Friday, September 4, 2020

In a free state by V.S. Naipaul – A book review

‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’ - Lao Tzu

This is only part of the quote and it’s got great depth. However, in this case, the teacher did appear but I realize I wasn’t really ready when I attempted to read this book for the first time. This time around I seem to have a better understanding of its brilliance and feel educated.

The theme is displacement and it makes its presence in the primary characters in the stories. Mr. Naipaul is an eloquent genius who I think doesn’t believe in packaging; the reader sees the characters as they are because they are precisely as they have been written about. This is prose of immense depth.

These are sketches of people away from their homes in different countries, inadvertently, compellingly, adamantly or consciously trying to adjust and blend in the labyrinths of a new life.

The needless harassment of the tramp aboard the ship in the ‘Tramp at Piraeus’ shows how uncomfortable unconventionality can make us; how ruthlessly it can anger us, how easily we can yield power where it is possible not where it’s necessary. The discovery of himself and his existence in a foreign land, Washington in ‘One out of many’, tells the wonderful story of a house-help from India, Santosh. Dumbfounded by the newness of everything, sleeping in a closet, his world is as enclosed and confined as the closet or his master’s room. You give a child a colourful beautiful toy and then take it away – the child is confused, lost; the crying and tears only come later. In this new country and city, Santosh discovers a toy he never had – his identity, his face, himself; he realizes he’s not just a servant, but a person, an individual. But it’s lost – this toy, this identity, soon after its discovery and what remains is just another brick in the wall, a compulsion for compromise. Like an institutionalized slave, struggling for freedom, he doesn’t know what to do with it when it has been achieved; he’s lost.

‘Tell me who to kill’ is about hatred. A disorientated and resentful youngster from a village, envious of his uncle’s social fa├žade of a status and embarrassed by his own family’s sends his brother abroad to study and follows in tow to check-up on him. But once he’s there, he cannot leave; he’s caught in the mad rush of earning money and giving his brother a better life. A sense of pride is crushed with the indignation he feels towards everyone; a crime is committed and a life is wasted. Who’s to blame?

‘In a free state’ is the longer story and I liked it immensely. A drive through the landscapes of Africa by two office bearing foreigners, whites in a time of political chaos doesn’t remain just a journey on the road; it’s a journey into the conflicting thoughts of these individuals about this country they are in now and its people. A fracas in their heads is out in dialogue when difficult questions are asked and answered by the two about their purpose and perceptions in this foreign land. The conversations pinch you in the right places as they question the basic thoughts of human nature, of seeing things and people in a new state. You realize there’s a huge difference between what one says, what one believes and what one has made himself/herself to believe in and these conflicting thoughts are convoluted over time and undulating between them every now and then, one finally acts in a totally mismatched way. Should one act like Romans when in Rome? But it depends on who that ‘one’ is, probably the dependency is also on the colour of one’s skin, his or her social status, the privileges that one enjoys over others. The conversations and thoughts show how easily one can be judgmental when one is privileged. This is a contrast to the other stories as here the outsider seems to have an upper hand, condescending on the bearing and conduct of the locals. What gives them this right to intrude? Who has invited them to do so – to feel and act superior?

I remember a long time ago a good friend of mine and I were having a discussion about nihilism among other things. Deep into the conversation, I felt and shared with her that these are thoughts of the privileged and she agreed; a poverty ridden society or even a strictly basic one and its people have no time to think about these anthropological jargons. There are people who are ashamed to speak the local language in their own country but are happy to learn a foreign language to impress; there are narcissists who take pride in telling everyone around them how to behave, eat, talk, and dress among other things. The natives didn’t invite these foreigners; they are intruders in a way even if they hold a post in their society. And these intruders are happy to see naked savages perform a cultural dance and entertain them but the delight is limited to that; beyond that the inhabitants turn into ugly, disgusting aboriginals who are to be looked down upon, who need to be taught culture, who need to be despised because that’s what they are worthy of; lions in a zoo or circus are safer to look at, or when they are tranquilized - one can even stroke it’s mane but they’re oh so dangerous in the wild. It’s like visiting someone’s house uninvited and trying to play God.

It took Satan and an apple from the forbidden tree to make Eve and then Adam be aware and embarrassed of their nakedness; it takes an outsider to make the natives feel so – to be embarrassed, to feel wanting, to feel the darkness of their colour, to appear stunted in their esteem, to fall in a hole that wasn’t there. Condescension is an art and who better than the privileged to act it out; it takes great mental skills to make people content with their lives show what’s missing in their lives and then offer help, and then intrude on their privacy and lives, and then to yield authority, and then to transform or wipe them out.

Naipaul’s characters and their thoughts are those of the individuals in a foreign land and these individuals make people and these people constitute a society or culture. These stories are essential.

‘People are generally good till you cease to be the person they want you to be.’ – from an Omeleto video I watched recently.

My rating: 5/5

Images from:

Book cover -

V. S. Naipaul -

Friday, August 28, 2020

A Winter’s Night and other stories by Munshi Premchand – A book review

There’s short yet useful information provided at the end of the book about the author’s life and an introduction by one of India’s greatest poets Gulzar. Stories from Premchand have been part of textbooks; he was known as the ‘Upanyas Samrat’ – the emperor of novels though mostly in North India. It was surprising and a revelation to read that his early education was in a Madrasa, under a maulvi and his initial stories were written in Urdu.

This book is a collection of short stories and it is from a bygone era, an era from which India has evolved. More specifically it is from the villages of India, it is from a time India was engulfed by the caste system, the British rule, and hence poverty. It transports you to the villages in India, with wells accessible only to the elite, women drawing water from it, people in their traditional clothing, cattle working in the fields, lands and mortgages; no tractors, no high rises, no smart phones, no televisions – yes, a world still existed then. Though the settings have changed and life and India have moved on, the characters and their plight is believable. The forms have changed - the forms of oppression, the forms of sacrifice, the forms of love and belonging; replace a zamindar with one of today’s politicians, replace the moneylender with the big loan sharks of today and you have a new revised version of these stories.

The brilliance of these stories lies in their simple narrative. A story writer needs to be a good observer and Munshi Premchand was brilliant. In each story, he captures the innate capacity of individuals and the brazen thoughtless acceptance of a divided society at large. The lives in these stories are clearly divided between the oppressor and the oppressed. Stories like ‘The salt inspector’, ‘Kaki’, ‘A quarter and one ser of wheat’ and ‘The price of milk’ clearly portray this divide. Readers will relate with the laziness and shamelessness of drunkards in ‘The Shroud’ even today.

I believe these stories are pieces of history that children of today must be made to read if they are to know where their grandfathers and their grandfathers came from; they are as important as stories of Shivaji and of mutinies and of independence; they are stories of behavior, stories to ponder upon.

This is real history; unbiased, secular.  

Image courtesy:

Munshi Premchand -

Book cover -

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Snow by Orhan Pamuk – A book review

Lately I’ve been inadvertently reading a lot about God. Graham Greene’s God, Iris Murdoch’s God, Jordan Peterson’s God and now Ka’s and Kars’s versions of God. Yes, versions. Kars is a city in Turkey and Ka is a Turkish poet and this is their story.

For some reason the story and its people have left me irritated. I don’t like them. At all!

And not ‘for some reason’; I know, I know why. They aren’t simply flawed in their beliefs like most beings are; they are ugly in their narrow minded thoughts and uglier in their actions; they want to see the world burn in the name of religion and God.

Ka’s Kars is a city you probably didn’t know about and when you do know, you don’t want to know anymore about. Nothing really happens there except for snowing. Nothing constructive, I mean. And yet people are so obsessed there with their beliefs. And when it thaws, and people are out of their frozen inertia, the ugliness drips with the thawing.

The kind of fundamentalism mentioned is so tiring - towards God, towards religion and yet it exists. And these so called fundamentalists and their beliefs in God and religion in their created capacities, in fact strengthen your thoughts that they are the creations of men. Created capacities for sure because God is a veil they hide behind, a convenience for their immorality and disgusting fanatical thoughts and acts.

God is a favourite of the idle and the disturbed; he, not He, has nothing worthwhile to do. The hard working person, the intellectual doesn’t need to talk about God all the time, he too needs assurance but he knows He’s there, if you do believe at all. All about the people of Kars is ‘Us and Them’; us is them and them is the West. And the West for them is a world of intellectuals and infidels, and intellectualism is atheism. Says who? Says they. And yet they are so concerned that the West disparages them, laughs at them, and finds them to be nobodies. Grow up you wonderful people of this wonderful city; probably the West doesn’t even know you exist! And why are you so insecure and unhappy when you so strongly believe in your God; why should what the West think of you matter? It’s a farce, it’s a farce!

I guess this hypocrisy stems from the basic needs of humanity not being met, from Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. The city of Kars and its people are in poverty, a jobless dump where the youth and adolescents are idling their time away; what better thing to do than to fight for God then and to kill and destroy in his name. And not just kill thy neighbor, annihilate the world if possible – spread the word of God! I’ve come to realize that the things you hate are actually the things you most love or crave for. And most of the characters have an insidious affinity for the West but just can’t be them because they’re not supposed to, allowed to, because you are not allowed to love something you detest. And the internal conflict in their heads, a strong hatred emerging from helplessness creates their own inferno and they don’t want to burn alone.

Movement in this story by Orhan Pamuk where he himself writes about his friend Ka after his death, starts and ends with the changing laws of girls’ suicides in Kars and around for not being allowed to wear a headscarf. It took me a while to actually understand what the big deal of a headscarf was and how it was related to the girls’ suicides and then I realized. And it was a wow moment!

As a character in the book says; the world will grow in leaps and bounds and make technological advances while we are stuck with head-scarves and religion. Thinking logically or intellectually is an abuse in such a society where everyone knows everything about religion and God and good and evil and what you should do and more importantly what you shouldn’t; probably more than the God they believe in.

They are all shamelessly naked and exposed and yet they care about the wearing of a headscarf. Your religion, your religious books and your God don’t really advocate infidelity, deceit, hatred, do they? Ipek, a divorcee, who Ka is madly, rather lustily in love with, who he considers and portrays as nothing less than Aphrodite herself, sleeps with her husband’s friend whom he reveres. Her sister vies for the same man, is sleeping with him as well. And this man is a terrorist who thinks he has all the answers. They call him Blue and the sisters think he’s is truthful and heroic and just and doing the work of God. Just! Work of God! What’s that? Satiating envious vying blood sisters at the same time while their imbecile of a father is busy talking about politics – Is this the call for freedom? And freedom from what? And though the story tries to flavor a woman’s plight, I don’t see Ipek as anything but a selfish woman. She’s cunning enough to make love to Ka even though she’s not in love with him; she just wants to mislead him, she’s still in love with Blue. And these girls have opinions on wearing and the removal of head scarves! A fundamentalist, a fugitive sleeping with two sisters at the same time; how does your God allow that? God is your convenience and nothing else.

And then there’s Sunay Zaim, the theatre virtuoso, a crazy artist who’s ready to die for his art and beliefs and he does, yet not before deceitfully and ingeniously causing a military coup in the snowy city. He dies like the suicide girls; for pride they say. Pride for what you worthless creatures, for what? It’s a puzzle you don’t want to solve; just want to throw the pieces away and not think again.

“Don’t write what you see about us in your book”, a character tells Orhan while he’s leaving the city. Why not? Why aren’t you comfortable in your skin? Why don’t you act the way you want to be then; why hide behind this shroud of the unknown? Why do you need someone else’s assurance? If you yourself have so many conflicts within yourself, then how come you have such strong opinions about God and religion?

Just believing and trusting in God isn’t enough in Kars; you have to prove it every day else you are termed an atheist. You might be a rapist, a murderer but if you climb the cemented or stone steps of the house of God, you’re a believer. Here God isn’t important anymore but what you think of God takes precedence. No wonder they make such heartless terrorists. Kars doesn’t need God; it needs jobs and things to keep themselves busy. They need to clean their houses and city first before trying to build the Garden of Eden.

I’ve got to confess. I kept reading the book till the end because I derived a sadistic pleasure from hating them. Not healthy, I know; probably that shows my current state of mind.

My rating: 6/10

Image sources:

Book cover -

Orhan Pamuk -


Monday, June 22, 2020

The blind assassin by Margaret Atwood – A book review

‘I look back over what I’ve written and I know it’s wrong, not because of what I’ve set down, but because of what I’ve omitted. What isn’t there has a presence, like the absence of light.

You want the truth, of course. You want me to put two and two together. But two and two doesn’t necessarily get you the truth. Two and two equals a voice outside the window. Two and two equals the wind. The living bird is not its labeled bones.’

Two balls of yarn. Two colours. Take your pick. 
Margaret Atwood calls them Iris and Laura. They are the Chase sisters. 
If not careful, entanglement and a mess are inevitable; with each other, within each other.
And Atwood hasn’t been careful!

‘But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife’s stab, the shell-burst, the plummet of the car from the bridge.’

Laura drove a car of a bridge. Died. She killed herself. Was it an impetuous act? Her mind killed her. But who killed her mind. Laura Chase was born with a black and white cognition; dismissing the grays. She wouldn’t, rather couldn’t read between lines. She saw the literal world in the literal sense; the abstract was too abstract for her. Iris was the elder sister, entrusted with always taking care of Laura.

The book is the story that a contrite Iris writes in remembrance of Laura for her disappeared and estranged granddaughter Sabrina; to tell her the truth. Spanning across generations, the story of her life has devastating secrets, infidelity and complicity. As Laura’s shade gets paler, Iris’s ball of yarn grows darker and darker; unknowingly, deliberately, self-imposed, thrusted. As she herself is pushed gradually into a deceitful marriage, the helplessness and sedation brings out a vulnerable numbness that doesn’t thwart her from finding solace in the one person she shouldn’t have.

And there’s a gory story within the story; a story that is published posthumously as Laura’s but isn’t. As Iris, the wife of a wealthy and prominent person in society, and her insouciant lover, a fugitive, knit this parallel bizarre fantasy tale during their pangs of furtive and passionate love making in rented rooms, another act of treacherous adultery is altering their lives. Who are these characters in the story they create; why does it bear a striking resemblance to them?

Is she the muted girl in the story the lover saves and elopes with; her tongue pulled out; quietened? Is she really being saved? And is the lover the blinded one; an outcast rebel turning a blind eye to the atrocities of life and the people in it with an urge for destroying? Who has orchestrated this affair between a blind and a mute; the lover or her, or both together, but does love need an orchestration, any orchestration?

Iris has answered for herself. At a dying age, will her contrition be accepted? Laura didn’t die of the abuse, of helplessness, she died from the snatching away of one thing that was never hers but always hers.

‘How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next – if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions – you’d be doomed. You’d be as ruined as God. You’d be a stone. You’d never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning You’d never love anyone, ever again. You’d never dare to.

Drowned now – the tree as well, the sky, the wind, the clouds. All she has left is the picture. Also the story of it.

The picture is of happiness, the story not. Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along to its twisted road.’

Most of Atwood’s characters are furtive; she’s imposed them with secrets they need to bury; a few can and a few fail. Crafted vividly, Atwood has given us a patchwork of two stories fused in one. Very well written; a compelling read! Would have liked to read more about Laura – she was different; she had an innocence that comes from simplicity. Predictable, vulnerable yet not boring.

‘”Laura, what are you doing?” I said. “That’s the Bible.”
“I’m cutting out the parts I don’t like.”
I uncrumpled the pages she’d tossed into the wastebasket.; swathes of Chronicles, pages and pages of Leviticus, the little snippet from St. Matthew in which Jesus curses the barren fig tree. I remembered now that Laura had been indignant about that fig tree, in her Sunday-schooldays. She’d been furious that Jesus had been so spiteful towards a tree. “We all have our bad days” Reenie had commented, briskly whipping up egg whites in a yellow bowl.’

‘The sun declines, the shadows of the curtains move across the bed. Voices on the street outside, unknown languages. I will always remember this, she tells herself. Then: Why am I thinking about memory? It’s not then yet, it’s now. It’s not over.’

My rating – 9/10

Picture courtesy:

Book cover - ©

Margaret Atwood - ©

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Je raate mor duar guli - my ramblings on a beautiful song by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore

From the time I first listened to this song, it has kind of haunted me. Not an expert in Bengali, rather far from being one (though it’s my mother tongue), I had to take help from a friend to understand the lyrics (Thank you Shonali Bhattacharjee). 
Like all Rabindranath Tagore songs, this one too has a mesmerizing effect and like I’ve always felt with his songs, open to different interpretations.

Here’s the version of the song I’ve been listening to by ‘Somlata and the Aces’

Transliteration and translation of the song

Je raate mor duar guli bhaanglo jhare,
Jaani naai to tumi ele aamar ghare.
Je raate mor duar guli bhaanglo jhare,
(The night when my doors were broken and destroyed by the storm,
little did I know that it was you who came to my house.)

Sab je hoye gelo kaalo, nibe gelo diper aalo,
Aakash paane haat baaralem kaahar tare?
Jaani naai to tumi ele aamar ghare.
Je raate mor duar guli bhaanglo jhare.
(Everything turned to darkness as all the lamps’ lights went out,
I stretched my hands to the sky, don’t know who I sought
little did I know that it was you who came to my house
the night when my doors were broken and destroyed by the storm,)

Andhokare roinu pore swapono maani.
Jhar je tomar jayodhwaja taai ki jaani.
Sakalbela cheye dekhi, daariye aachho tumi e ki,
Ghar bhora mor shunyotari bukero pore.
Jaani naai to tumi ele aamar ghare.
Je raate mor duar guli bhaanglo jhare.
(I lay there in the darkness thinking it was a dream or illusion,
that the storm was your war flag, I was unaware,
As I looked around in the morning, I saw you standing there – your illusional presence even in your absence,
the emptiness of my abode, lay heavy on my chest
little did I know that it was you who came to my house
the night when my doors were broken and destroyed by the storm,)


Here’s my interpretation and extended ramblings of this dark yet beautiful song.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts and not be considered a translation of the song.

It was just another day.

I saw a beautiful woman sleeping in the shade of a tree. Careful scrutiny revealed that she was hurt but there was a motherly calm and peacefulness on her face in spite of the pain. Her children lay besides her playing, oblivious rather overlooking the pain; her body their playground. They looked hungry and play is all they could in the absence of food.

Passersby noticed her too. Some called her wretched, a few derided her thinking she was one of those, others thought she was diseased and left there to die, a few poked her to see if she was alive. She seemed worn out, impervious to these disparaging remarks and gestures.

A bizarre thing happened next. The children, her children, fatigued by their play and famished sank their teeth into their mother. They seemed to relish every bite they took of her flesh. A miasma spread in the air and eerily beckoned scavengers to the feast. Like maggots attacking decay, the passersby soon overpowered the children to devour the woman, ripping her flesh with their uncannily developed canines. A gruesome fight ensued for chunks of flesh as the two-legged monsters snarled at each other like laughing hyenas, blood trickling from their bared teeth, lips and chins.

The woman winced; finally. She opened her eyes and all there was in them was disgust; an abhorrence that could be felt strongly. Like a plant giving energy to itself, she woke up and grew; she let out a scream that terrified even the wind. She looked around ferociously as she grew and grew; all her torn flesh replenished. It was her turn now and she didn’t stop when she started.

An insatiable hunger radiated from her bloody eyes and she picked up and gobbled each of the terror-stricken creatures trying to escape her wrath. Not once did she wince as she devoured her children too. Madness reigned; it wasn’t hunger anymore. She ran shrieking hysterically when the last one disappeared, her hair and insanity let loose. The pregnant grey clouds complicit with the gloomy dark sky burst deliberately it seemed its bag of waters. Darkness and raging tempest engulfed as she grew and paced chomping on and ravaging everything and everyone that came in her way; she spared none.

What I create, I can destroy!

Do we want to know her when she takes this form? Do we recognize her when she is like this? Can we accept her in her horrendous devastating appearance? Do we have a choice?

And have we loved her really; unconditionally? The garden wasn’t ours; she let us play in it. And we let weeds grow, in her garden, in our minds. She pleaded, she showed us her wounds, our given, but we furtively looked elsewhere, occupied in our superficial intimacies. Like with all mothers, we took her for granted.

She wasn’t ever weak; she was only patient and forgiving. And so we ignored her though we were just a speck in contrast. She still gave us importance and all we had for her was neglect. Like a cruel and ruthless child we went on relentlessly blackening and destroying the coulourful picture she had created, all that she had given us.

Should we be startled then when she comes on a war footing, leading a cavalry, mercilessly to avenge? Howling gales, hurricanes, and thunderstorms ride with her, armed with the ghastliest and most powerful weaponry. The angry war flags are like wild unforgiving storms, flapping wildly, outlines of red against the pitch darkness of the extinguished lights; all lamps blown out.

As the silhouettes grow in the ruins of every house, we look up at the sky stretching our hands begging for forgiveness. We fear and lament. For what, why? Who do we pray to now? We bow down now in the emptiness; helpless, beaten, in despair. We give in to her strength in sorrow; something we should have done in happiness.

Will we love her now, unconditionally; will we listen to her after this veritable reality check? A child slapped hard, we either hold and carry the anger or realize the unconventional love behind it.

Like a mother, hopefully she’ll forgive us yet again and let us thrive. Hopefully, the morning will bring a new beginning.

‘What fabrication they are, mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves – our own hungers, our own wishes, our own deficiencies.’
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Thank you Shonali for helping me with the translation
Shonali and I
© Soumen







© Soumen

Picture copyrights:
Rabindranath Tagore - ©

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – A book review

Reading Mrs. Dalloway was like attending Virginia Woolf’s art class. The sitters Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus twin bodied, differently dressed sit there, striking a pose like failed mirrored images of each other; one joyful, the other in misery; which one is which is for you to decipher. The lighting is perfect for the darkness; their shadows are one. There are others in the frame - Peter Walsh, Richard, Sally Seton and a few others with expressions that need explaining.

And that’s exactly what Virginia Woolf does. Instilling a passion for the muse, she ushers us into comfortable seats yet the comfort is but only for a moment. As she beckons for your rapt attention, and elaborates each expression, like the demented Septimus she goes on an interminable rambling of eloquence. Her stress on every impression of shade and shadow isn’t effortless but fastidious. You realize that her honesty in revealing the inherent lives behind these faces and bodies is so urgent that it leaves you breathless just like she is, from the unabating flow of words.

The story, set in London, is a day’s affair. It starts and ends with Clarissa’s party - an ostentatious affair, rightly so as she’s always been ever so boringly practical, with her head in the right place and not to mention, her heart too. In the arrangement of this gathering, others tread in and out like thoughts and the past mingles with the justifications for the present. Interceding for the characters, Virginia Woolf presents the generally happy and impervious Clarissa, a flower in a vase, wilting by the day but strongly safeguarding the exterior.

The flutters in the disconcerted mind are what Ms. Woolf plays with. Must the show go on, one wonders, as Clarissa’s party blots out the pain of Septimus’s suicidal death; an innocent life to be mourned or frivolous ones to be celebrated?

Ms. Woolf’s work hasn’t been an easy read; not for the story or depth but for the manner. It’s been hard to stay with her and not digress in the long decorated sentences. Often I had to read them twice, at times more to recollect what it started with in the first place. This is the first of Ms. Woolf’s work I’ve read and I’d like to read more of her.  

My rating - 6/10

Image copyrights:

Book cover -

Virginia Woolf -

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Just another massacre!

Our country has always been the ground for atrocities. We have accepted it, have become immune to it. We call ourselves resilient. Yes we do recover, but weaker and distorted; resilience has become shameful more than a matter of pride.

Be it the Mughals or the British, the Dutch or the Portuguese, India and Indians have been razed and ruined time and again. We’ve always been easy prey to devouring vultures. World history is replete with gory stories of Hitler but few other than historians and people who have lived that era know about Churchill and his obliteration of races, an abominable rapist who not just snatched every ornament from the beauty of our homeland but defiled it mercilessly and left it there – mutilated, burnt, broken, dying.

And today, as I watch the television in this lockdown, another equally inhuman event comes to mind – the Jallianwala Baug massacre.

On Sunday, 13 April 1919, Acting Brigadier-General
Reginald Dyer, convinced a major insurrection could take place, banned all meetings. This notice was not widely disseminated, and many villagers gathered in the Bagh to celebrate the important Indian festival of Baisakhi, and peacefully protest the arrest and deportation of two national leaders, Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. Dyer and his troops entered the garden, blocking the main entrance behind them, took up position on a raised bank, and with no warning opened fire on the crowd for about ten minutes, directing their bullets largely towards the few open gates through which people were trying to flee, until the ammunition supply was almost exhausted. The following day Dyer stated in a report that "I hear that between 200 and 300 of the crowd were killed. My party fired 1,650 rounds". – Source:

The audacity, the shamelessness, the inhumanity!

But they were others, not countrymen; these monsters. Centuries have passed, power has shifted hands but have things changed? Do we need Dyers and Churchills anymore? No, we have our own power hungry, intelligence devoid, indifferent special squad.

I’m sure you would have watched these on television many times, but take a few seconds to watch them again before you read further.


Don’t hold it back – let go as you witness the biggest Corona virus immunity test that’s been happening in Mumbai, the financial capital of India over the last few days? Hordes of migrants being stuffed in tempos, buses; thousands lined up outside railway stations flaunting the best examples of social distancing – I can see the Corona virus grinning! Thousands of BEST buses stand unused in the bus-depots, probably cringing to help but they can’t; they need permission. The elderly, children and everyone else have been invited to the circus. Hungry, poorer, unemployed, they stand there in hope, like sheep, herded, probably to death, probably to freedom. And all they want is to go home and be with their families. Some will get on a train, some will wait, and others will be forced to leave in the hope to come back the next day. Virus carriers? Who cares?

A perfectly organized and managed circus; acrobats falling from their swings to their deaths, the skilled knife thrower not missing his mark and killing the girl with a knife right between her eyes, the lion chomping on the trainer’s bones – its salivating teeth red, the joker laughing but not the audience.  

Ghalib had said:

ye ishq nahin asan itna hi samjh liije

ik aag ka dariya hai aur duubke jaana hai

That’s a thing of the past Ghalib miya; let’s make it relevant to the present.

Ye ghar jaana nahi asan itna hi samjh liije

Corona aur politics ka dariya hai aur duubke jaana hai

If not a massacre, what is this?

Picture copyrights:



Jallianwala Baug massacre picture - ©