I came to befriend David Davidar from the day Penguin Viking set up branches in India. He was appointed by the British partners who held the majority of shares, I by the Sarkars of the Anand Bazar Patrika of Calcutta. From Day One I said “yes” to whatever he proposed.
David rose to be the doyen of English publishers in India. He was posted to the highest position and migrated to Canada. He and his Sikh wife Rachna decided to set up home in Toronto and live the rest of their lives in Canada. But that was not to be. He ran into trouble there and returned to Delhi to set up his own publishing house. He named it Aleph Book Company. Aleph is the first letter of the Greek Alphabet. The Arabic and Urdu derive their names Alif from it.
David has come out with the first three books: The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri Murari; Birds and Birdsong by M. Krishnan, edited by Shasthi and Ashish Chandola with a foreward by Zafar Futehally, and Chronicle of a Corpse Bearing. Not bad for a start. All three will be in the running for the bestsellers’ list with my blessings and good wishes.
Once a Lahouri, always a Lahouria, Vishwanath has sent me a poem he has composed on the city which was once his home. I quote the entire poem:
O, the days of yore
Spent in my beloved Lahore
Lahore was a city slow in pace
but had its dignity and grace
and, in spite of its hustle and bustle
was seldom in a hurry or hassle.
Almost every other day
friends would meet
to share latest gossip
And jokes not so discreet
Days at Lahore were
lazy and languorous
naughty and amorous
Lahore indeed had
a heart of gold
that would never grow old.
Racism in Sweden
"Art needs to be provocative," Sweden's minister of Culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth told reporters at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, "and I have done nothing wrong. Genital mutilation is a serious issue, and the artist Makode Aj Linde, wanted to draw attention to it. So he created an art installation by baking a cake in the shape of a naked black woman, and invited me to cut into its nether regions.
I began, as instructed, by slicing out a chunk of the cake's clitoris, than gave the knife to other visitors, who hacked off more of the cake's genitals.
Makode, meanwhile, had blacked up his face for the occasion, and screamed loudly every time the knife went in. I realise this is a bizarre installation, but I defend my actions, and those of the artist."
"The event, which took place of World Art Day, led to widespread accusations of racism, Kitimbwe Sabuni of the African-Swedish Association protested that "the cake is a racist caricature of a black woman, complete with black face and gruesome red interior, and the installation has cannibalistic overtones.
The minister's participation, as she laughs, drinks, and eats cake, betrays her lack of judgment, and adds to the insult against women affected by circumcision. In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden."
(Courtesy: Private Eye, London)
A Petty Officer wielding power
A gateman at a railway crossing got married. After the wedding the bride asked him: "Are you some kind of big officer?"
"No, I am a petty officer, but wield a lot of power," he said. She asked him to demonstrate his power to her.
The next day, he took his bride to the rail-crossing gate and said: "Soon a train will come and I will shut the gate to let it pass." And so it happened. As a train approached, he shut the gate. On both sides of the road motor cars and other vehicular traffic piled up. Some cars had red lights flashing on their bonnets. He boasted to his bride, "You see how much power I have."
After 15 minutes the Superintendent of Police came up and asked: "Is any train due?"
"No, Sir, there is no train due."
"Then why have you shut the gate?"
"Just like that."
The officer gave him a tight slap on the face and ordered him to open the gate at once.
The gateman asked his wife: "Did you see how much power I have!"
She said, "Actually, a man in uniform displayed his power."
The gateman replied, "That ass has just showed off his power."
(Contributed by Sukhraj Singh, P.O. Mitthri, Haryana)
The views expressed by the author are personal