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February 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       February 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:January' 2018


Let sense prevail !

Humra Quraishi

The year started on a rather confused note! On one hand, the latest election results brought about relief cum hope of better days overtaking the gloom around, but, then one cannot expect overnight changes. After all, not just human beings sit affected but entire institutions. See the manner in which the very running of institutions has got affected and dented. And surviving in the midst of a tense and taut atmosphere, one doesn’t have to quote any of the who’s who on the mounting levels of anxiety and apprehensions.

These are dark days, where goon brigades have been let loose, unleashed in our midst. Mind you, these goons manage to go about scot free. Nah, the government’s police machinery cannot arrest them; apparently they do not have the political sanction to do so. Today one sees tainted men ruling and overruling, even after being accused in State conducted murders done under the bogus set of alibis. Quite obviously these ‘developments’ are un-nerving, nudging one to query and cry out .But then even that isn’t allowed! One could be threatened to be hounded out ... Sit of the ordinary, when even the likes of Naseeruddin Shahs and Aamir Khans are not spared. After all, not very long back, India’s best known artist, MF Hussain, was forced to actually shift base. From Mumbai he went to Qatar! He was left with little option, as goon brigades targeted him and his masterpieces.
Lets start the new year with that required grit and determination to see that sense and sensitivity prevail. Also, that basic freedom to cry out in anguish and to forewarn is not snatched away from us.

A tremendous personality

Mushirul Hasan I’d been meeting and interacting with Professor Mushirul Hasan for years. But realized the very extent of his writings and the very range of his focus and diversity when about nine years back the Oxford University Press (OUP) hosted a reception at New Delhi’s India International Centre to "celebrate two decades of publishing with acclaimed historian Mushirul Hasan". In fact, OUP has published several of his books. If I’m not mistaken it was somewhere around that time that Mushirul Hasan’s these particular books had hit the stands : Between Modernity And Nationalism – Halide Edip’s Encounter with Gandhi’s India, and also Exploring The West — Three Travel Narratives.
Not to overlook the other volumes authored and co-authored and translated and introduced by him; bringing into focus some of those tucked-away voices and writings from the regional sectors. In fact, though there are several such books, one of them that stands out is - Journey To the Holy Land — A Pilgrim’s Diary by Amir Ahmad Alawi (OUP), which has been introduced and translated by him along with RakhshandaJalil. Needless to say, this ‘pilgrim’s diary’, originally written in 1929, would have remained tucked in some obscure quarter if Hasan hadn’t brought it to the fore and with that various aspects and details related to the holy pilgrimage of the Muslims — The Haj.

Hasan wrote extensively — on India’s Partition, the country’s historical turns, contemporary history, the various aspects to the social fabric of the Muslim community, the legendary historical personalities, The Nehru era, the Islamic traditions, Muslim intellectuals in 19th-century Delhi, the historical-cum-social settings of Avadh …In fact, whatever be the focus, whatever be the theme, his style remained unchanging; that tremendous flow to his writings, bringing along that crucial factor of connectivity.

Those who have interacted with him would know that even his conversation was laced with subtle relays of facts and happenings and more along the strain. In fact, even before one had read his volume on Turkey’s legendary woman figure Halide Edip (1884-1964), one was aware of her! For, during an informal conversation, Hasan spoke about her extraordinary life and the times she’d lived in; narrating many of those aspects to this great reformist’s career and the challenges she’d faced. And again, not narrating all this in the form of some long-winding lecture but as part of a series of conversations.

And though I hail from the Avadhi belt of Uttar Pradesh, I gathered those lesser known details to the historical turns in that belt only and only after reading his numerous volumes on that region. One of his volumes -The Avadhi Punch —Wit and Humour in Colonial North India (Niyogi Books)details some of the lesser known facts to those dark Raj days. To quote - "Such was the popularity of the Avadh Punch that, by the end of the 19th century, 70 Punch papers /magazines had appeared from more than a dozen cities across the nation. Each one of them reflected mainly on the British rule from the experiences of over 300-million Indians with a long and proud past, but who were subjugated by force of arms and by commercial and diplomatic duplicity. Equally lampooned were those who abandoned their own inherited cultural and intellectual legacies in preference of western models Wit and humour as pacifist tools of devastation constituted an apt response to the situation"…

The strongest aspect to Mushirul Hasan was his personality…The years I was a Visiting Professor at the JamiaMilliaIslamia I could see the changes that he, as Vice Chancellor of that university, had brought about on the campus. He had transformed the university into a truly academic institution…opening its long -closed gates for scholars, researchers and academics from the Indian and foreign universities. There was life on the campus, with seminars and discussions and debates taking off. He’d changed the very approach and pattern to academic life…And for time to come he would be remembered through his works, his research findings and, of course, through his books.
We have lost a brilliant academic with such a tremendous personality.

Punch time !

Last month, after a longish gap I felt I was actually attending a literary event! It was celebration time for the Punch magazine as it completed two years and its publisher –editor, Shireen Quadri, decided to host the celebration party at the freshly renovated Kwality restaurant in Connaught Place… Writers, publishers, critics, authors were present and thankfully there were no speeches or any of those elaborate lectures. A nice relaxed evening, where one could either talk or just about listen!

In fact, each time I meet Shireen Quadri I simply marvel her courage to quit a secure career to start off this digital magazine exclusively for the arts and literature and music. She has her reasons - “In the last couple of years, the number of literature, arts, food, travel, dance, music, theatre and film festivals have mushroomed. From September to March, almost every weekend has some festival or event. But when it comes to the coverage of arts and literature in the mainstream media, there’s hardly anything raring to be different. There's no single platform that chronicles the global profusion in arts and literature, which serves as onestop destination for everything exciting about arts around the globe.”

Quite obviously it couldn’t have been easy; not to be overlooked the fact that Shireen is in her early 30s, has a family to take care of, and the fact that she’s doing something so very refreshingly different! How tough and rough its been for her to start and sustain a magazine of this calibre and reach?

“To work tirelessly without any money is not easy, especially when one doesn't belong to the city. I love challenges and I believe in hard work. But what has been really tough is the general attitude that only the mainstream media matters. The literature, arts and culture sectors should ideally nurture such platforms… I'm often asked: 'what is your business model? Have you started making money?' I understand that it's difficult to believe that at this stage of my career when I should essentially be focusing on making money, I am spending my limited savings, time and energy on a project that does not guarantee financial rewards. But it's also true that The Punch Magazine is not a business prospect. I would like people to see it as an altruistic arts and culture project.”

I’m certain, her determination will take her further…After all, she has had the grit to move on in life.