“We embraced you in your death”

 

Agha-Shahid-Ali-crop

Dear Shahid!

Hope you are in fine fettle, wherever you are. It has been exactly 11 years now since we lost track of you, leaving a void and emptiness. Let me assure you, the void has not been filled yet, and the emptiness is still there. I never met you, but I can see you around me all the time. I don’t know if the night is cottage industry or the day is brisk emporium. But, you said the world is full of paper, write to me. So, I am writing, from far away, a city where you were born.

I was in school far away from my homeland when you took the long walk back to heaven far away from your homeland. You wanted to return to Kashmir to die in autumn, but changed your mind later, only to be buried in Northampton, not too far from the grave of your beloved poet Emily Dickinson. We, the people of Kashmir, still embraced you in your death, as we did in your life. Life and death are immaterial, because you will always live in our hearts and minds.

Article Box
Autumn in Kashmir
Autumn in Kashmir
Article Box

You left suddenly, shockingly, without posting us a farewell letter. But I know you had already announced your impending departure by dreaming, with soaring imagination and brutally beautiful imagery, at the ghat of the only world. The night of ghazals drew to an end. Quite rightly, love doesn’t let anyone survive, at least it did not let you. But, how did you muster courage to pen down the last verse on your own life? It is something only you the witness and martyr – could do.

We would have loved to hear more from you, but perhaps you were getting late for recitation sessions in heaven. You have not posted a letter from there yet. Your country had no post office then. It still has none. What happened to the solemn promise of meeting again in Srinagar by the gates of the villa of peace? Our beloved witness, you had to be there on that promised autumn afternoon, when soldiers return the keys and disappear. But, you left us, and left behind your lingering presence.

“Your country had no post office then. It still has none”

You struggled with your health and the pain was too excruciating and unbearable for you in your last days, but you fought valiantly, as you did all your life, with words and that characteristic smile. Your smile was unnerving and the sense of humour was classic. I still wonder how you always managed to break into peals of laughter in the middle of a serious conversation or a poetry recitation. I am sure you will agree, there was an inherent pain veiled in that grin, that mirth, that smile and that laughter. Sometimes a smile conveys more pain than tears, and tears express more joy than a smile. I envy the angels, for they must be having a gala time in your amazingly warm company.

“You were fond of rogan josh and haakh, enamored with Begum Akhtar’s music, and inspired by Faiz’s poetry”

You were fond of rogan josh and haakh, enamored with Begum Akhtar’s music, and inspired by Faiz’s poetry. You also loved to cook good and authentic food, as you did once for America’s celebrated poet James Merrill, who had tremendous influence on your poetry. Do you continue to cook for the angels now? I am told your undying passion for ghazal had partly to do with your beautiful relationship with Begum Akhtar. Do you still carry the cassette of ‘phir wohi farmaish’, or have you moved on to other singers? You loved Faiz, and in you, Faiz found a genius translator. You were closest to your mother, and her death literally devastated you. The long, painful journey from Amherst to Kashmir must have haunted you till death. But, as you consoled yourself, compared to your grief for her, what are those of Kashmir, and what are those of the universe. I want to ask, do you still move in your heart between sad countries? Do you continue to wake and feel the fell of dark, not day?

Article Box
Article Box

“Did you hear about 17 year-old Tufail, who was shot dead while returning from tuition?”

Kashmir, your beloved place of memory, has not moved an inch since you left. Nothing has changed on the ground. Death continues to turn every day in Kashmir into some family’s Karbala. Freedom’s terrible thirst is growing, as more boys are mowed down in cold blood. There are more grieving mothers now, and many more homes are set ablaze by midnight soldiers. I know you did not tell the father of 18 year-old Rizwan that he was no more, but how did you do that? It is so difficult to hide the news of cold-blooded murders of young boys from their fathers. There are many Rizwans now, resting in marked and unmarked graves across Kashmir, the half-inch Himalayas that shrunk in your mailbox.

Did you hear about 17 year-old Tufail, who was shot dead while returning from tuition? Well, his killers have just got a clean chit. Did anyone tell you about 9 year-old Asif who was literally bludgeoned to death? Do you know how 11 year-old Irshad breathed his last after being hit by pallets? Did anyone tell you about the brutal murders of 13 year-old Wamiq, 16 year-old Inayat, and 16 year-old Zahid? Did you hear about 24 year-old Neelofar and 17 year-old Asiya, who was gang-raped and murdered and dumped in a nearby lake? The list is too long. It gives me shudders to go on naming them.

However, as Rizwan had asked you: I am sure you still put Kashmir in your dreams every night.

“It rains as I write this; mad heart, be brave.”

Yours,
Zafar
New Delhi

Advertisements

Kebabs all the way!

 

Book review: ‘Just Kebabs’

Syed Zafar Mehdi

If you thought cooking was a rocket science that only top chefs knew, you probably got it wrong. Here comes a book, which demystifies the complexities surrounding the recipes of 365 lip-smacking, hot and delectable kebabs. “Just Kebabs”, a book by noted chef Davinder Kumar of Le Meridian is a perfect handbook for amateur and professional cooks alike. An introductory encyclopedia of scrumptious recipes of delectable kebabs.

The book, published by Shubhi Publications, was unveiled recently at Desire, Le Meridian by celebrated food critic and editorial director, Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi.

“Just Kebabs” is the repository of tempting kebabs, reminiscing about the bygone Mughal era, served on today’s platter. Treating the vegetarians with its 127 exotic recipes of veg kebabs, it punctures hole into the myth that only non-vegetarians can savor the taste of kebabs. The book, replete with useful cooking tips, even brings the kebabs from regions like Punjab and Hyderabad. Another important highlight is the detailed glossary providing descriptions of the ingredients.

“The right ingredient at the right time is the secret of great taste in cooking. I can’t choose between 365 recipes. They are all different to cook but equally fire your appetite,” says the author, a proud recipient of Best Chef of India award. This is his second book after “Kebabs, Chutneys, and Breads”, which went on to become best-seller in foodie circles.

Much ado about schooling?

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

How significant is school in student’s life? Is it at all required in the first place? Can one prevail without it? Arguments and counter-arguments have been going on incessantly for centuries now, but pieces of the jigsaw remain missing. One of the most ludicrous defenses of school system is the notion that Noble Laureates and other such “crack-a-jacks” are manifestations of its effectiveness. Well, let’s check out what some of the great and legendary Noble laureates themselves to womit about this.

Rabindra Nath Tagore,  hailed as “greatest English poet of the contemporary India” by none else than Yeats, grabbed the coveted honor in Literature in year 1913. He was never a big aficionado of school system. In “Personality: Lectures delivered in America” (London, 1921), he is quoted as saying, ” School forcibly snatches away children away from a world full of mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality. It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual … my mind had to accept the tight-fitting encasement of the school which being like the shoes of a mandarin woman, pinched and bruised my nature on all sides and at every movement. I was fortunate enough in extricating myself before insensibility set in”. Tagore has the dubious distinction of failing to surmount the high school ( 10th ) “stumbling block” some 16 times on trot, so these harsh words should not come as a shocker.

Tagore however has got the unlikely supporter in Albert Einstein, 1921 Physics Noble prize co-winner. There is a special aura surrounding this genius even today. Einstein sans mincing words sticks a knife into school system, saying ” Its in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, for this delicate little plane, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom, without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail”. “Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist” Albert Schilpp (1951).

Another person in this anti-school brigade is 1928 Noble laureate Gigrid Undset, who candidly admits, “I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom. I avoided the discipline by an elaborate technique of being absent-minded during classes”. ” Twelfth century authors” Kunitz and Haycraft (1942). Shakespeare in his masterpiece “Hamlet” says, ” to be honest is to be one man picked out of ten thousand”, and Gigrid surely cuts the list.

George Bernard Shaw a 1925 Noble Prize winner in literature was yet another vocal critic of school system. Equating school with prison, GBS in “Bernard Shaw: Collected plays with their prefaces” Vol IV (1972), bluntly puts across his views, ” There is on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with, it’s a prison, but in some respects crueler than a prison. In a prison, you are not forced to read the books written by warders … and beaten or otherwise tormented if you cannot remember their utterly unmemorable contents. In prison, you are not forced to sit listening to the turnkeys discouraging without charm or interest in subjects that they don’t understand and don’t care about … In a school you have none of these advantages”.

Bottomline:

Now, it’s for you to be convinced or confused, choice is yours. “Truth” remarked Henry Haskins, ” would become more popular if it were not stating ugly facts”, but sadly we cant help it either.

Students might be over-animated by this, while parents and educationists in all likelihood would quiver with rage, but rest assured, the views espressed by these great Noble Laureates are about “sick” school system, not the ideal one. You may either indulge in considering your school ideal, or hope for the better in days to come.

Book review: ‘Jaldi Fit’ by Namita Jain

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

With ever more nerve-racking, stressful urban lifestyle, the mind-body equation has suffered severely, often resulting in chronic health conditions. So the need for exercise regimen to scamper back to full physical and mental fitness has never been more pressing. Here is Namita Jain’s fitness book “Jaldi Fit”, a handy guide to attain fitter, healthy lifestyle.  

Author, a renowned authority in the wellness industry, calls it a ‘one-stop-solution’ for all fitness predicaments. The book, printed in glossy paper with vibrant pictures and graphics is the product of Jain’s tried and tested regimen that she has evolved through her workshops, personal fitness classes and audience feedback over the years. Filled with fascinating details on exercise regimen, nutrition and health, informed lifestyle choices, Jaldi Fit is a fitness freak’s best manual.

The book looks at cardio, strength training and stretching as three “musts” to attain envious fitness levels. “Good health is all about balancing the three exercise components”.

Cardio strengthens the heart muscles and leads to healthy heart. “To maintain healthy heart, you need at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity for a minimum of 5 days a week.” Cardio routine minimizes conditions like high B.P, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol levels. Strength training is another cog in Jain’s fitness wheel.  It’s about improving muscle quality and efficiency. “With regular training, muscles stay dense and increase in strength.” Next is stretching. A perfect way to tune up the body.

Author makes it look so simple and unfussy by targeting different body parts on different weekdays. Mondays are for lower body workout. Tuesdays for abs and back workout. Wednesdays for upper workout and Thursdays are for stretching and relaxing “to reach out for stress-free mind and body.” Fridays are for total body workout – top to toe rejuvenation for your entire system. Then, you can let your hair down on weekends.

There is also a jaldi fit progression guide. Author believes that to increase workout challenge is important. For that, one needs to increase duration of workout, increase resistance and add variations to workout routine.

A duly practiced exercise regimen can cure Osteoporosis – a bone-weakening condition. Author shatters many a myths about this disease. The book tells us how to get rid of obesity by “creating a calorie deficit”. It shows how to beat ageing and master metabolism and goes on explaining as to what constitutes balanced diet ad nutrition. Few myths about food and fitness are also busted.

Overall, Jain has done marvelous job of simplifying the tricky subject of fitness and healthy lifestyle. Go; grab a copy of book and enjoy being “jaldi fit”.

Interview with author Karan Bajaj

 

Karan Bajaj is the author of two contemporary bestsellers, Johnny Gone Down(2010) and Keep off the Grass(2008). Together, his novels have sold more than 150,000 copies, making him one of the largest selling novelists in Indian publishing history. Here, he shares some thoughts with me on the nitty gritty of writing and perks of being a best-selling writer.

 

karanbajaj

Q1. How did the idea of writing strike you first? Was it planned or it just happened to you?

A. At its core, I think I write because I feel that I have a big idea or a philosophy I want to share. And that’s how I usually write as well. I let an idea work itself in my head for a while before I put pen to paper. The theme I was playing around with for my second novel, Johnny Gone Down, for instance, was around success and how does living a stable, even-keeled life compare to a rich, interesting life with towering ups and abysmal lows. Which of these make for a “good, successful” life?

My travel experiences add meat to this theme. When I was writing Johnny, for instance, I was backpacking for a year between jobs and traveled to some pretty interesting places in South East Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe. Since I was traveling on a dime, I stayed in youth hostels/dormitories etc.  and saw and heard a lot more about the incredible events in the countries I visited than I probably would have in a more conventional settings. Some of these stuck, like the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia, the favelas of Brazil, the evolution of Buddhism in South East Asia, the drug mafia of Colombia etc. and found its way in the novel.

 

Q2: How has your experience with your publishers been?

A. I’ve been very fortunate to work with Harper Collins, who I think has the finest editing team in India.  Beyond just the basics, great editors raise profound, thought-provoking questions on your plot that help you delve deeper and deeper into the psyche of your characters. In my case, I think I understood my protagonist and his motivations much better as I worked with outstanding editors like VK Karthika and Neelini Sarkar from Harper.

 

Q3: How is the scene of writing in country, especially in terms of young, budding writers?

A. Its never easy to get published but the scene has been better than at any other time, I think. I was just looking at Flipkart’s all-time best-seller list and four of their top 5 authors are what you would probably term as “young, budding” indigenous authors. (Ref.: http://www.flipkart.com/view-books/1/all-time-best-sellers.  Rashmi Bansal, Karan Bajaj and Chetan Bhagat). They are all selling more copies than John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer, which was unthinkable when we were growing up.

 

Q4: Before the launch of your first book, did you go online (Twitter, Facebook etc) to attract attention of prospective publishers or you just easily managed to strike deal?

A. I was lucky that I didn’t have to do any marketing, online or offline. My first novel, Keep off the Grass, was bid for by Harper Collins, Penguin and Rupa&Co within a month of my finishing the manuscript (eventually sold to HarperCollins). Thanks to the success of KOTG(70,000+ copies sold),  Johnny Gone Down, my second, was brought by Harper within a day!

 

Q: What are the basic qualities that writer should possess?

A. Everyone’s context and situation is very different so I always refrain from giving advice on making broad generalizations. If I were forced to say one thing, I would just say that living a big, funky life—traveling, being open to the many interesting turns that life keeps taking, living a clutter-free hippie sort of an existence within the parameters of society, and forcing yourself to break from the predictable mediocrity that life has a way of settling itself into—makes for an interesting life and perhaps for an interesting novel as well. But that’s just my experience.

Profession, not mission for new-age teachers

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

The narrative of bad teachers and good teachers has gained lot of momentum of late. While the old-school, noble, righteous teachers have been consigned to dustbin of history, the new-age, cocky, self-righteous teachers have become the objects of disdain among the students and parents alike. Teaching, many believe, has been reduced to any nine-to-five job, and its effects are showing in the alarmingly deteriorating student-teacher relationship. While teachers themselves are in perennial denial, parents and students are getting extremely vocal about this change in the role and attitude of teachers, once hailed as ‘demigods’.

Change they don’t believe in

Teachers have traditionally been the torchbearers in any society, guiding and inspiring the young breed. But over the period of time, even with big moolah into the profession, the mind-set of teachers has undergone drastic change. This is the one ‘change’ parents and students would ideally not like to ‘believe’ in. “It is an undeniable fact that teaching as a profession has changed, not only in government schools but also in private convent schools. Teachers, for whatever reasons, have settled to the comfort of being just teachers, who come, teach and go,” says Abinav Mukund, a parent from South Delhi.

The ‘personal touch’, parents say, is missing. “Schools are the temples for children and teachers are considered as demigods, so it’s only expected of teachers to be more than teachers to the students,” says Prerna Kaushik, whose 6 year old daughter studies at a popular South Delhi school.

How this change came about

With the changing times and fast-paced life, experts believe, the role and outlook of teachers has also fairly changed. Earlier, teachers used to play the dual role of teachers and guardians, as the student-teacher ratio was fairly small. Now, with the ratio expanding, teachers find it hard to give equal attention to all the children. “You can’t expect a teacher to treat all equally, when you have hundred odd students in class, even though he/she tries the best. Earlier students used to get individual attention from teachers, which led to strong student-teacher bonding,” says Karan Goel, a contractual lecturer at Delhi University.

Some like Rahul Raja, a social worker, believe the change has come because of the commercialisation of education. “Earlier there were fewer tutorials and coaching centres and teachers would take their teaching job at the school seriously. Now with the mushrooming of these tutorials, neither students nor the teachers take their school stuff seriously. The relationship has become more formal and the divide has increased.” Some attribute it to the fact that teachers these days frequently change their jobs in search of better opportunities, so they don’t get enough time to establish the rapport with students.

Kindergarten teachers an exception

If there are any teachers who are still wedded to their job, they are kindergarten teachers, perhaps because it’s easy to build rapport with a 3 year old than 16 year old. “In preparatory schools, the scene is still much better, as there is not much teaching to be done. As the name suggests, children are prepared and groomed for formal schooling,” says Nidhi Gupta, a student at Jamia Milia University.

What ought to be done

There is no denying that a good teacher can make a positive impact in child’s life. Teachers need to develop a healthy relationship with students so that the learning becomes easier and enjoyable experience for students, and they imbibe the moral values and ethics in them. “The teaching profession has a reputation for teaching a child what is moral, just and right. Teachers are the architects of enlightened and moral society. So, lot depends on how teachers go about their job,” says Yogendra Sikand, eminent educationist.

The ABCs and 123s are only a tiny part of the total learning package, believe experts. Parents entrust their children into the teacher’s care, so that teachers polish their raw talent and teach them the importance of being upright citizens in society. “There are many outstanding teachers in schools, colleges, universities and even kindergartens who would die for the profession and its ideals, but we need to instill such spirit in entire teaching fraternity, across the spectrum,” says M C Joshi, retired government teacher.

Good teaching embraces attitude towards the students, bringing out the best in them. But the detachment and indifference on part of teachers is the last thing students want. “It’s high time that these new-age teachers realize their role and importance in student’s life and students also reciprocate by making most of the time spent with the teachers,” says Shabnam Gupta, childrens book author.

 

Book Review: Listening to Grasshoppers: Field notes on democracy

Author: Arundhati Roy

Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd

Price: INR 499

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Dedicated to those who have learned to divorce hope from reason, Booker prize winner author Arundhati Roy’s latest seminal work — Collection of her fiery essays deftly punctures into lofty but lame claims of India being the “world’s largest democracy” and a “rising power”.
Known for her devil-may-care writings and intrepid character, Roy takes on the might of state with artillery of pen and paper, and also stands vindicated. Her unwavering stand against anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and criticism of neo-imperialism preached by United States has won her many admirers. She has been a vocal critic of India’s nuclear ambitions. The approach to development policies practised by State, like in case of Narmada Dam or Nandigram leaves her miffed. Her soft-corner for Kashmir is evident in her writings. She shares the pain of a common Kashmiri, living dangerously, under the shade of bunkers and army camps for decades now. Unlike those individualist and careerist writers, Roy is among the minority who have shown an awareness of public issues.
Her latest book takes many critical, national issues head-on. And, it’s impossible not to admire her audacity and courage in heading to the territory where others fear to tread.
The fusion of democracy and free market into “single predatory organism” ruffles Roy no end. She fears the democracy can no longer be relied upon to deliver justice and stability. Her scepticism is not entirely unfounded and she explains why, as only she can.
The title of the book is drawn from a lecture Roy delivered in Istanbul in 2001. The essays written between 2001 and 2008 though have a common strand — They are about “fire in ducts”, which give detailed under-view of how democracy is practised in world’s largest “demon-crazy” (read: democracy).

Her rage comes blazing out when talk veers to problems of floods, droughts, desertification “caused by indiscriminate environmental engineering and massive infrastructural projects, dams, mines, SEZs”, which Roy believes are developed in the name of poor but really meant to serve the growing demands of the new aristocracy. She charges State with committing “eco-side” by backing marauding MNCs in ravaging forests, mountains and water systems.

Roy traces the genesis of BJP and Hindu nationalism (hindutva) to the historical
moment when America traded communism with Islam as its great enemy. A strong opponent of nuclearisation, (remember her essay “End of Imagination” which she wrote after India went nuclear), Roy blasts saffron party for marrying “Hindu communalism” with “nuclear nationalism”, which ever since 1998 nuclear tests have like corporate globalisation arched over the slated ideologies of political parties. “The venom
has been injected straight into our bloodstreams.”

Communal carnages and genocides have unarguably left a blot on the face of largest democracy. Roy is scathing in her criticism of State in failing to protect its citizens from saffron zealots time and again. Whether it was Hindu mob rampaging through Mumbai in 1992 and walking past corpses of over a thousand people, mostly Muslims. Or the “carefully planned genocide of Muslims” in Gujarat in 2002 at the behest of Narender Modi government, which Roy calls, a “genocidal massacre” designed as public spectacle with unmistakable aims. Or the slaughtering of Sikhs on Delhi streets in 1984 by mobs led by Congress party. Or the recent ruthless attacks on Christians and desecration of churches by Hindu fanatics down South.

What makes Roy seethe with fury even more is the blatant endorsement of Modi as future PM by big business tycoons like Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, in exchange of Gujarat Garima awards. After the carnage, Roy hoped against hope that the twenty-two BJP allies would withdraw the support to government, as it was a litmus test of their moral fibre. But they stood their ground for petty political gains. She criticises Farooq Abdullah, among the high-flying Muslim politicians left in India, for supporting Modi with dim hope of landing on Vice President’s chair. “There is no terrorism like state terrorism,” says Roy, and how true.

UPA’s flagship programme NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme) that assures every rural family 100 days of work a year i.e., average Rs 8000 per family, fails to impress Roy. She finds the amount just about enough for a good meal in a restaurant.

Roy has always championed the cause of have-nots. She vigorously pleads the case of tribal people who in the name of development projects are driven to desperation by captains of industry. Be it chemical hub in Nandigram, manufacturing unit for Tata Nano in Singur or a Jindal steel plant in Lalgarh.

BJP’s latest poster-boy Varun Gandhi also comes in the line of Roy’s ire. She brands him a “monstrous new debutant”, who makes Modi sound “moderate and retiring”. Roy is bemused by the fact that while war (Mumbai attacks) coverage on TV stirred everyone out of their comfort zone, the war fought in Dalit bastis, on the banks of Narmada, Singur, Lalgarh are cast into limbo. She talks about how investigations into Batla House encounter and Malegoan blasts were turned into a mockery of sorts.

Mention Kashmir and Roy turns argumentative. She frankly questions Indian army’s lame claims that it has crushed militancy in Kashmir, wondering if military domination means victory. “How does a government that claims to be a democracy justify a military occupation,” asks Roy. Elections are farcical, often rigged. The word Azadi resonates throughout her essays on Kashmir. She talks of how Azadi buzz swept across the valley last year and how panicked govt resorted to extreme measures to crush democratic, non-violent protests. She talks of how Kashmiri freedom struggle with its crystal clear sentiment but fuzzy outlines is caught in the vortex of several dangerous and conflicting ideologies. She talks of how the story of largest battlefield in world, Siachen Glacier has become the metaphor for insanity of our times. She talks about cases of disappearances, custodial killings, draconian laws like POTA and AFSPA with compelling arguments. And laments, that despite all this, India retains its reputation as a legitimate democracy in the international community.

Pointing to glaring loopholes in 2002 Parliament attach case, Roy castigates judiciary and police for failing to deliver justice. She defends Afzal Guru, who is on death row for his alleged involvement in the attack. “Afzal is just a pawn in a sinister game, not a dragon that he is made out to be but only the dragon’s footprint,” says Roy. She further talks of how innocent Kashmiris, the likes of SAR Geelani, DU Lecturer and Iftikhar Geelani, a journalist were framed, illegally detained, and brutally tortured in custody for no crime of theirs. Roy blames mainstream media for being equal party to crime, and is miffed that not even a single newspaper journalist or TV channel saw it fit to apologize to SAR Geelani for the ordeal he had to endure because of their rash, irresponsible reporting. Media, Roy believes, is trapped in the game where carelessness and incomprehension is as deadly as malice. Afzal’s case, or for that matter the cases of SAR Geelani and Iftikhar Gelani proved it beyond doubt.

Roy, like most of us, is though bit uncomfortable with disparate views of various factions in this freedom struggle. But she minces no words in reiterating that India needs “Azadi from Kashmir just as much Kashmir needs Azadi from India.”

Taking pot shots at George Bush, Roy feels sorry that on his India visit in Feb 06, the only safe place for him to address gathering of bigwigs was a crumbling medieval fort, with few hundred caged animals of Delhi Zoo and “caged human beings” from power corridors for audience. The essay, “Animal Farm II” is hilarious yet makes telling statement about Bush and his warped world-view.

Roy is equally scathing in her criticism of former chief justice of Supreme Court Justice Sabharwal, who was involved in a big scandal that rocked the judiciary recently. Her essay “Listening to grasshoppers” is extensive and an absolute treat. It aptly sums up the mess that is also known as “largest democracy”. She explains how the citizenry in this country are at odds to isolate the enemy existing within. Extermination, she thinks has become key word for establishment to tackle resistance groups.

Overall, it’s a must read for all those who, though having lost hope still believe in the notions of democracy, rights, liberty, and freedom. Freedom from menaces of occupation, state terrorism, neo-imperialism, poverty, corruption, propaganda war and list goes on. It’s for you, who dare to defy, no matter the odds.