One of the many things wrong with growing old is that people we once admired become what is called past their prime. Pretty girls put on weight; batsmen go out for a duck; singers keep clearing their throat and sipping water or whatever; columnists recycle news and views . . . Sachin Tendulkar is an exception. We dont want even the cheerleaders to block our view when he is swinging his bat. Jug Suraiya is another. We race to the bottom of the centre page of our Times of India every morningI doto check if there is a column by him. Then, if there is one, we race through the column to find out what his lance is tilted against now. For, make no mistake, Jug Suraiya, though undoubtedly a man of many parts, is first and foremost a crusader (for us aam admis) against the vulgar, the hypocritical, the corrupt, the unjust, and the cruel. Since these cover a wide territory, including the whole of the Government of India, and most of the rest of India, there is no way to foretell what or whom he is going to turn towards next.
Nor is it possible to second-guess what he is going to say, for he has his own way, so unique that he could patent it, to look at people, things, and things that happen to people. (A few days back he said in one of his columnsessays reallythat Maqbool Fida Husain, the artist whom horses and naked Hindu goddesses have made famous across the length and breadth of India, Dubai and Qatar, may not be just a good Muslim but also a good Hindu!) And, unfailingly, everything that Jug Suraiya has to say, even what seems like nonsense at first sight, is thought- provoking. (Who is a good Muslim? Who is a good Hindu? Can a man be both? What is it about India that can make a man both a good Muslim, with all the certainties and rigidities of Islam, as well as a good Hindu, with all the ambiguities and chaos of Hinduism?) Yes, depend on it, Jug Suraiya goes for the jugular.