Travel and Technology : A rant

NOTICE: Despite its appearance, this post is not about The Dark Knight Rises

I want to watch The Dark Knight Rises but due to Ramadan, cinemas in Kuwait have delayed the opening till after Eid to pull in maximum crowds as most locals won’t go to movies during the holy month.

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So I searched the web for an alternate Batman fix. The Internet is full of reviews raving about it but with spoiler warnings so can’t really read those. Watching old Batman movies comes highly recommended but Nolan and Tim Burton movies are fresh in my mind as they are the ones really worth re-watching. However, I don’t think watching old movies would give me the peace I am seeking.

Some websites recommended graphic novels and this I thought I could do. They are darker than Batman movies especially the ones with Joker as he is one sick twisted f@#king psychopath (I know I am over doing it but some of the graphic novel depictions of Joker are horror inducing). Batman – Death in the family (a four part series) came highly recommended so I got myself this series and started reading it.

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By the end of first part of the novel, Batman’s sidekick Robin is running away from our hero to find his birth mother (that he just found out was different from the one he was led to believe all along) and takes a flight out to Lebanon where he thinks he will be able to find her.

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I have yet to open part 2 but I let my imagination wander a little wondering how they would depict Lebanon in the next part.

Will it be exotic? Similar to depictions in travel ads with a market filled with Arab hawkers in their head gears, covered women with inviting eyes, shops selling mysterious artifacts. The travel ads by airlines which one would see in old issues of Reader’s Digest were amazing with images or paintings of exotic locals, sun kissed beaches, tropical forests, secluded locations, crowded markets etc. Your were struck by wanderlust and your imagination fired up thinking about mysteries surrounding such places and what you may discover or what kind of adventure you may end up having when you finally visit such a place.

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But with internet, photo sharing on facebook, multiple travel shows on TV, and every street, alley, dirt road mapped and loaded on to your GPS there are no mysteries to unravel or discoveries to be made or amazing adventures to be undertaken.

I remember traveling to Turkey almost a decade ago. Internet was there but in terms of information it wasn’t well organized. We accessed Lonely Planet website for some information but actual plans were made using decade old and outdated travel books bought from second hand bookstores in Karachi. During our travel, we did visit all the places we had set out to see yet we also visited a lot of places which weren’t on our itinerary as they fell in our path, or we lost the way, or found ourselves in some back alleys that weren’t covered by our books. Hence we were found ourselves taking quite a few off-the-beaten-path detours.

We enjoyed all the landmarks such as Aya Sophia, Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Ephesus, Selcuk etc but to be honest our real memories are of the unplanned adventures we got into by getting lost in mazes of small streets, being dropped on the highway in the middle of night kilometers away from the town, stopping for a night in a little village that was not on our itinerary but because we saw a lively festival happening there. We tried local cuisine, some food was unpalatable, too bland for our spices seeking taste buds, but we also had some deliciously cooked food that we still reminisce about.

I am not saying this is not possible anymore. It’s just that there is no room or reason for it now. Since we couldn’t book everything online for Turkey, our itinerary was very loose and that allowed us the flexibility to get lost.

This year we did a trip to western Europe for three weeks. Internet is overflowing with information such as how to make the most of Seville if you have just 6 hours in that city that you can pretty much plan and anticipate every step of your journey as people leave all itineraries on the web including what buses to take, which entrance has the shorter line and even in which order to visit the places. We had pretty much planned every hour including such minor things as taking one hour coffee break from 3pm to 4pm on Champs Elysee watching the crowd go by, sitting for two hours from 4pm to 6pm on Spanish steps in Rome and even our rest stops for soaking-in-the-atmosphere were planned. Not because it had to be done rather because it COULD be done.

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Our cellphones had GPS so we didn’t get lost in the back alleys. All the buses routes and times had been uploaded into our phones so we didn’t end up taking wrong buses and discovering a part of town that we didn’t intend to. Nobody wanted to risk money trying the local cuisine, out came the cellphone and we found the restaurants offering Pakistani food in Europe.

No more surprises at finding the hotel teeming with seedy characters or suspicious ladies as visitors on TripAdvisor and other hotel booking sites had already told us off from staying at such hotels. Earlier such detailed information about hotel, it’s character, staff attitude, cleanliness, quality of breakfast buffet, etc wasn’t even collected. Now you know from what to expect in terms of room cleanliness to on which floor and rooms the hotel’s wifi signals do not reach.

In earlier days, when people visited places, mostly they’d tell you stories about it or describe you how magnificent some monument was and how beautiful certain city looked. They didn’t carry their physical photo albums every where so you built your own picture of the place in your mind by how they described it to you. This picture may have been different than the reality and it always came as surprise when you get the chance to see the place for yourself years later.

Now not only Internet is filled with millions of images of the monument, Google street maps have actual pictures of how the streets look like and most of all your friends fill their Facebook albums with hundreds of pictures of themselves standing in front of those monuments when they went there on a vacation, business trip or honeymoon so you already have detailed 360 degree views of the place even before you visit it. You may not get the feeling of awe by looking at the pictures but now you have a pretty good idea of what you will exactly find when you visit the place. The possibility of being wonder struck has diminished to a large extent especially with man made structures. (Nature can overwhelm you no matter how many pictures you have seen as camera so far cannot capture the magnificence of natural wonders).

Now nobody wants to hear stories and how you felt when you saw it. All they expect is a picture of you in the same frame as the monument and that’s it. And most of the time that’s what people do when they return from a trip i.e., instead of narrating their travel stories and experiences they now show you their picture taken with the monument in the back ground.

Japanese tourist groups used to be such a stereotype in American movies, every tourist in the group wearing a similar hat, each tourist brandishing his or her own camera and as soon as something comes in view, all the cameras going up with military precision everyone taking the picture from the same angle_click click click. Then they move on to the next sight as if taking the picture was a box to be ticked on their itinerary.

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We had similar observations in our recent trip, but not just about Japanese tourists but almost all tourist. Point and shoot camera were ubiquitous as they are cheap. 20120802-132122.jpgNo aspiring photographer had wanted be seen without his or her DSLR and the rest used cameras in their mobile phones. Initially, it was pretty weird that a crowd of people unknown to each other traveling in a train or bus or even walking along a path would take out their cameras and start clicking in such synchronicity as if they have all been in the same military battalion as soon as a sight would come into view.

In the world famous Accademia Gallery in Florence, where one can spend hours just admiring the magnificent statue of David, studying the contours of his physique and the sharp lines of anatomy by the master craftsman Michael Angelo, what we observed of a group touring with a guide clearly showed that how technology has ruined us.

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Guide (in some foreign language but you could make it out what she was saying) : “This is David by Michael Angelo”

Group: click click click (moving on)

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Guide: This is one of the four unfinished slaves by Michael A…

Group: click click click (moving on)

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Guide: This is the statue of ….

Group: Click click click (and so on)

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Some people still manage to eke out an adventure. Here is an example of adventure trip to Turkey : Tourism of another kind

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Fake Passports and Visas

The issue is hot in the media after the story run by Daily Sun that how easy it is to make fake passports in Pakistan. There are reports that the culprits have capacity to issue fake visas as well. Recently Express Tribune also covered a story about how illegal immigrants make it to Spain and their ordeals. This reminds me of a note I wrote in 2008 about our actual experience in 2003 of meeting a shady character who engaged in similar sort of activity. I am copying the note without any editing below:

DAWN today carried a story regarding the ordeal of an illegal immigrant about how he was conned by a travel agent to cough out around Rs.300,000 to get him illegally into Greece by travelling over land in Iran and Turkey and occasionally on foot under gun fire.

Earlier when I read such stories in newspapers I thought it only happened in rural areas where these fraudulent agents deprive simple people of their hard earned money against false promises of greener pastures. Then I met a travel agent in business and financial district of Karachi and I realized that these parasites are everywhere.

The story which follows is true without any modification of name or location.

In the year of our lord two thousand and three (i.e. 2003 AD) I was working in a large local bank in corporate banking whereas my friend Waqar also worked in Treasury department at the same bank (unnecessary details but give an aura of authenticity to the story – not that its not). Our annual vacations were due and we decided to go to Turkey for two weeks. Since Turkish embassy in Pakistan did not maintain a website, we didn’t know where the consulate in Karachi was and what documents are needed to apply for the visa. So we decided to approach one of the travel agents that are ubiquitous around Chundrigar road.

On a warm rather hot summer afternoon, we walked over from Shaheen complex where I worked to DWyne Travel Agency in Lakson Square. There were a few desks where travel agents are supposed to sit but since it was a lazy afternoon they must have taken the day off. Only one travel agent was seated at the far end of the office. We approached him and asked him about the Turkish visa. He referred us to his ‘boss’ who was sitting in a larger office inside. We went into his office. Sitting behind a glass covered large mahogany table on which were spread his bank statement and credit card bills, he was talking to someone facing him who looked like one of the mafia dons of the Indian variety wearing a gold chain, rings in his fingers and smoking a cigarette. We told the ‘boss’ that we want to travel to Turkey. He asked the apparently Indian mafia guy to cater to us. The mafia guy, whose name I forget, lets call him Asif after the greatest con man I knew, escorted us out of this office into his chamber.

Once we are seated facing him in his chamber, he asked us why do we want to travel to Turkey. I said for tourism. He asked us again “be frank, why do you guys want to travel to Turkey?”. Waqar replied that “we just told you. We want to go there for sight seeing”. Asif the mafia man said, “don’t be upset. I can arrange all kinds of travel. Just tell me honestly so that I can tell you the right way to go about it”. We looked puzzled. So he proceeded that “if you guys want to enter Greece, be honest, I can arrange that.”

I told him that “we work in a bank and we don’t need to enter anywhere”. He said, “Don’t be offended. I am giving you all the options”. I don’t know why he didn’t take us as professional bankers. May be because we were wearing casual clothes (Saturdays were casual dress days). But I believe it was because Waqar was wearing his imported genuine white Nike shoes over his dark blue genuine Dockers trousers (you may look like a doodhwala at such a fashion faux pas but not a banker).

It had been reported in the news around the same time that some Pakistani illegal immigrants had been arrested after being recovered in inhumane conditions in a container somewhere between Turkey and Greece. I told him “we don’t want to go anywhere, we just want to go to Turkey through official means and anyway illegal immigration is not safe”. He said “Don’t worry about safety. Our methods are tried and tested and we have transferred lot of people over the borders. You won’t even have to pay now. Only once you have reached safely in Greece, then you will have to pay”.

It was like we were speaking two different languages. We wanted to go to Turkey and he kept sending us to Greece.

“If you want to go to France” he continued, “we will take you to Morocco and from there depending upon the weather, tidal conditions, visibility at sea and availability of high speed transport we will ferry you to France”. His best was yet to come.

“And if you guys want to go to England, we will take you there via South Africa but the visa on your passport will be of Mozambique. You have to stay in South Africa for few days and when the conditions are appropriate, we will take you to England”. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by appropriate conditions. I was flabbergasted [years later a friend who had immigrated to South Africa told me the details of this scam but that will be a subject of different post].

Waqar mustered up the courage to ask him “what if we want to travel to Egypt?” He said “Egypt? Why Egypt? Which country borders Egypt?” (“Egypt? Egypt say konsa (European) mulk lagta hai?) Waqar said “to see the pyramids”. “Oh!! the pyramids…” we can tell that he was disappointed.

By this time all of us were exhausted. We, because he kept selling all those countries to us; he, because we were not at all interested in his adventurous plans.

Finally I asked him “Lets say we just want you to arrange a visa to Turkey. What documents are required and what are the charges”. He said “since you guys work in a bank, you can easily arrange fake bank statements. And visa charges would be rupees 60,000”. We were stunned at the exorbitant rate for visa but most importantly why would we still need to arrange fake bank statements.

We thanked him and without going to any other travel agent went straight home. Next week, a friend referred us to his travel agent who arranged the visa on our original meagre bank balances in couple of days for Rs.1200 each ( of which Rs.1100 were Turkish visa fees). And we completed the whole trip of 15 days in less than Rupees 60,000 per person including air ticket.

Dreams and Prayers

I am a firm believer in having dreams. Dreams inspire you and keep you motivated. When one is  stuck in a dead-end job or the career prospects don’t seem too bright, its one’s dreams for a better future that keep one motivated to keep on applying oneself, sending out CVs, hoping that there is a silver lining behind this hopeless cloud.

In addition to dreams, I am also a firm believer in prayer. One may realize his or her dreams by not praying as well, but I believe prayers accelerate the realization of that dream. To use a cheesy quote from Paulo Coelho’s book, when you pray for something “all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I am not recommending just having dreams and praying for it without actually making any efforts to realize it. The chronology would be to dream for a higher goal, work hard towards and pray to God to help you in realizing it.

In fact the first dream that I worked very hard for and prayed a lot for, I didn’t realize. I wanted to get into a particular program in academia, had worked very hard for it and prayed night and day for it. But due to some circumstances that I wish not to dwell upon right now, I didn’t get IN. I was heartbroken. I had done everything right, everything a person is supposed to do in terms of hard work, and yet the dream was taken away from me. Eventually I opted for a different program or rather dragged myself to it. My whole life and career trajectory changed because of it.

The people I had shared those dreams with were going to realize theirs  and I had to conjure up a new one. I had stopped dreaming and stopped praying. Me and my friends started moving apart.

7 years down the road, I was struck with wanderlust. There was a country that I wanted to visit since I was kid as I had heard exotic stories about it and watching an ad by tourism authority of that country on TV rekindled my spirit. I had started dreaming about visiting that country. I called up my earlier friends if they wanted to go on this journey with me. Unfortunately, I knew it in my heart of hearts but realized it then, we had moved very far apart. Their dreams were not similar to mine anymore.

So I got in touch with my new friends with whom I didn’t share any dream with, that if they are willing to dream about this journey with me. You have to realize that this all seemed like an illusion then because we were new in our jobs, our salaries was enough to meet monthly expenses and nothing more. Though they were skeptical as it sounded unrealistic, they still agreed to dream with me.

I had found God again. We started planning our trip. Internet wasn’t up to speed then so it meant going to old book stores and finding decade old dusty travel guides wherein the information would be uselessly outdated. Our plan was to do a shoe-string trip. To execute such a drip, one needs to have faith especially in one is coming from a third world country. It took us two years to plan that 15 days backpacking trip. I know its a very long time for planning such a short trip but this is the time we had most fun. But most of all, we all came close together as all of us shared one particular dream. I prayed and prayed. When the dream was finally realized, almost a decade after my last dream was shattered, it seemed that God had finally found me.

After that I wasn’t afraid to dream again. Next one was to study in an Ivy League school. According to my colleagues, my face used to be beaming at work all the time. I should have been dreaming about career progression but I was dreaming about studying abroad yet the career progression happened anyway. I collected accolades and got promotions in my job despite the fact my dream at the time was something else.

I studied hard for GMAT. I searched the web and newspapers for scholarships. There wasn’t a scholarship that I was eligible for and I didn’t apply for.  I started praying again. However, the scholarships didn’t come through. It wasn’t that I didn’t qualify for them, I was shortlisted for them and in a few cases I was approved for them. But since all the paper work rested with local government bureaucracy, they delayed it and I lost almost 3 scholarships in 2 years that was supposed to be fully paid for by foreign governments. But I kept on trying. I was wait-listed  for another government scholarship. They asked me to seek admission in case I get the scholarship money. I applied only to one school and lo behold, I get the admission. Next day, I get reply from the scholarship committee that I couldn’t get the scholarship money.

But I kept praying. Now it was up to me to arrange funding for the study. With my measly third world salary, one year tuition at the school was equivalent to 60 months salary. There was no way I had access to that kind of money. I wrote to various sources (subject for a different post) but all came back empty handed. Luckily I was able to secure a loan in that country from a commercial bank due to their relationship with the school. Finally! I was going to realize my next dream. However, it was never in my dream that I will be under huge amount of student debt but who cared. Sometimes you have to pay a price to achieve your dreams. I paid off the loan in full with interest 2 years after graduation.

Four years down the line, wanderlust struck again to do Europe backpacking tour. This one need not be a shoe string one as Ivy League education meant I was making better money. But having settled down with wife and two little kids meant that rough and tough trip was out of question. I had traveled to Europe with the family and it had been good fun but it was relatively luxurious trip with lots of rest and activities suited for a family with young kids. I wanted to do the adrenaline junkie, rushing from one place to next, seeing the maximum in the minimum time.

First things first, I incorporated a request for Euro trip in my prayers. Next I talked to my friends with whom I traveled earlier if they want to share one more dream. Again they were skeptical as they themselves had settled down with their families. But they say lets think about it.

I started beaming again. Started doing well in my job which was badly affected since the financial crisis. The projects and people I was looking after started delivering improving results. One and half year after we talked, my friends said lets do it. So after six months of planning and sharing our aspirations of how this trip should look like over emails (all of us live in different cities now) we made the 3 week rough and tough backpacking 23 day Euro trip two months ago. We were close before but we came closer after this trip.

Sometimes I think that the first dream that I didn’t realize had actually turned out better for me. We say if your prayers aren’t answered, God has something better planned for you. Well in this case, it turned out right. It allowed me to dream multiple dreams and have all of them realized meanwhile also giving me the best friends anyone could ask for who share your dreams, travels and travails.

Now I need another dream. I am thinking another Ivy League degree. Any ideas?

Pakistan : Born to lose and destined to fail ?

Don’t be turned-off (or turned-on) by the title of this post. It is not about the current media coverage of how Pakistan is or isn’t a failed state. Rather this one is about how the people presiding at the time of its creation conspired to make it fail in couple of years.

Below are excerpts from Perry Anderson’s excellent Why Partition? which covers the events that influenced the 1947 partition that created Pakistan.

For Mountbatten, paramount in importance was keeping whatever states were to emerge from the Raj within the re-labelled British Commonwealth. That meant they must accept independence as dominions. The League had no objections. But Congress had since 1928 rejected, on principle, any submission of India to fabrications from London, expressly including future as a dominion. For Mountbatten, this raised the unacceptable prospect of the lesser community, which he regarded as the principal culprit of partition, becoming a member of the Commonwealth, while the larger community, not only relatively blameless but of much greater strategic and ideological importance, remained outside it. How was this conundrum to be solved?

The answer came from the Father Joseph of the moment, V.P. Menon, a Hindu functionary from Kerala in the upper ranks of the imperial bureaucracy, working on Mountbatten’s personal staff and a close confederate of Patel, the organisational strongman of Congress. Why not offer Indian entry into the Commonwealth to Mountbatten in exchange for a partition so point-blank that it would leave Congress not only in control of the far larger territory and population to which it was entitled by religion, but also in swift command of the capital and the lion’s share of the military and bureaucratic machinery of the Raj? As a final sweetener, Menon suggested throwing the princely states – hitherto left inviolate by Congress, and nearly equal in size and population to any future Pakistan – into the pot, as compensation for what would be foregone to Jinnah. Patel and Nehru needed little persuasion. If these assets were handed over within two months, the deal would be done. Informed of this breakthrough, Mountbatten was overjoyed, later writing to Menon: ‘It was indeed fortunate that you were reforms commissioner on my staff, and that thus we were brought together into close association with one another at a very early stage, for you were the first person I met who entirely agreed with the idea of dominion status, and you found the solution which I had not thought of, of making it acceptable by a very early transfer of power. History must always rate that decision very high, and I owe it to your advice.’

In the first week of June, Mountbatten announced that Britain would transfer power at what he himself would describe as ‘the ludicrously early date’ of 14 August. The logic of such a rush was plain, and in speaking of it Mountbatten did not beat about the bush. ‘What are we doing? Administratively it is the difference between putting up a permanent building, and a Nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more.’

Then came the issue of Bengal. It was far from states making up Pakistan.

In the Hindu community a movement led by Bose’s brother Sarat, and in the Muslim community by the local head of the League, Hoseyn Suhrawardy, joined forces to call for a United Bengal as an independent state, adhering neither to India nor to Pakistan. Mountbatten wanted only two dominions in the subcontinent, though if it was difficult to avoid, did not rule out a third. Jinnah, to his credit, said he would not oppose a unitary Bengal.

What was Nehru’s position? India should take as much territory as it could get: if religion was a lever to that end, so be it. Mountbatten reported a formal exchange with Suhrawardy to the governor of Bengal with the revealing phrase: ‘I warned him that Nehru was not in favour of an independent Bengal unless closely linked to Hindustan, as he felt that a partition now would anyhow bring East Bengal into Hindustan in a few years.’

Now we come to actual business of partition

London dispatched the future law lord Cyril Radcliffe to Delhi to determine the boundaries of the two states, India and Pakistan, to be given independence five weeks later, on 15 August. He knew nothing of the subcontinent. But there already existed a detailed plan to divide it, drawn up in 1946 by none other than V.P. Menon and another Hindu bureaucrat, B.N. Rau, who would play a scarcely less fateful role in the events underway. Radcliffe adhered closely to the plan. Radcliffe could be bent, not to money, but to power. [At behest of Nehru] Mountbatten had little difficulty getting him to change his boundaries to allot two pivotal Muslim-majority districts in Punjab to India rather than to Pakistan: one controlling the only access road from Delhi to Kashmir, the other containing a large arsenal.

Radcliffe finalised his award on 12 August, exiting rapidly back to England before it was announced. He made sure to leave no incriminating evidence for posterity, destroying all his papers. Mountbatten, well aware of what was impending, delayed the announcement of the Radcliffe Award until 36 hours after India and Pakistan had received their independence.

If partition was to have any chance of being carried through peacefully or equitably, at least a year – the year London had originally set as the term of the Raj – of orderly administration and preparation was needed. Its conveyance within six weeks was a sentence of death and devastation to millions.

It is amazing that how much Pakistan was conspired against from its inception rather even before its inception.

In the ensuing chaos, Congress made good a primary objective.  Fourteen out of 20 armoured regiments, 40 out of 48 artillery regiments, and 21 out of 29 infantry regiments fell into its grasp, plus the larger part of the air force and navy. Of the 160,000 tons of ordnance legally allotted to Pakistan, no more than 23,000 ever reached it.

During the first India Pakistan war of 1948 over Kashmir, this what Vallabhai Patel had to say

‘If all the decisions rested on me, I think I would be in favour of extending this little affair in Kashmir to a full-scale war with Pakistan … Let us get it over with once and for all and settle down as a united continent.’

Mountbatten turned out to be the biggest villain in this saga

Mountbatten had engineered point-blank partition with the same end in mind, saying explicitly that this would ‘give Pakistan a greater chance to fail on its demerits’, and so was in the best interests of India, because a ‘truncated Pakistan, if conceded now, was bound to come back later’.

The playing field was uneven I knew but odds were so much stacked against Pakistan from the beginning is a revelation to me

In September 1948, Auchinleck reported to London: ‘The present Indian cabinet are implacably determined to do all in their power to prevent the establishment of the Dominion of Pakistan on a firm basis.’ Nehru, who had for decades denied there was any possibility of an independent Muslim state in the subcontinent, repeatedly expressed his confidence that Pakistan was such a rickety structure – by October it was in his eyes ‘already a tottering state’ – that it had no chance of surviving.

Well Pakistan did survive and has survived for more than 60 years.

Above are just a few excerpts from the brilliant piece by Perry Anderson. I highly recommend that one should read it in full.

On a related note, the only person who comes out as a gentleman and statesman is Jinnah. He may have his faults and might have made a few bad decisions on the way but he was steadfast and uncompromising on his principles unlike Nehru who would used any means (mostly wrongly) to get his way or Gandhi whose principles also seem capable of bending.

 
Tail piece: Though author mentions Radcliffe destroyed his paper to not leave any evidence, poet W. H. Auden captures beautifully how ruthlessly partition was decided in his poem Partition that he wrote in 1966

Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on the land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
“Time,” they had briefed him in London, “is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.”

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep the assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The next day he sailed for England, where he could quickly forget
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.

Gandhi : a false prophet of non-violence

The following quotes are from Perry Anderson’s Why Partition? which was published in London Review of Books.

Gandhi is marketed world over as preacher of non-violence but following excerpts clearly show that his willingness for bloodletting was at least as much as any other leader of extremists.

As early as Hind Swaraj, he had said that if his countrymen started to fight after the British withdrew,

‘there can be no advantage in suppressing an eruption: it must have its vent. If therefore, before we can remain at peace, we must fight among ourselves, it is better that we do so.’

In 1928, he wrote

‘I am more than ever convinced that the communal problem should be solved outside of legislation, and if in order to reach that state, there has to be civil war, so be it.’

In 1930:

‘I would far rather be witness to Hindus and Mussulmans doing one another to death than that I should daily witness our gilded slavery.’

In April 1947, he told Mountbatten that

‘the only alternatives were a continuation of British rule to keep law and order or an Indian bloodbath. The bloodbath must be faced and accepted.’

To an Indian journalist, he said he

‘would rather have a bloodbath in a united India after the British quit than agree to partition on a communal basis’.

It seems that he was in favor of ahimsa only when protesting against British (may be because they were larger and stronger force). When it came to his own unarmed countrymen, satyagarha could be a killing force for all he cared rather it seems he actually wanted it.

To his honour, when the pogroms erupted in 1947, he did what he could to stop them, to good effect in Calcutta.

Book Gluttony

I love to read books but mostly I LOVE to THINK that I love to read books. I have a whole bookshelf at home filled with books, half of which I have finished reading, some of them half read and rest just the first few pages. My wife gets pretty angry with me for collecting books because they just take up space if I am not going to read them.

I go through various phases when I am reading (apart from the phase when I don’t read at all). But once I pick up reading and I come across a good book in a genre, I start collecting best selling books in that genre under the presumption that since I am in momentum, I will read rather “feverishly devour” all those books.

My collection comprises of equal part fiction and non-fiction. Fiction is mainly crime, thriller, a few science fiction books whereas non-fiction comprises mainly of politics related (US-Pakistan relations, intelligence, civil military relationships etc), popular maths (around 10 books half of which I have read), and popular science (evolution of medicine, quantum physics, sexual evolution etc) and law.

What happens is that mostly by the second book, occasionally by the third book and very rarely by the fourth book I lose interest in that genre and the rest of the books in that genre go unread. Sometimes its because I get bored from that genre some times because the book I am reading is not as exciting or insightful as I found the books before it. But mostly its because I see that I have bought all these books that I have to finish. Rather than being a pleasure activity, it becomes “things to do” list, starts feeling like work and I start losing interest in that genre and for some time even from reading books itself.

Its not that I haven’t read a lot of books. I have more than two bookshelves worth of books in storage which I have read. In addition, many books I have given away after reading. One benefit of getting married and having kids is that I don’t buy paperbacks anymore as my wife doesn’t like them taking up space and constantly criticizes me that why do I buy books when I don’t read them. My kids had started using books in lower shelves to build stairs to reach books in uppers shelves.

As time passes, I am moving to ebooks. I had bought an IPad just to read ebooks and finished quite a few books on it including scanned Urdu books. Not that I had stopped hoarding books but since the books on IPad do not take much physical space, my wife couldn’t find anything to complain about. Unfortunately, one day one of my kids dropped it causing a crack in the screen and that was the end of reading books on IPad.

Now I read them on IPhone. One would think that I would have learedt my lesson about not hoarding books. But no! I had just finished first book of five part Genghis Khan series by Conn Iggulden. Few years ago, I had read 3 out of four books of the same author’s (Roman) Empire series. My friend had recommended Genghis series and said that rather than reading Harold Lamb’s encyclopaedic book (which has been on my books-to-read-before-I-die list) on it, these 5 books are more interesting. So what do I do, I go and get the remaining 4 books in electronic format on my Iphone. Now I am in my second book and if I come across a couple of boring pages (not every page can be a page-turner) I lose interest in it and start thinking that I have three more books to read in this series and how am I going to get through them.