Anna, Osama, Law & Other Musings

I was sitting in my jurisprudence class, contemplating on the fuzzy trappings of what law is and how law ought to be, when a fellow student raised a pertinent point- ‘Anna Hazare says the government ‘should’ pass the Jan Lokpal Bill and bring about a referendum. Who is Anna Hazare to decide what the government should do or not do? Is he the true voice of the people or a majoritarian messiah like the slaughtered Osama?  If we analyse these two men, one cannot but help wonder at the uncanny resemblance between the two. Of course it goes without saying that while the crisp Gandhian espoused a conventionally moral cause, America’s Terminator called for a cause moral in a fundamental way. Anna galvanised the hapless victims of corruption and Osama sparked the disillusioned youth of modernisation to ‘bomb up’.

The revolution or rather a punctuation that Anna brought in the gung-ho lives of people like me and the law, made both of us, sit and ponder upon the fundamental questions on which the machinery of the State runs. The sacrosanct Constitution as a document in itself was challenged by raising the elementary Common Law question-Which is supreme, the Parliament or the People? Like Justice Coke, the Nazarenes of the Indian Legal System gave a thumbs up to the ‘People’. Spirited countrymen (and women) adopted the Gandhian method of fasting as a legitimate mode of seeking a demand from the government. It spurred on the debate of whether the Right to Protest exists in an area of choice or not. Morality and majority compel me to search a precedent to support this stance. The validity of the Prohibitary Orders passed against Anna under Section 144 of the Criminal Code of Procedure was questioned. The illegitimate relationship between the State and the government hampered the freedom of the citizen. In short the labyrinth starts off with if people are supreme, they can topple the policies of the present government by non-violent methods, if they feel, the elected representatives are not doing a decent job. But then, are we sure Civil Society members represent the interests of a 1.21 billion nation and even if they aren’t, should we accept it for the sake of a reference point to begin with.  Will it be too presumptuous to align 2011 along with 1857 and 1947?

The global full-stop Osama brought 10 years ago, led to a global exclamation by the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and with all due respects Pakistan. Of course the lawyer in me was untamed then, but coming to law school made me furiously search on the point where America went wrong and why Osama left his Saudi fortune for the sands of violence and destruction. Laden recognised the loophole in an environment not conducive to individual growth, and exploited it to wage a war against everything not inscribed in the tenets of Islam. Like Anna, he said that he represented the anguished voice of more than a billion people affected by the travesty of western domination and imperialism. Educated and sane men, women and children came forward as soldiers for the salvation of an entire generation of Muslims. He said his methods were legitimate, his aim was practical and his motivation lay in the ‘injustice’ met out to the Palestinians. 9/11 led to a disastrous tussle between Article 2(4) [restraining the use of force against the territorial integrity/sovereignty of any State] and Article 51 [pre-emptive attack in self-defence] of the UN Charter. The twisted interpretation which gave validity to pre-emptive attack on Iraq quizzed the sanctity of the basic credo of international law.

The constant dynamism of Law highlights its ever evolving nature. Cicero’s statement ‘the people’s good is the highest law’ came to play in the case of Anna Hazare, Osama as well as America. To a legal novice like me, law is chemistry’s liquid, will take the shape of the container. You boil it, the evaporation of morality will result it in a Third Reiche like regime and if you freeze it, it condenses to give a banana state like Pakistan.

Koftas and Insomnia

Its 2:45am and I have wretched classes tomorrow but my mind is in a different kind of insomnia. The insomnia is due to an article in the Sunday Times on Koftas- a mughlai dish which has its origins in the ultramarine city of Istanbul. The article articulated the varieties of koftas leaving my taste buds regretting for not eating the Sunday mess pudding ‘appropriately’.

Just as I finished reading the ‘taste-provoking’ article a thought crossed my mind on the vibrancy of the largest democracy of the world. India offers such a varied social-cultural milieu that an artist can never be short of hues to paint the impeccable portrait. Where else can you find a nation which celebrates Id and Diwali almost at the same time of the year? Where else will you find a nation having the muezzin as well as the pandit calling for Morning Prayer in the wee hours of the day?

Every morning when the sun’s rays crinkle my eyelids, when the chirping of the sparrow invades the stillness of the morning I breathe ‘India’s air’. This might sound an unlikely term but India has a distinction even in the oxygen that one breathes. (For those who have ‘pollution’ in their minds should stop reading this endless praise for Bharat). To me the ‘Indian air’ is a concoction of herbs, sandalwood, sprinkle of masalas , raat-ki-rani bloom and the invigorating fragrance of hard-bound archaic books.  This is a sort of drug that I have to sniff lest I should become a damsel in distress in a Shakespearean Tragedy. This is my most favourite part of the day. Whenever I am at home, Ma and I cook a healthy breakfast and an afternoon meal in the early rays of the sun. My heart blossoms into a wine-coloured orchid on seeing Dadi water the sacred Tulsi planted in our aangan, part of her morning regime. I cannot picture this soulful experience anywhere else in the world. In college, my morning walks act as the substitute.

We might have topped the UNDP Multiple Poverty Index and other notorious lists, still there is something about this country which made the mighty Mughals and the even mightier British leave their homelands for the oriental core. During the summer months I had taken a vacation outside India and the pining for India’s breeze left me in a forlorn state. I missed the khadi and block printed boutiques amidst the array of burgeoning overly-priced shops in 5th Avenue. I pined for the chai-wallah and phulki-wallah who often haunted my dreams. The longing for Bharat was so immense that I asked my aunt to always make Indian dishes for dinner. Those Indian dishes mind you did not include fancy Indian Cuisines; it was pure and simple Lauki, turai, bhindi, aloo-rasa, mango pickle and the famous Desi Dahi available in the Indian stores.

Mera Bharat Mahaan…there is more to this…watch out for this space for more tete a tete with Bharat….

Secular-Non Secular Terrorism

Terrorism became an obsession the morning of September 11, 2001, when a clique of dreamers lead by the ringleader Muhammad Atta, crashed two planes into the hallmark of World Trade. Since then this avant-garde concept has been in the limelight of academicians, policy-framers, national government agenda, Interpol to media, society and everyday life. This gruesome concept was not a gift of the 21st century; instead it is a primordial concept which began in its full-fledged form in 1970 with the Palestinian raids in contestedIsrael. To begin a discourse on the aforementioned topic I would firstly like to discuss the definition of terrorism which has eluded many.

TERRORISM: The United States Department of Defence defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.”[1] Our very own Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act 2008 defines a terrorist act in Section 15 as – Whoever does any act with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country,—(a) by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisonous or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological radioactive, nuclear or otherwise) of a hazardous nature or by any other means of whatever nature to cause or likely to cause—

(i) death of, or injuries to, any person or persons; or

(ii) loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property; or

(iii) disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community inIndia or in any foreign country; or

(iv) damage or destruction of any property in India or in a foreign country used or intended to be used for the defence of India or in connection with any other purposes of the Government of India, any State Government or any of their agencies; or

(b) overawes by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force or attempts to do so or causes death of any public functionary or attempts to cause death of any public functionary; or

(c) detains, kidnaps or abducts any person and threatens to kill or injure such person or does any other act in order to compel the Government of India, any State Government or the Government of a foreign country or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act,

commits a terrorist act.

Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, public functionary means the constitutional authorities and any other functionary notified in the Official Gazette by the Central Government as a public functionary.”[2]

After stating the formal definitions charted out by governments, the definition of terrorism that I learnt has the following features:

  • Firstly theOxforddictionary does not explain the intricacies of the definition thereby implying that the definition is dynamic and a constant one does not exist.
  • There must be a constant political motive.
  • The act of terrorism must be in continuity and should produce continuous fear in the minds of the terrorized.
  • The terrorist act must motivate and demotivate the terrorizer and the terrorized respectively.

Not all forms of terrorism are same with respect to means and ends. Terrorism can be secular as well as non-secular. Both the types have different motives, aims, ideologies, and means. Let us discuss these two forms:

As per my understanding, secular terrorism is where the perpetrators of violence have a socio-economic goal. Their aim is to make a political statement and bring forth their demands to the adversarial party. Bruce Hoffman, author of the widely acclaimed book Inside Terrorism states- secular terrorists, even if they have the capacity to do so, rarely attempt indiscriminate killing on a massive scale because such tactics are not consonant with their political aims and therefore are regarded as counterproductive, if not immoral. Secular terrorists attempt to appeal to a constituency variously composed of actual and potential sympathizers; members of the communities they purport to ‘defend’ or the aggrieved people for whom they claim to speak.[3]  I shall explain this with the help of a wrestling match to emphasize the point of difference in secular terrorism. In a physical fight between let’s say two men, one man wins if he is efficiently able to defeat the other man by getting himself hurt in the least possible way. He allows himself to be hurt only uptil the point where more harm might result in a fatal injury. So here both the parties are in a bargaining position. But what if one of the parties did not care about his life and his aim was to cause as much injury to the other party even if it meant forsaking his life. This is where non-secular or what is commonly termed as religious terrorism comes into the foray. The earlier point where both the parties are in a bargaining position is the main feature of secular terrorism and where religion or cause as in the latter form is the main motivation is non-secular terrorism. But I know you must be wondering that this absolute statement is in itself filled with paradoxes when secular terrorism starts adopting the means of non-secular terrorism as in the case of suicide bombings adopted by the LTTE.

To clear the conundrum, non-secular terrorism has the backing of religion as its main force. The best example of this form of terrorism is Islamic Terrorism. To shed light on their means and ends let us take a detour to the history of its inception. Islamic clerics often cite that Islam was born to rid the earth of its ‘infidels’. Prophet Mohammad advocated that Islam was the saviour of earth and the dominant form of worship at that point of time i.e. Paganism was antithetical to God. As we all know apart from Paganism, the dominant forms of worship were Christianity and Judaism. Islam, as interpreted by Islamic clerics advocated that Islam would be foremost and Christians and Jews could lead their respective lives being subservient to it. But over the times the interpretation became somewhat screwed with treating the aforementioned as belonging to a heathen clique. This concept flowered passionately into what we see as today’s primordial reason behind the motivation of terrorism. The main tool used by the fundamentalists is to brainwash the future Muslim generation in a way that they start believing that there will be no happiness on Earth until the West is totally exterminated and the rule of the forgotten Caliphate is established. This is substantiated by the atrocities committed by the western nations on several occasions which range from colonialism, exploitation, mujaheedin to nurturing Islamic terrorists to fight their private wars. They believe that the root cause of all evil is the west with no sense of sensitivity or morality; only concerned with capital. When the examples glued perfectly with the reasons for jihad the result of violence, destruction, annihilation was inevitable. Muhammad Atta considered Jihad the most charismatic concept of the century. When such inspirational and motivational speeches were made, emphasizing how God rewarded his followers if they put an end to the ‘non-believers, galvanized the Muslims to become fundamentalists and take to arms. They embraced death as matter- of-fact, not because they had to serve a population but because that was the only way out. Their mission does not have any mercy for members of their community also. It’s seriously extreme and brutal. The paradox is they are fighting for their community by adopting means which is killing a majority of their men, women and children. They thus do not spare anyone alike- believer or non-believers. These fanatics have one frame of mind that is to exterminate the entire body of the west from the face of the planet by using means which are deathly and destructive in the most diabolic form.

Now, if we consider Secular terrorism, the means and ends is completely different. I shall explain this with the example of the vilest and fanatical individual the world saw in the first half of the 20th century- Adolf Hitler. His propaganda was infused by an ideology called Nazism which highlighted that Aryans were the only pure forms of humans and all the other humans (which included Jews, Poles, gypsies, handicapped, homosexuals, and democratic socialists) were incapable of living a qualitative life. The ‘impure’ population was in a way competing with the ‘pure’ population’, thus attracting Darwin’s postulate of survival of the fittest. So the best way to reduce the competition was to eradicate strategically the impure forms simply because of the horrid logic that the latter was not worth survival. An important addition, cunning Hitler believed Germans to be the real descendants of the primitive Aryans. So with this ideology he set off to pull off the killing of over 50 million people which included 6 million Jews. So here what we can see is that Hitler is not forsaking the life of his Nazi SS sergeants to achieve that cruel aim, instead capitalising on the killing of the life of the ‘impure’ population. If it had been non-secular terrorism, the ringleader would have said to achieve the killing of as many adversaries as possible even if it meant to give up on ones life; in that case the life lost would be worthy and holy enough to deem it to be the life of a martyr. If it would have been secular terrorism, sanctioning the suicide of their own kinsmen would have been the last resort. Suicide bombings did become a part of secular terrorism with the LTTE where at least 30% of the women agreed to forgo their lives. But the essential difference is that this act was being accomplished to gain back a territory which they considered to have legitimate authority over. But then again if we look at from the Islamic fundamentalist point of view Palestinian war was to gain back the territory assigned to the Jews to build anIsrael. So, what is basically the difference between the two when both want in some way a territory and use suicide as their weapons?

The answer might seem blurring but both forms of terrorism are not really separate entities as they overlap to a large extent. But an aspect that can be articulated is that if we look at from the severity point of view Religious terrorism has a greater destructive capability and secular form is a subset within this type.

The conclusion that I arrived at are as follows:

  • Secular terrorism is perpetrated to bring about the fulfilment of a socio-economic goal leaving scope for dialogue and discourse, whereas Non-secular terrorism has a transcendental dimension to it. The latter is extreme and considers death and destruction as the only possible way out.
  • A difference exists as per my understanding for a theoretical basis. To say secular terrorism is motivated by ideology and non-secular terrorism by religion is to serve a futile academic purpose. Religion in the first place took birth because of a certain ideology with respect to belief, so in a way religion is also a certain form of ideology. Both are subsets of terrorism, to create a difference between the two is to give one substantial amount of publicity and leave the other without recognition of its thrills.
  • There is hardly any difference between both the forms as both have begun using suicide as their ace weapon and even if they desire to be doing this for their respective communities, they do not pardon anyone who come across as hurdles in their ‘superior cause’.
  • Scholars who have studied terrorism might point a flaw in my argument by explicitly stating that both cases substantially differ. In the religious form, the fundamentalists die because they are willing to embrace death without any qualms, whereas in the secular form it’s almost like joining a political cause; the risk of loss of life is involved which is taken unquestioningly. I agree to this point, but then the amount of overlapping that takes place is considerable and I have explained this with the LTTE example. In a way both forms are two sides of the same coin. Both advocate a cause and have set out violent means to reach that end, period.

The help of classifying both forms of terrorism serves academic and policy purpose as then their frame of minds could be deeply studied so as to find out measures to overcome the preachers of destruction. I think the difference only serves this purpose so as to give an insight to their side of the story and for better understanding of the sensation of terrorism.

 

 


[1] “What is terrorism”, Sourced from: < http://www.terrorism-research.com/> (Visited on Dec 8, 2009).

[2] “Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2008”, Sourced from:

<http://www.taxmann.net/Datafolder/flash/flashst070109_4.htm>

[3] Austin Cline, “Religious v. Secular Terrorism”, Sourced from: <http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/08/12/religious-vs-secular-terrorism.htm>

Monsoon in November Heat in December

To quote William Henry Davies, “What is this life full of care if, we have no time to stand and stare”, has been aptly worded to illuminate the robotic existence that has befallen man. I can vouch that cent percent for myself at least. The Welsh poet also illustrates the simple bounties of nature in the most extraordinary way exciting the literary geek to experience them all over again. Why am I all of a sudden in the middle of the night with an exam round the corner eulogizing a poem? my immortal love for nature.

I remember reading this poem in the 4th grade and at that point of time in my life when I was a bonehead, did not much appreciate the poem, castigating it as another intellectual poison inflicted on us poor souls. Davies is known for his simple yet deep work which has an earthy connotation to it. My favourite line is “no time to see the woods we pass”, because unfortunately with the kind of corporatised life that I have, I hardly have time to ‘check out’ (to articulate it in the local lingo), the wondrous lush greenery that breathes in the vicinity of my current residence.

Often it has happened that while taking my customary solitary walks I have been immersed in the difficulties that lie ahead in my ‘paradoxical’, ‘not-so-legal’ life to such a great extent that I even forget to hum along to the tune of the songs playing on my MP3. Im not criticising anybody’s routine oriented life but instead verbalising the pity of me being a nature lover and not being able to do anything at the time when it needs me the most.

Especially to look at it from a technical point of view I am a student of law, so I have the widest infinitude to exercise my ‘legal’ and ‘analytical’ skills to save my darling from the perils of nirvana. Unfortunately, most of my time goes in cursing why the Almighty put me into a particular situation (my fatalistic self comes to the rescue in such cases) which I disapprove of. Anyways coming back to the point, I think its time for me and even you to do something for Mother Nature. I’m not trying to rouse a rally here, even a teeny weeny bit of contribution in the healing of my first love (it’s even before Mr Darcy) would suffice.

Nature has its own sui generis way of healing the soul. I call it ‘my zeal’ as its always been there when Im holding a warm mug of coffee and looking outside my wiry window pouring over my thoughts or when I’m standing in the balcony staring at the twinkling sky wondering where life will take me or even when I feel anti-hakuna matata and I need to take a walk; it’s always there by my side animate or inanimate. Since its been my constant companion in times of sorrow, anxiety and happiness I want to make optimum utilization of the miniscule intelligence that I have, in being able to resuscitate my friend.

Everyone is aware of the lamentable state the environment is in, I need not quote any tiring statistics. Like any other friend I don’t want nature to languish into an irreversible state where I can no longer enjoy its companionship in a breezy walk along a narrow lane. I want it to be alive and kicking as never before so that all of us can enjoy the magic of its infinitude.

To conclude my midnight literary venture, let us all come forward and do our bit for the environment not because it’s important or sounds intelligent but because it’s a friend whom we are talking about here and you always, no matter what, help your friends in times of need. Don’t you want a clean future for yourself and your not-yet-born kids? Since working for the environment starts in your own backyard, let’s try to make our place of residence clean and pollution free. I am very much aware of how most of us are cynical and dissatisfied with the present circumstances, but please let’s not take out our anger on poor Nature.

Oh and in case the above lines made you ‘sob’ then please obey the following, even if it didn’t (you viscous goon!)  just read it for the sake of criticism:

  1. Switch off electricity when not in use (It’s just a matter of moving a finger, trust me it’s almost like texting!).
  2. Switch off the geyser. (A sprinkle of cold water will not paralyse you).
  3. Throw garbage which includes smoke-stubs in the dustbin (Don’t blame the dogs, as Lord Krishna has said do your duty leave the rest to the Admin). It’s seriously a disgusting sight to behold; the campus splattered with ‘kachra’.
  4. Try reusing the polythene collection u possess, instead of getting a new one. Crumble it up and it will not take much space in your back-packs. (If 400 students stop using fresh polythene bags we can do wonders for the planet)
  5. Please do not toy around with the empty plastic crockery, once you’re done with satisfying your taste buds.
  6. If you see a pile of rubbish anywhere, please report it immediately to the Admin. (Lawyers make things happen!)

Remember, in Nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, only consequences!

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

The curtains open, the quaint 1951 stage is set in the cities of Brahmpur, Delhi, Calcutta, Lucknow and Kanpur, the bibliophile is seated smugly in front of her window with a Hellenistic mug for the sake of cosiness, and the papiha swaying on a leafless branch is waiting for a tale to be hummed by Vikram Seth’s beautifully crafted characters. A pot pourrie of sorts, diffusing its sandalwood-like fragrance into the bibliophile’s grey cells.

Lata Mehra, the 20 year old heroine of the Khatri’s magnum opus is attending the wedding of her beloved and ‘fair-skinned’ sister Savita to Pran Kapoor, a pragmatic English Literature professor at Brahmpur University. He also happens to be the Minister of Revenue, Mahesh Kapoor’s son. This match was predestined by Mrs Rupa Mehra who insists everybody to call her ‘Ma’, and who is also the paradigm of an Indian mother ‘blessed’ with ‘daughters’. She reproaches her ‘difficult’ daughter Lata by stating that she too will marry a suitable boy of Mrs Mehra’s choice. Mrs Rupa Mehra , with the unfortunate suicide of her husband Raghubir Mehra, became a worrisome widow at a young age and had sacrificed immensely for the sole happiness of her children Arun, Savita, Varun and Lata. Arun, an authoritative, anglicized, pseudo-intellectual married the love of his life Meenakshi Chatterjee, an amorous and materialistic woman. Their prodigious daughter Aparna is ardently loved by Mrs Rupa Mehra. Varun is peopled as a pessimistic, under confident wino, incessantly bullied by his brother who astonishingly manages to ornament himself by becoming an IAS officer towards the end of the tome. Lata is an English literature student at Brahmpur University, who luxuriates in the company of Jane Austen, Wodehouse, Shakespere, Joyce. Branded by the Khatri ladies as ‘dark-skinned’, she stubbornly follows her heart till she realises the dangers it can produce on her tranquillity. Savita has been best described by her affectionate sister as one who was born to be married. Savita is a beautiful devoted wife who loves Pran inspite of his tiresome asthma and the uxorious –ness is returned by Pran.

Mahesh Kapoor, is caricatured as a Gandhian at heart, who had passionately fought for India’s Independence in the freedom struggle. Post-independence he is pictured to be in a forlorn state with the loose hangings of the Congress party and the dwindling condition of the nation. He is the chief architect of the Zamindari Abolition Bill which forms the backdrop of the story, traversing the territory of Constitutional Law. His wife Mrs Kapoor is a gentle lady immersed in her blooming garden and poojas. Their daughter Veena is married to Kedarnath Tandon who lost a fortune and a home in Lahore post-partition. They have been blessed with a mathematical whiz of a son named Bhaskar, justifying his name exceptionally. Unfortunately his bisexual ‘mama’ Maan Kapoor ruins the family, later in the novel, with his wayward and imbecile ways into gloom and misery, by having a torrid affair with a ‘reputed’ courtesan named Saeeda Bai, so not keeping up with his name. Such was the saga of the Kapoors who were soon to Mehra-ise themselves and, of course vice-versa.

Lata’s mother had commenced the odyssey of finding a suitable khatri match for her daughter by invoking the topic at Savita’s wedding and writing to all her relatives across newly independent India. But fate had a few roadblocks in Mrs Mehra’s plan. With her ‘modern’ and ‘forward’ friend Malati Trivedi, Lata stumbles across one of the suitors Kabir in a bookshop. Kabir Durrani, a strikingly handsome, curly haired, cricket-freak eager to join the Diplomatic Services is a student at Brahmpur University. He is the son of Dr Durrani, an unorthodox mathematics Professor at the University. A wave of undying emotion springs in the unripe hearts of Lata and Kabir as their eyes entwine for the first time. Lata is enchanted by Kabir’s boyish charm whereas Kabir is captivated by the depth of Lata’s eyes. Much to the chagrin of Mrs Mehra, starts a stubborn affair between the two literature geeks. Cupid-cum Vikram Seth strikes Lata so mercilessly that she is swooped into a mental vertigo of love and passion. All limitations are transcended when she unflinchingly pleads Kabir to elope with her as this match would never be approved by her mellow mother. Kabir, being the reasonable one of the two refuses, which is taken by Lata as a sign of Kabir’s convenient amity. But it has to be noted that despite Kabir’s refusal, he adores Lata zealously and asks her to wait for him till he joins the Indian Foreign Services. To add to Lata’s wretchedness, Mrs Mehra discovers her daughter with ‘that Muslim boy’, and is straight away transported to Arun’s swanky pad in Sunny Park, Calcutta.

With the second stage in the classical masterpiece enter the bizarrely funny Chatterjees. Arun’s father-in-law Mr Chatterjee is a ‘just justice’ at the Calcutta High Court who has been ‘glorified’ with 5 distinct brands of Chatterjees – Amit, Dipankar, Meenakshi, Kakoli and Tapan. The bibliophile believes that Vikram Seth has sketched himself as Amit Chatterjee, Lata’s suitor no.2. Amit aged 27 studied law in England but relinquished it to pursue his passion for writing poetry. He is considered one of the most eligible bachelors of Calcutta society having won accolades for his work outside as well as in India. Dipankar can be termed the most knotty Chatterjee, who believes he has overpassed the mundane affairs of day to day life and has thus devoted himself entirely in finding the ‘abominable truth’. The flirtatious Kakoli is the epitome of blatant impudence and her notorious Kuku-couplets, which she throws at all and sundry are seriously like titillating vinegar splashed onto a bland salad. Vikram Seth weaves a shocking chapter for 12 year old Tapan Chatterjee as well. Meenakshi is one step ahead of Kakoli who melts Mr Mehra’s gold medals into jewels much to Mrs Mehra’s annoyance and woe. Mrs Mehra immediately frowns on a Chatterjee courting ‘Luts’ a.k.a Lata but our heroine finds a soulmate in Amit who takes her out of the lost island she was abruptly marooned on. The Chatterjee paragraph is incomplete without a Kuku-couplet. This one is unabashedly sung by Kuku to the tune of a Tagore song at Lata’s wedding towards the end of the novel, escalating Mrs Rupa Mehra’s already deep-infested culture-shock.

‘Roly poly Mr Kohli

Walking slowly up the stairs.

Holy souly Mrs Kohli

Comes and takes him unawares.

Mr Kohli base and lowly,

Stares at choli, dreams of lust,

As the holy Mrs Kohli

With her pallu hides her bust.’

Terrified that her Lata would also start singing couplets, Mrs Mehra takes Lata to Kanpur and Lucknow to meet suitor no.3 Haresh Khanna. Haresh Khanna is a fair-skinned, enterprising, self-made, optimistic ‘khatri’- a glistening lagoon in a ‘Muslim and Chatterjee’ desert. Haresh graduated from St Stephens, Delhi and went onto to study non-conventionally about shoes in Middlehampton, England. In the masterpiece he switches jobs from ‘Cawnpore’ to Calcutta as he vehemently disagrees to compromise on his ethics. He is taken in a storm by Lata’s simplicity and seraphic beauty, which compels him to bury his unrequited love for a Sikh girl named Simran. Haresh is furiously rejected by the Calcutta party and is snorted at for his alleged ‘cobbler ways’ and pan-chewing habit, which he later leaves to impress Lata. The two heart-broken individuals start writing letters to each other at the behest of Mrs Mehra and our heroine steadily sees the ‘cobbler’ in a non-judgmental light throughout the novel.

Who would Lata end up marrying? Will the passionate love for Kabir take over ‘khatri’ propriety?  Will Amit’s eccentric ways with words bewitch Lata into matrimony? Will the optimistic ‘cobbler’ be able to navigate through the unyielding doors of Lata’s heart?

The yarn of imagination spun by Vikram Seth is worthy of unending applause. Keeping the title in mind a surprising political backdrop of post-independent India is given which in a way influences Lata in deciding her life-partner. The tale touches innumerable chords from Zaminadari, feudalism, bisexuality, religious strife between Hindus and Muslims to Constitutional law, Property Law and the Civil Services. It elucidates the difficulties faced by the courtseans, musicians and the royal household when the government decides to pass the Zamindari Abolition Bill affecting their livelihoods drastically. The blazing affair between Maan Kapoor and Saeeda Bai forms the basis of Lata’s decision. A number of pages have been dedicated to Maan’s Kapoor’s saga, the constitutionality of the Zamindari Abolition Bill and the Hindu-Muslim riots has been often questioned by many to be redundant. If one only patiently reads the 1400 or so page novel he/she will definitely understand how each story is sewed together to make the perfect calico of an English classic. The only real characters in the book are Jawaharlal Nehru, Kidwai, Jayprakash Narayan; all depicted to paraphrase the political turmoil the country was facing in 1951.

It took me a month to complete this paragon of English Literature. When I finally finished reading the last words of the book, the only string of alphabets that came out were-‘Gee! I worship Seth’. The most distinguishing feature is that every chapter is numbered in the contents page with a couplet. To maintain the lucidity of the novel Seth provides a family tree for each family so that the reader does not get clobbered up with the vast number of characters sculpted. The Times magazine has proclaimed Seth to be the best writer of his generation and I undoubtedly agree with the statement.For those interested souls Vikram Seth will be coming out with the Suitable Girl in 2013.

As of now I terribly miss reading the magnum opus. It has taught me a lot on the flickering nuances of human nature. It took me to a dazzling world furnished with human delirium and dilemma. This review does not do justice to Vikram Seth’s toil and sweat; in fact no one can ever review such a classic- It simply has to be read.

I shall end this ode to my favourite writer with a Mrs Rupa Mehra letter to Lata when she was on the threshold of deciding the suitable companion-

“When the world has been unkind, when life’s troubles cloud your mind,

Don’t sit down and frown and sigh and moon and mope.

Take a walk along the square; fill your lungs with God’s fresh air,

Then go whistling back to work and smile and hope.

Remember, Lata darling, that the fate of each man (and woman) rests with himself.”

23rd Jan ’12

The software hub called me to experience my first brush with journalism. Bar and Bench is a renowned online portal for reporting legal events of significance to law schools. Portals like these are extremely important for law students, especially in an ultra competitive environment where one needs reliable information. I grabbed whatever journalistic opportunity came my way, and it came in the way of Bar and Bench.

One such event in Bengaluru that caught my attention was the Advocate’s protest in mid Jan. The whole affair got blown out of proportion with the Police, Advocates and Journalists all at loggerheads with each other. One is amused how a small spark went onto create an explosion. Intelligence and wisdom it seems does not exist in persons who are vested with utmost responsibility of protecting the citizens (police), fighting for their rights (lawyers) and making them aware (journalists). The irony lies in the fact that citizens were the worst off. Let us take a look at what really happened between the lawyers and law enforcers, and how journalists became a part of this ugly tussle.

In the scorching afternoon of a busy Tuesday, the police stopped an advocate and asked for his driving license. It somehow led to a heated argument with the advocate assaulting the police; in return the police thrashed the advocate.  What took place next makes one scrunch up their eyebrows in dismay and shock. A huddle of very wild lawyers came out in support of the advocate by protesting against the alleged ‘atrocity’ right in the middle of the road. The tussle stranded traffic for almost 7 hours with school children, patients, ambulances, facing the brunt of the beggar’s description like situation. The furious lawyers arrogantly sat down in the middle of the road and demanded the familiar word which we all call as ‘justice’. The police filed a criminal complaint against the lawyers. They refused to attend the court by virtue of being on a ‘protest’. With the police and advocate community playing ‘tag-you’re it!’ journalists too joined the blame-game. When journalists went to cover the protest march by the advocates, they too got beaten up by the hot blooded legal community. Now journalists are on a ‘protest’ against the advocates.

With Anna Hazare paving the way, going on a ‘protest’ has sort of become fashionable. Everybody seems to protest against everybody. The constant fight for ‘rights’, has made all of us archaically fundamental in our approach. Like Islamic fundamentalism, liberal fundamentalism, ‘right to protest’ will soon join the league of fundamentalism. Suddenly this socio-legal awareness of rights presents a bitter-sweet situation. Sweet, because the aim of making society socio-legally aware finally seems pragmatic; bitter because this righteous onslaught leaves one with the right but forgoes everything in the process of achieving the same. The present issue could have been solved by the effected parties, but like the parents of two lovers who are shunned by the norms of society, interference lead to a divorce in the factions of the state. This feline sensitivity will turn us all into liberal versions of the Taliban. In brief, the questions that should have been raised are

  1. Why did the advocate hit the policeman in the first place when asked for the driver’s license?
  2. Why was the traffic stranded for 7 hours, where was the police then?
  3. Why hasn’t a suo moto cognizance been taken or a PIL filed in this matter to address the grievance faced by those stuck in traffic?
  4. Why lawyers have suddenly resorted to beating up the police and journalists?
  5. Is feline sensitivity conducive for the growth of a democracy?
  6. Has democracy become a representation of ‘vehement disagreement’ than ‘peaceful discourse’ on multifarious issues? (Watch this space for my next post on this issue)

Who do I protest against?

 

Whoops a Daisy

I remember going through the pages of my first classic novel- an abridged version of Pride and Prejudice. The sundry romance between Lizzie and Darcy and clash of personalities as ably portrayed by Jane Austen made me fall in love with the Victorian Era. Earl Grey Tea society was what I longed for. After that Jane Austen’s Classics became a conduit for acquiring the tastes and sensibilities of Victoria’s England. Though, sense did not prevail, which I was to realise later.  I too basked in the animation of waiting for a Darcy, like so many other damsels who fell in love with the ‘hero’. After consuming all of Austen’s work I went on to consume movie adaptations of her novellas. One of the main reasons adoring Austen was she gave a medium to bibliophiles like us to live our own fairy tale. A woman well read and well versed in different sciences would be considered a danger to promising suitors.

Jane Austen remained a spinster throughout her life, though managed to grab headlines by having an affair with one of the Lord Chief Justices of Ireland. She made nerds like me be wooed by the handsomest (and richest obviously) men of the country. She laid the groundwork of a plain but witty jane being pursued by a wealthy suitor. Barbara Cartland and Mills & Boon loosely derive from her masterpieces. Jane Austen created for female bibliophiles a world of happy and prosperous endings.

I considered myself an Elizabeth with a sprinkle of Fanny-ness and a dint of Emma-ness waiting to be discovered by a Darcy. I wouldn’t let the Fanny Price or Emma partake the Elizabeth in me, because it was Lizzie who got Darcy from the rich estate of Pemberly. Notwithstanding the fact that Fanny and Emma both got their share of happy endings, but it was Elizabeth’s romance which made your tummy somersault in glee. All these damsels were distressing my grey cells. Being a bibliophile is a tough nugget because you place yourself on a different plain all together. You know you have probably read more than your ancestors did in their lifetime. I tried to be the intellectual bibliophile who would rant away judgments like Lizzie, quote literature like Fanny and have the blunt nose on its toes touching the troposphere like Emma.

After waiting for quite some time for a Darcy, [my entire teenage years that too], the gush of rebellion and revolution rubbed off me. The wait made one look outside oneself for happiness and contentment. Like my peers who enjoyed the freedom of anguish, abuse and altercation; Victoria’s England condemned me to cross the Rubicon line dividing dandy Englishness and brash nihilism. The discomfiture of etiquette paved the way for my surging interest in FEMINISM.

Suddenly slogans like ‘burn the bra’, ‘kill patriarchy’ seemed tempting than the arduous wait for Darcy.  Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s View became the new solace. Her beliefs afforded us the laziness of a long summer afternoon without having to worry about appearances. If Darcy wanted a Pommy Elizabeth then he needn’t be pine-d for. Though Virginia Woolf herself abhorred feminism, her views branched out from the same tree. Femin-opia sneezed out radical Austen-opia from my system.

I was dandling between two extremes. One symbolised the triumph of self and the other the triumph of union. Which one was superior? I reached a deal; Union would only triumph if the self triumphs. Consequently, two halves make one. The question is each half that wholesome enough to complete a union? How lucky are most of us to get a complete half? These questions rattled my brain and till date I cannot arrive at an answer. Could there ever be a middle path? Not for those who’d call a spade a spade. It would probably be best to not pay heed to that particular part of the brain receptive to such whimsies.

The pace at which social-mingling occurs is frightening for those playing the middle monkey between the above ideologies. They try to catch the ball from a convenient angle in a desperate rush to animate their literary adventures. I can say without the slightest hint of crimson that I belong to this category. We try to shun ourselves from the surrounding 4th gear like environment. Even the Almighty prefers to watch you play from the stands. In that case, I too become an incomplete half.  Thus my aspirations for a Union are far-fetched and hypocritical. A safe distance from ‘annihilation’ is much better than evaporating yourself.

Which tale, theory should I stick to? Or should I even keep a reference point? Can I ever be without a reference point? Queries creating mumbo jumbo in my grey cells