On The Move with Mishra Ji, Taxi Driver, Mumbai

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“Hum to Mishra hain. Hari Shankar Mishra. Zyada tar log hume Pandit Ji keh kar bulate hain. Kisi ne ek baar naam bula diya Driver Sahab, toh ho gye Driver Sahab. Ab sab Driver Sahab bulate hain”.

[I’m Mishra, Hari Shankar Mishra. Most of the people call me Pandit Ji. Once someone called me Driver Sahib, I became Driver Sahib for all. Now everyone calls me Driver Sahib]

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Hari Shankar Mishra, Taxi Driver, Mumbai (Photograph with permission)

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Being Fat.

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As I complete the 30th crunch of this evening workout in the balcony of my corner house in Mumbai, the last twist brings forth some old memories.

I remember the 9 year-old me lying on the bed, sucking my loose-pouched belly (though it never really went in), holding my breath and constantly feeling the denim’s stretch suffocating at the waist.

“A bit more,” mom would tell directing a firmer pull of my well-rounded stomach.

Short of air and stamina both, jaded and irritated of the pull and push, I’d take one final gasp and hope for the tummy muscles to tighten. Sensing the opportunity, mum would smartly yank the sides and somehow make the ends of my jeans meet- the button in the loop, zip dragged up and the only pair of pants done right.

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Our Inked Wounds

She says she wants to write a story on our loss.

I smirk.

She expects me to say something. I refuse to respond.

I take out a white wax strip from the new packet and check for the smoother side. I dip the silver knife in the hot golden wax tin and apply a smooth layer of hot wax on her naked right calf as she sits comfortably on her black leather couch.

While I sit on the floor, her right foot rests on my folded thighs; she clasps my shoulders and closes her eyes. I suggest her to hold her meaty leg instead.

She thinks I’m offended by her question.

I smirk.

Her deer eyes squeeze as I strongly pull the white turned golden strip towards myself. She wriggles at the pull of her hair.

Hairless. Loose. Soft.

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14 Years Lost In A Lie

Khan’s memoir, Framed As A Terrorist, reflects stories of Muslims caught in the web of farcical terrorist investigations

Avantika Seth
21 June 2016

There he was. Prime focus of the stage lights. Addressing a largely decent crowd, achingly answering to the questions posed by Sidharth Bhatia, Founding Editor, The Wire, as we all sat in another hollow wooden room of National Centre for the Performing Arts at Mumbai. His bated breath while recollecting the horror evidently choked something inside him and silently within us too.

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Sidharth Bhatia(L) in conversation with Mohammad Aamir Khan(R)

 

I was listening to the same story for the second time in over a year. While the narrator was constant, the setting had considerably improved. “My education has been so much different from you,” Khan had said while we were travelling in a local bus from Delhi to Muzaffarnagar, in the wee hours of cold February 2014. He’d also said about how he wanted more young journalists to cover situations like Muzaffarnagar Riots and how exuberant he was to accompany me on my way to interviewing victims of the riots.

While I observed that a lot of things had transformed in him since then, his smile had the similar tinge of fright and melancholy. Mohammad Aamir Khan was here to speak about his autobiographical account, Framed as a Terrorist: My 14-Year Struggle to Prove My Innocence, co-written with Nandita Haksar, released in February 2016 by Speaking Tiger. The book vividly talks about him being kidnapped by the police, accused of being a terrorist, planting bombs and being in league with dreaded Pakistan-based militants. He was tortured and framed in about nineteen bomb blast cases at the age of 21 in 1998.
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Will acquittals mark the tragic end of Muzaffarnagar riots, 2013?

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It has been over two years since the Indian media wrote expansively on the brutal riots in district Muzaffarnagar of Uttar Pradesh in September 2013. According to Harsh Mander, part of a fact-finding team who submitted a report entitled, Muzaffarnagar 2013:Violence by Political Design, officially, about 39 people had died in the riots out of which six were Hindus or more specifically Jats and the rest, Muslims and about 25,000 people were displaced, out of which all, except about 700, were Muslims. However, unofficial counts the number as 53 killed on the basis of autopsies done in hospitals around the district and puts the displaced number as 53,000. Among the main accused were BJP leaders, Hokum Singh, Suresh Rana, Sanjeev Baliyan, Virendra Singh, Umesh Malik and Sangeet Som. An FIR was also lodged against BSP leader, Kadir Rana, for making an inflammatory speech. The riots not only marked the growing hate between two communities namely, Hindu Jats and Muslims but also highlighted how the vicious circle of violence and brutality ultimately leads to mass rapes and sexual violence against women. Continue reading

 Charged with sedition?

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My father calls me up and asks what I’ll be writing today.

I say, “sedition it is”.

“You might get arrested,” he laughs.

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Source :Google Images

I smile.

Today, as I write this article I’m scared of the crime I might be committing. I’m not very sure if the reader is on the safe side too. When anything can be tagged as anti-national, I’m skeptical that this write-up might not even fit in the right framework of being respectful to apna bharat mahaan!

By the way, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty country oriented- I prefer not loitering around, I’m not very biased towards any religion, I stand upright as I hear the national anthem, I do this and I do a lot of that and the regular things that most of us do everyday in the name of the nation. However,I’m not much supportive of beef ban, haven’t judged Aamir Khan for his views on tolerance/intolerance, I precisely hate caste politics, mourn the recent tragic death of Rohit Vemula and sincerely feel sad for the current mayhem at the much worshipped Jawaharlal Nehru University’s campus.

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Out of 15, I was the only straight person

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The shriek of the wooden door and my heavy breath.
The sudden silence of the basement’s cool room and their questioning eyes.
Here I was, yet again, not on time. Within that minute of unexplained awkwardness, I doubted if I should put my right foot forward and get in the room or pull it back, shut the door and crib about my ill fate for getting a rickshaw that knew every place in Mumbai but this!

“Come on in,” I heard, not sure of who it was.
I smiled, closed the door and turned around, only to find a dozen eyes glaring at me.

Too embarrassed. Too apologetic.
I bit my lip and cursed silently.

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With her. Without her.

It’s been exactly one year.

I still look at her picture and wonder if she’s there with me. If she’s oiling my thin wavy hair with some hot coconut oil and telling me stories about how she agreed Daddy to be the perfect match for Maa. She would laugh when I questioned about her imperfect pair with my Grandpa. She’d say that she’d been lucky; however, I never thought so.

Granny was docile and soft. She could get blemishes on her ever-glowing skin if she stepped out of our huge hollow house in Chamba, a small town in the state of Himachal Pradesh. While she was warm and beautiful, I’d always seen Grandpa as short, dark and cold.

My afternoon would while away wondering how her life would’ve been if she too had found her Prince Charming. “He’s always been my Prince Charming,” she’d say referring to Grandpa with a slight pull of my hair.

I visited Chamba every December since school remained closed during the cold winters we had in Shimla. My elder brother and me would spend about next three months away from Maa, sharing the same long afternoons with Granny.

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This wasn’t home

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That phone call still reverberates in my ears.  Mom’s voice still seems to be fresh and clear. She was in a rush.  Somewhat in panic.
I chose to ignore.  Lying on my thin mattress, trying to break open its stitches by my right hand, I held the phone by my left.  I stayed in a paying guest accommodation at Greater Kailash at New Delhi back in September 2013.
“Everything fine?” I asked sensing a choke in her voice. “Come home,” she replied. My fingers stopped enjoying the little game of pulling those threads of the mattress. It was an unknown deep silence that we shared. I was too afraid to ask what had happened and she was too sad to tell it all.
My grandma was on her death bed. Or she had died. I wasn’t clearly told.

I had sensed something grave while mom and I had this little chat. But she denied it. She said it was all okay.
One one hand I thought grandma was no more, but I rejected its acceptance. It was tough to imagine a hail and hearty grandma so numb and cold. It was impossible to think how she looked dead. Continue reading