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mere mann yeh batade tu
kis aur chala hai tu
kya paya nahin tu ne
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Itne bazoo, itne sar…

One of my favourite songs, ever, is from the Hindi film Main Azaad Hoon. Itne bazoo, itne sar brings tears to my eyes, just about every time. This song is right in line with El pueblo unido jamás será vencido and The Internationale. In fact, you can see the references (certainly to the latter). Itne bazoo, itne sar was written by Kaifi Azmi — one of India’s leading leftist poets of recent times. Javed Akhtar (his son-in-law) wrote the screenplay, and I’m certain he had a hand in the lyrics of the song as well. Amar-Utpal composed the music.

Yet, it’s very hard to find good copies of the video or the song. But just last night, or, to be more accurate, this morning, I found some clips from the film (including the song in a couple of iterations) on YouTube. I also found a high quality mp3 of the song elsewhere. This was really serendipitous.

I’m presenting the clips here with my transcription and (awful) translation of the song — please feel free to correct or help me.

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A prayer

I pray that God will bless you in everything that you do. I pray that you will grow intellectually, so that you can understand the problems of the world and where you fit into, in that world picture. And I pray that all the fear that has ever been in your heart will be taken out, and when you look at that man, if you know he’s nothing more than a coward, you won’t fear him.

- Malcolm X in Selma, Alabama, on February 4, 1965.

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Para todos todo, nada para nosotros

For the uninitiated, it might help to check out the rest of the comics series here.

Click on image for full size:
Che Lives

Che lives.

(This comic is based, almost verbatim, on a true story. Thank you, Sheila.)

Via Lenin.

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At some point, I think I will speak nothing but academese. I’m afraid I’m almost there as it is.

I’ve realized that — although I don’t believe in karma, as such — it would do me well to reflect on my hubris. I need to be more humble, more careful, more thorough and more patient. I need to keep an open mind and an open heart, otherwise, as one of my favourite professors advised me, “You only know what you know.”

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War is over…

It’s wholly depressing to realize that we live in a world where, for their own narrow interests and benefits, a select few cause and perpetuate the utter and absolute misery of millions, even billions.

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Nature Boy

noaman: there was a boy
noaman: a very strange enchanted boy
noaman: they say he wandered very far
noaman: very far
noaman: over land and sea
noaman: a little shy
noaman: and sad of eye
noaman: but very wise was he
noaman: and then one day, a magic day, he passed my way
noaman: and while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me
noaman: the greatest thing you’ll ever learn
noaman: is just to love and be loved in return
Fathima: i hate kids like that

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Land and landless in Hyderabad

The day after I left Hyderabad, a couple of bombs were set off in the city, killing over forty and injuring several more. Predictably, the governments of the state of Andhra Pradesh and of India are pointing fingers “outside.” The first culprit is always Pakistan’s ISI, or, on better days, rogue elements in Pakistani power circles. These, of course, work through radical Islamist groups. Links — however unlikely — to the earlier bombing of Makkah Masjid are made. Well and good.

But when something happens on such a scale in India (and, indeed, in just about any part of the world), there’s a cloud of uncertainty — the government, it’s well known, can’t be trusted. For instance, everyone knows that the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002 were incited and orchestrated by the BJP government to polarize communal feelings and thereby win the state elections. Everyone knows it, but no one admits it officially, and many — including the BJP — vociferously deny it.

With these bombings in Hyderabad several theories have popped up. Some claim that anti-Congress elements (i.e., the Telugu Desam Party) are militating against the state government of YSR Reddy. Yet others are suggesting that the attacks were orchestrated by the Maharashtra government, or the Mumbai municipality, to scare investors away from Hyderabad — let there be no competition to Mumbai’s status as the financial hub and capital of India. I’m sure there are other theories floating around, and it’s hard to say what the truth is, because the truth is never simple.

Now I have no idea what happened, and I’m not knowledgeable enough about the politics of India to posit any conspiracy theory of my own. But there was something else going on in Hyderabad that starkly reveals the polarization of worldviews between the haves and the have nots. And it was all about land.

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Damn those progressive conservatives

Just now I got a phone call. This is how it went down:

Caller: Hi, I’m calling on behalf of the Conservative candidate for Markham-Unionville, K.K. Li. You do know there’s a provincial election coming up?

Me: I’ve heard of it.

C: We’re calling to see if there’s Conservative support in the household.

Me: I’ll support the Conservatives if … well I have some conditions.

C: Well go on the Internet — you do have the Internet right?

Me: I’ve heard of it.

C: Well go on and you can tell us about your conditions.

Me: Wait, the Conservative party is the communist one right?

C: No, we’re the opposi–

Me: Well, I’m against communism.

C: No, sir, listen–

Me: In case you people haven’t heard, the Soviet Union collapsed in the … 1990s

C: No, sir, can you hear me?

Me: I don’t have time for commies. (Hang up.)

Cruel? Yes… Funny? Yes. To me, at least…

You had to be there.

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The paint job is sloppy. Blotches of paint invade the boundaries of the hand-made signs, creating ruins of rectangles. And then there’s that distinctive smell, a smell unlike any other, the smell of Hyderabad’s airport — distant relative of the smell of the airport in Bombay.

We’re out and about. I look outside of the window of the ambassador, and see the driver of an autorickshaw looking pensively at his handle-bars and I wish I had my camera with me. But I don’t like taking photographs of random people engaged in their daily activities. Makes me feel like I’m intruding. I’ll have to figure that one out.

Later, I’m reading a newspaper and on the business page there’s a tiny little ad with the photograph of a young but obese woman. She has kidney disease and needs a transplant. It costs Rs. 5,00,000 and her father simply can’t afford the sum. He takes out an ad in the paper — on the business page — asking for donations from kind-hearted individuals. And most people in India still live on less than a dollar a day. Beneath the fold in another daily, there is an advertisement from the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers* — fertilizers are in abundance in India. I wonder who the ad is supposed to be reassuring. Every month, dozens of farmers commit suicide in Andhra Pradesh because they’re unable to support themselves and their families. Dozens more all over India.

Here, in Hyderabad’s Old City, beggars make housecalls every afternoon, standing outside the gate of the house until someone gives them money or shoos them away.

After school, children play cricket or football in the street outside the house making a lot of noise. I’m trying to take a nap and their ruckus wakes me up. I look outside, see them playing in their blue uniforms, and I go back to sleep. The next day my grandfather tells them to go play elsewhere, this isn’t a playground.

The media is all over the Left’s opposition to Congress’s increasing ties with the U.S. The Left is rejecting a new nuclear cooperation deal that requires India to buy into the Washington consensus on Iran in return of recognition (of India being a stable and responsible nuclear power) and other benefits. Congress needs the Left’s support in parliament.

Most signs are still hand-painted. But the Telugu Desam Party and the BJP have sharp, shiny signs printed out and placed outside their offices in various parts of the Old City. The BJP, tellingly, has no Urdu on its signs — just Telugu and English. The TDP has all three. There’s a CPI(M) office (or something) somewhere near Charminar but I saw that two years ago and don’t know where it is now.

But I’m here for a couple of weddings. The last two out of the ten of my mother’s siblings to get married. Not my turn, not yet. I realize that I inhabit a completely different moral universe. More on that later, perhaps.

* Earlier I wrote that the ad was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. That’s not correct. Apparently, India has an entire ministry dedicated to chemicals and fertilizers.

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