All posts by vijay Kachru

Painter/writer

Ferguson -Images show that race relations remain strained

15 Aug 2014 The Anniston Star St. Louis Post Dispatch

As soon as the unrest in Ferguson is over — and let it be soon — there must be a thorough, independent and timely investigation into how and why it happened and the police response to it. This inquiry would go beyond the parallel criminal investigations and get into the root causes of this madness.

Yes, the immediate cause — the “tipping point” they call it in the literature of civil unrest — was the fatal shooting Saturday of 18- year- old Michael Brown by a still- unidentified Ferguson police officer.

( By the way, the failure to identify the officer violates every principle of transparency recommended by law enforcement experts. Society grants police officers the right to use deadly force. That right carries special obligations, one of which is strict public accountability. The longer the officer stays anonymous, the more public confidence is undermined.)

When the independent investigation deconstructs the Ferguson incident, as it must, it should explore the history and conditions that may have helped precipitate Saturday’s shooting and the subsequent public protests. That includes racial segregation. That includes the training and qualifications of Ferguson police officers. It includes command- and- control decisions by the Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces and the Missouri Highway Patrol. …

Cops are human beings, and human beings get scared. Their first impulse is to gear- up as if they were patrolling outside Baghdad’s Assassin’s Gate. As in foreign policy, the academic types may say that dialogue and soft power are better, but that defies the average’s cop’s attitudes. …

What we’ve seen in Ferguson is skirmish lines of officers in hard gear and videos of tear gas canisters lobbed onto roofs.

Feruson-Missouri
from Wabe.org

Individual officers generally have shown great restraint. But those images are doing incalculable harm, and not just to community relations in Ferguson. The nation and the world have seen horrible images from St. Louis that suggest that race relations here have a long way to go. They’re not wrong. There are people of good will on all sides who want better. Ferguson should be the place where better begins.

Malaysia Airline 370

Sathi bounds toward the north-west poplar, at the base of the icy slope, to the river landing. My 13-year-old retriever-mix digs for chews around its base, now an icy soup of dark brown fall leaves, and spry branch twigs. The poplar is naked, except for the mesh iron casing around its sturdy trunk – a protection from the clever, and hefty Saskatchewan beavers. The tree is impatient, I think, for the cover of whirling leaves and bird song, if only to blend in with its evergreen neighbors.

In winter the tree was clothed in white crystalline filament, and the blue hue of the iced-branches showed through the layers of snowflakes. On cold sunny days, the peeking yellow-green of its body, mimics the soft inky contour of a water-color painting. I love looking at the tree through my window. I call it my Kashmir tree. It reminds me of laughter, happy shouts, playful screams and the weightlessness of climbs.

kashmir poplar-vj
North West Poplar on Saskatoon River landing

Yet, today the body of my mind is restless and encased in dark shadows. Looking into the distance beyond the river I sense myself again. I am waiting with the families of the passengers on the Malaysian 370 airplane. The immense black cauldron of the Indian Ocean, the bobbing debris, the splinters and a bang of disintegration form a gauzy dark backdrop and I imagine my mother in the window seat, looking down at the dark black restless Atlantic before the disaster struck almost thirty years ago. A ruby-red Pashmina shawl around her small shoulders, I imagine my mother writing letters with her silver fountain pen. Writing to me. What would she be saying to me? Perhaps reminding me to take it easy, and accept life’s unevenness with grace and perhaps, say also – please dearest don’t mind everything Kashmiri. And then bang, and oblivion as that doomed Air India Flight burst into bombing blaze, and then flailing bodies of men women, young old and little children, greeted by the thrashing dark Atlantic.

Still, a person must move on. Time heals, and Malaysian 370 families will move on in time as well. An invisible string ties me to the families, and I must stand and wait with them.

Sathi has dug up something. I can see a bit of red hanging from his jaw. A ball I think, and beckon. He drops it at my feet, and looks up guiltily. It is a little girl’s summer shoe. It is crimson, with its Velcro fastener hanging loose. I pick up that wet cold dripping shoe, and place it in the nook of my Kashmir tree, and turn towards the sandy river bank – now claimed by a gaggle of Canada Geese, just returned home. Barking, squawking, flying ensues, and I slip back into my head.

My fathers last Hours

Wait listen
I am not ready yet
How can you decide to go
Your body under the technical horses and snaking you in a cold embrace
There should be time and repose to finally say goodbye
Rythems venous pressures 
Devices wanting to know your body
Entering piercing jabbing
Intentional and authoritative cruelty
When when can we proclaim freedom
To say just let me be and then i will go piecefully
Submission without grace yet with gratitude
Powerful state do what you must
Time i did depart
Please please let me go.

Sensitivity

When an old friend called me recently about his visit to the city It
surprised me, not because of the imminent visit, since had heard it from
another friend/relative, I was surprised and a bit thrown off because this meant
that now I will have to take part in the tribal activities which include small
talk, political and global problem solving sessions , food and health issues of
various attendees, whose median age is somewhere in the 55’s and believe me
hours are spent in discussing the properties of flax-seed, how to grind, what
color to buy etc, until one of the attendees, a micro-biologist puts it all to
rest by declaring that best would be the extracted oil, since most other
methods lack adequate absorption….”Probably” he declares after a
sufficient pause and having made all around eye contact with those of us still
paying attention and not completely absorbed in their various hand-held magical
devises. I say magical, because if you happen to look at these being’s hunched
over stares, you would know what I mean.

Anyhow back to the friend from Eastern Canada and the tribal summits,
held usually at one of my older sibling’s home. The fact is that I do end up
enjoying all this, once in the pen, it is the sameness of all the times that I
have a difficulty with. So, I was happy to get the call from this visiting
eastern friend, and I must qualify “friend” here, in that, our friendship
is not an active one and as such do not call or E-Mail each with exceptions of
major events etc. and we get each other’s news from my relatives here, who are
in an active friendship mode with him, in that spend holidays etc. together and
have extended tending protocols with each other’s friends/ relatives etc.

The eating talking and discussions took place on schedule and the
friend at one point asked if he could acquire one of my paintings which he had
seen in a show in 2009, I was of course, thrilled, and perhaps those of you
in the field would know how gratifying it is to have a respected friend or relative  wish to hang one of your art pieces in their home. So as were walking along downtown,on a sunny afternoon, and me basking in   glory of being accepted as an artist by someone whose opinion I respected, we ran into one of his acquaintances and without any hesitation what so ever  he introduced me as someone’s sister. (What struck me most was they did not know my brother).I stepped way to allow privacy in a busy marketplace and soon realized why I had done so… It took a few seconds longer and I let the full import of the introduction sink in and as we walked, i ever so gently why I was introduced as an appendage and not as a person in my own right etc,

After the usual back and forth of sorry, doesn’t matter etc. We walked
on and at the leave-taking my friend very sincerely / gingerly, gently apologized
once more. With me, that is the wrong thing to do. I need time to cool off, but
being a linear thinker and an engineer, he sought to put a final spoon of water
on ash, not realising the heat of live coal underneath.

As I write this, I realise
that I was a bit too sensitive. Perhaps in a day or so I will send a
note…better still send it along with the painting. Oh Yeah!!!