“My only durable identity is my humanity”

CG Mishra-pic Farhat Sadaqa

Akhilesh Mishra: humanity and poetry. Photos: Farhat Sadaqa

In Toronto for a family wedding, I was invited to speak at a South Asian event on Monday. Here’s the short piece I wrote about it, focusing on the speech by the Indian Consul General Akhilesh Mishra. Published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News, September 3, 2014.

Speaking at an informal discussion organised by the South Asian Peoples Forum in the Toronto area in Canada on Monday, Akhilesh Mishra, the unassuming Consul General of India won many hearts with his soul-touching poetry, couplets of which were interspersed throughout his brief speech.

This, coupled with his humane and compassionate outlook, comes as a refreshing change from the kind of talk and posturing one usually gets from diplomats. Continue reading

Hamid Ansari: Mumbai man missing in Pakistan (we treat each other’s citizens differently)

Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai... missing since Nov 2012

Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai… missing since Nov 2012

My article on the case of the Indian national Hamid Ansari who has ‘disappeared’ in Pakistan, published in The News, July 11, 2014; an abbreviated version in Hardnews, India. See Hamid’s mother’s online petition appealing to the governments of India and Pakistan to find her son and my friend Indian journalist Shivam Vij’s earlier articles on this case, in The Friday Times, and in the Christian Science Monitor

On July 1, the Peshawar High Court directed Pakistan’s defence and interior ministries to provide full information about an Indian national, Hamid Ansari, who disappeared from the mountainous Kohat district in late 2012. There is room here for cautious optimism on several fronts. Continue reading

India, Pakistan: Moving on the right track

May 25, , Puri beach, Odisha: Sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik's image of India’s Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi and the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made in sand, with the message ” Peace gets a chance’.

May 25, , Puri beach, Odisha: Sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik’s image of India’s Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi and the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made in sand, with the message ” Peace gets a chance’.

I don’t have any great expectations from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to Delhi for PM designate Modi’s inauguration but it’s good that he’s going (despite all the pressures) and that contact is being initiated. Hopefully this contact will lead to steps being taken to implement agreements that have already been signed (re: trade, travel) that are in limbo. In that spirit, a re-plug for the Aman ki Asha petition against visa restrictions. Please sign and share if you haven’t already. Also, a very positive step ahead of the Modi-Sharif meeting is that, as a goodwill gesture, Pakistan has ordered the release of over 150 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen, from Pakistani prisons. And for the first time, they are also releasing fishing boats. This is the first time in years that any side has decided to release fishing boats – kudos to Pakistan for taking the lead in this direction.

PIPFPD welcomes fishermen’s release, participation of Sharif in Modi’s swearing in ceremony

Modi’s invitation to Nawaz Sharif – a welcome move: Justice Markandey Katju Continue reading

“Art for art’s sake is fine, but with a social consciousness it’s even better” – Nandita Das

IMG_5338-Nandita I met Nandita Das for the first time at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, 2004,  introduced by our mutual friend, the activist Shabnam Hashmi, sister of the late Safdar Hashmi. Since then I have caught up with Nandita several times, most recently at Brown University in Providence where she talked about her life and work. Here’s my article about her for The News on Sunday – it includes bits they had to delete due to space constraints. Also published in Times of India blogs.
Continue reading

South Asian University response to question re: students from Pakistan

Thanks South Asian University for the prompt response to my question about Pakistani students raised in my last blog post. See tweets: Continue reading

India/Pakistan: Asha ki Kiran

Tea with the lovely Nandita Das in Mumbai

Tea with the lovely Nandita Das in Mumbai

Found to be inoperable in Bangalore, young Kiran Soomro won over scores of hearts and has returned to Pakistan with a priceless gift of love – and homemade Singhar mithai. My article published in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs today

On January 20, 2014, her seventeenth birthday, Kiran Soomro flew from Karachi to Bangalore on with her parents. They left with hope in their hearts and a prayer on their lips, expecting that Dr. Devi Shetty at the Narayana Health hospital would be able to surgically close the hole in Kiran’s heart.

Five days later, they learnt that her condition is inoperable by now. It would have been a fairly simple operation had it been looked into and treated earlier. Doctors initially discussed a heart-and-lung transplant. Dr. Balakrishnan, a well-known surgeon from Chennai drove down on his own initiative to examine Kiran in Bangalore. Continue reading

Update: Kiran Soomro in Bangalore

Happy birthday, Kiran. Photo: Haresh Jiwnani

Happy birthday, Kiran. Photo: Haresh Jiwnani

On Jan 19, 2014, friends and family gathered at heart patient Kiran Soomro‘s home in Karachi for a small send-off/birthday party. The following day, on her 17th birthday, Jan 20, 2014, she left Karachi for Bangalore with her parents, via Mumbai where her Indian ‘didi’ Nitu Jiwnani met her. The five hour flight delay had been exhausting. A skinny, exhausted, red-eyed Kiran clung to Nitu and wept. She didn’t want to get on another flight. But after a breather and some refreshments, she was ready to tackle the onward journey  (see my article in Aman ki Asha; also published in TOI blogs).

They landed in Bangalore late at night, and spent the following day, Jan 21,  at the police station undergoing the verification process that Indian and Pakistani citizens are required fulfill within 24-hours of arrival Continue reading

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