Signs of the Times!

By Humra  Quraishi

I have fond memories of Qatar. Nah, not that I ever travelled to that  Gulf State but in the  mid -80s its envoy to India , Dr  Hassan  Al Nimah , hosted a series of sittings at his Tees January Marg situated home here in New Delhi .It wasn’t  any of those  ordinary  bungalows but deer,  rabbits, peacocks , cattle and  birds were to be  spotted  in its sprawling exteriors. And at one end, under a tent, one heard classical strains from our leading singers. It’s here that I’d first heard the Dagar brothers rendering dhrupad …In fact, Dr. Hassan’s home was the very centre for cultural take offs. Though cultural meets also took place in the residences of the envoys of Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Palestine, Jordon but not of that level and were more or less confined to select few. Then, of course, with the entire scenario changing in the Middle East, these meets dwindled. As though closing of a glorious era and start of harsh times…

I’m offloading these details in the backdrop of the latest news coming in of the very boycott of Qatar by its neighbouring Arab countries. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, United Arab Emirates severing ties with Qatar…Though there’s much speculation about the very timing of this boycott, as it comes soon after US President Trump’s  visit to Saudi Arabia. But  Trump isn’t a courier  guy; no , he  needn’t have flown all that  way to relay the  ‘boycott Qatar’ dictate .This latest  strategy is part of the expansionist plans of America. Another of those ways to divide the already divided Arab world. Wreck the very economy and with that ruin yet another Arab country. In fact, millions will get affected. Not just in Qatar and in the Arab world but this boycott is bound to carry severe offshoots for us, living in this subcontinent. A series of dents on trade and traders, on workers and professionals based in Qatar.

In fact, till date Qatar was one of those Arab countries which seemed ‘untouched’  by American  forces and there prevailed a certainty of sorts that it would remain so , after all, it  had offered base and an air -strip  for American Air Force planes stationed in the Middle East. Now, of course, Trump is trumpeting his might. In all probability Qatar’s oil wealth or its proximity to Iran or else its peaceful interiors proved to be too much for Trump to tolerate. Hence, this fresh round of American onslaught in the Arab world. This time not direct; no bombing and killing of the civilians, but along more discreet patterns, via Saudi Arabia which is an ally of America.

Needless to add the severity of this crisis will have a direct effect on the hundreds of Indian businessmen, professionals and students based in Qatar. If and when they get back home, rather are forced by circumstances to get packing, a  different  set of  dark realities will hit them  – blatant killings  of unarmed farmers by the police, political  mafia  hanging children and lynching adults, communal politics intruding into educational  institutions, murderers sitting smug  whilst  hundreds  of  innocents thrown into hell holes,  four –legged animals getting  preference over the  two –legged humans. The decay of this land by the ruling mafia will jolt, if not frighten the home – comers!



Come June 20th, celebrated writer Ruskin Bond’s autobiography gets launched in New Delhi in a frilly five – star hotel. Titled ‘Lone Fox Dancing’ (Speaking Tiger) it carries all there is to  our  Bond sahib!

Well , I have  had the privilege of  interviewing him  on previous occasions and  so sooner  my  first interview with him progressed I’d  queried ,’Are you a  Taurus?’ 

And along with the faint smile and nod he’d mumbled, ‘Yes, I’m …but how did you know?

‘Well, I’m also a Taurus and know Taurus characteristics too well …the way they talk and their expressions bare all! You talk in that absolutely forthright way and then that ongoing focus in your life … you been writing along that unmoving, stubborn streak.’

‘Yes, I have been very focused on my writings….its kept me going.’

 Those were what I would term ‘relaxed’ interviews, for he spoke from his heart and spoke out. To my query – why he is single; no girlfriend or wife or lover? He’d said, ‘Not been fortunate to have found a close friend so have remained single. Each time I’d looked up the astrological predictions for the week or month  which said ‘love coming soon’ I sat hopeful, looking  out of the  window, awaiting for love to happen  but  no love arrived ! So single I sit!’


With last week’s arrest of the prime suspect , Indra Bishnoi , in the  sensational  Bhanwari Devi murder that shook Rajasthan , I sat  reading, rather  – re-reading celebrated Bollywood film maker Vinod Pande’s novel Saanvri – The  Story of a Concubine  ( Niyogi Books ) .There are strong  traces of  Bhanwari  Devi in the  prime  character of this  novel.

In fact, I had to ask Pande whether that murder was the underlying factor for his novel to take off. And this is what he had to tell me , ‘Yes, to a certain extent. I consider the use of the term ‘haunting’ in describing Saanvri’s transformation, as a big endorsement of the element of realism that the author aspired to bring forth, in presenting her journey full of pain and humiliation before emerging as a formidable force .The story had already been written by me in the form of a full script for a film that I intended to make. But as I did not succeed in raising the finances, hence chose even a more fulfilling option of expressing on paper, where the issues of length, costs and wherewithal were not to be the obstacles…And do characters like Saanvri survive in the web of hypocrisy? Some do, and some don’t and get crushed and spilled out. And then, there are some who become part of the system; the hypocritical, self-righteous and incestuous system of deceit and lies, prying on more victims.’