Telegraph Calcutta

Requiem To Beauteous Bygone Whispers


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

Telegraph Calcutta

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

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

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

Telegraph Calcutta

There Is No Place But This Place


Bear with me. I begin where I left off.

Between the week gone and the week to come, I’ve waited here, on the stage and on the microphone, like well-brought up folks should wait. For their turn. I wasn’t finished when I left, I believe I am entitled a finish. An end to what was begun. I still have things to say. Surprised? You’ve all become used to it, haven’t you? Only that one voice. Only that one clamour. Raging on and on and on. Continue reading “There Is No Place But This Place”

Telegraph Calcutta

When Scream Is What’s Sacred


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

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

Telegraph Calcutta

Calling Out for You, the People


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

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

Telegraph Calcutta

When It’s Time It is Time


I move and I stay still. I go from one place to another place, and watch the one place become another place from the place I have gone to, and nothing that I see from one place or another changes. I am at a distance. I am of distances. I have become of distances. I know of differences when close, but those differences I have come away from. It is those differences I have come away from. I like differences; they are what make one and another, and one from another, and they are what make things things of variety and vibrancy. I like differences. But I do not like differences when they are inflicted differences. Differences that wound and defile and define in the vocabulary of bigotry. You are this and I am this. I am right because I am this and you are wrong because you are that. You are wrong. You cannot go there. You are not to be allowed this. You may not wish or want this. You may not have this or even seek to have this. You are wrong. You do not belong here. You are not who you might have been. You are not who should be. You are not Us. You are You and for that reason you are now allowed. Anything. Anything. Kuchh bhi. Whatever. Continue reading “When It’s Time It is Time”

Telegraph Calcutta

Long Shadows


The smallest geographies can often conjure large, often lingering, patterns of politics. A crossroads in Sarajevo. A beer hall in Munich. A palace called Winter. A harbour called Pearl. A line called Radcliffe. A prison house called Robben Island. An absent wall abutting Mexico. A somnolent township on the banks of the Sarayu. Or, on recent witness, a tiny pocket of south-west London called Southall. It used to be a precinct of émigré Indians; in a few ways it still is, though in many ways it no longer is. Southall is a swiftly changing plot, those changes being currently speeded by an ambitious cross-rail project that will drastically shrink the distance between London’s western and eastern suburbs and bring the centre of town cheek by jowl with its stretched-out peripheries. Southall is a small geography rippling with the patterns of a politics far away and at once uncomfortably close. Continue reading “Long Shadows”