|BEAUTY WITH BRAINS: Annie Zaidi|
'Known Turf,' authored by Missus Annie Zaidi, a Frontline reporter, is a book where she condenses all her field experience. She has been all over the place -- from bandits to analysing government's One-Time Settlement scheme (OTS), tailor made to waive loans taken by India Inc.
Reactions and observations, that must have faced stone wall in editorial policy, death metal growl throughout the ensemble.
Zaidi, who I like to call Ziddi (stubborn) for her views, which carry a distinct waft of certainty; also give me a chance to play on her name. Sorry Annie.
The opening pages are about her encounters with bandits. When the farmers are asked to vacate their homes because Mr. Nani wants all the sources for his AATA Steel Co., well they get pissed off. When a woman is raped of her honour by the first class villagers, she reposes her faith in the barrel and Phoolan Devi, the bandit queen rares her head over the hill, on her mount.
Goondas Act, the arcane piece of legal pooh, which finds no mention in the book, actually has a lot to do with their persecution. I say 'persecution' not 'punishment,' as the latter can be justified.
Infer or glean, Zaidi tells you that bandit is not an outlaw but he is the last hope of justice in the lawless wild west. Oh and another thing, UP has always tantalized me to take on its treachery with this a la Texas charm. Alas, someday I will report from there.
Moving on, Annie is not surprisingly from Lucknow, Eastern UP and she devotes some print to it. How men gawk at women, eve-tease, molest, Annie has put up with all of it and made an attempt to deflect the "eyes that hem in" the ladies. Frankly, stuff like this makes me guilty of being a man, of belonging to a community that has some lumpen elements but then which community does not have a few of those? It is not an excuse, just a thought.
If you plan to read this one, fasten your seat belts for the roller-coaster ride. The book shifts gears with different subjects.
One chapter connects the dots between Sufism, Punjabi Dalits and the upper caste Punjabis. Those who took interest in the clash between Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee and the Dera Sacha Sauda will learn more from this segment. Deras cropping up in Punjab are actually rallying points for the Dalits to form a community, unite and break free from the caste system.
Overall it is worth the read and Zaidi deserves special praise because not only is she intellectual but she is also pretty.