Can't we all be human beings?

RAMCHANDPAKISTANI_STILL03_W_LOW.jpgFrom Tribeca Film Festival '08:

The most haunting frame of Ramchand Pakistani may be its first. Over a black screen, the words appear: adapted from actual events. The world is full of mad facts, but among the maddest is that in 2002, as Indian and Pakistani troops massed against each other on the countries' border, an eight-year-old boy named Ramchand wandered over the invisible line separating his own side of the desert from that of India's and was taken prisoner. Going in search of Ramchand, his father followed him across and was captured as well. They were held in an overcrowded Indian jail for five years. In her first feature film, Mehreen Jabbar lays out the political contexts of Ramchand's situation with exceptional fluidity. Titles at the top establish the geopolitics, and the more localized issues are threaded through early scenes. Most salient of all is the fact that Ramchand's family is part of a Hindu tribe of untouchables, making them both suspect and powerless in Pakistan. Bollywood star Nandita Das thus proves doubly brave .......

Trailer here

Benazir Bhutto - Through the eyes of India

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.

Help Bangladesh

 From International Herald Tribune

"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."


Help. Mercy Corp is one possible charity.

Possibly an Indian-origin Sikh or Rajput (Thoughts of the Day - 14)

Providence Gangster #1: Come on Babu, I can't do any more. I can't go off, please don't make me go back empty handed. Please don't do this. I wanna help you.
Pakistani Proprietor: Come to my store next Friday. I'll give you the money...
Providence Gangster #1: This is Friday Babu, how many times I gotta tell you?
Pakistani Proprietor: You keep calling me Babu, it's 'Singh' motherfucker!
Providence Gangster #1: I'm trying to help you. Don't you understand?
Pakistani Proprietor: You keep on telling me 'I'm your friend'.
Providence Gangster #1: Yeah.
Pakistani Proprietor: You don't even know my fucking name!

[Watching Costigan beat up the Providence gangsters, destroying his store in the process]
Pakistani Proprietor: What's wrong with this fucking country? Everybody hates everybody!


From the Movie "The Departed" (2006). Probably, the "Singh" guy is not a Pakistani Proprietor, but possibly an Indian-orgin Sikh or Rajput or Jat. Same thing.


Happy New Year

Support Rob the Rubbish

From Rob the Rubbish's website:

I have become known around the world now for what I do and I am going to clean Everest Base Camp in the Autumn of 2006 not only to do my bit for one of the world’s most beautiful places, but also to highlight the fact that litter and waste are global issues that we can all do something about if we have the will, focus and energy.

Support him in ways you can. He is asking for help. Spread the word. 50 volunteers from Mumbai are joining him



Two vendors (popcorn stall and iron man) having a friendly chat during Indian summer. This India is still far removed from outsourcing, 9% annual growth rate, "India shinning", etc but still maintains its dignity. Maybe, some ripple effects are definitely felt. We would hope so.

The popcorn stove is fueled by coal. An iron man irons your clothes on a short order. The iron is also heated by coal and wood.

Some of the posters in the background are from elections.

This ain't no MacDonald

This ain't no MacDonalds

Dhabas are rustic places to eat, a roadside cafe for everyone in India. Perhaps, more close to the heart of majority of India for dining out or a quick bite.

Notice the cooking-gas cylinders for home delivery on the left.

This ain't no MacDonald but tastier. Dhabas are not swanky places one would find in New Delhi or NYC. They are also not for faint "vestern" stomach.

The counter for this dhaba says "Pure Vaishava*** (Hindu stream/ thought/ school/ style) Punjabi Dhaba" in devanagari.

*** They are referring to ingredients and style of cooking, something akin to kosher cooking.


_40980348_screen203.jpgMukhtar Mai was once an anonymous Pakistani villager - but that was before she was gang-raped, apparently on the orders of local elders in a neighbouring village.

From then onwards she has been determined to bring them to justice, and her fight made her an international figure.

Some of the men she said attacked her were convicted, but then the appeal court in Lahore overturned their convictions, amid an outcry from human rights groups.

Now Mukhtar Mai, who is in her mid-30s, is writing her own internet diary, or blog, about her life and her concerns, as a woman from a remote village in southern Punjab.


Read her words on her English and Urdu blog hosted by BBC. Via Sepia Mutiny News Tab.

Learn your lessons

singh2.190.jpgMr. Singh, whose father constructed much of Delhi, a city reinvented by the flow of partition refugees, is among the last survivors of the era. For his generation he is unusual for wanting to speak of that horror, again and again. He reminds in words what Bourke-White’s photographs seem to scream on the page.

“People should know this thing happened,” Mr. Singh insists. “It did happen. It can happen again.”

India has been reminded of the bloodshed of partition many times over its 59 years of independence by further episodes of violence, and Mr. Singh has chronicled them all.


Please read the NYT article. Tip from Sepia Mutiny News Tab. 


Please visit Nirali's parent's website and do whatever you can for their daughter. Here is an excerpt:

Our 18-month old daughter Nirali Naik has been diagnosed with a rare type of Acute Lymphoblast Leukemia and needs a marrow transplant to be treated.

She needs a bone marrow donation from a Indian/South Asian donor. Since Indians are a minority race in USA, in the national marrow registry, there aren't as many Indians registered and as a result, the possibility of a match is much less for patients of Indian origin. There's no organized marrow registry in India either that we can look for a match in.

Nirali is going through chemotherapy treatment right now but this type of ALL has a great chance of relapse if not treated with a bone marrow transplant.

We urge you please pray for Nirali and register for bone marrow donation to see if you can save her life.

Via Sepia Mutiny. Also, spread the word.

A boy who is a man all we ever will strive to be

On Sepia Mutiny News Tab, KXB has posted a haunting article from The Independent about a documentary movie "Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley" that is about a nine year old boy Arif who supports his entire family as a boatman in a strife-ridden Kashmir. It is not only a heart-warming story made by a film maker who himself has felt the burnt of the tragedy of Kashmir but a tale of courage for a kid too young for such kind of things. Please read the article, and some excerpts for introduction:

"I have my roots," he says. "My heart belongs to Kashmir. I don't hold every Kashmiri Muslim responsible for the violence there. They too are suffering. I wanted to do something to show the world that the people are suffering. I first saw Arif in 2004. I had gone back to Kashmir on a shoot for another documentary. I saw this kid baling out his boat." [Link]

In Mr Jala's words, he is "facing challenges that have adults on their knees".

The film shows the two sides to Arif's life. At one moment, he is playing rough and tumble with his brothers, fighting over a toy gun, and crying when his mother scolds him. At the next, he is staring thoughtfully out at the lake and weighing up the family's problems like a grown man, trying to shut out the sound of his brothers playing. "I will educate my brothers and sister," he says. "We will get my sister married. I will fulfil my mother's dreams." [Link]

It is story of triumph both for Arif and Rajesh Jala. There is always hope.