Thursday, September 15, 2005 

They deserve it!

Three days back, a relatively tiny news clipping on the front page of various newspapers announced the completion of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the narrow coastal area known as the Gaza strip.

True, they have left behind little more than rubble. True, they still retain control over the territory's air and sea space and, at least temporarily, all its borders, ostensibly to "prevent militant groups smuggling in weapons into Palestine". True, the "victory" of the Palestinians is perhaps more symbolic than real. Nonetheless, this was an event which can prove to be the decisive tipping point in the history of the troubled Middle East. The length of the news articles did not do justice to the historic significance of this momentous event.

While I am no expert on international politics, I personally am prima facie totally delighted at this news. The Palestinians have suffered long enough, and greatly enough, to warrant all the sympathy and aid that any humane world can offer. My heartiest congratulations to them on this memorable, and long-overdue, occasion!

The moot question here, though, is "why". Why did the Israelis retreat? International pressure to withdraw was currently low. Pressure on Israel to adopt new peace plans was also not working. Israel's hawkish right-wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon was under pressure, not just from the moderate Labor and opposition Shinui parties, but also from within his own party. His traditional supporters have not yet given up on their dream of a "Greater Israel", a dream which Sharon has aggressively been pushing since he was elected Prime Minister in February 2001. Why then this retreat, which in one way tantamounts to a public admission of defeat?

The most plausible reason by far is that Sharon wants to appease Bush, who has publicly supported the existence of a Palestinian state, albeit with riders attached. This immediately raises the further question - why is the US apparently not supporting Israel wholeheartedly in this war? After all, the Israel-Palestine war has been construed by historians as less of a war over territory, and more of a symbolic Jewish-Islamic battle. In such an eventuality, if the push comes to the shove, the US would historically oppose the Islamic forces. Why then an exception in this case?

Perhaps the answer lies in the winds of change. Jews are still very much part of the central engine which drives the US economy, but their political hold over the White House may have reduced because the Oval Office now has alternate sustainable sources of funds (read: "Oil"). Or maybe the US, having to choose between two devils, has decided to support the "Islamic-but-weaker" Palestinians rather than the "non-Islamic-but-potentially-a-future-superpower-in-the-long-term" Israel. Or maybe the US, having established its foothold in the oil-rich and strategically-positioned countries of the Middle East, thanks to its occupation of Iraq and its kinship with the family of Saud, no longer feels the necessity to kowtow to Israel. The last explanation may be the most plausible, but whatever the reason, it bodes well for the much-suffering Palestinians.

There is, however, a fourth explanation which is rather disturbing. Perhaps this withdrawal, and the "disengagement plan" as a whole, is an elaborate and deliberate ploy to throw dust in the eyes of the world.

After all, how much difference will it truly make to Palestine, or for that matter to Gaza? Is the withdrawal irreversible? What are Bush's and Sharon's private road-maps for the Middle East going ahead? These are uncomfortable questions, not just for the region, but for the world as we know it.

For now, however, it is a time for the beleagured residents of Gaza, and their families, to celebrate, rest, and rebuild their lives. Brick by agonizing brick, stone by mortared stone. Here's wishing them Peace.

Heaven knows, they deserve it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 

26th July 2005

The last few days have been crazily wet. Mumbai is being deluged once again, in sheets of rain which slap against the defenceless city and its huddled inhabitants like a curtain flapping against a slender pillar.

The last few days have been so reminiscent of D-Day, 26th July 2005, that it compelled me to unearth some stray memories I'd noted down on that day. Here they are, witnessed first-hand by me as I travelled from office to home. This, then, is an eye-witness account of Mumbai, 26th July 2005:
  • A flag waving in the middle of the road. Investigation revealed that it was at the top of an auto which had been fully submerged!
  • 4 people pushing a stalled BEST bus which had passengers in it. And wonder of wonders, the bus moved!
  • Wading for 3.5 hrs through waist deep muddy flood water which occasionally reached neck level, with a laptop on my head and trying to aviod the invisible gutters and sharp-edged breakers. Spending 12 hrs in a friend's car and only travelling 1.7 km. Leaving office at 6 PM and reaching home at 11 AM the next day.
  • Discovering that men coolly walk through floods cracking jokes, while women invariably lose their heads and panic!
  • Seeing a frail old lady wade through the muck and water while carrying a little child on her shoulders, just like the Sherpas of the Himalayas or the women working in the tea gardens of Darjeeling do.
  • People pushing and shoving to enter buses. And after 3 hours of complete immobility, silently dismounting and wending their way homeward on foot.
  • An enterprising van parking itself in the middle of no-man's land between Santa Cruz and Kalinaka, and selling tea and vada-pav at tremendous premiums!
  • An opportunistic tractor allowing people to clamber up, and ferrying them through the floods, that too at no cost. They even provided umbrellas to the passengers!
  • Taxis charging Rs. 100 per head on sharing basis (instead of the standard Rs. 5) for a one kilometer journey from Churchgate to Colaba. And most people ready to pay!
  • Floating Santros. A Merc abandoned in the middle of the Santa Cruz flyover.
  • People spending the night in offices, 5-star hotel lounges, railway stations ... just about anywhere and everywhere!

I dread to imagine the plight of squatters, slum dwellers and low-lying chawl inhabitants.


Idhar udhar ki baatein

Iqbal : Movie Review

After quite a while, I saw a true-blue classic in the Theater. (No, Mangal Pandey comes close but does not quite qualify.) And what a movie it was! Iqbal stands out for its breathtaking realism, for simple scenes and dialogues which haunt you long after “The End” has flashed on screen, for tying together in a simple manner the world of the handicapped and the world of dreams. In bringing together the likes of Naseeruddin Shah (his first movie, if I recall rightly, after Sarfarosh), Girish Karnad, the supremely talented Shweta Prasad (of Makdee fame) and last but not least Kapil paaji, Subhash Ghai has pulled off a casting coup.

And after the eminently forgettable Hyderabad Blues 2, Nagesh Kukunoor has finally come of age. Not just as a director, but (perhaps far more significantly for the future of parallel cinema in India) as a scriptwriter. He dares to dream big. He carries a deaf and dumb late-starting village lad through to the Indian cricket team. He exposes the multiple facets of, and the multifarious facades behind, the world of cricket at its highest level in India. Politics, match-fixing, bribery, nepotism … and a face-saving act by the paaji at the end.

True, cricket is over-hyped in India and does not need yet another movie to promote it. But at the end of the day, Iqbal is less about cricket and more about hope, about standing upright in the face of all odds, about achieving the impossible.

Go watch Iqbal. It made my day. It will make yours.


Sania Mirza rocks. You go girl!


My dream match would have been a Sampras-Federer Wimbledon final. But an Agassi-Federer US Open Final comes close.

How would I like it to go? Well, I love watching Federer play, so I’d root for him to win all the points. But then, Agassi’s my overwhelming sentimental favorite, and I’d like him to triumph in this, his probable swansong at this Open.

Bottomline: Federer should win all the points, but Agassi should win the match.

Impossible? Probably. But if it did come true – such fun!


"It's only dreams, and dreams are all I have, to take your nightmares away" - Rock Star Kassim

Nowadays dreams are becoming so educational. I saw a hi-tech one recently. Here goes:

In my dream, I was happily busy doing nothing whatsoever when daddy rushed into the room, holding my cellphone in one hand and his cellphone in the other hand.

"Son", he exclaims excitedly, "I wanted a backup of all the numbers stored in my cellphone, so I connected my phone to yours and copied all my numbers onto your phone directory!"

"But daddy", I spluttered, "Don't you have hundreds of numbers on your cell?"

"Yes", daddy claimed proudly, "my cell memory size can take upto 500 numbers."

"But my cell can only take 70! And I already had 70 stored contacts! What happened to them?"

"Don't know, didn't check", said a confused daddy.

"Oops!" I exclaimed and grabbed my phone and checked. And horror of horrors -- all my contacts had been deleted! And replaced by the first 70 of daddy's contacts, which only included those whose names began with A and B!

And then -- I woke up out of fright.

Dreams have indeed become so hi-tech nowadays. And dreamers have become so nutty :((((


A page from my diary …

Just two nights ago, I was telling a friend, “Life ain’t so serious, y’know”. And then I paused and smiled to myself. It was a lesson I myself had forgotten over the past year or so, what with this and that and here and there and duties and crises and so on and so forth. But I was slowly re-learning it.

Three days back: The melodramatic koel which resides in the tree outside our house got its timing all wrong and woke me up at 3 AM with its mellifluous singing. And did I mumble an invective and turn back to sleep? No, I heard the song for a couple of minutes before slipping peacefully back into dreamland. It was, after all, a lovely song.

Two days back: I was lounging about in the balcony when this incredibly cutie-pie squirrel strolled nonchalantly across the parapet, looked around suspiciously with its nostrils twitching, suddenly darted into the neighboring AC, and emerged triumphant with a huge chunk of chapatti in its mouth! I laughed till my sides hurt.

Yesterday: Mumbai got drenched in sheets of rain yet again, reminiscent of 26th July. Fortunately it wasn’t as cataclysmic as before, and very few people were really affected. Lying in bed at night, it suddenly struck me that the sound of the unceasing rain, striking against the corrugated tin sheet atop our balcony, was amazingly beautiful. Reminscent of Chopin’s Minute Waltz. The sound filled my senses until my eyes started drooping.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I thought I’d find it difficult to smile as easily as I always used to. Today, I find myself smiling once again, laughing once again. I feel like pulling the cheeks of every kid I see, stroking every kitten that gives me sly looks, sitting by the seaside in the late evenings. I want to learn the guitar, read my favorite childhood books once again (ah! the magic of Little Lord Fauntleroy, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, The Adventures of Elizabeth Gray, The Oz series, the Narnia series, The Land of Far Beyond!), start preparing to run the marathon, learn to cook double ka meetha.

I’m learning to live once again. And I think I’m learning to be happy once again. Alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 

The Return of Gahji - Part 2

Yes, gentle discerning readers! The news doing the rounds is that our highly esteemed and dearly beloved Gahji is back!!!

Refreshed. Renewed. Resurrected.

Of course, Gahji, being a person who cherishes his privacy, will rarely appear on this blog. He prefers to maintain his anonymity elsewhere; perhaps on a private blog, or on the yellowing pages of a well-concealed personal diary, or on loose sheafs of scrap paper, or simply within the folds of a fertile imagination. But he exists. For Gahji is, after all, inseparable from the author. So yes, somewhere and in some fashion, Gahji is very much alive and kicking. But not here.

Perhaps some of you will hear more of him someday in the distant future. Then again, chances are you won't.

As Gahji would say, such is life, amigos.


My self-imposed blog-exile was due to myriad reasons. There were responsibilities to fulfil, problems to tackle, mountains to climb. By the Grace of the Almighty, many of these responsibilities have been fulfilled, most problems have been tackled, and several mountains have been climbed. And all along the way, there have been learnings. Some bitter. Some sweet. All useful.

And as the long day draws to a close, the overwhelming feeling which lingers on is a sense of deep gratitude and lasting peace. We have fought the good fight. Some battles have been lost but the war has been won. The worthy have been identified and the unworthy have been discarded. We have made mistakes too, for we are but human. But we have fought and survived. And like the proverbial babbling brook, life hums along. Bringing with it new battles to fight, new challenges to face, new learnings to imbibe.

The journey of life is so interesting, isn't it? If I were to choose a synonym for "life", it would be "contradictions". There are ups and there are downs. One moment you feel as if you would be torn apart should event X happen; and then event X does happen, and you realize that far from being torn apart, you're more whole, more intact, than before. Episodes which hurt like crazy are forgotten, albeit slowly. Friends turn betrayers; strangers become friends. People you trusted more than your own life leave you hurt, and betrayed, and confused. Some who you were afraid would leave you, inexplicably do not; some who you were so sure would never leave you, do so without a moment's hesitation, without a backward glance.

Familiar story? Such episodes, and more, happen with so many of us. And slowly, we realize that in this whirligig we call life, all that has happened, and all that is happening, and all that will happen, has been, is, and will be, for the best.

And when this realization dawns, one also realizes that one cannot keep hiding forever. Life moves on, and drags us, willy-nilly, along. And that's how it should be. For there are miles to go before we sleep. There's a life to lead and a future to mould. And, as Time rumbles inexorably by, one slowly gets the courage to let go of the past. Let go. Start afresh. Risk playing once again the Game of Life. The subsequent feeling of relief is palpable and indescribably therapeutic.

So here's to new beginnings. To a new life. And to happier times ahead.


Several near and dear friends, many of who are themselves the proud architects of their own beautiful blogs, have been instrumental in the resurrection of this one. Thanks to them all. But one among them deserves special mention, if only for her phenomenal patience and outrageous perseverance which made her succeed where everyone else had long given up. My precious pal
Neelima. She's coaxed, cajoled, bullied and emotionally blackmailed moi into returning from a peaceful and secluded retirement back to the mad world of blogging. Tomorrow (Oct 8th) is her birthday. Here's wishing you a Very Happy Birthday Neels, and I do hope you like your birthday gift! :)

And talking of birthdays, this blog celebrated its first Bloggie Birthday (doesn't "Bloggiversary" sound a trifle corny?) on August 11, 2005. That's 25 days back. Belated birthday wishes to myself :)


The Suhail Kassim of September 2005 is a different person from the Suhail Kassim of September 2004. And this difference will be apparent on this blog. Henceforth:

  • He shall write only in his spare time and when he's in the mood. This will naturally translate to substantially fewer posts than in his previous avataar.
  • He shall write only what he feels like writing. Which, as of today, implies fewer stories and less light-hearted humour, and more socio-political analysis and psychological dissections. Yes, he's decided to jump onto the journalistic-cum-psychoanalytical blogging bandwagon! (Of course, there'll be the occasional autobiographical rant too. After all, a blog without autobiography and rant ain't a blog!)

At the back of the author's mind is the thought that, one fine day, he may suddenly feel like changing the URL to this blog. Should that happen, don't panic! Instead, check your email - if you're a friend, rest assured you'll be informed of the new URL. And if he's somehow overlooked you, email or message him, and unless you're an anonymous stalker / an unpleasant memory / wanted by the FBI for drug peddling, he'll ping you back.

Speaking of which, the author is amused to note that, although he had stopped blogging on this site for so many months, he has in the interim had as many as six blogs! (Anyone from The Guinness Book around?) Of these, two were private blogs which are now redundant. Two others are newbies. And the last two - this blog and the MAD Club - are in dire need of oxygen. Which shall duly be provided.

Ok folks, signing off for the nonce. Keep the spirits up. Sayonara!