Indu ji

History is filled with names who are always looked upon with fear. These names rose to fame and had their downfall even more fabled. And even today, whenever referenced, are done with a few eyebrows raising. One such personality in Indian history and politics remains Indira Nehru Gandhi.

I was fascinated with the idea that the evilest people are the least known people. Everyone has a vague idea of the evil but no body cares to dig deep into the reasons of how it turned evil. This holds true in case of a robber, a rapist, a terrorist or even a tainted politician. Indira too was considered one among the leagues of evils which has plagued the Indian community from the time she became the Prime minister of India.

Indian education system is such, that it does not include the post Independence era with much clarity or detail. Hence a common Indian man of 21st century would be bereft of any knowledge on the topic – Indira Gandhi. Yet everyone has heard stories from their parents or grandparents about the atrocities that Mrs. Gandhi did. And so any mention of Indira Gandhi would find you among ghastly stories.

So I decided to read about Indira. I found the best biography on her was written by Katherine Frank. This was 2012. I was in college back then. I could not find a online source besides the book was costly for a person like me, who then thought spending on reading anything apart from textbooks is a waste of a lot of resources at the same time. Foolishness! The idea took me to a find library – Delhi Public Library which is an excellent way to get hold of any book free of cost. Yet I could not get hold of the book due to some reasons. Skip past 4 years, I started to work for an MNC and I got hold of the book. Voila!

Before starting to read a book, I believe there should be a burning desire to read the book. And if the desire is not before you start reading it, the author should have the ability to ignite it. To add to my curiousness, I always had a doubt in my head – Why Indira, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru named Gandhi ? Did Mahatma Gandhi adopt her ? I open the book and it is divided in three halves – Indira Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Prime minister Indira Gandhi. What a wonderful way to segregate a life.

The first part starts with a background about the Nehru family and how things progressed before Indira’s birth. Post her birth, the book tries to establish a chord with the character Indira by making the reader aware of her relationship with her father and mother and then her extended family. Since Nehru had a foreign education so were his thoughts. Yet his father tried to impose politics onto him. The result of it being he had fairly little time for his family. Indira’s mother, Kamla Nehru had tuberculosis due to which her life was miserable throughout. Apparently, Indira too had tuberculosis whose cure was not known back then. So for treatment and education, Indira had to remain abroad. The part tries to emphasize on the point how disturbed her childhood was. The parents are torn among themselves. And none had the time for Induji (JN Nehru used to call her by this name, sometimes Indu boy). I believe time is something that binds people in a relation, yet if none is given, it remains dormant in case of a family. Indira cared about her parents but hated her life as a torn child. The first part sets the mood for the bigger event – Indian Independence.

The second part is an interesting one, where Indira Nehru meets a man Feroze “apparently” Gandhi. One thing I always try to do, while I am receiving any information though any media – movie, tv series, book, FB Post (yes these days they count too), is to double check its legitimacy. So I google Mr. Feroze Gandhi’s background like an FBI agent. I found he was a Parsi, like the book said, but he was Feroze Khan. Mr. Khan , though a Gandhi Bhakt, conveniently converted himself before marrying Indira. While reading Katherine Frank, I really admired how she would point to every shady areas saying that it is inconclusive. It adds to the fun given now we have Internet to rattle every bone of contention. The book informs that Indira comes back to India, her mother dies and she becomes an activist of India’s independence, each happening gradually. As she gained popularity she gained more confidence. People started recognizing her as a youth icon. Yet the relations between Feroze and Indira remained cold. Feroze was too flamboyant besides Indira was too much a puppet of her father. India gained independance and Indira get into a full time role of serving his father – India’s first prime minister. She learns a lot in the coming years about politics, foreign affairs etc. And then comes a great chapter – Three deaths. First her husband dies. Then her father and then the acting prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. This opens the stage for Indira to Prime minister’s seat.

The greatest asset Indira had was her connect with people was flawless. The third part commences with crowds going crazy at Indira contesting Lok Sabha elections. Indira even though was involved with all the politicians yet there were enough contenders for the top position. The book carefully shows how people get greedy and fight to snatch power. Indira becomes the Prime minister but tanks miserably in the early days. She had the experience of a laborer while serving Nehru but never did she thought as a Head. She was ridiculed and bullied, which I believe made her stronger. Luckily to her rescue was a solid team of henchmen including P N Haskar who was J N Nehru’s PA. Reading a little about Hasker I felt that a team is as good as the henchmen’s are and not as good as the leaders. Yet Indira never got the support a Head should get. Partly because nobody believed that she would take on everyone and still win the people’s confidence.

Meanwhile, her two sons Rajiv and Sajiv (later changed to Sanjay since he was caught in England so had to change his passport) were all grown up. Rajiv married Sonia and led a sincere life becoming a pilot. Sanjay (who is allegedly not Feroze’s son. Hints of which have been given throughout the book) had an astonishingly notorious mind. He failed in an attempt to create  an automobile company. He then took to politics to make his dream come true. Indira was known to keep politics away from relations. This she had learned from her own childhood. Yet Sanjay penetrated. Sanjay was Indira’s weak point which he exploited exceptionally well. He had opened illegal businesses. He removed P N Haskar since Haskar knew of Sanjay’s actions. He installed his own people in Indira’s diameter. This is where I felt was when the nail in the  coffin was driven. Indira even though was known a strong women, sub consciously played the puppet’s role better. And Sanjay was in control of Indira now. When her opposition in the cabinet started to join hands, an emergency was induced by Sanjay into Indira’s head. Started as a nation building activity, emergency was exploited to the worst extends.

Indira reigned 11 years in India with 2 years of emergency. She was ousted in the general elections of 1977 yet she returned back in 1980. By this time, a lot of regional violence took light. Team Indira (on more research found that Indira gave Sanjay this task) devised a plan to attack violence with religion. This backfired. And this backfire took a community’s sheen and Indira’s life.

The book very delicately describes both the aspects of the violence and Indira’s stance. It never provides you a myopic view so that you draw any misconceptions. That is what is the beauty of the book. The book opened a lot of secrets of Mrs. Gandhi’s life too. The book also briefly addresses the post Indira violence which worth knowing.

Today marks the 32nd death anniversary of Indira Gandhi. After reading through the book, I have a quite different conception on many celebrated lives. Yet I think, that the evil is always concentrated to one, even though there was an army of evil that was disarrayed. Indira had strengths but had weakness too, some deadly ones. I hope she rests in peace.


A new word in my vocabulary

Recently, I was reading an article about the India-Chinese relation. The Chinese Prime minister was in India for the BRICS meet. With the attacks on the Indian army bunkers in near future, the Indian diplomats were all guns to gain attention to this fiasco. This they chose to do by alienating our  neighbor – Pakistan on a world stage. This act got some attention and sympathy from the stalwarts like US and Russia but Pakistan’s ally China had other ways to deal with this situation. China decided to the play the “aggressor-victim” card. I have heard who a passive aggressor was, but this was something new.

China is a very smart nation, it is known to support Pakistan from ages. The only reason for this act being that an enemy’s enemy is a friend. China never supports Pakistan for any of its acts openly, yet it supports it cause. And it did the same this time too. It accused India for blaming Pakistan for the terrorist attacks. This being one off situation where it aggressively supported Pakistan and came out of the veil. The fury was directed towards India for being insensitive to snap a friendly atmosphere in the South East Asian region. The stance was strong, with BRICS meet around there had to be balm along with the bruise that China inflected. And balm came in the packaging of victimization of Pakistan. China addressed that for any terrorist attack Pakistan cannot be made responsible. Adding that Pakistan is state working for peace and has been sufferer of terrorism more than any country. What a wonderful way to make your goon-like presence felt.

How do you respond to such a stance seemed a tough question to me. You cannot go all out on China considering that China made Pakistan a victim to gain any sympathy in any case of backlash. You cannot listen to the rant in silence given India would find itself as a weak state globally. To add to this, the timing of the statement could not have been perfect with the BRICS meeting around. India had called off the SAARC meet which included Pakistan, but could not afford to sideline China in BRICS given the stakes were higher in this situation. India however chose to stick by its stance without putting any pressure on China. India carefully steered out of the situation. I am no world diplomat, neither am I a connoisseur of diplomacy but the solution did not convince me personally. To which I thought, do I face such aggressive-victims in my life?

To my surprise, I do, almost as frequently as I can. These people I am talking about are aggressively fighting among themselves and when confronted of their mistakes to be the cause of the fight, play the victim almost instantly. Now the situation has parallels to the Sino-Indian situation. Though, I act as a mediator in the situation. My task remains to calm the parties involved in conflicts. The problem remains that I cannot blame anyone, I cannot point to causes of the fight yet I have to calm the aggression. I too, like my state India, go for diplomacy. But in personal matters diplomacy generally backfires pretty bad.

The word was new in my vocabulary. It gave me a new perspective to the various type of people involved in my life. Now whenever I introspect I do take the aggression-victim as one of the major points. I believe it powerful quality too. Making a good use of this quality with correct timing can do wonders. Like it did for China.

Amusing babies

Recently I discovered how much I am inept in handling babies. My nephew was born a few months back, so I paid him a surprise visit. Much to my surprise I was struck by the reality that babies are pretty annoying. They can be unpredictable. They can be noisy. Apart from the heart warming smile there is nothing in a baby that excites me.

A trend that is emerging amongst today’s parents is – naming the baby with some really innovative names. My nephew is named Krevi. It took me 4 repetitions to get the pronunciation right. Obviously my brother and his wife were giving me tough looks by this time. The baby was calmly resting on my brother’s lap. And to smoothen the air around, my brother got up to hand the baby over to me. BAD MOVE !! My head started ringing with sirens saying “Mission abort. I repeat. Please return. I repeat”. Alas!

Now a beautiful thing about babies is that they need entertainment of the most weird sorts. They will keep staring you until they are fulfilled else they will rain their eyes out. The irony is that when they cry, their isn’t a single drop of tear. Krevi is now on my lap. I thought the best way to keep him quite would be to lay him flat. The baby in anyone else’s lap would have laid like a gentlemen from Mannersland. Though in my lap he thought of being creative. I am deep into an awkward uneasy zone where everyone wants to check by baby handling prowess. Only to see me fail.

Babies look good in Television, Movies or in some one else’s lap. Its like babies should be printed with a signal KEEP DISTANCE. Not everyone might agree with me. Especially my mother who has some divine powers that could silence any crying and make him/her smile too. No wonder, she tamed me now she can do anything. I would not go as far as saying that I hate babies. Its just that I am too conscious that they might cry or worse wet their undies.

One thing is very clear that children evoke great emotions in everyone. Something which I could relate with two incidents which shook the world across. One was much talked about where the images of Aylan Kurdi, a 3 year old kid trying to escape from refugee camps to safer areas lying dead on a secluded Mediterranean Sea. The image floated all over the Internet and instantly humanity started pouring into people. Countries who were reluctant to attend to refugees now opened their arms to welcome them. The second one is a news much closer to our nation – from Kashmir. The story of Burhan Bashir Bhat, another 3 year old shot dead along with his father an alleged militant. The flipside is that this news never brought the furore it should have brought. Kashmir was crying its heart out at the brutality of men donning the cloak of bringing peace. But everyone else untouched. Media too carefully sidelines itself from news from the valley. And subsequently the news along with the wailing shrieks died. Unlike Europe, India still is unaffected and chooses to play this event down. Even if there are any active steps taken they are not showing positive results.

I might be a little late in bringing out this article. Yet I thought to myself a pressing question of why shouldn’t this baby get the much needed attention ?

Hopefully he does. RIP Aylan and Burhan.

Vaishno devi : An unusual place for secularism

One of the most revered and pious place for Hindu followers is Vaishno devi. Millions of staunch believers of god vaishnavi visit this sacred place. Situated at around 6000 ft the place remains busy throughout the year. India being a country with diverse ethnicity respects and accommodates every religion. So a holy place for Hinduism does not keep it aloof from the secularism. Beleive it or not 40% of people in vaishno devi are Muslims.

This is where things begin to get interesting. Vaishno devi is situated in Jammu kashmir, predominantly populated with Muslims and Kashmiri pundits. Punjab with its jolly nature Sikhs caress the borders of J&K. This explains the influence in the chants of “Jai Mata Di” in a crowd. A contrast is evident as soon as a person from southern India sticks his chant of “Jai Mata Ji”. It immediately reminds you how people are careful of their inherent customs.

Lets delve deeper. The custom proclaims to cover an uphill distance of 13 km on foot. You would see people barefooted covering the distance. You would see toddlers, barely able to cry properly, exclaiming “Jai Mata di”. And for those who want to cover the distance with much ease there are palanquins (doli), horses and even helicopters. The owners and workers behind these modes are majorly Muslims. . Not denying the strength and upkeep of doing these jobs but this is how we grab opportunities. And this opportunity quickly becomes an exploitation of the rich willing to pay.

So now that you are aware of the Vaishnodevi. It might seem foolish to take so much pain to visit it. Apart from a temple and a little adventure there seems no attraction in Vaishno devi. Religion can sometime dazzle you with its remedies. And people are hungry for such magic pills. One thing these places surely do is increase hope for betterment. Hope is nothing but the will to acheive something. And most things are a game of will power. It is the will of people to coexist happily in a place. Whereas there are places like Kashmir where peace can never be permanent due to lack of will.

Vaishnodevi should be a lesson for every place in the world where secularism has raised not only questions but has also been a reason of war. None of us own the piece of land we live on. None of us own the lives of our loved ones. But we can always love the ones around us to own a better life.