A girl who was brutally raped and murdered, went to heaven. Near the entry she checked herself in the golden mirror. All signs of cruelity that had been done to her body was gone. Now, she had a glorious, translucent form. The four guards of Heaven greeted her at the gates. But suddenly, she stopped and stepped aside.
Every soul was always eager to enter heaven and meet God. Since eternity, nobody had ever done that. So, the four agitated guards asked her, “Why are you refusing heaven? My dear, come back to the queue and enter the great gates.”
The girl smiled and recounted, “You know I was gang raped by a group of filthy men, who were jeering and spitting on me…”
“Yes, we know that…,” the guards cut her short in chorus. “Please don’t tell us the details. We know you have suffered immensely but once you enter the gates, all pain and sadness will vanish. Your troubled soul will find peace. All thoughts will leave you and you will bask in eternal glory.”
The girl still hesitated. The wind played with her hair as she she looked around with delight but still showed no inclination to enter.
“Dear, what is going on your mind? Do you feel any sort of guilt? Do you think you can’t face God after what happened to your modesty?,” the guards asked in chorus.
The girl laughed for a long, long time while perplexed guards looked at each other.
“It is not that! The reason why I don’t want to see God is not because I am ashamed. I have done no wrong. Wrong has been done to my body.” she answered.
“Then?,” the guards asked.
“It is because God will be shamefaced on seeing me. I know, He will never be able to meet my eyes. I want to spare Him the shame as I love Him too much,” the girl wandered away after saying this leaving a trail of shimmering light behind her. The guards stood unmoved, red faced.
God heard her, clutched his heart and cried…
( Written after viewing a terrible image of a dead, rape victim in West Bengal, India. She moved me beyond words. A tribute to such victims.)
I am a visa wife. This means I am on a dependent visa while my husband is on H1B work visa in the US. My Visa is in H4 category, which is regressive to say the least. Now, while the techies are reeling due to uncertainities over H1B Visa Bill, which might become an act under President Donald Trump’s administration, I secretly rejoice.
It is also being rumoured that work permits of H4 visa holders, which was a part of 2015 Department of Homeland Security initiative by former President Barack Obama, might change. This means visa wives would not be allowed to earn any kind of income and may be restricted to cooking, cleaning and volunteering. In short, a completely dependent entity – emotionally, socialy and economicaly.
I truly believe that US is a great country to live but if the work permit for H4, is cancelled, it would be a curse for Indian women, who accompany their husbands at the cost of their own ambitions. My stay in the US has been smooth and filled with happiness so far. And I had plans to be economically independent when my kids grew up a bit but under the present scenario, I find hope in returning to India.
If things change, I dream of going back and being surrounded by family and friends. Then, there will be the lovely Indian Maid – Kaam wali bai, whom I have missed almost every day!
Technology is here to stay and techies are like minions. They will find a big boss sometime soon even if there are job cuts due to the overhaul. They will not perish.
Truly speaking, it might be better for husbands if they stay in the US because work conditions are nicer here. Even kids are better off in the US. But for silently cooking and cleaning visa wives, who are away from society and independence, going back to India would always be great.
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My grandfather was a big fan of Detective Colonel Vinod of Vinod Series by Ibn-e-Safi (pen name of Asrar Ahmed). And my father and his siblings would compete with each other to be the first to lay their hands on those thrillers, that arrived every month by post.
Colonel Vinod (Faridi in original Urdu version), the main character of Jasoosi Duniya was huge at one point of time and almost as famous as James Bond or Sherlock Holmes. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, everyone loved him.
For me it was different. I was born after Ibn-e-Safi’s death. As I grew up, titles of the books – ‘Tijori ka Geet’, ‘Khooni Pathar’, ‘Pahadon ki Malika’, ‘Baraf ke Bhoot’ – intrigued me. And the pictures on the covers were fascinating too. One day, when I was in my teens, I just picked it up from a big box of books and read it at one go. That was the beginning. I soon got addicted to them.
Thankfully, my parents were not very strict about my reading those ‘kind of books’ because they knew that the series did not have sub standard or cheap material in it. Every member in the family could read it. However, they warned I may end up paying more attention to the thrillers rather than course books. But I managed to strike a balance.
After Devkinandan Khatri in the 19th century, it was Ibn-e-safi who set the beat of detective novels in the second half of the 20th century in Indian subcontinent. His contributions to not only Urdu but Hindi literature was immense. The books were published in Bengali, Tamil and Telugu as well.
Wikipedia says about Jasoosi Duniya series – “Its first novel, Dilaer Mujrim was published in March 1952. In the following 27 years, Ibn-e-Safi wrote 127 books in the series with his last Jasoosi Dunya novel, Sehra’ee Deewana appearing in July 1979, a year before his death.” He was from India but migrated to Pakistan in 1947, post independence.
It is said that some Safi’s books have been inspired by English novels but the much-loved characters, Vinod and Rajesh (Faridi and Imran in original Urdu version) are his own creations.
My favourites were Colonel Vinod and his feisty aide Captain Hamid (akin to Dr Watson). As I read him more and more, I felt Ibn-e-Safi was well informed about the political situations in the world. He wove a glamourous and dangerous world in 1960s India that enchanted readers.
I think Colonel Vinod was very much like Howard Roark of Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’. Both of them had super integrity, both were brilliant at their jobs but appeared to be rather heartless (Colonel Vinod was nicknamed Father Hardstone by his friend Hamid). Both had lofty ideals. Infact, it was said that Ibn-e-Safi wrote very carefully about Vinod as people sort of worshipped him and would not tolerate anything untoward related to him.
Ibn-e-safi’s other lead character Rajesh (Imran in the Urdu version) was equally popular. A fool by the day and secret service chief by night, Rajesh’s unpredictability always left me in splits.
It should also be known that Safi’s works were widely plagiarised by writers who enjoyed limited fame but could not match his popularity. His books were often sold at black market prices in and around India.
A big reason for the charm of the novels were the minor and comic characters Qasim, Black Force, gilehri jaan ( in Vinod series) as well as servant Bholu, Jolly, Madan (in Rajesh series). The master storyteller had the knack of drawing readers into the world of ensnaring beauties, night clubs, fancy locations, Lincolns, Tommy guns, poisonous needles and lethal enemies.
Back in India, I always wondered about Lincoln – Colonel Vinod’s car and excitedly called up my father when I saw one in the US.
The Hindi version of – Jasoosi Duniya series are hard to find in today’s world of Ebooks and downloads. I yearn for the crispy touch, musty smell and excitement that preceded reading the thrillers. It was heaven to read it in a quiet corner of my house, munching guavas and wondering what was going to happen next.
Gone are the days but who knows…I might still find my younger self somewhere inside one of those nail-biting books…!
We all know his life story – a nobody with a dream, comes to Mumbai to become an actor and eventually becomes the king of the Indian film industry. He did not stop at that – He is the biggest star in the world now!
The fact that he is a self made, hard working family man totally endears him to his fans. I have grown up binge watching his movies, applauding his scenes, defending him and knowing that – Shah Rukh Can! He is romance incarnate in Indian Movies.
From ‘Army’ and ‘Circus’ days when my mom used to exclaim – ‘Ye ladka hero banega'(This boy will be a film star someday) to ‘Hello Zindagi’, he has come a long way.
Here are my coolest top 10 SRK movies.
- Chak de
Recently, Netflix signed a deal with him in order to capture the coveted film market in India and stay one step ahead of rival Amazon. The charismatic Khan is not much known in the western world but the deal is sure to give him a wider exposure.
But meanwhile, we SRK fans are happy in the knowledge that he is the biggest movie star in the whole wide world with high grossing films, enviable film offers and a huge Twitter following.
BTW, What is your favourite SRK film?
Images courtesy Google
In the aftermath of the URI attack, when the tensions on the borders of India and Pakistan mounted, I was ironically making aquaintance with this lady from Pakistan on US soil.
I first met her when my older Son started Kindergarten. It was difficult for me to let my son go to the Big Kids School in the bus all by himself. In the afternoon, I reached the school bus stop very early to receive him. My son arrived and an older boy alighted from the bus next after him, carrying his water bottle.
The boy laughingly told me,” Everytime your son started to cry, I distracted him.” Taking the water bottle from him, I smiled and said, “Thank you!”
His mother had come to receive the older boy. She had her head covered like the Sikhs but was not wearing Vermilion or bindi like them. I gathered they were Muslims from India. She smiled at me and I smiled back. This is how I first met her!
Her apartment was close to mine and we walked a little together, talking casually about kids, work, weather etc. This became our daily routine.
But the day after the URI terrorist attack in Kashmir along the LOC, when every Indian across the world was outraged and shocked at the killing of brave Indian soldiers, she happened to tell me that she was from the enemy nation – Pakistan!
Something stiffened deep inside me although I did not show it. I mentally prepared myself to keep a distance from her.
As I looked back to hasten my son, an unexpected sight made my heart melt. Walking hand in hand with his Pakistani bhaiya (brother), my son looked cheerful for the first time he started school. He had made his first friend in school. They looked absolutely comfortable in each other’s company, ignorant of the fact that they belonged to two deadliest enemy nations of the world.
They were laughing, teasing and running around us, oblivious of the hate that surrounded their mother nations.
I stole a look at the lady from Pakistan. Apparently, she was having similar thoughts. She seemed worried about the heightened tension across the borders of the two neigbouring countries and for the safety of her family back home. Like me, perhaps even she did not want her kid getting lessons on hate in case the situation worsened. We were so similar yet so apart!
It seemed as if a thick line of uneasy thoughts seperated me and the lady from Pakistan. But not far behind us, our little boys, chased each other in blissful ignorance…!
She was ordinary looking but had a pleasant form. What made her special was the buzz surrounding her! Ladies were throwing scrutinizing glances at her while gents were checking her out through the corner of their eyes. Old ladies were chatting about beautiful baijis (another name for nautch girl) of their time. The arrival of the nautch girl had made the calm village a little noisy. She was considered a public woman, a fallen woman and everyone wanted to have a good look at her. But for me, she was exotic!
One of my relatives chided me for peeping at her. “She is not a good lady. Stay away from her. She is a nachaniya (another name for nautch girl). She dances and entertains the male crowd. Nice girls never go near her.” Her words made me all the more curious. And throughout the day, I kept a watch over the dancer through the window.
In the evening, I saw her washing her face and getting ready for the dance. We heard that groom and the baraat (group) had been received and were resting in the tents. I couldn’t wait to see her dance.
Well, at the auspicious time, the groom arrived with pomp and splendour. The nautch girl began to perform a welcome dance in front of the group. She had whiten her face, stained her teeth with betel and put on a lot of make up. Under bright lights, she looked younger than she actually was. The ladies watched the welcoming of the groom from the terrace while gents stood around her in a circle. Some young baraatis threw money at her which she pocketed fliratatiously.
It was later in life that I learnt more about the likes of her. I had almost forgotten about my exotic nautch girl when I came across this quote by James Forbes (Oriental Memoirs 1813)-
“Nautch girls are extremely delicate in their person, soft and regular in their features, with a form of perfect symmetry, and although dedicated from infancy to this profession, they in general preserve a decency and modesty in their demeanor, which is more likely to allure than the shameless effrontery of similar characters in other countries.”
I learnt that possibly my nautch girl was a crude and jaded version of the former nautch girls, who were superior in art and bearing. With time, during family functions, nautch girls got replaced by choreographed dancers. And now we have DJs playing songs at every wedding.
Earlier, they were a prominent part of Indian life and culture during the second half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. They were mostly teenage girls, who typically performed in Mughal courts, the palaces of nawabs, the mahals of rajas, the bungalows of officers of the British Raj, the houses of zamindars as well as at ordinary homes wherever they were invited. Sometimes they arrived with their troupe without any invitation to a celebration and patrons were expected to pay them. They would break into an impromptu dance whenever situation demanded.
It should be kept in mind that they were not into flesh trade and their husbands accompanied them as one of the musicians. Their dance forms were an amalgam of prevalent dance forms of India at that time.
As royalty faded, the tradition of nautch lost its lustre. Some of them joined films and theatre. They have been widely portrayed in films too. The prominent ones among them were Shashimukhi from Chitpur and Phanibala. Shashimukhi was the first recorded artist of India. She went on to become the tragedy queen of Bengal theatre.
Further on, nautch girls lost their dignity and came to be seen primarily as sex workers. That is why my concerned relative had admonished me – “Nice girls never go near them”.
I do not know whether the nautch forms are still alive in some corner of India or not but I cannot help remembering that particular nautch girl, who had looked so divine to me! I had followed her almost like a fan adores a film star. I had enjoyed her playfulness and dance moves. I did not know then that I was witnessing a fading tradition…
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