“We, the willing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.” Notes from the diary of a soldier who served in Siachen. (Original quote by Mother Teresa.)
India and Pakistan may have their guns aimed on each other at Siachen, but in reality they are both fighting nature, nature defeating them and being defeated by them. At 20,000 feet the world’s largest glacier outside the North and South Poles, Siachen is the world’s highest battlefield. Continue reading A pointless battle in Siachen: Saadut Hussain→
Bangladesh has seen more coups than Pakistan. It probably came close to one recently, by alleged Islamists in the army. I say probably because when it comes to military intervention in Bangladesh, who-what-why-when have often been unclear. For example, a few majors seized the country’s tanks and killed the founding president and his family in August 1975. Was it a few disgruntled officers with personal disputes, as was claimed by the contemporaneous foreign media? Or was it part of the complicated and brutal Cold War geopolitics, with the involvement of senior officers and politicians, as many believe? Even though the perpetrators of the massacre have been convicted, and a few hanged, Bangladeshis still debate these questions.
It’s been like that for all military interventions over the years. What may have happened in recent weeks is unlikely to be the exception. As such, one should not necessarily conclude that Saleem Samad’s officially sanctioned account in India Today is the full story.
Lagaan was a groundbreaking film, but a Bollywood film nonetheless. My favorite song-dance sequence is the one where the villagers, well Gauri and Bhuvan and friends, celebrate Krishna’s birthday. In the song, the girl complains that Radha is anxious about Krishna’s philandering ways and the boy replies that Radha should be understanding because there’s no one else in Krishna’s heart but Radha.
When the meaning of the song is explained to her, Elizabeth asks Gauri: Is Radha Krishna’s wife?
Oh no, Krishna’s wife is Rukmini!
Of course Radha-Krishna are anything but married. Imagine the shock the Victorian girl would have felt upon realizing that the villagers were celebrating an extra-marital affair with such fanfare.
It is not just that Bollywood village in the high noon of Raj. Gita Govinda and other songs celebrating Radha-Krishna are sung in every modern Indian language. And not just in India. Songs on the theme were thriving in an unexpected place, in an unexpected time. Among Bangladeshi youth, in the early years of this century, when the country seemed to increasingly Islamicising. Partly influenced by the music coming out of the diaspora in Londonistan, songs like this one, celebrating the union of Radha-Krishna in the Nikunja Temple became massive hits.
Over the fold, let me note a few examples of Bangla rock – and let’s not be pedantic here, I’ll use rock as a shorthand for western-influenced urban music, including pop, reggae, hip hop and other genres.
It was many summers ago. I was visiting my village on the banks of the Jhelum. I saw the people of my village go towards the Eidgah, across the chappaD, or the pond. When I asked my grandfather about them, he said. “Ajj mela ay putter!” [Son, today is a fair!] The mela ground was bustling with makeshift shops and people thronging them. At one end of the mela a circus had come up. The mithai stalls were packed with customers and curious on-lookers, some of them were buying and eating. And that’s when I heard the sound of their music. There they were, surrounded by a circle of spectators. A couple of local artists sang a song I had not heard before. I couldn’t understand a word, other than ‘O mereya Jugni, O mereya Jugni’ – which they chorused, over and over again.
Reviewing Anand Teltumbde’s book Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop, Rajesh Ramachandran concludes:
The book however has a serious ideological flaw. It inadvertently falls into the Brahminical trap of theorising class conflicts in terms of positing Dalits against the new Shudra oppressors. Kilvenmani, Karamchedu, Chunduru and other examples are repeated at least seven times in the text to argue that new oppressors are Shudras. If that be, how does Teltumbde explain desperately poor tribals killing and raping Dalits in Kandhamal? The real oppressor is the caste hegemony perpetuated by the core Sangh Parivar constituency of the Brahmin-Bania-Thakur trinity. Is it any surprise that it was Parivar’s Brahminical commentators who first introduced the Dalit-Shudra contradiction to theorise the “failure” of Kanshi Ram’s Bahujan experiment and the split of the unbeatable BSP-Samajwadi Party alliance in UP. Hope the Dalit ‘holocaste’ series doesn’t serve this Hindutva agenda. [Mail Today, 26 October 2008]
There are times when our critical antennae do not perk up. We do not wish to decode certain signs because we are all implicated in them. Following the 14 September blasts in Delhi, suddenly the media found a new value in ragpickers, street vendors, auto drivers and others who live on the fringes of the city and are generally looked down upon by people who inhabit apartments, blogs, cars (and autos, I must add).
Suddenly, by 15 September, ragpicker Krishna was canonized as a ‘hero’ by the media, the police and the state (the Delhi government claims credit for saving some lives with its ‘eyes and ears’ policy). Yet, Times of India prefaced its report about Krishna thus: Continue reading Some images do not disturb→