Glasshouses and retribution
I think at this stage it is unfair to accuse President Musharraf’s government of having a hand in the ghastly killings of innocent commuters in Mumbai’s trains and suspend peace talks with it. We do not have hard evidence to nail it. Most of the men arrested on suspicion of complicity in the crime are Indian nationals. We are not sure where they got sophisticated time-bombs and training to handle them. The most important fact to bear in mind before drawing conclusions is that the Musharraf government is itself often the target of these subversive elements; it is either unwilling or unable to contend with and let them carry out their nefarious activities in India. Or, it is both unwilling and unable to contend with them, which is serious enough a matter for us. If it cannot deal with mischief-makers on its own soil, it should abdicate power and let someone who can deal with them take them on. The best we can do is to offer them help and make stamping out mullah-induced fanatic lunacy as a joint operation. This needs closer cooperation between two neighbours and might prove more fruitful than stop talking to them.
It should also be borne in mind that all those detained by our police are Indian Muslims motivated by desire to avenge violence done to them by non-Muslims in recent years; demolition of the Babri Masjid, Shiv Sena’s anti-Muslims pogroms in Maharashtra and Narendra Modi’s in Gujarat. The perpetrators of these atrocities remain unpunished. The miscarriage of justice has induced some people to take the law in their own hands and try to settle scores with those who had wronged them. This explains the series of blasts in Mumbai, attacks on Hindu temples — all senseless acts of criminality but understandable as acts of revenge.
Our own record in protecting Muslim life and property is nothing to be proud of. Remember the adage — those who live in glass houses cannot afford to throw stones on others.
Who is the ugliest
We were arguing about which of God’s creatures is the ugliest in the world. I suggested it was the bandicoot or ghoose. It is grey-black, slimy, seemingly spineless and can wriggle in the slightest opening, slides along, as if on its belly without showing its legs. It leaves a stink and when shoo’d away, utters a series of little squeaks tik, tik, tik and slithers out under closed doors. Why did God create the bandicoot?
“Cockroaches,” suggested my daughter. “Oof! I see one scampering along the floor, I want to squash it under my foot. We spend lots of money on insecticides to keep cockroaches out of our homes. Why don’t they stay in sewers where they breed? Why did God make cockroaches?”
“Geckos,” suggested another friend. These chipkalis or wall lizards scramble along our walls hunting for insects. They often collide headlong against each other and fall on our dining tables. “Ugliest of the ugly. And serve no purpose. Why did God create them?”
Spiders give many people, mainly women, the creeps. They come in different shapes and sizes. Some spin webs; others just stay stuck to the walls of bathrooms as if they have been painted on them. I have no idea what they live on. I find them attractive and harmless.
“Snakes,” suggested another. “I see one, I run away or get a stick to kill it.” But I don’t think snakes are ugly. They can be beautiful in their skins, majestic like cobras with their hoods ready to strike. Not ugly but frightening.
We could not choose the winner of the ugly contest. As we have beauty contests, we must have contests for ugliness.
I am a sucker for poetry in the four languages I can read and understand. Also, a stickler for form, rhyme and metaphor. Consequently, I have problems with modern poetry, which ignores all rules and tends to be obscure. I have to struggle to comprehend what the poet is trying to say, often give up and admit defeat. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up Ranjit Hoskote’s fourth and latest collection: Vanishing Acts: New and Selected Poems (1985-2005) (Penguin).
He is a highly rated poet in Marathi and English, has won many awards including the Sahitya Academy Golden Jubilee Award 2004. He won praises from Dom Moraes, Nissim Ezekiel, Agha Sahid Ali and Keki Daruwala. If I found it difficult to come to terms with him, the fault is entirely mine. In the present anthology I found his tribute to Safdar Hashmi very moving:
They got him, that first hard crack
On the coconut head.
Split in sacrifice, the halves
Rolled down bloody slopes,
Down red shoulders, arms pinioned
In strict observance of ritual.
Dragged from his altar, a rebel priest:
They left him splayed on the iron ground,
the bleached grass clotting a flood of wounds.
Smeared with permanent red,
Revellers with their offering,
They laughed the laugh of angels
Unleashed behind the tacit face
Of God; put away their swords,
Stuck flags to their axes,
And wheeling in a manic dance
Or spring, celebrated
BJP and Aamir Khan
We are the strongest believers in democracy — freedom of speech, freedom of expression.
But when somebody utters a word against us, we are going to teach him a lesson.
(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)