BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir. File PhotoBangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Friday alleged that the ruling Awami League has depoliticised the country by ‘restoring one-party BAKSAL rule as it did in 1975’, reports UNB.”Now, there’s no politics in the country. Politics is now under the grip of one party,” said BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.He came up with the remarks while exchanging views with local journalists at his house in Thakurgaon.The BNP leader said multiparty democracy was restored by their party founder Ziaur Rahman after Awami League had introduced one-party BAKSAL rule in 1975. “The one-party rule has now been again restored undercover of democracy.”He said their chairperson Khaleda Zia has been subjected to government’s political vengeance as she has been kept in jail by convicting her in ‘false’ cases.Fakhrul alleged that Khaleda is neither getting bail from the court nor proper treatment by the government though she is very sick.He renewed their party’s demand for shifting Khaleda to a specialised private hospital for her proper treatment.The BNP leader said Jatiya Oikya Front is united though two – MPs of Gono Forum, one of its components, took oath violating the alliance’s decision.”Organisational action has been taken against those who have taken oath. We’re united and working for the restoration of democracy. We must move forward together with people,” he said.About the stance of their party and the alliance on the current government, Fakhrul said they think Awami League has been ruling the country illegally by usurping the state power. “There’s no reason to accept such a regime.”He demanded the government immediately hold a fresh national election annulling the results of the 10th parliamentary one.
View of the damaged caused by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, on 12 October 2018. Photo: AFPThe death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to at least 16 on Friday amid fears it would continue to climb as search-and-rescue teams scour the debris of the Florida town that bore the brunt of the monster storm.”Mexico Beach is devastated,” Florida governor Rick Scott said of the town where Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday.”It’s like a bomb went off,” Scott said as he toured the town of 1,000 people on the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s like a war zone.”Rescue teams were using sniffer dogs in Mexico Beach on Friday in a search for victims who may be buried under the rubble in the debris-strewn community.Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), warned that he expected the number of deaths to rise.”I hope we don’t see it climb dramatically but I have reasons to believe we still haven’t got into some of the hardest hit areas,” he said.”What’s happening is search and rescue is trying to get into the rubble to make sure that there’s nobody covered up, trying to assess if there’s additional casualties there,” Long added.Dozens of structures in Mexico Beach — homes, shops and restaurants — were lifted off their foundations by storm surge and 155-mile per hour (250 kph) winds and moved hundreds of feet inland or smashed to bits.”Very few people live to tell what it’s like to experience storm surge,” Long said. “Storm surge causes the most amount of loss of life.”SticksMembers of City Miami Fire Rescue look for victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, on 12 October 2018. Photo: AFPState officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents decided to stay and try to ride out the storm.”You hope that somehow at the last minute a bunch of people got up and left or went somewhere else,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio told CNN.But judging from the number of homes reduced to “sticks,” he said “my sense is they are going to find more victims.”Bob Tenbrunson, a Mexico Beach retiree, rode out the storm at his daughter’s house in nearby Panama City and returned to survey the damage to his home.”I was going to stay here until it turned to a Cat 4,” he said. “So I followed the mandatory evacuation order and left with my wife.”Luckily we did not get a surge,” Tenbrunson said of his home. “I’ve got two trees on the roof and a couple of holes on the roof. I have been trying to patch it up the best I can.”The rest of Mexico Beach did not fare as well, and most of the beachfront homes, restaurants and stores were obliterated by the storm.”I spent my life savings and retirement to stay here so I can’t sell it now,” Tenbrunson said. “I just have to be hopeful that (the town) will be rebuilt and fixed.”Some residents arrived Friday with vans or moving trucks, hoping to recover as many personal effects from their splintered homes as they could.Others came with nothing — as there was nothing left to save.At least four deaths from the storm have been confirmed in Florida, five in Virginia, one in Georgia and three in North Carolina.US media on Friday quoted authorities in Jackson County, Florida, as reporting three deaths there, bringing Michael’s toll to at least 16.The latest two deaths in North Carolina occurred in McDowell County when a car struck a tree that had fallen across a road, officials said.Hundreds of thousands of people remain without electricity in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, and officials say it could be weeks before power is fully restored.Trump to visitA US flag is seen next to a fire department station damaged by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida on 12 October 2018. Photo: AFPPresident Donald Trump said he planned to visit Florida and Georgia.”People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia,” Trump tweeted. “I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week. We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit — and we are with you!”Michael was the most intense hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since record keeping began in 1851.Many of the damaged Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.About 5,000 US servicemen were deployed to help with relief and recovery efforts, the Pentagon said, using 100 helicopters and 1,800 high-water vehicles.Tyndall Air Force Base, home to the F-22 stealth fighter, suffered extensive damage, according to aerial photos of the coastal facility.The base was evacuated ahead of the hurricane and the costly fighter planes were flown to other installations out of the path of the storm.
Q. Sita’s Curse opens with a masturbation scene. Meera Patel relieves herself while her angry husband bangs on the closed door. While describing the scene you have written she folded up her legs like Goddess Lakshmi seated on a half-open lotus. No fear of the Religious Right getting all worked up?As I writer, my job is to write the story I believe in. Worrying about whether an opening scene or a line or a particular character will ruffle some right-wing feathers is frankly not in my nature, nor is it integral to a creative person’s integrity. Also, we’ve been conditioned to be scared – of being branded, banished, judged, criticized and eventually rejected – family, friends, publisher, peers, Right Wing, radicals, conservatives, communists… the list is endless, as is the eventual fight. Sita’s Curse being just the beginning, in my mind – of where I want the many Meeras of our country to be. Someday. One day. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’Free from their desires. Freed by their desires. When we can write about marital rape with the same rousing sentiment as we scream hoarse about rape in the heart of a burgeoning national capital. When a housewife being paraded to a family Guruji, on the false pretext of religion can actually protest. Before the next Asaram Bapu scandal. When a married woman can say just like a single woman that she enjoys masturbating or watches porn. That she nurses a secret life. Enjoying being watched back, without it escalating into yet another feminist rhetoric. Sita’s Curse is not only about a married Gujarati housewife’s sexual destiny – it is a start. Of a sameness. Of a sanity. Of a sexual secularism. A world, sans halves. Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with Netflix Q. After a fairly safe debut with Faraway Music, one would have expected you to stick to plain, old goodhearted romances. But you chose to write an erotica instead. Why?Actually Sita’s Curse was the third book I penned after FM, my second being a racy lad lit, out next from Hachette, a modern day reinterpretation of Shakuntalam, as retold by Dushyant. You’ve Got The Wrong Girl. Sita’s Curse I started writing as a short story about a Gujarati housewife, I saw daily, on my way to work at the Times of India office in VT from Mahim where I lived a few years ago. Sometimes hanging clothes on a flimsy plastic wire, feeding green chillies to a tota in a cheap wrought iron cage or running her hands over her full breasts, the Meera of my imagination turned into a daily obsession – a slow fire, as I began conjecturing about her daily life. Imagining her every moment. The way she felt trapped, soulless, sad, sabotaged by the simple irony of her own life. Till the floods of July 26th, 2005 of which I too was a victim, taking three days to reach home, battling a serious viral infection I contracted, being hospitalized…later I resumed work. She was no more. Sita’s Curse is my tribute to that memory. To a life unsung. A woman with the most melancholic eyes – the color of rain. This is her story. I am but a vessel. A medium. A transit point. Q. Those who know you personally would say there was much of you in the first book. Piya Choudhury is Sreemoyee Piu Kundu. How much is this book rooted in personal history, if at all?As I said, Meera is drawn from my personal memory. And honestly, while parallels were drawn about my first female protagonist Piya and me, I feel Meera is drawn from my own flesh and blood. I gave birth to Meera. I bear her cuts. Q. Being an erotica many readers will savor the sex in it. But you have addressed important issues here as well. Long-standing social biases like considering a woman impure during her periods. Did the feminist in you pop up every time your penned down a sex scene?The biggest challenge for me as a writer was to constantly keep reminding myself of the real Meera in whose memory I penned this novel. And so, in writing the sexually graphic scenes, my attempt was to make it as real and as normal as possible for a woman of her social strata and experience – belonging to a small town, an everyday housewife, a woman who bears no children, in a soulless marriage. Also, as women our battles are all the same. I have myself seen and heard stories of women not being allowed to offer prayers or enter a kitchen/temple when they are menstruating, my own life changing after I made the transition from girlhood to womanhood at twelve. So, more than feminism, I think the erotic elements of the novel are rooted in a deep everyday Indian realism. Q. Another rarely discussed social reality, incest, is discussed early on in the book. Meera and Kartik, inseparable twins, grow up loving, caring, and feeling each other up. Do you think this may make Indian readers a tad uncomfortable? Incest is common in India, as it is elsewhere, in large joint families, for instance. But I am against branding feelings and boxing experiences into socially acceptable/non-acceptable labels and norms. So the relationship between Meera and Kartik is one that is elusive at one level and yet touches upon a very deep chord. Also, from the standpoint of the book, Meera and Kartik grow up in a small town, with hardly any window to the life and lights of a big city. In this insular life, sans much entertainment or luxuries, they are each others’ constant companions and soul-mates and it is a natural progression that from swimming naked in the village river as kids to sleeping on the same bed as scrawny teenagers, they begin viewing each other’s changing bodies and minds with a strange curiosity bordering between a platonic man-woman chemistry to the first dint of pleasure between two sexes, segregated and separated by social conditioning and conservatism. Q. Meera’s husband Mohan suffers from premature ejaculation. There is also inference to a certain godman her mother-in-law parades her to. Her first dance teacher scars her. Are all men in Sita’s Curse black? Surely, not all Indian men are so hopeless? Again, the book is not intended to start a woman vs. man debate. Who is stronger, fairer… who suffers more and why. Who always pays a price? The men you have quoted are not the only men in the novel, and as is true of anyone, each character carries strong shades of grey. Even Mohan’s character to me is a mystery – the dynamics and sexual politics of a marriage where from the first night the husband is intimidated by the sheer physicality and sexuality of his own wife. As for Guru Amarkant Maharaj – he is a prototype of the deep and complex relationship between sex and religion that is primordial to our Indian culture. Case in point. The epic Mahabharata. The dance teacher who shuns Meera is again typical of a weak man – and he could be anything, even a German or a man of French origin. Also, a character that you have skipped is Yosuf Ismail who sets Meera free. So this book is not just about the men in Meera’s life, but the life in her men. Each person teaching her something, even those that tainted her. Without them, Meera’s journey – both inwards and outwards would be incomplete. Q. Sita’s Curse has masturbation, incest, lesbian love, BDSM. Yet, I have to say it does not read vulgar. How difficult is it as a writer to tackle sex in a way that the book doesn’t become another Mastram handout?Erotica is an artform which is why it’s constant cross reference to porn is an indication of how little we as modern day readers are actually exposed to erotic writing. Before I started writing SC, I delved deep into our indigenous roots of erotica – be it Kalidasa or Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda or the 6th century Tamil poet Andal. From Kamala Das to Ismat Chugtai. My inspiration being the innate sensuality and heightened sense of mysticism that is very much pervasive to our consciousness. I hope readers will also soak in the erotic elements of SC. Relishing it as it should be, without being squeamish or stand-offish. Being an erotic writer has led to me letting go of many of my innermost inhibitions and I hope readers also can do the same. Also, today I take pride in being a sensualist and I think it’s hugely liberating. So I was always pretty sure of the clear line between Meera and Mastram. Q. Is it embarrassing to have your parents and family elders read an erotica you have written? Or friends saying you might get branded as a porn writer? Yes and no. I have already received mails calling me a ‘whore with a disease,’ just the way I have been reached out to by many housewives and women from small towns and in urban settings, those I do not know at all, sharing with me stories of their sexual suppression, aching to find a way out. To want to stand up for their basic physical need. To speak their minds. So when I weigh the pros and cons, I know the scales are tipped in favor of Meera. Already.Q. What next? A political thriller is in the offing I hear. Right now am consumed in the promotions of SC that is a super lead from Hachette and their first erotica offering in their Indian publishing list. But yes I am hoping to start Rahula when the dust settles and I go back to my desk. As no one, but a mass of energy. Rahula is a political tragedy that is inspired by the son of Buddha and will be set against a contemporary Indian political and social milieu. But like all my other books, the story is of a man’s struggle. To be bigger than his father. To win over a shadow. And his final flight.