interview
A Memon in the service of Urdu
By Altaf Hussain Asad
The News on Sunday: What was your childhood like? Any memories?
Muhammad Umar Memon: Nothing much to tell. I was born in Aligarh, the last of my parent's six children. By then all my siblings had left home except one sister who was eight years older. It was a pretty lonely childhood and quite uneventful. I did have some friends. Although I have now returned almost exclusively to reading and writing, I have been interested in a number of things at different times of my life, among them painting, woodworking, macramé, making carved candles, and gardening.

review
Strangers on the stage
By staging Chekhov'a world famous Seagull, NAPA establishes that taste is not in our blood and by producing plays of high quality we can change the taste of our audience
By Arif Waqar
Imagine for a moment: the stage is occupied by a bunch of noisy comedians throwing double entendres at each other, receiving big laughter from the over-crowed hall and an occasional comment from the audience... the chief clown throws a taunt at one of the back-benchers, and the whole show goes burlesque. But when the rebuttals are at their peak and the audience are having the time of their life, suddenly enter a group of serious looking men and women, dressed in late 19th century costumes, speaking our national language but discussing subjects as alien as 'aging gracefully', existential angst and the purpose of life... The on-lookers are stunned for a moment, then they start leaving the theatre in disgust and the fully packed hall of 500 reduces to just 70 odd viewers.

The next tribe
Manganhaar Festival recently held in Karachi shoulders the responsibility of sustaining the clan's music form
By Sarwat Ali
As announced in the recently-concluded Manganhaar Festival held at the Karachi Arts Council the primary aim of starting the venture seemed to have been achieved -- the baithaks and growing awareness that this musical activity can be sustained and can also bring fame, money and not only disrepute and starvation.

Naqsh likes his charpoy
Jamil Naqsh does not flaunt the traditional bed as an exotic accessory from the East but engages with it in his own manner
By Quddus Mirza
An urban dweller may only dream about a charpoy while sleeping on his smooth, fluffy and cosy bed. He may not exactly compare the roughness of one with the comfort of the other but only remember the charpoy for other reasons. Like Jamil Naqsh, who presumably prefers to sleep on the floor than on a plush bed in his London apartment, paints his nude figures lying on the traditional charpoy made in wood and strings. For him, and several others, the object is more than a piece of domestic utility. It is important for personal, physical, psychological and societal aspects, since it represents a specific culture.

Election fever
Dear All,
Britain appears to be in the grip of election fever -- even though no election has actually been announced.
There seems to be a sense of conviction in the national mood -- or perhaps just in the national media-- that Labour party has been in power for so long (12 years) that change is now inevitable. Add to this the constant reinforcement (mostly by the media) of the message that Gordon Brown is an un-charismatic and unworthy leader, and the sense of inevitability is deepened.

 

 

A Memon in the service of Urdu

By Altaf Hussain Asad

The News on Sunday: What was your childhood like? Any memories?

Muhammad Umar Memon: Nothing much to tell. I was born in Aligarh, the last of my parent's six children. By then all my siblings had left home except one sister who was eight years older. It was a pretty lonely childhood and quite uneventful. I did have some friends. Although I have now returned almost exclusively to reading and writing, I have been interested in a number of things at different times of my life, among them painting, woodworking, macramé, making carved candles, and gardening.

I grew up with the image of a father absorbed in his books. I remember vividly finding him one afternoon sitting outside the house under the shade of a neem tree, totally immersed in reading. A big black ant had dug its pincers into the flesh on the back of one of his hands and a shiny red pearl had formed around the pair of pincers. He did nothing about the ant, so deep was his concentration. Finally, having had its fill, the ant relented and left on its own. My father published a significant amount, but during the last several decades of his life he was only interested in reading. Perhaps this image had something to do with my choice of profession and my dominant interest.

It was an average life and I went through many of the same boyhood and adolescent experiences as most boys. There's no point in going over them now, though I might have done so quite eagerly a few decades ago when I didn't know better. Today such things seem not just insignificant but downright ridiculous. What is one life, after all, in the immensity of the universe?

TNS: Your father Abdul Aziz Memon was a scholar of enormous standing. Did you want to follow in his footsteps?

UM: Maybe I did. But I cannot assign volition or knowledge to the choice or thought, if it was ever there. I can only say on the basis of what I am today and how I've lived my life that perhaps I wanted to be like him. But "want" is a terribly misleading word in this context.

 

TNS: You wrote a book of short stories, Tareek Gali, many years ago. Why didn't you write more short stories or a novel?

UM: You've touched a painful nerve. Let me be candid: Up until the 1970s, writing fiction seemed like what I wanted to do, without realising the enormous responsibility and seriousness it entailed. When I looked at my work critically, I realised it was not much different from the work of other Urdu writers and perhaps in some cases it was even a bit inferior. There was no point in continuing. So I stopped. I think I can write well, but I lack the perseverance and discipline true fiction writing requires. I wrote my last story ("Jati Chizeen") sometime in the late 1980s. I love it. But I've never published it. It needs more work and I find myself inventing ever-newer excuses to delay returning to it. Strangely, I seem to be in no hurry to publish it. The story and I have developed a very intimate relationship, which is satisfying in itself. There's no real need to put that intimacy on public display. I feel it would be a breach of trust. A novel would be a hundred times more demanding and serious.

TNS: What prompted you to start translating works of fiction into Urdu?

MU: Basically three reasons: practical, necessary, emotional. Teaching Urdu fiction in translation here at the University of Wisconsin, I couldn't find enough quality translations done with some thought to the chronological development of the short story form in Urdu. The existing material was in most cases unreliable and poorly done. I decided to translate. I later collected the resulting stories into my several anthologies (The Tale of the Old Fisherman, Domains of Fear and Desire, The Colour of Nothingness, An Epic Unwritten, and the most recent one Do You Suppose It's the East Wind?). So this was the practical reason.

The necessary reason -- and I mean "necessary" in an existential sense -- was my desire to let the West know that regardless of our deplorable performance in contemporary times, we have still jealously preserved a stout spirit of liberalism in the finer works of our imagination. Eventually what must define us is this liberalism. It will remain and withstand the test of time.

The purely emotional aspect is that I love Urdu -- even though we are Memons whose language is Gujarati/Memoni and my mother, to her dying day, couldn't speak Urdu flawlessly. And though emotional, my love is not uninformed. I have a fairly good grasp of modern Arabic and Persian literature. Nothing like what our prose writers and poets had already achieved by the 1940s exists in Arabic and Persian, although we started to fall behind after the 1950s. It should come as no surprise that the first collection of modern Persian poetry was made by an Indian at Aligarh when modern poetry was still struggling for acceptance and recognition as a valid and viable form in Iran.

TNS: You have translated both from English to Urdu and vice versa. Milan Kundera seems to be your favourite, isn't he?

UM: Maybe I have translated from English (and modestly from Arabic, if I may add), but not nearly enough. And Milan Kundera is not my only favourite. There are a host of others. I fell under the spell of a Hungarian writer Sandor Marai a few years ago, a very different writer than Kundera. More than half of the novels I've translated in the last three years are gathering dust in my filing cabinet. I am not one to beg Urdu publishers. I have no contacts and neither do I have the time or inclination to engage in public relations work. The problem is this: the only person I trust in matters of book production is Ajmal Kamal. He has an innate sense of aesthetics. But, unfortunately, he cannot publish more books because they don't sell and he doesn't have inexhaustible funds to continue sustaining loss after loss. Shahrazad Publishers of Karachi were only too willing to publish my translations, but they have no sense of the aesthetics of book production and lack professionalism. Besides, these translations were also done partly out of a very personal need to regain some control over my lost ability to write in Urdu, and that was satisfied without publication. Life already has very little meaning for me. If I can't live it a little beautifully, what's the point?

TNS: Who are your favourite fiction writers and poets?

UM: Poetry is not my cup of tea, which is not to say I'm insensitive to the beauties of a good line of poetry. I'm afraid I live in the past; hence my favourites would be Mir, Ghalib, Rumi, Ibn al-Arabi. Among Urdu fiction writers, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy the balance of Naiyer Masud's short stories. He's a world-class writer. That said, I also like a few stories of Manto, Asad Muhammad Khan, my friend Salimur Rahman, and maybe a couple more. As I say this, I'm painfully aware that I have no desire to light the way for others. I hope readers will find their own way, their likes and dislikes, and the reasons for those likes and dislikes. Choice is a lonely track along a shimmering mirage. You must have the confidence to travel it alone and trust in yourself. Maybe you will never make it. But the reward is not insignificant: you made the choice; no one else did it on your behalf.

TNS: There is an opinion that translation is an interpretation. What is your take?

UM: Assuming it is, then what? How does it solve any of the very real problems an individual comes across in the act of translating? What is more to the point is that there is usually no one-to-one equivalence between the vocabulary of two languages and, more importantly, between how the speakers of those languages experience the world. Ask someone to translate Mir's: "Kahte to ho yuN kahte, yuN kahte jo voh aata / sab kahne ki bateN hain, kuchh bhi na kaha jata." If you try to translate it into English literally, it will fail to glow; it might even sound terribly pedestrian. You'll have to find an expression which more closely embodies the situation of the lover, something that feels natural to English, even if what you eventually come up with is literally at variance with the original. And this strategy may or may not work for a different line of poetry. So, if you want to call it "interpretation," be my guest; I would, however, call it a "version" or a "spin-off." In fiction, none of this might work. Fiction's different formal structures predetermine our choices and impose certain limitations, which you cannot transgress. There too you have to search for workable modes of expression.

TNS: As an astute observer of Urdu literature, do you think Urdu fiction can be compared to world fiction?

UM: For one thing, I'm not an astute observer of anything; for another, this question doesn't help us understand Urdu fiction. If anything, it satisfies a rather less than honorable human proclivity for self-importance and glorification. One should perhaps ask: what is unique about Urdu literature; how is it necessarily itself and not "itself" merely for the sake of existing and occupying a little space in the vastness of human experience, how is it crucially and ontologically something without which human experience itself would begin to hobble, something that affects and is affected by that experience.

TNS: What are you working on these days?

UM: I mentioned already that because of a lack of publishing opportunities, and my own audacious sense of aesthetics, my translated novels are edging toward nothingness, so I thought maybe I should keep myself going by translating articles written in English about Sufi metaphysics and Muslim philosophy. Not only would it be relatively easy to place them in Urdu periodicals but I would also be finally turning to a project I have often thought about undertaking in the past decade. I have already translated nearly a dozen of them and I hope to see them in print sooner or later.

TNS: Are you satisfied with your contribution to Urdu literature?

UM: Let me answer by relating an anecdote: A while back when I mentioned to a friend that I was serving (khidmat karna) Urdu, he quickly disabused me of this exaggerated notion. He said flat out that I was serving only myself. It hurt then, but it's really true. I may be serving Urdu literature in the eyes of others, but as for me, I'm only happily preoccupied with something I'm enjoying immensely. So that's that. My father died and is lying six feet under the ground. Is he satisfied with his contribution or his place in the memory of the people? I doubt it very much. He may have deluded himself thinking that what he did was for others. Eventually it was for him alone. Do I know better?

Email:[email protected]

 

 

 

And the critics say...

-- As told to Altaf Hussain Asad

Noted critic and scholar Dr Muhammad Ali Siddiqui evalutes him thus, "Umar Memon is a good story writer and he has made himself a significant contributor as a translator of Urdu fiction. However he has been supporting modernist writers who don't want to be associated with interdisciplinary criticism. Annual of Urdu Studies has contributed quite a bit as far as Urdu literature is concerned."

 

Senior and reputed short story writer Asad Muhammad Khan says, "Umar Memon has done his father proud by his contribution. He is the author of wonderful stories like Tareek Gali, Wapsi and Hisar. It is sad that critics neglected his stories. AUS has introduced Urdu fiction in foreign lands, a huge task indeed. As a person he is quite blunt and he does not believe in appeasing his friends at the cost of literature. He is a man who is totally committed with Urdu fiction. Hats off to Memon Sahib."

 

 

review

Strangers on the stage

By staging Chekhov'a world famous Seagull, NAPA establishes that taste is not in our blood and by producing plays of high quality we can change the taste of our audience

By Arif Waqar

Imagine for a moment: the stage is occupied by a bunch of noisy comedians throwing double entendres at each other, receiving big laughter from the over-crowed hall and an occasional comment from the audience... the chief clown throws a taunt at one of the back-benchers, and the whole show goes burlesque. But when the rebuttals are at their peak and the audience are having the time of their life, suddenly enter a group of serious looking men and women, dressed in late 19th century costumes, speaking our national language but discussing subjects as alien as 'aging gracefully', existential angst and the purpose of life... The on-lookers are stunned for a moment, then they start leaving the theatre in disgust and the fully packed hall of 500 reduces to just 70 odd viewers.

Who are these strangers on the stage? They are the cast of Chekhov's world famous Seagull, translated into Urdu by the stage enthusiast Mansur Saeed, and directed by a person not less than Zia Mohyeddin -- our own Lawrence Olivier... our very own Stanislavsky.

As the play progresses, we are introduced to Medvendenko, a schoolmaster, who loves Masha, but Masha loves the Hamlet-like hero Konstantin who, in turn, loves Nina, the girl next door, but Nina herself is in love with the popular fiction writer Trigorin, who is in love, or seems to be in love, with the hero's mother Arkadina, an aging actress, jealous of her own son and his young girl friend Nina. But as we later realise, Trigorin, masterfully played by Rahat Kazmi, doesn't love anybody, not even himself. In this gigantic whirlpool of love however, the main theme remains the mistrust between a fading actress and her young ambitious son who's a playwright and wants to introduce a new dramatic form on the stage.

The ingénue Nina seems to represent the audience when she gets confused at the sight of a dead seagull. She wonders if it's a symbol, and if it is, she is unable to comprehend it. This is where the great actor, director, theoretician and instructor Stanislavsky comes to our help. He directed the 1898 production of Seagull in Moscow and also performed the role of Trigorin in it. "Nina who has devoured Trigorin's nice but shallow short stories,'' says Stanislavsky, "falls in love with her own youthful dream and not with Trigorin. This is the tragedy of the slain seagull. This is the mockery and crudity of life. Life's ugliness is realised too late, when life is broken, all sacrifices made, and love turned into habit. New illusions are needed for one must go on living -- and Nina looks for them in zealotry."

The 11-day run of Seagull in October at the Karachi Arts Council drew some 2000 viewers in all. This is a tiny fraction in a city of 20 million people, and a grim reminder of the fact that only this many people are capable of enjoying the sub-textual and metaphorical suggestions tinged in the typical Chekhovian mood of melancholy and quiet; the hero's inter-textual relationship with Shakespeare's Hamlet, his wish to create a play-within-a play, the subtle nuances of dialogue and the symbolic vibrations emanating from the dead bird. These are not an average viewer's cup of tea. Our theatre audience need to be trained for stuff like that, but the million-dollar question is: who will train them? The producer of commercial theatre has a ready-made answer: we show on the stage what our audiences want to see, we have to cater to their taste.

National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) however knows well that "taste" is not in our blood, it is an acquired factor and by producing plays of high quality we can change the taste of our audience.

In addition to the difficulty of watching a play of ideas, there is an inevitable cultural gap, as the play is a direct translation, without any attempt to adapt the subject to modern Pakistani cultural concerns. It is up to the audience to make the leap of imagination required to appreciate the concerns of these rather alien characters.

The NAPA has shown the courage to challenge the audience to make this leap, even at the expense of commercial success. If NAPA continues to produce such world-class theatre, the exposure to a broader worldview must have a beneficial effect on the taste of the audience. But ultimately the NAPA's success will not be measured by the number of international classics it produces. The final criterion will certainly be: how many local writers and directors have been trained to write and produce world class plays and how many people are turning up to watch them.

There is no doubt an enormous talent for drama in Pakistan and one of the NAPA's declared purposes is "to groom its students in a way that they proudly carry on their work after leaving the academy with a professional discipline"

If the recent production of Seagull is anything to go by, NAPA has already produced quality actors like Aiman Tariq and Saqib Khan, who have performed the roles of Nina and Konstantin respectively. A NAPA instructor Arshad Mehmood also does the most charming and natural looking character of Sorin, in his real salt and pepper beard. Among the outsiders, Rahat Kazmi was superb in the role of Trigorin, the popular fiction writer. It's a pity that an accomplished actress like Nimra Bucha (The Dictator's Wife) has been wasted in a minor role. She could have been easily tried for the role of Arkadina, the fading actress.


The next tribe

Manganhaar Festival recently held in Karachi shoulders the responsibility of sustaining the clan's music form

By Sarwat Ali

As announced in the recently-concluded Manganhaar Festival held at the Karachi Arts Council the primary aim of starting the venture seemed to have been achieved -- the baithaks and growing awareness that this musical activity can be sustained and can also bring fame, money and not only disrepute and starvation.

A few years ago when the Manganhaar Festival was organised by the Folklore Society of Pakistan the main purpose was to revive music associated with this tribe or sub-caste. The positive fallout of these festivals held since, has been that several baithaks have sprung up in various parts of Sindh where music is being transferred from the ustad to the shagird in the traditional manner.

As part of the organised effort the baithaks of some of the old ustads like Rasool Baksh Abro in Rohri and Muhammed Shafi Faqir in Umerkot have been revived. These baithaks had been abandoned as there were no takers and the ustads were thrown out of work even if they wanted to teach and pass on the traditional musical knowledge and skill to the next generation. With a little help, both financial and moral, these ustads in the last few years have been able to revive their baithaks and the shagirds have started to come back to them. It was heartening to see that the majority of the performers were very young; some even in their pre-teens and it augurs well for the future of this kind of music.

The festival programme was dominated by these two baithaks that have been more closely involved with Manganhaar music. The Baithak of Umerkot run by Muhammed Shafi Faqir had the following shagirds participating in the festival -- Irfan Al Chachro, RajabAli Chachro, Farooq Rajab Chachro, Dildar Chachro, Feroz Gul, Abdur Razzaq, Garor Sharif, Sher Khan, Abbas, Ali Abdul Jabbar, Nadeem Barno Chachro and Arshad Barno Chachro. While that of Rasul Baksh Abro from Rohri had the following taking part in the three-hour programme -- Muhtiar Ali, Talpur Wadda, Laila Sorath, Altaf Sindhi, Aashir Gul, Sadaqat Ali, Talpur Wadda and Rehman Ali Rohri.

The third component of the festival was performances by promising Bheel practitioners who also demonstrated the ability to prosper and carry the art of their tribe and group in the present day environment. The two baithaks that participated were Krishan Lal Bheel's that included Munawwar Das, Sadia, Ajey Ram and Teju Ram while that of Nazar Muhammad included Daan Singh Kohli, Hari Chand Kohli, Jiva Ram Kohli, Hameer Lal Kohli, Om Prakash Bheel and Washoo Bheel.

It was also feared that many of the traditional instruments would also become extinct. The most endangered happened to be the khamancha. It was good to see a young player of the instrument along with an older one Saleh Muhammad and Patai Khan. The other accompanist included Niaz Ali, Jalal Faqir on the tabla, Muhammad Sumar, Muhammad Yaqoob, Singaar Ali on the dholak, Habibullah, Ghulam Hussain on the banjo, Rab Dino on the khartal, Ghulam Farid on the khanjri, Badal on the majeeray and Muhammad Rafiq, Muhammad Sharif, Javed Ali and Krishan Das on the harmonium.

Few years ago as it was very fashionable to see and assess music is relation to the people belonging to a certain tribe or a region and one such group of people that had aroused great curiosity were the Manganhaars, a group within an ethnic dispensation spread over a large area that spans Rajisthan, Sindh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and portions of the lower Punjab known for their creative activity particularly music.

As the society has changed a great deal it is difficult to track down the roots of various communities. It becomes all the more difficult because most people when they become famous start to deny and negate their roots. Now in our societies with such vertical and horizontal mobility people have become dissociated from their hereditary professions and even from the place of their origins. It has become well neigh impossible to tell who people are. In the traditional society the Manganhaars may have been singing and dancing but now they don't do that, at least not all of them.

Appearing to be the last festival for the folklore society of Pakistan it intends to move into other areas and sub-cultures. Their basic function had been somewhat met as the groups and their larger tribe and clan can now shoulder the responsibility of sustaining their form. The folklore society was of the view that the time had arrived of either handing over the task to the practitioners and their ustads running the baithaks or to other groups interested in promoting music in the country.

 

Naqsh likes his charpoy

Jamil Naqsh does not flaunt the traditional bed as an exotic accessory from the East but engages with it in his own manner

 

By Quddus Mirza

An urban dweller may only dream about a charpoy while sleeping on his smooth, fluffy and cosy bed. He may not exactly compare the roughness of one with the comfort of the other but only remember the charpoy for other reasons. Like Jamil Naqsh, who presumably prefers to sleep on the floor than on a plush bed in his London apartment, paints his nude figures lying on the traditional charpoy made in wood and strings. For him, and several others, the object is more than a piece of domestic utility. It is important for personal, physical, psychological and societal aspects, since it represents a specific culture.

In a way, charpoy has become a cultural icon -- more so for people who are not using it on daily basis anymore -- and is occasionally manifested in one's artistic expressions. In the new paintings of Jamil Naqsh, naked women are lying on or standing next to charpoy. These canvases convey his keen observation and remarkable ability to capture details like texture and colour of the female figure. The object further echoes the perspective from the Indian miniature painting. Both the human figure and the wooden structure that are rendered in multiple shades of brown, confirm Naqsh's unmatched stature in Pakistani art. These also suggest the extent of his study of miniature painting and his appropriation of this genre as a visual vocabulary valid in the present times.

Actually the inclusion of charpoy is a new motif and a deviation from his usual woman-bird-horse imagery. It not only provides a background to the reclining or standing figure but also reflects the painter's position far away from his country. Probably the distance has created a preference for an ordinary object like a charpoy and the viewer can sense similar sort of affection in the depiction of nude figure as well as in the detailed description of charpoy.

Although, in a logical sequence of concepts, a naked woman can be connected to an empty bed (even to an unmade charpoy), still charpoy enjoys a special significance in Jamil's imagery, because it can be seen/read a substitute for the painter, who may identify with this simple household furniture.

Naqsh is not creating an image as a metaphor for his homeland. A number of other artists and writers either living in exile or having migrated to distant destinations have found visuals to portray self, situation and connection to the homeland. One of the easiest and obvious choices among some visual artists has been Islamic calligraphy and geometric patterns, which bring a 'niche' success to the makers. Other favourite themes are modernisation of miniature painting, condition of suppressed women in Muslim society and projection of heritage -- to allure Western viewers and secure a place for the artist who rely on sentimentality (and saleability) of vernacular imagery and subject.

In comparison to the art makers settled in the West and catering to foreign audience through samples of cultural products and practices; some other artists are content with creating for and conversing with their audience at home. For them, being in a foreign land is a physical displacement, which is in conflict with their internal situation rooted in this region. Hence when artists like Jamil Naqsh paint a cultural motif, they do not flaunt it as an exotic accessory from the East, but engage with it in a private, serious and intellectual manner -- and seek to share it with public at home.

As in Naqsh's new paintings, the imagery of female and the background of charpoy allude to artist's desire for being linked with the people from his cultural surroundings. So charpoy can be a means for preserving a common language and experience, and communicating to the appropriate audience -- a feature that makes his work relevant to our art even though it is created thousands of miles away -- in a London flat, where there is no charpoy perhaps.

 

Election fever

Dear All,

Britain appears to be in the grip of election fever -- even though no election has actually been announced.

There seems to be a sense of conviction in the national mood -- or perhaps just in the national media-- that Labour party has been in power for so long (12 years) that change is now inevitable. Add to this the constant reinforcement (mostly by the media) of the message that Gordon Brown is an un-charismatic and unworthy leader, and the sense of inevitability is deepened.

The major political parties recently had their annual conferences, in which they basically presented election manifestos. The Conservatives said that they would definitely soon be in government; they also tried to convince everyone that under David Cameron, the Tory party had changed and become a much nicer set of people with caring, liberal values, rather than rightist bigots who opposed being part of Europe and liked to help the rich get richer and richer.

'Change' is the slogan they love to use. Quite frankly, the thought of having the Conservatives in charge of Britain once again fills me with the deepest dread. Even though the Tories may claim that they love the National Health Service and will not undermine it in any way, the idea of such a service -- free (costly) healthcare for all citizens is not something that is really part of Conservative thought or economics. As for the Lib Dems, their purpose in life is a bit of a mystery to me. My daughter asked me if I would vote for them, and I replied I would not as I had no idea what they actually stand for in practical terms.

The media's role here in building up this mood is also rather questionable. The Rupert Murdoch group (Sky TV, The Times etc) has lost faith in Labour and they announced this clearly in the edition of their tabloid The Sun on the day of Gordon Brown's speech at the Labour Party Conference. They claim that the party they support always wins the elections, and that it was their support that was responsible for the Labour win in 1997 and their defeat in 1992.

Sky TV has also managed to get the Prime Minister to agree to participate in a TV debate. This would be a landmark in British politics -- and should be extremely interesting, but it seems Brown wants the debates to start right away rather than after the actual announcement of elections.

Let's see what happens -- and whether on the small screen Cameron's apple cheeked, Madame-Tussauds-waxwork demeanour triumphs over Brown's serious and rather stolid manner.

Best Wishes

Umber Khairi

 

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