Telegraph Calcutta

Aankh Mein Bhar Lo Paani

I do not know where I am. I cannot know. Did you just shift the ground under my feet and give it away? Is this ground no longer mine? I was brought here on the pledge of supreme duty. That is how I am this man, a man of duty. I do not ask. I do. And in doing what I am asked I may no longer be capable of doing any more because in doing I may die. It happens to everybody. But we sign up for it. Like you probably sign up on a contract that says it can be terminated. Our contract says we can be terminated. That is who we are. Think what that takes. Signing up on your death warrant and being chuffed you got a job and a uniform and a rank to go with it. You’ll follow orders, and the orders might mean you go, uniform, rank, body, being, desire, memory, past, present, future, smile, smirk, sentiment, the works. All of it. Forever.

I do not know where I am. We are not allowed to know. Or tell. It is somewhere. We are somewhere. Being somewhere is duty. We never ask. I want to ask how cold it is, but I cannot ask because I myself do not know how to frame the question. It is not cold. Cold is not the word for it. It is something else. Something I have never felt. How do I ask how is something I have never felt? Or heard. They say it is wind, but it is not wind. The wind whispers in trees, and it plays with the tresses of my beloved. The wind caresses the rose off the clasp of her hair and sets it afloat; it brings to me fragrances I have left behind. This cannot be wind. This sounds like a sorceress, a howling, inexhaustible sorceress. It whirls and whooshes away and then it boomerangs the way it first came, leaping off the hollows, tobogganing down crevices; if it passes you and you still are able to know it has passed you are lucky. But it will come again. You can’t tell it in the darkness, but it will tell you, it has a way of arriving.

It is also dark. It is a darkness that duty dictates. I mean there are things to light up, a cigarette for example. But cigarettes kill too and they are pointless lighting because the sorceress wouldn’t let you. And if you did, you’re a goner because they will spot your spot and take a shot. Kaput. Cigarettes give you away, in more ways that your doctor or your mother or your wife, if you have one, brave chap, will tell you. But if you ask me, with the faintest dearness, and if I were to tell you, with blatant truth, cigarettes are a thing. If it’s the last thing you had. The thing is they aren’t duty, you just do cigarettes because you do them, and they do to you what they do. Many other things kill, but they haven’t afforded you the style. Statutory Warning: Smoking kills. Statutory Warning: Soldiery kills. I am trying to understand the differences between statutory warnings, and the many other things that do not come with statutory warnings and yet kill. Think about them, you have the time and the leisure, think about what else kills but doesn’t get the blame. I must go. I must go where I do not know. I must go where I cannot tell. Where we all eventually and finally go, that place I shall never return from the way I arrived here. Looking just like the last photograph you clicked of me. Just remember I went. Knowing I may not return. Knowing I do not have the word for how cold it felt. Knowing there was nothing to pierce the darkness, knowing there was no point torching the darkness because the darkness made a fragile beam of the light and broke it before it got too far. Knowing there was a sorceress on the prowl there would be no escape from. I was on duty. I did not know where I was. I do not know where I went. I am likely dead.

Ours is not to question why

Ours is but to do and die

But yours is to ask and kill the lie

And ask why why why, but why?

Telegraph Calcutta

In Ladakh, Kargil echo and variance (June 14, 2020)

The reported deep incursion by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into eastern Ladakh — now the trigger for growing concern over a full-blown military confrontation — has eerie and uneasy resonances to the origins of the Kargil war of 1999.

There is one significant, probably ominous, difference

Continue reading “In Ladakh, Kargil echo and variance (June 14, 2020)”
Telegraph Calcutta

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

You know me. How could you not? If you do not know me you don’t deserve to be. How could that be? How could you be and not know me? Not possible. Either you know me or you are not. That is it. That is the sentence. As is the fashion nowadayzzz on Teetar, when they say important things. Or what they believe to be important things. Significant things. That’s it, that is the Teet. That is how they say seminal things on Teetar nowadayzzz. And so I am saying it too. After a fashion. After a way that most folks may understand. Nowadayzzz. Either you know me or you are not.

Main Aurwind Cageriwall bol raha hoon. (Cough. Cough.)

Bolo bhaiAb kya?

(Cough. Cough.) (Grin. Grin.) Grin to embarrass common man kind of grin. Fraud grin. I drive the lowest common denominator car, but when I need to, I take the VIP route and VVIP pass to the nearest and cleanest toilet to relieve myself. And security reasons have put me in this bungalow and looped me in rings of security. They call me Cageriwall. What am I to do? This is all for you only. If you hadn’t put me here, I wouldn’t be here.

I had sworn never to be here. I had sworn I would not be here because I wanted to dedicate my whole life, my every breath. Oh my breath, my breath, I must do something really VVIP about my breath. Because my breath is, each one, kasam sey, each one is for you. So I must breathe well, it is for your sake only. My every living moment is dedicated to opposing people here. People who used to be just where I am now. People who used to be just where I want to always be. I remember I swore I never wanted to be here. But that is the thing about swearing. It is a bad habit. My mother used to tell me, Beta, never swear. So if I swore, I am sorry. I will never swear again. Pakka promise. I swear, I will never swear again.

Just look at my name. Ponder. Marvel at how I was named. It’s all there. Aurwind. Then Cageriwall. How much wind. How much wall. How much cage. Can’t escape me.

Or recall my first gift to you. The topi. Not cloth. Not paper. Pure fabrication. Topi made of waste. Recycled maal. Use and throw. But in the end, I made it the shape of a topi. And all of you made it a fashion. Topi pehna diya naa! And you were all so proud to wear it. You wore it and swore to battle against power. You did the battling, I got the power.

But what am I to do? You are the ones who gave it to me. And once you had given me power you wanted me to do things with it. But so did power, it wanted me to do things with it. Like become used to it. How am I to do things with power without becoming used to it? And becoming used to power requires keeping it. At any cost. If you do not keep power however will you get used to it? I have got used to it, I am happy to report; I am keeping it. At any cost, no kampromise.

Understood? No kampromise. I am trying to explain something to you. No kampromise means no kampromiseKam, meaning little. Promise, meaning pledge. Kampromise: little pledge. I am a kampromising person, I pledge little. Little man. Little state. Little power. Little pledge. That’s me. I will praise to the heavens what I poohpooed to the gutters. I will lick what I lambasted and pliantly obey what I defied. For you. I will kampromise. I will get into kampromising positions. What matters to me is what matters to you. And to do for you what I said I would, I need to be in power. This filthy thing I never wanted. But I must keep it. For your sake. Samjha karo. Aurwind naam hai mera, Aurwind Cageriwall. And I have more topis to give away. You want? Tum mujhe power do, main tumhe topi doonga.

I know the price of throne

And so I do what I do

You may regret, you may groan

But go to hell, it’s true.

Telegraph Calcutta

What Wasn’t Written (June 7, 2020)

It makes no mention, for instance, of achchhe din, the portmanteau feel-good promise that became his pivot to power in 2014. It does not tell you in what garden the pledged golden bird — soney ki chidia — continues to elude our grasp.

It does not tell you that in the years since, India has been turned into an architecture of fractures wantonly and consciously wreaked; and that in the pursuit of fashioning these fractures, Indians have been encouraged to go after other Indians, liberally fed on lies and prejudice, exhorted by dog-whistling from the top and brazenly led to murder and mayhem by gas-lighter commanders possessed of run over the law. Indians have been killed for what they wear, what they eat, what they are called, what books they read, who they pray to. The killers have come to be treated like heroes of spectator sport; they’ve been garlanded and celebrated.

Continue reading “What Wasn’t Written (June 7, 2020)”
Telegraph Calcutta

We don’t Know What we Do know

Something’s happening. Or so we are being told. Or so many suspect and are speculating about. Kuchh na kuchh to ho raha hai. Par kya? Something. If there’s so much talk of something there cannot be nothing, there never is. There is always something. Kuchh na kuchh. There are no details available. The problem is something is happening in lofty faraway places, too far away to tell with the naked eye. Often it is the case that we cannot even tell with the naked eye what is plain to the eye. I mean, for instance, did these ruling scoundrels really get elected? Did people really vote them and say, come, come on now, do your willing — poison our tongues and set flame to our vision, hammer our hearts and rip our souls until we are no longer we and have become the horror of you, who we elected.

I just said that for instance. As illustration. Don’t be angry, I don’t mean to disrespect or defile anyone. And also let me tell you any resemblance of anything here to any entity bearded or bald or blond, or anyone living or dead, or to any incident or sequence of events, factual or fictional, is coincidental and, therefore, beyond my schemes and stratagems and so I am not responsible. I am not responsible for any of this, it just happens, someone comes and does this and puts my name to it. I have been contemplating going to court. But then you know how courts are. These days. By the way, and just by the way, what is a collection of kangaroos called? Someone said it is called a court. But he must have been joking, disrespectful knave, never let him cross my shadow again.

But I digress, that habit I am happy to have nursed in my shadow. So, I was saying sometimes the naked eye cannot see what is plain to the eye. And very often it cannot see faraway things. Even with help. Opaque things come in the way. Mountains, for instance. Or hazy things. Clouds, for instance. Or they are brought in the way. And then it is no longer possible to see. Or know.

But it is better that way. Not knowing. Think about it. Suppose you knew you had illicit millions stashed under your mattress. Would you be able to sleep? It would rustle under you all night, all that paper, and that rustling would probably alert thieves, or worse, the authorities, unless you have friends among the authorities. A lot of folks keep their millions that way. Nobody knows. Nobody’s allowed to know. It’s there. But where? Nobody knows. How much? Nobody knows. Nothing under the mattress. No rustling. No giving it away. No questions. Cold, opaque things lie around it. It is a faraway thing, beyond the reach of naked eyes. Nobody has to know, you don’t have to tell.

Like, why should you be told what’s happening wherever? Is it a place whose name you can even pronounce? Have you ever heard of it? Can you locate it on a map? Can you direct a drone to the spot? Do you know the topography and the GPS coordinates? What language is spoken there? What colour of skin do folks there have? Do you even know if there are any folks there? Yooon hi sawaal pe sawaal! Why must you know? Something is happening. And we are taking care of it, the details you may not like, and we may not like to tell because the details may have devils in them. You want them? Yet more devils? So stop asking. No need to know. That’s all.

I can tell you just this much

So and so did such and such

And if you ask me more than this

My horse is laying chingri fish.