Diary, December 20, 2016.
Those Red Brick Hutments
On a train ride to Roorkee from Delhi, the train reaches Roorkee later in the evening.
The train stops there for a minute or so. You have to bring your luggage close to the door so that you can get down with your entire luggage in a timely manner.
I usually stand at the train door 20-30 minutes before the station arrives. I sometimes open the door of the train. The strong shaft of air hugging the train in the evening is very refreshing. In fact, it is quite exhilarating.
Especially, in a cold December evening in North India. The sunset had begun an hour ago. The cold wind slaps you.
Inside the train, there is a cacophony of YouTube on phones, tablets, and laptops. Some of them are watching Bollywood movies, Hollywood movies, Sunny Leone channel, smut, and even a clip from the Rocky movie signature tune. Then, there are also vendors walking down the aisles of the entire train screaming “Chai”, “Ice Cream”…
Outside, amidst the sugarcane farms, dry husk from sugarcane is often burned. The fire gives bright red outlines seen in the sunset dark from the speeding train. Strangely, the red flickering gives a feeling of warmth and solace this winter from a distant place, we are moving away from. Warmth and solace from all this noise inside.
Occasionally, you see solitary red brick hutments in those fields. There is always a single light inside in each of them. Is someone watching the YouTube there too?
December 28, 2007 Diary
Benazir Bhutto – Through the eyes of India
Since the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto, I have been glued to the TV in India – listening to different channels, some Indian (NDTV, etc.), and some multinational (BBC, CNN, CNBC). Right now, I have been watching her funeral live in Lakrana.
India and Pakistan has have had long torturous history, with a common past, common mistrust, and also common culture. Somehow, I have found information content regarding Benazir Bhutto in Indian TV channels more nuanced including her own sense of entitlement, corruption charges, mass support among poorer people in Pakistan but also evoking equal mistrust, and Pakistan as a whole currently in a quite a precarious position spiraling into anarchy as a part of complete discussion. It is because Indian media shares with Pakistan a common language, culture, and also easy access to informed Pakistani viewpoints, especially as Urdu speakers than their western media counterparts.
Two things stuck me listening to Indian TV channels that were palatable – a) genuine feeling of loss by the assassination of her by India as a whole, b) and sense of panic that it is not out of realm of possibility that the Talibanization of Pakistan could spill over to India at some point, if left unchecked.
Benazair’s baptization to international affairs happened in India, when as a Radcliffe-Harvard coed, she accompanied her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during the Simla accord in 1972. Even though, as a Prime Minister of Pakistan, India and Pakistan had an acrimonious record with respect to mutual relationship, and she continued making various monsters, like the future Taliban, and AQ Khan. I remember her going on anti-India tirade at her extremely well spoken talk at Cornell in early 90s.
She was in last few years a regular visitor to India who talked to Indian media very often for her future vision of Pakistan, and hinting at also creating a new paradigm for relationship between India and Pakistan, if she came back to the power again. Well, they all will be pipe dreams. Or, out of power politican's unrealistic talk with no serious thought behind. Or, perhaps, she had new ideas with respect to India.
Indian subcontinent has seen a number of political assassinations in 60 years, and so there is a sense of empathy across the continent. More importantly, Indian leaders rightfully know that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto emboldens the Islamist extremists in the subcontinent and beyond, and this is not good news for everyone – Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and even rest of the world. No doubt, Pakistan has lost a popular mass leader, had a streak of a liberal politician (or perhaps a promise of being one, one day), and a very brave woman.
Maybe, as Imran Khan puts it, Pakistan should immediately form a national consensus government formed from different mainstream political thought.
"Pledges of international aid to help rebuild cyclone-ravaged Bangladesh rose sharply Wednesday, but continuing shortages of food at crowded relief camps triggered fist fights among survivors.
The government said it had promises of US$390 million (€263 million) in international aid, much of it from a US$250 million (€170 million) pledge from the World Bank.
But aid workers in remote villages struggled to get desperately needed basic goods such as rice, clean drinking water and tents to survivors of last Thursday's storm, which killed more than 3,100 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
In Tafalbari, a dusty village of crushed tin huts and flooded fields, violence broke out outside a relief center as desperate villagers fought each other after hours of waiting fruitlessly for aid.
Several thousand people surrounded a small relief station set up by a local aid agency that was forced to shut its gates, admitting just a few people at a time."