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Friday, November 29, 2013

Let the court decide …

I put the earlier post up on my blog because several people told me they could not read the post on Shumaila's website that I had quoted on Facebook and Twitter. I am glad that many people have now read it … and also the letter by the girl in response that Amima posted. I think more people should read ALL the stories. Question them. Have views. Not be abusive. Write about what they think. But wait before the court's decision …

As far as I am concerned, I am neither for nor against the girl — I made sure never to mention her name anywhere on Twitter. I know it because of having seen her at ThinkFest.

Tarun (even though I do know him) has to accept what the court decides after looking at all evidence. I don't think I, or anyone,  has the right to pre-judge it, but people do. Again, I do not criticise them. That's their choice, I guess.

The Indian Media has gone haywire, just like the Pak media does. I hope they'll show the decency of not bringing his wife or his kids into this and writing articles. Yes, that I very certainly hope, as I would for my daughter in case I was being criticised.

A 'once-friend', which is how she'd now prefer to be known, has been overly critical of me for defending Tarun. I have done nothing but to retweet links that show that he must be given a fair trial, that the CCTV footage must be shown. There are enough media links favouring the girl, which maybe fine, but I think someone should get this out as a message, too. Whether it is bad for Tarun, I don't know. Both sides MUST be heard is what I want!!!

Sadly I am not too happy with most of the Indian Media which, at times, is worse than our own — and that's really something! Their bizarre handling of this is understandable: It sells papers/airtime. But its not the best way to approach this, in my opinion.

The BJP's extra-ordinary pressure was also disgusting, including Jolly's actions at Shoma's house. I haven't seen any Congress members come to the fore, but if they do, I'd hate that, too. Let the court decide!

I have been asked in email about what I would do if Tarun were my son. Nothing. I may be have been very fond of him, even cry at what has happened, but I'd have to let the law take its proper course and find out if he is true or not. Whether it is rape, molestation, murder, whatever. That's how I feel.

I have been asked by a chap (and again by the once-friend) on Twitter, who told me that I should not respond to her so I didn't, what would be my view if the girl were my daughter? Again, I'd hope the case was right and be helpful in all ways … but the final verdict would come from the court. Not me.

This is why we have courts. Personal emotions, however sad, cannot over-ride the court's finding — except through going to another court and so on. In the case of Talwars who have been given a Life Sentence in India (though there is little to say that they were guilty, since no evidence was found) there are several people who feel that they should appeal against the verdict. This is AFTER the court has made its decision, which I am in agreement with, too.

Finally, the once-friend says I 'censored' the girl's mailed response. I didn't. Someone called Amima posted it as a comment. If she did, one will have to ask her why.


Saturday 30th November. Shumaila asked me questions on the Facebook and I responded to all of them. Somehow (?) the responses got deleted … Shit! Here they are again, in the Comments spot, though not exactly as I had written them as I have no record of the originals. But the gist is the same.

Do read.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tarun Tejpal's first letter to the girl … shared by Shumaila

Tarun Tejpal's original letter leaked
From: "Tarun J Tejpal"
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 09:50:52
To: ...
Subject: Personal

Dear ...
This is not the formal apology you seek. That will follow in a few minutes too. This is the informal one, for you and me.
I am sorry at the immense distress that's been caused to you by my lapse of judgment, but I want you to know its been totally devastating for me too, in every possible way (and since you know Tiya and Geetan well, you would know what I am saying).
This is for me to figure out how it went so terribly misunderstood and wrong. To begin with, for ten years at Tehelka one has ensured no shadow of anything limits or cramps the women journalists. At every forum, public and private, I have lauded the great work done by Tehelka's women reporters and editors; and have personally always stayed at arm's length. You yourself were always treated with the highest regard and accommodation and affection, and nothing ever asked of you save great work. Your continuous growth was always a source of pride. That you were tasked to escort De Niro was merely the latest token of our trust.
The context that ill-fated evening, of our conversation, as you will recall, was heavily loaded. We were playfully and flirtatiously talking about desire, sex; you were telling me the Bob Geldof story in graphic detail, and about Aman, and the near-impossibility of fidelity; and of the aftermath of meeting me one stormy evening in my office when I was sitting watching the thunderclouds. I also want to clarify that yes, you did say at one point that I was your boss, and I did reply "that makes it simpler" but in the very same breath and sentence I said to you "I withdraw that straight away - no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that".
It was in this frivolous, laughing mood that the encounter took place. I had no idea that you were upset, or felt I had been even remotely non-consensual, until Tiya came and spoke to me the next night. I was shocked and devastated at the time. Both because you felt I had imposed on you (which had neither been my reading or intention), and because I felt I had been totally irresponsible and foolish to have anything furtive to do with my daughter's intimate friend. At that very moment I was filled with shame, and still am. (And what is not true is that I ever, even remotely, whispered any word in intimidation.)
You have made it clear that I read it all wrong, and I will not dispute it, nor underplay your anger and hurt. This is easily the worst moment of my life - something ostensibly playful gone so horribly wrong, damaging of all that I hold dear in life, from people to principles.
I ask you to forgive and forget it. I will meet your mom and apologise to her too - and Aman if you so wish. I also want you to keep working at Tehelka as you always have, reporting to Shoma as you do. Both Tehelka and Shoma have never let you down.
My punishment has already been upon me, and will probably last till my last day.

Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel

Friday, November 15, 2013

Joe Sacco takes you into …

… a world that many of us read about in our newspaper stories or see bits of it on newscasts.

Having written about Guy Delisle in a previous post, I thought I'd go back a little further in time and have a column on Joe Sacco (mentioned in Delisle's book, Jerusalem).

Born October 2, 1960 (that's 20 years after my birth), Sacco is considered a luminary and is best known for his comics journalism.

His strips have been put together in books and you should certainly get Palestine (1996) and Footnotes from Gaza (2009) since they are both available at The Last Word.

As it says on the Internet, "… these comic strips are investigations into two little-known and long-forgotten massacres in 1956 in the southern Gaza Strip that left at least 500 Palestinians dead. It is a chilling look back at an unrecorded past and an exploration of how that past haunts and shapes the present - including the beginning of mass home demolitions in 2003 in Rafah."

So let's start with "Palestine", which was the first Sacco book that I read. The illustrations are amazing and you are carried right into Palestine. 

The violence is everywhere and you feel it much more with the cold print in your hand, rather than the 5-minute video on TV (between two ads that tell you that you'd be beautiful if you were fair) or a newspaper report that carries this item amongst serious news stories, like the PM having gone to Hajj (on our money!) or the Governor (generally a friend/brother of the PM) opening a Mithai Ki Dookaan the belongs to his wife's nephew.

You get to feel the pain, understand the dogged perseverance of the families, and those around each victim.

Edward Said was right when he said this about Palestine — "A political and aesthetic work of extraordinary originality, quite unlike any other in the long, often turgid and hopelessly twisted debates that have occupied Palestinians, Israelis, and their respective supporters. With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Socco."

Hooked by Sacco's first book, I got  "Footnotes from Gaza", next. Wow. Absolutely astounding. 
His images were thrilling, the details were brilliant, crowds were captured superbly - making you feel you were part of that lot.

Scenes after devastations were drawn so brilliantly … but never did you get lost only in the images. The text was always there to take you much deeper, through small pieces that were thrown about … to large texts that led you through the war.


So, naturally, I went right ahead and got
The Fixer — A Story from Sarajevo. 

Away from the Middle East, this book took me through the mind of a man discussing things about his past - (was all of it true or not?) - to Joe Sacco, who appears as the lead, the one who is doing most of the talking, in all his comics and novels.

Take a look at a street scene. Look at the faces. Look in the background and see the other drawings of people. It must take hours of work to get a drawing like this done. And Sacco does this all the time!

And details? Look at the rape victim lying in the bottom left. Just a hint of it because your eyes are focused on the soldier's back. Then you look at it … Wow!!!

I hope T2F gets this book for sale, too. Many would adore it.


Notes from a Defeatist was an earlier book by Sacco, I think, but I received it much later when Sabeen Mahmud brought it for me from her UK trip. My recommendation is that if you are new to Joe Sacco you read the first three books mentioned above before you buy this work of his. It takes him away from the wars and on to other interesting subjects. 


But do that only if you love his art, as much as I do.

(The above book is for Mature Readers, only!)

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Received this many years ago …

Happy Birthday Tanya

Just thought I'd let you know
I still have this with me:

and while we are at it, here's Nadia

and Sasha, too!

 And a lovely illustration from you

Much love to all of you.
Hugs & Kisses.

Uncle Zaheer

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Allama Iqbal / Mir Taqi Mir

I have shared both of these in one post as I was reminded of them after a conversation I had today with an old friend. Both date back to 1955 … at the Shezan Restaurant on Victoria Road. Time flies: The road has been renamed Abdullah Haroon Road. And dear old Shezan is not there anymore since the late 70s.

Shezan was quite a place, though, if you remember ever being there. There were always people who, sadly, are no longer alive today: Z A Bokhari, Nasir Jehan, Zia-ul Hasan Moosvi, and my uncle, Ayub Minai. His brother, Sulaiman Minai, so much fun to be with, was there more frequently than others. Sadly he is now very ill. There were always other writers and poets and journalists who gathered at Shezan, stayed for hours, lived off their tea, coffee, patties, and pastries … though not in the quantity that the owners would have liked: a round lasted hours.

What was the conversation like? Mainly it was was about Literature, Music, and the people who made it all happen for many of us. And, for some odd reasons, there was a lot of talk about Assassinations.

For students like me going there was expensive, unless you had uncles or parents friends paying for your cold drinks … as well as for your friends :) The students sat in a circle around these people, just listening to them speak, recite their favourite shayrs, and discuss people these giants had admired … or not. It was one of the finest periods of learning that we ever had.


One of my favourites was this story about Allama Iqbal, though I can't name the source because he is still alive. Here it is for those of you celebrating Iqbal day.

Imagine, that you are a person who is in a desert
and hasn't eaten for days.
You've had no water.
You are tired after walking and walking and walking.
Suddenly you come across a 'dastarkhaan' 
filled with drinks and food.
There are Wines of the best quality.
Food that you'd only dreamt of:
Nihaari, Haleem, Murghé Müsallam, Pülaao,
Seekh Kabaabs, Parathay, Birhaiyyaañ, Sheer Maal.
At the end of the table are dishes of sweets:
Shahi Tük∂ay (not with todays Western bread
but with bits of Doodh mayñ bhigoee Sheer Maal in it),
Lakhnaoo Ki Baalaai, Kheer, Sheer Khürma,
Baalai Ki Barf … on and on and on.
You start on this and keep eating until your stomach
is almost bursting. You have never ever eaten or drank
like this before.
That was Masnavi Maolaana Rüm!
You get tired and fall asleep.
What a lovely sleep you’re having.
But, suddenly, you wake up to rumbling sounds
coming from your stomach.
You get up … run …  and sit down and shit!!! 
That's like Allama Iqbal.
Same ingredients as above.
Just a different shape!

My dear friend, Shoaib Hashmi, now too paralysed to speak, loved this tale when I told it to him … and he used it in his class on Urdu Poetry in a college in Lahore.


The other one I loved was Bokhari sahib's way of explaining a shayr. I rarely found someone who could do it with such simplicity as he did. Here's my other story.

Bokhari sahib asked us, once, why
this ghazal of Mir (sung then by Mehdi Hasan)
was so popular?

Daykh to, dil ke jaañ say üth'ta haé
Yeh dhüaañ saa kahaañ say üth'ta haé

Can any of you tell us the meaning of this?
We tried … and failed, I remember.

Then ZAB (as we used to call him among ourselves) said:
Imagine if you are coming home from work.
Tired. Exhausted.
Wanting to lie down in your bedroom.

Suddenly you see smoke coming out of the house.

If the smoke is coming out of the kitchen,
you are alright.
But if it is coming out of the bedroom,
you are doomed.

The house is on fire!!!

And then ZAB recited another shayr of Mir that said the same thing:

Kyaa jaaniyay keh chhati jalay haé keh daaghé dil
Ek aag si lagay haé kaheeñ, küchh dhooaañ sa haé


Shezan Restaurant and Café Firdaus (that used to be opposite Paradise Cinema, now also gone with a shopping complex taking it's place) were among my favourite places in Karachi. Café Firdaus had poets all the time. Reading, writing, eating. Sad that these places are no longer there any more. I will write about Café Firdaus one day, too. I promise.

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