Got a camera, live in the UK, and look like an Indian? * Well, then you could be a terrorist. Nothing serious if you are not one of those spreading hate, and not really meant to be prosecuted as one, but it is highly likely you will be generally questioned on the basis of this little doubt.
The incidence was a slight wrong coincidence when my mind assumed that the cluster of lights leaking through the coarse voids of a dense shrub looked beautiful, and then on top, a heavily improbable coincidence that the cop car zoomed past. The two cops, well communicative, and nicely spoken told me it was nothing personal and they want to be really polite (!), but in the recent climate, and under the terrorism act which has some number 41 to it, they are bound to stop and question me. We talked a little, he took my details with my full cooperation. Surprisingly he didn't ask me to show the picture I took.
Or, the other coincidence can be just me, just me, an individual who always has this luck, whether at home India or the foreign UK that he gets caught and questioned by the cops... Kyon bhai kya kar rahe ho!
*Just found out . Looking like an Indian is not an issue anymore. Anybody, even the local Brits are stopped from taking random pictures.
The globally recognised Indian author, A Roy, said - "It's high time India needs freedom from kashmir as much as Kashmir needs freedom from India". In response, the Indian minister, retorted - "This author is like a loose canon who likes to misuse her liberty and freedom of speech". Now I wonder, who should the Brooker prizer go to? Since the decade old Brooker in available for grabs, I chance (equipped with the power that a democratic system offers me to think), and say, "Sometimes I hate the news media as much as I love it".
One can clearly see that how much the Kashmir issue has been raised to unassuming proportions by the Indian media, when the world media I found was too busy with the Olympics, Georgia conflict and ones of their own. After all, like me it is the banner of democracyness they operate within. Interestingly, if you noticed, this news is mostly being read by Indians who outnumber others as the best value consumers. But to my dismay, I am surprised that apart from a concerned few in letters to editors no one is talking of the principle of Secularism that the Indian union stands for. Take notice, this secularism does offer the space to the people and the air in Kashmir they badly need.
People in Kashmir want to get on with their lives, but who would let them do so. It doesn’t happen either in Iraq or Afghanistan or Georgia, or Tibet, then why should Kashmir be a special case? In Iraq, the troops vouching for democracy are building newer and higher walls everyday so they can manoeuvre more easily to claim things to be under better control. And the media loves to distinguish between Shia, Sunni, Shitte, instead of highlighting the complex cultural intermingling with which these communities have progressed since ages. And look here, in Kashmir where the media won't think twice before distinguishing between protestors as Hindus and Muslims. Today the division is between Hindus and Muslims, tomorrow it will be one sect of Muslim with other… and then will come professional divisions, and so on till we don’t have anything more to divide us and a brother starts hating his sister.
In Cassavets movie "Opening Night", Gena Rowland protests to her stage writer that the play delivers everything, except one thing. And that is “Hope”. A not so appropriate example to transfer here, but the word "hope" is at least. And dammit, we thought it was there in Kashmir a few days back. Wasn't it?
Walking in the old part of Dubai is still as peaceful and tranquil as it must have been in the older days. It was another hot friday afternoon, and could have been totally unbearable if I hadn’t had stuck to the shades which the clutter of buildings genuinely offered. Every man who I asked for Diera bus stand pointed his finger straight, and with confidence said, “just up ahead”. Soon I got fed up, for I had been walking for an hour or so and old city limits had more or less ended. Recent newer buildings had started dominating and I decided to stop for some chai sutta just outside the construction gate of Union Square underground station.
Just a few steps away, I noticed two men with their yellow helmets engrossed in some casual conversation. The one who was curiously listening had his helmet held between his left waist and arm, and seemed was comfortably resting although he was standing. The vocal one was leaning with his upper back resting on the road-sign pole stuck firmly into the futpath. They had their one elbow bent because they both held their white cardboard cups close to their lips, just about to take their next sip of tea. I took a few strides closer to them and asked if either of them knew the directions to bus stand, and also subsequently, where they were from. The vocal one turned towards me, smilingly he said, 'Bihar se'. He seemed eager for a conversation, so with a few hand signals and words he explained me the way to the bus stop, which I realised was so close to my office and I saw it everyday. Yes, everyday, and I knew where it was!! I think it was just the heat. Then he asked me where I was from, and I told him that I am from Gujarat but originally from the hills of Uttaranchal, but he is free to assume that I am a Bihari too. After all we both worked for the same construction site! Also, I must admit that there was a common wavelength. He seemed glad too. Then instantly came L.P. Yadav in my mind and I started praising his recent achievements, one of them being how he wittily handles the opposition in the parliament nowadays. But in our conversation in next fifteen minutes he nearly convinced me that it’s only because of Lalu that Bihar is so far behind. A man whose illiterate wife becomes the caretaking chief minister, a man who never cared about real issues when in power, and so on. The new chief minister is much much better. The other guy, also a Bihari just watched, and nodded, but it seemed he agreed to us both. The talk was going towards politics in Bihar but my mind was thinking something else now. Confusedly, I thought- inspite of all the global cry about construction workers mistreated in the UAE isn't this Bihari much happier here? There are Bihari's all over in India working as migrant labourers. Their working conditions aren’t any great and look how they were treated in Assam and Mumbai recently! Either gunned down by ULFA or humiliated in streets by Bajrang Dal. Now I expressed I should proceed on my way. We exchanged see-yous and asked to take care of one-self. I started towards the bus stand which was my only gateway to escape out of Dubai for some time.
One Dubai morning shower was very enlightening. I completed a statistical calculation in say, 5 minutes, and that too - with conclusions. While I prepared for another day in Dubai with the medium pressure shower sprouting on my head, the thoughts of my Malloo brothers I could not avoid seeing everyday encroached into my head. Right from my apartment attendant, to the car park usher, the cigarette vendor, to my cadd draughtsman, the office boy, the janitor in the mall, everywhere, they were a part of my life. Of Dubai’s 2 million (UAE is 4.5 million), I could easily estimate that around 1 million are Keralians. The thick droplets of water woke me further and I recalled their well respected commie government, elected by some 40 million in India, boasts of a literarcy rate of near hundred percent. I had always thought of Kerala as a model for the whole country - because, almost everybody’s a literate in that state! Strictly classified as guest workers who should leave one year after their work visa expires, with choice of visa renewal thats easy, or no choice, they carry on living here, working here. Now, note that these guests neither spend their incomes in their home land nor are able to send any money back. They seldom earn any extra and indirect taxes are paid indirectly to Sheikhs. So, one has to ask the Kerala government that what’s the use of this figure boasting when it cannot help its own surroundings and its own people end up becoming some neo-postmodern slaves somewhere else. This literacy which is no qualification and mostly parochial, looks like some mechanism through which one gets visas for lowly paid jobs. So, now, keeping whole of the Gulf in mind, please bring down your literacy usefulness figures down to 95% .
With my sleepiness diminishing and senses rising, I could also conclude how it has been statistically ensured that half of the Middle East’s population is technically literate. And ready to do any damn job!! Bharat Sarkar ne muft mein Gulf Ka theka le rakha hai (A zero fee contract taken up by the Indian Goverment for Gulf).