Telegraph Calcutta

Brimstone Turned To Ashes — George Fernandes 1930-2019

George Fernandes, Photo : Copy negative, Date : 15.9.82
George Fernandes — The Telegraph Library

As minister for Jammu and Kashmir affairs briefly in the V.P. Singh government, George Fernandes flew to Srinagar and vanished. The Valley was smouldering in the grip of a violent insurgency at the time and George’s slip to the security detail in a private car sent the powers scurrying.

Few would ever know where that jaunt took him — “to meet friends who can’t be named in places I cannot tell you” was all he ever said — but it soon became apparent the Union minister had disappeared to tryst with “the other side”, or advocates, political or militant, of Kashmiri secession.

Nothing ever came out of it, but George would underline that at 60 he still revelled in playing the maverick and resorting to the unthinkable. Continue reading “Brimstone Turned To Ashes — George Fernandes 1930-2019”

Telegraph Calcutta

In The Land Of The FirstEvers


So fair. And so fitting. TheChaiwala is bestowed the FirstEver Ketli Award. The absolute Absolutist of FirstEvers. FirstEver rider on an amphibian jahaaj. FirstEver celebrant of “Ghar mein shaadi hai, paise nahin hain!” FirstEver HornbillHead on HeadOfSarkar. FirstEver Tadipaar as HeadOfParty. FirstEver RockShow at MadisonChabootara. FirstEver EyeToEye with Han Terracottas, and a goggled EyeToEye at that, an EyeToEye that seemed to say “Main Emperor FirstEver, aur tuu kaun?” FirstEver kiss-and-touch with MadameFussaud’s likeness. FirstEver PradhanSewak with a PradhanSewika not allowed anywhere near the house. FirstEver to go on air with pilla, or puppy, or pappi and, often, all too often, jhappi. And what jhappis; jhappis from the front, jhappis from behind, jhappis from this side and jhappis from that side. All FirstEver jhappis. (Applause please) FirstEver. FirstEver. FirstEver. FirstEver. FirstEver. (Applause please, ab to baja do taali, ki main khud hi hatheli taal deta rahoon?) Bhaaiyon-behnon!! There’s more. I am not talking peacocks here, which I am one, of course. But this more is not that more. This more is more, as in the angrezi waala more. Aur. There is more to come. This more is in front of you, but there is more to come. Understood? Continue reading “In The Land Of The FirstEvers”

Telegraph Calcutta

In The Lee Only Me, Very PlaneLee


We needed more Rifales, many more Rifales. This is election year. Rifales are useful, they come in handy, they always have in election year. No? Oh perhaps you don’t understand, or you understand little. Or nothing. Rifales, bhai! Rifales! Bandooks!

The fundamental thing to understand about Rifales is that they are Bandooks, they fire. Uff, I know they fly and some people call them aircraft and planes and jets and stuff like that, but here is the fundamental flaw with that. (But let me first pause here and purse my lips and nod my sagely head and look into the far distance, which is about as far as the wall on which hangs my leader’s head, and  give you time to grasp the wisdom of what I am about to say. This is how I do things. I realise not everybody is able to understand my simplifications of complications, of which there are more than just a few at the moment. Explaining Rifales is just one of them. My name is ExplainLee, and I am to SamjhataHoon what Bruce was to KungFoon.) Continue reading “In The Lee Only Me, Very PlaneLee”

LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

What’s All This That’s Going Pop, Pop?


POP! Oye, did you hear that? Was it that sound? Did you just hear pop! like it had gone POP!? But stop. Let me listen again, let me carefully listen. Or rather, recall what I heard more carefully. It was not a pop! that I heard, it was a POP! Like the grandpop of a pop! It was like POP! Like something happened. Like 2018 dissolved. In the space between a tick and a tock. One whole year, 365 days and some, gobbled by the puniness of a nanosecond.

Imagine when something so voluminous is consumed by something so minute. A monumental effort that takes and that effort makes a sound: POP! That’s what must have happened, a nanosecond devouring a calendar-full under cover of darkness. POP! And lo and behold, more than just a calendar-full is suddenly gone.

Continue reading “What’s All This That’s Going Pop, Pop?”

State of Play, Telegraph Calcutta

A Note On A Hangover


The year that has begun might well turn out to be the most momentous in the memory of our lives, or in the memory of the lives of most of us. How many of us are still around, after all, who were alive and aware in 1947? Or in 1950? We, as we are today, began in 1947. And then, in 1950, we agreed upon the fundamentals of who we would be and how we would go about being so — we gave unto ourselves our Constitution.

Its letter and spirit have never come under such rampant and consistent assault as during the years that Narendra Modi assumed the reins of government and Amit Shah the reins of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The lines between government and party, loyalty to nation and loyalty to person, have been sought to be cynically obliterated during this time, and a new ultra-aggressive, right-wing monotheism spurred. Democratic dissent has come to be renamed treason.

Continue reading “A Note On A Hangover”