Tag Archives: south asia

KASHMIR AND DR KARAN SINGH

Once all the euphoria about the army saving the Kashmiris of the Valley evaporates, Kashmir will be back to square one and its youth will resume stoning the jawans. Indeed, There seems to be no solution to Kashmir. It also incarnates the irrevocable enmity between India and Pakistan: India will not surrender Kashmir, because she considers rightly that it has been part of her territory for 3000 years. Pakistan will not surrender its claim on the Valley, because it estimates that the Kashmir valley is a majority Muslim region and that under the (mad) logic of partition, it should have reverted to Islamabad. And both countries are trying by force, the one openly, the other covertly, to stake their claims on Kashmir. Thus, there is no issue, except war, a nuclear conflict maybe – and everyone will be the loser: who will have Kashmir then if there is nothing left of India and Pakistan?

All politicians have tried their hand at solving this problem and all have failed. Yet there is one politician in India, who not only understands all these intricacies, but who might be acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir: that is Dr Karan Singh. Dr Karan Singh is a much-misunderstood personality and it may be worthwhile to look at his life and achievements.

No doubt, he was born in a privileged family: son of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh, and his lovely wife, Maharani Tara Devi, he saw the light in the prestigious Martinez hotel in Cannes, France. The birth of a Yuvaraj (heir apparent) was feted by the people of Jammu & Kashmir, whether Muslims or Hindus.

Yet, if you read carefully his biography, you will see that Dr Karan Singh, had a difficult life. Born a prince, yes, but with a strict and overbearing father, who allowed him to see his mother for only one hour every day, whereas the young Karan doted on her. In time, he also realized that all was not well between his mother and father and that they lived separate lives. He was then sent to public school where he got no privileged treatment. Finally, at the age of 18, the muscle on his right hip and leg began to decay and he had to undergo a major surgery, which was a traumatic experience for him. The operation involved permanent immobilisation of the hip joint through a bone graft and a six-inch metal pin, which kept him in bed for 18 months, in a lonely New York hospital. Dr Karan Singh would now limp for life, but he never complained about it and that did not stop him from playing tennis and campaigning tirelessly.

True, he became regent of Kashmir in 1949, but under difficult circumstances: his father, disagreeing with Nehru, left the State which had by then acceded to India, and Karan Singh was later appointed as Sadar-i-Riyasat and finally as Governor of Kashmir. His father’s shadow was not there anymore, but Nehru had replaced him and was sometimes an overbearing presence on the young man. In 1967, he finally came on his own, joined Mrs. Gandhi and later became the youngest union minister ever in her cabinet, being reelected 4 times as an MP from Udhampur. Today Dr Karan Singh, after having been a brilliant ambassador in the US, is chairman of the ICCR, while being involved in many trusts and charities.

It has been said sometimes that Dr Karan Singh is an indecisive man. This also far from true. He may belong to the Congress and not of the BJP, but he is one of the few politicians who has a deep understanding of Hinduism and who has remained faithful to his inclinations. Dr Karan Singh is the foremost expert in the world on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and he is at present chairman of the Auroville Foundation, the international city near Pondichery founded by the Mother and based on Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a new humanity.

Now for Kashmir. Dr Karan Singh is very clear about its history and its future: “The real problem with Kashmir, he says, started with my ancestors, the Doghras, mostly in the 19th century: by treaty, conquest, or inter-marriages, they created a state comprised of five major units, which are fundamentally very different from each other in terms of geography and ethnicity: the territory around Gilgit, which belongs basically to Central Asia; Ladhak, which is an extension of Tibet; what is today under Pakistan control around Muzarrafad, which is Punjabi Muslim; Jammu, which in essence belongs to Himachal Pradesh; and finally the valley of Kashmir, of course, which is Indian Muslim at 95 % and also belongs to the Kashmir Pandits before they had to flee”.

Dr Singh also emphasizes that the KP community never tried to rule Kashmir: “they were only the babus, the secretaries, the teachers, there might have been some exploitation, but on the whole they lived peacefully with the Muslims”.
Is Kashmir essentially an artificially-constructed entity then? “Yes, he replies, it is the exact replica of what was Tito’s Yugoslavia before it was broken in parts, or the Austrian empire, which was an amalgam of different states. All empires are artificial: look at the one Alexander created, or Ashoka’s empire, or Charlemagne’s… Often, they are also governed by non-local rulers: even my family was non-Kashmiri”.

When ones asks Dr Karan Singh if he has accepted Partition, he replies: “No, but today, there is certain logic to the split of Kashmir: two of the “foreign” portions – Punjabi Muslim Muzarrafad and Central Asian Gilgit – are with Pakistan; and the three “Indian” parts are with India : Jammu, which is 2/3 Hindu; Ladhak which is 55% Buddhist (and 45% Muslim); and the valley which is now 99% Indian Muslim”.

What is the solution then? “Since 1947, he smiles, Pakistan has fought four wars to regain Indian Kashmir, five, if you include the proxy war they are waging on us today. In my opinion, I don’t think they will ever succeed. The only solution is a European type of Union in the subcontinent. Look at France and Germany: they fought three wars over two centuries; France even fought a hundred years war with England and they are still bickering at each other over the EU, or the Euro! We only have been at it for 60 years. A Europe style type of union is a logic thing today. We could have a single rupee in South Asia, no borders, free trade… And a united Kashmir”…

Is it true that Muslims and Hindu leaders respect him ? “Kashmir has always been inclusive of all religions, answers the son of Kashmir. Vashnaism was born there, Sufism flourished there, the hard-line Sunnis of Pakistan have tried to change all this, I don’t think they have succeed, as today the Kahmiri Muslim is still more tolerant than his Saudi or Pakistani brother. Yes, I still feel deeply for Kashmir, I am an elder statesman, and have been in politics for nearly 60 years! “

So could Dr Karan Singh be the man of the moment for Kashmir, and solve an imbroglio which has eluded all Indian politicians? Will Destiny at last beckon this man of depth, who was never really been entrusted with responsibilities corresponding to his qualities ? He started with Kashmir and maybe he will finish his career with Kashmir, if the new government of Shri Narendra Modi is visionary and bold enough to entrust him with this task.

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INDIAN MUSLIMS : BABAR OR RAM ?

Indian Muslims are today at a crossroad. The bombs attacks in Hyderabad, may have been guided by Pakistan, but could not have happened – like all recent Islamic attacks on India – without the strong support and involvement of Indian Muslims. Once again, we see that the silent Muslim majority of India – remains silent. Instead of universally condemning violence against their motherland, India.

The question that Indian Muslims should ask themselves now is simple: “who are we” ? Amongst the 120 millions of Muslims in India, only a tiny percentage descends from the Turks, Afghans, or Iranians who invaded India. The majority of them are converted Muslims. And converted how ? By terror, coercion, force, bloodshed. The ancestors of today’s Indian Muslims are probably those who suffered the most from the Arab and Muslim invasions. Those Hindus and Sikhs who chose not to convert, took refuge in their faith, fought together and kept their pride and honor. The first two generations of those who converted must have endured hell: for they certainly did not convert out of conviction, but because they had no choice: their daughters and wives were raped, sons taken into slavery, parents killed. It is sad today that their descendants have sometimes made theirs the intolerant cry of Islam.

Do Indian Muslims understand that they were part of the richest, most advanced, most tolerant and generous civilization of ancient times. That their culture was so advanced that it had spread all over the world ?Do they realize that more and more archeological an historical discoveries are pointing out that the genocide of Hindus by Muslim invaders is without parallel. The conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000, was followed by the annihilation of the entire Hindu population there; indeed, the region is still called Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu slaughter’. The Bahmani sultans in central India, made it a rule to kill 100.000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100.000 Hindus in a single day. Professor K.S. Lal has estimated that the Hindu population decreased by 😯 million between the year 1000 and 1525, probably the biggest holocaust in history. Surely, many of present day Indian Muslims’ ancestors must have been among those slaughtered.

Islam cannot be wished away. As Sri Aurobindo said “Mahomed’s mission was necessary, else we might have ended by thinking, in the exaggeration of our efforts at self-purification, that earth was meant only for the monk and the city created as a vestibule for the desert”…. . Thus Indian Muslims have to keep their faith and any attempt by Hindus to convert them back is not only futile but counterproductive. But the question to be asked to them is: “what kind of Islam do you want to practice ? An Islam which looks westwards, towards a foreign city, the Mecca, swears by a Scripture, the Koran, which is not only not relevant to India, but which was meant for people living 1500 years ago, in a language which is not Indian ? Or do they want to practice an Islam which is “Indianized”, which accepts the reality of other Gods, as Hinduism and Buddhism accept that there have been other avatars than Ram or Buddha.

Do India Muslims want to worship Babar, a man who destroyed everything which was good, beautiful and holy and lived by the power of violence, or do they want to imbibe the qualities of Ram, who believed in the equality of all, who gave-up all riches and honors of the world because he thought his brother deserved the throne more than him ?
Whatever the West says, which is obsessed with China, India, a vibrant, English speaking, pro-western democracy is going to become the superpower of the 21st century. Do Indian Muslims want to participate in that great adventure ? Do they want to feel that they are part of India, that they are
Indians ?

Nowadays it is politically not correct to say anything against Islam. You are immediately labeled anti-Muslim and dismissed as a “rightist”. No matter if you are only reporting the fact that there is a real problem with Islam in South Asia: that India is surrounded by fundamentalists states: Afghanistan and Pakistan, while more moderates like Bangladesh, tend to close an eye to anti-Indian activities; that Indian Muslims sometimes tend to put their religion before their country; and that Kashmiris, far from being the persecuted that the Foreign Press likes to portray, are actually paying the price for having allowed Afghan and Pakistani Sunnis radicalize what used to be a more gentle and tolerant Islam and left their Hindu brothers and sisters being butchered and chased away from their ancestral land.

Thus the question has to be asked again: do Indian Muslims want to be like Babar or like Ram? This choice will shape their future for generations to come. It is maybe only in India, that Islam can come to terms with itself and accept the reality of other faiths. Otherwise, if it continues on the path of confrontation, not only in India, but with the whole western world, it is surely going towards self-destruction.

#FrancoisGautier

WHAT IS IT TO BE AN INDIAN ABROAD TODAY ?

Obama has won again and most Indians in the US rejoice. What is it to be an Indian today in the United States? What is meant by Indian-ness ? What is it to be an Indian abroad ? How much of yourself do you give to your American identity – and how much space do you preserve for your Indian-ness ? These are the questions that Indian expatriates should ask themselves today. For we see many of the children of Indians who settled in the US twenty or thirty years ago, merge themselves totally in the American way of life, speak with an American accent, eat Mac Donald, think American… and in the process forget all about their wonderful Indian culture…

 What is it in the American way of life, which fascinates so much Indians ? The fast life ? Right: fast is exciting; but Americans live so fast, eating their breakfast in their cars on the way to work, gulping down these huge amounts of meat and French fries at lunch or dinner, always on the move, that not only they often grow immensely fat, but also catch ulcers and get heart attacks by the time they reach sixty five. What else dazzles Indians in the American way of life ? The lights? True, New York is a fascinating city, with its illuminated skyscrapers, its million of pulsating lights, its giant electronic billboards, its fancy bars, that one feels a kind of throbbing vitality entering oneself as one walks the streets by night. But what a waste of energy, when the world is fast losing its sources of energies; and is isn’t this a kind of artificial vitality, that fades away when one wakes-up in the morning, with a hangover and one has to face the reality of life ? What else ? America’s Nature ? No doubt, the United States boasts some wonderful pieces of nature and Americans have shown us what it means to plant trees and live in a green environment: even Washington is densely wooded. But Nature can also be an illusion here: a highway is never very far from the forest, with its thousands of cars pouring out millions of cubic feet of carbon dioxide, which annihilates natures’ bounty, as the Los Angeles smog amply demonstrates. Besides, America is an unending suburban concrete jungle, with its boring repetition of mega stores, parking lots, and KFC’s. And when you have seen a city, you have seen them all. What else ? The “quality” of American life: barbecue parties, beaches, tattoos, fun and frolic? Yes, except that one out of three American couples divorce within three years, one out of four Americans consults a psychiatrist for depression, bulimia, schizophrenia or plain boredom, and American children regularly indulge in shooting other children, just because they are exposed to so much violence…

 Is this the legacy you want to bequeath to your children, O Indian brothers and sisters, who are longing so much for the American way of life ? For this great brain drain, this bleeding of India’s heart and lungs, which has been going for so long, does not affect only the ordinary middle and upper class “secular” Indian, but also many good Hindus, who put their children in the best US universities and accept the fact that these children will settle in the American way of life and will probably never go back to India. True, their kids get heftier pay checks in the US , better facilities, they escape the Indian bureaucracy, red tape, corruption, slowness… But what are they going to bequeath to their own children in the long run: insecurity, violence, divorce, depression and above all their offspring, unknowingly, will be afflicted by a loss of identity : they will not know, nor feel anymore in themselves, as their grandparents did, this natural space of Indian-ness, which automatically confers certain qualities. What is that Indian-ness ?

 Firstly and foremost: “I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim”. Not only that, “but I am even ready to go and worship in a church or a mosque, besides my temple.” “I accept that my Gods are avatars, incarnations of the Divine, but so is Jesus Christ, and also Buddha and even Mohamed”. This an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time when the two great monotheist religions of the world, Islam and Christianity  still say: “there is only one true God in the world – mine- and if you worship any other god, you are an Infidel and a Pagan and it is my right to convert you by any means, or even to kill you”. The 11th September 2001 attacks are nothing but a result of that  dangerous theorem. As a result, Indians adapt easily wherever they go, particularly in the West, as they are very open to western culture. Of course, Indians also go to the other extreme: “not only I accept you, but I am going to become exactly like you – no even Whiter than the White: I am going to denigrate my own culture, spit on my religion, belittle my countrymen”. This is why you come across so often in the US in negative articles on India written by Indians – nay by Hindus. The Gujurat massacres were actually a great opportunity for these Hindu haters, such as Pankaj Mishra, to come out full blast and prove to the world that India is a land of Hindu fundamentalists where nobody is safe, particularly the Muslims “who are regularly victims of pogroms”. P.Mishra conveniently forgot to mention that India is an extraordinary country of freedom, where all persecuted religious minorities in the world have found refuge over the centuries, whether the Jews, the Parsis, the Syrian Christians, or today the Tibetans.

 What else ? “I have inherited from my ancestors the tools to become a better man, whatever my religion, ethnicity and profession: a better Christian, a better Hindu, a better Muslim, carpenter, or CEO, IT engineer, or sailor”. What are these tools ? Hata-yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere (although Time magazine did a story on yoga without mentioning the name “India” once). What else ? Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s Self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practiced by millions around the world – another bequest of India to humanity. Pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians for three millenniums. “Does the breath have any religion”, asks Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 150 countries ?

 What first generations Indians in the States should ask themselves today is “How can I repay my debt to India” ? After all not only they got a nearly free education in India which was good enough for them to obtain well paid jobs in the US, but did they not also inherit that certain Indian-ness, which has been a great help to adapt to the American way of life? As for second, or third, or even fourth generations Indian Americans, what they should tell themselves is “”what can I do for my country” ? “In what way can I contribute to this great nation which is India, which is so maligned and sidelined in the United States” ? And the first thing they can do is to counteract the highly unfair and biased press coverage which India gets in America by writing to editors, or challenging the shameful coverage of CNN (which depicts  Mr Vajpayee as an old feeble man, but gives hours of live retransmission of the recent Pope’s visit to Canada, when the man, whatever his extraordinary will power,  is a walking mummy compared to Mr Vajpayee), or canvassing their elected representatives.

 Finally, Because of the probable continuing confrontation between Islam and the United States (Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan etc), even though Mr Obama thinks that the problem is nearly over after he killed the elusive Bin Laden, and once he withdraws American troops from Afghanistan, Hindus in the US should evolve a friendly and separate identity. It will not matter that they speak with a perfect Yankee accent and think of themselves as one hundred percent Americans – they will be seen in the streets as “coloured” Asians and could be mistaken as Afghanis or Saudis and targeted like the unfortunate Sikhs recently in New Jersey. For too long, Indian Muslims, Christians and a small minority of ‘secular’ Hindus, have used the bogus South Asian label to isolate genuine Hindus in the US. The only solution for them would be that they start regrouping themselves under an “Hindu American” banner. Not only it will rekindle in them an ancient beautiful and powerful identity, but also grant them a protection, as it will quickly become known that Hindus in the US are upwardly mobile, western friendly and themselves a target of Muslim fundamentalism. How  will it be done? By the force of circumstances, probably, because left to themselves Hindus are too passive and selfish to do anything.

François Gautier

 

THE Hindutva, Sex and Adventures (continuing) CONTROVERSY

The controversy over who wrote Hindutva, Sex and Adventures(Roly Books, New Delhi): Mark Tully, or myself, continues unabated. Critics keep on implying I wrote the book – and Mark Tully did not. Yet, as I have already said, I am a much more ardent – and militant – defender of Hindus than Mark Tully ever was and will ever be. The brand of Hindutva proposed in Hindutva, Sex and Adventures reads rather mild to me. In reality, I think that not only Dharma, the Truth that is behind Hinduism, is the very foundation of Indian civilization, but that if it dies, as it is attacked today from all sides: by Christian conversions, islamization, marxism, westernization & minorytism, it would be a catastrophe for the whole world.

If you read between the lines of most of Mark Tully’s books, you will see that he says – albeit in a diluted manner – that: a) secularism is a colonial left over; b) Hinduism constitutes the genius and the base of Indian civilisation. There is no doubt that Sir Tully is a well liked personality. But Mark was never too bold in his moral stands: see how he is now saying that Hindutva, Sex and Adventures is affecting his reputation. Why should he be ashamed of being a defender of the Hindus? I am not. In fact, I find his establishing a dialogue in the book between Imla, the Indian journalist, who is a diehard secularist (as most Indian journalists are) and Andrew, who gradually realizes that Hindus are a very wonderful – but persecuted people, is a brilliant ploy. It is a pity that every single critic has demolished the Hindutva part of the book, without even bothering to analyse the very important points Tully raises on Kashmir, Ayodhya, Sonia Gandhi, or Islamic terrorism.

Mark Tully may also have wanted to atone for his coverage of South Asia. I remember when we were both reporting on the Valley of Kashmir in the early nineties, that he would always highlight human right abuses on Muslims by the army, but hardly ever spoke about the 400.000 Kashmiri Hindus who were chased out of their ancestral homeland by threats, violence, rapes, torture and murder – and today have become refugees in their own countries. Mark Tully is known for his ‘fair’ reporting, but actually, he and the BBC coined phrases and set standards in reporting on South Asia, which still stand today and harm India’s image. Many of us know that since the mid-eighties Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism. But Mark always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or :”elections are being held in Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants ” have attacked an army post, instead of “terrorists”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today, (except myself and maybe Tiziano Terzani) have followed the BBC’s benchmarks.

 This near colonial attitude towards India has even influenced today’s politicians in the West. For instance, Obama’s present foreign policy of thinking he can fight terror by making a frontline state of the very country which fosters 3/4th of the terror attacks in the world, and of putting the screws on India so that it negotiates with Pakistan, even at the cost of compromising on its sovereignty in Kashmir, is a direct offshoot of the BBC’s reporting in South Asia for 25 years. We also can read between the lines and know that Mr Obama is pressuring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give-up India’s military nuclear programme, leaving her at the mercy of not only Pakistan’s , but also China’s formidable nuclear arsenal.

The irony is that the Indian Government seems to be enamoured of Mark Tully. But if you observe carefully, he was a strong detractor of Indira Gandhi, particularly on Blue Star and during the anti-Sikh riots. Though he praised Rajiv Gandhi in his beginnings, he became a critic of his style of functioning in the later years, specially after the IPKF fiasco. And he has been saying “that the moribund and leaderless Congress party has lashed onto Sonia Gandhi, who is Italian by birth and Roman Catholic by baptism”. (‘Nehru Dynasty’ for the BBC).

The below extract of Hindutva, Sex and Adventures seems to reinforce that statement.

EXTRACT “HINDUTVA SEX AND ADVENTURES”: SONIA GANDHI

 – I am coming to Delhi to cover Sonia Gandhi’s election as President of the Congress party, Imla said. They met at the Taj Mansingh for a cup of tea before walking to 1 Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters. Andrew could see that she was getting more and more snappy and she was actually looking for subjects about which she could disagree with him, sometimes violently, for she definitely possessed a very bad temper.

 They had such a fight about Sonia Gandhi. Andrew had found Sonia Gandhi quite likable when she was just Rajiv Gandhi’s (the pilot) spouse, a loving wife, who had adopted the Indian way of life; a good daughter in law: Indira Gandhi died on her lap on the way to the hospital, after being shot by her Sikh bodyguards; and more than everything, a good mother, who doted on her children and tried all her life to protect them. Andrew suspected she had kept her Italian passport, even after taking the Indian nationality (India does not allow you to hold two passports), but he had met quite a few foreigners in Delhi who also retained their origin passports after having obtained the Indian one. He had toyed himself for some time with the idea of taking the Indian nationality, now that he spoke Hindi quite fluently, but it was too difficult to travel with an Indian passport. He did not mind also her remaining a Christian: after all, he was still one himself. Indeed, one of his Italian journalists friends had prayed with her, along with Rajiv Gandhi, at a mass in Calicut with the bishop officiating – that was her private business. But after her husband was blown to pieces by the LTTE, he observed a drastic change in her: she did not seem to trust anybody anymore, became aloof and suspicious. He watched with dismay how the Congress leaders, some of them men and women of substance, whom he knew personally, applied pressure on her to enter politics for years. He had learnt also, through some well placed friends, that gradually, via the Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi foundations, she started controlling huge amounts of money. He knew also that in India money means political power, as a party needs hundreds of crores of rupees to win a general election. Thus, he thought that in her fortress of Janpath, surrounded twenty-four hours by security, she gradually lost touch with the reality of India.

Andrew, who had met her a few times after Rajiv’s death, thus took discreetly his distances with her, though in typical British fair play, he never made any comments publicly.

 When they reached the Congress headquarters amidst unprecedented security, which Andrew thought was unwarranted, considering there had never been any threats on Sonia Gandhi’s life, there must have been at least a hundred other foreign correspondents awaiting the crowning of Mrs Gandhi. As usual, Sonia made them wait (once when Andrew was covering Sonia’s campaigning in Hospet, Karnataka, she was late by eight hours). She lived literally next door in Janpath, but she finally arrived in a caravan of vehicles, with dozens of security guards running around her car, as if she was the American president. When she got out, most Congressmen bowed down in front of her, while some even touched her feet. Andrew was shocked: he felt that it was debasing for Indians, people of talent and culture to scrape down in front of someone who in the West would be an average person. But most of his colleagues did not seem to find anything wrong in it. As for Imla, she was smiling. Sonia’s election as Congress President was a foregone conclusion, nobody really opposing her. It’s like the crowning of an empress, thought Andrew.

When they were walking back, he had an argument with Imla:

– It would be impossible for a non-Christian, non-English, non-White Hindu woman, to become the supreme ruler behind the scenes in England, he said. Don’t you find this a little humiliating?

– Not at all. It’s because you don’t understand us, she retorted, we accept the others, not like you Britishers.

He tried to remain cool:

 – But this goes to extremes, Imla: there are a billion Indians, many talented; can’t you find one of your own to lead this country ?

 This time she was getting angry:

 – She is one of our own, ok? She has an Indian passport, she wears a sari, she speaks Hindi and she has India at heart. Not like some of your Hindutva fanatics, she threw at him.

 – You know I am not Hindutva, he replied, hurt

 – Oh yes, you are… Your sympathy goes to them now. That’s why you hate Sonia Gandhi.

– But I don’t hate her my dear, I just think that she wields too much power, being just an elected MP like hundreds of others…

But Imla had already stormed away and hailed a rickshaw to go back to her aunt….