2006, Baroda, Reportage, Tehelka

The Secular Lies of Vadodara

Sankarshan Thakur visits a torn city whose communal neuroses go beyond Narendra Modi and recent riots. First published in Tehelka on May 20, 2006.

The driver’s saying, no way, his taxi isn’t going any further. He is shaking his head and looking as if to say, “You must be mad even to ask.”

Champaner Gate? “Nai saab, apun kaa jaan kaa bhi to fikir hai; biwi, baal-bachcha hai, nai saab, yahin chhodo.”

We walk the teeming rivulet lanes of the old town, a crazy baroque of medieval finery embossed with coarse masonry; carved timber held together by garish tiling, a block of cement smothering evidence of a fallen balustrade, a rusty water-cooler rammed into what was once some refined Parsi’s gable, style choked by substance.

We return late afternoon near-swayed by the intransigent driver’s reason. Champaner Gate isn’t so much the opening on a wizened town breathing through layer upon layer of coexistent time. It is more a gash cleaved in the minds of its people. 1969. 1971. 1978. 1982. 1983. 1987. 1991. 1992. 1993. 1995. 1998. 2000. 2002. 2002 again and again. 2005. April 2006. The tear has been ripped too oft, too savagely for sutures to work. Continue reading “The Secular Lies of Vadodara”

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2007, Baroda, Reportage, Tehelka

How to Elect a Fascism

Narendra Modi has married progress to Hindutva with a diabolical brilliance the Congress has offered few answers to. SANKARSHAN THAKUR reports.First published in Tehelka on December 29, 2007

Mask of the Man
Mask of the Man

MR MEHTA told me a simple and quite stunning thing: To understand Gujarat, understand Gujaratis first, there is nothing that matters more to them than dhando and dharma, business and religion. Would it be in that order, Mr Mehta? Quite, he said, what dharma are you going to do on an empty stomach? But please understand this carefully because a lot of you don’t, Gujarat is what Gujaratis make it, not what people like you want it to be, don’t fit our image to the requirements of your frame.

It had begun with a casual remark on the flight from Delhi to Vadodara, but slowly turned into a long and blunt discourse on understanding Gujaratis. “So you are one of those people,” he had said, with no wish to veil his sardonic tone, “You will go to Gujarat and tell the world what a terrible place it is, what a terrible people Gujaratis are.” Continue reading “How to Elect a Fascism”