2013, Essay, Telegraph Calcutta

The Swan Whose Song The Aussies Won’t Miss

At Mohali in 2010,VVS Laxman revealed why for the last time 

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;

Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

–William Blake

They counted on that sore lower vertebra of his too much and forgot the man had a spine attached to it. In the first outing, pain had chained his reach and rasp. He came late and left early, half cocking a benign dipper into the slips: VVS Laxman, caught Michael Clarke bowled Nathan Hauritz for two.

This morning he put a bone to his back, like a warrior would put sword to scabbard, and strode into the field of slaughter, unbothered that it was already soaked in blood and more would leap from the spoils to stain his whites. For him this was a classic triple-relish moment. Laxman favours the second innings, he favours a fight to the finish even more. But ever more than any of that, he has a fondness for favouring the Aussies with silken dictatorship. It began as an adolescent fancy, punishing the men from Down Under, then flowered from hobby to habit to hallmark.

Continue reading “The Swan Whose Song The Aussies Won’t Miss”

2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

At Jallianwala, Sorry Fades from the English Dictionary

OR, A BRIEF INVENTORY OF CONTEMPORARY APOLOGY

British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined a sparse line of compatriot eminences to hang their heads at the ringside of a most ignoble theatre of Empire but return without shaking it in regret.

Over nearly a century now, British protagonists have approached the 1919 massacre ground of Jallianwala Bagh thumbing the thesaurus for an appropriate word to pick. Sorry has not been among them.

The feisty imperialist and then Secretary of War, Winston Churchill, described Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer’s shoot orders on the unarmed Baisakhi-day gathering as a “monstrous event”. His disapproval seemed to stem not so much from the hundreds dead and injured as from his considered view that the slaughter did not represent “the British way of doing business.”

Around the time Churchill made his annotation on that disgraceful chapter of British dominion over India, Dyer, though relieved of charge, was being feted as a hero on his home island; among the tributes he was showered with was a 26,000 pound sterling purse. Fifty of those crowns had come from Rudyard Kipling, who called Dyer “the man who saved India” and initiated collections for his homecoming prize.

Continue reading “At Jallianwala, Sorry Fades from the English Dictionary”

2013, Essay, Kashmir, Telegraph Calcutta

Kashmir’s Kolyma Tales: An Excerpt Retold

Put together in a volume these could become a chronicle from our own Gulag. Or pages fallen off Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” from deep Soviet Siberia, grim tales of misery that man can wilfully bring upon man.
There is nothing new or extant about these stories. They come, in fact, from two decades back.

Only, they haven’t been told enough. Kashmiri ears are so stuffed with them by now, they can’t accommodate any more. They have turned numb to their hurt. Perhaps they have also come to bore because there is nothing to them beyond repetition. “I am in a peculiar quandary,” says their bewildered author, “I think these are stories to be told but whenever I begun to tell them people say we’ve heard it all before, so what?”

These are stories in search of an audience. These may begin to explain to us how nettled the sutures can be between law and justice, between the clinical application of the former and the emotional implication of the latter. These may probably also annotate to us why a moment such as the hanging of Afzal Guru turns momentous, what sores it rubs into, what carbuncles it opens up.

Continue reading “Kashmir’s Kolyma Tales: An Excerpt Retold”

2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Maldives: The Big Migraine from India’s Tiniest Neighbour

New Delhi, Feb 13: India’s littlest neighbour is causing it some of the severest bouts of diplomatic migraine.

As the foreign office finessed final preparations to host French President Francois Hollande, who arrives on a two-day visit tomorrow, a fresh crisis in the Maldives dragged South Block into a dilemma it may to be loathe to grapple with.

Former President Mohammed Nasheed walked into the Indian mission in Male with a team of six MPs this afternoon seeking to meet the High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar Mulay. Nasheed, dodging arrest and a summons to appear in a Maldivian criminal court on charges of unlawfully detaining a former judge, had clearly arrived without an appointment; Mulay wasn’t there to receive him. Nasheed said he would wait. A little later, he announced he wasn’t leaving and pleaded for New Delhi’s intervention because he thought his life in danger.

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Continue reading “Maldives: The Big Migraine from India’s Tiniest Neighbour”

2013, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Kashmiri Anger Looms Above Panicked Ground Proscriptions

Courtesy of GettyImages

New Delhi, Feb 10: At four this morning, a police posse pulled up at a printing facility in Shalteng on Srinagar’s outskirts and confiscated hot-minted copies of Kashmir Images, one among a fair crop of the Valley’s English dailies. There was nothing incendiary or provocative about the newspaper’s treatment of the day’s front page; it had led with a value-neutral headline: ‘Guru Hanged, Buried at Tihar’. Yet, like all its competition, it was prohibited from getting to readers.

But that was probably the mildest of many curtailments decreed in the wake of Guru’s speed-march to the gallows. Continue reading “Kashmiri Anger Looms Above Panicked Ground Proscriptions”

2013, Kashmir, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Afzal Guru: A Hanging in Delhi; A Resurrection in Kashmir?

New Delhi, Feb 9: Naeem Akhtar daren’t go on television today.

As spokesman for Kashmir’s main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Akhtar is a familiar face and voice on the Valley’s tricky socio-political discourse. His latest intervention was last week’s polite pooh-poohing of the fatwa on the girl-band “Praagaash” as frivolous and defamatory of Islam.

But this morning he begged off live cameras, intensely distressed by the causes and consequences of Afzal Guru’s hanging, unable, yet, to get a measure of its future portents. “I don’t want to be part of this discourse,” he told The Telegraph on phone from Srinagar, “I am wondering if there is even place for me in this discourse, what has happened is a huge setback to voices of reason in Kashmir, it has dramatically narrowed the liberal space.”

Almost morose of tone, he added: “I understand a crime and its legal implications, but there are also issues of evidence against a man and the morality of fair trial. Is it not true that mercy too is part of the legal framework of India? Could it be true that in trying to win another election this government may have lost another generation of Kashmiris?” Continue reading “Afzal Guru: A Hanging in Delhi; A Resurrection in Kashmir?”

2013, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

The Modi Lunch EU Pushed Under the Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Delhi, Feb. 8: The prospect of Narendra Modi’s quickened surge to the national centrestage has compelled the European Union (EU) nations to dissolve their cold shoulder to the Gujarat chief minister

Forsaken for more than a decade for his alleged human rights stains from the protracted anti-Muslim violence of 2002, Modi was sought over for an extended working lunch by EU ambassadors here in early January, shortly after he won a third successive term in power. Continue reading “The Modi Lunch EU Pushed Under the Table”