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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Do they know its Christmas?

Even as our media keeps its focus on Srinagar and Kashmir, it has forgotten the peaceful and docile people whose land Kashmir originally was, and who fled from the violence and massacres: the Kashmiri Pandits. On Christmas Day, I went to one such Camp for the Migrants, set up in Shahdara, along the Yamuna Riverbed. The camp was surrounded by mountains of garbage and shit, and the sanitation and water supply primitive. Surrounded by slums inhabited by the vast numbers of immigrant workers who keep Delhi turning, the Pandits Camp is a sad and pitiful place, a reminder of how they have been let down, not only by the Government, but by everybody else.
I asked them about how they manage to educate their children, and they simply said " We teach them ourselves." I had forgotten that this was a educated, middle-class community, who preferred to flee than go the Israeli settler way, and move around with a submachine strapped to their back.

     Children playing at the camp, Shahdara

                       A bird's eye view of the camp

After all, it makes for a more dramatic story to profile and write about the conflict in Kashmir than nose around with stinky refugees, right...this is what happens when you do not strike back at those who massacre you, and turn the other cheek. That's a very unChristian lesson to learn on Christmas, but that's the truth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Victorian Angkor Wat

For anybody who reads about World War II, Winston Churchill emerges a hero. That's why it is such a shock, to read in "Churchill's Secret War", how Churchill, with his hostility, racism and arrogance, condemned Bengal to  a terrible famine in 1943, in which three million Indians died. The author, Madhushree Mukerjee, carefully documents Churchill's almost criminal negligence, and his view of Indians as a subhuman race, which led to the tragedy. Food was being exported from India to Britain, even when Indians were dying of hunger in the streets of Dhaka and Calcutta....

By coincidence, I was on Ross Island last week, in the Andaman Islands, which was the adminstrative headquarters of the British, from where the British governed the huge archipelago. It was weird: the equivalent of going to a Victorian Version of Angkor Wat, with twisted trees growing out of Anglican churches and Gothic architecture...we have made no attempt to preserve the place, which was destroyed by the combination of an earthquake and Japanese attack in 1942. A truly fitting end to a racist and arrogant empire...enjoy the pics...

This was the wall of one of the barracks which billeted Brit soldiers..

After keeping down 250 million people, the Presbyterian Church where they used to piously pray....

The Commissioner's Bunglow

Saturday, December 4, 2010

How journalists run their backyard...

The other day, I was at the Press Club around 9 pm, and the huge plasma TV (naturally, donated by some company) in the main wood-panelled room was showing Vir Sangvi defending himself over the Radia tapes. There was, as usual a huge din created by drunken journos having arguments, so it was difficult to hear what was being said. Some guys went up to the TV, and stuck their ears right over the speaker, trying to listen in. As usual, the place was overcrowded, the service was bad, and the food was terrible. Lots of people who could not find space in the main room were sitting outside on the hard clay ground (in Lutyens Delhi, the Press Club is not able find a way of growing a lawn yet), shivering at dirty red plastic tables, with dirty red or white plastic chairs to match.

There was no menu card, either for the drinks or the food, and one had to cross-examine the waiter to find out what was on offer (ofcourse, even if you somehow found what was on offer, finding out how much it cost was next to impossible)

The press club has, finally, after twenty years of begging, got a piece of land for building their building (they are currently in rented premises), and now we are trying to find somebody who will fund the actual construction .

Some politicians have been donating one lakh or fifty thousand, relishing the idea of throwing pennies to the this rate, it could take a century  to build anything.

Many of waiters are still "temporary" after decades of working there: they must be getting paid peanuts, because their clothes are dirty, and the Club cannot find a way of funding livery for them.

I have been a member of the Press Club for over a decade now, and the way it is run is a shame.

It is even more amazing because journalists keep lecturing everybody on how the country should be run, and this is how their backyard is being kept.

Just a few streets away is the Civil Services Officers Club, and it is much better run: the food is better, the cutlery is decent, there is something for members' families, there are some sports facilities...

That's why, "Radiagate" as it has come to be christened, did not surprise me much: below the veneer is the seamy underside: underpaid, overworked, without job security, with venal proprietors and even more venal editors, the average journalist today is a pitiful creature....obviously, it does not pay to expose truth, but it pays to twist it, hide it, and obscure it, like Nira Radia did, and a hundred "PR" practitioners in Delhi are still doing....