA remains.

The state is powerful, in time it breaks the will and bones of those that stand in its way. But the thing about protests is not always whether they have surmounted, but often just that they have been waged.

Shaheen Bagh has been out trying to beat back the CAA-NRC regime 16 days. A mere 16 days, it might well be said, and on a far begotten precinct of Delhi, like a banner hoisted in a recess the rulers of the realm couldn’t much care about.

Shaheen Bagh is a warren best lost on those who do not inhabit it — an overcrowded, low-income barracoon wedged between the cacophony of Jamia Millia Islamia and the putrescent rubbish-lumped Yamuna bank. Besides, and probably chiefly, its populace is predominantly Muslim, the kind who famously can be recognised by their clothes; their protest is nothing to bother with. Whiners. Moaners. Outliers. Let them be. Before it became a daily dateline a fortnight ago, Shaheen Bagh was not a location anybody picked out.

But here’s why Shaheen Bagh has begun to beep and flash on locator maps. Here’s why it has morphed from forsaken ugly duckling to local celebrity. Shaheen Bagh has been out saying something for 16 days this biting-cloying winter, and it isn’t stopping to say: NO CAA!

Shaheen Bagh has now become the longest sustained protest of this chapter.

Shaheen Bagh is an untutored uprising whose spine are mothers and grandmothers arrived under the frail tarpaulin marquee from nearby homes and hearths.

Shaheen Bagh hasn’t hurled a stone, nor picked one.

Shaheen Bagh is not a rent-a-crowd station; it exists by open invitation to the willing.

Shaheen Bagh isn’t a passing gallery of the who’s who; it is native and it is rooted, possessed of its own wisdoms of why and how. “Apni maa ki kokh se kagaz nikaal ke laaoon ki uski beti hoon?” Sarvari Jaan, 81, asked me sharply. (Should I fetch papers from my mother’s womb to certify I am her daughter?)

Shaheen Bagh has become a community outside of itself — of volunteers carting food and tea and solidarity; of common-cause Samaritans and goodwill flaneurs; of aid givers and counsellors; of vigilantes of a dream they will not let turn to embers under the pressing cold.

“I am here because I want to be part of those who are doing something to save our country, our Constitution, it does not matter who they are, they are for the good.” The voice of Anshuman Mohanty, a second-year history student from Delhi University, and originally from Odisha. He stood there in a frayed hoodie, clutching a volume of George Orwell’s essays to his chest, as if for warmth.

The debris of a harsh winter’s night lay about in swirls — mussed quilts, someone’s lost sock, peanut shells, ash from extinguished fires, a naked stretch of PVC, an exhausted stove, a twisted Styrofoam tumbler, charred tyres.

Amid this rustic smorgasbord of a necessary vigil, an infant rolled up in layers and snuggled away while the mother took the barricades somewhere close. It’s that unknowing infant who Shaheen Bagh is for too. There’s a cry ringing out: “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isaai, aapas mein sab bhai bhai! Desh ke logon hosh mein aao, desh bachao, desh bachao!!”

Shaheen Bagh swells and Shaheen Bagh ebbs; it’s people who make it and people have lives — a home to order, a meal to cook, a shop to mind, a job to attend, the ill to tend, an errand to run, an assignation to keep. But they keep coming back, they have been 16 days, and they tell you they aren’t going anywhere.

“This is our land. This is our home. This is our nation to keep and guard. We aren’t going anywhere.” There’s something in the refrain of it that is unwavering. Shaheen, if you will, is Arabic for falcon.

Telegraph Calcutta

Let me vow, I am the wow cow

Moooooooooo! Helooooooooo! Frump! Frump! Frrrrrrrrrrraaaaah! Aaaaah! Swiiiiiisssh! Thop! Thop! Thop! Plop! Thop! Chhurrrrrrrrrr! And then another long Chhhurrrrrrrrrrrr!! Mooooooooo! WhoYouuuuuuuuu?

Well, while you decide, let me tell you, Me Mooooooo!

YouWhooooo! YouTooooo? YaaaaaHoooooo!

Do you not know?

But you should. You better. The year’s about to end, and if you don’t know me, you’re about to, you know. Know a lot. An awful lot. If you know what I mean. You mean, you don’t know me? Me? Then God be with you, Khuda Hafiz. You are spent. Gone. Khallasss! So brace yourself, and find out things. About yourself. About me. Else…

But, mooooo, that’s okay, there will be more where you are when you are not where you are. Bother about yourself. And what you say of yourself, because that you will have to. Say about yourself. Say about your mother. Say about your father. Say about your grandfather. Say about your grandmother. Say about their forbears too, who knows. And not merely say, but say with authority and with proof. Who were they? Where were they from? Wherefrom?

But there is a problem. There are problems with identity, that’s not unusual. You look at yourself in the mirror and often you wonder who that person looking at you from the other side is. And that person on the other side probably has similar wonders? You raise a quizzical brow and that other person does the same; you wink and the other one does too; you scowl and the other one does too. You have one identity, others may have perceptions of it. You may say you are this, others may say you are not this, you are that. So what you say of yourself is never the final thing; others have a say on what you say of yourself. You will say, for instance, here’s where I came from; they’ll say, no, that’s not where you came from. You’ll say this is where I belong; they’ll say no this is not where you belong. You’ll say here’s what I think of myself; they’ll say no that cannot be true because we think quite differently of you. And so, on and on and on, and so forth as well.

I may have come from somewhere else: I most likely did. And who knows where from? If I was from here, I would have been elsewhere by now. We are wandering things, we mooo and start to trek in the direction of the mooo. I don’t remember where I came from, I arrived. How am I to know where the one that birthed me and the one that sired me came from. I have no memory of them. Is that my fault? I have no notion where those that sired and birthed those that sired and birthed me came from. Who’s to know? How is one to tell? But should that mean I am illicit? Should that mean my presence here is illegal? And should that be so, where shall I go? Duh! What nonsense!

Ah, but I can say that. Not YOU, not you who I have my finger pointed at, not you who I have now learnt to swiftly mark out because the trick of how to do that has been revealed to me. I can say that because I am the privileged one you see. The mooooo. So much as touch me and see what happens. Or read up on the consequences that have befallen those who are even alleged to have done something to me. Nothing can happen to me; but something can happen to you because you have to tell us who you are and we may not believe you, hai naa? No need to flail about, no need to complain, no need to scream discrimination and all those sorts of big words or start quoting from that Book and tell me this can be done and that cannot be done. Do only as I say.

Ah because I have privilege
For I am the one who’ll tell you how;
Mind, don’t fall off the ledge
Just say you follow the cow.

By Special Invitation

GRAHAM GREENE (1904-1991). THE SUPER LAUREATE A tribute on his 115th birth anniversary — By Murari Madhusudan Thakur

Graham Greene courtesy Wikipedia

Born 115 years ago, Graham Greene, the English novelist and short-story writer, managed in his last phase to cross beyond all the usual boundaries within which traditional fiction writers have generally worked. I am referring here to novels like The Comedians (1966), The Honorary Consul (1973) and specially, Getting to Know the General (1984), as also his autobiographies, A Sort of Life (1971) and Ways of Escape (1980).

Like D.H. Lawrence, Greene was a restless soul and kept travelling all around the world all his life in his quest of source material as well as travel for its own sake. Beginning with his early phase during which Greene made a journey across Liberia in 1935, described in his Journey Without Maps, he was continually on the move. Quite a few of his novels are set in countries abroad; for example, The Heart of the Matter is located in West Africa, The Quiet American in Vietnam, Our Man in Havana in Cuba, and Getting to Know the General in Central America.

Greene not only crossed over physical boundaries, he also managed to transcend cultural ones in search of experience till he had friends and loved ones in several nationalities and cultures. He literally proved in his life the maxim that great literature knows no boundaries. Of all English novelists, Greene came to be closest to becoming a truly international figure before he died in 1991 at the age of eighty seven. By the end of his last phase of writing, beginning around the mid-1960s, Greene had produced some thirty novels, ‘entertainments’, plays, books for children, travel books, collections of short stories, essays in criticism, reflections and reviews as well as two volumes of autobiography. The Comedians and twelve other novels, and two of his short stories had been filmed during his lifetime. Famous film directors and producers grew so fond of the man and his work that his The Third Man was actually written as a film treatment. From a struggling writer in the mid-1930s, Greene rose to be a celebrated world-class literary figure and lived a life of relative affluence. He was named a member of the Order of Merit, and made a Companion of Honour in 1966.

Graham Greene was never awarded the much-coveted Nobel Prize for Literature, which is generally considered the highest honour given to a writer, a sign of ultimate recognition at the global level. However, since Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel in 1965, laying down a whole set of reasons why a writer must be known for his work rather than by the Nobel, the prize has come to be regarded more as a “political” choice than a true sign of literary recognition. Viewed from this perspective alone, the achievement of Graham Greene as a novelist is truly outstanding. When he died in 1991, a fellow novelist called him “our greatest living novelist until today”, a Nobel laureate for Literature spoke of Greene as “the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man’s consciousness and anxiety” and a celebrated actor described him as “a great writer who spoke brilliantly to a whole generation”.

Greene was the only writer of his time who made personal friends not only with fellow novelists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but also with dictators, rulers and generals of struggling Central American nations, with a streak of compassion for men. He was trusted by some of the latter as unofficial ambassador and one-man goodwill mission. For his own part, Greene had the love of adventure and the courage to undertake assignments fraught with danger, and returned as always with a fresh spring of creativity as a novelist. It was owing to this initiative and courage at a fairly advanced age that Greene was able to give a whole new dimension to the English novel: the novel became in his hands a portrait of people and their leaders struggling for survival and for freedom against heavy odds. It was at the same time a tool in his hands to present living and moving pictures of the neuroses of rich and famous men caught up in this age of anxiety. In some of these portraits, Greene rises to heights undreamt of by the English novelists of the past.

The only one in “the great tradition” who comes close to Greene is Joseph Conrad, but I think he goes beyond Conrad in the range and variety of his portraits.

All in all, by his unique individual talent, Graham Greene has extended and enriched the great tradition of English fiction coming down from the eighteenth century. The body of his work has come to stay.

December 7, 2019

Like D.H. Lawrence, Greene was a restless soul and kept travelling all around the world all his life in his quest of source material as well as travel for its own sake

LazyEye

Darr Lagey toh Gaanaa Gaa

That word cannot be uttered. It should not find mention. That would be a violation of things, don’t you think? It will mean a violation of who we are, we the sanskaari peepuls. It is that four-letter word beginning with an F after all. We don’t use such words, naa-naa, tauba-tauba, it is not in our culture to do so. It is a sign of these lowly times and lowered standards that more and more people use that word, and it is heard more and more. But that’s not good, that cannot be allowed, that must be frowned upon and discouraged. Why? What’s the need to use that four-letter word beginning with an F? Faltu mein.

Four-letter words beginning with F tend to be unsavoury. When art begins with an F, for instance. Imagine. Would you like it used around you? Or worse, enacted? Nahin naa? Thought so. I mean that word. Being spoken out aloud all around all the time. It’s irksome and troublesome in the very least. I mean man is a social animal. And you will not find it said too often, but so is woman. And to think of that word being voiced all the time. It is not merely violative of social norms, it can be destructive of society. Too much of it being felt and spoke about can be ruinous. Of all of us. Be gone! That four-letter word beginning with F which is not the same word as art beginning with F. Minor thanks to God for that.

But no, it will not go away. Hector as you might, motion it banished, however much you may. The truth of the matter is that too many of us folks are all the time feeling that word and are talking about it all the time. And all of that has led to a deteriorated atmosphere. Things are not good. They cannot be good if everyone is sensing that word and talking about it and expressing apprehension about what that word, or the mere sense of its presence all around us, could do to us. I mean, come to think of it, it is no ordinary word. It is capable, oftentimes, of giving us the shakes and the shivers. And it most definitely impacts others. It is such a word. The very mention of it is bound to attract attention; and as I said it is getting mentioned all the time all over the place, so you can well imagine.

It has turned so rampant that it has attracted notice at the very highest levels. Needless to say, such rampant and unbridled mention of it has also rankled elements that the highest levels are comprised of. F X X X? You mean F Triple X? Nonsense. Under us? Why is this unholy chorus being sounded all around? Whose deed is this, whose conspiracy? Surely this is a plot to defame us. Surely this is anti-national. Sing the national anthem, stand up all, and sing. Now! Else you will be deemed part of this dark hatching of ominous things. Sing! Or you shall be pointed in the direction of Bakistan. F X X X? Here? You are feeling like F X X X? Go check out how things are in Bakistan, how F X X X works there! They don’t know the very F of F X X X!

These good-for-nothing traitors! How dare they even make a mention of such a word, abrogate it! There is no F X X X. Not on our watch. It cannot happen, we are a sanskaari people, we do not believe in F X X X, nor use it. But are people feeling it? Are they talking about it? Let them come to me. Send them to me and I shall take care of them, so has roared NumberToo, who is second only to the HighestEchelon in the land. Ironic, isn’t it, that most folks say they are feeling the four-letter word beginning with an F mainly on account of NumberToo. It is he who inspires all the F X X X. And he says there is no such thing, or shouldn’t be. Hee-Hee-Hee-It-Isn’t-Faannee!! He’s calling, he’s motioning, he’s saying the real meaning of F X X X he will reveal to you in your ear, go closer. And he will reveal to you the real meaning of the four-letter word beginning with F.

I’ve heard it being often used
And we’ll hear it again, my Dear
It comes from things being abused
The word you’re looking for is Fear.

LazyEye

Actually, the word for it is Hass

Go figure. Please. At your own will, in your own time. There is such a thing: Hass. Should you look around and you have forsaken your blinkers before beginning to look around, you will see them. And then you’ll have figured.

Meantime, this: Have you wondered that there might lie some good somewhere even in affairs that we have slapped with all that we consider undesirable and unworthy? For example, and by way of currency and happenstance, this business of HorseTrading. What a terrible thing it is, this business of HorseTrading! HorseTrading, chhi, chhi, gandi baat!

But think about that again, go on give it a thought, an angular one if you please. What do you do with horses if not trade them? Well, of course, a few other things as well — you rear them, you ride them, you race them. But upon all of that, you trade them, or the best among them at any rate. It is probably fair to venture that history would not have moved — or would have crawled along, akin to the pace of snails — if horses had not been traded.

History has moved longer on horses than it has on later, and arguably swifter, modes of travel. And for history to have consistently moved along at a clip it was essential that horses were reared, ridden, often raced, and eventually traded.

It’s what made the movement of Man and his caravans possible. It’s what made empires and felled others. Horses were how loves met and loves were separated. Horses were how distances were made and distances unmade. Horses were how discovery was made, and mysteries unmade. Horses were how this planet came to know this planet. Horses were how notables ascended thrones, and, on occasion, even the Heavens. And to give HorseTrading such a poor name. Imagine a world without HorseTrading. Where would we even be without HorseTrading?

The term most likely originated — where else — in the womb of all manner of enterprise and licence, America, which was not yet quite the United States. Not that it can be called that now, especially with BlondieDuck in saddle. Anyhow, it was in the early 19th century perhaps that horses began to be traded wholesale, and often, in unscrupulous fashion. Horse trading pits were also bins of other kinds of vice, such that the trade became associated with roughnecks and rough practice.

But, not being terribly familiar with the ways of HorseTrading, I am constrained to quote from the Bible of our times, aka Google: “As standards for ethical business declined in the United States in the Gilded Age, the activities of horse traders came increasingly to be seen as the natural and, in part, desirable product of a competitive market rather than as symptoms of moral depravity.” In a 1893 New York Times editorial criticising a proposed law to make it illegal for a newspaper to falsely state its circulation figures, the author declared that “if the lying were stopped by law, the business of horse trading would come to an end, and the country taverns and groceries in the Winter season would be deprived even of the limited eventfulness which they now enjoy.”

What joy, this business of HorseTrading!

Except, what are sold as horses, or bought, aren’t always horses. Go figure.

Was a fellow once who chased a skirt

Thinking it worn by a lass;

Then chasing he went to dirt

And discovered it was only a Hass.

Telegraph Calcutta

Towards the end of our beginnings

More than Time it is that flows incessant, though Time it is that chiefly flows. From no beginning, or none that we know, towards no end, or none that we know. Or yet do. Towards the end of Time we tip and tip so deep there’s no returning to tell where that end may be, if there is such an end. And then there are other things that flow, like liquid cash through cracks in fingers; pour it, do pour, and it will flow through unto something else or someone else.

Or breeze unseen, or seen only whispering in the furs of tall and implacable firs, or sweeping banks of forlorn grass, or brushing cobwebs off forsaken masonry, or tossing locks of hurriedly maidens on a dappled day. Breeze that they show you curling about in arrows on weather charts on the box, but breeze you can never otherwise see and can only feel, sometimes even creeping through and trespassing the forbidden alleys between bone and flesh, astride your blood, along your bloodline. That sort of breeze flows and you would not know where it came from, unless you believed those arrows on the box, and you wouldn’t know where it went to. But it does come and it does go. It flows.

Or the river. The river flows too. From here and there unto nowhere. And then back up there where it came from, wherever it is that it came from, astride the wind and the clouds and down again upon earth as snow or sleet, or as water and then river again. That’s how rivers flow and keep flowing. From earth and along the earth, to the sky and then back again on earth as river. Rivers flow. Rivers fly off into the sky. Ever looked up and seen a river on its way? Well it is; up there is where rivers make the coupling between supposed ends and unknown beginnings. And from there they descend onto earth, in magical translucence and begin to flow again. And they never seem to stop.

And so it is that we are coddled in this swirl of the eternal. Of Time and of liquid cash, and of breeze and of rivers, unbelieving how it is that what is is never going to end, unbelieving that it will forever flow, around us and about us, taking us in these drifts of ends and beginnings. For one thing ends and another begins. And upon every ended thing there lies an unending trove of memory and of feel, of voice and of intonation, of manner and of moments that only need a kindling to be brought back alive, like a match to cold timber or a rub to numbed palms.

And all of that renders that ended thing not ended at all but endowed with new beginning. Death, be cotton you or silken or unregarded of texture, is not a thing, for all there is is Time and Time will not countenance Death for such a thing is Time. Things come to Death and then Time revolves round clocks and brings Death to lively things.

Nothing ever stops even when it has seemed to stop, for in the end of things are beginnings, and beginnings lead to ends, and so on and on it goes and that is how it happens that we are where we are. Clock an end, and a beginning has clocked in, ready to proceed to an end. Nothing does ever stop, it’s only we who often cannot discern an end from a beginning. Look around, and mourn not what may be gone or is going.

For what’s gone and what’s going is assuredly coming back, like liquid pennies given and then given back. It’s more than just Time that flows, incessant and without end. It’s what it is, and all there is.

It goes straight

And it goes round the bend

But what’s really great

Is it never comes to an end.

LazyEye

And then there are questions to ask

What should we do? About what should we do what we should do? How should we do what we should do? Is there a way we should do what we should do? Is there anything to be done? Can anything be done?

Is it necessary to ask such questions?
Is it time to ask such questions?
But what questions?
Do we know how to frame those questions?
Do we know who to ask those questions of?
Is there anybody taking questions?
Is there someone who will ask?

How have we come to be in the volatile swirl of so many questions? Where were these questions all this while? What was keeping them from turning in a twister around us?

Why are there so many questions?
Why is there such a noise of questions?
Why is there such silence?
What brought us to such decibels of noise and such depths of silence?
What are we doing betwixt? Betwixt noise and silence? Is that a question to ask?
How did we arrive here? Is that a question to ask? Is it right to wonder about right questions and wrong questions?
Must we ponder on questions that need asking or must we just let all of that be?
Must we just keep tobogganing on and on, down, down, down, plunge, plunge, plunge, into the perilously approaching thicket, crashing into which will take us apart bone by splintered bone, sinew by torn sinew? Must we just stop worrying about everything and stop worrying about how we will soon be torn asunder?

But will asking questions help?
But is not asking those questions an option?
What questions, though?
Like what have we become? Like what have we made of ourselves? Like what have we now revealed of ourselves?

Is it right and opportune to ponder those questions? Are you getting my drift? Am I right to be wondering in this rambling sort of fashion? About whether to ask them at all? Or not to ask them? Am I getting through? Am I even sounding as if I have something to say?

Of course there are questions to ask but which ones? Why have we become so shaken and stirred about normal questions? Like: Who are we? What do we want? Where are we going? Who is taking us there? Where is there? Is it the right there or the wrong there? Or is it just a there? Where are we? Where have we been brought? Where have we brought ourselves? Where have we allowed ourselves to be brought by those who are doing the bringing? Are we happy that we have been brought here? Are we happy that this has been done to us? Is this really for our own good? Who are you? Why did you do this?

Are answers to be expected to questions we ask? As in does every question necessarily fetch an answer? Should it? Are we right to expect questions will fetch answers? Or can questions be asked and allowed to float in waves and peter out, like wind funnelling out of a balloon and the balloon becoming not a balloon at all but a sorry shrunken vestige of itself?

If agar

But magar

What maaney kya?

Bolo what maaney kya?

Telegraph Calcutta

What we knew, we also forgot

There is what we know, and there is what we don’t know, and there is what we are yet to know. But there is more than that, and that is not the end of it. There is also what we knew or know and have forgotten or chosen to. The sound of grass growing, for instance. Or the emerging rhythms of water before they decided to deign to gravity and descend and make of us what water has made of us.

There are among the things that we know, or are about to know, things that we knew and no longer care to. Like we once knew, or were told, that Truth alone wins, Satyamev Jayate! And look what’s winning. Like we used to say all men, and women, are equal and that sort of thing. Which thought we have thoroughly revised now and moved on brusquely; no, nothing is equal, might is right, jiski lathi type of very convinced and confident thing. Jo hai, so hai. Or like we used to say Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, all the world is a family.

And now we have moved on to forgetting and believe that was the sort of nonsense that deserves to have been binned and shot away from vision a long time ago. VasudhaKutumb? What? Our own are not our own, or do not deserve to be our own. They need to be taught lessons in how to be our own. Hard lessons, lessons they will remember a long, long time and forget hard. There is no Vasudha. No Kutumb. Understand? There are things we may have known. We no longer know them. It does not suit us anymore. You know what suits us.

Sometimes I look at earth and the thought comes along what we might have been without earth. Not Earth, as in the planet we inhabit, but earth, with an “e” in lower case. There is, truth be told, nothing as noble as soil. But, truth be told again, we do not make it that. We begin to imagine we own nobility. We begin to imagine we own soil. Such are we; so suicidally deluded are we. We begin to assert ownership over the soil that we are going to eventually be consumed by — in a cask, in a pot, as embers and as ash. Hello, I am Soil, and who are you?

We make it my soil. We make it your soil. Which is the soil of the earth. Not with the capital E, but with the “e” with a lower case. It could be, you know, the earth on which Vetaal rests, and Vetaal is not on Earth’s earth, he, or it, is on Moon’s earth. Believe me, Vetaal has landed. On earth. On soil. But what soil? What earth? Whose soil? Whose earth? The only soil we have. We come from the soil, the soil it is that receives our ends. There is no greater truth than the soil. Not for us. We are mortals. We are of the soil. We come from it, we go back to it. As ash. As flesh. As all that happens between the acquisition of mobile flesh and flesh immobile. Soil. Dharti. Maa. It’s what begets us. It’s what accepts our remains. It’s why we worship it such: Maa. Everyone has a mother, everyone. And are we to begin to argue here that one Maa is greater than the other Maa, or lesser than the other Maa? Maa! Please do not allow me to become such a person. Please do not allow me to become a person who claims that you, Maa, is greater or lesser than another Maa, because that would mean me judging the very idea and reality of Maa, and I do not ever, forgive me, wish myself to be sitting on that sort of judgement, Maa.

Aye watan, aye watan

Everybody, sing that song

Beat your drum, swing your baton

And let’s see where we belong.

State of Play

Kashmir: It’s Been a Month

Human beings probably best reveal themselves in how they regard fellow humans. In pronouncing upon the other, by word or by deed, they often pronounce upon themselves. A fortnight before I watched the lockdown shroud descend on Kashmir on the night of August 4-5, I happened to be crossing the Valley on another assignment — a remembrance, part personal, of 20 years since the war over Kargil.

The Amarnath Yatra was in bustle, protected convoys were whistling up and down the road from Srinagar to Baltal, the preferred base camp to the holy cave. For a while, I journeyed lodged in the belly of one such column; the road is narrow and often only permits single-file traffic. An hour out north of Srinagar, between Ganderbal and Wayil, the pilgrim carriers came to a halt. It was a hamlet called Nunner. Habitation hugged the road close on either side; in a recess stood a copse-like opening shaded over by robust summer foliage; some village folk hung about outdoors, mostly idling. Presently, men began to leap off their buses, as if to a common trigger, and lined up along the wayside.

They dropped their pyjamas and trousers — those wearing shorts were swifter on the draw — and began to relieve themselves on the village walls, someone’s home, someone’s shopfront, someone’s little lumber depot. Some among the impromptu party chortled, their delight not entirely on account of the unburdening of bladders; their delight, clearly, also a sensation of achievement. Others wiggled their pelvises and scored abstract patterns with their discharge. Yet others called out to mates to participate in the collective and wanton violation; many declined, but some were willing.

No native of Nunner motioned them off their property, much less utter a word in reproach. The pilgrims had the company of armed jawans, in buses fore and aft. This was a secure desecration. I should state I tried to reason with their wrongdoing and suggested a more open space, just a little down the road, near Wayil perhaps, where Sindh nullah flows. I was shown a middle finger by one who wasn’t yet done fastening his drawstring. Another said, as if to spit on me: “Tuu bhi inhi mein se hai kya? (Are you also one of them?)”

The Indian male is notoriously unmindful and indiscreet about letting off pressure below his belly-button, but this was no lone-ranger act of furtive opportunism. This was a mindful, methodical dose of abuse, of which I was only a collateral recipient. That man had the bully’s post-barbarism cheer to his tone. Nunner — or Nunner by any other name — was always going to be their chosen place for defilement; there was, to the whole passing spectacle, a retributive triumphalism — here, this is what we will do to you, take it.

Nunner’s scars were already beginning to evaporate as the buses departed; the pilgrims had revealed a few indelible things about themselves.

Our book of revelations has proceeded infamously apace since that brag, brazenly made, in the summer of 2014 by one of our elected eminences — it can now be said that it is possible to have a majority government in this country without the support of… (read India’s largest religious minority; also read Majoritarianism). What did that reveal to us of the dispensation that governs us?

What do we reveal of ourselves when we ascend the high pulpit and brandish the rhetoric of paanch-pachees and shamshan-kabristan? What do we reveal of ourselves when we motion compatriots to banishment in Pakistan? What do we reveal of ourselves when we slaughter a youngster for the headgear he sports? What do we reveal of ourselves when we lynch because someone reads another book, follows another faith, eats another meal? What do we reveal of ourselves when we make a celebration of that lynching? What do we reveal of ourselves when we endorse the devilish marauders of a little girl? What do we reveal of ourselves when we make common cause to obstruct justice for the parents of that little girl? What do we reveal of ourselves when we cheer the assassin of the man we still call the Father of the Indian Nation? What do we reveal of ourselves when we collaborate to deliver landslide mandates to each and all of such unabashed purveyors of bigotry? What do we reveal of ourselves in turning lusty champions of hatred? What have we revealed of ourselves in Kashmir?

We have revealed that we can weaponize the prejudices of the party that profaned Nunner. We have revealed, too, that we can do to a whole people what Major Leetul Gogoi did to that young shawl-weaver called Farooq Dar. Only, Dar was far more fortunate. He was trussed up with ropes and was sent on one round astride the bonnet of an army jeep. Kashmir is trussed up in concertina wires, and it has been a month. Kashmir has not been allowed to speak, and it has been a month. Kashmir has not been allowed its say, and it has been a month. Kashmir is no longer Kashmir, and it has been a month. It was stripped and demoted through the mechanics of a diabolical subterfuge, and it has been a month. Kashmir’s supreme will came to reside in a governor who, until the dawn of the night of long knives, was professing he knew nothing of what the fuss was all about, and it has been a month. Kashmiris pronounced that will, through their governor, with their voices muzzled and often interned, their conversations abrogated, their movement frozen, their neighbourhoods sealed, their aspirations and anger tear-gassed, their protests pelleted, their prayers quartered. They make the biggest jailhouse of this democracy, nearly eight million inmates. It has been a month. It’s a patent lie that Kashmir is normal; to label reports of a populace seething and stifled propaganda is the most pernicious propaganda.

Kashmir is a hard and complicated place, no less because it also lies infiltrated and instigated by rogue instruments across the cantankerous fence. It is also a rending place because its soul was inconsolably cauterized by the gun-point hounding out of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989-90. Governments can be hard and complicated and rending in their ways too.

Our governments have been no exception; they’ve been serially hard on our people. In the Northeast, in Punjab, in West Bengal, in the troubled jungle geographies of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Jharkhand, all across this sovereignty during the Emergency. In the “defence of the realm”, governments have employed unspeakable excesses. But seldom has the celebration of such excesses been so wide and so untrammelled and unashamed. Let Kashmiris cry. Lock them up, starve them, be done with them, we care that they should be dealt with, now or never. Let them suffer. Let them be maimed. Let them die. It’s all well and just if Kashmir can be vacated of the Kashmiris who inhabit Kashmir. Kashmir is the paradise of our lusting, Kashmiris are the parasites that need extinguishing to make way for us. It’s what we have revealed of ourselves, one human to another, this past month. You must brush your teeth before you smell the coffee each morning; one morning, look yourself up in the mirror. It’s been a month, a fair time to reveal yourself to yourself.

LazyEye

Let me tell you bedtime stories

But first you must listen to me. And do as I say. First you must get into bed. It’s only in bed that bedtime stories may be told. Where do you think you’re going? Don’t you know it’s dark outside? Did that sound like the lines of a song from somewhere? Or did it only sound dire? Dire is what I want to sound. And sounding dire would be right too. In fact I will go a step, or let’s say a word, further and pronounce it out so there is no confusion left about what the situation is that we are in. Dire Straits. Understand, do you? Don’t jump about the place thinking it’s all resham ki dori hunky-dory; it’s dire. If jump you must, jump into bed. Then I will tell you bedtime stories. Stories exclusively for you. Stories that will soothe you and be to your liking. Tales. You know what I mean. Tales.

Come, let’s fly. Baby, be not afraid. Be not led astray by what the whippersnapper newbies are telling you. Come. Let’s fly. Let me show you this serene paradise, now integrated with that greater paradise in a manner so seamless you will be aghast how we even achieved such perfect painless ecstatic surgery. We stitched it up. Some worthless folks are claiming it’s bleeding all over, but we stitched it up. Of course it bleeds in surgery, that’s part of it, but we severed things and we stitched them up all over anew. Jump into bed, become embedded, my darling, and I will show you.

Come, be comfortable with me, come away from all the rough and tumble, you don’t deserve any of that. Come cuddle with me, don’t be led astray by all that clamour and complaining. They’ve forever done that. They’ve forever provoked. They’ve forever violated. They’ve forever been beating their chests. They’ve forever been howling and crying and chanting that chant you no longer deserve to hear. Shut all of that out. Come to bed. Come be embedded. I shall tell you bedtime stories.

Look at the valley, oh how beauteous. The dales and the lakes. The torrents of spring, aqua here, aquamarine there, the tin-shed roofs glinting in the slant of the sun, the paddy fields a shimmer, those flocks of sheep, bleating about the high grasslands. Never mind the depeopled streets and village squares. They are not people you need to bother yourself with. They are nonsense people. They are avoidable people. They are people we all can do without. Should it come to that. We can do without them. This vale can do without them. I know you may have been wondering about what you heard and did not hear. The delirious scream. The muffled cry. The rage that emerged at the end of the street, and then ran away, having emptied itself in the throw of a stone, in a hoarse protest. Never mind. That is not what it is. There will always be that sort of folks. Nonsense folks. Flailing about for themselves, uncaring about anything else. There will always be those folks. We do not need to bother about them folks. We shall take care of them folks. They are not us. And those that are not us deserve to be told, in ways we know, that they are not us and will be treated in ways that we treat folks that are not us. We don’t invite into bed folks that are not us. And we don’t tell them the stories that I am about to tell you, my favoured cuddly dear. Be not afraid.
Was ever the sword that won
Never the wielded pen, shun!
Lie, lie embedded and be done
The rest, we put under the gun.

LazyEye

Birdie, Birdie, Kee Gall Hai?

Or, translated from Punglish, whatever’s the matter, birds? The answer, traditionally, in Engjabi, used to be: 

Sirdie,
Sirdie,
Seagull
Hai.

But never mind, those were the days. Days when we used to be able to crack a joke, and find a joke in it, and laugh and toss the rest of it off as if it were a joke and no more.

You crack a joke nowadays, Allah naa karey, and before the sound of cracking is over, they’ve sent a team of rack commandos to your doorstep with Burnup Khowsaymi’s outraged camera crew in tow: GET UP, STAND UP, THE NATION WANTS TO KNOW. (Translation: It’s Me Who Wants To Crow.) Which thought might lead me astray, as happens often:

Crow, crow, crow your throat
Hoarsely down the stream
Horribly, horribly, horribly, horribly,
Life is but a scream.

There. No more. So much attention. Now go, get a haircut, and ask the hajjam to chop your lamb chops, and then roast them. And sweep them into the dustbin, for roasted hair, and yours too, must belong to worse. Lambs. Chops. Roast. I mean Bakrid just went by, I mean, have I no shame? You know what I mean? Chhee-chhee! I am so shameless. But there are always folks that better me. You know, who am I, humble me?

Applause. Applause. Applause. More applause. Please.

Applause. Aaaah. Right. Silence. Silence.

Silence. Thank you. Thank you, Laydaas and Joints, thank you. We are on the renewal of oaths.

We shall speak the lie, and nothing but the lie, because if not the lie, we shall have to speak the truth. And that’s not allowed. Nor is it safe. But most of all, to speak the truth is hard and to speak the lie so convenient. Lie, and everybody’s happy. Ever looked at your face in the bathroom mirror? Come on, you must have. It lies. It makes you happy. That’s all that matters. Truth hurts, the lie comforts.

Like birds flying in a chained and gagged city. Birds are flying! Hey, how much more normal does that city want to be? Or can be? Birds have the freedom to flap their wings and fly. How much more freedom do you want than the freedom to fly the sky?

Birds fly. And birds fly. When they wish to fly, birds fly. When you fire a bullet, birds fly. There are ways of seeing a bird fly. There are ways of telling why the bird flew. There is a truth to be told about it. There is a lie to be told about it.

A bird in flight can fly. A bird in flight can be shot. Both birds have flown, both can be seen flying. You saw one bird. I saw another. Or probably it was the same bird we saw. It flew. Then it was shot, and it became the opposite of a bird flying. You saw a bird flying. I saw a bird being shot. You said birds were flying. I said birds were flying. Then I said the birds were shot. Where were you? Oh, you’d departed the scene. With your truth. Birds were flying. But that was a lie. Because the flying bird was shot. And it was just consolation for you, you had seen it flying. It was just consoling to you, the lie. For the truth was hard to tell, and there was no convenience in it. Go on, have your way. You’ll still know you lied, and did not the truth tell. That’s the thing with lying, the liar always knows. The truth, it’s a far more unsure thing.

On lies I have the authority
In me alone must you rely
’Cause should you not comply
Remember I’m the majority.


Kashmir

Notes From An Operation Theatre

This is how we did it, this is how it is usually done. There are standard operating procedures. The subject must first be prepared for what’s to come, even if the arrangements cause some consternation and distress, even if the subject appears baffled and unwilling. The subject needs to be persuaded what is being done is only for their good, there’s no cause for panic or fretting. It may hurt a little in the beginning but it will all turn out well in the end. It’s strong medicine being administered, but it’s essential medicine. Don’t worry, you’ll be just fine, this is for your own good.

Sanitisation is required. Doors need to be secured. Sounds need to be shut. Nothing may come in. Nothing may slip out. This needs clinical planning and execution. It needs trained personnel in close attendance. It needs precision tools. It needs expert minding. Nothing can be out of place, nothing can be permitted to go wrong.

Faces masked, hands gloved, anaesthesia administered: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5… “Scalpel!”

And so it was that Kashmir was taken.

The soldiery was commandeered and deployed, so many thousands even the birds huddled close. Then, in the darkened shadows of night, an unseen hand moved to unbounded muffling: no movement, no messaging, no sound nor syllable. Landlines gone. Mobile networks gone. Broadband gone. Cable television gone. Civic restrictions on. The countdown to a comprehensive stilling. Kashmir etherised. Kashmir under treatment. Codename Operation Kashmir.

It was to emerge from that induced coma, its constitutional feathers ripped, its body carved, dismembered and downgraded to manageable contours, its prominent “anti-bodies” identified and referred to sterilised laboratories. Other known and potential “germs” scraped out and packed off to distant quarantines.

Surgical strike. This is how it happens, this is how it is usually done. There are standard operating procedures.

Post-operative remarks of the Surgeon-General on ailment and aftermath

Infection and contamination are to be prevented at all costs, anything that jeopardises the outcomes of this procedure must be proscribed. Amputation of sections cannot be ruled out because pathology suggests gangrene may have set in in some places. The requirements of critical care remain pressing; robust doses of medication will need to be pumped in for a sustained period, and there will have to be mandatory and frequent phases of sedation in order that eventual recovery on desired lines can be expected.

The chief cause of affliction by this acute malady was found to be the unfettered and long-term prescription of a feel-good drug called 370. It played havoc and triggered a rash of ruinous symptoms that were getting out of hand. It constricted and suffocated some parts, throttled the nerves. It was found that exclusive privileges enjoyed under the influence of 370 had begun to score fatal sores; it was urgent to de-clog starved channels and infuse hitherto restricted interests and influences to restore vigour and vibrancy. Overdosing on 370 had also led to bloating of some sensory organs, which in turn had prompted delusionary fits and, very often, violent lunging towards secession. External instigation was aiding these symptoms, but there were internal wellsprings too, feeding the disorder and its destructive syndrome.

Gupkar has been cauterised and cleansed. We ran a super-sopper along the length of the avenue and swept up the residue. Gupkar was a chronic trigger to Kashmiri misconduct. This is where all its rulers reigned from and took turns ruining the realm for nearly half a century: Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti and, for an interregnum, Ghulam Nabi Azad. These three families and their legatees, their patrons and partners — the Abdullahs, the Muftis, the Nehru-Gandhis — were identified as the core of the carbuncle, a knife had to be run through their monopoly on malevolence, and the possibility of any recurrence stitched up.

Comprehensive surgical restructuring was required to ensure that. That manoeuvre was successfully conducted. One body part — Ladakh — had to be cleaved away in order that it could afford enhanced blood flow. The remaining, and chief, body part — Jammu and Kashmir — had to be radically repurposed to control recurrent paroxysms and correct faulty alignment. To that end, it was necessary that its command centre was relocated. That has been achieved. Power will no longer be located in, or issue from, Gupkar or its gallery of residents. Power will henceforth be a prescribed entity designated Lieutenant Governor who shall function under the direction and authority of a command centre self-invested with the best interests of the nation.

Should Gupkar eminences — or those aspiring to their expired authority, the likes of Sajjad Lone, even Shah Faesal — behave and reveal signs of correction, they may earn allowance to contest seats for a new confederacy of municipals which is to be called, in the aid of keeping spirits and appearances, the legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir itself revealed imbalances inimical to the well-being of the bodypolitic; they will require to be attended to and remedied in order that proper functioning can be restored. A separate team of experts may be assigned to suggest ways so that one body part (Kashmir) is not pressing overly upon another, and under-attended body parts (Jammu, in the main) can be given their due. In the interests of good health and prosperity, Jammu and Kashmir should be read and understood, henceforth, as Jammu and Kashmir, not Kashmir and Jammu, as has, unfortunately, been the case so far. That’s a rectification we recommend to the separate team of experts to keep in mind when they go about their business of re-ordering the physical geography of this still living entity.

Post-operative conditions are usually a period demanding careful watch, monitoring and patience. This has been a monumental exercise, and despite the best efforts, there could be ups and downs. They will have to be handled firmly and resolutely.

We have reserves of strong medicine and enough well-trained personnel, there is no cause for alarm on that front. For the moment, all is well, contrary to uninformed reports you may be fed. One of the precautions we took in order to be able to undertake such a critical and vital gambit was that we informed very few. So do not pay heed to those who do not know.

Hallucinatory vignettes coursing a bloodshot, pellet-ridden eye

That lamb I had, which they commanded to silence, it bleated, and they shot it… That pigeon was the only thing I saw moving, and then something of it caught the concertina and it fluttered and then it moved no more… There was that graffiti on the wall, “India Go Back” and it had an exclamation on it the shape of a gun… then the wall turned, as if to the change of a camera angle, and it became flat as a road, and there were boots marching on it… Someone was shrieking and it was a silent shriek that did not even turn to a balloon of vapour because this isn’t our winter… I was writing an essay on Peace and everytime I wrote Peace it spelt itself Panic… I threw a stone and it took my arm away… That phone of mine, it was so smooth, and just the size, I used it as soap to bathe… None of this can be true… What is true is what I am told every time I come to… “Everything is fine, everything is calm, everything is normal, everything is for your own good, everything is under control…” …So my blistered eye is a lie dipped in a surreal slipstream, and these nightmares are a matinee screening I bought tickets for… the movies have returned to Kashmir as promised… all is well.

Kargil

Kargil

The War Of Our Times

Imagine an image airbrushed. Of warts and scars and pocks and craters, and curses that only war can spell. Then imagine the panoramic image on top. Or look at it, just look at it. When I first came upon this sight in the summer of 1999 — man to mountain — the vista looked nothing like this. It was a setting irredeemably scarred. It was littered with hollow shells and field guns, and blackened by what they emitted — gunpowder, smoke, phosphorescence, panic, disarray, dread, destruction, death. Worse. Irreparable injury. Irreparable loss. The horrific signature of war crawled all across it.

Over the autumn and winter of 1998, the Pakistani military machine had sneaked under lowered, lazy guard, and snatched vantage stations right across the range you see and farther yonder. With armed mercenaries at the front, it had breached Indian sovereignty along more than a hundred kilometres of a frozen desolate frontier, often pushing several kilometres in. They had dug in and established dozens of offensive outposts. They had come to dominate key positions above National Highway 1A, the slender and sole road link India possesses to the strategic Kargil-Ladakh frontier. The audacious adventure became a full-blown intrusion as a result of multiple lapses in intelligence and military preparedness; early alerts had been sounded but they were ignored, even scoffed at.

Continue reading
LazyEye

The Upside Can Also Be Down

Where do we begin? There is no end to this, but that is not what I am at. There are, in the absence of ends, always new beginnings to make. But first they need to be found. When you have found a beginning you can begin to make it. Like roads. Where do you enter? Where do you end? What way do you go? There’s one road, but it can lead to at least two ways; and often more than two. Or mornings. Or in the mornings. Beginning. Beginnings. They can seem oftentimes like the end of dreaming and the beginning of nightmares. So? Now? What? The sardonic clock. Hmmm, shut me up again, yeah, but buddy I moved on, look where I am at. Past your resolutions, well past.

Those beginnings you’d resolved to make, all of them, past their date, past their time. It’s Sunday, for Pete’s sake. Pete? Pete. Never mind. Pete’s not a political slogan. Pete’s not a cry. Pete gets no one going, on Pete’s side or not. You don’t have to say Pete. You don’t not have to cry Pete. Nobody is saying, say “Jai Shree Pete”. Who is Pete? We don’t even know where he was born, if he was at all. We don’t have to build monument for Pete, we don’t have to demolish one for Pete. Pete is a cool guy. Pete is just one of those things, for Pete’s sake. Just let Pete be Pete. Think about beginnings. How many are there swirling up as possibilities. Which one would it be today.

A shock of fluorides. A flushing of nocturnal burdens. And why only those? Is there an end to burdens that must be flushed? Is there an end to burdens that can’t be flushed? Go on, make a list. Begin with yourself. Begin with where you live. That body. And it’s infinitesimally numerous parts. Bone, blood, sinew, cell, flesh, cartilage, vein, membrane, acid, enzyme, bile, gold, silver, copper, magnesium, potassium, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, neon, dysprosium, thulium, holmium and such other and many things which it will suffice to not enumerate here. Three’s a crowd. What would you think so many, packed together into the delusion of one unit, would be? Disorder. At best, a somehow functioning disorder. Now imagine sleeping on, waking with and carting along all the rest of the time the burden of such a somehow functioning disorder. So begin with the burden count there. And while you are at it don’t forget that we have flung far too many things into the sky now, and so soon enough they will begin to fall upon us. Or perhaps they are already falling, in kilo clusters. Those burdens too should be counted, they are ours. What goes up, heavens hear my prayer, does not all come down, but some of it does. Look out the window. There; it’s light and it’s coming through the panes. And then look down. Look at the moon, down there, in the corner at the bottom, peeping out of its dark side. No you didn’t wake up upside down, everything we understood to be one way probably went the other. It’s like the road you were forever on. You walked one way, and the road went another.

This is the road then. And every bit of it can be a beginning, it’s just where you begin. And who’s to know of ends, it’s where you end it, it ends.

So be sure to think
This is where it ends
It may only be a wink
And thereon it bends.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/the-upside-can-also-be-down/cid/1695301

LazyEye

In desolate places, desperate men

One of the things men do is exceed. Women do it too. Of course they do. But when I say men, I mean it quite generously for women and then, of course, factually for men as well. Before correctness descended upon us with its callow and literal tyrannies, language had something called a metaphor, an instrument of conveying greater things with small things. Man used to mean men and women, it conveyed the sense of a collective. But how’s one to correct correctness? It’s a beast washed in virtue, and what do you do with virtue washed? That’s a vice all its own.

But I digress, as I am wont to, there being in this world of ours so many possibilities of digression and distraction. Ever been unfortunate enough to have possessed and used a smartphone? Perhaps you’d know what I mean. But even before smartphones, there were digressions and distractions. We were taken by them. We got distracted. We digressed.

We got distracted by the ugliest things. The moon, for instance. A cratered, forsaken, uninhabitable blob hanging about in space, whirring pointlessly round and round. And we made it a thing of beauty and mystique. Such are our deluded and desperate fancies. We tore to the moon, seduced by our delusions of what it might be like on the other side, seduced by what is not ours but another’s. We tore our way to the moon and we found an unliveable, ugly desolation; and once we had breached the distance and arrived there we could celebrate its beauty no more. We lose in proximity the imagination of distances, it is one of our essential follies. To venture where there was no pressing need to. To breach and to find it was never worth the effort.

But that is who we are; that is also how we have arrived where we are, into this chaotic, sorry pass. We’ve ventured where we needn’t have. We’ve regularly made misadventures of ill-thought ventures. Desolate minds will do desperate things. Willed by mindlessness, intoxicated on the farcical. We’ve waged in where even ravens don’t go. Where the sun doesn’t drop. Where nothing springs of what we can remotely call life. Where the air is so rare, you cannot bring yourself to breathe. We go looking for domain where there is no domain. We go looking for country where there is no country. We go looking to push lines where are no lines. We go looking for conquest where there is nothing to be won. We go looking for valour where there is none to be had. We go looking for God in God’s disapproval. Avarice cannot be in consonance with God’s scheme. Invasion and intrusion cannot be God’s scheme. Violation cannot be God’s scheme, violation of His spaces or man’s. Violence cannot be God’s scheme. Expansion cannot be part of God’s scheme, for where do you expand from and to what? All the realm is God’s. And so what we violate and what we intrude must be a violation of God’s scheme, and an intrusion of God’s scheme. And yet we do what we do. But perhaps what we have made of ourselves, and what we often do in God’s name, is not God’s scheme either. Look around. What heavy weather we have made of what was once the fertile birthing station of all manner of life — plant, plankton, animal, bird. Our proverbial Garden of Eden.

And we made of this tranquility
Such a waste, such a mayhem
But we so fancied our futility
We spared neither us nor them.
https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/in-desolate-places-desperate-men/cid/1694397

LazyEye

Water has Another Name, It’s Utter

Been wondering. Been wondering really hard and been tortured by such wondering. Should I say it? Is it not unremittingly sad that I should even have to wonder. And ponder? This question of whether I should say it or say it not? Where have we come? What have we made of ourselves? Who are the NewWe? We are not ourselves. What has brought us to this pass that we are having to raise these questions? To ourselves? And wonder? And ponder? Darn it, to the barnacles with it. Here it is. I am saying it, for this is how it was said and this is how it has best been said.

Allah megh de, Allah paani de!

There. Spoken. Said. Allah, give us cloud; Allah, give us water.
Will it not be cloud if Allah gave it to us? Will it not be water if Allah gave it to us? Forget the megh. Forget the water. Forget Allah. Will we stop to sing a song we have sung to ourselves? Will we rob ourselves the utter sweetness and pathos of it? Will we die thirsty and not sing that song which is ringing in our heads and hearts anyhow? It has rung, that song, each season since it was sung. It will ring even when you have chosen to forsake it. Remember. It will ring, it will sing, and it will be sung and heard no matter what. Believe me. When you don’t wish to hear it, you shall hear it most.

Allah megh de; Allah paani de.

Water is our community; water is not communal. Sought of Allah, it doesn’t merely fall on his sworn disciples. Sought of Ram, it does not merely fall on his sworn disciples. It falls even on those that are disciples not. Not of anything. Water is a democracy before the word was coined by, who were they, the Greeks? Water gives in equal measure; water takes away with equally ruthless measure.

It is what We drink and it is what They drink. It is what We die for the want of. It is what They die for the want of. Water is such a thing. It does not select and feed. Water is such a thing. It does not select and kill. Water is such a thing. Ever seen the shape of water? It is the shape of what you will make of it. You can make a killer cannon of it. You can make it the shape of a drip that sustains life. You wash in it in the uzookhaanas. You wash in it on chosen riverbanks. You never ask of it wherefrom it came. It never asks of you wherefrom you came. From your God or the rival God. Off your prayer or the rival’s prayer. Waters have poured. Waters have parted. Waters have cradled. Waters have consumed. Waters are who we mostly are. Look around you, you marooned fools, all around you are waters. And fortunate you are, for if you weren’t marooned, and if there weren’t any waters, you’d have by now been cinders. Cinders twisting about. Imagine water. Then imagine yourself. Most of it is water. You are water. The utter unmitigated gift of it. There isn’t much of it around for much longer. Which means there isn’t much of you around for much longer. Pray for water. Pray to who you can or wish to. But do not forbid another’s prayer for it, for when that prayer is answered it shall be answered for all. Rain and rivers, lakes and oceans, they don’t ask who you are when they give. Or when they take.

And so it comes to drop
With a sameness on all
And when it comes it says plop
Come one, come all, let it fall.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/water-is-what-we-drink-and-it-is-what-they-drink/cid/1693930

Bihar, Telegraph Calcutta

Lalu Prasad: Autumn of the Patriarch

The mercurial Lalu Prasad has finally been pushed off stage and an epoch is whimpering to demise

Zero. It has never been this bad; it cannot get any worse.

Or it probably still can.

It is one thing for Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to have drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha this summer; it is quite another for him to have nobody around to take that blank and build on it. The party, as it used to be under Lalu’s helmsmanship, is over. Bihar’s once fabled and formidable House of Yadu has become the shape of a pack of cards tumbled upon itself.

Here’s what fragments of a clan in collapse can look like up close. The confetti of serial abuse of power and public office floating about the defeated air; there are bills to be paid yet, and someone will come knocking. The unseemly rites of a turbulent son’s ruptured marriage playing out on the doorstep. Spewing from within, grim tales of competing grouses and internecine family feuding — son versus son, daughter versus mother, sister versus brother; in the absence of the arraigned father, there’s nothing to quell the quarrelling over what may remain. The man he left behind in charge having also skipped station. There’s nobody around to pick up the pieces.

The Bihar Assembly came into session this Friday. Tejashwi, who leads the Opposition benches, wasn’t there. There were rumours he’d turn up, but they turned out to be rumours. Tejashwi Yadav has been gone from the scene a long and inexplicable while. So long and so inexplicable that his own ranks have begun to wonder if he’s interested in his bequeathed job. So long and so inexplicable that Lalu no longer bothers with worrying, what would be the point? He is 71 and ill. He is incarcerated on a medley of corruption convictions and charges in Jharkhand. The circumstances of his coiled labyrinth allow him to do so much and no more. Tejashwi has stopped to heed his command. Where is Tejashwi? In Delhi. Probably. But he will come. Oh look, he has already tweeted a long distance hello to “My dear Bihar!” on the plea of orthopaedic treatment that nobody hitherto knew of. Bihar should rest assured.

Lalu wanted Tejashwi to stay on the deck and take the storm, like he himself had often done in the past. Tejashwi was in such a rush to get away, he did not wait to cast his vote this election. Tejashwi was not drawn to the hollering tragedy of 130-odd children snuffed out by encephalitis in Muzaffarpur. Tejashwi did not arrive to lead his flock in an Assembly that faces re-election just next year. Tejashwi has been gone from Patna a whole month. Tejashwi is Lalu’s chosen mantle-bearer. Such as that mantle is; it has zero freshly inscribed on it.

Political obituaries can turn treacherous on their authors. When they are about someone like Lalu, feisty and defiant through his roller-coaster life, they can turn and sting too.

This is not a political obituary. This is a Doctrine of Lapse notification. Lalu has a legacy, but those he entrusted it to have bungled it. The entity central to Bihar’s politics for three decades is tearing out like a meteor in tailspin.

This is the first election of his political career that Lalu stood barred from turning up to campaign; this is not the first time he has lost, but this is the first time the RJD can hear what death-rattle sounds like.

Consider this: Based on the Lok Sabha results — a stunning 39 out of 40 for the NDA — the RJD managed to win a little more than a dozen seats in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. Tej Pratap, Lalu’s elder and maverick son, lost the Mahua seat by more than 10,000 votes.

Tejashwi held on to Raghopur by its membranes, barely 200-odd votes. Misa, the eldest of Lalu’s children, lost the Yadav borough of Patliputra a second time running, bested once again by Ram Kripal Yadav, once Lalu’s trusted protégé.

Everything suggests a daylight heist on the Yadav vote which once kept Lalu securely banked in power. 2014 was probably the first sign Narendra Modi had disrupted traditional voter behaviour and snatched away a section of Yadav loyalty from Lalu. 2019 is resounding confirmation of not merely a drift away from Lalu but of a new polarisation behind the BJP and its Bihar allies. Nearly 40 per cent of the Yadav vote has shifted base; there is little to suggest on the ground that number will not mount. The RJD has been turfed out across its traditional Yadav strongholds — from Madhepura and Saharsa, from Saran and Siwan and Sonepur, from Maharajganj and Gopalgunj, from Danapur and Maner which, for decades was quite literally the family’s personal backyard. “Laluji ke bina ab kya raha?” asks Jitender Singh, an avowed Lalu loyalist and apologist, “Kuchh bhi kahiye, Laluji neta thhe, ab kaun raha?” (What’s left after Lalu? Say what you will, Lalu was a leader, who’s left?) We are at a tea shack in Maner, about 30 kilometres west of Patna. Jitender can’t stop ruing what’s happened and what’s to come. “I feel for Laluji, I am committed, but look at his children. Why did Misa have to contest the Lok Sabha when she is already in the Rajya Sabha. She is laalchi, greedy. Tej Pratap is a vagrant, nobody knows what he is up to. Tejashwi makes no effort at communicating, spending time with people. They control the party, but nobody has a clue what they are doing or what they have in mind. Kya future hoga?” The anger and the unease is palpable. It can no longer be called a crack in the RJD voter base, it is more akin to a sundering. “Lalu’s party minus Lalu looks like a wipeout,” a senior RJD leader and Lalu’s contemporary says, “Tejashwi and his ranks have failed to deliver, the party is nervous, its faith lies shattered, we are in a mess.”

He wouldn’t go on the record yet with his fears and misgivings, but he believes that time is near. “People in the party will speak out, they will have to. If for nothing else, for sheer survival; Assembly elections stare us in the face and we have just taken our severest blow. What do these results tell the aspiring RJD contestants? That they should be very nervous. What does the response of the party leadership tell them? That they should seek answers and correction.”

Failed Four: Tej Pratap, Misa, Rabri and Tejashwi. Photograph by Sankarshan Thakur

Some of the murmur is already bubbling up in anger. RJD elder and spokesperson Shivanand Tiwari turned blunt at a recent party meeting. “We should take a hard look at how the party is being run,” he is reported to have said, “Laluji’s absence has been a big jolt to us, but we have to figure ways of dealing with that, and if we don’t do that it is over… yeh hamare astitva ka sawal hai… this is a question of our survival.”

Tejashwi has made himself deserving of an in-house chargesheet; it cannot be that the clamour hasn’t reached him, even in his removed camp addresses.

— He ignores his father’s counsel

— He doesn’t consult or respect party elders; he did not allow them to campaign when they were eager to

— He is opaque and often unapproachable; he is also tight-fisted with resources

— He did not take allies on board during the campaign for fear that he would have to share the accolades

— He has made little effort to build a connect with his constituency

— He took whimsical off-days during the heat of the campaign

— He has neither energy nor gut for a fight

— He has no blueprint hereon, none that anybody knows of

— He appears not accountable for the debacle he has presided over

— He is swiftly scattering his inheritance away, at the cost of the party.

“Does Tejashwi know how to win elections, even his own?” That’s a close confidant of Lalu for decades asking. It is probably the most damning question the leader of a political party can be asked. But that question is being asked of Tejashwi by those in the boat who still reckon it can be saved from sinking. “Through the campaign, Tejashwi and his camp kept telling us we were doing well. It turns out we never did as badly. He was either bluffing or was deluded, in both circumstances, his leadership needs to be questioned.”

The worry and scurry in the RJD ranks is not merely on account of the Assembly polls next year. It is not merely because MLAs have begun to individually and collectively wonder if the RJD is a good ticket to ride on, or should the opportunity to jump be taken. It is equally because of the overt manoeuvres they see the adversary making.

From the time of his first foray into Bihar as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2013, Narendra Modi revealed a focused intent to woo Yadavs away from their chief and loved patron. “Yaduvanshi bhaiyon!” he called out to them; he flagged the mythology of Krishna and Dwarka to kindle a kinship. He kept at it, as a work in progress. It wouldn’t be easy to wean Yadavs away from their anointed benefactor, but he has worked with time and with ways. “Don’t forget Yadavs are the most privileged among the backwards castes and they have become used to the stakes and fruits of power,” says a Lalu-era bureaucrat who likes sailing close along the power corridors, “But for a brief spell, Lalu has been out of power nearly 15 years now and his successors hold out no hope they might deliver it any time soon. Lalu may yet enjoy their unshaken sympathy, but that is translating less and less into votes. That’s one key takeaway from this election. The Yadavs will want to stay close to power.”

Narendra Modi may only be too keen to demonstrate to them how. One clue might be the elevation of Nityanand Rai, a Yadav MP from Ujiarpur in north Bihar, as central minister of state for home affairs. Another could well be Bihar’s verdict on the RJD itself: Zero.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/lalu-prasad-autumn-of-the-patriarch/cid/1693429

Telegraph Calcutta

Yaheen to maar kha gaya Hindustan

Oh, don’t you even ask. For I cannot even begin to tell. There is a lot to tell, but I do not know where to begin. That happens. Every time a beginning occurs, another one pops up.

Too many beginnings. And no end. Or each an end in itself. I am talking about being beaten. Being beaten? Or getting beaten? I wonder. I am, as you well know by now, confused. I am confused on this one too. What’s better? Being beaten? Or getting beaten? Or, truth to tell, the question to ask should be which one is worse? Tough to tell.

There are so many choices to pick from, you see, so many times has one been beaten. Someone or the other. Here. Amongst us. Beaten. We are a beaten peepuls. Or we beat. Now look at how we are beating this register thing, batao, batao, batao! Where are you from? What is your name? Batao, bataaao!!

One register. Of that One nation. Of that One flag. Of that One law. Of that One Leedaaaah. That Register is what we are beating. And beating that One register will finally give us One people. That is what this beating is all about. So beat it, and shake it out. Are you in? Are you out? Beat this register, and you’ll find out. You are either beaten in, or you are beaten out. All the result of a resounding beating.

All this beating, it’s only in the national interest, bhai, where would we be without all this beating? We have arrived here beating our way, all the way. We beat all those piled up years of NothingHappened. We beat them, not once but twice. But some more beating is required before NothingHappened can squarely be beaten and interred six inches under. We beat the Bapus and the Chachas of the era of NothingHappened. But it seems they too require some more beating. We beat their progeny too, and they too require a little bit more beating. If we can beat them well and long enough, we will have dealt with them.

Like we dealt with Mohammed Jalaluddin, also known as Akbar. We beat him good and healthy at Haldighati and now we know that Akbar was not Great after all. That sort of beating had to be done, it was waiting to be done. They had beaten us, we had to beat them. That is how it has always happened, that is how we have arrived here: beating, getting beaten, beating back.

History is a story of who beat who, and who was beaten by who. Remember that. Beating is an act for Akhand, because our hearts beat for Akhand. Does your heart beat for Akhand? Check. Does your heart beat at all? Check. Who does your heart beat for? Check. Because there is a lot for your heart to beat. Beating is what you should be doing if your heart beats for Akhand. Beat the enemies of Akhand.

You will know who they are. You have been told who they are. Those with the wrong names. Those who eat the wrong food. Those who say the wrong prayers. Those who pray to the wrong God. Those who have the wrong customs. Those who have the wrong festivals. Those who stay in the wrong places. Those who read the wrong books. Those who speak the wrong language. Those who wear the wrong clothes. Aaaaah! There. The wrong clothes, that’s the key; you can get them from the clothes they wear, and then you will know exactly who to beat.

Hey, c’mon people get this right,
We’re in it, we’re in for the fight;
Bring it on, and sing to my feat,
You got the baton, baby, you got to beat.

LazyEye

So that nobody can be somebody

Who’s to tell who or what this thing that feels like some part of someone is? Who’s to tell what this thing is? Tough to tell, I do know, but essential to tell. Whose voice is this? I can only wonder, for I come knowing nothing, nothing at all. I do not even know what or where I come from. No, alas no. But I know I have a voice. I can hear it. You can hear it. You can, can’t you? Please do not mind too much if I seek assurance. I am such a thing. I have become such a thing. I have been turned into such a thing. I need assurance. Even to know that I am, whatever it is that I am. I am not sure. But I am. I am something. It is not that I am nothing, although I can see that I am sought to be driven to being that: Nothing. But I am not that, not yet. I am not there yet, not yet. I have a faceless face. I have a nameless name. I have a non-descript description. It’s all written there, in what’s now illegible. But so what? I am so weary of everything, no less of wondering and waffling about who I might be. So pardon me if I may just quote a bit of the past on this, something akin, perhaps: “…And thank heavens there’s somebody heeding that call with all the urgency and innovation it requires, laying out the road ahead, picking out the pitfalls.

What would have become of us if we hadn’t been recently alerted to the rife and fatal perils of termites? Nobody bothered warning us all this while what an apocalyptic end termites have been plotting. We are teetering on a hollowed out precipice and nobody told us. Such were the reckless botch-ups of the epoch justly called NothingHappened. All through NothingHappened, termites happened, and they were allowed to continue happening. As their nomenclature vaguely suggests, termites terminate. We were being voraciously had. But since we have given unto ourselves TheBossOfAllThings, he’s given unto us reason to feel secure. He’s let out the war cry: Exterminate before they terminate. This is nothing to scoff at. We should feel indebted we are now sagaciously helmed. Examine the scholarship and thought, not to speak of the milk of national interest that began to flow circa 2014, that has gone into raising this lifesaver alarm. Examine termites. Their names are petrifying enough. Cratomastotermitidae. Mastotermitidae. Archotermopsidae. Hodotermitidae. Stolotermitidae. Kalotermitidae. Archeorhinotermitidae. Stylotermitidae. Rhinotermitidae. Serritermitidae. Termitidae. Imagine running into one or any in a dark alley. Plundered to the bone, Ram naam satya hai. It gets worse. They come in 3,016 species. And that’s how far we know. A few hundred more termite varieties remain beyond our grasp. They are Jurassic or Triassic of origin, whatever that might mean; Hollywood tells us that can be unimaginably old and terrifying. We know social and anti-social behaviour. This lot conforms to an altogether alien behavioural tendency — they are eusocial, a matrix so arcane we have no understanding of it. It gets even worse. Termites organise themselves into armies, male and female. Armies. And these armies are so resilient and invasive, so tough to control, the best zoos in the world have refused to host them. But that’s how they’ve come to colonise every landmass on our planet other than Antarctica. And the way science is exploding frontiers, it’s quite certain it will discover an Antarctic termite soon, genetically kitted out in white thermals, breathing brimstone to neutralise polar frost. Termites are not a hazard to us alone, they are a global jeopardy. And it was down to one man to flag this menace to humanity. Is there more proof required to confirm we are now blessed with a world-class leader?”

So. There. Me. Or what there is of me. If there is such a thing.
But do tell me something
Just one question, not a few;
You who think yourself akin to some king;
Tell me, by way of interest, just who be you?

Telegraph Calcutta

Maneaters and other wildings

Are you ready for it folks? Excited? Just can’t wait, isn’t it? Tossing and turning in sleep and like coked-out awake, aren’t you? Like totally GobsmackedBazoookaBoomed about it and totes ticklish in all sorts of places? Man. Mayyyyn!! It’s coming. Faiiinallly!! Someone put me on speed and zoom me out there, like, you know, this is just no place and time to be, you just don’t wanna be here anymore, Mayyyyn, you wanna be out there, with it, you know what I mean? You wanna be out there, with it, Man, just speed of light fast- forward, you know what I mean? Of course you do, don’t lie, you cheat, hai naa? No? I’m flying on my wannas, don’t pull me down now. You are too, admit it, come on. You tellin’ me you aren’t? Chal jhoothey!

JungleeBook is coming. Yayyyyy!

Starring. Who else? You know who. But if you don’t — chal jhoothey, how can you not — you’ll know. I toh just can’t wait. I toh just wanna tear into time and future and anything in between and be right there.

They’ve released the rushes and I’ve seen the rushes and they’ve given me the rushes. He looks so kewl, JungleeMan, and everything around him looks so junglee, I just want to, oh, I’m so excited I can’t even explain myself. Don’t mean to get you all jealous and jam, Darl, but you know that man, that man, just to look at that man. Oh Mayyyn, he’s so irresistibly jungleee. Rough and rugged and gorgeous rustic, and naturally hewn, like the brambles he was trekking through with that sceptre of his, or actually better than that, a specially jungle-crafted spear actually. He didn’t craft it himself, the Bhalu did, but theek hai, how many people can you count that Bhalu does things for in the Jungle? But how thoughtful of him to craft that spear, with an absolutely killer tip! You know the big news, of course. The jungles are spilling over with tigers, God knows where one might pop up and pounce? Grrrrrrrr… And gone, fed to the exploding tiger population. That’s why you need that Cro-Magnon bhaala; to kill to survive, killing is the jungle’s sport. When you are in the Jungle and want to be a Junglee, you absolutely need the bare neces-sities and who better to bring them to you than the bear, or, Bhalu. Translation. Translation. Wah! Taaliyaan!

But don’t get super excited, yet, don’t exhaust your taaliyaan, because there’s more occasion for that just coming up. The jungle gear of the jungle bear and JungleeMan. Mayyyn! I mean what can you not do in that kind of gear? All that grey and grisly butch stuff they kit you out in when you tell them I am going where no man has been before, only JungleeMan. He looked, he looked, watchamacallit, drop dead dreamboat. He even got on to one at some stage, in Bhalu’s company, crossing a lake full of killer alligators with not a care on his face he was braving such peril. And heading towards far graver ones.

Guffawing. Like nothing had happened around that time other than pure junglee fun. And if something had, he was too far gone too deep to be told or to hear. Boom! What? Nothing. Lights. Camera. Action.

Preyer, prowler, lurking fright

In these jungles of our night

Beware you’re in the killer’s sight

Keep your torches burning bright.