Signs Of The Times : Humra Quraishi


By Humra Quraishi
Sitting in the midst of this terrible heat and dust , all that I’m somehow able to mutter and murmur is ‘ only a couple of live-able months …the rest of the year gets unbearable.’ Yes , the winter blues and that enveloping fog and frost gets frightening . The monsoon rains bring along jams along our ‘developed’ roads , which are reduced to broken stretches …and those stagnant waters bring along infections cum viral fevers which go uncontrolled .Summer kills .No ,not just the heat but the connecting offshoots .This sans paani and bijli scenario. Coupled with this the abnormal living patterns .Gone are the sprawling courtyards, the longs verandahs ,those flower beds, relaxed stretches . Reduced lies the very capacity to beat the heat .

Something or everything seems to be going amiss , yet we have the confidence to say all’s going well , along the development graph .Maybe for the lot living in Lutyens’ Delhi ! Not for the rest of us , who seem to be surviving each single day against odds of all possible shades and hues .

Coupled with this latest worry on our heads – how to go about placing the right President , along caste and community lines , along the right political hues and shades, and those formats reeking of religion and regionalism .


The very word ‘day’ hits ! Hits hard …for though there’s a day for a this and that but what happens after those elaborate speeches and discussions and endless talks. Nothing at all !No, nothing along the follow up format …

In fact, for some strange reason a great majority of those ‘days ‘ fall in this summer stretch – just to mention few – World Environment Day , World Refugee Day , India’s Anti- Emergency Day . Sure, along expected lines, invites have already started piling up for the World Refugee Day ( June 20 ) and also for the Anti – Emergency day ( June 26 ) but aren’t we all surviving in a state of refuge and in conditions more petrifying than those witnessed during the Emergency . Come on , lets no longer pretend that all’s going okay . Even in this democratic framework you can be silenced , towards an unsettling quiet of the ongoing sorts . Even in this vast land you can be forced to go running for refuge , to be uprooted , to part with your ancestral land and whatever else lies in your possession . Political mafia coupled with goons in the very machinery could pound and hound you ,towards a state of nowhere…

Also , the fact that refuge is a state of the mind .Sometimes , all you need to do is close your eyes tight and let your mind wander , seeking refuge – from here to there , from the present day conditions to those much beyond …

Opening your eyes, doesn’t this reality hit .At least on this World Refugee Day – though more than half the population of New Delhi have been refugees at some stage of their lives , after being uprooted from the undivided Punjab , during the Partition , yet there’s this total apathy towards present day refugees living in our midst . And though New Delhi houses hundreds of Tibetans , Afghans , Iraqis , Palestinians , Burmese refugees yet their living conditions could make you cry …I have seen Afghan families living under sheds and under tin roofs in those water -less colonies of this capital city . Coupled with this , those suspicious looks thrown their w ay ,as though every Afghan is a drug peddler or what !

Maybe , its this treatment meted out by us makes the refugee lot drift away into their own little colonies or camps or call them housing clusters . Writ large all over. In this capital city Tibetans have their little colony – Majnu Ka Tila – and the rest of the lesser organized refugees live in clusters .Huddled and insecure .

In fact, what had taken me by complete surprise was to see this entire colony of Tibetan refugees living in the heart of Srinagar – few years back whilst walking close to the Makhdoom Sahib dargah was this sight – a well-planned basti of Tibetan refugees …these refugees were earlier living in Srinagar`s downtown area but gradually were shifted out to this area …That afternoon when. I neared this colony and asked a couple of Tibetan boys if they could direct me to a Tibetan family, they threw about angry looks . Undeterred, I continued walking in the rain and slush, down a row of houses, and stopped near a group of young Tibetan men. Almost immediately they stopped chatting. Spewing aggression, they said, `We are not interested in talking to anyone. We are not concerned about any crisis here. Muslims we are, but we have own schools, masjid, shops.` No, no door opened to me in this Tibetan colony. When I’d asked the locals what they thought of these refugees living in an obviously aloof fashion, they`d said : `
They are different. They live here but for them the Dalai Lama is their only leader. They are different culturally.` Yet, I was reluctant to give up and went to the basti again and yet again . Each time I met with the same sort of rebuff and unwelcoming looks. Even when I suggested that I treat them to momos and special tea at one of `their` restaurants, they responded with a firm no. Probably they were wary of strangers or of the security bandobast around. On each of my visits, I had spotted armed security men standing atop that hill, their guns pointing directly down….


In the midst of this peaking June heat , there arrives here in New Delhi , Dr Madeleine Albright – the former US Secretary and now chairperson of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs . Apparently she is braving this heat to deliver a talk on June 25 , at New Delhi situated Institute of Social Sciences. This roundtable is to be chaired by Lalit Mansingh – India’s diplomat and former envoy to the US …

Strange , when at this time of the year the top brass moves to more live-able or bearable locales , Dr Albright arrives here .

Is all alright ?


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