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Home > News > Columnists > Varsha Bhosle

Dear Readers, VII

April 21, 2003

It's become a ritual now: On returning to these pages after long breaks, I find myself having to re-state stuff that ought to be obvious to the reader. Oops, I mean, the cognizant reader. I realise that it's as wrong of me to assume that every online reader is sophisticated, as it is for any writer to overlook the fluid nature of readership: Ignoramuses, like bad pennies, keep turning up all the time. Which explains the plethora of "unintelligible," "incomprehensible," "incoherent," etc, ruling the postings of the week before last. Or, as one sample noted: "You had to navigate through back and forth a couple of times like some Hindi movie where a flashback follows a flash-forward, which is followed by a flashback again, only to be followed by flash-forward."

Actually, I've hardly ever seen a Hindi movie as described above! One is used to the mandatory bees-saal-pehle flashback which promptly returns to the present. Ok, maybe there are three or four more flashbacks, but that's nothing to set one's powers of comprehension all in a tizzy -- unless said powers are meagre, to begin with. A flash-forward, on the other hand, is that which, for instance, forms the backbone of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and, to a lesser extent, Reservoir Dogs. Now, I have met many people (only fleetingly, thank god!) who simply couldn't cotton on to Pulp Fiction. But that's no reason for Tarantino to begin constructing like David Dhawan, is it? Especially since there exists a class of audience that grasps, and appreciates, his "erratic" output?

Bottom-line: I cannot descend to the level inhabited by semi-literates. That which is taught to students of Language and Literature is very different from the bare medium used to impart technical skills. Semi-colons, ellipses, long and complex sentences, allusions, and so on, are all par for the course of non-comic-book English. The sooner you realise that, the smoother will be your transition to literacy (if you aspire to it, that is). Dumbing-down just ain't my scene.

Oh yeah, that reminds me: Style is an intensely personal affair; it includes the use of slang, dialects, unpredictable paragraphing, volatile structure, expressions of emotions, length, and a myriad other things. Many seem to be infuriated by mine. And that's a good thing! For, when you finally begin to glide through it and discern the pith of an essay, you'll be that much closer to -- what else -- being discerning! So just think of it as an ever-present, free test of your aptitude, hehehehe...

Another tip: It would be better not to "sweeten" bulk postings with stuff like: "I've always liked her writings but this one is..." Naah, flattery doesn't make a message credible. Over the years, one learns to recognise the bullshit from "group endeavours," especially those drawn by stinging references to such groups. So why make for additional contempt??

Perhaps, the most heartrending responses were those in the mode of: "it is easy to point blame and try (unsuccessfully) to undermine the intent and will of the US." Or, "Remember, US soldiers are fighting with one hand tied behind their back, ie, not to cause many civilian casualties. Had they been given a free hand to fight..."

The pro-America passion of these NRIs was so omnipresent that it prompted American Male to note, "It seems to me that the journalists are spouting the nationalistic line, but that the replies are almost 100% in favor of the US fighting the Sadam regime and getting on with rebuilding this unfortunate nation."

Yes, I sympathise with the passion fruits. Because I understand their panic. It must be petrifying to have an Indian point out the defects in America's perfect army, no? I mean, what if the local skinhead visited rediff.com, saw my supposed antipathy to "our boys," and decided to zit the next brownie he saw?! So, yes, I compliment these readers on the form they've adopted to prove their loyalty to their current maay-baap. [Musical refrain: The things we do for the green card...]

As for those who wanted to know my STAND on the Iraq war, I really can't be clearer: didn't bother me either way. Besides which, do try to rouse those unused cells and ask yourselves why I -- or any resident Indian -- should need to have a black-or-white stand on a war waged by a country two continents away against a country another three countries away...? However, if it's "morality," "ethics," "justice" and all such crap that's at issue, puh-lease, don't make me laugh. I live in the real world and, thus, have never agitated for ideals useless in international politics. A nation that attains military and economic power gets all those concepts as a bonus -- whether it follows them or not.

Actually, if a nation followed them, it would remain exactly where we are: Still lighting the pyres of newly massacred Kashmiris; still imploring Uncle Sam to rein in Pakistan; still scavenging for "reconstruction" contracts, now jeopardised by that highly moral, ethical, pinko-propelled resolution deploring America. And, still extending "the hand of friendship" to Pakistan...

People who know their own minds, who are self-aware, who have a definite vision for their country, cannot be influenced or intimidated away from their chosen course of action. Therefore, no matter what the Axis of Weasels did, President Bush could not be shaken from his path of "liberating" Iraq. Similarly, no matter the mood of the entire country vis--vis the neighbourhood, Prime Minister Vajpayee, could not be deterred from buffing a certain pair of Texan snakeskin boots. We just have to figure out what constitutes his vision for India, is all.

So you see, all of us shape our work environment with the tools that reside within ourselves: facets of our native character. Nothing short of a catastrophe (and sometimes not even that), can alter a person's basic nature: Cowboys will eventually re-create the Wild West, and jalebiwalas will thrive by selling petty goods. One is an adventurer, a risk-taker; the other, a small-time trader in search of short-term profits. Result: Americans now control even more oil fields than before, while Indians are searching for the self-respect they thought their prime minister wouldn't put on the market.

I believe that the past is always a good indicator to the future: When jihadis attacked the J&K assembly, Mr Vajpayee told Mr Bush that we're at the end of our patience -- which held till Parliament was attacked. Then, our "fury" manifested itself as an unprecedented mobilisation at the frontiers -- to fizzle out as an unprecedented de-escalation. Even though Paki shelling had continued all through the "escalation." As were the helicopter and arms sales to Pakistan by the US and Russian...

But that's the background, not the indicator. On July 13, last year, 28 Hindus, including 10 women and 8 children, were killed and 29 seriously injured when Lashkar-e-Tayiba suars lobbed grenades and fired at civilians in the Qasim Nagar slums outside Jammu. Our government mulled and mulled, and came up with this: "All this is happening with the inspiration of Pakistan," said Yashwant Sinha. "We will fight against terrorism in our own way," quoth L K Advani. And guess what "our own way" was: On July 16, it was reported that the army had withdrawn three strike divisions from the Pakistan frontier because "militant infiltrations declined."

There you go: March 24, 2003 -- Lashkar dogs massacre 24 Kashmiri Pandits at Nadimarg village. March 29 -- Paki jihadis chop off the noses of 6 persons in Panihad village. April 18 -- Mr Vajpayee extends "the hand of friendship" to Pakistan -- in accordance with "our own way" of fighting jihad.

Since the day that Masood Azhar was set free by this government, I have repeatedly said that the PM is a curse on this country. Today, I escalate that warning: India is under relentless attack *because* this person is at the helm of affairs. To paraphrase Tony Blair: This government's capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by its feebleness in implementing them. That is why our tolerating the PM has to stop. Because it is dangerous. It is dangerous because all other regimes, especially Musharraf's, disbelieve us. Dangerous because they use our weakness, our hesitation, even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace, against us. Dangerous because they have sussed our innate revulsion against war to be no more than permanent incapacity...

Nearly a year before the Agra Summit, I'd written that Mr Vajpayee would one day sell Kashmir. With this new "hand of friendship," I believe that Prem Shankar Jha's prediction of April 14 is about to come true:

"[The US and Britain] are therefore in desperate search of some other means of propitiating Muslims in other countries and defusing the anger that is building up against them... [Blair] has insisted all along that the declaration of war on Iraq must be accompanied with the announcement of a road map for the creation of an independent Palestine. As the war continues to worsen politically for the allies, would it be too much to expect him to add the propitiation of Pakistan on Kashmir to the list?

"There is also every reason to expect Washington to be far more receptive to such a suggestion than it has been to the other two. Leaving Iraq to the UN would shatter the neo-conservative vision of a new, democratic, pro-west Middle East that Iraq is to usher in. As for the road map for Palestine, it has already been riddled with crossfire from Tel Aviv. Bush knows therefore that it stands virtually no chance of being adopted. That leaves only Kashmir to offer as an olive branch to the world's Islamist fanatics."

Before he proceeds to hug Musharraf, questions that the Sage of Raisina Hills needs to answer are:

  • Has he at all heard of the phrase "war of a thousand cuts"?
  • Does he believe that Pakistan's goals are limited to the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir?
  • Is he aware that J&K is, in fact, an Indian state???
  • Does he think that Musharraf has control over the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which front's manifesto says it will "provide active support to independence movements in Kashmir"?
  • How does he propose to deal with Jamaat ud-Daawa's Hafiz Saeed, who maintains that "the need for jihad against India is paramount," who is strongly supported by the powerful MMA, and who was released by (haha!) a Pakistani court?
  • Can a person on his knees negotiate with terrorists...?

Oh shoot, I truly didn't want to get into J&K; it gives me such heartburn. When I heard about the "hand of friendship," I'd decided to relax by taking potshots at dim-witted netizens. But, as always, one thing led to another...

So let me return to having fun, despite the anticipated dementia of one Alka Kaul, who, the last time I looked, had more than a dozen postings per article! Wow! Not only does she post nonstop but also returns to answer and re-answer and re-re-answer other's messages! Wow! Is it a profitable line of work or sumpin'??

Reader Ranjeet: "It does not matter if the writer is a regular columnist or just a freelancer -- If the article sucks bigtime, DON'T PUBLISH IT... If you didn't upload this article, no one would notice its absence. Why should readers be subjected to such incoherent verbal diarrhoea? Sad to see Rediff's slumping standards. It is still my favourite portal, but may not remain so for long.

I'm happy to say that -- and I'm not making this up -- simply based on the number of postings, I finally, finally got a raise! So keep that hate flowing, y'hear!!

Reader "Indian":
This is a couplet for you.
"Kya baat hai ke tarhiron me taasir nahi"
"Jhoote Fankar nahi hai to Qalam Jhoote hain"
Tahriron = Writings
Taasir = Effect, Impact
Fankar = Artist, writer
Seriously what is your IQ level?

My reply:
Fankar ki taasir hai padhnewale pe munhasir
Jab woh hi hain na-fahm, Nabi tak kya asar kare
Naah, no listing. I'm not here to make life easier.
My IQ? Can you go beyond counting fingers and toes...?

Varsha Bhosle

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