Moeed Yusuf has now been hired by Pakistan’s National Security Division. American taxpayers need answers.
For several years, under the ostensible leadership of Moeed Yusuf, the Washington DC-based United States Institute of Peace –working on global conflict reduction – has furthered a relentless pro-Pakistan policy. He has been promoting Pakistan’s interests at US taxpayers’ expense.
I have complained about it many times, and have also reported him to the FBI and to every serving member of the US House Oversight Committee. The institute was founded by the US Congress, which continues to pay its bills.
My concerns about Yusuf were vindicated last week when The Dawnannounced that he will assume a newly-created position – the chairperson of the Strategic Policy Planning Cell (SPPC) of Pakistan, which functions under the country’s National Security Division.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP)’s pro-Pakistan stance is evidenced in the editorials and programme documents written by Moeed Yusuf and his colleagues, including Steve Hadley, another well-known pro-Pakistan former official in the George W. Bush administration, as well as in media interviews and congressional testimonies. Persons familiar with USIP employees have told me that they note that “we [USIP] are pro-Pakistan.”
The USIP has been the premier venue for hosting a variety of Pakistani officials. The events are by invitation-only and not open to a general audience. This policy is odd given that the USIP is funded exclusively by the US government. They also explicitly preclude critics of Pakistan or of the USIP’s position such as myself.
During the last event that I was permitted to attend at USIP in 2014, the USIP hosted a Pakistan Defense delegation after which I posted a searing recount of the event. The man behind the event was an oddly well-heeled Pakistani-American Dentist named Nisar Chaudhury who latter confessed to illegally lobbying on behalf of Pakistan. (Pakistan had long ousted me from such events but Chaudhury was keen to broker some kind of a rapprochement with me and the deep state and invited me. That rapprochement did not happen, obviously.)
In what functioning government is it appropriate for a US citizen (perhaps with dual citizenship now), after years of selling Pakistan’s interests while drawing a salary from the US government, to take up such a position in Pakistan government without consequence? The USIP must be asked important questions: Was it harbouring and nurturing a ‘Pakistani asset’? Will it re-employ Yusuf when his tenure in Pakistan ends?
Who is Moeed Yusuf
The South Asia policy community first heard of Moeed Yusuf around 2008 when he was a doctoral student in Boston. Leading male South Asia scholars nurtured him. In 2010, Ambassador William B. Taylor hired Moeed Yusuf as a “South Asia Adviser”. At the time of hire, he was not an American citizen, and as per my conversations with USIP staff, he was hired as a consultant initially. Early in his tenure, I raised issues with Taylor as well as Andrew Wilder.
In 2010, another female scholar of Pakistan told me that she had given Yusuf a sensitive proposal and that she believed Yusuf had conveyed it to “Pakistan’s agencies”. Unfamiliar with Yusuf, I presumed that—if this had occurred at all—it would have been by accident. I suggested to this very anxious scholar that perhaps Yusuf sent it to a reviewer who may have forwarded it. I told her that I would raise the matter with Ambassador Taylor, which I did. To my surprise when Ambassador Taylor raised this issue with the scholar, she recanted her story and bizarrely insinuated that I fabricated this to embarrass her.
To this day, I do not know what motivated her to reach out to me with this account or to recant it. What I do know is that it undermined my credibility when I raised subsequent questions on Yusuf, which I did again, in the spring of 2011.
In May 2011, I received a threatening email indicating that I would be “gang raped” by an entire regiment if and when I returned to Pakistan. These emails are never signed: “Affectionately, the ISI.” I immediately phoned the ISI station chief in the Pakistan embassy in Washington DC, who was defence attaché Brigadier Nazir Butt. He and I had a very heated exchange during which I demanded to know why I have received this threat. Nazir offered two reasons. He said he had seen a document that was the prospectus for my future book Fighting to the End. Only one person had that prospectus who was also in a position to forward it Nazir. That person was political analyst Shuja Nawaz. (The only other possible explanation was that the organisation had hacked my computer or his.) The other piece of information he recounted was reported from a briefing that I did, along with Moeed Yusuf and Marvin Weinbaum, for the outgoing ambassador to Islamabad, Ambassador Cameron Munter.
Nazir and I also had a heated follow-up conversation at the Pakistan embassy. I reported this to Andrew Wilder, who was his supervisor at the time. Wilder raised this with Yusuf who denied saying anything inappropriate and wrote an indignant email to me a few days later. From that point onward, I refused to be in any meeting with him that was “off the record” and warned people that he may be compromised.
Meanwhile, Yusuf continued his ascent within the USIP as did his authority over the organisation’s remit. By the time he took this job, his title was “associate vice president at the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace ” He even organised an exclusive, invitation-only “Young Professionals Working Group on Pakistan,” which featured officials from the US and Pakistani government including the ISI station chief, Brig. Butt in 2011.
In 2017, I encouraged an Indian journalist, Seema Sirohi, to submit an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for all emails between Yusuf as well as Hadley and officials at the Pakistani Embassy. Amazingly, the USIP declined this saying these communications constitute “inter-agency or intra-agency communications” and are thus exempt. How can communications with a foreign entity be so-classified by an organisation such as the USIP? Equally appalling, Yusuf, chided Sirohi about the request when they next met at a function.
My concerns about Yusuf intensified when a foreign agent informed me that they believed Yusuf and/or Hadley, most likely via Hadley’s private firm, had taken funds from the Midwest Fertilizer Co. LLC in Indiana. The operations of this firm were not without controversy because its lead investor was Fatima Fertilizer Group, a Pakistan-based firm that was supplying some 80 per cent of the fertilizer that the Taliban used in its improvised explosive devices (IEDs, or bombs), which were responsible for most of the deaths of Americans soldiers and their Afghan and NATO allies. A British military officer argued that the firm should change its production method because the Fatima Group is the “lone source of the problem in Afghanistan”. The firm refused to be a part of a solution. For this reason, then-governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, suspended state support for the project.
However, Pence reopened talks with Midwest Fertilizer, after which the Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered the company $300,000 in conditional incentives from the Hoosier Business Investment tax credit. The foreign agent refused to provide information about his source.
In December 2017, I reported this to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to a personal contact at the National Security Council as well as to a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency. I had planned to meet with staffers at the House Oversight Committee to discuss this and other concerns, but the FBI asked me to demur from doing so.
I complained to and about the USIP most recently on 25 July when I sent an unanswered email asking how the USIP justifies excluding persons such as myself when it hosts senior Pakistani officials. That same week, I sent a fax to every member of the US House Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on Government operations. Not a single member responded to my note.
Moeed Yusuf has now accepted a recently-created post in Pakistan under the National Security Division, which was created in January 2014 and its mandate includes:
“provision of secretariat services to the National Security Committee (NSC), drafting of National Security Policy (NSP) and engagement with international partners in a dialogue on issues relevant to national security of Pakistan. The Division is headed by Minister for National Security…. The National Security Committee (NSC) is the principal decision-making body on National Security matters.”
Yusuf will serve in an ex-officio capacity to the NSC.
Pakistan has a decent track record of placing its citizens in sensitive posts. Zain Qureshi, son of Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was then the foreign minister under President Asif Ali Zardari, worked for Senator John Kerry as an intern in 2009. Qureshi returned to Pakistan, where his father is now the foreign minister under Prime Minister Imran Khan. Zain Qureshi is now a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and is currently serving as the federal parliamentary secretary for finance.
Brigadier Gen. (Retired) Feroz Khan might be the most audacious placement. For more than a decade, he has been a faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in California. Khan, who was promoted to brigadier without ever commanding a brigade, was related to Pervez Musharraf through marriage. (Khan’s daughter was married to Musharraf’s son. They have since been divorced.) What makes Khan so controversial is that prior to joining the NPS, he worked for General Khalid Kidwai in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is the premier organisation responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.
Several persons at the NPS have expressed considerable concern about the procedures involved in hiring Khan, who was not a US citizen. They told this author that he was hired as a consultant. He is now a US citizen.
In what country does a retired general from another hostile nuclear programme join a military-educational institution where he has the ability to not only shape the perceptions of hundreds of personnel each year, but also garner deeply personal insights about personnel being deployed to Pakistan? Khan’s colleagues at the NPS continue to raise doubts with me about his funding for his lifestyle, which seems inconsonant with his NPS salary.
Similarly, Moeed Yusuf’s tenure at USIP may well be another example of a US-taxpayer-funded institution hosting a deep-state asset. One should be very clear about the nature of US-Pakistan relations. Pakistan is single-handedly responsible for not only undermining US interests in Afghanistan, but also having proxies such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, who are directly responsible for murders of American personnel as well as their Afghan and NATO allies.
The USIP must be held to account as must Yusuf. He should at least be compelled to give up his US citizenship as is standard for others who have joined foreign governments. The USIP should not be permitted to hire him back.
Equally, the American taxpayer deserves to know why organisations such as the FBI and the House Oversight Committee never cared about Yusuf and its actions when it actually mattered?
Americans deserve to know the answers. And so do the families of victims of Pakistan-sponsored militant groups.
This originally appeared inThe Print on 3 October 2019.
As a young feminist studying South Asia in 1990 America, it
was de rigueur,
for American feminists to decry the “barbaric” abuses from which “third world
women” needed to be liberated. Sati,
which became resurgent in Rajasthan briefly, along with female feticide and
infanticide and dowry deaths were their cause
célèbre as were the Taliban’s use of death by stoning to execute Afghan
women for various crimes real and imagined. The enforced hijab in Iran and Saudi Arabia as
well as the latter’s ban on female drivers all drove American feminists over
the edge as did—and does—female genital mutilation (FGM) practices by some
Muslim communities “in Africa.” (Apparently no one can be bothered with
specifying a particular country when it comes to Africa.)
Coming from a blue-color family in rural and peri-rural
Indiana, I was annoyed by the “overthereism” of white feminism. For one thing, two
of my cousins (by marriage) were child brides. Lean, one of these cousins,
was more or less my age and we spent the summers swimming and doing girl stuff.
Then in the summer in 1983, Lean was married, with court permission, to a man
well into his twenties. She was from a town called “Mongo,” Indiana which was
essentially a village where a high school education was an accomplishment she
would not achieve. Her sister followed suit several years later. No one in my
family seemed terribly aghast by this, except my mother and me. Throughout Lean’s wedding, I wanted to vomit.
My mom kept jabbing me to stop making faces during the ceremony. In any
circumstances this would have been statutory rape. But when legitimized by a
pastor, child rape becomes matrimony.
Nor did I have the luxury of presuming that boy preference was
a curious practice of exotic countries. Afterall, my stepmonster routinely
opined that he had no intention of saving money to send me to college so that I
could “find a husband.” He furthered that since we were poor and could only
afford to educate one of the kids, “it made sense to educate the boy.” My
mother fought long and hard to educate me. My mother saw that I had no other prospects
for a happy life than education. Unlike my brother, I was unattractive,
overweight and bespectacled. I preferred books to boys and I revolted against
the abusive patriarchy that was firmly rooted in our rural Indiana culture and
which claimed the happiness and physical safety of every woman I knew who was
married. My grandmother was elated when my abusive grandfather died. My mother
used to tell how she fantasized about castrating my first stepmonster and she
was constantly in tears over the boorish behavior of my second. Mom stayed
married for the reason my grandmother did: economic dependency upon lousy men.
And my aunt, after whom I am named, stayed married to her violent and alcoholic
husband for the same reason. When she finally left him, he murdered her. I had
enough evidence in hand that nothing good would come from matrimony.
This worried my mother. There was no precedent for a woman
existing in our family without a man taking care of her. And the suffering that
went with matrimony was part of that price. But to her credit, my mom fought
hard for the only future I demanded—one in which I made my own future
independent of any man. But mom never shied from telling me the truth: she
never wanted a girl. Raising girls were
precarious and risky. Their success in life was too indeterminate unless they
were popular and pretty and I was neither. Boys’ futures, she felt, were more
predictable. She was not cruel. She was forthright and pragmatic. Just as I am
today. There was no place in that horrible archipelago of rural hellholes from
which I escaped to be the woman I wanted to be. And this was not India or
“Africa.” It was Indiana. The same state from which our current Vice
President hails along with five others.
While the United States has long been a terrible place to be
a woman for many women, it’s getting worse not better. In contrast, many countries
I study –including Pakistan—is making strides to make lives for women better.
But in the not in the United States. American legislators refuse to pass laws
that make it illegal to pay women less for the same work. And once again our
basic right to decide whether and when to have children is being taken
The right to abortion is one that I hold dear because of
personal reasons. My biological father impregnated
my mother under false pretenses and unmarried in 1967. Abortion was illegal and thus the exclusive
privilege of wealthy women who could travel abroad or pay someone to provide a safe,
but still illegal, abortion in the United States. Poor women who had illegal
abortion risked their lives and many died from sepsis or blood loss. So my
mother ran away, by bus, to Arizona where she lived with my aunt Carol—after
whom I am named. Had abortion been legal, my mother could have imagined a
different life than that inscribed for women with “illegitimate” children. There may have been a future for her that
didn’t rely upon being married to a “meal ticket.” She may have been a more
capable provider for her future children. In this statement I am reaffirming the value of my mother’s
life rather than undervaluing my own.
While Roe V. Wade,the
landmark supreme court case from 1973, conferred upon women the right to choose,
proponents of traditional while-male-dominant patriarchy fought tooth and nail
to squash this right as soon as we got it.
The ability to plan our fertility has been the cornerstone of our ability to
pursue higher education, gainful employment, and marriage by choice rather than
compulsion. And it is this access to economic justice that has enabled women to
walk out from abusive or unhappy marriages or not marry at all.
While the racism of the contemporary Republican party is
much appreciated abroad because it is so gobsmackingly obvious, it is also
waging a war on women and our bodies. While the white male Republicans fear
ethnographic change and the loss of their race privilege, they also fear women
and the erosion of their gender privileges despite the facts that women
consistently earn less than men for the same work and that white men still
occupy the most lucrative and important positions in the public and private
sectors. The fear that white men will
one day be unable to run roughshod over everyone else is the same fear that
Trump both stoked and exploited to become the president. While it may seem paradoxical
that white women have allied with white men to protect their own race
privileges and cruel power that conservative orthodoxy bestows upon women who
happily police other women and people of color, this has always been the
inherently non-intersectional character of white American feminism.
To eviscerate our hard-fought gains, the Republican party
has endeavored to roll back access to affordable birth control as well as
pharmaceutical and surgical abortion. It has stacked our courts with
misogynistic conservatives in hopes that a court dominated by such rubes will
over-turn Roe v. Wade. In the
meantime, Republicans hollowed out abortion access by terrorizing physicians
who perform the procedure. They waged legal cases throughout the country to
endow fetuses with rights at the expense of women’s civil liberties. They made
every possible effort to restrict how, when, and where abortion is provided. They
have imposed waiting periods and, in some states, they force women to pay for
expensive trans-vaginal ultrasounds in hopes that after seeing their snowy fetus,
they will change their minds. They have sought impose absurd standards upon the
clinics themselves and distance to hospitals and have argued that doctors must
have surgical rights at hospitals even if here is no hospital nearby that will
afford those rights and even though the procedure is safer than many other
procedures. (Many hospitals in the United States are Catholic and they do not
permit abortion. Thus this requirement is a back door means of eroding access
to surgical abortion.) Indiana has passed a law that requires the products of
conception to be buried or incinerated separately from other surgical waste,
which is merely intended to increase the cost of an increasingly costly
Due to the concatenating impacts of these varied efforts,
today, there are many states in which surgical abortion, for all intents and
purposes, is unavailable. In such states, there are so few abortion providers
that women must undertake lengthy and expensive journeys—sometimes to other
states—and endure the commonly-imposed three-day waiting period and other
burdens such as the trans-vaginal ultrasound. This in addition to several hundreds
of dollars to pay for the procedure, which cannot be subsidized with federal
monies. All of this requires days of missed work and arranging childcare. Such
restrictions disproportionately affect America’s most vulnerable women who tend
to be poor and/or persons of color.
In short: once that fetus becomes a child, it is on its own.
Its odds are best if it’s a white, Cis-male. While that demographic comprises
only 30 percent of the population, it command the best access to opportunities
Given Republicans’ discernable lack of interest in
life-saving or life-improving policies in any other policy domain, it is fairly
clear that their interest in denying women the ability to plan our fertility is
abjectly not about life rather about denying us the right to live our lives
fully and to our potential with dignity.
As other countries in the world, like India, continue to make strides in empowering women, perhaps the disempowered American Woman, reduced to fetal incubators, will become the next posterchild of feminist movements that are steaming ahead elsewhere. I look forward to the day when crowds of “third world” women gather outside of American embassies and consulates demanding that that the US government stop its relentless war on women and children.
A shorter, better edited version of this essay appeared in The Print on June 18, 2019.
प्रणय कोटस्थाने के साथ मेरा साक्षात्कार , जिसमें, हम लश्कर-ए-तैयबा पर अपनी नई किताब की चर्चा करते हैं।
आपकी नयी किताब In their Own Words, लश्कर जसै आतंकवादी संगठन का घरेलू राजनीति में क्या स्थान है, इस पर चर्चा करती है | तो इस एपिसोड में हम LeT को एक संगठन (organisation) के रूप में गहराई से समझने की कोशिश करते है|
१.हरसंगठन काएक vision, mission statement होताहै – LeT काक्याहै?
लश्कर-ए-तैयबा का एक पुस्तिका है जिस में वह् वर्णन करता है कि वह् क्या करता है और क्यों।
ईस पुस्तिका का नाम है “हम क्यों जिहाद कर रहे हैं।”
इस पुस्तिका में, कई सिद्धांत/ उसूल प्रस्तुत किए गए हैं, खास तौर पर, यह दो:
२. हर हाल में, पाकिस्तान के भीतर, किसी भी प्रकार की हिंसा (या आतंक) सख्त़ मना (निषेध) है।
इससे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता अगर कोई मुजाहिद समझता है कि कोई व्यक्ति “खराब मुस्लिम” है , और कुफ़्र और मशरिक (यानी जो शिर्क करता है) और मुनफ़िक़ (यानी जो खिलफ़त करता है) या कलह फैलाता है।
३. जिहाद सभी मुसलमानों के लिए अनिवार्य है, यानी फर्ज़्। यह आवश्यक (जरूरी) है कि हर एक मुसलमान जिहाद में शरक़त (Bhag lena) करने के लिए तैयार हो।
इसका मतलब नहीं है कि कोई बंदूक उठाकर कश्मीर सीधे चला जाए। शायद एक भाई घर पर रहे पारिवारिक व्यवसाय की देखभाल के लिए ताकि दूसरा भाई कश्मीर जाकर काफिरों से लड़ सके। लश्कर ए तैयबा के अनुसार दोनों जिहाद में हिस्सा ले रहे हैं।
लश्कर का मानना (तर्क/ख़्याल) है कि जब पाकिस्तानी बाहरी दुश्मन से लड़ना बंद कर देंगे, तो वे एक-दूसरे पर हमला करना शुरू कर देंगे और इसी तरह पाकिस्तान को तबाह करेंगे।
४. इस संगठन की शुरुआत कब और कैसे हुई?
यह संगठन १९८० के दशक के अंत में शुरू हुआ,सोवियत संघ के अफ़ग़ानिस्तान को छोड़ने से पहले।
लश्कर से पहले, दो अलग-अलग संगठन थे। एक संगठन , ज़कि-उर्-रेह्मान लखवी का, दूसरा हाफ़िज़ साईद का। १९८४ (1984) में, लखवी ने सेनानियों का एक समूह इकट्ठा किया, जो सब अहल-ए-हदीस थे।
तकरीबन एक साल के बाद्, लाहौर में, लाहौर इंजीनियरिंग विश्वविद्यालय के इस्लामिक अध्ययन विभाग के दो प्रोफेसरों ने जमात उद दावा स्थापित किया।
ये दो प्रोफेसर हाफ़िज़ मुहम्मद साईद और जफ़र इकबाल थे। जमात उद दावा, मूलभूत रूप से, तब्लीघ और दावाह पर ध्यान करते थे।
लगभग १९८६ (1986) में, लखवी का मिलिशिया और साईद का JUF विलय हो गया और इस नये तन्ज़ीम का नाम मार्कज़्-उद-दावा-वाल-इरशाद (एम.डी.आई)था।
एम.डी.आई. के तीन कार्य थे: जिहाद , तब्लीघ, दावाह (यानी मुसलमानों को अहल-ए-हदीस पंथ में परिवर्तित करना)।
२००२ में, जैश-ए-मोहम्मद के संसद पर हमला करने के बाद, लश्कर और अन्य आतंकवादी समूहों को “प्रतिबंधित” कर दिया गया था।
मगर , प्रतिबंध प्रभावी होने से पहले, आई. एस. आई. ने (यानी पाकिस्तान की सबसे ख़तरनाक ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी ने) समूहों को उन्नत चेतावनी दी थी, जिस से वे नए नामों के तहत फिर से अस्तित्व में आये । २००२ से, लश्कर को “जमात उद दावाह” कहा जाता है ।
५.इसके sponsor/shareholders कौनहै?
उस प्रश्न (prashna/ सवाल ) का आसान उत्तर (जवाब) है: पाकिस्तानी सेना और इस की ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी आई. एस.आई।
६. इसमें भर्ती (recruitment) कहाँ से और कैसे होती है? क्यों नौजवान इस कररयर को चुनते है?
ज़्यादातर लश्कर के रंगरूट (या नए सेनानियों) पंजाब के लगभग १० जिलों से ताल्लुक रखते हैं।
वे अलग-अलग कारणों से जुड़ते हैं । कुछ ऊब चुके हैं और साहसिक कारनामे की तलाश कर रहे हैं।
कुछ बेहद धार्मिक हैं और मानते हैं कि जिहाद जरूरी है।
दूसरे कश्मीर में मुसलमानों की मदद करना चाहते हैं, क्योंकि वे विश्वास करते हैं कि वे मज़लूम हैं।
कई मामलों में, उनके माता-पिता उन्हें जिहाद के लिए जाने पर हौसला बढ़ा देते हैं क्योंकि जब उनका बेटा शहीद हो कर अल्लाह से मिलता है, वह अल्लाह से अनुरोध कर सकता है कि मरने के बाद उन्हें स्वर्ग (या जन्नत) में जाने दे।
इस के अलावा, जब उनका बेटा शहीद हो जाता है, तो समाज में परिवारों की स्थिति बढ़ जाती है।
७. इस संगठन का समाज में वजूद क्या है?
“जमात उद दावाह” और “फ़िलाह इन्सानियत फाउंडेशन ” के नामों के तहत, वे पाकिस्तान के भीतर बहुत सारे सामाजिक कार्य करते हैं। उदाहरण के लिए, वे सामान्य स्कूलों का निर्माण करते हैं (मदरसे नहीं,हालांकि मदरसे भी बनवाए), चिकित्सा सेवाएं प्रदान करते हैं, कुओं को खोदते हैं और भूकंप (ज़लज़ला), बाढ़ (सैलाब), चक्रवात (साइक्लोन), सूखा (खुश्क) दौरान और बाद में राहत सेवाएं उपलब्ध करते हैं।
८. इस संगठन को कैसे निपटाया जाए? क्या पाकिस्तान में ऐसी ताकतें हैं जो इस तरह के संगठनों का ख़ात्मा करना चाहती हैं?
दो कारणों से, इससे निपटाना असंभव है।
सबसे पहले, पाकिस्तानी सेना को बाहरी और आंतरिक सुरक्षा के लिए इसकी आवश्यकता (सख़त ज़रूरी) है।
दूसरा, अगरपाकिस्तानी सेना इससे प्रयोग में न लाना चाहती हो, तो भी ऐसा करना बहुत मुश्किल होगा और शायद नामुमकिन।
भारत के पास दो विकल्प (चुनाव) हैं। सबसे पहले, इसे सहन करना जारी रखें।
दूसरा, इसकी क्षमताओं को कम करने के लिए गुप्त संचालन कर सकते हैं, मगर अगर भारत ऐसे करे, तोयह बिल्कुल महत्वपूर्ण है कि यह गुप्त रहे ।यदि सरकार इन कार्यों के बारे में बहुत शोर करती है, तो पाकिस्तान को जवाब देने पर मजबूर हो जायेगी और भारत एक युद्ध शुरू होने का जोखिम बुलाता है परमाणु युद्ध के जोखिम के साथ।
Here’s an amuse-boucheof In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Hurst, OUP). As always, I am grateful to Saira Wasim for her exquisite work that graces this cover. Check out her other inspiring paintings here: http://www.sairawasim.com/.
Please note that I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.
The South Asia and US editions will be coming out shortly.
Potential Reviewers: If you would like to review this volume, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Header: “I’d like to review In Their Own Words.”
This project is the culmination of research I unwittingly began in Lahore in 1995 when I was a doctoral student studying Urdu as well as Punjabi through the renowned BULPIP (Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, currently known as the Berkeley-AIPS Urdu Language Program in Pakistan). As a student of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, I frequented Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, where I first encountered booksellers purveying the propaganda of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), which now operates mostly under the name of Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD). I began collecting their materials that year and continued to do so during subsequent visits over the next couple of decades until I was ultimately deemed persona non-grata by the country’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).
Due to the ISI’s assessment that I am a “nasty woman,” I have been unable to return to Pakistan since August 2013, but astonishingly, I was able to continue gathering materials for this effort through inter-library loan. Since 1962, American libraries have procured books from South Asia through the so-called PL-480 program, named after the eponymous public law which allowed the US Library of Congress to use rupees from Indian purchases of American agricultural products to buy Indian books. In 1965, a field office was opened in Karachi to oversee the acquisition of Pakistani publications. While the PL-480 program was long since discontinued, The Library of Congress continues to use the same institutional infrastructure to purchase these publications under the guise of a new program called the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Project.
I am deeply indebted to the Library of Congress and the other libraries across the United States which purchased these publications through this program and made them available to scholars through their institutions’ inter-library loan programs. I am particularly beholden to Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library, which never failed to produce a book I requested. The University of Chicago and the Library of Congress were the primary sources of these books and I am grateful that they continue to obtain and lend terrorist publications. As one US government official wryly noted when I explained my new sources of materials, “there is no better way to keep terrorist literature out of the hands of would-be terrorists than putting it in a library.”
I am also extremely indebted to Georgetown University, which has supported my work unstintingly since I joined the Security Studies Program in the fall of 2009. The University and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University subsidized the writing of this book through a year-long leave through sabbatical and a senior research leave. Moreover, the School of Foreign Service provided invaluable financial support that enabled me to collaborate with Safina Ustaad, who did most of the translations used in this volume. (Ustaad and I are publishing a subsequent volume that contains these translations via Oxford University Press, entitled A Call to War: The Literature of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.) The School of Foreign Service also subsidized a related and ongoing project in which I am studying the battle-field motivations of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba fighters. Through that funding, Ali Hamza translated a 10 percent random sample of the over 900 fighter biographies I collected, the analyses of which I present in this book. I am also grateful to the Security Studies Program, my home program within the School of Foreign Service, for generously subsidizing other aspects of this project, such as my work with Abbas Haider and other ongoing collaborations with Ali Hamza. Both Haider and Hamza translated some materials (under my guidance and quality assurance) which I have analyzed herein. Ali Hamza has been a superb colleague and collaborator over numerous years on several quantitative and qualitative projects alike. I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a gracious and talented colleague.
I also benefited tremendously from fellowships with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, which hosted me as a senior fellow in the summer of 2016, the Gateway House in Mumbai during the summer of 2015, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, which hosted me as a fellow in the summer of 2017. I remain obliged to Jayant Prasad, Rumel Dahiya, and Ashok Behuria at IDSA, and Sally Blair at the NED. Don Rassler and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point also provided important resources for the quantitative aspects of this project while I was a fellow at the CTC. It was a privilege to work with Don and the other members of that team including Anirban Ghosh, Nadia Shoeb, and Arif Jamal to whom I am deeply beholden. I would also like to express my gratitude to Oxford University Press which graciously allowed me to compress, update and draw upon significant portions of Fighting to the End: The Pakistani Army’s Way of War (2014) as well as Taylor and Francis which granted me permission to draw heavily from a 2014 article in the The Journal of Strategic Studies (“Insights from a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 37, 2 (2014), pp. 259–290.)
As this volume is the culmination of years of research and consultation, it would be remiss were I not to mention the superb community of scholars with whom I have discussed this project and data. Those who have been generous with their time and insights include: Daniel Byman, Bruce Hoffman, Jacob Shapiro, Praveen Swami, Ashley Tellis, Arif Jamal, Maryum Alam, the late Mariam Abou Zahab, Jaideep and his colleagues, and numerous others who met with me over the years in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Seth Oldmixon deserves a special mention. Oldmixon is one of the most under-valued assets in the community of South Asia analysts. He has a hawk’s eye for details as he has scoured social media feeds and publications of militant organizations, reads the South Asian press more diligently than most intelligence analysts I know and has an extraordinary ability to recall events, identify persons and their associations.
I am also profoundly indebted to my husband, Jeffrey Dresser Kelley and our ever-evolving pack of canine associates, who have patiently, and at times, less patiently, abided my months away from home with grace and aplomb. They also endured long periods of my inattention as I sought first to comprehend the huge number of sources I processed for this volume and then drafted this book, which took much longer than I ever anticipated. They have foregone vacations and grown tufts of gray hair wondering when—or if—it would ever conclude.
Michael Dwyer at Hurst has been equally patient and supportive of this project. Without his belief in this project, there would be no project at all. Saira Wasim, one of the most intrepid and dauntless artists I have had the privilege of knowing, deserves extraordinary mention. Wasim has generously lent her courageous art to this cover and to that of my last two books. Wasim, masterfully subverting the tradition of the Mughal miniature painting, valorously confronts and interrogates the perversions and defeasances in Pakistani and international politics alike as well as the culpable dastards. When I have writer’s block, I peruse her body of work for inspiration. Her work is literally worth a million words.
Finally, I am aware that most readers who will buy this book will do so because of the hideous crimes this organization has perpetrated, mostly against Indian citizens. Thousands of Indians have been murdered by LeT, and if not for the group’s lethal effectiveness, no one would care about it. The biographies of the martyrs weighed heavily upon my conscience as I studied their declared intentions to slaughter an enemy about which they knew nothing but lies propagated by the organization and the Pakistani state, leavened with rare fragments of truth. Because my ethical commitments preclude me from profiting from the deaths of thousands, I will donate any personal proceeds from this book to charitable organizations that assist victims of terrorism. Because Lashkar-e-Tayyaba mostly murders Indians, I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.
A Date Rape in August 1994 After he subdued, then violated me I was grateful it was over quickly. Then panic’s tremors shook my shameful rage: Was I pregnant? Did he give me a disease? As I waited for the answers, They told me to ask god for the strength To move on. Fuck that. If prayers worked, I’d pray for the strength to rip him apart. Ephesians 6: 10-20
Lady Lazarus When these men tried their best to break you,When even you believe you have been broken,Let your righteous rage rise up in wavesThat wash over you,Resurrect and revive you,Baptize you Lady Lazarus. Stand tall and seize the space your magnificence demands which they tried to deny you.
And as you glower down at these false prophets quaking with fear,Anticipating your retribution, remember:Neither mercy nor magnanimity is imposed upon you.Did they ever extend such graceful courtesies to you? John 11: 38-44
Luke Told us Mary Wanted It Believers exalt the Virgin Mary whose womb god blessed with his only son. They cite the hearsay of Luke to assert her consent. Yet we never hear Mary’s version of events.; rather, only that of Luke, who claims the angel Gabriel visited her to say:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” When the terrified girl asked how a virgin could conceive, Luke says that Gabriel said that: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” According to Luke, Mary acquiesced by telling Gabriel that she is “the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” But we all know the Holy Spirit has a long history of smiting the disobedient. This was not the first or last time in our history when a man claimed he heard from another man who knew for certain she really wanted it. No. Mary’s body wasn’t the site of a miracle. Her body was a crime scene. Luke 1:26-37
Note that “Divine Movers” used to be known as “River District Movers and Storage, Inc.” at 700 Wilson Street, Danville, VA 24541. After the firm was found to be operating without appropriate licensing, per these two alerts with the Better Business Bureau, it changed names to “Divine Movers.”
When we had to move at short notice, our realtor recommended Chris Wilson’s (his full name is Christopher A. Wilson) company called Divine Movers. Unfortunately, the company was “divine” only in the sense of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” In fact, the entire experience was redolent of one of Dante’s most gruesome circles of hell.
The biggest question is how and and why I selected the firm. Honestly, the price seemed reasonable. However, he had been recommended by our very impressive realtor (whom I adore) and I was interested in supporting a local, veteran-owned business. I had hoped that because my realtor is from a woman-owned firm, that her suggestion meant something. It turns out that she had no real experience with him as a mover: he was just her neighbor. Had I simply done a Better Business Bureau search I would have been deterred from using him. (Also, it was a red flag when Mr. Chris Wilson described having a dog which he keeps outside. This to me is an immediate sign that a person has no empathy for the discomfort of others. The lesson here is to follow your first instinct. But we were desperate given the short-notice of our move and I relaxed my reliance upon my astute Clown-Detector. )
Of course, I would have paid more to be moved professionally with United Vanlines, with whom I have done several cross-country moves and a move from DC to Virginia. Notably, in all of those moves—in addition to numerous international moves—I had less breakage combined than I had with this “move” orchestrated by Mr. Chris Wilson over fewer than three miles. Any future moves will be done with United Vanlines.
Before I get the details of this horrific experience, I want to address up front Mr. Chris Wilson‘s misogyny. As a woman who has had the unfortunate task of identifying contractors, one of the perduring problems I have suffered is the deep-seated misogyny of the proprietors and their sub-contractors. Many contractors and their sub-contractors think that my husband is the person to deal with even when I am paying for the service and the service is for my needs (such as my home office construction in our previous home). They have not followed my instructions and have insisted upon speaking with my husband when I sought to correct their erroneous understanding of the task. [If you want a recommendation for someone is NOT a misogynist, who is an ally on all social justice issues, who has a crew with several hard-working women, check out Jake Green Renovations. I’ve worked with Jake Green for 10-15 years. He began as a handyperson but he is now a full-service contractor. I will never work with anyone else again.].
I discerned his misogyny within the first day of him actually showing up. Mr. Christopher A. Wilson, the proprietor of “Divine Movers” has serious problems with women who ask questions, who have a clue and do not like being lied to repeatedly. [Note: That as my dispute with him escalated, Mr. Christopher A. Wilson, revealed an ever greater depth of grotesque misogyny than he did initially, as I show below.] He’s a crude, foul, bully who is best avoided.
One of the things that Mr. Chris Wilson did that was beyond the pale of civility, is that he attempted to negotiate separately with my husband once he discerned that I am the “hard ass,” who has no patience with shenanigans with my money. He also told my husband that he had “to get control of his wife.” This will provide plenty of fodder for laughter while we engage in wheel-chair races in the nursing home. Mr. Chris Wilson also threatened my husband that he should not write a negative review of his company. My husband feared that if he didn’t agree to this coercion, Mr. Chris Wilson would not complete the move or cause further mayhem or breakage. I was of the view that we were better off without Mr. Chris Wilson given his lies, his failure to communicate and his failure to do what we paid him to do within the time frame required and promised by him.
The misogyny alone is enough for any woman or opponent of misogyny to stay clear of Mr. Chris Wilson.
We began to rue our decision pretty quickly. Mr. Chris Wilson told us that his packers would come “Saturday or Sunday” in preparation for our move which was to be concluded on the following Thursday. We waited both days. Finally, my husband had to call Mr. Chris Wilson to learn the status of their ostensible arrival. This would set the pattern of the move and his concatenation of broken promises as Mr. Chris Wilson frequently changed plans and personnel without telling us. This pattern of behaviors evinced how little respect he has for the time of his clients or their concerns. Mr. Chris Wilson never apologized for this or subsequent failures in communication and failures in simple truth telling.
The packers finally showed up on Monday. There were two of them: Sam and Augustine Pantino both of whom are related. Sam is Mr. Wilson’s uncle and Augustine is a brother. (I know Mr. Pantino’s full name for reason’s I detail below.) Sam is a hard worker and while he is generally careful with glass ware, he doesn’t know how to pack clothing or shoes appropriately. Both packers had inadequate supplies. They did not even have Sharpies. My husband had to go and procure them on day one and on subsequent days. They had inadequate boxes and kinds of boxes. They put books in large boxes which made them unwieldy to handle but also resulted in, I kid you not, breakage of book spines. I’ve never had my books broken during a move. But this wasn’t the only “first” we would experience. And by the afternoon, Augustine went to Maryland leaving Sam to do it all. I thought that Augustine was also affable, but it turns out he shares his brothers propensity for mendacity. Sam, even if Mr. Wilson coerces him to write a misogynist, mendacious missive is still the work horse of this firm. He showed up early and he worked late.
A similar pattern ensued for the remaining days. Sam scavenged to find used boxes, without asking us. Ordinarily I would not care and even applaud such problem-solving initiative. But this is the time of COVID and I was not pleased about this or even consulted. Nor was my husband. On Tuesday, they had to leave early because no one could get the workers the requisite packing supplies. (On several occasions, my husband had to procure Sharpies for them as noted.) Mr. Chris Wilson denies this vehemently (as he does other truths), but he doesn’t know what happened because he was too involved with the Maryland move to know. During the move, we mostly communicated with him by text.
In fact, by the time our scheduled move was to happen, the entire house was far from packed up. Mr. Chris Wilson blamed it on the rain. Mr. Chris Wilson also blamed this on the fact that our closing was 3 hours later than planned. Mr. Chris Wilson likes to make excuses rather than take responsibility. The facts are that the packers were too few and too poorly equipped to get the job done and Mr. Chris Wilson shirked all responsibility for this.
When I began expressing my concern on Monday and Tuesday, he condescendingly told me that “he has a system and that I need to trust him.” (This was the equivalent of “Missie, don’t you worry your useless head.”) At first, I was cordial while indicating my dissatisfaction with this so-called system. Many of the persons in our homes were not wearing masks, another issue that Mr. Chris Wilson denies. But he wouldn’t know because he wasn’t there. Mr. Chris Wilson must have castigated his staff because after I complained about this, they did comply with our request to wear masks. I understand that this is a tough job and wearing a mask must make it harder. But given the revolving door of persons coming into our home, we could not relax this requirement as my mother-in-law has myriad health problems and we need to be ready to visit her at a moment’s notice.
I also expressed concern about how things were being packed. Most specifically, I was concerned about how they were handling clothes and shoes. My husband had his own concerns about their mishandling of several wooden artifacts that are family heirlooms. I told him firmly that I wanted wardrobe boxes for suits and dresses. He patently refused, again after a condescending lecture on how “clothes don’t need wardrobe boxes.” In the end they wrapped our clothes on hangers on packing tape and plastic. This led to something I had never seen before: breakage of hangers. They did not unpack the mess they made because they couldn’t: about one in four of the hangers were broken. So I had to go and buy about $60 worth of hangers to replace the ones they broke. Let that sink in: they broke hangers. My husband separately repined about the damage done to his family heirlooms by the packing tape. Mr. Chris Wilson blamed my husband for his failure to pack them himself.
They managed to convey one truck-load of boxes to the new home using a rental truck on Thursday. (I believe it was a 12-foot truck.) They claimed that the failures to deliver a second truck load was due to the late closing. But the fact is the truck wasn’t even loaded when we came back from closing. Alas, this load did not include our bed. So we slept on the couch that the previous owners left. As I note below, Jeff and I made several trips to the house to move things on that Thursday evening and on Friday. Mr. Chris Wilson blamed his inability to move anything on Friday on the rain: in fact, Mr. Chris Wilson was engaged with the Maryland move.
Even though we paid for a complete packing and unpacking, we unpacked all of the materials moved on Thursday. We also made several trips ourselves at the house to get things we needed through Friday as well, which we also unpacked. This alone constitutes breach of contract.
The lack of care with which they moved our home was breathtaking. As a woman who enjoys shoes, I have many. It’s my only financial indulgence apart from books and single malt. They threw shoes into boxes and suitcases as if they were t-shirts and underwear resulting in breakage of heals and destruction of leather. Again, I complained about this to no avail. They also put packing tape on everything, often without even first wrapping the item in paper or plastic wrap. They put packing tape on myriad objects and it is impossible to remove. The packing tape on display boxes will never come off. Using acetone will destroy the boxes they ruined. This was sloppy and inconsiderate. When we explained to Mr. Chris Wilson that this was not appropriate, he actually told us if something was sensitive, we should pack it ourselves. Professional firms have the opposite advice for clients. But Mr. Chris Wilson is not professional.
When items broke during their packing, they didn’t tell us and they even hid it. My favorite episode was when a boy (I say boy because I do not believe this son of Mr. Chris Wilson was of legal age to do this work) shattered a bottle of nail polish on the floor. I could smell the acetone and asked him what had happened. He said it was nothing. Had he told me, I could’ve immediately cleaned up the mess. This stuff happens But he hid it and the extent of the harm. By the time he was out of the bathroom, the closet and floor looked like a crime scene. It took me about 40 minutes to clean it and the grout was stained. I was unable to get the red polish out of the grout. When I told Mr. Chris Wilson, he said that it wasn’t their responsibility to pack such things. This would be a recurring repine with him.
By Saturday, we were still not moved in and, by noon, we had heard nothing from him. I called a truck rental service with the intent of firing them and moving ourselves. I called Mr. Chris Wilson and told him that his behavior, failure to communicate, and his endless lying was unacceptable. He told me that he would only discuss things with my husband. I reminded him that I was paying for this move. But he’s a Trump-worthy misogynist whose loathing of women knows no limits. My husband, who is one of the calmest people who has yelled maybe five times in the 15 years of our marriage, was shaking with anger after speaking to Mr. Chris Wilson. It was during this conversation that he told him that he “had to get control of his woman.” Mr. Chris Wilson finally brought a truck over on Saturday. By Sunday, the stuff from the other house was here as well as much of the garage. In the end, my husband and I completed the garage move and the shed contents–not Mr. Chris Wilson.
Because of the disregard with which they handled our belongings, they managed to break a bookshelf because they placed it on its side and then placed a heavier item on top of it. As WE—not they—continued to unpack the boxes as they arrived, they broke numerous precious pieces of pottery that I had brought from Afghanistan. While I managed to bring them from Afghanistan without problem, they managed to crush them into bits during a 3-mile move. They are literally priceless. They cannot be replaced.
The breakage occurred from sloppy packing. One piece was literally stuck—”wrapped” with a single meagre piece of paper—between a heavy pizza-baking sheet and a cast iron skillet. What genius thought of that strategy eludes me.
In packing up the kitchen, they broke spice boxes and bottles coating everything in a fragrant combination of garam masala, Haleem mix and cumin. Upside: the kitchen smelled like a dhaba for the next several days.
The movers were fond of the “double box” technique whereby you use two boxes to create one tall box. This is a terrific innovation for things like linen and blankets and pillows: NOT glassware or shoes or kitchen ware. Since we did the unpacking (because we couldn’t wait for them to do the job for which we paid them) this mattered.
Part of the problem was personnel. As I indicated, Mr. Chris Wilson had his head in the “Maryland Move,” which took most or all of his attention. I suspect that most of his professional movers and packers were engaged there. Perhaps his professionals were engaged there. Unfortunately, we did not have professionals. (Mr. Chris Wilson continually spoke of a “swarm of packers” who would come and finish the job. That never happened.) Instead, he literally hired kids (of doubtful legal age of employment) with no experience and no common sense. When I complained about their lack of professionalism, his response was “They aren’t ours. We just gave them a t-shirt and a mask.” One of the kids was a dilligent worker but he lacked experience to put together the furniture, as required in the contract. Thus while he made his best effort to re-assemble the bed, my husband had to take it apart and put it back together.
The kids, with one exception noted above, were generally useless. They didn’t know how to move furniture or pack properly–much less dis-assemble and re-assemble anything. And, as a consequence, this 52-year old woman helped them move the furniture to prevent ruination of the piece or the floor. The industrious kid did chastise his less-than-motivated juvenile colleague to no avail because the kid lacked gumption, physical strength and experience.
In addition to careless, unprofessional and inattentive packing that signals disregard for the fact that they were moving the contents of our lives, they also randomly packed things into boxes. Each box was like opening up a shitty box of chocolates: you just didn’t know what you’d get. They did not take care to keep hardware with the furniture. They packed our couch legs in a random box. We found one of our couch cushions on the ground outside of our garage. We still haven’t found an errant couch cushion.
In addition to helping them move furniture, the old lady narrating this fiasco also helped them unload the truckloads. I did this because I wanted my home moved and the kids Mr. Chris Wilson lured with t-shirts and a masks did not have a clue or frankly physical strength to do so. (I’ve been a weight-lifter since high school and despite my age am still quite strong…at least stronger than some of the youngsters he hired.)
Per this invoice for a 3-mile move, we paid for the following.
1.Complete packing of entire home to include consolidation of garage and shed 2.Complete prep of all furniture in home 3.Complete disassembling and reassembling of all necessary furniture. 4.Complete unpacking to customers discretion *Quote includes all packing materials, prepping materials and removal of all debris and boxes after unpacking
Start Date:8/30/20 Day 1-3 All Packing and Prepping
Day 4-7 Loading,Unloading and Unpacking
Of this, they did the packing of the home and most of the garage, not the shed. (They did not move the paddle boards for example which were in the garage.)
Their “complete prep of all furniture in the home,” left much to be desired resulting in breakage and parts that were hard to locate for days given the shambolic nature of their packing. (They managed to dissociate power plugs from devices, etc.)
They did not disassemble and reassemble of all necessary furniture. They were never able to figure out how to move our Murphy bed. My husband disassembled it and moved it to the house in his truck.
As already noted above, they did not do all of the moving. On Thursday, after they called it quits for the day after one meagre load, my husband and I returned to the house and moved several loads of things we needed given that we had no bed to sleep on.
They did not do anything resembling a “complete unpacking.” In fact, they unpacked less than 5% of the boxes. The debris they hauled away was from our unpacking. I couldn’t even get the kids to at least put the boxes in the correct room. So they did not even do a complete loading and unloading much less complete packaging.
Mr. Chris Wilson demanded full payment. I insisted upon withholding $400. In hindsite, this was a mistake. When I detailed the above and the breakage, he actually said that he should not be responsible for the breakage. He said that the things were “cheap” and we should’ve expected them to break. The guy is a classic salesman: he talks a good game up front and is affable. But he’s negligent, indifferent and dishonest and a bully.
By the time I total the work they didn’t do, coupled with the breakage, they owe us about $2500.
The Bullying Begins
On September 26, 2020 after receiving another risible invoice for the unpaid amount, I emailed Mr. Chris Wilson asking him to provide a breakdown of the cost allocation per activity and explained that I am working on an invoice for what he owes us, given his incomplete execution of the contracted work and breakage. I also told Mr. Chris Wilson that I will take him to small claims court, which irked him. I work hard for my money and he is charlatan.
Mr. Chris Wilson responded with bullying. In fact, over the last two days (between 9/26 and 11:30 am on 9/28/2020, he wrote no fewer than 8 crass, sexually harassing and bullying emails. In Mr. Chris Wilson‘s first attempt at bullying, he wrote an absurd—and unsurprisingly threatening email—in which he claimed to have videos of everything. This is impossible as he wasn’t ever there. Any videos that he had would in fact prove our case–not his.
But he also made another mendacious claim and threatened that he will have “all of my employees testify to your vulgar sexual harassment for the entire job that made them very uncomfortable.” [The email is copied and pasted below and the jpg of it is prvided as well.] This man has problems with women, as I noted above. In fact, I made breakfast for both of the men (Sam and Augustine) that showed up on the first day as our neighborhood is expensive and there are few affordable places for breakfast. I also made sure they had fresh coffee every day until the coffee maker was packed and of course I frequently asked if they required water or anything else. I also gave one of us his workers advice on college applications and funding sources given his proclivity for languages. That he would threaten to have his employees perjure themselves to sustain his own lies is appalling. But again, this is all within his performance envelope. I have attached to this review a screen shot of his menacing, lie-festooned email. This should be all the proof you require that this person is not stable.
I wouldn’t trust him to move a collection of plastic plants and pet rocks.
I have every picture and video of proof of all that we did and completed thoroughly. All of what your claiming is bogus. I will also have all of my employees testify to your vulgar sexual harassment for the entire job that made them very uncomfortable. If you choose to do something that we contracted to do that’s your decision and it does not change anything with the contract as we did not resist doing anything that we agreed to do.
If it’s court let it be just that.
You’re the one with the balance, I will pass this communication on to our attorney.”
On September 28, 2020 I received another volley of noxious bullying emails, including one in which he had his brother, Mr. Augustine Pantino, wrote the below letter. (I cannot cut and paste it because it is a jpg.) That I was courteous to Mr. Pantino and the other movers goes without saying. I had no obligation to cook them breakfast or prepare them fresh coffee throughout the day. But I have always treated workers in my home with courtesy and respect, even if isn’t always reciprocated.
This letter speaks for itself and the boorishness of both Mr. Chris Wilson as well as Mr. Augustine Pantino. My husband and I laughed at this. They got our “length of marriage” wrong by many, many years. And the other details clearly reflect Mr. Pantino’s fetishes…not mine or my spouse. Enjoy! The crudeness of these letters reflect particular views of women that would motivate me to not want them around young children–especially daughters. This letter speaks for itself in this regard as well.
Whelped behind an old Hindu temple on the road linking the beach of Mullaitivu and the lagoon, she was the lone survivor of her pack easily recognized by their light brown coat, perky ears, pointed snout and delicate feet. The others — her children, siblings and sires — had died in the war or in its aftermath From bombs, gun fire, mines, starvation, thirst or illness She hunted alone, wandering the body-strewn beaches for flesh or refuse. She tried to avoid the bodies although they were everywhere and she felt the stabbing pangs of hunger She had come to know many of them by their scent, their voice or the colors they preferred to wear before transmogrifying into this frightening pale bloat Some fed her. Others kicked her. But they were her familiars. She followed them to school, to temple, to market. Her ears stung with the cries of mothers wailing, clutching their dead children She cowered from the inescapable thunder of the mortars, the hissing of bombs and the shrieking of jets passing overhead their bellies heavy with bombs. She crouched low as she watched the Tamil Tigers knock on doors, rip the terrified children from their mothers and foist the guns into their arms. She felt and smelled their fear. She smelled the offending odors of the Sri Lankan soldiers’ sex. The cries of their victims as they snuffed out their lives pierced her ears. Their language was as strange as their scent and gate. Her young pup eyes became attuned to the motions of the humans she tried to warn. She felt the rumbling of the war machines before they could. She barked at them. Whined at them. Pawed at them. She tried to tell them to get into the trenches so many had built for such moments. In these moments of madness, they had no patience for this noisy bitch. Some threw discarded coconut shells at her. Others brandished sticks or stones. She slinked away, with her tail tucked. One by one she watched her pack members die off as well as the humans she had come to know. What seemed like years passed. With the planting season disrupted, she could not mark time. New people came in. Soldiers. People who spoke that different tongue who smelled like the Others. The Others erected new buildings upon the carcasses of old. She no longer knew this place. Her eyes became glossy and her vision began to fade. Her hips ached, and she could no longer hunt the chipmunks who know dared to play in front of her. Her body trembled from the pangs of hunger and the sharp jabs of illness. Her coat was infested with mange. Her hearing diminished. She mostly tried to sleep. She wondered why she had survived. What was the point in bearing witness to these crimes without the ability to testify? Increasingly, she sought comfort in the dirt in which she nested in the dark, alone some distance from the Vaddu Vakal Bridge. She thought of the dogs and people she had known. She pondered her loneliness. In the early hours of no morning in particular, the soldiers’ truck sped over her without so much as noticing. She took one last look at her beloved Nanthi Kadal lagoon, unable to move and in a pain she could not understand. She had not yet given up her life when the clatter of hungry birds descended upon her soft belly to pick out her pink entrails. Too weak to move or bark or whimper, she heaved her last breath and hoped that in her next life she would not be a soldier.
C. Christine Fair is Associate Professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She has published extensively on the political and military events of South Asia, and has travelled throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
Trigger warning: child abuse, sexual assault and violence
“Cuz Christy, if you ever show up around here, I’m gonna kick your ass. And you know I can”; her heavy emphasis upon “know” reflected her conviction that she had done so previously.
Struggling to appease her fury, I conceded “Baby Sandy. You can kick my ass. But I’m still a pretty good runner and I’m not sure you’d catch me. We’re both old women now.”
“Oh, I’d catch you alright and knock that fuckin’ useless head off your shoulders,” Sandy snarled.
“But why? I’ve just been trying to help. What did I do? I love you. Always have. Always will. I worry about you every day and night. I wonder where you’re sleeping and eating. Are you safe, happy? The questions keep coming. But I get no answers. Ever.”
Without hesitating, Sandy barked “Because you left. You fucking left us here.”
The worst part about this allegation?
It was true.
And I’d do it again.
Our lives were intertwined by the time she was born. There’s no pleasant way to put this, so I won’t try to obfuscate the truth with performative eloquence. I’ve tried to explain this shit decorously, using polite verbiage, but it never feels true; rather like someone else is describing my most basic truths after sucking out the toxin. But, without that poison, my life makes no sense.
Long before Baby Sandy was born, my mother’s sister, Carol, married an ex-con named Art. Only when I was well into my fifties and after I hired a private investigator to find Art did I learn that he was her fourth husband and the second convicted felon.
My mom’s name was Sandy and she was younger than Carol. Younger yet were their two brothers Ron and Ricky. Ricky was the youngest of the four in the Austin brood. When my mother was knocked up and my father evaporated like rain on a hot stone, my mom hopped on a Greyhound bus for Phoenix where she stayed with my Aunt Carol and her first felonious beaux. They all lived in Carol’s glimmering pink and steal-trimmed trailer which matched her pink car. As a kid, I’d look at those pictures and think Carol was well-heeled because she could afford to match her car to her trailer.
In exchange for letting my pregnant mom crash with her, Aunt Carol demanded that mom name me after her. And so, mom did. Some six years later when Carol would marry for the fourth time and then conceive a child with Art, an ostensibly reformed bank-robber, she named her first-born after my mom. To avoid confusion in appellations, my mom was Sandy and my cousin was Baby Sandy. I was called by my middle name, Christy.
I adored Aunt Carol with her teased, bouffant blond hair and exquisite white teeth. I later learned her hair was bleached and her teeth—like those of mom and grandma—were falsies. They all cleaned their teeth in a glass with fuzzy water and attached them to their mouths with pink glue. Carol and Art wore flared jeans and cowboy boots and rode about town on their motorcycle. They were the most glamorous duo of actual humans I’d ever seen.
One fall day they moved into the basement of our tiny home on Weiser Park in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Mom explained that Carol and Art went “bankrupt,” which I didn’t understand at the time as I was in nursery school. Mom opined that this meant that they were “broke, in debt to their eyeballs, homeless and had nowhere else to go but our basement.”
Mom seemed almost smug about it as if she hoped these facts would dim my view of my aunt, whom I worshiped. But I was ecstatic that they went bankrupt or whatever. The two coolest people I knew were now living in my basement. Aunt Carol took me to nursery school in her pink, quilted housecoat with her hair in curlers. With narrowed—almost suspicious eyes—she’d take long drags on her mentholated Kools as she watched me walk through the doors of the Christ United Methodist Church. Once I was inside, she’d speed away, sometimes squealing her tires. The teachers gasped in shock. I was giddy with pride.
At the same time, mom sunk deep into a swamp of depression after my brother, baby Johnnie, was born “mongoloid.” He had a hole in his heart, and he couldn’t shit. He pooped into a bag attached to his tummy, which my mom changed often. It was always a putrid yellow or a faint green, like mushed peas. And then one day, he turned blue—again.
He died in mom’s arms while she was on the phone with the doctor who was adamant there was nothing he could do because Johnnie’s heart simply didn’t work. I watched her hang up the phone.
Mom was now a nullity.
Our kin felt discharged of some burden when Johnnie died, most of all my stepmonster, John. John and mom fought constantly with John accusing her of “sleeping around.” I had no idea what that meant but I determined it was bad. At the funeral, people expressed relief—not condolences.
If mom wasn’t working late into the night as a bartender, she was sleeping. John worked second trick at General Electric, which required him to wear steel-toed shoes. I learned to stay away from him because sometimes he’d kick me out of sublimated rage at his pitiable life. Aunt Carol got a job at a factory which left Uncle Art in charge of me and my little brother Joey. Unlike everyone else, Art played with me. Once, after school, he taught me to ride my bike. He sat me on his lap and told me preposterous stories that made me laugh so hard I sometimes farted right there on his lap. That made us both laugh even harder. He bought my first pair of dingo boots and flared jeans so I could dress like a miniaturized Aunt Carol. Sometimes it seemed he was the only one who loved me. There was no one else.
That’s how this all began.
One day, I was in the basement while mom was sleeping with Joey and John was working. Art, looking into my eyes, reminded me that he loved me most. He tenderly turned me over the back of the couch, slid my panties aside and inserted his finger. I froze from a combination of fear and, truthfully, pleasure. I felt like a puppy having her belly rubbed. I don’t remember how long it lasted. He told me that if I ever told anyone, we wouldn’t be able to have special time. I was six.
They eventually moved out and “special time” with Art became infrequent and limited to holidays and family outings when he would inevitably volunteer to babysit. We too moved to various rural hellholes around Fort Wayne, finally settling upon the bucolic town of Huntertown with an incorporated population of 3,000-plus pigs.
Two years later, Carol gave birth to Baby Sandy and they bought a small house-trailer on a few acres of forested land in Knox Indiana. When they moved in, we drove out to help them unpack and settle in. While Mom and Carol were in the back of the trailer, I spied Art amid boxes stacked high in the living room. He was changing Baby Sandy’s diaper. I surreptitiously watched from behind as he inserted his trigger finger into the innocence of my infant cousin.
I slunk away and told no one. Still not understanding that Art’s behavior was iniquitous, I felt jealous that Uncle Art was no longer my Uncle Art. Two and a half years later, Carol gave birth to Jack.
After Jack was born, I began to grasp the profound evil of Art’s ways. The more aware I became, the filthier I felt. Art no longer extracted silence by warning that I wouldn’t be able to see him. Now he extracted cooperation by threatening to tell my mother, grandmother, stepmonster and anyone else I loved or feared that I was a sinful little tramp who seduced him.
One day in the summer of 1981, mom declared that she was scheming to leave John. As much as I feared John and his violent loathing of me, I was panicked about how she would pay our bills. Mom was a high school graduate who unloaded boxes in the receiving department of Ayr-Way. Mom dismissed my alarm and assured me that she’d find another husband before leaving him….as if you could acquire husbands by collecting S&H Green Stamps.
She set about doing so with the determination of a baby rabbit trying to escape a fox. For an alibi, she’d take me when she went to The Picker, a Ft. Wayne honkey tonk. I slept in the backseat of her car while she did whatever she needed to do inside. While I coveted sharing this secret with her, I also despised her for it. Often it was cold.
A few months later, on my thirteenth birthday all hell broke loose. Some girlfriends came home with me for a celebratory sleepover. There were two notes on the kitchen table, which stood out prominently on the tangerine Formica. One was from John who wrote simply and sadistically “Christy, I killed your cat.” He didn’t say how or why. But I ran through the house screaming for my beloved, old cat. Smokey was not to be found.
Bewildered, I read the other, longer note from mom. “Christy, John went insane. He’s in the South Unit. I’ll be home later to take you girls to a movie. Follow the instructions on the pizza box and eat. Love, Mom.”
Several hours later, mom arrived to haul us to the dollar cinema where a dopey man met us. My mom introduced him as “Ricky Lee.” She leaned over and whispered perkily “You know, from the Picker!” She told us they’d pick us up after the movie. The pieces clicked into place for me and the girls. Now, the entire Huntertown Elementary would know that my mom was a slut, which isn’t very generous, but it is how these churchy bitches would describe her. I tried to view it more munificently: re-optimizing. I vowed that I would not get married. Marriage seemed like a lot of work for little money. I would find a way out of this shithole that didn’t involve hooking my fortunes to those of a shitbird half-wit.
By Thanksgiving mom was pregnant which was about two months before her divorce from John was settled. John was no longer voluntarily committed in the looney bin and had moved out and into a creepily dilapidated farmhouse around Albion that had no appeal other than it was far away from mom.
Right before Christmas break, mom informed me that she was spending those two weeks with Ricky Lee. Being a robust 13, I presumed that I’d be taking care of my brother at home as a prolonged stint at babysitting, which I did often while mom was out disporting with this moustachioed rube I nicknamed Chumley, after the Saturday morning cartoon walrus.
She corrected this misperception: Joey would stay with John and I would stay with Art and Carol.
I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom violently heaving up my lunch-time fish sticks. I hadn’t spent that much time with them in recent years. The last time I saw them was at grandma’s around my birthday. Art commented about my developing boobs and hollered that I was becoming a “brick shit house.” I presumed this exultation was obscene because he was. I begged mom to let me stay alone or with grandma. But she announced “grandma will be there too. Christy, it’s done. I’m not negotiating.”
Because Art worked as a lineman and was often on far-away assignments, he didn’t show up until two days before Christmas. When he arrived, his hands and nails were stained black from grease. As the hours of that day passed into night, I became anxious. I slept with Baby Sandy in her twin bed while Grandma slept with Jack.
I searched her room for something I could hit him with if he came in. I found Sandy’s steel Tonka fire truck, I placed it beside the bed, then fought to stay awake. The nightlight helped.
What felt like an eternity passed when I heard their bedroom door creak open followed by his heavy footsteps in the hallway. As he leaned in to do whatever he had planned, I whacked him with the truck and screamed like hell. Fazed, he scurried away.
Breakfast was awkward. We were all seated at the table, including grandma. Carol put oatmeal and toast before us, then interrogated Art about his bruised and bloody head. Unabashedly he looked straight at me and explained “Christy was having another nightmare. I heard her screaming and ran in. It was dark. I fell and hit my head on Sandy’s goddamned fire truck.”
Carol, glowering at me, asked “Christy, is this true?” I felt my face flush with humiliation. I remained stubbornly silent, eyes averted downward, and stirred my oatmeal. I felt lewd, smutty and ashamed in front of grandma. I wanted to run away…or die.
That was the last time Art abused me.
Mom married Ricky Lee a few months later in March. Joey and I weren’t happy and most of mom’s selling points proved to be bait and switch. For example, Ricky Lee did not live in that fancy trailer park with a pool off I-69 and he was as asinine as John. My brother Pork was born in July. About this time, mom and her siblings began wrangling over grandma’s deteriorating health. Uncle Rick now lived in Georgia. Uncle Ron and his wife still lived nearby, but they were leeches. They were effective extractors of dying peoples’ resources, including grandma’s. Art and Carol were fighting too and were scarce. But mom frequently spoke with Carol on the phone and had become convinced her sister was losing her mind.
In June of 1987, Art and Carol came to my high school graduation in Waynedale where mom and Ricky Lee finally scrapped the cash to buy a World War II-era house that was never meant to be permanently inhabited. Mom bought Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was probably my favorite food group. She also ordered a store-made cake which featured a prominent misspelling “Congratulations Valadictorian.” My high school sweetheart, Jay, came too.
Art had the temerity to ask Jay whether he preferred “breasts or thighs” in front of my mother, grandmother and second stepmonster, Ricky Lee. Jay, a religious fanatic, was mortified as was I. Increasingly emboldened by the knowledge that everyone knew what Art had done, I snapped “Yes, Art! We all know how much you like breasts and thighs because you’re a fucking pig.”
My mother scolded me and demanded that I apologize. I refused. I was incandescent with loathing. I was sick of pretending and exhausted with their pretending. I fantasized about dropping Art into an enormous blender and watching his body spin around until they became a pink foam.
I didn’t know it then, but my shitty world was already descending into yet more shit.
Grandma’s birthday was a few weeks later, on June 30th. Baby Sandy’s birthday was on the fourth of July. Because grandma was back in the hospital, on the fourth of July mom and I drove up to the Kendallville Hospital where we planned to meet Carol and the kids to celebrate both birthdays. Even though grandma was hospitalized due to morbid complications from her diabetes, she incorrigibly demanded one of Carol’s specialty cakes. Carol, unlike anyone else in our family, baked stuff from scratch. She didn’t even use Bisquick.
Carol, as was her habit, arrived hours late. When at last we received Carol’s call from the hospital reception, she insisted frantically that we come down to the parking lot.
On the black pavement, the smouldering June heat was immiserating. Carol’s eye makeup, which was usually an elaborate project with hand-drawn eyebrows, was wrecked from her frenetic sobbing. She resembled a rabid raccoon. The kids were dishevelled and had been crying too.
Carol explained “Late as usual, I piled the kids in the car and set off. A half hour into the drive I realized I forgot the cake and turned around.” As she wound her Cutlass Cruiser up the sylvan drive, they saw Art in the dog pen sodomizing one of Carol’s collies.
“When he saw us, he leapt out of the pen and came straight for our car. Wearing nothing but his damned dingo boots. I told the kids to keep quiet. He said he had been in the shower when he heard my dogs fighting in the pen. So, he leapt out of the shower, put on his boots and broke up the fight. He said this like we’re blind, dumbasses. I thanked him for taking care of my dogs, grabbed the cake and got the fuck out.”
Sandy, aged eleven, chimed in about the wet tip of her father’s swollen, red penis.
After recounting this staggering—yet thoroughly believable—tale, Carol turned to me and asked “Christy, what did Art do to you?”
I felt rage rearing up like an animal. I was a deeply truculent and disturbed young woman. Sometimes I fantasized about killing Art, John, Ricky Lee. Mostly I wanted to kill myself. I told countless guidance counsellors about the realities of my life ranging from Art’s dark deeds to the various perverse cruelties of my stepmonsters while my hapless mom usually did nothing except look on in sad futility. The consensus was that if I kept up my grades, I’d get a scholarship for college and I would be able escape. If I went to a foster home, I probably wouldn’t graduate valedictorian which was crucial to securing those critical scholarships. Even the doctors in the emergency room told me the same after I tried to commit suicide the first time. I was a ticking bomb that everyone kicked down the road like a can.
But now, Carol asks. Flummoxed and seething I growled “You know, Carol. You all know. You all fucking know.”
I ran up to grandma’s room and cried myself to exhaustion.
Mom came up and tapped me on the shoulder to leave. We passed the hour-long drive home in accusatory silence.
During the drive, I stayed focused upon my imminent escape to the University of Chicago which offered me more financial aid than Indiana University. I just needed to hang on a few months longer. I didn’t know it then, but I would also stay there for a PhD. I would never come “home’ except for weekends when I watched my mother die.
Once in Chicago, the unravelling spiralled.
In early October mom phoned. “Art raped Carol after she filed for divorce on account of the dog incident. He raped her right in front the kids.”
Several days later, Mom called again. “Art’s been calling Carol. He’s telling her he’s gonna kill her. The police won’t do anything until he shows up at home or at work. I told her, Art is going to kill you. You have to get a gun and kill him first. You will go to jail. But your kids will still have a mom.”
Mom was right in her assessment and advice. But Carol was paralyzed with fear.
Every shelter refused to take her because Jack was eight. So they hid at the home of a high-school sweetheart who still loved Carol. But staying for long was untenable: the kids were missing school and it was increasingly difficult to find someone who would take care of her four Pomeranians, four Collies, and horse, with a homicidal, maniacal rapist prowling around the property.
Against all counsel, they returned to Knox.
On November 22nd, on the very day she was supposed to go to court for the rape case, Art snuck onto the property through the back and beat her to death with a broom in the very dog pen where he raped her dog. He arranged her naked, macerated body in the straw like a bloody snow angel for their children to find.
When Carol didn’t pick up the kids hours after school ended, everyone became anxious. A school administrator drove the kids home and was there when Sandy and Jack found their mom. Within a few minutes the phone rang. Jack picked up the receiver and heard his father explain “your mom deserved what she got.”
Sandy and Jack moved in with mom, stepmonster #2, my brothers Joey—who now went by Joe— and Pork and my derelict stepbrother, Marshall.
It was tumultuous. The kids and their vast needs strained mom’s rocky marriage to Ricky Lee. From afar, I learned that Art did unspeakable things to both children for years. They often spent nights in the forest behind the trailer when Art came home drunk and violently quarrelled with Carol. Sometimes they’d hide in their neighbor’s corn field. These were their sanctuaries.
Art was convicted and eventually spent 30 years in jail. But the kids and I were broken albeit in different ways and to varying extents.
I was able flee the fucking shithole and, against the will of this intemperate universe, made a life as far away as possible. I went to Pakistan, India, Iran, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. Anywhere but Fort Wayne. They couldn’t escape.
Jack eventually married a drug-addled harridan who gave him the rage-filled fights and cortisol bursts his brain craved. Jack joined the Indiana National Guard and it seemed, for a brief while, that he’d survive. One night, while fighting with his doped-up wife in his truck with their infant son in the back, he pulled out his gun and blew his brains out. The scrambled contents of his head sprayed his widow and son.
Sandy meanwhile sought out various losers on whom she squandered the considerable sum of social security payments that my mom saved and remanded to her when she turned eighteen. In the summer of 1993, mom was dying from metastatic melanoma. She now stared blankly as her brain was ravaged by the untreatable cancer. I came in from Chicago every weekend to be with her despite the protestations of Ricky Lee. Sandy, who lived nearby, nosed around only when she wanted money. I wanted to kick her oddly white teeth out of her selfish skull.
If I had been wiser or more aware, I would’ve understood that Sandy was consumed with mental illness. She wasn’t telling us outlandish fictions; rather, they were her truths.
After mom passed, Sandy married Bob. What Bob lacked in intellect, he made up for with patience. They fought like hell and Sandy frequently thrashed him. My brother Joe worked with Bob at a factory. Joe believed Sandy was in good hands or, at least, in the best hands possible considering her intolerable violence and mendacity.
A decade later, Bob split. He tolerated her whooping him. But when she began punching and kicking their kids, Bob had her arrested for assault and had a restraining order issued. Sandy could not see her son or daughter or come anywhere near her erstwhile home. He divorced her. The court ordered Sandy to pay child support which was ludicrous: Sandy had been an incompetent stay-at-home mom who tried—but failed—to home-school her two heathen children despite being illiterate and innumerate. How would she get or keep a job? She couldn’t and didn’t and began living in her truck.
A year later, Joe spotted her truck in the Scott’s parking lot up in Waynedale, where she slept at night. Sometimes Joe had the police check on her at Scott’s. There was little else we could do. I was working in Washington DC and felt useless. Because I was.
Eventually she lost her truck, which cradled the contents of her desolate life. It had her cats, her paintings, her family photos. We have no idea where the truck went. A few weeks later Sandy disappeared.
In the spring of 2017, I received an email from the Indiana Department of Corrections. Art was out of prison. They refused to say where he went, so I fruitlessly hired a PI to find him. The hillbilly rumor mill was more productive: I learned he returned to his hometown of Rome City. But the trail went cold.
About a month after Art’s release, uncle Rick and Aunt Theresa watched Baby Sandy trudge up the driveway of their home in a Klan-festooned area northeast of Atlanta. Sandy claimed she walked from Indiana. It was hard to believe but Rick said her face was sun-baked deep red, she was filthy, stank like a barn animal and her clothes were rancid. After a few days of cleaning her up, they put her on a bus back to Ft. Wayne, lacking any other inspiration. They confirmed she was out of her mind and frequently babbled about a secret community of forest-dwelling hobos who coronated her as its queen.
Upon getting off the bus in Ft. Wayne, she was arrested for numerous crimes, including absconding from child support payments.
That’s when she called me.
I wanted desperately to do something. I fantasized about getting her medicated and going through therapy as I had for so many years. I concocted scenarios of her getting occupational therapy and becoming what we’d all recognize as functional. Perhaps one day she could see her kids without scaring the shit out of them.
Baby Sandy agreed to go to an ER to get a check-up because, at some point, her hand was injured. Since she liked to paint, this motivated her. That’s how we learned she was schizophrenic.
In an improbable turn of events, which only buttressed my absurd optimism, I found a residential treatment facility that would accept her despite her violent criminal record. She stayed in a hotel near Joe’s house until a space become available. Ludicrously, I was intoxicated by the hope of her becoming well.
Patti, the woman who ran the place thought she’d seen it all. But Sandy offered a few surprises. When Patti came to fetch her from the hotel, she had to ensure that Sandy had no weapons—particularly with her assault record. According to Patti, Sandy had been living in a forest on the outskirts of Ft. Wayne. Resourcefully, she made a shiv out of some animal’s rib which she used for various tasks. Sandy went ballistic when she learned she had to give it up. Patti promised her it would be in the safe and that she’d get it back when she left. Unarmed at the home, Sandy collected large rocks in her room to defend herself, which Patti removed weekly.
Patti tried for months to cajole Sandy into participating in the home’s treatment activities. Sandy was tricky. She deployed countless ruses to avoid seeing a shrink which I wanted her to do because I convinced myself that Sandy would be safer for herself and everyone else in a court-ordered institutional environment. To get this court order, I amassed evidence of the risk she posed to herself and others. It wasn’t hard to do for the simple fact that she was, in fact, dangerous as hell. But the psychiatric assessment was most important.
After the fourth month, Patti explained “Sandy, I’m not running a hostel. If you are not going to begin the path to wellness, you can’t stay here. Others need and want these resources to get well.”
At Patti’s suggestion, I called Sandy and begged her to accept treatment. Sandy now lived in an alternate world in which her father hadn’t abused us and killed her mom and in which her brother hadn’t murdered himself. She was adamant that a sinister stranger had stalked her family for years, abused us, and killed Carol and Jack with the same gun. She oscillated between wanting to hunt him down to kill him and hiding from him in the woods. She couldn’t do either in this home.
Sandy yearned to return to her forest. For her, this was not homelessness, rather a safe place.
She confided in me about the secret gathering of hobos who lived in the woods where she decamped. She told me plaintively “most of y’all think I’m crazy. But they worship me because I can catch, kill, clean and cook varmints with my hands. I can make weapons from wood or bones. I fixed my own truck when I had one. I can start a fire, sew, beat the fuck out of anyone—like you. Cuz, you don’t understand. The hobos worship me. I am their queen.”
That night, after we hung up, Sandy collected her shiv and walked out of the home. No one has heard from her or of her since.
Eventually, I acquiesced to Sandy’s logic. In an institution, she would always be vulnerable to predators and more so with age. If she were medicated, would she become more docile and less able to “kick their asses”?
I niggardly conceded that the forest was her refuge. A sanctuary.
During moments when I was honest with myself, I had to accept that the fantasy of helping her “get well” or “become normal” or “functional” was always about me finding a way to assuage my guilt for failing her, Jack, Carol, myself and everyone else Art damaged. Had I said something the very first time I saw him touch her, would things be different for any of us? Would mom or Carol believe me had I tried? It was always about me impossibly attempting to make right a concatenation of colossal wrongs.
Most nights, I try to imagine Sandy ensconced in the woods where she dominates man and nature, surrounded by her loyal subjects who are in awe of their masterful queen.
C. Christine Fair is a professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Barzakh Magazine and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her visual poetry has appeared in Awakenings, pulpMAG and several forthcoming pieces in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and PCC Inscape Magazine.
This is a triptych of three self-portraits. The first image is a mosaic of a Valkyrie. In Norse mythology, the female Valkyries served Odin, the God of War. The Valkyries went into the battlefields to select those among the slain who are worthy of a place in Valhalla. The mosaic is comprised of photos of a variety of persons whose cruelty,misogyny and even outright assault during my childhood and young adulthood have had enduring impacts well into my middle age. Some of the photos are those who were complicit in these acts by doing nothing. The piece speaks to survivorship but also the ways in which these experiences transform you.
The second composite is Athena, the Greek God of War. Like the first, this composite represents the resilience of survivorship at the expense of a serenity denied us. We become warriors forced to wage a war to protect ourselves that we did not start or want.
The third is a composite in the guise of Kali, a goddess in Hindu Mythology. She slays demons, offers divine protection and bestows moksha, or liberation.
I. The Old Lagoon Dog Bears Witness to the War’s Atrocities
Whelped behind an old Hindu temple on the road linking the beach of Mullaitivu and the lagoon, she was the lone survivor of her pack, easily recognized by her light brown coat, perky ears, pointed snout and delicate feet.
The others—her children, siblings, sires, foes and friends—had died in the war or in its genocidal aftermath, from bombs, gunfire, mines, starvation, thirst or illness.
She hunted alone, trying to avoid eating those bodies strewn on the beach even though they were as omnipresent as her hunger.
She knew these Tamil humans by their scent, their voice, the colors they wore before becoming this etiolated bloat. Some fed her. Others kicked her. She followed them to school, to temple, to market. They were her familiars.
She watched as the Sinhalese soldiers—The Others—closed in on them. She cowered from the inescapable thunder of the mortars, the hissing of missiles, the shrieking of jets passing overhead, whose bellies were heavy with bombs. Her ears rang with the cries of mothers wailing, clutching their dead children.
She crouched low in the dirt, watching the Tamil Tigers knock on doors, rip the terrified children from their families and foist the guns into their puny arms to fight The Others.
She smelled the offending odors of The Others’ sex whose scent lingered on the female humans she once knew before they became empty.
She felt the rumbling of the war machines before they could. She barked, whined and pawed at them.
She tried to tell them to get into the trenches so many had built for such moments.
In that madness, they had no patience for the noisy bitch. Some threw discarded coconut shells at her or brandished sticks or stones. She slinked away, tail tucked, in sad confusion.
One by one, she watched them die. With the planting seasons abandoned, she could not mark time.
New humans came, speaking like The Others. They erected new buildings upon the carcasses of old. The town was not familiar now.
Her eyes became marbled clouds. Her hearing diminished. Hips ached. Unable to hunt the chipmunks, they frolicked in front of her with increasing impunity.
Her body trembled from starvation and illness. Mange sunk deep into her flesh.
She pondered her loneliness and why she had survived these atrocities. She sought the comfort of sleep and nested in the dirt alone some distance from the Vaddu Vakal Bridge.
In the early hours of no-morning-in-particular, The Others’ truck sped over her frail body. She took one last look at her beloved Nanthi Kadal lagoon, unable to move and in a pain she could not endure. She closed her tired eyes.
She had not yet given up her life when the clatter of hungry birds descended upon her soft belly to pick out her pink entrails.
Too weak to move, bark or whimper, the last witness was no more.
II. The Goat of Ghundi Kala village
She was young with a wobbly head and the uncoordinated gait of a kid. Her youth spared her from this year’s Eid sacrifice.
During the day she’d root for discarded scraps of vegetables or fruits. Yellow melons, musty and limp in the searing heat, were her favorite.
Water was always scarce. She liked stumbling upon a pile of watermelon rinds which gave up their moisture as she chewed them.
She nuzzled chickens roaming around and played with the old bitch’s young pups who survived the cull.
When she was first separated from her mother, she quivered and shrieked with fear when the Noise happened.
Then the explosions ceased to terrify. The mysterious men, packed into the back of the small pickup trucks that crisscrossed the Waziristan landscape like busy ants, became familiar.
The Truck Men, with their covered sun-drenched faces and guns, and their speeding trucks no longer intrigued her. Now, she rarely looked up from her beloved trash heap as they sped by.
The mangled bodies she would stumble upon as she rooted along the roads for nourishing things the Humans discarded no longer fascinated her either.
Sometimes she overheard the Humans discussing the Still Mens’ crimes.
At night her Young Human tied her to a tree with an olid rope she loathed. The stench of urine and defecation of so many strange Animals who had come before her disquieted her.
Usually, the Men in Trucks stayed far from her home, which she came to understand was Good. They would come down from the mountains to pick up Things and Animals like her, then retreat, which was sometimes Bad.
When the Truck Men lingered at Others’ homes, the Sky Beasts swooped down. The animals could hear their unnatural buzzing long before the Truck Men and Others could.
When the Truck Men stayed, flashes of light and thunderous explosions would follow which tossed dust and the remains of incinerated Humans and Animals into the sky.
That night, tied to her tree, she watched the Truck Men arrive. They boisterously stepped down and disappeared into her Humans’ compound.
Her body stiffened. Her hackles stood up. She bleated as loud as she could, her ears back. Her Humans did not come. She kicked the ground, throwing up dirt behind her. She paced. She tried to warn her Humans when she first heard the buzzing. She yanked at the tree and bucked in hopes of breaking the rope. Maybe then she could warn them.
As the noise became intolerably louder, she crouched low to the ground as something came shrieking towards her. She tried to make herself as small as possible before the Flash came.
The next morning the wary neighborhood men came by to inspect the damage and count the dead. Relatives came by to pick whatever remains they could bury.
She and her tree were smoldering detritus, unnoticed.
III. The Cat in Haji Nur Mohammad’s Compound
Cat was special with her white coat, large ears and wide, outsized black eyes on her small triangular face.
She lived with several others in one of the Warlord’s private compounds on the outskirts of Kabul.
When Haji ate well, they all ate well, feasting off the discarded bones and offal of the animals he routinely slaughtered for his revolving entourages of boisterous guests.
Tonight was such a night. Haji’s men came back with a large, terrified goat. Within minutes, they slit his throat and let his blood run out. The cats watched from a distance in anticipation as the kasab hacked the still-warm animal into chunks that would be variously fried, roasted and stewed.
Haji’s cooks served the meat and morsels of fat over pillows of fragrant rice with sweet carrots and raisins. They rendered the feet and head into a tasty stew their Pakistani mehman savored.
As night began to fall, the guests began to arrive in their Pajeros, Land Rovers and Toyotas.
They assembled in Haji’s great hall, seated upon luxurious carpets and bolsters. The food was brought out on silver platters atop plastic sheets with oddly floral prints. The men began lapping up gravy with fresh naan and foisting chunks of charred flesh and fat into their mouths with their fat, ringed fingers.
Some drank tea or even daru. Others smoked hashish or opium.
The men were buzzing with excitement.
Cat knew why. Haji was known to have the most beautiful dancing boys in Kabul. Businessmen, warlords and traffickers were honored by Haji’s envied invitations.
Tonight, Haji would bring out the Hazara boy they called Chinoise.
As the musicians began to assemble, the men stretched out. They picked the meat out of their mangled teeth. Restless in anticipation, they stroked their beards.
Chinoise made his appearance in a blur of colors in motion as he spun and twirled to the delight of the assembled men as the musicians behind him played Pashtun folk songs.
His striking grey eyes were outlined in kohl. He dazzled in a red blouse bespeckled with sequins over a dark blue velvet skirt and a silk tasseled scarf he draped coyly about his face and shoulders. His ankles and wrists bedecked with the boisterous bells he famously played with the undulations of his body.
As he danced the plates of abandoned food were taken away and the Cats began to feast.
Cat no longer payed attention to the Men or Chinoise until, late in the night, the Guests retreated to their vehicles and sped off into the star-strewn night likely to meet their expectant wives.
Cat followed Chinoise to his private room and watched him undress then fill an old, green bucket of tepid water. Cat could smell Those Mens’ musky odors on his body. Chinoise poured water over his frail body from a cup.
He lathered himself with soap then ladled more water over himself to rinse. He scrubbed his face to remove the makeup. But the scent of Those Men lingered.
Chinoise put on his night dress as Cat cautiously strode up near him. Chinoise slid into bed and motioned Cat to join him. Cat jumped up on the rope bed and situated himself on Chinoise’s pillow and purred deeply.
He drew Cat near and stroked her. Chinoise clutched her close as he cried bitter tears into Cat’s fur. In these moments, the self he had to protect from Those Men, cautiously leered out from the shadows.
He missed his mother most of all. She wept furiously when his father announced that he had sold him to Haji. She beat her chest when Haji took him away and renamed him like a pet. Only when Haji felt tender did he call the boy by his real name: Zahid.
Zahid longed to be Cat, to leap with her over the compound walls and escape and survive Out There.
Away from Haji and Those Men who supped upon him like a communal plate.
Away from the things they did to him, made him do to them.
Away from their sickening stench, greasy hands, and the shame he could not wash away.
He longed to be innocent again, nestled near his mother as she made tea in the morning. He longed to be Zahid.
C. Christine Fair is a provost’s distinguished associate professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest,Black Horse Magazine, and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her scholarly website is ChristineFair.net. She blogs at https://shortbustoparadise.wordpress.com/. She tweets at @CChristineFair.
“The Animals Bear Witness to Their Crimes,” is comprised of three accounts from ongoing or recent wars in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan, presented from the vantage point of the animals who bear silent witnesses to the crimes and violence of the conflicts. These are all wars she has studied on the ground. They are all wars that haunt her.
This is maybe the most important writing success I’ve had since Fighting to the End, it’s an essay about my shitbird dad in @furiousgazelle. I’ve been working on this story for a few years now: I’ve played around with the details, the voice (first person vs. third), and struggling with “how honest” I should be given that the details also affect my family. Since my brothers and I have different last names, I went “open kimono.” It was the only way to tell this story that was authentic. One never gets closure…but this is about as close to closure as I will get with my polecat, asshat of a sperm donor. And yes, I will be mailing it to him. Thank you @furiousgazelle! And this story is finally finished. Back to The Hobo Queen. Please do send me critical feedback. You all know I have thick skin…. But seriously. Fuck that dude.
Sitting across the rotting planks of a water-worn picnic table at a lake dive in Rome City, Indiana, Chris glowered at Bob and strained not to hear him. She studied his ruddy face with his pale, hooded, sky-blue eyes. His face was unmistakably and disappointingly redolent of her own. In anger, her mom would shake her head slowly and deliberately while growling in revulsion, “You look just like him.” She usually managed to render “just” a two-syllable word to make her point. Chris hated this actuality and longed to resemble her mother who always lingered just beyond her reach. But his widow’s peak, unruly hair and godawful teeth were all lamentably hers too. Maintaining her own teeth was a Sisyphean task. They’d crack or break. Dr. Hill would patch them up. They’d break again and Dr. Hill, again, would do the needful. Bob simply let his rot. In fact he seemed proud of these gaping holes as they were yet another signifier of his indifference to the consequences of his decisions.
She wished she could be tender or something like that. But, “This putrid son of a bitch” rolled around in her head like her moist sneakers in the dryer after an early run in the dew-kissed grass of spring. She tried to appear indifferent as he plowed along in his flat, nasal Midwestern voice which also—irritatingly—sounded like a more masculine version of her own hilljack voice. Episodically her ears grabbed onto his words and she could feel that familiar anger rearing up on its hind legs, begging for permission to lunge at him, sink its teeth into his crepe-skinned neck and suck out whatever life lingered in that wankstain’s body. She forced herself to intermittently grunt or nod, feigning interested disinterest. The task helped to keep his venomous words at bay.
She instinctively recoiled when he said “his kids,” referring to Dawn and Rick, without a modicum of consideration for her feelings. These conjoined words raked across her nerves each time he uttered them. Not only was she his kid, she was his first accurst kid. She contemplated standing up, pointing at him and then to herself, and howling “I am the abandoned daughter of this fucktangle of assholery” for the enjoyment of the other outdoor diners seated nearby.
To dodge the responsibility of being her father, Bob did two voluntary tours in Viet Nam. He tried to re-up a third time, but the army declined. The army knew only nutcases wanted three servings of that war and it had no interest in redeploying a self-identified lunatic. Admittedly, he signed up for the first tour before he knew she was growing in her mom’s belly, but that didn’t excuse the second and the attempted third. It was crazy-making that this ratfucker preferred to shoot and be shot at in Viet Nam than stay in Indiana and be her father and her mother’s husband.
Chris deliciously remembered travelling to Viet Nam with her physicist then-boyfriend, Dr. Devil, some twenty years ago. She was in her late 20s, a mere four years after her mom died of Melanoma. While Dr. Devil rubbed shoulders with his colleagues at a local university, Chris visited the War Remnants Museum in which the intimately personal effects of captured soldiers and downed airman were curated and displayed: their dog tags; photos of wives, lovers, kids or dogs; watches; random pocket litter from their last trip to Bangkok. She wondered what would have happened had this raasclaat been captured. What artifacts of his existence would be on display? Did he have her baby picture in his wallet on his second tour? Her mom’s picture? Looking at the assortment, she wondered how she would have felt had she seen his POW picture and an assortment of his pocket trash behind that glass? “Mollified. Probably,” she muttered out loud.
In fact, she often wished that he had died in Viet Nam for the selfish reason that her life and that of her mom would have been vastly easier. Her mother would have had economic assistance and health benefits from the Veterans’ Administration. Re-marriage would have been a choice rather than compulsion. Chris would have had veterans’ educational benefits. Perhaps her mother wouldn’t have told her the repulsive truth about Bob and the bet he made that resulted in Chris’ conception. Chris would have been a slain heroes’ daughter rather than the genetic refuse of a coward who preferred waging war to loving her and protecting her from the war that life would wage against her.
Her parents divorced after Bob returned the second time from Nam. Chris was three. Soon thereafter, Bob married his high-school sweetheart, tossing her mother into economic and moral ruination, resigned to go from one fuckup’s bed to another just for them to survive. While Rome City Indiana in 1967 was unforgiving of women in these circumstances, it made various excuses for the men who invariably absconded.
As waves of rage washed over her, she stormed out of the museum. She strode up to the first sidewalk hawker she could find to buy a postcard depicting Ho Chi Minh, who oddly resembled an ornery Colonel Sanders. She scribbled on the card hastily, “Dear Bob. In Viet Nam. Wish you were still here. Chris.”
She had every intention of mailing it even though she didn’t have his address. But she was tenacious in her spite. From a nearby internet café, she opened Alta Vista and searched “Bristol Indiana White Pages.” Finding the shitbird’s whereabouts was surprisingly effortless. She scrawled out the address, headed to the nearest post office, and dispatched it before her better self could advise against it.
Motivated by those memories of 1998 Saigon and that museum, she focused upon Bob, who sat there in front of her in this northern Indiana gastronomical hellhole. She interrupted the story about his brother who tried—but failed—to kill himself with a shotgun.
“So, Bob, did you ever get that postcard I sent from Viet Nam?”
For a moment, a look of satisfying hurt drifted across Bob’s face. “Yes. Yes!” he said in a rising voice. “I did. And it was an asshole thing to do.”
She was relieved—even denervated—that he got it and that it stung. She nodded. “Well, I got the asshole gene from you. Along with your shitty teeth and your goddamned cancer genes. Oh. I also have a pile of shrink bills too. So, we’re not quite even—are we, Bob?”
Here she was, at some olid Indiana lake dive because Bob called her to proclaim, yet again, that he was dying from an aggressive cancer of his esophagus. He moaned that he was in a lot of pain. He said he wanted to see her. With the cupidity she read into his words, she and her patient husband, Jeff, drove all night from Washington D.C. She cried most of the way. Tears of sadness, guilt, and a life-time of yearning.
When they reached the hospital in Elkhart, he was hardly dead. And, he was still an unapologetic prick who revelled in the hurtful antics of his spent youth. She felt she had been made a fool. Played like a kazoo. As he bloviated about the tedious lives led by his unaccomplished, slothful children, she pondered the lifetime that separated them and would always separate them.
She came here, dropping everything, because he was ill, in pain and possibly dying. How many times was she hospitalized, alone and afraid? There was the kidney infection when she was eight. Meningitis when she was fourteen. She nearly died from a sea-food allergy while driving from the Cape to New York City in college with a terrified man who loved her unrequitedly. In shock, they rushed her past gun-shot victims before she drifted out of consciousness. In her travels to Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh she had contracted cholera, typhoid, countless bouts of near-lethal dysentery. Each time she wondered whether Bob would care that his firstborn was critically ill and whether he’d learn of her death if she died? Would he mourn her? Memories fell upon her like a stampede of furious animals released from a corral. The deadening sorrow she and Jeff endured when they lost their babies. She remembered Uncle Art’s calloused fingers penetrating her after her infant brother, Johnnie, died. When her stepfathers kicked and beat her. When her mom could not protect her. When an Afghan taxi driver abducted her outside of Ghom in 2001. Where. The. Fuck. Was. He?
She felt sick and dizzy. Had she ever called him during any of those troubles, would he have driven all night or bought a ticket and boarded a plane to see her? Not likely. He couldn’t be bothered to attend her college graduation from the University of Chicago—a mere ninety minutes from his home. Yet she was here for him. For a second time. And he was still not dying.
The wretch was immortal. It was possible that this boor would deny her the simple pleasure of pissing on his grave. Yet, despite her unending furor, here they were, sitting at a rickety picnic table, on an August evening in execrable Indiana, when the oppression of the humidity was exceeded only by persistence of the tiger mosquitos biting through her clothes.
As verbal rubbish spewed from his toothless, twisted mouth, saliva caked on its downward-tilting corner. His face was noticeably asymmetrical. His nose was warped like someone had smashed it right and proper. But in all the photos she had studied of him, that was his nose.
For a moment, she looked away from him in shame for being there, for being conned into seeing this jackass so incapable of the slightest remorse. If only this prick had died in Viet Nam, she thought. That was a story she could understand and, equally important, could explain to others. He always came up in background investigations and polygraph interrogations for her security clearances. CIA shrinks, who still thought Freud mattered, would impugn her morality and integrity because he abandoned her. How could she explain who this man was to these government bureaucrats? It was too much emotional labor. Yet she had to. Repeatedly.
She looked down at her plate that arrived during one of one of his cloying reveries. She pushed her food around with her fork as if it was that tiny sand pit and miniature rake their couples’ counsellor had on her coffee table. Eating was impossible. If she started, she would eat it all. Then she’d excuse herself to purge. The desire to devour those fries and barbecue pork ribs perdured. She knew what they would feel like coming up, the comfort of wrapping her arms around her stomach in this practiced exorcism of rancor at others and herself. The self-flagellation accompanied by the self-induced heaves were a soothing ritual she learned early in childhood. Later, she could drink some water with baking soda stirred in to neutralize the acid and mitigate any damage she had inflicted upon her genetically compromised esophagus and doomed teeth. She had been diagnosed a few months earlier with Barret’s esophagus which tended to become Bob’s cancer. Meditating upon this most salient inheritance from Bob, she reminded herself that she could not binge and purge. Drawing her nose and lips into a snarl, she poured water over her meal to make it less appealing. She sighed, relaxed her shoulders and looked right into his face, resigned to let her resentment sit with her.
Bob would not shut up.
She glanced towards Jeff, who had tuned out. Mouth watering, she glanced at her plate. Why was she here? What did she think would come from this? An apology for a lifetime of neglect? A feeble recognition of that neglect? The questions stung. Where was he when her stepfathers beat her, or her uncle thrust his trigger finger into her girlish flesh to pluck her innocence like a blackberry from a pie? He had given her nothing worth having. She felt trapped, smothered, unable to breathe. Needing to bolt, she looked around furtively at her husband, the waitress, the table behind Bob, where a large woman, with voluminous arms draped about her pot belly, sprawled out and wide like the desert she traversed in that Afghan’s taxi speeding away from Ghom.
The woman’s purple veins bulged out and over her thick legs which strained her polyester shorts. Her friend, sporting a colorful maxi dress, held a yappy chihuahua on her own capacious lap, making the tiny dog appear even more diminutive. She concentrated on the chihuahua, those veiny legs and flaccid arms, the swirls of hues on the endless muumuu. She saw a milkshake at the chihuahua’s table. Was it vanilla, she wondered? She glanced once more, furtively, at the water-logged food.
Then Bob said the thing she could not unhear. He called his granddaughter a pig. She hadn’t paid attention to how he ended up there in his interminable account. She thought maybe she’d misunderstood. Her voice piqued as she asked him to repeat himself. “What did you just say?” elongating the vowels as they fell out of her mouth.
He gathered himself defensively, sat upright and looked at her defiantly, square in her eyes and said “She’s a goddamn pig. Ashley is a pig. Her mom is a pig. She’s a fucking pig, like her whore mom.”
Sublimating her wrath, she retorted in her NPR voice, “Bob, just how old is this ostensible pig?” wondering if he knew what “ostensible” meant. “She’s fourteen,” Bob snorted, almost gleefully. “But she’s always been a pig.”
“And just why is she a ‘goddamned pig’?” she asked with contempt-dredged curiosity. She slapped hard at a mosquito biting through her clothes. She glanced down with cathartic satisfaction at the blood spatter on her dress and palm. Again, with increased adamancy, Bob told her, “Her mother is a pig. She’s a pig, too.”
Inhaling and crossing her arms over her empty stomach, she leaned back and slowly repeated her question in a lowered voice while glowering, “Why, Bob, do you call your teenaged granddaughter a pig, a goddamned pig?”
He opined that “she’s a little slut, who got kicked out of school for asking boys to show her their dicks.”
Horrified, she recognized the child’s actions intimately as the behavior of an abused child, overwhelmed by her precocious inclinations and desires. Chris’s wife-murdering uncle had abused her since she was a toddler. Her first memories were of him turning her over the back of the couch in her stepfather’s basement, sliding aside her underwear and thrusting his rough, oil-stained fingers inside her tiny body. And, having been touched like that, her body had desires that were beyond the control of her five-year-old self. Uncle Art told her that he loved her more than anyone else. In a house bereft of affection or attention, her young self welcomed his affection. Later, upon understanding how fucked up it was, the feelings of guilt, filth, shame and self-loathing settled into her bones like a Chicago fog in winter. It was then that she discovered the calm that came after eating an entire box of Raisin Bran with whole milk, then thrusting her face over the toilet, calling herself names as she summoned the contents of her stomach into the commode. With each hurl, she felt the self-hatred leave her along with the contents of her gut. It wasn’t the eating that soothed her: it was the purging. With each expulsion, she felt better, until she collapsed on the cold bathroom floor and felt her sweat evaporate.
She sat back and looked at him from the side of her eyes. Then at the food. She wanted so badly to do what had comforted her for so long. She meditated upon Bob’s cancer and the extensive surgery that required a reorganization of his upper thorax after they removed most of his cancerous esophagus. The surgeon moved his stomach where his esophagus had been. She cut him from the front and back to rearrange his lungs, upon which his truncated stomach now rested. He could not breathe as easily as before with that stomach upon his lungs. Eating was a chore. For months, a tube sent nutrients directly to his upper bowl. Considering this, she again resolved that he, this useless sonofabastard, would not bring her to her knees, face plunged into a toilet, puking up her loathing for him, herself or anyone else while courting his cancer.
She turned, and returning his defiance in measure, stared right into his face and sneered whether it had occurred to him that perhaps “that the little girl is a pig because someone abused her?”
Bob replied guilelessly, “Of course she was abused! Her mother is shacking up with a goddamned pedophile!”
The churn of indignation felt like a typhoon. It was too much. Ashley, the “pig” was his granddaughter. His son’s daughter.
She had to get out of there. She explained that it had been a long drive from DC to Indiana and that she had to go. She asked for the bill and paid it. She didn’t want him paying for their dinner. After he left, she sat there with her husband, grappling with what just happened. She felt wrong inside like someone had pithed her.
That night, sleep was elusive. In their motel bed, she kept replaying his words and seeing his twisted, saliva-crusted mouth. She sat up beside her snoring husband, and cradled her unease, trying to pin it down.
In the darkness, cut by a streetlamp, she stroked the velvety ear of her dog, Budreaux. They had brought all three dogs with them, and at this moment, it was Boudreaux who sought comfort, while Vega and Saffy slept at the foot of the bed. Rubbing Budreaux’s soft ear pacified them both. He nestled his Janus-faced head into her lap, turned over, and stretched his hind legs out and up, revealing his snow-white chest and belly to indicate that he wanted a tummy rub. She leaned over to stroke his strong undercarriage and thought how much she loved him.
As Budreaux rolled over and fell asleep, the puzzle floated back. At first, it was hazy but slowly came into focus with glaring obviousness. When she was a kid fending off her uncle, step-monsters, and an indifferent mother; she rehearsed the consoling canard that if her father only knew about this shitstorm, he would save her. Maybe he would’ve beaten her uncle or even killed him in a fit to restore his hillbilly honor? When her step-fathers consecutively rained hell upon her, she imagined her father as a kind man who, moved by her pain and his remorse for not rescuing her earlier, would drape himself around her like a warm coat and lead her away from a life that was killing her.
She had come to know Bob somewhat over the intervening decades. The first time she met Bob, she was thirteen. They met at the Walgreen’s restaurant in the Glenbrook Mall, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Her mother promised her that she could meet him when she turned thirteen, if she could locate him. Her mother worked all day. From their home in Huntertown, the Allen County Library in downtown Ft. Wayne was no more than 12 miles. The bulk of the distance was a the peri-rural highway, Lima Rd. So, one summer day, after her mom left for work, she hopped on her bike and made the journey. It was easy: a friendless loner, she spent most of the Huntertown summers on her bike traveling through farmlands. The library had phone books for the entire state. It took her no time to find Bob. She Xeroxed the page with his name, address, and phone number. When October came, she presented her mother with the finding she had kept secret since July. Her mom was peeved but kept up her end of the bargain. Chris remembered dialing his number, waiting for him to answer and explaining who she was. He didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic. He was about thirty years old then and he seemed mostly uncertain. Nonetheless, he agreed to meet her.
At the mall, her closest friend, Holly waited as they met. Holly was more reliable than either Heather or Carmel, with whom she had once planned to escape her unbearable life. She’d waited for them both underneath the streetlamp on Apollo Road for an hour before she concluded they had chickened out. But Holly was made of tougher stuff. How many times had she and Holly plotted to hop a boxcar and go wherever it took them? She and Holly had spent hours under the railroad bridge in Huntertown noting train schedules for their getaway. That was why Holly was there that day.
Holly watched from a distance in the magazine aisle in the adjacent drug store, while she and Bob sat at a table visible to mall shoppers. Bob brought his wife, who sported expensive Jordache jeans. She longed for Bob to ask whether she was okay, was she loved, did her stepfather treat her well? He asked her little other than unimaginative queries about school and questions, riddled with aversion, about why she kept pet rats, a snake and a ferret as pets. She didn’t bother explaining the intelligence of rats or that her ferret had a more noticeable sense of curiosity than he had or that the snake was more affectionate than he seemed.
The next time they met, she was 23. She had just buried her mother, who died at 45. He callously told her, while she still stood on the concrete steps outside his house, “You weren’t born out of love. You were born out of a bet.”
Her stomach twisted and roiled, not because of the cruelty of it, but because of the confirmation of a truth. Her mother had told her, from the time she was six, that Bob and two other men made a bet to get her into bed. She hadn’t known what it meant until she grew older. But as she came to understand the words and implications of the posited scenario, the more unbelievable it was. By the time her mother was dying, she was in full revolt. She had outright called her mother a liar and, in a fit of anger over her mother’s failure to protect her from the men in their lives, yelled at her to never repeat that nonsense again. When her mother died, she had come to fully reject this foundational truth, which more than anything, explained her mother’s own pain and animus towards Chris who had committed the crime of being born alive. Now, Bob stated this truism with cavalier flair as if he were explaining some unfortunate turn of events at the Kendallville racetrack.
She returned to her rented car and drove back to Chicago, in silence, with her stupefied boyfriend, without speaking during the drive back to safety. She never felt less worthy of living than she did then.
By now, she was a grown woman approaching middle-age. She had met him about a dozen times over the past decade and had made infrequent efforts at small talk on the phone. She had come to terms with the fact that he was about seventeen when he knocked up her mom. And watching her own brothers grow up and become men gave her some degree of insight about the time it takes for a man’s brain to mature. Even though he was only thirty when she first came back to his life, he was now an old man. It was clear who and what he was: a selfish, unrepentant churl who reveled in his own youthful fuckery. Still, she could not find it within herself to write him off, delete his information from her phone, and block his number as her brother, whose own father was another participant in that ignominious bet, and her husband repeatedly advised.
On this trip, she realized that she still hoped—just as she always had—that there would be some point at which he would understand just how callous he had been to her and her mother and do something to make it right. While she didn’t know what that would take, she still harbored some sliver of hope that he wasn’t just an unreconstructed cunt of no redemptive potential.
But back at the hotel, it was clear that she had seen the bottom of his soul and there was no reason to look further. Hearing him call his first granddaughter a pig, she understood for the first time that he never would have saved her. Had he observed her antipathy and truculence, he would have bellowed that her suffering was her own fault or that of her mother. Maybe he would’ve seen her precocious sexual interests and described her as a pig; inherited from her mother, whom he would have denounced as a pig as well, without an iota of irony. He would have embraced no obligation to intervene in the smallest of ways to protect her. He would accept no responsibility for any of it.
She and Ashley, in Bob’s universe, were pigs by birth rather than by survival. He could give no fewer fucks about either of them if he had to at gunpoint.
In the morning, she and Jeff left for home. Boudreaux wailed while Vega slunk off to the back of the minivan and fell asleep, snuggled up against Saffy. Jeff, sensing her silence, knew she was marinating something. As they reached West Virginia, she said, “Jeff, I’m going to report this to child protective services. No one called them when I needed them. I’m not going to let this girl hang out to dry. What do you think?” Having said the words aloud, a strange calm settled about her.
Jeff told her that he thought she should, but she should understand that any chances of a rapprochement with Bob would be impossible. “But,” Jeff said wryly “that would be a positive externality of doing the right thing.”
She smiled at him and said, “Two nerd flares for that one.”
For much of the drive back home, her cellphone had no reception. It irked her that Afghanistan has a better cellular network than the United States. She kept looking at her phone and counting bars. Finally, having reached Maryland, she phoned Bob.
“Bob, I’m sorry for scramming last night. I was in Bangladesh last month visiting refugees from Myanmar and I have to give a talk on the situation at the Atlantic Council tomorrow. I didn’t want to get home too late.” There was silence. She almost wondered if the call dropped.
Trying to sound nonchalant, she continued “Anyway I was thinking about your granddaughter. What’s her name again? Ashley, right? But what’s her mom’s name?” Writing down their names, she furthered, “And um…where do they live? Near you and Rick, right?”
In exasperation, he blurted out, “Rome City.” Then he paused. “Hey! Why you asking this stuff?” Bob asked suspiciously, omitting the stative verb, which annoyed her.
She remained silent. She didn’t want to lie, but she didn’t want to tell him either. He was nervous. He knew her because he knew himself. Though he didn’t raise her, she was like him in some ways: stubborn, resolved and once she took a decision, she acted.
“Chris, what the hell are you doing?” he hollered.
The silence bugged him, which pleased her. The power to hurt was now in her hands. As he grew anxious, she told him flatly, “I’m calling CPS to report the situation with Ashley. No one called CPS when I was abused. That girl deserves a chance. And frankly, you or your son should’ve done this. Ages ago. What the actual fuck is wrong with you people?”
Desperately, he warned her “Don’t you dare. If you do…”
She hung up before he could complete the threat. She Googled Child Protective Services for Rome City, Indiana. She told the operator all that she knew and hung up. She had no idea what, if anything, would come of this. But at least she tried to give that little girl the chance which no one tried to give her. Bob kept calling. She declined to answer. For another day he called her mobile and then their home phone. And then he stopped calling.
She understood that she had been chasing a chimera all along. Bob would never have saved her. It wasn’t, to his mind, his responsibility. And with that cruel epiphany, she neither needed nor wanted to see him again. She deleted and then blocked his number on her phone.
A year passed, then two. She wondered if Bob had died. But she was at peace. Even if he was dead, she didn’t care. For all intents and purposes, he died that day when he called that little, broken girl a pig.
She never learned what came of Ashley and she was too timorous to speculate. Indiana was death row for women and girls like them. It’s why Chris bolted as soon as possible. College, graduate school, and then all of Asia were destinations on her escape route. Would Ashley get away? What life would she make for herself and would she one day seethe at her father’s and grandfather’s indifference to her suffering as Chris did for so long?
Sitting on the porch enjoying the still warm sun of early October, she sipped an Old Fashioned. Budreaux, now older and calmer, foisted his snout into her armpit as she scratched his ears. With an easy smile. she gazed down at Saffy and Vega who slept with an angelic, senescent calm beneath her feet.
Bob’s cruelty and callousness, which once felt like quicksand around her legs, had finally set her free. She hoped that Ashley too would seek such freedom and somehow, against the odds, find it.
C. Christine Fair is a provost’s distinguished associate professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). She has published creative pieces in The Bark, The Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her scholarly website is www.ChristineFair.net. She blogs at https://shortbustoparadise.wordpress.com/. She tweets at @CChristineFair.
Briget Collier Associate Provost & Director, Office for Equal Opportunity Programs Title IX Coordinator for the University Office of the Provost The University of Chicago 5801 S. Ellis Ave Levi Hall 427 Chicago, IL 60637
Dear Ms. Collier: Thank you for the frank discussion on Tuesday November 28, 2017. As discussed, here is my official letter describing Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty’s inappropriate behavior with me at the end of Winter quarter 1994, the long-term impact of that misconduct personally and professionally, my specific request for an investigation into that event and an apology from Chakrabarty, as well as contacts of persons who can corroborate my experiences as well as discuss his behavior in general. Per our discussion on November 28, I have learned that he continues this predatory behavior and that his wife, Rochona Majumdar, has a regrettable track-record of abusing her students as well.
As discussed, herein I also provide you with information that others have shared with me about the ongoing predatory behavior of professor Chakrabarty and Majumdar as well contacts of persons who have agreed to speak with you. (See the Table of Contacts at the end of this missive.) I want you to understand that many persons with whom I have corresponded are afraid of them and their vindictiveness. They are abusing their power over current and former students to shield themselves from consequences that would otherwise arise from their maltreatment of current and former students.
Tenure was invented to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom rather than to provide immunity and impunity to faculty who exploit the power differential that exists between them and their students. Surely, there must be some way of securing justice for the past and present victims of Professor Chakrabarty and Majumdar and preventing future victimization from occurring in the first instance.
The Event in Question: Winter Quarter 1994
As noted in my October 25, 2017 piece titled #HimToo, which was republished by Buzzfeed after Huffington Post removed it, I left the sciences in part due to the pervasive hostile environment that I confronted at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate. In AY1993-94, I began my PhD at the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilization (SALC) at the University of Chicago. (I chose to stay at the University of Chicago despite being unhappy due to full funding and proximity to my mother who was dying. She passed the week before I began my PhD in SALC.) The transition was difficult. I was not accustomed to the vernacular of post-modernism and other specialized jargon. I excelled at Hindi, but the theory classes were difficult. I struggled to understand the copious volumes of readings. The transition was rendered more difficult by the opprobrious behavior of Dipesh Chakrabarty in the second quarter of my first academic year in the program.
I was enrolled in his HIST 377 course (described as “Pol/Ident Colonial South Asia” on my transcript) in the winter quarter of 1994. (See the below photos of my transcript and the course guide for that quarter.) At the end of that semester, I roller-bladed to campus to drop off my final paper at his office, which was in the Social Sciences Building. I did not expect to find him there. As I handed in that paper, he asked me (with a repellent grin on his face) “are you looking for sexual pleasure.” Ostensibly his proposition was precipitated by a sticker on one of my roller blades which read “Sexual Pleasure Is No Crime.” The other sticker stated “Rape is a War Crime.” The stickers referred to the politics of the early 1990s. I was a pro-choice activist and I agitated against the use of rape as a tool of war in the Balkans. I backed out of his office. As I did so, I felt my face turn red in shame. I fought back tears as I made it down the stairs and to the quads. I had given up a career in chemistry precisely because of this behavior. Yet, here I was enduring the very contumely nonsense from which I bolted. I was stunned. I felt dizzy. Then I felt angry. I gave up a predictable career trajectory because of this kind of rank misogyny. Yet barely within a year of my new scholarly life, had sexism reared its ugly head.
Before I reached the circle in the middle of the quadrangle (which used to be accessible to cars), I forced myself march back to his office with the intention of telling him off, irrespective of the lousy grade I expected to receive after doing so. (It turns out he gave me an A. I viewed it as “hush” payment.) But Chakrabarty had left his office. Because Chakrabarty’s office was in the Social Science building, I found an office of a “dean” (see picture below). Desperate for help, I went to that dean’s office in hopes of finding an ally and asked the administrative assistant if I could speak with him. I must confess to not knowing much about the structure of deans’ affairs in those days and students had no guidance about how to report such incidents.
After some research this past week, I believe that dean was John Boyer who would have been the academic dean or acting academic dean of the Social Sciences at the time. (It was not Tom Theurer because I knew Theurer well and would have remembered him. Moreover, Chakrabarty was a visiting history professor and I did not think Theurer was appropriate.) I was literally wandering the halls of the Social Science Building in search of help. I told that dean (whom I am fairly, but not completely, certain was Boyer) what happened. To my revulsion, the individual asked me whether or not I had told Chakrabarty that the advance was unwanted. I also learned from that conversation that unless I told Chakrabarty this explicitly, he could proposition me again. The dean explained that his conduct did not violate university policy and, unless I told him unambiguously that I did not want sexual pleasure with him, how could he possibly know that I do not?
Photograph of My Transcript, Clearly Showing HIST 377
I then went to the chairman of my department who was Sheldon Pollock, a renowned scholar of Sanskrit who is now is at Columbia University. Pollock tried to reassure me that Chakrabarty meant nothing by this comment. I asked him if he would tell his daughters the same if they narrated this tale? He assured me that he would have.
My efforts to confront Chakrabarty proved difficult. Ultimately, I had to ambush Chakrabarty at the International House where he was residing. It turns out coincidentally that Chakrabarty shared a suite with a former lab mate (Thomas Steinbrecher) who had extensive unpleasant experiences with him. Steinbrecher facilitated my confrontation with Chakrabarty who retorted “You have to understand that I come from a conservative school.” I had no idea what that meant nor cared. The deed was done. (Steinbrecher, who long ago returned to Germany stands by to corroborate my experiences. See his contacts below.)
Later, Chakrabarty would commence an affair with a woman, Rochona Majumdar, whose committee he chaired. Eventually, he secured a divorce from his wife and mother of his child, to marry this student. He then exploited his position to secure a tenure-track position for her. Her tenure was a foregone conclusion and she actually boasted about this to one of the students with whom I spoke. She said that she “danced around” her tenure. That is certainly an interesting way of describing her unorthodox career trajectory. (I have contacts who can explain the extraordinarily unethical way by which he hired his wife, if you are interested in pursuing this. Let me know if you would like those sources.)
Nonetheless, SALC specifically and the university generally remained indifferent to his various demonstrations of incomprehensible moral turpitude. Professor Steve Collins was one of my professors in SALC. He had become the ally of me and other victims of Chakrabarty’s misconduct.
My battles with Chakrabarty did not conclude however. Unable to tolerate the University of Chicago, I left and took up full-time employment with the RAND Corporation and made slow but steady progress towards completing my PhD while in California. I had to take additional courses (such as the year-long study of Persian) at UCLA. However, I had to fight to keep him off of my orals’ committee and even tenure committee when Norman Cutler who chaired SALC died, and Chakrabarty replaced him as the head of SALC. Collins tried to get him removed as the Chair of our department to no avail. I also hady made arrangements to transfer to the University of Texas Austin to study under Sumit Ganguly had Collins’ efforts fail. I also began securing legal counsel as well. Nonetheless, Collins managed these various issues for me and protected me from Chakrabarty.
I know I am not alone. He has harassed women for the last twenty-three years. To this day, Dipesh Chakrabarty has never experienced any adverse consequences for his actions. Some women chose to leave the program. I considered doing the same. I knew that I could never get a job in this discipline with Dipesh Chakrabarty as an enemy. So, I plotted yet another alternate professional course which began with my employment at the RAND Corporation.
The Consequences and Professional and Personal Impacts for Me
As I detailed in #HimToo, the medical costs from managing my depression from years of sexual harassment and assault has been staggering. If I had invested those many thousands of dollars required to pay for therapy and medications since I was 18, my retirement income would be approximately $100,000 greater than it is today (assuming the same average 10% return to those investments as my other investment instruments.) While I have no interest in seeking financial redress, Chakrabarty’s repulsive behavior and the University of Chicago’s indifference to the same has certainly contributed to these expenditures.
Because I finished my PhD remotely in part to escape him, I did not enjoy the same faculty mentorship as others in my program. As noted, I finished up coursework at UCLA. I did not have the same excellence of doctoral education as others who stayed on campus and the sub-optimal quality of my (lousy but done) dissertation attests to this. Even as a tenured faculty member, I still take classes and workshops in the summer to buttress my lousy training in my doctoral program. Some may say this was my choice. But was it? What real options were available apart from tolerating the retribution of a professor whose advances I spurned and even reported to no avail?
I have switched careers twice: I first left chemistry because of the noxious and brutish misogyny of the Chemistry Department and then I left the formal study of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and employment in the same because I knew that I would never be able to get a job in that field with my unusual pedigree and likely hostile whispers from Chakrabarty had I tried. Now, most people who are unaware that my PhD was in the humanities and who see my work mistake me for a poorly trained political scientist. I have landed on my feet and I have had an amazing career. But this was not the career I wanted when I applied for admission to doctoral programs in South Asian Languages and Civilizations in the fall of 1992. I wanted to study Sikh texts and teach South Asian languages. Instead, I study terrorism and political violence, which has required me to put myself in danger on more than one occasion in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan among other places.
Because of Chakrabarty and my more general Chicago experiences, I eschewed working in academia believing all universities to be sanctoriums for predatory male privilege. I returned to academia only in 2009, some twelve years after I left the Chicago campus for good. Since coming to Georgetown, I have learned that Chicago is an outlier in the depth, breadth and robustness of the hostile environment it nurtures for a variety of students based upon their
gender, race, sexuality, and caste(!). I’ve also learned that I love teaching and mentoring. One of my favorite things is seeing my students become my colleagues. I am their fiercest advocate. Having experienced a barrage of biliousness at the University Chicago, I vowed I would not be “that professor” who was indifferent to the other events in their lives and who believed that her course was the most important obligation. I strive to be that faculty member whom I wished I had when I was in college and later in graduate school. This is what and who I was meant to be. Yet I came to this realization relatively late in life due to my experiences with Chakrabarty and others at the University of Chicago.
Seeing Chakrabarty provokes visceral feelings of anger. Some ten years ago, when the annual meeting of the International Studies Association was held in Chicago, I saw Chakrabarty cavorting with some of our mutual colleagues. I was shocked to see him there. This was not the kind of conference that I expected him to attend due to his discipline, and I thought I was safe in my professional space of international and security studies. Now, I avoid attending a conference in Chicago. I am not afraid of him. He does not have that power over me. I am repulsed by him. I never attend the annual conference on South Asian Studies at Madison, WI for fear of running into him or one of his toadies.
Later in 2013, he again came across my radar screen when a student wrote a lengthy account of the sexual harassment and assault she endured during her studies in India for a CNN blog, under the pseudonym Rose Chasm. (Her real name was revealed to be Michaela Stone Cross.) She complained that she had been utterly ill-prepared for what she experienced and returned to campus, disabled by her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was shocked to see that Chakrabarty was minimizing her experiences and casting aspersions upon her account. I was furious.
His comments about her experiences were redolent of my own experiences when I reported his impropriety. Just as demeaning as Chakrabarty’s proposition was the response that I received from the dean and faculty chair to whom I reported the event. Research on PTSD has shown that this kind of response and that received by Ms. Cross actually makes PTSD more likely. Not all victims of trauma will manifest clinical signs of PTSD. One factor associated with an increased likelihood is being maltreated or betrayed by leadership when this trauma occurs. This is exactly what happened to me and Ms. Cross: our leadership at the University not only failed to protect us but privately, in my case, and publicly, in her case, but also discounted the legitimacy of our complaints. Incidentally, one of the more vexing things I have learned recently from the community in which they and I both travel is that both Chakrabarty and Majumdar are telling their students that I was not in his class because my time-line was incorrect. He knows I was in his class. (In the past, this would have been re-traumatizing to have this fundamentally earth-shattering event dismissed as a fiction.) It is true that my own error enabled their mendacity. In my account #HimToo, I incorrectly asserted that this happened at the end of the first quarter in Fall 1993. (I also did not recall accurately the random dean whom I approached.) The event took place in the Academic Year 1993-1994 but the course I took with him was in the Winter of 1994 when he was a visiting professor from Australia, before he located permanently to Chicago. The course was History 377. (Here is link to my transcript which shows this course clearly as well as the course catalogue for that quarter showing that Chakrabarty was the instructor:
Since the publication of my account #HimToo in Buzzfeed, other past and current students have reached out to me to tell me their tales of sexist, homophobic, anti-Muslim and caste-based harassment not only by Dipesh Chakrabarty but his wife, Rochna Mujumdar, who is now an
Associate Professor in the Departments of Cinema and Media Studies and South Asian Languages and Civilizations). Students have reported taking leaves of absence for depression and even leaving the university all together because of the hostile environment they faced. This is not normal. It does not happen at other universities, as I have subsequently learned. More than one student told me that Majumdar herself has made homophobic, caste-based, and other forms of disparaging remarks to and about her students. Others wrote to tell me that female students are still fending off Chakrabarty twenty-three years after I complained about him doing so as a visiting professor. This is shocking and disgusting. It bespeaks of how little regard the university holds for the students provided that their faculty do “ground breaking” research.
In an email a student wrote:
““A few of my female friends in SALC as well as in other departments such as history and anthropology have repeatedly mentioned to me that Dipesh has made sexist comments and jokes around them, demeaning their intellectual and academic capabilities. One very close friend called in me in tears after an offensive remark from him just earlier this year….[He] is a well-known misogynist in SALC and that some of the older or former tudents recall some of his sexual advances towards other at parties.”
Another former student wrote:
““I despise the man. And the woman. However Dipesh never went further than leering with me, which while gross, is simply not something I’d report. He was a sweaty twitchy stammering freak, but that was with everyone.”
“Dipesh didn’t make any moves on me. I had been warned about him, before I joined UofC, by two wonderful senior students and so I stayed away from him as far as possible…I cannot reveal the names because I don’t want any fallout for the two lovelies.”
A former SALC student wrote of Mujumdar, for whom s/he worked as an RA, that:
“but I experienced the abusive and terrifying reign of Rochona when I was her grad assistant (deleted to protect identity). I agree that she’s an enabler, though having lived at he pleasure of her violent mood swings I honestly wonder if there’s not more to the story…
kept a list of all the shaming and belittling (and sexist) things she said to me and or the undergrads who dared challenge her. Honestly I’m far more afraid of the wrath of “feminists” like her than I am of Dipesh. They’re so busy competing with each other and heir female mentees for Dipesh’s attn after all.”
One member of this community expressed fears about coming forward with knowledge of their abuse and the persons who warned her because of potential repercussions for his/her partner:
““Chris, what you are doing is brave, in fact beyond brave, it is heroic. I really mean that. And I want to be of as much help as is possible. There is one concern, however. It is about [name deleted]. Dipesh, [deleted] the chair of [name deleted] committee, [deleted] and I’m worried that if I say anything it will hurt [deleted] professionally. This is because Dipesh and Rochona are very vindictive and they will take it out on [deleted]. As for UofC maintaining confidentiality, I don’t trust them. One time when some student had complained anonymously about Dipesh, the university made its business to investigate who had complainaned[sic] rather than investigate whether Dipesh had actually done what he was accused of (I don’t know what claims had been made in the complaint, I just know that there was one). I don’t want any harmful consequences for [deleted]. I am not chickening out, I am trying not to hurt [deleted].””
Another student, who is gay, wrote me to say:
“Once when I went to offer hours, on a cold and snowy day, Dipesh remarked as we peeled off our wooly layers that “the great thing about Chicago” or some such was that people began undressing as soon as they got into a room together. I was discomfited but it just seemed like a joke about the weather, to me. Another time as we had coffee on campus, and he talked about how Ranajit Guha was so lucky to have a wife dedicated solely to making him comfortable and happy. This seemed sexist, but also within the realm of a truthful admission (there’s plenty of times I wish I had a “wife” too!). Finally there was the time I drove him home from a party and it was snowing so hard we could barely see through the windows of my crappy little [deleted identifying detail]. I remember feeling kind of flattered that he would ask for a ride home from me but also wondering if it was improper. All of these incidents, save possibly the first, seem not to rise to the level of harassment, but they could be seen as the kind of “testing” behavior that harassers use to feel out whether their mark is going to be open, resistant, or indifferent to their advances. I’d experienced the same kind of stuff before, in college, and I guess was kind of numb to it, plus just plain flattered to have one of the Subaltern Studies school rising stars take an interest in me outside of class. One things that’s been intense about the #metoo/#himtoo movement is the way that it’s made us all reassess these micro-moments with the powerful men in our lives. I’d be glad to talk to the Title IX officer if that seems helpful. Thank you for getting this conversation going, Chris and I agree with all the calls for reuniting!”
Another student wrote:
“Prof. Majumdar was my advisor and I served as her course assistant on three different ccasions. Over the past few years, a white male student, from the rural South, repeatedly made racists comments towards me, boasting about his affiliations with neo-Nazi rganizations, and telling me that “inferior races” needed to be “murdered.” When I brought these comments to Professor Majumdar’s attention the very first time (she was he only faculty member of color in my department at the time – now she is one of two) nd asked for her advice, I was told to stop whining, to keep my mouth shut and “to stop eing weak.” I was told that I was sounding like some of the “low-caste” students in her
department (SALC) who “never make you forget their grievances,” and that she found these people – all women – insufferable. When the same student kept making these abusive and disturbing remarks to me for another two years, and I reached out to her again, only the second time in five years, she contacted the Dean’s office and told the Dean I was “interfering” with her and her colleagues’ work and maybe I should transfer elsewhere. She has now been telling people across the University that Dipesh joined the University in 1994, “after” you left it, and asking colleagues and students not to believe you, thoug every student who has discussed this matter with me actually does, regardless of the year (1993) mentioned in your article, which we believe may have just been a mistake. In the Chicago Maroon, Professor Chakrabarty was quick to point out that he joined the University in 1994, attempting to absolve himself hence of an wrongdoing. A few of my female friends in SALC as well as in other departments such as history and anthropology have repeatedly mentioned to me that Dipesh has made sexist comments and jokes around them, demeaning their intellectual and academic capabilities. One very close friend called in me in tears after an offensive remark from him just earlier this year. Though he is an advisor on her dissertation committee, she is extremely cautious about keeping an appropriate distance from him, and he has told them me that he is a wellknown misogynist in SALC and that some of the older or former students recall some of his sexual advances towards other at parties.” I would be remiss if I didn’t share this experience from a student who is not from SALC, but useful to your role nonetheless:
“I’ve had to stop and restart reading your story about harassment at Chicago several times now. I was a graduate student who overlapped with you there. I was over in English where I experienced intense harassment based on race and sexual orientation from people in English and Anthropology. My years were 1998 to 2004, when I couldn’t take it any more and left for a year….That meant one year turned to five and I didn’t come back to Chicago until 2009, and worked full time on the north side while dissertating. I’d use weekends, holidays, vacation and sick days to visit the reg and finished after two years. I had t start seeing a therapist about how I’d have panic attacks when I’d step on to campus to do research. It was like an elephant was standing on my chest. …I’m not in a position where I could come forward and tell stories about how the admin dealt with the harassment and sexual assault of my best friend in the graduate program (she had a nervous breakdown and also left for years), homophobic slurs thrown at me, bizarre attempts to retaliate and gaslight students, and so on. I’m still vainly trying on the job market. So it means a great deal that you told your story.”
Why are students forced to countenance his vile behavior some twenty-three years after my own hideous experience with this predator? This is a testament to the fear that students have in reporting this rube and to the university’s own indifference. How is it possible that this could go on for so long without someone telling someone in a place that matter? It isn’t possible. It’s dereliction of duty of care.
I want the university to properly investigate my account because it failed to do when it happened in the winter of 1994. I also want an apology from Chakrabarty and a modest donation to RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization), which will be tax deductible.
Incidentally, I emailed him requesting such an apology on November 10, 2017 and I placed professor Collins on the bcc line. I requested read receipts. Collins indicated that he read it.
Chakrabarty never responded. Steve Collins is still on the faculty and is aware of what happened then and what happened since. Below are the names and contacts of several contemporaries who were students, faculty or post-docs at the University of Chicago who can discuss their knowledge of my experience and the experiences of others. They all request that their confidentiality be respected as many rightly fear the ability of this devious duo to retaliate. I hope you understand that we are all reposing our trust in you that you will do right by their victims and respect the confidentiality of those who speak with you. You should by this point in this letter understand the vindictive nature of these culprits.
List of Contacts
I provided an annotated list of ten persons, a description of who they were and what they knew and how they could be reached. Ms. Colier claimed to have reached out to “two” who were familiar with my situation. She made no effort to reach out to the student who contacted me today.
This morning I received an email from a doctoral student at the University of Chicago which brought me to tears of sadness and rage. The student wrote me to say that, after three years, he formally complained about sexual assault by a faculty member at the University of Chicago: Rochona Majumdar. I cried because I personally raised several issue about this faculty member harassing this specific student with the University of Chicago in November 2017, at his request. At that time, he complained that she harassed him for being gay, Muslim and low-caste as well as his national origin. The University did nothing. The student has also accuses her of plagiarizing his insights made while being coerced to serve as the TA for a class she taught on cinema and South Asia. The article she wrote, “Art Cinema: The Indian Career of a Global Category,” was published in an article edited by her husband, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and garnered her an award. The student claims that during that class Majumdar instructed him to “sit next to her” and always [kept] her hand around [his] inner thigh.”
For how long will the University of Chicago perdure as a predator sanctuary? The University of Chicago needs to get with the twentieth century…even if it can’t be bothered to step into the twenty-first. This ossified and necrotic culture at the University of Chicago won’t evolve without a sustained, prolonged campaign to bring this to the country’s attention and that of the world. And there needs to be law suits to get justice for the University’s myriad victims.
A Conversation with the Title IX Director in November 2017
Dipesh Chakrabarty in the second trimester of my first year of graduate school in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, asked me whether I was “looking for sexual pleasure” as I handed in my final paper. I did not wait twenty years or twenty hours to complain: I complained that day to two deans (of the humanities and social sciences) and to my department chair (Sheldon Pollock). No one seemed bothered because this behavior did not violate the University of Chicago’s policies at the time.
In fact, I was told that I had to explicitly tell him such overtures were unwanted otherwise he could continue to make such propositions. After all, how could he possibly know that I did not want to have sex with him if I didn’t tell him so explicitly? [That I backed out of his office, red faced with tears welling up in my eyes was not considered an adequate signal by the three men to whom I complained that day.] No one cared as Dipesh engaged in vindictiveness as I tried to finish my PhD in the subsequent years. I eventually left campus and finished while working at the RAND Corporation. Had I stayed on that campus, I don’t think I would have survived the depression and anger.
However, I never remained silent. Over the years, I have spoken about it in blog posts, radio interviews and podcasts. I have dared the University of Chicago or him to take me on. In fact, I have long hoped they would such that these shenanigans would–at long last–be exposed to sanitation of daylight.
Amidst the so-called #MeToo movement, in November 2017, I once again raised the issue of the harassment I endured from Dipesh Chakrabarty after I published a very detailed account of sexual harassment at the University of Chicago on 25 October 2017 on Buzzfeed. After that piece ran, numerous others who experienced abuse by Dipesh wrote to me, entrusting me with their stories in hopes that I could help them get justice. [I failed them of course.] What I did not expect is that students would write to me detailing that they were also harassed by his wife, Rochona Majumdar. Thus when I approached Ms. Bridget Collier, the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity Programs, I also sought justice for current victims as well as recent victims of both Chakrabarty and Majumdar.
Ms. Collier and I first spoke on Tuesday, 28 November 2017. At that time, I told her of my experiences and my understanding that it did not violate the University of Chicago’s policies. I wanted her to understand the vast impacts my experiences at the University of Chicago had upon my life professionally, socially, emotionally and financially. But I also told her of the numerous current students and those from the recent past who had such experiences with one or both of these wretched faculty members. I then followed up with a detailed letter on 1 December 2017. That letter provided the names and contacts of all those who were willing to speak on record, including the young man who wrote me today.
Today’s email was jarring. This young man revealed that Majumdar allegedly taunted him for being gay, Muslim, and his national origins. She also taunted him for being low-caste. Majumdar is a high-caste Hindu. She forced him to let her fondle him. While demanding that he TA a course with her, she also instructed him to sit next to her while she put her hands on the insides of his thighs. With his visa status dependent upon his student status, he has been terrified of retaliation or even being removed from the program. His fear is well-founded. Numerous persons with whom I spoke detailed their own fears of retaliation. When he sought to remove Majumdar from his committee, other faculty members allegedly warned him of the trouble she and her husband can make for him.
In furor at the University of Chicago’s persistent insouciance about this sadistic couple on its renowned rosters, I again wrote to the University of Chicago, specifically Ms. Collier and her associate Ms. DeSautel. This is the letter I sent. I have removed the name of the student to protect his anonymity until he gets the chance to speak with the relevant journalists whose help we need to get the university to take his claims seriously.
Ms. Collier: YOU are on the Hook for This Travesty
Christine Fair <c_christine_fair@redacted>To:Bridget Collier,email@example.com, [REDACTED], Christine FairSat, Mar 14 at 2:34 PM
Dear Ms. Collier and Ms. DeSautel
It have learned that Mr. [REDACTED] has reported being sexually abused by Professor Majumdar to his committee members. Previously, he asked that she be removed from his doctoral committee despite warnings from colleagues that she could ruin his career. I am writing you both, cc’ing Mr. [REDACTED], to make you both aware that he and I are aware of the negligence perpetrated with knowledge and forethought by Ms. Collier on behalf of the University of Chicago, which has long been a sanctuary for any number of harassers spanning decades. For a regrettable account of the university serving as a predator protection racket, see this article in the Maroon: https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2017/5/1/special-problem-university-chicagos-troubled-histo/.
As we discussed on the phone on Tuesday, 28 November 2017 and as I elaborated in my 1 December 2017 letter to Ms. Collier (attached), I specifically told Ms. Collier about the abuse [REDACTED] was enduring from Majumdar. At that time, [REDACTED] did not tell me he was being sexually accosted by Professor Majumdar, perhaps for reasons that are obvious as I was a complete stranger. But he did tell me about her harassment on the basis of his low-caste status (a phenomenon that eluded Ms. Collier despite the fact that Chicago has one of the finest South Asia programs in the country who could educate her on this subject) and her taunting him because he is gay. As I told Ms. Collier on 28 November, Majumdar had a history of chiding him for being gay, low caste and a Pakistani Muslim.
That [REDACTED] shared any of his experiences with me is remarkable. He–and others–trusted me with their stories and believed that Ms. Collier would do the right thing. [REDACTED] is vulnerable for so many reasons, but he also worried about his visa status. His visa status precluded him from taking action on her sexual misconduct until it was no longer endurable.
It is unforgivable and detestable that Ms. Collier did not reach out to the other students, including [REDACTED], detailed in my letter, despite their request that she do so.
I will support [REDACTED] in any and every legal option he will pursue. For how long will the University of Chicago continue to harbor these harassers? How many more students must suffer their appalling behavior? How many students must endure their abuse because this diabolical duo threatens their careers should they complain about one or both? You should note that many others spoke with me who are not included in my letter because they fear that his duo of repugnant humans masquerading as progressive scholars will ruin their careers.
On this Ms. Collier, you are on the hook. You knew about his situation in considerable detail. Yet, you chose to do nothing. I will never understand how the parade of persons who have covered up for these individuals live with themselves. You literally wash their hands of their abuse instead of protecting students.
You are also on the hook, Mc. Collier, because I explained to you the ethical malfeasance with which Dipesh oversaw her committee while having sexual relations with her while still married to his wife in Australia. He also tanked a Hindi job search after short-listed candidates were flown out to give job talks and, after doing so, argued that she should have the job. I know one of the candidates. It is impossible to argue that Rochona was more qualified by any empirical standard. That she would get tenure was a foregone conclusion given her relationship with Dipesh.
All of this is discoverable in a court of law, and I hope it will be because I am tired of hearing from students who have been devastated by these wretched excuses for educators.
I am reaching out to my journalist colleagues to ensure that this issue gets maximum publicity. I hope these vulgarians are finally held to account for tormenting myriad students whose who have been blackmailed into tolerating their sadism for the sake of their careers.
I hope you will take this letter as seriously as my journalist colleagues are right now. (Yes. I tweeted about this before emailing you because I learned that treating you like professionals is a mistake. You’re basically a “cleaner” for this protection racket.) I have one regret–apart from attending the University of Chicago at all–and that is that I did not follow-through in suing the hell out of you for what I endured. The suffering of your students needs to end and it needs to end now.