We are alive but not really! Yes, one is breathing, so technically zinda but can one call this living? No, we can’t. Gloom is spreading out, with the economy hitting well below the crucial minus, viruses of the various hues are killing the young and old, joblessness and restlessness hitting many more …deprived and depressed and dejected, hundreds and thousands are dying each single day, in this doomsday like situation!
Is this what can be called governance? Mind you, lockdown was imposed without any prior bandobast and now its opening up when the Coronavirus is spreading its fangs as never before. What’s on! Who is playing with our lives!
There has never been this level of misrule. Of course, signs were writ-large right from 2014. In fact, one of the biggest setbacks was demonetization. In fact, 2016 will be remembered as the year of ‘notebandi’ (demonetization). And in 2017, Mahatma Gandhi was ‘removed’ from the charkha and his place ‘over taken’ by Narendra Modi. Those shots of Khadi Udyog’s new-year calendar hit the masses. …Many, many other realities hit. Are continuing to hit. But dissent is the new forbidden word in the political climate of the day, where intolerance and hate is getting whipped up to those un- imaginable limits.
Today the hate propaganda and divisive strategies is getting fiercer and uglier. How else can one explain that television channels like the Sudarshan channel seem to be equipped with the license to even question the recruitments to the civil service!
In fact, whilst on the hate mongering channels and their supporters and promoters, I’m more than provoked to say that one was completely taken aback to read that the Dairy giant of the country, Amul, decided to lend support to the Sudarshan channel, via their ‘utterly butterly’ advertisements … I have been left dismayed and disappointed to such an extent that I have decided never ever to buy any of the Amul products.
Earlier, I did enjoy having Amul dairy products, but one has to forgo all that. No, one cannot consume and digest anything that is sold and marketed by supporters to hate! …Whilst keying in, I’m reminded of my teenaged years, when we had boycotted Israeli-made products, in the backdrop of the Israeli government’s atrocities heaped on the hapless Palestinians.
On the passing away of the Pranab Mukherjee
With the passing away of the former President of India, Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, I have been sitting thinking of that one lone occasion when one could walk up to him and exchange greetings during that brief interaction with him at a reception that he, as President of India, had hosted at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
This was around 2014 when I was invited for a reception where Dr Pranab Mukherjee exchanged greetings and also spoke to the guests. In fact, that was my very last entry into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, as thereafter my name was probably struck off the guest list as I got no further invites. In all probability, with the Right-Wing government coming centre- stage, journalists and writers who write too persistently and constantly against the right-wing government’s policies, have been taken off the guest list for any of the government-hosted functions or dos or get-togethers …Perfectly fine by me. Anyway, I’ve always tried to keep away from the Who’s Who except when journalistic assignments got me interacting with them, for the write-ups and interviews for the various newspapers and publications.
Getting back to that 2014 evening when I attended the reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan lawns hosted by Dr Pranab Mukherjee. Dressed in a black achkan/ shervani, he made it a point to not just greet the guests but to even talk to the many present there …. There was a pleasant smile on his face, and he across as a warm friendly person, with a strong personality.
Not to overlook the vital fact that all these years one had been hearing details to his intellectual prowess. Much later I reviewed one of his books — ‘The Coalition Years — 1996-2012’ ( Rupa), but unfortunately couldn’t get to grasp any of the lesser known aspects to him, as that book has been written with a very obvious cautious strain to it.
Perhaps, written along the expected strain — after all, seasoned politicians are cautious whilst writing about the political ‘happenings’ and do not come up with anything which could unsettle the already settled creases. It’s one of those ongoing dismal realities of the times we are destined to be living in. Nah, no dragging out skeletons from political cupboards, no revealing of the behind-the-scene happenings, no clearing haze from the build-ups, no direct queries or accusations heaped on any of the political rulers. Also, certain specific happenings complexly bypassed. No mention of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
How I wish Dr. Pranab Mukherjee had taken us back stage to some of the happenings on the political scenario. After all, he was in the midst of the political scene for decades — he entered Parliament at the age of 34 and rose to become the 13th President of India. During his political years he had held various portfolios- Minister of Defence, External Affairs, Commerce and Finance. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha five times and twice to the Lok Sabha and he was also member of the Congress Working Committee for 23 years.
Above all, he’d been a witness to the several turbulent political phases in the country. After all, right from the mid-90s, India has been witnessing changing political patterns with the rise of the right-wing parties.
Razia Sultan still around!
Whilst reviewing Bushra Alvi Razzack edited anthology — ‘Dilliwali — Celebrating The Woman Of Delhi Through Poetry — A Multilingual Anthology’ (Authors Press), what surprised me that many of today’s poets have focused on the queens and princesses of Delhi who ruled centuries back. It seems their charisma stands undiluted.
There is verse on Zeenat Mahal, Razia Sultan, Princess Zebunnisa, Begum Samru, Jahanara Begum …What further surprised is that there’s verse after verse on Razia Sultan, tucked in the pages of this anthology. Space constraints come in way of quoting extensively but nevertheless I’m keen to put in here a couple of these verses, which remind us what a great ruler she indeed was!
These lines of Aabha Vatsa, from her poem- Mallika Delhi: Razia Sultan —
“Razia Sultan, the darling daughter/
Of Iltutmish, the Sultan of Delhi/
Was born with a meteoric destiny/
That blazed Medieval India. /
Her reign of less than four years/
A torch bearer/
Not just for women of the contemporary world/
But as long as life exists/
But the Supreme Sultan herself/
Grew up as a princess/
Regal and beautiful/
Totally aware of the destiny/
That Allah had bestowed on her…”
And this verse of poet Rajesh Joshi, titled – Razia Sultan
“Though soft at heart/
Melting at a glance/
Of that big black man, Altunia/
A slave /
And she a princess/
She was a woman of substance/
Reigning her rule over Delhi/
The first ever Muslim woman ruler/
Surpassing her two brothers/
In matters of mind /
In matters of might /
Holding the sword in her young hands /
Dropping off the veil/
And donning the garb of a man/
Refusing to be called Sultana/
Just the wife of a king/
Sultan herself was she/
Fighting till the end/
Though soft was she at heart/
To fall in love/
To look into the sorrows of her people/
Yet strong enough/
To be remembered till day/
The Razia Sultan/
Not only ruling over the sultanate of Delhi/
But the heart of people too.”
And also these lines of poet Abhay K.
Queen and king fused in one/
As Ardhnarishwar- Parvati and Shiva/
I ruled the court dominated by men/
With my seductive charm/
As a tigress/
Gently turning the wheel of time/
Delhi eagerly awaits my return/
To rescue her women/
Raped in moving vehicles/
To answer their distress calls.”