Thursday, August 12, 2010

An Emperor and a Sufi
I remember reading it from both Dalrymple's and Ibn-Batuta's writings. It is about Hz Nizamuddin, but actually about Sufies, Saints.
Hz Nizamuddin lived in the era of Tughlaq, in what was then Delhi, present day's Tughlaqabad suburb south of (present day's) south delhi and just north of Mehrauli. So ... there happened some confrontation between emperor of India and the Sufi Saint, and the Sufi shifted his place to an area outside the (then) city, to what today is Hz Nizamuddin. Some other sufi (or may be he himself), told the emperor, ki, your aalishaan qila and mahel etc may not remain aabaad after sometime, but wherever the Sufi has settled, will remain so.
Dalrymple writes with astonishment (and I share it), ki surprisingly, even when Tughlaqabad is the largest and one of the most magnificient fort / fortification complex of all the cities of Delhi, it lacks prominence even on tourist's itenraries. Qutub complex, which is older than it, is a world heritage site, and rivals even the Taj in terms of no of visitors. As do Red fort and Jama masjid, which are of a much later period. Delhi is identified with these, but Tughlaqabad, not many people know about as a historically and touristically important place. On the other hand, centuries later, Hz Nizamuddin is a thriving, alive place .. almost every evening there is a mela type of atmosphere, with the narrow lanes brimming with people, visitors, beggers, shopkeepers, worshippers, pilgrims, ... people travelling thousands of miles to just to visit it, people coming to it to with shraddha, faith, with hope ...
Khair, this much, though astonishing, isn't goose-bumps-causing ..
What Dalrymple did next was, he went to Daulatabad as well, a city which Tughlaq (not sure if the same Tughlaq or some other) had shifted his capital to. And he was surprised that the fort complex there, in spite of being considered perhaps the most impenetrable of all the forts in India, a fort which attracts a lot of critical acclaim, also does not have any human population living within, or nearby it. Did the curse extended to Daultabad too - he thought ... khair, His visit to the fort about to end, and sunset approaching, he decided to take a look from the top, looking for signs of any human population, any aabaadi in the vicinity ... and he was successful, he could spot light somewhere nearby, he decided to have a look ... he had to discover the way to that place on his own .. and it took sometime, but finally he managed to reach the place. As he neared it, he realized .... guess what,
"voh bhi kisi sufi saint ka mazaar thhaa" ..

Alhamdulillaah ...

In an otherwise ruined surroundings of the magnificient fort, what managed to exist, was again, a Sufi shrine ...
The first time i read it, or whenever I have narrated it to people, mere rongte khare ho jaate hain ...

Ramzan mubarak ...

PS: there was one frail person in there, who, D thought, was responsible for the light / the diya, which D saw and came to know about the mazar's existence .. he asked the fellow, ki janaab, after you, perhaps this mazar would also become veeraan, with no one to do diya n all every evening. That person replied, with a belief which can only come from faith, ki
"why so?
someone else would come, just like Allah sent me after my predecessor left" ..

Thursday, August 05, 2010

City of Djinns, but why did they chose Delhi
After coming to Delhi and after having traveled in the vicinity for close to a year, the answer (a partial one though) to a question I used to ask myself so many times about so many cities started to appear – why is that great cities got settled in at that particular geographical location, and not any other .. one answer which I used to give myself (which still holds good) is, wherever there were rivers, and wherever they had banks people could bank upon (comparatively flood-proof), cities got created, or rather, evolved. That also explains why most major cities (at least in south Asia) are generally on one bank of the river – cause the other bank perhaps was not bankable enough … That explains Delhi, Allahabad, Benaras, Patna, Kanpur, and numerous others (talking about medieval and pre-medieval cities here, cause once British were in, a sea-port, and not a river bank, started to derive growth of cities, and hence came into existence Calcutta, Bombay, and madras, and to some extent climate too, which accounts for Bangalore and Simla.)

But then, why it is Delhi, and not Allahabad or Benaras which had been (and is) considered heart of India, not Nagpur not Agra, all of which are more centrally located than Delhi. Kuchh to ho ga Delhi me, which is not there in any of the above mentioned cities.

OK, coming back to the point … Travelling around Delhi hints one towards the answer. The landscape, the scenery varies once you travel out of the city. It is true of any city, any place. But in Delhi this varies differently for different directions. I mean, you start north east from it and south west from it, the change in scenery is almost opposite. In the south west you step out of it, and you start feeling as if you are in some plateau type place, visibly lot more dry, with more dust and less greenery, you get something like a registan feeling … right once you step out … the population density pretty less, with large unpopulated tracts (which are now getting populated as industrial belts, like IMT Manesar, or as Farm Houses for the rich, ChattarPur, or as barracks for the Army (places south of MB Road, anything south west of Tughlaqabad). And you go north east, you'll find greenery everywhere, and lots n lots n lots of people, people hi people, so much so that on NH 58 or 24, even when them both are 2+2 lane roads, right up to Meerut / Hapur, you ‘d feel you still driving in city traffic. You go south east (NH2) or North west (NH1), you will get a feeling somewhere between these 2 extremes. Also, small dry registaani looking, barren hillocks start to appear in the south and south west, even before Mehrauli, and none of them on the northern side till you reach Kalka or Hardwar ...

So, it is not just people from different regions who coexist / meet in Delhi … it is the regions themselves … it is a sangam, but unlike Allahabd, not one of rivers but of geographies ... It is where the dryness effect sent by sands of Rajputana was stopped (thankfully) by the greenery of Gangatic plains descending from the Himalayas .. It is the LOC between these two great region-empires … But then, it is just a dot on the map, whereas Line of control is, well, a line :) …

Then why is Delhi at this point and not at any of the other points on this line, where (comparatively) sparsely populated dry areas in the south and great hare-bhare, alive, throbbing, brimming with population north Indian plains meet up – a line that can roughly be drawn from UP’s south eastern tip, through Delhi off course and all the way to southern border of Punjabs (both Indian and Pak).

This is because Delhi is unique in another geographical way as well … You see, when Jamuna comes out of the shadow of the Himalayas (literally and figuratively), and is old enough to make decisions on her own, it has a choice, to tributarize Satluj, or Ganga, to go drain itself in Arabian sea, or go get immersed in Bay of Bengal, to act as a drain to carry the waste material from the factories and homes of UPiets and Biharis, or that of Punjabis. Till Delhi, both sides seem to have almost equal chance, with Jamuna leaning towards one or the other at various points, just like a gal indecisive about its prospect, leaning, being kind to, giving hope to, both, but committing to neither :) *

Delhi is where it comes of age, makes up her mind, and takes a decision, preferring the human (and other) wastes of UPiets and Biharis to that of Punjus :).
Khair :) ... to pata ye chala ki Delhi is at point where the (roughly) east west line (the LOC of regions), intersects another almost equally important geographic line.
The line which starts from central Himalays and connects roughly to the Aravalis, and this line decides the flow of rivers. All the ones to its west 'd have to travel south west, towards Arabian sea. The ones to its east, would travel east of south east, to the Bay of Bengal. In fact, somewhere i had recently read, that last point of the aravalis is within what is now IIT Delhi campus ...

So, Delhi may not look in the center of the subcontinent on the map, but it is exactly where heart would have been. It is at the confluence of 4 major regions of the subcontinent, and with regions, automatically of cultures, and even (to some extent) religions.

Culture wise, in the south west, the rajputana region, ghagra choli starts from as early as Gurgaon, and in the NE (and possibly NW too, though i haven't got a chance to travel on NH1), it is salwar kameez ... colors are bright if u travel south (the movie Paheli, was right at least in this aspect), and subdued / normal in the north.

Ruskin's prose starts in the hills of Dehra and ends in Delhi, so does almost entire hindi sahitya, which starts in the hinterland of UP and Bihar in the east and Delhi forms its western border. The rasos and other veer-ras related stuff kept happening in the south west, and to a lesser extent, south east (bundelkhand) too.

Immediate north east is one of the most densely populated areas in india, and as one goes south (particularly south west), one of the most sparsely populated one (ignoring hills / jungles).

In terms of religion, immediate north west has highest percentage of Sikh population in india, immediate north east has the same for Muslims, So regions differ demographically too.
Also, in demography, in those 20 kms that takes for one to travel from Kalindi Kunj to beyond Airport, average height goes up by 3, 4 inches, and weight by 33% :)

The type of old houses one encounters also differ, with Havelies dominating the south and normal jhopris in the north.

No other city, except Istanbul, can perhaps boast to be a bigger confluence of differing regions than Delhi … and this was that answer :)

* aajkal ruskin bond parh raha hoon, thanks to Moajiz bhai and this sentence is ruskin's effect

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Continuation of the post at Burqa Ban ...

Ideally, I don’t think it is upto us (or the ram sena or the taliban, or the Belgian / French govts) to decide what should be decent enough clothing for women, in Indian context or in any other. Choice should be hers and hers only. What pleases her, what comforts her, what thrills / excites (add more verbs) her, the choice should be hers only. If someone wants to go jogging fully covered in veil* let it be, and someone coming to workplace in a swimsuit – let that be too …

But apart from the above parameters (What pleases her, what comforts her, what thrills / excites (add more verbs) her) , there is another aspect, which is as important (if not more) as are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, it is called Security.

It is said that during Sher Shah’s reign, security on the roads was asserted to be so great that “a decrepit old woman might place a basket full of gold ornaments on her head and go on a journey, and no thief or robber would come near her.”

She has as much right today (or had in other reigns), our dear old woman, to go out on a journey with a basket full of gold, but should she, and even if she is willing, even hell bent, should her family a) encourage, b) allow, c) advise against, or d) disallow her to do so. I am inclined more towards laters than formers . . . But still, what I (or ram sena or taliban or Belgian / French govts) think should not matter, but if her family goes for c or d options, do anyone has a right to criticize them? I don’t think so …

The heinousness of crime against women does not reduce or increase if it was committed against a sari / burqa / mini skirt clad one, but the (perceived) probability that such crimes would be committed does vary. And if gals (and more than them, their families) want to minimize this possibility, why should anyone object. And actually gals do that, sometimes they may go to college / workplace in a burqa / chadar, and once there, once away from the streets and comparatively secure in college / workplace, they may remove the burqa / chadar … What is the harm in that … and are gal’s families illiberal just because they are concerned about security …

Some ppl will ask, ki bhai, why should gals pay the price for a (probable / would be) crime that they didn’t commit ..

A valid point, but unfortunately that is how this imperfect world is.

Think about this present day old women, who is not allowed to (or at least, strongly discouraged from) going on a journey with a gold basket.

The aim, in both cases, is probability reduction, probability that a crime can be committed against one.

And it is not only gals, boys too are asked to avoid late night strolls by the parents / families .. tourism websites keep warning people against venturing in some particular neighborhoods at night, and for some, during day too. And it is OK. It is just that, unfortunately, the above mentioned late nights start way early, and such neighborhoods are too many (at least in north india / pak), for gals.

Also, same set of clothes, at different places / times, can provide different level of (in)security. Just like flaunting a diamond studded necklace at 11’o clock in the night is fine, if one happens to be in a white house dinner party (though with gatecrashers etc not sure about that either J), but not while taking the last Vikram home in Gurgaon, or while waiting for the bus to Hapur at a seculded Ghaziabad bus stop.

The right to be able to flaunt it (if one desires so), at both places, is the same. But will any of us feel equally comfortable doing them. I don’t think so, and it is fine … somehow, if we don’t feel comfy and don’t do something for the sake of feeling secure, it is OK, but if gal’s families think the same, it is not OK … isn’t it MCPism?

What individuals should wear, has to be the individual's choice**, and his/hers only, let all of us respect that. And off course, this choice would have an element of family's choice inbuilt it - let us respect that as well.


I am using gal’s families with gals interchangeably .. if this is illiberal, so be it .. but the question of (il)liberality, or for that matter, any question, arises only when it concerns women .. families have a say in a lot of things, and it is not seen as a problem … unless off course it concerns women … why should it be so?

What a child should wear is determined by his mom (something which prompted Ambrose Bierce to describe Sweater as “garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly” J), what a husband should wear by his wife, and (in some cases) what a wife should not wear by the husband … J - these things, even if not 100% right, are OK enough, nothing to break head over ..

When families have a say in what course one should take, what college one should go, and what sport one plays, what time one gets up, what should be one’s intake (complan or bournvita) and what shouldn’t (cigarattes / gutkha etc J), which soap one uses, which TV shows / movies / channels one may watch (and more importantly, which ones we shouldn’t), what is the harm if they have a say in what one (both boys n gals) wears ..

Individual freedom is fine, and should be argued for, but then, we generally don’t argue to make suicide legal.

I was I think 10 when my Dad got me a bicycle, and he warned me against going to MIC grounds, particularly during summer afternoons as it used to be deserted but for some “bigre hue larke” … but Adam / Eve were not the only ones to crave for forbidden fruit, and we (me and a friend, shahid, of my age/size) used to go, among a lot of other places, there as well for out bicycle practice sessions .. for a couple of days nothing happened, and we became daring enough to venture to the remotest corner of the field .. and then, one day, few boys tried to snatch the bicycle from us … somehow, our continuous screams and struggle persuaded them to abandon their pursuit.

10 and 18+ are different, I understand, but parent’s (family’s) right to advice (and kid’s duty to listen to it) does not become zero as soon as one touches 18, or 21, or 50 …

So, I see nothing wrong of an individual's choice of clothing is partly based on the wishes of her / his family. But I see 100% wrong when people having no connection with the individual start to try to force their choice / their moral code on others ...

* Yeah, there could be security issues … but anyway, most of the places have separate sec-check counters for men and women and they are both frisked anyway. Rahi bat disguise ki, at places where such checks are not there, toh we’ll ve to ban Santa Claus, fancy dress parties, and to extent santa singhs and banta singhs too. But still, I agree with Sambaran Da, wherever security is an issue, ban fully covered burqa.

** in 99% of the cases, excluding 1% for some eccentric individuals ..

Monday, May 03, 2010

Burqa ban in EU ... unfortunate, against liberty, against freedom.

It sounds like a step towards chinification / talibanization .. where what one can wear / say is controlled by the govt. EU is slipping towards selective liberty (which supports the Danish cartoonist but is against a women covering itself) ... but still, it is light years ahead of other parts of the world.

The idea of muslim countries opposing it does nt make much sense to me. After all, western women and men, when in arab countries, have to adhere to "some" dress code.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

won't forget you ...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Let us remember Bhagat Singh - today is 23rd mar

did not see any prominent coverage on any of the main sites though ... :(

Shaheedon ki chitaon par lagein ge har baras mele,
Vatan par marne vaalon ka yahee baaqi nishaan ho ga.

Like many other things they thought they* had lived for and were dying for (see part of his last petition below), like many other things they envisioned for (and in) an independent india, the above sher also, looks, in today's india, part of fiction :(.
Things have gone horribly wrong .... :(, reality has drifted so much away from the visions of perhaps the best, most humanist, most devoted, most selfless, perhaps most talented of generations of indians in known history ... :(

Excerpts from Bhagat Singh's last petition:
"... Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. They may be purely British Capitalist or mixed British and Indian or even purely Indian. They may be carrying on their insidious exploitation through mixed or even on purely Indian bureaucratic apparatus. All these things make no difference ..."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Predestination or free will

The brain storming started with Nabi Baksha's call at around 11'o clock in the night. He asked a  question which has been asked / discussed by thinking minds in the past, and will be, in future. And i admit I felt elated to be considered worthy of a philosophical question. 

If God does everything, if God ki marzi ke bina patta bhi nahi hilta, then why should humans be rewarded / punished for their actions.

Every aalim, every teacher, every preacher does his/her best to convince anybody who listens to them that whatever happens, God does it. "Karne vaala Allah hai", we are nothing, we are immaterial, insignificant nobodies. Anything and everything - He has complete control over - and He does it - we don't matter. And we, the good* people believe it - it becomes our faith (irrespective of our religions).

On the other hand the same teachers teach the same people (who listen to them) to do good things, to avoid bad things - and that every thing, including the smallest and the minutest of them, is being noted by the farishtas sitting on our shoulders, good acts by the right one, and bad by the left. And in the afterlife we shall reap what we sow here. "Dunia" is just an imtehaan period - main life is the Afterlife. 

These thoughts too - become our faith.

It doesn't take the brain of an Einstein to see that the two teachings are contradictory - in fact, they oppose each other. But since we invoke one or the other depending upon the situation we happen to be in, they work. Faced with -ves of life, we blame it on our fate / destiny / "God willed so" - and satisfy ourselves. Blessed with +ves, some of us take pride in our capability, our decisions ("our free will") and feel proud, feel happy, whereas more pious amongst us attribute these positives also to God - and things continue to function.

We are clever enough [or, predestined :)] to - first use free will to try to attain our aims (studying for IIT entrance - practising day and night for sports trails - thinking of new ways to woo the women /man of our dreams ... forgetting about preDestination at this point) - and take solace into God ordained destiny if we are not successful [and our neighbours take solace into God ordained destiny if we are :)].

So, to keep living a normal life - we need not worry about the contradiction much.

But when Nabi baksha calls on an unearthly hour, and expects one to answer this question - one can no longer ignore it. Below is what we ended up discussing that night (and i must admit, this contradiction had troubled me before - many a times i used to think, ki OK! by switching from one to other we manage to live a normal life, but what is the truth? same question which bothered Nabi that night.).

As per Islam (and i m sure other religions as well), religious texts can be produced in support of either of them***. But one fact that can't be ignored is - there is a Judgment day - and where one would be answerable for one's actions. If out of the above two, predestination is the only truth, then all actions of humans in this world are predestined - and if they are, then even the afterlife of a human is predestined - which ... which doesn't sound rational. Afterlife, we have been told, will be decided based on how we conduct ourselves in this world, so afterlife can't be predestined.

So, predestination, even if it is true - is definitely not the only truth (among the above two). 
Hence "free will" does exist. The massacres / zulms carried out by Hitlers and Yazeeds and Zionists and Suhrawardys and Modis of this world originated from their free wills (otherwise no point blaming them, right). Simlilarly the saintly works of Mother Teresas and Gandhis and MLKs and Raja Ram Mohan Roys of this world can trace their origine to the willingness (free will) of these people to do good (otherwise no point praising them).

But if "free will" is correct, what happens to "whatever happens God does it. 'Karne vaala Allah hai', we are nothing, immaterial, insignificant beings. Anything and everything - He has complete control over - and He does it - we don't matter"

Actually - this is also true. We are actually nothing ... immaterial, insignificant beings. True. We act out of our free will - true - but God's will / His act can at any point, override ours. Normally it doesn't.  True, He has absolute powers over everything - but He chooses to interfere with workings of the world rarely ... So normally, things happening (good and bad) are produce of our actions, our free wills (free because God has made it free, and He can at any time influence it / change it / X** it), but he normally chooses not to.

We see his interference when a Savitry's prayers return a Satyavan back to life after his death, when a couple told by docs of their inability to have kids visits Ajmer Sharif and is blessed with one (sometimes more), when a crying baby's feet hits to the ground in the middle of one of the biggest / driest deserts of the world and produces a stream of water which, even 2000 years later, continues to supply water to millions of pilgrims througout the year, when a baby Krishna is saved from a all powerful king Kansa, when within years of Prophet's prediction, two mighty empires, byzantine and persian, come crumbling down ... and numerous other places.

And He normally doesn't interfere cause He didn't when Godhara and Gujarat took place, he doesn't in Palestine and didn't in Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia and Taliban's Afghanistan. He normally doesn't :( - Almost never the voices of mazlooms of this world seem to be heard :( .. so He normally doesn't ... 
For all practical purposes, it can be assumed, that He doesn't.

So -- free will exists. But destiny can anytime override it. But it normally (for almost all practical purposes), doesn't.  Predestined things may or may not be exist - even if they do, its difficult to say what they are - may be death / qayamat etc ... may be not - may be some other things ... may be very few things.

Luck, is another matter ... a random number can be big or small - it is not predestined to be big or small - it just happens. That is luck. Luck is different from destiny.

For an analogy, imagine a creche ... imagine little kids in there, and an all powerful almighty (over them) supervisor. This supervisor keeps looking at the kids, keeps observing them, has sent messages to them from time to time, warning of punishment to kids who trouble other kids, and rewards for well behaved kids - She keeps watching over them all the time. If She wants, She can do anything - "uski marzi ke bina patta bhi nahi hile ga", nothing will happen if She doesn't want it to ... but She doesn't interfere - normally, that is. She sees one bully kid hitting other, that bully will get punishment as promised, but at that moment - though She could have prevented the bullying - she stays (apparentl) aloof ...
Kids live by their free will in the creche, a free will - which is given, and can be overriden, by Her - anytime.
One or two of the kids might be Her favorite (think Waliullaahs / Prophets / saints / great men&women) - and if they pray - She responds ... but normally She doesn't.

For all practical purposes, She doesn't :(.

* good - cause junk guys anyway don't listen to preachers
** XX any verb
*** religious texts are like that - can be produced, generally, for both, in fact multiple sides of any argument

PS: abhi-2 yaad aaya, even Arudhati Roy has called world "Hopelessly practical".