Saturday, December 29, 2007

More on the Benazir incident

As Anil, a friend of mine pointed out, " thing we all are missing in the whole discussion is that Benazir has been a staunch advocate of seeking better relations and expanding trade and economic ties with India. There are very few politicians in pakistan who have shown the courage to publicly advocate such an approach."
Secondly she did specifically say in at least one of her public addresses that she'd fight the broadening and putting up of terrorist bases in tribal regions. Plus, she'd met Hamid Karzai that day only and it's the Afghan-Pak border which is porous and a great aid to terrorist aspirations and intentions.
So one isn't surprised that she was gotten rid of real fast.
Though i have yet to see press releases or reports of what transpired between the two leaders.

And for an interesting analysis take a look at this article published in The Hindu on 29th Dec, written by Tariq Ali- (following is an excerpt- the closing para from the article and at the end is the link)

"Benazir’s horrific death should give her colleagues pause for reflection. To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political organisation. The PPP needs to be refounded as a modern and democratic organisation, open to honest debate and discussion, defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilise occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done. The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices."
[if on moving the cursor to the above link, the 'click' option does not appear, you can copy+paste the web address in your browser]

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir's Good Ole' Neighbours

The biggest jolt imaginable to the possibilities of democratizing Pakistan in the current scenario. That's what Benazir Bhutto's assassination by Al-Qaeda (according to latest reports the organization has claimed responsibility for the act) is.
And some of our national leaders (more 'nationalist' if you get the point...) can think of nothing better to say than "jo aag Pakistan ne Bharat ke liye lagayi thi us mein woh khud hi jal raha hai"
Very mature, very politically wise, very relevant and oh such a boost to the ongoing peace-process between the two neighbours.
I take it I don't really need to specify the name of the party to which these national leaders belong.
I know we have all given up hope that our politicians would either talk sense or simply shut up. And you'd think that recent victories in a couple of state assemblies would have made them at least temporarily magnanimous, even if they can not be expected to have bestowed upon them the sense to see that retrospection and a fresh line of thought and action might benefit the people who've voted them into power as well as the ailing image of the party itself.

First of all, it was a very childish, petty and inopportune comment to have been made by such experienced political leaders in a country as strewn with controversies and political issues as ours. Not to mention the implications this latest crisis would have for the Pakistani Awam.

Secondly, it is not as if political instability in Pakistan is going to spell any short or long term benefit for India or the Indian subcontinent. Particularly if we take into account- and there is no sensible reason why we shouldn’t- the growing political and social instability, and militant activity in Bangladesh, the escalating war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, and the nascent democratic scene in Nepal.

As has been pointed out by many a journalist lately, the void in the political picture in a Pakistan struggling desperately to hold onto some semblance of democracy, would only invite and provide for political strengthening of fundamentalist forces in the country. A situation the Pakistani people need and want to avoid as badly as the people of any other country in the world would. As badly as we should too- and not just for our own sakes either.
The fundamentalist forces that claim to have carried off Benazir’s assassination would spell disaster for a democratic Pakistan and a peaceful India. We really can not afford to be the least bit smug about the deteriorating political process in Pakistan. And I hate to argue that it isn’t good for us. When would we begin to try and understand that the people there are as defenselessly caught in the crossfire between fundamentalist forces, the Pak military and insensible and ambitious politicians as we claim to be between the vested interests of various militant groups, politicians and Big Business.

Who isn’t?

Another point is that when the entire world, including former Ministers in the British government, is openly acknowledging the role American strategic interests and the American dollar played in establishing, strengthening, equipping (with arms, software and foot soldiers- through liberally funded Madarssas ) and training the Al-Qaeda cadre; when The History Channel has been busy showing exactly how the USA used terrorist groups drunk on nationalist and fundamentalist ideals and values to fight the USSR in an Afghanistan fraught with tribal disputes, why do our national parties have to behave like well trained obstinate ostriches???

Why do we have to help breed antipathy towards and disbelief in the democratic cause in Pakistan? When would we learn as a sovereign political entity and a ‘great’ democracy, to accept the home truths in and around the nation as far as superpowers and wars on terrorism and hidden agendas are concerned?

However, the issue isn’t just that here. Without doubt we have to correct our stands and our stances on issues of international importance. But apart from that we also have to look at this crisis in terms of the implications it would have for our own internal security and intelligence networks, security and stability in our border areas and the example this sets for resurgent militant groups in India.
More over, we have to stop playing our respective communal cards and vote bank politics- a bitter example of which was the one-horse race in Gujarat, and the soft-campaign politics adopted by the Congress- the conspicuous absence of political substance and relevant social issues from that campaign.

We have to accept that deprivation, marginalization and a callous ostracization from development agendas and processes make for the best possible breeding ground for any kind of militant groups- whether they are rooted in Islamic fundamentalism or not.
Add to that our communal politics and we have an infallible recipe for a failed state, not to say a state steeped in hatred, violence and with no immediate mechanism available to stay together or move forward together.

We must not overlook the terrible fate of the traditionally ignored tribes residing in the northern and eastern provinces of Pakistan- the areas that are such strongholds of various terrorist groups that they are for the most part inaccessible even to the Pak military and political leadership. That of course, does not leave much scope for aid funds or aid workers to achieve much either. There is no way these regions would not accommodate any plans terrorist groups might have for broad-basing. Actually there is no way the people in these regions could find to oppose any such plans. What any part of the national or regional leadership in India should avoid is to comment on the non-existent or enforced willingness of the Pakistani people in accommodating terrorist interests.

The blanket comments we make regarding an ever-present all-encompassing popular Pakistani will to attack the development processes or the fragile peace in India only serve to show the immaturity of our political cadre as well as the lack of any kind of understanding in the Indian people of the current terrorist situation and the international political scenario.

We need not only to forge better relations with our neighbours considering our own strategic, security and developmental interests but also to gain a better and correct understanding of their issues, their circumstances, their political and strategic mechanisms, and their needs. We also need to know better than to take the word of our leaders for anything- we need to look at the struggles brewing in almost every corner of our nation for resources, for a sane and sensible political representation. We need to understand what ideologies and governmental behaviour led to such a huge section of our population being left out of all sorts of considerations. We need to ensure that we do not blindly follow the courses charted by our political leaders without considering the effects it would have on other sections of the society and their survival and developmental needs.

And we need to do all this not just to avoid furthering of terrorist interests but because unjust political or social systems could never give us the kind of compassionate, intelligent and broadminded human beings we need to create a sensible and stable world order.

Most importantly, let us all develop the difficult habit of thinking before we comment on things- particularly when the comments form part of a message of dubious commiseration to the hurt and bewildered people of a nation in the throes of social and political turbulence.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shafqat Amanat Ali- MTV ishtyle!

That a man who has given us gems like "Mora sainya mose bole na..." should be reduced to background music for a dozen models on the ramp...sheer talent makes him deserve the dais all to himself. And for a lot longer than the thirty seconds MTV so graciously blessed him with during the annual MTV Lycra Style Awards.
He's no new comer, nor is he just one of the many milling around in the world of music. He is in a class of his own- his voice and the range he commands are more than enough to ensure that.
A channel that happily and volubly boasts of a name like 'Music TV' is supposed to have greater appreciation for really talented musicians and certainly much better ways of showing that appreciation.
I am not claiming that it was a calculated insult- I am pretty sure that MTV, drunk on its own success and popularity, must in fact, be of the opinion that it did him a great honour by including him at all.
But Shafqat Amanat Ali deserves a lot more- even if it was an occassion celebrating style.
Inasmuch as MTV does set trends- and in more than just the world of music- it could have made a definite statement on how the best singers of today deserve to be treated. By the best music channels of today.
Since the focus had to be on models and the various styles they sported, the channel could simply have played recorded music or invited newcomers for whom the occassion might really have been an opportunity.
Instead of designing for Mr. Ali the perfect and unquestionably well-deserved foil, that would best allow him to present to an appreciative audience, his musical talents- that supposed connoisseur of contemporary music tried to tailor his talents to fit into the background for ramp-walks.
And just for those with a mathematicla turn of mind, the treat that this man could provide for your ears would, anyday, be more than enough value for both- your time and your money.
One would think that MTV would know it best that models like Carol Gracias and singers like Shafqat Amanat Ali do not need each other to justify their share of the lime light for an evening. Or their claim to the length and breadth of any podium.
Or is the question not that of MTV's error in judgement at all??
And would it end up arguing that such an arrangement is now unavoidable?
Simply because a wonderful voice, a beautifully written song or great music does not penetrate our consciousness any more-without enough glitter and glamour to package and peresent its fashionable face to us?
In that case i am afraid, our ears have to be pronounced as having become pretty badly short-sighted.

(for those who want to know a bit more about Mr. Ali here are some recommended sites-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Pleasure of being a Woman

I remember there used to be this ad of Gujarat Sarees which had this tag-line- 'the pleasure of being a woman'.
Being a kid back then i failed to realize that an aspiring social worker was not supposed to feel good about this, or be taken in by this blatant duping of pleased women! i should have thought of ways of getting back at scheming men and of exposing their patronizing chauvinism...

But, trust me, I have found something that the most stringent, staunch feminists can not argue with!

Just imagine your little brother or sister, and unless you are a Femina-mom (they won't be seen dead in a saree- always in some smart invincible skirt or trousers), your kid, leaving two of your best sarees with the wrong dry-cleaners'! And it's somebody you know! But your woman's intuition tells you not to be at the receiving end of laundry services provided by them.
No smart woman would even think of explaining this colossal blunder and get her sarees back- not even if the Dry Cleaner was a man!
And here the DC is definitely a woman.
A Woman of Substance, at that.
It isn't that on your own you can't get them back, it's just that you wouldn't even think of asking for'em- those thirty seconds of embarassing explanation would clean strip you of ten years' worth of smug superiority and self respect.

It's one of those moments where you are tempted to behave like a friend of mine once did- driving fast along the highway one night she was caught unawares by a rather clumsy and rude pothole. She simply took her hands off the handle bar, clamped her eyes shut with them, and...jumped.
Just like that- couldn't even look at it, let alone try and get the better of it.

And now, when it's actually happening to me i can understand why seeing my mom extricating herself from a similar spot years ago had opened my eyes. And had made me profoundly glad i'd a boy friend who would one day, with the same loyalty and blind love that my dad had once shown, undertake to pull off this feat for his lady love. And bless him- my erstwhile boyfriend and subsequent husband is prone to fits of severe political correctness - he'd do it more easily than even my dad could ever manage.
Can you imagine looking the lady dry cleaner (LDC) in the eye and telling her you don't believe in her magical dry cleaning powers? It's every bit as bad as having to tell the attendant at a super market you simply can't find your favorite brand of bath-freshener there! Not in his weakest moments would he entertain the sinful thought that they may actually not stock the brand. For godssake! supermarkets!!- they stock every brand of everything. Period.
So if you can't find it you should probably start buying your glasses there too.

But get a boy friend, partner, husband- and you've the perfect solution.
Only if you ask me, in this matter of confronting the LDC, boy friends and live-in partners don't have a thing on husbands!
Only a confirmed, dedicated, decade-old, i've-been-through-the-worst kind of husband can produce a look that's both sheepish and authoritative enough at the same time to get a hardened dry-cleaner to surrender sarees that are rightfully hers to dry clean.
A boy friend or a partner just doesn't have what it takes- there's still that aura of freedom, that air of never having been nagged, that i-don't-have-a-mom-in-law sort of gait...that just won't melt a proud husband-owner's kind heart.

When my dad had come home with the cherished sarees rescued, a look of mutual understanding had passed between my mom and me. And what my dad might have taken to be tears of gratitude or happiness, were tears of pure unadulterated relief.
After all, it'd cost my friend no less than a plastic surgery and a month in the hospital to get back into working order!

And we have every reason to be relieved, don't we?
After all, we don't have to be able to put the fear of God into a mere dry cleaner- we simply have to be able to charm politically correct men into marrying us.
Now, that's what I call The Pleasure of being a Woman.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

answering a question on Orkut

hey ppl,
someone'd posted this question on the Orkut community- P Sainath-
"should organized retailing be allowed....."
while replying to it i thought i should let you guys have the benefit of my insight too!
so here goes (my reply as posted on orkut)-

i think we should stop copying our development models from anywhere outside india. why don't we just study and document best practices?
and then work out what's best for our country and its people?
organized retailing if allowed in the current scenario, would spell disaster for our people- they don't have any other skills/education which would be of use to them in earning a living.
and another thing is, it's their right to have an encouraging accommodating atmosphere locally in which to survive and improve.
and the arguments relating to better consumer options and satisfaction are shortsighted and misleading.
simply coz we are all old enough to know that all that is glittering today won't turn out to be gold for us tomorrow.
once retail giants establish themselves, they'd stifle lesser and budding competition n we'd end up having no options.
a case in point is the internet service in America- instead of what European and Asian countries did to keep up competition and efficiency they allowed their s/w giants to rule the market and what the American end-user has in terms of speed, efficiency and options today, is nothing compared to what's available at a click to the Japanese and German end -user!!

But all this consumer satisfaction apart, what kind of facilities are we providing to our small n med traders and retailers today? are we providing them with the requisite infrastructure? or efficient and fast clearance systems? the financial institutions n tax systems best suited for their needs? the red tape, the amount of paper work, the excruciatingly slow pace of paper-progress and the corruption at every level is enough to drive anyboy mad.
are we providing effective and efficient redressal? protection from unregulated or at best, loosely regulated foreign investment n competition- and we've our own indigenously bred sharks too, as we know all too well.

We are not helping our own traders get better, more competitive, smarten up and be able to handle pressure from foreign markets and economies.
but we'll bend over backwards for foreign investors and retailers.
coz' our middle and upper classes with their booming-incomes think it's a smarter move- calculated to catapult them straight into the midst of our revered G-8 nations!!
No, i think we should first think of all sections of our society, do the best we can with and for our own resources and people before inviting outsiders to take over our problems and our golden-egg laying resources, and thereby help us smarten up!

Friday, October 12, 2007

merii aaNkhen

मेरी आँखें

याद कर के मेरी आँखों को,
किसी फूल को कभी चूम लो
इल्तिजा है मेरी, करम इतना ही फ़रमाए-
वो पल मेरे लिए, दम भर वहीं ठहर जाए।
के तेज़ धडकनों की आहटों को,
ज़रा छुपा लूं अपने ख्वाबों से;
जाने यूँ ही प्यार तुम्हे आया हो फूल पे
शर्मिंदा हो ना जाएँ कहीं,
आँखें मेरी, मेरे ख्वाबों से।
इलज़ाम खुदाबंदी का नाज़ुक फूलों पे हो क्यों,
इंसान तो नहीं वो, के मर न जाए is कुफ़्र से।

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



इस क़दर बढ़ते गए हैं, तेरे इंतज़ार के दिन,
उड़ते पंछियों को देख, हम मुस्कुराते नहीं हैं अब

कोरे काग़ज़ों से जैसे कतराती हैं उंगलियाँ
शब्दों के जाल दिल को लुभाते नहीं हैं अब।

उम्मीद के लम्हों में, अरमान मचल जाते थे कभी
चाँद के घटने बढ़ने से, जल जाते नहीं हैं अब।

दिल बहल ही जाता था, पंखड़ी छू कर ग़ुलाब की
सर्द सुबहों को बागीचे में, हम जाते नहीं हैं अब।

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007



समझ फूलों की नहीं जिनको,
उनसे हंस के मिल न पाए हम।
दाम दे के हर फूल को समझे अपना-
इस ज़माने से क्योंकर निबाहें हम;
हर एक फूल एक रेशमी क़िस्सा है
क़ीमत किसी राज़ की क्या लगायें हम,
बागीचों में कम है फूलों का चलन अब,
बज़ार में उन्हें देख बहुत छटपटाये हम।
ज़माने से कहते न बेचे फूलों को,
फूलों ही से ये बात कह ना पाए हम...

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