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Tales from a partition

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The great India Pakistan Divide
My curiosity about this matter was piqued when my friend sent me the famous BS Kesavan photograph pertaining to the division of books between India and Pakistan during the partition. Upon a detailed study of the Caravan article connected to it, it was clear that no division of books had occurred. On the other hand, the matter did extend itself in bizarre ways to many other fields. Like in a messy divorce, the situation became acrimonious and resulted in many stupid actions. It is worthwhile to take a look. This is not a study of the horrors of that partition, or a recounting of the many harrowing tales of violence, but the paths followed by the bureaucracies of the two new countries in divvying up the assets at partition.
Like many in India, I too heard stories of those days from my grandmother and grand aunts, both of whom had spent awhile in places like Karachi and Lahore when their husbands used to work in the British Railways and army. One of them h…

An immaculate deception

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The PNS Ghazi Sinking
In early April 1942, a little-known episode of World War II took place, stated by Sir Winston Churchill to be “the most dangerous moment of the war,” when the Japanese made their only major offensive westwards into the Indian Ocean. This was when the Axis flagged Japanese fleet led by six aircraft carriers, four battleships and 30 other ships sailed into the Bay of Bengal, under Admiral Nagumo, destination Ceylon.
Fast forward to 1971. A decision had been made to liberate East Pakistan as millions of refugees flooded India. Indira Gandhi had concluded that it was a better idea to liberate East Pakistan instead of bearing the brunt of these millions of refugees. Gandhi cabinet ordered the Chief of the Army Staff General Sam Manekshaw to "Go into East Pakistan”. According to Manekshaw's own personal account, he refused, citing the onset of monsoon season in East Pakistan and also the fact that the army tanks were in the process of being refitted and clai…

The beautiful wife of Abdul Wasi

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The assassination attempt on Akbar which followed and her purported European connections
I had initially planned to spend time studying the so called European connections of the mystery wife of Akbar, the famous and powerful Maryam uz Zamani, the purported mother of Salim Khan more famously known as Jahangir. Fresh from a trip to Fathepur Sikhri, I assumed that things would become clear as to whether she had Hindu or Muslim origins or if she was of Portuguese or Armenian extract as some historians had alluded. After a study which proved tiresome and inconclusive, I decided to allow all that information swirling in my head to settle down for a while and get back to it later. Instead I decided to dwell a bit on another wife that Akbar had acquired a little later.  There was a lot of intrigue in this story, sufficient for me to jot it all down, and for you to peruse.
Akbar married his first cousin Ruqaiya, in 1552 (there were a couple of other marriages earlier). Even though he married t…

The Nanda Devi Episode

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CIA’s Operation HAT in the Himalayas
I love cloak and dagger stories, and since the days of Ian Fleming’s 007’s books, I have devoured many a tale on espionage with the same eagerness I started with. I first came across this story while reading the Mallory camera incident some years ago. Naturally this was a great story to peruse and one that I simply had to retell. These days we have less of human involvement in espionage but the stories are no less mysterious and keep the nerves tingling.
This story involves the Americans, Chinese and Indians. Pakistan too figures on the periphery. The backdrop is the cold war era of the late 50’s-early 60’s tinted with the fear of a communist surge from behind the iron curtain. The need of the hour was actionable intelligence from behind the curtains, especially those related to USSR and China’d development of nuclear bombs and missiles. With that intention, the first high altitude (>70,000’) U2 spy plane forays to photograph activity and sites, …