A prince among men


Really enjoyed writing this piece since I got opportunity to meet Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma and the author of Dara Shukoh: A Play in Verse to talk about his book. It's a beautifully written volume which looks at the clash between pluralism and orthodoxy through the life of Dara Shukoh, the doomed, younger brother of Aurangzeb. Although my chat with Mr Gandhi lasted about 15 mins, it was one of the most enjoyable meetings in a long time. Read on:

At a point in Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s play Dara Shukoh, Mir Jumla, a staunch ally of the Mughal prince Aurangzeb, camps on the outskirts of Delhi. It is night time, and Jumla is dictating a letter to the prince when he is interrupted. A soldier enters his tent, informing Jumla that he has arrested a family that forced its 12-year-old daughter-in-law to commit sati. Jumla admonishes the soldier, saying “Law is law, custom custom/Therefore, their decrees cannot overlap/We uphold the former, Leave convention for some bold reformer.” His casual dismissal resonates with the Khap panchayat horror that still consumes Delhi’s hinterland, precisely where Jumla might have been camped three centuries ago.
“Very often the combination of orthodoxy and male chauvinism has wreaked havoc in India,” said Gandhi, considering the allegory. A long-time critic of India’s social violence, Gandhi powerfully channels the struggle against religious and social orthodoxy in the play, which was reissued in paperback last month. Gandhi, the former governor of West Bengal, is a prolific writer of history and translated Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy into Hindustani. In Dara Shukoh, he uses rhyming medleys – inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s 1892 play Akbar’s Dream and John Dryden’s 1675 Restoration Drama Aurengzebe –to tell the story of the famously enlightened Mughal prince, who despite being his father Shah Jehan’s choice as emperor, was overthrown by his conservative brother Aurangzeb in a bitter war of succession.
While the history is riveting, Gandhi uses the saga to illustrate a contemporary struggly between religious tolerance and conservatism that still blights sections of society today. “I didn’t take him [Dara] out of the context of history,” he said. “He was, to me, a figure in history who lent himself to dramatic presentation without any embellishments.” Of course, as with most tragic heroes, Dara’s character contained a fatal flaw – in this case an overly trusting nature. He was not built to slay his own flesh and blood, and bemused by how easily his brother turned him and their father in the pursuit of power. “From all I’ve been able to understand, Shukoh was a very trusting man to the point of being gullible”, said Gandhi. “His reactions to the intrigues of court were reactions of a trusting man who was bewildered by the betrayal of trust.” His gullibility was matched by severe anger-management problems, which Gandhi does not fail to present, as in the third act when Dara reacts to news of his brother Shuja’s rebellion: “Shuja you malignant tumour/ Cyst of a rumour/ Suppurating excess/ In pig’s recess.”
Yet for all its rage and betrayal, Dara Shukoh is a play counterbalanced with optimism. For the writer, Dara’s story is less a tragedy than a “triumph of tragedy”. The prince has proved an enduring and popular figure in Indian history, a sort of icon for tolerance, Gandhi said. “In India, it is the illiberal who are on the margins but are more vocal. The centre-stage is still extremely tolerant which is why people respond to Dara Shukoh in the way they do.” This response has had traction elsewhere in South Asian literature. In his 2000 novel Moth Smoke, Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid uses the prince’s trial as an allegory for the state of Pakistan during the 1998 nuclear tests.
Perhaps appropriately, Dara has received few of the grand memorials that go to men of power. It’s doubtful the visitors who course through Humayan’s tomb every weekend realise that the prince lies buried in an unmarked grave there. Unlike his father and brother, no roads in New Delhi were named after the Sufi prince. But it may be that Dara secured a greater seat than the one that was captured by his brother, Gandhi said. “Aurangzeb ascended the throne but Dara Shukoh was already enthroned in the hearts of the people.”

This piece first appeared in the TimeOut Delhi magazine.

Royal Rajah


Did this for TimeOut Delhi. A short profile of celebrated photographer Raja Deen Dayal whose works are on display at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts until February:

As a 20-year-old student at Thomson’s Civil Engineering College in Roorkee, Deen Dayal was content sketching plans for roads, buildings and canals. It only happened that, in the final year of his course, the college faculty introduced photography as a subject. That was how Dayal came to be quite prepared when, in 1866, as he sat in his draughtsmans’ office at the Indore Public Works Department, he received the news that all draughtsmen were to be replaced by photographers. It was time for Dayal to shed his drawing instruments, pick up the camera and begin a legendary career of photography.
This fortnight, 200 of Deen Dayal’s photographs will be dusted off and exhibited at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the bulk of them on display for the very first time. The images in Raja Deen Dayal: Studio Archives from the IGNCA Collection range from portraits of Indian royalty to grand shots of monuments. Just like the other non-royal Raja, his exact contemporary Ravi Varma, Deen Dayal skilfully adopted a European technology that Indians had had little access to, became a greatly sought-after artist, and broke a new frontier in the visual capture of nineteenth-century Indian life.
“What made Dayal special was the way in which he photographed monuments and portraiture,” said Jyotindra Jain, the director of the IGNCA, who curated the exhibition along with Pramod Kumar KG. “In his portraiture, he recorded almost the entire lifestyle of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mehboob Ali Khan. The British hired him to photograph 78 monuments in central India, and he became famous because of the manner in which he took them. He’d use a slightly low angle to shoot a monument, so its upper part would appear against the sky. The contours of the monument would be extremely clear. But it wasn’t just Dayal’s talent that won him fame. He combined his skills with a tenacity that ensured his friendship with the high and mighty of that era.”
Deen Dayal used his friendship with Maharaja Tukoji Rao II of Indore to have himself introduced to Sir Henry Daly, the British Agent at Indore. Daly had Dayal appointed the official photographer of the Prince of Wales’ tour of India in 1875. Later, he was appointed official photographer to Viceroy Lord Dufferin. “After that, there was no limit [to the extent of his work],” said Jain. “He scored over British photographers because even they didn’t have that kind of access to maharajas, the upper classes and nobility. Being an Indian, he established a certain rapport with these people, and it reflects in his work that his sitters were much more comfortable with him.” In his fourties, he was appointed court photographer to the Nizam of Hyderabad, who gave him the title Raja.

Dayal worked in a time when the tools of photography were still rudimentary, yet he created some stunning clear visuals. Photographers used glass-plate negatives, which required long exposures and extreme care. Another striking quality is “the quality of performance in his photography”, Jain said. “The people who he photographed were always performing. For example, the Nizam of Hyderabad held a durbar thrice week. He and the visitors would dress up, and there was a certain hierarchy [of who followed whom]. The whole scenario was almost a theatre backdrop, in front of which these people performed. Deen Dayal understood this element of performance he was photographing and that drama comes out very well in his photographs.” No wonder then that his patron the Nizam composed a couplet in praise of Dayal: “Ajab yeh karte hain tasvir mein kamaal kamaal/ Ustaadon ke hain ustad yeh Raja Deen Dayal [In the art of photography, surpassing all/a master of masters is Raja Deen Dayal].”

Live and Unplugged


(Wrote this for the latest TimeOut India cover story on how social networking affects real life and vice-versa along with my colleagues Vandana Verma, Jaideep Sen and Aditya Kundalkar.)

Moksh Juneja was an early victim of a geo-social privacy breach. No, that’s not what happens when a renegade spy breaks into the CIA mainframe. It’s what happens when you tell your father you’re going to Malad, a northern suburb of Mumbai, but you check into Andheri station on the geo-social application Foursquare.

“That was updated on his Google Buzz,” said Juneja, the CEO of Avignyata, a social media marketing company. “When I got home, he needed to know what I was doing there. I said I was getting a bottle of water at Andheri station, that’s all. I disabled the updates on my dad’s Google Buzz that day.” For years, Facebook has asked us everything about ourselves, except the question “Where are you?” The answer was usually obvious: “Stuck in front of my computer”. But 2010 was the year that new applications, like Foursquare, UberTwitter, Google Latitude and Gowalla, operating on our smartphones, began to ask where we were. Not in which city, but which nightclub, which ice cream parlour, which mechanic’s workshop. 

And people answered.

This wave of mobile apps use the global positioning system found on most smartphones to broadcast your location to your online social network. By taking the powers of existing online tools – your friend list on Facebook, your feed on Twitter, your iPhone’s mobility and GPS – and plugging them into each other, “geo-social networks” could change basic assumptions about how we live with the internet.
We’ve always experienced our virtual and real social lives as a zero-sum game. These new apps represent the threshhold of a lifestyle in which there’s no difference between going online and going out on the town. But as it is, most of us have only the foggiest idea of how to protect the privacy of our online presence (things like photos on Facebook). Now we’re already thinking – or not thinking – about the privacy of our offline presence, also known as our real lives. Take Foursquare. The most well-known of the lot, it lets users “check in” every time they arrive at a destination, earning a point for every visit. They can share insider tips (“try the fig mojito at Shiro”) or post quick reviews. More importantly, 4SQ frequent-fliers rack up “badges” for the nature of their social lives: for adventurousness (a first-time visit), loyalty (repeat visits) or bad behaviour (the “bender”, for many successive nights out).

Obviously, it’s a fantastic way to see if friends (or strangers with shared interests) are around. In March this year, Sarthak Raheja and his wife were holidaying in sunny Pattaya in Thailand. They ventured into Swensen’s, a local ice-cream parlour, to try its“outrageous sundae”. Before they dived into it, Raheja pulled out his Blackberry, fired up “4SQ” and checked in. Moments later, Sumit Berry, an old college chum, saw him check in at Swensen’s – which Berry had done only a little while earlier. He and his wife walked over and introduced themselves to the Rahejas. The two couples ended up exploring Thailand together.
But geo-social life is also almost instantly competitive. Really, for as long as there’s been Orkut, Friendster, Hi5, MySpace or Facebook, friends have been involved in a sort of virtual one-upmanship. We vie to post funnier status updates, better-shot profile pictures or the next awesome viral video. Traditional apps like Farmville gave users virtual rewards (like an elephant topiary) for performing incredibly repetitive game tasks, like harvesting virtual strawberries. But 62 million people were drawn into organising their lives so they could be at hand at harvest time. With 4SQ, life is the game. Every place that you go, when you go, how often you go and even who you go with, all potentially earn you points and medals, virtual scores that pit you against other users on your network.

Juneja is a 4SQ “Super User”. He’s made nearly 2,000 check-ins. By having the most check-ins at any one location, he’s been crowned “mayor” of that place, and Juneja is the mayor of 82 places, from Diamond Tyre-Shop to the Gateway of India. (Actually, no longer: “I was the mayor of Gateway of India,” he said, “but one day someone said ‘Moksh Juneja, tu Gateway ko toh chhod de.’ So I left it.”) Every subsequent visitor is informed of his supremacy, at least until one of them tops him, and steals the title. It’s a virtual twist on the hallowed tradition of the regular, who prides himself on haunting the place, and gets his last beer gratis from the bartender. On 4SQ, the pride is replaced by a mayor’s yellow crown, which proclaims your reign to the world... Or at least to the network. “The game is the mayorship. It’s the number of badges you can get,” Juneja explained. “For me there are no physical returns, only psychological benefits.
I’m getting famous, somebody is recognising my efforts… and my effort is only that I’m going to my favourite place.” The competition for a yellow crown means that off-beat locations quickly find themselves on the radar. “It brings a smile to my face to see chai-wallas and bhurji-wallas listed,” said Twain Taylor, a marketing professional in Bengaluru. “One of them is the Cantonment bread omelette wagon, which I’m trying hard to become mayor of.”

More and more, though, being mayor means real rewards as well as virtual ones. The regular’s on-the-house pint is being replaced by the mayor’s special deal. At Mumbai’s Blue Frog, mayors would get a free drink. At Faaso’s, a kabab chain in Pune, the mayor of any outlet receives a free kabab wrap with their meal.  On behalf of his client Inorbit Mall, Juneja contacted all its mayors, and handed each one a Rs 1,000 voucher for Crossword Bookstore. At Delhi’s The Yum Yum Tree, tech-savvy proprietor Varun Tuli is among the first in the capital to offer real rewards for virtually logging real activity. (Still with us?) Book a table at YYT via 4SQ, and you get a free round of draught beer. “The idea here is to be a market leader, and to be prepared for when the masses start calling on us via 4SQ or Twitter,” Tuli said. “I’d say that the reason we have so many reviews online is that we have such an online presence. But customer feedback is the primary motive. People can tell me there was too much wasabi in the wasabi prawns and we can jump on it right away!”

But the larger potential value of geo-social networks lies in harnessing them for marketing. Preetham Venkatesh of Bengaluru-based Catalyst Labs is a “techvangelist” for 4SQ, and his job is to convince businesses like bars and hotels to help 4SQ help them. That means they need to create more rewards for mayors and badges, incentives that will get more people onto the network and spur customer loyalty battles. “While other sites connect people with their actual GPS locations, 4SQ is completely based on game mechanics,” Venkatesh explained. “The game-like competitive environment of badges, mayorships, and points lets businesses reward specific actions.” It’s actually integral to the design of 4SQ that business-side incentives, rather than user buzz, drives its expansion in new cities.

Apart from getting customers to competitively visit, businesses gain access to “data that is specific to their retail outlet… which times of the day and times of the week their top visitors drop by,” Venkatesh said. The involvement of businesses will also help clean up the sometimes chaotic 4SQ map. They create their own virtual establishments, and make sure that sly users don’t duplicate venues to win bogus mayorships. In fact, Venkatesh said, the ability of 4SQ Super Users to merge or delete fraudulent venues is the earliest form of moderation to be introduced on the network. (More authority for moderation is likely to become necessary, especially to certify users’ feedback and tips. Self-marketers and spammers are already afield.)
Proprietors’ involvement may be essential to blowing this spark into a social fire. The number of Indians checking into geo-social networks is currently miniscule, as is the number of reward-schemes. The cycle by which virtual networks spread beyond just the early adopters, and become popularly indispensable, hasn’t begun to turn. Blue Frog actually dropped its mayor’s reward because “the mayor turned out to be the same one guy,” said Lilian Ricaud, head of programming at the bar.“There needs to be more population there, so people compete for mayorship.”

Yet the fire is probably inevitable. Three months ago, Facebook introduced its app Places, a 4SQ-alike that piggybacks onto the network’s existing database of 500 million users. If location-sharing is going to go mainstream, Facebook Places may be how it will happen. And predictably, once Facebook enters the picture, things start to feel a little creepy. If you pop into a bar with another Facebook Places user, it allows them to “tag” you as they check in – meaning your location is broadcast, even if you don’t know about it. That information could be useful to burglars, letting them know you’re not home, or stalkers, letting them know where you are. A trawl through web-safety forums turns up 4SQ safety guidelines – such as checking in when you leave a place, rather than when you arrive – all just waiting to be neglected.

Savvier users are thinking hard about how they manage their geo-social privacy. “The advantage with 4SQ [over Facebook Places] is that you can choose who knows where you actually are,” said Ishita Kapoor, a student at Delhi University. “On Facebook I’ve got around 500 friends and they really don’t all need to know whether I am where I’ve said I am.” Places does, in fact, allow users to define a subgroup of friends who have access to location updates. But set-up is fiddly, a fact that may be nudging most geo-socialisers toward 4SQ. “They’ve got sexy privacy settings. They’ve learned from Facebook’s mistakes,” said Juneja, though he conceded that settings are only as good as their users. “There’s a girl [who] I always tell, you make so many check-ins, and you’ve given the addresses for your home, your office. People can stalk you whenever they want. That’s a serious danger.”

These apps don’t just encourage direct contact between friends, or users and businesses, but they also imply a level of trust between both. “It [geo-social networking] can be a real problem because of the absence of privacy-protection laws in India,” said Peter Griffin, the Forbes India editor for social media. “Apps like 4SQ can be used by companies as marketing tools. The more they know you, the better their service to you. So essentially it’s a trade-off for you: how much privacy are you willing to give up? Now, a lot of these apps are used by younger people who don’t seem to care about how their personal information might be used by companies.”

On the other hand, said Hardik Sanghani, a PR executive with Text 100 and an advocate for “increasing awareness and brand loyalty” through geo-social networks, users have the option of logging into a place but not broadcasting their location. “It’s called ‘going off the grid’.It’s like going into invisible mode,” he said. But will venues you’re checking into still give you points, if you’re invisible? “No. They can’t see it either. If you’re off the grid, you’re off.” It’s not hard to imagine that, in a few years, going off the geo-social grid will feel as impractical as getting off Facebook does today. Anything you hate dealing with online – the laissez faire information economy, the “friendship” of total strangers, the endless distraction of  renewing the News Feed – is likely to crop up again, in all-too-real dimensions. But geo-social networks also point to solutions to many online-lifestyle issues. 

Having more than just information at stake may make us finally take e-security seriously. If 4SQ and its descendants actually make us go out more, rather than less, they could solve the paradox that social networks seem to make us antisocial. Having fresh information and live social options layered over real geography could make living in a new city, or the same old city, a lot more pleasant. In the future, when we connect to the internet, we might really find ourselves reconnecting with the world we live in. 

Book Review: Nomad


It takes nerves of steel for a Muslim woman from Somalia to escape a bad marriage, to lie to get refugee status in the Netherlands and then migrate to post- 9/11 America. But it takes more than just steely nerves to write two books – Infidel and Nomad – which are a scathing condemnation of conservative Muslim society. In Infidel, Ali exposed the world to her harrowing personal journey. In Nomad, the former Dutch MP writes about how orthodox Islam devastates the lives of its followers.

Hirsi Ali’s memoir-manifesto is about the journey of a Muslim woman cross-countrying Somalia, Holland and America. But it’s the people she encounters during the journey – family, politicians, college students – and the manner in which Islam has dictated their life choices which provides her fodder for her indictment of the religion. The anger in her writing stems from her family’s obsession with the Quranic dictat. In one passage Ali describes how, when she fell ill as a kid, her mother spent all her time praying for her recovery instead of giving her medicines. She blames the illnesses of her depressed half-brother and AIDS-stricken sister on her father’s polygamy, and laments the fact that her half-sister Sahra chose to marry in her early twenties in accordance with her family’s wishes.

As Nomad’s narrative races ahead, Ali makes provocative points that are bound to polarise the opinions of both Islamists and Islamophobes (both of whom have made the error of treating conservative Somalian society as a generalisation for Muslim life). She minces no words in writing that she supported the war on Iraq as an MP, and that she believes the political and legal infrastructure imported by European colonisers to Muslim countries improved the situation of women there. Ali demands that Muslim immigrants to America not stunt their children’s growth by keeping them “culturally illiterate”. These blunt arguments are anything but politically correct, but they draw on a lived experience that makes them impossible to dismiss.

A version of this review appeared in the TimeOut Delhi magazine.

Building a legacy


Apologies for ignoring this blog. Have been swamped with work with very little time to do some exclusive blog writing. Will try and be more consistent now onwards. Below is a Q&A with the eminent Delhi architect Raj Rewal who's left his unique mark on contemporary Delhi. Read on:

As a young boy in Hoshiarpur village in pre-Independence India, Raj Rewal loved drawing. In a few years, his meandering sketches grew into comic strips for Shankar’s Weekly, a journal of political cartoons. Fifty years later, Rewal’s further sketches have produced some of Delhi’s most prominent buildings, including the Asian Games Village, the State Trading Corporation and the Parliament Library. This  fortnight, the India International Centre will screen Resonance: Raj Rewal and Tradition, a film shot by Rewal’s filmmaker son Manu, centred on the construction of the Parliament Library. Rewal talks to Time Out about Delhi’s architecture and working with builders who are “architecturally illiterate”.

What’s fascinating about your work is the unconventional, striking shapes of some buildings. How do you design those projects?

All our buildings or design projects are related to a context. The Hall of Nations [at Pragati Maidan] was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of India’s independence. It was 1972, I was very young and I wanted to project the idea of intermediate technology… that we could do a lot with our own labour, use concrete and similar material, and create a building which, at 256 ft, was one of the largest span structures in the world at that time. When model was shown to Mrs Gandhi, she was very quiet. Later, Ms [Pupul] Jayakar explained that the reason she didn’t express herself was that if she liked it, the bureaucracy would go on and on about it, and if she didn’t, they’d run me down.

After studying in Paris, what was it like beginning your practice in Delhi?

The context here is very different. When I returned, we were not an industrialised country. We had to find our own idiom and grammar of design, which incorporates what is theoretically possible with what can be implemented by our own means. I used a lot of stone because we have brilliant stone-workers. Nobody had used stone much before I began doing it.

Have architects since developed an Indian idiom of design and do they pay a lot of attention to context?

[Chuckles] Well, some of them are sensitive enough to our own situation. We have temperatures rising right up to 45 degrees, so it’s absurd to make buildings all glass – that too in a way that the cost of air-conditioning increases four-fold. So there are those architects, particularly younger ones under international influence, who make bad copies of bad architecture. But there are also those who are interested in finding a vocabulary suitable to our climate.

How do you incorporate the cultural ethos of the city in your work when you design a building or public area?

You know, Delhi is a very lucky city because it has great historical buildings and Mughal architecture. I lived in front of Humayun’s Tomb for around ten years, so it seeped into me. My work, in a way, is influenced and inspired by it [Mughal architecture], but it doesn’t copy it. It’s not a pastiche, ki vahaan se utha kar vahaan laga diya [you lifted it from here and pasted it there]. But it carries it further in different directions to suit different requirements. The World Bank building at Lodhi Road is next to Lodhi Gardens, so it carries the theme forward but doesn’t look like it. It’s the essence I’m after, not a cheap  copy.

What do you mean by the “essence of Mughal architecture,”?

I would say it’s geometrically very balanced. It’s built around courtyards, gardens, etcetera and that’s what I’d like to carry forward.

You designed government buildings through the ’70s and ’80s. Were you given a free hand to do your own thing or was there interference from the government?

Things were much better at that time, because the Government of India awarded work only to Indian architects. The projects were awarded based on architecture competitions, mostly judged by our peers and seniors. So it was architects assessing the work of others. This process was carried to the implementation stage, which wasn’t always great, but at least they wouldn’t interefere with the design ideas. Frankly, even with the Parliament library there was no interference. The then Speaker Shivraj Patil just said it should be in harmony with what we [the MPs] are doing, and that was that.
Nowadays, a lot of work is done through promoters and builders who are architecturally illiterate. Their main aim is to make fast money, so they don’t cater to architectural values. There’s been a transition from architect’s architecture to promoter’s architecture. 

Photo Courtesy: Shiv Ahuja

A version of this first appeared in the TimeOut Delhi magazine.

Crawling around in Nizamuddin


Did a version of this for the TimeOut Delhi magazine as part of their cover story on Eid/Ramzan food. One of my most enjoyable assignments till date.

In his famous travelogue of Delhi, City of Djinns, William Dalrymple writes that the sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya would eat little, unable to bear the sight of starving people sleeping in the streets around him. The neighbourhood around his grave is still a beacon for Delhi’s homeless, but also for visitors with great appetites for kebabs and for qawwali.

During Ramzan, the area’s forking bylanes are filled more than ever with the smells of roasting meat. But listening to qawwali – essentially what “going to Nizamuddin” means in Delhi parlance – is less of an option. The roza is a time of sombre abstinence, and after the lifting of the fast, the Nizami family gives over their dusk singing hour to the reading of the Quran. For that reason, to visit Nizamuddin during Ramzan is to get a sense of the direction in which the neighbourhood may be headed, as a lodestone of Sufism in North India slowly gives over to the sway of more orthodox Islam.

The erosion of Sufi culture from Nizamuddin, where it has thrived for seven hundred years, is largely due to the rise of the Tablighi Jamaat, an international reformist Muslim movement that does not appreciate the company of syncretic Sufism. The Tablighis, who function out of a mosque near the Nizamuddin police thana, run several schools in the area. In contrast, the Nizami family – which claims descent from the saint himself – have grown aloof, locals say. They’ve given back too little to the community, building no schools or hospitals, despite the money dropped by visitors at the shrine. “On the pretext of conducting special prayers, the khadims [dargah attendants] extract money from visitors and pocket the cash,” said filmmaker Yousuf Sayeed, who has researched the life of Nizamuddin Auliya. “There’s never any money to maintain the 800-year-old shrine, so it’s in a bad state.” Recently, the Agha Khan Foundation was entrusted with the massive and controversial task of restoring the shrine to its former glory. They’ve restored the saint’s baoli (step-well), but restoring his true influence is not part of their mandate.

That might just fall to young locals like Sufi Kamaal Hassan Shah, convenor of the Jalali and Rifai Sufi Order Group. During Ramzan, Shah organises private qawwali nights, where they pray, experiment with zikr, smoke chillam and – of course – tuck into those tasty kebabs. Shah’s gatherings welcome visitors with an appreciation for the ethos and the music (which is usually qawwals sung in Bengali). For visitors who are less adventurous, or just seeking respite from the madding crowd and the late-monsoon humidity, it can be found in the air-conditioned interior of the local branch of Karim’s. It rides on the reputation of the Karim’s at Jama Masjid, so prepare your tastebuds for sikandari raan, burra kabab and other Karim’s-popularised meats. 

But the smaller restaurants of Nizamuddin are equally welcoming (and far more reasonably priced). No sooner has the muezzin signalled the end of roza, the fasting period, than floods of young men throng Nasir Iqbal Restaurant to devour its delicately spiced mutton qorma (Rs 60). The rough-edged Ghalib’s eatery has a following greatly out of proportion with its size, mostly thanks to its soft, mouth-watering beef shammi kababs (Rs 25). Diners who prefer their meat tough and crunchy should head to Yaseen’s Kebab Corner, which specialises in crunchy fried chicken (Rs 50 per piece) and roasted beef tikkas, locally called “bade ka meat”. Here, in the space between the Tablighi mosque and the dargah, it briefly doesn’t matter if you’re a puritan or a Sufi, a rozedaar (fast-keeper) or a lapsed Muslim or not a Muslim at all – if you have an appetite, you can believe Nizamuddin is paradise. 

Sir Sobha Singh: A Profile


My latest piece for the Timeout Delhi magazine

Among the maharajas and the English nobility who graced the Delhi Darbar of 1911, were two Sikh gentlemen. One of them – a 22-year-old contractor – had been busy working on the Kalka-Simla Railroad, but was awed by King George’s announcement that the imperial capital would shift from Calcutta to Delhi. Sardar Bahadur Sir Sobha Singh’s first job was to relocate the foundation stones from where the King and Queen had laid them, in Kingsway. Under cover of darkness (so it would not be taken as a bad omen), he moved them to the new site on Raisina Hill. Here, in the light of a petromax lamp, he personally laid the real foundation of New Delhi.

It was a fitting start. Sobha Singh became the original great builder of New Delhi, constructing at least 28 of its iconic structures, including South Block, India Gate, the Jaipur Column outside Rashtrapati Bhawan, Vijay Chowk, the National Museum and the Modern School on Barakhamba Road. Like Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, the principal architects whose plans he helped materialise, Singh was never honoured by having a road or building named after him – and isn’t popularly remembered today. Yet he acquired so much land in the new city Delhi that he was famously called 
aadhi nai dilli da maalik (owner of half of New Delhi).

Sobha Singh resurfaced in Delhi’s memory this month, with the release of Celebrating Delhi, a compilation of eight lectures given in the 2006 Sir Sobha Singh Memorial series (and three newer 
articles). The speakers at the lecture series were quintessential Delhi figures, including historians Narayani Gupta, Upinder Singh, William Dalrymple and Sohail Hashmi, environmentalist Pradip Krishen and publisher Ravi Dayal. The keynote speaker was writer Khushwant Singh, the son of the builder himself. “Rarely was a man so identified with the birth of a city as Sir Sobha Singh was with New Delhi,” he wrote in the introduction, “translating into sandstone and marble most of the imperial blueprints of Lutyens and Baker.”

Many of the essays in 
Celebrating Delhi unfold in this period. Khushwant Singh’s lecture, drawn largely from his own memories, revisits New Delhi when it was more brick kilns than buildings and “contracts were going a-begging”. It was the first generation of New Delhi builders getting super-rich, both legitimately (buying empty land) and otherwise (using surplus materials to build themselves large houses, Khushwant Singh recalls). Other chapters layer detail onto the city that Sobha built, such as how it was named (Narayani Gupta points out that the nationalist upsurge in the ’20s led to names linking British rule to forgone rulers: Prithviraj Road, Asoka Road, Aurangzeb Road) and how it was greened (Pradip Krishen: “No native species [were] planted on any of its avenues… Not a single species of tree that can be called a Delhi native.”)

Today, lecture series apart, the most prominent public remembrance of Sobha Singh is a nameplate at his former residence on Janpath, now the headquarters of the Sir Sobha Singh Memorial Trust. “Not only him, but even the contributions of Lutyens and Baker have never been duly acknowledged,” said Mala Dayal, editor of 
Celebrating Delhi and grand-daughter of the builder. “Politicians are only out to please some kind of vote bank.” According to Gurbaksh Singh, son of the builder and president of the Memorial Trust, the family – Delhi’s intellectual first family – once requested the NDMC to name a road after Sobha Singh, but “general laziness” crept in and the family didn’t chase the request.

It wasn’t just twenty-first century forgetfulness that served to efface Sobha Singh from New Delhi. In the years after Independence, figures who had been friendly with the Raj landed in the bad books of the interim government. “Liaquat Ali Khan [then finance minister] started an income tax enquiry commission against people who supposedly made money during the [World] War and hadn’t paid taxes,” said Gurbaksh Singh. “My father had to spend three years answering to that commission.” He added that Sobha Singh didn’t have time to worry about politics (or architecture). “He just kept constructing and building and making money.”

However, there was another side to this workaholic builder – that of a family man who was more liberal, and more humble, than most of the patriarchs of his generation. 
“A lot of his grandchildren, including me, married outside the Sikh community and he was completely okay with it,” said Mala Dayal. Sobha Singh named nothing after himself or his children. After his father, he named Sujan Singh Park, the set of spacious private apartments in the heart of the city where his descendents now reside. “He was very generous to those who did favours for him,” Dayal said. “At times he was over-generous, since he gifted flats in Sujan Singh Park to people who just did him a favour.” Still, that’s not a bad way to be remembered.

Cheap Thrills


Sorry for the long silence but things have been quite hectic at work, as a result of which the blog writing has suffered. Did this piece - a sharp, slightly provocative critique of vernacular pulp fiction in India - for TimeOut Delhi. Read on.

Nadia is a bad girl. In Rajesh Kumar’s Hello Good Dead Morning, she is a young, sexually aroused woman who must douse “the fire burning in her body” after watching a blue film. So she seduces Nirmalkumar, the AC technician, then turns around and accuses him of rape. Ultimately, however, it is Nadia who is raped and filmed after receiving a “sex-inducing injection so that her senses are aroused to every male hand that touches her”. And another loose female receives her comeuppance in the world of Indian pulp.

India’s vernacular pulp fiction has shimmied back into the limelight with the recent release of The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction – Volume 2. The first volume, also translated by Pritham Chakravarty, caught fire in the literary salons of metropolitan India when it came out in 2008. It was the instant conversation-piece in Delhi/Mumbai/Bangalore bars, the ideal cool gift for anyone with a sense of irony. Blaft’s anthology rose to become the cigar-chewing don of a pack of translated and pulp-inspired creations, from the translated fiction of Surender Mohan Pathak to the grinding, tectonic body-mass of cartoon porn goddess Savita Bhabhi on the web.

Pulp – cheap thrills printed on cheap paper – has always referred to risqué or violent fiction to be read on train journeys (it’s easiest to find at railway platforms) or in the bathroom. It is popular culture in its truest form, and stays popular by offering sheer entertainment and the simple reaffirmation of conservative values. But now the new wave of Indian pulp is being devoured by the kind of Indian reader who would, in the same breath, dismiss a John Irving novel as middle-brow. Nobody is objecting to the prose, as mediocre and melodramatic as ever. Nobody is troubled by the fate of loose woman. Come on, man – it’s hilarious, they say. Even translator Pritham Chakravarthy, who worked on both the anthologies, agreed and said that pulp is “positively sexist”. But the purpose of the genre is to make people derive “vicarious pleasure” from these stories, she said.

Our new enthusiasm for pulp could spring from the fact that Indian writing in English has long failed to produce books which were written simply to entertain. “I’d like to use the joker’s dialogue from Batman: why so serious?” said book critic Nilanjana Roy. “For 30 years, Indian writing in English lacked books which were meant to be read just for pleasure and entertainment and pulp fiction – whether in English or in translation – has been filling that gap.” But the fact that it’s popular doesn’t mean anyone is mistaking it for quality literature, she says. “It’s like saying that Chetan Bhagat’s popularity makes him India’s greatest literary writer – one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.”

Roy noted that pulp and literary fiction both look at the same issues affecting society, though through different lenses. “The first volume of [the Blaft anthology], for instance, gives an insight into the role of women in Tamil society at that time,” she said.

However, Roy is wary of how easy it is to “fetishise” pulp fiction, pointing to the adulation it has received in the media. She likens the new pulp fiction to the kitschy design products such as tote bags emblazoned with Bollywood poster icons. “These products were staples of our households at one time and are now being sold back to us with a wink,” she said.

Shruti Ravindran, a Delhi-based journalist and fan of pulp fiction, is the kind of reader who discovered vernacular pulp after its “glossification”. Though she finds it “jarring to see retrograde sexual politics reproduced in shiny paperback form”, Ravindran attributed her enthusiasm for pulp fiction to “nostalgia for the world lost to our childhoods and youth and its [the fiction’s] perceived innocence”.

Reading these stories ironically, of course, is merely an excuse for metropolitan readers to avoid engaging seriously with the stories. “Irony is a deflection of critical awareness,” Ravindran said. “But as we’re unaware of the cultural background of the original readers, we don’t know whether they read it sceptically, or alongside feminist poetry.”

Maybe their favourite character was actually Karate Kavitha. Kavitha is always being captured by villains and having her clothes ripped off, but always comes back to kick their asses (“Amma! I’m dying!” they yelp) and save the day.

Going coastal with Samanth Subramanian


Did this for Timeout Delhi

Journalist Samanth Subramanian’s travelogue Following Fish does a circuit of India’s coastline, exploring the history, habits and environmental concerns of the country’s fishing communities. Three chapters of Following Fish – written from Bengal, Kerala and Mangalore – are dedicated to the eating of fish. Subramaniam talks about gods, gravies and why he thinks that “if Bengali cuisine was Wimbledon, the Hilsa will always play on Centre Court”.

Of all the elements in India’s coastline, why did you choose to place fish at the heart of your book?

Fish comes very naturally at the heart of life on the coast, particularly if you’re living on the extreme edges of it. The traditional fishing communities have it not only at the heart of their diet but also their profession, and in a sense their religion, because their profession is or was often influenced by religion. They would pray to get a good catch, so their culture is influenced by that to a large extent. It turned out to be the most natural link if you’re looking at the Indian coast.

What is it about hilsa, and other fish, that Bengalis make it their culinary obsession?

I think it’s just because they get damn good fish! For a long, long time, Bengal got the best fish in India
As a result, it was woven very, very strongly into their rituals and their culture. The ilish is a special fish in the sense that it’s seasonal, or rather it was seasonal and had an elusive quality to it. Also, its various textures and its strong flavor make it quite unlike any other. It’s enormously complexly constructed, too, and it really is an acquired taste. Bengalis have this superiority complex about ilish; they think that, since it’s their fish, only they can eat it well and appreciate it.

Curry seems to be integral to the dishes you ate. Did you deliberately choose curry-based dishes or do they reflect a common preference across the coastal regions?

The method of preparing fish by curry is, surprisingly, very common across the coastline of India. Gravy-based dishes became very common as you travelled down south, where the cuisine tends to get a lot more liquidy. It was not a conscious decision on my part but I guess it comes up a lot when you eat your way across the coast of India.

What sort of alcohol did you discover goes best with a coastal fish dish?

The most obvious answer has to be toddy in Kerala. If you get a good fish dish and some toddy in a “shaaap”, you could just sit there for hours; it’ll be nightfall before you know it. And if you go in the morning or early afternoon, the toddy is very sweet, almost like buttermilk with an acidic taste to it. The fish is kind of fresh too so if you go to a good shaaap, they will fry it well for you. So you can just sit there and enjoy the two…it’s a mind-blowing combination!

Quick note


Sorry for the intermittent silence; much has happened over the past two weeks on the work front, which is why I haven't been reading much. Suffice to say that I'm gainfully employed now and am settling into the new workplace. 

Will be doing a bit of reading over the weekend for a work related assignment and post an author interview in due course. In the meanwhile, enjoy the archives and do grab a copy of Samanth Subramanian's wonderful collection of travel essays, 'Following Fish'. 

Musings on Soumya Bhattacharya's 'You Must Like Cricket'


One of my many grouses about the mainstream media (and, to a lesser extent, Indian literature) is that it is devoid of quality memoir writing; particularly essays on personal experiences about cricket. Thanks to the advent and spread of TV and the internet, my guess is that cricket buffs would watch a riveting game of cricket rather than read stimulating and enjoyable memoirs about the game. Not only has that lead to the near-death of cricket writing, but, I reckon, made the experience of being a cricket buff distant and sterile. I am no exception; the first and last time I saw a game of cricket was in 1998 when India played Pakistan in Delhi and Kumble took 10 wickets in an innings. 

So on a balmy Saturday morning, I was delighted to find in the mail, Soumya Bhattacharya’s excellent cricket book You Must Like Cricket? Memoirs of an Indian Cricket Fan. It’s a book I’ve been keen on reading since I’ve read it’s (sort-of) sequel All That You Must Leave Behind and interviewed Soumya about it.

Essentially, You Must Like Cricket is about Soumya’s 30-year obsession with the gentleman’s game; nearly everything he does, experiences, thinks or observes has to do with the game of cricket. And, sometimes, this obsession makes him do slightly strange things. For instance, the book informs us, that after a getting sloshed during a junkette in Mauritius, Soumya went up to Kapil Dev and asked whether he could “touch the hand that had bowled the best outswinger in the history of Indian cricket”. On another occasion, he bought an air ticket from London to Calcutta just so that he could watch the final match of a tournament at the Eden Gardens. And, when asked by friends about the year of his daughter’s birth, Soumya nonchalantly replied ‘the same in which Laxman scored a historic double ton against the Aussies in Calcutta’.

These humorous vignettes aside, You Must Like Cricket is a quirky, irreverent and poignant account of the evolution of cricket as seen through the eyes of an enthusiastic cricket fan. Most importantly it gives words to those thoughts and emotions which get drowned under victorious cries of “Indi-yaaaaaahhhhh” and cuss-filled rants which evoke the misery of defeat. You Must Like Cricket, therefore, is a book which wants you to enjoy a fan’s experiences of the game as much as you enjoy the game itself.

Hence, what you’ll come across in this vivid, conversational memoir are not gushing accounts of historic victories but about how strong the memory of that victory is. Nor are there long winding essays on the shabbiness of some of our cricket grounds; instead, there’s poignant account about food and the importance of sharing it with fellow members of the audience. Most importantly, even though this a book of memories, cricket never seems to be on the periphery in this book, nor, I suspect, in Soumya’s life (possible, to the chagrin of his wife). Such is the writer’s craft that he places the sport as the skeleton and his memories of it as the flesh and blood of this book.

Since this is a collection of essays, I’m sure some of you are bound to ask about a favorite (or two). But, to be honest, I have none. After all, how can you say that one memory is better than another? That you enjoyed watching Sachin score a match-winning blistering century in Sharjah than a century at, say, Wankhede. Just like the sport which it reminisces about, You Must Like Cricket is best enjoyed as a whole and not in parts.

To be frank, You Must Like Cricket, has left me, well, stumped. For, as I wrote earlier, Soumya Bhattacharya has managed to give drowned emotions and thoughts words, sentences and paragraphs. He has written about India’s (and his) beloved sport with sparse prose and without being voluble or verbose (can any of you describe an innings or a memorable cricket win without using an adverb or an adjective? I bet not). Most importantly, he’s made the experience of cricket loving writable in an era which has seen the decline of cricket writing. That alone is reason enough to read this book.

Hence, I’m going back to re-read it and I suggest you do the same. At least once.

Hack Digest: Edition 1


Starting today, I'll be posting links to the best journalistic writing that I've read in the recent past. I'll try and be as regular with this as possible but in case I can't do it on a monthly basis, I'll put up a bi-monthly or even quarterly digest depending upon my workload. In the meantime, enjoy this and if you think you've read an equally good or a better piece of journalistic writing than what I've posted here, feel free to email and I'll upload it.

Rahul Bhatia's account of the three days he spent with LSD director Dibakar Banerjee (Open magazine)

Siddharth Varadarajan's powerful piece on the double standards of Indian politics when it comes to riots (The Hindu)

Chandrahas Choudhury's wonderfully written account of the BJP's 30 year journey and how it tries to strike a balance between the old and the new (The Caravan)

Shreevats Nevatia's cover story on how New Delhi is getting newer and better for the Commonwealth Games (Outlook) 

Priya Ramani on why Shyam Benegal is the Indian villager's Last Action Hero  (Mint Lounge)

Jai Arjun Singh talks to movie director Anup Kurian about the 'smallness' of his movie 'The Hunt' (Business Standard)

Gaurav Kalra on why Prince Yuvraj will never be King (IBNlive.com)

Samar Halarnkar wonders what Twitter is all about  (Hindustan Times)

Manu Joseph's superb piece on the most foolish things said about Sachin Tendulkar (Open Magazine)

Vir Sanghvi on why the Hindu loony fringe was obsessed with Sania Mirza's wedding and the origins of Dal Makhani (Hindustan Times)

And finally, Salil Tripathi on the humility of the Indian journalist (Mint)

Also check out the anniversary issue of TimeOut Delhi which is an exhaustive compilation of the best eateries in the capital

In Conversation with Fatima Bhutto


A brief chat with Fatima Bhutto on her new book Songs of Blood and Sword.

It’s coincidental that we meet on a day which also happens to be your grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s 31st death anniversary. How has Pakistani politics evolved over the last three decades?

Well I wasn’t alive for all those 31 years but with his death – his murder actually – a very dangerous precedent was set. The first democratically elected leader of the country, who was truly committed to socialist principles put to death which sends the message that when we disagree with our political leaders, we don’t entrust the people to vote them out.

Any country, over a 31 year period, goes through tremendous shifts and changes but in Pakistan what we see is that problems like corruption are allowed to continue; the people are not given an agency that they deserve in a participatory system

In the book you write very glowingly of your grandfather but a lot of people in India and elsewhere would like to believe that he was more dictatorial than his predecessors. How would you react to that?

First of all, I didn’t write glowingly about him. I wrote very critically of Balochistan and of the powers he increased for himself towards the end. But I think the assumption that he was more dictatorial than his predecessors was totally unfounded because his predecessors did not come into power on a one-man-one-vote ballot. They didn’t even abide by the Constitution let alone pen a Constitution. His predecessors followed the dictates of America and the Soviet Union rather than engage in foreign relations with Asian and African countries. Certainly, he made mistakes like we saw Mujib in Bangladesh and Indira Gandhi did.
Also, if one looks at Pakistani history, certainly there hasn’t been that sort of freedom in terms of the right to vote, right to a constitution etc. All these things are now identified with the repression in Pakistan like the Hudood laws, the blasphemy laws etc which came after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

In recent interviews you’ve been called ‘the other Bhutto’, ‘the lonely Bhutto and ‘Benazir’s niece’. Have you ever felt that your individual identity as a writer has been overshadowed by your surname?

No. It’s a very South Asian thing to bio-data everybody; even on the book cover you see it written. And I have to say, this phrase ‘the other Bhutto’, I’ve only heard it in India. This book, obviously, is a very big book and a book on an important family..

But even when your previous book, 8.50 a.m. 8 October 2005, came out you were referred to as Benazir Bhutto’s niece…

And it’s very strange; it’s way for people to connect something which I completely understand. In countries like ours, which are so dominated by life figures, it’s easier for people to say ‘oh this person comes from so and so family’ when in fact, neither my family nor I had anything to do with the earthquake relief work. It is a very strange thing because for two years I wrote very critically of the Musharraf regime; at that point it wasn’t Benazir Bhutto’s niece. It was only when my aunt returned to Pakistan and I spoke about her it became ‘oh look, the criticism is coming from inside’. I was in Hong Kong for a literary festival and I remember being introduced as being the granddaughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, niece of Benazir Bhutto etc… And I said, you know these things have their place but when it is referred to as a profession, then we’re losing sight of things slightly because as South Asians we do have multiple identities. Yes, I am all of these things but it feels very restrictive to be told ‘you are only this’. I for a woman in a South Asian country, you are always someone’s something. It takes a while to break out on your own. But I’m not worried about it; it (being labelled as Benazir’s niece etc.) doesn’t affect me.

You spoke about South Asian countries, which have a long history with dynasties. Is there a problem with our political systems that we throw up dynasties? Do you think these systems need to be re-examined?

Well I think if we look at this region, we also have to remember that for hundreds of years we ruled by foreign powers and when they left, they didn’t do so willingly; they left begrudgingly and left incredible cleavages in our country. I don’t think there’s any mistake that in all the countries the British left – Greece and Turkey, Palestine, the Irish – they left us with really fractured senses of self. And not just that but the way they ruled when they were here was really vile; by pitting people against each other, by strengthening education systems in one part and neglecting the other. For me, the main issue with dynasty is that it negates participation. And the British, if nothing else, were famous for not encouraging participation.

I think it’s one of the tremors they left us with. I think it was their refusal to deal with the country as a whole; it was their tendency to create factions that leaves not only Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma and Bhutan all with these ridiculous dynastic systems that otherwise we wouldn’t have had. I think, unfortunately – and this is probably an unpleasant thing to say – we still have this complex when it comes to Britain and America and our countries. We still have these ridiculous sort of histories told through foreigners’ eyes. The best sort of writing on Pakistan is by Tariq Ali and on India by Khushwant Singh. It’s not people who parachute themselves and explain our countries to us. Certainly, we don’t go to England and write their histories for them; I think colonialism has a lot to answer for and dynasty is one of them

Most reviews in the Indian press say that your book is a partisan account. In fact, one reviewer went to the extent of saying that you’re being ‘vengeful’. How do you react to such statements?

There’s not a drop of vengeance; this is a search for justice. There is no calling for violence; there is no calling for revenge. My father’s murder is reconstructed through the eyes of survivors, witnesses, police officers and judges. So anybody with the faculties to read can open up the footnote section and see it. And I would ask those critics what is vengeful? And I would ask them to find me a part that is vengeful. I don’t believe in vengeance as a human being. And in terms of partisan, I am a Bhutto and I’m writing about the Bhuttos so I will be partisan.  What does objective mean? There is no such thing as objective history because we are writing about countries we know, we live in, we’ve experienced. So the idea that it is partisan is not pretended – it is very clear here on the cover. There are the people who killed and I’m writing about them, I love them. As objective as I can be, I am. In fact, the opposite is said of me in Pakistan; ‘you’re too critical of your family, why are you being disloyal’. So I hope that at the end of the day, critics who read the book, read it and see that there are sources and they can double check. This is ultimately a labour of love and there is no call for blood in this book.

After the death of your grandfather, your father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto moved to Kabul and travelled frequently to Damascus and Libya. Do you think that if he remained in Pakistan, he could’ve been the political heir to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rather than Benazir?

I don’t think it was possible because the two sons (Mir and Shahnawaz Bhutto) were sent out because Zulfikar believed there was a threat against them and he turned out to be correct; Shahnawaz was killed six years later. But I think my father was on a quest for justice, not for power. So before Afghanistan, Libya and Damascus, he spent two years travelling the globe meeting human rights activists, presidents, publishing newspapers, books and organising law conferences. So his quest was really very different from Benazir’s; his quest was to get justice in the murder of his father, to get clemency in the case of his father. Not to sort of take hostage a political legacy. So had he stayed, his quest would’ve been different from his sister’s.

But don’t you think that had he stayed in Pakistan, his task would’ve been made easier?

Not under Zia because, as you know, the patriarchal societies that we live in, the son would’ve been assumed to be the political heir of his father. So would Shahnawaz have lived had he stayed back in Pakistan? I don’t know because this was an environment where you had journalists flogged in public. And not only that, the family of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto never saw his dead body. The Army claims that he was hanged but there is no proof of that. So I think that Murtaza and Shahnawaz’s fate wouldn’t have been very different from their father’s.

You call this book a search for justice; what is the next step in this search? How do you see this search going forward?

This is not the first attempt; we’ve been fighting for justice for 14 years and it has consistently been denied to us in the courts. Of course, we understand the courts in Pakistan are not always free especially in these last few years. They’ve been heavily influenced and heavily hijacked. For me, justice is not revenge because that means violence and that I’m not interested in. Justice is about memory. To be here and talking to you, it took 14 years to reach this point. For me, justice means that there is a remembering of these men who were killed and not just in my family, but the 3000 people who were killed. That this never happens again; that we are never faced with a government that kills 3000 people in a period of one year. So it’s a long road ahead.

Is there any hope for justice?

There is always hope for justice

Even with President Zardari at the helm of affairs?

President Zardari will come and go but the truth and justice are much stronger than his corruption of his government, of any government. If people say that they believe in truth and justice, then there is no force stronger than this belief.

Fatima Bhutto image courtesy: The Daily Beast

Songs of Blood and Sword image courtesy: Amazon