The (new) Kerala Kings

The prelude: When Pakistan was born one man was requested to reflect on the whole deal and how it specifically helps or hurts muslims. He memorably noted that muslims will be winners everywhere in South Asia, as kings in Pakistan and (permanent) king-makers in India.

To an (admittedly biased) outsider, it appears (perhaps incorrectly) that Pakistan has not quite lived up to the vision of its founders (promised land for all SAsian muslims). What seems to have happened is that the definition of a (righteous) Muslim has kept on changing (and shrinking). So it was that over time Ahmadis, Bengalis, Shias, Balochistanis, miscellaneous tribals et al. have come to be defined as (de facto, de jure) non-muslims (by the state and/or by powerful non-state actors) and as such deemed non-eligible to be inhabitants of an (Sunni) Islamic state.

How about India? Muslims have been a reliable and powerful vote bank, first for the Congress and then for local caste-first parties led by (Mullah) Mulayam Yadav and Lalu Yadav. It should be noted that Mulayam Yadav came to power in UP specifically due to the red-card issued by muslims against the Congress for having primary responsibility (as they saw it) for the c.1992 state-sponsored act(s) of terror (SSAT). Even now as we have people shouting from roof-tops about how BJP is the devil incarnate, they forget that it was Rajiv Gandhi (who unlocked the Ram Mandir gates) and Narasimha Rao (who was closeted in a puja ceremony during the entire episode) who were the principals in charge. Thing is the muslims knew exactly what the Congress was doing, and they will (justifiably) never forgive, nor forget.  

A bit of elaboration as to why R.G. and N.R. acted in such a sinister manner. Briefly, Rajiv wanted to cancel out the favor he did to the mullahs by terrorizing an indigent (muslim) widow, and Rao was playing a long game- he calculated that BJP’s actions would cause them to be finished politically. It is indeed sweet justice that Congress will NEVER come to power in UP again (though this does not help the riot victims then and now). This should also serve as a warning to those (liberal) enthusiasts about the pitfalls of encouraging backwardness (and discouraging women) through unfair application of personal civil codes.

The above approach is referred to as the soft Hindutva, it is perhaps more appropriate to see it as a blatantly opportunistic approach for voting gain by dividing communities. The British were past masters at this game and Congress as the inheritor has (unfortunately) learned the lessons too well.

With all that said and as India has moved into the 21st century, Jinnah’s prophecy does not seem to hold true any more. India is a Shudra nation now and forever. Over-time the disparate Shudra blocks are likely to team up at a pan India level (just like royalty in Europe). Unless India switches over to some version of proportional representation (from the present first-past-the-post format), the Shudras will remain the permanent kings of India and the king-maker profession will be no more.  

In Kerala the new royal caste has a name. They are the Ezhavas.

The point: The political map in Kerala is well settled and has been for some time. There is the Ezhava-controlled CPI and CPI(M), the Christian controlled Kerala Congress, and the Muslim controlled Muslim League.  Is there a path for the BJP to unsettle this settled fact? As noted before here on BP, the BJP can rise only at the expense of the Left. How likely is that?

 The Left is splintering slowly but its decline (unlike in Bengal) is still far off. The BJP got 10% (+) vote in 2004 (but no seats) so it will be important to see what is the Modi effect, if any (still unlikely to win).
The Congress in Kerala will admit
the Revolutionary Socialist Party as a new ally of the United Democratic
Front (UDF) for the Lok Sabha polls. The RSP had snapped its
34-year-long ties with CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) over
denial of Kollam seat to contest in the Lok Sabha polls.
RSP, which has two MLAs, would help the ruling Congress increase its
numbers in the Legislative Assembly, but the Congress will have to cede
Kollam seat…. to the RSP.

The UDF has three other Left rebel groups Communist Marxist Party
(CMP), Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi and RSP(B), which has announced
plans to merge with RSP.

At the end of the day it will be the Ezhavas that will determine if the BJP has any chance and the saffrons know this and are pulling out all the stops to make it happen.

Kerala has always had a saffron bone. RSS
has the most number of shakhas in India in Kerala—4,000.

In the 2011
assembly elections, BJP had a vote share of 6.03% but it could not win a
seat. But Muslim League with 7.92% vote share won 20 seats and Kerala
Congress (Mani) won nine seats with 4.9% vote share.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had a better vote share — 6.31%,
but could not win any seat. In 2004 despite having its highest vote
share — 10.39% — the party failed to win any seat.

In Kerala, the saffron project has always been to wean away the
powerful Ezhava community from CPM’s fold. Ezhavas, who belong to other
backward class (OBC) in Kerala, is the second largest identity group in
the state (22.91%), behind Muslims who constitute 24.7% of the
So far, the project has not succeeded. With CPM and CPI
largely being Ezhava parties, BJP should try harder. 

It would not be
ignored that Modi went to Sivagiri mutt in Varkala to attend Sree
Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sangham meeting in 2013. The state BJP has
succeeded in wooing Vellappally Natesan, president of SNDP Yogam.
Vellapally has endorsed Modi for PM but he is far from a political
influencer in Kerala.

BJP is also wooing dalits (18.82%) with Modi addressing a gathering
of Pulaya Maha Sabha in Kochi on February 9. Dalits, so far, have
rallied behind CPM and Congress.

Far more interesting is BJP’s agenda to get cosy with the Church. Two
bishops of the influential Syrian Orthodox church had met Modi in Kochi
and welcomed Modi becoming the PM.
BJP is trying to exploit the
Jacobite-Orthodox schism in Kerala. The Catholic Church, too, is hedging
its bets over the delayed notification on Dr Kastrirangan panel
recommendations but it is unlikely that it will desert Sonia Gandhi,
Oommen Chandy and UDF, despite the grand posturing of  Kerala Congress.



Fun fact of the day

I knew that Prince William had some Indian ancestry through Princess Diana but I had no idea that it was his direct maternal ancestor who was Indian (mother’s mother etc). Eliza Kewark was alleged to have been Armenian but it seems at the very least she was half Indian so it’s interesting to note that the 2nd in line to the throne is not only a descendant of George the 1st (not since Queen Anne in the early 18th century, Act of Union time), the descendant of George the 2nd (which is a first ever) and now is a direct descendant of an Indian on his mother’s side while his direct paternal lineage goes back to the House of Oldenberg (even though he is de jure a member of the House of Windsor). It’s interesting to see how Monarchy in Europe seems to be particularly Germanic (most of the Dynasties seemed to have stemmed from Germanic ancestors maybe because of Charlemagne) but it’s nice to know the future King is in some way Gujarati, albeit a very long way off (but in a very substantial way as his Mitochondrial DNA is basically Indian).

‘As the third son of a Scottish landowner, Forbes needed to make his fortune elsewhere and like many ambitious young men, he went to India to do just that. 
‘When Forbes arrived in the Bombay Presidency he employed a housekeeper, Eliza Kewark. They had three children, one of whom, Catherine or Kitty, was the ancestress of Princess Diana.’
With the full article it shows just how serendipitous it that Eliza’s daughters go on that in this rising Asian age the British King will have a substantial Asian link.

Revealed: William’s Indian ancestry. DNA tests show future monarch has clear genetic line to the former ‘Jewel in the Crown’ from Diana’s side

Ironically the current Jacobite heir at the moment (who genealogically have a better claim to the British throne than the current British Royal family) is the Second in Line to the Throne of Lichtenstein. It seems Europe’s Royal Families and Aristocracies are mind-numbingly inter-linked.

Saudi worse than Modi

The act of ex-communication (of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Saudis) in its sinfulness quotient ranks even higher than genocide (of muslims). This is the considered opinion of one of the top-most ranked Ulemas in the world.

Is there any method in this madness? Is it truly the case that an insult to the faith (and the faithful) is more significant than the taking of (innocent) lives? It is indeed fortunate that we have now Thane Richard to guide us past these treacherous moral sinkholes.

As an aside, this reinforces my point about Indian muslims (only elites count in such discussions) sharing
the same world-view as their brothers in the Ummah. Now that the I-M management has taken the lead in such an emphatic fashion, the opinion makers elsewhere will surely follow.  

The king is dead, long live the Caliph (Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi to give him a name) !!!


Describing the government of Saudi Arabia as more ‘zalim’ (cruel) than Narendra Modi, Nadwatul Ulema
in Lucknow cancelled its March 16 appointment with a delegation from
the Islamic kingdom as a mark of protest against its decision to declare
Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

The institute
has compared Saudi Arabia’s move to tag Muslim Brotherhood as an act
“more cruel than the genocide of hundreds of Muslims in 2002 that was
allegedly led by then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi”.

Official reason assigned for the cancellation of this trip was
described as a move in line with the institute’s commitment towards the
religion, community and reformative ideology. Nadwatul Ulema happens to
be one of the most renowned Islamic University in Asia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had on
March 7 designated Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as a terrorist group.
kingdom had also downgraded diplomatic ties with Qatar as a mark of
protest against their support towards MB. On Sunday, the United Arab
Emirates also lined up behind Saudi Arabia and its decision to recognize
MB as a terror outfit.

Saudi Arabia listed the 86-year-old
Brotherhood with al-Qaida and its affiliates which are categorized as
terrorist organizations and as per the Saudi Arabian law, anyone who
joins or supports these banned groups could face imprisonment ranging
from five to 30 years under the new Saudi Arabian government policy.



Gulaab Madhuri (close but no Smita)

Imagine for a moment that you have two ladies in your life (god forbid) and one was a  non-vegetarian and the other vegetarian, how will things work out? As Soumik Sen explains things will be fine if the ladies are being kind (as they normally are) but from time to time when the dam of anger and frustration breaks and the inner goddess (Durga) marches out to slay the monsters….beware of the gulaab gang.  


That said Mirch Masala (and Smita Patil,Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval and Om Puri) is an all time classic and cant be

File:Mirch Masala.jpg 

How did you become a filmmaker? I was born
and brought up in Kolkata. After studying at St Xavier’s, I did my masters
in Economics from Delhi School of Economics. I did a brief stint at the World
Bank, after which I became a business journalist and produced a business show
on television, where I was required to research, write and interview people for
the programme.
I disliked Delhi as a city and after five years of being a
journalist, I took a transfer to Mumbai, as I wanted to write films. I met Raj
Kaushal, who was a friend’s friend and told him that I wanted to write films.
He gave me my first film to write Anthony Kaun Hai, which Raj himself directed.
I then wrote the Kishore Kumar biopic and spoke to Ranbir Kapoor. This is
before Barfi. And then Anurag came on board to direct it. In the meantime, I
wrote Gulaab Gang and have directed it. My next film will be a biopic based on
the life of PC Sorcar, which I have written and will be directing too.  
did Gulaab Gang happen?
I actually wanted to do a ‘Western’ which is a big
film experience on the big screen. Anurag Basu and Sanjay Leela Bhansali give
their audiences that. Sholay would be the best Indian example of a Western.
Every Western has a protagonist and antagonist. And the underdog will take down
the really powerful guy. Also, Mirch Masala was a massive influence. I
believe that men are not big enough to empower women. And actually, if women are
financially independent, men become redundant in their lives. So we wanted to
create a masala film, where men are almost irrelevant. I have always been a
massive Madhuri fan. I presented the film to her completely avoiding eye
contact with her. I had written this film keeping only Madhuri in mind and she
said yes. If Madhuri had not said yes, this film would not have happened.

How different are Madhuri and Juhi to work with? Madhuri is somebody I can watch the Gunda video with. Gunda is a cult
classic starring Mithun Chakraborty and it is so bad that it is so good. It is
a D-grade film, but Madhuri gets it and loves it. I introduced her to it while
shooting. Juhi is far more prim and proper. She
is fun, but in a formal way. Madhuri is much more spontaneous than Juhi. Juhi
is a lot more studied, conscious and puts in a lot more thought.   Madhuri
is incredibly professional. She will be there for a 5 am shot at 4.45 am with
her makeup on. We had no stunt doubles or body doubles for any of the shots. Madhuri
is non-vegetarian, Juhi is vegetarian.
I remember when my associate
director came to meet me for the interview, I asked him only one question, ‘Are
you vegetarian?’ He said no. I said, ‘You are in.’
But I am way too
grateful to Juhi to allow me to break her mould.

Who are you most attached to? My mother. She is a very strangely crazy
person and I am a lot like her. She is extremely loving and gets into these
fits of this tempestuous anger, has a giving heart and likes to keep everybody
happy. She also has a very discerning eye for music, art and cinema and she is
a no-nonsense person when it comes to her telling you what she likes or doesn’t
like….She came here and I made her meet Madhuri who immediately touched
her feet. My mom immediately said, ‘See her upbringing.’

Are Bengali women dominating? I like dominating women as they are more



Looking for Mr Ali

So this is what we know. (2) people boarded with false passports. (5) people checked in but did not board the flight (their luggages were removed). The tickets for the mysterious (2) passengers were paid for by cash on the request of a Mr Ali, however the actual payment was by a friend (of Mr Ali).

Originally the (2) passengers were supposed to transit via Amsterdam. Since those tickets lapsed the request was for the cheapest, one-way ticket to Beijing.

IMO the whole thing sucks. If they were refugees trying to escape, they should have taken a flight to Europe. Why fly to China- they may even hang you for your pains.

This brings forward the million dollar question: who is Mr Ali?
A Thai travel agent who booked the men with stolen passports onto the missing plane, has told the FT that the tickets were arranged with an “Iranian contact” on behalf of clients looking for cheap tickets to Europe. 

Krutnait, owner of the Grand Horizon travel agency in Pattaya,
Thailand, said the Iranian, a long-term business contact who she knew
only as “Mr Ali”, first asked her to book cheap tickets to Europe for
the two men on March 1.
Ms Benjaporn initially reserved one of the men
on a Qatar Airways flight and the other on Etihad

But the
tickets expired when Ms Benjaporn did not hear back from Mr Ali. When he
contacted her again on Thursday, she rebooked the men on the Malaysia Airlines
flight through Beijing because it was the cheapest available.
Benjaporn booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines via a code
share arrangement.

 A friend of Mr Ali paid Ms Benjaporn cash for
the tickets,
she said, adding that it was quite common for people to
book tickets in Pattaya through middle men such as Mr Ali, who then take
a commission.



Globo-cops: omni-(p, s, p)

Some amount of sensationalism but all-in-all quite believable- the leanest, meanest, global (secret) fighting machine ever.

Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran (in
which eight U.S. service members died), U.S. Special Operations Command
was established in 1987.  Made up of units from all the service
branches, SOCOM is tasked with carrying out Washington’s most
specialized and secret missions, including assassinations,
counter-terrorist raids, special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare,
psychological operations, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass
destruction counter-proliferation operations.

In the post-9/11 era, the command has grown steadily.  With about 33,000 personnel in 2001, it is reportedly on
track to reach 72,000 in 2014.  (About half this number are called, in
the jargon of the trade, “badged operators” — SEALs, Rangers, Special
Operations Aviators, Green Berets — while the rest are support
personnel.)  Funding for the command has also jumped exponentially as
SOCOM’s baseline budget tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.9 billion
between 2001 and 2013.  If you add in supplemental funding, it had
actually more than quadrupled to $10.4 billion.

Not surprisingly, personnel deployments abroad skyrocketed from 4,900
“man-years” — as the command puts it — in 2001 to 11,500 in 2013. 
About 11,000 special operators are now working abroad at any one time and on any given day they are in 70 to 80 countries, though the New York Timesreported that, according to statistics provided to them by SOCOM, during one week in March 2013 that number reached 92.

Last year, Admiral McRaven, who previously headed the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC –
a clandestine sub-command that specializes in tracking and killing
suspected terrorists — touted his vision for special ops globalization. 
In a statement to the House Armed Services Committee, he said: “USSOCOM
is enhancing its global network of SOF to support our interagency and
international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness
of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small,
persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement
where necessary or appropriate…”

 In translation this means that SOCOM is weaving a complex web of
alliances with government agencies at home and militaries abroad to
ensure that it’s at the center of every conceivable global hotspot and
power center.  In fact, Special Operations Command has turned the planet
into a giant battlefield, divided into many discrete fronts: the
self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; the sub-unified command of U.S. Central
Command in the Middle East SOCCENT; the European contingent SOCEUR;
SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the
rest of the Asia-Pacific region; and SOCSOUTH, which conducts special
ops missions in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as
the globe-trotting JSOC.

Since 2002, SOCOM has also been
authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally
limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM.  These include Joint
Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, 500-600 personnel dedicated
to supporting counter-terrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf.

SOCOM’s reach and global ambitions go further still.  TomDispatch’s
analysis of McRaven’s first two full years in command reveals a
tremendous number of overseas operations.  In places like Somalia and Libya, elite troops have carried out clandestine commando raids.  In others, they have used airpower to hunt, target, and kill suspected militants.  Elsewhere, they have waged an information war using online propaganda. 
And almost everywhere they have been at work building up and forging
ever-tighter ties with foreign militaries through training missions and

“A lot of what we will do as we go forward in this force is build partner capacity,” McRaven said at
the Ronald Reagan Library in November, noting that NATO partners as
well as allies in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America  “are
absolutely essential to how we’re doing business.”

In March 2013, for example, Navy SEALs conducted joint training exercises with
Indonesian frogmen.  In April and May, U.S. Special Operations
personnel joined members of the Malawi Defense Forces for Exercise Epic
Guardian.  Over three weeks, 1,000 troops engaged in marksmanship, small
unit tactics, close quarters combat training, and other activities
across three countries — Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles.

In May, American special operators took part in
Spring Storm, the Estonian military’s largest annual training
exercise.  That same month, members of the Peruvian and U.S. special
operations forces engaged in joint training missions aimed at trading
tactics and improving their ability to conduct joint operations.  In
July, Green Berets from the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group spent
several weeks in Trinidad and Tobago working with members of that tiny
nation’s Special Naval Unit and Special Forces Operation Detachment. 
That Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise, conducted as part of
SOCSOUTH’s Theater Security Cooperation program, saw the Americans and
their local counterparts take part in pistol and rifle instruction and
small unit tactical exercises.

In September, according to
media reports, U.S. Special Operations forces joined elite troops from
the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries —
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei,
Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia — as well as their
counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China,
India, and Russia for a US-Indonesian joint-funded coun­terterrorism
exercise held at a training center in Sentul, West Java.

Tactical training was, however, just part of the story.  In March
2013, for example, experts from the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special
Warfare Center and School hosted a week-long working group with top
planners from the Centro de Adiestramiento de las Fuerzas Especiales —
Mexico’s Special Warfare Center — to aid them in developing their own
special forces doctrine.

In October, members of the Norwegian
Special Operations Forces traveled to SOCOM’s state-of-the-art Wargame
Center at its headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to
refine crisis response procedures for hostage rescue operations. 
“NORSOF and Norwegian civilian leadership regularly participate in
national field training exercises focused on a scenario like this,” said
Norwegian Lieutenant Colonel Petter Hellesen. “What was unique about
this exercise was that we were able to gather so many of the Norwegian
senior leadership and action officers, civilian and military, in one
room with their U.S counterparts.”

MacDill is, in fact, fast becoming a worldwide special ops hub, according to a report by the Tampa Tribune. 
This past fall, SOCOM quietly started up an International Special
Operations Forces Coordination Center that provides long-term
residencies for senior-level black ops liaisons from around the world. 
Already, representatives from 10 nations had joined the command with
around 24 more slated to come on board in the next 12-18 months, per
McRaven’s global vision.



“The sole survivor”

The shadow wars waged between Pakistan and India in Afghanistan as recounted by William Dalrymple.

As I have noted before, the wars will end when the elites decide that enough is enough. Let us hope that they have the wisdom to step up to the plate (together) sooner rather than later.

At six o’clock in the morning of February
26, 2010, Major Mitali Madhumita was awakened by the ringing of her
mobile phone. Mitali, a 35-year-old Indian army officer from Orissa, had
been in Kabul less than a year. Fluent in Dari, the most widely spoken
language in Afghanistan, she was there to teach English to the first
women officer cadets to be recruited to the Afghan National Army.

It was a sensitive posting, not so much because of gender issues as
political ones: India’s regional rival, Pakistan, was extremely touchy
about India providing military assistance to the government in
Afghanistan and had made it very clear that it regarded the presence of
any Indian troops or military trainers there as an unacceptable
provocation. For this reason everyone on the small Indian army English
Language Training Team, including Mitali, and all the Indian army
doctors and nurses staffing the new Indira Gandhi Kabul Children’s
Hospital, had been sent to Afghanistan unarmed, and in civilian dress.
They were being put up not in an army barracks, or at the Indian
Embassy, but in a series of small, discreet guest houses dotted around
the city’s diplomatic quarter.  

The phone call was from a girlfriend of Mitali’s who
worked for Air India at Kabul airport. Breathless, she said she had just
heard that two of the Indian guest houses, the Park and the Hamid, were
under attack by militants. 
As the only woman on her team, Mitali had
been staying in separate lodgings about two miles away from the rest of
her colleagues, who were all in the Hamid. Within seconds, Mitali was
pulling on her clothes, along with the hijab she was required to wear,
and running, alone and unarmed, through the empty morning streets of
Kabul toward the Hamid. 
“I just thought they might need my help,” she told me recently in New Delhi. 
As she dashed past the Indian Embassy, Mitali was
recognized by one of the guards from diplomatic security who shouted to
her to stop. The area around the guest houses was mayhem, he told her.
She should not go on alone. She must return immediately to her lodgings
and stay there.
“I don’t require your permission to rescue my
colleagues,” Mitali shouted back, and kept on running. When she passed
the presidential compound, she was stopped again, this time at gunpoint,
by an Afghan army security check post. Five minutes later she had
charmed one of the guards into giving her a lift in his jeep. Soon they
could hear bursts of automatic weapons, single shots from rifles and
loud grenade blasts. 
 “As we neared the area under attack I jumped out of the jeep and ran
straight into the ruins of what had been the Hamid guesthouse. It was
first light, but because of all the dust and smoke, visibility was very
low and it was difficult to see anything. The front portion of the
guesthouse was completely destroyed—there was just a huge crater.
Everything had been reduced to rubble.
A car bomb had rammed the front
gate and leveled the front of the compound. Three militants then
appeared and began firing at anyone still alive. I just said, ‘Oh my
God,’ and ran inside. 
“I found my way in the smoke to the area at the back
where my colleagues had been staying. Here the walls were standing but
it was open to the sky—the blast had completely removed the roof, which
was lying in chunks all over the floor. There was cross-firing going on
all around me, and the militants were throwing Chinese incendiary
grenades. Afghan troops had taken up positions at the top of the Park
Residence across the road and were firing back. I couldn’t see the
militants, but they were hiding somewhere around me.
“As quietly as I could, I called for my
colleagues and went to where their rooms had been, but I couldn’t find
them anywhere. I searched through the debris and before long started
pulling out bodies. A man loomed out of the gloom and I shouted to him
to identify himself. But he wasn’t a terrorist—he was the information
officer from our embassy and he began helping me. Together we managed to
get several injured people out of the rubble and into safety. 
“Then we heard a terrible blast. We later learned
that Major Jyotin Singh had tackled a suicide bomber, and by holding him
from behind had prevented him entering the Park Residence. The bomber
was forced to blow himself up outside. Jyotin had saved the lives of all
the medical team inside.
“But the only one of my colleagues who hadn’t been killed on the spot,
Major Nitesh Roy, died of his 40% burns in hospital three days later. I
was the only one of my team who came back alive.”



The Begums of Bhopal (new edition)

Bhopal was ruled by Nawabs and Begums stretching as far back as 1723 (dynasty founded by Nawab Dost Muhammad Khan Bahadur) [ref. wiki]. When India became independent Begum Sajida Sultan
(1915 – 1995)
was the last titular Begum of Bhopal until
1971 when India abolished royal entitlements. Upon the demise of Begum Sajida in 1995, the title was left
to her oldest daughter Nawabzadi Saleha Sultan Begum Sahiba, Bhopal
being a matriarchy.

File:Begum sajida sultan.jpg 

There are no more Begums, instead we have the cardholders of the Indian Muslim Women’s League (BMMA) who are meeting in Bhopal and developing strategies that will strive to preserve the secular, democratic nature of the Indian Republic. As the times change, it is fitting that people (and systems) change as well- common people coming together to shape the future of their fellow citizens as opposed to blindly following the dictates of a (not always) benign monarch.

….      Women leaders and volunteers of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
(BMMA) have urged women belonging to the minority community to come
together with men to safeguard democracy and secularism in the country.

In a clear indication
that it does not want members of the minority community to vote for the
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the press release said the BJP was propping up a prime ministerial candidate with a tainted record of deaths of innocents in Gujarat in 2002.

“There have been several riots across the country in the last two
years. All this really points to the potential return of communalism to
the centre-stage of Indian politics. It also indicates the fragility of
communal peace and the continuing communalisation of mind-sets and
sections of society.   The development bandwagon cannot continue in the
face of poverty, injustice and communal violence taking place in
different parts of the country,” said the press release. 



Pakistan and India: divided by a common culture

The aam aadmi on both sides of the border will mostly agree with the sentiments expressed by the author (but the elites will not). The cultural (and many other) bonds that are still intact have to be placed alongside the antipathy generated by the hot/cold war that has been going on for the last 67 years. To tell the truth, apart from the Balkans, there are probably few other examples that match the hostilities generated by the British partitions of India, Palestine, Cyprus, and Ireland. Finally, the mixed emotions about Indian movies are relevant for an Indian (middle-class) audience as well.

The only place where I disagree with the author (and this comes back from Zachary’s earlier note of a Pakistani and Indian muslim friendship) is that Pakistanis (and by extension the global media) automatically assume that Indians culture is primarily (even exclusively) Hindu, or even more alarmingly a muslim culture polluted by Hindu sentiments. In contrast I would imagine (perhaps wrongly) that  muslims in Kanpur and Karachi will be able to find a significant amount of overlap in their culture and world-views- to take one specific example, Indian muslims are jut as strongly anti-zionist as their brothers across the Ummah.

The reason I am pessimistic about even a cold peace is because the ideological differences are so hot and stark. Peace will come only when the elites will have had enough of war, that is for sure.

As India and Pakistan struggle to resolve their political differences
presently, there is an India/Pakistan-related struggle going on inside
me too.

My inner instincts tell me that a big part of my cultural heritage
relates to India. However, Pakistani ideologues and even some close
relatives tell me that it is unpatriotic to assert any cultural
attachment with India due to Pakistan’s political differences with that
country. Is it possible for a Pakistani to separate cultural and
political issues and simultaneously maintain cultural affinity but
political differences with India?

One must first analyse the
extent of similarity between Indian and Pakistani cultures. Culture
refers to societal ideas, customs and social behaviours and encapsulates
the domains of art, dress, language, food, family structures, religious
practices, festivals, traditions, values etc. There is admittedly
enormous cultural diversity within both countries and sweeping
comparisons between the two cultures are inappropriate.

it is also true that there is large similarity in the cultures of
Pakistan’s eastern regions (Sindh, Punjab and Azad Kashmir) and India’s
northern and western regions along most cultural aspects mentioned
above, eg art and dress. While Pakistanis living in the country’s
western regions obviously have more cultural linkages with Pakistan’s
western neighbours (eg Afghanistan), Pakistan’s eastern regions host the
bulk of the population. Thus, for the majority of Pakistanis, the large
cultural overlap with India is undeniable.

Religion obviously is
the main realm of exception to this cultural similarity
and since it
influences many traditions, there are differences too between Indian and
Pakistani cultures. Additionally, over the last three decades,
middle-class cultural values in the two countries have become more

Parts of the Pakistani middle class have unfortunately
become more conservative, xenophobic and intolerant. Conversely, the
Indian middle class has become more liberal and Westernised. This,
positively, has meant greater tolerance for diversity but also,
negatively, greater focus on materialism within Indian society in
contrast to the high degree of frugality that Indian middle classes
practiced traditionally.

The most visible manifestation of this
increasing difference in values is in movies and the media. Indian
movies are now increasingly exploring themes, eg in movies such as
Bombay Talkies, which can barely be mentioned even in liberal Pakistani
newspapers. On the negative side, it means that it is often difficult
now to watch Indian movies with family.

religious differences, I and a lot of other expatriate Pakistanis that I
know usually find it easier to relate with expatriate Indians due to
the strong linguistic and cultural linkages than with Muslims or
non-Muslims from Africa, the Middle East and Far East. Given these
cultural similarities, it does not make sense to disown such a large
part of one’s cultural legacy, especially one to which Muslims
contributed so much over the centuries before Partition. 

Trying to
disown such a large part of one’s cultural legacy can only have
negative repercussions for the individual and collective national
psyche. One must have the self-confidence and a sense of balance to be
able to assert cultural similarities with India without feeling ashamed,
guilty or unpatriotic.

Thus, over the last few decades, India has
arguably become the second largest exporter of culture (through the
export of its movies, music, food, etc) in the world after the US. I
must admit that whenever I see such Indian cultural artefacts being
appreciated globally, in places as diverse as Addis Ababa, Vietnam and
Israel, I cannot help feeling some sense of pride and personal
connection too.

Yet Indian movies portray Islam with respect and often on an
equal footing with Hinduism. In contrast, it is rare to see Pakistani
movies showing respect and positivity towards Hinduism. However,
when it comes to Pakistan, Indian movies are largely silent or portray
Pakistan negatively even though Pakistan is probably the biggest market
for them after India.



A few quick easy tips to a better and healthier life

I have noticed that in the West (or the Western way of living), we’ve acquired some fairly dangerous habits that when built up aren’t necessarily good for us. I do most of these however unfortunately I don’t have an Asian toilet.

  • Sit or Squat in the Toilet. I can’t emphasise how much better it is to squat in the toilet than it is to sit. In fact in the gym, the Squat is called the “King of the Exercises” and therefore to squat regularly is not only good for the bowels but also good as a general work out. Also while toilet hygiene is a separate matter on a like for like basis squatting is far cleaner because there is no contact (as opposed to sitting in a public toilet).

“You have a muscle that’s connected to your pelvis that in a sitting position cinches closed your colon and stops you from going completely and quickly, as you should do. In the squatting position this muscle is relaxed and you can go and your colon is straightened, which enables you to go quickly and much more completely,” Codling told ReutersSit or Squat? New Toilet Design Encompasses Best of Both Worlds [VIDEO]

  • Toilet paper vs. Lota. Continuing the East and West clash of civilisations in the toilet; it’s fairly self-evident that water washing is more hygienic than tissues. If you spill sticky liquid on a table you have to use wet tissues, which seems to me the best solution of them all. Of course technology again is helping as with the below.

“Paper just distributes the problem,” said Lenora Campos, a spokeswoman for Georgia-based Toto USA. Toto, the Japanese company that pioneered the modern electronic toilet seat, has sold 34 million of them globally. “We wash most things with water and wouldn’t dream of wiping a dish or anything else with a piece of paper and calling it clean. So why should personal hygiene be any different?” Home trends: High tech toilets may wash away need for toilet paper

I know this this is not common practice, but it is actually quite important! Fluoride, one of the active ingredients in toothpaste, doesn’t spend much time in contact when your teeth when you are brushing. Thus, it is crucial to let it work after you have already brushed your teeth. According to dentist Dr. Phil Stemmer, from The Fresh Breath Centre in London, “Rinsing washes away the protective flouride coating left by the toothpaste, which would otherwise add hours of protection.” If you are thirsty drink a glass of water before brushing your teeth!
Anytime you take a shower — especially a hot one — with soap and a scrubbing device like a washcloth or a loofah, you’re undermining the integrity of your skin’s horny layer. The soap and the hot water dissolve the lipids in the skin and scrubbing only hastens the process. The more showers you take, the more frequently this damage takes place and the less time your skin has to repair itself through natural oil production. What’s more, the horny layer of your skin can be sloughed off by scrubbing, exposing the delicate skin cells beneath. The result of showering too frequently is generally dry, irritated and cracked skin.
Another problem related to showering too often is the use of a towel to dry off. While rubbing yourself dry with a towel is common practice, it’s also a damaging one for your skin. Air drying is the optimal way to dry off following a shower, but if you don’t have time to wait for evaporation or don’t like tracking bathwater throughout your house, you can still use a towel. Just make sure it’s a soft one and use a gentle patting motion to absorb water.
  • Shower with Freezing Water. I’ve started to do this and it’s an amazing way to take on a life-changing habit that is beneficial to your hygiene, immunity, skin, metabolism and testosterone. You can google it but here are 7 reasons for showering with cold water.
  • If you want to stay fit just go on chewing your food. We’ve forgotten how to enjoy flavours in the rise of the Fast food culture but now I chew at least 10 times a bit and on Saturday night after a 12hour fast (we are in the Baha’i fasts at the moment up to Naw Ruz) I only had 2 pizza slices & a meat samosa. That’s roughly 400-800 calories after 12 hours of not eating. Here is (another) 7 Reasons why Chewing food is important for you.
  • This particular point is less empirical but I tend to take Aloe Vera (benefits are here), am looking at acupuncture, eating with chopsticks for East Asian foods and try hands for South Asian food (obviously I make sure my hands are thoroughly clean). Also because I chew thoroughly I tend to be more relaxed about what I eat because my portions are so much less. I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs (I don’t use a razor) but I’ll finish off here.