Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Samosa-seller's nap under a tree shade

See the photo on the left, a middle-aged samosa seller, with a stylish cap and the 'khizab' dyed oranged* beard sits under the shade of the tree and dozes off. Another samosa-seller sits under the same tree with the skull cap on.

The elder one seems to care least for the world around that moves at a frantic pace. I saw him reach the park with the samosas.

These samosas are not stuffed with potatoes. Rather they are filled with 'daal' and 'qeema'. The cost is same, Rs 2 each. Some kids who are playing in the park buy them. Two kids buy one samosa and each share half of it. That's the joy of childhood (especially in poor India where kids don't order bugers and pizzas on phone and this is an area close to a poor Muslim ghetto).

If somebody has Rs 5, he will give you 3 samosas. It's zohr time, the muezzin's call. Now the youths playing cricket have gone to the mosque. The 20-30 children who were watchig the game, have also left. The samosa-seller doesn't seem to be a person who will offer namaz five times or may be can't leave the samosas outside.

The other samosa wala mutters something and then sits on the other side of the same tree. Both know each other but there is no business talk. It's their routine. They seem quite content with their world. For them it's life as usual. I don't have camera, take snap from my cell phone camera.

No maddening pace, mobile phone calls, tasks and targets, boss' harassment or frustration over lesser salary hike. I return an hour later. The two are still there. The kids are back. They have sold more samosas. I also buy a few and talk to the elder one who is more like a hero. He has brought more daal samosas because meat is getting costlier. But there is no complaint in his voice.

They are quite happy with their lives. Who can pass a judgment on them. If somebody says they lack enterpreneural skills, don't try to improve in order to keep pace with the world to increase their earning, that's all useless. The make it at home and sell it, making rounds in by-lanes. No need to rent shop or worry about electricity bills et al. They are satisfied. Perhaps more than many of us.

Earlier, I had done a post on Chacha Miyan, the samosa-seller.
(*Khizab, the henna or mehndi is more used among Muslims to dye the hair)

Monday, May 26, 2008

After Cancer Hospital, Imran Khan building University: What about Indian cricketers?

It was Imran Khan's dream to build a Cancer Hospital in his mother's memory and we were all witness to the hardships he faced and the years he spent in collecting funds for the project, which he ultimately turned it into reality.

But Imran didn't stop with that and his next dream project was to establish a world class university in Pakistan where students of remote areas could study and get higher education. The University is now ready to start functioning.

The Namal University has been established in a picturesque location by the river side and amid mountains. It is already an associate institution of Bradford University and the idea is to develop it as the Oxford University of the East.

May be this sounds far-fetched but with the kind of faculty and the passion of this man, nothing seems impossible. But, it will surely be a place of learning of high standard, where the people of remote areas would get education, and they will also get scholarships.

What drives Imran Khan? Surely it is his love for his country, his people and his passion to do something good. Every honest person gets a feeling that the people who have given you so much love and respect, should also get something back from you.

Though as a politician, Imran Khan, may not have made a mark for himself as yet, he has shown his concern for the people and that he didn't join politics just for the heck of it. This is a lesson for everybody in this region of South Asia where health and education are two most neglected sectors.

Can't our heroes who earn millions ever think of such a project. I am nobody to put any onus on Gavaskars, Tendulkars, Kapils and the rest who have earned millions to pay back in some form. They may be doing charitable works but has anybody thought about humanitarian works at such a scale.

The celebrities do have an advantage over others. If they go out asking for money for a good project, innumerable people come forward to extend support in all possible ways from providing land to financial support. Shouldn't Indian cricket stars emulate Imran Khan?

The fallen hero of Indian cricket, Azharuddin got enormous respect until he got involved in a betting scandal. Couldn't Azza have better gone for a similar initiative. He didn't lack money and has the celebrity status.

But after his unceremonious exit from Indian team, Azharuddin, didn't go for establishing even a college or supporting an orphanage. What he did? He opened a Gym. Had Azhar got a little concern or vision for the society, he would have gone for something like Imran and that way the disgraced cricketer could have redeemed himself.
Alas, that's the difference!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Branding the Bangladeshi migrants as terrorists: Illegal immigration or a humanitarian crisis of displacement due to poverty and unemployment?

Am I hated because I am poor?
In the wake of the Jaipur blasts the entire nation is still sad and our hearts go out to the families who have lost their members in this madness.

We don't know who the real perpetrators are and in most of the recent cases of bomb blasts, the police haven't been able to catch the culprits.

But there is a clamour for deporting all the Bangladeshi migrants. Earlier, we used to hear names like Jaish, Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen. 

Now, with India and Pakistan cosying up, the name of Bangladesh-based HuJi is the first organisation on which the needle of suspicion is pointed after such an activity.

But should the entire Bangladeshi populace be blamed for this? The politicians are the first to create the hysteria. How can so many Bangladeshis be deported for the wrong-doing of a few persons and even this is not clear if the Bangladeshis were indeed responsible.

Aren't they humans? Is it just because they are poor? And is it urban India's prejudice and contempt for the poor that gets manifested in such demands. They are human beings, who toil hard to earn their bread.


In urban India, it is quite common to hear that yeh jhuggi jhopdi wale', as if those who live in slums are responsible for every menace including petty crimes and making the cities look ugly. 

The same upwardly middle-class and upper-class that can't manage without a domestic help and whose household comes at a standstill is the first to blame them for every ill, just because they are poor.

Barely a couple of days week, a girl Arushi Talwar was murdered in Noida and the murder mystery is yet to be cracked. But initially every channel and paper screamed, 'Nepali servant suspected to the killer' (and not that 'Servant suspected to be the killer').


Why it has to be a Nepali? Couldn't they have just said it, 'servant' or 'domestic help'. The word Nepali shouldn't have been used. But did anybody object? It is clearly racist and in no civilised society, it ought to be allowed to paint an entire group as criminal.

Is it that he was 'the other', an outsider and more so, a poor person. Later it was found that he was also murdered along with Arushi.

This reflects the hollowness of our society. Are all Nepalis criminals? Or, all Bangladeshis terrorists? Of course, the latter are mostly Muslims and have a different religion, which makes them even more an anathema for a large section of populace.

If Bangladeshis are infiltrating and living illegally, there should be a proper policy or they should be identified and given work permits, licences and allowed to live here. But you can't treat a poor person in this way just because he is desperate to feed his family and comes this far to eke out a living.

We all know that India is a target of terrorists. They attack mosques and temples, they kill Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Christians alike. And they ought to be caught. But that should happen. Unfortunately we don't see the real culprits arrested. We just hear jingoistic rhetoric and hysteria.


And who asks for the deportation? India's former deputy prime minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, who himself had left the land of his birth [now Pakistan] came to this country! Unfortunately the fiery speeches do little to help anybody's case or nab the culpirts.

In 1984, two guys killed Indira Gandhi and we had statements like 'A tree falls, tremors are felt' that gave virtual license to mob to kill innocent Sikhs. We must not lose sanity. A story 'The Usual Suspects' in The Daily Star of Bangladesh written by Naeem Mohaiemen starts with the quote:

"They let us cook rice-daal for them, let us raise their children, trust us with the keys to house-home-jewelry. And then they turn around and vote for people who call us terrorists and want to cut us into pieces and bury us inside the ground." -- Bangladeshi taxi driver in Delhi.


Round up the usual suspects. Calling Abdul, Rahman, Rahim, Karim, Salim. All you "illegal" Bangladeshi immigrants within our borders. Report to the newest detention centers. It's not who you say you are, it's what we say you are.

Bangladesh has emerged as the all-purpose "Nondo Ghosh" [joto dosh] for Indian intelligence agencies. Attack on train station? Defused bombs? Bicycle bombs? Bag bombs? It must be the ultra-efficient, tentacle-spreading spectre of "terrorist organisations based in Bangladesh."

There is enough to write on the issue. We, Indians, also go to other countries looking for jobs. I think there has been enough of hysteria. There must be a proper system to deal with unchecked migration--either permit system or certain other visa.

The situation is similar in Assam, where every Muslim, even those speaking Bengali and ethnic Assamese, are termed as foreigners and outsiders or 'settlers'. But poor can't be termed criminals and exploited. We must understand the humanitarian aspect. That's all I want to say for the moment. 

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Ice-cream seller

The photograph on the left shows an ice-cream seller and though most people may not find any thing special in the photo, for some of us it is indeed unique.

That's 'Zam Zam ice-cream' and the photograph is taken in Bundelkhand region of Central India, not in Lucknow or Hyderabad.

The name is written in Urdu script, which is striking. It is a rare sight these days to have Urdu script in shops, markets and households.

Earlier, I have posted similar photos like picture of Urdu nameplate on a Hindu household, but this photograph is different in the sense that it is taken in a region where there is hardly any conentration of Muslims.

And, unfortunately, Urdu has become a language of Muslims in this country.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reporting Romance in Urdu papers

Urdu is considered more suitable for expressing love. After all, the Urdu poets for centuries have been writing about 'ishq' and 'mohabbat'. The Urdu newspapers have a slightly different character and the reports about elopements are published quite prominently.

Headlines like 'Ishq mein giraftaar, aashnaa ke saath faraar' (Girl in love, runs away with youth) are quite common to see. Though such news items are read with great interest by readers in Hindi and other regional languages also, the Urdu vocabulary makes it a bit more eye-catching and often humrous.

Recently, I read a comprehensive report of a love affair between a 15-year-old girl of Mumbai and a 22 year old youth in a Urdu daily. The girl had called the youth at her place but when he reached to the window of her fifth floor house, she got scared probably due to the family members who were around her and he fell down from that height.

The guy was seriously injured and is in hospital. And this is not all. A case of theft attempt was also made against him. Undoubtedly it is one of the most comprehensive report you can ever read in any newspaper about the 'aashiqana bahaduri' (courage or foolhardiness of the lover, whatever you call it).

The story is that the girl had written a letter to the youth and told her to enter her room through the window. He did the same but the girl got unnerved and the youth had to suffer terrible consequences. He is in hospital with broken bones and also termed a thief.

The headline of the news was quite long: "Mahbooba se milne ke ishtiyaaq mein paanchvi manzil par chaDhne vaala naujavaan neeche gir kar zakhmi". And if this was not enough, the sub-headline was spread over five lines with a big font. The news was of course too long, with all details and at least had 750 words.

The poor aashiq must have been thinking that:

yeh ishq nahiiN aasaan....
ek buland imaarat hai aur kuud ke jaana hai
haddi tudvaa ke aana hai aur phir khabaroN meN bhii chhaa jaana hai....

Readers do expect good coverge to such a valiant effort. Scaling fifth floor is not an easy task. The report is surely interesting. Have you read it? Meanwhile, I had written a post when gunshots were fired in Najeebabad after a mushaira when two groups had an argument over the understanding of a couplet. Do read that also.

[Photo: Just the headline and sub-headline of the news]

Friday, May 09, 2008

Islam in Xinjiang (China): The survival of Uighur language

The Chinese Turkestan is a region that has a predominant Muslim population for centuries, but not much was known about Muslims in this region and other parts of China till recently.

With the Communist country, at last, opening its doors to outsiders and journalists rushing to Tibet and Xinjiang, new facets of Chinese life are emerging.

The photographs of the streets of the Western region of Xinjiang surprised me. Like the picture on the left (above) that shows Arabic alphabets.

The signboards were readable and the script was Arabic and similar to Urdu. Such signboards are common in this region of China.

The Uyghur language which is written in Arabic script is spoken by over 10 million people but it is surely a miracle that despite state oppression, the script has survived to this day.

In India, within sixty years after independence Urdu script has almost gone out of public life even in Muslim dominated towns of North India. Here the State governments may be apathetic to the language but the situation is not that bad either, as academies have been established to promote it.

But the survival of the Uyghur language's script is nothing short of a miracle in a closed country like China. Though Xinjiang (formerly Sinkiang) may be called Chinese Turkistan, it had little contact even with Muslim countries of Central Asia that were also under Communist rule.

But for over a millennium the script survived in this region. And this is truly mind-boggling. The Uighurs have braved persecution for centuries. Under the communist rule the mosques were closed and it was no allowed to build mosques.

Other than Xinjiang, Muslims form a large section of population in Gansu, Ningxia, Yunnan, Henan and other provinces including Central China. Apart from Uyghurs, the Hui also number over 10 million and are mostly Muslims.

Even cities as far as Lynxia have a predominantly Muslim population and has 30-odd mosques. Xian, an important city that was considered the end of Silk route also has substantial Muslims and so is the capital Beijing.

Another interesting fact about Hui Muslims is that many of them write Ha for Hasan and Hu for Husain in their names. Also, Ma and Han are used for Muhammad. Clearly, we need to know a lot about China!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gujarat 'encounter cop' Vanzara beaten up in jail by sub-ordinate

Not many high-profile offenders have to pay for their misdeeds in this country, as they mostly manage to get away due to their connections and money.

Else, the victim doesn't have the resources to fight the case court after court, hiring the best lawyers.
But there are exceptions.

Remember DIG DG Vanzara, an accused in the Sohrabuddin-Kausar Bi-Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case.

The 'killer cop' who came from a poor background, was helped in his education by Muslims of his native village and had later became a pointsman for the rioters during the Gujarat carnage, is certainly paying for his sins in the .

Almost a year in the jail Vanzara's bail plea has been rejected by Supreme Court and now he has to suffer the ultimate humilation of being beaten up by his own sub-ordinate, a disgrace of highes degree in any force.

DSP NK Amin hit Vanzara with a bat in Sabarmati Jail and the authorities had to intervene. Amin was angry with Vanzara and told him that it was due to his wrong doings that the rest of the cops including Rajasthan's IPS officer Dinesh MN are in jail.

The brother of Sohrabuddin who was killed in a fake encounter, has managed to fight the case up to the Supreme Court. And this has made the difference. Now, with SC refusing to entertain their plea, no junior court can dare to let the accused go out on bail.

Times of India report recently said that most of these accused would retire behind bars. Vanzara has seven years of service left and others have more years in police department to serve. But it's not easy for them to get away.

It was not just Sohrabuddin but his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsi Ram Prajapati who were killed in cold blood. With more encounters haunting Vanzara, it seems his fate will, at least, dissuade many others like him who act as points-men for their political masters in disregard to law and forgetting all rules of the civilized society.

The role of Gujarat police remains a blot on Indian police force. Officers of the police worked as killers, sided with rioters, misguided the military and let the carnage continue but hopefully the fate of Vanzara and other cops will be a lesson for rogue policemen.

It was just a year ago that on this blog a story about Vanzara, his Rs 150 crore empire and the entire episode was posted. Read it here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shia-Sunni clash in Lucknow

Once again Lucknow witnessed a Shia-Sunni clash on Tuesday. Though over a dozen persons were injured, the violence didn't spread and was effectively controlled.

It was the same area of Walled City: Husainabad, that again witnessed the groups of Shia and Sunni youths indulging in stone pelting and rioting.

The trouble started over a petty argument over rickshaw fare and as those quarrelling belonged to different sects, it led to tension and soon supporters of both the sides came to streets.

Though Lucknow has a long history of such sectarian conflict, it was felt that old days of Shia-Sunni tension are a thing of past. Specially after the ban on Azadari and the Madah-e-Sahaba procession was lifted, it was believed that the things would get normal. However many such clashes have occurred in Old City in the last couple of years.

Lucknow is known to be a City that doesn't have a Hindu-Muslim friction, rather it is Shia-Sunni schism that this place is notorious for. Though the scale of violence was not much on this occasio and police controlled the situation well, such incidents that keep occurring at regular intervals keep the tensions alive and the mistrust among both sects continues in the City.