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Himal: The South Asian Magazine Volume 12, Number 9, September 1999 Dixit, Kanak Mani Sep 30, 1999

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Probably the best beer in the world.
 Vol 12   No 9
Jaw-jaw, not war-war
Shooting the Sharif
Why the world loves Hindi movies
by Deepa Gahlot
Bombay masala, Lahore classic
by Mushtaq Gazdar
Between rebellion and submission
by Maithili Rao
A kiss is not just a kiss
by Monika Mehta
Long play
by Tunku Varadarajan
Death of devolution
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
Lies out of control
Assembly-line sisters
by Seira Tamang
Militarism in india
reviewed by Maroof Raza
A Citizen's Guide to the Globalisa
of Finance
reviewed by Sujeev Shakya
Juliet of our times
by JanathTillekeratne
Rejection notes
Cyberbabu Naidu
Sorry, Mohandas
Just adjust
This is London
Philip flap
Nat to overlook-films'made in
languages.other■tfranHindi,Htmars   ....
October issue.will be carrying.special
features on Bangla. Bengaii, ■■-.. ■
rM§la0fammdT&milcinema.' .eyA^s'
War and Lies
for Lint t!lJ
■ Kanak Mani Dixit
Associate Editor
: Deepak'Thapa
Copy Editor
"Contributing Editors
Colombo Manik de Silva - .
-DHAKA .; -Afsan Chowdhury
^lahore   • Beena Sarwarl
*mew oELHt Mitu Varma ■ ~ b '
PrabhirGhafe.: •
Toronto Tajik All Khan  -O
Editor, litSA *
Anrnole Prasad
■■Layout * Z Z- b.
..Ctiandra'Khatiwada. ] ; ■■.-•
BMashRai (graphics) -
: Indfa-ShresjEha « b b
Contributors to this issue
D.B.S. Jeyaraj is a senior journalist based in Toronto. Earlier, he was a columnist, reporter and deputy
news editor with The Island, Colombo, deputy editor Saturday Re view,^Jaffna, and Sri Lanka
correspondent for the Madras-based The Hindu daily and Fronf/me fortnightly.
Deepa Gahlot is a Mumbai-based journalist, critic and activist, who won the National Award for best
film criticism in 1998.
JanathTillekeratne is a writer working as an executive editor for The Daily Resume on Sri Lanka.
Kanti Bajpai is Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi. His most recent writings include contributions to Jammu and Kashmir: An Agenda
for the Future (1999) and Securing India: Strategic Thought and Practice (1997).
Maithili Rao is a freelance film critic based in Bombay. She also subtitles films and TV programmes.
Maroof Raza is Middlesex University's regional director for South Asia.
Monika Mehta is pursuing a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Minnesota, and is
currently finishing a dissertation on censorship of sexuality in Bombay cinema.
Mushtaq Gazdar, based in Karachi, is the author of the book, Pakistan Cinema 1947-1997.
Seira Tamang is a research scholar, based in Washington. Her interests lie in gender, political
science and political economy.
S.N.M. Abdi is a journalist from Calcutta who covers eastern and north-eastern India for several
overseas publications.
Sujeev Shakya is General Manager for Business Development of the Soaltee Group, Kathmandu,
Tunku Varadarajan is a freelance writer based in New York. Formerly he was on the staff of The
Times {ot London), and a lecturer in Law at Oxford University.
Zaigham Khan is Lahore correspondent for Herald, Karachi.
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 Facts, not assumptions
1 read with interest Dinshaw
Mistry's letter "Latin Assumptions" (Himal, July 1999), written
in response to my article "The
Southern Cone and the
Subcontinent" (Himal,
May 1999). While ff.'fe*
fully respecting
Mistry's right to hnv
a rather different tat
on the matter, 1 do
not consider the five
differences between
the Argentina-Brazil
and India-Pakistan
nuclear equations
outlined in my
article to be mere
which is how """""
Mistry characterises (and
dismisses?) them.
Mistry rejects the notion of an
implicit US nuclear umbrella over
the Western Hemisphere, and
asserts that only the NATO states,
Japan and South Korea are
sheltered under it. [his is clearly
disputable. Apart from obvious
omissions like Israel and Taiwan,
Mistry ignores the fact that since
World War II a common security
mechanism, the Inter-American
Defence System (IADS), has existed
in the Western Hemisphere,
legally buttressed by the Act of
Chapultepec (1945)'and the Rio
Treaty (1947). A US nuclear guarantee is implicit in the IADS; indeed, it
is no accident that the first nuclear-
free zone was established in
Latin America. But for this common security arrangement, the
Tlatelolco Treaty (1967) banning
nuclear weapons in Latin America
and the Caribbean would not have
been possible. Viewing the international security scene from Mexico
City, as I am currently wont to do,
the fact that this part of the world
lies within the US perimeter of
defence seems almost an axiomatic
Mistry misreads my analysis of
the rivalry between Argentina and
Brazil. Nowhere in mv article is it
stated that since the two countries
have not fought a war since 1828,
they "do not have a long history of
rivalry". In fact, the Argentina-
Brazil rivalry has a heritage that
goes back nearly five centuries to
the arrival of the Iberian maritime
powers in South America. The
central issue here is
L_ Jfc        .       not the longevity of
the rivalry but its
nature. As 1 emphasise
in my article, the
rivalry "was never
based on a territorial
dispute or an identity
conflict". On the
contrary, it was essentially a competition for
influence in South
America, and specifically
in the buffer states of
Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay.
In sharp contrast, Pakistan
came into being from the vivisection of India. Apart from the
territorial dispute over the Kashmir Vallev, the India-Pakistan
conflict, from a Pakistani perspective, is about nothing less than
national survival, Pakistan, like
Israel, considers itself the homeland of an endangered people. It
therefore makes perfect sense to
expect countries like Israel and
Pakistan to renounce their nuclear
deterrent only as the last step in a
comprehensive settlement with
traditional enemies, and not a
moment sooner. Mistry will
undoubtedly recall that South
Africa, which during the years of
white minority rule viewed itself
in similar "homeland" terms,
renounced nuclear weapons and
apartheid at exactly the same time.
My argument that "Brazil has
never dominated South America,
or even the Southern Cone, in the
way India dominates South Asia"
is dismissed by Mistry as yet
another assumption. Far from
being an assumption, even a
cursory glance at military and
economic indicators in the two
regions will reveal that my
statement is grounded on essential
facts. India's population and GDI'
are three times larger than that of
all its neighbours, and it has
300,000 more soldiers with arms
than all the other countries in
South Asia combined. The differentials between Brazil and its
neighbours are much less overwhelming: its active armed forces
are smaller than the combined
forces of its neighbours, its
population only 80 percent larger,
its GDP only 25 percent larger,
these are facts, not assumptions.
Furthermore, Mistry disregards
the fact that the Brazilian power,
even at the height of its
KlWft com,
■ 71
1999  September 12/9  HIMAL
Film South Asia'99
30 September to 3 October
Russia! i Cultural Cm (re, Kathmandu
with the following films.
1. Aids, Lies ond Documentaries, Bengal, 1999,
Dir: Ananya Chatterjee,
2. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Tamil Nadu, 1999,
Dir: K. V. Ramani.
3. BarkhoNaach (The Big Dance), Nepal, 1999,
Dir Deependra Gauchan.
4. A Burden of Love, Mahanarastra, 1998, Dir:
Priti Chandriani.
5. California Dreaming: A Film on Indian Bride
far Export, Punjab, 1998, Dir: Meera
6. Dhupang-Ni Solo (An Autumn Fable), Assam,
1997, Dir: Pinky Brahma Choudhary.
7. Don't Poss Me By, Nepal, 1999, Dir: Sarah
Kapoor/Kristi;Christina Lamey,
B. Duhshomoy (A Mother's Lament), Bengal,
1999, Dir: Yasmine Kabir.
9. Ek Al inute Ka M au n (A M in ute Long S ilence),
Bihar, 1997, Dir: Ajay Bhardwaj,
10. Fishers cfMen, Madhya Pradesh, 1997, Dir:
Ranjan Ka math/Pa dmavathi Rao,
11. Fishing in the Sea of Greed, Kerala/
Maharastra, 1998, Dir. Anand Patwardhan.
12. Forced, Nepal, 1999, Dir: Kiran Shrestha
and Bimal Rawal.
13. The Forgotten Army, India, 1997, Din Kabir
14. Goa Under Seige, Goa, 1999, Dir: Gargi Sen/
Sujit Ghosh/Ran jan De.
15. Hamari Boaten (I Am just an Ordinary
Woman), Delhi, 1998, Dir: Nandini Bedi.
16 In the Eye ofthe Fish, India, 1997, Dir:
Monica Narula, Sudhabrata Sengupta and
Jeebesh Bagchi.
1 7. In the Forest Hangs a Bridge, Arunachal
Pradesh, 1999, Dir: Sanjay Kak.
18. Jibon (Life), Assam, 1998, Dir: Altaf Mazid.
19. Ktftre Mem Scmcndor: Bhai Mian (Portraits
of Belonging: Bhai Mian), Delhi, 1997, Dir:
Sameera Jain.
20. Kumar Talkies, Bihar, 1999, Dir: Pankaj Rishi
21. Loo) (Veiled), Gujarat, 1997, Dir: Rappai
Poothotaren, S.J/Ruta Shastri.
22. A Letter to Scmten, Bengal, 1999, Dir: Alex
G abb ay.
23. Listening to Shadows, Gujarat, 1998, Dir:
Koushik Sarkar.
24. Mobile Theatre, Sindh, 1999, Dir: Khalid
25. Muktir Kotbc (Words of Freedom), Bengal,
1999, Dir: Tareque & Catherine Masud.
26. No One Believes the Professor, Punjab, 1999,
Din Farjad Nabi.
27. Padnoge Ukhoge Hoge Nawab (Is School the
Thing That Makes a King), India, 1 998,
Dir: Vani Subramanian/ Surajit Sarkar,
28. Pramilo - Esther Victoria Abraham,
Maharashtra, 1997, Dir: Asha Dutta.
29. Pure Chutney, Trinidad, 1998, Dir: Sanjeev
30. Ragi; Kana; Ko Bonga Bum (Buddha Weeps
injcdugoda), Bihar, 1999, Dir: Shriprakash.
31. Rabimo: A Victim of Systemic Viofence, Bengal, 1998, Dir: Faud Chowdhury.
32. Satveni Sendeve Geethayo (Song ofthe Seventh Evening), Sri Lanka, 1998, Dir: Sudath
33. Skin Deep, India, 1998, Din Reena Mohan.
34. A Stranger in My Native Land, Tibet, 1998,
Dir: Tenzing Sonam/Ritu Sarin.
35. Sundari: An Actor Prepares, Maharashtra,
1998, Dir: Madhushree Dawa.
36. Sun, Fire, River- 'Ajrok'C/oth From the Soil of
Sindh, Sindh, 1998, Dir: Noor Jehan
37. Thin Air, Bombay,  1999, Dir: Ashim
38. Three Women and a Comew, India, 1997,
Dir: Sabeena Gadihoke.
39. Voices of Dissent: A Donee of Passion, Pakistan, 1999, Din NoorKhan Bawa.
40. YCP 1997, Maharashtra, 1997, Dir: Anjali
Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar.
Bringing the New Year to Kutia Voli, USA,
Din Leith Gill Murgai,
2. Do Flowers Fly, India, 1998, Dir: P. Ganguly.
3. Ribbons for Peace, India, 1998, Dir: Anand
A Time to Unite, Bangladesh, Dir: Tareque
and Catherine Masud.
Two Thick Braids, USA, 1999, Dir: Swati
A separate non-competitive section will showcase productions in various categories, including
archival films.
Passes will be available from 20 September 1999 at the Festival Office, Himal Association,
Patan Dhoka, Kathmandu. Phone: 542544; Fax; 521013; email: fsa @
A selection of the Hlms will travel around South Asia and the world from the end of 1999 through
2000. Those interested in hosting Travelling Film South Asia '99 may contact the Festival Director
at the address given above.
TOURS, the Leading Tour
Operator inNepal unfold for
you the inner secrets &
mysteries of these fascinating
land, people & eulture - so
different from anything you
have ever imagined	
For details contact:
P.O. Box 7246, Tridevi Marg, Katlimandu, Nepal
Tel: 249140,250611, 250746
Fax; 977-1 -249986 / 250747
Website: http 7/
 now-defunct rivalry with Argentina, was always constrained by
the regional balance of power
system in the Southern Cone,
organised around the two "diagonal alliances" of Brazil-Chile and
Argentina-Peru. Notwithstanding
the occasional grumbles in South
Block about heing surrounded by
"troublesome neighbours", no
regional power configuration
capable of dampening Indian
power has ever arisen in South
Asia. It is also worth pointing out
that, unlike India, Brazil is not the
hegemon in its region; in the
Americas, that role has been
played exclusively by the US for
the last 120 years.
Finally, Mistry asserts that
"Argentina and Brazil were just as
(if not more strongly) opposed to
the "discrimination" in the NIPT as
India". Not true —unlike India,
which has never accepted a
regional non-nuclear arrangement, the two South American
powers signed the Tlatelolco
Treaty declaring Latin America as
a nuclear-free zone. Given the
different natures of South Asian
and South American states, the
extra-sensitivity of the former to
"discrimination" is perfectly
understandable. Unlike Argentina
and Brazil, which have been
sovereign states in the international system for nearlv two
centuries, India and Pakistan are
post-colonial states. Political
leaders in South Asia have
experienced the indignity of
colonial subjugation in their own
lifetimes, which explains the
visceral opposition of the
Indian elite to discriminatory
international arrangements. On
non-discriminatory treaties like the
CTBT and the HMCT, I am in agreement with Mistry: India
(and Pakistan) can, should, must
sign on.
Post-Kargil, I readily admit that
1 was much too sanguine when I
suggested that Pakistan's enhanced
sense of security based on strategic
parity with India could lead to
durable peace in the region, But
while the big guns still boom
across the LoC, I'd like to suggest
that Kargil does not disprove the
proposition that nuclear deterrence
can work in South Asia. After all,
India resisted the temptation of
crossing the international border,
and Pakistan finally called it a day
and pulled out. What Kargil does
prove is that nuclear compellence
does not work, in South Asia or
elsewhere. Nuclear weapons
buttress the status cjiio, and are
rather poor tools for a revisionist
foreign policy, much less the sort of
adventurism witnessed in Kargil.
Van in Sahni
CADE. Mexico City
Puffy profile
The five principal articles of your
July issue struck me as Himal at its
best, providing balanced, interesting coverage of a war neither India
nor Pakistan can report on objectively or can afford to fight. Several
of the feature articles also held my
interest. In such company, the
profile of Akhter Ahsan stuck out
like a sore thumb. Claims or
apparent claims of healing are
allowed to go unchallenged. (What
is the reader to make of a sentence
like the following:
"During a recent visit to
Pakistan, Ahsan treated a
young woman suffering
from epilepsy using the
image of the Hindu god
Ganesh"? The sentence
does not sav that the
woman was cured, but
implies that she was.)
Dr Ahsan may well be
a pioneering psychologist, but
journalist Zaigham Khan should
be alerted to the need to challenge
assumptions, to allow critics to
raise questions, and to substantiate
statements such as "Ahsan says
that ... repeatable clinical experiments seem to back his claim" and
that his method is more effective
than psychoanalysis. What experiments? Conducted bv whom,
when? And has anyone else tried to
repeat these experiments?
Ihis sore thumb required
medical attention. Or do I mean
editorial attention? I think I do.
Ion Siviiu
Soulh field, Mussiicliiisets
Republic of South Asia
As a sympathetic non-South Asian
and in good faith I wish to ask a
question to which I have been
unable to find a satisfactory
answer: Why does the idea of
re-unifying India not even occur as
a phenomenon, however marginal
or despised, on the political and
intellectual landscape of South
Asia? Why is the matter not
discussed at all, if only to be
dismissed? I suppose the questioner will be told (inevitably, as he
is a Britisher) that the notion
smacks of nostalgia for the empire
and does not correspond to
modern allegiances and sensibilities. Rather it should actually
be seen as the last phase of
de-colonisation. Whose purpose
did the Partition really serve, if not
the departing colonial power's?
And since the crippling consequences of Partition can be considered a major contributor to the
economic and diplomatic weakness of independent India, the
failure to claim its
rightful place on the
world stage, why is it
that re-unification did not
become the focus of
||  nationalist aspirations, at
p  least in the post-Cold
j  War period of
Akhter Ahsan
re-negotiation? It is not as
if an alternative is
uncalled for, especially
now, at a time when Pakistan is
generally referred to as a failed
state, even by its own people, and
the Republic of India is ruled by
'nationalists' who embody none of
the principles on which that state
was founded.
Looking to the future, with as
much objectivity as I can muster, I
would have to sav that
re-unification is one definite
potential prospect, perhaps the
brightest, for the resolution of
political dysfunctions which are
1999   September 12/9  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 Sheth
Inside Outside.
I stayed a week at the
Vajra, by which time
I had become so fond
of it that I stayed
John Collee
TheLondon Observer.
Vajra, a serene
assembly of brick
buildings, grassy
ivycovered walls and
Hindu statuary is a
calm oasis over
looking, chaotic
in Kathmandu,
the Vajra
Swayambhu, Dallu Dijyaswori, PO Box 1084, Kathmandu
Phone: 977 1 271545, 272719 Fax: 977 1 271695 E-mail:
 otherwise set to destroy the region.
One obvious model would be a
federal structure based on strong
regional autonomy, but there are
many other possibilities and
combinations that could be
devised. I'm not saying for
the moment that some form of
re-unification would make South
Asia stronger or more competitive,
or more self-confident or less
militarised, 1 just wonder why it's
not even on the agenda.
The question is not why does
the idea not interest governments,
armies and bureaucracies, but why
did it not emerge as an alternative,
at least among intellectuals? Why
no initiative or movement, however fringe, to establish the concept
of a single super country (not
unlike China) in the regional
consciousness, even if it were to
remain a pipe dream? Of course
the idea would cause apoplexy in
Pakistan, but is " Akhand Bharat"
necessarily an anathema to tbe
Indian Muslim? I think not.
Meanwhile, I was devastated to
find Tibet barely mentioned in
vour "China and Us" issue (June
1998), more evidence of the
ostrich-like attitudes which prevail
in the " Arya Bhumi" towards an
important South Asian issue. I will
also expect to be disappointed in
my hope of finding some denunciation of the Pakistani foreign
minister's floor-scraping jaunt to
Beijing at the height of the Kargil
crisis, onlv to be followed there bv
the Indian foreign minister, as if in
acknowledgement that the Chinese
have some kind of privileged
status in South Asian diplomacy.
They have no such status, and
other countries should vociferously protest Pakistan's attempt to
include them, particularly when
third-party involvement was one of
the key issues in the crisis. The
Chinese are quite happy to exploit
the South Asian failure to stand up
for itself, in international relations
generally, and in an important and
now thoroughly usurped sphere of
influence —Xinjiang and Tibet.
Matthew Axler
Sour lit crits
The late Irving Howe once wrote
that Marxism had entered the
American academy to die. Something similar seems to be happening to South Asian writing. The
canons of lit crit let loose on
talented novelists in the August
1999 issue of Himal make for
dreadful reading. Lit crits, like art
crits, are a sour lot —those who can,
write or paint; those who can't,
criticise. The mark of Himal is
cheerful scepticism; not grumpy
jealousy. Please spare us the
Spivakese. A one-year moratorium
on South Asians expats might be a
good idea.
Ramachandra Guha
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It's never over till it's over. The downing of the
Pakistani reconnaissance plane over Sir Creek
on 10 August was a swift and troubling reminder that the fallout of Kargil will be felt
much farther afield and for much longer than
the hostilities themselves. India-Pakistan relations were in a stall after Kargil, and the downing of the Atlantique aircraft helped send relations into a tailspin.
Pakistan's intrusion into Indian airspace
appears to have been fairly well-substantiated
notwithstanding Islamabad's denials, and that
was the original sin. Even Washington, which
criticised India for over-reacting, does not take
issue with the claim that the plane straved into
Indian territory. Pakistan must therefore be held
responsible for a rather foolish act. Foolish, for
several reasons. For one thing, the Kargil war
(and it must be reckoned as the fourth India-
Pakistan war, given the intensity and length of
hostilities) had just ended. Feelings were, and
are, running high on both sides. Indian forces
were, and remain, on a razor's edge in terms of
their alert status: nobody wants a Kargil on their
watch. Moreover, the Indian elections are just
around the corner. Any security lapse at this
moment could change the course of the elections.
But for all that, the Indian authorities would
do well to re-examine their reaction. The reference here is not so much to the shooting itself,
although a review of interception procedures
would be helpful. Given the tensions and the
significance of Sir Creek/Rann of Kutch, the
downing of the plane was not particularly surprising. The Indian government says that Pakistan had violated Indian airspace over 50
times in the past year or so. It also claims
that the Pakistani air force had intruded
into the Sir Creek/Rann of Kutch area
eight times before the Atlantique was shot
down. The question then is: why did
New Delhi not promptly protest and demand an investigation by the Pakistani
authorities as implied in the 1991 agreement on the prevention and handling of
airspace violations? If India had made a
public issue of the violations as and when
they happened, the entire incident could
well have been avoided.
The Sir Creek misadventure indicates that the
1991 agreement on airspace violations probably needs amendment. The agreement expressly forbids both sides from flying combat
aircraft —including reconnaissance planes—
and from operating in a no-fly zone within 10
kilometres of the international boundary. But
the latest act suggests that both sides have been
fairly routinely violating the agreement.
The Indian helicopter flight ferrying journalists to the crash site may also have been such
a violation. Brajesh Mishra, the Indian national
security adviser, interviewed on TV days after
the shooting seemed to say that India had informed Pakistan of the flight (as mandated by
the 1991 agreement), but his language was
equivocal enough to suggest that perhaps New
Delhi had not honoured the agreement either.
What can be done to improve the agreement,
if anything? First of all, it may be useful to look
at the no-fly zones regime in West Asia, which
the Israelis and the Arabs have been implementing rather successfully for much longer than the
Indo-Pak 1991 agreement. Secondly, better communication between tbe two air forces would
seem to be indispensable. As things stand, it is
not clear how they talk to each other. The 1991
accord mentions that air advisers on both sides
should be kept "informed" of flight safety and
urgent air operations that affect the other side.
But how this is done and with what dispatch, is
not known. The agreement also suggests that
such matters should be brought to the notice of
the other side over the phones at the two army
headquarters. This seems a rather tortuous procedure. Can't the two air forces speak to each
other directly? And can't they do so, sector by
sector, rather than going through Islamabad and
Thirdly, Indian planes (perhaps Pakistani as
well) should be fitted with more than two communication channels. Air Chief Marshal A.Y.
Tipnis admitted after the incident that the Indian MtGs have only two communication channels and these were both in operation during
their interception flight. As a result, the Indian
pilots could not establish radio contact with the
Atlantique on the international communication
frequency available for such contacts. The
amended 1991 agreement should mandate that
both sides carry at least a third channel of communication.
It's always better to jaw-jaw than war-war,
especially when there are nuclear weapons
around. India and Pakistan can mull over
whether and when they want to get down to
business <; la Lahore. Neither side can afford to
ride a high horse in the shadow of the bomb.A
—Kanti Bajpai
HIMAL  12/9 September 1999
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Credited for putting together almost all the
anti-government political alliances in the last
four decades, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, the
wily old man of Pakistani politics, was at it
again. Sporting his trademark red fez and holding the huqqa, he listened calmly as speaker after speaker unleashed a tirade of accusations
against the Nawaz Sharif government at a seminar in Lahore titled "Washington Declaration —
A Betrayal of National Interests". Held on 12
August by the Pakistan People's Alliance, of
which the Nawabzada is the president, the real
aim of the seminar was to bring the opposition
parries together on the minimal agenda of forcing the government out of office.
At the end of the meeting, Nasrullah Khan
read out a statement that summed up the rhetoric of leaders from 37 political parties: "Nawaz
Sharif is engaged in a meaningless dialogue
with India. During the Kargil crisis, he repeatedly lied and misled the nation. And when
Nawaz lost his nerve, he begged for a meeting
with President Clinton and consequently
agreed to withdraw the army and mujahid eons
from the line of control." As punishment for this
cardinal sin, the statement demanded the removal of the Sharif government to be replaced
by an interim government with "persons of
good character and reputation" who shall pave
the wav for "free and fair elections".
More than the Nawabzada's final statement, the conference became important for a
speech by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of
the Jamiat-e-UIma-e-Islam, an influential religious party that enjoys a close relationship
with the Taliban. Stealing the whole show, the
Maulana gave an interesting spin to the Washington meeting between Sharif and Bill Clinton.
He claimed that Sharif had assured Clinton that
he would help the US against Osama bin Laden.
He also repeated his now-famous fatwa that US
citizens in Pakistan would be killed if the US
attacked Afghanistan. "If we are not safe in our
own country, then no US citizen would be safe
here either," he said. All this helped the fiery
Maulana from the NWFP province to achieve a
consensus that the US would not be allowed to
use Pakistani soil for anti-bin Laden activities.
All through the seminar, the Pakistan
People's Party (PPP), the largest party in opposition, took a back seat, but not without its representative contributing his bit to the general
mood of jingoism and talk of Islamic revolution. For all purposes, however, it appeared that
an increasingly marginalised and cornered opposition, instead of portraying itself as a democratic alternative to the Sharif government, was
trying to hit it where it hurt the most. The seminar also betrayed the opposition's desperation
to recover some ground before the March 2000
elections to the Senate, the upper house of Parliament. But it is most likely that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League will garner the kind of
brute majority it now enjoys in the lower house.
That may be bad news for the parties looking for a change at the top, but at the same time
they wouldn't want to see any arrangement that
would put the democratic process in jeopardy.
For these parries borrowing the rhetoric of the
religious right-wing in their bid to bring down
the government may be expedient political strategy, but the fact remains that their interests are
clearly at variance with the jehadi groups. And
they wouldn't want to see the ascendance of any
of the Islamic groups, which have so far proved
no threat in electoral politics, although their
'nuisance value' was not to be discounted.
The government too stands on the crossroads
of history at this moment. Never before has Pakistan seen a truly one-man government such
as Sharif's, and never before has the government been under this kind of pressure from a
disarraved opposition. Sharif now seems to
have two options: either to grant concessions
to the parliamentary opposition and give it
some breathingspace; or play the religious card
and show himself to be more Islamic than the
As tilings stand, both the government and
the opposition seem to be content to let the religious parties dictate the rules ofthe game. And
herein lies the real danger: of everyone—the
government, opposition, and public —losing
the game, with the exception, of course, of the
Islamists. A
—Zaigham Khan
Out to get
Sharif: (i-r)
Hamid Nasir
Chatha (PML
Chatha Group),
Nasrullah Khan
Party POP),
Rao Sikandar
Iqbal (Pakistan
People's Party),
Qazi Hussain
Imran Khan
1999  September 12/9  HIMAL
 ; II;^,".I.:-,:-■-
:::;:;; ;s;;;;3tH-          S ,r:;:S:    Si,*;:g:. S»
':"ft.JDEKP     Gahlot
-:M IL.
 Once thought to be only meant for the silly
ones, Hindi masalas now have fans
worldwide not all of them silly.
he global popularity of Hindi cin-
•Hf*   ema crept up and hit the Bombay
S      film industry in the eye last year
jjj      when Mani Ratnam's Dil Se made it
*"      to the UK Top 10 in its first week.
Then in August this year, Amitabh Bachchan
topped a BBC online poll on the most popular star of the millennium, beating Hollywood demi-gods by a long shot; what's
more, Govinda finished tenth on the list.
More recently, Subhash Ghai's Taal broke
box-office records in the US, mainly because
he thought it worth releasing an unheard-
of 44 prints in the overseas circuit.
The oddest success story is, of course, of
Rajnikant's Tamil films bowling over Japanese filmgoers.
Indian audiences used to treat the indigenous film —whether in Hindi or in any regional language, the popular film's form remains the same — as an acquired taste peculiar to Indian culture, a "vice" to be admitted to sheepishly, something to be slightly
ashamed of, like paan stains on the teeth and
coconut oil in the hair. In spite of a comfortably receptive overseas market, the Hindi
film industry was smugly content with the
vast audiences it had at its command within
the Subcontinent. So unlike Hollywood, Indian filmmakers did not feel the need to expand internationally beyond a few known
and fairly lucrative territories that went under the omnibus label of "Overseas". A clear
example of ghar ka murgi dual barabar—a piquant Hindi saying which means that people
often ignore what is right under their noses.
In this case, a unique product and an eminently exportable commodity.
Hindi chic
There was always a small and steady market for Hindi cinema abroad, or wherever
there was a sizeable South Asian immigrant
population. And their popularity also extended to the native population of the Gulf,
some African countries, and, oddly enough,
Russia and some East European countries,
plus a minute cult following in campuses
across the US, the UK and rest of Europe.
Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty
are hugelv popular in Russia, Amitabh
Bachchan's name can open doors in Egypt,
and shopkeepers in Singapore are known to
have declined payment from anyone who
knows the words to the latest Hindi hit film
It is only in the last few years that Hindi
cinema —with films like Hum Aapke Wain
Kami, Dihvale Dulhaniya Le jaayenge, Dil To
Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai — has come out
from its closet of tiny suburban movie halls,
video parlours and smuggled pirated VCDs,
right into the mainstream. They have got a
large-enough audience to figure in the top
charts, bag impressive theatre chains and get
noticed by critics of upmarket publications.
(Till recently, the only Indian filmmaker
known abroad was Satyajit Ray.)
The media worldwide has started doing
features, photo-essays, TV series and documentaries on popular Indian cinema. It's no
longer disgraceful to admit to a passion for
the masala movie —even film scholars, researchers and historians now find it worth
analysing it as a powerful form of popular
This interest abroad has perhaps coincided with the emergence of a strong Asian
subculture in the West, which, as usual, has
exported our own Indianness back to us,
apparent in the way Hindi cinema has caught
on with the hip, urban teen set who earlier
used to think that the Hindi masala movie was
infra dig, only meant for lumpens and bored
housewives. Like the dominance of Black
culture some years ago, it is the turn of Indian/South Asian culture now-Indian
food, yoga, ayurveda, spirituality, are all in
vogue. There's bhangra rap in the discos,
salwar kamee/ and saris being accepted as
haute couture, henna tattoos as fashion; Madonna singing shlokas and Nusrat Fateh Ali
Khan composing for major Hollywood films.
Now, Indian films are shown regularly on
television all over the world to a multiplying flock of multi-cultural audiences, and
not just on ethnic channels.
Bollywood is no longer ghetto territory,
but a world to be fancied — not a Hollywood
rip-off but an equal; and a means of running
around the cultural hegemony of Holly-
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
 Slapstick cops:
BBC poll toppers
Amitabh Bachchan and
Govinda in Bade Miyan
Chhote Miyan
wood. The fact that the big Hollywood studios and entertainment conglomerates are
fighting for an entry into the Indian market
proves that there is something they still have
to learn about audience tastes.
"As a result of exposure to quality Hindi
films, Indian cinema is no more obscure in
the West," says Nasreen Munni Kabir who
made Movie Mahal, Channel 4's first major
series on Hindi cinema, in the early 80s. "The
best example of the acceptance of Hindi films
in the West is an ad for Powergen that shows
a group of Indian villagers watching a song
and dance scene when the power goes off.
The Powergen is switched on and the film is
resumed. This ad would never have happened three years ago. Now India is fashionable in the West, like Black culture was
some years ago."
Kabir feels that the Asian sub-culture is
seeping into the mainstream with the rise of
Asians into positions of influence, while
their younger generation is more accepting
of other cultures. "Far from repudiating their
Asianness, young Asians are more confident
and proud of their bi-culturalism," says the
NRI nostalgia
Interestingly, this upsurge of Indian culture
abroad has coincided with a back-to-roots
traditionalism in Indian society, reflected in
the phenomenal popularity of religious and
mythological serials on television and films
like Hum Aapke Rain Kauri, Dihvale Dulhanh/a
Le Jaayenge and Pardes, which focus on the
traditional Indian family, ancient rituals and
patriarchal values. There is doubtless a commercial element involved — everything ultimately turns Into a marketing tool—but the
Hindi movie is fulfilling a need to cling on
to something familiar in a fast-changing
world which is sweeping away cultural contrasts and demanding uniformity (and conformity) in the name of globalisation. It has
perhaps become imperative for Indian films
to depict what is in the Indian mind—an urgency to accept the global, but retain the traditional.
Fortunately for filmmakers, this trend in
India goes very well with the nostalgia of
the non-resident Indian (NRI) for what has
been left behind. While first-generation immigrants yearn for their homeland, the second or third generation does not want to assimilate completely into a foreign culture,
and craves to preserve a vestige of their In
dian identity. The Indian filmmaker
capitalises on this homesickness and nostalgia by making films that give the NRI as wed
as the disconcerted desis a glimpse of their
'glorious' past. Successful films thus are the
ones that depict rituals like weddings, Holi,
Diwali, and even the outdated Karva Chauth
(the fast wives observe for the longevity of
their husbands), with a loud splash of colour,
custom and music, which is enough to reassure the post-liberalisation Indian as well as
the nostalgic NRI that Indian culture is not
all lost.
A Hum Aapke Main Kauri or Hum Dil De
Chuke Sanam celebrates the Indlanness of the
joint family, religious rituals, cherished
virtues of unselfishness and sacrifice, to
cover up for the blatant consumerism,
self-indulgence and short-cut spiritualism of
real life. It's not all that surprising then, that
the trend of violence in Indian mainstream
cinema of the late 1970s and 1980s has made
way for romance, fidelity, fairuly values and
tire cuteness of heroes like Shah Rukh Khan,
Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Govinda,
who in spite of their gym-pumped muscles.
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
 come as close to an internationally approved androgyny as a patriarchal society
will allow.
The spectacle of ritual, song, dance, sentiment, romance, is obviously as attractive
to the non-Indian film viewer, as it is to the
escapism-seeking, often poverty-stricken Indian. In an increasingly mechanised, impersonal, troubled and splintering world, the
emotionalism, filial and marital loyalty, fantasy and constancy, as portrayed in Hindi/
Indian films, is a fleeting source of comfort.
One of the biggest Hollywood hits in recent
mainstream cinema is usually as far removed from reality as possible, with no
claim whatsoever on authenticity or accuracy, but the die-hard viewer doesn't care
about a couple living in Chandigarh singing songs in Amsterdam, a Scottish castle
being passed off as a Delhi college or a Swiss
chalet as a residence in Mumbai. This unabashed disregard for time, space and geography can only happen in the alternative
zone of existence that Indian cinema offers —
a relief from harsh real ity.
Hindi/Indian cinema demands and gets
total suspension of disbelief. It works at the
level of ballad, fable, fairy tale and simple
morality yarn, where virtue is always rewarded and wickedness punished. To the
West this blend of the simple and the outlandish is attractive, while others find resonances of their own lost innocence in the illusory world of the Indian film. This is the
only world where there are no doubts or confusion or nasty surprises.
The die-hard viewer doesn't care about a
couple living in Chandigarh singing songs in
| Amsterdam, a Scottish castle being passed off
as a Delhi college or a Swiss chalet as a
residence in Mumbai.
times — Titanic — is an example of the
globalisation of the Indian fUm formula. Romance, music and family duty have also returned to international films, and Indian
popular cinema almost has a patent on them.
Suspending disbelief
The undying appeal of the Indian film to the
non-Indian viewer from countries and cultures as diverse as Japan, Soutii Africa, Russia, Malaysia, Egypt, West Indies, lies in its
core of fantasy wrapped in tradition. The
In real life, you can never know when
you might be run over by a car, blown up by
a terrorist's bomb or caught by a sniper's
bullet; your marriage could break up, parents disown you, kids abandon you. In real
life, you will have to deal with illness, redundancy, betrayal, riots. In the usual
Bollywood fare, there are no divorces, families stay together; more often than not, kids
arc deferential, parents indulgent, and
neighbours considerate. When characters go
through inhuman suffering and emerge victorious, and, mysteriously unscathed,
there is a sense of collective catharsis that
even the most slickly made Western film cannot guarantee.
Where else do you get a perma nent promise of happy endings? In a Hindi movie, almost always, the boy and the girl live happily ever after. *
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
 inema came to India soon after its introduction in the
West, and since among its early backers were
Anglicised Parsis, Indian films have always had a form
*W that is a peculiar mix of mythology, historical legends,
folk art, Parsi theatre, Shakespearean and Victorian drama.
And since there has never been a compulsion to change it,
the form of popular cinema has remained unaltered over the
century. The art or parallel cinema movement of the late 1960s
and 1970s tried to experiment with form, but fizzled out after some initial successes; there is still some offbeat work
done by directors in regional languages, particularly
Malayalam. Now it is a given that popular cinema cannot
exist without song-and-dance, melodrama and high-voltage
emotion—violence is acceptable but only within the set formula of romance-f amily-honour.
Even if the song-and-dance "items" liberally borrow from
MTV, and the styles and plots and scene compositions are
lifted from Hollywood, the Indian film hero and heroine are
invariably monogamous, modern in dress but conventional
at heart; the hero (and occasionally the heroine) will resort to
violence only when the family —immediate or extended
(friend, neighbour, community, country) —is under threat.
Like the heroes of the epics (Ramayan, Malwbharat), it is the
duty of the male to protect the honour of the woman/family/community, while it is the woman's duty to provide
succour and support as the mother, sister, beloved or wife,
but not to participate directly in the conflict. Like Sita, the
heroine must remain chaste even when she is the villain's
(Ravan) captive, and wait for the hero (Ram) to come and
rescue her, sometimes with the help of a brother (Laxman)
or close friend (Hanuman). It is no surprise then, that the
careerwoman has not yet found representation or respectability in mainstreet Hindi films—except, very rarely, in the
form of Durga/Shakti where she dons a uniform and picks
up weapons to fight evil.
Like Kunti in the Malmbharat, the mother is to be worshipped, and like Dasharath in the Ramayan, the father is to
be obeyed at any cost. Sacrifice, loyalty, submission to patriarchy/ authority is desirable at all times. In the romantic arena,
the hero still has to go through a test of manhood to pass the
heroine's swayamvar, and the rites of wooing still follow the
chlvd-dikad (teasing) between Krishna along with his bunch
of gwalas (cowherds) and Radha with the gopis (milkmaids).
In folk and Parsi theatre, songs, dances, declamatory
speeches, exaggerated gestures and the odd routine of a comedy track separate from the main plot, were accepted norms.
Indian cinema still uses the simple linear narrative style of
folk oral tradition and drama, and almost always utilises the
song-dance and slapstick in the manner of the now-outdated
theatrical style. Ironically, Indian theatre has incorporated experimentation, abstraction, realism, taken from the West and
elsewhere into ancient folk forms, and come up with a remarkably contemporary language, while Indian mainstream
movies have simply borrowed new techniques from
the West and juxtaposed it —not always successfully—with predictable narrative patterns.
The ending of the typical Hindi film, for Instance,
is illustrative of its immutable derivation from the
theatre. In plays, the entire cast assembles on stage
to take a bow, in the Hindi film, all characters (the
surviving ones, that is) gather together for a group
photograph. There is also the blithe certainty of the
happy ending (with very few exceptions as in the case
of films derived from the classical tragic love story
of the Laila-Majnu variety). The hero and heroine will
marry, misunderstandings will be sorted out, the villa a will suffer death or imprisonment, straying hus-
bt nds and prodigal sons will return to the family fold.
(S raying wives and daughters will, however, meet
an ignoble end!)
Perhaps, in the case of the Hindi film,
familiarity does not breed contempt. Audiences seem
perfectly satisfied with repetitions —with minor
upgradations —of a handful of popular plotlines.
Boy meets girl, one is rich, the other poor; they confront parental opposition, villainous interventions
and other obstacles to reunite happily in the end.
Siblings are separated from parents or from each
other either by way of natural or man-made calamity; they will keep bumping into one another throughout the film at apposite points, while their stories
run parallel. They will recognise each other from an
amulet, tattoo or song, and unite to defeat the
villain. The noble Pandavas versus the greedy
Kauravas in a modern-day Mahabharat, ensuring
the perennial victory of good over evil.
Another favourite has the hero avenging the killing of a family member. This is sometimes extended
to his own oppression at the hands of evil forces (corrupt cops and politicians, criminals, terrorists), at
which — pushed to his limits of tolerance —he will resort to means fair or foul and clear his name and uphold the honour of his family.
The latest trend, besides youthful romance, is pa--
triotism. Mainstream films are always quick to catch
on to and merrily distort popular sentiment, and after terrorism entered India, patriotism has become
an important component of the Indian film. Villains
are not just ornery bad guys now, they are international terrorists. And the hero's duties are no longer
confined to saving heroines in distress, but to save
Bharat Mata from The Enemy —whether it is the
dreadful ISI guys from across the border, or the amoral
influences of the Wicked West that threaten to destroy
Indian culture. A
—Deepa Gahlot
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
 Mushtaq Gazdar
: 9  %        ¥&  W,
hat we today call Bollywood
cinema is the common heritage
of all those who contributed
at one time or another to its
growth into what is today tire
second largest motion picture industry in tire
world. Soon after the succes
of the fust indigenous Indis
film Raja Harishchandr
made by the visionary fro
Bombay, Dada Saheb Phal
in 1913, aspiring filmmake:
all over India plunged into
the world of dreams and glamour. Besides
Bombay, film productions also star-ted in
Calcutta, Madras and Lahore.
The first film from Lahore (now facetiously called "Lollywood" and the base of
Pakistani cinema) was The Daughter of Today,
made in 1924, 11 years after the release of
Phalke's venture. But It was The Loves of a
Mughal Prince by the exceptional entrepreneur, Himanshu Rai, that offered Lahore the
fust real hope of getting into the mainstream
cinema market. The film, based on Syed
Imtiaz Ali Taj's famous play Anarkali, however, failed to take off. This was because the
Imperial Film Company of Bombay churned
out a quickie, Anarkali, and released it hurriedly across the country. Rai's movie, although a much superior and original work,
was dubbed a copy and it flopped. The
Bombay Masala had sealed the commercial
fate of the Lahore Classic.
Film production in Lahore was an unprofitable enterprise and was more of an industry where newcomers tried their hand at
cinema without having to live off it. Artistes
and technicians who made it in Lahore were
invariably attracted to Bombay, the showbiz
centre which recognised only success.
Bombay filmdom lured everyone of substance, and enriched itself at the cost of other
film centres, including Lahore. This is seen
in the list of artistes who achieved cult status and contributed immensely to the evolution of Bollywood,
but who originally haded from the part of
Tndia now comprising Pakistan:
Prithvi raj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor,
Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Ghulam
Haider, Mohammed Rafi, Balraj
Sahni, Kamini Kaushal, Kajendra
Kumar, Sampooran Singh Gulzar,
Jk -
The Pakistani film industry
struggles for originality as pirated
Indian movies steal the show.
Ramanand Sagar, G.P. and
Ramesh Sippy, Nasir Khan,
Mumtaz, Pran...
Beauty bazaar
A momentous day for Indian
cinema arrived on 14 March 1931 wl
country's first full-length talkie, Alam Ara,
was released in Bombay under the banner
of the Imperial Film Company. One of its
songs turned out to be a big hit, and business soared as the melody caught the imagination of the country Maiden Theatre
Calcutta followed with its own talkie, Shirin
Farhad,, based on a Persian love lore, with as
many as 40 songs. This is how cinema in the
Subcontinent developed into a unique entity of dance, drama and song, defying universally accepted classification of the cinema
The acceptance and popularity of Hindi
cinema has, ever since, depended heavily on
the song-and-dance ingredients. The genesis
of this peculiar genre of cinema is linked to
the longer-term history of the performing arts
in the Subcontinent. Performing arts as a
means of livelihood and source of entertainment was recognised at the administrative
level in India as early as the 3rd century BC.
This is clear from Kautdya's Artha Shastra,
in which he writes: "The maintenance from
the King's exchequer is to be provided to the
teachers who impart (to courtesans and female slaves who live by the stage) the knowl-
Hindi movie poster in
a Karachi video
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
 Navel-gazing in Lahore:
Pakistani star Meera in
edge of the arts of singing, playing on musical instrument, reciting, dancing, acting, writing, painting, playing on the lute, the flute
and the drum..."
The rulers of India, irrespective of their
religious affiliations, patronised musicians,
poets and singers, and had a vast number of
them attached to their courts. The middle
classes, on the other hand, found a more exotic outlet in the chakla. This was the Beauty
Bazaar, abodes of dancing damsels and sex
workers, a sort of early form of nightclubs.
Exclusive areas within the chakla were earmarked for the mujra — the dance and song
repertoire —performed by trained and qualified singer-cum-dancer with good looks and
pleasant decorum.
The chaklas were the grooming grounds
for singers and dancers, where poets and
musicians were pampered and could scrape
a living. Prodigal sons of rich families found
in the chakla an opportunity for emotional
and physical expression, a fairyland for romance and courtship with real life damsels,
a place that led to the fruition of unfulfilled
dreams born out of a segregated and sexually frusUating environment.
The mujra segment of the chakla was
where women learnt the art of singing and
dancing, and the mannerisms of appeasement. It is no coincidence, therefore, that for
decades these were the only places diat supplied heroines and other women actors for
the films. The fun and merriment of the
chakla, however, were beyond the reach of
the masses, which had to cultivate its own
folk mediums to express of joy, sorrow, gaiety and gloom. The interaction and articulation in this folk culture was always through
lyrically spoken words, which were tuned to
the versified passages of religious teachings,
songs of harvest, lores of bygone past, dramas and puppetry.
When cinema came to the Subcontinent
it was but natural for filmmakers to expound
the aesthetic and cultural identity of the
people through songs, music and dances inherited from this rich cultural past. In addition, the repertoires of many parts of the Subcontinent were adapted and incorporated
into cinema. Cosmopolitan Bombay integrated and blended die best of what it received from all over the region and offered
it to people in the most entertaining form of
cinema. In the process, it brought together
the segregated cultures of the masses and the
classes. High and low, might}' and meek, rich
and poor, could together watch the same sil
ver-screen without undermining their social
Partition and plagiarism
Talkies also gave a new lease of life to film
production in the northern region. Perhaps
it was the cultural dominance of Lahore in
contrast to the technological advancement of
Bombay that brought the change. In the silent era, physical action, mime, magic and
slapstick were the main ingredients of moviemaking. With sound, the need for a
well-written story, dialogues, lyrics and music became Imperative. Calcutta and Madras
being non-Hindi/Urdu provinces turned to
their own regional literature, but Bombay, catering to the need of a hybrid majority' of
dience, looked towards Uttar Pradesh and
the northern provinces for their rich heritage of court and folk culture. Thus it happened that most of tire actors, directors, writers, poets, singers and musicians in the
fledgling talkie period of Bombay, belonged
to the non-native population of
Maharashtra state.
With the division of the Subcontinent in
1947 and the communal riots that accompanied it, what advantage Lahore's film industry had enjoyed, quickly disappeared. In tire
city, film studios belonging to non-Muslims
were targetted, partly in revenge attacks and
partly because cinema was not considered
Islamic in character. The studio-owners left
the newly-born Pakistan, and some even
took away the equipment. In comparison,
Bombay studios remained unaffected as the
city remained fairly calm.
Independent Pakistan's film industry
was too small to cope with the demand of
local theatres, so Bombay films continued to
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
 dominate in Pakistan in the post-Independence period as well. Ihe other factor was
that Pakistan cinema lacked established stars
in its fold. Except for Noorjahan, others who
came from Bombay and Calcutta were either
on the downhill phase of their career or veterans good for only minor roles. On the other
hand, their counterparts in Bombay —
Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Kamini Kaushal,
Madhubala, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and
others —were well on their way to stardom.
These Bombay actors enjoyed immense
popularity among young Pakistani
filmgoers, which made it difficult for the Pakistani filmmakers who had to make do with
mostly unknown and fresh faces.
lhe 1965 war between India and Pakistan
generated a surge of nationalism that had
only been seen earlier in the freedom movement of undivided India. The Pakistani government placed a complete ban on exhibition of Indian films, even on oldies released
Walk into any video shop in
Pakistan, and the latest
Bollywood films are there.
years back (and the ban holds till today).
This gave the local filmmakers a protected
§|    market and the number of Pakistani pro-
bM    ductions began to grow considerably. But
''"'    the films were indigenous only cosmetically, for soon enough, producers and their
writers started visiting neighbouring Afghanistan to watch Indian films to get their
story ideas. Plagiarism was practised to the
hilt, with Pakistani filmmakers remaking
Bollywood's box office hits by merely changing the names of characters from Hindu to
Muslim ones, and placing them in the local
This furtive copying came to an end
when Lahore began to receive Indian TV. and
Pakistanis could watch the originals in the
comfort of their homes. This led to some development of original Pakistani cinema, but
this period lasted only for a decade till the
introduction of home video and later satellite telecasts in the region. Through pirated
VHS tapes and satellite channels, Bollywood
now began to inflict the most devastating
blow to the Pakistani film industry. Local
producers of Urdu films lost their audience
to 1 findi films from Bombay, particularly the
middle class urbanised family filmgoers
who preferred to watch their Bollywood
favourites on TV or rented videos of their
Survival strategy
If anything has even remotely served to
bridge the divide between Pakistanis and
Indians these last five decades, it has to be
Bollywood cinema. There may be a blanket
ban on Indian films in Pakistan, but walk
into any of the 45,000 video shops across
the country, and, in the best traditions of piracy, the latest Bollywood films are all there
in the shelves. In many of the villages, these
video shops even have small, dark rooms
spluttering out Bollywood starrers at the
princely price of two rupees per show. Then
there are the restaurants and small tea shops
dishing out the same fare.
To take advantage of film fare on satellite
television, which has conquered all of Pakistan, even electricity-less villages remained
hooked through battery-run televisions and
receivers, tuning into multiple channels. In
congested areas of major cities, the cable brigade functions in the most organised and
considerate wav — it charges PKR 50 (c. USD
1) per month in the lower-income dwellings,
while hiking it upto PKR 250 in the posh
settlements. The lifeline of these cable operators is the Hindi film.
Producers in Pakistan would have done
well to come up with a survival strategy to
counter the ready rental and sale of pirated
Bollywood in the local market and to get the
urban middle class back to the theatres. But,
rather unwisely, they have adopted a policy
that will only marginalise their audience further. Thev have begun to offer second-rate
Lollyvvood-ised versions of Bollywood bonanzas to that segment of society which has
no easy access to VCR and television. This
surely will fizzle out in the long run, as satellite access is extending to even the remotest of areas and all class segments.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the
over-protected film industry of Pakistan bitterly opposes the opening up of film trade of
any kind with India for fear of being
swamped. It ignores the fact that such a situation already prevails all over the country.
Everyone is watching Hindi films, anyway.
If nothing tangible is done to improve the
quality of local cinema to match the Indian
productions in an open market, the battle in
the field of motion pictures may well be lost,
without even encountering Bollywood face
to face. a
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
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 I t is a tricky, intricately structured dance that the Indian woman
does on the screen—one fluid step forward and two lurching
J1 steps backward — and one that has remained the same even if
I the demure dance of yore has convulsed into the brazen pelvic thrusts of an MTV-ised choreography. From courtly kathak
chakkars to the seductive Salsa gyrations, it may look like a long
journey. But the fact is the Kajol/Karishma Kapoor generation has
not really gone far from the traditions enshrined by the Nargis/
Meena Kumari era. The more things apparently change, the more
they remain rooted in the same patriarchal matrix of internalised
submission and futile gestures of rebellion.
The Hindi film heroine reflects the confusions and contradictions, compromises and complexities, anxieties and fantasies of a
schizophrenic society which wants to live simultaneously in its
5000-year-old past and the satellite TV present. Can one guess at
the embryonic tomorrow, which will only exacerbate this chaos?
That is why Hindi cinema can continue to mean all things to all
people and satisfy the atavistic need to entertain and moralise,
titillate and elevate, threaten and reassure our collective psyche.
That is also why at the threshold of the new millennium, the
Kajol of Hum Apke Dil Mein Rahte Hai is not really different from,
the Nargis of Amdaaz §0«years ago. In fact, Nargis. was a faiftmofe;
complex character reeking of internalised guilt who punished her--
self because the* other "man toyed her, "a married woman, arid she"
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 was unable to do anything about it except
shoot him — and kill off her own unacknowledged feelings for him. Mehboob Khan suggested intriguing layers in Andaaz—modernity in a woman is dangerous because the
signals she gives off threaten not only her
hearth and home but society itself; her freely
expressed, strictly platonic friendship is
misinterpreted by the wrong man; and she
is to blame for inspiring unsuitable passion
because her own innocent seductiveness is
so alluring.
eye patch underlines the male gaze. At her
worst, she prances like Karishma Kapoor to
the capers of a vulgar song, going at the
mating game with a gusto to match the indefatigable calisthenics of Govinda.
At her most pretentious, Aishwarya Rai
strikes languorous yogic poses in picture
post-card scenery to A.R. Rahman's Sufi-inspired music in Taal, all this strained aes-
theticism adding up to derivative kitsch.
This demure yogini of the hills is as quickly
transformed into the glitzy, belly-button-bar-
The hero and props:
Backed by Bobby
Deol, Kajol taunts
Manisha Koirala in
Cajoled by Kajol
Compare this to the plastic revolt of an inherently conformist Kajol in Hum Apkc Dil
Mein Rahte Rain, a regressive remake of a successful Telugu film where the a's
sanctity is reiterated for the thousandth time.
Kajol is supposed to be a self-respecting,
middle-class working girl who enters a contract marriage with eyes wide open for
strictly pragmatic reasons and yet, gets
bloodied knees from climbing temple steps
abjectly on her knees so that her ungrateful
husband can get well. The only novelty is
that she plays hard to get when the repentant husband realises that nobody else can
make a cuppa as wifey did and further, isn't
she pregnant with his baby? Unlike the recent crop of belly-button revealing houris,
in this film Kajol wears sindur, salwars and
saris, with matching glass bangles and the
all-important mangalsutra.
The mini-skirted, bare-midriffed brigade
has reduced us all to a navel-gazing society
but all this contemplation has not made us
any tiling more than avid voyeurs with prudish souls. Sartorially, you can congratulate
the new generation: you have come a long
way, baahby! At one time in film history, the
silken shringar of Meena Kumari's Chhoti
Bahu as she beckoned and cajoled her straying husband in a wine-drenched voice~ in
Sahib, Bibi Aur Gulam was the acme of eroticism. The screen bimbette now knows that
she is a sex object-cum-fashion model and
sometimes, her mascara-ed eyes glint with
the knowledge of her power and she sashays
even more provocatively.
But does this acknowledgement of her
sexual power make her aware of her own
sexuality? At her raunchiest, she teases us
to guess what Is beneath her choli— definitely
not her heart as the camera plays its own
game of reducing Madhuri Dixit to a sum of
her fractured body parts, while Sanjay Dutt's
•  *    :  ft » a ™ r
ing MTV diva who becomes an international star but whose heart still pines for
her first and only love. But unless the powerful men who control her fate—her father
and the music industry tycoon who is her
fiance —propel her physically and metaphorically, she can't even go to the man she
wants to marry. A high flyer with clipped
wings is normally her fate if the film is bold
enough to make her into a successful career
The screen is to the people's collective
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
 imagination what the courtyard is to a
household. This is intimate space where she
is worshipped as the sacred tulsi; a sacrosanct area into which the threatening, nonconformist modern woman may not enter
until she is prepared to sacrifice her individuality; at whose enclosed warmth the reviled tawaif. (prostitute) looks longingly, to
protect herself from the slings and arrows
of a censorious world. A woman crosses the
threshold that takes her out of the courtyard
of safe custom and comforting tradition at
Amitabh Bachchan vacuum of the 80s before the Khan trio of Amir, Salman and Shah
Rukh established its supremacy at the box
office. Indian feminism was shown to be articulate and seeking to make changes in law,
specially those pertaining to rape so that
the victim was not victimised all over once
again by the process of law.
So it was in the 80s that Hindi cinema
made the radical discovery —angels of
death in variations of the rape and revenge
formula. You saw front-ranking
stars clamouring to play the dacoit queen
taking to a gun or a female vigilante sworn
to vengeance after the trauma of rape. Whatever the setting and whoever the star, this
sub-genre immediately dictated its dress
code to fit a new formula. Either the heroine
or someone close to her is raped by a marauding dacoit or a gang of city goons. She
discards overnight her coy village belle
tricks, along with constricting lehangas and
The mini-skirted, bare-midriffed brigade
has reduced us all to a navel-gazing
society but all this contemplation has
not made us anything more than avid
voyeurs with prudish souls.
! 1
her own peril. So this creature is banished
to the art cinema ghetto where she can exist
with the courage of her contradictions.
Rape and revenge
Mainstream cinema can at best recognise current social trends, read the headlines of papers with selective interest and intuitively
understand the underlying anxieties of the
ordinary Indian. This explains the profusion
of the female avenger sub-genre in the post-
girl ish braids embellished with tinsel tassels. She quickly finds a male mentor who
could be surrogate father or well-meaning
lover for initial guidance. Her seductive
form is poured into skin tight black leather
jeans, high boots and even a whip to chastise the villain. Is that a coy recognition of
sado-masochism lurking under all the patriarchal bombast of Indian society? Of
course, all the heroines must have names
that invoke Kali, Durga and any other form
of Shakti. This easy invocation of ready-
made mythology is accompanied by the
same bombastic rhetoric declaimed by the
hero preliminary to destroying the vdlain-
The paradigmatic film of this sub-genre
is Zakhmee Aural, in which Dimple Kapadia
plays a cop who has to be punished with
gang rape for daring to take on male accoutrements of audroritarianism and has the gall
to ride a bike — phallic symbol for cinema the
world over. More than the usual titillation
to which the audience is inured, what is disturbing is the punishment aspect of the rape.
The other film is Pratighat, re-made shot
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
 Safe in his arms:
Amitabh Bachchan and
Nafisa Ali in Major Saab.
for shot from a Telugu original. The protagonist is the spirited housewife next-door, who
takes on the gangster politico with the help
of lower-caste activists and a chorus-like
madman. She has been publicly disrobed
but has her revenge by beheading her tormentor in public with an axe. She must sacrifice motherhood—by which she defines her
own femininity—in order to act like the hero.
Raj Kumar Santoshi's Damini is an
idealised conscience-rouser of the middle-
class out of its congenital apathy to injustice. The eponymous heroine is uncomfortably committed to speaking the truth even
when this endangers the reputation of her
rich in-laws. Damini has seen her loutish
brother-in-law and his friends gangrape the
maid during the Holi festival. Her middle-
class values subdue her conscience for a
while as she gives in to the combined persuasions of her uppity in-laws and the dilemma that her husband, a really decent
man, is caught in.
Following the unwritten law that puts
women with a conscience through the mill
of sadistic punishment, Damini is incarcerated in a mental hospital where she is
terrorised and certified insane. Tapping into
the ready availability of mythological reference, the drums of Durga puja send Damini
into a frenzied tandav dance and this shocks
her out of a near-lobotomised lethargy. The
real heart of the conflict-a traditionally
brought up Indian woman's dilemma when
her principles clash with family loyalty -
does touch a responsive chord.
It is this theme that rings true for ours is
a society in a state of flux where old certitudes no longer exist and individuals have
s to find their own scale of values. Damini
5 empowers a woman and celebrates her in-
° tegrity even though the narrative is enveloped in the usual safety net of conventional
Bollywood lollipops
Then came the 90s-a special decade
caught in a historical bind. It is a decade
burdened by the accumulated history of
past decades even as it waits breathlessly
on the beckoning threshold of a bright new
century. The triumphalist return of tradi-
W  Between plastic kitsch and hyped
I   high art, where is the space for the
■ Indian woman just to be, a person in
* her own right?
tional family values is inevitable in a society responding to the push-pull forces of
globalisation. These values are encoded in
phenomenally successful films like Hum
■ Apke Rain Kaun, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le
Jayenge, Raja Hindustani and Pardes.Thc
answer to a straying globalised audience is
to retreat into a fundamentalist past, accompanied by a celebration of ethnicity.
Women have always been made the cus-
todians and carriers of values enshrined by
feudal patriarchy The 90s celebrate and
perpetuate traditional virtues of obedience,
voluntary sacrifice of individual happiness
at the altar of family duty. True, family val-'
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
 ues are the new mantra for neo-conserva-
tives the world over in the wake of
communism's collapse and Fukuyama's
theory of the End of History.
If in the West, there is a discernible resurgence of conservative values in a post-
feminist and post-structuralist world, in India, reassertion of traditions can be attributed to a whole complex of reasons in the
wake of many complementary and contradictory trends. These films capitalise on the
felicitous combination of two historical factors — first, a nation's collective yearning for
the simple, comforting pleasures of family
bonds (more so when the nation, the larger
family, is threatened by violent movements
for autonomy on ethnic and religious
grounds); second, the perceived threat to
such familial bonding by the lures of rampant individualism as a result of unchecked
The political resurgence of Hindutva and
the culturally xenophobic and un-apologeti-
cally patriarchal ideology of a triumphalist
Hindu right-wing is the context and subtext
of these films. Hum Apke Hain Kaun marks a
watershed in popular culture because all the
subterranean anxieties of a threatened society are tillayed wdth persuasive charm and
the viewer goes home comforted by simplistic solutions offered for uncritical mass consumption.
The possibility of an educated young
woman asserting her individuality is a threat
to the feel-good euphoria created by commercial cinema. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
cleverly subverts this possibility after dulv
acknowledging this very individuality. First,
via Kajol's incipient rebellion and later, its
poignancy underlined by Farida Talal's recollection of how her own impulse for education was suppressed for the sake of her
brothers. Director Aditya Chopra is young
and savvy enough to dramatise Kajol's spirited rebellion but his ploy, again based on
the Punjab folk tradition of the boy working
to win the girl's family, reiterates the fact that
a girl must be passed on from father to husband.
Raja Hindustani is an unreal fairy-tale reversal of the hackneyed outsider-city slicker
falling in love with the innocent village belle.
Dharmesh Darshan asks us to believe that a
foreign-educated rich young woman can fall
in love with a charmmglv loutish, totally uneducated taxi driver with the most obsolete
ideas of manliness. He crowns the regressive message by showing the discarded wife
faithfully performing the ubiquitous Karwa
Chauth that surfaces in so many films.
Pardes capitalises on the love-hate relationship afflicting the Indian diaspora. This
is a love-hate relationship which has layers
within layers: of native Indians for their rich
cousins abroad, compounded with envy and
condemnation. Then there is the much-maligned and much-courted NRI who wants to
enjoy the best of the materialistic West and
keep intact the purity and spirituality of his
mythologised India.
Amrish Puri is the visiting NRI tycoon
who returns to his village and selects Ganga,
daughter of his childhood friend, as the chosen bride of his wayward, totally
Americanised son. "We need daughters like
Ganga to purify the boys who have been sullied by an American upbringing," he pontificates with gratifying pomposity! Ganga
is the flow of continuum which will redeem
the Americanised Indian with her core of tradition under the veneer of girlish high spirits.
Patriarchy continues to reign supreme
even in a tasteful lollypop wrapped in designer wear. At the heart to Kuch Kuch Hota
Hai, the bubble-gum entertainer par excellence, both Kajol and Rani Mukherjee enshrine Indian womanly virtues — Kajol as she
grows up from torn boy to chiffon-clad desirability and Rani, breaking out into the
devotional Jai jagadeesh Hare in spite of her
mini skirts and Oxford education. Hum Dil
Dechuke Sanam's self-conscious ethnicity allows Aishwarya Rai to rediscover the sanctity of her marriage when the nobly self-sacrificing, pucca desi husband seeks to reunite
her with her first love who is an insouciant,
half-Italian Romeo.
You can take the modern Indian woman
to the trough of tantalising independence but
to make her drink its liberating water is impossible. The heroines, with the exception
of strikingly individual Kajol, roll off the assembly line wearing the same pout, Manish
Malhotra dresses, flaunting designer tresses,
pirouetting their aerobicised bodies to the
MTV beat, like so many Indianised Barbie
dolls. At the other end of the spectrum is the
lyrical celebration of Madhuri as the timeless Apsara by none other than M.F. Hussain,
India's most high-profile painter. Between
plastic kitsch and hyped high art, where is
the space for the Indian woman just to be, a
person in her own right? In a mirage?        A
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
 Monika Mehta
n 1954, 13,000 women of Delhi presented a petition to Jawaharlal Nehru
asking him to curb the evil influence of
films as it made their children play
hooky from school, acquire precocious
sex habits, and indulge in vices. Responding to this petition, the prime minister stated:
"Films have an essential part to play in the
modern world. At the same time it is true
that any powerful medium like motion pictures has a good effect and a bad effect. We
have to take care therefore that we
emphasise the good aspect of it."
For Nehru, films were linked to the
project of modernisation. However, this technological medium and its owners needed to
be subordinated to the state so they did not
work against the interests of the government.
This concept of film censorship, along with
the requisite routines and procedures, was
established by British colonial administrators ostensibly to guard the morals of the
natives and to prevent them from sinking
into depravity, religious bigotry and/or ethnic strife.
In 1918, despite objections on grounds of
liberty from the Indian members, the
country's legislative council passed the first
Cinematographic Act which addressed the
licensing of cinema houses and the certification of films declared suitable for public exhibition. In 1920, Boards of Film Censors
were set up in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and
Rangoon. At first, these boards functioned
without any rigid rules —later the Bombay
Board drew up a list of suggestions in the
form of the General Principles of Film Censorship for guiding the Inspectors of Films.
These rules were based on the censorship
rules drawn up by the British Board of Film
All through the 1920s, there were strong
protests both in England and among English
residents of India against the kind of films
that were being shown in India. Individuals
and citizen groups demanded tighter control and stricter censorship because they
were concerned about the way whites were
being represented in these films, in particular the sexualised representations of white
women. They felt that these representations
would be detrimental to England's moral authority. They also feared that Indian men
might think that white women were sexually available and, more importantly accessible to them.
Besides concerns regarding their moral
authority and their women's well-being, the
British were also interested in protecting
their financial interests. In the year 1926, 80
percent of the films shown in India were
American and 10 percent British. The British wanted to reduce the exhibition of American films and, in their place, show their own
productions. The British hoped to literally
censor/ban American films on the grounds
that they violated the censorship rules. Unfortunately, this was not to be after the 1928
Ranagacharia Committee Report found no
major differences between the effect of
American and British films on the "natives".
In fact, they suggested that all white people
appeared the same to the natives. To the British claim that they wanted to limit American films because they wanted to promote
the "indigenous film industry", the Committee responded that if that were true they
should help the natives —not themselves.
After independence in 1947, the Indian
government amended the Cinematograph
Act and created two categories of censorship
certificates: 'A' for films restricted to adults
and 'U' for universal unrestricted exhibition.
This act created a distinction between films
for adults and films for children with the only
difference that the 'A' category was defined
by the amount of sex and violence in them.
In 1969, following concern over the rise
in sex and violence in films the government
set up the Khosla Committee to inquire into
the working of the existing procedures for
the certification of films for public exhibition
and related matters. The committee made
many recommendations with regard to the
principles of censorship, but the debate focused solely on the representation of sexuality with the committee advising the Censors that "If, in telling the story it is logical,
relevant or necessary to depict a passionate
kiss or a nude human figure, there should
be no question of excluding the shot, provided the theme is handled with delicacy
HIMAL    12/9    September    1999
The regulation of female sexuality in film
has always been central to defining
India's national identity.
and feeling, aiming at aesthetic expression
and avoiding all suggestion of prurience or
A flurry of articles and interviews seeking to (re) define Indian tradition followed
the Khosla Committee report. The proponents of censorship contended that representations of sexuality such as kissing and 'exotic love scenes' were 'un-Indian', with its
opponents arguing otherwise. This is an example of the fact diat the battles over Indian
national identity are continuously waged on
the terrain of sexuality as revealed by the list
of objectionable visuals and the history of
censorship debates over the years. It is the
female body which is overtly and overly
marked as the sexual body—and the body
which must bear the burden of Indian tradition and farruly values.
Both the proponents and opponents of
censorship heatedly debate whether depiction of sexuality is part of Indian tradition
or not. Whether "double-standards" for
judging Indian vs foreign films maintain Indian values, preserve colonial puritanism or
reinforce a patriarchal status quo, and
whether this national prudishness in any
way affects the state's (and a portion of the
public's) much desired goal—to be modern
and democratic. A debate that demonstrate
that the regulation of female sexuality is central to national identity.
That the relevance of female sexuality as
an organising principle of Indian national
identity recently has been illustrated by the
debate over Subash Ghai's Khalnayak (1993).
The controversy centered on the song "Choli
ke peeche kya hai? (What is behind the
blouse?)" which was nearly censored for its
'obscene' lyrics. As the supporters and the
detractors of the film song competed to define Indian tradition, questions concerning
sexual ethics emerged.
Both sides attempted to produce a so-
1999    September    12/9    HIMAL
called Indian 'tradition'.
Some supporters
characterised the song as
a 'folk' song and therefore, a part of India's long
tradition of sensuality
which can be traced to the
Kama Sutra. They claimed
that the current puritanism is a colonial legacy
which was imbibed and
propagated by leaders
like Gandhi. Conversely,
its opponents contended
that the lyrics are 'obscene', 'vulgar', and 'un-
Indian.' They claimed that
such lyrics are part of the
West's immoral influence.
What complicates the
debate on Indian tradition
further is the specific function the film industry assumes in a growing capitalist market. In Khalnayak, the film song is a conduit
for the commodified presentation of the female body. As Ganga dressed in the conteo-
versial blouse struts across the floor, tire camera salaciously focuses on different parts of
her anatomy. This body is presented as a
sexy package which is sold in theatres and
video stores for huge profits.
But after all is said and done, it is just
plain ironic, that the act of censorship only
generates public desire to view the censored
film and ends up increasing the film
Industry's profits. Thus, on the one hand,
these effects are contrary to the state's objectives: of guarding public morals and limiting film industry's profits, and on the other,
they support a less visible state objective:
the maintenance of patriarchal systems. Censorship remains central to national identity,
even as it generates desire, profit and corruption all the time. A
Under prying eyes:
Nandita Das and
Shabana Azmi in Fire.
 ■ if b' gff   ears from now, when my back is bent double
with age,T shall tell my grandchildren that I
.^W     once went to aconcert by Lata Mangeshkar.
What is more, I shall tell them with pride that I
I. „ |B-;-   survived the ordeal.
Lata performed last autumn at the Nassau Coli-
seurri in-Long Island, the usual East Coast venue for
the popular, Bdllvwood-inspired ex-
"'  trayaganzas that seem always to
; touch a special chord with ex-patriots
from the Subcontinent in the US. The;
Coliseum is an indoor stadium where
7.   ice hockey matches are fought out, and
;:; can normally seat up to 18,000 beer-
swilling, hot dog-munching Ameri1
,   cans. On "Lata Nite", the place was
packed to. the rafters with desis-^-1
7 Sardars, Sylhetis, Pathans, Gujaratis,'
Sinhalese, Malayalis; Kashmiris, the
works —all eating sarriosas/ vadas
and "dhoklas dunked in tart tamarind
;■ chutney ,'        ■ ■■■'','     .     " - * „  "'
* •  • "this being an Indian event -(and
given our puritanical fetishes), there
; was absolutely ho beer on sale, only
- „C6ca Cola", Sprite arid & variety of other
* * effervescent driijks. Those in search of i
any fizz that night Would find it> alas/
i:* irr those .drinks aldne, for the evening's
star was as- flat:" as a papad. -And given
that she is in her 70rh-year, her voices
was. just as brittle. Not to put tpo fine a*
7 point op the1 matter/ Lata sounded "aw»
1 ~ fuL/ and only marginally .better*thau
! the handful o£ jokers she had brought;
. with1, her as her support act.   '   . -i * *
.. " - A§ you may/have guessed^ Lam not
afanof Lata Marigeshkar. In fact, L
1 haye always disliked her singing. Her little girl's" voiced
\ the relentlessly high octaVes, her excruciating.humil-
;- -ity and the unyielding plainness of her aspect—I haye
.hated thenf all. I do not h6ed +0 tell you, by tire" same
"■ token, that a legion of men would have lynched me id
a trice had F expressed any of these views aloud in the
queue for the rest-rooms, or the line-for the popcorn.
(The lyncher-in-chief would surely have been Kanu
" Chauhan, the.real estate dealer.from Queens, in New
-. York, whose Rajsun Megastar Entertainment flew Lata
* "to America. Bv my crudest calculations> the concert
' - made about a million dollars at the box-off ice.)
Prudently, I kept my thoughts to myself that night:
But here, under the protection that this column affords,
I will say this: Lata has been bad for Indian music. -More
than that, she has been a disastrous influence on Indian
cinema..     • ■ .,        .-.'""
Certainly, Lata is not short of veneration. Glancing
[ ,;at the flyer for the concert, one.notes that-Amitabh
: * Bachchan once said that "when the voice achieves per
fect harmony with a note, it is as if the soul has soared
up to become one with the supreme beingi That's how
1 feel when I listen to Lataji", The normally measured
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan is the author of this hyperbole:   *
"If the Taj Mahal is the Seventh Wonder of the world,
then Lata Mahgeshkar is the Eighth." Gulzaf, given to
greater excess, penned this gem: "Lataji's voice is a
cultural phenomenon of our times. It's
a part of our daily intake. We pass no
day without hearing that melodious least once —unless one is
deal." (My fi rst pri ze for the most risible quote/however, goes to the late  <
Nargis, Who once gushed that "Inever 2
needed to use glycerine while emot- b
bag to sad songs rendered by Laf a *
Had It not been for Lata's presence—she began sin sing for films
O c?       O ft  j
with Majboor (1947) —Hindi cinema
might have taken a different path. Pro-r
ducers came to be so utterly reliant on
her voice, and the spell that il ap- <- ,
pearpd to cast- over the great Indian b -!
* public, that the "growth of any other- „
type of film but the "musical" was
doomed to failure in Bollywood, Of   «
course'there were other; singers, such. *'
as. Mohantrned Rafi, Kishore.1 Kumar, *
Hemant Kumar and Asha Bhosle": but *
"Lata Was the bedrock of film 'sangeet. '
■fhe Indian iilrrt-wallahs are; no fori-   .
ously conservative.-Having Observed «;
how she "made" lilts for theih/they
were unwilling to abandon! a lucra-* .»■
five formula.* A fortress-like genfe-was' *
built around her voice, that of the"mu- ~
skal block-buster, "ensuring.that "rj*--   -
^allst" fihn-makers would forever-be in thejdo^riouse. <
. As if that were not bad enough, Lala's success gave - ,
rlseip a style of singing that was ^blindly imitative.'
Across fire country, women sought to match her voice,
producing ersatz Lata-esaue sounds, that grated" more b,
than they gratified,, Pakistan may not have much of a *
film industry, but at least that country's female singers-. »
have character,     ..        ■.'■■■     ''>•-..-.,,"     -« ,'* '*
Each one sounds different, eaeh hag her own voices * ,
her own andaaz. In lndia,*for years "now, all chfmteuses * !
have sounded exactly like Lata. The grande dame has- ,'
killed off all originality, pon't misunderstand me: I do* "
not wish Lata 01. I desire for her, Instead,;a leng>rtd
healthy bid age..-:ButT,do wish that she would retire   J
now, and rest on her laurels. As-she shewed us at ..the - «
Nassau. Coliseum, the sparkle has gone. Let us move" *
on to the next chapter, and the next Voice      - - . ™ * A*
A version of this article appeared"! rWnd/a Today (North American   J *
Edition),. ■   . ...
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The devolution package means all things
to all people in Sri Lanka, while the cynical pursuit of peace continues.
by D.B.S. Jeyaraj        	
Some weeks ago in Sri Lanka there
occurred an event withheavy political overtones that went largely
unnoticed by the media. A mock funeral ceremony was staged by an assorted group of Sinhala Buddhist
hardliners, including monks, in the
southern city of Matara. The 'corpse'
in this case was the devolution package, the constitutional reforms proposal that aims, among other things,
to introduce maximum devolution
amounting to qua si-federalism for
the island, AH the ritualistic exercises
of a traditional funeral ceremony
were observed but there was one crucial difference; instead of eulogising
the dead person as is customary at
funerals, speaker after speaker expressed glee over the death of the
devolution package.
For Sinhala hawks, the very idea
of devolution or power to the periphery has been anathema. They
believe that any form of devolution
will weaken the centrist state and
strengthen Tamil separatism, ultimately leading to the division of the
country. The mock funeral was
therefore a jubilant manifestation of
Sinhala hardline perception that
the envisaged devolution package
was not going to materialise as effective legislation. And they have
reason enough to exult.
The constitutional reforms
scheme, first publicised in August
1995, is more or less ready to be presented in Parliament. There, it has
to be passed by a two-third majority, after which it would have to be
ratified at a nation-wide referendum
before becoming law. Since the ruling People's Alliance (PA) does not
command a two-third majority, a bipartisan consensus with the chief
opposition, the United National
Party (UNP), is necessary. The UNP,
however, has been evasive over the
issue of lending support, while other
minority parties have been expressing reservations over certain provisions of the package.
Faced with this uncertainly, the
government has been threatening to
resort to other constitutional means
to get the reform bill passed. These
measures which, according to
President Chandrika
Kumaratunga constitute a "constitutional revolution", consist of
three options: 1) to go for a snap
presidential election which the PA
hopes to win because of the popularity enjoyed by the charismatic
Kumaratunga over her chief adversary Rani) Wickremasinghe. The
proposals would then be presented
in Parliament seeking UNP support,
failing which the Parliament would
be dissolved and polls announced
Sri Lankan soldiers at a Samp vigil for
missing comrades in Colombo.
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 seeking a two-third majority on the
issue; 2) to stage a consultative or
non-binding referendum on the
devolution issue, and win well.
Thereafter, the devolution package
would be submitted in Parliament
with the expectation that the UNI'
would be morally bound to support
it. If the UNP persisted in non-compliance, fresh elections would be
called; and 3) to submit the constitutional reform proposals in Parliament now, anti inveigle a section of
the UNP into supporting it. Failing
that, both presidential and parliamentary elections were to be held
on the assumption that favourable
results will emerge.
War for peace
The Kumaratunga government's
twin-track policy towards the LTTE
(Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam)
continues apace. This strategy, described as "war for peace", consists
of seeking a consensus on greater
devolution to isolate the i.T'i f politically, while at the same time, conducting a war aimed at weakening
the Tamil Tigers militarily to ultimately pressurise the rebels into accepting a political settlement.
In the earlier stages, this approach had gone down verv well
both internationally and nationally.
But gradual disillusionment set in
as expected progress could not be
achieved. Militarily, the LTTli continues to be a resilient force, and unconquerable in spirit, despite having lost territory. Politically, the L'NP
continues to prevaricate, nullifying
in advance the presentation, and
passage, of the devolution bill in
Parliament, with Wickremasinghe
even recently stating that the party
was opposed to the scheme. There
is thus a stalemate, politically as
well as militarily
Meanwhile, the Tamils have become increasingly alienated from
the State. The ongoing war has
caused unprecedented hardship for
them. The government can argue
that this phase of the conflict is due
to the Lntransigience of the i tit:, but
it is not an argument that is going to
appeal to the Tamil community. It is
the consequences, and not the
causes of the conflict, that are felt
and remembered. Moreover, the Tigers have in recent times launched
a series of assassinations against
Tamil political leaders supportive of
devolution, including that of the co-
architect of the government package, Neelan Tiruchelvam who was
killed on 29 July. A climate of uncertainty has arisen among Tamils over
what their role should be if and
when the devolution package is presented in Parliament.
The government had been hoping for some convincing victories
over the LITL in the North. This, it
was felt, would influence voting
patterns in the Sinhala south, which
would not stand in the way of devolution if it was perceived that the
package was passed after the government had established a position
of strength on the ground. They
would be unlikely to support devolution if thev felt that it arose out of
compulsion. But the tardv progress
of the military, coupled with sporadic reversals at the hands of the
Tigers, has delayed political action
on this count.
While the government dilly-dallied with its political strategy, the
UNP was making headway in terms
ofthe minority, notably Tamil, votes.
This vote bank had deserted the L'NP
en masse in the presidential stakes
of 1994, enabling Kumaratunga to
win a record 63 percent of the votes.
Recent local and provincial elections, however, demonstrated that
the minority voles were now shifting in favour of the UNP,
This shift in itself is paradoxical
as one would expect the Tamils to
support Kumaratunga, since it was
her government that formulated the
far-reaching devolution proposals
while Wickremasinghe's UNP has obstinately blocked its passage. But the
reality is that, rightly or wrongly, the
Tamil people has veered around to
a state of mind that sees only two
things as crucial to its interests. First,
it wants the war stopped and secondly, it wants negotiations to be resumed with the n IL for, in spite of
their track record, the Tamils gener
ally perceive the Tigers as being amenable to a negotiated settlement. The
UNP has realised this general sentiment and is exploiting it to the hilt.
Its stated position on the ethnic issue now is that the war should be
suspended and negotiations with
the LTTE reactivated.
This was the precisely the platform on which Kumaratunga had
campaigned in 1994. Today, the
tables have turned and the UNP is
using Kumaratunga's own mandate against her, even though it is
clear that the U.NP is resorting to political gimmickry and not articulating a principled position. The UNP
has rejected several attributes of the
devolution package as being too
concessionary to the Tamils, whereas
the Ul IL has dismissed the package
as falling far too short of Tamil aspirations. Talks between the two parties which are so diametrically opposed on the fundamentals are
doomed to lead nowhere. Nevertheless, most Tamil people, straining
under the effects of a military campaign, seem to prefer an immediate
mirage to a distant oasis.
Cynical peace
Of more immediate concern to the
PA is the fact that both the presidential and parliamentary elections are
scheduled for 2000. Recent provincial councils in the seven Sinhala-
majority provinces show that the PA
only enjoys a thin-edge majority
over the UNP. Resurgent political
forces like the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP) are also gaining in
strength. It seems that without a
crushing military victory over the
Tigers —a highly unlikely proposition at the moment —there are no
chances of the Sinhala voting pattern shifting in the government's
That is where the Tamil vote
turns vital, and which also explains
why the PA is revising its strategy.
The first indication of this came
when the government went back on
its word that the devolution proposals would be presented in Parliament before 19 August. With
Tiruchelvam dead, there remains no
1999   September 12/9   HIMAL
 one from among the Tamils with the
stature to effectively exert pressure
on the government to do otherwise.
The Kumaratunga regime is now
preparing to emulate the UNP and go
in for talks with the Tigers as a prelude to presenting the devolution
Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, a senior
minister, has gone public saying
that the LTTE should be consulted before the devolution package is presented in Parliament. Other ministers, including Kumaratunga's
trusted lieutenant Mangala
Samaraweera, have participated in
a massive public demonstration calling for peace talks. An initiative begun by sections of the business community is also being actively supported, lt envisages a bipartisan
consensus to be achieved between
the PA and the UNP before 30 September and then a delegation to go
to meet the LITE leader Velupillai
Prabakharan. Recently, Foreign
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar,
himself an ethnic Tamil, hastily summoned a press conference, announcing talks with the Tigers at an
"appropriate juncture". Even the
armv is showing signs of de-escalating military activity. Tt is also
showing flexibility in reaching a negotiated understanding with the
LTTE on opening a direct land route
to Jaffna, instead of trying to establishing one through force as in the
past. All these clearly point to a directional change.
The LITE has not failed to seize
the moment. It has sent out feelers
that it is ready for talks. The
organisation's political adviser,
Anton Balasingham, has relocated
to London, where he is engaged in
seeking the good offices of various
countries and organisations to act
as third-party facilitators and mediators for negotiations without preconditions. So tremendous has been
this push for peace talks bv the LEI F.
that several influential members of
the Sri Lankan peace lobby have
openly interpreted the killing of
Tiruchelvam as a declaration by the
LITE that they too want to be part of
the devolution process.
Sceptic's Prabhakaran
It is now clear that the government
will not proceed on the devolution
path without talking to the Tigers.
This is where the real danger to the
devolution exercise lies. Analyst?
who have observed the LTTE and
Prabakharan, find it difficult to believe that the Tigers want a participatory role in the devolution process, lt is more likely that the LTTI
wants a reprieve that would nullity
the devolution exercise permanently. The LTTE supremo is not one
to ever compromise on his ideal of a
separate country and no amount of
devolution can compensate for this.
But even those who understand this
well, hesitate to argue against peace
talks because no right-thinking person wants to be viewed as being
The talks that will be part of this
cynical pursuit of peace by both the
government and the LTTE will be
flawed from the very beginning because they will have been necessitated not bv principled positions,
but by practical expediency. The
end-result would be a rigid hardening of positions after the fling for
peace is over, leading to a vigorous
demand from the southern side that
all attempts at devolution be halted
until the Tigers are routed.
Should such a victory be
achieved, however unlikely it may
seem now, the Sinhala hardliners
will triumph, and insist that devolution is redundant. Leaders like
Tiruchelvam strove ceaselessly to try
and ensure that such a scenario did
not unfold. But the extreme forces
tliat have appropriated the political
leadership of the Tamils will have
none of this. They are intent on pursuing a dangerous dream of trapeze
artistry without the safety net of
devolution that Tiruchelvam and
others were trying to set up. As long
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A couple of months after the
./'""Il Kargil conflict, some intense
soul-searching by the Indian print
and electronic media is revealing
that much of the national press
meekly toed the government line
and fanned war hysteria at the cost
of objectivity and professional ethics. Prominent journalists have
come out with scathing indictments
of the Indian media and their contents are indeed shocking for what
it portends.
The Times of India's Sidddharth
Varadarajan writes that Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh's
allegation — made at the height of the
Kargil conflict — that the bodies of six
dead Indian soldiers were "severely mutilated" bv Pakistanis, was never substantiated. "Virtually every newspaper carried the gory details released by an Indian wire service without waiting for independent confirmation. Such
confirmation never arrived...
During the war itself, at least
two newspapers received information that the allegation
was highly exaggerated —
probably onlv one of the bodies bore signs of mutilation.
But the journalists who received
the information, chose to remain
Varadarajan has also revealed
that a newspaper and a magazine
received reports from its correspondents at the war-front that Indian
soldiers had mutilated the dead
bodies of Pakistani soldiers in retaliation. But after heated editorial
debates, it was decided to kill these
stories —at least until the fighting
was over.
"The Indian media was on test
as to how fairly it would report and
interpret. But overall, it failed
miserably," says columnist Praful
Bidwai. "The general style of reports
was: '50 Pakistanis killed and II gallant Indian soldiers laid down their
lives'. So our boys became dedicated soldiers and Pakistanis barbarians; our leaders are mature politicians and theirs prisoners of dark
forces. It is upto the government to
say all that. Why should the media?"
N. Ram, editor of Frontline magazine, said that the distinction between the reporter and the army man
was blurred during the fighting.
"Objectivity was the biggest casualty
in the coverage of the Kargil conflict," according to another weekly,
Outlook, which also said that journalists chose to become participants instead of remaining objective observers in the revered war correspondent
Analysts have also accused independent' TV news channels of becoming a propaganda wing ot the
state bv suppressing the truth and
glamourising war. Giving instances
of censorship and manipulation,
Bidwai said that recycled stock pictures were frequently presented as
live footage.
Another commentator, Sagarika
Ghose, wrote that no attempt was
made by print or TV journalists "to
scrutinise the role of the military
from the citizens' point of view". TV,
she said, has a duty to make sure that
legions of jobless young men don't
unthinkingly give themselves to the
armv in order to die for their coun
try because of a false bravado. "We
were shown [puzzlingly] brave parents promising to send more sons to
the front if need be. What about parents who were sad? What about parents who cried and said I want this
war to stop and 1 don't want my son
to die?"
Analysts said that even if soldiers
in Kargil couldn't voice their doubts
about the war before television cameras, reporters should have dutifully
paraphrased their fears to project a
balanced picture. The Indian media
also failed to question the official figure of 410 dead and 594 injured in
six weeks of intense fighting in one
of the world's most treacherous
battlegrounds. "How is it possible
that casualties on the Pakistani side
were higher —as India claims —
when they had all the advantage of
higher ground? The Indians should
have suffered higher casualties
than the Pakistanis," said
Arthur Max, New Delhi bureau chief of Associated
Another senior journalist of The Times of India, Jug
Suraiya criticised the coverage of the shooting of a Pakistani plane in the Kutch
region soon after the Kargil
conflict. Wrote Suraiya:
"Was the wreckage of the
Pakistani reconnaissance
aircraft really retrieved
from Indian territory or, as
circumstantial evidence indicated, was it salvaged from across
the border to give the prime minister a vote-catching photo opportunity?"
"The suppression of truth...and
the dissemination of half-truths and
innuendoes did not save lives. All it
did was undermine the reputation
of the Indian media," warned
Varadarajan. Perhaps the most insightful comment came from Seema
Mustafa, political editor of The Asian
Aye, who pointed out that the Kargil
conflict exposed the warts and the
moles the Indian media has managed to camouflage over the years.
—S.N.M. Abdi
1999   September 12/9   HIMAL
PARDON THE certitude, but two
years after the fact, I can only say I
told you so. The topic is serious: violence against women. Chhetria
Patrakar had suggested that a
Unicef report was mistaken in showing a picture of a man leaning (very
Southasianishly) against a wall as if
to indicate that he was hitting the
woman standing by him. The editor
of said report had sent an angry note, printed in Himal's
January 1998 issue, but CP had stood his/her ground.
Now, this information from Dhaka. The Drik Picture Library, which has put up the same image on its web site
(, provides the caption: "An old man leaning on the wall with his arm raised, pursues a young
prostitute who
shies away from him. Kandupatti brothel, Dhaka,
Bangladesh." Violence all right, but not the kind originally proposed.
I WISH South Asian royalty (those that are left —in
Bhutan and Nepal) could be this informal and "of the
people". The picture shows
Jordan's new King Abdallah,
his Queen Raina and brother
Prince Ali cheer for the
country's soccer team after it
defeated Iraq 2-1 on 25 August. Of the two South Asian
kings, King Jigme Singye
Wangchuk of Drukyul certainly mingles more with the
people, but spontaneity seems lacking and there seems
to be cool media-savvy calculation behind everything,
including sitting down for lunch with the juniors at
high school or playing basketball. But then, he runs a
small country so it may even be feasible to seem more in
touch with the subjects. King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah
Dev of Nepal, who used to venture occasionally to regional durbars where he mingled after a fashion, has
for the past decade of democracy kept quite aloof inside
the silver-gilded railings of the Narayanhiti Royal Palace.
THE CLAXON must sound for all South Asian education, if what was reported in The Deccan Herald regarding the abysmal proficiency level of government schools
in the Bangalore South Zone is true, as it must be. A
study of 55 Kannada-medium schools showed that 68
percent of the students in seventh grade could not write
properly in the Kannada or English alphabet. More
shocking, fully four percent could not distinguish between "living and non-living things", reports the paper.
Now, when students cannot differentiate between a
blackboard duster and the miss at the head of the class,
it is time to get worried.
SELFSAME DAILY News has this picture of a boy and
cow together with a writeup entitled "Abundance and
happiness in Rakwana's hills". Obviously the modern-
day Garden of Eden lies in Sri Lanka, for the front-page
story goes: "On the fertile and beautiful hillsides of
Rakawana, life treats peasants better than it does on the
plains below. The cows here are better fed for the lush
grass they feed on, the children are healthier and happier for the creamier milk their cows give. Little
Arumugam is bilingual. He goes to an estate school close
to his home. The water he drinks is pure
and from a tumbling waterfall close to his home.
Arumugam owns a hen that lays orange yolked eggs.
His parents —who are estate workers—have a vegetable
plot, and while they eat fresh, home-grown vegetables
they also supplement their monthly incomes. Where
nature is kind, everybody is happy." Ahh, South Asian
GOING BACK to the scale of human development in
South Asia, I refuse to believe that Bhutan is as low down
the charts as the charts as the international agencies
consistently show it to be. I suspect that this poor showing (which probably suits Thimphu just fine for
the foreign aid that it can still attract) has to do
with the GDP being divided per capita in a country which has evicted roughly a seventh of its
population. The country's standing would obviously be much better if the state's annual income
were divided among the fewer Bhutanese that
fijl presently live within Bhutan.
I TOO would be proud of my country if the
UNDP's Human Development Report, recently released,
were to indicate that it had the highest standard of livr
ing in the region. I would even give it top billing and a
large-size headline. What I might not do is give it a lead
which says that all this is "due to the pragmatic economic policies pursued by the People's Alliance Government led by President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumarantunga". FYI, Sri Lanka is now in the "medium
development" category,
ranking 90 among 172 Lanka has highest
nations, followed by India    -,.   . i        i •
(132), Pakistan (138), living standard in
Nepal (144), Bhutan (145) c    4 _•
and Bangladesh (150).   ' &. ASIA - UNDP report
THERE IS a sense of make-believe when discussion
turns to ISI infiltration into India, via the Indo-Pakistan
border, the Line of Control, the virtually open
Bangladesh-India border, or the fully open Nepal-India border. While the Indian government is fully within
its rights to give news about ISI infiltration, what I
would like to ask is why is the Indian government not
making a bigger deal of it if it is true to the full extent
claimed? Why is it not raised publicly as a major point
for discussion when the two governments meet? I can
HIMAL 12/9 September 1999
understand diplomatic niceties stopping New Delhi
from placing "ISI and related matters" on the formal
agenda, but this topic definitely does not seem to get
the amount of time it needs when the two sides meet.
The Assam Tribune headlined the fact that tightened security on the western Indian frontier post-Kargil had
led ISI to seek passage to Kashmir via Bangladesh. An
ID card of an alleged Pakistani infiltrator, Md. Javed
Wakhar, was also produced and printed. As things
stand, the subject will die there, with no follow-up
within India, and certainly Pakistan is in no hurry to
come up with its own version of wherefore might lie the
GOOD NEWS photography. It is hortal day in Dhaka,
and a peaceful one at that. Police saheb has nothing to
do, and a doctor friend passes by. The most natural thing
to do is to have a blood pressure check, right? Right.
P    tions from two
St.. Bangla papers,
J which as a rule
g, love to provide
'j   pictures of
Il| placid proces-
fe sions and dem-
f onstrations in
mb progress:
"South Asia Nari Progati Sangha, a women rights
organisation held a rally lighting candles at the Central Shaheed Minar for peace and security of women in
South Asia on Friday." That's from The Dhaka Observer.
The other one, from The Independent: "Bhola: A procession brought out in Bhola town to mark the Fish Week."
I like it tbat Bangla ladies are concerned for all South
Asian womanhood, and I also like the fact that fish are
receiving some respect, at last.
grand old and isolated Druk Yul will come down to the
level of all of us South Asian plebs is obvious from "A
Fashion Show" advertised in Kuensel, sponsored by
Motorola and Acer and Druk Air and River View Hotel
(this being Bhutan, the river view must indeed be splendid). The show will feature Madhu "Sapree", Manpreet
Brar and 14 unnamed top models from Delhi and
Bombay. Boy, this is a show just made for the Dashos,
the Ashis and the expat crowd of Thimphu. Enjoy!
HOORAY FOR the female students of Jahangirnagar
University in Bangladesh who, when the university authorities would not act in evicting "rapist groups" forcibly staying in the university dormitories, banded together (all 500 of them) and raided the said dormitories
and ousted the said rapist groups. Now if the female
species showed as much organisation (it takes a lot of
that to get 500, if the reported number is indeed correct,
acting in unison) and gumption in all other social matters, they would indeed be bringing some change in
this male-dominated Subcontinent of ours.
TWO INDIAN Air Force jets
were involved in the engagement that shot down a
Pakistani military reconnaissance aircraft which
may well have been "intruding" into Indian airspace. If I were the IAF, for
the sake of decency and not
stoking fires any further
than they need be, I would have not made the two top
guns, Squadron Leader P.K. Bundela and Flying Officer Sanjeev Narayan, available for smiling, chest-out
photographs. Sixteen people died when they brought
down that Atlantique aircraft. They may have been Pakistanis, but remember all of them spoke with the same
accent as officers Bundela and Narayan. A point I cannot help but repeat.
WHY IS Rangashri Kishore, librarian for Unicef at Lodhi
Estate in New Delhi, sending a letter for printing in the
letters column of The Independent of Dhaka, announcing
that s/he has received "this year's Ascla Exceptional Service Award from the American Library Association",
given "Primarily recognising my work towards serving
the mentally ill and also providing library and information support for the disadvantaged"? Why has this letter been sent to Bangladesh, and why did the editors
see it fit to print?
ftftftftft ftftft:
ft.ftft-ftftftftft   ...
I HAVE nothing but good wishes for
Prabhat Khobar, "the largest circulated
Hindi daily in South Bihar", now printing in Patna, Ranchi, Jamshedhpur
and Dhanbad. This is just what we
I need in South Asia, proliferation of ver-
_ nacular media, and the more competi
tion the better. However, what I like
-—-- about Prabhat Khabar is the fact that it
is "a product of Neutral Publishing House Limited".
AH, WHAT a day, when the premier Buddhist state of
South Asia, Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka, debars the
Dalai Lama from paying a visit to the emerald island. A
foreign ministry official did not assign any reason for
the ban, but the Daily Mirror ascribed it to an apprehension that China would disapprove. And so fear of Beijing
fells yet another sovereign South Asian state in its dealings on Tibet. Could it be, also, that the Mahayana-esque
bent of the Dalai Lama's Buddhism is somewhat at odds
with the Hinayana/Theravada brand practised in Lanka?
Oh, shush!
—Chhetria Patrakar
1999  September 12/9   HIMAL
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Assembly-line sisters
The Nepali women' you get to know from the development blurb are
conveniently homogenous. All are equally poor illiterate and oppressed.
by Seira Tamang
"If n the struggle against patriarchy, the idea of 'sis-
Si tcrhood' lias been the key political force. 1 lowever,
■* since the "1970s the idea that "all sisters are equal"
and that all women suffer the same oppression simply
because they all are women, has come under serious
criticism. The works oi African-American, Latino,
Asian and other Third World feminists have shown
manifold vectors —class, caste, race, ethnicity, age,
sexual orientation —that structure the way oppression
is experienced. Such work has enabled us to not only
see the dangers of ignoring differences among women,
but also to see how the major systems of oppression are
very much interlocked with each other.
To take an example, Betty Friedan's theorisation of
the American women's oppression in the otherwise
path-breaking The Feminine Mystique (1963), has been
revealed to be woefully inadequate in explaining the
lived realities of the poor, single, black mother struggling to survive in the ghettos, based as it was on the
experiences of middle-class, white suburban women.
The recognition of differences, the aw'areness of the difficulty in generalising 'women's problems', and the
need for reflexivity (in terms of thinking about the position from which one speaks) have been and continue
to be, contentious issues in feminist thcorisations and
In the US, black and other women of colour continue to accuse white 'sisters' of being racist and not
being able to understand the double oppression they
face being non-white and female in American society.
Tire rise of autonomous dalit women organisations in
India, asserting their differences with both the
brahmanism of the Indian feminist movement and the
patriarchal practices of Dalit politics, speaks to similar
concerns. The issue is the manner in w^hich a certain
template of 'feminist/women's concerns' has been constructed and authorised by certain elite women.
Based on their own very specific historical,
social, cultural and material realities, this process of
authorisation has had the effect of including and excluding specific knowledge claims and establishing the
boundaries of what is to he rendered 'the truth' and 'the
reality' of women's lives. Thus, pivotal to the issue of a
re-conceptualisation of more inclusive feminist theories
and practices includes recognising the differences between women, lt is these very concerns that feminists in
Nepal appear as yet to be blissfully oblivious of.
Stereotyped womanhood
Since the path-breaking studies in the late 1970s to the
1980s on "The Status of Women in Nepal" undertaken
bv the Centre for Economic Development and Administration (O'DA) at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University, two
things have been very clear: women in Nepal and the
work that they do have been statistically under-represented and peripheralised in the development process;
and women in Nepal are not homogenous.
Of these two findings, however, the fact that women,
in Nepal are a heterogenous group has, for some reason
or other, been largely sidelined. Indeed, it is a mystery
of sorts that while practically every report/paper concerning women and development in Nepal begins with
remarks about the ethnic heterogeneity of the population, the rest of the piece unproblematically continues
with a discussion ahout 'Nepali women'. It is as if the
obligatory blurb on ethnic and other differences needs
to be included but is in the long run irrelevant to the
discussion of 'Nepali women' and their gendered realities.
With the discourse about women in Nepal remaining at the level of 'Nepali women', issues of class, caste,
religion, and age, as well as ethnicity, have been rendered irrelevant. Reports, conference presentations and
speeches continue to evoke the image of the 'Nepali
woman' as poor, illiterate, uneducated, choked by patriarchal domination and oppressed by tradition and
superstition. For consumption in the international arena
and for political sloganeering, such generalisations are
useful. The problem is these very reports, articles, etc,
are also being produced for research and other uses in
Clearly, the utility of such reports in the national
1999 September 12/9  HIMAL
 arena is questionable. Such facile generalisations are of
no practical use in a country, where, to give an example,
the lives of an entrepreneurial Sherpa woman living
in the mountain region of Solo Khumbu and the
middle-class Bahun (hill Brahmin) housewife, contain
considerable gender-related differences. The latter tend
to be regimented bv strict Hindu notions of sexual purity and pollution which restrict her freedom of movement beyond the home, while for the Sherpa woman,
her involvement in the market economy is much val-
Civen such contexts and the fact that socially constructed notions of'being a woman' are intertwined with
other societal identities as race, ethnicity and religion,
the continual use of "Nepali women are..." or "Nepali
women need..." speaks of the creation and propagation
of a fictive 'Nepali woman'. Most conducive for international "sisterhood bonding" against the evils of patriarchy, easily targettable for development projects, and
meshing quite nicely with official nationalist notions of
the ideal (Hindu) 'Nepali woman', it is this caricature
which reigns supreme.
With 'Nepali women' being framed as homogeneously poor, illiterate, in need of 'empowerment' and
having their 'consciousness raised', manv claims are
made concerning what'Nepali women' require and want
in their lives. A lack of reflexive thinking on the matter
of 'who speaks for whom' is inextricably linked to the
nature of the development industry in Nepal. An elite
group of native informants has appeared in all sectors
to communicate findings about the "poor, uneducated,
illiterate and undeveloped natives" to non-Xepali-
speaking donor agents. Hitherto unquestioned in their
authority— being Nepali and being female — to produce
information about 'Nepali women', the reports, etc, of
these elite women hardly acknowledge the relative positions of power and privilege from which they speak.
The problem of speaking for others does not appear to
be a problem for them.
Historical circumstances have meant that those who
currently have the educational levels necessary to belong to this elite, are most likely to be from the 'upper-
caste' Bahun and Chettri (Kshatriya) families. This means
that their experiences of being a woman in Nepal is circumscribed hy a very specific ethnic, caste, class, and
religious milieu. Hy not acknowledging the limitations
in their 'understanding' of the experiences, wants and
needs of other women living in Nepal, and yet propounding certain policies and proposals on behalf of
their "uneducated, less-fortunate Nepali sisters", the assumption is that their 'womanhood' and ''Nepali-ness'
guarantee absolute understanding of the lives of other
women of Nepal.
Gatekeepers of hierarchy
That the problem and danger of speaking for others remains to be acknowledged in Nepal at a lime when it
has become almost mainstreamed into feminist dis
courses and practices everywhere else, was further illustrated recently in the opposition by some members
of this elite circle to the hiring of foreign gender experts.
Apart from other reasons, the dissent was based most
strongly on the sense of a 'womanhood' and
'Nepali-ness' which automatically lends itself to more
'authentic' accounts and awareness of gender issues in
Nepal. Certainly the vantage points these women have
vis-a-vis foreigners cannot be discounted but such unre-
flective arguments serve to authenticate and validate
their own unproblematised, packaged versions of the
'Nepali woman's' life and their own role in raising the
consciousness of their un-educated, un-emancipated and
tin- liberated 'Nepali sisters'.
While questions of representation seem quite theoretical, they have verv real implications, for, hidden and
unreflected in reports and speeches are the repressive
hierarchies which underlie relations between women in
Nepal. Far from the realm of "sisterhood is global" slogans of the Kathmandu-based women/gender and development offices, the dynamics in the field have not
been the "sisterhood bonding" experiences they may
have been.
For instance, a Fun (hill ethnic) friend accompanying a foreign, female researcher to a Gurung (another
hill ethnic) community encountered the following situation. After talking with the women ot a village for a
while, she was beckoned aside by one of the Gurung
women. For over half an hour, the Gurung woman then
poured out her heart, starting with how glad she was to
see another janajati (ethnic) woman instead of those
Bahun women who came from Kathmandu and told
them what they needed, or what they had to do as decisions had already been made bv the "office", or just because she said so, because they (the Gurung women)
were too uneducated, slow and dumb to understand
"these things" anvwav.
Such stories are numerous. Other janajati women
have related how in 'participatory' gatherings, the
women are all made lo sit around in a circle but once
they voice anything that is not approved of by the invariably Bahun or Chettri development worker, a stern
glance or cutting remark follows. Issues of internalised
stereotypes aside, remarks like "we are slow to understand and those Bahun women, who are so quick and
clever, boss us around" reveal that these janajati
women —purportedly in need of having their consciousness raised —are all too conscious and aware of the
power dynamics imbuing relations between women in
Nepal—unlike most consumers of Nepali W1D/WAD/
CiAD reports and speeches.
It must further be noted that such forces are not restricted to the 'field'. As more janajati women enter tbe
development workforce, encounters with Bahun and
Chhetri women — invariably in higher positions of
power within the offices —reveal the same hierarchical
and repressive structures. Janajati women's perceptions
of critical issues to be raised as it pertains lo women in
HIMAL 12/9 September 1999
 Nepal, defined bv their own particular historical, social
and political experiences, are seen to be irrelevant or
"too political" to be presented to the higher echelons of
power. This sieving process means that again, donor
agencies are deprived of a more heterogenous and indeed, more problematic picture of 'Nepali women' by
the female gatekeepers of such information.
Perils of erasures
It is thus no wonder that advocacy of certain issues
have hitherto had dismal results in Nepal. Be it property rights, domestic violence, etc, the impact and implications of proposed laws and legislations on ethnic
and other groups of women have not been fully researched. There has been no acknowledgment of the
different contexts in which women are embedded and
therefore the differential impacts that the
proposed legal and other changes
could have on their lives. Nor
has the potentially different
manner in which women
perceive certain issues
been considered. For
example, some janajati
women have stated
that as janajati
women, they are
more vulnerable to
rape. For, while
men may hesitate in
raping 'high caste'
women, the fact that
janajati women are
'known' to be more
'sexually free' within
their societies, make
them more 'touchable'
and 'available'. (Indeed
questions have been raised
as to why the focus on differences
between janajati groups and others have always been
on issues of sexuality, with consequent concerns of the
ensuing sexual stereotypes and the dangerous repercussions thereof.)
Furthermore, while as concerned as anyone else
about the trafficking of women and girls to brothels in
the Nepali towms and to India, voices have also been
raised against the manner in which janajatis have increasingly been derisively labeled as "those in whose
culture one can sell off their own daughters and sisters"—yet another image added to the list of negative
stereotypes of janajatis. As women, the trafficking of
girls and women is obviously of concern to janajati
women. Yet there is also the sense of a need to stick
together wdth janajati men against the Bahun and
Chettri hegemony that has historically oppressed them
and seeks to continue to oppress them.
It comes as no surprise, then, to find that there exists
among janajati women a suspicion of the motives of the
current players in the women and development sphere.
Apart from feeling that they are being used in order to
shore up funds, these women are additionally wary of
those women leaders as being those who would seek to
silence them. The fact that two janajati women's
organisations have recently been formed and registered
in Nepal can not only be seen as advocating the need to
recognise the specificity of their being women and
janajati, hut an attempt to challenge certain powers of
representation. In the particular historical, social, economic and cultural context of structured power relations,
the prioritisation of different issues or different
aspects of the same issues thus cannot be facilely ascribed to patriarchy or the lack of a certain level of 'consciousness'.
The failure of advocacy groups to
garner support must be situated
in issues of rural/urban, class,
ethnic, caste, age and religious divides, and the
manner in which the
creation of certain images smothers the
lived realities of others. While it is understandable that
women branches of
political parties
would be hesitant
and are indeed vocally against the embracing of 'difference', the opinion of
so-called women intellectuals that recognising
differences is part of an insidious plan to break apart
the 'women's movement', reflects an enormous poverty of
thought; furthermore, the rebuttals to the need to
recognise the problem of speaking for others have
mainly consisted of "well they (janajati women) themselves don't come forward" (an alarming off-the-cuff
remark from a very 'big' and visible feminist proponent
at a recent seminar).
Thus, some 20 years after the publication of the Status of Women volumes, the level of analysis has not
reached for more depth. More than ever, there is a need
to rethink the manner in which women in Nepal are
conceptualised, researched and analysed. At the heart
of this re-conceptualisation is a need to recognise that
to embrace difference is not to automatically peri) the
struggle against structured inequalities. Indeed, the
minimalisation of other peoples' experiences, if not the
erasure of their lived reality, is a fundamentally
self-debilitating foundation from which to attempt any
development or build any movement. ^
1999 September 12/9 HIMAL
 Ho coups in India
Tin baton mitary Is known to stay away from governance. Maybe
not lor much longer.
While hundreds of military es
tablishments around the
world have seized power or at least
encroached upon civilian authority
for many years nowr, the quiescent
attitude of India's large army has
puzzled sociologists and scholars.
Apurba Kundu, a scholar at the
University of Bradford in the UK,
decided to analyse this extraordinary non-event, eventually publishing the book under review.
Kundu's work, however, is incomplete, partly because he ran into
India's obtuse bureaucracy that suspected his motives, and partly because his interviewees are only described m general terms, i.e., "high
ranking retired major general". (The
writer got 95 retired officers to fill
out a questionnaire, and interviewed 44 civilians and soldiers.)
But quibble as we might about his
methodology, some information is
better than none: even gossip sometimes offers clues, if closely examined.
Relying by and large on published sources, Kundu traces the
evolution of India's military establishment from the struggle for independence onwards. Very early on,
India's military understood that the
overwhelming consent of the Indian
people was essential for any institution to govern India. This resulted
in the military's decision to keep
away from politics.
After Independence, jawaharlal
Nehru's seemingly naive assumption that with pol itical control would
come civil supremacy of rule proved
true. Until, of course, Nehru's
trusted but rather disliked defence
minister Krishna Menon, along with
cronies like General B.M. Kaul, left
the military establishment appalled,
especially during the Himalayan
blunder vis-a-vis China in 1962. In
fact, throughout the first decade af-
Militarism in India: The
Army and Civil Society in
by Apurba Kundu
Taurus Academic Studies,
London, 1998
230 pp, GBP 45
ISBN 1 86064 318 3
reviewed by Maroof Raza
ter Independence, Nehru's choice of
defence ministers —Sardar Baldev
Singh, Mahavir Tyagi, Kailash
Nath Katju— was repeatedly unwise.
Even so, India's military' officers
never offered themselves as popular alternatives to the Nehru government. In the post-Nehru period, too,
the military establishment clearly
stayed away from the body politic,
perhaps because the Congress party
had a strong electoral base, and was
seen as spearheading a nationalist
movement. It was also because
India's post-Independence generation of senior army officers were
mostly Sandhurst-trained, and were
steeped in the British tradition of
democracy, with clear separation
between military and political concern. The tradition still exists in India, but unfortunately, unlike in the
West where "government" means
the parliament and its elected members, in India, the civil servant has
become the pivot of India's defence
The Indian army's respect for
civil supremacy stands in sharp contrast to the situation in Pakistan,
where the army too had inherited a
similar tradition. But because the
politicians —initially at least—were
happy to leave matters of defence
and security to the army, it was inevitable that the military stepped
into the political arena. Moreover,
political mismanagement was so
glaring that when Ayub Khan took
over the country in 1958, the Pakistani public welcomed the
military-bureaucratic symbiosis.
But military rule in turn gave free
play to vested interests in defence
purchases and ultimately in foreign
policy. Fhus, having established a
precedent of intervention in politics—under tbe guise of national
interests —Pakistan's military has
now become a completely political
Nehru legacy
India's unusual civil-military equation is thus the legacy of the Nehru
era, but over the years, a rift has developed between the bureaucrat and
the soldier. It was this uneasy relation which led to the unprecedented
sacking of naval chief Vishnu
Bhagwat earlier in the year and the
removal of defence secretary Ajit
Kumar. India's armed forces have
for long opposed the total financial
control that civilian bureaucrats enjoy over military budgets; even service chiefs have to seek the approval
of junior bureaucrats for routine expenditure from the defence budget.
Admiral Bhagwat had sought to
change this structure, and also the
control that the bureaucrats enjoy
over the selection and purchase of
military equipment and in the approval of key military appointments,
lie may have had a valid point there,
as most of the bureaucrats are pure
'generalists', not spending more
than a few years with the ministry
of defence before moving on to another ministry.
Interestingly, the admiral's sacking took place at a time when India
was trying to embark on a
programme of nuclearisation. This
incident brings home the point
Kundu's book attempts to make-
that the military in India has no say
over the policy-making process. For
instance, India's highest body for
professional military advice, the
Chiefs of Staff Committee, does not
have direct access to the Cabinet
Committee on Security. It has to go
through the defence secretary, who
is the true pivot of India's defence
establishment. Kundu writes that if
India were to deploy its nuclear ar-
HIMAL  12/9 September 1999
 senal, then its generals, admirals
and air marshals, and also some
junior officers, must be accommodated in the nuclear chain of command.
The book is useful for understanding the essence of civil-military
relations in India. The likelihood of
a military coup —an oft-discussed
topic —depends as much on the
military officers' perception of the
civilian leadership as on their own
sense of professional responsibility.
If a regime is perceived as incompe
tent or illegitimate, civilian supremacy could then be under threat.
After 50 years of Independence,
while Pakistani Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif is keen to show the
military its place (the ouster of army
chief Jehangir Karamat being an example), in India, it is the civilian elite
that is keen to adopt military-like
values. What this holds for India
and even Pakistan, Kundu does not
examine, but he does make it clear
that it was the waning interest of
Indian politicians in defence mat-
ters that allowed its military officers to practise soldiering free from
any external interference.
This 'non-interference' set the
tone for the subsequent relations between India's elected representatives and its soldiers. But while
India's military has earned the highest marks in repeated opinion polls
for its integrity and conduct, India's
politicians are seen to be largely corrupt and inept. No wonder India's
armed forces have begun to demand a
greater say in strategic planning.       A
Everything you always wanted to
know about globalisation
aome time ago, in a currency
lealer's room in one of the big
banks in Singapore, this Nepali
writer was amazed to see sums
equalling Nepal's GDP changing
hands every hour. The sheer volume
of money that was multiplying itself was astonishing. This big world
of money was difficult to comprehend. It was a time to wonder what
an ordinary citizen from South Asia
might think about the astronomical
amounts of money that today float
around in the world of finance, and
whether s/he had any idea of how
his/her life was being impacted by
that movement.
A Citizen's Guide to the
Globalisation of Finance is a near-perfect guide for people who have heard
and know a little, but have never
quite figured out the entire gamut of
finance, especially its global reach.
Kavaljit Singh provides a base from
which one can begin to understand
the world of international finance,
how it is beyond the power of
national governments to control,
and also where and how it goes
The book guides the reader
through the process of economic
globalisation and looks at its trends,
key players and instruments. It then
focuses on the economic flu that has
struck countries from Mexico to
Thailand, and how the contagion
spread amongst the East Asian tigers in 1997. It also evaluates the
prescriptions of big daddies such as
the International Monetary Fund,
analyses their efficacy, and provides
advice on how to monitor globalisation and provide resources for action. Fhe conclusion is simple
enough: when capital flows are uncontrolled and when currency
transactions exceed a country's total reserves, it is a recipe for collapse
and could easily happen again.
So how was it that the Indian
A Citizen's Guide to the
Globalisation ol Finance
by Kavaljit Singh
Zed Books, London, 1999
pp xi+187, INR 120
ISBN 81 86818 08 9
reviewed bv Suieev Shakya
economy came out of the East Asian
crisis more or less unscathed? The
author believes that some degree of
control remained in South Asia and
that did not allowr sudden outflows
of cash. Relatively insulated from
international capital markets, India
wTas thus cushioned. Thailand used
to be the ultimate IMF dream
model—it had left itself wide open
to short-term capital flows and
speculators. During its globalised
phase Thailand benefited from inflows, but the money flowed right
back w7hen, as they say, someone
sneezed. This fleeting nature of global capital flows was not properly
regulated, and was the reason for
the crisis. The Thais had to go back
to the same IMF, but the bail-out
turned out to be more like a sell-out.
The book cites numerous examples of bullying by supranational entities like the IMF that dictate every facet of the economy of the
countries they bail out. These institutions, themselves very undemocratic and unaccountable, impose
on nations that have to rely on them,
values that are as alien to their own
inner workings.
Like-minded readers may enjoy
a chuckle or two over snide remarks
against the IMF and the World Bank
that pepper the book. A sample:
"Rather than policing global finance capital on behalf of the
people, the IMF is policing the
people on behalf of global finance
1999 September 12/9 HIMAL
Communism and
by Henry S. Bradsher.
Oxford University Press
Karachi 1999
pp xi+ 443
PKR 550
Sheds fresh light on the
origins of Afghan
communism, the nature of
it s rule, the composition
of the Mujahideen, and the
Soviet decision-making
process in invading
Afghanistan and then
decidingto withdraw.
Bangladesh at
25; An Analytical
Discourse on
Edited by Abdul Bayes
and Anu Muhammad
The University Press
Dhaka, 1998
pp xv+401
BDT 550
fssues in
by S.Akbar Zaidi
Oxford University Press
Karachi, 1999
pp xiv+462
USD 25
Floods: View
from Home and
by Salim Rashid etal
The University Press
Dhaka, 1998
BDT 750
ft* * „ itf *
Highlights and addresses
institutional issues in the
delivery of social services
in Pakistan, helping explain
why high rates of economic
growth have not been
translated into impressive
social sector outcomes.
Region and
Partition: Bengal,
Punjab and the
Partition ofthe
Edited by Ian Talbot and
Gurharpal Singh
Oxford University Press
Karachi, 1999
pp vii+407
PKR 595
Puts vital issues pertaining
to economics, politics and
society into one volume.
A comparative perspective
on the two Muslim majority
areas of the Subcontinent
most affected by the
turmoil following the 1947
Environment and
Poverty: Key
Linkages for
Edited by A. Atiq Rahman
The University Press
Dhaka, 1998
BDT 400
Tradition and
by Fred Dallmayr
Sage Publications
New Delhi,1998
INR 395 (cloth)
INR 225 (paper)
Selected papers from the
proceedings of two
conferences arranged to
discuss the recurring
problem of catastrophic
flooding in Bangladesh.
An Evening of
Caged Beasts:
Urdu Poets
Translated by Frances W.
Pritchett and Asif Farrukhi
Oxford University Press
Karachi, 1999
pp xxxiii+24B
PKR 495
Conference papers,
discussing shared
experiences at global,
national and community
levels that resulted in a
common understanding and
action plan.
Indian Traffic
by Parama Roy
Sage Publications
New Delhi,1998
pp vi+233
INR 225
Documents the search of
Indian intellectuals,
politicians and writers to
forge an 'identity' in the 20th
The Pakistani
Voter. Electoral
Politics and
Voting Behaviour
in the Punjab
by Andrew Ft. Wilder
Oxford University Press
Karachi, 1999
pp xix+341
PKR 495
A selection from the work
of seven poets which
begins a new mood in
contemporary Urdu poetry.
Focuses on the continual,
unpredictable, and often
violent 'traffic' between
identities in colonial and
post-colonial India.
Contains extensive
quantitative analyses of
electoral data, in particular
of polling station returns.
HIMAL 12/9 September 1999
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 Something is lost when stories
from different parts of south
asia are not shared. litSA is
short for literary south asia-a
new department started by
Himal with the August 1999
issue in an effort to bring
together the literary talent ofthe
Subcontinent. The creative
voice of women and men from
all over the region, we feel, are
as necessary to share as the
journalist's presentation
or the social scientist's analysis.
Himal invites writers and poets, whether
established or new talent, to make
submissions to litSA at:
Anmole Prasad
Editor, litSA
Radhamohan House
Relli Road, Kalimpong - 734 301
West Bengal, India
Tel: 0091-3552-55098/55134
email: mole@dte.vsnl.netin
http ://ww
FitSA prefers unpublished material in the form of
short fiction, poetry, memoir, travelogue, literary
essays or criticism. We also welcome book
reviews and literature-re lev ant interviews, as also
book extracts which can stand aione.
Nationality or regional origin is no bar, as long as
the submission has a link to south asia.
We prefer receiving submissions by email or on
diskettes. If submitting on paper, please do not
send in the original. Prose should be typed double
spaced, and poems should be submitted
Announcing the
arrival of Himal's
Literary Pages
Himal hopes that litSA will
develop as an important forum
for writers — contemporary and
traditional, and from
everywhere, inside and outside,
the centre and the margins, and
from all sides ofthe barbed wire
fences that attempt to divide the
south asian people. Besides
featuring a wide range of literary
styles, litSA will encourage
experiment and adventure.
Above all, it will champion the
writer's right to be irreverent.
Over the years, Himal believes
litSA will help develop an
indigenous appreciation ofthe
region's creative talent, free from
the shackles of power
publishing and marketing hype.
We also aspire eventually to
bring to readers anthologies and
collections culled from the best
writings that feature in litSA.
4. Translations should specify the source and,
wherever possible, the author's consent.
5. Manuscripts/diskettes wil! not be returned unless
requested and accompanied by self-addressed,
pre-paid postal requisites.
6. Submissions may be edited. Please note on the MS
if your work has also been submitted to another
7. Remuneration for published works will range
between USD 50 and USD 150 decided at
our discretion; literary merit being one of the main
*Every effort will be made to respond to submissions and queries in the shortest possible time.
The sealed coffin containing my father's mutilated
body lay in the middle of our drawing room. By the
side of the coffin, where his head should have
ordinarily lain in full view, two large oil lamps threw an
eerie glow on my mother's swollen tear-streaked face
resting at the other end where my father's feet should
have been duly encased in new white socks; she gave a
watcher the wrong impression that she was quite at peace
with herself. No one would quite know the fire of sorrow
that must've been burning within her; my parents had
been extremely close to one another, in spite of, or perhaps
because of, being married to each other for 26 years. The
whine of the table fan, running constantly to keep the
flies away from the
sealed coffin, took up
the grieving from
where my mother left
off, exhausted.
My sister, having
no more tears, sits two
feet away from the
coffin that is supposed
to contain her father's
mortal remains,
staring into thin air, as
if trying to
comprehend what
really happened, while
her husband, his arm
around her, fights
hard to fend off the
sleep, heavy on his
eyelids, In all, my
father's funeral did
not lack anything from the point of view of a traditional
funeral rightly due to his generation, except in the manner
in which he died and the unusual way his coffin was
Unable to bear the gloom within any longer, I walked
outside to see whether I could keep myself occupied. The
depths of despair into which my happy family had
plunged, suddenly became too much for me and I felt a
couple of tears streaking down my cheeks on the way
out. Outside, the scene was entirely different People
were playing cards and caroms to while away the time,
while others were busy preparing the obligatory
decorations for the road to the cemetery. I noted
immediately a couple of persons, quite drunk,
pretending valiantly to be sober when they saw me.
Someone pressed a cup of coffee into my hands and I
suddenly realised that it was 5.00 aRi: my father wil] go
out of our lives forever. I decided to walk to the nearby
junction to see the morning newspapers to check the
death notice.
In 1974 my father, an Assistant Stationmaster until
then, got his first posting as a full-fledged Stationmaster
to the Medawachchiya Railway Station in the heart of dry
zone, about 30 miles north from Anuradhapura. Being the
eldest in a family of two brothers and a sister, I had to do
a lot of the work, packing up our stuff, though I was only
10 years old at the time. When wre got off the train at
Medawachchiya, there was a group, mainly Railway
a short story by Janath Tillekeratne
employees and their families, gathered on the platform
and my father was welcomed with a traditional garland
by his deputy-to-bc Mr. Nadarajah—- later my favourite
Uncle Nada. In the gathering, 1 noticed a little girl clad in
a traditional Tamil dress: a long skirt and blouse made of
shiny material, her hair woven with lovely white flowers,
staring at us with wide black eyes, hiding behind the folds
of her mother's sari.
That was my first glimpse of Rewathie.
Rewathie was the eldest daughter to Uncle Nadarajah
and Aunty Kamala; she had an older brother called
Balendran and a little sister called Shashikala. Amongst
all of them I always found Rewathie to be outstanding,
though we always fought
with one another over the
pettiest of things. I found
the massive black
birthmark right on the tip
of her nose rather ugly and
tormented her endlessly
about it; she fought back
hard being the spirited
soul that she was.
However, she became
Rami's best friend: my
ymmger brother
worshipped the very
ground she walked on.
The moment both of us
returned home from
Medawachchiya Central
School, the first thing he'd
do was to see whether
Rewathie had returned
from the Tamil Girls School to get her to come and feed
him his lunch. My mother too simply adored Rewathie
and ail of them were furious with me for being the only
one who fought with her.
Who is that ugly skinny boy with the neiu Stationmaster?
Is he his son and is he going to be my neighbour? His nose is
too long and his body too scraggy. How could any one ever like
That is how Ifelt about Sunil when I saw him for the first
time, from behind my mother at the Medawachchiya station,
unconsciously trying to cover the ugly birth mark on my nose
with her sari. Uncle Dmga, as I began to fondly call Sunil's
father—derived from his name Dingiri Banda—looked every
inch the sweet man he was from day one and so was Aunt
Seela. But the best in the family was little Ranil, who looked
like a little Lord Krishna with his curly hair falling over his
shiny little curious eyes wiih their drooping lids. 1 immediately
hitched on to him and we became friends right away.
Time flew by with Uncle Dinga teaching us English, when
he had the time, and my father, being the devoted Hindu that
he was, telling us a whole heap of mythological stories.
However, little Ranil was a poor listener and for the first time
Sunil and I found something in common listening to my
father's narratives. He always made fun of the mole on the tip
of my nose and called me a mongoose when our parents were
out of earshot. But Ranil, he was a real darling and couldn't
spend a moment without his Rewathie Akki.
1976, the Sinhala New Year: mv father asked Uncle
HIMAL   12/8 August 1999
Nada if he could take Rewathie and little Shashikala along
with us to our village in Matara; Uncle Nada consented
without a moment's hesitation. Both the families having a
very good rapport with one another, and being the best of
friends, it never occurred to us then that we belonged to
different communities. But I was in my adolescence and at
a stage where girls were an anathema; 1 did not relish the
prospect of a member of this hated species spending a
whole month with us—and in our village at that.
Fortunately both the girls spoke very good Sinhala, with a
slight accent though, and they could converse easily with
everybody back at home. Gradually I learnt to accept them
and even volunteered to take them on beach expeditions,
where we gleefully went to collect seashells. On Sundays
when my father came home on weekends, he took us for
sea baths and 1 still recall him carrying Rewathie on his
shoulder into deep water, while she cried in mortal fear. I
also recall my mother desperately shouting how she would
not be able to face Uncle Nada if the unspeakable
happened to his daughter just because of my father's
One day Rewathie, who was 10 years—at that time 1
was 12—was playing marbles with some of the village
boys when she had a streak of luck and started winning
continuously. I considered myself above marbles and was
watching the game with amusement when one of the boys
who'd lost all his precious marbles to Rewathie, hit her
on the hand, causing all marbles to spill. In anger,
Rewathie caught the little boy by his hair and hit him
with her other hand. Suddenly all the others around her
ganged up on her, calling out, "Demalichchi,
demalichchi!" All of a sudden, she lost the spirit to fight
back, covered her face with her hands and started crying.
At this, something snapped inside me; I started whipping
all the boys ignoring the fact they'd been my friends
since childhood. They disappeared, leaving us alone.
How can 1 ever explain what passed between us at that
time? There was a glow in her face and a strange light in
her eyes; neither of us spoke a word, but kept on staring
at one another for a long time. Finally I could not bear it
any longer and turned homewards.
lord Shiva, why do 1 feel this way? I can't sleep. I ain't eat
and I can't concentrate on my studies. There docs not seem to
be any room in my heart for anything but Sunil. I tried to
convince myself he is ugly, too tall and thin to be handsome,
but he still manages to emerge above it all. Is this what they
call love? Is this how my mother felt, towards my father? But
Lord Shiva, he belongs to a different community and a different
religion, so how can we ever get married7 I must try to forget
him. No I can't do that. Life 'without him will be so empty and I
cannot even think about it. Torgive mc, for right now I lore
him even more than my parents.
Things have changed at home: it is not my younger
brother who looks for Rewathie now but me, the great
Rama. I will never let any harm come to my beautiful
queen. There were times 1 felt uneasv casting the ancient
Sri Lankan King Ravana as a villainous figure and it also
must have then been crossing my yet-undeveloped mind
that Rewathie was a Tamil, but all these misgivings
disappeared whenever I saw her smiling face. There were
days I found half-eaten toffees on my windovvsill—at
times covered with ants.
One day after coming from school, she was not to be
seen. Even Ranil was dismayed that his Rewathie Akki did
not come to see him that day. In the afternoon, when I
could not bear it any longer, 1 asked my mother
offhandedly where Rewathie was and she only said that
Rewathie would henceforth be considered to be a grown
up;  I knew what she meant.
Lord Shiva, this confinement is killing inc. 1 am dying to
sec Sunil but my mother says I hai'c to stay like this for three
days more. How can I ever explain to her the anguish 1 am
going through? All I have is this stupid book of his with his
name written on the first page and now I have read it more
than ti hundred limes.
I will never forget the day her attainment ceremony
was held. Dressed in the finery of a Hindu bride, on a
dais which resembled the stage used for Sinhala
weddings called a poruwa, Rewathie really looked the
image of Princess Sita. Liven the mole at the tip of her
nose, which 1 had found so repulsive, looked like a
diamond placed there by the gods, increasing her beauty
a thousandfold.   My father, usually sensitive to my
moods, noted the change in me but being the wise old
man he was, never spoke about it.
When 1 asked Uncle Nada why they had to dress her
like a bride, he told me that it was an old custom among
his people, which permits the parents to see their daughter
as a bride and store it in their memory in case she happens
to pass away before she actually gets betrothed. When it
was time for her to pay her respects, immediately after
greeting her parents in the traditional Hindu style by
touching their feet, Rewathie came directly to my father
and my mother and much to their pleasure and to the
surprise of everyone else, took a bunch of betel leaves lying
on the table and offered to them with joined palms in the
Sinhala way. Without knowing it, Rewathie walked in to
our hearts as an adult, just as easily and effortlessly as she
did as a child.
Mi/ Sunil looks smart in his new long pants, but I just can't
look into his eyes for a long time any longer, because they seem
to burn into mine. Goddess Parwathie, did you feel the same
way when you looked at Lord Shiva in your youth?
1976 April: my father accepted an invitation from
Uncle Nada to join them for a three-day visit to Jaffna.
We all boarded Yal Devi Pxpress from Medawachchiya
and since my father was the Stationmaster and Uncle
Nada his Deputy, we managed to get a large 2nd class
compartment all to ourselves. Within half-an-hour every
adult in the family was fast asleep, whilst the younger
children were gathered at the two windows. Her left
hand was resting cm the windowsill below the open
shutter and was not visible to those within the
compartment; suddenly my hand, generating a motion of
its own, touched her fingers and bound them in one solid
lock. How can I ever explain, or relive, those few moments
we had together1
/ will never ever let go of this hand, even if the whole world
rises against me. My love for Sunil wil! never wither away and
by Lord Shiva 1 will look after him in his sickness, in his sorrow
and in everything else. 1 don't know about him, but all lhe
persistent and nagging doubts in my mind about our different
communities, are no more. 1 may be just 12, but I know how
much I love him and will never ever leave him. My only problem
1999  September 12/9  HIMAL
 ..... litSA
will be to make him learn to tike thosai and uppuma; but if he
does not like them, 1 will get used tu his food: ' will learn how
to prepare poloss from jackfruit and ambul thial from tune, just
the way Ids folks made them back in Matara. ■.<> that he will
never eat anywliere else. Lord Shiva will understand if I go to a
Buddhist shrine with him. After all isn't Lord Buddha
supposed to be a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu? My brother
and sister will laugh -when I chant   "Buddham Snranam
Gachchami", but if it brings a lot of happiness to my Sunil.
that is enough for me. Sunil will also not find our temples a
strange place, because there is a temple for Hindu gods in
every Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka.
July 1977: the nightmare. On an early morning of this
accursed month, we hear the newspaper vendor shouting
at the top of his voice that Five Sinhalese Policemen Killed
by Tamils in Jaffna during Festival. My father was on duty
at that time expecting a train to pass through while 1 was
getting ready for school. When I read the incendiary lead
story, I felt my young blood boil and wanted to rush to
Jaffna and kill every Tamil there. That moment, my
Rewathie and the unspoken dreams we'd shared together
were quite forgotten. My father came home looking quite-
alarmed and told us that communal riots had broken out
in Colombo and adjacent areas where innocent Tamils
living among the Sinhala were being killed by angry mobs.
In my rage I praised the Sinhala patriots and then, for the
only time in my adult life, my father slapped me with all
the strength he could bring to bear. Though it brought
tears to my eyes, the slap taught me the only lesson 1 ever
needed to know. Suddenly I realised that venting one's
anger on people like Uncle Nada and Rewathie for
something done by a handful of unknown people of their
community was an unpardonable crime. Unfortunately,
not many of my contemporaries had a father like mine.
Medawachchiya was on fire, Tamil shops in the city
were looted and owners beaten up mercilessly by
gangsters pretending to be patriots and the citizens had no
option but to stand by and watch the outrage. But my
father was different: he immediately went next door,
brought Uncle Nada's family home and locked them up in
his own bedroom. Also the family of another Tamil
subordinate who worked under him, a man considered to
be of low caste. Then my brave father sat on the doorstep
in his undershirt, standing guard.
What is happening? Why is everyone trying to kill us? We
have done nothing wrong to them. Andawane, please help us.
Don't let them kill us.
Nothing happened that day, because the looters had
enough places to exploit; but next morning, when they
had finished with the Tamil shops, they turned their
attention to Tamil residences and swarmed to the Railway
Dept compound like a bunch of hungry jackals. I knew
most of them, but on this particular day, their faces were
unrecognisable. Some of them had blood smeared on their
clothes, and for the first time my little mind tasted fear.
But one look at the defiant face of my father, who at that
time looked to me like the great warrior Bheema from one
of Uncle Nada's stories, washed all my fear away and I
stood right next to him trying to look as tall as possible.
Andawane, will they kill my Sunil and Uncle Dinga to get
to us? Please Lord Shiva, save them for they are trying to
protect us. Aunt Seela will be a widow and ! will also be
without my life if anything happens to my Sunil.
The leader of the gang, a vagabond called Ukkuwa,
approached my father and asked defiantly whether we
were harbouring any Tamils in our house. My father
informed him very quietly that if he wanted to find out he
would have to go inside, but over his dead body. A man of
few words, my father did not sav anything else, but Uncle
Nada shouted from the locked room that he was there and
that the gangsters could come and have him without
killing anyone.
What happened next was the most unforgettable
incident of my life. My mother, carrying a bawling Ranil
on her hip, walked out with the massive chopper she used
to split firewood. Handing it over to my father, she said
deeply and without emotion: "Kill them if you have to, but
don't let them get at Nada and his family." The tide
shifted in our favour. Unable to face the stupendous
amount of energy generated by my parents, the mob
melted away. Two days later, a police jeep drove up to our
house and took away my Rewathie and her family to a
refugee centre.
Today my mother shouted at me for talking only about
Sunil, Ranil and uncle Dinga. simply because other women
staying with us at the refugee centre had their dear ones killed
or wounded by the Sinhalas and all their life's savings stolen
and did not want to hear anything about them. But how can I
think of anything else? My father is terribly distraught and he
is always brooding as if he still can't believe -what is going on;
but being the practical person she is, my mother is trying hard
to pep up our spirits. She has already persuaded my father to
get a transfer to Jaffna. And if he can not, she wants him to
leave the job and she swears that she will never again go
anywhere else. 1 can not blame her because she only cares for
our well-being; but 1 know 1 'will not last very long xvithout
seeing Sunil, or hearing his voice. Already ! have written so
many letters to him, but so far he has not replied to any of
I got Rewathie's first letter at a very bad time. My
father was at home and the postman handed it over to
him directly which he opened and read while 1 watched
helplessly. In the end he signalled for me to come for a
walk with him outside and 1 joined him, shaking like a
My father was not angry. But he explained to me the
practical difficulties of getting married to Rewathie under
the present circumstances, when the void between us had
suddenly become unbridgeable. He advised me to lay off
Rewathie not for myself, but for her own good. "If you
bring Rewathie here as your wife and come home one day
to find she has been cut to pieces by your own people, will
vou ever be able to forgive yourself?"
I had no answer.
More than fifty people sharing one toilet in this stinking
refugee centre. And even the food is always under-prepared.
When do I get to go home? My mother thinks of Jaffna as her
home, but my home is next to my Rama at Medawachchiya.
Will I ever be able to go there?
September 1997: I saw Rewathie for the last time when
thev came to collect their belongings and sav goodbye to
us. My mother and Aunty Kamala could not speak a word
during the hour thev were together. Our fathers shook
hands warmly, but ended up hugging one another, both of
HIMAL  12/9 September 1999
them battling their tears. But their agony was nothing in
comparison to what Rewathie and I went through.
Andawane, why don't you just burst my heart and let the
blood flow out instead of forcing me to bear this agony? How
can I ever leave Sunil and go to Jaffna? Andawane I might
never ever sec him again and how can I bear that thought? If I
wait for him, will he ever come for me one day?
With the passage of time, Rewathie went backstage in
my mind as I pursued my studies remorselessly. When
communal violence broke out again in 1983 July with a
greater intensity, I was in the Peradeniya University
pursuing my B.Sc engineering, and its ravages are still
embedded in my mind
Unlike the school in Medawachchiya, I am beginning to
enjoy my studies in Jaffna because there are better facilities and
more dedicated teachers. But what 1 do not like about most of
them is. they are talking of some Tamil Liberation all the
time, which I am unable to comprehend. May be it is
because they have never met or seen people like
Sunil and Uncle Dinga. Every living moment
I think of him and his family. My little Ranil
baby also must have groivn up by now and
1 am sure he is better looking than Sunil.
My hair is very long now and when Sunil
sees it I am surf he will be very happy.
Will he see me again? I don't know, but
no one can take away my right to dream
about hun.
In 1986 1 passed out as a Civil
Engineer and got a posting
immediate! v in London, where 1
could studv while working. The same
year, I met Susan, an Anglo-Indian girl
living in London and we got married in
/ still did not get a job, though ! have a
degree in Economics. It is a shame my mother
did not allow me to study science; else I could
have been a doctor very easily. Now I am 22 and
my mother is constantly pestering me to get married,
but. the only other person I have really liked apart from
Sunil, Kutti, has gone and joined the LTTE. The last time we
met, he asked me to join them too, but how can 1 ever fight
against Snnil's people? No way. I still love them as dearly as I
did then.
My father had never been the same since Ihat fateful day in
1977 and he died last year. Yesterday my brother also left us
and went to Canada and now it is only Shashikala, who has
turned into a real beauty, my mother and I, left in this decani
place. I wish my Rama would come now and take me away. O,
these childish dreams still haunt me.
There are many LTTE activists in London and the
British have lent a sympathetic ear towards their struggle.
If the atrocities that are said to be committed by our
Armed forces are true, the Tigers will not find it difficult
to find enough cadres to fight for them. Where can
Rewathie be now? Did she join them? She must be
married and having a couple of children, because she
would be a little too advanced in age to go running to
join the Tigers.
The broken pieces of my sister's abused body is in my anus.
She was arrested by these animals in Army uniforms, who say
that their war is only against the LTTE and not the Tamil
nation, gang-raped by them and beaten to death. How can they
do this to an innocent girl, who wanted nothing from life but
some education and fun?
Every little drop of blood my sister shed, will be avenged.
Thousands of families of these Sinhala barbarians will lament
for their loved ones just as I lament for my sister now. The only
regret I will have is that I will not be able to make their deaths
as painful as has.
I came back to Sri Lanka with my wife and my son in
1994 and started my own consultancy firm. By now my
mother was in slightly poor health, though my father was
very healthy and strong and helped me in setting up an
impressive business. Thanks to him, I am a very rich man
today. One day, going through the family photo album
with my family, I came across a photograph of Rewathie
wnth her pigtails and the big mole at the tip of her
nose. It was not difficult for me to visualise her
as a grown up, because even I was surprised
at the very clear and precise picture I still
had in my mind of her: every tiny detail
of her sweet face, including a small
strand of hair that always turned
upwards on her neck stubbornly
escaping the pig tails...
This is the train. There he is. The
slow stroke of his open palm across his
moustache is the signal. 1 must enter his
compartment now and the bomb must go
off at Dehiwaln. There are hundreds of
Sinhala pigs surrounding me, who will
be reduced in a few minutes to
mincemeat when I am through with them.
Yes. I can feel the detonator inside my
long frock and I only hope our explosives
expert did not make a hash of it. 1 am happy
to die for my people, avenging the death of my
poor sister. Let the sons of bitches rot in hell. I
will get my vengeance. Push Sunil and Uncle
Dinga out of my mind now. 'They arc from another
world. A world of dreams. Now that old man sitting in
that corner. Do I know him? Lord Shiva, he looks very familiar
and it seems he has recognised me too. This damned mole on my
nose makes me stand out anywhere. Sorry dear, time's up.
Here I come my little Shashikala, bringing with me a heap of
the bastards who destroyed you...
The Sinhala newspaper 1 bought at the Junction had
some details of the Dehiwala bomb blast that happened a
week ago, but it was too dark to read it there. On that
fateful day, my father had gone to see a friend and feeling
a little tired, decided to take the train to Dehiwala. 1
walked under a streetlight to search for the personal
columns to check the death notice, but I was stopped by
the front page. They had blown up a grisly picture of the
severed head of the Dehiwala train Suicide Bomber on the
front page: it was still intact, having been blown to the
roof of the Railway platform. Even in death, the big mole
at the tip of her nose was just as attractive as ever and the
naughty strands of hair just above her neck, were still
turned impishly upwards, despite the blood.
1999  September 12/9  HIMAL
Rejection notes
One of the many jovs of working in a newspaper office
is the opportunity one has to reject articles written by
others. Since it is next to impossible to convince a writer
that he has written rubbish, the regret slip comes in
handy. All you have to do is to pick up his manuscript,
attach it to the regrets slip and dispatch it bv post. You
do not have to argue with him on the telephone or across
your table; instead, the regret slip does the job quietly
and without a hassle.
Being a small cog in the huge machinery of a newspaper, 1 keep a large stock of regret slips with me and
drop them regularly. However, what it contains is highly
unsatisfactory, because it gives only six reasons for rejecting an article.
The beginning is, of course, very serious and polite:
"Dear sir/madam:
"1 regret to say that your letter/article on the subject
of...cannot be published because:" and then it goes on
to give six reasons, one of which I have to tick. The six
reasons are: "of lack of space; it is blasphemous; it is
libellous and defamatory; it falls within the mischief of
^Section 124-A and 153-A of PPC; it is not exclusive; is
sub judice."
Usually, I resort to the first reason —so as not to hurt
the writer's ego. lt is rare that people write libellous or
defamatory stuff. An occasional tick is marked for number five and six —"it is not exclusive" and "it is sub judice".
However, experience tells me that the six reasons are
highly inadequate, for there must be many more, considering the kind of rubbish that is inflicted on a newspaper.
The first reason must be — not the lack of space but —
the quali ty of writing: to Lie truthful, in a majority of cases,
"The reason must state the obvious —that the writer had
never been inside a college: "Dear sir/madam, we regret to say your article cannot be published because,"
and here goes the first reason, "vou have written utter
There should be a "remarks" column, in which some
specific examples should be given, like, "Dear sir: in
your article you have called Nelson Mandela the founder
of Kentucky Fried Chicken idea, which is most unfortu-
O   «™v<**»» ^
nate. A great freedom-fighter, Mandela might have gone
on an eating binge after his release from prison and eaten
a lot of fried chicken, but to the best of our knowledge
he is not the brains behind KFC. You have also said that
vou were the first Muslim to step on the Great Wall of
China during your visit to Holland. This, I am afraid,
our readers will find difficult to accept for reasons of
both geography and common sense. You also said that
Marilyn Monroe was the woman with the lamp during
the Battle of Crimea; and, finally, that it was your grandpa
who had advised Italian dictator Rudolf Hittllar on how
to build the wehrmacht. We suggest that you read a little
more and do not try to prove again that your grandpa
was number two in the Nazi Party. Finally, 1 am putting
your name on the blacklist.
Jamil Soomko in "Joys or regrets sup" from Dawn.
Having been through nearly four decades of the
modernisation process, which often seems contradictory
to tradition, many of us developed the view that preserving culture is, indeed, a struggle. Therefore, when
some members of the Assembly proudly announced that
our culture was stronger today than ever before, our first
reaction was skepticism.
But, when those of us who have been around since
the early 1970s, look back, it suddenly dawns on us that
it is true. Referring mainly to urban residents, many more
are wearing the glw and kira today than they did three
decades back. A far greater proportion of the population can now speak, read and write Dzongkha.
Members of the National Assembly also pointed out
that one of the urgent needs today is clearly defined
rules and regulations on language and dress. In the
long run, we must develop the right perspective of culture and tradition in its new, or "modern" context.
We are back to seeking the fine balance of tradition
and modernity which Bhutan represents. Yet this
Middle Path is not going to be easv, either to define or to
establish. But try we must, from the National Assembly
to offices, classrooms, and on the streets.
But, back to the archery ground. Whether he wears
his khoetoe up or down, the average Bhutanese today
has an inner sense of etiquette. Men and women will
immediately stand up and step back in respect if a senior member of society approaches. If we are wearing a
cap we will take it off in respect. These are the deeper
values which are far more important than the facade.
Editorial in the Kui, Thimphu.
Cyberbabu Naidu
ChandiabaLiu Naidu, the much lionised chief minister
of Andhra Pradesh, was very much around before the
World Bank took over the Indian economy, lie was
known to be an unprincipled political manipulator, otherwise described as an able party manager. 1 lis shifty
eyes —described with accurately defamatory imagina-
HIMAL  12/9 September 1999
tion, and subsequently retracted for that reason, as the
looks of a thief at a cattle fair by his erstwhile colleague
in the Telugu Desam Party, iMember of Parliament,
Renuka Choudhary —put off most people, but his talent at the kind of politics he chose was recognised and
respected by those who respect such things. That corporate capitalism would at most recognise a country
cousin in his cut throat ruthlessness and ability to cohabit easily with falsehood would perhaps have been
conceded by an observer of those days, if at ail such an
observer thought of corporate capitalism in connection
with such an unlikely creature as Babu, as Chandrababu
Naidu is fondly known to such people as are fond of
him, or wish to be thought so. But a country cousin is
only a country cousin, and nobody in those days would
have dreamt that he would become a blue-eyed boy of
corporate capitalism one day.
His capacity to amass property at remarkable speed,
otherwise described as entrepreneurial ability or business acumen, was also known, and again respected by
those who respect such things. He was after all born to a
father who had but four acres of rainfed land in a part of
Rayalaseema where much of the land is rainfed, that is
when there is rain at all to feed it, but according to his
own recent 'declaration of assets' he owns property
worth Rs four crore [40 million] now. One is at liberty to
multiply that figure by such factor as appeals to one's
imagination, for he is no stickler for facts, and indeed it
has been a favourite partime of Congressmen over here
ever since he made the declaration to guess at the right
factor, and they have been coming up with a new number each day, more for their amusement than anybody's
edification. But even four crore from four acres of dry
land in a not particularly fertile region —and that too
shared among brothers —is an achievement that tells
quite a lot about the man and his scruples. And vet nobody dreamt in those days that he would be talked about
in the business capitals of the world, as we are told is
happening now. Though, that perhaps merely shows
that, influenced by the smooth and suave face of corporate capitalism, we do not often realise the strong affinity it has to the recognisably repulsive rural buccaneer.
He habitually speaks, whether in the assembly or outside, in the terse and peremptory tones of a village bully,
accompanied by the shaking of a threatening forefinger.
That is perhaps put clown to unease in speaking English
when he is seen on TV by outsiders, but no, it is his
manner of speech, which reflects a personality trait
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formed perhaps quite early in his vouth from his upper
caste lower middle class background, which meant he
was one among the boys in the village, the school or the
college, not alienated and set apart as a rich one would
have been, but one of the boys and a natural leader by
virtue of his caste, entitled to bully the boys around. It
is not that the background automatically makes one a
bully, but it gives the opportunity, and some of those
given the opportunity choose. The same background
gives other opportunities too, and some may elect those.
Moreover, the opportunity is not presented from outside but is refracted through the particular personality.
We are here close to the point where our explanation
can no longer be merely social; it must necessarily also
be moral psychic. And after a while all explanation
ceases and we can only record, though we can always
dig a little more and try to explain a little more.
K. Bai.acopal i\ "The Man and the Times" ekom
Economic akd Political Weekly.
Sorry, Mohandas
A South African law society has apologised posthumously to Mahatma Gandhi -105 years after a racist decision barred the young lawyer from practising. In 1894
Gandhi became the first lawyer who was not white to
apply to practise in the then British colony of Natal. The
Ml. .It. .NLS6 ANi NEL.
1999 September  12/9  HIMAL
Natal Law Society opposed his application because he
was Indian.
Current president of the Natal Law Society David
Randies made an apology in the Johannesburg newspaper The Star. "The society apologises unconditionally,
albeit posthumously, to tbe late Mahatma Gandhi for
having attempted to restrict Ms rigbts to practise as an
advocate in Natal," Mr Randies said.
He said the apology was extended to "all other aspirant lawyers whose access to the profession was restricted in any way on the basis of racial grounds".
From "'Sorry GaSidht'—105 yhavs later"
from BBC Onllme.
Just adjust
Consider an individual economic agent. There are two
ways, in which this agent can improve his/her stock of
assets. The first way is by refraining fjqm consuming a
part of the revenue earned and using this part either to
acquire some physical asset, or to make a loan, directly
or indirectly, to someone else to acquire such an asset.
In common parlance this is expressed as follows: the
„individual must 'save' and 'invest' (either directly or
indirectly) in order to add to his/her -stock of wealth.
This appears well understood but, in fact, is not. The
impression which most people have about this process
is that wealth can increase only ibsofne 'sacrifice' is made
in the form of foregone consumption out of a given income. As al matter of fact, it is investment that governs
savings, so that wealth-increases merely by the aggregate decision to add to Wealth, which increases aggregate income until an equal amount of savings is generated (or squeezes an equal amount of forced savings out
of the workers through inflation). The question of the
acquisitors of additional wealth making, in the aggregate, any sacrifices does not arise. This is the'way of capital accumulation.       7 > -
The second way is byr the economic agent acquiring
wmig mt§Misi§a
an asset of higher value in exchange for air asset of lower
value; There are obvious circumstances, even apart from
direct physical coercion, where this is possible —the example of the village moneylender being a typical example. While writing Capital, Marx deliberately left out
of the reckoning such possibilities of enrichment: since
one asset-owner is such cases enriches himself/heTself.
at the expense of another, the aggregate of asset-owners
cannot be enriched by this process. But obviously, a particular aggregate, e.g., a the'asset-owners of a particular
set of countries which constitute the advanced capitalist world, can enrich themselves by this process. In retrospect, one cannot but regret Marx's decision to have
left this phenomenon out of the reckoning, since it is an
extremely important real-life phenomenon: capitalism
does not exclusive sway over the world, as Rosa
Luxembourg (1951) emphasised later, and is also
characterised by uneven strengths of capitalists belonging to different countries. Enrichment through this second way at the expense of petty-producers or smaller
capitalists*is therefore not only possible, but actually
occurs. And if these dispossessed producers belong to
distant lands, e.g., the backward countries, this fact does
not even have the adverse repercussions on the social .
and political stability of capitalism in its home base that
a dispossession of similar producers domestically
would have had.
Prabhat Patnaik in "Tjte FoLrncAt Economy of
: Structural Adjustment: A Note" from Disinvestinc in
x Health: The World Bank's Prescriptions for Health
(ee> Mohan Rao, Sage, 1999).
This is London
Sign in Lahore.
Last year, at 3000.metres,in'the Nepal Himalaya,; three
to four days' walk from the roadhead, I was sitting with
a local family around their open fire. My host was putting the finishing touches to a bamboo mat he was-weaving whilst his wife,, my hostess, was cooking millet,
paste. I had just finished writing up the day's notes
and was tuning into the BBC, to get the afternoon news.
The reception is remarkably clear high in the mountains— little to get in the way I suppose. At any rate, as
I heard the familiar-sounding chimes of Big Ben, I felt a
tiny patriotic shiver run down my spine.   '
"This is London," said the voice/and as I looked up
I saw that,my hostess had taken a brief break from stirring the millet mush. She was"smiling at me and nodding slightly; "London,"'she said in Nepali. "The voice
of London."        .....-■■■
''Yes/'J replied, happy that the BBC could even mean
something to someone who spoke no-English. I pressed
the radio to my ear and tried to catch the headlines. My
hostess was still looking at me, more quizzically now.
"What's he tike," she asked. "London, 1 mean?" She
registered the confused express) on on my face and tried
again, this time slower: "London, the man speaking now,
what's he like?" Not really being prepared for the'question, and knowing that there was no good answer, I fried
HIMAL 12/9 September 1999
 V 01C E S
to answer diplomatically: "Ah well. He's OK, 1 guess,
although T don't really know hini well." She seemed'con-
tent with my answer, and returned to the millet paste as
1 concentrated on the news.
Soon it was dinner time and the news was over. We -
ate in silence, occasionally stoking the fire to keep it
strong. When she had finished eating, I could see that
she was eager Tp ask another question. Obeying the
Nepali custom of not entering into long discussions with
someone who is eating, she patiently waited until I had
finished. When I had, and once we were all smoking a
cigarette, she felt the rime was fight. "This London chap,"
she said, and then tailed off.
London was clearly still troubling her. "This man who
calls himself London," she tried again. "Did you know
that sometimes he's a woman?"
Mark Turin in "Letter, from Nepal"
in Shanghai Piclorial.
Philip flap
Queen Elizabeth's husband has put his foot in lus mouth
again—with a cheap swipe yesterday at Asian Indians:
Prince Philip — who in the past has insulted the Chinese,
the Scots, Hungarians and even the deaf—sent jaws dropping as he visited a high-tech jactory near Edinburgh
Noticing a fuse box that appeared less sophisticated
than other devices in the factory, Philip,the Duke of
Edinburgh, quipped: "It looks as though it was put in
by an Indian."
The remark —referring to Britain's substantial population of immigrants from fnd.Ia—was immediately
blasted by the National Assembly Against Racism.
"What he said is absolutely abysmal. It's typical of someone his age, his time and his class to say something like
this," said a group spokesman.
Last night, Buckingham Palace issued an apology
and insisted the 78-year-old Philip was joking. "The
duke regrets any offence which may have been caused
by remarks he is reported as making," a spokesman said.
''With hindsight, he accepts that what were intended as
lighthearted comments were inappropriate."
Philip's "inappropriate" comments over the years
have scandalised the royal family. He once asked a Scottish driving instructor: "How do you keep the natives
off the booze long enough to get them past the test?"
On a trip to China in the 1980s, he warned British
students: "You'll get slitty eyes if you stay too long."
And earlier this year,- as he visited a group of deaf kids
in Wales, he joked that it was "ris wonder" they couldn't
hear, because they were standing near a brass band.
Even his daughter, Princess Anne, is not immune to
his off-the-cuff blunders. He once said of Anne's lifelong
love of horses: "If not eat hay, she is not-interested."
Bii.l-Hofemann in "New Phtltp .'Flap over Flip
Remark" in AW York Posy.
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-1999 September 15/9 HIMAL
efore I am hooted out of here,
let me spring to the defence of
that fearless defender of our
morals: Asha Parekh, India's
Censor-in-Chief. For those of you
who missed the last episode, here
is a brief recap —Asha is an ex-star
who in her entire career did
nothing more risque than flutter
her eyelashes while circumnavigat
ing a fully-clothed pine tree and
lip-synching a duet with a screen
sweetheart in tight pants and
sideburns whose sole role was to
croon to her through half a dozen
song sequences amidst scenery
that looked suspiciously like the
Batalik Subsector in more
peaceful times.
Today, just as valiant
jawans defend every inch of
our territory against
foreign intruders, so does
the Censor Brigade
guard our morals from
foreign cultural infiltrators that are worming
then way into the vitals
of our society. And
here, I don't just mean
the morals of Indian
film-goers. Asha Parekh
actually determines what
one fifth of humanity gets or
doesn't get to see on its screen.
(The other four-fifths of humanity
knows it's not missing much and
therefore doesn't care either way.)
For some years now, the
Censor-in-Chief has selflessly
shielded us from gratuitous and
unnatural oral resuscitation scenes.
She has excised needless exposure
of female armpit follicles to
millions of males who may be
corrupted by the sight. She has
expunged words and sentences in
film scripts that threaten India's
unity, sovereignty and territorial
integrity. Battle scenes which don't
show enough blood and gore on
our side of the Line of Control and
thereby fail to incite sufficient.
hatred against enemy intruders
are cut.
Asha takes the Indian Penile
Code seriously, especially Section
293 and Section 294 which, with the
1952 Cinematograph Act, she
follows by dotting the i's and
crossing the t's. But does this mean
that she is a prig? Not at all.
Just look at how extraordinarily
liberal she has been in fostering the
growth of artistic creativity in
Indian cinema by allowing pelvic
and pectoral thrusting that accurately simulate the steamy movement of piston shafts on the
Siliguri-Darjeeling locomotive
while on the final uphill below
Kurseong. Look at how she has
allowed full frontal close-ups of
Aishwarya Rai's twirling belly
button, giving one-fifth of humanity a new meaning to the phrase
"Navel Gazing". (Not since
Madhuri Dixit have we seen an
orifice of such superlative suppleness, such symmetry and such
potential for being a repository for
fine lint.)
At this very moment, I know
what you are muttering under
your breath. You are muttering:
why doesn't Asha allow kissing?
Simple answer there is. Allowing
on-screen kissing would be a
public health hazard, as couples
across the land emulate this
unhygienic mode of
mouth-to-mouth existence. (According to one semi-pornographic
toothpaste commercial 1 recently
had the privilege of watching in a
cinema, an average South Asian
oral cavity is crawling with
terroristic ally minded bacteria that
are just waiting for the opportunity
to carry out their evil designs.
Kissing is not just silly, it is a threat
to national security. The Censor
Board rightly gave this commercial
a +18 rating: we don't want our
boys to be perverted by
indecent Closeups of
female tonsils.)
on the other
hand, is much
more hygienic.
And numerous
studies have
shown that in
no other
are young
males as
obsessed with
mammaries as
they are in our
present Subcontinent. This may be
natural, since South
Asian males have a
close affinity to mammals. But why is this Freudian attachment to the significant
udder so rampant here? Indian
cinema is partly responsible by
titillating viewers with only
occasional glimpses of cholis that
have given these glands a vulgar
Bollywood needs to go back to
our Konark traditions and
demystify the breast—make busts
commonplace, make nipple as
ubiquitous as dimple. The Indecent Representation of Women Act
(1986) does not restrict unleashing
the mammaries on celluloid, and there would be
no better place to unveil
them than in the Batalik
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Colourful hill tribes.
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Your home in the air
 Casino Royale
Hotel Yak & Yeti
Durbar Marg
Tel: 228481
Fax: 977^1-223933
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