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February 11, 2002

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Varsha Bhosle

Theatre of the Absurd

Truth: these days, I just can't summon up the anger and concentration required for serious expositions. If I can't keep a straight face while reading the newspapers, how the hell can I write with any semblance of gravity?! To top that, there's the bro's new twins: kootchie-cooing for hours like an idiot does horrible things to one's jingoistic soul. And when one's busy learning all there's to know about cradle caps and nappy rash, one's likely to overlook the latest statistics on Paki infiltrations. Oh, did I tell you? I, of course, won the Battle of Baptism: Ranjai and Zai it is, hehehehe.

Ok, I'll desist from getting into mom's-home-movies mode (though don't be shocked if I start inserting the twins' pictures between paragraphs some time) and hasten to the Theatre of the Absurd: The compiled efforts of M/s Bush, Blair, Musharraf, Vajpayee & Co have driven to new depths the belief of dramatists like Beckett, Ionesco and Pinter, who held that man's life is without meaning or purpose and that human beings cannot communicate. To illustrate this, the playwrights abandoned conventional dramatic form and, most significantly, coherent dialogue, thus conveying the futility of existence by illogical and meaningless speeches and ultimately by complete silence... Now tell me, is the connotation of the phrase 'Theatre of the Absurd' at all in odds with the show that the world's statesmen are putting up?

Mr Vinod Kumar, a person I've often tapped for obscure references and from whom stolen many one-liners, mailed me a spoof titled, 'Some gems of wisdom soon to emanate from Pakistan's Brain Trust': "We have been saying all along that the highjacking of the Indian Airlines flight from Nepal was planned by RAW so that they could seek the release of Omar Sheikh. Sheikh is a RAW agent... The kidnapping of Pearl was also carried by Sheikh under instructions of RAW. On the issue of Jaish-e-Mohammed -- this is also a brain-child of RAW. The Pakistanis are not fundamentalists. We are secular, peace-loving Muslims. JeM is working with RAW on Pakistan soil to tarnish the good name of Pakistan. Thank Allah, we have President Bush who knows how nice and decent people we Pakistanis are -- specially Musharraf."

Mr Kumar, who lives in the US and isn't remotely connected to the Pakistan establishment, wrote this on Wednesday. Two days later, on February 8, The Newspaper Today published an article by a Dawn journalist, titled "Jaish-e-Mohammed an Indian-cultivated ploy: Pakistan", which argued that Jaish actually works for Indian and Hindu interests. The following day, The Washington Post published an item captioned "Pakistan Says India Suspect In Abduction" -- with Musharraf telling the Post interviewers that the Daniel Pearl kidnapping "has been done by the Indians, orchestrated by the Indians... I feel bad for my country even, because it does create such images, which is not the truth... The leader of Jaish-i-Muhammad was in jail for seven long years in India and he wasn't even tried... How is all this happening in India? And this man [Sheikh] was also there. We all know intelligence is a very bad game, and they can come out with any kind of game to justify or to organize or orchestrate such kind of activities."

If we strictly followed Beckett rules, the Indian government would have dispatched a team of RAW operatives to help the FBI investigate Mr Kumar. As things are, we should at least send all our "top" defence analysts and editors who are continuously wailing for peace talks to learn how Mr Kumar crept into the Paki mind with such accuracy.

*****

Headlines, all: Pakistan proposes talks on troops withdrawal. Pakistan ready to sign no-war pact with India. Musharraf sends Republic Day message, seeks talks. Musharraf wants sports ties with India... Heeheehee! Can you spot the panic over the cost of troop deployment setting in?

Apropos 'sports ties', the U-turn specialist said at a reception for his hockey team (the tournament was in Kuala Lumpur, not on Paki soil), "Pakistan will be keen to play against Indian teams anywhere, anytime, including in India... We are an entertainment-starved nation." Well, yes, I understand the desperation in the first part, but an "entertainment-starved nation"...? LOLLL, not with Mushy and Rashid Qureshi and Abdul Sattar and Hamid Gul around!

*****

For some not-so-strange reason, the reaction of the Bombay audience at the crucial one-day international between India and England went unreported by our pacific press. (Well, I could be wrong since I don't open the sports section... but I think, not.) Apparently -- and this is aankhon-dekha haal by my cousins who went for the game and came back with sore throats -- to a man, the stadium was screaming: "Pakistan haay haay!" and "Pakistan murdabad". That's right. At the India-ENGLAND game.

No doubt, the entire stadium was filled with, as per pacifist humbug, only the communal-divisive-fundamentalist-jingoistic forces of Mumbai. But I do wonder, what kind of "people-to-people contact" can be established with the Terrorist State of Pakistan when the people of one party can't contain their dislike of the second party during a match involving another party altogether! Nahi, sochne ki baat hai.

*****

Last week, the venerable The Times of India was plunged into a helluva hot soup by one of the most dangerous com-div-fundie-jingoistic force in India, ie, ghazal singer Jagjit Singh. At a packed charity show organised by, help, an NGO, Jagjitji "sternly" told the audience: "Let's get this straight. Music is about culture. Music helps in bringing two cultures closer, but it will not necessarily help bring together arch foes like India and Pakistan, not in the current situation."

I can -- heeheehee! -- imagine the "liberal" reporter chewing his nails over the difficulty of giving such a plain statement the usual antiwar slant. For, ignoring it altogether would have given up the leftist game with the people who had witnessed the concert -- and the press knows how powerful word-of-mouth can be... But s/he did it nevertheless -- by simply ignoring what Jagjitji had said on cricket ties with Pakistan; restricting the musical-contact to two sentences; fluffing up the piece with fan mail from Pakistan; and, hahahaha, suggesting what the audience really felt about Jagjitji's plainspeak: "He perhaps stunned his audience when he sternly said that he does not think music will help solve differences between the two South Asian rivals."

Well, you and I know exactly how "stunned" the audience must have been when they heard their inner thoughts being voiced by the singer...

*****

But of course, the Kuldip Nayars of this country persist in the mode of: "Who will light the candles at the border this year?... By closing access from across the border, New Delhi has played into the hands of fundamentalists in both countries. They are the ones who hate liberalism and open thinking. New Delhi also has let down those Pakistanis who are fighting dictatorship on the one hand and bigotry on the other."

Bawwwwwl... so touching. Well, almost as touching as the news about the 22-foot-high hot-air balloon draped in the Pakistan flag and carrying a cutout of the Ghauri missile and filled with hate mail from Pakistan that landed in Barmer. The bomb disposal squad had to be called in to screen the balloon for explosives. Officer Sanghithir of the Rajasthan police said, "This is the second balloon to float into Rajasthan this week with hate mail from Pakistan. We have parked both the balloons in our station house car pound. They are eating into our space... I hope this nuisance stops." The balloon also carried the message: "Do you want a pounding?" and "This will knock out Agni."

Now tell me, with such comical stuff constituting the news, and with the Kuldip Nayars rendering themselves so irrelevant, what need do I have to be serious??

*****

Perhaps I laughed hardest when I read about the plight of the poor jihadis at Gitmo: "At Guantanamo Bay, where 144 captives from Afghanistan are being detained under tight security, fighters who defended a regime that systematically trampled on women's rights now find themselves forced to obey female guards. 'In their country they probably ran their women. Now they're getting the other side of it,' said Private Courtney Sletten, a US Army Military Police assigned to guard duty at Camp X-Ray... The captives have little privacy. When a prisoner wants to use the bathroom or take a shower, he must ask a guard to escort him. Before a prisoner can leave his cell, he must kneel as guards put handcuffs on his wrists and leg irons on his ankles."

Apropos the effect on The Great Islamic Warriors, Private Jodi Smith said, "It's 'yes miss, no miss, may I please miss'... I have not had any problems with them at all. None." Added Pte Sletten: "They know there's consequences if they don't treat me the same as everybody else."

Talk about guardian angels and divine justice, heeheehee!

*****

Where there's the divine, there must be The Great Helmsman. We now have it from the horse's mouth: Pakistan has direct lines to Allah. "This is our faith that God Almighty gives honour to whoever He wants and snatches honour from whoever He wants. If this is our faith then God Almighty has brought me to this position... This position, this authority has been bestowed by God and as long as I hold this authority, and whatever work I am doing with full responsibility, all Pakistanis should have confidence in that because this is our faith," said Musharraf to no one in particular.

He's right! And this should give Indian Muslims -- and Hindus and Christians and whatever -- food for some serious thought: How relevant is the concept of God and His Word in governance...? Look at the leaders with which we all have been saddled! It's all His fault. So shouldn't we be working towards keeping God in our homes and ushering in true secularism in the State?

*****

Ok, everybody's been going hammer and tongs about the UP elections and the defence card being played by the BJP. I say, thank god for the UP elections! If not for that, we'd have seen another replay of the submission to terrorists la the Kandahar hijacking in 1999. I tell you, Ma Kali is definitely looking out for India.

On the same note, I'm totally against the decision to ban the sale of Osama bin Laden's posters. I, for one, am trying to get a nice picture of the Beard for framing. Every Indian who's been pulling his hair over the Islamic jihadi factor and the ISI and Paki terrorism and SIMI and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants for a decade must perform a daily aarti to the man who brought it all out into the open and gave credibility to the quarters which deserved it but were denied. In fact, now that the Mahatma's been sent the US brand way by his grandson, we can agitate to have the Beard's image on our Rs 500 note. What better honour for a person who pulled India back from the brink of disaster? It's all in keeping with the Theatre of the Absurd.

Varsha Bhosle

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