… New Red Indian is back.
I just finished reading this lovely review of Wajeda Tabassum (whom I confess to never having heard of) and thought it worth sharing:
Wajeda Tabassum, the noted Urdu short-story writer and novelist, has died. She was born in Amravati in 1935 and died in Mumbai on December 7, 2010. She was the third in the trinity of Ismat Chughtai and Qurratulain Hyder that represented modern Urdu women’s writing. While Hyder and, to a lesser extent, Chughtai have been accommodated in the mainstream (i.e. male) Urdu canon, Tabassum’s stories are ghettoised by their common theme of feudal Hyderabadi society and its sexual tensions. Most of her story collections are out of print and she has not been taken up by the English-language women’s presses in India for translation unlike her two senior contemporaries. In 1960, she married her cousin Ashfaq, against her family’s wishes and they fled to Mumbai where she lived till the end. Brought up in Hyderabad, she did her MA in Urdu from Osmania University.
I asked Shatir if he was true to his pen-name? Does his poetry address power? It was a slightly impertinent question but Shatir was patient with me and recited these lines of his to explain where he stood: Abhi zindaa hoon main, dekho meri pehchaan baaqi hai / Badan zakhmi hai lekin abhi mujhmein jaan baaqi hai / Tum apni hasraton ko zaalimo marne nahin dena / Shahadat ka mere dil mein abhi armaan baaqi hai (I am still alive, the person I was is left in me / This body is wounded but there is still life left in me / You, my killers, don’t let your ambitions die / The desire for martyrdom is still left in me.)
(I wonder if this is intentional, but the last line in Urdu reminds me of “sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil me hain” which really does do an interesting number on nationalism).
Chhattisgarh has witnessed massive state excesses because of its abundance of natural resources which predatory capital wants to appropriate. To ensure this, the government must crush the Maoists and obliterate the distinctions between hardcore Maoists, their sympathisers, parliamentary Communists, Gandhians, civil liberties activists, progressive intellectuals, and even health workers. It muzzles people like Sen to demonstrate that it’s willing to be unreasonably brutal. This is the stuff of which Banana Republics are made.
The Communist Party of India alone has clearly condemned Sen’s conviction. The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party Marxist have refused to do so – the BJP out of its machismo and suspicion of civil liberties, and the CPM, even more short-sightedly, because of its “Naxal problem” in West Bengal. The Congress says dismissing the verdict would amount to admitting that India is a Banana Republic. But that inverts all logic.