Citizen Musharraf talks peace

His folks at Islamabad had tried to dissuade him from visiting India, said Gen. (retd.) Pervez Musharraf.  He knew we would ask him combative questions. That he  chose to come nonetheless, and stood his ground at a Q & A session in New Delhi, Saturday last, earned him a standing ovation.  His audience included our former army chief Gen. (retd.) V P Mallik,  J & K’s Farooq Abdullah,  ex-attorney general Soli Sorabjee, ‘Samajwadi’ Amar Singh,  leading members from the media and corporate India. 

The former Pakistan army general  said  he was here to talk peace. The burden of his piece was that India and Pakistan would do well to bury their past, stop the blame game; and move on with the confidence-building excercise to bring peace to the region. Citizen Musharraf  evidently had problem convincing a sceptical audience.  But then, he noted, anyone from India  facing a comparable audiance in Pakistan would face the same music. Would someone from India want to try ?  Anyway, the Musharraf Q & A, televised by Headlines Today, were moderated by Mr Aroon Purie of India Today. And , thank you, Mr Purie, for a  live telecast without commercial break.

Gen.Musharraf would like to see India stop the Pak army and ISI bashing. And in response to a query, he observed the RAW was doing the very thing India accused ISI of;  and until they both stopped working against each other, India-Pakistan relations wouldn’t improve.  Soli Sorabjee came up with suggestion : How about handing  over Dawood Ibrahim to India? When Gen. Musharraf  wouldn’t agree that such a hand-over would change  ground realities  Mr Purie cut in to quip, “why not try it (handing over), sir?”. To which Gen.Musharraf countered, “What, if it doesn’t work?  Would he (Dawood Ibrahim) be handed back to us?”.

 Gen Musharraf has a way with words. You may recall , during a US visit he was asked by TV guy Jon Stewart, “where is Osama bin Laden ?”

“I don’t know,” deadpanned  Gen.Musharraf, “Do you(know where to find him)?  You lead on,we’ll follow you” (laughter). This was the fist time a sitting head-of-state  appeared on Jon Stewart’s satirical show on Comedy Central. 

Next Q:  George W Bush and Osama bin Laden; who’d win a popular vote in Pakistan ?

Gen.Musharraf:  “I think they’ll both lose miserably”. 

I don’t suppose Bush would have taken it kindly. But then, as the general told a questioner at the India Today Conclave, “I don’t believe in hypocrisy”.   Now that he is no longer in power, Gen.Musharraf  is, presumably, in the process of finding a role for himself;   he would like to do whatever he can to further the peace agenda,  to promote wider people-to-people contact.

Why not make  the general a  ‘peace envoy’  for the Indian sub-continent? He might out-shine Tony Blair , Europe’s  peace envoy to the Middle-East.  Speaking of p2p contact, Gen.Musharraf  could use his  influence to mobilise young  bloggers  such as Mayank Austen Soofi to  network  informed youth in Pakistan and India.  They are the ones who would be more amenable to burying the murky past;  and moving on,  to focus  on the positives. New Delhi-based Mayank  runs, what the Pak media  termed,  ‘the website that teaches you neighbourly love’.

Our man in Brazil

At our recent meeting in Chennai a blogger in our group (he didn’t wish to be named) came up with an idea – how about bringing out an anthology of selected pieces from the Mysore Blog Park.  As he put it,  we have a fairly wide group at MBP;  they write on varied topics of their fancy.  And do it competently.

He had a point.  We can think of quite a few who may have a book in their blogs.  The one who suggested MBP anthology is himself working on a book. Another MBP favourite,  B S Prakash,  has just come up with his work – Clueless in California (Konarak publicaions, Rs.195).  It’s a compilation, from his Rediff column,  with updates in reference to his years as Our man in San Francisco.  Mr Prakash has since moved to Brazil as our ambassador.

Those familiar with his column would nail the lie in the title –  apparantly a publisher’s ploy.  Mr Prakash is anything but clueless about California.  He is as knowledgeble about the prime dosa joint in San Francisco, as he is about the city’s connection with the Gadar movement.  I have read his engaging piece  on a philosophy teacher’s  take on Silicon Valley (Mr Prakash, M A in Philosophy, taught at Mysore Maharaja’s College before joining  Indian Foreign Service);  on the allure of MBA,  and about his re-discovery of the US in the company of Dr Kalam.

Invited to preside over a Stanford University music festival at which A R Rahman was honoured,  Mr Prakash did his home work so thoroughly that he used the material for a Rediff.column,  with knowledgeble references to the Bollywood Khans,  Aishwarya Rai and the then popular Rahman numbers – Chaiya, Chaiya, and Taal Se Taal Mila.   His  column gives one an insight into the man, his flair for writing and his mundane interests. Mr Prakash  watches  “a fair amount of TV,  all kinds,  movies,  series,  news, views,  sports and scandals”.  Mr Prakash’s recent piece – Is Hard Work Worth It –  is a study on hard work,  viewed  from the perspective of a Wall Street hedge fund manager (an endangered  species) and a German house painter.  I picked up from his column this German word – schadenfreude — which means  ‘deriving satisfaction from the misery of others.’  Mr Prakash had, presumably, picked it up when he was sent to Germany, at our foreign office expense,  as a language trainee.

As for the proposed anthology on Mysore Blog Park  pieces,  my first thought was whether it would interest a publisher.  Maybe the idea needs to be batted around,  blogged about , and  pickled in perspectives.  Maybe,  our blogger in Chennai  could make a  post of  it in  Giving It A Shot.