Friday, December 31, 2004

Farewell 2004

We wish all 'A Happy New Year 2005'. Though our hearts go out for all those affected victims, we hope the New Year Bells ring in Peace & Calm. May God Bless the World.

Keep the Faith!


Farewell 2004 - Welcome 2005

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami have power of N-Bombs!

Waves of Destruction across Indian Ocean spell doom to Human Beings with the recent Tsunami Tidal Waves lashing South East Asia. Thousands of People from Indonesia to India are killed, many stranded & homeless. We sympathize for the victims caught in the disaster and pray heavenly peace for the departed souls.Let our Prayers heal the pain!

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Lonely Masks of Narasimha Rao

Edited & Brought to You by
  • ilaxi

  • Byline by M.J.Akbar: The Lonely Masks of Narasimha Rao

    I had the privilege — and I do not use the word lightly - of working with Narasimha Rao after he became Prime Minister. I prefer not to resort to reminiscence in a column, but the occasion suggests a reason to do so. I had joined public life because of Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv still has barely-disguised detractors, but I do want to reassert that he was one of the finest human beings to join Indian politics, which is why he was unfamiliar with its machinations. He was trapped, by mistakes, in a gulf of communalism, unable to steer between a violent, aggressive Hindutva on one side and the hectoring, provocative animus of the Shahi Imams and the Shahabuddins on the other. Narasimha Rao had watched the process, and knew that seeds sown in the Eighties would bear poison fruit under his watch. He found an extraordinarily cynical answer.

    The Lonely Masks of Narasimha Rao

    Most politicians understand politics. Rather fewer understand power. P.V. Narasimha Rao was a master craftsman of power. He knew its first fundamental law. When you share power, you increase it.

    He had no particular qualms about whom he shared it with. On one side might be a drunk MP just purchased (without his knowledge, naturally) by an intermediary; on the other side the swarthy self-caricature of the beady Chandraswami; on the third a list of astrologers as long as the train journey from Delhi to Chennai. If they served the cause they were welcome.

    He knew the second law as well. You use power to either increase the number of your friends or to increase the number of your enemies. Paradoxically, he did both.

    He did not see power as the privilege of a coterie, a traditional fact of the Congress. That was the principal reason why he did not allow his sons, also professional politicians, to interfere in Delhi — at least until relatives began to work the cream towards the end of his five years in power. Which brings us to the most significant fact of his time in office. We think of him serving a single term as Prime Minister. He had two terms, split by 6 December 1992, the day on which the Babri mosque was demolished while he remained deliberately indifferent. He changed in almost every sphere of governance, including the reformist economic policy for which he is justly lauded.

    Rao’s exceptional genius was his intellect which, when reinforced with his learning, became truly formidable. His finest skills were in evidence after he became Prime Minister as a consequence of a tragedy, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The shock, a thud across the heart of the nation, was compounded by an economic meltdown. If it takes a crisis to discover a man, then the hour had found Narasimha Rao. He went on radio and television to deliver a startling message: most of what we had held sacred as economic policy had failed, and it was time to think outside quasi-socialism’s tattered box. The courage and drama of that challenge seems difficult to convey after a dozen years in which reform might have become the new quasi-socialism. He then broke every convention by selecting Dr Manmohan Singh as his finance minister, a bureaucrat known, in limited circles, for his integrity, both intellectual and fiscal. This was a startling message too. The finance ministry was not going to be a cockpit of deals and deliveries. A non-political finance minister was a virtual oxymoron.

    Narasimha Rao had found life when he was preparing for a quiet end. Weakened, physically and emotionally, by a bypass operation, he did not contest the 1991 general elections. But when destiny offered him an opportunity, he was determined to make his last hour also his finest.

    He brought some unusual talents to the management of power. He was a Master of Absence. In other words, he could, when he wanted, dilute his presence to the point where he became minimalist. But it was always his choice. Few remember, for instance, that he was home minister of India when anti-Sikh riots broke out across the country in the wake of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He was also a Master of Inaction. Inaction did not mean indecision. It simply meant that he had decided not to take a decision. He had learnt a great deal from his mentor, Mrs Gandhi. He was fond of one story about her. When Mrs Gandhi was scouting for a candidate to become President, the choice narrowed down to Giani Zail Singh and Narasimha Rao, both ministers in her Cabinet. Rao was scheduled to go to some godforsaken corner of the globe as the deadline approached. His friends urged him to remain in Delhi, within Mrs Gandhi’s proximity. He laughed off the suggestion. If Mrs Gandhi wanted to make him President of India she would summon him from Timbuktu if necessary. If she did not want to, he could be cleaning the mat outside the door and she would not.

    I had the privilege — and I do not use the word lightly — of working with Narasimha Rao after he became Prime Minister. I prefer not to resort to reminiscence in a column, but the occasion suggests a reason to do so. I had joined public life because of Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv still has barely-disguised detractors, but I do want to reassert that he was one of the finest human beings to join Indian politics, which is why he was unfamiliar with its machinations. He was trapped, by mistakes, in a gulf of communalism, unable to steer between a violent, aggressive Hindutva on one side and the hectoring, provocative animus of the Shahi Imams and the Shahabuddins on the other. Narasimha Rao had watched the process, and knew that seeds sown in the Eighties would bear poison fruit under his watch. He found an extraordinarily cynical answer. He slept through the destruction of the Babri mosque. Later, privately, he explained that the BJP was destroying its principal emotive issue along with the mosque.

    He was never very impressed with the quality of Muslim Congressmen. He had nothing but contempt for them after he bought out each one of them with a few tidbits after 6 December. Not a single Congress minister, official or MP resigned in protest after the destruction of the mosque. No one asked for his resignation after the initial shock. Each one queued up for promotion or office, which Rao was happy to offer. As it turned out, I was the only person who resigned from government, when I discovered on the evening of 6 December what everyone else who had tried to call Rao knew, that he took no action because he considered inaction the solution rather than the problem. But that was immaterial because I had had enough of politics by then. If the Congress wonders why Muslims in UP and Bihar still will not vote for the party, perhaps it might want to check out what its most prominent faces did in December 1992 and January 1993.

    Once Narasimha Rao survived, he became a different and contradictory leader. The bold visionary of economic reform retreated as far as he could into conventional budgets that clearly exasperated Dr Manmohan Singh. Perhaps he felt that votes were inextricable from the old dialectic. There may have been some political justification for this, but there was none for the sudden use of power to malign those who refused to be fully obedient. M.L. Fotedar, who played a significant role in making Rao Prime Minister, Arjun Singh, Natwar Singh and Madhavrao Scindia are only the most significant names that come to mind. Simultaneously, men like Chandraswami were given freedom to soar over the system. The crucial difference was just this: the man who recognised that power expanded when you shared it, now began to grasp power only for himself. He lost what he had received as well as what he had earned.

    Rao had time for his own post-mortem, and did what he could to explain his political decisions. Strangely, for a politician in need of votes, he was loath to explain crucial events while in office. When he did explain, he was rather good at it. He told voters, for instance, that they had nothing to fear from foreign capital, since the foreigner who had paid for the factory would never be able to lift that factory and take it away from India. His reticence over Babri enabled his foes to paint him in the colours they wanted, generally light saffron. But he lived long enough to see the ironies of life. He was driven out of the leadership of the Congress for getting 145 seats in the Lok Sabha. A dozen years later the Congress is triumphant because it has won 142 seats in the same Lok Sabha. The wheels of party politics have been in a rut since 1991.

    It was notable, and entirely apposite, that Rao should choose fiction as the medium for his autobiography. To the end he needed to camouflage his mind. But he must have entered each word into his computer with a thin smile that only occasionally expanded into an oblique laugh. The title was a giveaway, but inadequate. Instead of The Insider the book should have been called The Lonely Insider. It was the loneliness of a long-distance Brahmin runner, for the intellectual in him was also the Brahmin in him. He did not advertise his innate superiority of insight and scholarship. There was no need to. It was obvious. But he could never be one of the boys, if you see what I mean.

    Is that because he was always one of the adults?

    Saturday, December 25, 2004

    Merry Christmas

    Merry Christmas

    Wishing all "MERRY CHRISTMAS" Peace Be With You, me & us...


    Spread the message of Love, Faith, Peace & Unity Among Human Beings!

    - M.J. Akbar
    -Asian Age

    Sunday, December 19, 2004

    The Romantics

    Edited & Brought to You by ilaxi

    Byline by M.J.Akbar: The Romantics


    Kareena and Shahid are not only human, they err on the bright side. But are they epic material?

    There have been at least four epic romances in Bollywood: Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal; Dev Anand and Suraiya; Raj Kapoor and Nargis; and Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman. Notice anything in common? Each was a Hindu-Muslim relationship. And they lived in a time when the odds were against such love. The bitterness of partition had soured humanity. Such affairs created tension.


    The Romantics

    The technology has changed. The problem remains. Flashbulbs were once as dreaded as mobile cameras are today. Those who live by the camera must occasionally expect to die by it. That’s part of the deal when you are a movie star.

    Quite often the fuss is only about making a fuss. As the mischievous poet points out: Badnaam jo honge to kya naam na hoga? Or, if I become infamous won’t I become famous as well? Movie stars are about fame, not art. Fame makes fans into fanatics, fame keeps the box office healthy, fame protects the personal bank balance, fame becomes a self-sustaining industry. Fame is the feed that nourishes frustrated millions who pay good money to forget, briefly, their own drab lives and slip into fantasy: the clothes you will never buy, the cars you will never drive, the wealth you will never have, the sex you will never enjoy. It is entirely logical that fan and fantasy have the same root. A publicised public kiss between Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor can do neither any harm and both some possible good. Neither cares less about disturbing any moral sensibility. Just the other day a sister of the lady in question had to clarify that Kareena was not pregnant. She did not go on to suggest that Kareena was a virgin. That would be too boring, which is the one sin a celebrity cannot afford.

    Flashbulbs or MMS cannot survive if there is no media to buy the pictures. The scourge of the Flashbulb Era was a publication called Mother India edited by a certain Baburao Patel. He called it Mother India only because he fancied himself as a nationalist of the Akhand Bharat variety. Neither mothers nor India approved of what he wrote. He dished out all the dirt that establishment publications like Filmfare, edited by the fastidiously proper B.K. Karanjia (brother of R.K. of Blitz fame) refused to print. There was then as there is now a place for everyone.

    Technology has changed techniques but not the substance. Life was not any easier in the old days. Paparazzi is now a familiar term: it comes from Paparazzo, the name of a photographer in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita (The Good Life) who chases stars and starlets to earn a living. The Good Life flourishes on a two-way street: stars and photographers fed off each other and everyone was content.

    I have only been introduced to the miracles of Bluetooth, the connectivity through which pictures travel at the speed of space between mobile phones. It is an entirely appropriate name, given the fact that so much content is blue and it bites. Alas, the only picture I have received is that of a ballot paper from the German elections of 1936 that brought Hitler to power, warning me about the dangers of mass hysteria in a democracy.

    The only question in my mind about Kareena and Shahid is not whether they were bitten by Bluetooth, but whether their love affair is one of the great romances of cinema or not.

    Let us admit it; the modern track record is not very attractive. I have no problems with the fact that many filmstars are surreptitious about their affairs. That is understandable. Any hotel manager of any stature could make a decent packet out of memoirs if he chose to expose how Hero A insisted on a room that had a discreet connecting door to the room of Heroine B. They live in a hothouse that can induce all forms of perspiration. One near-contemporary actress was famous for wasting more money phoning her boyfriend (and, compared to her, he was a boy) from her hotel room when on out on a shoot. Her producers found it much cheaper to fly him in.

    Actually there is much more candour now. When Kareena and Shahid went to Goa on holiday together, they didn’t much care who was watching. This brings us to the first rule of media: if you don’t care who is watching, no one will bother to watch you. They forgot this when they denied that they had been kissing in the Mumbai MMS Saga. It was the denial that made the story. If they had only said, with a simultaneous laugh, "Yeah, big deal — come on and we might do it again" any half-decent news editor would have thrown the story into the nearest shredder. This isn’t the Fifties. There is no big deal about kissing. No filmstar runs around trees anymore. The latest clutch of starlets are ready to kiss any number of times in front of the cameras, either in the service of high art or, as they explain, if the script demands it. (The number of scripts that do demand it is rising by geometrical progression.) The new role model is a starlet like Mallika Sherawat who weighs her amour’s privates and then announces the weight on television chat shows.

    The low point of contemporary romance was surely the Aishwarya Rai-Vivek Oberoi episode. They sold their love to a multinational, I hear from stage whispers. Rai’s former boyfriend Salman Khan was then advertising a competing brand, and great play was made of Oberoi’s victory over a jealous rival. I hope Salman’s jealousy was sincere. It would be useful evidence to prove that stars are human.

    Kareena and Shahid are not only human, they err on the bright side. But are they epic material?

    There have been at least four epic romances in Bollywood: Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal; Dev Anand and Suraiya; Raj Kapoor and Nargis; and Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman. Notice anything in common? Each was a Hindu-Muslim relationship. And they lived in a time when the odds were against such love. The bitterness of partition had soured humanity. Such affairs created tension. Communities were protective, and it was seen as ‘our’ girl having been ‘stolen’ by ‘their boy’. Guru Dutt took tragic recourse to suicide for reasons that have never been adequately explained. But the other three couples succumbed to social pressure, real and imagined. Dilip Kumar wed late, and conventionally to Saira Banu. When it was time for marriage Dev Anand took the conventional path too, although his own subsequent path was anything but conventional. Raj Kapoor and Nargis were the most daring. They did films together, and didn’t give the proverbial damn when they were ‘outed’ at a Tashkent film festival. But it never went to marriage.

    It took the brave believer Sunil Dutt to convert his love for Nargis into marriage, despite the communal divide. It was this marriage that destroyed imagined demons, for nothing disastrous happened. Theirs was an exemplary relationship. They found love, children and national respect. Nargis, if I am not mistaken, became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha. Sunil, typically, chose the more idealistic route to Parliament, proving his commitment to politics not only in direct elections to the Lok Sabha but also in the yatra he undertook for peace in Punjab at a time when the state was aflame with anger, suspicion and violence. Sunil Dutt was always the idealist in a community short of ideas and long on hard cash. He has reached a well-deserved pinnacle in his political career.

    Compared to the tensions of these romantics, all Kareena and Shahid have to worry about is mobile phones. I hope you have recognised the good news. They too are a Hindu-Muslim couple but that is not an issue with anyone — not with the media, not with the filmmakers, and not with the masses who pay good money to keep them in the style they have become accustomed to. This is the India that is emerging in the new century. This is the change that has taken place, slowly, over the decades. True, this is not the full truth. There are young men still who would happily break the spirit of an evolving nation and chip into a hundred divisive pieces. But their domination is over. The box office says so.

    The only MMS-freaks who deserve the harsh whip of social ostracism and the sharp sting of the law are the exploiters like the website,, which put a Delhi schoolgirl’s photographed foolishness up for auction. This is corporate debauchery for which no punishment is sufficient. The police have arrested the chief executive of this website. What is astonishing is that the owners of this website (I have no idea who they are but it would be a good idea to find out) took no action against their chief executive. For them, a sale was a sale. The police has found only an executive. They should also look a little higher up.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    Much to Do with Nothing

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi

    Byline by M.J.Akbar: Much to do with Nothing!


    Who was the last Indian politician who wrote a best-seller? Who was the last Indian politician who wrote a book? I am not going to be nasty and ask who was the last Indian politician who read a book, because all of them are literate and many of them do read. The only author-politicians who come to mind are foreign minister Natwar Singh, petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and former finance minister of Bengal Ashok Mitra, and that is because politics is a second, post-retirement, occupation for them. (I can’t include Arun Shourie in this category because there is some doubt as to whether he was ever a politician. He was in office but never in politics. He was and is a believer, occasionally of the fundamental variety.) Atal Behari Vajpayee writes good poetry, which is evidence of his difference, but while poetry might fetch an audience it does not fetch royalties.


    What do you do when there is nothing to do? For normal people that is not a problem. We sleep. We laze. We bond. We read or, more probably, doze before the more mindless television junk. We might even indulge in some minor free-market crime, like watching pirated movies. There is lots to do when there is nothing to do. For normal people.

    But since those who have once tasted power tend to be too grand to be normal, they have a problem when ejected out of office. After a spell of life during which every minute is allotted, either to work or to flatterers, the absence of a printed schedule (not to mention the absence of hangers-on) can be tormenting.

    Politicians in other democracies have found solutions. In America they all sign up with agents who put them on lecture tours. America is a very audio-friendly society. Instead of falling asleep at lectures, people actually pay to hear them. An orator like Bill Clinton makes millions out of lectures. This may not sound surprising, given the number of women anxious for proximity; but even serious men are willing to lay out a budget for the privilege of hearing him speak. Clinton has a seat in the luxury class of this gravy train, but there is space for lesser lights as well. Even British politicians with some cache are beginning to get on. Then there is membership of the board of companies. British politicians are far more adept at becoming directors. The city keeps a fair percentage of its space at the top for out-of-work politicians. This is also a means of reducing the income-deficit that all of them have to suffer when in office. Government salaries are significantly less than what they would have earned in the private sector, so this is an opportunity to compensate. The practice is understood even though it might never be stressed. For the crasser kind, this can become a pay-off: firms that have benefited from a politician’s influence in decision-making tend to possess a memory that can be lucrative at the right moment. Halliburton’s expertise in such matters comes to mind.

    Then of course there are books. The Clintons, Bill and Hillary, made, together, nearly twenty million dollars at the very least from their respective memoirs. Retired generals have a good market as well. Colin Powell saved himself from any chance of penury with his book about the first Bush-Gulf war. The trick of course is to be known well-enough to be a regular face on television. If you are seen on TV your book will be purchased by large numbers of suckers who have no desire whatsoever to open its pages, except perhaps to get the copy signed by the author. However, it is reassuring that in some societies a book remains a status symbol of some value. There is after all no scramble for signed DVDs of television serials. The second requirement is "revelation". The book must reveal something that can put it on the news stories. After that the celebrity-author can do his/her round of appearances and stroll all the way to the bank.

    We can see instantly that almost none of this works in India. Who was the last Indian politician who wrote a best-seller? Who was the last Indian politician who wrote a book? I am not going to be nasty and ask who was the last Indian politician who read a book, because all of them are literate and many of them do read. The only author-politicians who come to mind are foreign minister Natwar Singh, petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and former finance minister of Bengal Ashok Mitra, and that is because politics is a second, post-retirement, occupation for them. (I can’t include Arun Shourie in this category because there is some doubt as to whether he was ever a politician. He was in office but never in politics. He was and is a believer, occasionally of the fundamental variety.) Atal Behari Vajpayee writes good poetry, which is evidence of his difference, but while poetry might fetch an audience it does not fetch royalties.

    No best-sellers then to fill empty time zones. One reason for this is that you have to retire to write a memoir. You can’t begin to dish out revelations about colleagues if you still intend to do business with them. Who was the last Indian politician who announced his retirement? If you can think of any do let me know on my email id @ Politics is a full-time job, and also therefore the only source of income. The only exceptions are those who were born rich, and brilliant professionals like Arun Jaitley or Kapil Sibal. No one, therefore, thinks of writing a book to reduce the income-deficit. (Ministers, with honourable exceptions, quite often use office as an insurance policy against leaner times.) Ideology is the other reason for writing books, as in the case of Ram Manohar Lohia or Madhu Limaye. Since ideology is dead, ideological books are also dead.

    It was different once, as the mention of Lohia and Limaye indicates. But all the greats of the freedom movement wrote. Mahatma Gandhi wrote incessantly. His collected works are nearing the century mark. The finest writer-politician was undeniably Jawaharlal Nehru, whose prose was as immaculate as his intellect; and both virtues took second place to integrity. Since they had integrity, they had the courage to have differences. Here is Nehru on Gandhi which should be read for at least two reasons: to glimpse the quality of politics in his time, and for the sheer joy of reading excellent prose.

    ‘And then came Gandhi… Much that he said we only partially accepted or sometimes did not accept at all. But all this was secondary. The essence of his teaching was fearlessness and truth … abhaya, fearlessness, not merely bodily courage but the absence of fear from the mind. Janaka and Yajnavalka had said, at the dawn of our history, that it was the function of the leaders of a people to make them fearless. But the dominant impulse in India under British rule was that of fear. Pervasive, oppressing, strangling fear… It was against this all-pervading fear that Gandhi’s quiet and determined voice was raised: Be not afraid. Was it so simple as all that? Not quite. And yet fear builds its phantoms which are more fearsome than reality itself, and reality when calmly analysed and its consequences willingly accepted loses much of its terror.’

    Is it the absence of anything else to do that makes politics a full-time activity in India? A political party naturally needs to function out of office, but opposition does not mean a full-time discordant chorus. Silence is not a virtue in any party’s dictionary. Loss of power seems to induce a serious sense of insecurity that demands continual if not continuous confrontation. Sometimes the two sides in a match forget that there is an audience watching every move, and in the political game it is the audience that eventually decides who is the victor: there is no other referee.

    Lal Krishna Advani has seen the weather change too often not to recognise this. If by some magic three quarters of the BJP top echelon had other things to do, he might have been a happier man. One gets the sense that sometimes he is compelled to create artificial activity where none is needed. He is latching on to issues that refuse to catch fire; and not enough thought is being put into examination and analysis, of cause and consequence. Even the campaign over the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati, seems to have spluttered out. It is possible that the citizenry is over-sated with politics after the needlessly long election and simply wants the government to get on with its job and the opposition to leave things alone for a while. There are no takers for any policy of confrontation. Lalu Yadav has only reaffirmed his image of irresponsibility by his sordid attempt to character-assassinate Advani. Indians do not like witch hunts, no matter who initiates them. (The subtle alteration in the meaning of that term shows how it has fallen into disgrace. It used to mean a hunt for a witch; it has now begun to imply a hunt by a witch.) Indians like it even less when a government uses its power to do so.


    Shakespeare — inevitably — had a phrase that sums up the present, and welcome, scratchy lull in Indian politics: Much ado about nothing. When there is nothing to do, the last thing one should do is make much ado about it.

    - Politicians : Endangered Species? by ilaxi

    Friday, December 10, 2004

    MJ Interviews Dr.Maathai - Crisis of post-colonial Africa

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi

    M.J.AKBAR INTERVIEWS DR. WANGARI MAATHAI:Crisis of Post-Colonial Africa

    (Continuous to Previous Post)

    Now, when we came to get independence — and this is very important, because I think the problems that Africa has suffered, certainly this country, are connected to the mis-representation of that Mau Mau movement. So when we came to get independence, my own personal belief — which many people would probably discount — is that the real fighters, the real nationalists, the people who really cared for this country and who would have sacrificed everything for this country, and who did sacrifice everything in this country, some were maimed, many of whom died in detention, some never came home, and those who were left were maimed, those people were never given an opportunity to participate in the post-colonial administration.

    Q: So tell us the truth about the Mau Mau movement.

    A: The truth of the Mau Mau movement was that it was a legitimate struggle of a people who had recognised the fact that their land and their freedom had been taken away, that they had become subjugated, oppressed and exploited. And that they needed to re-occupy their land, get their land back and to get their freedom back. Now, unfortunately, many of them were not really educated, and many of them perhaps did not have adequate leadership to understand the forces that they were fighting against, both locally, in terms of their own people and to understand how far their own people had been indoctrinated. They did not anticipate that their own people would fight against them. And that the fight would eventually become not a fight between them and the British, but a fight among themselves. Eventually it became an internal conflict of a community against itself. And those who were fighting the Mau Mau movement became co-opted. They fought a battle, they fought their own people, they killed their own people, but they believed that they were doing that because their own people were evil, they were cruel. And the British were a good people, and they were the people who are doing the right thing.

    Now, when we came to get independence — and this is very important, because I think the problems that Africa has suffered, certainly this country, are connected to the mis-representation of that Mau Mau movement. So when we came to get independence, my own personal belief — which many people would probably discount — is that the real fighters, the real nationalists, the people who really cared for this country and who would have sacrificed everything for this country, and who did sacrifice everything in this country, some were maimed, many of whom died in detention, some never came home, and those who were left were maimed, those people were never given an opportunity to participate in the post-colonial administration.

    It was those who fought alongside the British who became co-opted, to them power was handed over. And even to this day, we have never acknowledged or recognised the struggle of those who were truly the nationalists. And that may explain the problem that we have had. That we ended up as people who have been greedy, who have been selfish, who have not been committed to their people, who have only been interested in acquiring worth, having power and enjoying the privileges that power brings. In many ways, we changed guard. We simply removed the British, we replaced the white administrators with black administrators who had the same values and who continued to exploit their fellow Africans, the same way the British were. And that to me has been the dilemma of emancipation in this country.

    Q: So you have just described neocolonisation.

    A: Precisely.

    Q: To what extent do you blame Jomo Kenyatta?

    A: I would say this, that probably Kenyatta became a pragmatist who saw an opportunity... Remember Kenyatta lived away from this country for a long time. When he came, he came to provide leadership to a struggle that had already been started, had been nurtured for many years, but they accepted him because he was educated, exposed (to the world). He was arrested pretty early, in 1952 and the struggle went on. The emergency was never lifted until 1960. So all the time people were suffering, he himself was in jail. There was a book recently published here, called Kenyatta’s Jailer. It was written by a district commissioner who spent some time with Kenyatta in jail, and in that book it appears that the British worked on Kenyatta, worked with Kenyatta and convinced Kenyatta that they could make him the Prime Minister, or at least he could inherit power, but that he had to acquit them. So maybe, it’s not surprising that when Kenyatta became (leader of free Kenya), even though he himself had been part and parcel of the Mau Mau movement, at least we are led to believe by those who worked with him, he himself denounced the Mau Mau and never acknowledged that he himself was a part of the movement.

    Q: That sounds like betrayal.

    A: Ya. And, therefore, when he became the President, he did support them (the freedom fighters), he did give land to the poor, he did settle many of them, but he never acknowledged the real leaders.

    Q: So do you think that the real crisis of post-colonial Africa — you’ve just described one aspect, the second aspect of it would be that those who were the fathers of the freedom struggle after they got power, one, fell into the trap of the Commonwealth and its lure, but second, they also confused themselves with the nation? That they thought they had to be in power for the rest of their lives?

    A: I am not sure why they thought they had to be in power for the rest of their lives.

    Q: Because of the lure of power. Power is a comfortable thing.

    A: Ya, but some of them like Kenyatta had suffered so much in prison, had been in Britain for many years, had travelled to China. You could have thought he had seen the mighty and he had experienced life in a way that many others had not, and therefore would not have the urge to stay in power for as long as he lived. We know he died in office. But I have always felt that because the real nationalists were not actually given an opportunity to take over, that those who did, could not have behaved any differently.

    Q: Two questions: One, this is a syndrome. Would you say that Julius Nyerere (of neighbouring Tanzania) also outlived his utility?

    A: I think that Julius Nyerere is one of the exceptions, because, for one, unlike his contemporaries, he decided not to accumulate... And we also saw that he had a vision, he decided to try to unite his people, he decided to give them, for example, one language. He decided to detach them from ownership and tried to introduce what he called African socialism. Unfortunately — from my perspective — he was not fully supported by his people, as I think he was very far ahead of his people. And also the western powers translated his African socialism into communism. And because they were fighting communism in all its shapes they decided not to support him.

    Q: But, tell me, why is good governance impossible in Africa? Or seems to be impossible?

    A: Good governance is not impossible in Africa.

    Q: Seems to be...

    A: Good governance seems to be impossible. What is needed in Africa is — and I think African leaders are trying at the moment to really accept that you cannot develop in a very oppressive system that denies the people the capacity to be creative and to be innovative and to use that creativity and innovativeness in an environment where they have the freedom and the support.

    Q: But, Ma’am, can we be a little more blunt and just say that it is the greed of wealth and corruption which is destroying this country? And the elites, they are just becoming leeches.

    A: Ya. And I think that what needs to emerge from Africa is a new breed. I don’t know, we were hoping, of course we were hoping that our own generation would be the one that would not be greedy, because we saw our fathers being sacrificed by the British, because it was our fathers who fought during Mau Mau. And so we should have been more democratic, more responsive to our people. More protective of our people. We have not. I can see it in Parliament, I can see it even in the government, that is why we are fighting corruption, and we are constantly saying we are fighting it, because we know it is there and it is not leaving as quickly as it should. But in every country what you really need is a good leader. And we are hoping that one of these days I guess, a new leadership will emerge in Africa. We saw it emerge in South Africa. I think (Thabo) Mbeki is trying very hard. I think our President is trying very hard, despite certain constraints of health and age. I think we are very very unlucky that the President had an accident almost at the time that we were about to go to elections. And because we were so desperate about changing the system, we went through it, and we put him into this position. He has had to take care of his health and at the same time, take care of the country. Also, it’s unfortunate, and maybe because of that, some people did not honour what was originally our agreement, as partners in the new political dispensation that we have concocted.

    Q: Or is it simply that the system, after years of corruption, the system is too powerful for you to do anything about?

    A: I don’t think that the system is powerful. Let me tell you, if today we had a leadership that decides that they will do the right things, that would be done. Leadership is very very important.

    Q: But you are part of the leadership now, you can’t keep blaming others.

    A: I am part of the leadership, but I can also say that there are circles in the leadership and within those circles you can make certain decisions. But there are certain decisions that you cannot make. But all I can say is that definitely we will not go anywhere until we have leaders who are truly committed.

    Q: What was the reason for the long years of Arap Moi? I mean how did he survive?

    A: Moi survived partly because... You have to become corrupt, and once you are corrupt and you have people who are willing to be corrupt. After all, when you look at it, as I just said, at independence the people who were co-opted were not the nationalists. They were people who were willing to work with the British to keep the British here. Fortunately, because of the global processes that were going on at that time, colonialism was crumbling anyway, and it was bound to come to an end. But what the British succeeded in doing is putting in place their own people, the collaborators. Now those collaborators worked with Kenyatta, the same collaborators worked with Moi. So you are dealing with the same group. It is only now that a lot of those are getting out. And unfortunately, those who have taken over, have almost been taught that when you are in position what you do is you take advantage of that position. You enrich yourself.

    Q: You won freedom through struggle, how are you going to preserve it?

    A: You mean this particular government. This particular government is trying very hard of course.

    Q: But don’t you feel disillusionment has already set in?

    A: Well, let me say this, that people must also be patient. People (must) accept history, where we have come from. We didn’t cut any heads (laughs). We moved on.

    Q: Tell us something about this specific environmental Green Belt Movement that you started and which has now acquired such international repute.

    A: The movement that I started was first of all to encourage the ordinary people to understand that the environment is something that is extremely important in their lives and to understand what that environment is. And to understand that a large part of that environment are natural resources: it’s the soil in which they grow their food, it’s the water which they drink, it’s the forest which gives them rain and gives them water. It’s themselves, because they are a great natural resource.

    Q: So your struggle was never against knowledge, because people who live on the soil know this. Your struggle was against the corruption of elites which was scavenging the country in order to become rich.

    A: Precisely, and I knew it was not easy to fight it, because alone you cannot do it. I knew I had to solicit the support of the people. I started by just addressing their own problems. In fact, in my seminars I would ask, what are the problems you face. They would tell me their problems and then we would analyse them, and quite often those problems would be in four categories. A large number of those problems were caused by bad governance. Second, a large number were caused by environmental degradation. And then you had this societal disintegration, due to the many years of colonialism, domination, Christianisation and all that. And then usually there would be other problems that could be political. Not strictly governance, but they are political problems. But to a very large extent many of the problems were on environmental degradation and bad governance. So, in the next step I’d say, ‘Since you identify, since you see many of our problems have to do with governance and environmental degradation, what can we do? What is our solution?’ And quite often they would hesitate, because they would always say that the government has to do this, the government has to do this...

    Q: Tell me who recommended you for the Nobel Prize?

    A: I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea. Nobody has come to me, nobody interviewed me. I really don’t know. But of course many people come and they look at our work and they study our work and so anybody could have done. But I wanted to say that quite often I would use a symbol of a bus, because moving by bus in this country is very common. And here in Nairobi there is one place where all the buses from the countryside come. And I’d use the symbol of the bus and I’d say that if you are in Nairobi and if you want to go to Mombasa and you go to the bus stop and there is one big bus stop where all the buses meet, if you want to go to Mombasa what could happen to you or what could possibly be wrong with you that you take a bus that goes in the opposite direction. We would struggle, and usually there would be not more than five reasons why you take the wrong bus. We would struggle, there would be just ordinary arguments, and we would end up agreeing that if you go to the bus station and you don’t ask, you are likely to get into the wrong bus. So this whole process is about asking questions. Why is this situation like this?

    Q: Very very interesting, and very instructive... So it was also an educational process.

    A: Yes, it was an education. You must ask and if you ask you could be misread and we do get misread. That’s what we are talking about. We are taught we are not okay, we are not the right colour, we are not the right shape. And we accept. So we get into the wrong bus and we move in the wrong direction (laughs).

    Q: You almost got into the wrong bus (in your marriage)! You know, as a complete coincidence your husband has become almost as famous as you.

    A: (Laughs) He is in the wrong bus.

    Q: You have absolutely fascinated women who have heard of you, who want to know more about the completely candid, honest, self-empowered position you took about your marriage. Would you like to say something about that?

    A: Well, actually it is very very interesting. And it is always very difficult to tell these stories, because these are emotional stories, these are personal stories. And it never goes away and it is part of your life. But I remember the day, not the day we got divorced, but the day he (my husband) left home. The day he left I was teaching in the University of Nairobi. And you know in University of Nairobi we get houses as part of the package. So I had this beautiful house that we were living in. We had been living in and out of the University of Nairobi houses, because quite often, whenever we had differences — and when I look back the differences had nothing to do with housing, nothing to do with my position in the university, just had to do with the fact that we were moving, we were gliding, these two stones were gliding nicely. And he used to say sometimes, that I don’t give him sufficient space or respect, because, unfortunately, I was the one who was a doctor. A PhD. A Masters, a scientist, a professor in the University of Nairobi. Things that really didn’t matter to me. And anybody who knows me now, understands that these things are just decorations, for goodness’ sake! They don’t change who I am. But I think that men have a problem dealing with a person who has decorations more than they do.

    Q: Their ego.

    A: Yes, their ego. They can accept another man who has more decorations than they do, but they find it difficult to accept another woman and especially their wives. Now I didn’t know that, I was too young. Now I am wiser, now I’d be hiding (laughs) my titles, and deciding, don’t let anybody call me Dr Wangari. As if it would have made any difference! But as I say we were victims of our own times, and victims of our own youth, and victims of our own inexperience, because we should have been old enough or wise enough to say it doesn’t matter, but it mattered: what people thought, what people said, what we think people thought. And so one day I came home and he was gone. I said, ‘Where is he?’ You know sometimes you have a picture (on the wall at home), and you don’t know where that picture came from... So he comes and packs all his things and he takes that picture. You come home and you are used to seeing that picture and you ask, ‘Where is that picture?’ And you are told, so and so took it. ‘What?’ ‘Yes, and he also took that, and he took that chair and he took that radio and he packed all of them in the car and he left.’ And I sat down and said, ‘What? What did he say?’ ‘Nothing, he just packed and left.’ While he was packing he dropped a lot of paper and rubbish and whatever falls when you are packing. I went into the kitchen, I took a broom, and I swept. And I said, that’s the end of that. And I think that process, that action of sweeping and removing all the dust and whatever was on the ground gave me a feeling of... There’s nothing I can do, if he decided to go, it’s okay. Now the next thing is, after sweeping, what (do) I do. And that was it, that was that.

    Q: Did you hear from him after you were declared a Nobel Prize winner?

    A: (Laughs) Oh, yes! Well, he wrote, after many years. He discovered that there are more things to life than fighting.

    Q: On that happy note, thank you very very much. It is a privilege to have spoken to you.

    - For more interviews, visit the Blog Monthly Arhives or through links on Main Blog

    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    M.J.Akbar's Interview with the Nobel Laureate Dr.Wangari Maathai

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi


    Nobel Laureate

    On December 10, Kenya's Dr. Wangari Maathai will become the First Black African Woman to be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.Dr. Maathai has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. Mrs Maathai beat a record 194 nominations. Mrs Maathai is the second woman in a row to be awarded the peace prize, which last year went to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for her work for the rights of women and children in Iran. The award, which includes 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.3m) is awarded in Oslo on 10 December each year. 

    Dr.Maathai:"In many churches, when you go you will find Black Jesus.You find a figure that is painted black or the crucifix that is definitely black. But there is still a dominance of trying to present Jesus the way Michelangelo saw him."

    Interview:M.J.Akbar speaks to Dr.Wangari Maathai

    Q: Professor Maathai, it is a privilege to meet you, a woman who represents an idea and a cause of the underprivileged world. Would you tell us how exactly you began this movement? And what were the impulses which persuaded you into this direction? A woman of your energy, your ability could have taken any path.

    A: When I finished my education in America at the beginning of 1966, I came back to Kenya...

    Q: What was your discipline?

    A: Biological sciences.

    Q: And which university?

    A: For college I had gone to Mount St. Scholastica College which is a small college in Atchison, near Kansas City. And then I went to the University of Pittsburgh and I did a Masters in Biological Sciences. And then I decided to come back home.

    Q: This is two years after your freedom: how many Kenyan women were studying abroad at that time?

    A: Well, there were a few at that time but not that many. In 1960, a few politicians were busy preparing for independence, they knew it was coming. I know that locally a few politicians, like Tom Mboya, were in touch with other politicians outside. Even Nehru was involved in this process of sending (Kenyan) students abroad. So some students were going to India. About 300 of us (went) to the USA. This was 1960. I had just finished high school and I was chosen to be one of the students to go to the United States.

    Q: So, in a sense, the nation was preparing for independence, for freedom by creating an educated class which could claim the inheritance...

    A: That’s right. And this was largely politicians who were very young, many of them in their late 20s or early 30s. Looking back, they were very young people, and so were we. But when you are young, somehow you don’t quite realise how young you are.

    Q: That’s a very good point.

    A: (Laughs) I remember the politicians telling us, ‘We want you to go to America, we want you to come back and contribute towards the development of our country. We are going to be independent very soon.’ So it stuck in my mind really, that I was going to America and I was to come back and contribute towards the development of my country. When I came back in 1966, yes, there was a lot of enthusiasm, there was a lot of hope, there was happiness in the air then because it was only two years (since freedom). It was wonderful when I came back. One of the things I remember is that the voice of Kenyatta was being played constantly on television urging... Radio, there was no television at that time. Yes, there was television, but it was not common! So I was hearing the voice of Kenyatta on the radio and for me it was very exciting because when I left (for the USA), Kenyatta was in prison. And (when I came back) he is not only out, he is the President of the new country. So I was very excited, and then I joined the University of Nairobi and shortly after I joined the Kenya Association of University Women. Now, around 1964 the women of this country had decided to come together and to join in a common forum because hitherto they had operated along racial lines.

    Q: Please, explain. We really need to know for we have this notion that racism, discrimination, only took place in South Africa and everywhere else was all right.

    A: It wasn’t. There were certain countries where the British were ready to settle in, and this was one of the countries. Partly because (Kenya) is beautiful and the climate is perfect. And so they had created what was for all practical purposes apartheid. But at that time, as young people, you don’t quite appreciate, because you don’t see the obstructions...

    Q: How did the British divide Kenyans?

    A: In this country, people were divided in the sense that... First of all, in the education system, Africans went to their own schools, Asians went to their own schools and Europeans went to their own schools.

    Q: There was educational apartheid.

    A: Yes, there was educational apartheid. We also lived in different sections, there were African sections, Asian sections, European sections.

    Q: So Nairobi was divided...

    A: It was very, very divided. Even now if you travel around Nairobi, you can go to areas where you can see houses which are typically Asian. This is where the Asians lived and you can go to areas where Africans lived and areas where Europeans lived. And of course, economically Europeans were the most privileged, Asians were the second and Africans were the most deprived, often living in very crowded estates. And the other thing is, even professions operated along racial lines. Even hospitals, there were hospitals for Asians, hospitals for Africans and hospitals for Europeans. Everything was operated along racial lines. Even trains, there were first class, second class and third class. If you were European, you stepped into the first class cabins, if you were Asian you went into the second class cabins and if you were an African, you went into the third class cabins. It didn’t matter who you were, how rich you were, whether you could afford, that was not the matter. The issue was colour and it was very clear.

    Q: And this happened till the last day?

    A: Yeah, that was the way it was till 1963 (12 December).

    Q: 1963, when Alec Douglas-Home...

    A: Handed over the new Constitution to President Kenyatta. And you get

    used to that system, you almost get trained to accept your position, to accept

    your place, and so when you go to the railway station, you know where your cabins are.

    Q: Know your place.

    A: You know your place. And you dare not go to areas you are not supposed to because you will definitely be thrown out. It is very interesting because at that point many people, once they accepted, it was almost like they wanted to keep everybody where they belonged. So there is absolutely no reason why I should be in the first class. If there’s any African who can afford the first class, he should be here, that feeling was not even there. So people in the first class have no feeling of guilt.

    Q: So it is a willing suspension of independence, in which we become the participating class.

    A: You actually endorse it and it almost feels like this is the way things should be.

    Q: And this is the ‘civilised’ way to live.

    A: Absolutely.

    Q: What was the nature of the freedom struggle? In India we had a largely non-violent freedom struggle, what was the nature here?

    A: The struggle here became violent. The struggle here was actually started as soon as Kenya was declared a colony. Kenya was declared a colony in 1920 and as early as 1922 the first resistance was organised and a hero of that resistance was a man called Harry Thuku. What they did was they were resisting the colonisation of Kenya and the displacement of many of the local people from their lands, forcibly moved from their land to other parts of the country, often drier, or maybe just as good, but they were away from their families and away from the people they knew, taken to other communities. As you know, Kenya has many communities. We have about 42 communities and we had never lived together before. Every community was living in its own territory. Now we were being taken and dumped in the midst of another community that spoke differently and even resisted your being there, but of course because the administration was in control it didn’t matter.

    Q: This then was the creation of British farmlands, which were given to British farmers.

    A: Ya. The so-called White Highlands.

    Q: And do they still exist?

    A: They are not called White Highlands any more. What happened during independence was that some people formed some cooperatives and bought some of these lands. But we also evolved a new class of Africans who had the money, who could borrow from the bank, who actually bought many of these lands. So they became large (land)owners, which is still a problem now because it is in a way sometimes difficult, because these lands — remember, people were displaced from them and they later came over. And then after independence, Africans or Asians or other Europeans, or the old Europeans, they owned them. They were the new elite. The new rich elite who could buy these lands, who could own these huge tracts of land.

    Q: And they were never given back? Never re-distributed to the original owners?

    A: Some of that land was actually given back. Some of it was bought by what are called cooperatives where the government would encourage people to come together to form these huge cooperatives. They would get loans from the government and they would buy the land and subdivide that land into small plots.

    Q: But that experiment failed, the cooperative experiment became a mess.

    A: It became a mess, but to a very large extent those lands are still there. People are still owning those pieces of land. But what happened is that there were lots and lots of people, literally thousands of people who were never settled. They were never allowed to go back to their lands because those lands were privatised by the new-rich.

    Q: The old colonists have always been very pleased with Kenya since you never violently re-distributed the land, that you found an accommodation with the White Highlands, with the white farmers and so on.

    A: Yes, yes, we never did.

    Q: But tell me, as an activist, as somebody who believes, do you have some sympathy with what (Robert) Mugabe is doing (in Zimbabwe)?

    A: I think even before I say what Mugabe is doing, let me say that it is important to remember that when Kenyans tried to resist in 1922, and I must also say that there were many individuals and communities who resisted as the British tried to occupy different parts of the country. As the British spread throughout the country, there was resistance wherever they went. But the most violent resistance was actually organised by the young people who came from the Second World War.

    Q: That’s very important, very interesting. The experience in the war radicalised the soldiers. Just as in Britain the soldiers were radicalised and they destroyed Winston Churchill and defeated him (in a general election).

    A: Right. Precisely. When these soldiers came back home, they realised they had been fighting in a war that was not their war. They were dying in a war that was not their war. And when they came back, they were not even recognised. So they decided that: We are dying in vain, we are fighting for a king who is not our king, we are fighting for a government that is not our government. So especially from central Kenya which was one of the areas which the British had occupied much of the land, because central Kenya is the highlands.

    Q: And beautiful, and comes as near to Britain — with good weather!

    A: (Laughs) Yes, beautiful. So they decided to mobilise communities, mobilise themselves. Unfortunately, when they started to mobilise, they became violent. They started to force people to accept their mobilisation. Part of what those who were mobilising were saying, is that it’s very important for us to embrace our culture. You have to truly discover yourself, you have to empower yourself. Now in doing that you have to be very careful because sometimes if your mind is so indoctrinated that you do not accept the way you are, and that you would rather be the way you have been changed, then you fight anybody who is trying to take you to what you perceive as primitive, backward and a part that you would rather forget, because it reflects the bad part of you. So you would rather forget that.

    Q: Prof. Maathai, I remember that the term terrorist was used very often by the British to describe the Kenyan struggle.

    A: Yes, as far as the British were concerned, they were terrorists. They were disrupting peace, they were destabilising the British government.

    Q: And they created this image, particularly from Kenya, of this lurid, ferocious, tribal warrior who was a primitive barbarian challenging modern life and modern civilisation.

    A: And trying to return their people into the primitive dark ages. And that’s the image that the Mau Mau movement was given. It became demonised. And people who were co-opted by the British, were quite often religious leaders...

    Q: Including Kenyans?

    A: Ya, these were Kenyans. But they were religious leaders. But remember, this is religion which is western. So we are talking about the Presbyterian Church of East Africa whose headquarters is in Edinburgh, we are talking about Catholic Church whose headquarters is in Rome. And these people decided, or they were persuaded to believe that the Mau Maus were wrong and that the British were right. That indeed it was not time yet for the Africans to ask for independence. That they still had a lot to learn from the British.

    Q: Are you a believer? Are you a Christian?

    A: Yes I am a Christian.

    Q: How do you feel about the use of religion in support of colonisation?

    A: Well, of course, it can be used, it was used, because people became indoctrinated to believe that if you are Christian you have to accept that your way of life as a traditional person is primitive, is paramystic, is demonic. You have to abandon it, you have to condemn it, you should have nothing to do with it. And that meant everything about what you have, what your parents knew, what your grandparents knew. You had to be born again, as it was said.

    Q: I find one aspect of this whole situation very interesting. I went to an American Methodist boarding school and I remember very clearly the image of Jesus on the walls was of a man with blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin.

    A: (Laughs) Very Scandinavian.

    Q: Yes, very Scandinavian or straight out of Texas. I don’t know if you have been to Bethlehem, or if you have gone to St. Petersburg which has probably the best collection of icons, everywhere Jesus and his family, Joseph and the Virgin Mary, all of them are dark people.

    A: They were Middle Easterners.

    Q: They must have been, they were from Egypt and Palestine. And I wonder, purely incidentally, if any effort is being made (in Kenya) to tell the truth that Jesus was a dark person.

    A: Well I think that it will take a new awareness in religion, and I know that it is coming. It is definitely coming. You can see it coming in the churches, especially in the Catholic Church. In many churches, when you go you will find Black Jesus.

    Q: You do?

    A: You find a figure that is painted black or the crucifix that is definitely black. But there is still a dominance of trying to present Jesus the way Michelangelo saw him.

    Q: Or the Spanish artists...

    A: These were the artists’ impressions. Remember, even the southern Europeans were kind of fascinated by the northern blue eyes, blond hair. Scandinavians (Laughs)... So when Michelangelo was drawing, when he was expressing his impression of God he was imagining how the seraphim looked like, he thought they must look like these Scandinavians, because they were the most beautiful people they could think of. Now you can imagine, the little Italians (Laughs)... So these are the images that are brought to us. I remember, when I was going to school, especially to primary school, the school was run by Italian nuns. Beautiful, wonderful, kind Italian women who influenced me a lot. But they were very eager to educate us not to wear the beads (the tribal necklace) which are very common in Africa, but instead to wear the medals (the rosaries), the medallions that hang from your neck. They would indoctrinate you to believe that these are holy. But what you were wearing as an African, that is primitive, that’s demonic, that’s paramystic. As a child, of course, you don’t know, so you accept it. Then they show you these holy pictures of Mary, of Joseph, impressions that when you grow up you realise are the impressions of the Sistine Chapel. Of what Michelangelo was drawing, his artistic impression; that it has nothing to do with God, nothing to do with Heaven, but a lot to do with the imaginations of a human being who lived and who was a great artist. Now until you know that, you can have a very distorted idea of what heaven is like, of what other people are like. And what you are like. And you like to see yourself in a negative way because you don’t look like them. You look very far from heaven. Like you have to be transformed before you get there.

    Q: I wonder whether it would be a shattering experience if you went to the Bible belt of America and told Americans that Jesus was black.

    A: Well, I am sure that they would find it very difficult to accept that. They also say that it doesn’t matter, since He is God, probably doesn’t have any colour. That misrepresentation of the Mau Mau movement still continues.

    Q: Can you explain how?

    A: It continued because the Mau Mau struggle became presented as a primitive, barbaric, unjustified struggle.

    Q: They used to frighten children by saying the Mau Mau is coming.

    A: Precisely. They were just presented as barbaric people who loved to kill human beings, who ate human beings...

    -More info on Mau Mau Movement follows in next Post

    Wednesday, December 08, 2004

    Fortunate Me!

    Edited & Brought to you by

    Fortunate Me

    I was fortunate, for I never wanted to be anything other than a journalist. It is not always good luck to get what you want. My pudgy, wisecracking uncle, Chacha T.P. Singh, inseperable friend of my father, warned me when I was a child wafting on dreams in the squalid jute mill,colony called Telinipara, to beware of the astrologer who told you that you would always travel in a car when you grew up. That prediction could be as correct for the owner of the Jute Mill as it would be for the driver. Prayer can be answered in more than one way.

    Journalism has been kind to me, enriching me with its plenty from a very young age. What I am most grateful for is the opportunity to travel. Journalism is the only profession that permits you to travel without making you a travelling salesman. You become, in a way, a travelling purchaser, picking up images of near and distant life, and reshaping them into an order that will communicate to your reader. Words are the currency of this transaction: you buy images with words, and then you pass them on with words as well.


    - M.J. Akbar (Byline, the Book)

    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Churn is in the Air

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi

    Byline by M.J.Akbar: Churn is in the Air

    Politicians don’t mean what they say, do they? A bureaucrat checks out the biases of the audience for whom the speech is meant, and writes down the right noises for them to deliver and survive another day. So why make a fuss?

    This club of five (United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China) sits in the Security Council because it defines security as an extension of its interests. That is why these states consider their possession of nuclear arms as legitimate, and condemn any other nuclear power as "irresponsible" or potentially "evil".

    The traffic in Dhaka is not irrational; it is merely Bengali. Witness the desire, for instance, to overtake when there is nothing to take over there. All the familiar problems of travel on the subcontinent accompany you.

    Bangladesh Biman tends to have an illegitimate relationship with its timetable, so every journey encourages whispers from those with inside knowledge, particularly if you are catching an en route flight. So it depends on how you view a three-hour delay at Bangkok airport, from where I flew into Dhaka: it is, of course, much worse than being on time, but far better than being six hours late, which was the situation on the previous evening.

    But let us stress the fact that the destination is far more attractive than the journey. A visiting Indian must, of course, get through the angst barrier. It is not just hawks who carry chips rather than epaulettes on their shoulder. Perfectly normal people do not feel that they have done their good deed for the day unless they can throw a bit of ritual cold water on an Indian but this is soon forgotten in the sunshine of natural hospitality, the cool edge of high intelligence, and, for those who know Bengali, the joy of a shared language.

    We were in Dhaka at the command of an old friend Farooq Sobhan, and there is always something mildly uplifting about a worthy mission. Farooq had brought together young journalists from Bangladesh and India on the valid assumption that ignorance and absence of human contact were the major reasons for the trust-deficit that plagues media on both sides of a complicated border. The generation that covered the 1971 war, and through it discovered each other (not always for the good), has gone the way of most journalists. That generation is tired even if it has not retired. The younger lot are fed with that familiar evil, disinformation masquerading as nationalism.

    The dialogue opened on an expected note: a speech by a minister. Journalists of any age and generation very quickly develop a Nelson’s ear to speeches by ministers. Admiral Nelson, saviour of England and victor of critical battles against Napoleon’s France, made his blind eye famous by turning it towards anything he did not want to see. Similarly, journalists turn a Nelson’s ear towards any speech they do not want to hear. This does not imply any disrespect towards the dignitary concerned. It is simply one of those immutable laws of media life. When reporters have to do a report on a speech they did not therefore hear, they check the text, put something from the opening paragraphs at the top of their story, and go home, confident that even if the story is published no one will bother.

    Perhaps this was the reason why some interesting, and perhaps even remarkable, points in the speech delivered by the Bangladesh minister for information, M. Shamsul Islam, were missed. One sentence cried out for greater attention. "Changing concepts of sovereignty, humanitarian law, the nature of security, the role of multilateralism all have brought about dynamic changes (in geo-politics)," he said.

    He was making this argument against a specific context. He had said earlier: "The balance between politics and economics always remains a vital one. Our two countries (Bangladesh and India) are bound by history and geography that have left many cobwebs and irritants. We are also tied by many enduring commonalities — ideas, traditions, culture and a shared past covering centuries. All the factors that divide us can also unite us."

    As a fully paid-up member of the Press Club (Dyspepsia Department) let me first turn to scepticism. Politicians don’t mean what they say, do they? A bureaucrat checks out the biases of the audience for whom the speech is meant, and writes down the right noises for them to deliver and survive another day. So why make a fuss? In any case the track record of the present government in Dhaka towards India is more knee-jerk than level-headed, so why treat a whiff of honey as anything more than ephemeral scent?

    Because you do not have to be thoughtful when platitudes will serve. Mr Islam used the opportunity to suggest ideas that were both above the India-Bangladesh equation as well as relevant to it.

    We are living in a world whose geopolitics was shaped by the outcome of two world wars. If Germany and Turkey had won the First World War — and they were close enough to doing so, until America intervened — the map of the Arab world, and the nature of its polity, would have been significantly different. The Arabs, who had helped Britain in that war after they had been promised freedom from the Ottoman Empire, were dumped into the quagmire of neo-colonisation while pliant regimes handed over their precious oil to the masters of the world at ridiculous prices. And though Britain was too weakened by the Second World War to hold on to its most important colony, India, a divisive legacy continues to extract a heavy toll. So many nationalisms were derived from the politics of the colonial period.

    Even as the old world order collapsed a new one was fashioned through the creation of the United Nations (a term coined by President Franklin Roosevelt to define the allies against the fascist axis of Germany, Japan and Italy) with a veto for the five nations who won the Second World War: the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. (Communist China and Russia are successor states to the nations that fought the war.) This club of five, sits in the Security Council because it defines security as an extension of its interests. That is why these states consider their possession of nuclear arms as legitimate, and condemn any other nuclear power as "irresponsible" or potentially "evil". Israel, under the divine protection of the United States, is permitted a not-so-secret nuclear arsenal without comment or question. While there is grudging acceptance of India and Pakistan as nuclear powers, the last word has not been said on the subject, and those on the subcontinent with apprehensions are wise to be apprehensive.

    When there were differences between matched powers among the Big Five, as during the Cold War, the world seemed to rest on a more balanced keel. By the early Nineties one half of the post-1945 arrangements had collapsed, with the crumble of the Soviet empire. With Moscow unable to pull its former weight, unilateralism moved into a vacuum. Militarily, the European Union power is a myth; politically, it is easily divided, as Washington proved, taking time off only to sneer at France’s pretensions. But is this sustainable? Questions that were unthinkable during the Cold War, and dormant in the Nineties are being asked with vigour now. One of the issues that Vladimir Putin had to address during his visit to Delhi last week was the possibility of an expanded Security Council. His response would have pleased any Tsar. Putin argued that any restructuring that extended the right of veto to a new member would lead to confusion and collapse of the United Nations. He knew that he was being a trifle indelicate in his candour, for India will be a member of any altered Security Council. The Indian foreign minister, Natwar Singh, has very coolly, and correctly, said that India was not impressed by any second-class status offer.

    Churn is in the air. A cynic, or even a realist, could argue that there has been perpetual war since 1945, and if this is what the Big Five have delivered in the name of stability then it is time to return to the drawing board. Most wars have been fought over conflicting definitions of nationalism, creating fertile options for superpowers interested in their own security as well as domination of natural resources.

    It is significant that if Mr Shamsul Islam’s comments had been made by an Indian minister in Dhaka, he or she would have been accused of hegemony. Suspicions die hard, and votes can be milked out of fear. Mr Islam spoke above both temptations. Twenty years ago General Ziaur Rahman set the subcontinent on a new curve by suggesting cooperation among seven South Asian nations through SAARC. As someone wryly pointed out, Pakistan’s first reaction was to wonder whether this was a version of the Hindutva brigade’s "Akhand Bharat" and India wondered whether it would mean a gang of six against one. The 13th summit, fortuitously in Dhaka next month, is building up huge expectations of further breakthroughs in regional prosperity. (Peace may not always bring prosperity, but prosperity does tend to bring peace.) SAARC leaders, having travelled so far along the pragmatic, must also seek to spend a little time once again on the conceptual, for each horizon is only a means to the next.

    There is enough time to pencil Mr Islam’s phrases into the agenda. It will take a long while for the pencil to become ink, but there is no harm in putting a little more writing on the wall.

    Saturday, December 04, 2004

    Dr. Wangari Maathai to be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi


    Dr. Wangari Maathai will become the First Black African Woman to be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2004

    On December 10, Kenya's Dr. Wangari Maathai will become the First Black African Woman to be Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to her prominent role to fight for the Poor women. In the late 1970s, Mrs Maathai led a campaign called the Green Belt Movement to plant tens of millions of trees across Africa to slow deforestation. The movement grew to include projects to preserve biodiversity, educate people about their environment and promote the rights of women and girls. Known as "The Tree Woman" in Kenya, Mrs Maathai celebrated by planting a Nandi flame tree in her home town of Nyeri, in the shadow of Mount Kenya. She made sure that she don't only protect the environment, they also improve governance. She thinks, "the environment is very important in the aspects of peace because when we destroy our resources and our resources become scarce, we fight over that".

    The Award Committee praised her saying, "a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace". Dr. Maathai has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. Mrs Maathai beat a record 194 nominations, including former chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the UN energy watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, to win the prize.

    Mrs Maathai is the second woman in a row to be awarded the peace prize, which last year went to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi for her work for the rights of women and children in Iran.

    The award, which includes 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.3m) is awarded in Oslo on 10 December each year.

    Dr. Maathai believes: "God created the planet from Monday to Friday. On Saturday he created human beings. "The truth of the matter is... if man was created on Tuesday, I usually say, he would have been dead on Wednesday, because there would not have been the essential elements that he needs to survive"


    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    World Aids Day

    World Aids Day - December 1

    World Aids Day

    HIV/AIDS is a Global Crisis.38 Million People Infected Worldwide. Stop the Virus. Shine Light on the Global Fight against HIV/AIDS. Add your Light to the Fight. On Dec 1, World Aids Day next, see how you helped light up the world at Times Square, New York. lights the 12185th Light to Fight. You can Light & Support too!

    Monday, November 29, 2004

    Jab Raat Hai Aisi Matwali - Mughal-e-Azam

    Edited & Brought to You by ilaxi

    Byline by M.J. Akbar: Jab Raat Hai Aisi Matwali...-'Mughal-e-Azam' The Movie

    Now that George Bush can confess to getting "teared up" and win an election, I can make my own confession. I am a total sap for movies like Mughal-e-Azam, the wondrous classic about Emperor Akbar, his son Salim, and the dancing girl, Anarkali. The casting is perfection. Prithviraj as emperor: no one has quivered quite like him. Dilip Kumar as Salim: no one has crossed a heart with his sword with such poetry. Madhubala as Anarkali: no beauty better deserved a prince. Give me a map of my country rising above a plasticine medieval-Delhi-skyline on a large screen, a sonorous voice saying ‘Main Hindustan hoon,’ dollops of the sweetest language in the world, Urdu, and my eyes fill up like a river in the monsoon. Thank God movie halls are dark. What I was not prepared for was the intensity of the rest of the audience. It was a late night show in the heart of Delhi and the hall was full for the colour version of a black-and-white film first screened in 1960. I thought that only Sixties’ groupies would turn up to relive their comparatively innocent youth. It was an age when virginal love was considered scandalous, so fantasy had a wonderful time. The Sixtians were there, and looked frostbitten by reality. They had found husbands instead of Dilip Kumar, and wives instead of Madhubala.

    The young people in the audience were clearly anthropologists who had come to check out what made the Neanderthals tick. They must have been shocked to discover that it was songs like Pyar kiya to darna kya, jab pyar kiya to darna kya; Pyar kiya koi chori nahin ki, chup chup aahen bharna kya! (When I have loved, why should I fear? It is love, not theft, so why should I sigh from behind a curtain?) It would need a social historian better than I to convey how powerful, even revolutionary, the idea was that love transcended fear, for every father was an emperor then, demanding the destruction of love in the name of some higher social principle. Emperor Akbar would not allow his son Salim — the future Emperor Jahangir — to marry Anarkali, a kaneez, a palace girl much above a courtesan but much below a princess because the honour of Timurid blood and the demands of empire would not permit a leap over social walls that held the establishment in place. In thousands of mohallas across India, millions of fathers would not permit a leap over the walls of caste and religion and language. And just as Anarkali, played by Madhubala, accepted in the end, so did millions of women who dreamt of a brief moment of defiance and glory that they could call their own and take to their graves, secret even from their children. All around me every Madhubala had become just another mother. Sitting to my left was a lady who, midway through the movie, spoke very softly into her mobile, a transgression I forgave for she was talking to a hospital about a patient. As in the last moments of the film a frozen Madhubala walked away to freedom and misery, bereft of a love she had been forced to betray, and the song in the background became a chorus of catharsis for us all, I could not help singing along with Lata Mangeshkar: Khuda nigehbaan ho tumhara, dharakte dil ka payaam le lo, Tumhari duniya se jaa rahe hain, utho hamara salaam le lo (God protect you, my love, take a message from a trembling heart; I leave your world, broken, but rise and take my last salute). The lady next to me began to sing as well. I am sure that both of us wished, strangers as we were, that we had the courage to sing louder.

    These are some of the things that could shock the young. In a film of 20 reels, unravelling over three and a half hours, there is not a single item number. There is no hint of cleavage. Even the men are overdressed. The highest-paid playback singer in the movie is the classicist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who was given Rs 25,000 for Shubh din aayo and Prem jogan ban… at a time when Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi received about a thousand rupees per song. (Classical Indian music in a popular movie? Isn’t that truly shocking?) Bahar, Anarkali’s competitor for Salim’s affections, played by Nigar Sultana, arguably as beautiful as Madhubala, wears a light veil when she goes to meet a stranger. Madhubala says namaaz for the life of Durjan Singh, son of Man Singh, who has just rescued her at the cost of his life to keep the word of a Rajput. The emperor prays to Allah, through the sufi divine Salim Chishti of Agra, for a son, and accepts prasad from his Hindu wife, Jodha Bai, after she has worshipped Lord Krishna on Janmaashtami. I could hear the credulity of one youngish voice break down in the hall. The scene was set just before the epic battle between father and son (the battle itself is a masterpiece of fusion between K. Asif’s direction and R.D. Mathur’s camera). A maulvi ties a tabeez on the right arm of the emperor with the famous victory verse of the Holy Quran Nasrumminallah-e-fateh-un-qareeb. Then a Hindu priest blesses the emperor as well with a saffron mark on the forehead. "Arrey," asked a querulous voice, "yeh Hindu hai ke Mussalman hai? (I say, is this chap a Hindu or a Muslim?)" The times are more liberal now, but the understanding is much less.

    Why hasn’t a chain of Mughal-e-Azam boutiques opened up? K. Asif brought master tailors from Delhi, and specialists in zari from Surat to create an exquisite array of clothes. But the piece de resistance is the jewellery, made by goldsmiths from Hyderabad and craftsmen from Kolhapur. It was the most expensive, as well as the slowest, film made till then, and the passion shows in every intricate detail. The clothes may not find takers in a culture of pace, but the jewellery that Bahar wears would lead to competitive bidding in any elite environment. It could even be called the Bahar line. I visualise a jewellery fashion show ablaze with Mughal gold, ruby, sapphire, emerald, diamond and baskets of pearl. The models would wear jewellery and nothing else, of course. That would put their pictures in every newspaper and magazine around the world.

    Bahar’s high moments come during two qawwalis in which she is matched against Anarkali. The first, Teri mahfil mein kismat aazman ke ham bhi dekhenge, Ghari bhar to tere nazdeek aakar ham bhi dekhenge (Let me test my fortune in your presence, Let me spend a moment near you), establishes the interplay of character, ambition, opportunity, love and tragedy. Prince Salim judges the two women. The rose goes to the upbeat Bahar, the thorn to Anarkali, who knows that tears are so often the price of love. She accepts the thorn, and tells the prince, "Kanton ko murjhanein ka gham nahi hota… Thorns never have to face the sorrow of decay."

    It is a line that gets derailed in English.

    With the ebb of Urdu a civilisation has diminished. Urdu is utterly civil, rooted in values and anchored in two words that supersede translation: tehzeeb and akhlaq. A "practical" Urdu-English dictionary defines tehzeeb as civilisation, etiquette, manners, politeness, courtesy, polish, refinement, instruction, education, discipline, culture. It is all this and much more, including that very delicate wit that nuances an idea or a sentiment with a sensitivity that becomes a bridge between lovers and a gulf between antagonists. Akhlaq is the practice of tehzeeb.

    I wondered about the Urdu-deficit in the Delhi theatre hall. Forty five years ago, a film could be made in superb Urdu for an India-wide audience. Mughal-e-Azam also made marketing history in 1960 when it was released in 150 theatres simultaneously. Today film language is a pidgin patois bred outside known cultures. This does not make it good or bad. To state a fact is not to pass judgment. The relevant point is that the Mughal-e-Azam audience of 2004 seemed entranced by the music of words, and in the music lay the meaning. Urdu lives.

    The denouement is marked by a qawwali that Bahar sings alone, for the conflict with Anarkali is over. Love has been defeated by power. There is pyrrhic victory for both women. Anarkali is permitted to become queen for one night, not — as the emperor taunts, because a laundi (slave girl) cannot give up the dream of a crown — but because, as Anarkali retorts, she does not want a future emperor of Hindustan to be remembered as a man who could not keep his word to a slave. In return, she must drug the prince to sleep while she is led away by guards to death (in the legend) and desolate freedom (in the film). Bahar has won the night, but lost the future, for she does not replace Anarkali in the prince’s affections. But she is permitted her final taunt, and she sings:

    Yeh dil ki lagi kam kya hogi, yeh ishq bhala kam kya hoga

    Jab raat hai aisi matwali phir subah ka aalam kya hoga!

    How will this passion ever diminish, this love ever wither?

    When the night is so delirious, imagine what morning will bring!

    I have rarely come across a more startling and poignant metaphor for power. This is the story of every government, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Everyone in power is permitted the luxury of just one night, and no one ever believes that the night will come to an end. Deceivers promise a dawn filled with wine, when the truth is that dawn will bring a drug that will put the miracle to sleep. And you will wake up with nothing around you except loss; the mind swooning with the memory of what was, and the mouth bitter with the ash of what might have been.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    Noh Drama

    Edited & Brought to you by:
  • ilaxi

  • Byline by M.J. AKBAR : Noh Drama

    Sincerity is Dr Manmohan Singh’s strength. He began as a reluctant Prime Minister, which itself is a rarity in the grab-culture of Delhi. No one thought that his reluctance was a sham, as is so often the case with politicians who torture renunciation to death. Over the few months in office, this sincerity has created ripples of goodwill that have reinforced his credibility and built a bond of trust with the nation.

    Could candour become a weakness? He was candid when he said in Srinagar that he had no mandate to change the geography of his country, implying that the best deal that Pakistan could expect from any negotiations over Kashmir is the status quo defined by the Line of Control. This was construed in Islamabad as a snub because President Pervez Musharraf has said more than once that if the LoC was going to be the solution then it could have been found in 1948. President Musharraf’s instant reaction was to check the voltage of the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Indo-Pak relations are both about horizons and process. Process demands a succession of open windows that both sides must strive to keep open. The offer to talk is not tantamount to a retreat from held positions, otherwise there would never be any space for diplomacy. Process is about optics and semantics as much as public negotiations and private parleys. It is a game of discretion in which patience is the ultimate virtue.

    President Musharraf has been throwing any number of balls into the air in order to check which of these might come into play. This is fine, and necessary. But the temptation to score a point comes in the way of scoring a victory because, paradoxically, this is a game which can be won only when both sides can declare victory.

    There is also the thankless task of preparing the minds of people, including of those whose minds have been sealed by the rigid glue of hyper-patriotism. This is a fever that Army establishments are particularly prone to. President Musharraf must address both the cantonment and the country outside, heavily populated by jihadis who have created a five-decade vested interest in war with India. Prime Minister Singh has to look over his shoulder for the Modi brigadiers who believe that they can win elections only by demonising Muslims and Pakistan.

    - Read More @
  • Asian Age

  • - Read Main Blog of M.J. Akbar
  • M.J.Akbar's Blog

  • Monday, November 15, 2004

    Eid Mubarak & Happy New Year!

    Eid Mubarak to all Readers and Happy New year to all....

    Religion is a faith that is observed by a mass of people in their own special way. Muslims walk with the faith of Mohammed whatever their division be, the sunni or the shites. The principles of truth lies with charity, generosity, love, unity with the Koran preaching’s, the five pillars of Islam - Faith in Allah, Praying, five times a day, Almsgiving, Keeping the Fast and Pilgrimage to Mecca. Mohammed once told his followers when they returned from battle that ‘You have come back from lesser to greater struggle’ On asking to elaborate the statement, he said ‘The greater struggle is the struggle within’.

    Happy Eid

    The Koran Fatiha ...this one's a beautiful prayer....

    In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
    Praise belongs to God, Lord of all Being
    the All-merciful, the All-compassionate
    the Master of the Day of Doom
    Thee only we serve; to Thee alone we pray for succor
    Guide us in the straight path
    the path of those whom Thou hast blessed,
    not of those against whom Thou art wrathful
    nor of those who are astray.

    Islam means ‘submission’ (to the will of God).
    A Muslim is ‘one who submits’ who is guided in every daily act by the word of God. Koran preaches man’s fate, judgments, rewards, and punishment - Paradise & Hell.Koran says ‘Peace is one of the God’s name. Those who seek to please god are assured of the sixteenth surah that they will be guided by him to the ‘paths of peace’ and according to Koran, God does not love fasad or violence. This is action which results in disruption of the social system, causing huge losses in terms of lives and property.

    - m.j.akbar
    - ilaxi
    (Blogging members of
  • M.J.Akbar's Blog
  • Uma Swarthi

    Edited & Brought to you by ilaxi

    Byline by M.J. Akbar: Uma Swarthi

    It all depends of course on what you mean by ordinary and extraordinary. The dictionary definition of "ordinary" is "expected". In that sense, the Uma Bharti outburst at the BJP meeting of plenipotentiaries and high officials last Wednesday was ordinary.

    Uma Bharti is a saffron-humbug power-addict who has climbed the greasier part of the BJP ladder by a careful use of petulance and virulence. Her petulance is reserved for her Hindutva colleagues. Her virulence is concentrated on Muslims. Even her saffron is humbug, for she is as far from renunciation as anyone could possibly be. Flaunting it as a uniform cannot disguise the fact that her addiction to power is pathetic.

    Her tantrums are an instance of acute withdrawal syndrome after she was lured out of the chief minister’s chair in Madhya Pradesh by a relieved BJP high command since her quirky behaviour was guaranteed to destroy the party. A quick search on the Net throws up this definition of "Causes and Symptoms": "Acute withdrawal syndrome begins within hours of abstinence, and includes a full range of physical and psychological symptoms. More long-term, or sub-acute, withdrawal symptoms, such as intense drug craving, may occur weeks or months after detoxification has taken place." Substitute the word "drug" for "power" and you have an accurate diagnosis of Uma Bharti’s malaise.

    What I found extraordinary is that Advani should have opted to rebuke his assembled functionaries in front of television cameras. All party presidents have to throw the rule book at offending deputies from time to time. Defeat is always a bad period for morale, and when you can’t fight the opponent you naturally choose the next best option, which is fighting between yourselves. This is the therapy of despair.

    So why did Advani invite television cameras to record an internal castigation? Does he believe that self-flagellation works only if accompanied by public humiliation?

    This may well be true of the BJP’s Generation Next. Six years ago, with the exception of an Arun Jaitley or a Pramod Mahajan, they were nobodies. Six years of unexpected power spoilt them. Some — not all, I hasten to add — have deeply benefited from the gravy train on which they got first class seats from the lottery of life. One Cabinet minister, to provide an example, was leader of the rickshaw union in his constituency when, to his surprise, he won the election of 1999 and, to his total shock, rose quickly to become Cabinet minister. Today he leads the nation from a multi-crore farmhouse.

    - Read @
  • Asian Age

  • - Main Blog @
  • M.J.Akbar's Blog

  • As you enjoy, or cringe at the cacophony let loose by Uma Bharti and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, remember one thing. The silence of Narendra Modi is more eloquent than the hysteria of Uma Bharti.