Thursday 24 September 2009

Volcanic Ambition

We all have 24 hours in a day.

Our default commitments probably take up anything between 6 and 22 hours of our day. Eating, sleeping, spending time with the family/friends, daily chores, earning a living and depending on who we are and what we do; many other tasks (mundane and otherwise) which require our personal and undivided attention.

Of course, most if not all of us have no idea when we are going to die.

So what of volcanic ambition?

In this age of ours, the interaction of politics, society and technology has opened up a world of opportunity for anyone who can juggle their time and resources efficiently.

What lies in store for those of us who have embarked on this modern phenomenon of becoming an all-in-one soap box?

Can the boldly written word, a picture that cries out, an impassioned audio clip or that video which seeks to minimise the disconnect between the seemingly all-powerful, unaccountable polity and it's seemingly powerless, irresponsible public inspire positive change?

In short, will conscientious blogging lead to the end of tyranny?

Sunday 20 September 2009

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : A quiet triumph for humanity

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : A quiet triumph for humanity

Shared via AddThis

I received a lot of powerful comments on this page when the article was initially published. Unfortunately, those comments were taken down when the article was archived. I am continuing to search for an original version of the page, so that I can reproduce the comments here:

Meanwhile, here are some additional comments that I received via email:


Hello Tanveer,

A professor in Delhi forwarded me your article in The Hindu. It is deeply touching. It's very good to know that your grandmother was able to reunite with her siblings, but it's at moments like these - as I wrote to the professor - that one feels inclined to consider partition not just a mistake but a crime against humanity. I hope your article has also been published in Pakistan. The link below is to a column I wrote recently for Dawn, but it refused to publish it, so I sent it to The Hindu.

Mahir Ali

A case of mistaken paternity?


Respected Sir,
I read your article describing the long awaited reunion of your Naani with her brother and sister. What caught my attention was your commitment to the cause and the perseverance you displayed in the four and half year process. Obviously the results were worthwhile even though for a brief time period.

Sayan Chatterjee


My dear Tanveer Ahmed,

I read with all the care your feelings demand in your article in respected The Hindu. First, I sincerely thank The Hindu for giving you the space to share with the readers what you have in your mind and heart. I am proud of being born in this great Nation.

I scanned and attached your piece. Even though emphasising infringes one's thoughts, I have emphasised what attracted my mind. I am sorry.

First, we the Hindus believe next incarnation of our Lord would be in the form of a Horse. We in Tamil say thoughts are like horses. It traverses time and space so fast you see. Presently, the medium invented by our Western brethren have helped us to communicate so effectively you see. So, in my mind our Lord has already incarnated?!

You are right when you say 'politics and politicians herd us like sheep into a protective 'national' net that restricts and exploits us rather than allow us utilise our strenghts'.

I always wondered about the partition and its aftermath. Our politicians in India claim it is got by Ahimsa, and, that too of Gandhi. But when I saw and see so much pain and carnage inflicted on the poor - I have reserved my view on that preachings. We have paid a heavy price by way of loss of lives and pain to those who are torn in that turmoil and live to suffer it. Quite painful you see.

I could see that pain in you as an youngster who chose to work to see your close people come together. And, your naani could at least enjoy her food; for once. I was pained to read those words.

I thought - with those thoughts, I would reflect a few for our benefit?

When Japan was rocked by earthquake at Kobe the respected TIME brought out an article. It started something like this. When rich was not willing to share any, poor was willing to share whatever little they had. That defines life as lived by humans - I believe. But, you see, the rich and poor is relative. Period.

I sincerely believe religion is for our private life. Yet, the politicians play tricks on us to deceive us. In this I include the religious people too who infringe in the political space for their exploits. Any way life is like that.

I submit to you all my thoughts on Indutva as I see.

I wondered why my Northern people are so focused on the Hindu-Muslim divide and conflict.

I submit the Acknowledgement I wrote in my struggle to restore my honour as I saw with Department of Space and Government of India. It gives a glimpse of me as a person. Finally I shared my thought about the harmony which is needed for us to survive. I always wondered - how come people in the Southern most part of peninsula have evolved to do so. I would like to give a glimpse of my thoughts. You see, this region is protected by sea on all the three sides. North is the only way through which thoughts could have come - before the advent of sea being opened. The religion and language Tamil and the wisdom professed by it has stood a great steed in protecting the people.

When Alexander came - even though he could defeat Porus - he might have been sacred by the courage of Porus as well as the people who could tame the elephants. When the Mohals came they could defeat the Rajputs as they have the culture of fighting the battle leading and thus died physically. So they could conquer the major portion at their zenith. Yet, the South was not affected by them. I give credit to the language and the values of those people who existed and exist in the South. When the British came, they mainly governed through subservient locals. As we learn the governance part is on different who ever is at the helm (?!) they could rule us so long. When the momentum gained, the British left. But, they have sowed the seed of religious poison between the Hindus and Muslims which was not there until then. This is my perception.

The political class thrives on that poison even now as it is convenient for them you see. Otherwise what can explain the persons who were born in present Pakistan and live in India and play an important role in its governance and your President Musharraf who was born in India chose to lead the Nations like this. Of course the ruling class have their own way you see - when they have people to fight their proxy war to their entertainment - if I am not wrong?

I request yours and all those to whom I mark this to read HARIJANS, my thoughts on Gandhi. May be time has come for the young to see beyond Gandhi and look to live their lives to their best as they deemed it fit. The incarnation of Lord as Horse is doing a good stead for the poor.

I sincerely believe the goodness of the common man would see him/her through. As our Mumbai people live their lives, as the media says. I mean the common man. He is not worried about the material loss. And, even the lives lost. It is the living who should live their lives to their best you see.

I am glad you could give some moments to your elders and The Hindu shared it with the readers - to inspire the pained souls?

My best wishes to you and to all those in Pakistan and humanity in general.

Yours sincerely,
A. Rajakumar


Dear Tanveer,
I read your article in The Hindu dated 19th September 2009. It was so nice to know about your Naani's reunion with her siblings and the commendable support extended by your grandfather in the whole process. Hope everybody gets blessed with a grand daughter like you.
In your aforesaid article you mentioned your Naani's name as Leelo Begum and her siblings' as Lekh Raaj and Kamala Devi. Was there an intercaste marriage in your family? I am just being inquisitive. Hope that doesn't sound too intrusive.
I will be eagerly waiting for your reply.

Akshat Dwivedi

My response to Akshat:

Apologies for the awfully late response. I am the maternal grand-son of Leelo Devi. It was a forced inter-caste marriage if you like. It happened in the backdrop of a supposed war of liberation when my Naani was displaced from the rest of her family and found by my grandfather who took her as a bounty of war.


Tanveer Ahmed


Dear Tanveer Sahib,
I was so touched by your piece in Hindu today that forwarded it to hundreds of friends in groupmail and posted on twitter/facebook. Forwarding my piece on Pakistan for your perusal.

Chaman Lal

When he forwarded the article, he introduced it with the following insightful words... 

Perhaps such pieces make no impact on political class and military bosses of three countries-India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh. But for people, these are most touching human accounts of reality. When the rulers of three countries will make borders irrelevant, as they proclaim many times for public consumption?


I am from mumbai and am glad to read ur article.

U r first person to interact from ur part of kashmir.

V in india want to hear more wat u people say, do and think.

Kindly express ur opinions freely in other indian news papers even if u do not have favorable opinion of us. Ultimately u r still our people even if u don't consider it a fact.

Thanks and regards



Mr.Tanveer Ahmed

I am very happy to read your article in the Hindu today. You have succeeded in this mission because of your position in the society and personal dedication.

Hundreds of such similar cases where relatives have died and could not meet their kith & kin due to partition. Actually there are more Hindu & Sikh women who were taken to Islam religion.

I have been pleading in the Parliament that Pakistan & India government should allow all those people who were born before 1947 to go & visit their village or city and they should get some special permit for the visit. This would help the dying generation to fulfill their wish of visiting their birth place before death. No. of such persons is not much & is dwindling very fast. If this happens people may also find their separated relatives.

I admire your feelings and bold statement expressed in this article. I am thankful to the Hindu for this good coverage which will at least open the deaf ears of the government.

Eid Mubarik & may Allah bless you.

Tarlochan Singh

Member of Parliament

My response to the honourable Member of Parliament:

First of all, my deepest apologies for the late response. My life isn't as organised as I wish it to be. There are many limitations that I am confronted with on a daily basis. It's soothing and flattering words from readers like yourself that keep me motivated. 

Yes, taking initiatives for those old people is an absolute must. I would be willing to participate in any initiative that enables Hindus and Sikhs to come to Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In fact, I wish for them to come and re-build a Mandir/Gurdwara or two. 

Anything to give us a glimpse of our united past...I wish you all the best.



This is Suresh from Andhra Pradesh. The impact of partition is almost absent in this part of sub continent. But every time I read about the partition of India and subsequent riots and dismemberment of families like your nannies make me feel lucky as we escaped it as matter of luck and geography.

The way your presenting your essays is an eye opener for other journalists working on both sides. I would like to be part of your activism. Right now I am preparing for Indian Civil Service Exam (to become a diplomat). 

I wish I can meet you once in my lifetime. 

Suresh Nandigam


Thanks to you - Tanvir Ahmed for this writeup.

If only the Paharis and other peripheral eco-communities as those along the riverbeds ; sea'  forests or ilanders... whose eco-sphere is a natural habitat are given that degree of autonomy as required or valid.... and then the rurual areas also given a degree-less though of eco-socio-political self-management.... the the Nation can really thrive both as a civilization and an International Entity.

Aa a social anthropologist with a first hand familiarity with a hill tribe and its way of life I have also experienced that 'Oneness' which is virtually a spiritual and a cosmic one not needeing any human rights commission or a humanitarian assistance from the Outside.

Hope and Pray .. We the current humanity will work towards such a good precedent -- the miriad dividing forces nothwithstanding.



Dear Brother,

We are thousands of miles apart, but our goals are same. We want peace and prosperity in the land we are born. Our intentions are noble, hence the universe will conspire to help us. We may not succeed in our lifetime but 'time' will exist to witness our goal's realization.

I have posted my comment in Hindu webpage and your blog.

I understand your preoccupations.

Hum Honge Kamyab ek din.
I request you to address me as your Brother.
Thank you brother,
Satyameva Jayathe,

Yours sincerely,
Murugan @ Mourugaram.S.V,


Dear Tanveer,


I read this poignant article in The Hindu sometimes ago.  Well done.

There would be several such stories which will remain unnoticed. With the passage of time chances of these coming to the knowledge of the communities on either side of the border will get slimmer and slimmer since the real actors/witnesses now in their twilight years, becoming feeble by the day.

May be somebody or even you can start the process of inviting such real stories and compile a book for the next generation. Who knows this might become a powerful tool in bringing the politically alienated but culturally intertwined communities together.

With best regards

D.S. Pathania


Dear Tanveer, 
I very much enjoyed reading your article "A quiet truimph of humanity".  For years, I have been struggling to explain what politicians and countries really do and how it affects the common man.  I have not been able to express myself to my friends clearily.  Your article does that for me.
I like your idea of uniting two countries, it is a simple but very powerful idea.  Imagine the financial loss to our corrupt politicians from the collective defence budgets and not to mention so called developed countries that sell us all this equipment to keep the two countries seperate.  
Thank you.
Rajnish Radhakrishnan


Dearest Writer,

I read with great interest your story of re-uniting your family!

It must have been a wonderment to behold!

How truly lucky you and your family are to have had such a special time!
Although our world is torn asunder by higher powers with personal interests, the human spirit remains. 
Your experience is a testament to that!
Best wishes to you and yours! And, thank you for sharing your story!
TJ Britt - AmeriKa, The Formerly Free Republic


Dear Tanveer,
Thank you for sending this very poignant article. It brought tears to my eyes. My father came from what is today Bangladesh, when he migrated (wholesale with his family from there) it was East Pakistan.
So partition has a special meaning for me, for 'home' always remained for my dad that place across the Padma.



finally you did it!!!!

Dear Tanveer,

First of all, many-many congrats for your long aspired family rejuvenation (A quiet triumph for humanity, The Hindu,Sept.18th, 2009) !!!!

I remember your last article in The Hindu (I suppose some 7-8 months back) in which you talked the touching tale of your family history pened by partition and  the pain of the displaced siblings, relatives on the other side of the border. It really moved me for considerable in such a way that just reading the first few lines, I could easily correlate to the earlier one.

Indo-Pak partition, in its cause, has really been a matter of great interest and curiousity both in the academic circles as well as for the people in general. There is plethora of works done available on this subject.But to search for the impact of partition, we could find the only in the contemporary literature where we get to imagine the enormous stir caused by the event at every level of the then society. The impact had complex multiplicity and temporal effects of the fact in question.

The socio-politico-cultural diversity and the unique dynamism of social life across the region gave differential character to the impact of partition. What the partition meant to a Kashmiri was and is specifically different from that to a Sindhi or say, between a Punjabi and Gujrati, between a Bihar and Bengali etc. With the change of perspective and time, the impact changes. So, to an Indian from the province of U.P. may make only an occasional political or nationalist stand of Partition while in the snowfull terrains of the peaks, a Kashmiri (like your family) and in the fertile lands of Punjab, a Punjabi live with the persistent pain inflicted by it.

Moreover, the worst to the people affected, I think, came less from the event (of partition) than the fragile course of events succeeding partition. The political forces on the both sides of fences couldn't lay rest their mutual misunderstanding further aggravating the social fracture. The leadership easily devolved to the mass hysteria of chauvinism and misunderstood nationalism. The religious divides among community and sects furthered the notion.

In all this, I firmly believe, the poorest affected are those whose lives have been touched in day to day pratical affairs by the partition.

I hope the begining which started with you and your naani would not end as exceptions and the political leadership of the two sides would keep mutual conflicts away from the imperative humanitarian concerns. The borders of nationalism must not be drawn with the blood of the happyness and brotherhood for which they are actually meant. I doubt either the 'Qaid-e-Azam' or the 'Father of the Nation' could ever think of it, leave doing so.


Kunal Thakur

My response to Kunal who was a 3rd Year LLB Student in Delhi:

First off, I must apologise for the awfully late response. I thank you for your words and analysis which proves that we still feel the hurt of partition even though we were born many a year later.


Tanveer Ahmed 


Dear Tanveer Ahmed

First let me wish you a heartfelt Eid Mubarak!  

Your article ‘A Quiet Triumph for Humanity’ is so appropriate for this occasion and for this time of various festivals. I read it with tears of joy and sorrow. (You see I was born in Peshawer and my family and I lived in Arjun Nagar in Rawalpindi for a while just before Partition. I have distinct memories of my childhood in those newly built colonies between the Nala and Lei River!). 

I’d like to convey to you my admiration and gratitude for your efforts and for your expression to rebuild the bonds of unity on the subcontinent and for humanity at large.

With very best wishes


Kishore Saint 


With kind sharing of the article by Kishore Saint to the family mentioned below, I am hereby - in turn - able to share a moving exchange of letters between them as they reminisce over life in Rawalpindi before 1947:

Letter 1

Dear Family:

My brother, Chand Kishore Saint has forwarded this heart rendering story of a family reunion across the borders of a partitioned country in India and Pakistan. I am forwarding the article as well as attaching a picture of my brother and I, along with our father, taken in 1946, in Rawal Pindi from where the author, Tanveer Ahmed penned the article. We lived in Arjun Nagar with our Nani whom we called 'Beji'. I thought you'd find it insightful, since this year there is a convergence of Hindu Navratri with Muslim Eid and Jewish Rosh Hoshana . Enjoy.

Prem (Dad, Chacha, Nanaji)

Letter 2

Dear Prem, Tarun, Amita, Roopen

Today is conjunction of Eid and Navratri and I thought I'd share with you all this moving account of reunion across decades of division and distress, with the hope that future makes such occasions possible for all of us without all the hassle. During  the 'forties, Prem and I as children lived for a short while in Arjun Nagar, the locality in Rawalpindi mentioned in the article.  These were newly built modern colonies for the newly prosperous Hindu middle class.  I have quite vivid memories of those days before any inkling of partition emerged on the scene.  It was towards or after the end of World War II.  I distinctly remember Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's visit when he addressed a massive gatheirng.

With lots of love

Chand and Sudesh


I read your article in THE HINDU. I loved it. It was wonderful.

Well, my English is not that good but, still, your article demanded appreciation.

Yours sincerely,



Dear Mr.Tanveer Ahmed
I have read your article " A Quiet Triumph for Humanity " published in The Hindu dt.19.09.2009 and was quite moved by the content.

Tears rolled down my eyes while reading the last paras of the article - the description was so simple and revealing.

You may wonder why a gentleman from South India (I stay in Tirunelveli Tamil Nadu) is moved by your article.

There lies a tale. I did my 5 yr. Chemical  Engineering from Regional Engineering College, Srinagar J & K and passed out in 1972 - the year of your birth.

I have some classmates from Poonch and other Pahari areas and I am quite conversant with the topography anf other peculiar Geo Political issues of the Pahari area.

Of course I have not visited there again do not have personal touch with the latest developments.

The students (close to 400 no. belonging to all batches - from 1966 passout to 2008 passout) of REC Srinagar have a Forum - REC Srinagar Yahoo Groups - through which we keep in touch with each other.

If you can send the soft form of the article, I can mail to REC group, whose members have settled in every continent and they will really appreciate the content of the article.

I am attaching the satellite image of Indus basin. if one observes the ( artificial ) LOC passing through the Pahari area we can clearly understand their turmoil.

It is also an irony, south asian subcontinent was being called India or Hindustan by the British due to the presence of Indus flowing through it.

With Indus (Hind) river going out after partition - the place where it is flowing became Pakistan and rest of sub continent is still being called Hindustan.


B.Chalapathi Rao


As she finally began to enjoy food - key for the attached article - regarding

My dear Guddi and dear children,
I tell guddi every day when I wake her up over phone at 6.00 a.m. I ask her to enjoy her breakfast. You see having taste for food is most important in life.
When I was undergoing Management Development Programme in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre a psychiatrist Dr Ooman asked us to go and enjoy our lunch without our mind wandering. It was a good lesson for me. As he was telling; most of the times we do not enjoy the process of eating - thinking about what works in our mind?
The article I attach was shared by me with all those who matter - earlier. Today being the day of Id Mubarak our All India Radio in Tamil was narrating about the fasting month. One story told was - if a person was not able to fast what is the remedy? This question was posed to Mohammad. He told - give food to a poor person. Then my mind thought - if only all those who feast after sun sets did not fast?! Poor would get some food to eat?
Anyway, I take this opportunity to wish Mr Tanweer Ahmad Id Mubarak and to all those close to him and those who follow Islam. The people to whom I have marked this mail are my children Tanweer. I hope they too would gain some insight from your feelings shared.
I am honoured to send this to you all - my dear children.
A. Rajakumar,


Hi Tanveer,

Your article printed in the Hindu on 09/19 was very moving. Stories like these are what can bring the peoples of Pakistan and India closer together. 

From my limited knowledge of history, the only way the british controlled much of India was by the divide and rule policy. If I had any animosity it would probably be directed more towards the british for developing such hatred, than to the people it has now bred into. I believe the british were scared, when the prospect of freedom seemed so close, I might be wrong. From the logic that if the british were ever planning a way of slowing the growth and development of peoples they feared, what better way have they learnt from history than to keep them divided, which was the only way the east india company got a foot hold on our motherland and which is now a major thorn in the development of both countries. 

Recently I had a discussion with a couple of patriots and citizens, regarding the 26/11 atrocity, my sole point was that the act was commited by fanatical elements using distraught elements through propoganda and brainwashing to commit mindless acts of violence. Sadly the counter just generalized these few fanatical elements into a much bigger category which included all peoples of a country as well. The ingorance of such a generalization causes hatred directed at so many people that in the end it just doesn't make sense. 

I hope to see a calmer world for the coming generations.


your neighbour,
Preetham Melanta


You fight a good fight my friend. Support is bound to come your way.  


Read your article in Hindu. Its a very good piece. Hope it gives some sense to our govts.

Shabnam Hashmi


Dear Mr Tanveer Ahmed,

Living in Bangalore, India and born almost 2 decades after the British left, the realities of the Pakistan-India divide is almost a far away truth. 

Your article on your Naani's reunion with her brother and sister evoked not merely sympathy but a rushing tide of emotion for the many many families who have been affected by the divide of the Indian subcontinent. Alas, as in a war soldiers are affected so also in a divide of this nature families are fragmented. 

I admire you for your persistence in affecting the reunion, and I agree whole heartedly with you on your view that we must evaluate history in a balanced manner and explore opportunity in a globalised world to permit us to embrace our diversity, and not to constrict the same.

Rosita Sequeira



i have read your wonderful article in THE HINDU.  There are other PAHAREES too, like the ones in the high reaches of HIMACHAL PRADESH.  Please dont ignore us. OUR IDEAS OF SOUTH ASIAN emotional unity is worth $ 100 million and more.  

May I be allowed to communicate regularly with you?  



Hello Mr Sahaafi,

I read your article in The Hindu  date :- 19th Sep 2009.

It's really a  treat to read. Please  accept my heartiest congratulation for your hard work which paid off after 22 years.



Kashmir Iron Curtain

Mr Tanveer Ahmed, 

I read your story in The Hindu today. I admire your persistence and sacrifice you made to enable your grandmother to meet her siblings across the LOC after 62 years.

Your dream of reunion of the subcontinent will remain a dream in my opinion. Moreover, I am not for reunion of India and Pakistan; much has happened in the last 62 yrs apart from centuries of prejudice and different narratives of history for it to work.

All that we can hope for is easing of anguish as that of your grandmother by allowing free movement of people, along with trade and commerce. Remember that the problem of Northern Ireland took 80 yrs for even semblance of a solution inspite of the fact that there wrere no restrictions on the movement of people or goods between the two parts of Ireland and between Great Britain and Irish Republic. 

Without it there is no hope of friendship between India and Pakistan and therefore for an easier life for Kashmiris sandwiched between them. India should take the initiative and declare unilaterally that Pakistanis don't need a Visa to travel to India including Kashmir.. The bogey of free rein to terrorists will be raised in India but do terrorists need Visas to indulge in their madness?

It is only when people, art and entertainment, goods and services move across the border without restrictions that there is a chance of normal relationship between the two nations.
Once again hats off to you!



I remember to have read your earlier article on the same subject published a few months ago. We are happy for your family and for your Naani for meeting up with her siblings.

As for status quo ante prevalent in 1947, we think it is a bad dream, and highly romanticised nostalgia is no substitute for the hard realities of life. Many would side with Arundhathi Roy's suggestion that parts of Kashmir where the Muslims want Azadi or join their brethern from Pakistan should be seriously considered as an option.

There seems to be an unbridgeable yawning gap in the value systems of the Muslim world and the rest of the 'civilized' world. Many want to be left alone this side of the Radcliffe Line and the LOC and don't want to court avoidable trouble.
VRN Prasad

My response to Prasad Sahaab:

Yes, re-union has practical boundaries to overcome but if we recall that India was number 2 in the world (economically) before the British came and if we consider that the Indian and Pakistani public cannot withstand unfriendly posturing between the two countries indefinitely, there is much room for optimism.

...I wish you all the best.

Daily Diary (DD) - Day 169 of 2024

1330hrs: Brought myself down to a 0600hrs start. Eid prayer was at 0700hrs and the masjid is barely 100 feet from my home. ....