We have been losing on our traditional allies — the people of Palestine and the Middle East. In fact, each time they are hit by the Israeli forces with the direct or indirect backing of America, Government of India decides to keep shut. Even now, at this very crucial phase, GOI is not commenting — when news reports are indicating that Israel could ‘annex’ parts of the West Bank of Palestine!
In fact, with the Right-Wing government centre-stage in our country, the Indian government’s slant towards Israel and allies, is rather too apparent. This pro- Israel tilt has been more than obvious right from 2014, peaking in the summer/ July of 2017, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, equipped with a long shopping list, to buy or order the latest military equipment.
What a contrast to India’s stand under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision and policies vis-a-vis West Asia made the Arab countries and the Arab people our friends. He was clear and firm on his stand on the Middle East and Palestine, and with that made the Arabs and West Asians strong allies of India. Today only a faint trace of the connect with the people of the Middle East and Palestine remains.
I have attended Press Conferences of fiery Palestinian envoys to India and I have witnessed the emotions they generated amongst the Indian masses. I do also recall rather too vividly that warm hug that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave Indira Gandhi when she had hosted an elaborate reception in his honour at a frilly five star hotel in New Delhi. Indira Gandhi’s office had sent invites to even middle- rung Muslim families besides the usual list of the who’s who. Of course, those were the days when there were no security phobias. No hyped statements. That was phase of Government of India’s close bonding with Palestine and with the people of the Arab world.
Today it stands all too changed. It’s a pity we, the masses of our country, can’t even condemn Israel’s barbaric unleash on the hapless Palestinians who have been suffering extreme oppression and tyranny for decades that too in their own homeland!
Communal comments accelerating by the day!
With television anchors like Amish Devgan commenting in that communal way , un-sparing even the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti , its important to point out the significance of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Hundreds and thousands from all walks of life and backgrounds visit his Ajmer situated dargah, to seek blessings! Even hard core communal Hindutva characters too make it a point to visit his dargah.
I’m reminded of what Professor Kunwar Rifaqat Ali Khan, who taught history at the Jamia Millia Islamia, had detailed: Soon after the post- Babri Masjid destruction whilst riots were peaking in Mumbai, he had to travel by train, from Mumbai to New Delhi. And as he sat on the top most tier, he heard a co-passenger talk in that obnoxious communal way. Rifaqat had no choice but sit perched up there, all too quiet, and hear all that anti-Muslim tirade.
That person continued to spout venom with communal comments along the strain, ‘Muslims and Christians ought to be killed! They should be removed …finished. Weeding of Muslims and Christians necessary, only then this country will be okay…’ That fellow just wouldn’t stop his communal unleash till about the time the train reached the Ajmer railway station. And then all too suddenly announced to the passengers sitting around him, that he had decided to get off at that station, to pay his respects at the Ajmer situated dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti!”
Mind you, this is a dargah where there's never been any discrimination along religious or regional formats, so much so that several shops leading to the dargah are said to be owned and manned by Hindu refugee families.
My tribute to Uzma Saeed, actor Ali Fazal’s mother who happened to be our neighbour in Lucknow;
Actor Ali Fazal’s mother, Uzma Saeed, who passed away earlier last week in Lucknow was our neighbour. Taking you back to the Lucknow of the late 60s and early 70s, when we were residing in a government colony with a rather offbeat name to it — The Gulistan Colony. And its there, our families were residing in the same block of apartments. My father and her father were colleagues — engineers with the Uttar Pradesh government.
We were on the ground floor ‘flat’ and Uzma and her parents and siblings were on the flat upstairs. She was a couple of years younger to my younger sister Habiba but very friendly with her. I recall each time my sister would attend Uzma’s birthday parties she would return looking all too excited , telling us details of the exotic snacks served ...One of Uzma’s birthdays was celebrated in her maternal grandmother’s home and it carried the proverbial grace and grandeur of an Avadhi home. After all, her grandparents were from an aristocratic background, one of the best known families of Lucknow.
I recall Uzma and her brothers were always so very neatly attired. Malka auntie was one of those perfectionists who took care of each little detail to the running of the home, to what her children wore and ate...I recall that each evening as Uzma could come down to our home, she would detail what she had for lunch or tea or breakfast. And she would pronounce ‘qorma’ not the way we do but in the absolutely authentic way— with an additional ‘r’ to it — ‘qorrma’. And the very first time I had the Kashmiri ‘kehwah’ was at a milad function held at their home. This was in the late 60s or early 70s!
I lost touch with her and her family after I shifted from Lucknow but did get to know of her marriage. Her marriage did not work out and she shifted to haer parent’s house with her son Ali Fazal. By then her father had retired and they had shifted to their own private home, which is situated close to my parent’s home in Lucknow. Each time I visited Lucknow I was somewhat keen to meet her but then somehow couldn’t. I was told that she had become an introvert and didn’t really socialize. In fact, she was devoting all her time to looking after her parents, both in their 80s.
Uzma passed away rather early. She must be in her late 50s. She was bright and articulate and very expressive with her words and expressions. Even now whilst keying in I am thinking of the way she spoke, like an enthusiastic story teller she would tell us each little detail to everyday mundane matters. Emphasizing on the correct pronunciation and sequence.
Even now her beautiful face equipped with the pair of such expressive eyes holds out. In fact, there was one thing common to the entire Ahmed Saeed family— beautiful eyes with very, very long eye-lashes.
When I heard of her passing away all those tucked -in childhood memories came rushing back …I spoke to my sister and then we sat back feeling all too sad and upset. …We spoke of Uzma and her talents and her expressions. She was artistic and creative yet couldn’t pursue her talents. Perhaps, the pains and upheavals in her personal life came in way.