Three Pashas, Armenian Genocide and Operation Nemesis

Nemesis is Greek goddess of retribution. She brings about downfall of those who are arrogant and succumb to hubris.

The three pashas of Ottoman Empire were de facto ruler of Empire during World War I. First Pasha, Mehmed Talaat Pasha was Prime Minister (Vazir) and Minister of the Interior; second Pasha, Ismail Enver Pasha the Minister of War; and third Pasha, Ahmed Djemal Pasha was Minister of the Navy.

Three Pashas took pride in Turkish nationalism, but their nationalism excluded the Christian minorities. Their hubris resulted in they taking wrong decision of getting rid of Christian minorities within empire like Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. In 1915 they rounded up all the Christians and made them march through desert, thousands died due to hunger, their property was confiscated, children were killed and women raped before they were killed. After World War I Turkey was defeated and war tribunal gave death sentence to three Pashas.

It was not that everyone hated three Pashas. There were intellectuals who supported Pashas. One such supporter was novelist Halide Edib Adıvar. She was a strong supporter of women rights, but she supported Djemal Pasha who forced Armenian orphans to learn Turkish and converted them to Islam. Like three Pasha she took false pride in pan Turkism, the made her blind to atrocities committed on Armenians.

Post World War Turkey denied any genocide took place. Anyone talking about genocide was labelled as antinational. When Turkish novelist Orhan Pumak talked about massacre of Armenians, he was labelled as anti-national and sued. Orhan Pumak won Noble Prize for Literature in 2006.

“Thirty thousand Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do.”

-Orhan Pumak

But Armenians never forgot the genocide. Armenian leader Shahan Natalie and his colleagues decided to take revenge. They launched Operation Nemesis ( named after Greek goddess I talked about) to kill Turkish and Azeri officials who massacred Armenians. Their biggest enemy was Talat Pasha. Task of killing Talat Pasha was given to Soghomon Tehlirian. Soghomon came to know that Talat Pasha was in Berlin. He shadowed Talat Pasha and shot him dead. The other two Pashas too were killed. Another prominent person assassinated during operation Nemesis was Fatali Khan Khoyski, prime minister of Azerbaijan.

Story of Soghomon Tehlirian has been published in form of a graphic novel called Operation Nemesis. Soghomon was acquitted by German court and is considered national hero in Armenia.

Many Armenians came and settled in India. One such Armenian was William Robert Yeoward who married lady called Victoria Hemmings. She gave birth to a child called Angelina. Victoria loved music and dance. Later the couple divorced and Victoria converted to Islam and got new name Malka Jaan while Angelina was named Gauhar Jaan. Gauhar Jaan was trained in music and became famous singer. She was first Indian whose music was recorded on Gramophone record. She was star and earned lot of money through recordings. But her lavish lifestyle and reduced earning at end of her career resulted in poverty.



Lodz, Novels and Holocaust

Lodz (pronounced – Wootch) is one of largest cities of Poland. In 19th century it was transformed from a small town to a large industrial city. The industrialisation took place due to large scale migration of Germans. The three communities Germans, Poles and Jews made it textile capital of Eastern Europe.

This unique demography of city and industrialization inspired many authors to write novels on this city.

“For that ‘promised land’ – for that tumor – villages were deserted, forests died out, the land was depleted of its treasures, the rivers dried up, people were born. And it sucked everything into itself. And in its powerful jaws it crushed and chewed up people and things, sky and earth, in return giving useless millions to a handful of people, and hunger and hardship to the whole throng”.

-Waldyslaw Reymont

Władysław Reymont was a Polish novelist who wrote novel “The Promised Land” (Ziemia Obiecana in Polish) on city of Lodz. The novel is about three friends who are ruthless industrialists. The three friends- Karol Borowiecki (Polish), Max Baum (German) and Moritz Welt (Jew) gather funds to start a textile mill. They ruthlessly exploit the workers to earn profit. Reymont saw industrialisation of Lodz from exploitation (of both human and nature) point of view.

Waldyslaw got Noble Prize for Literature in 1924.

Reymont died before rise of Nazism and conquest of Poland by Nazis.

Another Polish Novelist Israel Joshua Singer’s novel “The Brothers Ashkenazi” covers period till rise of communism in Russia. It is written in Yiddish language. The novel is about Jewish twins in city of Lodz- Simcha Meyer Ashkenazi and Jacob Bunim Ashkenazi. Simcha is shrewd and unscrupulous, while Jacob is popular and extrovert. The novel is about rivalry between the brothers. Finally, they reconcile when Simcha is arrested in communist Russia and Jacob gets him released, but when they return to Poland, Jacob is killed by a racist Polish guard.

The novel also explores relationship between the Ashkenazi family(Jews) and Huntze family (Germans). Huntze are owner of a large textile mill and Ashkenazi are their agents, but Simcha manages to get control over the textile mill.

Before World War 2, the Jews were an influential community in Lodz. But all that changed after invasion of Poland by Germany. Lot of restrictions were placed on Jews. They were confined to a ghetto in Lodz. Nazis were keen to get rid of Jews.

During this time a Jewish leader emerged who came up with novel scheme of saving Jews. Chaim Rumkowski became leader of Lodz ghetto. He struck deal with Nazi chief of Lodz ghetto Hans Biebow. The Jews would use their skills to produce goods for Germans. The Jews were made to work for long hours, with payment in form of food. But food given was insufficient to survive, they were slowly starved to death. Rumkowski became dictator of Lodz ghetto, he raised a Jewish police force, which was ruthless with Jews and forced them to work harder.

“A grievous blow has struck the ghetto. They [the Germans] are asking us to give up the best we possess – the children and the elderly. I was unworthy of having a child of my own, so I gave the best years of my life to children. I’ve lived and breathed with children. I never imagined I would be forced to deliver this sacrifice to the altar with my own hands. In my old age, I must stretch out my hands and beg: Brothers and sisters! Hand them over to me! Fathers and mothers: Give me your children!”

— Chaim Rumkowski, September 4, 1942

 These tactics delayed deportation of Jews to concentration camp. But finally, all including Rumkowski were sent to concentration camp. First to go were old and children, next was turn of working men and women and last to go was Rumkowski. It is said that Rumkowski was killed by Jews of concentration camp, while Biebow was executed after war trials.

Henryk Ross was a daring Jewish photographer who managed to document Nazi atrocities in Lodz. His evidences were useful during trials of Nazis.

Post-World War 2, some Polish Jews migrated to US. The novel “Enemies: A Love Story” is about a Polish Jew Herman Border who goes to US with his Polish wife Yadwiga (Yadwiga was his maid, who saved his life from Nazis by hiding him). His wife and children killed by Nazis. Later in US, Border has affair with another Jewish refugee Masha, later his earlier wife Tamara also lands up in US (she is not killed, but has survived holocaust). The novel was written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, brother of Israel Singer, like his brother he wrote in Yiddish. Their sister Esther Kreitman too was a novelist.

Issac got Noble Prize for literature in 1978.



NS Hardikar, K B Hedgewar and Indian Politics

In year 1889 in Nagpur a son was born to Baliram and Revati Hedgewar called Keshav. Almost a month later, few hundred kilometers from Nagpur at Dharwad a son was born to Subbaro and Yamuna Hardikar called Narayan. Parents of both Keshav Hedgewar and Narayan Hardiwar were unaware of impact their children would have on Indian politics.

Both became doctors and decided to take part in politics. Hardikar was influenced by Congress, while Hedgewar was anti- Congress.

In 1923, Hardikar decided to from a cadre of disciplined Congress workers which wore Khadi shirt, half pant and white Gandhi cap. They actively took part in Congress’s agitation against British. The unit was called as Congress Seva Dal. Gradually Congress Seva Dal became influential partner within Congress. Nehru actively participated in Congress Seva Dal meetings.

In 1925, Hedgewar formed Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh, cadre of social workers who were subject to military discipline. They wore white shirts, khaki half pant and black cap. RSS was anti Congress and pro Hindu organization. Unlike Haridkar’s Seva Dal, RSS had a modest beginning.

Post-independence, Seva Dal helped Congress to win elections, popularity of both Seva Dal and Congress was at its peak. RSS meanwhile was suppressed by Congress, but it was growing steadily.

Seva Dal did well till Indira Gandhi ruled India, post Indira Gandhi, Seva Dal was on decline.

Congress came under influence of professors from University named after Nehru. Unlike Dal they were not interested in working at grassroots level and doing hard work. They came up with new pattern of politics-writing books, newspaper articles and songs on secularism. They even made songs and dance on secularism.

Seva Dal lacked agility, they were unable to learn this new secular song and dance. Congress too started losing power, because earlier it was Seva Dal whose contacts at grassroots level that enabled Congress to win elections. The new influencers were more into song, dance, debates and laughter. One Congress laughed loudly in Parliament and predicted that her laughter will result in defeat of BJP. These innovations were beyond comprehension of Seva Dal.

RSS formed a political wing called BJP. Like RSS, BJP too had a modest beginning. But over period of time both grew. Decline of Congress and Seva Dal resulted in rapid rise of BJP and RSS. Currently BJP is India’s largest political party and RSS is many times bigger than Seva Dal.


Braskem, Innovation and Sugarcane

Brazil is largest producer of sugarcane in world. Sugarcane gives  Ethanol , which then gets converted into polyethylene. Polyethylene is used to make plastic.

Polyethylene is usually obtained from petrochemicals and plastic produced from it is more durable and cheaper. But such plastic does not degrade fast resulting in pollution.

Polyethylene from sugarcane is eco friendly and degrades faster. But it costs a lot.


A company in Brazil Braskem has come up with technology to make this green plastic on mass scale and aim to replaced oil based plastics. Braskem has been ranked as one of the most innovative companies of South America. Braskem has tied up with companies like Walmart to make bags made from green plastic.

Selma Lagerlöf, Körkarlen and Ankou

“Have you ever seen a child sitting on its mother’s knee listening to fairy stories? As long as the child is told of cruel giants and of the terrible suffering of beautiful princesses, it holds its head up and its eyes open; but if the mother begins to speak of happiness and sunshine, the little one closes its eyes and falls asleep with its head against her breast. . . . I am a child like that, too. Others may like stories of flowers and sunshine; but I choose the dark nights and sad destinies.”

Selma Lagerlöf

Selma Lagerlof was a Swedish author. She was asked by Swedish association to write essay on Tuberculosis. It was pre-antibiotics era (novel was written in 1912, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics in 1928) and tuberculosis was then a serious disease. Selma decided to write a novel instead of essay to spread awareness. She decided to add other elements like ills of alcoholism, fantasy and fairy tales.

The novel Körkarlen is about a dying social worker Edith, she is suffering for tuberculosis and before dying she wants to see a person called David Holm. David Holm is an alcoholic and cruel person. Edith got tuberculosis when she was repairing his torn coat.

Ankou is god of death. He is tall with long white hair, he drives a large, black coach pulled by four black horses; accompanied by two ghostly figures on foot. The last person to die in year is supposed to assist him in carrying souls of death for next one year. Last year it was turn of David’s friend George.

David is drinking with his buddies after which they have fight, his friends hit David who is already weak due to tuberculosis. George decides to pick soul of David and throws him in coach. After death, David now gets a chance to see fate of people whom he hurt in his life like Edith, his wife and his brother.

He regrets his behaviour with Edith and his brother, both are suffering from tuberculosis, they die peacefully and their souls are put in coach. Finally, it is turn of his wife, she is about to commit suicide, when David asks George to send him back to living world and he will mend his ways. George agrees and David goes back to living world to save his wife from killing herself and his children. Ankou makes George serve him for one more year.

Her novel covers topics like coughing in public, sterilization of cloths, hygiene, alcoholism and domestic violence. It was later made into a film called Phantom carriage. The novel was translated in English as Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness.

Selma was first woman to win Nobel Prize in literature.



Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Sisyphus

One reason why people commit suicide is they find life meaningless. Some philosophers feel that humans are searching for meaning in life, but the world does not provide any answer. Now question is how do we survive in this meaningless world?

Two streams emerged to answer this. One is called Existentialism, it believes that man has gift of free will, so even if universe is meaningless, a man is free to make it meaningful by exercising that gift. We make our own meaning.

Other is called Absurdism. Absurdism denies concept of free will, it suggests that we make peace with the meaningless world and try to find sources of happiness that don’t involve the need for meaning.

Albert Camus was a French philosopher and author. He deals with subject of absurdism in his books. In his book “The myth of Sisyphus” he deals with meaningless world and suicide. The job of Sisyphus is most meaningless, he rolls a heavy stone to top of mountain, only to see it roll down and he has to start again, he has to do this forever. But Camus feels that even Sisyphus must be having moments of happiness esp. when he reaches mountain top (though for a very brief moment), secondly, Sisyphus has accepted the fact that he has been punished and has to do the work. So, committing suicide is no solution.

“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus deals with absurdism in his other books like The Stranger, where Arthur Meursault is sentenced to death for killing an Arab, brother of mistress of his friend Raymond Sintès. But Meursault refuses to find meaning in religion, becomes indifferent to world and gets ready for execution.

“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.”

― Albert Camus, The Plague

This philosophy also reflects in his other novel The Plague. In town of Oran, thousands of rats start dying resulting is spread of bubonic plague. Even though two doctors Dr. Rieux and Dr. Castel notice this, other doctors and town authorities dismiss their views. Authorities wake up when it is too late, they seal the town. This sealing of town and plague has impact of population, they withdraw from world and find life meaningless. But some like Dr. Rieux continue to serve people even when is wife is dying in a sanatorium. While some like Father Paneloux use this situation to propagate religion.

Albert Camus won Nobel Prize for literature at the age of 43 years in 1957. He died at the age of 46 years in a car accident.

Like Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre was French philosopher and author. He deals with subject of existentialism in his work.

His novel The Nausea is about an author Antoine Roquentin, his relationship with two more characters his ex-lover Anny and person in library- Self-taught man. Antoine is writing book on French politician of 18th century Marquis de Rollebon. While writing novel Antoine faces problem of existence. He tries to go back to Anny but is rejected by her. Self-taught man is chased out of town as he is found to be paedophile.

Antoine finally overcomes the issue of existence by rejecting his past and accepting his present existence and moves to Paris to write novel.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

Jean- Paul Sartre

His other novel, The Wall is about executions that took place during Spanish Civil War. Pablo Ibbieta is sentenced to death, but his executioner makes an offer, if he reveals hideout of his comrade Ramón Gris, the they will release Pablo. But Pablo finds that he no longer cares for anything.  Finally, when he is about to be executed, just for sake of fun he tells them that they will find him in cemetery and enjoys the thought of his executioners going on a wild goose chase. But to his surprise he is released. Then he comes to know that Ramon had left his earlier hiding place and had moved to cemetery for hiding and got killed.

“Hell is—other people!”

 Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

In his play No Exit, he talks about three souls, who go to hell but find that there are no torture devices. As they start interacting with each other, they find that their relationship with each other is real torture device. It has Sartre’s famous quote- Hell is other people.

Sartre lived with his companion Simone de Beauvoir, who like him was an existentialist philosopher esp. feminist existentialism.

In 1964, Sartre was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. But he refused to accept it.



Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Sindhi

During Islamic rule in India, Persian was considered to be a classical language and official language of court.   After decline of Mughals and conquest of India by East India Company, Urdu replaced Persian as official language. Gradually Hindus started promoting Hindi and soon Hindi was at par with Urdu as official language in Northern India.

Many Muslim leaders of North India did not like this. Hindi vs. Urdu controversy resulted in partition of India. In new nation of Pakistan, the migrants ( Mojahirs) influenced Jinnah to make it official language of Pakistan. Hindi became official language of India. Millions died during partition. Hindus were reduced to insignificant minority in Pakistan.

But Urdu failed to unite Pakistanis, though Islam was common factor, it could not compensate for cultural diversity. First there was conflict between West and East Pakistan. Bhutto in West did not like Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of East.  Bhutto liked Urdu,  but for Bengalis, Bengali is the best.

Soon there was war been two Pakistans and new nation called Bangladesh was formed. Bengali became official language of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh war resulted in death of millions.

After partition of India, Hindus of Pakistan migrated to India, similarly Muslims of India left for Pakistan. In province of Sindh after getting rid of Hindus, their homes and property was gifted to migrating Muslims ( called Mojahirs). Initially Sindhis were generous, after all they were distributing what belonged to Hindus. But gradually , they started disliking Mojahirs, and felt that driving out Sindhi Hindus was a big mistake. G M Syed started movement for independent Sindh.

Sindhis now claimed that their ancestors build Mohenjo Daro and Mojahirs were disgrace to this land of ancient civilization.

Bhutto brought Sindhi at par with Urdu. Mojahirs did not like it at all. They thought that this is was end of Urdu. One of the Urdu poet Rais Amrhovi wrote “Urdu Ka Janaza Hai Zara Dhoom Say Niklay” ( It is funeral of Urdu language, do it with fanfare) . This was followed by Sindhi- Mojahir riots. Hundreds died in riots. Amrhovi was a liberal Muslim , he was assassinated for his views.