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Silence

Silence

Enough of it…

Since you left
nothing has changed.
Gyrating clouds
hang over the shy morning.
No frills in the water
but deep within I am in doldrums.

Since you left
I stand hushed
amid the posts
that rest in peace.

Since you left,
I clung to the greens.

Licked and bested,
the waters say goodbye
to the quiet.
Stand wherever you are
A moment or two
and …
my boat will leave the shores!

By: Sarfraz Khatib

Image

Rome, once an enormously magnificent empire, the center of Italian Renaissance, is crumbling apart. Iconic monuments, awe-inspiring castles and fountains, spectacular buildings are all dwindling. What once was the seat of power, has turned into a heritage site. History is all it has become. The artisans of that glorious architecture must be restless in the graves, watching their masterpieces, carved with so much love and passion, fall brick by brick.

More than the physical decay of monuments, what is more heartbreaking is to see the once all conquering powers become so powerless. The Colosseum, that once hosted gladiator fights, can no longer fight the diminutive vibrations of the passing traffic on the nearby via dei Fori Imperiali.

May the renaissance of Indian cricket survive the winds of time with more grace, the power that it has acquired in the past decade last longer, and the gladiators (?) serve purpose other than posing in front of a relic. Amen.

IPL brought the monetary riches to Indian cricketing shores and it brought cricketers who complained of upset stomachs, lack of baked bean cans and dust bowl pitches. Those who despised touring India, came singing tweets. Once oppressed, victimized, un-favored BCCI, made then arrogant cricketing bosses adjust their calendars. Talented Indian cricketers, who once waited for calls from English counties, became icon players in their homeland, earning formidably higher salaries than the best of other countries.  Fringe local cricketers, who spent their youth on energy sapping flat tracks, got their moments of fame. IPL did a world of good to Indian cricket. In a true sense, it became a renaissance.

With that amount of power, money and muscle, those at the helm of the empire ought to be complacent and arrogant. To an extent that when the Supreme Court of India observed that ‘something is wrong with the way BCCI functions’ the emperor remained unfazed. The gladiatorial battles by the political heavyweights are on. We, the impassioned fans, are watching from our seats. Legends have departed. Soon the amphitheater will be empty, deafening chants will go silent and we will have a tale of a renaissance. Devoted fans will leave one by one and stadia will be filled by tourists wanting to experience the folklore mojo.

Initially it was painful to see the idols fall, not anymore. Brick by brick, piece by piece it’s all coming down to rubble. To my own dismay, this hurt doesn’t even come closer to the sinking feeling I get when I think of that awful WC ’96 semi-final defeat to Sri Lanka.

Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First freedom and then Glory – when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption – barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,

Hath but one page… (Byron, 1812-16)

By: Sarfraz Khatib (@sarfrazhaan)

October 7, 2013

Image: ‘Destruction’ by Thomas Cole

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Disclaimer: To all anchors, editors, journalists and contributors to media outlets, please do not feel offended or aggrieved if you find yourself missing on the attributes of a compromised media person that I have listed. If you find a reference to your paper or channel, it is merely to give an apt example and I have nothing personal against you or your outlet.

‘The nation’ appears every night on prime time television and demands to know everything that the nation has not thought of asking the person on the other side. Although ‘The nation wants to know’ has become an Arnab Goswami patent, I am taking it as an analogy without any hint of malice against Arnab or questioning his integrity, just to use his patented phrase. Does the ‘nation’ always ask the right questions? Is the agenda and outcome of a debate pre-decided by the show anchor? Is the ‘nation’ actually serving the nation’s interest? Does the ‘nation’ have a political leaning? If yes, then is it open about its political ideology or portraying itself as a non-biased, non-partisan entity?

Lately, I have developed a sense which helps me anticipate the way a debate is supposed to head. When I see the participants on the panel and the question of the night, I predict the last lines of the show host. In my mind, I have marked out the editors who have ‘Setback for Modi’ on the clipboard and those who have ‘complete failure of the central government’ ready to be pasted under any headline, no matter what the judgment reads or the nature of the calamity. Are these headlines in any way synced to campaigns like ‘Bharat Nirman’ or ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ that may have kept the advertising sales in the green? Where is the non-partisan media? It is understandable if a party mouthpiece like Saamna propagates party manifesto since the reader picks up the copy knowing expected content but to act like a non-partisan, non-aligned media outlet and to push a particular party’s program is hypocritical and deceitful. The moment a pro-government article is published in a newspaper, opposition camp runs to find out the number of ‘Bharat Nirman’ adverts it has carried in the previous month. Similar exercise takes place when excited reporters throng to report Narmada clean-up.

While one understands that even TV anchors, editors and reporters have a political leaning, to let it affect the news copy is deplorable. Editors need to realize that there’s a dedicated editorial page on which they can put forth their opinions, vent their angst and even propose radical change to a society, but to seed news article with their outlook is both self-serving as well as partisan journalism. Thankfully all is not lost and there are many who are sticking by the ethos of the profession and don’t consult the advertising sales department before writing a piece, but the weed that’s spoiling the crop needs to be plucked away. Apparently, a prominent institute of journalism has received applications in thousands and in a couple of years; your doors will be knocked constantly. Please hire carefully.

While many journalists highlighted India’s ranking in the Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Index, they fail to pinpoint their own frailties. Isn’t political advertising equal to backhand bribing to foster a party’s policy? What then gives you the liberty to call yourself ‘the nation’? The syndrome is not limited to the political writings; it has walked in the backyard of judiciary, economy, cricket and cinema. Film journalists no more hang around the Film City or Kamalistan studios, rather preferring to lurk over celebrity TLs in the comfort of home to turn every little byte into an article. Movie reviews are manipulated and well-known analysts retweet tweets demeaning fellow critics. One gets confused whether the sensibilities of the critics are disparagingly different or they have seen a different reel altogether to give indifferent ratings. I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with the pre-release dinner invites. I prefer to watch my reviews on KRK Live on YouTube. At least, I’m sure the guy was not invited to any of the dos.

Back in the last decade, journalists outraging about the portrayal of women in the society wrote for the same tabloids that carried skimpy-clothed models as objects of male desire on page 3, without ever letting their disapproval known to the editor. In another tabloid, an erstwhile doctor prescribed to fictitious teens how jerking would do no harm and it was okay to have some fun as long as both partners were willing. The agony aunt attended to the married woman who was infatuated by her hunky neighbor. All of it in the hope that a certain readership will pick up the copy to get some fodder for fantasy. None of it seems wrong unless you choose to wear the monk robe once the copy has gone to the pre press. Why the hypocrisy?

Hell broke loose when an acrimonious friend of Narayan Pargaien, a reporter for the channel News Express, uploaded a video showing him reporting from the shoulders of a flood victim in Uttarakhand. Poor reporter became subject of much loathe of the fellow media person, dubbed as the new low for the profession and was rightly fired by the channel. After all, he had misused his privilege.

Then came the story in The Times of India about Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s savior act for 15,000 Gujarati flood victims. Anand Soondas, the reporter of this story, found himself at the center of ire for asking a Muslim IAF pilot how he felt about saving Hindus flood victims in Uttarakhand. The outrage, mostly billowing from the journalist community centered on the argument that it was idiotic of the reporter to ask such a question to the pilot. While Narayan and Anand are not well-known names and attracted huge uproar from the journalist community, why does it chooses to ignore the questions that our celeb anchors put forth or the answers they put in a panelist’s mouth. Each time you cut a panelist, I pre-empt the dialogue he was to utter, every time you close the discussion without fair timing to each of the panelists, I realize you couldn’t have managed a monologue and tried to put forth a drama.

No matter how loud you shout, demand to get an answer to your pretentious ignorance in the name of the nation, the nation knows it all. Yeh public hai public babu, yeh sab jaanti hai!

If you believe all that has been alleged is untrue, damaging and has malicious intent, you’ve been true to your profession. Or if you know that it’s the reality that you’re unable to alter, think this could go on like the way it is going at present, drop that saintly robe and enjoy the bounties!

Sarfraz Khatib

July 13, 2013

Show me some love!

‘Mare the jinke liye, wo rahe wazu karte!’ How apt is this line to my last week’s post “Thank You, sorry and the slur that isn’t!” It was written in response to a post by Aakar Patel and got read by many but Aakar himself. But I have no regret because I had to write it, or someone like Chetan Bhagat would have done so. He did it today, anyway.

My post was born on the day Shafiqur Rahman Barq walked away during Vande Mataram and caused a stir on social media. His action met with fierce criticism and much despise. Abhijit Majumder, Editor of Delhi edition of Hindustan Times, and someone who I’ve admired for long, tweeted (something to the effect) that Bankim didn’t write it for the narrow minded and it was an insult to the nation. I had my argument that not reciting Vande Mataram doesn’t equate to insulting the nation as the lines in this hymn contradict a belief. I could sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’, ‘sare jaha se achcha’, or any patriotic song in any language that portrays my feelings and affection towards the nation. Why would a democracy doubt my nationalism based on my reservation to utter couple of words? Isn’t democracy about all-inclusiveness? Is saluting any lesser show of affection than bowing? And who dictates the diktat?

I was distraught to find that Abhijit wasn’t following me on Twitter anymore. He couldn’t merely have done so just because of my comments? Or the misunderstandings had reached a level where one couldn’t bear another viewpoint? I explained my views to him and later found out that he did not actually unfollow me for the comments and had no wrong assumptions. That was the time I decided that there are things that need to be said. It’s not about showing off or being apologetic, it’s about putting a hand on the shoulder and giving a reassurance. An assurance I’m happy I offered even if it clears a bit of mist, no matter how many think it to be unwarranted. Barq could have stood there to avoid a controversy, but his dissent opened a window of a meaningful thought that I should tell that despite my disagreement on certain issues, I’m still as good or bad Indian as any of you are.

I was overwhelmed with the response to the post, which eventually got published in ‘Kannada Prabha’. It was mostly positive, but it struck me how many people asked why can’t all Muslims behave in a same way? Why we give preference to the religion over the country? Do I accept the ‘shortcomings’ that my religion has? Why no less than ‘90%’ Indian Muslims support Pakistan when it comes to a cricket match between the two? Why do all Mulsims vote for a certain party? I’d leave these questions unanswered and let you clear your own doubts minus the convincing. Interact with the community and find out what exactly it thinks of these questions! My intention remains of giving ‘that reassurance’!

Honestly, I was disgusted when someone told me that my ‘belief’ was like blindly following a cult. Atheists may disown the concept of religion, but I believe people of faith should have some respect for other faith. How on earth do you wish to win hearts and unite people by telling people ‘it’s either my way or the highway’? Where does that leaves ‘right to freedom of religion’? Dub me an apologist, but scour your conscience whether you or I am contradicting my national obligation.

I’m happy many more readers chose to let my hand stay on the shoulder for a while instead of showing doubt over my intentions or actions. I wish I could calm myself down and deal with the emotions quietly but it gives me enormous satisfaction that I actually told you what I feel instead of burying my head in sand and cringing

‘Padhi hamari namaz-e janaazah ghairon ne

Mare the jinke liye, wo rahe wazu karte!’

Show some love, it’s a necessity of times!

Sarfraz Khatib

30-06-2013

These lines by Aakar Patel appeared this morning on my Twitter timeline, very simple yet deeply meaningful, more so since these were placed under the heading ‘When sovereignty belongs to God’. “A community demonstrates its secular and pluralistic credentials where it is a majority. As minorities, all communities make claims of tolerance because it’s in their self-interest.”

There’s nothing wrong with these lines except these tell me to introspect whether my call for tolerance and communal peace is being viewed as an insecurity, of being on the mercy of 100 crore Hindus. I don’t ask myself this question for that fear never took shape in the sphere where I moved. Yes, we read of communal clashes and carnages, but my solace rests on the fact that it will take an utterly inhuman, ultra-Hitelrisque effort on part of the majority community to do away with Indian Muslims. Thankfully, I have not yet personally witnessed a single killing, nor experienced any hostility from my Hindu friends and employers AND FOR THAT I MUST THANK YOU AAKAR PATEL, FOR THAT MUST BE MUSIC TO YOUR EARS AND THAT’S WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO SAY, ISN’T IT? No, I am not being sarcastic, or may be a bit towards you Aakar, but in no way towards my Hindu friends and employers for I value their genuineness.

Not too long ago, I worked in Mumbai in a firm owned by a Sindhi family. Every morning a religious priest used to come with Prasad and apply vermilion tilak to one and all. I am not Shafiqur Rahman Barq, who walked away during Vande Mataram, hence I used to remain seated, extend my hand towards the pandit and he’d apply the vermilion there. It wasn’t a compulsion or insecurity but I felt it awkward to be classified differently. I thought it was decent for both of us to respect each other’s sentiment. There’s nothing exceptional or extraordinary about these details except that it had no hidden agenda, there was nothing to gain, or show off my liberal tendencies to my Maharashtrian girl pal, whose mom used to make outstanding Kothimbir Vadi, I used to gorge upon. I am not a fashionable liberal and come from a fairly religious family, with me being the black sheep for not praying regularly, an act which I reprimand myself often for. By now, you must have concluded what sort of Muslim I am.

On March 30, 2011 India beat Pakistan to reach World Cup final. Me and my friends danced like crazy on the streets of Dubai. The frenzy continued till the patrolling police told us it was late enough to move indoors and let the residents go to sleep. It was unlike anything that I had experienced before. Indians shook hands, hugged, climbed on car bonnets, waved the tri colors, threw sweets, whistled and beat anything that sounded like a drum. No one asked me why I was happy, being an Indian Muslims, who supposedly enjoy firework when Pakistan wins. Similar celebrations took place again after MSD hit that monstrous six to bring home the trophy. So did I celebrate Indian cricket team’s victory or celebrated being an Indian? It wasn’t merely a celebration of sporting victory; it was the pride of achievement that the nation had attained. No, I’m not out to prove anything to you Aakar, neither my loyalty to India, nor views on Pakistan, not even my religious views for you are just a fellow countryman, an equal mortal.

 I won’t tell you to shut up and mind your own business for that wouldn’t be polite and won’t solve your quandary about my Indian-ness. Also, we’re lucky to have the right to free speech, being a democracy, unlike Pakistan, which is a religious state, much like the Vatican and unlike India or United States that are democracies.  Therefore your comparison is not between two equals, when you compare the free hand that Hindu majority has given to Indian Muslims with that of Pakistan’s dismal behavior with minorities, Hindus, Christians and some Muslim sects that it chose to relegate. What makes you think that Indian Hindus should behave in the same manner that Pakistani Muslims do? I never take the ‘Go to Pakistan’ line seriously, it doesn’t even hurt me if I see it directed towards me or another Indian Muslim, just because it’s meaningless. No one is going anywhere! So why not become a bit courteous towards each other and live in peace? Ah, no I’m not being insecure Aakar, it’s the reality, and we seriously do not have any other option.

I deliberately have decided not to bring in terms like secular, sickular (our version of the Pakistani slur), terror, jihad, sharia and affiliation to political parties as this warrants a broader spectrum of knowledge and aptitude for argument, which in return will bring us back to nowhere.

I may have sounded arrogant in places in thus post, but it stems from my confidence as a right holder of this nation, and not my insecurity or shiny and hollow liberal façade. I won’t say sorry for Pakistan’s misdeeds and I won’t say ‘Thank you again, Aakar for your benevolence and kindness towards Indian Muslims’. I would rather end it with….

Ik tabassum* hazaar shikwo(n)** ka,

Kitna pyara jawaab hota hai!

*smile * Grievance

Thank you for understanding Aakar. This time I really mean it!

 

Sarfraz Khatib

(Twitter: @sarfrazhaan)

22-06-2013

Freedom does not mean waywardness, neither has it given you a free hand or leg to push the accelerator and break every traffic signal, just because you are a free citizen of the world’s largest democracy. I can’t trespass your lawn because it’s on Indian terrain and I am a free citizen of this country. Whims and fancies are not classified as freedom. Freedom is a privilege that comes bundled with a certain requirement of sense in utilizing it. The privilege must not be exploited and abused to wash dirty linen and stain the national fabric.

We have heard a lot of noise about the recent crackdown on the social media, why it should or should not be allowed to act as a mocking bird and whether killing this bird deprives us of the promised freedom. Had the bird stayed on the branch, the government wouldn’t have bothered throwing the stone at it, but instead it chose to come on ground and got so aggressive that it caused bloodshed. What else can one do but try and get this bird under control somehow? The government caged the bird, and then freed; it did not kill, as reported. Thankfully, we are a free country where we elect our governments, not rulers. And by electing a government, we give our consent to elected representatives to formulate a system that they think is beneficial for the nation (leave scam talk for another time!).

In view of the events that took place this August, the government just showed the promise in trying to do what was necessary. The right thing in such extraordinary circumstances would be to close the gates of the damaging and overflowing dam of intended hatred. Irrespective of whether Muslims, Hindus, Parsis or Christians are being killed in more numbers, or whether the churned out data actually belongs to the incident, the hatred and violence must be stopped immediately, at all costs. Even at the cost of getting plastered with unsavory labels. I am all for respecting freedom of speech and expression, but not when it fails to respect the basic lessons of humanity, human lives and national interest.

Those beseeching for constitutional fundamental rights, must not forget the fundamental duties that call for upholding and protecting the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. Should the ones not fulfilling their duties grieve and ask for the rights?

IPC153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony… (a) By words, either spoken or written. Why should the state not initiate criminal proceedings against those who are guilty of the said offence? We have seen people being arrested for “inciting a mob” why? How is freedom of verbal speech different from written speech? Why then, with a mob of thousands following, your Twitter rhetoric not classified under the same code?

You are wrong if you’re thinking that I am endorsing the clampdown just because it was used against certain handles that don’t share the same ideology as me. The above measures should be implemented on one and sundry, India needs peace and prosperity, not pretentious freedom. If restrictions on multimedia messaging are considered a normalcy in Kashmir, then why this brouhaha over limited period restraint across India? Is your blabbering more important than national security? Why America, the torch bearer of freedom of all things earthly is after Assange, to control the release of classified information? It’s because the safekeeping of nation must be guaranteed through all means legal. The government should not block handles with intended discrimination to save its face, repute and credibility, or ban political backlash and opinion but must act swiftly in future to avoid seeping of acrimonious material going into public domain.

I am no saint, I am who I am. You can direct your ire @Sarfrazhaan. No one is anonymous in today’s times, if you’re thinking of hiding behind a peculiar handle; I call you either an ignorant or an extraordinarily talented geek, we have landed on Mars and IP trail is left for earthly mortals. Parody handles, whether choosing to remain “khamosh” in response to your “hazaaro sawaal” or crooning a melodious “Baith jaiye!” provide the much needed relief, until the shrill becomes spiteful, piercing and distorts the harmony. The Queen loves gin, not blood!

(c)Sarfraz Khatib, 2012