Qalandar on Freedom

I was recently asked to write a piece for an online journal called Pratilipi. The issue’s theme was “freedom”, and writers were free to define that term any way they wanted to. My take is at the link below:


18 Responses to “Qalandar on Freedom”

  1. I was scanning for a part to excerpt but couldn’t do so because so much of this is really beautifully written, Q. Thanks for sharing. There are some passages here that are quite relatable, particularly for those of us who grew up accessing India as you have–during summer vacations, correspondences, and perhaps most uniquely through VHS tapes and crumbling movie halls.


  2. Wow Qalandr this was a treat to read, maza aa gaya.. will reread it slowly later ..but the Shakti example was brilliant and so close to what is happening now…..
    Aside- yours and Salman Russhdie’s story is pretty similar ( except ofcourse the Fatwa..LOL)


  3. Rajenmaniar Says:

    One word: Brilliant.
    Who else but you would use the concept of freedom in this light!


  4. This is really excellently written Qalander, one of the most enjoyable pieces that I have read on this blog. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I especially liked the passages describing your first visit to Mumbai. I grew up in India, and I remember having a somewhat similar experience when I travelled to England for the first time as a child. Visiting all of the neighbourhoods that I had only seen on a Monopoly board before, eating all of the food that I had only read about in Enid Blyton books: the entire trip was like an extended Proustian memory, except that the memory was from my imaginary childhood adventures, where I inhabited the lives of the Five Find-Outters and the Secret Seven.


  5. A superb note Q. Read it thrice. And since I visited Dubai a month back I could relate to some of the things. Your last para on AAA is especially a treat.

    P.s.- I loved Ibn Batuta.


  6. Remarkably intimate and evocative piece. I second both Rocky and GF here. Yes one hopes you will not land in a Rushdie-like situation (!) though if it happens as the cost of great art (as in the Satanic Verses) it might be worthwhile!

    Also picking up on GF’s point it seems to me that a book on this subject deserves to be written — about how cinema becomes for migrants the virtual reality that then substitutes for national experience of the ‘lived-in’ kind. Cinema in this case becomes minimally artifact or as much this as it is art (or entertainment). In an odd sense the experiencing of cinema this way or indeed any artwork this way, which is to say as artifact in real time, gives one a heads-up over those who experience the same ‘at home’ (in their national spaces) with a delay. Because the same cinema eventually becomes an artifact anyway. Rangan writes wonderfully about his own access to Ratnam as ‘Madras filmmaker’ before all else. This is true for very many people in that generation. But what becomes for Rangan artifact over time was already so for the migrant watching the same films somewhere outside India in the 80s. And so if the passage of time makes all of us exiles from our pasts, if it makes more and more artifacts out of our old experiences, the migrant in turn is always already at the site of such nostalgia.

    In a Heideggerian vein the best condition might be that of a migrant to one’s ‘native’ country.

    Extraordinary piece.. thanks for sharing..


  7. For me, Delhi(not the present day nightmare), was like going through Indian history. Red fort, Humayun’s tomb, Rajghat, Teen Murti Bhavan and Taj Mahal. The vast spaces, the treelined lanes, historical monuments like Qutb Minar. Delhi is completely a contrast to Mumbai. Mumbai is filmi, while Delhi is something else.

    The criminals are giving Delhi a bad name. It was not that bad a few years back.


  8. Apkey bhai kaa pata milega?


  9. My 12 year old watches old Hindi films with me, ( we recently watched 10 numbari and Dharam- Veer and loved them.)..
    last summer she went to India by herself and really enjoyed going to places she had seen in the movies, my relatives all over India had one common thing to say- “isskey rang -dhang toh bilkul angrezon jaise nahee hain , yeh toh total moradabadi hai “, and I would like to credit the influence of Hindi movies on her too for that !!! even here , She loves watching a serial called Dil,Dosti and Dance which she started watchin in India !!
    P.S.-Q, I am glad you liked Shehanshah later on, nahee toh ladai ho jaati !!!


    • “โ€œisskey rang -dhang toh bilkul angrezon jaise nahee hain , yeh toh total moradabadi hai โ€œ, and I would like to credit the influence of Hindi movies on her too for that !!! ”
      didn’t know watching hindi movies can impart so much culture. lolz


  10. A v good piece q-will read properly later
    Personal, evocative.


  11. Utkal Mohanty Says:

    Wonderfully evocative. Lot of fodder for rumination. Just take the bit about letters being delivered to post boxes rather than house address. It has so much cultural significance. I lived my childhood in a village where families lived for generations in the same house, albeit with some renovations and reconstructions. Those were the days when the column in government forms marked as ‘ Permanent Address’ had a meaning. Today what does a permanent address mean for most of us? Take emails. You simply have no clue where that person might be!

    And there are the Amitabh Bachchan films. ( Though I must point out if you did not like the love stories, at least as a teenager, you are missing out on a big facet of Bollywood films.) I think the mythical quality of his films are simply huge. For me they are only next to Ramayana and Mahabharata in terms of the great archetypal narratives they have created. The magnificent mansion built with the four pillars of four different genres AB films hold so many cultural secrets , it is impossible to understand the Indian psyche without delving into them. The four genres I am referring to are films by Manmohan Desai ( AAA, Naseeb, Suhag, Coolie) , Praksah Mehra ( Muqadar Ka siqandar, Namak Halal, Sharaabii) , Hrishikesh Mukherjee ( Anand, Namak Haram, Mili, Abhiman, Jurmaana, Memisal, Chupke Chupke) and of course Salim Javed ( Zanjeeer, Deewar, Sholay, Don, Dostana, Trishul, Kala Patthar, Shakti) .

    I am still looking forward to that great Bollywood film based on the NRIs in Dubai..and I am not thinking ofa crime thriller, but some social drama.


  12. what a beautiful piece. thanks for sharing.


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