Sunday, December 30, 2007

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

Only a naive person would believe Benazir Bhutto stood for a truly liberal democracy in Pakistan. Even liberals and left-wingers in India, which has historically had a larger and politically more active middle class, are frequently utterly elitist. A journalist widely revered for his concern about India's poorest casually and gratuitously advised me in 1997 not to buy a laptop as my first computer. It was 1997, when only rich people had computers, and even they didn't have two. And this guy had only just met me, and couldn't possibly have any idea whether I was from a wealthy background or not (the answer is NOT).

Anyhow, back to Benazir, whose election campaign in the late '80s gave a great fillip to our piracy industry - I remember seeing pirate tapes of her election songs selling real cheap on the railway bridge in the Mumbai suburb where I lived then. I remember her accent, all Anglicized like any number of people I can think of, who did their A Levels in Pakistan, or went to one of the schools here in India that the Brits built to hide their bastards from the eyes of "the natives", and where rich Indians have been sending their Coca-Cola-drinking kids ever since. The kind of change that those kids have grown up to support is the kind of change Benazir stood for - the outer husk was liberal, but the kernel, well, the kernel was nothing, so long as they wouldn't have less than they had now. You couldn't really say the kernel was status quoist - it wanted more for the poor, but more than that, it wanted not-less for the A Level types.

Far more eloquent than anything I could write is this piece by William Dalrymple in The Guardian. Of course, he also knew Benazir better than I!

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