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Showing posts from August, 2010


When the Kingdom of Avadh (or Oudh to the British) was annexed into British India in 1856 A.D., its capital Lucknow was the most opulent city in India. As Mughal India faded into the twilight of history lesser Mughal outposts had started to outshine its imperial capital at Delhi. Hyderabad and Lahore were both renowned Mughal cities. The jewel in the crown however was Lucknow boasting broad avenues and landscaped gardens, palaces with untold riches jostling for pride of place in its heart, the lilting melody of ghazal love ballads and qawwali sufi devotional songs permeating the fragrant night air and skilled tawaif courtesans performing mujra dance for the pleasure of aristocrats and rich merchants bedecked in fine jewellery.

Until 1856 Avadh was ruled by Wajid Ali Shah the 10th and last Nawab of his dynasty. A decade of his rule had seen a revival of the performing arts. He was a great dancer, poet, playwright and patron of the arts. In his stupendously rich palace of Qaisarbagh in …


The grainy black and white film runs incessantly like a recurring nightmare: there are half-starving Varsovians fighting with all means at their disposal, children running the gauntlet to supply the soldiers, women frenetically tending to the wounded and the dying. The faces look gaunt yet determined, hunger has not quelled the human spirit's thirst for freedom; fathers fight for their sons, mothers for their daughters. They know that their own life has come to naught, trampled under the jackboots of Nazi Germany, ripped asunder by fire bombs raining down from the skies; their homes and neighbourhoods are a heap of ruins. But they need to fight one last time before they die, before the Red Army parked across the Vistula River to the east cross over to liberate them from the Nazis only to tie them up in the bondage of Soviet Communism.

The Museum dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising is a poignant reminder of human cruelty; the various -isms that have brought such devastation to the &qu…


The Chinese army with their numerical superiority and a vast arsenal of weaponry were routing the Gorkhali troops facing them in the Tibetan plateau. The Gorkhali army fought on bravely but they had to retreat by the hour and by the day until they withdrew to the Nepalese border. Yet, the Chinese onslaught continued through Kerung and Kuti passes into Nepal, an unstoppable juggernaut that was now poised to take Kathmandu Valley itself! Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana tossed and turned in his bed, mumbling to himself gibberish only he understood in his fitful sleep. He woke up all clammy from his nightmare, his bhoto soaking wet at his chest and opened his eyes. He was greatly relieved to find himself in his safe bed, his favorite concubine curled in blissful sleep beside him; the Chinese invasion of Nepal had retreated into the deep recesses of his mind.

Jung experienced this dream once in a while; so firmly had the Chinese military action rattled the foundation of Nepalese statehoo…