Sunday, March 22, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
By Vir Sanghvi
Few things annoy me as much as the claim often advanced by well-meaning but woolly- headed (and usually Punjabi) liberals to the effect that when it comes to India and Pakistan , "We’re all the same people, yaar."
This may have been true once upon a time. Before 1947, Pakistan was part of undivided India and you could claim that Punjabis from West Punjab (what is now Pakistan ) were as Indian as, say, Tamils from Madras .
But time has a way of moving on. And while the gap between our Punjabis (from east Punjab which is now the only Punjab left in India) and our Tamils may actually have narrowed, thanks to improved communications, shared popular culture and greater physical mobility, the gap between Indians and Pakistanis has now widened to the extent that we are no longer the same people in any significant sense.
This was brought home to me most clearly by two major events over the last few weeks.
The first of these was the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on the streets of Lahore . In their defence, Pakistanis said that they were powerless to act against the terrorists because religious fanaticism was growing. Each day more misguided youngsters joined jihadi outfits and the law and order situation worsened.
Further, they added, things had got so bad that in the tribal areas the government of Pakistan had agreed to suspend the rule of law under pressure from the Taliban and had conceded that sharia law would reign instead. Interestingly, while most civilised liberals should have been appalled by this surrender to the forces of extremism, many Pakistanis defended this concession.
Imran Khan (Keble College, Oxford, 1973-76) even declared that sharia law would be better because justice would be dispensed more swiftly! (I know this is politically incorrect but the Loin of the Punjab ’s defence of sharia law reminded me of the famous Private Eye cover when his marriage to Jemima Goldsmith was announced. The Eye carried a picture of Khan speaking to Jemima’s father. “Can I have your daughter’s hand?” Imran was supposedly asking James Goldsmith. “Why? Has she been caught shoplifting?” Goldsmith replied. So much for sharia law.)
The second contrasting event was one that took place in Los Angeles but which was perhaps celebrated more in India than in any other country in the world. Three Indians won Oscars: A.R. Rahman, Resul Pookutty and Gulzar.
Their victory set off a frenzy of rejoicing. We were proud of our countrymen. We were pleased that India ’s entertainment industry and its veterans had been recognised at an international platform. And all three men became even bigger heroes than they already were.
But here’s the thing: Not one of them is a Hindu.
Can you imagine such a thing happening in Pakistan ? Can you even conceive of a situation where the whole country would celebrate the victory of three members of two religious minorities? For that matter, can you even imagine a situation where people from religious minorities would have got to the top of their fields and were, therefore, in the running for international awards?
On the one hand, you have Pakistan imposing sharia law, doing deals with the Taliban, teaching hatred in madrasas, declaring jihad on the world and trying to kill innocent Sri Lankan cricketers. On the other, you have the triumph of Indian secularism.
The same people?
We are defined by our nationality. They choose to define themselves by their religion.
But it gets even more complicated. As you probably know, Rahman was born Dilip Kumar. He converted to Islam when he was 21. His religious preferences made no difference to his prospects. Even now, his music cuts across all religious boundaries. He’s as much at home with Sufi music as he is with bhajans. Nor does he have any problem with saying ‘Vande Mataram’.
Now, think of a similar situation in Pakistan . Can you conceive of a Pakistani composer who converted to Hinduism at the age of 21 and still went on to become a national hero? Under sharia law, they’d probably have to execute him.
Resul Pookutty’s is an even more interesting case. Until you realise that Malayalis tend to put an ‘e’ where the rest of us would put an ‘a,’ ( Ravi becomes Revi and sometimes the Gulf becomes the Gelf), you cannot work out that his name derives from Rasool, a fairly obviously Islamic name.
But here’s the point: even when you point out to people that Pookutty is in fact a Muslim, they don’t really care. It makes no difference to them. He’s an authentic Indian hero, his religion is irrelevant.
Can you imagine Pakistan being indifferent to a man’s religion? Can you believe that Pakistanis would not know that one of their Oscar winners came from a religious minority? And would any Pakistani have dared bridge the religious divide in the manner Resul did by referring to the primeval power of Om in his acceptance speech?
The same people?
Most interesting of all is the case of Gulzar who many Indians believe is a Muslim. He is not. He is a Sikh. And his real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra.
So why does he have a Muslim name?
It’s a good story and he told it on my TV show some years ago. He was born in West Pakistan and came over the border during the bloody days of Partition. He had seen so much hatred and religious violence on both sides, he said, that he was determined never to lose himself to that kind of blind religious prejudice and fanaticism.
Rather than blame Muslims for the violence inflicted on his community — after all, Hindus and Sikhs behaved with equal ferocity — he adopted a Muslim pen name to remind himself that his identity was beyond religion. He still writes in Urdu and considers it irrelevant whether a person is a Sikh, a Muslim or a Hindu.
Let’s forget about political correctness and come clean: can you see such a thing happening in Pakistan ? Can you actually conceive of a famous Pakistani Muslim who adopts a Hindu or Sikh name out of choice to demonstrate the irrelevance of religion?
My point, exactly.
What all those misguided liberals who keep blathering on about us being the same people forget is that in the 60-odd years since Independence, our two nations have traversed very different paths.
Pakistan was founded on the basis of Islam. It still defines itself in terms of Islam. And over the next decade as it destroys itself, it will be because of Islamic extremism.
India was founded on the basis that religion had no role in determining citizenship or nationhood. An Indian can belong to any religion in the world and face no discrimination in his rights as a citizen.
It is nobody’s case that India is a perfect society or that Muslims face no discrimination. But only a fool would deny that in the last six decades, we have travelled a long way towards religious equality. In the early days of independent India , a Yusuf Khan had to call himself Dilip Kumar for fear of attracting religious prejudice.
In today’s India , a Dilip Kumar can change his name to A.R. Rahman and nobody really gives a damn either way.
So think back to the events of the last few weeks. To the murderous attack on innocent Sri Lankan cricketers by jihadi fanatics in a society that is being buried by Islamic extremism. And to the triumphs of Indian secularism.
Don’t make me laugh.
Add your comments:
Btw, it is actually the triumph of the traditional Indian pluralism !
Saturday, March 7, 2009
When Insults Had Class :
When Insults Had Class (no 4-letter words!!) These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language was taken over by American slang and curse words and got boiled down to 4-letter words, not to mention waving middle fingers.
The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, 'If you were my husband I'd give you poison,' and he said, 'If you were my wife, I'd drink it.'
A member of Parliament to Disraeli: 'Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.' 'That depends, Sir,' said Disraeli, 'whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.'
'He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.' - Winston Churchill
'A modest little person, with much to be modest about.' - Winston Churchill
'I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. 'Clarence Darrow '
He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.' - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).
'Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?' - Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)
'Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.' - Moses Hadas
'I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.' - Mark Twain
'He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.' - Oscar Wilde
'I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one.' - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
'Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one.' - Winston Churchill, in response.
'I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here.' - Stephen Bishop
'He is a self-made man and worships his creator.' - John Bright
'I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.' - Irvin S. Cobb
'He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.' - Samuel Johnson
'He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.' - Paul Keating
'There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure.' Jack E. Leonard
'They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.' - Thomas Brackett Reed
'In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.' - Charles, Count Talleyrand
Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?' - Mark Twain
'His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.' - Mae West
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.' - Oscar Wilde
'He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts.. . for support rather than illumination. ' - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I wish I were in Dubai right now
"When You and I behind the Veil are past, Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last, Which of our Coming and Departure heeds As the Sea's self should heed a pebble-cast"....Omar Khayyam
"Bura Jo Dekhan Main Chala, Bura Naa Milya Koye.. Jo Munn Khoja Apnaa, To Mujhse Bura Naa Koye "...Kabir
"Punarapi Jananam, punarapi maranam, punarapi janani, jathare shayanam..Iha samsaare, bahu dustare, kripaya paare paahi Muraare"...Bhaja Govindam, Adi Shankaracharya
" Soul receives from soul that knowledge, therefore not by book
nor from tongue.
If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind, that is
illumination of heart."....Rumi
"Chal Way Bullehya Chal O'thay Chaliyay
Jithay Saaray Annay
Na Koi Saadee Zaat PichHanay
Tay Na Koi Saanu Mannay"
And I wish they were still around...
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
But I do wonder. The Shiv Sena has had an anti Pak stance forever. It has been against the Pakistani artists entering any Indian arena, the Pakistani Cricket team playing here, etc. We have all condemned them for this. Now Lahore happens...with SL.
MNS has something against Non Maharashtrians coming into the state and taking up jobs which might otherwise be available to locals. I don't accept that Maharashtra is not a part of India although this whole United India is a Mughal and British concept and never was an "Indian" one to begin with. Still, we ARE one country and we must respect our own rights and those of others everywhere. Right. But if that is true, development must happen all over India too and not only in certain 'flogged to near death' pockets. Thankfully, that change is happening now...beginning with Gujrat. But they have Modi...oops!
Bal-T wanted South Indians ( I am one myself) out...he didn't like Dharavi and its predominantly South Indian population...coming into Mumbai following impossible dreams and living in squalor in an attempt to realise them. Dharavi is still there and it has grown and grown. And now it is full of locals and people from other parts of the country ...impoverished and probably without any means to get out of that trap.
Boyle makes a movie about it. Suddenly some like me are shamed, some are over the moon, some are staring at us like we're fools to even react.
And the Thackrays are wrong. I have always said that too. They are wrong... like they have always been because they are too arrogant to know how to package and market their obvious intelligence and intelligent concerns the way the pacifists and apologists and bootlicking politicians from 'SECULAR' parties package and market their spineless stupidity to us, the Indians.
While the civilised world is up in arms against child abuse and slavery, Slumdog Millionaire continues to make news. Meanwhile the children from Dharavi are back where they belong (??) and are unable to cope with the sharp U turn their lives have taken. Read more here. The trauma has just begun to unfold.