The Decaan Herald reports a brewing legislative battle in Karnataka on the subject of home toilets. The 1993 Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act lays down that you cannot contest village panchayat elections (about eighty thousand will be elected all over the state and nominations have just been made) unless you have a loo at home. This is a progressive measure meant to ensure that those who propose to speak for the public have some sense of public health and sanitation. But Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly in Bangalore, Jagadish Shettar, has objected to implementation of the Act, for "the compulsory toilet rule would allow creamy sections alone to contest elections". So now I am having second thoughts. If the objective of the Act is to keep the impecunious from running for village office, then better that this rule be scrapped, and the nomination be open to one and all. In age-old fashion, there is always the maidaan.
From the mail column in Kuensel comes heartening news of the ascendance of Bhutanese music over Hindi and Nepali tunes. Chewang Rinzin from Quilon, Kerala, on a trip home recently, found that the public buses were playing local development music rather than imported cassettes. "Unlike previously when Hindi and Nepali music dominated every other sounds, there are now some sensible cassettes being played like the one from the video ´Music for Health´, whereby very significant health messages on sanitation and hygiene, dangers of drug abuse, protection against STDs, etc, are conveyed to the public, besides entertaining them throughout the journey." My only caution to Mr Rinzin would be that development messages, howsoever nicely prepared, have a very short life on the popularity charts, and hopefully the popular culture of Bhutan will produce enough modern music to counter the Hindi and Nepali imports.
Nadarajah Jeyakumar, a 38-year-old hunk living in England, steals "ladies underwear, meaning G-strings, thongs, swimwear, tights and camisoles", according to The Colombo Island. The police in Middlesex had been foxed by the lingerie snatching that had gone on for more than four years. So some "outraged women laid bait in the form of a washing line full of smalls and waited for the panty perv strike". An intrepid ex-police dog sniffed out Jeyakumar and a paratrooper boyfriend of one of Jeyakumar´s victims captured him. He was wearing a pair of panties and ladies swimsuit when caught, and he told police that the garments were supposed to ´support´ his hernia. In his house, officers found 15 sacks of underwear. We) there are much, much worse things you can do that snatch a few sacks of harmless underwear.
Ram Dayal Gandhi "not only looks like Gandhi but has also adopted his lifestyle" reports The Hindu Madras, presenting this silhouette photograph of aforementioned Ram Dayalji. A stick, shawl, a clean-shaven pate, and proa nent ears. Give me a setting sun, and will make you a Gandhiji too! Even Manisha Koirala could!
Occasionally, the voice of sanity and reason comes across in the mail columns. Take this letter in the 4 December issue of The Colombo Island. feel the undue attention paid to food is contrary to the underlying principles of Ramazan," writes Nihara Wahab in The Colombo Island, making a strong point| that this "obsession with food" during Ramazan ova burdens the women of the household. "I often feel the the world is cruel to women, and it is worse during the holy month," to the extent that women find it difficult even to concentrate on prayers, between making special foods for breaking fast, attending to children an elderly, and doing normal household chores. Additional ally, "I also find that Muslim and non-Muslim domes tic helps are over-worked during this period."
Steve case, of American Online (now AOL Time Warner), eat your heart out. Gilgit Online is here! As the advertisement by Comsats Internet Services states, "Now you can log on to the net in the mountain capital of Pakistan." There are some advantages to being a hill station with a reputation of can-do, for then people come to help you. The Gilgit weblink, for example, is a social sector project of Comsats in collaboration with the Special Communication Organisation of the Pakistani Government, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, and the International Development Re search Center (IDRC), Ottawa.
Still on the gender question, here is a subject which raises complex issue on what some would think is a simple black-and-white issue. A letter to The Nation in Karachi: "I belong to an orthodox family and my parents are very strict when it comes to observing purda. Acting upon the orders of higher officials, the Director of Colleges appointed a man as our botany teacher. When my father came to know of his appointment, he immediately ordered me to discontinue my studies. As I want to save my other sisters from the same fate, I request the Chief Secretary to appoint me a female lecturer in the Dera Ismail Khan College."
A reporter for The Independent of Dhaka is peeved that the question paper on General Knowledge set for the students of Class Seven of Khulna Public College in this years annual examination carried a question, "Give a brief sketch of killer Ershad Sikder." The reporter is surprised that the "teachers of the reputed education system think that school students need to know about the life sketch of terrorist Ershad Ali Sikder of the city who has been accused of killing some 24 persons." But of course they do, and it is the reporter who I think needs to go back to school, perhaps even join Class Seven of the Khulna Public College, Khulna.
At least there will (one hopes!) not be a bikini ramp section on this one. The Lion Ladies of Dist 306B planned a "The Charming Grand Mother of the Year" contest. I ask the Lions Club ladies to let us know how he event progressed so that I can present it before Himal readers. Did you go for memory retention? Did you count wrinkles? Number of offspring? What criteria, what results?
The astrological world is wild with delight that their predictions of "some kind of trauma involving aircraft at the dawn of the new millennium" came to pass with the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814. Mars apparently transiting Capricorn ruled by Saturn, which is why, whereas we all know that the Y2K bug´s presumed arrival was what had the astrologers predicting aircraft-related events. As astrologer Mr S.P. Pahwas said in the December issue of Astrology: Soul of All, "pilots and others have to be very careful". And so it was hijackers rather than the Y2K vector which came through for the jyotishis.
Wherever there is a concentration of rich Western expatriates or tourists, there is an attempt by the local vendors to keep the brown-skinned riffraff out in order to protect their custom. There are buses in Nepal, for example, which will not take locals even if they can pay the regular fare. And so one is not surprised to hear from The News that Tribal Arts, a warehouse that specialises in antique Pakistani furniture, was serving exclusively "dollar-wielding foreign diplomats and tourists". "We do not deal with Pakistani types," was the shocking statement of a salesman, who identified himself as Riaz. The gentleman, however, did have some points to make in his own defence, one of which was: "A lot of foreign ladies come here and Pakistani men follow them around." That, too, would be true. So, within nationalism and the proclivities of the aggressive South Asian male, what is the proper policy to follow?
This is not way for a self-respecting country and its media to go, and if the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf has been reading the papers, he will know this to be true. The way to get policy changes through is not lobby groups (see the accompanying ads, by the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, the Association of Builders and Developers, the Pakistan Can Manufacturer´s Association) to buy expensive advertising in the English press and make appeals to the good general. For example, ABAD complains that (sic) "taking undue advantage of ill-conceived, ill-planned and obsolete building by-laws and Zoning Regulations, an NGO has terrorized the socio-economic conditions of the city of Karachi." The sugar wallahs, meanwhile, complain of the high-handed attitude of banks imposing unnecessary and hostile conditions and say to the general, "We appeal to you to come to our rescue." One would have hoped that issues like these were subjects of debate in the press and electronic media, in collo quia and seminars, and as and when necessary dem onstrations and even hartals, why not? But not this whining adverts bought (obviously) by those who can.
Romila Thapar addresses invitees at the
Southasian relaunch of Himal Southasian,
IIC, New Delhi, January 2013.
Old Faces, New Precedents
On 11 May 2013, Pakistan went to the polls in a general election that will transfer power democratically for the first time in the nation's history. Nawaz Sharif has claimed victory for the Pakistan Muslim League-N.
From our archive:
Mehreen Zahra-Malik discusses novel means of holding corrupt officials to account in 'A coup by other means?' (July 2012)
Shamshad Ahmad on praetorian irony, Machiavelli's prince, and Pakistan's fight for constitutional primacy. (January 2008)
Zia Mian and A H Nayyar write about Pakistan's coup culture and Nawaz Sharif's 'absolutist sense of power.' (November 1999)