Aur tumhare paas kya hai?


It is not just a popular put-down in India……one close family member was hit with a variation of this (by a member of the academic tenure-track progress committee in the USA as part of a seemingly casual conversation)…, what has been your contribution so far?….what do you do all day??..…within a few months he was asked to leave…..thankfully he was fore-warned (and fore-armed with a tenured position, no less)……

Aaj mere paas yuan hai, bangla hai, range-rover hai, naukar hai, trillion dollar account
hai….aur tumhare paas kya hai?
(China: Today I have everything….what do you have?) 

Mere paas Mars hai!! (India: I have
my Mars!!) 

Yes, victories are never permanent (nor that meaningful in the grand scheme of things) but it is important to remember how exactly China lost out to dirty, poor, big talking but good for nothing India……the mighty Yinghuo-1 was piggy-backing on a Russian rocket which mis-fired (and the Japanese ship ran out of fuel!!!)…

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A seedling (ankur) is 40 years

…the major turning points in your life? Ankur….the parallel cinema movement. Arth…the women’s rights movement…….hunger strike with Anand Patwardhan…built
tenements for 50,000 slum dwellers at Chandivli
…...could not have a child….I was heartbroken….Zoya and Farhan…their mother was generous
in letting us have access to them…..And I got
the man!


When it comes to the best (hindi) film actors (women) there will be many deserving candidates. Going by (Filmfare) awards won (and nominated) it would be Jaya Bhaduri (Bachhan), Nutan Samarth (Behl) and Kajol Mukherjee (Devgan). We have a soft spot for Smita Patil (Babbar) and we feel that but for her untimely death she would have been the best. Then there is Comrade Sayyida Shabana Azmi, who first starred with Ankur (The Seedling), a Shyam Benegal film in 1974. We wish Shabana didi (apu) all the best as the years go by.

Only one cloudy lining in an otherwise brilliant blue sky (and we think Azmi recognizes this herself- see interview below). There are (we believe) a few red lines in life. You are not a (human) man if you rape. You are not a child anymore when you pick up a gun and torture others (yes, we know that indoctrination is to blame). 

Likewise do not call yourself a feminist if you steal another woman’s husband and continue to brag about it three decades on (yes, we know that the man is equally responsible). If feminism has a creed it should be: sisters first do no harm (to another sister).
She has five National Awards, more than 120 films and has been a UN Goodwill
Ambassador status. As a vocal and articulate champion of communal
harmony and economic equality, she has honored her father, Kaifi Azmi’s
political legacy.

He inherited his literary talent from his father, Jan Nissar Akhtar and
his uncles, but it was  his scripting partnership with Salim Khan
created waves at the box office and made him a star. The wit and
sensitivity of his poems have carved him an important niche in the
nation’s literary annals. Married to one of Bollywood’s biggest
actresses, a star scriptwriter in his own right, he remains an intensely
private person.

Shabana Azmi reveals the hidden side of her husband and soulmate: Javed Akhtar.

Firstpost: You are articulate, expressive about what
you believe in, while he is quieter, more involved in his own world. Are
you opposites in terms of temperament?

Shabana Azmi: On the contrary, I cannot think of anyone who is closer to me, and more similar than Javed. He is my soulmate.

What makes your relationship so perfect?
Look at the similarities in our backgrounds. In discovering Javed I
rediscovered my father. Both are from UP, both poets, film lyricists,
writers. Both love politics… In fact if you consider the fact that one
seeks the perfect match of backgrounds for an arranged marriage, then
this could well have been the perfect arranged marriage.

But it wasn’t arranged…
He was already married by the time I realised how well suited we were.

When did that happen?
He had been coming home for a very long time, like other poets he would
come to read his poems to my father, seek his opinion. But I was very
busy with my work, and never really engaged with him.

Then in the ‘80s, I sat in on conversations my father had with him on
poetry, on politics, and I realised he was very different from his

How did you become close?
He saw Sparsh, he really liked the movie. He told Sai (Paranjpe,
director) that he really liked the film. There was a little party at
Sai’s and he was invited too. We met there. He spoke of the film in such
detail that I was amazed. That was the start of serious complex

But the fact remained that he was a married man…
Yes, we realised that. We stayed away from each other for as long as was
possible. My mother was against it completely. When I told my father, I
asked him, “Is he wrong for me?” And he said, “He is not wrong, but the
circumstances are wrong.”

When I asked him, “What if I change the circumstances,?” he said, “Then it should be okay.”

It could not have been easy.
Nobody can understand the anguish, the heartbreak… There were children involved.
For 2 to 3 years, we suffered the trauma. And then one day, we decided
to break up. It was too traumatic for the children if we went on. We
told each other, “We will break up after one last meeting.” We met for that last meeting and we talked and talked… not love talk
alone, but about everything, politics, poetry. We got so busy talking ,
we forgot to break up.

What was especially endearing?
The fact that he is so much like my father. For any ordinary man, my
father is a tough act to follow, especially knowing how much I
hero-worshipped my father.

Did you never dream of children of your own?
Of course we did, I did. For medical reasons, I could not have a child.
It hurt a lot, and I was heartbroken for a while.
Then I told myself,
“One can’t have everything in life.”

Also Zoya and Farhan were very young then, and their mother was generous
in letting us have access to them. So I had children around. And I got
the man! I cannot imagine being married to anyone else.


You complete 64. How do you look back on you amazing life so far?
With gratitude for being at the right place at the right time. I feel
blessed that my parents gave me values that I cherish. I’m singularly
lucky to have worked with directors who dared me to take risks and be
different and I am thankful to the Indian film industry. I will also
remain indebted to all those people who sensitised me to using art as an
instrument for social change.

What are your earliest memories of your birthday as a child?
My mother was superstitious about celebrating our birthdays because she
lost her firstborn a week before his first birthday, for which she had
made grand preparations. So childhood memories are mostly distributing
two sweets each to my classmates and the thrill of wearing beautiful
clothes to school instead of the boring uniform.

What drove you to choose acting as a profession?
It was predestined in a way. My mother, Shaukat Kaifi, who is a very
respected theatre artist, was working with Prithvi Theatres and used to
strap me on her back as a four-month old child and carry me to work
because we couldn’t afford a maid. When I was about three years old, I
started accompanying her on her tours [during school vacations]. I would
go to sleep backstage, with the smell of greasepaint all around me.

At St Xavier’s College (Mumbai), together with Farooq Sheikh, who was
two years my senior, we formed Hindi Natya Manch and went on to win
awards in every category through our college term. After completing my
graduation, I joined The Film and Television Institute of India in Pune
and passed with the gold medal for Best student in Acting. I am a firm
believer in training and at FTII, Prof Roshan Taneja, our acting
teacher, was wonderful. At the FTII, I was exposed to a lot of European
and Japanese cinema that shaped my aesthetics and directed the choices I
made in my career.

How did you make the niche that you have for yourself as an actor in a formula-driven industry?
I have an unconventional face for a Hindi film heroine. I remember BR
Chopra suggesting that I should do only vamps roles and Tarachand
Barjatya saying that I look “lower class” and so should restrict myself
to playing a maid etc. It’s another matter that later both of them cast
me in roles that were far removed from the moulds they had suggested! I
am amazed at the success I got in mainstream Hindi cinema and often
think those films (like Fakira, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony etc) were
successful in spite of me, not because of me.

But I’d also played some very substantial roles in parallel cinema that
won me critical acclaim and several national awards, so I developed a
status that was equivalent to the most successful stars of those times
because I was not competing on their home ground. Had I done that, I’m
sure I would have been on the bottom rung of the ladder, but parallel
cinema gave me and Smita (Patil) and Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) and Om
(Puri) a unique position. I will always feel indebted to the various
directors and writers who cast me in strong meaningful roles.

I didn’t plan my career. I was just guided by my aesthetics and the
sensibilities I had acquired because of my parents and the FTII.

Would you say success in show business is, as they say, “luck by chance”?
I attribute my success to being at the right place at the right time in
large measure. But I also do not take my work for granted and continue
to get butterflies in my stomach before embarking on a new film or a new
play.I’ve imbibed a lot from my mother about how to prepare for a part.
Days before [a new shoot], I start dressing up like a witch, a slum
dweller, a mafia don, depending on what I’m playing and move around the
house trying to inhabit the part.

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. Actors get the maximum acclaim
because they face the camera. The truth, however, is that an actor is
successful because a whole team of technicians behind the scenes are
working to camouflage the weaknesses and enhance the strengths of the
actor. The film set is a training ground for relationships – you
negotiate your way through different people, from your co-star to the
light boy and the junior artists. It’s up to you whether you isolate
yourself and choose the ivory tower or you learn from all those you work
with. It’s so easy for a celebrity to be liked – a kind word, a genuine
smile and you spread good cheer.

Looking back, which do you feel were the major turning points in your life?
Ankur, because it ushered in the parallel cinema movement. Arth, because
it started my involvement with the women’s rights movement. Madame
Sousatzka with Shirley MacLaine; that led to my working in 10 films in
the West. My five-day hunger strike along with Anand Patwardhan for the
slumdwellers of Cuffe Parade. Today, we at Nivara Hakk have built
tenements for 50,000 slum dwellers at Chandivli as a result of a
tripartite agreement with the government of Maharashtra, a private
builder and us. My nomination to the Rajya Sabha by the President of
India has also been a great learning experience. I was a very active

The single-most influential film of your life?
Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth remains a milestone. I continue to meet women who
say that it was a transformative experience for them and gave them
tremendous strength.

You’ve also done a lot of humanitarian work. You work with the
NGOs Nivara Hakk, run Mijwan Welfare society and have spoken to the UN
on various issues.

I’ve gone to the UN, been a signatory to a worldwide Human Rights
document about accepted measures during war times along with Kofi Annan
and Aga Khan; spoken at the Hague international court of justice on the
population question… issues that I was learning as I went along the

If you could change one thing, what would it be?
An end to our patriarchal society’s mindset that values boys over girls.


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India-Southern Research Organization (ISRO)

1. K Radhakrishnan: chairman of ISRO and
secretary, Department of Space.…2. M Annadurai: program director Mars
Orbiter Mission.….3. S Ramakrishnan: director, Vikram Sarabhai Space
Centre and member Launch Authorisation Board.….4. SK Shivakumar: director, ISRO Satellite Centre….5. V Adimurthy: mission concept designer, Mars Orbiter Mission.…6. P Kunhikrishnan: mission director for the
launcher….7. Chandradathan: director of the
Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.…8. AS Kiran Kumar: director, Satellite Application Centre.…9. MYS Prasad: director, Satish Dhawan
Space Centre…10. S Arunan: project director, Mangalyaan.….B Jayakumar….MS Pannirselvam….V Kesava Raju…..V Koteswara Rao


Wise people (liberals) tell us that it is a sin to be parochial. We have no doubt that they mean well. The (bong) poet has said that under this (brown) skin, both Hindus and Muslims have the same red blood flowing in their veins (arteries). Personally speaking, we would be delighted to live in a world beyond parochialism but this is not what we have right now.

Our policy is to tread the middle ground (as we see it). We celebrate identities but we do not approve of divisiveness. If that sounds weird, we are curious about your background but that is just because we do not know you. We have nothing to say about self-affixed labelings. If Barrack Obama counts his missing African dad to claim African-Americanship (while discounting the pale-ness of the maternal grand-parents who nurtured him) then we accept that at face value.

As long as people respect the fundamental truths (but many do not) that (1) we all came from a village in East Africa (yes we know, hyperbole) and that the (2) culture in which you are raised will be a huge influence on you and that (3) discriminating against individuals solely based on their background (say caste or sect) is illogical and immoral, we can argue (non-violently) about everything else.

That is a very long prelude to get to the topic at hand: we salute the South Indians who made the Mars Orbital Mission (MOM) a success. Before people get angry and accuse us of parochialism please see discussion above. There are countless groups in India which are subject to ridicule, derision, and even hate (women as a whole are probably the largest group to be so victimized) but it is the “South Indian” alone which causes maximum confusion. How does one go about defining an authentic South Indian?
This not-so-original thought came to us during discussions with a “big man” woman. She is from Goa but she was having a go at South Indians. Thing is, for most of India, Goa would count as south!!! Perhaps as a (Gaud Saraswat) Brahmin she truly believes that GSBs originated on the banks of the Saraswati river in Punjab (see above for East Africa reference). But then most of the stereotyping about South Indians was pointed against southern Brahmins who have dominated the academies and bureaucracies in the North (after having been kicked out from the South).

Perhaps a true South Indian is a Catholic fisherman from Kanya Kumari (the southern-most tip of mainland India) whose forefathers threw out a commemorative tablet glorifying the Hindu revivalist Swami Vivekananda into the ocean (Vivekananda Rock to them is St Xavier’s Rock). 

Or she may be a follower of the Kalaignar (artist) Muthuvel Karunanidhi, who rejected his own (Sanskrit-origin) name Dakshina-murthy, who was associated with breaking idols of Ganesha (such activities are termed communal only when Hindutva-vadis inflict it on others) and who publicly declared Hindus to be thieves.

The award for the most authentic South Indian (as the one most vehemently opposed to Hindu-Hindi hegemony) must surely go to the highest Brahmin (and tallest mass leader) of them all. This is what Eknath Ranade, the Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh (RSS) volunteer and the driving force behind the Vivekananda Rock Memorial would have to say about the Man:
He succeeded in persuading almost every State
government to make a contribution towards the construction….even Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh…..”Leaders of
every political party became
willing partners of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The only
Chief Minister who sent me back empty handed was the then Kerala Chief Minister
Comrade EMS Namboodiripad. I can say this much about my abortive
interview with him. It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was monologue
all the way on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!”.


This is the South India which has stood up against North India and the North Indian Party. But then this is also the South India where ISRO supremo K Radhakrishnan (also from Kerala) openly prays in (Hindu) temples so that the Mars Orbiter Mission is a success. These South Indians who presumably came up with the Sanskrit origin name of Mangal-Yaan. Then there is the inconvenient fact that a socialist, anti-superstition (read: Hindu practices) party that is loud and proud about its (non-Hindu) 5000 year old culture (or is it 50,000?) is being led by a super-caste, dictator-for-life who has added an extra “a” to her name due to advice from jyotishis (astrologers).

Perhaps all of this adds up to the well known “pragmatic” nature of South Indians (as opposed to the allegedly violent, uncompromising Northies). But then we have the example of Lord Hanumana who is loved, respected…and even feared all over India, in idol as well as in living form. Without the violent, uncompromising (South Indian) Hanumana – as the Ramayana makes it clear –  there would be no victory of good over evil. He is also the only known being who can fly around with his tail on fire. What better analogy for the Mars rocket do we have anyway?

1. K Radhakrishnan: He is the chairman of ISRO and
secretary, department of space. The 65-year-old avionic engineer
graduated in engineering from Kerala University in 1970. Radhakrishnan
also has an MBA degree from IIM-Bangalore and he also got a doctorate
from IIT-Kharagpur. Besides being a top space scientist, Radhakrishnan
is an enthusiast of Kerala’s classical art form Kathakali and a keen
music lover. He received a Padma Bhushan in 2014.

2. M Annadurai: He is the programme director of Mars
Orbiter Mission. Mylswamy Annadurai joined Isro in 1982 and was the
project director for Chandrayaan I, Chandrayaan II, ASTROSTAT, Aditya -I
and the Mars Obiter Mission. Annadurai and his works are mentioned in
the 10th standard Science Text Book of Tamil Nadu. Born in Kodhawady
near Pollachi in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu, Annadurai has been
leading many Remote Sensing and Science missions at

3. S Ramakrishnan: Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space
Centre and Member Launch Authorisation Board. A senior ISRO scientist
has more than four decades of experience in rocketry in the Indian space
programme. Joined
ISRO in the August of 1972 , Ramakrishnan played a
key role in the development of PSLV which carried the Mangalyaan into
the space. He had said, “From here to go to Mars we are going to use
only a fraction of what we did in getting to the (Earth) orbit.” The
challenge for him was the launch of the rocket. He said the launch
window was only five minutes. Ramakrishnan is a mechanical engineer from
the College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai. He received his M.Tech in
Aerospace from IIT-Madras with the first rank.

4. SK Shivakumar: Director of ISRO Satellite Centre,
Shivakumar joined ISRO in 1976. He was part of the team that developed
the telemetry system for Chandrayaan-I, India’s first lunar exploration
mission.  He also developed satellite technology and implemented
satellite systems for scientific, technological and application
missions. He said, “Our baby is up in the space. It was almost like a

5. V Adimurthy: Born in Andhra Pradesh and educated at
IIT-Kanpur, Adimurthy joined
ISRO in 1973 and was the Mission Concept
Designer of Mars Orbiter Mission. He was also awarded the Padma Shri in

6. P Kunhikrishnan: He is the Mission Director for the
launcher. From the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram,
Kunhikrishnan has seven successful PSLV launches under his belt since
2009. He was appointed the mission director for the ninth time. He was
responsible for seeing the rocket completes its mission successfully and
that the satellite is correctly injected in the designated orbit. The
challenge for him was that the orbital characteristic of the Mars
Mission is different from regular PSLV missions.

7. Chandradathan: Took over as the Director of the
Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in 2013. He joined ISRO in 1972.
Initially, he worked for the SLV-3 project during its design phase and
later was involved in the development of solid propellant formulations
for SLV-3. Over three decades, Chandradathan made contribution to the
realisation of solid motors for sounding rockets, SLV-3, ASLV and PSLV.

8. AS Kiran Kumar: Joined ISRO in 1975, Kumar is the
Director of Satellite Application Centre. He was responsible for
designing and building three of the orbiter payloads – the Mars Colour
Camera, Methane Sensor and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer. The
challenge before him was miniaturising the components as the satellite
does not provide much space.

9. MYS Prasad: He is the director of Satish Dhawan
Space Centre and chairman of the Launch Authorisation Board. From 1975
to 1994, he worked in the launch vehicle development programmes of ISRO.
He was part of the project Ttam of SLV-3, the first indigenously
developed launch vehicle of India. As the launch was during northeast
monsoon season the challenge was to enhance weather forecasting
capability to 10 days and simultaneously carrying out preparatory work
for Mars Mission while dismantling the GSLV rocket after the mission was
aborted earlier this year.

10. S Arunan: He is the project director of Mangalyaan.
Arunan was responsible for leading a team to build the spacecraft. The
challenge for him was to build a new communication system, which would
largely be autonomous so that it could take decision and ‘wake up’ the
orbiter engine after 300 days.

11. B Jayakumar: The associate project director of PSLV
project,  Jayakumar was responsible for the rocket systems, testing
till the final lift-off.

12. MS Pannirselvam: The chief general manager of range
operation director at Sriharikota Rocket port, Pannirselvam was
responsible for maintaining launch schedules without any slippages.

13. V Kesava Raju: He is the mission director of Mangalyaan. Raju and his team will track the journey of the MOM in the outer space.

14. V Koteswara Rao: He is the ISRO scientific secretary. 


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Random Thoughts

It is the season to be busy at work, so I am unable to write a coherent post but these scattered thoughts were itching to get out:

1. Pakistani anchor Talat has written an interesting piece in Urdu in which the conceit is to start with a long section that sounds like one of Tahir ul Qadri or Imran Khan’s speeches and then reveal that it is the Urdu translation of one of Goebbel’s speeches.
These days anyone has the right to speak in Germany — the Jew, the Frenchman, the Englishman, the League of Nations, the conscience of the world, and the Devil knows who else. Everyone but the German worker. He has to shut up and work. Every four years he elects a new set of torturers, and everything stays the same. That is unjust and treasonous. We need tolerate it no longer. We have the right to demand that only Germans who build this state may speak, those whose fate is bound to the fate of their fatherland.

Therefore we demand the destruction of the system of exploitation! Up with the German worker’s state!

Germany for the Germans!

This is actually very apt. TUQ is consciously and IK is unconsciously (lacking the smarts to understand such things and easily manipulated by clever men) using this exact line in Pakistan. Co-opting the vocabulary of “revolution”, “overthrow of elites” etc created by the Left, the fascist wing of the Paknationalist movement is preparing the ground for an overthrow of democracy and the implementation of a long-held dream: the Chakwal solution. May Allah protect us all.

2. The delegitimization of the 2013 elections continues apace, aided by several media houses (especially the pro-army ARY group, long known for its close links with the hard-paknationalist faction and the intelligence agencies) and feckless mainstream politicians who had made rigging allegations as per the usual Pakistani routine and who now find themselves unable to point out that this election was actually fairer than most Pakistani elections and even if there had been NO irregularities whatsoever, PTI could not conceivably have won (a cursory looks the winning margins and candidates will confirm this fact).
This of course does not mean the election was completely fair. There were many irregularities, (though maybe less than those seen in the last election), with the worst cases in KPK (ANP and PPP unable to campaign thanks to the Taliban lending a hand), interior Sindh (intimidation by local bigwigs) and Karachi (the worst case of all, led by MQM gangsterism)…none of which are a focus of Imran Khan’s protest.
So, the election, whose outcome would not have been very different even if most irregularities were avoided, has been delegitimized. The point is to overthrow the system, not to fix it. 
This is not rocket science, but it does need to be said again and again.

3. A somewhat parochial point, in that it is a peculiar obsession of mine based on my own history and the background I come from….I recognize that it may not be as important as it looms in my life…..but anyway, here goes: someday Allah may call the Pakistani Left to account for the fact that their main historical role seems to have been to prepare the narrative tropes that are now being used by every right wing force in Pakistan (not just the military-sponsored adventurers, but also the religious parties and even the Taliban);  not only has the Left provided the vocabulary (and ALL of the poetry) of “revolution” and “jab taj uchaley jaen gay” (when the crowns are knocked off heads), they have also undermined the intellectual foundations of the (already weak) elite faction that could have stood up for liberal democracy in Pakistan.The middle classes are obviously not all in favor of liberal democracy. They are also a breeding ground for “national-socialism” and religious fundamentalist groups, but the fraction of them that could be expected to argue for liberal democracy is further weakened in Pakistan by the penetration of Marxist-Leninist tropes among people who do not otherwise consider themselves part of the revolutionary Left.  This (mostly superficial and shallow) adoption of left-wing narratives and cliches does not imply that most of these people have stopped having servants and maids (god forbid) or have any deep interest in preserving our ancient way of life in the face of evil modernity (quite the contrary, most are looking for “progress and prosperity”, just like good middle class people in other third world countries); but to a surprising extent, in Pakistan their narratives about the wold are derived (usually without any detailed knowledge of the source) from relatively small Marxist-Leninist parties and their intellectual fellow travelers. What I am saying is that this superficial and frequently muddled idle talk does seem to have a real effect on the way many educated people see the world and what patterns they impose on it. One of those patterns is a distrust of liberal democracy and a vague yearning for revolution. This leaves their representatives (and many journalists for example fall in this category) seriously handicapped when confronted with clever demagogues condemning liberal democracy and demanding revolution. (I must stress that i am not talking here about the relatively tiny band of deeply committed Marxists and/or Luddites, both groups having serious issues in my opinion, but both having some semi-rational basis for THEIR mistrust of liberal democracy and modern capitalism). Its a convoluted point, and I apologize for not being clearer. But something like this does seem to be going on…and it is handicapping the liberal democrats in the debates that are going on today in Pakistan…

PS: I promised @umairjav that I would rewrite this…Now I dont think I will rewrite this point, just try to clarify it a bit: It is NOT about people who actually worked for Left wing causes or understood (to varying extents) the finer points of Marxist theology. THOSE people are NOT in PTI (for the most part). They can be found in the PPP, the ANP, various Sindhi and Baloch nationalist organizations and so on, but rarely in the PTI. I am aware of that. My dig is not meant to imply that Leftists have themselves become PTI activists (most PTI activists were probably born after the first death of Marxism-Leninism in 1991). No, my thought process went something like this: 

  • The “Left” (especially in Punjab) has very little direct impact on current Pakistani political shenanigans. The first part of the dig is a dig at the surprising irrelevance of the Left.
  • But thanks to the prominence of the old Left in various cultural spheres and the extraordinary popularity of Leftist talking points (not the same thing as saying “domination of leftist parties or their economic policies”) in postcolonial educated people (again, think of it this way: even right wing politicians in our countries absorbed many disembodied memes that had originally been birthed in Marxist or Bolshevik circles as part of a greater whole of “imperialism the last stage of capitalism” type analysis), even these kids have absorbed notions of revolution, revolutionary change and the overthrow of the elites. 
  • Its possible I am overstating the role of the Left in creating these memes. I dont think so at this point (i.e. I dont think I am overstating it), but I am open to this possibility 🙂
  • I have either clarified or dug myself deeper into the hole…or both. Got to run…

4. And last but not the least, congratulations India (and particularly the Indian Space Research Organization) on achieving a historic first: a Mars mission that has worked at first attempt. An amazing accomplishment, especially consdiering that they spent less on this mission than Hollywood spends on an average blockbuster movie production. Well done..

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), in Pakistan you cannot see the above videos because youtube is still banned in Pakistan. Allah works in mysterious ways…

The happy martyrs

….Hamas initially denied any link to the June attack….Last month, the group acknowledged responsibility.…..”Hamas praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in
chasing down Israeli settlers…their assassination
will not weaken the resistance”….

The two Hamas lads…so happy to have helped ignite another war, even more happy that 2000 of their own (including small children) have been killed by the enemy (it all comes down to who wins the propaganda war), and now happiest ever in death (to be celebrated as martyrs for all time).

It is an article of faith amongst the (western) Left that an alliance with Islamists will bring down the enemy (and in the long run this prediction may indeed come to be true). We are told that compromise is a dirty word (and the enemy believes in this creed as well). The muslim lands must be liberated at all costs.

Meanwhile back in the real world, Israel is building up alliances with Egypt and Saudi Arabia (and when Kurdistan becomes an independent nation there will be one more all-weather friend). Hamas has been kicked out of Qatar and given shelter in Turkey. The flames in the Central Middle East is visible from space. North Africa is terribly troubled (except for Morocco and Tunisia). Afghanistan is likely to sink deep into mud starting next year. Pakistan is in a precarious position with everyone interested in gaining power (but none so keen on ruling).

It is not that we should ignore the crimes of Israel (and for that matter India) as belonging to some lesser category. But we are not able to discern any constructive message that will make the people in the Middle East North Africa even a tiny bit hopeful (perhaps we are biased and being blinded by hatred). At this rate the world will simply learn to ignore MENA, except for periodic bouts of “lawn mowing” by the Israeli Defense Forces. Fighting thousand year wars with infidels will not bring any peace and over time even the oil fueled prosperity will look like a mirage.
Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians in the West Bank city of
Hebron on Tuesday and the military said they were members of Hamas
responsible for the killing of three Israeli youths in June, an attack
that led to the Gaza war.

Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, both in their 30s, were shot dead
during a gun battle after Israeli troops surrounded a house in the city
before dawn, the army and residents said. Israel had been hunting the
men for three months.

Kawasme and Abu Aysha were suspected of carrying out the kidnapping
and killing of the three teenage seminary students, who were abducted
while hitchhiking at night near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on
June 12.

The military said army and police forces were trying to arrest the two suspects when a firefight erupted. “We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the
exchange,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner

The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hmeid, confirmed on Palestinian radio that the two were dead.

“It’s clear now the two martyrs, al-Kawasme and Abu Aysha, were
assassinated this morning during a military operation in the Hebron
University area. We condemn this crime, this assassination, as
deliberate and premeditated murder,” he said.

Kawasme and Abu Aysha were affiliated with Hamas, which initially denied any link to the June attack. Last month, however, the group acknowledged responsibility, although
its leadership said it had no advance knowledge that the men were
planning to abduct the students.

“Hamas praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in
chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination
will not weaken the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation. “We
will continue to strike terrorism everywhere,” he said at the start of a
cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “This morning the long arm of Israeli
justice caught them.”

Israeli forces have conducted widespread sweeps across the West Bank
in the past three months, rounding up hundreds of suspected Hamas
members in house-to-house raids in the hunt for the suspects behind the

The abduction and killing of Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Shaer and
Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, caused alarm throughout Israel and set off a
cycle of violence, including the killing of Palestinian Mohammed Abu
Khudair, 16, by three Israelis who have been arrested and charged.

Khudair’s killing led to clashes between Palestinian youths and
Israeli police in East Jerusalem, while the round-up of Hamas suspects
across the West Bank provoked rocket fire at Israel from militants in
Gaza, leading to the war.

Gaza medical officials say 2,100 Palestinians, most of them
civilians, were killed in the 50-day conflict, while 67 Israeli soldiers
and six civilians in Israel were also killed.

Efforts to forge a lasting peace agreement following the war are set to resume in Cairo on Tuesday.





Pakistani makes the largest political bet in history –

It seems us Pakis are instinctively Unionist (which makes sense – God save the Queen).

Describing himself as a committed unionist of Pakistani-German heritage, he said he had been partly motivated to gamble that much money – the largest political bet in British history and believed to be one of the largest worldwide – because it was good publicity for the pro-UK campaign.
But he added: “The first thing I should say is: don’t try this at home. Perhaps I have a bit of a unique background given what I do given I have been involved in markets and as my daughters tell me, I’m a bit of a data geek and information nerd.”
Nicknamed “Peter” by Vine after he insisted on remaining anonymous, he said he had studied more than 80 polls on the academic referendum website, overseen by the Strathclyde University polling expert Professor John Curtice.

Multiculturalism with Chinese Characteristics

Multiculturalism with Chinese characteristics…China’s war on terror becomes a war on conservative Islam. 

Not that I am anti-Chinese. I am also a fan of China. Actually I am a fan of everyone. Why not? In our Indian culture we never got too worked up about faraway places anyway, which I think is eminently sensible. and with the current civlizational crisis in the Islamicate world, much worse may happen in less Chinese countries.

But while I can sort of let it go, I dont think the Paknationalist dream of a Chinese-Islamic partnership with Pakistan as China’s Muslim enforcer will get away unscathed. I assume they will try to put all of this in the catergory of “American propaganda”, but some of it does seem to be true. That could become an issue. 

“China’s campaign against separatism and terrorism in its mainly Muslim west has now become an all-out war on conservative Islam, residents here say.

Throughout Ramadan,police intensified a campaign of house-to-house searches, looking for books or clothing that betray “conservative” religious belief among the region’s ethnic Uighurs: women wearing veils were widely detained, and many young men arrested on the slightest pretext, residents say. Students and civil servants were forced to eat instead of fasting, and work or attend classes instead of attending Friday prayers…

btw, those thinking I am joking about the paknationalist dream have not met Pakistani Nationalists of the senior army officer type… See Zaid Hamid  for details (paid generously for his efforts by the ISI, as reported by his own ex-accountant). Its a load of crap, but that doesnt mean it doesnt have believers….

And meanwhile, the bombs go off.  At least three explosions have been reported in China’s Xinjiang province, killing two people and injuring several more, Chinese state media has said.

Shanghaiist reports on Project Beauty: the chinese effort to make Uighur women show their face

Miss Tourism Queen Xinjiang, Finals

CCTV reports on Miss Tourism Xinjiang.
Miss Tourism Queen International kicks off on Sunday in Urumqi, the capital city of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Sunday. 

Xinjiang cultural troupe in Pakistan

China Post reports on Beard informants.

Brand Brown Muslim

….Rahman was born into a family of
struggling Bangladeshi immigrants….Putting himself through Oxford, Cambridge, Munich and Yale, he has been a mathematician, investment banker and international
human rights lawyer…… is often tempted to speculate about
which of the two characters derives from Rahman himself…..Is it the brilliant, Bangladeshi Zafar?….Or could
it be the aristocratic Pakistani investment banker
with no name?…. 



In a way (and we accept this with great reluctance) the founding fathers of Pakistan had it right. There is a lot to be said for the creation of a “Medina in South Asia” as the authentic voice of sub-continental Sunni muslims. We have strong reasons to believe that once the memories of the dead and afflicted have faded, the sub-surface links between erstwhile East and West Pakistan will re-assert themselves.

It is a shame that the (West) Pakistanis did not really recognize the Bangali muslims as their peers and equals. The gaps are now slowly mending (even as the gap with India and Indians is rising). With the help of imaginative leadership (aided by generous Gulf dollars) a broad coalition of Sunni muslim countries across South Asia (and perhaps even beyond) is possible.

If such a federation comes to life, a huge vote of thanks will be due to …who else…the imperialist United Kingdom (and the West as an extension). The Brown Muslims of London and New York who feel alienated by Western ways and discriminated by Western elites will be the prime movers in any reconciliation, rapprochement and if it comes to that even the hard work of federation building.

Already Bangla-Pak alliances are popular in the West…and why not? The BMs are defined (and constrained) by what they are and what they are not…not Indians (but browns), not Arabs (but muslims), not Westerners (but living in the West).

While inter-marriage will help, the heavy lifting must be done by powerful, sublime literature that help underline the commonalities between Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and subtly (and not so subtly) highlight the differences with other people. Thus we have “In the Light of What We Know” by Zia Haider Rahman a cultural (and spiritual) sibling of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid and one which adds to the growing (and unique) voice of Brown Muslims. May such a thousand flowers bloom. 
The really interesting thing (for us) is the reaction of Indian Muslims. First off, the non-Sunnis (Shias, Ismailis, Bohras, Ahmadis…) may turn away from emphatic declarations of Sunni faith and due to the lived experience of non-sunni muslims in those countries. Muslims from South India (who are quite prosperous, mostly) may form a distinct cohort which resists assimilation with other Brown Muslims (similar to how Tamil Shudras will always reside outside and in opposition to the Hindu-Hindi majority).

The two most “vulnerable” groups are the Muslims of Eastern India (primarily Bengal and Asom) and those of the Hindi belt (primarily Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). As the Hindu-Hindi state grows in strength it is likely that the sense of alienation amongst muslims will keep growing. The eastern muslims are probably the most deprived of the lot (as per the Sachar committee report). The northern muslims are probably the most victimized – Azamgarh in UP is routinely termed in the news media as Atank-garh (terrorist town).

At the end of the day partition is as much a state of the land as it is a state of the mind. It will be a very good thing if the Hindu-Hindi state is able to overcome the caste divide that has poisoned our society for thousands of years. But it will be a very bad thing if the result is that the Muslims are defined as the common enemy (just like they are in the west).  

India cannot realistically hope to expel all muslims to Bangla-Pak. Even in that narrow sense there is no choice then but to co-exist.

This is no doubt an asymmetric situation (and Hindutva-vadis are naturally upset) but ultimately the secular way is the moral way. Nations who stand on immorality will never attain their fullest potential. Alternatively, to adopt Amartya Sen’s terminology, the contributions from the missing millions of minorities would have been a source of pride and joy…and ultimately strength of any nation.

Imagine a book in which a gossipy story about former Pakistan
president Pervez Musharraf peeing in a women’s washroom and drunkenly
pursuing the Norwegian ambassador’s wife co-exists with a chance meeting
with Hamid Karzai, “at that time a rather shady figure involved in the
oil business”.

Or where a riff on Princeton mathematician Kurt Godel’s
Incompleteness Theorem is followed by an explanation of German physicist
Johann Poggendorff ‘s Illusion. Or which tells you that kings in Saudi
Arabia are buried in unmarked graves in keeping with austere Wahhabism
and the question that Charles II asked members of the Royal Society. 

don’t imagine, read Zia Haider Rahman’s extraordinary book, In the
Light of What We Know. The banker-turned-human rights lawyer tells the
story, over 500 pages, of a conversation that spans the lifetimes of its
two protagonists: Zafar and the nameless narrator.

The two men
meet at university at Oxford and over the course of several years
develop a friendship that survives heartbreak, nervous breakdown and
cataclysmic world events, the war in Afghanistan and the collapse of the
American banking system. It takes them from long walks in Manhattan
which sometimes end up in Ellis Island, to ambles in London from the
British Museum through the elegant Georgian squares of Bloomsbury.

are more dramatic leaps of time and place: Zafar travels to rural
Bangladesh, where his family originally came from before his father
found work as a waiter in London; to Oxford, where he fights his own
embarrassment about his parents’ status in life; to Kabul, where a proud
nation is enslaved by the West in what the latter believes is a
civilising mission; to a sunlit but sterile kitchen in a New York home,
not necessarily in that order. 

The narrator, in the midst of being
accused of financial irregularities, takes time out to listen to a
friend he feels he left behind, partly propelled by guilt and partly by
the collapse of the certainties of his own life. It is a contrast in
privileges: The narrator’s own posh, have-it-all Pakistani family
compared to Zafar’s impoverished Bangladeshi parents unable to overcome
the atrocities of the 1971 war. 

It is
no surprise that Rahman’s book is earning rave reviews, gathering much
acclaim as it sweeps readers off their feet with its scope and
sensibility. The writer, who lives in London, and whose life seems a
tempting reflection of that of his narrator, has created an
extraordinary adventure. It is far away from the colonial narrative of
Afghanistan, which makes it a committed political novel if ever there
was one.

At its heart, it is a post 9/11 novel. which is why one
finds occasionally echoes of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant


It is a novel of rare beauty and power that has electrified the
literary establishment. It begins in London, about the time of the
financial crisis of 2008. The narrator, a young Pakistani
mat­hematician-tur­ned-investment banker, opens the door one morning to
see a bedraggled, half-­familiar figure outside. It takes a mom­ent for
him to recognise Zafar, the Bangladeshi math prodigy and his one-time
mentor who had disappeared mysteriously years ago.
The narrator takes
Zafar in and instals him in his guest room, and Zafar’s strange,
disturbing story emerges, thro­ugh conversations and diary pages, its
eve­nts cross-cutting between Oxford, Lon­­don, New York, Kabul and

In the Light of What We Know is a work of post-9/11 fiction, a
territory that has been well covered by writers like Mohsin Hamid and
Nadeem Aslam (not to mention Don De Lillo and Martin Amis), but Zia
Haider Rahman presents his version of it with a seething new anger. It
is a story that mixes the political and the personal—friendship and
betrayal, class and alienation, the collapse of financial markets, as
well as of nations.

Reading the book, one senses resonances of Jos­eph
Conrad, V.S. Naipaul, Graham Gre­ene, John Le Carre, but most of all,
perhaps, W.G. Sebald, whose novels, like this one, are a hypnotic
mixture of travel, memory, fact, quasi-fact and fiction. 

It is a hugely
ambitious work, which could so easily have gone wrong, but Rahman’s
towering imagination, combined with his elegant, almost mathematically
precise prose, help him pull it off with env­iable ease. The novel ends
with a painful twist and a reference to Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem,
which seems to be at the heart of it all: in every system there are
propositions that are true, but cannot be proved to be true. And then,
one final, wry Sebaldian touch: a blurred black-and-white photograph of
two men, app­arently Einstein and Godel, taken from behind, as they take
one of their long walks through a Princeton evening. Thus, in a sense,
we come back to where the author started out, 555 pages earlier.

Rahman, the author’s profile tell us, was born into a family of
struggling Bangladeshi immigrants (his father was a bus conductor).
Putting himself through Oxford, Cambridge, Munich and Yale, he has
successively been a mathematician, investment banker and international
human rights lawyer. This book clearly owes its authenticity to his own
personal story. Reading it, one is often tempted to speculate about
which of the two characters derives from Rahman himself. Is it,
obviously, the brilliant, born-into-pove­rty Bangladeshi Zafar? Or could
it, not-so-obviously, be the aristocratic Pakistani investment banker
with no name? 

As the novel unfolds, one alternately thinks this way and
that, until one realises that they are probably both Rahman, in
different avatars, as he pours his self into the narrative. (In that
blurred black-and-white photograph of Einstein and Godel on their walk
through Princeton, after all, you can’t tell which is which). 



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Lehman Sisters (India)

Indian women (elites) are doing superbly, as may be judged by the 2014 Fortune top-25 list for Asia/Pacific. Worldwide, Indra Nooyi is ranked #3 right after Mary Bara (GE) and Gini Rometty (IBM).

In A/P we have a total of eight Indians out of twenty five. If there is a quibble, there are too many bankers (in the left-liberal world bankers are considered evil) starting with Gail Kelly (Australia, Westpac) at #1.

Then again feminists have forcefully argued that the global recession of 2008 could have been avoided if only there were a band of Lehman Sisters at the steering wheel instead of the mad, bad brother-hood. Taken in that spirit there is much to cheer about the Indian lady-brigade- the Sisters are in charge of half of the assets of the country. It is good to see a world-beating number that you can feel good about. Go team!!!!

In the top ten we have the fav four of Chanda Kochhar (2) of ICICI Bank, Arundhati Bhattacharya (4) of State Bank of India, Nishi Vasudeva (5) of Hindustan Petroleum, and Shikha Sharma (10) of Axis Bank.
The remaining four are Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (19) of Biocon, Chitra Ramkrishna (22) of National Stock Exchange, Naina Lal Kidwai (23) of Honkong and Shanghai Bank and Mallika Srinivasan (25) of Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE).

Unlike the men-list (which we imagine is mostly populated by West Indians), there is only one Marwari (Kochhar) and one Gujarati (Mazumdar).

It was the noted economist Ajit Ranade who pointed out in 2013 that about half of India’s banking assets are under the control of women. In addition to the executives listed above, there is Bank of India headed by Vijay-lakshmi Iyer, Allahabad Bank – Shubha-lakshmi Panse, Bhartiya Mahila Bank – Usha Anantha-subramanian, Royal Bank of Scotland – Meera Sanyal ( ex-head, now Aam Admi Party member).  
Most important, the ranks below are bubbling with women as well, a sign of a strong (future) bench.
But there is one gender
trend in banking that has gone unnoticed — the steady increase in the
number of women joining the banking sector.
Sample this: At Punjab National Bank,
40-45% of new recruits are women. At Allahabad Bank, that share is 25%,
while HDFC Bank says that 40% of its trainees are women. In fact, some
of the women executives who took up banking jobs in recent years say
that in certain batches their numbers go well past the 50% mark.


As many as eight Indian women, led by ICICI Bank chief Chanda Kochhar,
have made it to the Fortune list of 25 most powerful women “shaping the
new world order” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Kochhar, ranked highest among Indian women, has been ranked second
across the region, while three others — SBI’s Arundhati Bhattacharya
(4th), HPCL’s Nishi Vasudeva (5th) and Axis Bank’s Shikha Sharma (10th)
— have also made it to the top-10.


The list is topped by Australian banking major Westpac’s chief Gail Kelly.

Other Indians on the top-25 list include Biocon chief Kiran
Mazumdar-Shaw (19th), National Stock Exchange CEO Chitra Ramkrishna
(22nd), HSBC’s Naina Lal Kidwai (23rd) and TAFE Chairman and CEO Mallika
Srinivasan (25th).

Releasing the latest rankings, the Fortune magazine said that women
around the world are continuing to win the top jobs, so much so that
more than a third of the women on this Asia-Pacific list are making
their debut in the coveted list, including two from India.

The two Indian new entrants are Bhattacharya and Vasudeva.

“More and more businesswomen are taking tougher jobs and helming bigger
firms. More than a third of the women on our Asia-Pacific list are
making their MPW (most powerful women) debut,” Fortune said.

Among Indians, Bhattacharya is ranked second after Kochhar and is the
first woman to hold the three-year post at SBI, who oversees a
208-year-old institution with USD 400 billion in assets and 218,000
employees dispersed among 16,000 bank branches across India.

On the other hand, Vasudeva, 58, became the first woman to head an
Indian oil company and is “and one of only four women to helm a Global
Fortune 500 firm in the Asia-Pacific region”.

NSE’s Ramakrishna is the only woman on the list heading a stock exchange.


Meanwhile, PepsiCo’s India-born CEO Indra Nooyi has been ranked third
among world’s most powerful business woman by Fortune in its worldwide
Nooyi is only Indian-origin woman on this year’s global list,
which has been topped by IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty and General
Motors CEO Mary Barra.


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Playing the loony tunes (non-stop)

….I still remember his analysis….how
thoughtful and well-researched it was…..whenever he was on air, I used to tell my
parents proudly…that’s my professor on TV….I can’t believe that a scholar like him has been shot dead…..It’s like losing a father….

We are assuming (perhaps wrongly) that since Prof Auj was guest of honour at the Iranian Embassy, he must be a Shia. Ceratinly he can be accused of being a non-conformist.

Mr. Auj, a recipient of a presidential medal of
distinction, was known for his unorthodox views and was fighting a legal
case against the originator of a widely circulated text message that
called him an apostate.….The
professor had issued controversial fatwas (religious decrees) —
pronouncing for example that a Muslim woman could marry a non-Muslim
man, and that women need not remove lipstick or nail polish before
saying their prayers.
Such views can cause serious offence to some
conservative Muslims in Pakistan….


This much is true, as Omar has pointed out repeatedly, weapons like the blasphemy law which are shiny and useful will not be put away so easily. It will require a mass movement and a big-hearted man (who can rise above all partisanship).
Muslim scholar named Muhammad Shakil Auj who had received death threats
over “blasphemy” allegations was shot to death Thursday
in Karachi, Pakistan. Auj was the dean of Islamic studies at the
University of Karachi, and some of the blasphemy allegations against him
reportedly originated with his colleagues. 

From the New York Times:

Unidentified gunmen on a motorbike attacked the vehicle he
was riding in on his way to a reception at his honor at the Iranian
Consulate. Dr. Auj was shot in the head and neck and died immediately,
officials said. A female student in the back of the car was shot in the
arm and was treated at a hospital.
A week earlier, a visiting religious scholar at the same
Islamic studies department, Maulana Masood Baig, was also shot dead by
unknown attackers.

had told police that four colleagues at the University of Karachi
had accused him of blasphemy—including one colleague who’d previously
held Auj’s position as dean.
The four were arrested but are free on
bail, and they are “being questioned” about Auj’s murder, the Times
reports. A seminary in Karachi had also called for Auj’s death.

Thursday morning started with very tragic news. One of my beloved teachers who had taught us in university was shot dead for some unknown reason.  

Shakeel Auj was Dean, Faculty of Islamic Studies, University of Karachi
since 2012. He completed his PhD in Islamic Studies from University of
Karachi in 2000 with a PhD dissertation of “Comparative Study of Eight
Selected Urdu Translations of Holy Quran.”

Apart from PhD in Islamic Studies, he also possessed an LL.B and a
Master Degree in Journalism. With all his books, research papers,
articles and an unending list of prizes and honors, he was an institution of his own.

Shakeel was my lecturer for Islamic Studies during my Bachelors back in
2006. After I graduated, I hardly got a chance to meet him again, and I
still regret it. Dr Auj was an unconventional Islamic scholar
who used to believe that Islam was an easy religion to practice, and it
was the people who had made it difficult.

We used to have
detailed, open discussions on various topics in the class, and he was
always very inviting to his student’s opinions despite having tons more
knowledge and understanding.

I still remember his analysis on the
meaning of “Al Rehmaan” and “Al Raheem”, the two names for Allah; how
thoughtful and well-researched it was! Doctor sahab also had a
strong media appearance and whenever he was on air, I used to tell my
parents proudly that that’s my professor on TV.

I can’t believe that a scholar like him has been shot dead in such a
horrendous way. It’s like losing a father; someone who spent his whole
life serving others without a complaint and played a pivotal role in
teaching, grooming, mentoring, guiding and making us into better
individuals today.


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Brown Pundits