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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 12, Number 6, June 1999 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jun 30, 1999

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 June 19
AUG. 13-26, 1977
The mobike mania
is on. Read ail
about it inside
See page 33
;:Ri l-Ss
J, ih:
■"    fMri'l!
Probably the best beer in the world
Eqbal Ahmad
Designer condoms
Reverse racism
Support for cricket
Trade secrets
Sign it
Radio days
Malarial dilemmas
Three Indias
Voter power
by Dipak Gya wali
Tackling civil commotion
byZaigham Khan
The world's oldest teenagers
by Dubby Bhagat
Calcutta once more
Calcuttees and Hon Bongs
Calcutta days
by Bhaskar ('Papa') Menon
Move over BTV
by Afsan Chowdhury
The news of a kidnapping
by Rehan Ansari
"A State-Nation rather than a
by Najam Sethi
Massaging the official message
by Khaled Ahmed
A bomb, a nation, a leader
by Zia Mian
Techn icolour Partition
by Paramjit Rai
Bollywood, Bollywood
Mo ran of Kathmandu
reviewed by Rajendra S. Khadka
The Call of Nepal
reviewed by Mark Turin
wm The JS
lUl Diaspora
■*■ Remember
Magazine and
 Contributors to this issue
Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
Deepak Thapa
Copy Editor
Shanuj V.C.
Contributing Editors
Colombo Manik de Silva
dhaka     Afsan Chowdhury
Lahore     Beena Sarwar
new delhi Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
Toronto  Tarik Ali Khan
Chandra Khatiwada
Indra Shrestha
Suman Shakya
Ani! Karki
Sambhu Guragain
Awadhesh K Das
Pranita Pradhan
Website Manager
Salil Subedi
Anil Shrestha
Tripty Gurung
Roshan Shrestha
Marketing Office
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Himal is published and distributed by
Himalmedia Pvt Ltd
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Tel: +977-1-543333/34/35/36
Fax: 521013 (editorial)
http: //www. himal
■-'ISSN 10129804
Library of Congress Card Catalogue
Number 88 912882
ImagesetSng at: Polyimage, Kathmandu
Printed at: Jag3damba Press, Kathmandu
Tel: +977-1-521393, S36390
Ashis Nandy is a New Delhi-based psychologist and political scientist.
Bhaskar Menon. aka Papa Menon, went from The Statesman to the United Nations, where he
worked as an editor, wrote speeches for two Secretaries-General and authored several books.
He quit the UN a decade ago to put out an independent newsletter covering the organisation,
International Documents Review. At present he also edits Disarmament Times.
C.Y. Gopinath is, so writes Jug Suraiya in his weekly column, a writer, explorer, accomplished chef,
restauranteur, self-taught musician, advertising man, promoter of AIDS awareness, master of
mimicry and masquerade, and much else besides, which includes being the author of a book
called Travels with the Fish.
Dipak Gyawali is an engineer/economist and member of the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and
Dubby Bhagat looks after the sales and marketing department of the Everest Hotel, Kathmandu.
Edward Said, well-known cultural theorist, is author of Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism.
Jug Suraiya is a senior editor with The Times of India.
Khaled Ahmed is the consulting editor of The Friday Times, Lahore.
Mark Turin is associated with the Himalayan Languages Project of Leiden University in the
Netherlands, where he is writing a grammar of the hitherto undescribed Tibeto-Burman
language, Thami, spoken in the eastern hills of Nepal.
Paramjit Rai is finishing a DPhil on representations of women in Partition narratives at the University
of Sussex.
Rajendra S. Khadka graduated from St Xavier's School, Kathmandu, in 1973. He is the editor of
Travellers' Tales Nepal (Travelers' Tales Ine, 1998).
Rehan Ansari is a Lahore-based feature writerforthe Internet magazine, Chowk.
Tri Pradhan is a computer professional from New York.
Zaigham Khan is a Lahore correspondent for Herald, Karachi.
Nuclear physicist and peace activist Zia Mian teaches at Princeton University.
Cover shows the last issue (13-26 August 1977) of JS. The photograph by Taiyab Badshah taken 22
years ago is still very contemporary.
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More to Sri Lanka than...
It was with interest I read the Himal
issue on Sri Lanka (April 1999), in
which your contributors have
touched on many aspects of the pain
that Sri Lankans have gone through
and continue to experience. However,
I find a problem with the focus of all
the articles.
From the magazine, one would
think that the only thing Sri Lankans
do is engage in different forms of
violence from election violence to civil
war. Perhaps that is what we do best!
But amidst all this turmoil, many
people also try to lead a normal life.
For instance, as a practising artist
and sculptor, I practise my profession
in spite of the violence. Often my
own work and that of many other
younger artists are reactions to
violence, without using violence itself.
It is interesting to note that the
recent revival in the visual arts in Sri
Lanka has taken place against the
backdrop of worsening inter-ethnic
relations and the entrenchment of
institutionalised hostilities between
the Sri Lankan government forces
and the Tamil guerrillas. Similarly,
writers write, robbers rob, lovers fall
in and out of love. All the time, the
kind of political calamities and
conflicts that your magazine has
discussed also continue.
The point is that many of us still
have not lost our humanity, which is
why we may still have some hope
regardless of the visionless politics of
our leaders. I suggest that the next
time you do a special issue on Sri
Lanka, you also focus on these
reservoirs of hope, the ordinary
routine activities that make it possible
for people to live amidst chaos.
Anoli Perera
• It seems to me that you have given
adequate attention in your special
issue on Sri Lanka to those matters
that are directly linked to the politics
of violence in Sri Lanka. However,
the articles failed to place in context
the consequences of this war for the
future. For it is in the future that the
real chaos of Sri Lanka lies.
Consider the following: universi
ties have lost their best academics to
the West, the IQ levels of those who
enter politics have steadily fallen,
corruption in public life has been
rouhnised, violence has become a
pastime, and the list goes on and on.
And just what will happen to all
those individuals
in the military,
police, Tamil
terrorist (or
militant!) groups
and the numerous
gangs maintained
by politicos, if the
war and other
kinds of violence
in the country
ends tomorrow?
There will be so
many people with
a training to kill
and with very low
regard for human life roaming our
If Sri Lankans do not address
these issues and if the media does not
highlight them, the end of violence
when it happens may not mean the
light at the end of the tunnel. It may
in fact mean that the train is coming
towards you, with the nation's
children stuck in the tunnel.
Chanaka Weeratunge
Not scientists
As an analyst of the Himalayan
scene, and the mountain scene in
general for over three decades, I find
the letters to the editor {March 1999)
from three members of NGOs or
consultancies who criticise my review
of Mountains ofthe World: A
Global Priority (printed in
Himal, September 1998) to
be wide off the mark. Jack
Ives and Bruno Messerli,
the self-styled president
and vice-president of their
International Mountain
Society, and Larry
Hamilton of his highlands
consultancy like to see
themselves as "scientists" of
mountains. Rather than
deal with the irrelevant
minutiae of their complaints, let me address their
distorted gaze of the mountain scene.
Over the years I have come to
believe that mountain folk are
perfectly capable of ordering their
own lives and creating their own
productive landscapes without the
intrusion of international busybodies,
especially Europeans. If I have a
personal agenda that is "destructive",
as Ives and Messerli claim, it is to
illuminate and destroy the social
construction of hazard and disaster,
KWfc CoofiK
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 Vajra (literally-flash
of lightning), is an
artists' condominium,
a transit home for
many, providing a
base during months of
hibernation and
creative inspiration.
Its isolation, graphic
splendour and
peaceful ambience,
make an ideal retreat
from the clock of
Ketaki Shelh
Inside Outside
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
F had become so fond
of it that I stayed
John Col lee
The London Observer
Vaj ra, a serene
assembly of brick
buildings, grassy
courtyards, ivy-
covered walls and
Hindu statuary is a
calm oasis over
looking, chaotic
Time, Februnrv '99
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Bijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 1 271545,272719 Fax: 977 1 271695 E-mail:
in mountains that has pervaded their
work for decades. There is, however,
a much larger issue at work here.
While Ives, Messerli and
Hamilton—all biophysical scientists
with expertise in Alpine geomorphol-
ogy and forestry — might stand to
gain financially from their advocacy
of a global priority for mountain
studies through the largesse of UN
funding, their "science" of
"Stability-Instability" in mountains or
their "Theory of Environmental
Degradation" is simply a contemporary social construction, or, worse
yet, the environmental determinism
of the 1920s. Whose science are we
talking about? We are not talking
about any debate of the legitimacy of
plasma physics here, for example; we
are talking about how three
lowlanders from the West and their
like-minded brethren view mountains
and their populations. This is
environmental perception by
humans, not science.
All across the Himalaya there is
abundant material in all the countries
to provide some meta-analysis of
what is going on in mountains. Ives,
Messerli, and Hamilton have neglected it. If there is a problem in
mountains today, it is a problem of
politics, first, and secondly, economics, especially in the feeble macroeco-
nomic policies at the nation-state
1 recently started a talk about one
place in the Himalaya, Himachal
Pradesh — a relative "success" — by
quoting from Marx (not Karl, but
Groucho). He reportedly asked a
woman, "How's your husband?" to
which she replied, "Compared to
what?" Ives, Messerli and Hamilton
need to spend more time in the field,
not in gallivanting to international
conferences, to learn that other places
are worse off than mountain people
and environments.
Anyone for Bihar?
Nigel j. R. Allan
Truckee, California
Guinness Everest
The month of May saw a remarkable
juxtaposition of events on Everest: the
discovery of George Leigh Mallory's
body 75 years after he and his
companion, Andrew Irvine, disappeared into the clouds high on the
North face; 15-year-old Nepali
climber Arvin Timilsina's attempt to
be the youngest person to climb it;
and another Nepali, Babu Chhiri
Sherpa's endurance record of 21
hours on the summit.
What has changed in 75 years?
Climbers now race up and down in a
day, parachute, ski, or camp on the
top. Base camp has become an
international city with dozens of
expeditions attempting the climb.
Where once an elite few on national
expeditions vied for the summit, there
is now a worldwide growth in high
Arvin and Babu.
risk sports with thousands of
potential Everest climbers.
In the early days, mountaineers
brought the news down from the
mountains themselves and the public
might eventually get to see a slide
lecture or read an official expedition
account. Now email, satellite phones
and light-weight video cameras bring
the most poignant and immediate
news to an insatiable public. The
combination of money, instant fame
and the life-or-death machismo on a
glamorous mountain is a heady one.
It looks like a circus and one can
almost hear the pundits and old-
timers groaning at more attention
seeking and record setting, and
wishing for the good old days when
climbers were reluctant heroes and
an expedition had the mountain to
Since Mallory's answer of
"because it's there" to the quintessential question "why do you climb
Everest?", how much has changed in
the mountaineers' motivation?
Though it may seem that time has
diluted the purity of what goes on, it
still takes great skill, courage and
commitment to risk one's life on the
big mountains. There may be a huge
difference in the clothing worn by
Mallory and the high-tech fabrics of
the modern mountaineer, but I
believe that the motivation remains
unchanged. Certainly, they experience the same degree of risk and
uncertainty when the wind picks up
and the temperature plummets.
When young Arvin turned back
from just below the summit, his sense
of disappointment would have been
as keen as any pre-war mountaineer
giving up high on the mountain.
Youthful dreams and aspirations are
the stuff of life. However, there are
concerns, If more and
more young people are
going to attempt the
climb, sooner or later
some child mountaineer is going to die.
Perhaps it is time to
consider a minimum
age limit for
Babu Chhiri's
incredible achievement, unthinkable
a few years ago, extends our knowledge of the limits of human physiology. Though no measurements were
taken, just the fact that he survived
21 hours at such an altitude tells us
that at least it is possible. It would be
interesting to know if Babu used
supplementary oxygen during his
stay and if anyone intends to check
him for possible brain damage.
One thing we can be sure of is the
slopes of Everest will be the scene of
even more acts of individual derring-
do as human ingenuity and thirst for
adventure spur them on. If Mallory
had been around to see the action
now, would he have laughed or
cried? The paradox for the explorer is
that his love of the remote destroys
the very thing he cherishes by paving
the way for others to follow.
James MacGregor Duff
Repton, NSW, Australia
(Jim Duff, MD, was on Chris Bonnington's
1975 ascent of Everest by the southwest
face and in 1984 he was on the Australian
ascent of the North face of Everest and
made the first crossing of the North Col.)
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 '* p t	
The first surprise was the turnout. About 65 percent of Nepal's 13.5 million voters cast ballots
in the country's general elections held this May.
Conventional wisdom was that since Nepalis
were fed up with non-performance and corruption, incited by a Maoist boycott and threats of
violence, and uninspired by an issue-less campaign, they would stay away from the booths
in large numbers.
Instead, the turnout was as high as in the last
elections five years ago. Not only that, Nepali
voters surprised everyone by showing more
maturity in their collective judgement than the
politicians they had elected. They decided that
the Nepali Congress will form a majority government, and the Communist Party of Nepal
United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) will provide
the main opposition.
Another surprise was the rejection of many
of the old faces in all parties who had been associated with horse-trading
and various other scandals.
Voters also rejected linguo-
or ethno-opportunist politicians bent on promoting
their own brand of narrow
communalism, such as
'independent' communist
Padma Ratna Tuladhar and
Hindi protagonist Gajendra
Narayan Singh, who has
been minister in every
horse-traded coalition cabinet of the second parliament. Singh's defeat (along
with Bam Dev Gautam's, of whom more below)
was a sign that Nepali voters do not buy pro-
or anti-Indian arguments. They have their own
national worries aplenty,
The biggest surprise of all, however, was the
complete decimation of the Communist Party
of Nepal Marxist-Leninist (CPN-ML). A similar
fate met the Lokendra Bahadur Chand faction
of the rightist Rashtriya Prajatantra Partv (RPP),
known as a party of "all chiefs and no Indians".
The CPN-ML separated from the parent CPN-UML
in 1998, while the RPP (Chand) broke away from
the Surya Bahad ur Thapa faction of the party of
the same name. Neither won a single seat in the
205-member House of Representatives.
One reason for the CPN-ML rout was that its
leadership was not able to explain to the people
why it went for a split. The party's strongman
Bam Dev Gautam had tried to push a draco-
nian "anti-terrorist" pro-police bill directed at
quelling the Maoist insurgency when he was
deputy prime minister and home minister in
Chand's short-lived government. And then,
there he was in the election campaign projecting himself and his party as ideologically close
to the Maoists —with the hope of pulling pro-
Maoist sympathy votes. But neither the voters
nor the Maoists fell for it.
After the split, the CPN-ML had also tried to
distance itself from the "Pajero scandal" by requiring its MPs to surrender the luxury vehicles
they, along with MPs of other parties, had imported duty free without disclosing their source
of income. This late attempt at party purification ended in a farce, leaving the voters to turn
to known older devils rather than to sanctimonious new ones.
A constant refrain during the poll campaign
had been that a hung parliament and small parties prone to horse-trading arc the cause of all
ills. This seems to have turned voters away from
smaller parties and independents in favour of
large potential winners. Major exceptions were
two extreme left parties which did much better
than the last time, and together managed to send
six vociferous comrades to the new House of
Before the split in the CPN-UML, the communists were the largest party in the second parliament and had even formed a minority government for nine months in 1994-1995. It is
widely believed that, had they remained united
(and relatively clean), they could have formed
a majority government this time around. After
the split —a result of personality clashes, differences over the Mahakali Treaty with India
and spoils of office as well as arcane Marxist
hairsplitting — the two groups spent all their energies in fratricidal warfare instead of challenging their real opponent, the Nepali Congress.
As a public radio commentator saw it, both
communists came out winners in this election.
The CPN-ML's real objective was to prevent the
CPN-UML from winning the elections, in which
it succeeded admirably by dividing the left vote
and allowing the Congress its margin of victory
in close contests. The CPN-UML, in turn, was only
interested in decimating the CPN-ML, which it
has done with brilliance.
Nurtured in the underground egalitarian
comradeship of secrecy and conspiracies, the
Nepali Left is having a difficult time adjusting
to the dynamics of parliamentary practices and
the open polity of mass-based democratic upsurges. The erstwhile underground comrades
seem unable to accept another communist as a
HIMAL  12/6 June 1999
 i «"""■,
senior in the overground party hierarchy without feeling a threat of annihilation. An underground culture is also a poor school to teach
the virtues of accommodation and compromise,
with the result that the slightest difference of
opinion is magnified into a global ideological
warfare with no prisoners taken.
For a change, the Nepali Congress was able
to present a united front after Prime Minister
Girija Prasad Koirala announced that he would
campaign to have his main rival in the party,
Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, as the next prime minister. So far, Koirala has stuck to his promise,
although the experience of the past leaves voters suspicious that dormant fratricidal tendencies among the supporters of the two will break
into the open once the fish and loaves of office
begin to be distributed.
This was essentially an issue-less election,
and there are several big challenges in the days
ahead that will strain the cohesion of the ruling and opposition parties as well as the future of parliamentary democracy in Nepal. The
Congress has to stay relatively united and disciplined to actually deliver some development
to the people, and the CPN-UML should provide
an effective parliamentary opposition taking all
the other opposition parties of the right and the
left along with it.
A reason for nervousness and impatience in
the opposition benches will be the high cost of
elections that has just been completed. Based
on public admissions by candidates in previous elections, a candidate of a major party
spends at least a million rupees in his or her
constituency. This amounts to more than 200 million rupees (USD 3 million) countrywide per
major party, and this is a conservative estimate.
While it can be waggishly argued that this is a
more effective socialist wealth re-distribution
programme than mentioned in any of the party
manifestoes, there is still a need to replenish
the party coffers for the next round.
The CPN-UML may find it very difficult to be
content with staying in the opposition benches
for five years with little chance of meeting those
internal needs. It will also have few perks to
deliver to its restless and expectant supporters.
The Congress, with its hands in the till, could
do better but not much more so. Issues of governance and past neglect will haunt it. Predictably, the opposition will be tempted to make
political capital out of every lapse and if it manages this with savvy, even if its coffers may not
match the ruling party's, the next time around
the CPN-UML may get its chance to sit on the
hot seat. A
- Dipak Gyawali
The Nawaz Sharif government has armed itself
with yet another imaginative law, enabling it to
declare virtually any Pakistani a terrorist. Under the new Anti-Terrorist (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on 27 April as a presidential decree, "...go slows, lock-outs...distributing
publishing or pasting of a handbill or making a
graffiti or wall-chalking intended to create unrest or fear or create a threat to the security of
law and order or to incite the commission of (certain) offence(s)...", all fall under the term "civil
commotion", the punishment for which is up to
seven years' rigorous imprisonment or fine,
or both.
The new law is the latest in a series of ventures undertaken by the Pakistan Muslim
League government to impose 'quick justice' on
the hapless nation. Almost obsessed with the
idea of "justice at the doorstep", the prime minister of Pakistan has been systematically introducing quick-fixes to the judicial system despite
the many setbacks he has suffered.
Soon after coming to power, Sharif began
holding a Moghul-style open court outside his
Lahore residence where he listened to people's
complaints every Sunday and passed urgent orders. The images of a benevolent ruler directly
dispensing justice to the masses were given
much play by the official electronic media even
as newspapers carried stories of miserable
people who could not get justice even after travelling hundreds of kilometres, sometimes
spending fortunes. However, the prime minister soon lost interest in his court and after a desperate supplicant committed suicide by setting
himself ablaze in front of his residence, the court
was shifted to another area where it continues
under the supervision of a provincial legislator
as a mere ghost of its earlier magnificence.
Next, in September 1997, came the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which aimed
to provide speedy justice in terrorism-related
incidents. Cases, mainly involving activists of
ethnic parties in Karachi and sectarian groups
in Punjab, had been dragging on in the courts
for years. Neither did the police seem interested
in serious investigations, nor were the judges
keen on dispensing with these cases, arguably
for fear of reprisals. Sharif said that "the terrorists are either released on bail or acquitted" and
declared that he wanted such cases to be decided
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
within hours. However, instead of reforming the
investigating agencies or the judiciary, he used
the Act to set up a parallel system of justice
which led to a serious conflict with the superior judiciary that resulted in the storming of
the Supreme Court building by activists of the
ruling party and finally in the ouster of the chief
justice in early 1998.
Sharif succeeded in setting up his favourite
anti-terrorist courts (AT'Cs). Sixteen such courts
were set up in Sindh and Punjab provinces and
more than 1500 cases were referred to them, including a murder case against opposition
leader Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali
In more than a year and a half of working,
these courts have decided only 400 cases. However, most of these decisions have been overturned by the superior courts. It is more than
obvious that even the ATCs are helpless, relying, as they have to, on investigations carried
out by the extremely criminalised, politicised
and corrupt police force.
Then, in December 1998, Sharif came up with
an even more ingenious solution to the problem of law and order. The
Armed Forces (Acting  in Aid  of
Civil    Power)
Ordinance 1998
was    promulgated to set up
military courts
to hear cases of
civilian nature.
Legal experts reminded the government    that
military courts
were normally
established cither during martial law or after
wars    to   deal
with war crimes
and cannot be
considered as a
substitute to ordinary    courts
under a democratic dispensation. But Sharif
seemed       convinced that the
norms of justice
and civil society
must    be    suspended   if   the
worsening law and order problem was to be
brought under control. A number of military
courts were set up in Karachi which gave verdicts on numerous cases, including a death sentence to a 13-year-old boy.
On 17 February 1999, the Supreme Court
dealt a big blow to Sharif when a nine-member
bench of the court unanimously declared that
setting up military courts to try civilians was
unconstitutional and without lawful authority.
The court also provided a mechanism for
speedy trial of the cases relating to terrorism
by way of which the government was to amend
an earlier Anti-Terrorist Ordinance and come up
with a new law to set up a new brand of speedy
trial courts that were to work under the
supervision of the higher judiciary. But while
promulgating the latest law —the Anti-
Terrorist (Amendment) Ordinance —the
government ignored many of the Supreme
Court's directives.
It is clear that the law, especially with the
definition provided for "civil commotion", can
be misused by the government to tame the unruly opposition. Legal experts say the Ordinance has been so loosely drafted that important terms such as "internal disturbance" and
"intended to violate law" is open to the most
subjective interpretation by state functionaries.
Said Abid Hasan Manto, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, "It brings all legitimate political and trade union activity into
definition of civil commotion and thus invades
fundamental rights of the citizens."
Political parties have unanimously opposed
the law and the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami even
held an all-party conference against its promulgation. Former president Farooq Leghari declared: "It is a black law aimed at crushing the
opposition and establishing one-party rule in
the country." An editorial in the English daily
Dawn stated that the law was "in some ways
more draconian in sweep than the martial law
order and regulations which were aimed at suppressing political activities."
The law is open to challenge in the Supreme
Court, a recourse which has yet to be considered seriously by political parties, human rights
organisation or the ordinary people. But there
is always the possibility that judicial intervention may once again provoke another row with
the government. This can only lead to further
damage to the judiciary which has already received almost irreparable damage at the hands
of a government bent on destroying all democratic institutions. ^
-Zaigham Khan
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
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As sure as taking it there yourself
 At  a time when Marshal MacLuhan was
talking about  the global village,   when
Rolling Stone began publishing  in
America,   Melody Maker started coming
out   in England and  Time-Out happened
in London,   in Calcutta  there was  JS.
The World's 0
JS, or Junior States
man, as it was first
called, was the
brainchild of Evan
Charlton, the last
British editor of The Statesman.
Charlton's idea was to catch the
readers early by inculcating
brand loyalty towards The
Statesman at a young age.
For this he needed a youth
magazine and to start it, he got
hold of another Britisher —
Desmond Doig.
At that time, Desmond was
doing a number of things. He
was a roving reporter. He was
on a freewheeling assignment
through India doing what he
wanted. He used to head towards Nepal quite often. He
was with Sir Edmund Hillary
on the famous yeti-hunting expedition of 1960-61. And
around the time JS was being
thought of, he was doing a
book of sketches on Calcutta.
Desmond was the perfect
choice for JS. He was the ultimate renaissance man. He
could paint as well as he could
write as well as he could design. He did a
number of things with equal fluency. He was
a charming raconteur and a wit. He had a
degree of humanity and compassion about
him that drew people to him and with which
he bound the magazine and all who worked
in it with hoops of loyalty.
I was the first to join JS, in the sense that
I was the first to join the team that brought
out JS. I met Desmond for the first time in
the corridors of the Statesman building. I
was then a management trainee and 'in circulation', wandering around from floor to
floor when I saw this florid Englishman who
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 This was  the coming of age of  Indian
youth,   a joining of hands across many
oceans,   an anthem of  the young all
over the world wanting to be heard.
Dubbv Bhagat  recounts here  the  rise  and
fall  of JS.
est Teenagers
stopped me and said, "I say, do you know
anyone who would like to help me to start a
youth magazine?"
"Yes. Me."
"Do you know anyone else who would
be interested?"
And I thought of Papa Menon who had
started a magazine in college —
St Xavier's, Calcutta. So, Papa
was second in. I also wanted my
best friend who I thought was
a brilliant writer because we
had written a book of poems
together. This was Jug Suraiya.
Jug used to drink late into
the night and get up equally
late, which obviously was not
good enough for us. So I con^
spired with his mother to get
him to work with us. Jug thus
became first a reluctant, then a
very enthusiastic, member of
the JS. That was the original JS
team: Desmond, Papa, Jug and
We used to operate out of
Desmond's room. In fact the
first issue was brought out of
this office. Even afterwards,
we would still meet in that office but it so happened that
we ended up eating all of
Desmond's lunch and he began
getting thinner. So he asked for
a larger space and we got a mezzanine floor in the Statesman
building, an area soon to be
filled with the most remarkable
talent that Calcutta and India had to offer,
bringing out a magazine the like of which
has not been seen since.
When we first started out, Desmond was
in h±3 mid-40s and the rest of us just out of
college in our 20s. The initial issues after we
began publishing in February 1967 were
Renaissance man:
Desmond Doig
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
aimed at a much younger audience—10 to
12-year-olds. This was in keeping with the
dictates of Evan Charlton but Desmond soon
changed its course and in about six months,
we were bringing out the magazine people
remember as JS. Desmond wanted a magazine for the young, about the young, by the
young and that is what it turned out to be.
In a sense, JS was a coming of age of Indian youth, a joining of hands across many
oceans, an anthem of the young all over the
world wanting to be heard. It was the time
when Marshal Macluhan was talking about
the global village. It is no coincidence that
JS came out at the same time the Rolling Stone
began publishing in the US, the same time
Melody Maker started coming out in England,
the time when Time-Out happened in London. There was a renaissance of youthful
ideas the world over and JS was there at the
right time.
The late 60s urban Indian society was
made up of children and adults. There was
nothing in between. We, at JS, invented the
Indian teenager, and it's an invention that has
lasted all these years. This is the 'khadi curtain' age we're talking about, a time when
India was completely insulated from the
outside world. We were the first vehicle to
This column is to help
you sort ont your personal problems with a very
special friend-Zeenat Aman.
Do,n,t,".'*« '° Z*™«»<HrMt -. .:.r. in;iit,, tc. ■■¥,.„',,,
got a fnend", JR, A Ctawrlughee Square. Calcutta-TOOWlI
Zeenat S»J» she's sorry, but she cannot possibly reply to
letters except-on this page.
send your letters to "You'»e
I want lo become a racing driver in the States, but my
parents are against it Don't bother to tell me about the
risks I'm taking in lite, J net give me a place where I
can get a bit ol information About racing.
Okay, I won't harp on what's ohyiijusly a very sore point -
hut can yon realty blame your parents for wanting to
see (heir son sate ? Contact the Automobile Association
in your area, or a motor sports clnb, If there is one—
they might be able to help.
I want to join the Air Force or Indian Airlines. But will
they accept an Arts graduate?
Well, I suppose that depends on the kind of ioh ma.
after    Write to the DltSteV !*££*, ffi S™ %
to^P^rf"^™ **»«» ?W<«»I the Air Fora;
tt^Hw Personnel  Manager,  Indian Airlines, New Delhi
I'm an Algan boy studying in Dehra Dun. I'm in love
with a Hindu girl and want to marry her, but I'm not
sure she feels the same way. Besides her parents don't
want to give their daughter to a foreigner. What should
I do?
Well, first, ask the girl outright whether sue really does
want to marry yea. If she says, yes, face the parents
together. It's understandable they're a hit wary of your
friendship with their daughter: you're from a different
country and religions and, since you're stilt studying, not
able to support a wife. I'm sure they will be most under,
standing If you can convince them you're serious about
each other and prepared to wait till you're mere settled.
Being of marriageable age, I received an offer about 10
months ago. The family came to visit me and showed
interest, and so did the boy initially, though nothing was
finalized because, we were told, he couldn't make up his
mind. Since then things have been hanging fire. I like
this boy a lot and feel he is interested in me. but I wish
I could find out the real reason for his hesitation.
Would you advise me to ask my father to write to his
father lo let the boy come down here so that we can
clear .all misunderstandings, or shall I just forget about
it  all ?
Yes, your suggestion's a good one ; it could be that he's
hesitating to marry a girl he scarcely knows. Bat of
eonrse you must be prepared foe the possibility that he
doesn't want to marry anyone just yet and that's the
real reason behind the hold-up. Either way, it's best
to get (he whole thing cleared up, isn't It ?
The way my fiance behaves when other girls are around
I think I'm going to lose him. He's always flirting with
girls, most of whom have belter figures than I. How
can I improve my figure ?
It's not your figure that's the problem, It's your fiance's
behaviour that needs Improving. What good's a relation-
snip that hinges ou the sire of ft girl's figure ?
I'm in love with a relative of mine and feel I can't live
without her. We meet only once or twice a year, but
she knows I'm crazy about her. But I still don't know
her feelings. When we're apart I make up my mind to
ask her. but when we meet if I ask her anything it will
make her annoyed. I don't care about tbe parents problem or other social problems. I will overcome all that.
So just suggest something to lead us lo marriage in a few
First of all, what la the relationship? And why should
there be parent and social problems? You might brush
them aside, but she might not, and quite justifiably, too.
There Is only one suggestion I can give: pluck np courage and ask her how she feels. Whether she says yes
or no it will he tbe end of your uncertainty If she says
yes, tackle those problems together; If she says no accept it gracefully arm dent go into a decline.
go global and were constantly accused of
being pro-Western or bringing in 'disgusting' Western influences.
Those were very restrictive days. Partition was still a fresh memory. We'd just got
rid of the British and here was a Britisher who
was leading a magazine that was immensely
popular and immensely outspoken. A magazine that said that jeans were all right, that
the teenager had a place in society outside
the family; a magazine that preached fun and
preached identity, and everyone we were
aiming at accepted that, but like I said, there
was also rearguard action against us. It was
a difficult time in that respect but it was also
a joyous time.
We were addressing ourselves to those
who had aspirations beyond their milieu,
not necessarily a Western milieu but something beyond their immediate background.
We began by appealing to the intellectual
young person and then eventually to the intellectual in the young person to whom we
said: "Look! There is more to life than mere
studies. Studies do have a purpose but only
to help you achieve many facets of what
we're writing about." And we certainly covered a lot of ground. We wrote about science,
we wrote about Mother Teresa, we wrote
about Sir Edmund Hillary, ad-
venture in Africa, the great outdoors, everything under the sun.
That is where the magazine's intellectual and physical sustenance came from: variety and a
constant search for newness.
For example, in my field,
which was music, we would review the very latest from the
West. We were the first in India
to put the then ground-breaking
Beatles' Sgt Pepper's on the
cover and review it extensively.
We got opinions from authori-
ties in America and England and
India. Among other things, we
looked at the whole big band
thing that had come in. And
when flower power arrived, we
were there writing about it.
But JS was anything but escapist. We represented the mass,
not a subsection of the youth.
Take the example of drugs.
Those were times when doing
drugs was really hep, but apart
from the occasional pot smoked,
no one at JS was really into
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 drugs. It was firmly grounded in reality. But
there was a difference—it was projecting into
the future. Look at the last JS cover (shown
on the cover of this magazine). That is what the
Indian teenager looks like today, but we put
him on the cover back in the 70s,
We were fortune-telling in a way. And it
affected a lot of people, not only our original target audience of the middle classes.
There was a trickle-down effect, or trickle-
up effect, depending on how you looked at
it. We discovered that each magazine was
read by seven people at least. Desmond used
to say that JS was a magazine for the young
of all ages, and so it was. We had letters to
the editor even from grandmothers and
We were breaking new territory, and our
only influence was in fact, what people
accused us of, the West. To keep in touch
with what was happening in the rest of the
world, we had every possible
magazine coming to us and
we saw all kinds of films,
both Western and Indian.
But we adapted the ideas
to Indian tastes. Even then
we were far ahead of time.
Take the kind of stories
we did. C.Y. Gopinath was
the man on the street. He did
incredible things. He used to
dress up in different guises
and write about his experiences. Once he dressed
up as a sheikh, went to
Bombay and bribed a
hospital into emptying
itself on the promise that
he would fill it up with
his relatives. He actually
wrote about it.
Papa Menon was
also  a trenchant
street reporter.
He started a
very good series called "We
Took 10" and
he'd  take  10
filmmakers or
10 Naxalites or
10 whatever
and do short
with them.
N o n d o n
Bagchi did
1999 June 12/>
something similar. We had contributors from
all over. Anurag Mathur and Sunil Sethi covered Delhi. Ivan Costa, who now writes in
Canada, did Bombay as the chief there before I took over. I, of course, did a rock column and other articles.
We did not stick to the same thing only,
however. I did music but that did not stop
me from interviewing Mother Teresa.
Desmond saw to it. That was his way of
grooming us into being writers as against
subject-oriented specialists. We were writers. We were that rare breed.
Desmond's compassion was incredible.
Jug wanted to go to London and when he
did get there, Desmond kept him writing
from there even while he was doing his own
thing. Amongst other things, Jug worked at
Harrod's but he was writing for JS all the
When it was my turn in London, I
worked for the advertising agency, J. Walter
Thompson, but 1 also did articles for JS
from there. This was the way we travelled and saw the places we wanted
to see. It was all through Desmond
we got to these places and once
there, he opened doors for us.
Our    editorial   meetings
were full of laughter, full of
fun. These were held
in        Desmond's
office. Ideas were
thrown   around
and      knocked
down by each
other. Of course,
Desmond had
the   right   of
veto, but he
seldom used
it. What he
did in fact do
was  elaborate the idea.
Say, one said,
'Let's do London       very
soon'. He'd say,
'Sure but remember  we have to
cover Carnaby Street
in London'. Or, 'Let's
do fashion'. Then someone else would say, 'In that
case   We   must  do   San
Francisco, and a flower
power    issue.'    Stories
Images that accompany the cover articles
in this issue are all
taken from JS.
JS columnist
 JS PEOPLE had Calcutta ties but
there were also people from all
over India writing for us. India
was represented right across the
board, but it was a different kind
of India —a younger, brighter, international India.
There were people like C.Y.
Gopinath, and there was Deb
Mahnalobis, who used to bunk his
school. La Martiniere, to come and paint for us. There
was Ratan Pradhan, and there was Louis Godhino who
did psychedelic painting. Deb is now settled and very
famous in the US. Louis is in Dubai with his own design
studio. There was Shadon Banerjee, nicknamed Charlie.
He was Desmond's deputy —a short, round, tubby fellow who always looked very happy. There was a girl
called Julie de Santos who used to come in and hand
him articles for a column called "Just Fings". They fell in
love and got married and she is now Julie Banerjee and
they are both in Australia, and Charlie is working in a
very senior position in a newspaper there.
There was Nondon Bagchi, who was a drummer for
a band as well as a brilliant writer. He is now with yet
another band and teaches mathematics. There was
Anurag Mathur who was a regular contributor. He has
since written books and articles. His first book was a very
wry look at America, The Inscrutable Americans. Sunil
Sethi was our Delhi bureau chief. Sunil now has his own
television programme.
There was young MJ. Akbar who used to contribute a lot and many years later, returned the favour by
asking Desmond, when he was living in Kathmandu, to
contribute to The Telegraph and Sunday, which Akbar was
editing. And now he has asked me too to contribute to
his present paper The Asian Age.
Kofi Annan's right hand, Shashi Tharoor, was another regular. Shashi's father was the advertising manager for Vne Statesman. Shashi was still very young when
he started a series with a character called Reginald Bellows who was a spy, and Jug used to edit him. I was in
New York last year and I rang Shashi's office up and his
secretary told me he was on a long-distance line and
asked who was speaking. I said, "Reginald Bellows."
Shashi dropped the other line at once and spoke to me.
There was a bonding that still exists among JS people.
There were people like Taiyab Badshah who is now
a famous photographer in Bombay. Patranobis, who is
now the chief photographer of The Statesman. Another
photographer, Raghu Rai, is, of course, more well-known.
Utpal Sengupta joined as writer-cum-head of the
then fledgling JS design studio. Utpal was a go-getter
and he got us various accounts. We got movie publicity
advertising and poster designing. The "Heera Panna"
and the "Ishk, Ishk, Ishk" posters were done by us.
We designed shirts. The JS design studio even designed
and executed the coronation of King Jigme Singye
Wangchuk of Bhutan. We did the collateral for the coronation of the present king of Nepal and devoted an issue
of JS to the festivities.
Today Utpal is vice-president of the Shangrila Group
of Companies in Kathmandu, and just recently designed
the Shangrila Village in Pokhara. One would like to think
there is a little of Desmond in him.
]S was revolutionary in many other ways. Besides
the JS studio, we used to have what were called JS happenings all over India where film stars for example
would come and perform for us. People such as Rajesh
Khanna and the young Amitabh Bachchan would fly
over and do skits, dance, songs. Or we'd have a vintage
car rally or stage an original play. They were all, all, JS
In the magazine itself, we had Zeenat Aman writing a column for us, a sort of agony-aunt column. Simi
did a beauty column and Rekha did something else. It
was a very full paper. The masthead said it was a magazine that thinks young and that is what we strove for.
Our layout artist was Ratan Pradhan and between he
and Desmond, they made sure that the layout contained
as much movement as possible, to reflect the content.
There was Bimal and Nikhil. Nikhil used to work
with Desmond in 77k Statesman drawing-advertisements,
Bimal was a brilliant artist who came to Kathmandu
after JS folded up. Desmond, Utpal, Kalyan and 1 designed Malla Hotel and Hotel Shangrila. The whole renaissance man thing cannot be removed from Desmond.
Then there was the larger JS family which had in it
people like Indira Gandhi, Edmund Hillary, Mother
Teresa and singer Ajit Singh and a host of others who
all supported us morally even after JS closed down. They
kept an eye on us, looked after us, mentored us.
Working with Desmond we all became mentor-oriented in two senses of the word. We searched for mentors and in our own strange ways, we became mentors.
Jug, for example, mentors (which is a new management
term) the editorial page people of T7ie Times of India. In a
way, his mentor is Sameer Jain, owner of 77ie Times of
India, who he thinks is a genius. I myself have found
unconditional acceptance and love which I reciprocate
to the Laris who own the Everest Hotel in Kathmandu
where I work and where I have a small department of
sales people to whom 1 am devoted to and try and mentor. And so it moves through all of us. Shashi Tharoor
mentoring the whole of the UN....
Some years ago was published My Kind of Kathmandu, Desmond's tribute to the city where he lived the
last years of his life. There are still 150 Desmond
watercolours waiting to be made into a book on Delhi,
the working title of which is These Moving Stones, named
so because one city of Delhi gave way to build another
city. There are still Desmond's sketches of Goa, and there
is still Desmond's biography to be told. There is still the
possibility of someone bringing out another /S for another millennium. In that sense, JS will live on, as it does
in the minds of the generation that moves and shakes
India today.
Legends    like    the
JS don't die, they rest,
only to rise phoenixlike from the ashes of
our memory. 4
-Dubby Bhagat
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 idn't read it
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 literary south asia
short fiction and poetry in Himal
At Himal, we believe that we are all
losing something when stories from
different parts of the Subcontinent
are not shared. We have therefore
decided to start a new
department in this tti^*
magazine, litSA,
Literary South Asia,
which seeks to bring
together the literary
rivers of South Asia in
these pages. The creative
voice of women and men from
across the Subcontinent, we
feel, are as necessary to br
to the fore as the journalis
presentation of news and opi
or the social scientist's
analysis. This is why we now invite
literary submissions to Himal from
writers and poets of South Asia.
litSA will feature both established
writers and newer talent writing in
English. The department will carry
original or translated works—short
fiction, poetry and literary criticism.
Writers may be from South Asia or writing
about South Asia.
When will the new department begin in
Himal? As soon as we gather exceptional
submissions to get started. Watch this
Or better still, send in your manuscript to:
Literary Editor, litSA, Himal, Radhamohan House, Relli Road, Kalimpong,
Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India - 734301
or email:
Manuscript; will cc; be returned unless reques
preferably be acco.npar.isd by a copy
and acconpamed by self-addressed postal rec
she original v;crk acd
:es.  Trace 1
cd  iv.ftere possible!   :he aaclcor's peoiss:
evolved in that way.
That was how Desmond worked. He encouraged you. He made you sound terrific
and moulded you until in the end he didn't
have to read anyone's article.
I remember my first article. I was fresh
out of English honours in college, and 1
thought I was wonderful. I thought there was
nothing for me to learn and it was just this
magazine that I was just going to write for.
My first assignment was to interview Satyajit
Ray, a calm and helpful genius he turned out
to be. I came back, wrote the article and
flounced into Desmond's office and said,
"Here it is!" I thought it was a masterpiece,
Pulitzer Prize material. Desmond read it and
said, "This is very good, la" — Desmond
called everyone 'la', the Tibetan honorific —
"Change the first paragraph a bit." So I
changed the first paragraph. "Now change
the second paragraph." I had to re-write that
article 32 times.
Jug used to do a very popular column
called "Rear Window". It was a think piece
for young people with discussions on Sartre,
Nietzsche and others, but told in Jug's inimitable way. Desmond once asked me, "La,
why does he use such big words?" I said
because that's what Jug does. And that
was that.
One can say he did not teach, and if he
did it was by example, because he himself
was writing for papers like the National Geographic and Time-Life, and we'd read him and
we'd learn.
JS was Camelot. It was Shangrila. Nothing like it has ever happened since. When it
was forced to close down, we all regretted
the passing of that bright and shining moment—the crumbling of a dream.
The original idea of creating brand loyalty towards The Statesman, then still going
strong, obviously was not working. The
people who grew up with JS wanted something bright and wonderful and by no means
would the JS crowd ever be drawn to The
Statesman, which is a fuddy-duddy paper. I
think the closest that's come to what the JS
grown-up would read is The Times of India as
it has become now, or The Asian Age.
But that was not the reason JS closed, and
neither did it have anything to do with economics although that was the story given out.
The magazine was doing very well and it
was growing. Its circulation of 60,000 at that
time was a huge figure. The amount of
time it took to print the magazine was
so long that from a weekly, we made it a
fortnightly in 1976.
What actually happened, and I can place
it on record now since Desmond is no more,
was that Cushroo Irani had taken over as
managing editor of The Statesman (he still
owns it) and he couldn't stand Desmond's
growing fame. Desmond, in the meantime
while with the JS, had written the book specially commissioned by Collins Books,
Mother Teresa: Her Work and Her People, which
helped Mother Teresa get the Nobel Peace
Prize. It was rushed out into Swedish first,
but she missed that year and got it the next.
The book became a bestseller (although
Desmond did not make a single paisa from
it because he donated it all to The Statesman).
Cushroo became more and more envious
of Desmond, thinking he was a one-man personality cult. This was far from true.
Desmond wouldn't ever take credit for anything. It was always "we chaps" who did
that. To justify the closure, JS had to be shown
losing money and this was achieved by the
phenomenal inter-departmental rates The
Statesman press charged for printing the
It happened all at once, the shutdown.
Most of us wrote rude letters to Cushroo
Irani before leaving. Some time ago he was
after Gopinath to try and start something like
JS, and Gopinath's reply was expectedly to
the effect "F... off".
After JS closed down, it did not occur to
us to start something similar elsewhere.
Desmond thought we were the world's oldest teenagers and we didn't want to do that
anymore, lt was time to move on. So we went
into designing and things like that. We designed books. Some from the JS team moved
to Kathmandu. Desmond had always
loved Kathmandu and the Gurkhas, he
was an ex-British Gurkha officer. Utpal
was our business manager, Desmond's
business manager, and he
found us lots of
work and we
lived happily
ever after in
believed that reincarnation was
people talking
about those who
had departed. If
that is true, JS
lives on. ^
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
 C.Y.   Gooinath marvels  at  the revival
of a city that  loves  itself  too much
to  let   itself  die.
Calcutta Once More
Bandopadhyaya was definitely fol
lowing me. He had been on to me
since I got off the tram at
Dalhousie Square. Of course, he
might have been a Chatto-
padhyaya. Or a Ganguly. Or a Sanyal, for all
I knew. The only sure thing was that he was
as Bengali as they come: a mustardy old man
in a starched panjabi and dhoti, with straight
black-framed glasses, skin supple and shining from the morning's oil bath, lips reddened by paan. And mind, by the
way, clearly riveted by the confused-looking
stranger from the western half of the
It was my first trip to Calcutta since crossing into legal adulthood. College was behind
me, but employment still somewhere ahead.
To pass the uneasy interval in between, I had
taken on a part-time project with a Bombay
market research firm which wanted, of all
things, a survey done of letterpress printing
presses in Calcutta. I had a list of about 30
of these dark, clangorous establishments,
worked no doubt by ancient bent-backed
men with thick glasses and nimble fingers
that deftly assembled the leaded messages
of revolutions and indefinite strikes on composing trays.
It was the perfect opportunity —revisiting the city of my boyhood with all expenses
paid, but more importantly, a chance to pay
homage at my generation's holiest of holies,
the offices of the stupendous JS magazine,
which fed the spirit and imagination of the
entire flower-power generation in India.
But first things first, and that meant finding my way to the New India Press in
Dalhousie Square. In the crowded tram, I had
anxiously pestered a half dozen Calcuttans
to tell me when the stop arrived. A chorus of
voices ushered me out of the tram. And now
that I was peering anxiously around on the
hard pavement of the business end of the city,
I knew I was being watched, It was
Bandopadhyaya, who had definitely been
on the tram with me.
I walked away briskly; any direction
would do. Bandopadhyaya hitched up his
dhoti and followed, full of determination but
always 20 paces behind. Presently, he hissed
at me.
"Laift!" I heard.
I turned back, and there he was, frantically jabbing leftwards into the air. I should
turn left. I did. He continued following me.
"Rhite!!" he said presently. Right. I was now
in a lane.
Forwaard. Laift again. Another rhite. The
directions were crisp and authoritative.
Bandopadhyaya knew where I should go,
even if I didn't. Navigating me thus by remote control through a warren of lanes, he
led me tq, the gate to the New India Press. I
turned." back to thank my benefactor, but
he was already hobbling away, throwing
a crooked smile at me over a crooked
This is the avurkrular Calcutta that I now
knov&will never change no matter what else
~l~^^7'r77>, O-O *&
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
does. In my many years there, Calcutta has
transformed itself from the misty and warm
cloister of my childhood to a teeming,
helter-skelter metropolis shorn of
self-respect. Thence, from the bottom of hell,
it has risen of late like some invincible minor deity, smiling, disciplined and ready to
re-launch itself into its future.
There was a time, in the 80s, long after JS
had closed down, when I would say a small
prayer that Calcutta was a part of my past.
Its chronic power cuts, its mounting garbage
hills, its tiresome lethargy and its hollow
rhetoric about its own glory. What a city! Fit
only for Mother Teresa, I would think. Even
the muri masala shops that used to put together Calcutta's addictive spicy puffed rice
snack had died in passage from father to son.
Then, miraculously, I heard travellers' tales
about the improving power situation. Fewer
electricity cuts, it was rumoured; and then
one day, an end to them. Calcutta was now
lit at all times. Uncleared garbage became
first a rarity, then an impossibility. The streets
were actually not merely cleaner, but clean.
In my few stray trips there, I would walk
the tried and tested pathways of memory, to
assay the changes. And sure enough, I found
them. On Rash Behari Avenue, the south Indian enclave with its bustling Deshapriya
Park, some things were forever but others
had changed. The smell of jasmined evenings by Lake Market, with the tolling of the
bell from the nearby Kali bari, flower sellers, Kundu Pharmacy (no doubt in the hands
of the younger Kundu now), Komala Vilas
with its perfectly set curds, scrubbed families taking the air —these were constants.
But Operation Sunshine, the government's
determined project to clear hawkers from
the sidewalks had suddenly freed the avenue. Shopkeepers could took out aftd see
the world instead of a melee. People did not
crawl any more at bottleneck speed.
On Park Street, once so gloriously unattainable, the music and the musicians had
long gone to the recording studios of
Bombay, and for a while Moulin Rouge, the
Sky Room (now closed) and Trinca's had
stood like the only survivors in a ghost town.
But now, even if the music was not back, the
leisure was. A new generation sat on the
steps of the church. Families ambled with
nowhere to go and lots of time to do it in.
And wonder of wonders, within Flury's, the
freshly baked bread had not changed a whit,
and the grilled chicken sandwich, kissed
with French mustard, was as perfect as it had
ever been. I recognised the toothless old
waiter grinning at me, though I doubt he remembered the young JS reporter who would
stop by for a cuppa on his trudge home after work. He shuffled about, seeing only
another tipper who might add another few
rupees to his old Calcutta life.
And, of course, Calcutta's Metro Railway,
maintained resplendent and spotless by an
unexpectedly vigilant Calcutta. Even a casual ticket crumpled on the platform could
start a public lynching, and woe betide the
casual spitter of paan. By the time JS closed
down, forcing all us devotees to seek less
luscious pastures, Calcutta's underground
project had become a joke, a project the city
should never have undertaken, one that
would never end, one that would always
slide back two steps for each advance. It was
a monumental icon to the city's fading glory.
I retract everything we said then. Like old
Bandopadhyaya, whose affection embraces
everyone in distress, Calcutta loves itself too
much to let itself die. And this is why, I think,
after all the years and days, when the rest of
the country is crashing about our ears,
Calcutta guiles,,stirs itself, and stands up,
ft|bright,^^^ir aria riewly .born, ready for another thousana years.
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1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
 In his quest   for a  label   for the
people  of  Calcutta,   Jug  Suraiva
says  that  while  all  honorary
What do you call someone who
is from Calcutta? This question
was posed to me by a former
editor of The Statesman several
years ago when I was working
for that paper and handling "Calcutta Notebook".
"I'd call a person from Calcutta a Cal-
cuttan," I replied.
"I know you would. But 'Calcuttan'
sounds horrible. Try and think of something
else," said the editor.
"Any ideas?" I asked.
"What about Calcatian?" he suggested.
But I shook my head. Calcatian sounded like
a calcium deficiency found in Alsatians
and was even worse than
"Well, find some other
word then," said the editor
and went back to doing
more important things
than figuring out new
names to call people who
live in Calcutta.
I did a round of my colleagues, eliciting help.
One suggested Calcatite.
But though it sounded
good, we reluctantly decided
***«fcft- against it as the
"tite" part conveyed an impression of inebriation,
which while not
entirely  out  of
keeping with the
character of the
city, wasn't quite
appropriate for the distinctly sober columns
of The Statesman. Calcuttees sounded very
down-market, like cut-piece oddments of
the social fabric. Someone suggested Ditcher,
a reference to the early days of the city when
Calcutta was ringed by a circular dry moat
known as the Maratha Ditch dug to keep out
the marauding Marathas. Anyone who lived
within the charmed circle of the ditch was
known as a Ditcher. But in the present-day
context the term was felt to be politically incorrect, not least because of the displeasure
it might evoke in Bai Thackeray, a force to
be reckoned with even then.
In the end, Calcutta Notebook stuck
to Calcuttans, editorial disapproval
notwithstanding. But the problem remained
naggingly at the back of my mind. What does
one call someone who comes from Calcutta?
The question gained urgency, curiously
enough, when I shifted —temporarily —
from Calcutta to Delhi, where people are
Dilliwallas or Delhi-ites, no questions asked.
Except, of course, in the case of obviously
out-of-place strangers like me.
"You don't look a Dilliwalla. So what are
you?" people would ask accusingly. I'd try
and explain that 1 was originally from
Calcutta, and was here in Delhi for an indefinite stint after which I hoped to get back
to Calcutta. Even to me this sounded
circumlocutory if not downright evasive.
What I'd been asked to furnish was an identity, not an itinerary. What was the strange
and sublime address that my soul called
its own?
Exile is the key to the enigma of arrival.
And one day I arrived at what I was: I was
an hon Bong. Hon Bong, 1 explained for the
benefit of my mystified Delhi interrogators,
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 was short for honorary Bengali and referred
to anyone, anywhere, who chose Calcutta
as the sheet-anchor of existence, past,
present or hopeful future.
The British, who cobbled together the
three villages of Kalighat, Govindpur and
Sutanuti and invented Calcutta, could
claim to be the first hon Bongs. Almost 300
years later, a no-longer unknown autobiographical Indian called Nirad Chaudhuri
set up shop in Britain where he billed himself as the last Englishman —which of
course made him a pioneer hon Bong, in a
roundabout way. Britain is full of hon
Bongs. So is Delhi, particularly in the region of Chittaranjan Park, better known as
Chitto Park.
Calcutta naturally has its share of hon
Bongs. Mother Teresa, whose mission embraced the world, was an hon Bong, as is
Jyoti Basu, regional representative of an
MNC called Marxism. Satyajit Ray, ultimate
renaissance man and cosmopolite, was the
quintessential hon Bong. Almost anyone
worth knowing is an hon Bong. Including
Khushwant Singh who whenever he runs
out of controversial steam says disparaging things about Rabindranath Tagore —
colossus of hon Bongdom — thereby ensuring himself a warm welcome in Calcutta
where his effigy is ceremoniously burnt.
It is in the nature of the hon Bong to be
inclusive, not exclusive. Which is why it
surprised me when in a recent British TV
programme on Calcutta, commentator
Kishore Bhimani described Calcutta as having become a Marwari city. Kishore, like
me, is a Kutchi. Again like me, he is also an
hon Bong. How could he then make such a
statement? Calcutta is no more a Marwari
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
city than it is a Kutchi city or a Gujarati city
or a Punjabi city —though I'm told that
Calcutta's Punjab Club is the only establishment in the known world where chicken chow
mein is customarily served with aam-ka-achar
as accompaniment—or even a Bengali city. Or
rather Calcutta is all these, plus itself which
uniquely is none of them. Primarily, Calcutta
is the imaginary homeland of the hon Bong.
This, however, does not answer the original question: What does one call someone
who is from Calcutta? Such a person cannot
strictly be called an hon Bong for while
all hon Bongs are Calcuttans at heart, all
Calcuttans are not necessarily hon Bongs. A
case in point is Chandan Basu who, unlike
his father, is not an hon Bong. Some might say
that the junior Basu is not an honorary anything, not even an honorary non-entity.
What then is a substitute for
Calcuttans? A possible solution
was suggested the other day by
Bunny, my wife and staunch hon
Bong. Her solution entails a change
of name for Calcutta. Bombay has
become Mumbai and Madras is
now Chennai. Keeping this 'ai'
suffix in mind, Delhi might call
itself Mughlai, to reflect its taste
for tandoori fare. Similarly
Calcutta could rename itself
Roshomalai, in honour of the
sweetmeat its residents are so
partial to. And Calcuttans and
hon Bongs alike could commonly rejoice in the sobriquet
of Roshomalites and feel
that in name, if nothing else,
they had at last got their just
desserts. 4
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The funniest thing about the closure of
JS is that It hasn't really closed down.
It is one of the best-kept secrets of Indian publishing, because, ever since the
magazine stopped coining out in August
1977, it hasn't closed in people's minds.
I think it is incredible that it has survived
in everyone's memories, and I still have
people coming upto me and saying, "Why
did JS close down?" and 1 say, "For you it
obviously hasn't because you still remember it." They remember it vividly enough to
ask me: "Do you recall that article you
wrote?" or such-and-such-a-piece that
Dubby did? I worked on these pieces, but
even I can't remember them.
The important thing about JS wasn't its
closure, but its impact. It is hard to describe
what working on JS was like, but it certainly
was a euphoric experience. There wasn't a
single moment when you could sit back and
think of what you were doing—it was one
crazy, roller-coaster ride.
Initially, there were four of us working
on JS: Papa Menon, Dubby Bhagat, myself,
and of course, Desmond Doig, who was the
great godfather. We were just out of college,
I had just turned 20, and we did everything
ourselves. In between writing and editing,
we'd be lugging these huge zinc blocks
around—we didn't even have a peon then.
We used to work for fairly long hours, and
for the first six weeks that I was employed
there, I didn't even get paid! But that didn't
seem to matter much.
We received tremendous response to
whatever we did, and JS magazine in its own
special way helped to form the Indian teenager. We did not have readers, we had fans.
It has become a sort of cliche since then —
but JS invented that cliche: "JS wasn't just a
magazine, it was a happening." People really got involved, mainly because it pro-
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
it's groovy, man,
groovy, but
english it's not
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vided a platform for young people. For the
first time, young adults could read and talk
to themselves through the pages of a magazine. We welcomed contributions from
everyone. These were young people who
were getting their first break in professional
For example, Shashi Tharoor was one of
our discoveries. When he was 12 years old,
he contributed his first short story. And I still
remember MJ, Akbar when he came to me
in his short pants—he was on his way home
from Calcutta Boys School. He had a sparse
moustache that barely covered his acne, and
he said: "I have a short story for you, sir."
He was clutching his exercise book in which
he had written the story, and he tore it out
and handed it to me.
Advertising, too, was no problem, as
companies had just discovered the buying
power of young people. That buying power
has of course increased by leaps and
bounds over the past two decades.
JS was ahead of its time. With The Statesman already showing signs of age, I don't
trunk it was the right launching pad for a
revolutionary product like JS. In the end, it
was simply bad management that brought
the curtain down.
-Jug Suraiya
New Yorker  Bhaskar   ('Pana')   Menon  looks  back at
the  city he  grew up  in and his  entry  into JS.
At six, the world is focused on small
things, a fragrant mango and a
black-handled knife, dripping
sweetly onto the dust of a railway
compartment, the coal-dust and
occasional burning cinder from the steam engine in front, the singsong rise and fall of the
telegraph wires, little whirlwinds in the arid
fields, shimmering heat pools in the dry distance. Through the shutter cracks, a cow gallops away, tail straight up, the tassel hanging down, parrots wheel in the bronze sky.
In the lower berth my brother lies, breathing hard, restless in his bedclothes, delirious. Double pneumonia Dr Singhi said, his
stethoscope held up in warning. Careful.
Careful, Medicine bottles in a little basket
slide in and out from under the green berth.
Quiet in the compartment. All of you be
quiet. And keep the shutters down. The little
black ceiling fans whir and whir and whir.
The train rumbles day and night, stopping
sometimes unexpectedly in the still afternoon heat or the stiller darkness. The guard
goes by, metal strikes metal as wheels are
tested, signals set. Tea vendors calling on
platforms. Sudden loud crossings over
trestle bridges. Thermometer out every hour.
Ama looks grim. Ice packs, soup, low voices.
From the upper berth, thoughts of a
tiger. One could jump in when the train is
stopped. But there's safety in the upper
berth. Surely, a tiger couldn't get up there.
The thousand-mile journey to Calcutta
across the great northern plain
dissolves into a thousand
little details.
A    new    rhythm
in    the    wheels,    a
new swaying, clacking,
changing    of    tracks
as they branch and
rebranch, cross and
recross,  clackety
clackety   clack,
smoothly, the train slides past the yellow
sign, Howrah Station, into a vast echoing
gloom of pigeons in the air and on the long
broad platform, pools of coolies in crimson
shirts, food carts and fresh, receiving faces.
The train stops with a final shake. Two men
from Achan's office await, a thin one with a
woman's voice, a fat one all muffled grunts
and smiles. They pat us on the head, supervise the coolies with the luggage. Down the
emptying platform we scurry, following the
crimson shirts, Ama carrying brother, father
chatting with the thin man and fat man. "All
arranged, sir. Taxis are for the luggage. Temporary housing." Ablack DeSoto wagon with
taxis in pursuit, across echoing Howrah
bridge, into the roar of Calcutta.
Strange new place with new rules. Water
only for four hours in the morning. Fill up
the overhead tanks in the bathrooms. You
are not to open the taps till I tell you. You
are not to drink water till it is boiled. You
are not to eat any fruit till I've washed it!
Washing fruit is suddenly a ritual, First soap
and water. Then a bath of potassium permanganate. The black crystals fall from a
white packet into the enamel basin, swirling banners of purple in the water. Die germs!
Everything goes in the purple bath. Fat juicy
mangoes, tiny tangy bananas, shiny little
oranges, pomegranates lustrous as pearls
within, fragrant jackfruit with gorgeous
bluebottles humming songs of praise, swat,
thock, no flies ever on a fruit. Throw it out!
Cholera. There's cholera out there.
At Ms B. Hartley's Elementary School on
Lansdowne Road, where we go by rickshaw
every morning at eight, the strictures on not
eating outside the home fall quickly to the
temptations of tangy fireballs of amchur, paper cones filled with mosla-muri, mix of
puffed rice, onion, hot chilli, tamarind sauce
and mustard oil, and crisp little wafer balls
stuffed with spicy potato and watery sauce.
We get ill, but not from Calcutta-specific
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
germs. Measles, then chicken pox. As the
thunderous monsoon rages outside, there are
sulphurous potions in our dank rooms,
neem leaves to scratch the suppurating skin,
healing turmeric baths. The flooded streets
redistribute garbage. Cars stall, buses die.
Rickshaws are all that move, and pedestrians hip-deep in dirty water. Street urchins
swim and spout the water from their mouths.
Will they live the year out?
Permanent housing a year later, in a
high-walled compound on Park Street,
epicentre once of the departed British Raj.
Park Street once led to the Viceroy's Deer
Park, rolling expanse of green Maidan now,
but still bordered by icons to the past. Ungainly Victoria Memorial, mottled white
marble symbol of imperial glory, meant to
be evocative of the soaring Taj, but more a
Viennese palace, weighed down by its own
self-conscious grandeur. Gothic St Paul's
Cathedral, strangely at home two miles from
Kali-Ghat and the temple that gave Calcutta
its name. The Royal Calcutta Turf Club and
Calcutta Club (both still then, Whites-only
institutions), Ochterlony Tower and Fort William on the Hooghly. At the other end of Park
Street, in the British cemetery, lies 18-year-
old Rose Aylmer, of whose sudden death
Walter Savage Landor wrote:
Ah what avails the sceptred race
Ah what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace'.
Rose Aylmer all were thine.
Rose Aylmer ichom these wakeful eyes
May weep hut never see,
A night of memories and sighs
I consecrate to thee.
At 87 B, we are behind the Park Street
Thana, from where, in the still of the night
there come sounds like the shriek of distant
peacocks. Royintan, skinny eight-year old,
says what it is. He knows. His father, drunk,
beats the same sounds out of him. The old
English lady on the ground floor of 87 C has
taken charge of the gardening for the whole
compound. Blue eyes rheumy with age,
frizzled white hair, loose liver-spotty skin,
tent-like frocks, irascible, she leads two
stick-thin malis to their work, dig there, water here, Lfflu! Jaldi\ They bend and scrape at
her command, spray muddy Hooghly water (and unknown toxins) onto dusty croton
and stunted rhododendron. A donkey strays
into the yard, a quiet, meditative animal,
interested in the old lady's cherished herbs.
She chases it with an umbrella, wheezing. It
circles around and comes at the herbs again.
She marshals her forces, the old bawarchi
(cook), the two malis, her grandchildren visiting from England. The donkey is driven
out. The next day we tempt it back in, hoping to ride it. "JunglisV she yells. "JunglisV It
becomes an English-Indian thing. Ama
emerges to fix her with a frigid stare.
A few days later there's fisticuffs between
brother and one of the visiting boys. They
end up rolling in the dust, wrestling. One of
the other boys comes up with a Daisy airgun,
object of our envy. "I wish I could use this,"
he mutters, looking at the grunting stalemate
at his feet. "Better not," I warn. The girls run
off to tell what is happening. Over the rest
of the summer, a hostile truce. Brother gets
a Daisy airgun for his birthday. He shoots a
tiny bird, and Ama goes stony silent. The gun
laid aside, we retreat into compound cricket,
the wickets charcoal marks on the wall. Another English boy, Ian, also visiting, is umpire, sucking prunes, fat cheeks, amiable.
The hostile English camp would like to join
in, but holds aloof, circling on bicycles. In
the tired evenings, there is French cricket, the
ball thrown to hit the immobile legs, the bat
the only defence. Or marbles under the
guava tree. The
girls play endless hopscotch,
tea parties with
their dolls, under the hibiscus.
At the height of summer, a
cholera epidemic. The permanganate fruit
bath is deeper
purple, flies
are the enemy,
sprayed with
Flit, smashed
with newspapers, caught in
mid-air, dashed
against the floor.
As evening falls
one day, the old
bawarchi next
door is carried
out on a charpoy,
invisible under
a cloth except
for a bony motionless hand.
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Marketed bv :
There is a stir from the servant's quarters,
along the wall in the back, a small crowd
gathers round the charpoy, then disappears.
Ama is in a quiet boil on the phone. We are
forbidden to watch but peer through shuttered windows. Nothing to see in the swift
dusk. We do homework in the yellow light
by the unused fireplace, pack knapsacks for
school next day. The old man is still there,
motionless, when we sneak out to look before bed, but gone the next morning. Did he
die? Was he taken away. Cholera, says Ama.
New rules for playing outside, new
rules against wandering off from the compound. Not without a servant. Ever. Kidnappers are about. The newspaper had an article. They do horrible things to children. Cut
them up, make them beg for money. The
rules soon relax. We wander all over the
neighbourhood, on foot, on
bikes. Down to the Maidan,
up to the cemetery. Across
Park Street is St. Xavier's
School and College,
its long, flat corridors
ideal for roller skates, but
white-frocked Jesuits
can emerge suddenly with
stern commands to disappear. Not far away, nuns
in full habit preside over
Loreto College, where the
girls wear white dresses,
black shoes and little red
ties. They gather at Trinca's
Confectionery, giggling
over plates of sausage rolls
and chocolate pastry and at
Oxford Book House, with a
lending library in its back
stacks. No one complains if
you read in the narrow
Favourite books: Enid
Blyton's series on the
Five Find-Outers. Richmal
Crompton's William series.
Few American books for
children here. Nearby, on a
side street, by the house
that declares itself the
birthplace of William
Makepeace Thackeray, the
Americans dominate the
comic book stacks, all with
the Dell Pledge to Parents,
promising wholesome fun,
Donald Duck and Goofy,
Superman, Batman and Green Lantern,
Archie and Jughead. Only rarely, a British
comic book, fustian stories of Biggies, unfunny Norman Wisdom funnies. New comics are a rupee; with the top of their front
cover sliced off, they are four annas-25 paise.
On Theatre Road the British Council Library,
breathing chilled air every time its doors
open, has an air-conditioned reading room,
lends out books free, and has an amateur theatre group. On the green lawn, on warm dry
evenings, the sounds of Henry V, Macbeth,
Romeo and Juliet. In the larger city beyond our
small remnant of Empire in aspic, there is a
rich Bengali theatre —Calcutta has more theatre companies than London or New York —
but we on Park Street are oblivious. Our
world is distinctly post-colonial.
On nearby Moira Street is Hindi High
School, founded by Birla the industrialist, to
be consciously Indian, a departure from the
English convent-school tradition, and it attracts the children of the wealthiest Calcutta
families. Classes are filled with Goenkas,
Birlas and Dalmias. Every morning we
march to the long assembly hall, class by
class, two abreast, in step to the rousing
tunes of the school band, arms swinging
wide. Sarwan Singh, ex-Indian Army, keeps
watch. Anyone out of step is given a quick
corrective thump on the head. In the hall we
line up by house. I am in Jawahar House,
which is in close rivalry with Gandhi House
and Tagore House in sports, academics and
general good behaviour. Behaviour is
judged on the basis of Stars and Bars —slips
of paper —given out by teachers and school
monitors. Every morning, the assembly begins with inspection. The long house lines
stand at ease, and monitors pass down their
length, stepping sideways. Each student
snaps to attention when the monitor steps
in front, hands raised to the shoulders, Nails
must be clean, school uniform in order: blue
shirt with lotus monogram on the pocket,
grey shorts, white socks, black shoes. The
principal, an Englishman, leaves announcements to the house masters. After that, a Sanskrit hymn to Laxmi; periodically, the diminutive Sanskrit teacher explains what the
words mean, but few understand. We mouth
the words, march back. The school band
plays the same rousing tune even,' day, year
in and year out. Once, I sidle up to the music teacher, a broiled Italian with yellow,
red-veined eyes, to ask if I can take up the
saxophone or the drums. He tries me out
with different instruments, is gently dis-
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 couraging. To make conversation I ask
brightly what tune they play every morning
for Assembly. Blue Danube, he says. Long
afterwards, in America, I find it was the Stars
and Stripes Forever.
Everyone has to study advanced Hindi
at Hindi High, and I find it impossible. There
is no neuter gender in Hindi; everything has
to be either male or female, and the rules
that govern the division have many exceptions. I cannot get it right, and without passing Hindi, there is no hope of getting the
school to send me up for the public examination. 1 deal with it as everyone deals
with Sanskrit, also a compulsory subject:
memorisation. My final year Hindi teacher,
a khadi-clad man with a jeering sense of
humour, says he had a student once who
memorised an essay about coal but had to
write about Raja Ram Mohun Roy. He solved
the problem by sending Ram Mohun Roy to
a coal field. For the final exam, I have four
full-length essays memorised from a mug
book written expressly for students like me.
One of them is set, and I get through.
At St Xavier's College, where I go to enroll myself, the administrative office is under a toothy Dutchman in a white cassock,
Father Huart. "Father Huart in Heaven" intones the guy behind me in the line waiting
to register. He has an endless series of similar quips. As the line inches forward, and
each person gets a number, he asks if he can
jump two up in the queue, to be number 50.
It is an appropriate number for him, for his
name is Hafesji. Father Huart asks what I
want to study. English literature. Secondary
subject? Economics. It is a choice Achan
has questioned. What will you do with English? Characteristically, he does not try to
force his view. Anyway, I have known what
I wanted to be from about the age of seven.
A journalist.
The ambitions of others in the large English (Hons) class vary. Rana, a tubercular
young man in frayed clothes, is an object of
general wonder. He can barely speak modern English, but sits intently through Father
Gomez's enormously erudite class on Old
English, scribbling copious notes in a microscopic hand. Why did he choose to do English at the honours level? "I am pasination,"
he says. At lunch he disappears urgently
down the street and reappears two hours
later, sweating. Where has he been? "The
mills." You work in a mill? Dickensian
thoughts. Dark satanic mills. No. He shakes
his narrow head. Mills. Mills. He points to
his mouth. Meals. He's been home for lunch;
cheaper that way. Rana is at the door when
the librarv opens and stays there when most
of us are hanging out on Park Street, looking out for Loreto girls. He pores over books
which the librarian, Melvyn, is sure he does
not understand. "I don't know what he's doing here, man," Melvyn says admiringly,
"but you've got to hand it to him." Melvyn,
just over five feet tall, wears lizard-skin boots
with high heels, "drainpipe" slacks, and
combs his hair back in a rakish curve. Occasionally, there are flyers advertising "Uncle
Melvyn, story-teller". He entertains at
children's birthday parties.
Another regular in the library is Saha,
eyes beady behind bottle-thick glasses,
resplendent in dhoti and kurta. His English
is only a level above that of gentle, questing
Rana, but it comes with an air of self- importance. "I am poet,"
he announces. Oh
yes? Can I see something you've written? Notebooks spill
from a cotton shoulder bag. Fountain
pen on ruled paper.
Tight, curled writing.
Long words, sky
colours, clouds,
heated emotions. I
judge it bad, but
there is a uniqueness
to it, a definite personality, and over the
next three years,
he makes it into
print several times,
even gets one picked
for inclusion in a
Writer's Workshop
anthology of "Indo-
Anglian" writing.
Professor P. (for
Purushottam) Lai, who runs The Writer's
Workshop, is the inventor of "Indo-Anglian"
writing. Anglo-Indian, the traditional word
for the mixing of Indian and British is too
loaded with negative emotions, too political, too de classe in its association with what
the British, being no more or less racist than
Indians, termed "half-breeds". P. Lai,
crewcut, usually arrayed in raw silk kurta,
riding a motorcycle with sidecar, holds us
spellbound in class with a throwaway manner, a chiding wit, an easy assumption of
excellence and elegance. I soon pass from
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
admiration to iconoclasm, challenge one of
his statements in class and win a bet he offers. Admitting loss gracefully, he speaks of
the ancient Chinese master calligraphers who
always made one little error in their work,
deliberately, to give readers the satisfaction
of finding it out.
I am given a Writer's Workshop book. P.
Lai is translating the Mahabharata into English, an elegant fascicle every few months,
handbound in colourful Indian sari cloth.
Sinuous English, particularly Indian, the
tales familiar from Achan's bedtime recitals
of the Sanskrit. But new detail. Why do you
think Bhima ties Draupadi's hair with
Dushasana's blood? No one in the class
knows. Find out. A book for whoever finds
out. Fascinating research. It is because
Draupadi was menstruating when, in the
Kuru court, Dushasana tries to strip her.
Krishna prevents her exposure by making
the sari an endless one, but her blood shows
through the cloth. P. Lai teaches English, but
he instructs in life, the
first example I have of
an Indian who occupies our shattered cultural world easily, elegantly, comfortable
with himself.
P. Lai welcomes
discussion, allows the
personalities in his
rwfiiit    *> class to be on display,
Tpl J^BT and the most vivid
\±jL^^^p °^ these is undoubt-
WvCK edly Dubby Bhagat,
all scaly skin and bone
and bristling military
moustache, ostentatiously and amusingly loud, who everyone soon learns (by
what osmotic process
of public relations
remains a mystery)
is the son of General
Bhagat, the first person to win a Victoria
Cross in the Second World War. I look it up;
indeed, he did win the award for clearing
mine-fields. The citation speaks of cold courage over an extended period of time. Dubby,
sounding rather pleased with himself, says
he has been a disappointment to his father
in not wanting to follow in the "old man's
footsteps", and even more of a disappointment to his mother, of whom he speaks with
an even mix of awe and loathing.
Dubby has been expelled from a
number of schools, is proud of it, presents
himself as an aesthete the world does not
understand or appreciate. Soon there is a
little group in orbit around him. Jitu,
standard-issue brag, but interesting because
he dates Margarethe, all soft curves, dark
curls and limpid eyes, undoubtedly the
loveliest girl in our visible universe. "Gang",
spectacled essence of boarding school boy,
impeccable manners and just the right well-
worn turn of phrase for every occasion. (After college he maintains that persona for a
while, rises in the hierarchy of Philips, the
transnational corporation, but then decides
to be someone else entirely, dumps everything to go wandering for several years
through Africa and the Americas, teaching
English, returns with an extremely laidback
view of the world, symbolised by a pony
tail.) Quiet and retiring Jug Suraiya, so into
body-building that he is shaped like a genie
emerging from a lamp, is entirely unlike
Dubby, but the two become a pair, date
friends from Loreto, Bunny and Chinky,
write a book of poetry, Anguish and the City,
an exaggeratedly world-weary paean to their
misspent lives. Meanwhile, the Vietnam war
is on.
In Calcutta, the Congress party is losing
power to the communists, the streets are in
periodic turmoil. I start up a satirical magazine, DeBunker, looking quite through the
deeds of men. It is an unexpected success,
copies go to Delhi, Bombay and even Washington, to the Indian ambassador there from
one of his relatives in Calcutta. In the library
a new experience: the writings of Tagore and
Gandhi. Fresh water. A sudden singing of the
Sunanda Datta-Ray notices DeBunker in
The Sunday Statesman, Smith, the News Editor offers a job, and the day after I sit my last
college exam, the English Essay, I report for
work. The smell of printing ink is aphrodi-
siacal. My charmed magic casement leads
not to songs of the nightingale but to the
thrum of the giant offset presses. From The
Statesman's high-ceilinged lobby, a turbaned
peon with a red cummerbund and walrus
moustache whirs me up in a brass-doored
elevator to the second floor. Smith the News
Editor tells me I will be getting one hundred
rupees as a trainee journalist. I discover later
they deduct money for lunch in the Executive Dining Room, and I get about 60 rupees
in hand, just enough for a meal for two at
one of the restaurants on Park Street. But a
HIMAL 12/6 June 1999
 1 *)  (?)
' 111
bonus for me —I would have worked for
free. Smith takes me to see Evan Charlton,
the editor, a grey Englishman, fatigued but
cheerful, then Management, on the first floor,
also English, representing the interests of
Andrew Yule and Company, the proprietors
of the paper. Old Mrs Yule, I am told, takes
a personal interest.
Six months blur by in alternating weeks
of night shifts as Sub-Editor. There are three
Chief Subs. Ellis Abraham, an "Armenian
Jew" as he calls himself, a steady uncomplicated workhorse, the first person I know
in India who defends the American role
in Vietnam. "They're fighting our war
there!" He declares, munching down the
"agram-bagram" —his word for pakoras —
and slurping down the numerous cups of
tea The Statesman kitchen provides. Sachi
Sahay, the other Chief Sub, as darkly convoluted and complex as Ellis is open, expresses
opinions in elliptical non sequiturs. The third
Chief Sub, N.C. Menon, is again a contrast,
filled with bonhomie and good cheer til! he
suddenly disappears from The Statesman and
Calcutta, leaving a complex tangle of relationships behind. Others on the newsdesk
include Burra and Chota Mullick, descen-
dents of the Mullick with whom the British
struck a deal early in their imperium in Bengal, making him, I am told, Zamindar of a
wide stretch of the 24 Parganas.
Dubby Bhagat comes into the newsroom one day, unannounced, smelling of
aftershave and curry, to say he is now a
Statesman Management Trainee. A week
later he returns, scruffy as ever, to say I
should meet Desmond Doig, who is starting up a new publication for teenagers, Junior Statesman. Desmond sits on the Management floor, in the Graphics Department, a
large, hearty Englishman in a wash-and-wear
bush shirt, feet up on a cluttered desk. He
swings his feet down when I enter, offers a
large pink paw of a hand. Yeshe, a long, cool
Tibetan in boots and a colourful shirt, sitting
at the side of the desk, does not take his feet
off it but swings his chair back to contemplate me. He drives Desmond's car, supervises his household, occupies a special place
in his heart. Within a week I join the staff that
will put out Junior Statesman, JS, as it comes
to be called. A month later, Dubby inducts
Jug Suraiya into the new venture.
Desmond's conception of the JS is innovative and radical. He tries to marry East and
West at their extremes, carrying features
about Swinging London's Carnaby Street as
well as the Maoist revolution in Naxalbari.
This marriage of extremes is not unnatural
to Desmond; he personifies it, lives it every
day His apartment, in a new luxury high-rise
in Alipore, is resplendent with Tibetan artifacts, Indian art, his own splendid photography and drawings of old Calcutta. It is a
thoroughfare of visitors from far and near.
Ratan Pradhan and his musical troupe from
Nepal perform at his parties, mingle easily
with guests that reflect his eclectic interests:
Edmund Hillary (with whom he went searching for the Yeti in the snows of Solukhumbu),
Shirley Maclaine (who has adopted an orphanage just outside of Calcutta), the editors of National Geographic for whom he has
written. He knows Mother Teresa well and
takes me to meet her early one morning at
"Nirmal Hriday" in Kalighat, the house of
the dying. It is the first time I face the worst
of Calcutta's raw despair and the shock of it
chokes me with unspilt tears. Quietly perceptive of my state, Desmond steers Mother
and his friend Joy away, allows me time to
Getting JS out every week is fun, and it
develops a devoted following. But circulation is never really very high. Management
is no longer fully supportive of the project.
Andrew Yule has sold its interests, the last
English editor has left, CR. Irani, a local insurance executive, is now in charge, backed
with Tata money. Pran Chopra, the Editor of
the main paper, is kind but incapable of dealing with Irani, who undermines and then
fires him, beginning the process of decline
that in a few years destroys the quality of
one of the finest newspapers in Asia.
When I leave The Statesman in 1969,
Desmond is gloomy. Things are not going
his way, either in the paper or in the city. The
communist government is paranoid about
an Englishman in his position. He is
followed everywhere. "I know because
all the secret police   	
wear the same colour
tennis shoes. Even the
egg wallahl" he jokes.
From New York, JS has
stopped publication.
Desmond has moved
to Kathmandu. Then
comes word of his
early and unexpected
death. It is a loss I
mourn still. ^
love is...
1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
mass scale, and the
sensibility is the same
all over. And for once,
the topic is not
women's flesh. Show
men flagellating
themselves around
Ashura, the tenth day
of Muharram, to mourn
the martyrdom of
Imam Hussain, and it's
guaranteed that any
editor who has the budget to pay the photo agency
will carry pictures. And so, they all did, Shia men in
Karachi, Kashmiri boy in Srinagar, in Beirut, in
Aligarh, wherever.
MISS IMF? Does that mean the venerable policeman
of the international monetary markets has decided to
go for swimsuit-clad international civil servants in a
bid for a better image? Anything can happen if Clinton
can smoke but not inhale, and NATO can fight a war
without using a single infantryman. And so I thought
of surfing the IMF site looking for their chosen beauty
when the Dhaka Independent reminded me, in an
editorial no less, that Miss IMF is actually short for
Miss I'm Fat, a contest held in the Nakorn Prathom
province near Bangkok, for women who are stout and
weighty and do not mind strutting their stuff.
NAWAZ SHARIF'S government decided to celebrate
the one-year-old "nuclear test day" by announcing an
award of one lakh PKR for the person suggesting the
best name for the day? How about Chagai Chagrin? Or
South Asian Annihilation Day II. (II for the fact that I
was the Indian tests of Pokharan.)
MUCH WRITTEN about Najam Sethi's dastardly
arrest by the government of Information Minister
Mushahid Hussain, former upright journalist. And all
the coverage was for the good. Especially interesting
was the amount of attention that the arrest got in the
Indian press, something unprecedented in the level of
interest in Pakistani affairs this indicates in India. It
did help that Sethi was hounded for what he allegedly
said at a speech given in Delhi, but I would nevertheless say that the continuous coverage of his travails by
the mainstream English press in India indicates the
success, firstly, of Outlook and The Asian Age, which
have been focussing more on Pakistan over the past
few years than their peers. Which goes to prove
Chhetria Patrakar's view that there is latent cross-
border interest in South Asia about what goes on in
the neighbouring country. It only requires a bit of
continuous coverage to make this demand obvious.
WHILE STILL on Najam Sethi, let us
not forget that as far as assorted West-
based Committees to Protect Journalists and other such are concerned, they
should not feel nice and satisfied by
raising a hullabaloo on his arrest by
Nawaz Sharif's regime. South Asia's
English journalists have a higher
profile because of their membership in
the higher socio-economic categories,
whereas as newspapers and magazines in local (vernacular) languages
begin to practise real journalism, it
will be these vernacular journalists
who will increasingly be in need of professional
protection. It is because largely the vernacular landscape of South Asia has not tried real journalism that
you do not hear of more arrests, but when it starts
happening, it will be more vicious.
BHUTAN IS a country blest, surely, when you have
situations where expat donor chiefs of mission depart
with letters to the editor in the only newspaper Kuensel
in which they weep rivers of tears for having been
transferred out of that enchanted land. The latest was a
Vladimir Stehlik, ex-Coordinator of ACB (whatever
that be), who writes of his experience in Druk Yul as:
" interlude that stood for just anything that my
life is usually not about: being a high flyer, a (small)
VIP, rubbing shoulders with the mighty, having to
decide about a lot of money, about what other people
have to do, and what they can not do. I hope that I
have not erred too much from the rightful path by
doing that, and that I have not impaired the karma of
the lives to come."
SAY IT ain't so, Raj! Chengappa
that is, well-known science and
environmental writer of India
Today, whose book is announced
in a flyer from HarperCollins
India (Clothbound, IRs 295). The
headline Chengappa has given
his opus is "Weapons of Peace".
What? This may well be the
"stunning story behind India's
quest to build nuclear bombs
and missiles" but the headline
pretty much tells me what the
author thinks. In all likelihood,
then, this is apologia for the BJP and all that went
before them, but let me get the book and read it before
I say further.
DHAKA LADIES were out in force one day at
Motijheel as part of the BNP's plans to gherao the PDB
office on Thursday. On Saturday, they were out again,
same place, to protest police attacks on the Thursday
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
protestors. Active,
political, politicised
ladies of Dhaka,
bringing up the
front in the fight
against anarchy,
corruption and
mayhem. I like 'em.
In the last issue, I
remember being impressed by Pakistani (PPP) women
activists' willingness to lay themselves down on the
tarmac to bring things to a halt. The Bangla women's
group seems to be larger, that's all.
ON 22 APRIL, Bangladesh's Chief of Police AYBI
Siddiqui declared "war" against "terrorists" active in
the southwest of the country, and Home Minister
Mohammad Nasin said: "I'm not a Minister of
Ramkrishna Mission that I will show sympathy to the
criminals. I do not want to hear any more the names of
Sarbahara and extremists. They will have to be
crushed." All this was echoed some days later, when
Nepal's prime minister-designate Krishna Prasad
Bhattarai (one-time freedom fighter, Gandhian, what-
have-you) said of the Maoist insurgents: "It is a law-
and-order problem of criminals, and will be dealt with
by the police and army." With such sentiments coming
from the highest levels, may Allah and Pashupatinath
save this region when the societal wounds of police
action begin to fester and boil.
THE ECONOMIC Times, a paper from Dhaka proudly
claiming its 11th year of publication, has a lead article
which reports on how an English medium school
teacher is teaching her young students to be drug
addicts, providing them with phensedyl, and regularly showing them pornographic films on video at
her residence. The way the report is presented leads
me to question the story to begin with, but the headline, "Whip and burn the teacher alive" as a sort of a
editorial suggestion, is enough for me to suggest that
the editor be forwarded as a specimen if anyone ever
organises a South Asian mediocrity conference.
Bhutan, and anything and
everything is now nationally or commercially
related to the 25th anniversary of His Majesty Jigme
Singye Wangchuk's rule
of Druk Yul, warts and all.
Whatever else, you cannot
fault the Druk Gyalpo for
not knowing exactly where
he was going and taking
his country every day of
On 2nd June 1999
YOUcould be the Proud
these last 25 summers. Meanwhile, get
me a visa to Bhutan
and let me have a try
at this Coronation
Super Bumper prize
of a Prado, all for a
mere Ngultrum 300.
Meanwhile, this just
in: The 90 shopkeepers in Wangduephodrang (a name
I have tried to spell correctly for a decade and not
succeeded) dzongkhag have agreed to stop selling
tobacco from June 2, coinciding with the silver jubilee
celebrations. Writes Kuensel, "According to a shopkeeper, tobacco sale should be stopped because
students, and even monks, were picking up the habit
of smoking."
I DO not know whether to laugh or to
cry when 1 see symbolic gestures, such
as the accompanying one of an elephant, crushing pirated software.
These are stage-managed events
occasionally seen in China, but now in
India as well, and what one needs to
know is who wins and who loses. There
is no question in my mind that pirated
software is only used by those who are
poor. Truly rich institutions and individuals would not deign to descend to
buy pirated work. So, there has been a
gentleman's agreement that since you
cannot fight it, let it be. The breaking of software by
pachydermic hooves means that the multinationals
and subcontinationals are now confident enough to
break this unstated agreement and to go for a slightly
larger slice of the pie than what they were content with
till now. My instinct says thus.
WHILE INDIA bombards awfully close to the LoC and
Pakistan shoots down assorted flying machines of the
IAF, the Pak-India Brotherhood Association is on to
more important things, such as, in Hyderabad,
proposing bus services linking Lahore, Delhi,
Calcutta, Dhaka and Kathmandu and a ferry service
linking Karachi, Bombay, Goa, Kanyakumari,
Colombo and the Maldives. The president of
the Association is an S.M. Imam, who is into
pharmaceuticals in Karachi. Mr Imam, who
should be made roving ambassador of
SAARC rather than the convenor of the South
Asian Association of Small Entrepreneurs,
which in fact he is, was saying, "Those days,
we used to have a Toofan Mail between
Bombay and Peshawar. The track is there, the
train is there; the only thing is that we have to
lift is the barrier to allow the train to pass."
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 Move over BTV
Bangladeshis may just get to see real television. Privately run.
by A fsan Cho wdh ury
When Ekushey Television
(ETV) begins transmission
on 16 December 1999,
it will be the first private sector
terrestrial TV station in Bangladesh,
and also in South Asia. And the
people at ETV are rather proud of it,
not least because of this singular
The term ekushey (Bangla for 21)
itself is a potent symbol. On 21
February 1952, students agitating
in Dhaka for recognition of Bangla
as one of the state languages of the
then united Pakistan, were killed
in police fire. The shooting
ignited a series of protests that
would last all the way to
war and independence in
1971. (December 16 has been
significantly chosen, as that is
the day of victory over Pakistan
in 1971.)
"Ekushey sums up what
we are about and want to
achieve. It's not just about a
day in history which gave spirit
to the nationalist movement
based on culture and language,
but the spirit which has
driven the Bangla people to
nationhood. It also means
bridging the past with the future as
well —this century's Ekushey spirit
moving into the Ekushey [21st]
century," says Simon Dring, one of
the two managing directors of ETV.
Dring sees ETV as an opportunity
to reach into the lives of the millions
who can be positively influenced
through a TV station driven by
quality and meaningful broadcasting. "It's easy to produce programmes and just beam it down. We
want more, we want to utilise the full
potential of TV."
Dring is a legend in Bangladesh
in his own right. A Britisher, he was
in Bangladesh during the liberation war as correspondent for The
Telegraph of London. When all the
foreign correspondents were driven
out after the 1971 March massacre,
he hid in the present Sheraton (then
the Inter-Continental) Hotel and
thereafter toured the city. His on-the-
spot reports of the killings were
flashed all over the world. This
endeared him to all generations of
Bangladeshis, including the late
Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, and his
daughter Sheikh Hasina, now prime
Tackling the market
While dreams are all right, does it
make business sense? Is the Bangla
viewership market, large as it is,
robust enough for two terrestrials
(the other being the state-owned
BTV-Bangladesh Television)? ETV
people are sure that it is possible for
two to survive, but only two, not
three. They are convinced that it is
possible to make money and good
programmes at the same time. Says
Dring, "It's possible to be public
service-driven broadcasters and still
make money. Our planning is very
practical, and market research-
driven. We have the investors
making sure we are planning to
make profit. We are accountable to
them. And we believe South Asian
broadcasting has to be different."
ETV enjoys the backing of some
giant names. Apart from A.S.
Mahmud as chairman —who was
one-time managing director of
Mediaworld, the group that brings
out Daily Star — Ely is supported
by some big players including
the Square group, the Rangs
group, and others, mostly from
the district of Sylhet, which is
where most of the owners of
'Indian' restaurants in London
come from. This community is
one vast source of funds that
Mahmud can tap into should he
want to. The estimated project
cost of ETV stands at around BDT
75-80 crore (c. USD 15 million).
Discussions on ETV began
in early 1997 when Farhad
Mahmud, son of A.S. Mahmud
and the other managing director
of the company, had a conversation with Dring who was staying
at a local hotel. At that time, they
were not the only ones talking. Some
of Bangladesh's largest business and
media houses were keen on starting
a TV channel, and although there
was no policy to allow private
sector broadcasting, over a dozen
unsolicited applications were lying
with the prime minister, and soon
ETV's proposal joined the pile. In
March this year, ETV finished ahead
of the pack and got a 15-year licence.
This has led to speculation that
ETV enjoys official patronage. All the
HfMAL   12/6 June 1999
 more so because ETV will be using
the five BTV earth stations for transmission. Both TV stations are to share
the BTV towers which are being
upgraded with ETV money. ETV
bosses deny any shady deals. Says
Dring, "The crucial difference was
we had worked a lot to get a proper
proposal complete with technical
and financial analyses done by
international experts."
Adds fellow director Mahmud,
"Of course we lobbied intensively as
did others but in the end we
got the licence because we had a
stronger offer. We were willing to
commit millions of dollars. We had
cooperation from BBC engineers.
We have attracted direct foreign
investment in a sector in Bangladesh
which people would hardly rate as
attractive or even possible."
Investors are being drawn to
broadcasting in Bangla by the sheer
size of the viewership in the country,
now estimated at over 50 million.
Market studies have shown a
huge concentration of "small-time
buyers". And the response to ATN
Bangla —an entertainment cable
channel that has practically wiped
out Hindi cable viewing in Bangladesh—is one proof that local language programmes can indeed generate substantial viewership. The total
advertisement market for television
is approximately BDT 1 billion (USD
20.8 million), which is bound to soar
if, as advertisers hope, ETV reaches
rural viewers.
In the race between BTV and ETV,
it is clear that the former will lose
some of its market, if not most. And
it may lose some more, if two more
channels, which are in the pipeline,
come through. They are Impress TV
belonging to the country's largest
TV software production house
which has a turnover running into
tens of millions, and Channel TEN,
an outfit which plans to hit the
Hindi market with entertainment
programmes. Star Bangla, backed by
the Star Group, may also step in.
The quality bottomline
The one challenge facing ETV, which
its management understands only
too well, will be in the quality of
programmes. Says Dring, "We
may set up a separate outfit just
to train our staff and contracted
independents. That we hope will be
a continuous activity and contribute
to the overall increase of programme
ETV plans to transmit 12 hours
on weekdays and over 17 hours
during the weekend. "Programming
will be split into NCA [news and
current affairs], entertainment and
development programmes. We
are committing at least two hours
every day to development progra
mmes," informs filmmaker Fuad
Chowdhury, a non-resident Bangladeshi who has returned home to
work with ETV as in-charge of the
development programmes. Like
Fuad, ETV may rope in some other
NRBs. "For them this is mainstream
work and not just a subsidised
ethnic venture. That makes a lot of
difference," says Fuad.
But it is the news and current
affairs section, into which heavy
investment has gone, that will make
or break ETV. And here it has a great
opportunity given that BTV's news
presentations have little credibility. "A lot of energy is going into
planning the NCA which is not just
about politics but which focusses on
lives all over Bangladesh and
on all the aspects. NCA has to be
decentralised and should have a far
more rural bias," says Dring, whose
own experience of the last 35 years
has been in news and current affairs.
Everything sounds upbeat right
now, but that's how it is usually
during the planning period. The
broadcasters are promising the
world, and in the first days of the
Ekushey century, South Asia will
get an inkling whether television
can make a difference to the Bangladeshi's world. A
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 The news of a kidnapping
by Rehan Ansari
The house of Najam Sethi and
Jugnu Mohsin, the couple who
run The Friday Times newsweekly out
of Lahore, was invaded on 8 May
by men claiming to be from the Inter-Services Intelligence (151), even
though many of them were in Punjab
Police uniform. They beat up the
private security guards, locked
Jugnu Mohsin in the bathroom and
took away Najam Sethi without indicating charges.
The next dav, Asma Jehangir, the
well-known human rights lawyer,
approached the Lahore High Court
on behalf of Jugnu Mohsin and was
reported to have called the event a
kidnapping by the state, The Lahore
High Court directed the government
to explain itself (but did not order it
to produce the detainee). The advocate general of Punjab pleaded ignorance of the whereabouts of Sethi.
Meanwhile, the federal government
in Islamabad stated that the arrest
had been made "in connection" with
the report the Pakistani high commissioner to India had given on
Sethi's speech in Delhi (see following
pages). Subsequently, an interior ministry spokesman admitted that Sethi
was in the custody of the 1ST, whereupon it argued that since the ISI is a
military agency, Sethi cannot be produced before a civilian court in a
habeas corpus petition.
Such explanations apart, it is
clear that what Najam Sethi said in
Delhi before an India International
Centre (11C) crowd had very little to
do with his being picked up. His
address described Pakistan's ideological, economic, legal crises no
better or worse than the daily debates in Pakistan's English-language
editorial pages, and much of what he
had said had already come out in his
editorials, and in particular, at an
address before the National Defence
College earlier in the year.
The real reason can be traced to
the fact that The Friday Times has been
stubbornly focusing on the financial
shenanigans of the ruling Sharifs
clan of Prime Minister Nawaz and
his brother, Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab — unrepaid loans being the principal embarrassment.
Najam Sethi had also given an interview to the BBC team preparing a
documentary on the Sharifs. (Two
other journalists who have spoken
to the BBC have also been harassed:
Imtiaz Alam of The News daily had
his car set on fire, and Hussain
Haqqani, also of The Friday Times, has
been arrested. The magistrate's report said that Haqqani bore the
marks of a beating.)
Lahore is one of the most insular cities of the Subcontinent, which
is perhaps why Sethi's arrest and
the invasion of his home and privacy, do not seem to have struck a
chord. Najam Sethi and Jugnu
Mohsin live in the upper-class enclave of Gulberg, which may be why
the average Lahori found it easier
to show unconcern.
Whatever the cause, few Lahoris
seemed impressed with the argument that Najam Sethi's speech at
Delhi's 11C was a double-edged re
buke. Tt actually chided the Indian
establishment for its less-than-great-
power habit of picking fights with
Pakistan, its Kashmiri repression
and for its insane initiatives in the
arms race, one that will create an economically unstable Pakistan, which
is bound to evolve as a terrible threat
to its neighbour. Sethi had made
threadbare the hypocrisy of the Indian offer for a no-first-strike nuclear
weapons agreement and the rejection of the no-war-pact offer of Pakistan. Nor was anyone impressed, including the prime minister it seems,
with the compliments Najam paid to
Nawaz Sharif for his peace initiatives with India,
The sentiment a lot of people did
express was that it is fine for Najam
Sethi to speak his mind in Lahore,
but not in Delhi. This may have to
do with the perception that Sethi is
politically active (he was a minister
in the last caretaker government in
1996) and not a dissident above the
political fray. It also has to do with
the peculiar notion of territorialism
that persists even in this digital age
in a South Asia which is moving back
to the feudal. A
Sharif Scissorhands
NAWAZ SHARIF and his men are
turning out to be South Asia's
Great Scissorhands. Having had some
prominent members ofthe domestic
press pulled up for showing them
and the nation in what they perceive to
be an unsavoury light, their wrath
turned international with the seizure of
the widely read and respected
The Economist (of 22-28 May), for carrying a cover-story titled "The rot in
The Economist story, with a
fierce-looking Sharif peering out ofthe
cover against a Gothic-green background, detailed the chaos that is Paki
stan today, and
even went on to
tell donors like
the IMF, which
by end-May was
supposed to loan
USD 1.6 billion,
not  to  release
funds. "Pakistan
under Mr Sharif
is moving in the wrong direction.
It seems perverse to give it more cash
to speed it on its way," wrote the
The result: about 4000 copies ofthe
magazine seized at Karachi airport.
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 Mr l.K. Gujral, Prof Satish
Kumar, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here among
such a distinguished gathering of
Indian policy makers, scholars,
senior journalists, analysts and keen
Pakistan watchers. I will keep my
lecture short so that we can spend
time on questions and answers and
benefit from an informal dialogue at
the end of the lecture. 1 assume that
most people here todav are broadly
familiar with political developments
in Pakistan.
At the start, 1 should like to
inform you that the gist of this
lecture has been made at various
Pakistani forums already. Indeed,
the part relating to Pakistan was
published almost word for word in
my newspaper as an editorial some
months ago. So it should not
come as a surprise to my Pakistani
compatriots here and at home. 1 do
not practise double-standards, as
will be evident in due course. I am
deeply and passionately concerned
about what is going on in my country
and I am not afraid of speaking the
truth at any forum in my quest for
posing the problem.
Pakistan's socio-political environment is in the throes of a severe
multi-dimensional crisis. I refer to
six major crises which confront
Pakistan on the eve of the new
1) the crisis  of identity and
2) the crisis of law, constitution
and political system
3) the crisis of economy
4) the crisis of foreign policy
"A State-Nation ra
Text of Najam Sethi's speech at the India
International Centre in New Delhi, 30 April 1999
5) the crisis of civil society
6) the crisis of national security
These crises haven't suddenly
emerged out of the blue. I have
been talking and writing about
the inexorable germination and
development of these crises for
many years. Now they are all
upon Pakistan simultaneously, with
greater or lesser intensity.
The crisis of identity and
ideology refers to the fact that after
50 years, Pakistanis are still unable
to collectively agree upon who we
are as a nation, where we belong,
what we believe in and where we
want to go. In terms of our identity
and our demands, are we Pakistanis
first and then Punjabis, Sindhis,
Baloch, Pathan or Mohajirs or vice
versa? Do we belong —in the sense
of our future bearings and anchors-
— do we belong to South Asia or do
we belong to the Middle East? In
terms of ideology, are we Muslims
in a moderate Muslim state or
Muslims in an orthodox Islamic
state? In other words, are we
supposed to be like Saudi Arabia or
Iran —which are orthodox Islamic
states — or are we supposed to be like
Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Algeria, etc,
which are supposed to be liberal
Muslim states? And if none of these
fit the bill, what then? Whose version
and vision of Islam do we follow?
The Qur'an and Sunnah, say some
people. Well, if the Quaid-e-Azam
and Allama Iqbal both had their
own interpretations of how
the Qur'an and Sunnah were to be
applied in the real life of a modern
state like Pakistan, the problem
has been compounded bv the
myriad interpretations of their
interpretations of an Islamic state.
And the problem doesn't end there.
The Jamaat-i-lslami, the Sipah-i-
Sahaba, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-IsIam
and countless other Islamic parties
and Islamic sects all have their
so-called exclusive Islamic axes to
grind. So there is no agreement, no
consensus on this issue. Indeed,
there is so much tension, violence
and confusion associated with
this issue that it has begun to
hurt Pakistan considerably, It has
assumed the form of an identity and
ideological crisis.
The crisis of law, constitution
and political system refers to the fact
that: a) there is not one set of laws in
Pakistan but two —the Anglo-Saxon
tradition which we inherited from the
past and the Islamic tradition which
we have foisted in recent times.
Most Pakistanis are trained and
experienced in the former but some
Pakistanis hanker for the latter.
The two traditions co-exist in an
environment of fear, corruption and
hypocrisy. Increasingly, they seem to
be at serious odds with each other,
as for example on the question of
how to treat interest rates in a
modern capitalist economy, what
status to grant to universal human
and fundamental rights, how to treat
women and minorities, etc.
b) The crisis is also reflected in
the nature and extent to which the
constitution has been mangled
by democrats and dictators, lawyers
and judges, all alike. The reference here is to several highly controversial constitutional amend-ments,
past and pending; but it is also to
highly contentious, even suspect,
decisions by the courts acting as
handmaidens to the executive; and
to the motivations and actions of
certain judges in pursuit of personal ambition, pecuniary gains or
political advancement. Indeed,
many lawmakers do not obey the
law and some of our judges are
perceived in contemptuous terms by
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
 ither than a Nation-State"
the public.
c) The crisis is manifest, above
all, in the rapid public disenchantment with the political system of
so-called democracy. Democracy is
supposed to be about the supremacy
of the law and constitution, about the
necessity of checks and balances
between the different organs of
the state, about the on-going
accountability of public office
holders, and so on. But it has
degenerated into a system based
exclusively on elections which
return deaf and dumb public
representatives to rubber stamp
parliaments. So we have the form of
democracy but not its essence or
content. We have the rituals of
democracy but not its soul. I don't
know what this system is, but it is
certainly not democracy.
The crisis of economy refers to
the fact that: a) Pakistan is well and
truly bankrupt —indeed if the
international community had not
bailed out Pakistan recently, the
country would have succumbed to
financial default.
b) Worse, we appear to have no
means left by which to lift ourselves
up by our own bootstraps without a
massive convulsion in state and
society. This is manifest in our
total dependence on foreign assistance. Indeed, the crisis of economy
is so severe that it has begun to
impinge on our sovereignty as an
independent state and is eroding
our traditional construction of
national security. The economic crisis
is reflected in a crisis of growth, a
crisis of distribution, a crisis of
production and a crisis of finance. It
is threatening massive and violent
dislocations in state and society.
The crisis of foreign policy is
now coming home to roost. We
are not only friendless in the region
in which we live, we are being
blackballed and blackmailed by the
international community to which
we are indebted up to our ears. If
foreign policy is supposed to be
rooted in and geared to domestic
objectives and concerns, we have
reversed the order of things. Our
foreign policy seems to have a life
of its own. Tt dictates our domestic
policies rather than the other way
round. This is why there is no long-
term consistency or strength in it.
One day, we say that Kashmir is
the "core issue without whose
prior settlement none of the other
contentious issues with India can be
resolved". The next day, we say that
progress on the other issues can be
made without a settlement of the
Kashmir issue. One day we say that
Kashmir is a multilateral issue, the
next dav we emphasise the urgency
of bilateral dialogue with India. One
day, we are quick to recognise the
Taliban government in Kabul and
exhort the other nations of the world
to follow suit; the next day we
give our blessings to the idea of a
broad-based, multi-ethnic, multi-
religious "consensus" government
in Kabul. One day Iran is our historic
and strategic friend, the next
day we stand accused by Iran of
unmentionable actions. One
day, Central Asia is billed as the
promised land. The next day, it is
arrayed against us in hostile terms.
One day, the United States is our
godfather. The next day it is the ugly
American. The worst has now come
to pass. For 50 years we worried
about the threat on our eastern
borders with India. Today we are
anxious about our western front
with Iran and Afghanistan.
The crisis of civil society is
demonstrated in many ways.
In increasingly low turnouts for
elections. In continuing deterioration of law and order. In rising
sectarianism, ethnicity and regionalism. In the breakdown of civil
utilities and amenities. In the erosion
of the administrative system.
In violence and armed conflict. In
mass criminalisation and alienation
of the people. In a rising graph of
disorders, suicides, drug abuse,
rape, kidnappings and outright
terrorism. The rise of criminal and
religious mafias, kabza groups,
extra-judicial killings, etc, testify to
the breakdown of social connections
and civil compacts between the
Pakistani state and the Pakistani
These crises have all culminated
into a severe crisis of national
security. Pakistan's political system,
its political leadership, its structure
of law and constitution, its administrative framework, its economic
stagnation, its ideological hypocrisy
and its friendless foreign policy are
no longer tenable. They have all
contributed to a comprehensive
erosion of National Security. If the
tide is not reversed quickly, it will
engulf Pakistan in its wake. Indeed,
the argument that Pakistan is a
"failing state" made by some people
is based on perceptions of this
multi-dimensional crisis.
Getting out of hell
So, if Pakistanis know what the hell
is going on, and if Pakistanis know
where the hell they arc going, the
question remains: how the hell do
Pakistanis get out of this hell?
This question has two parts. First,
what sort of agendas are required to
be implemented to get out of this
hell? Second, who will implement
such agendas?
The answer to the first question
is simple enough. Or at least it is
simple enough for me. 1 ask my
fellow Pakistanis to look at each of
the crises referred to above and then
1 demand that the factors which have
led to the crisis should be swiftly
addressed. Let us take each of the
crises and remark on how to resolve
the crisis.
Crisis of ideology: In my view,
there is only one modern-day
ideology over whose application
there can be no bitter or divisive
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 controversy and which will be
acceptable to all Pakistanis, irrespective of caste, creed, gender, region,
ethnicity, sect, etc. And that is the
ideology of economic growth, the
ideology of full employment, the
ideology of distributive justice and
social welfare. I say Pakistan should
make this ideology the ideology of
the state and thereby bury all false
consciousness and false ideologies.
Crisis of law, constitution and
political system: I say Pakistan must
revamp the political system and
revise the constitution so that the
political system and the constitution
are made to serve the people below
instead of the corrupt elites above.
Crisis of economy: I say that the
Pakistani state should honour its
international contracts; enforce its
domestic loan repayments; tax (he
rich; dispossess the corrupt; live
within its means; vitalise its human
resources; export the value of its
scientific talents; establish and
enforce a genuine private-public
partnership in which the private
sector produces efficiently and the
public sector regulates effectively.
Crisis of civil society: I say
enforce the rule of law; disarm
society; disband militias; decentralise decision-making and power;
establish accountability; protect
minorities and women; create social
nets for the disadvantaged, poor and
destitute; provide decentralised and
quick justice.
Crisis of foreign policy: I
say make friends, not masters or
enemies; bury cold-war hatchets;
renounce post-cold-war jehads;
negotiate terms of trade, not
territorial ambitions; redefine
strategic depth to mean emphasis on
internal will rather than external
Crisis of national security: I say
redefine security to mean not only
military defence but also economic vitality, social cohesion and
international respect; and I
say Pakistan should determine its
minimal optimal defence deterrent
but shun an arms race.
The answer to the second
question—namely, who will pursue
and implement this agenda —is
difficult only for one reason: I cannot
see even one leader or institution in
Pakistan who or which personifies
National Power and has the
three virtues or elements which are
required to get Pakistan out of this
mess. These are: vision, courage and
integrity. The vision to chart a
particular course; the courage to
implement it ruthlessly; and the
integrity to ensure that it doesn't get
derailed. My hope, of course, is that
someone or some institution will
throw up such leadership in time to
come. My fear is that if this doesn't
happen soon enough, it may be too
late later.
The Other
1 would now like to turn briefly to
one /actor that impinges greatly on
Pakistan's past, present and future,
one which should concern all of you
who are assembled here today. That
is Pakistan's relationship with India.
In one crucial sense, India remains a
determining factor vis-a-vis Pakistan.
The Pakistani state has come to be
fashioned largely in response to
perceived and propagated, real and
imagined threats to its national
security from India. The mentality
and outlook of the Pakistani state
is therefore that of a historically
besieged state. That is why conceptions of national security, defined
in conventional military terms,
dominate the Pakistani state's
thinking on many issues. Indeed,
that is why state outlook dominates
government policies. That is why
Pakistan's foreign policy runs its
domestic policy rather than the other
way round. That is why Pakistan's
economy is hostage to Pakistan's
cold war conceptions of "national
security" rather than being an
integral part of it. That is why
Pakistan is more a state-nation rather
than a nation-state.
This has had far-reaching implications for the lack of develop-ment
of a sustainable and stable
demo-cratic political culture in
Pakistan. Indeed, and more critically,
it has directly spawned extra-
state institutions espousing Islamic
fundamentalism and jehad. And it is
these forces which are undermining
the compact between the state
and people of Pakistan, thereby
adversely impacting on political
discourse in the country.
Pakistan's obsession with India
hurts Pakistan deeply. But the
roots of this obsession cannot be
shrugged away by India. Indeed,
India may be said to be the root
cause of Pakistan's insecurity. Apart
from pre-Partition history, there is
the fact of a great injustice done to
Pakistan by India over Kashmir and
the dismemberment of Pakistan in
which India played a critical and
leading role. For precisely this
reason, one of the fallouts of
this obsession is the decade-long
low-intensity-conflict in Kashmir.
Another is the tit-for-tat nuclear and
missile tests by Pakistan and its
refusal to sign a no-first-strike
agreement with India which in turn
means that Pakistan cannot get a
no-war pact from India.
In this way, if Pakistan's past is
umbilically linked to that of India,
its future cannot but be shaped
by India's future, as well as have
an impact on it. If the rise of
fundamentalist Islam threatens
Pakistan's body-politic, India cannot
expect to escape its negative fallout.
If a nuclear arsenal is assembled in
Pakistan, India's security cannot
be vouchsafed by all the nuclear
weapons at its disposal. If Pakistan
fails as a nation-state and becomes a
rogue regime marked by social
anarchy and upheaval, India's
army will not be able to contain its
disruptive and destabilising impact.
If Pakistan is drawn into an arms race
with India, the logic of the situation
will fuel the sources of conflict
between the two countries rather
than provide security to either
Of course, this does not mean
that India should constantly look
over its shoulder while seeking to
determine its own national security
policies. But it does mean that India
cannot ever be a great power or great
nation if its own backyard is seething
with   resentment   and   turmoil.
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 .. •'- IT7:*1 *"   .
"Contemptible treachery"
The report sent in by the Pakistani high commissioner in Neiv Delhi, Ashrafjehangir
Qazi, was the reason ostensibly behind Najam Sethi's arrest. Tlte following is an
excerpt ofthe report as quoted by a Pakistani government spokesman in Islamabad
while commenting on Sethi's arrest. Reported in Dawn,
MY OWN view is that Najam Sethi's attempt to pose
as a heroic liberal fighting against corruption and tyranny by portraying his country as an irrational, contradictory, corrupt, unstable and dangerous entity—and
that too in India of all places! —is an act of contempt
against Pakistan-amounting to the most contemptible
Mr Sethi claimed Pakistan did not know what it
stood for. Was it Jinnah's Pakistan-or Iqbal's Pakistan?
It did not know whether it was an Islamic fundamentalist or modern state. It did not know what was its
relationship to the Subcontinent, and whether it was
Arab or Persian or Central Asian or Afghan, etc. It was,
in short, a confused state!
Mr Sethi claimed that law and order was
non-existent, there was mafia rule and violence including 'terrorism' and the political system was completely
corrupt and dysfunctional.
Mr Sethi proclaimed the economy bankrupt and
that, but for emergency international assistance, the
country would have gone into default.
Mr Sethi alleged Pakistan was totally isolated and
its foreign policy did not represent state interests. He
pronounced Pakistan as insecure and 'obsessed with
India' and merely complained that India had done 'an
injustice to Pakistan' by denying it 'an honourable
settlement' on Kashmir.
Domestically, Mr Sethi said civic society had totally
collapsed and various extremist and fundamentalist
groups including 'terrorist groups' had completely
taken over from the
State. Corruption, hypocrisy, violence and indifference
ruled the day.
In submission, Sethi announced that Pakistan instead of being a 'national-state'[sic] had become a
'state-nation' suggesting its artificiality, i.e. something
that no longer represented the interests of its people.
He then proceeded to suggest a series of solutions to
Pakistan's crises in the most sketchy, rhetorical and
meaningless terms, and finally concluded that there
was no hope of finding anyone who could implement
any of his solutions to save Pakistan from itself. In other
words, this 'eminent liberal scholar' from Pakistan
[told] an elite Indian audience that Pakistan was all
but a lost cause,
In this vein, Sethi also alleged that Pakistan had
become an 'unstable nuclear state' and that unless there
was a Kashmir settlement, Pakistan was capable of doing anything. He used this condemnation of his country as an argument for India to consider' an honourable
solution' to the problem...
Sethi's pathetic and treacherous condemnation of
his own country was music to his audience's ears. Sethi
was not just criticising the government {which would
have been his democratic right but utterly inappropriate in India anyway). Sethi was actually presenting
an analysis of Pakistan that, without explicitly saying
so effectively, suggested to his enraptured Indian audience that they were right to hold the belief that Pakistan should never have been created in the first place.
Indeed, as long as India's quest
for great powerdom is based on its
strategy of military outreach,
it is bound to be thwarted in its
ambitions by tit-for-tat Pakistan.
Therefore India will be recognised
as a great power in the new
millennium not on the basis of its
numerical military superiority in
the region but by the extent to which
the countries of South Asia, including
Pakistan, are economically interdependent on each other and take
their lead independent of the
super powers. A pre-requisite for
this is that India should make
enduring peace with Pakistan on
principled and honourable terms
and resolve the Kashmir dispute,
thereby helping the forces of civil
society in Pakistan to fashion a new
state which is subservient to the
Pakistani nation instead of the other
way round.
By way of concluding, I should
just like to remind everyone of one
lesson of modern history: vibrant
and stable democracies are less
likely to go to war than authoritarian
states which live and survive on the
basis or threat of war.
Thank you very much for your
patience. I would be happy to take
your questions now.
If Pakistan is in such a crisis, why should
the Kashmiris want to join it?
That is a question which you
Indians should ask the Kashmiris,
But you know what they will
say, that is why you don't ask this
question of them. At any rate, if 100
million people in Pakistan are in a
bad way, over 400 million people in
India are worse off. So let us not try
to score points over each other. Let
us try and address the real, issues.
Will Pakistan accept the LoC us an
international border?
No, never. It is only in India's
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
 interest to legitimise the status quo.
We want to change it because it is
Was the Lahore Summit a historic event?
The Lahore Summit will only go
down in history if it is an anti-history
event, if it succeeds in burying the
history of the last 50 years. But that
is the great challenge. ...the bail is in
India's court yet again. Unless India
makes an enduring and honourable settlement with Pakistan over
Kashmir, there will be no peace in
the Subcontinent. If this dialogue
doesn't take off, a great opportunity
will be lost. No PM otheT than
Nawaz Sharif could have gone so far,
so quickly, reaching out to India.
Will India reciprocate?
Why doesn't Pakistan accept a
no-first-strike agreement with India ?
Pakistan's conventional defense
capabilities have been greatly
reduced since the Americans cut off
all assistance to Pakistan in 1990. Its
reliance on the nuclear deterrent
is therefore all the greater. That is
why India should be cautioned
about considering "hot-pursuit"
into Pakistani territory. Our retaliation would be swift and massive. My
question to all of you is: why doesn't
India agTee to a no-war pact
with Pakistan if its intentions are
Is Nawaz Sharif trying to Islamisc
Pakistan via the Shariah Bill?
No. The 15th amendment is a
horrendous piece of pending
legislation. It has nothing to do with
Islam. Its sole purpose is to make
Nawaz Sharif an absolute dictator. If
that amendment is passed, it will
lead to bitter strife and instability
which will worsen the crises I have
been talking about. A
"Sethi was not revealing a state secret"
- I.K. Gujral
LISTENING TO Najam Sethi's Kewal Singh Memorial Lecture, my mind went back over several eras of
Pakistani history. In the course of half a century of sovereignty, many dictators and autocrats had tried to suppress Pakistan's inherent spirit of liberty and outspokenness, until a democratic polity finally dawned.
Now though they occasionally experience difficulties,
elected governments, a free press and courageous
NGOs are still centrestage. The task of social transformation in traditional societies is onerous, particularly
in the initial stages when the mask of cultural hypocrisy is laid bare. But Parliament can perform its role
effectively only with the assistance of the media.
Najam Sethi was not saying anything that we in
India had not heard before. Nor are our own shortfalls
hidden from the gaze of neighbouring countries. Satellite television and the Internet have lit up previously
dark corners, broadcasting to'all and sundry the existence of wide chasms between the pretensions and
practices of the ruling elite, who believe they can suppress independent views with the help of police and
hoodlums, that government-sponsored propaganda
can black out reality. But why talk of Pakistan? Here
in our own country, we have witnessed our worthy
minister of information expressing similar beliefs while
eroding the autonomy of Prasar Bharati. In the era of
social transformation, autocratic regimes and minds
want to edit both history and news. Bold practitioners
of the media whose only tool is their credibility are
bound to resist.
Najam Sethi was only re-stating what he had already written in his newspaper. But a false sense of
national pride overcame Pakistani diplomats: the spirit
was "why say it here in India", still "enemy country"
despite all the bus journeys and the lauded Lahore
Declaration. The Pakistani
high commissioner in Delhi
who filed the FIR against
Sethi perhaps felt the need
to protect himself lest he be
accused of dereliction of
duty. But this action and the
leaking of his secret report
by an Islamabad official only caused him immense embarrassment here. He will obviously be the main prosecution witness if and when Sethi is brought before a
Sethi was not revealing a state secret when he said
the US sanctions were imposing a heavy burden on
Pakistan's economy. Nor did he tell us for the first time
the agonising details of terrorist activities in Karachi
and elsewhere. The gun is loud enough to be heard
on its own. The cult of violence is causing anxiety to
us as well; we recently saw the scion of a political family kill a girl who refused to serve him a drink. If this
story were to be carried in Pakistani periodicals, would
we brand it an "anti-Indian move"?
Sethi may have chosen sharp rhetoric. He used the
word "crises" to describe a variety of challenges confronting Pakistan. Since I am temperamentally a moderate, I had counselled Sethi that the word "difficulties" may be more appropriate. Journalists tend to describe a spade as a sword; persons of my temperament
call it a twig. All the same, overreacting to well-meaning utterances or writing does not serve the cause of
democratic life, it is dissent and debate that generate
progress. Otherwise, we would still believe that the
sun revolves around a flat earth.
-Excerpted from "Why Najam Is Necessary" in
1999  June 12/6   HIMAL
 Massaging the official message
Mushahid Hussain is just doing his job. He stands out because he is a
former journalist defending a government that is hounding the press.
by Khaled Ahmed
Pakistan's Information Minister
Mushahid Hussain Syed has two
personas: one journalistic which cultivates easy camaraderie with the
press in Pakistan, the other political
which bows to the culture of defending the government, right or wrong.
If a journalist is wronged by his government, he will let him know privately the wrong happened because
his advice was rejected, then issue
a strong official statement justifying the action.
This split personality has hurt
Mushahid both ways. It has caused
disenchantment among the journalist community, and it has undermined his status within the
party in power. In April when the
Jang Group of newspapers were
under attack from Nawaz Sharif
government (see Himal March 1999),
he sent out secret messages saying
he had advised against the action.
Later it was revealed that he was
very much part of the crackdown.
In the aftermath of the 'arrest'
of Najam Sethi, chief editor of The
Friday Times weekly, he has repeated the routine. In Hong Kong,
he privately let on to his critics that
he was not involved, but officially
defended the arrest and secret confinement of Sethi on charges of "collaborating with India". That's the expertise Mushahid has developed in
a government where he has had to
fight the other Sharif loyalists to get
to the top and remain there.
Eastern Economic Review and was an
ill-concealed proxy of General
Zia's, Mushahid was not politically
aligned. His high-water mark as a
journalist came in 1983, as editor of
Islamabad's The Muslim, when his
was the best reporting on General
Zia's military assault on the
province of Sindh. He was not the
arm-chair editor writing editorials.
Mushahid Hussain Syed was a journalist once, and a very well regarded
one. Unlike Hussain Haqqani, another journalist recently harassed by
the government, who gained fame
as  a  correspondent of  The Fur
Mushahid Hussain
He travelled and reported on the
It was while editing The Muslim
that he was ousted from his job in
1988 for "collaborating with India"
in helping well-known Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar interview Abdul
Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's
nuclear bomb. After the interview
appeared in British papers, then
prime minister Mohammed Khan
Junejo pressured the management at
The Muslim to fire Mushahid.
He then worked as a freelancer
until 1993 when he joined the media
cell of the Pakistan Muslim League
(PML). This was after President
Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the
government of Nawaz Sharif and
Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's
Party returned to power in the subsequent elections. In 1996, President
Farooq Leghari dismissed the
Bhutto government and Nawaz
Sharif swept to power with an overwhelming majority in the Lower
House of the Parliament in 1997.
Mushahid Hussain was made
senator and subsequently information minister.
Mushahid comes from a respected Shia family of Lahore, A
graduate of international relations
from Boston University, he taught
international affairs in the mid-
1970s at Lahore's Punjab University. Considered a leftist and a
known critic of the US, he
challenged Washington's global
policy as neo-imperialism. He was
also an opponent of India's "hegemonic designs" in South Asia, supported Pakistan's nuclear ambitions and advocated the testing of
a nuclear device in response to
India's 1974 Pokhran test.
As a journalist, Mushahid did
adhere to an ideology —the ideology
of anti-Americanism. He was inclined to support anyone who challenged America's hegemony.
When Pakistan's then chief of army
staff General Mirza Asiam Beg, announced his theory of "strategic defiance" (of the US) on the eve of the
Gulf war in 1990, he supported it.
And after General Beg set up his
FRIENDS organisation upon retirement, Mushahid joined it, taking out
processions in favour of testing
Pakistan's nuclear device.
His left-wing orientation however dissipated with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following the
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
 revolution in Iran, a Shia-majonty
country, Mushahid became a great
admirer of Ayatollah Khomeini. The
Iranian revolution inspired all Muslims but it affected the anti-American
and Shia Mushahid deeply. He became an Islamist. But being an Islamist in Pakistan is a rather complicated affair. And being in the
Muslim League, which has a support base consisting largely of orthodox Sunni left-overs from the Zia era,
complicates it further.
During the 1990-93 government
of Nawaz Sharif, Mushahid was an
important means of communication
between Islamabad and Teheran.
But Pakistan's relations with Iran
began to sour in 1994 with the two
countries supporting opposing
forces in Afghanistan. The rise of the
Taliban and their support from
Islamabad, along with the ongoing
Shia-Sunni mayhem in Punjab,
brought the two on to a collision
course. The Muslim League veered
further right, and Mushahid came
under pressure. His Iran connection
soon became suspect, forcing him to
keep a low profile. That remained
the case until he became minister in
Among the faithful
During his second tenure, Sharif has
gradually tamed all the institutions
that could challenge him. He ousted
President Farooq Leghari, who had
dismissed the PPP government and
time-barred the accountability law to
bring him to power. He amended the
8th Amendment in the constitution
to become the appointer of chief of
the army staff, then proceeded to
get rid of the army chief Jehangir
Karamat. And when it was felt that
the chief justice would hear cases
against the prime minister, a rebellion was engineered within the judiciary and the chief justice removed. Before this, the Supreme
Court was assaulted by the Muslim
Leaguers to prevent the bench from
hearing cases against Sharif.
The BBC news footage of the incident at the Supreme Court showed
Mushahid among the faithfuls barging into the Supreme Court to put
his loyalty to the prime minister on
record. Others were far more aggressive and were indicted for insulting
the court. For his part, Mushahid, as
information minister, defended each
step of the government as fulfillment of the democratic ideal.
Meanwhile, as Nawaz Sharif
moved close to Washington, Musha-
hid's pre-1993 rhetoric was trimmed
accordingly to defend the relationship. His anti-India stance was likewise modified when Nawaz Sharif
moved to normalise relations with
India. Nawaz Sharif's ambivalence
provided space for Mushahid to
function easily. His line now was "Pakistani decisions are made in Pakistan", implying that in the past this
was not the case. When in May 1998
Pakistan exploded its nuclear device, Mushahid Hussain's old dream
was realised.
There is nothing unusual in the
behaviour of Mushahid Hussain.
That's the way information ministers
are supposed to behave in this
part of the world.
They 'create' the
name at home and abroad.
Thus you have the ridiculous
phenomenon of column-writers sing-
ing panegyrics on Sharif on the
editorial pages, complete with
mug-shots to register with a
non-reading prime minister, while
the news pages carry stories about
journalists being roughed up by the
regime's secret agencies.
Why should Mushahid be
picked on? After all, he is only a
party man, contesting turf with many
other Muslim Leaguers close to the
prime minister. He is not even in the
inner sanctum and there are many
who would like to see him trip up
in his work. He is doing his job much
the same way as BJP information minister did when Hindu fanatics were
killing Christians in India.
Perhaps he stands out a bit more
in the double-speak jungle of Pakistan because he is articulate and himself comes from the community of
journalists that is being hounded by
the government he speaks for.       >
image of the
government, and
control the damage to this image
when the government goes wayward.
The press
in Pakistan is
right-wing and
dotes on Nawaz
Sharif — the
Urdu section
more than the
English one —
and as such,
Mushahid's job
is not a particularly tough one.
His only problem is that
the government,
ill-advised by
the prime minister's inner coterie, keeps on
whipping a willing horse and
gives itself a bad
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1999 June 12/6 HIMAL
 Eqbal Ahmad
An intellectual
unintimidated by
power or authority
Eqbal Ahmad, perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of Asia and Africa, has
died, aged 66, in Islamabad following an operation for colon cancer. A
man of enormous charisma and incorruptible ideals, he was a prodigious talker and lecturer.
He had an almost instinctive attraction to movements of the
oppressed and the persecuted,
whether in Europe, America, Bosnia,
Chechnya, South Lebanon, Vietnam,
Iraq or the Indian Subcontinent. He
had a formidable knowledge of history, always measuring the promise
of religion and nationalism against
their depredations and abuse as their
proponents descended into fundamentalism, chauvinism and provincialism. Ahmad was a fierce, often
angry, combatant against what he
perceived as human cruelty and perversity..,
Ahmad was an early and prominent opponent of the Vietnam war,
and in 1970 was tried with the
Berrigan brothers on a trumped-up
charge of conspiracy to kidnap
Henry Kissinger —on which he and
his alleged co-conspirators were acquitted. In addition to his outspoken
support of unpopular causes (especially Palestinian rights), Ahmad's
uncompromising politics kept him
an untenured professor at various
universities until 1982, when Hampshire College, Massachusetts, made
him a professor. He taught there until he became emeritus professor in
1998, dividing his time between New
England and Pakistan.
During these years he travelled
all over the world. Arabs, for ex
ample, learned more from him about
the failures of Arab nationalism than
from anyone else. In 1980, in Beirut,
he was the first to predict the exact
outlines of the 1982 Israeli invasion;
in a memo to Yasir Arafat and Abu
Jihad he also sadly forecast the
quick defeat of PLO forces in
South Lebanon. He was a relentless opponent of milita
rism, bureaucracy, ideological rigidity and what he
called "the pathology of
power". He was consulted
by journalists and international civil servants about
abstruse currents in contemporary Afghanistan,
Algeria, Iran, India, Pakistan, Angola, Cuba, Sri Lanka, and
he had an encyclopaedic knowiedge
of the US.
No one who saw him sitting
bare-foot and cross-legged on a
living-room floor, conversing genially until the early hours, with a
glass in his hand, will ever forget the
sight or the sound of his voice as he
announced 'four major points' —but
never got past two or three. He loved
literature, especially poetry, and the
sensitive and precise use of language, whether it was Urdu, English, French, Arabic or Farsi. Ahmad
was that rare thing, an intellectual
unintimidated by power or authority, a companion in arms to such diverse figures as Noam Chomsky,
Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Ibrahim
Abu-Lughod, Richard Falk, Fred
Jameson, Alexander Cockburn and
Daniel Berrigan.
Immaculate in dress and expression, faultlessly kind, an unpretentious connoisseur of food and wine,
he saw himself as a man of the 18th
century, modern because of enlightenment and breadth of outlook,
not because of technological or
quasi-scientific 'progress'. Somehow
he managed to preserve his native
Muslim tradition without succumbing either to the frozen exclusivism
or to the jealousy that has often gone
with it. Humanity and secularism
had no finer champion. i
-Edward Said in The Guardian
The cosmopolitan
Eqbal Ahmad had a wonderfully
analytical mind. He could conceptualise events and policies with
great ease when most of us looked
in vain for theoretical frameworks.
As events took place and policies
were applied or misapplied, journalism had to wait for the final word
from Eqbal Ahmad to understand
what was happening in the world
and inside Pakistan.
His left-wing past was cosmopolitan. He had seen the cold war
world getting divided in a cruel confrontational politics that destroyed
many men of integrity. While teaching in the United States, he challenged the US establishment suc-
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
 cessfully. Some of his best writings
came out of that period. When he
took on the US, it was on the basis of
facts that no one could challenge.
Tragically, his efforts to set up a
centre of learning in Pakistan came
to grief. Khaldunia, the name he
gave to his university, promised
an independence of inquiry that
Islamabad was not willing to tolerate. The threat was not so much the
proposed university's left-wing
anti-imperialist orientation, but its
potential to challenge the state in
Pakistan and its coercive religious
In 1991, while editing The Frontier Post, 1 happened to pick a bone
with him through an editorial. My
contention was that his blanket
anti-Americanism was playing into
the hands of the fundamentalists. He
was so offended that to placate him
1 had to send him a written apology,
an undertaking which I have never
regretted. There were so many issues on which 1 found support in his
columns that 1 sincerely realised the
mistake I had made.
Later, as he became disenchanted
with the Iranian revolution and the
tightening of the ideological noose
in Pakistan, he perhaps realised the
risk of appearing to court popularity in the wrong quarters. His view
of the Indo-Pakistan rivalry and the
Kashmir dispute was so balanced
that publications in South Asia and
uta /tat
%siyjLvjLi % I j
Eqbal Ahmad
on nationalism,
nukes and
the West frequently sought him out
for comment. The establishments in
Islamabad and New Delhi couldn't
have liked him for what he said in
his inimitable and persuasive style.
His speeches in New Delhi stand as
masterpieces of criticism that India
was not used to hearing from
The circle of friends who had
lionised him during his early anti-
American period gradually distanced themselves as his tough secular mind refused to bend to their
programmes. He stayed away from
such 'national' causes as the bomb
and anti-liberalism as a device to
save national sovereignty. As the
Pakistani mind moved towards isolationism, he criticised policies that
embodied defiance of the world
opinion in the name of nationalism.
His columns in Dawn can be cited as
the best opinion-writing done in Pakistan in recent years. Clarity and
conceptual strength were the hallmark of his journalism.
He was partisan to no one's politics, he was partisan only to his view
of life and politics. He had no
self-doubt over the views he cm-
braced. Normally lack of self-doubt
characterises the mind of the hawk,
but his adherence to secularism had
deep intellectual and civilisational
roots. The old hawkish argument that being a 'dove' sent the
wrong message to the 'enemy' never
washed with him. Towards the end,
he stood away from both the intellectually frozen Left and the new
aggressive nationalism of the hawks.
Himal came in touch with the late
Eqbal Ahmad only in 1996, when
he contributed the cover story on
Kashmir in our November/
December issue. In March 1999,
we carried an extensive interview
with Prof Ahmad, an interview
that has been described as an
"intellectual biography rather
than an interview" by a columnist
in the Pakistani daily Dawn for
the breadth and depth of issues
it dealt with. The passing away
of Prof Ahmad is felt deeply at
Himal and the magazine joins
others in paying tribute to this
amazing personality that South
Asia produced.
-Khaled Ahmed
The itinerant
In the death of Eqbal Ahmad —the
brilliant Pakistani political scientist,
journalist, activist and thinker —India has lost one of her most illustrious sons.
In that paradoxical tribute lies an
important clue to the life and work
of Ahmad, which spanned highly
dispersed causes and events,
geographically and politically.
From the Algerian revolution and
the anti-Vietnam protest in North
America to anti-nuclearism and
planning for a new Khaldunia University at Islamabad that, he had
hoped, would break out of the
shackles of conventionality and the
intellectual stupor that afflict the
South Asian university system.
Despite knowing him for some
thirty years, I came close to Ahmad
only during the last decade or so.
Strangelv because it gradually
became obvious to us that, while
we shared almost nothing of each
other's larger vision, we agreed on
virtually everything that was of immediate political and intellectual
concern to us.
Eqbal was a Bihari. Like most
Westernised upper-class Biharis
these days, Eqbal had a touch of the
wandering, itinerant intellectual
about him. Only he began his journey early, in the wake of the massive
bloodshed and the uprooting that
accompanied the division of British
India 50 years ago. The tiredness of
those 50 years had begun to show in
recent years. Those like me, who feel
maimed by his sudden death this
week, may like to console themselves with the thought that Eqbal
Ahmad deserves his rest. >
-Ashis Nandy
1999 June 12/6  HIMAL
A bomb, a nation, a leader
Getting festive about
nukes is one way of
getting nationalism
by Zia Mian
On 28 May 1998, the government
of Pakistan followed that of
India's and tested nuclear devices.
While everyone else worried about
the prospect of nuclear war in South
Asia, Eqbal Ahmad predicted that
Pakistan's nuclear tests would
have an even more profound impact
on its domestic politics than on
its defence or foreign policies. As on
so many other occasions, the late
thinker was proved right.
In early May, the government
ordered 10 days of national
celebrations to mark the first
anniversary of Pakistan's newfound
"self-reliance" and "impregnable
defence". The festivities offer a
window into the minds of those
heading the world's newest nuclear
weapon state and warn of a
dangerous futu re for the country.
The numerous events organised
and sponsored by the state made it
clear that at one level the celebrations were designed to deepen and
broaden support across the country
for the government and for nuclear
weapons. The events announced
were to i nclude "a competition of ten
best rtlilli (nationalistic) songs, seminars, fairs, festive public gatherings,
candle processions, sports competi
tions, bicycle races, flag hoisting ceremonies, etc." Thanksgiving prayers
and special programmes for children
and debates among school children
were also arranged. Appropriate
programmes were aired on national
television and radio networks as
well as local radio in the regional
To make sure that no one missed
out on what was being celebrated,
cities and towns were decorated
with banners and giant posters carrying pictures of Pakistan's nuclear
weapons scientists and that of Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif against a
backdrop of mushroom clouds. The
weapons themselves were not absent. Replicas of Pakistan's recently-
tested nuclear missiles and a giant-
scale model of the nuclear test site
at Chaghai in Balochistan were put
up. Even markets and crossroads
were named after nuclear weapons
There has probably never been
an occasion like this before. It is
nothing less than glorying the capacity to commit mass murder and, as
such, is fundamentally immoral.
Weapons are tools of violence and
fear; and nuclear weapons the
ultimate in such tools. All decent
people detest them. No one should
glory in their existence, let alone
their possession.
Thrice-born Pakistan
But there is more here than glory. A
state is using all its authority and
institutional resources to build pride
in having nuclear weapons into the
very national identity of a people.
Pakistanis are meant to rejoice and
delight and think of themselves as
citizens of "Nuclear-Pakistan" —a
term used by the state media. To the
extent the state succeeds at its efforts
in creating a nuclearised nationalism, Pakistan, henceforth, shall be a
country whose identity is based not
just like others on a sense of a shared
place, or history, language, culture,
or even religion. Its identity shall be
inextricably linked to a technology
of mass destruction. For some, this
has already happened, as Information Minister Mushahid Hussain
proudly puts it: "Chaghai has become a symbol of Pakistan's identity all over the world."
It is worth considering how having imagined itself to be a nuclear
nation, Pakistan will ever deal with
nuclear disarmament. For nuclear
hawks such as Mushahid Hussain,
HIMAL  12/6 June 1999
 who have orchestrated the celebrations, that day is never to be allowed
to dawn. Whenever the question of
disarmament is raised, they will
point to the public support for the
nuclear weapons they have worked
so hard to manufacture and say:
"How can we? Our people will not
permit it. They want nuclear weapons." With this they are trying to
close permanently the door to real
peace. Par better in their view, an
endless nuclear-armed confrontation with India, that in turn gives
cause for demands for high military
spending and excuses state failure
and government excesses in other
Revelling in the success of last
year's nuclear tests was also meant
to overcome the growing sense of
fundamental political and social crisis gripping the country. The whole
affair certainly had the feel of a circus, albeit a nuclear circus. It offered
a national distraction, a brief respite
from the grinding daily experience
of failure that consumes the time,
energy and resources of the people
of the country. There is hardly any
point in recounting either the
specific failures or the crises that
have created them. They are all so
The sense that in the glitter and
the noise people were meant to forget that there have been 50 years of
abject failure when it comes to the
state providing them with social justice or basic needs is sharpened
by the declaration that 28 May is
the most important date since
Independence. It suggests a search
for a new beginning; the rebirth of
a nation.
This third birth of Pakistan, after
1947 and 1971, is no more auspicious
than the first two. Each birth has been
violent and produced violence. The
first, out of the horrors of Partition,
failed to produce a viable constitution and led to military dictatorship
and twice to war. The second birth,
out of the slaughter in Bangladesh,
failed to produce democracy and
led to more dictatorship, and the sectarian demons who now haunt the
land. The third life, a Pakistan born
1999  June 12/6  HIMAL
out of nuclear explosions, carries the
threat of terminal violence.
Nuclearly virile
It is worth delving a little deeper into
what the nuclear circus was meant
to conceal. It was meant to be an affirmation of strength, pride and "virility" — at least that is what Pakistani
President Rafiq Tarar called it. What
this tries to conceal, if not erase
altogether, is that events after last
year's nuclear tests provided clear
evidence of the weakness of this
The sanctions that were imposed
by the international community after the tests were lifted not because
the world was awed by Pakistan's
new nuclear might, but because they
took a really good look at it and were
horrified by its obvious fragility.
Sanctions were lifted because otherwise the country would have fallen
apart and nobody wanted to see
that happen, particularly now that
nuclear weapons were involved. It
was an act aimed to protect Pakistan
from itself—or more accurately, to
try to protect its people from the
criminal stupidity and recklessness
of its leaders.
It is easy to see how having to
accept this realisation of weakness
would have created a crisis among
those who were responsible for taking the decision to test. On the one
hand, they tested nuclear weapons
and thought of themselves as being
strong and having broken the "begging bowl". On the other, the world
offered them pity and charity, because otherwise the country would
collapse. And thus the nuclear circus as a way of ridding their minds
of these fears and memories. The
louder and brighter the circus, the
deeper the anxiety about being weak
could be pushed. No wonder then
that government press releases insisted the nation was united "to pay
tribute to the courage, statesmanship
and maturity of Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif". A bomb, a nation, a
leader. ^
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 Designer condoms
A CONDOM CONFRONTATION is taking place in a
federal courtroom in Newark in an emotionally charged
dispute over the exquisite architecture of the prophylactic.
At the heart of the imbroglio is Dr Alia Venkata
Krishna Reddy, 59, a surgeon turned businessman and
inventor, who for the last decade has been a quixotic
and controversial figure in the prophylactic world.
Reddy's designs for condoms with built-in bulges are
an attempt to rethink the way condoms work, prompting Adam Glickman, the founder of Condomania, a specialty retailer and Internet-based mail-order company,
to call the taciturn Indian designer "the Leonardo da
Vinci of the condom".
The court case, which involves a patent dispute over
two Reddy designs, has unwittingly opened a window
on the high art of condom design, as conservatively
dressed lawyers, clutching male mannequins reduced
to their most essential parts, argue the fine points of
pouches and bulges and what constitutes design innovation in a condom...
Reddy, who is not affiliated with a big company, has
been part of a new school of thought that seeks to revamp the contemporary image of condoms from necessary evil to alluring sex enhancer. He began designing
barrier contraceptives, some of them downright bizarre,
in 1986 while researching the AIDS virus, convinced that
condoms were the only hope. "My gut feeling was there
was not going to be a cure or a vaccine," Reddy recalled.
His Pleasure Plus condom, which when inflated resembles an upside-down Boeing 747, was considered
by some to be a radical departure when it was introduced in the early 1990s. It embodied Reddv's belief
that "if you developed a condom with more pleasure,
people would use it regularly."
Although condoms with mildly flared tops had been
introduced before, Pleasure Plus was notable for its
asymmetry and for exploiting the friction inherent in
moving latex. It had a baggy tubular pouch that sidled
up against the underside of the glans penis. "He understood nerve endings and anatomy," Glickman of
Condomania said, adding that the Pleasure Plus developed a "cult-like following" anti outsold all other
condoms in Condomania's retail stores in New York and
Los Angeles by 10 tol. "Compared to what was out there,
it was the difference between the San Fernando Valley
and the Grand Canyon," he said.
But less than a year after it was introduced, the Pleasure Plus disappeared from shelves because of manufacturing problems. Reddy's company went bankrupt.
"It was a tragedy— consumers were desperately trying to find this condom that had changed their sex lives,"
said Davin Wedel, the founder of the Global Protection
Corp, a Boston-based company trying to bring back the
Pleasure Plus. The company is working with Portfolio
Technologies, a group of investors based in Kenilworth,
Illinois, who bought the rights to the condom.
In the meantime, Reddy, who divides his time among
Chennai [Madras], India, and Plainsboro, New Jersey, has
dreamed up a new design, the Inspiral, which he calls
"the best T've created". It is indeed a visually stunning
work that, when active, has a spiral shape evocative of a
whipped-cream dollop or a Nautilus shell. More important is its spring action, a motion Reddy's patent lawyer,
John C. Evans, likens to a pogo stick and the doctor himself compares to "the shock absorber of a car".
Reddy has invested USD 7 million, including a USD
4 million loan from the Indian government, to build a
factory in India, with 60 to 100 employees, to make the
Inspiral. About 590,000 of the condoms wTere on the verge
of being distributed to the Eckerd and Genovese drug
store chains, to Planned Parenthood and to other customers when the current legal squabble began. In the case,
Portfolio Technologies—the owner of the rights to the
Pleasure Plus —is seeking a temporary injunction in
the US district court in Newark to block the Inspiral,
which the plaintiffs say is basically the same condom
as the Pleasure Plus.
The crux of the debate centres on whether there is a
difference between Pleasure Plus' pouch and Inspiral's
grand, helix-shaped bulge. "If there's a bulge that creates a looseness in an area that contacts the user, and
moves back and forth to create enhanced sensation, then
it's covered by the patents," said Robert W. Smith, a lawyer specialising in patent infringements who is representing the plaintiffs.
Reddy, who has been a far better designer than businessman—he left a string of creditors in the wake of his
Pleasure Plus collapse —is arguing that the spring action of the Inspiral and the resulting movement make it
Reddy said he "never touched a condom" until his
AIDS research. He is married with three sons — "three sons
and a tubal ligation, that's it!" he muttered. His wife,
Sarojini, does not approve of the turn his career has taken.
"She thinks I'm crazy," he said. "She says one man cannot save the world."
Patricia Leicjh Brown in "The 'Leonardo' or
Condoms" from The Nejv York Timis.
HIMAL   12/6 June  1999
 Reverse racism
AUSTRALIAN-BASED Tamils today accused Sri Lankan
cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga of racism after his angry reaction to criticism from Aussie star Shane Warne.
The Australian leg spinner received a suspended
two-match bajiand was-fined half his match payment
after writing arvEnglish newspaper column suggesting
cricket would be better off without Ranatunga.
Ranatunga hit back, saying the criticism "shows more
about Shane Warne and the Australian culture". "We
come from 2500 years of culture and we all know where
they come from," he told reporters.
The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations said
the Ranatunga statement was "racist and unworthy of
someone who represents a country at cricket". "We also
feel the statement is insulting to all Australians," said the
federation's secretary Ana Pararajasingham.
Pararajasingham. said Ranatunga had close links to
Sri Lanka's ruling elite whose policies had turned the island nation intofme of Asia's largest killing fields. "It is
ironical that Ranatunga, who lays claim to 2500 years of
culture, comes irom a country which has killed over
6O,OO0Tamils and driven another 500,000 Tamils out of
the island," he said. _^,
"It is Australia and its multi-cultural society which
Ranatunga has sought to denigrate that has offered a
safe sanctuary to tens of thousands of Tamils driven out
of Sri Lanka byTfie' fanaticism and the chauvinism of
Ranatunga and his ilk."
Steve Connoly in "Tamils depend and thank
"Australia" from Canberra Times.
Support for cricket
IF BACKSIDES on seats are any indicator of support, it
is not England, but India, who are on course to enjoy
the strongest advantage in the World Cup..-.
Most of the tickets for India's games were gone by
March, and it is probably no coincidence that the Indian
population in theTjK — 900,000, as defined by ethnic origin for census purposes — is higher than any Other competing nation bar England and Scotland.
The Pakistani population, at 600,000, is the next highest, followed by the West Indian population (500,000).
Strong ticket sales for these nations' games, and for the
games involving South Africa, Australia and New
Zealand (all of whom have substantial UK-based support) indicate thatthe tournament's "Carnival of cricket"
slogan may borne out. The only country which
has yet to sell out any of its group matches is Bangladesh,
despite a potential UK-based support of 200,000. Local
observers think it is only a matter of-time before interest
intensifies. "There's a tot of World Cup interest among
the Bengali community, especially with this being the first
appearance for Bangladesh," Suzad Mansur, an editor I
with janomot, the longest-established Bengali newspaper
in Britain, said. "We've been covering the run-up for a
couple of weeks and there'll be a special cup supple
ment this week. Bengali people are very excited."
Mansur added that around 2000 Bengalis in total had
attended their side's warm-up matches, and said that
more are likely to go to matches once the tournament is
Support among British Pakistanis for Pakistan is likely
to be fervent, according to Shahed Saduttah of the Daily
Jang, a London-based bilingual Pakistani newspaper.
"Most, if not all, of the Pakistani population here would
fail the Tebbit test," Shahed said, in reference to former
Conservative cabinet minister Norman Tebbit's statement that English-born members of minority communities tend not to support England. "Cricket is one area
where the countries from the Subcontinent have made
progress and can stand amongst the best," he added,
1 and said there were several reasons why South Asians
have a particularly strong affinity for the game.
Aside from that fact that cricket is the major sport on
the Subcontinent and that three of last four World Cup
winners have come from there. Shahed said that minority communities in the UK lookrs; their countries' cricket
sides to show they can excel on the world stage.
Nick Harris in "Spectators Happily Fail Tebbit Test"
v from The Independent.
Trade secrets
POLITICOS UTTER a lot of nonsense about the privilege of serving their constituents much as rip-off doctors talk of serving humanity or cut-throat lawyers say
that theirs is a noble profession dedicated to upholding
the rule of law. This is trade talk and should not be taken
too seriously. The politician, like any other professional,
is first out for himself and then for anyone else. This is
not to say that a spirit of public service is a myth. It is
not, but in the Pakistan of today it does not exist, at least
not in the political class.
Forget for a moment lowly parliamentarians and consider the case of the'two leading lights of this class:
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both resounding metaphors for a peculiarly Pakistani form of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. The tales of the first are now certi-
^—-—.—-~^_^^  ' Hh- 412142
1999   June  12/6 XIMAL
 tied history. The second is a successful politician, in a
narrow compass perhaps the most successful in
Pakistan's history, whose entrepreneurial family has
turned the taking of bank loans and then not paying them
into an art form. In the politics defined and shaped by
these two gifts to the nation public service becomes a
notional if not a laughable concept. And to think that for
the past 14 years, an eternity in politics, the people of
this land have been in thrall to these two wonders.
Ayaz Amir in "Getting out of a tight fit of clothes"
from Dawn.
Sign it
ACCORDING TO Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, India cannot sign the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT)
as previously scheduled. Singh claims the decision to
agree to the international treaty is a policy matter. Since
the government is only a caretaker cabinet awaiting the
September elections, it cannot decide such important
matters. Singh is mistaken, both legally and logically.
The government should proceed to sign the test-ban
"treaty on schedule. Otherwise, it risks great criticism and
loss of prestige.
Singh is correct about one thing. India's nuclear policy
is extremely important, both to Ipdians and the rest of
the world. But he is incorrect about the meaning of this
truth. The worst thing that India can do about its nuclear
policy is to follow Singh's recommendation and allow
it to stagnate.
The Indian elections are scheduled for September
and early October. Lack of action on India's part until
after the vote is in no one's interest. The country has already pledged itself to a September deadline for agreeing to the worldwide test ban. There are final details to
be worked out—not least,,the parallel decision to agree
to the CTBT by Pakistan.
Singh's questionable claim is that while the country is in an election campaign, the government cannot
take policy decisions on nuclear weapons. In addition
to reneging on signing the test ban treaty, Singh wants
T°T}d's   10th   I ^e\'e^ed
CUSt0*s. '^^sSS? ^ of
to freeze nuclear talks with America. Washington has
been helping India and Pakistan set the stage for simultaneous actions to halt their nuclear arms race.
The claim of the foreign minister is clearly illogical
and legally indefensible. The government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was defeated in Parliament,
which is why elections are being held. But the cabinet is
India's legal caretaker. It is fully empowered to take all
decisions — policy, strategy and tactics.
Singh completely misrepresents the sequence of
events. India has already committed to sign the CTBT.
Even if his logic were acceptable, the test-ban treaty would
have to be signed in September, as already decided and
committed before the parliamentary defeat,
Since India lamentably pushed its way into the international nuclear club a year ago, Vajpayee's various governments have exploited the country's weapons races,
including nuclear weapons and missiles. To be fair, the
Indian and Pakistani prime ministers also have established a personal relationship. This has kept tension and
danger at a tolerable level. But India's neighbours will
only tolerate escalating nuclear arms race in the Subcontinent if the countries involved work towards a rational
policy of safety.
Despite the mistaken posturing of Hindu nationalists,
India is not either a great or respected country through
military power, threats dr conquest. India is respected for
its cultural traditions. Its artistic and language heritage
invisible daily far from Indian shores, not least in Thailand. It is the cradle of the two great Eastern religions. It
is respected throughout the world for its toleration of others. The attempts of successive Vajpayee governments to
tally respect with its nuclear weapons acquisitions have
had the opposite effect.
Editorial in The Bangkok Post.
Radio days
...IN THE EARLY 50s, a cranky minister for information
and broadcasting, B.V. Keskar, banned film music being
splayed on AIR, a move which drove millions of film
music fans into the arms of the commercial service division of Radio Ceylon. I was then growing up and thought
the world of Hindi music. Though the radio set at home
was always near grandfather, I sneaked in to tune in to
Radio Ceylon regularly for the early morning "Old Film
Songs", "Listener's Choice" and the Wednesday night
"Binaca Geetmala", which had become a legend.
Radio Ceylon also broadcast English and Tamil
programmes. The quiz shows conducted by Hamid
Sayani and then his younger brother, were both educative and informative and I seldom missed these. The advertisement jingles on Tamil programmes were hilarious. I still remember one on Philip's Milk of Magnesia — " Vaithuvali vandihiruche akka, Priya akka...Philip's
Milk of Magnesia kudichuko, thangachi kudichuko..."
Television was still a dream, but radio was a boon
for sports fans. For a cricket buff like me, the ball to ball
commentary on AIR was a miracle. I heard with plea-
HIMAL   12/6 June 1999
 sure the commentaries of the famous "Vizzy, Berry and
Puri" trio (Maharajkumar of Vizinagaram, Berry
Sarbadikary and Devraj Puri), who were occasionally
joined by Ananda Rao. The latter often revealed his links
with a hotel chain by repeating every five minutes, how
much time was left for "tiffin time". My obsession with
sports continued, thanks to radio. I listened to England's
famous "Ashes" victory in 1953 and the unforgettable
last minutes of the immortal tied test at Brisbane in 1961,
between Australia and the West Indies.
Now a man with family responsibilities, I have very
little time for the radio.Yet, I have spent my hard-earned
money to buy an expensive four-band radio so that I
can listen to the fascinating Test Match Special on the
BBC and commentary on Radio Australia. Sometimes, the
reception is so poor that I have to sit close to the set, my
ear almost touching it. Today, satellite television has
brought into our drawing rooms, live telecasts of
matches played thousands of kilometres away.
A radio commentary is a lost art. Yet, I do need the
radio...for my daily quota of old Hindi film songs.
V. Gangadhar in "Slice of Life" from The Hindu.
Malarial dilemmas
MALARIA AND the mosquito'have had a role in the history and politics of sub-tropical nations such as Nepal,
Bangladesh, Indonesia and Myanmar. It was the scourge
of the mosquito in the swamps which halted and shut
out the imperial European invaders in their marauding
advance, until suitable drugs were found against the
malarial parasite Plasmodium... Visitors to Nepal are
told how the malaria-infested swamps and forests in the
Tarai region, bordering India, kept the British army out
of the Himalayan kingdom. During the century of Rana
rule, a life sentence for various offences meant banishment to the mosquito-riddled Tarai whereprisoners took
five units of rice—four for the terminal, four-week bout
with malaria, and the fifth, to keep the gods happy on
the heavenward-journey, unwept, unhonoured but un-
stung. In the recent civic elections in Bangladesh and in
our [India's] North-East, the mosquito figured as an unlikely King Charles' head again and again in poll
speeches and promises as rival candidates assured harassed citizens "freedom from the mosquito" —almost
on par with the other Four Freedoms. Our malarial dilemmas and fevered politics share some vital characteristics. No wonder, some years ago, the AIADMK supremo,
Ms Jayalalitha called her present
ally (but then a staunch opponent) Dr SubramanianSwamy a
"mere mosquito which could
be swatted at will". Curiously,
both the politician and the
mosquito have their life-cycle
dependent on unsuspecting
victims and draw sustenance
from accommodation which /th^ ~
people unwittingly provide,  /heaift,.
1999   June  12/6   HIMAL
Worse, when we realise they are a menace and try to
rein them in with newer formulations, they claim immunity from routine laws and the course of justice to
continue their parasitical existence.
Editorial in The Times of India.
Three Indias
FOREIGN JOURNALISTS (and photographers) covering India are generally interested in three kinds of India:
(a) The macabre and the negative: the widows of
Benares, the caste system as practised in Bihar, Mother
Teresa's place for the dying, kidneys traffic in Tamil
Nadu, the slums of Calcutta, bride burning, etc. These
subjects have their own truth and there does exist in India terrible slums, unacceptable exploitation of caste,
dying people left unattended, or bride burning. But by
harping only on these topics, the foreign press always
presents a very negative image 6f India. Foreign writers
have also tended to exploit that vein: Dominique
Lapierre in his "City of Joy", which still is a world-wide
best-seller and has been made into a film, has done incalculable damage to India, as it takes a little part of
India —the Calcutta slums —and gives the impression
to the Western reader, who generally is totally ignorant
of the realities of India, that it constitutes the whole.
(b) The folklore and the superfluous: Maharajas, of
whom Westerners are avid, although they are totally irrelevant to modern India, the palaces of Rajasthan, cherished by such magazines as Vogue which regularly sends
their photographers and lanky models, who have no idea
of Indian festivals: Pushkar, the camel fair, kumbh-melas,
dance performances in Khajuraho...all these have their
own beauties, but they represent only a small part of
this great and vast country.
(c) The politically correct: There must be at least three
hundred foreign correspondents posted in Delhi, which
should vouch for a variety of opinion. But if you give
them a subject to write about —any subject —say
Ayodhya, the RSS, fanatic Hindus, secularism, or Sonia
Gandhi, you will get 298 articles which will say more or
less the same thing, even if it is with different styles,
different illustrations and various degrees of professionalism. This is not to say that there are no sincere Western journalists who write serious stories which do homage to India's greatness and immense culture, but they
are usually the exception. And at the end, the result is
more or less the same: a downgrading of India, a constant harping on "Hindu fundamentalism", or the "fanatical khaki-clad RSS members of the
burning of Christians in India", conveniently forgetting to mention that Christians have found refuge in this country
for 2000 years and have often taken advantage of this great Hindu tolerance.
Francois Gautjer in "A stereotyped
view" from The Hindustan Times.
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An eminently watehanle movie based on a mediocre novel.
reviewed by Paramjit Rai	
Talking to Rehan Ansari in these
pages some months back, filmmaker Deepa Mehta noted that making films has become a "hybrid" process, and her latest offering, Earth,
clearly is one. Based on a book by a
Pakistani author, with Indian actors,
filmed in Delhi, and funded by a
Canadian film company, the film is
patently international. And given
that the making of the film was such,
the audience targeted also seems
to be equally hybrid — those wanting
a serious film, yet familiar with
Bollywood's musical bonanzas.
Earth is an adaptation of Bapsi
Sidhwa's novel Cracking India. Mehta
re-wrote the dialogue and adapted from the original English into
Punjabi, Urdu, and Gujarati. And it
is to her credit that she has rendered
an eminently watch able film from a
passably written book.
Earth tells the story of the scorching summer of 1947 in Lahore (just
before Radcliffe's partition plan was
announced) as seen through the eyes
of Lenny-Baby, a polio afflicted little
Parsi girl, and her Hindu ayah,
Shanta. At the time of Partition,
Lahore was home to a tiny, but financially strong, Parsi community,
along with the numerically stronger
and more politically active Sikhs,
Muslims and Hindus. Where the
film succeeds most, is in this depiction of the dilemma of being a Parsi
(as writer Sidhwa herself is) in a
conflict defined by religions, but one
tliat ignored the Parsi community.
While the other communities were
caught in the cult of violence, potential targets like the Parsis were
not touched.
This is echoed in the portrayal of
Lenny-Baby's father as the gruff, English-loving Parsi who finds solace
in the commotion ringing outside
his home by telling himself, mantra
like, that the "Parsees are the Swiss
of India" — non-interfering and non-
controversial. So it is particularly
striking when Lenny-Baby asks her
mother if Parsis are the bum-lickers
of the British. Her mother reassures
her that they are not, instead they are
the sugar in the milk, in India they
are invisible, but sweet.
Bunty Sethna (Kitu Gidwani) carrying
Lenny (Maaia Sethna), left, and Ayah
(Nandita Das) and "Icecandywallah" (Aamir
Earth revolves around the lbve
of two Muslim youths —"Icecandywallah" and Hussain "Malish-
wallah"—for Shanta, a Hindu. The
strains in the love affair mirror the
tensions in Lahore city as Partition
violence slowly builds to a crescendo, ultimately engulfing our
lovers. Here the director has skillfully portrayed the way some individuals manipulated the 'madness'
of Partition for their own gains.
Mehta has given us the Partition
in technicolour. We see ghostly trains
ferrying mutilated and bleeding
bodies, rioting on the streets, and
expectedly, the law enforcers aiding
the bigoted rioters in the destruction
of buildings; and unending processions of sweaty and frightened refugees descending on Lahore in kafilas
(lines of refugees walking mainly on
foot from east to west and vice versa)
from East Punjab. But these are the
well-known generalities of Partition
captured well both in the book and
the film. The real complaint against
Mehta's Earth is that there is no soul
to the drama. She has fallen into the
trap of using broad strokes to delineate the chaos. Rather than delicately etch the story, this is a film
that is too aware of its importance.
It is a shame that Mehta didn't go
beyond showing cliches, such as
the Muslim support for Jinnah and
the Muslim League, and the Hindu-
Sikh support for the Congress.
One is reminded of another Par-
1999 June 12/6  HIMAL
tition film, Garam Hawa (1973) directed by M.S. Sathyu), in which, like
the Parsis in Lahore, Bai raj Sahni, in
the role of the Muslim patriarch and
owner of a small shoe-making outlet in Agra, fights for the right to remain in his home. Tire film is set in
the heady days just after Independence and the old Muslim's commitment to his home, livelihood, and
the right to remain in Agra with dignity and integrity, is wonderfully
and delicately portrayed by the talented Sahni, One can sense the bewilderment of his character in the attempt of those who encourage him
to move to the strange land of Pakistan. One wishes Mehta had displayed some of the emotional commitment that clearly must have gone
into the making of Garam Hawa. All
the more so, following her statement
that she chose Partition as the theme
because her father's family came
from Lahore, and she "grew up with
the disillusionment of Partition".
In quick succession, after Earth, I
watched two films based on traumatic historical events: Beloved,
based on Toni Morrison's book about
a freed black slave woman, and Life
is Beautiful, a film that looks in ironic
humour at the life in a Nazi concentration camp. The filmmakers have
taken on the enormous task of rendering the 'unsayable' in images.
The emphasis is on how troubled
times force people to respond
in ways that they would otherwise have never imagined, as they
grapple with the consequences of
political events to keep their dignity
and families intact. In the end. Earth,
Life is Beautiful and Beloved, along
with Garam Hawa, are appreciated
for their heroic attempts at trying to
capture the essence of what in the
end is mystifying and soul-destroying experiences.
Earth concludes with the sounds
of a Sikh hymn, perhaps underscoring the notion of one creator with
multiple names (Rahim, Ram and
Waheguru). It leaves one with an
exasperating question: considering
the bigotry that still exists in both the
countries wrenched out of Partition,
was it really worth it? A
Johi sulks. Jackson loves Mahatma Gandhi. Jaffrey shoots his
mouth. The Bollywood virus hits Gotham.
It was a near-sell-out-delirious
crowd that bellowed and jumped
on seats at the Bollywood Awards
ceremony on 1 May at the Nassau
Coliseum in Long Island's Hamp-
sted. Some of Bombay film industry's pin-up faces were there, including heartbreakers Shah Rukh Khan
and Juhi Chawla.
Beating them all, at the stroke of
the midnight hour, came the "Thriller" himself, Michael Jackson, in his
South Asian avatar, clad in a Pathani
suit, waving and blowing kisses
with the hand that knows so well
both the mike and the crotch. "Thank
you, I love you all," he told the
standing ovation. "I admire Mahatma Gandhi for his philosophy
of non-violence and I am deeply
touched by it," he added, while receiving the "Humanitarian Award"
(pictured above) from S.P Hinduja, a
recent British citizen and chairman
of the London-based Hinduja Group
of Industries. The award was purportedly for Jackson's role in "promoting the cause of peace and understanding around the world"
through his Heal The World Foundation.
The four-hour show was mostly
filled with Bollywood antics. Changing costumes furiously in chameleon Bollywood fashion, Shah Rukh
Khan, Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Sheny
pranced around to some hit Hindi
numbers (Koi Mil Gaya, Mere Mehboob
Mere Sanam, Chhaiya Chhaiya). If that
drove the about 17,000-crowd wild,
playback singer Udit Narayan (who
later was given the award for "Best
Singer-Male") and his son Aditya
Narayan charmed the assorted audience which included Americans,
Indians, Nepalis, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis living in
New York and New Jersey. (The tickets were priced at USD 25,35,50 and
100.) Towards the end, old-time
Bangla crooner Runa Laila activated
many a nostalgic nerve, while the
stage was lit up by laser displays and
fireworks. Earlier, the popular Pakistani band, Junoon, whipped up
frenzy among the younger members
of the crowd, who also lapped up
British reggae star Apache Indian's
chart busters.
For all the razzmatazz, true to
Bollywood blood, there was bad
blood. Not least from compere Javed
Jaffrey's failed attempts at being
funny. At one point, while rubbish-
HIMAL  12/ 6 June 1999
ing lyricists, he said that even
the Gurkha guard at his home
can aspire to be a song writer. It
was a sucking moment for the
sizeable number of Nepalis
present in the audience, not to
speak of the Nepali father-son
singer duo of Udit and Aditya.
And if it's Bombay stars,
someone has got to sulk. Juhi
Chawla stuck to the script by
not coming onstage to receive
the "Most Sensational Performance-Female" award — something for which she was never nominated in the first place. Instead, the
lady wept buckets in the confines of
what was indicated to us was the
Green Room. Sources said she was
crestfallen for not being chosen the
best actress as promised and being
passed off as merely sensational.
Technical glitches also had a
good day, the most embarrassing one
occurring while Runa was performing. Having decided to lip-synch instead of singing live, she was caught
Rukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty take the stage.
behind when her song came on even
as she was announcing it. And while
young Aditya was casting his spell
live, the background score just refused to play along.
As for the awards themselves —
23 categories of them—nominees
and winners were arrived at by
means of votes polled by fans across
North America, through the Internet,
phone calls, mail-in flyers and ticketing outlets. But, going by Juhi
Chawla's sulk, the final winners may
not have been chosen strictly on
the strength of vote.
. Mercifully, the show organisers—'promotion' by New
York-based Kamal Dandon and
'production' by actor Anupam
Kher's Radical Entertainment
Company —did not leave out
those striking a trail aesthetically
different from the regular
potboilers. So there were the
"Satyajit Ray Award" (without
any affiliation to the late Ray's
estate) given to veteran director
Yash Chopra for "consistent excellence in Indian filmmaking", and the
"Pride of India Award" given to celebrity director Shekhar Kapoor,
whose Elizabeth bagged seven Oscar nominations and won one.
So having taken on the capital of
the world (Long Island is as good
as New York City), where next for
Bollywood? Why not Hollywood?
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Nepal's pioneer Jesuit
AutftorisfflT biography of Fr Moran of Kathmandu.
Ever since the founding of the So
ciety of Jesus in 1534, the Jesuits
have had a simple but formidable
task. They had "to be ready to live
in any part of the world where there
was hope of God's greater glory and
the good of souls". And when one
examines their nearly 500-year-old
history, it becomes obvious that the
Society of Jesus has been a successful organisation, too successful,
some would say.
One of the meanings of "Jesuit"
found in the dictionary is "a dissembling person", and "Jesuitical"
means "having the character
once ascribed to the Jesuits; deceitful...practising equivocation... over-
subtle". But then, Jesuits are renowned the world over as outstanding educators and scholars. Moran of
Kathmandu tells the story of one such
Jesuit, who lived in Kathmandu for
over 40 years.
There must be very few Nepalis
above the age of 30 and of a certain
socio-economic background who do
not know of Father Marshall Moran,
who founded St Xavier's School in
Kathmandu on 1 July 1951. "On that
day," notes Moran's biographer
Donald Messerschmidt, "primary
education took a giant leap from the
medieval to the modern." From this
historic beginning until his death in
1992, Father Moran in Nepal remained the quintessential Jesuit:
educator, diplomat, bon vivant, and,
as suspected by some, also a spy.
As young boarders at St Xavier's
in the mid-1960s, Father Moran already appeared as a living legend
to us. We got glimpses of him as he
strode along in his trade-mark black
beret, or when he arrived or departed with his famous foreign
guests (whom we entertained by-
singing songs and reciting poems).
His presence was most palpable
when he sat chatting in his cluttered
room to people all over the world
f IS
i- - .VS
on his crackling ham radio. In those
ancient days before email and fax, it
was this possession of the radio (and
Father Moran's conspicuous presence among the foreign community)
that led to whispered charges that he
was also a CIA agent.
One of the most boring classes I
have ever taken was by Father
Mnran of Kathmandu.
Pioneer Priest
Educator, and Ham
Radio Voice of the
by Donald A.
White Orchid Press.
Bangkok.  1997
314 pp. NPR 650
reviewed by Rajendra S. Khadka
Moran when he tried to teach us the
Morse code when we were in the 5th
standard. Every Saturday morning,
for one hour, we had sit and decipher the dots and dashes of that infernal code (now thankfully laid to
rest even by international shipping),
while the rest of the school played
outside. A couple of years iater we
began to get glimpses of Father
Moran's fascinating past when he
became our English teacher. He often digressed from the lesson at hand
to reminisce about his family and
boyhood in Chicago and his early
years in India. He was especially
fond of recalling his first meeting
with Gandhi. Moran had been allotted five minutes, but instead spent
one full hour with Gandhi. Indeed,
if there was one person he spoke
most often about, it was Mohandas
Karamchand Gandhi.
Moran of Kathmandu is an 'authorised' biography which received full
cooperation from the subject himself
(before his death in 1992 at the age
of 86) as well as his numerous famous and obscure friends, relatives,
students and fellow Jesuits. The author, a former Peace Corps volunteer
who has continued to work occasionally in Nepal, has done an excellent
job of adding flesh, bones and fat to
a legendary figure.
The book has a straightforward,
no-nonsense, chronological approach. Childhood and youth in
America, 20 years as a young Jesuit
in India, and the following Nepal
years are faithfully detailed. Inserts
are sprinkled throughout from Father Moran himself, and short but
laudatory passages have been contributed by others. The portrait that
emerges is one of a very intelligent
and dedicated individual who had
his share of human contradictions.
Even as he lived among some of
the poorest of the poor, Father
Moran retained his fondness for the
high life and luxury, But while some
may have seen Moran as something
of a social gadfly in his later years
in Kathmandu, Messerschmidt
highlights the social and, given the
times, even radical bent in Moran the
educator. Despite opposition from
orthodox quarters, he helped establish Patna Women's College in the
early 1940s, the first degree college
for women in North India, and
was the major force behind the establishment of St Mary's School in
Kathmandu in 1955,
When Tibetan refugees streamed
into Kathmandu after the Chinese
invaded Tibet, he immediately set
up an informal committee to provide
assistance to them. And when his
efforts were hindered by the local
bureaucracy, he went straight to the
king —and naturally, the problems
disappeared immediately.
His attitude towards conversion
was iconoclastic. Messerschmidt
notes that in 1986 Father Moran told
the journal The Catholic World,
"They've [Nepalis have] been without Christianity for 2000 years... 1
don't think there's any need to hurry.
God will make things easier if he
wants...if people want to look in, to
come in, then we'll talk with them."
These comments caused "a flurry of
criticism", among the readers in
the US.
HIMAL   12/ 6 June 1999
 Moran of Kathmandu is indispensable reading to anyone who had any
connection with Father Moran, certainly for the larger community of
English-speaking St Xavier's graduates of Nepal and India. It will also
be appreciated by those who are interested in the history of the Jesuits,
early explorations and activities of
some of the pioneer Western missionaries in the Himalaya. Readers
unfamiliar with the history of Nepal
will also get a glimpse into the first
but ultimately failed democratic
transition of the 1950s.
But because this is an 'authorised' biography the omissions are
glaring. Except for pointing out
Moran's love for 'high society', the
book is devoid of any serious critical analysis of Father Moran and the
views he held. Father John Morrison
who came with Father Moran to the
Subcontinent, writes in his insert,
" of the facts of his character
was a sort of 'aloofness' towards so
many of his fellow Jesuits. I do not
want to denigrate in any way
the outstanding work that Moran
accomplished...but it is safe' to say
that I am not the only one who had
some close association with him in
the earlier times who saw a certain
aloofness, maybe call it a superiority complex."
Such observations are rare indeed. Elsewhere, the author writes:
In the pedagogical philosophy of Jesuit schooling, attention to the students' own cultural heritage is an important responsibility. The students
are Nepalese first and foremost, the
future leaders ofthe country and the
people, so their national and cultural
identities must not be neglected, (emphasis added)
The philosophy was indeed lofty,
but the reality in the experience
of this reviewer was quite different.
Anyone who was a boarder at Kathmandu's St Xavier's will recall the
infamous Donkey Stick, a square
stick about a foot long covered with
white paper. If a boarder spoke even
a word of Nepali, he himself was to
write down his roll number on the
Donkey Stick, to be punished if his
number appeared more than three
or four times within a week. How is
a young boy to appreciate his own
cultural heritage if speaking his own
language was equated to being a
"donkey" and punished?
We wore trousers and shirts and
ties. Our formal and informal education consisted almost entirely of
English books and American movies and comics. In every grade, from
I to X, one period, "Moral Science",
was always devoted to the Catholic-
Jesuit-American world view, but almost nothing about being Hindu or
Buddhist. Several times a day, we
prayed in English to a crucifix nailed
to a wall in the classroom or the dining hall.
Given this saturation of an alien
culture, the author (an anthropologist and currently a "developmental worker" in Bhutan) does not
question whether or not such an elitist schooling would produce young
men who would become arrogant
about themselves and their position
in Nepali society. As a result, the fine
education bestowed on Nepal's
"best and brightest" was largely
wasted in that very few graduates of
St Xavier's Kathmandu deigned to
get their hands "dirtied" in politics,
bureaucracy, scholarship, development, or activism. The overwhelming areas of choice for the generation
overseen by Father Moran wrere engineering, medicine and family business. Perhaps no one alerted the author to these contradictions between
what the Jesuits planned by introducing "learning" to Nepal and the
crop they produced.
The Jesuits were not entirely to
blame either. After all, our parents
too were (and continue to be) obsessed with English and Western
mores and manners. And often it was
our own parents who insisted that
their sons speak nothing but English,
and pushed the children into medicine and engineering, taking advantage of the Colombo Plan scholarships which were such easy pickings
for St Xavier's graduates. Thus, one
could make a 'Jesuitical' argument
that the education given was the kind
the parents demanded.
It is interesting that the author
did not care to talk to anyone who
graduated from Kathmandu's St
Xavier's after 1962. Was this because
the younger generation of students
would be more critical of the man, if
not Iris methods? Indeed, the author
presents an archaic and idyllic view
of the school Father Moran founded.
These critical flaws notwithstanding, Donald Messerschmidt
has made an important contribution
towards the history of modern education in Nepal. His book will be
welcomed by all those wrho knew
and loved Father Moran. But we will
have to wait for another writer to
provide us with the missing details
in the life and works, the legacy, of
Father Marshal Moran, SJ. A
1999  June 12/6  HIMAL
Nothing to be Cross about
An intense account of how a Gurkha colonel made
Nepal his home.
Since my first meeting with Lt Col
J.P. Cross over five years ago at
his modest house in the centra!
Nepal town of Pokhara, I have been
loath to use the word "unique". We
were sitting together in his front
studv, in near darkness to ease his
failing eyes, and discussing the involvement of Nepali citizens in the
British Army. I had asked, somewhat
naively, if the position of a particular ethnic group could be seen as
"quite unique". Cross was silent for
a while and folded his hands together under his chin, as if in silent
and contemplative prayer. After a
moment he sighed and then said,
obviously quite distressed: "Well, I
really can't possibly agree with
you." I was concerned that 1 had said
something culturally unforgivable,
and braced myself for what he
would say next. "I mean how on
earth can you expect me to agree
with such poor grammar: either
something is unique or it isn't, it
can't be quite unique."
It is thus with a sense of victory
as well as with confidence in my
choice of words that I describe
Cross's astonishing autobiography
as unique. The Call of Nepal is
a slightly modified reprint by Biblio-
theca Himalayica of what was first
published in 1996 by New Millennium in London under the title The
Call of Nepal: (A Persona! Nepalese Odyssey in a Different Dimension). The
subtitle, unfortunately absent from
this reprint, is carefully chosen and
is an accurate summation of both the
style and the content of the book.
Now nearing 75, Cross, a retired
British Gurkha Colonel, left England
for India in 1944 and was in the British Army until 1982. He first came to
Nepal in 1947 and the last six years
of his service were spent recruiting
for the British Army's Gurkha Bri
gade. Despite a life-long career in
the military, Cross has a string of
quirkily titled books to his name that
deal with specific facets of soldiering and jungle warfare, the latter
being a field in which he is an undisputed authority.
Compared to his earlier military
and historical accounts Face Like A
The Call of Nepal
by J. P. Cross
Kathmandu.  1998
241 pp, NPR	
reviewed by Mark Turin
Chicken's Backside; First In, Last Out
and others, The Call of Nepal reads
somewhat like a romantic confessional, although the precision inculcated in the military dies hard. Some
readers, for example, may not warm
to his unending attention to detail,
be it his paternal grandfather's half-
mile world record in 1880 (of 1
minute and 54.4 seconds), or his uncanny ability to remember 50-year-
old conversations and dates with
accuracy. Details aside, however,
Cross has written a disarmingly honest account of his successes and failures, both as a soldier and as a man,
and he reveals all aspects of his
colourful life to his readers in a way
that few people, let alone Gurkha
colonels, can.
The account is essentially a eulogy to Nepal and her citizens,
brought to life through Cross's descriptions of living with Gurkha sol
diers. The common thread running
through all the disparate and often
seemingly unrelated stories is the
soldier's feeling more and more out
of touch with Western life each time
he returned to Britain. Increasingly,
Nepal became his home, and Nepali
friends his family. Although his dissatisfaction with the commercial and
soulless nature of Western society is
now common fare in many personal
accounts by those who travel to the
Himalaya, to hear such sentiments
from a seemingly old-fashioned
Gurkha Colonel is surprising, not to
say unique. Throughout his chronological account, it becomes clear that
his story has been one of gradual yet
steady improvement from his modest beginnings as an "embryo infantryman" to a retired soldier "superbly at ease", whose relationship
with his adopted Nepali family
"makes sense of this life".
Handle him with care
Cross's detractors will have a party
with The Call of Nepal. Those schooled
in modern social science will pounce
on such comments as: "Burma
had never been ours in the same way
as India had been", and will de-
contextualise statements such as "a
Gurkha has a limited imagination"
to render them offensive. What they
will miss, however, is that in good
reflexive tradition, Cross then turns
these statements around and re-directs them towards his own society,
his family and even himself. An
"Anglo-Saxon" and a hill man from
Nepal, he suggests, have "basic
qualities [that] seem to be the same:
both peoples are fierce, obstinate
and untameable and both peoples
need special handling to get the best
out of them". A further excerpt may
serve to prove the point: "I found that
the eastern Gurkha is like a cat:
friendship cannot be forced and the
chemistry takes some time to work.
The westerners are more like dogs:
it was productive to make positive
In short, his tendency to objectify,
rarefy and categorise ethnic groups
and individuals, is neither barbed
nor colonial, it is simply the way that
HIMAL   12/56 June 1999
he sees all those who are part of his
world, and most of all himself. Understandably, Nepali readers may
react against such comments since
they smack of a time which is all too
fresh in the collective memory
when Nepal and her citizens were
characterised in the English-speaking world according to their racial
virtues. However, one hopes that
Cross's critics will read him carefully
and note that, although conservative
in many ways and one among the
ever-dwindling survivors of an era
that has surely passed, Cross is a
man whose experience of Nepal
and fluency in spoken and written
Nepali remain unrivalled by most
other foreigners who have made this
country their home.
The colonel's sheer love for the
country shines through his sometimes verbose accounts and he reminds us time and time again that
"to settle in [Nepal] became something that I wanted more than anything else in the world". This wish
was granted by royal decree, and
Cross became the first-ever foreign
citizen to be allowed to own land in
Nepal. He writes that he has "never
accepted a Nepali as less than an
equal and never regarded myself as
intrinsically in any way superior".
Some readers may wonder if this can
be true given the colonial flavour
in his slightly archaic English,
but Cross's deep friendships with
Nepalis must bear testament to the
truth of his claim.
Likewise, the author's handling
of the subtleties of the relationship
with his adopted and surrogate
Nepali son, to whom he dedicates
the book, is so gentle that his motives are beyond suspect. His love
for Buddhiman, and his belief that
their relationship was predestined is
deeply touching. This is how he
places the relationship: "we [are] as
one tree, I the roots and he, with his
wife, the branches". It is a tribute to
Cross that he handles this personal
story in the candid and careful way
that he does.
Cross's astonishing autobiography is as challenging to read as it is
difficult to review. Reviewing the
book is tantamount to reviewing the
man himself. He swings with great
ease from racial stereotypes of
Gurkhas to such fashionable concepts as "morphic resonance" and
even telepathy, and genuinely seems
to believe in both. It is this peculiar
mixture of humility, self-effacement
and honesty on the one hand, and
contentedness and pride on the
other, that makes the book such an
extraordinary achievement.
But even as this reviewer urges
everyone to read this remarkable
book and form their own opinion,
they must do so keeping in mind the
sadly absent subtitle, "A Personal
Nepalese Odyssey in a Different Dimension". Cross has written an intensely, at times even embarrassingly, personal account and it is
firmly rooted in an altogether different dimension —historically, politically, culturally and linguistically.
For Colonel Cross, despite the changing social and political climate, the
"Call of Nepal is still as loud as it
ever was when 1 first heard it so many
years ago". A
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The Human Genome Diversity
Project's world tour has finally
reached China and is currently
analysing blood samples of some
of its one billion people. According
to the New Scientist, experts have
come to the inescapable conclusion
that the Chinese are descended
from Africans. This has sent
Shockwaves through Beijing. I
understand from the grape wine
that the Chinese Academy of
Sciences, which would like to think
that the Han evolved in the
Yangtse Valley from a genetic
offshoot of the Giant Panda, has
rejected this finding outright. In
fact, Li Jan, a senior Chinese
scientist told the Los Angeles Times:
"The genetics community in China
is in favour of the idea of the
independent origin of the people
of China."
Living as I do on the ancient
migrator}' route from Africa to Asia
(my ancestors were early tool-using
hominoids who got separated from
the main trek during a blizzard), I
have come to the conclusion that the
theory of racial purity and creationist
parthenogenesis are closely linked.
In any case, everything being
equal, be that as it may and notwithstanding the results of the Genome
Project's DNA scanning of every living
Han on the planet, J must say that I
am fascinated by the thought of Mao
Zedong sharing 99 percent of the
genetic code of a Rwandan mountain
guerrilla. Confucius says: "My
ancestor was your ancestor."
Ever since we early humans
climbed down from the baobab
and learned to walk on our own two
feet, we have constantly been on the
move. As a matter of true fact, it was
when bipeds started riding mopeds
that we really started zooming
around. And we haven't stopped
travelling, in fact at any given time
on the surface of the planet just about
everyone is going from some place to
some other place. These are thoughts
that passed my mind, as I chewed the
cud with my significant other while
waiting for a visa. What would have
happened to this Great Hominoid
Migration Out of Africa if Chinese
visa procedures were as strict then as
they are today? Or, for instance,
what would the demographics of
England have been if the Normans
had to queue up for non-tourist visas
in 1066?
Perhaps like the Sri Lankan World
Cup cricket fans, the Normans would
have had to face a General Knowledge quiz from the visa officer at the
British Counsellor Section in Dieppe
about the
country they
were invading.
Visa Officer:
"Since you are
desirous of
country, wed
like to test your
bona fide status
to make sure
that you do not
intend to
overstay in the
UK by asking
vou a few
questions. First question: Which
Scottish nationalist did Mel Gibson
impersonate in the film Braveheart."
This tradition of treating every
visa applicant as a potential alien
invader is rooted deeply in the visa
officer's psyche to this day. In fact,
counsellors have to go through
gruelling training and selection
procedures to weed out wimps in
their midst. And anyone who exceeds
a certain minimum IQ threshold is
immediately disqualified. This is
especially important to ensure among
national staffers manning the Gates.
Having had the opportunity to
observe many visa offices at
close quarters for extended periods, I
can offer a few useful tips for
countries that have to deal on a daily
basis (except weekends and public
holidays 8:30 am to 10:30 am) with
the huddled and hungry masses
yearning to be free:
a. There are important qualities to
look for in a visa officer, the firstmost
is that thev have to have the person
ality and physique of an American
football quarterback
b. Only those who have never
smiled, not even once in their lives,
and are physically incapable of doing
so can become visa officers
c. Preference should be given to
candidates with no common sense
and a post-graduate degree in
d. Remember, this is the first line
of defence against invasion, so
psy-war tactics should be followed:
the visa waiting area must
have the ambience and the
comfort level of a gas
chamber. Minimum temperature 37 degrees Celsius and at
least 40 people in an
unventilated 4mx4mx2m
e. The enemy's confidence
level must be shattered even
before they enter waiting
area. This is done by employing mercenaries who can
bark fiercely and carry metal
detectors that look suspiciously like cattle prods
f. Reciprocity is the key in this low
intensity war. Motto: Do on to
another country what that country
does on to you. So if one country
enforces a cricket interview, our visa
on arrival at Katunayake Airport
must include a mandatory three-hour
written exam about King
Parakramabahu and the Early Kings
of Polonnaruwa's Hydraulic
Civilisation that will include a 20-
point essay on the architectural
splendours of Anuradhapura. Those
who fail the test will be deported.
g. Your best psy-war weapon is to
let visa applicants to spill out into the
streets outside. This is like having a
large billboard with flashing lights
that says:
Another-One-Down-the- Road."
1 hear through the grape juice
that embassies in Delhi have a secret
competition where those judged to
have the most tortuously long visa
lines are awarded a trophy every
month. An unnamed OECD state has
bagged the prize three times in a row.
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