Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lay thy finger thus

Lay thy finger thus, and let thy soul be instructed
—Othello, Act 2, Scene 1
William Shakespeare

The die has been cast. Inked fingers are fashionable in Kashmir now. Another matter it feels like we are fingering our own memories, which unfortunately are short-lived.

So the high priestess of Indian TV, Madame Barkha Dutt, has declared the elections a success. In the television mumbo-jumbo that TV anchors are usually good at, she called it ‘a thaw in the winter chill’ or some related smart crack. Squatting on a dastar-khawan with a few copper tramis laden with wazwan, there was a celebratory ring to her show. It had an artsy feel, complete with vapours rising from the food. Nazir Masoodi's self-control on such occasions must be appreciated.

The participants included Karan Singh’s son, with all the silk in his family heirloom, bound around his neck, and stuffed in his pockets and a KP film-maker (God knows what he has made) in an ill-fitting jacket and huge shirt collars. There was an elegant professor also. PDP’s spokesperson, draped in a black shawl, looked like a wise sage, who knows that success is near. Ofcourse the NC spokesperson, an old pal of mine, tried to sound intuitive but came across as a sailor who knows the storm is fierce and his ship is doomed.

In another space, another channel (I watch them in clutches on Youtube when I have a moment) the rabid Arnoub had assembled (as usual) a dozen people, none of whom he allowed to speak. Going a step further than Barkha, he announced the total rejection of separatism, now that Bandipora has voted 75% and the dawn of a new era in Kashmir. God knows where he wriggled the old fogey Hashim Qureshi from. Since the host has institutionalized the idea of being seriously a joke and a farce at the same time, he easily wasted another 60 minutes of the nation. In an ideal world they would put him in a rehab.

As the season of absurd continues, the vote frenzy has climaxed. Kashmir is very cold around this time and usually boring. Elections, the spectacle that it is, infuse some life into these drab settings. With the BJP rocking the show in the centre, Madison Square Garden and elsewhere, it appears that Modi’s star is on the ascendency. Flush with victory after another victory, he has already announced that India is where stem cell gyaan originated. Taking a clue, his minions are now saying Vedic India (1750–1000 BCE) had helicopters. Obviously by that logic Kashmir straight away belongs to Mohan Bhagwat’s RSS.

I reckon Kashmiris, being politically sharp if somewhat humbug, decided to spoil the party for the BJP. The generic political wisdom is that Jammu and its sphere of influence is under a spell of Modi and his jinn, the crazy as fox, Amit Shah, so lets join ranks and make sure that the saffron ghouls don’t come here in their Vedic drones. The overwhelming sentiment after Round 1, journalist friends inform, is that this indiscretion in the winter chill is not seen as disrespect to old boy Geelani. No way! If he wrote a book of calligraphy, tomorrow, and called it The Delicate Art of Defiance, by God, it will sell like hot cakes. But today people are simply in a mood to vote.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Mehboob Ki Mehndi

Last night Mehboob Beg abandoned the ship. Perhaps hindsight is a good thing but Mirza Afzal Beg’s son didn’t wait for hindsight to dawn on him. Instead he dumped Omar. Like he had dumped Dr Farooq in the past to put Gul Shah on the throne. Then mysteriously he made up with doctor sahib and was politically rehabilitated.

His father, the legendary Mirza Afzal Beg, was Shiekh Abdullah’s lieutenant for decades, and was often hailed as Fakhr-e-Kashmir. He presided over the Plebiscite Front (Ah, how many times have we flirted with this darned Azadi business!) and was the legal brain behind the famous Indira-Sheikh accord.

Beg senior was sent to jail along with Sher-i-Kashmir in the infamous Kashmir conspiracy case. When the Sheikh was allowed to perform Hajj in 1965, he took two people along -- his wife, Begum Abdullah and Afzal Beg. Well all that is history now. In a hurriedly-called press conference yesterday, the NC called Beg junior a chameleon. Politics, they say, is colorful business. People change affiliations like a baby’s diapers.

Here is a clutch of Gupkar conversation from last night that we managed to pick up from our palace sources. It had to be brief because some BSF walla, stationed outside Omar’s villa, went mad this morning and started shooting at ducks in the compound.

A big black rotary dial telephone, without lettering on the finger wheel, comes alive. Sheikh Abdullah used it once to make calls to Nehru. It has become fashionable to abuse Nehru in Delhi these days. Sheikh’s grave needs to be protected in Srinagar by men in uniform with carbines.

The phone rings. Omar, a cross between looking glum and tickled, takes the call.

OA: Yes, dad, it is true. What do you mean how true?

Doc: Faan ha karov atey saersi.

OA: Talk in English or Urdu, dad. What is Faan?

Doc: Kihi na. It is the Muftis, I know.

OA: Why blame them? It is our deadwood.

Doc: Haya potra if we lose men at this rate, soon it will be you and Nasir alone left in the party.

OA: Mehboob wanted to be a hero.

Doc: Hero, my foot! What is happening in Beeroh (Beerwah). Put a pheran on and visit Beeroh daily, booztha.

OA: I tweet daily, dad.

Doc: Haya only journalists read your tweets.

OA: Mehboob was bad-mouthing them till Saturday.

Doc: Beg calls Mufti a ‘visionary’. Jigar ha dodum. It was like a dagger in the bosom.

OA: We are the only and the oldest nationalistic party. They can’t possibly take us on.

Doc: Haya Sheikh Ghulam Rasool tya nivok. Kuni na rood na kah.

OA: You know dad I was joking with Devender last night that they have Ashiq and Mehboob both.

Doc: You think it is funny! That Devender’s brother is BJP’s CM aspirant.

OA: You trusted Karan Singh’s son Ajatshatru. He is also supping with the devil.

Doc: Hay kus tavan.

OA: Electoral politics, dad. PDP's time perhaps.

Doc: It should be Al-bain always.

OA: Let Mufti yield the broom.

Doc: Kursi is important.

OA: Now what?

Doc: Make sure no one takes the leader of the opposition kursi from you.