Monday, December 31, 2012

How to call a landline number from a cell phone in Pakistan

How to call a landline number from a cell phone in Pakistan

0-city code-telephone number

Monday, November 26, 2012


Cowasjee movie text

[On how Cowasjee feels living in Pakistan.]

Let me tell you about two Parsi friends.
They were in the wine trade.
Then came Pakistan. 
And Rustom said, Let’s have whisky.  You bring yours, and I'll bring mine.
We will finish two bottles today.
At the end of the dinner they finished their bottles
Then one said, We are damn fools.
Fourteen hundred years ago we were thrown by these MFs, and now we are caught again.
It is not a story.
We ran away 1400 years ago from these MFs, Chs, MCs, and then we are caught again.
Yes, yes, difference of 1400 years.
Like what?
Who worries about the language?
There was a time when Jews were made to wear yellow badges.
I'll show you a picture of the Parsi community of Iran.  All wearing yellow medals.
It was done to the Parsis, Anybody who is not a Musalman, pay the jazia tax or whatever, and he will be wearing a yellow badge.  So these chaps got together and said, If instead of wearing a round thing, we make it look like a medal, and wear it as an insignia, these Chs will be happy, and we will be able to live.
That's what they did.
They are all wearing yellow medals.
(In Urdu) Ask us to put red, and we will put red.
The thing to do is to survive.
What am I?  Trying to change them?  I am trying to survive this lot.
We had the largest empire. Cyrus had the largest empire.
He was a generous man.
But then he had something here.
He had something here.
I don’t want an empire.
People come and tell me, Parsi race is getting extinct. Yes, So?
Parsis are getting extinct.
They will disappear from the face of the earth. Yeah. So?
What’s your problem?
You know these guys who write PhD thesis.  They say, You are finishing.
Yes, So?
In Pakistan there are 2000 (Parsis).
This guy came from Multan. Visiting me.  He runs the Cancer Society there.  Because of his name and he is a Parsi, people (trust him and) give money.
I gave him money.  I said, how many (Paris) are left now (in Multan)?  He said, Just one.
I can worship in my shower.  I can worship sitting on the pot.
I don’t believe in temples.  I mean, all these gurus and priests.
Who said you cannot pray sitting on the pot?
How does your sitting on the pot make you impure?
You are still you.
I say ’thank you’ every night.  That’s all.
When I go up I say goodbye to all these buggers (pointing to the statues of his ancestors).  Thank you.

[On Pakistan’s direction.]
Do I look worried?
[Telling me why living in the US, Pakistan-Americans should not worry about Pakistan.]
My son is in America.  He is an architect.  He said, “I would like to start my life here" when he finished his architecture at Cornell and then he went to Harvard. He is a Harvard graduate.  Did his masters.  Master of (unintelligible) design.  Then for five years he was with I.M. Pei.  He said, “Why would I come to Karachi?”  He says, “I would like to (unintelligible).”  I said, “Go, do.”  He was sharp enough, I mean good enough for I.M. Pei to say, “Join us.” Joining I.M. Pei, you know who I.M. Pei is?  American architect, of Chinese descent.   He sent my son to China.  He stayed there forever. (unintelligible)  (unintelligible) 

Business was gone.  This MC called Bhutto, he nationalized shipping.
Business is carrying on. (unintelligible) 
It is still running (unintelligible), partners.  My brothers are there, my daughter is there.  When it will die it will die. 
It ran for five generations.  It cannot go on forever.

[On telling him that some are upset on his support of Musharraf.]
If you are a better person than the bloody lot I see, I…
System?  You think we have democracy?  I mean these guys are running a democracy?
Is this a democracy?
NO, these chaps, MQM fellows.
PPP, thieves?
Nawaz Sharif, thief?
Chaudhry (Shujaat Hussain), thief?
Mullah, MC.
So, who should one choose?
I said he (Musharraf) is the best of the worst lot, I say that way.
One can say (unintelligible) 
Am I a supporter of Musharraf?  Yes.
Yes, yes. (unintelligible) 
All I want is good governance.
In Urdu,
Be it the garbage collector, the cobbler, or MC thief, or whoever.  All I want is peace.
(unintelligible)  democracy all these years.  Up till Jinnah

[On asking him if there is any hope.]

(You keep asking me if) There is hope, there is hope.  I say ‘No.’  And why do you waste the film?
You will get nowhere.  You follow?  So keep the subject off.
Why are you wasting your time, my time, and the bloody film.
(You keep repeating) Why did you say this, why did you say this?
I just look at what’s available.  And choose the best I think.
What has been the American policy?
It is to follow what George Washington said.  That you can’t have permanent friends or permanent enemies. (unintelligible) 
They have not shifted from their original policy.
Who was Washington?  General.   Who was Eisenhower?  A general.   Who was MacArthur?  A general.
Some were not, some were.
The fact that they were generals does not disqualify them.
(unintelligible)  come up (unintelligible)  MacArthur.
If there had been another bloody general the (unintelligible) 

[On what is his opinion of Imran Khan.]
Who?  Imran Khan?
Good f****er.
Good Cricketer.
He has lots of ideas.
That’s his (Hoodbhoy’s) opinion.
He (Musharraf) is the best of the worst lot.   I have written that he is the best of the worst lot.
It is like saying if there are many CHs then he is the best CH.
Best of the five that I see.
You like Altaf Hussain?
You like Benazir?
You like Asif?
You like Mulla?
Mullas (unintelligible)  we are afraid (of them)
Scary, man!

[On Zil e Huma’s murder.]

Why (unintelligible)  poor woman (unintelligible) 
Beautiful woman, at the prime of her life.
The bugger did not feel like appreciating (unintelligible) 
Why is he alive today?
He should be locked up in seven days, but he won’t be locked up.

[Introducing the visitors who came at that point.]

Zahoor, the artist was married to his sister. 
A man came and shot Zahoor, and his daughter.
This is the mother, his mother, you’ll be mixed up.
You know that bugger is still free.
No, no, no.  He is sentenced to death.
He is on death row.
How many years ago was it?
Seven…Eight, nine years ago.
This bugger will stay on for another seven eight years.  He’ll survive Musharraf.
If you ask me today, Who will die earlier, he or Musharraf?   I’ll say chances are Musharraf will go before him.
This is law and order for you.

[Walking in the garden]

Read the last three lines.
A gentleman.  So. 
You know what this is?
See that on top?
You know what it means?
Read it.
Your brother Sir Charles Napier (unintelligible)  conqueror of the (unintelligible) 
Erected the (unintelligible)  right (unintelligible)  brother A. J. Rustomjee.  (unintelligible) 
That was my great grandfather.

(unintelligible)  history of Pakistan.
(unintelligible)  sell the house (unintelligible) 
(unintelligible)  Bhutto had him sodomized—and they held the father and made him watch it.
That was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the great MC.
I have lived comfortably all my life—Do you understand?
Open the door. [In Urdu.]
They have a road which measures that much—that by here—and that by there.
So I said you can’t measure, you can’t (unintelligible) road here.
(unintelligible) I don’t want (unintelligible)
This side.  Yes, look at this side.  Clean.
[Pointing to the French Consulate.]
He does it at the expense of---Government of France.
We would like to see Musharraf alive because in case something happens to Musharraf this MC becomes the president.
You follow?
(unintelligible) Chairman of the Senate.  He was governor then.
I said, I know that.

So, he said Governor has said never mind we will (unintelligible) footpath.

Take the car out. [In Gujarati.]
Come on, I’ll take you somewhere, show you something.
They don’t understand if a bugger wants (unintelligible) shoots (unintelligible)  he might get that (unintelligible) out (unintelligible) save my life.
They in Pakistan rushing
Called Bagh-e-Rustom (Rustom’s Garden)--named after my father.
(unintelligible) This bloody ***** minister as was I ever.  Now will you stop it?
He is trying to (unintelligible).
My drill was that I was going to come last—this Monday, sorry, coming Monday.
He extended the (unintelligible). 
(unintelligible)  fences will be open.
It is finished, Right?   Look at that fence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An embedded journalist is an in-bed journalist

An embedded journalist is an in-bed journalist

In the initial period of the second Iraq war when the phrase ‘embedded journalism’ gained currency, one journalist in California wondered—quite loud-- how an embedded journalist can remain neutral.  If you spend your day and night with a group of people, how can you possibly be critical of that group?  That writer called an embedded journalist an in-bed journalist.  Nine years later, Paula Broadwell, an embedded journalist with General Petraeus in Afghanistan, has proved the point.  All In, Petraeus’s biography written by Broadwell, should now be seen as an eulogy written not by a neutral observer but by a lover.  After the exposed Petreaus-Broadwell affair you will be justified in guessing the context in which Boradwell used the expression ‘All In.’

Photo, courtesy of the ‘Business Insider.’

Monday, October 29, 2012

Imran Khan in San Jose, California

On October 28, around 500 people gathered to listen to Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, in San Jose.
The most important part of Khan’s speech was when he described his views on the Taliban in response to a question about his party’s tepid condemnation of the Taliban atrocities. It helped people understand how Imran Khan views the situation even when many would disagree with Khan’s analysis.

It is always hard to tell how many attendees of these fundraisers genuinely agree with Imran Khan’s political views instead of only being interested in having a photo with the pretty boy.

Imran Khan believes there are six types of Taliban.  The ones who want to enforce their 'Shariyat' are a minority among the bigger umbrella of the 'Taliban.'

Imran Khan does not seem to like criticism. He is probably only used to people who get speechless in his presence. The Mick Jagger look alike Pakistani politician dyes his hair regularly and does daily workout to maintain his fashion-model appearance. And in Pakistan—in the Pakistani diaspora as well--you go a long way by just being pretty. In a fundraiser speech on October 28 in San Jose, California Khan lumped sectarian violence in Pakistan with the Taliban reaction to the drone attacks and got away with the ridiculous analysis.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NED Alumni Convention 2012, Washington DC

NED Alumni Convention 2012 Washington DC

Festivities at the eighth annual NED Alumni Convention held in Washington DC started Friday night when NEDians coming from all over North America were welcomed at a dinner and live music program.

On Saturday, October 13, this correspondent attended only one morning session: a presentation of ‘NED Alef’, a program to create a large endowment fund to benefit the NED University.  The presentation was made by Rashid Ali Baig.

According to the program brochure, the following two simultaneous presentations took place in the morning:
“Setting up MBE / 8(a) Enterprise” and “Intelligent Transportation Systems” [with Chris Francis, VDOT].

Project Indus was described as an “NEDians’ Initiative for building a stronger Pakistan.”  According to the program brochure the following speakers made up the panel of ‘Project Indus’:  Touqir Hussain (Former Ambassador), Walter Andersen, Ayesha Jalal, Hassan Abbas, and Moeed Yusuf.

After lunch, two buses hauled over 200 attendees of the convention to various Washington DC monuments.

In the evening speeches and dinner were followed by a music program that ended with NED alumni jamming the dance floor.

See photos here:

Listen to Aftab Rizvi’s speech here:

See a video of the grand finale of the music program here:

This is where the past NED Alumni conventions took place:

1st-2005 Houston, TX
2nd-2006 Edison, NJ
3rd-2007 San Jose, Northern California
4th-2008 Hartford, Connecticut
5th-2009 Garden Grove, Southern California
6th-2010 Chicago, IL
7th-2011 Parsippany, New Jersey

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey of The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)

The program held at the Stanford University was sponsored by Stanford’s  ‘Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law’ and the ‘Center for South Asia’; and by the ‘Friends of South Asia.’

निखिल डे, अरुणा रॉय, मजदूर किसान शक्ति संगठन, स्तान्फोर्ड उनिवेर्सित्य , फ्रिएंड्स ऑफ़ साउथ एशिया 

ارونا راءے، نکھل ڈے، مزدور کسان شکتی سنگھٹن، اسٹینفرڈ یونیورسٹی، فرینڈذ آف ساءوتھ ایشیا

Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey

Around fifty people gathered to listen to Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) speak on “Beyond Jan Lokpal: Laws to Combat Corruption and the Role of Social Movements in India's Democracy.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NED Alumni Association of the Silicon Valley, an Introduction

The silicon content of the Silicon Valley dirt is no higher than that of other dirt in other places.  The Silicon Valley derives its name from the fact that the area around the south San Francisco Bay—and especially the south peninsula area with the Santa Cruz mountains to its west and the Bay to its east—has for decades provided a lion’s share in pushing the world in the modern age of fast communications and light speed computations; the semiconductor industry—using silicon based wafers—being the backbone of this high-tech revolution.  The NED graduates have been at the forefront of this technology revolution.  With the oldest NED alumni in the San Francisco Bay Area being a 1958 graduate and the young ones coming every year, the Valley is estimated to have over two hundred NED graduates.  The NED Alumni Association of the Silicon Valley with a mission ‘to connect, serve, empower and support NEDians and the NED University’ holds regular meetings on the third Wednesday of every month.  Join their Yahoo group at
Or look them up on Facebook at

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Black Indians in the West

I read with interest Thenmozhi Soundararajan’s piece on “The Black Indians” (Dalits in the US) at Outlook.

Yes, the past should be remembered, but there is no reason for one to celebrate their history of misery imposed by others.  The caste system had its "merits", in antiquity.  The caste system made a society functional by designating specific professions to groups of people.  In societies where day to day survival was the ultimate goal, social mobility made little difference, and the majority of people acquiesced to class distinctions decided by those who chose the best for themselves.  But times have changed.  Human conscious has evolved to a point where social justice matters, civil liberties matter, the freedom to choose a profession matters.  This conscious in itself precludes the existence of a caste system that would lock people in their places through generations.  When social structures in a place are too rigid to change in response to the changing times, people indicate their disapproval of them by moving out.  Immigration to a new land is a way to start anew, to completely reject the old social structures that one was forced to accept.  To escape to a new place but still gloat over the old miserable life is nothing but masochism.

[Photo, courtesy of]

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Congratulations to Shadab Rasool, But We Have A Few Questions, Please

Congratulations to Shadab Rasool, But We Have A Few Questions, Please

These days, any news from Pakistan almost invariably involves body counts.  In the current atmosphere of despair even the tiniest of good news from that godforsaken country is celebrated and cherished.  With that appetite for positive news from Pakistan, the report of a Pakistani high-schooler from Khairpur, Shadab Rasool, winning a silver medal in a science fair in New York, was received with pride.  As always, the Pakistani media had some terrible reporting of the news and it was hard to tell what new technology was invented by Shadab Rasool.  The best piece—with some explanation of Rasool’s technology—was written by Mithal Khuhro and Sameer Mandhoro, for the Express Tribune.
But even Khuhro and Mandhoro’s report relied too much on the information obtained from Shadab Rasool himself.  So we decided to do our own investigative journalism and get to further details.  As it normally happens the investigation did provide more details, but it also generated a few questions.  Here are the questions and we hope someone would be able to answer them for everyone’s benefit.

Is Shadab Rasool also known as Usama Khan?  [We find Usama Khan’s name announced here: 00:36, at the Genius Olympiad award ceremony.]  Also, at, which is a list of the finalist teams (248 out of 657 participating teams), Team 609, for the project title ‘Get the pollutants out: Removal of harmful pollutants from industrial waste water by tea waste,’ lists Usama Khan and K. Baloch as the team members.  [A second team from Pakistan, Team 174, for the project title ‘Detoxification of heavy metal contaminated soils by using a new phytoremediation method’, had Abdul Daim and Wajid Waheed as the two team members.  That team won the ‘Honorable Mention’ award.  See that team at 14:00, in the video at]

In this TV report,
the reporter claims the ‘US Government’ has given a scholarship of $250,000 to Shadab Rasool.  First, Genius Olympiad, is organized by the State University of New York at Oswego and the Terra Science and Education Foundation, and NOT by the ‘US Government.’  Secondly, it does not appear any cash award is given in this high school project competition.
[In fact, contestants have to bear their own travel expenses, to reach to the contest in New York.]

And lastly, we would like to review Shadab Rasool’s project in further detail to understand the originality of his technology.  [The Internet seems to be dripping with ‘tea waste’ technologies invented to fight industrial pollution.  For example, see this 2010 paper

by the Chinese researchers, on ‘Biosorption of heavy metals from solution by tea waste.’]

Photo, courtesy of

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alcohol imbued Poetry: Remembering Jigar Muradabadi

July 15, 2012

Alcohol imbued Poetry: Remembering Jigar Muradabadi

From lofty to humble, Urdu poets have used creative noms de plume to describe themselves, but it is not common for them to use body organs as poetic names.  Heart (dil), liver (jigar), and gallbladder (pitta) have their uses in the Urdu language—for example, good friends are known as jigri-doast (liver friends)—but Jigar Muradabadi (born Shaikh Mohammad Ali Sikandar, in 1890) was the first one to underscore the importance of a vital organ by using it as his pen name.  A literary evening dubbed Soz-e-Jigar arranged to remember the life and work of Jigar Muradabadi was held at the India Community Center on July 15.

The program was presided over by Ms. Vijay Nigam, daughter of Farhat Kanpuri (Gangadhar Nath Nigam), and emceed by Bay Area Urdu teacher Hamida Banu Chopra.   Several Urdu lovers read Jigar’s poetry in the program.

Amjad Noorani an advisor to The Citizens Foundation (TCF), USA, a non-profit organization working for the education of underprivileged children in Pakistan, recited two ghazals: ‘Kam Aakhir jazba e bay ikhtiyar aa hee gaya’ and ‘Ishq ko bay naqab hona thaa.’

Anshuman Chandra, an accomplished musician and one-half of the Bay Area band SaazMantra, sang Jigar’s ‘Jahle khirad nay din wuh dikhay’ and ‘Ik lafz e muhabbat ka adna yeh fasa.’

Almas Hameed Shabvani, a local singer, recited ‘Har su dikhai daitayN haiN who jalwah gar mujhay.’

Alka Hingorani, a former student of Hamida Chopra, read Jigar’s ghazal ‘Isee chaman main hee hamara bhee aik zamana thaa’ and the poem ‘Tajdeed-e-Mulaqat.’

Hamida Chopra read Jigar’s politically motivated poetry from her school days: Kabhi shakh o sabz o barg per, kabhi guncha o gul o khar per//Mein chaman meiN chahay jahaN rahooN, mera haq hai fasl e bahar per.

U.V. Ravindra, a poet who uses Khurshid as his pseudonym, read Jigar’s two ghazals: ‘Oas paray bahar per, aag lagay kinar meiN’ and ‘Dunya kay sitam yad na apnee hee wafa yad.’

Anil Chopra, professor of civil engineering at the UC, Berkeley, read assorted couplets from Jigar’s poetry, including ‘Shikast-e-Tauba’ written on the relapse of alcoholism.

Ashraf Habibullah, the main sponsor of the program, is a connoisseur of art and poetry.  As a speaker he is a wonderful entertainer.  Ashraf came to the Soz-e-Jigar mehfil with his custom-made jacket studded with LED lights; he recited Jigar’s ‘Shaer fitrat  hooN meiN jab fikr fermata hooN meiN.’

Bombay music composer of ghazals, Ravi Date, read Jigar’s ‘Fikr manzil hay na hosh e jadeh e manzil mujhay’ and ‘Tum iss dila e wahshee kee wafaoN peh na jana.’

Hamida Chopra read a paper on Jigar Muradabadi recounting Jigar’s life and his association with Asghar Gondvi.  Chopra also described Jigar’s alcoholism and said Jigar considered adding water or soda to his alcohol, shirk (a sin in Islam involving the worship of another deity, along with Allah).

Vijay Nigam remembered Jigar Muradabadi as his father’s friend who considered her his own daughter and kept paying her visits even after Nigam’s father passed away.  Nigam described Jigar’s visits to be very short, meant to assure her of his support to her—the tonga (horse-carriage) he would ride to her home would wait outside, Jigar Sahib would just come in, ask Nigam’s well-being, put his hand on her head and would leave right away.  Nigam said Jigar’s kindness left a lasting impression on her.

Anupama Chandratreya has that rare quality in her voice that makes the poetry she sings, sink in your head.  The Soz-e-Jigar program started and ended with Anupama Chandratreya’s recitation of Jigar’s poetry (Jalwa baqdr e zarf e nazar dekhtay rahay and Tabiyat inn dinoN baigana-e gham hotee jaatee hai).

Why do over one hundred people regularly convene at these literary meetings, arranged every three to four months by Hamida Banu Chopra and her group, even when no new literary work is presented in these gatherings?  The answer is simple: the names are big, the poetry is familiar, and the regulars get a kick out of the active participation in such literary events.

Listen to the audio recording of the program here:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kashmiris Losing Hope in Nonviolence: Yasin Malik

June 21, 2012

Kashmiris Losing Hope in Nonviolence: Yasin Malik

Why would a group of people wish to secede from a democratic setup?  Isn’t democracy, a rule ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, the best form of government?  No, not quite.  Groups of people may seek secession from a democracy when a democratic rule has been imposed upon them, and especially when the democratic rule is merely a continuation of the colonial era setup, forcefully bringing together regions without obtaining the consent of people living there.  Sixty five years after gaining independence from Britain, regions and peoples of South Asia are still struggling to find political setups best suited for their needs.  Kashmir, South Asia’s connection with the Central Asia, is one such region.  Struggle for an independent Kashmir has seen ups and downs in the last sixty five years.  The violent days of the 90s are gone, but a desire for independence is still a reality in the Kashmir valley.  Many Kashmiri leaders based in the West believe the West and especially the US can help them see the light of independence.  US-based Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is one of them.  But whereas Fai may consider himself just an activist fighting for the rights of his people, in the post 911 United States he is a Muslim whose activities are closely watched by the Big Brother.  Emboldened by legislation that gives carte blanche powers to law enforcement agencies in the name of national security, undercover agents, eager to prove their performance to superiors and patriotism to America, are gung ho about arresting the ‘Muslim terrorists.’  In this era of neo-McCarthyism, entrapment, if it involves ‘Muslim terrorists’—or, lately, the ‘occupy movement’ activists-- is very much condoned by the larger society and the courts.   We see the FBI agents regularly frequenting mosques, exhorting people to do jihad, making ‘terrorist plots’ for the feeble-minded they can recruit, supplying the dimwits with fake ammunition, and in the end arresting them for plotting terrorist activities.  Those who don’t get easily entrapped, get their lives and finances closely examined-- benign actors are implicated in tax evasion and building code violation cases; ‘despicable’ ones—ones with the beards—are humiliated through charges of prostitution and child pornography.  To cut a long story short, Ghulam Nabi Fai has been implicated in a tax evasion case and is scheduled for an imprisonment starting from June 26.  A conference on Kashmir dubbed “Right of Self-Determination for the People of Kashmir: A Reminder to US Policy Makers,”  hosted by Dr. Agha Saeed and others, held on June 21, gave Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai the last opportunity to address a public rally before the start of his incarceration.

Speaking at the conference, through Skype, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik said after suffering for generations Kashmiris started an armed struggle in 1988.  In 1994, the separatists laid down their arms after the international community and especially the US promised Yasin Malik and other Kashmiri leaders of their help in the resolution of the Kashmir issue if the Kashmiris would turn their struggle into a nonviolent movement.  Malik said the unilateral ceasefire of 1994 was a very unpopular decision.   He said several of his colleagues have been killed by India, and he too was arrested over 200 times after the Kashmiris voluntarily chose the path of nonviolence.  Malik said in 2003 he collected over 1.5 million signatures on a petition and presented the document to both the Indian Prime Minister ManMohan Singh and the then president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.   He said millions of Kashmiris have taken part in peaceful marches that have been largely ignored by the international community.  He feared that Kashmiris are losing hope in peaceful protests and wondering if violence is the only way to bring attention to their cause.
Listen to Yasin Malik’s speech here:

Dr. Mohammad Siddiqui, brother of Aafia Siddiqui, and Raja Asad Ali khan, a Pakistani journalist also addressed the audience through Skype.

Mark Hinkle, an American libertarian activist, said that one of the tragedies that came out of the 911 attacks--besides the death of three thousand people--was the wholesale violation of rights of the Americans.  He said Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, and Osama Bin Laden were all funded by the US government.  Hinkle advocated a non-interventionist US foreign policy.
Listen to Mark Hinkle’s speech here:

Dr. Imtiaz khan, professor at the George Washington University said the Indian human rights abuses in Kashmir would put the Israelis to shame. He highlighted the case of Major Avtar Singh, a former Indian military officer, who shot his family members and then killed himself, in Selma, California, earlier this month—Khan implied that Avtar Singh’s suicide was an act of insanity stemming from psychological problems Indian military personnel deployed in Kashmir face.  Avtar Singh was accused of abducting and killing Kahsmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi, in 1996.  Dr. Khan also reminded the audience of the Kunan Poshpora mass rape case in which dozens of Indian soldiers raped over 50 women in the Kashmiri village of Kunan Poshpora.

Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi, professor of journalism at the Western Illinois University, said as an Indian Muslim he wants to see his country strong and prosperous and wishes India to stop wasting resources in Kashmir.
Listen to Dr. Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi’s speech here:

Edward Hasbrouck, a peace activist and author of “The Practical Nomad” said he looks forward to visiting an independent Kashmir one day.
Listen to Edward Hasbrouck’s speech here:

Hazem Kira read the position of the American Muslim Task Force, AMT, on Kashmir.
Listen to the AMT’s position on Kashmir here:

The text of the statement is here:

In his speech, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Chairman of the American Muslims for Palestine, said both Palestine and Kashmir entered the post-colonial era as entities still trapped in colonial setups.  Bazian said occupations are the most violent manifestations of structures of violence.
Listen to Hatem Bazian’s speech here:

Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College, and Qadr Fai, Ghulam Nabi Fai’s wife, also spoke at the conference.

In his speech Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai said the unresolved Kashmir issue concerns not only the 17 million people of Kashmir, it affects 1.3 billion people of South Asia.  He spoke of the four important factors--the historical background, the ground reality, the Indian thinking, and the International understanding—of the Kashmir dispute.  Dr. Fai said Kashmir was never a part of India so ‘secession of Kashmir from India’ does not mean anything.
Listen to Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai’s speech here:

The Kashmir conference held at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark was emceed by Dr. Naeem Baig.

Puerto Rico’s Camuy, Tanzania’s Amboni and Balochistan’s LaHoot LaMakan

Puerto Rico’s Camuy, Tanzania’s Amboni and Balochistan’s LaHoot LaMakan

Unlike other caves that are left featureless after their creation through geological activity, limestone caves are adorned with needle-shaped formations known as stalactites and stalagmites.  The primitive man must have observed such caves with awe.  Entering such a cave one can imagine going in the mouth of a beast, with sharp upper jaw teeth.

The limestone caves are found throughout the world.  The ones I recently visited in Puerto Rico are a tourist attraction, earning around two million dollars a year to the government.  In Pakistan’s Balochistan, LaHoot LaMakan caves—around 60 miles out of Karachi—are a pilgrimage sight, with dubious stories about the spiritual nature of the caves, the stalactites, and the stalagmites growing every year.

The rotation of the earth works with the energy beaming from the sun to set the stage for water and wind to move and shape our natural world.  The formation of stalactites and stalagmites is easy to understand.  When rain falls on top of a cave made of limestone, the minerals get dissolved by the water.  As the aqueous solution drips from the cave’s roof, it makes cones of calcium carbonate—called stalactites--after the water is evaporated.  When the rate of evaporation is low the solution drips down on the floor and the evaporating water leaves a mound of minerals—this geological feature is known as a stalagmite.

Before we entered Parque de Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy of Puerto Rico, a national park associated with the limestone caves and the underground River Camuy flowing through them, we were educated through a movie.  The fragile nature of the caves was explained in great detail and the visitors were strongly requested to not touch the stalactites or stalagmites as they were nature’s work in progress, having reached the current stage in thousands of years.

Twenty years ago a visit to the limestone caves of LaHoot LaMakan was a completely different experience.   In that visit, my interest in geology was instantly put off by witnessing the wholesale desecration of the natural beauty of the LaHoot LaMakan caves.  We entered the main Lahoot LaMakaN cave through a narrow opening.  The floor was slippery with limestone slush under our feet.  Devotees were touching everything and most stalactites had lost their sharp ends.  A stalagmite now in the shape of a bigger glob connected with a thinner column was designated as the camel of Prophet Ayub, fossilized through a miracle.  Every geological feature was explained to be a beast transformed into a rock by holy men.  Black smoke rising from candles had already ruined many parts of cave’s roof.  Overall, it was painful to see a wonderful opportunity to make money from the tourist attraction of Lahoot LaMakaN limestone caves squandered by the local government.  In that visit I had also thought of the Amboni caves in Tanzania, visited a while back.  Even Tanzania had better economic acumen to preserve its wonderful limestone caves and generate income from them.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

‘Little People, Big World’

‘Little People, Big World’

Amer Haider is a passionate man who takes his goals very seriously.  He belongs to the core team that took Cavium Networks from a little known startup to an over billion dollar NASDAQ listed corporation.  Amer’s latest passion is to fight achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that is the main cause of dwarfism (known as skeletal dysplasia in the field of medicine).  Amer, along with his wife Munira, is the driving force behind ‘Growing Stronger’ (, a non-profit dedicated to make life easier for people suffering from achondroplasia and a host of related health issues.  The main support group for people suffering from skeletal dysplasia in the USA is the Little People of America (LPA;, but LPA does not get itself involved in the medical research.  Enter Growing Stronger.  Since its inception in 2011, ‘Growing Stronger’ has partnered with researches working on solving the genetic puzzle behind achondroplasia.  A reception arranged by Growing Stronger on May 12 at the Tech Museum in San Jose was an occasion to acknowledge the support of the donors and to educate the attendees about achondroplasia and the issues people suffering from dwarfism face.
Besides Dr. William Horton of Portland Shriners Hospital and Dr. William R. Wilcox from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, Joe and Ginni Foos from the little people’s community and Ericka Okenfuss, a clinical genetic counselor and the lead coordinator of the Regional Skeletal Dysplasia Clinic at Kaiser spoke to an audience of over forty.  One strong takeaway from the lunch meeting was that dwarfs are perfectly normal people who the society should accept for who they are; research is primarily needed in solving medical issues little people face.  Readers of this news report are encouraged to listen to the audio recording of the event at:

[The reality TV show ‘Little People, Big World’ showed everyday life of a family of dwarfs and helped in raising awareness around dwarfism.]

Monday, May 07, 2012

Indus Heritage Day

April 29.  Milpitas, CA.

Faiz, in his moving poem ‘Dua’, asked God to erase today’s sorrows with tomorrow’s sweet hopes.  Can today’s animosity be erased by yesterday’s sweetness?  Yes.  If the Indus Heritage Day picks up momentum and gradually becomes an annual commemorative event in the three big South Asian sates (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), people may come to the realization that their bond from past is much stronger than today’s superficial differences.
Indus Heritage Day--a program to discuss and understand the Indus Valley Civilization-- arranged on Sunday, April 29, was organized by The 1947 Archive (, the India Community Center (ICC;, and the Pakistani American Cultural Center (PACC;  Well-known film director Saqib Mausoof’s documentary film “In Search of Meluhha” (see a promotional video here: ) was screened at the program. [Outside Indus Valley, contemporary civilizations knew the Indus Valley Civilization as ‘Meluhha.’] 
Dr. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, an expert on the Indus Valley Civilization and a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, gave the keynote speech.  Speaking to an audience of over 200, Professor Kenoyer said the Indus Valley Civilization did not exist in isolation.  It was connected through trade networks to Central Asia, China, and Mesopotamia.  He rejected the earlier archeological theory that the Indus Civilization suddenly disappeared, on the arrival of the Aryans.  He said that the Indus Valley Civilization set the foundation for the later historical periods of South Asia.  He said that the Indus Valley Civilization was connected to areas around it and through those connections established a unified culture throughout South Asia that became the heritage of the Mauryan Empire.  Kenoyer claimed that the concept of bangles was developed in Harappa, one of the five major cities of the Indus Valley Civilization.  He said that the walls around Harappa were probably not used for defensive purposes or warfare; they were used for economic purposes, to effectively collect taxes from people entering the walled areas.  Speaking of the Indus writing that remains undecipherable to this day, he said the writing system was very versatile and could be used to write many different languages.  He said that traders of the Indus Valley Civilization cities were wealthy, but unlike other ancient civilizations, Indus Valley Civilization people did not bury the wealth with the deceased.
Listen to Professor Kenoyer’s speech here:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Prozac for Manto?

April 28.  Newark, CA.
Fifty-seven years after Saadat Hasan Manto’s youthful death, it is hard to do a psychiatric evaluation of the writer, but it won’t be a far-fetched guess that Manto had a hard time dealing with the demons inside him, and in fighting them he used the drug most easily and inexpensively available to him—alcohol--but that drug was not the right medicine.  What if modern medicine was available to him?  Could a Manto on Prozac still produce ‘Toba Tek Singh’ and ‘Khol Do’?  It was hard not to think along those lines listening to the life events and works of Saadat Hasan Manto in a literary program arranged by the Pakistan American Democratic Forum (PADF) on Saturday, April 28, at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark.  This year marks the centenary birthday of Manto.  Dr. Agha Saeed is the chief organizer of PADF’s literary events.  Program on Manto was emceed by Dr. Ashraf Chaudhary; Ms. Sabahat Rafiq Sherwani, Dr. Ashraf Chaudhary, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, and Dr. Melanie Tanielian read scholarly papers on Manto and his writings.

In her speech Sabahat Rafiq said, “While Manto’s childhood was relatively normal, three aspects thereof remained ineradicably part of his persona, creating in him the rebel, the revolutionary, and the consummate attention and ovation seeker.  Overachievement of his elder step brother continued to overshadow him making him an instinctive attention seeker.  Latent rebel in him was enthused by the great agitation following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.  And the socialist-revolutionary facet of Manto’s personality was inspired by Bhagat Singh.”

Dr. Ashraf Chaudhary said, “The amazing thing about Manto is the process of graphically recording the dark side of human beings while artfully maintaining a neutral position.  Manto does not pass judgment on his characters as he puts them to shame and let’s them speak for themselves.”

Before discussing the short story ‘Khol Do’, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, read a comment Manto made about political leaders of his time.
“These (political) leaders are bugs which have slipped inside the joints of the charpoi of the nation. They should be removed with the boiling water of hatred.  Young men in torn shirts must rise up, and with anger and determination in their broad chests throw down these leaders, in name only, who have climbed to the high places without our permission.”

Dr. Melanie Tanielian read her commentary on Manto’s short story, ‘Tithwal ka kutta’ (The dog of Tithwal).  The story is about a dog that ends up in an Indian military camp close to the control line in Kashmir.  The dog is given a tag and made an ‘Indian.’  But then later, the dog goes to the Pakistani camp, where he is declared to be a ‘Pakistani.’  At the end of the story the dog, running at the control line, gets killed by both the Pakistani and the Indian soldiers—the dog becomes a martyr.  Tanielian said, “It is not the story of an indecisive dog.  It is the story of the Kashmiri people who are living under the military occupation of two nations.  Struck by the absurdity of human greed for conquest and possession, Manto (in his story) exposes the irrationality of conflict and violence by displaying the unnecessary sufferings of a dog.”

Listen to the audio of the program here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Falcon and Tulips: A celebration of Muhammad Iqbal’s life and work

Countries may adopt deceased poets and writers as their national heroes, but great writers’ and poets’ universal writings are truly for everyone to cherish and learn from. Muhammad Iqbal was one of those poets. Iqbal may have certain strains of pan-Islamic ideas in his poetry, but in most part the humanist part of his work has universal appeal. For many in South Asia, Iqbal was the greatest sage who lived in modern times—and that is why they call him the Poet of the East.
Bay Area Urdu cognoscente Hamida Banu Chopra regularly arranges literary meetings in which notable poets are remembered through recitations of their life histories and their work. On Sunday, March 11 such a program was arranged at ICC, Milpitas to remember the life and poetry of Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal.

The event, moderated by Hamida Banu, was presided over by Urdu teacher and community leader Ahsan Syed. The readings kicked off with Arvind Kansal reciting ‘Ram’ and ‘Niya Shavalah’ from Bang e Dara (Iqbal asking his countrymen to forget their religious differences and consider their land the god). After that reading Hamida Banu pointed out Iqbal’s use of Hindi words in Niya Shavalah—she said Sheikh Abdul Qadir, Iqbal’s contemporary and the editor of Makhzin magazine, had written about Iqbal’s study of the Hindu philosophy.

Next was Fatima Hussnain who read the poem ‘Mera watan wahi hai’ from Bal e Jibrael. Mera watan wahi hai is another poem indicative of Iqbal’s early patriotism.

Deepti Warrier hailing from Kerala sang Iqbal’s ghazal ‘Tujhe yad Kya naheeN hai’ from Bal e Jibrael.

Hamida Banu started recounting the important life events of Iqbal by describing a mushaira in Lahore that a 19-year old Iqbal attended. The mushaira took place in Bazar e HakimaN Inside Bhati gate. Famous poets of those times such as Mirza Arshad Gurgani Dehlvi and Mirza Nazim Hussain Nazim (known for his poem Jogi) were there along with their disciples. In the mushaira Iqbal read a ghazal ‘Hasrat nahin kisi ki tamanna nahi hooN mein’ and stunned the audience.

Banu then described Iqbal’s slow journey towards stardom in Urdu poetry. That Muhammad Iqbal being born in Sialkot on Nov 9, 1877 wrote very highly of his father, Sheikh Noor Muhammad, who once asked him to read Quran imagining that ‘Allah is talking to you directly.’

Iqbal learned Arabic and Farsi from Syed Mir Hasan, a scholar, popularly known as Shah Sahib. On Shah Sahib’s recommendation Iqbal got admission in the Mission College. Later, Iqbal went to study in Lahore. Whenever he would come back to Sialkot he would have scholarly discussions with his father. His father wanted him to be highly educated. In 1905 Iqbal left for England and on his way stopped in Delhi where he visited Khawaja Nizamuudin Auliya’s tomb and wrote the poem ‘Iltija e Musafir.’

In 1933 when Iqbal was offered knighthood, he told the Governor of Punjab he could not accept the honor until his teacher would be honored for his scholarship. When the Governor asked Iqbal if Iqbal’s teacher had written any books, Iqbal replied that he himself was a book written by his teacher. His teacher was given the award of Shams Ul Ulma.

It was the time when Iqbal’s poetry got regularly published in Makhzen, run by Sheikh Abdul Qadir Iqbal once told Sheikh Abdul Qadir that he was giving up on writing poetry and wanted to instead use his time in doing something more productive. Abdul Qadir tried to talk him out of that decision but Iqbal was not convinced. Abdul Qadir got Iqbal agree to talk to Professor Arnold and get his opinion on this important matter. Arnold was Iqbal’s philosophy teacher in Lahore. Arnold agreed with Abdul Qadir and urged Iqbal to continue with writing poetry, saying, “Whatever time you give to poetry is not only productive for you, it is also productive for your country and your people.” Banu said today we should be thankful to Abdul Qadir and Professor Arnold for having Iqbal continue the poetry journey.

Iqbal wrote extensively in Persian and is known as Eqbal Lahoori in Iran. The City of Mashhad has an ‘Eqbal Lahoori Institute of Higher Education’ (though engineering rather than poetry is taught at that university—may be because of Iqbal’s emphasis on the importance of active work, in his poetry.)

Hamida Banu described a meeting of Ghulam Bhik Nairang with Iqbal, after Iqbal returned from Europe in 1908. Nairang who lived in Amritsar went to Lahore to meet Iqbal who was not home. Nairang waited till Iqbal returned. Iqbal was wearing ‘an English suit’ when he returned home. But he quickly changed into a tehband (dhoti) and banyan (undershirt) with a folded blanket on his shoulder, and huqqa in front of him. ‘We sat down on the floor and discussed various topics. I lived there for three days. I can tell you he went to Europe and learned a lot of things, but that has not changed his down- to-earth manners.’

Listening to Iqbal’s poetry and life events one cannot help but think how the poet went through various transformations, from starry-eyed patriotism of the younger years and a sense of belonging to the land (urging people to unite despite their religious experiences) to pan-Islamism (a reaction to witnessing might of Muslim rulers crushed all over the world), to becoming a strong advocate of Muslim identity in South Asia.

Next in line was Bay Area poetess, Mahnaz naqvi, who read Iqbal’s poetry from his various intellectual stages.

Ali Hussnain, brother of Fatima Hussnain, recited the poem ‘Chand aur Taray’

Talat Qadeer Khan, a Karachi University graduate, sang the poem ‘Lala e Sahra.’

Hamida Banu pointed out the repeated use of Gul-e-lala (tulip) in Iqbal’s poetry. She said tulip was Iqbal’s metaphor for the lover. She said Iqbal was against the monopoly of religious leaders on religion; she read poetry to substantiate the thesis.

Next was Nasreen Chopra, Hamida Banu’s daughter, who briefly described her mother’s Urdu teaching career over the last 30 years, including a recent stint at IIT Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar where Banu taught two courses. Nasreen said she too learned Urdu from her mother. Nasreen read Iqbal’s famous poem ‘Hamdardee” from Bang e Dara.

Tashie Zaheer, a prominent Urdu poet, was given the task of describing Iqbal’s philosophy of Khudi (self). In his paper Zaheer described why Iqbal thought self-realization was an important pursuit; he said Iqbal used ‘shaheen’ (falcon) as a metaphor for a perfect Muslim because the falcon flies high, does not make nest (is always on the move), and does not eat animals killed by other predators.

Anupama Dalal sang ‘Zamana’ and a ghazal ‘Gaisoo e tabdar ko aur bhee tabdar ker.’

In his short speech, Ahsan Syed, paid tribute to Iqbal and said, “Mir gave us the language, Ghalib gave the language body and form, and Iqbal put spirit in it.”

Hamida Banu concluded the program reciting Iqbal’s poem ‘Doa.’

Listen to the audio of the program here:


ڈاکٹر سر محمد اقبال، علامہ اقبال، شاعر مشرق، فلسفہ خودی، اقبال اور حب الوطنی، اقبال لاھوری، سیالکوٹ مشن کالج، گورنمنٹ کالج لاہور، اردو شاعری، پروفیسر آرنلڈ، محلہ حکیماں، بھاٹی گیٹ، مشاعرہ، مرزا ارشد گرگانی دہلوی، مرزا ناظم حسین ناظم، سید میر حسن، نظام الدین اولیا، التجاءے مسافر، رسالہ مخزن، شیخ عبدالقادر، غلام بھیک نارنگ، اقبال وطنیت سے برصغیر کے مسلمانوں کی نماءندگی تک، حمیدہ بانو چوپڑہ، اردو کی تعلیم، آءی آءی ٹی احمد آباد گاندھی نگر، تاشی ظہیر، مہ ناز نقوی، اروند کانسل، انوپما دلال، دیپتی وارءیر، بال جبرءیل، بانگ درا۔

डॉक्टर सर मुहम्मद इकबाल
अल्लामा इकबाल
शयेर इ मुशरिक
इकबाल का फलसफा इ खुदी
इकबाल और हिंदुस्तान
इकबाल और इस्लाम
इकबाल लाहोरी
उर्दू शाएरी
हमीदा बनो चोप्रा
अरविन्द कंसल
मेहनाज़ नकवी
ताशी ज़हीर
इ सी सी मिल्पितास
इंडिया कम्युनिटी सेण्टर

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Looking back with William Dalrymple

A.H. Cemendtaur

On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, over two hundred people attended a performance of reading and music organized by the Berkeley Urdu Initiative at the UC Berkeley. Celebrated historian of late Mughal era, William Dalrymple, read excerpts from his book, “The Last Mughal.” Poetry, beautifully sung by vocalist Vidya Shah punctuated the reading. Shah was accompanied by tabla player Vishal Nagar.

What makes William Dalrymple a much sought after historian is the fact that deep at his core he is a storyteller. Dalrymple writes history books that grab you by your hand and take you back to the era he is describing; he makes you see colors and shapes, smell the aroma of fine foods and the stench of decomposing bodies, and hear the screams of people in distress and the late night music emanating from the royal palace.

In the introduction of the program, Professor Munis Faruqui, historian of Mughal India, said the evening was a part of the much larger program, the Berkeley's Urdu Initiative “launched to honor and extend Berkeley's decades long commitment to the study and dissemination of Urdu.”

Faruqui informed the audiences that since program’s inception in November 2011, almost $130,000 have been raised; in the goal to create an endowment for lectureship in Urdu, UC Berkeley is providing a 3:1 support to the fund-raising effort.

Raka Ray, Chair of the Center for South Asian Studies, introduced William Dalrymple as a historian; a contributor to the NY Review of Books, the New Yorker, New Statesman, and Guardian; and as one of the founders of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

What followed next was a mesmerizing session of storytelling and music. Dalrymple entertained the audience describing the brief period of renaissance at the very end of the Mughal period, and the events around the war of 1857.

“In the 1640s when Milton was sitting in the drab monotone of Puritanical, Cromwellian England, writing ‘Paradise lost’, and was trying to think of an image of grandeur, he chose to have God take Adam on a tour of the future cities of Mughal India. Adam is escorted through Mughal Delhi, Lahore and Agra on his path through future wonders of humanity. For a man of Milton’s generation this was no exaggeration. Mughals by the 1640s controlled almost all of South Asia, almost all of Afghanistan, and a slither of modern Iran.

“By the accession of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1832, almost all of it had been lost. Delhi itself had been plundered three times since the death of Aurangzeb in 1707.

“One of the extraordinary features of this period is that unlike the periods of decline in other empires which normally leave little artistic trace, it is possible to argue that many of the most remarkable literary works to come out of Mughal India follow in the years of decline.

“The great renaissances of history usually take place during times of economic boom. What’s extraordinary about the renaissance that takes place in Delhi in period just before Zafar and during Zafar’s reign is that it takes place during a period of economic decline.

“This is the reason when the British turn up in Delhi in 1803, the first residents, the first ambassadors and diplomats the British sent up to Delhi, far from trying to impose their culture on the Mughal court are themselves colonized.

“David Ochterlony, first of the British residents, sets the tone. He entirely adopted an Indian way of life. He had no less than 13 Indian wives, each had her own elephant.

“By the 1840s, this early period of honeymoon between the British and the Mughals is fast wearing away; 1780 to 1800s, one in three British men were marrying Indian women and cohabiting in Anglo Mughal families; it went down to one in four, 1800- 1810; to one in five by 1830s; and by 1840s it is almost over—it is complete apartheid.

“Alongside the rise of the British power comes the rise of the evangelical Christianity and with it an entirely new spirit. (We see) evangelists using very extreme language; colonels of East India Company reading out the Ten Commandments to their troops.

“And the final moment happens on May 10, 1857 in Meerut, north of Delhi. The British had been using the same old rifle, the Brown Bess musket that had seen action against the Jacobites in 1745, and against Napoleon in Waterloo in 1815. It is still in service in 1850s in India. But after the British are completely defeated by the Afghans in the First Afghan War, there is a movement to change this old war horse of the British Army.

“In brought is the Enfield rifle. It is the age of breach loading guns and therefore the bullet comes pre-lubricated. It is greased in a mixture of pig-fat and cow-fat. And the sepoys are required to bite these bullets made in the Dum Dum arsenal north of Calcutta.

“It appears that the Indian version of this cartridge was produced with far too much grease that even the Europeans disliked chewing in their mouth--it was like eating raw Vaseline.

“On May 10, the sepoys refused to bite the bullet. They are led away in chains and sentenced to life imprisonment. That Sunday evening when the British are in the church, the sepoys rise up.

“On May 11, the day after the rebellion in Meerut, the first rebels arrive in Delhi. They slaughter not only the Europeans but also the converts to Christianity. And the uprising quickly assumes a religious and patriotic nationalist character.

“Of the 139,000 sepoys working for the British, 100,000 have thrown in their allegiance to the crown; 100,000 march to Delhi and seek service with the Mughal emperor.

“Zafar is now 82 and not at all the man to lead an uprising. The uprising sinks into chaos because there is no administrative machine to feed, pay and organize this massive army.

“By midsummer the uprising descends into (chaos); each successive regiment refuses to cooperate with the other; goes on its own to fight the British but then disappears into the city at night. All that is gained during the day is lost at night.

“Meanwhile British under John Lawrence in Lahore are recruiting an entirely new army--partly from Sikhs, but also from Pashtun tribesmen of Waziristan and Khyber.

“In August the new army moves from Lahore to take Delhi, on September 14. The new British army enters the city through the Kashmiri gate and begins a massacre of all fighting age males who are alive in the city.

“(This is how a 19-year old British officer described the capture of Delhi.)
‘The orders went out to shoot every soul. It was literally murder. I have seen many bloody and awful sights lately, but such a one I witnessed yesterday I pray I never see again.

‘The women were all spared, but their screams on seeing their husbands and sons butchered were most painful.

‘Heaven knows I feel no pity, but when some old grey-bearded man is brought out and shot before your very eyes, hardness be that man’s heart I think who can look on with indifference.’

“Having evicted the rebel army and having captured the emperor who, through his wife, does a deal with Hudson, the intelligence officer that he would be spared along with his wife and his son Jawan Bakht the British then head off out of the city in order to pursue the rebel army towards Lucknow.

“(This is how another British officer described the British leaving the Red Fort.}
‘The march was simply awful. Our advance guard consisting of cavalry and artillery had burst and squashed the dead bodies which lay swell to an enormous size in the Chandni Chowk. It was a ride that I don’t ever care to take again. Dead bodies were strewn about in all direction, in every attitude the death struggle had caused them to assume, in every stage of decomposition. In many cases the positions of the bodies were appallingly lifelike; some lay with their arms up lifted as if beckoning. The whole scene was weird and terrible, beyond description. The atmosphere was unimaginably disgusting, laden with the most noxious and sickening odors.’

“The emperor who surrendered is kept in the stables of the Red Fort. And there he is put on a show trial. A fantastical plot is drummed up. It is said that this uprising--which in reality has drawn in all sections of the society from India, ranging from Muslim noblemen to Hindu sepoys to tribesmen in Madhya Pradesh--is in fact an international Islamic conspiracy centered on Tehran. Zafar is being accused as the brilliant mastermind at the heart of this wicked Islamic conspiracy. And he is sentenced to life banishment in Rangoon.

“He would leave the city of his forefathers on a bullock cart. The last image we are left with before the last Mughal is deported is of an old man deprived of pen and paper still writing poetry with a charred stick on the white walls of the stable of the Red Fort.”

Has Dalrymple’s work put South Asia historians to shame? If Dalrymple can search primary sources in the National Archives of India to write history books, why can’t South Asians do the same? This train of thought brings us to another important factor in analyzing Dalrymple. William Dalrymple has indeed earned scholarship through hard work, but in marketing that scholarship he was assisted by two traits that he was born with: his race and his language. Among many legacies of the colonial period two still run deep and define our times: racism (a perceived hierarchy of importance of people, from fair-skinned to dark) and English as the language of authenticity. Were Dalrymple not Scottish and were he not writing in English, would his scholarship in Mughal era history have been appreciated as much as it is praised now? It is a tough question to answer.

Listen to the audio excerpts of the program here: