2020, Column, State of Play, Telegraph Calcutta

Gandhi. JP. Lohia: Wolfed legacies and our necessary hypocrisies

This month, we observe the anniversaries of three eminences in ways that have turned farcical, even fraudulent. It would have been a mercy had we stopped at lip service as the annual rites of remembrance; we’ve brutally wolfed those legacies.

The first among the three is, of course, the man who has become familiar to us, courtesy his round-rimmed glasses embossed on ‘Swachh Bharat’ tumblers and streamers. October 2 became an occasion to trigger a rampant online celebration of his assassin, such is also our manner now of greeting the man we call Father of the Nation.

The other two are entities we routinely invoke and consign where they belong for safekeeping — in the shuttered almirahs of necessary hypocrisies. One belonged to Akbarpur in east Uttar Pradesh and died on October 12 nearly half a century ago. The other came from Sitabdiara, a riverine island between the Ganga and the Ghaghra on the shifting margins between eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He was born on October 11.

Both travelled West to study as young men during the first half of the twentieth century. Both turned to public life during the freedom movement under the Congress canopy. Both were protégés of Jawaharlal Nehru and occupied the socialist precincts in the party. Both rebelled in later years, turned critics of Nehru, and became rallying posts of anti-Congress politics.

Continue reading “Gandhi. JP. Lohia: Wolfed legacies and our necessary hypocrisies”
2020, Column, Telegraph Calcutta

What you see, What you can’t

Or, lies about the dark side of the moon and yet more lies we tell ourselves

There is so much talk about darkness all around. But there is also talk about light. Contrary talk, it can leave you confused, like a ram that might wonder if it’s being fed out of love or being fed out of the love of… well. There is always this thing, and then there is that thing. Think about the dark side of the moon. Then think about the absurdity of it. The dark side of a darkness. Scientists, Astronomers, Spacemen, lend me your ears, I come to bury lies, not to perpetuate them. Darkness is where you do not take the lights. Light is where darkness flees in fright. Where it flees to we do not know; where it comes from, this darkness, we may have some notion. Darkness comes from dark things. What are dark things? We should have some notion, we’ve had a few years of trying, six or thereabouts. If we still do not know where darkness comes from, it is probably darkness we deserve. We kid ourselves, or delve in delusions.

The dark side of the moon is the twilight of a lie of your invention — the moon has no light, darkness cannot have a side, the dark side is defined by where the sun casts its light, or does not at a given time. So, please, end the lie. And the pretence of your erudition. Unmask the moon, let darkness be whole, do not tell us darkness has a side. Do not defame the moon. It has made us love, which is not a mean thing it has done. It has made us pine in its waning, and dine over its waxing, and those are no mean things either. Illusion has served survival far more than reality, no matter that illusion is appropriately a synonym for a lie. If truth afforded us living, not so many of us would be living, and not for the lengths we do. If truth afforded us living, we would be swearing by the moon. For it has no dark side or a side that is not lit. It passes not a waning or a waxing. It has no light. It has turned even its scars into a thing of beauty remarked upon, or some such thing. Wastrel poets and their even more wastrel leagues of investors would know.

Continue reading “What you see, What you can’t”
2020, Column, LazyEye

Khaamosh Adaalat Jaari Hai

Or, who gets rogered

Who are these people, who might they be? Sometimes it is tough to tell. You know, who knows? Are they Lords or Ladyships of Justice, wigs and gowns and all? Or are they those you know, jo kapdon se pehchaaney jaatey hain? Who knows who is who or what is what anymore? It has become tough to tell. Just the other day, for instance, I picked up that Book and swore allegiance to it and proclaimed in the highest decibel I am able to create through my, what do you call it, voice box, yes — voice box is what I have and that is all I have — and so I proclaimed that I owe allegiance to the Book as a way of declaring my undying love for what we set out to be and what we wish to go on being, and lo and behold, I had visitors.

You know what it means when you get visitors these days. Or when you get a call. You are in a good place if you don’t, consider yourself very lucky. I can’t say that for me. I have been brought before the adaalat. Don’t get me wrong. I do not mean that literally. I do not mean adaalat as in the courts, although I do also mean that. But I do not mean adaalat as lower courts or courts higher than lower courts or courts higher than the higher courts. No, that is not what I mean, although I also mean that. I mean adaalatAdaalat, as in the dispensation, the establishment with a capital E, adaalat as in those that Decide in a way that there is no more deciding to be done after that.

I did say, but I hold the Sacred Book! And they said but who are you, you’re the wrong person to hold that book.

Continue reading “Khaamosh Adaalat Jaari Hai”
2020, Column, LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Oh, but did you know this about him?

About me, rather. When they say about him, they are actually speaking for me and on my behalf, but they don’t want to embarrass me totally, you see, so they use the third person. That’s all right. That is only right. I am saying, rather asking, did you know this about me, and they are kind enough to put it another way so I don’t directly come in the way.

They are devoted people, they don’t want me to be seen as a publicist of myself, that is why they do it. They are well paid and looked after, do not worry, that much I do for services rendered to me, I have commerce in my blood, as I once famously or infamously said, you know, so I pay. Dhandho chhe, it’s business, and there is honour to keep in business. The honour of business is, you know, money. Money, money, money. Maal Baalendra. Oh sorry, I got that wrong, when everyone’s shouting your name aloud as if it were some magic mantra, the echoes can sometimes confuse you. It’s Baal Maalendra.

Continue reading “Oh, but did you know this about him?”
Column, State of Play, Telegraph Calcutta

A Splitting Headache

Kashmir is the campaign that New Delhi has lost in key places

 

Just a few hours before Sameer Bhat, better known as Sameer Tiger, a most wanted Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was killed in a gun battle in Drabgam in South Kashmir this week, he had pushed online a short video of a local youngster being interrogated by him on suspicion of being an informer. Towards the end of the clip, Sameer Tiger pronounces a warning on an army officer that he surely meant for a much larger audience: “(Major) Shukla ko kehna sher ne shikar karna kya chhora, tujhe laga jungle hamara hai? (Tell Major Shukla just because the tiger had stopped hunting, you thought the jungle was yours?)” Major Shukla would take a hit in pursuit of Sameer Tiger soon after, his assault party would hunt Sameer Tiger down, but Tiger’s dire dare rings on: it’s a vicious survivor’s skirmish, Kashmir, and it’s often tough to tell hunter from hunted, one day’s trophy chasers can become another day’s trophies. Continue reading “A Splitting Headache”