2002, Essay

Zia to Musharraf: Impressions of Pakistan 2002

This essay on Pakistan first appeared in “On The Abyss”, a HarperCollins anthology shortly after Gen. Pervez Musharraf ousted Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup.

A Peshawar street; photo by cricrich in Flickr

Chacha said he was like a father to me. He would not let me go. “In any case, I don’t think the flight will leave, it never does at times like these,” he announced. “I’ll wait for you outside, you’ll come back.” An ashen, monster of a storm was flaring above Peshawar. Rain and wind were about to stir a reckless cocktail of the elements. “The plane won’t go, you’ll come back,” Chacha repeated as I bid goodbye, adamant I had to leave. Chacha’s prophecy of my return would come true, but not that day. I had appointments to keep in Islamabad. Besides, the telex lines from Peshawar had proved as unreliable as promises that one of the mujahideen groups would smuggle me across into ‘liberated’ Afghanistan via Khyber Pass. I had a pile of rotting stories to file. I had to leave. Continue reading “Zia to Musharraf: Impressions of Pakistan 2002”

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2002, Ayodhya, Indian Express, Reportage

“What Do You Do, Even the Gods are Locked in Dispute”

This piece was first published in the Indian Express in December 2002, the tenth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid

Sankarshan Thakur, Indian Express AYODHYA

You will go back disappointed, said the former Raja of Ayodhya. Nothing here ten years later, he said, the action was further west, in Gujarat, where Babri VIPs were lining up to cheer their new hero. So Sankarshan Thakur and photographer Prashant Panjiar let Ayodhya’s residents tell their stories: from an ailing architect of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement to boys who sell Babri demolition cards they can’t read. From a Muslim shoemaker who watched his shop burn to a mason who’s chipping away at the pillars of a very real and, at the same time, a very imagined temple.

The time was about right, we were told, but we had got the place terribly wrong. However could we have mixed up Godhra with Ayodhya? That is where it is all happening this year, isn’t it, in Gujarat, that last surviving fortress where a make or break battle rages. In Ayodhya it was going to be all symbolic and this time, unlike December 6, 1992, they honestly meant it. There weren’t enough of them around to manage anything beyond the symbolic. Continue reading ““What Do You Do, Even the Gods are Locked in Dispute””