The Barracoon of Badagry

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Badagry, Nigeria, a small fishing village near the Eastern border of Benin, was not in my Lonely Planet guidebook — or any others. None of the Nigerian tourist magazines featured it. When I mentioned this former slave port to young, cosmopolitan Lagosians they looked at me quizzically. My reasons for wanting to visit Badagry were not exactly clear to my fixer, Olukayode, either. But once I saw on TripAdvisor that a ‘Historic Day Tour of Badagry Town from Lagos’ existed, I decided that I would make it there.

A bas-relief of shackled slaves embedded in walls of the Badagry Slave Museum in Badagry, Nigeria, near the border with Benin. Badagry’s slave ports took Africans from around the country mostly to South America, although some were caught in the triangle trade of the US, the UK and the Caribbean Islands.

A bas-relief of shackled slaves embedded in walls of the Badagry Slave Museum in Badagry, Nigeria, near the border with Benin. Badagry’s slave ports took Africans from around the country mostly to South America, although some were caught in the triangle trade of the US, the UK and the Caribbean Islands.

Workers labor steadily on the half-finished ‘Eko Theatre’, one of six coastal venues designed by the firm Eko Atlantic to bring tourism and entertainment to Badagry and its sister villages across Lagos state.

Workers labor steadily on the half-finished ‘Eko Theatre’, one of six coastal venues designed by the firm Eko Atlantic to bring tourism and entertainment to Badagry and its sister villages across Lagos state.

Nearly 15 years prior, I had written about the launch of ‘Freedom Schooner Amistad’ which had taken a 14,000-mile transatlantic voyage to retrace the Triangle slave trade. It finished at Bunce Island, Sierra Leone, a relatively unknown former slave “castle” on Africa’s West Coast, where purveyors and merchants did business. The region was lined with these places; they provided a window into what American historians have named the ‘peculiar institution’. For a contemporary black history researcher to discover that Nigeria also had a slave barracoon was akin to Indiana Jones finding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My plan’s only hitch: access. Olukayode — at my service courtesy of the Lagos City Marathon, which I had run and on which I had reported — consulted his fixers, who brought in their fixers, and so far, no plan. But the Lagos state government had made Badagry — the place where once-free Africans took their first steps into a lifetime of bondage — a national historical site. Wouldn’t the regime want everyone to see it?

The final resting place of chief William Abass, who was captured, enslaved and eventually, only to become a slave merchant upon his return to Nigeria. After the end of the American Civil War, slavery and its ports were abolished and Abass became Badagry’s tribal leader. It was rumored that he had 114 children.

The final resting place of chief William Abass, who was captured, enslaved and eventually, only to become a slave merchant upon his return to Nigeria. After the end of the American Civil War, slavery and its ports were abolished and Abass became Badagry’s tribal leader. It was rumored that he had 114 children.

Sort of. Two days before I left, the fixers came through, but it wasn’t an easy journey down that heavily trafficked, massively pot-holed, half-concrete, half-dirt ‘highway’ 35 kilometers from Lagos.

The Badagry Slave Museum, a tin-roofed, three-building compound with a large bas-relief of shackled slaves in its walls, stood along a wide lagoon that led to the ocean. As I looked around for a docent, shop or ticket office, I noticed that most of the ten or so people around me, who also lived there, seemed more interested in their household chores than in local tourism. Minutes later, however, an enthusiastic young man named Tobi, wearing a Real Madrid jersey, long dreadlocks and an fervent countenance, appeared. He was willing — almost too willing — to be our ‘state-sanctioned’ tour guide, he said. With few prospects, we hired him.

At the Badagry Slave Museum, youngsters, such as these, learn about the legacy of slavery and colonialization from local residents who moonlight as tour guides. According to local stories, modern education was brought to Nigeria in the mid-18th century by early English settlers.

At the Badagry Slave Museum, youngsters, such as these, learn about the legacy of slavery and colonialization from local residents who moonlight as tour guides. According to local stories, modern education was brought to Nigeria in the mid-18th century by early English settlers.

Tobi first took us past another bas-relief of ‘European Products,’ — sculpted items, such as an umbrella, a gun and two actual empty booze bottles — once used to trade for African people. Next, we poked our heads into the three little rooms: the home and barracoon of Sereki Williams Abass, a former slave who had returned to Badagry from Brazil to become a slave merchant, the richest man in West Africa and eventually, a powerful chief. ‘He was buried in the place where he kept his slaves’, Tobi said in opaque English, as if that made Abass’ participation in the trade more palatable. I snapped Tobi’s picture among disintegrating photographs of Abass and Wikipedia printouts about Abass that, someone had pasted to the wall.

The town center of Badgry, Nigeria, where a statue of the small village’s main commerce stands today. Keke, the yellow minicabs, and motorbikes are the main source of transportation for most of Nigeria.

The town center of Badgry, Nigeria, where a statue of the small village’s main commerce stands today. Keke, the yellow minicabs, and motorbikes are the main source of transportation for most of Nigeria.

Tobi next brought us to the ‘Point of No Return’ — a long beach where slaves boarded the ships for their Atlantic journey. Along the way, we saw a peculiar site: the half-finished ‘Eko Theatre’, one of six coastal venues designed by the firm Eko Atlantic to bring tourism and entertainment to Badagry and its sister villages across Lagos state. Workers labored steadily in overwhelming heat, cooled with water and Coke sold by an industrious villager who nursed an infant and an old dog, earning probably less than $3 per day. We paused for a minute at one of several wooden ‘Journey to the Unknown Destination’ signs and drank soda, while pondering the haphazardness of it all.

To be fair, it probably wasn’t very generous of me to place my New York ideals on a tourist town in remote Western Africa. A few years back, I had visited the Jordan Archeological Museum, built in 1951 on the grounds of the Amman Citadel, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world. The Museum was deserted and held priceless prehistoric relics — even the Dead Sea Scrolls — in loose, plexiglass cases with yellowing, hand-typed placards. But in 2014, the kingdom — recognizing the value of its history, as well as the money that could be made off that history — opened the Jordan Museum, its state-of-the-art ‘storyteller’ featuring interactive exhibits, a huge research library and nice-sized tourist shop.

As Jordan, Nigeria is a middle-income country, ranked 23rd in the world in purchasing power. It has a lively, robust and diverse economy. It also has the funds to invest in tourist destinations such as Badagry. Instead, money flows into Nigeria, siphons out through kickbacks on ill-conceived projects by firms like Eko Atlantic — owned by the well-connected Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury — and literally pools in the backrooms of mansions scattered throughout. The sons and daughters of the affluent seem content with the status quo. The day after I visited run-down Badagry, I attended an exceedingly posh polo tournament at the Ikoyi Club in the middle of Lagos. As caterers passed around glasses of Verve Cliquot, Nigerian players showed off their horses, and recently returned spectators — educated in England, Canada and the US — sipped and dished about the latest gallery opening. Never mind the squalor of the slums just two miles away.

Staff watch a polo match at the Lagos Polo Club in February 2018.

Staff watch a polo match at the Lagos Polo Club in February 2018.

Onlookers celebrate a victory at the Lagos Polo Club in Lagos, Nigeria in February 2018.

Onlookers celebrate a victory at the Lagos Polo Club in Lagos, Nigeria in February 2018.

It was an enigmatic moment for me, as I tried to square the wealth in my midst with my last hour in Badagry. Tobi had wanted to take us to more slavery and colonial sites for a little more cash. But I’d seen enough. The American black author, James Baldwin, once wrote, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself… before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.’ I had seen the palpable legacy of slavery and colonialism in Badagry, then play out on the grounds of the Lagos Polo Club, a green island in one of the most polluted, corrupt cities on earth. But modern servitude looks nothing like the shackles of the 17th century.

Anatomy of a Federer Event

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There is something profoundly humbling about being reduced to a mere mortal after having a press pass. The only way to explain the loss of access is to compare it to the cliché of Superman losing his powers to a dose of Kryptonite. But even when Superman wasn’t Superman, he still had Clark Kent to fall back on, and Clark Kent had access.

Freelancers don’t have that luxury — or legitimacy. So there I was at the Uniqlo store on Fifth Avenue, a week before the U.S. Open waiting for tennis superstar and hero to the masses, Roger Federer, to show up for the official launch of his new Uniqlo kit… with the masses. I had been working all summer on a story that involved the player’s foundation and had one question to ask him. But without a badge, it was up to me to convince the Uniqlo PR person to allow me to stand on the sidelines and wait for an opportunity. Her answer to my request: no dice.

The various stages of the Roger Federer/Uniqlo launch in late August 2018, a week before the U.S. Open

The various stages of the Roger Federer/Uniqlo launch in late August 2018, a week before the U.S. Open

Undeterred, as most journalists with a burning inquiry that has been denied by two sets of handlers — the Roger Federer Foundation’s and Uniqlo’s — I stood around the store and waited for another friend, one of many amoureux de Federer in my life, and an “in”. Nine times out of ten, press events, while seemingly micro-managed, are ill-conceived, thrown together at the last minute and usually lacking in proper oversight. Soon enough, we found our way to the second row past Uniqlo’s ‘stage’.

The various stages of the Roger Federer/Uniqlo launch in late August 2018, a week before the U.S. Open

By five o’clock, the line was chattering. The Uniqlo promoter picked that point to brief us all: Mr. Federer would not sign items, he said (a total subterfuge); he would not take selfies (also not true); and anyone who approached him would be swiftly escorted out the door, Uniqlo Federer product orders be damned. Fifteen minutes later, we were seated, watching an endless loop of Federer photos on the video screens among three sets of Federer outfits. I overheard a mom discuss selfie-and-signing strategy with her pre-teen.

Some thirty minutes after he was expected, the man of the hour — and by tennis standards, the decade — turned up in a slim black suit, crisp white shirt unbuttoned at the collar and brass-buckle dress shoes, even more handsome in person. The audience cheered and called out while Federer looked at the crowd, swollen to more than 200 onlookers, in bewilderment — or feigned bemusement. It was possibly the only unscripted moment in a 45-minute Q&A about Roger’s career, Roger’s fashion choices, Roger’s reasons for coming to Uniqlo (Anna Wintour approved), and even some advice from Roger about listening to one’s parents. “Now that I am a parent, I can say they mean well, they only want the best for you.”

Federer proved just as much of a promotional pro as a tennis one. Uniqlo included its head of product design, just so the clothing company was not completely upstaged. But no one really wanted to hear from him, other than assuring us that Uniqlo got its “complete champion on the court and complete champion off the court”.

This bit followed a revealing few minutes when Roger admitted that he was “proud of the way I turned myself around,” answering a question vetted by the higher-ups — as all of the other questions — about the highlight of his career. Roger would not be surprised by any untoward inquiry, apparently. He offered only this: “I was once known as the player about whom the other guys were saying ‘if you hang with him long enough, he will lose his mind,’” meaning that Roger would have imploded and someone else might have adorned our Rolex ads; earned a ubiquitous logo (for which he would have to fight Nike to retain the rights); and inspired hysteria in the center of an already frenzied New York.

And just like that, the magic ended. Roger did agree to sign autographs; he also said “yes” to a few selfies. The catch: only the first two rows — or the first 20 people. That put me in the scrum — the middle of it all. To be in the pack, the throng, the mob of a celebrity selfie-signing-photo mob is to throw yourself into a crush of people, arms thrusting balls and caps and paper and Metrocards, torsos pushing, voices pleading. The girl whose mother helped her selfie strategize — all four-foot, five inches of her — was nearly trampled. In the heart of it, with one’s face in a wrist, an armpit or the back of a head, even a grown woman’s life seems imperiled.

The girl was saved. The champion signed her ball. All ended well at Uniqlo. Except for one angry security person, a large round man dressed in plaid and draped in contempt. “Would you look at yourselves?” he asked the crowd. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. Someone was almost hurt for a signature. He’s just a man who plays a sport. That’s it.”

A buzz kill. A morality check. A questioning of intent.

“I hear Nadal is really the nice one,” my friend, who had his Federer hat autographed, said. “Federer just smiles and signs when the cameras are on.” I couldn’t say. He seemed kind and generous enough to me.

“If this is true, then why do you like him so much,” I asked.

“Because look at the man. He’s the greatest player of all time,” my friend replied.

In the end, I was never able to ask my question. Despite multiple requests, the USTA refused a press pass to the entire U.S. Open. I couldn’t get through the Federer firewall, either, even though I managed to slip a written question and my email to his security people.

But as I endured similar deluges and assemblages over the fortnight, I watched and wondered: Why do people engage in these pursuits? Most players seemed almost above it all — until they weren’t. Lindsay Davenport stayed nearly 30 minutes after an exhibition match to sign and talk to fans; Martina Navratilova walked off after five. Angelique Kerber reached high for jumbo Wilson autograph balls. Kevin Anderson — after five sets in withering heat — hit his obligatory match balls into the crowd, turned around and said, “sorry, guys, I can’t.” I’m not sure I could have, either. Like every human, every star tennis player has his or her own personality type, priorities and limits. One fan asks for a selfie; hundreds of fans ask for hours. But what does this seeking say of us? That we want to touch greatness, even for a minute? That we would do anything for that slice, that specimen from a player? That our own lives lack the thrill that we associate of others? That, perhaps, these walls surrounding the celebrities and protecting them from the people, the press and other entities making requests of them only make us want them more?

From my vantage point that day, I might not ever understand. But if I ever have the chance to talk to Roger, I’ll ask.

The Tennis Club Culture of Berlin

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The Tennisclub Berlin Mitte Albert Gutzmann, e.V., known to regulars as the “Mitte”, came into existence in the middle of the fall of the Berlin Wall and is now fighting the occupying forces of gentrification. The Mitte must turn its three outdoor courts 90 degrees or otherwise figure out how to make room for another school in growing East Germany.

The Tennisclub Berlin Mitte Albert Gutzmann, e.V., known to regulars as the “Mitte”, came into existence in the middle of the fall of the Berlin Wall and is now fighting the occupying forces of gentrification. The Mitte must turn its three outdoor courts 90 degrees or otherwise figure out how to make room for another school in growing East Germany.

Eat your heart out USTA. The leagues and the associations of the United States Tennis Association have nothing on the 197 racquet clubs located either in, or a quick bicycle ride from, the Mitte (Middle) district of Berlin. Even New York, which has the storied New York Athletic Club and West Side Club (otherwise known as Forest Hills), where Billie Jean and Johnny Mac — and all those others famous-nicknamed players flattened balls — can’t compare.

Located in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin’s equivalent to Brooklyn, the walls of the Tennisclub, or T.C., Frederichshain, take a cue from the nearby East Gallery — remains of the Berlin Wall. T.C. Frederichshain showcases several prominent graffiti painters from the neighborhood.

Located in the heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin’s equivalent to Brooklyn, the walls of the Tennisclub, or T.C., Frederichshain, take a cue from the nearby East Gallery — remains of the Berlin Wall. T.C. Frederichshain showcases several prominent graffiti painters from the neighborhood.

Another photo of T.C. Fredrichshain. The six clay courts and small changing rooms require less upkeep than the courts outside of main Berlin, but Fredrichshain takes care of the maintenance by requiring every member over age 16 to work five hours each season.

Another photo of T.C. Fredrichshain. The six clay courts and small changing rooms require less upkeep than the courts outside of main Berlin, but Fredrichshain takes care of the maintenance by requiring every member over age 16 to work five hours each season.

While Berlin itself hasn’t produced a champion the likes of Boris Becker or Steffi Graf in nearly twenty-five years, the city does know how to court the fifteen percent of Berliners who play the local circuit. The legacies will tell you that TC 1899 e.V. Blau-Weiß (the Blue-White Club) or the Lawn Turnier Tennis Club Rot-Weiß Berlin (Red-White Club) have the best clubhouses (and biergartens), coaches and clay in Germany. But the transplants who live in or frequent the former communist side of the city — neighborhoods such as Kreuzberg and Schöneberg, past Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery (aka the remains of the Berlin Wall) — prefer the no-fuss, hole-in-the-alley neighborhood joints with backyard clay courts, semi-private changing rooms and graffiti murals. There, middle-class players often turn up riding their Donkey Republic app bikes, toting a one-racquet Adidas backpack and wearing their favorite football jersey to play a pick-up set or two. Membership dues often include a grounds-keeping assignment.

When the “Mitte” opened its doors in 1989, it commissioned several of the neighborhood street artists to paint its wind tents on the inside and outside of the courts, accommodating the tastes of 200 members from 23 different nations who “have peacefully found each other in tennis, an ideal pastime. We are the club that lies in the melting pot of cultures…”

When the “Mitte” opened its doors in 1989, it commissioned several of the neighborhood street artists to paint its wind tents on the inside and outside of the courts, accommodating the tastes of 200 members from 23 different nations who “have peacefully found each other in tennis, an ideal pastime. We are the club that lies in the melting pot of cultures…”

The rules posted on the courts of Tennisclub Berlin Mitte Albert Gutzmann, e.V. The city alleges that the club has been breaking ordinances of its own. For years, Berlin administrators say, the “Mitte” has been using four tennis courts on land owned by a school next door.

The rules posted on the courts of Tennisclub Berlin Mitte Albert Gutzmann, e.V. The city alleges that the club has been breaking ordinances of its own. For years, Berlin administrators say, the “Mitte” has been using four tennis courts on land owned by a school next door.

Since the Wall went down, Berlin has become the second largest city in the European Union, expected to hit four million people by 2025–54 percent of them under 45 years of age. Developers have swooped in on any available space, including clay courts, to build more apartment buildings and townhouses for the burgeoning bourgeoisie. One such club, the TC Berlin Mitte Albert Gutzmann e.V., has been fighting for its life since a local school laid claim to its valuable real estate. To survive, the storied TC Berlin Mitte will have to pull a serious break-point: relocate its three outdoor tennis courts ninety degrees to the East. “Mitte is the district with the largest sports area deficit,” says board member Fred Bruss, adding that the association has 190 members from 27 nations, as well as students from Humboldt University, playing on its courts. “Already in 2016, the club collected thousands of signatures against being forced to close.”

Although one of the oldest tennis clubs in Berlin on the Prenzlauer Berg, the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. has a new neighbor: a sub-division of refugee tenements housing migrants from Syria and North Africa that arrived during the 2015 surge.

Although one of the oldest tennis clubs in Berlin on the Prenzlauer Berg, the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. has a new neighbor: a sub-division of refugee tenements housing migrants from Syria and North Africa that arrived during the 2015 surge.

Detail from the graffiti wall outside the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. The club runs 24/7 in the park and is a favorite for jet-lagged visitors who pay a nominal fee to play — until a member comes along and kicks them off.

Detail from the graffiti wall outside the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. The club runs 24/7 in the park and is a favorite for jet-lagged visitors who pay a nominal fee to play — until a member comes along and kicks them off.

During the Open Era, the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) had one star player, Thomas Emmrich, who, according to Martina Navratilova in a 1989 article for the New York Times, “beat all the junior players in Czechoslovakia. He beat people who beat Bjorn Borg at that age. But he never had a chance to play on the outside. They were not allowed, period.” Emmrich took his case to play abroad straight to the Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi and was, unsurprisingly, denied. He said once that he thought about defecting, but worried about reprisals against his parents, who were party members. Emmrich, therefore, bided his time for the Seoul Olympics by racking up national championships at clubs such as Tennis Association SV Berliner Brauereien, currently located next door to a temporary refugee camp in Prenzlauer Berg, as well as Berlin’s only grass courts at the SG Am Hain in Volkspark Friedrichshain. The intrepid tennis pro also smuggled in racquets, tennis shoes and other Western goods from Davis Cup events to pay for his career.

Built in 1996, the 7,000-seat Steffi Graf Stadion (Stadium) was added to the LTTC (Lawn Tennis Tournament Club) Rot-Weiß in Berlin’s Grunewald District to provide a larger venue for tournaments, such as the WTA’s German Open. Steffi Graf has been a member of the club since 1984.

Built in 1996, the 7,000-seat Steffi Graf Stadion (Stadium) was added to the LTTC (Lawn Tennis Tournament Club) Rot-Weiß in Berlin’s Grunewald District to provide a larger venue for tournaments, such as the WTA’s German Open. Steffi Graf has been a member of the club since 1984.

The LTTC Rot-Weiß, named for the red and white ribbons members once wore in their straw hats, sits amid Grunewald’s green leafy oasis, where the 16 immaculate outdoor and two indoor clay courts rub fences with the consulates and homes of many diplomats sent to Germany. Rot-Weiß was founded in 1897 and is just down the street from TC 1899 eV Blau-Weiß, its strictest competitor.

The LTTC Rot-Weiß, named for the red and white ribbons members once wore in their straw hats, sits amid Grunewald’s green leafy oasis, where the 16 immaculate outdoor and two indoor clay courts rub fences with the consulates and homes of many diplomats sent to Germany. Rot-Weiß was founded in 1897 and is just down the street from TC 1899 eV Blau-Weiß, its strictest competitor.

Navratilova predicted a “wave of East German players” when the wall turned to a pile of rubble, and her then-boyfriend, Emmrich did eventually gain a ranking of 482 — the only DDR ranking on record — but that East German surge never undulated through the tennis world. After German reunification, Emmrich’s daughter, Manuela, and son, Martin, took up the torch, leading the Armstrong Atlantic State college team to the 2005 U.S. Division II National Championship and achieving a top thirty five double ranking, respectively.

A proprietor looks out on the bier garten of the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. It’s a grand tradition across the city, from the exclusive clubs in Grunewald to those of the former DDR, that competitive play earns a Schöfferhofer cool down . Whether the patio furniture is plastic or wrought iron usually depends on the class of the members.

A proprietor looks out on the bier garten of the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. It’s a grand tradition across the city, from the exclusive clubs in Grunewald to those of the former DDR, that competitive play earns a Schöfferhofer cool down . Whether the patio furniture is plastic or wrought iron usually depends on the class of the members.

A fenced in section of the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. The club’s seven outdoor courts are located in the Volkspark, or the ‘People’s Park’, which evolved from a World War II dumping ground. The park is just around the corner from a statue of Ernst Thälmann, a leading figure of Weimar Germany’s Communist party (KPD) killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

A fenced in section of the Tennis Club SV Berliner Brauereien e.V. The club’s seven outdoor courts are located in the Volkspark, or the ‘People’s Park’, which evolved from a World War II dumping ground. The park is just around the corner from a statue of Ernst Thälmann, a leading figure of Weimar Germany’s Communist party (KPD) killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

In the mid-1980s, in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), however, a seven-year old teen standout named Boris Becker began training at the TC 1899 Blau-Weiß. Fourteen years Emmrich’s junior, Becker turned pro in 1984 and in 1989, became the face of reunification. Well, he and Steffi Graf. But Graf had a better time cheering on would-be Wall smashers at LTTC Rot-Weiß, just down the street. “I would love to have done it, just to be a part of the moment,” Graf told the New York Times in 1989. On the other hand, Becker took the responsibility as heavily as the big chunks of Wall carried as souvenirs from district to district. “When you are thrown onto the stage at 17 in such an enormous way, it becomes living on the edge because every step you take, every word you speak, every action you do becomes headline news. And it became, for me, life or death,” Becker said the same year.

With the only grass courts located in Berlin, SG AM Hain in the middle of Volkspark Friedrichshain is in high demand, especially for tourists. The oldest park in Berlin, after German reunification, the swimming pools built by the GDR were replaced by a sports complex, but it has held on to the Monument to Polish Soldiers and German Anti-Fascists.

With the only grass courts located in Berlin, SG AM Hain in the middle of Volkspark Friedrichshain is in high demand, especially for tourists. The oldest park in Berlin, after German reunification, the swimming pools built by the GDR were replaced by a sports complex, but it has held on to the Monument to Polish Soldiers and German Anti-Fascists.

Pointedly, Becker didn’t become as monumental to the movement as he possibly thought. His trophies still stand in the foyer of TC 1899 Blau-Weiß. Graf, on the other hand, has the “Steffi-Graf Stadion” to visit whenever she leaves Las Vegas for home.

A perfectly manicured clay court at the TC 1899 eV Blau-Weiß with some teaching tools. Considered one of the best tennis clubs in the world, the club boasts Boris Becker as its most highly regarded member — its dining room holds his trophies, as well as dozens from the generations training there after him.

A perfectly manicured clay court at the TC 1899 eV Blau-Weiß with some teaching tools. Considered one of the best tennis clubs in the world, the club boasts Boris Becker as its most highly regarded member — its dining room holds his trophies, as well as dozens from the generations training there after him.

W.B. Livingston III Connects with Fellow Music Lovers through Gifts of Art

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About the guest contributors:

W.B. Livingston III (Will) is a musician and visual artist who is in prison in Oklahoma. Will creates originals and prints, and donates pieces to nonprofits for fundraisers. He also does commission work. 

Since 2001, A.M. (Adrian) Brune has reported and written hundreds of freelance newspaper, magazine and website articles – from pitch to print – for publications, such as Foreign Affairs, the New Yorker, The Guardian, The Nation, Racquet and other national publications on a variety of topics, including world affairs, social justice, human rights and culture. Brune is currently a UN/International writer for OZY.com, a website magazine, as well as the U.S. correspondent for CapeTalk (South Africa) morning radio. Brune holds a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University in the City of New York. 

From Will   My entire life, I’ve been a musician, but I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Before coming to prison, I never felt comfortable enough to pursue any sort of endeavor in art. I refused to take the high school classes, although I was interested in the things happening in those rooms. The only time I would attempt any art happened late at night, following a bout of heavy drinking.  In 2010, I was sentenced to fifty years in prison for the death of a man that I caused by drinking and driving. Since music was not an option for the first three years of my forty-year incarceration, I decided to finally pursue painting. After some experimentation, I managed to find a style inside myself and dove in completely. Just as with my music upbringing, I have been self-taught.  I have now been incarcerated for more than eight years and continue to make art in many different media. My family has helped me a great deal by selling my art “on the outside” through galleries, art festivals, various exhibits and the Internet. To our great surprise, people have really responded to the work. I have also spent countless days working on paintings and other projects for charitable causes. These items are usually sold through silent auctions to help organizations such as the Special Olympics, Employment for the Disabled, the Messages Project and the Outsiders House Renovation, to raise operating funds.  Over the last year, I decided to combine both of my passions. I started designing and hand-printing concert posters for the bands I like and follow. These posters are created and produced in the Joseph Harp Correctional Institute – where I live – and are distributed for free to patrons waiting in the ticket lines, or after the show. We normally pass out 25 full-color, signed and numbered prints at each show. It has come to the point at which many people have begun collecting them. We have created posters – and given them away – for more than 50 shows in the past year in Oklahoma, New York, Asheville, North Carolina and Dallas, Texas, with the help of family and volunteers.  I love doing this concert poster project and the charity commissions because it is a way for me to be a part of the world – and to give back to a community and society from which I feel as if I have taken so much. All of this could never replace the person I killed through my negligence, but maybe it’s a way I can do something in his memory.

From Will

My entire life, I’ve been a musician, but I’ve always wanted to be an artist. Before coming to prison, I never felt comfortable enough to pursue any sort of endeavor in art. I refused to take the high school classes, although I was interested in the things happening in those rooms. The only time I would attempt any art happened late at night, following a bout of heavy drinking.

In 2010, I was sentenced to fifty years in prison for the death of a man that I caused by drinking and driving. Since music was not an option for the first three years of my forty-year incarceration, I decided to finally pursue painting. After some experimentation, I managed to find a style inside myself and dove in completely. Just as with my music upbringing, I have been self-taught.

I have now been incarcerated for more than eight years and continue to make art in many different media. My family has helped me a great deal by selling my art “on the outside” through galleries, art festivals, various exhibits and the Internet. To our great surprise, people have really responded to the work. I have also spent countless days working on paintings and other projects for charitable causes. These items are usually sold through silent auctions to help organizations such as the Special Olympics, Employment for the Disabled, the Messages Project and the Outsiders House Renovation, to raise operating funds.

Over the last year, I decided to combine both of my passions. I started designing and hand-printing concert posters for the bands I like and follow. These posters are created and produced in the Joseph Harp Correctional Institute – where I live – and are distributed for free to patrons waiting in the ticket lines, or after the show. We normally pass out 25 full-color, signed and numbered prints at each show. It has come to the point at which many people have begun collecting them. We have created posters – and given them away – for more than 50 shows in the past year in Oklahoma, New York, Asheville, North Carolina and Dallas, Texas, with the help of family and volunteers.

I love doing this concert poster project and the charity commissions because it is a way for me to be a part of the world – and to give back to a community and society from which I feel as if I have taken so much. All of this could never replace the person I killed through my negligence, but maybe it’s a way I can do something in his memory.

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From Adrian

It was a hot and balmy Tuesday night in Manhattan, and I had just finished my marathon training in Central Park. I had two articles past due and two impending, not to mention story ideas to pitch and regular jobs to which I needed to apply. I am naturally a music lover and when I had more disposable income, would normally be at the Phoenix concert in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. That particular night, however, I was broke and not in the mood. But I had with me a ream of 25 posters shipped from the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma, from my friend and fellow former addict, William Livingston. So I chugged some water, threw a pack on my back, plugged in my earphones and headed out on bike across the 59th street bridge, through Queens and toward a club called Brooklyn Steel.

I had discovered Will about three years earlier, Christmas 2015, walking through the empty streets of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, my home, and peeking into the windows of local shops to discover anything kitsch I might want for my East Midtown apartment. I happened upon a painting – I believe of Nirvana – in a shop called “Okie Crow” and was struck not only by the color, but by the execution. It was clearly “Pop” influenced, reminding me a bit of Warhol’s factory, Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns – cynical, yet reverential. The owner of the shop told me the story of Will Livingston, who had been sentenced to 50 years in prison for accidentally killing a man while drunk driving. She did not know that, I, too at the time, was a recovering alcoholic who miraculously escaped Will’s fate, although I had driven drunk more times than I cared to admit. “By the grace of god go I”, which I used to utter every time I saw a homeless person on the streets of New York, took on new meaning that day.

Four months later, I was on a plane back to Tulsa to write about Will for The Guardian. At Joseph Harp, I was struck by his openness, his emotional intelligence, his kindness and his regret for his past actions, despite the austere conditions of the visiting room and the harsh condition of his affairs. Most assuredly, I left that prison yard angry at the punishment that had been meted out by the state of Oklahoma for the affliction many term as a disease, yet penalize as a heinous crime. Under Oklahoma state law, Will does not get parole for good behavior or a reduction in sentence. His offense is a violent crime, his car was his weapon. Under these stipulations, Will serves at least 85 percent of his 50 years, which at age 35, meant he would not walk free until age 70, only to have to serve another decade on probation. I had just experienced the lawlessness of the US justice system.

Will and I kept in touch. When he approached me about his prison project, of course I said yes. Even if I do not have tickets, I go and give away Will’s posters. New Yorkers like most anything for free, but these prints take on a different context: Will reaches out and touches each person with a poster. Recipients are happy to have their photos snapped, which are sent to Will via his mother, Marie, and most of the time, the managers of the various bands pick up two or three or six of the posters to give to the band. That makes me exceptionally happy.

The Phoenix concert on 10 July was no different. I pedaled the back streets to Brooklyn Steel and handed all of Will’s work out in about 20 minutes, even to a close friend of the band who Tweeted about the experience later that night. I sometimes think about the reasons I keep doing this for Will – especially while biking around New York – wondering if I feel social responsibility, a lapsed Catholic sense of penance, a desire to recreate Will for a society that instantly labels him as deviant, or just because I like the guy and believe in his work. I resign myself to all these reasons at various times. In the end, however, while I do not personally adore every piece (that’s rare of me for any artist) I have two original Will Livingston commissions in my Manhattan apartment. I consider them among my prized possessions, both for their composition and the piece of himself that Will gave me with each one.

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“Most of the time I am just trying to capture a bit of the essence of the artist/band or just the way they make me feel. Sometimes, I put things together and it just looks cool to me. I think we sometimes forget that art can be fun.” – Will Livingston

To see more of Will’s work, please visit our online gallery, and be sure to follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

How one woman gave up Olympic skiing to become Lebanon’s fastest runner

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How one woman gave up Olympic skiing to become Lebanon’s fastest runner

By Adrian Brune JAN 3, 2017

The dais was up, the lights were switched low. Cameras were set back a respectable 20 or so feet from the stage for the “Meet the Athletes” press conference, ready to snap photos of athletes the day before the running of the 14th annual Beirut Marathon through the streets of Lebanon’s largest city this past November.

But before any of them appeared—before the Kenyans with their Olympic marathon medals, the Paralympians with their inspiring stories or even the marathon’s popular founder, May El-Khalil— Chirine Njeim stepped up to the podium, garnering wild applause as she did.

Njeim, a professional marathoner who cuts a low profile in every other country, is a celebrity in her native Lebanon. She’s made three Winter Olympic teams in alpine skiing—one of the country’s most popular sports—while this summer, she ran the marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games, making her one of only 28 women ever to participate in both the Winter and Summer Games. Anyone in Lebanon with even an inkling for sports either knows Njeim or has heard of her. The 35-year old made her first Olympic team in downhill skiing at age 16, carrying the Lebanese flag as one of two of the country’s athletes at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, where she placed 36th in the the slalom and 45th in the giant slalom. She went on to represent Lebanon at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics with a top finish of 34th in the downhill.

Now officially retired from skiing, Njeim started running by a “happy accident,” she says. After the Salt Lake Games, while training for the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, she began jogging nearly every day to stay in shape—a practice she brought with her to Chicago when she moved to the U.S. in 2010. Once there,  Njeim quickly made friends in the local running community, and as a challenge, she and and her husband, Ron Kamal, entered the 2012 Chicago Marathon. Njeim crossed the line in 3 hours, 7 minutes, placing 120th in the women’s field.

Prodded by friends to try to break the 3-hour mark in the marathon, Njeim started running up to 14 miles per day, to and from her job as an office manager while carrying a backpack of clothes. In 2015, her dedication paid off when she finished the Chicago Marathon in 2 hours, 46 minutes—good enough for 29th place in the women’s field. A month after Chicago, Njeim ran the 2015 Beirut Marathon in 2:49:23.

Her next step? To run the 2016 Houston Marathon in January and break 2 hours, 45 minutes—the women’s qualifying time to make an Olympic team for Lebanon. She finished Houston in 2:44:14, a time that not only earned her a berth on the 2016 Olympic team, but also broke her own Lebanese national record and made her the first woman in her country history’s to run an automatic Olympic qualifying time in track and field.

“Rio was a victory race for me—it was so hard just to get there,” Njeim told Excelle Sports. “I was standing at the start and seeing all my Olympic heroes—I felt like I knew them. I enjoyed every single moment of it.”

In Rio, Njeim ran 2 hours, 51 minutes—good for 109th place. While she was disappointed, she can realize that she’s come a long way since deciding to run her first marathon only four years prior to her running debut at the Games.

“I try not to think about the things I cannot control,” she said. “There is a new road every day. You just have to keep your head up.”

As a elite athlete since 16, Njeim has had years of practice on how to keep her head up and persevere, especially in a country like Lebanon where support for female athletes is limited if not nonexistent.

“If I didn’t have my parents supporting me when I was skiing, I could not have left Lebanon to do what I did,” said Njeim, who began skiing at age 3 near her family’s home in Beirut before moving to France and then Salt Lake City to train. “Sports has never been the biggest thing in Lebanon—it’s not the first focus. Unless you say I want to be a doctor or a lawyer, people don’t understand that you’re actually running for a career.”

In Chicago, Njeim has had to make sacrifices for her running too, which wasn’t lost on the local community. “Chirine was known as the ‘girl with the backpack’ around Chicago because she would run to and from work,” said Dr. Loryn Kromrey, an anesthesiologist and competitive U.S. distance runner who trains with Njeim in Chicago. “She even ran with her computer in her backpack because she needed it for work.”

While running marathons has become popular in many Western countries, where the distance also has recreational appeal, the sport has only, at best, a nascent following in the Middle East. Instead, the region tends to excel in those Olympic sports like fencing and martial arts that have ancient cultural roots. Distance running has recently become more popular in Lebanon, though, thanks in part to the Beirut Marathon Association (BMA). Former runner and philanthropist May El-Khalil founded the BMA in 2003, not only to help further the sport of distance running in the country, but also to use events to help counter the country’s inflamed religious divisions and political impasses that have existed since the end of the Civil War in 1990. In 2005, the BMA organized  a “United We Run” race to help foment unity after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It attracted 60,000 runners.The Beirut marathon now has the endorsement of the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF), whose president, Lord Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic track star, came to oversee the running of the race in November.

While Njeim now has to pick and chose which races she runs in order to keep her body fresh, she says she likes to run the Beirut Marathon where she can use her stature as a national celebrity to help raise awareness about the need for more Lebanese Olympic-level runners—and athletes of all kinds.

“The way I see it, going to the Olympics was great, but I want to make history in the Middle East, to be an ambassador for the sport,” Njeim said. “The Beirut Marathon has been doing an amazing job of promoting running and pulling people together through running. It’s not so much about getting women into the sport anymore—things have changed with the new generation. Now, we just need the promotion of our own elite athletes. It makes me so proud to say that I am from Lebanon and that I believe that we can achieve greatness in running, that we just need support.”

With the Tokyo Olympics less than four years away and counting, Njeim has her work cut out for her. At this year’s Beirut Marathon in November, she finished just under two hours, 54 minutes, placing among the elite women. That’s fast, but it might not be fast enough. Although the IAAF won’t announce the qualifying times for the 2020 Olympics until at least next year, Njeim would have to shave at least 30 minutes off her time in Beirut to medal in the Olympics and 20 minutes off her Rio time to place in the top 20.

“In skiing, you really have to be focused—you have one minute to forget about everything and get down the hill as fast as possible,” Njeim said. “When I started running, I came out of the gate so fast, I had to learn to be patient and not look for the same intensity or adrenalin rush. But it’s so motivating to see how people react. You run fast, good things happen.”

International Policy Digest: The Kafala System

International Policy Digest: The Kafala System

BY AMBRUNE ON SEPTEMBER 15, 2010

The Qatar women’s jail lies hidden far outside of Doha’s central Al Rayyan district, in a compound of 10-foot walls. It resembles more of a construction trailer, than an array of human-sized cages. Women, mostly Filipino and South Asian, are often escorted there without handcuffs, but held by an abaya-adorned woman, from the Ministry of the Interior. The holding cell itself is crowded by scores of women, all vying for space during their detainment to eat, sleep, pray or make food. The sole sink-and-toilet-only bathroom adjoining it not only services all thirty or so women, but also serves as a makeshift shower, bath and laundry.

The majority of the women migrate from South Asia and the Philippines seeking employment as domestic laborers in Qatar – the second richest country in the world – and other Gulf States. Most gain employment via domestic agencies that maintain relationships with the Qatari government; yet these entities rarely educate women about the potential pitfalls of the work: long hours, low pay (if any), domestic enslavement – and in some cases, sexual abuse.

Once one – or more – of these has occurred and the workers escape their mistreatment, neither the agencies nor the government protects their newest arrivals through Ministry of Labor laws, safe houses or even legal recourse, leaving them to face extortion from corrupt local officials and imprisonment. The United States and other Western countries – with lucrative business ties to the country, and ex-pats who hire these workers – have, so far, turned a blind eye to the problem.

“We have been working on this for six or seven years now, but it is massive in scale and largely hidden compared to other human rights abuses,” says Nisha Varia, senior researcher for the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch.

“When we try to bring up this issue in the region, we find that journalists, government agents and even other human rights workers are actually employers (of South Asian women) themselves.” Last month, Human Rights Watch issued the latest of many reports targeting the abuse of migrant workers abroad: “Walls at Every Turn: Abuse of Migrant Domestic Workers through Kuwait’s Sponsorship System,” this time turning its focus to the Middle East. Though the report concentrates on Kuwait, Varia states the problem is endemic to most of the countries of the Arabian Gulf, specifically Oman, Bahrain, the United ArabEmirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – many of which rank now in the world’s top GDP percentiles, due to their oil-based economies.

BACKGROUND

Qatar, like many other Arabian Gulf states, remains bound to the kafala (sponsorship) system, in which foreigners are “sponsored” by their employer, who hold their passport, control their movements, demand fees to terminate a contract and prevent them from changing jobs. Qatari officials, members of the royal family, ex-pats with close ties to the country and even lawmakers maintain that domestic employers in Qatar treat their employees like “family members,” which, in their eyes, makes legal reforms moot, and effectively separates domestic workers from the laws that govern regular workspaces. Qatar officials have also placed no restrictions on the employment of women, with opportunities determined by market demand and located mainly in service professions.

Once the filial goodwill ends, however, and domestic workers flee, their sponsors report them to the police, who arrest and charge them with absconding. Government officials then immediately cancel the workers’ residency visa and leave them in one-room prisons, where they are subject to the mercy of police guards and administrators, who regulate their living conditions, their meals and even their access to outside help on a whim. Only 20 percent of female inmates ultimately have access to attorneys, while the remaining 80 percent face Islamic courts without a lawyer, many times after waiting months for a hearing in these holding circumstances.

“If these women do make it to an embassy shelter before they are arrested, they are housed among 200 to 600 other women at any given time,” Varia says. “This certainly gives you a sense of how pressing the problem really is.”

ANALYSIS

In many ways, Qatar has emerged as a beacon of the restive and recalcitrant Middle East. The emirate has undergone a period of liberalization and modernization under the current Emir,Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, but most importantly under his closest ally, Her HighnessSheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al- Missned, his second wife. Sheika Mozah chairs the progressiveQatar Foundation, sits on the board of Qatar’s Supreme Education Council, and in September, gave a presentation at the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals in New York.

“Her Highness Sheikha Mozah has a leading role in promoting peaceful dialogue and cross cultural understanding as a means to bring about peaceful resolutions,” reads her official website. “Through her work with UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations, she helps formulate programs to educate and protect victims of human rights abuses – victims who are usually women, children and youth.”

Despite its espousal of humanitarianism, the government of Qatar has not yet enacted necessary anti-trafficking legislation or shown evidence of prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders and identifying victims of trafficking. Human Rights Watch has called on the Gulf States to abolish or significantly amend provisions of kafala to prevent forced labor of migrant workers; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has singled out Qatar. Short of that,UNHCR has asked the Ministry of Labor to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking and apply formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution.

Most of all, Varia says the government, run by the royal family, has the obligation to shift the social attitude toward domestic slavery. “One of the reasons it is so difficult to combat, is that it’s accepted. People think its okay to take her passport, make her work seven days a week, subject her to inhumane conditions,” she says, “We need constant and continuing advocacy.”

International Policy Digest: SE Asia's Nuclear Race

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International Policy Digest: SE Asia's Nuclear Race

BY AMBRUNE ON JULY 31, 2010 5:29 PM

DEVELOPMENTS

On March 19, 1998 Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leader of the Hindu-backed BJP parliamentary party was sworn in for the second time as India’s Prime Minister. Though elected on a narrow confidence vote, just six weeks into his tenure the Indian government announced before the surprised nation and the international community that it had conducted three underground nuclear explosions in Pokhran, which would be followed by two more tests two days later.

Amidst ecstatic bravado within the party and country, and many denunciations worldwide, India declared itself a nuclear weapon state, and thus, further kicked dirt on the 1970 UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which it refused to sign. “Our nuclear weapons are meant purely as a deterrent against nuclear adventure by an adversary,” Vajpayee said of the occasion. The rebuke of Vajpayee’s declaration lagged not too far behind: Pakistan followed India’s lead a fortnight later with tests of its own.

Since then, India has come dangerously close to engagement with Pakistan over Kashmir four different times. The country has declared its weapons program “responsible,” despite leading the way for South Asia’s development into a “nuclear flashpoint,” according to P.K. Sundaram, a researcher at the Indian Pugwash Society which studies the conflicts between science and world policy. India brokered a deal with the US two years ago to enable the country to have ’civilian’ nuclear trade – in terms of nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors – primarily with the US, though the country has also invited others to the table. It also managed to skirt inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which applies only to the “civilian” reactors and not the “strategic” (bomb-making) ones. This nuclear option in South Asia has engendered a very real regional push-and-pull, as neighboring powers attempt to respond with their own capabilities, and treaties to balance each other and the U.S.

BACKGROUND

Pakistan countered true to form. Just after May’s UN Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (RevCon) formally requested India, Pakistan and Israel join the NPT, the Chinese government confirmed that the China Nuclear Power Corporation signed an agreement with Pakistan for two new nuclear reactors. The deal essentially violates the oversight of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the body that oversees non-strategic trade – which forbids nuclear transfers to countries that are not NPT signatories.

The Obama administration has chosen to firmly oppose the Sino-Pak deal when it comes before the NSG this week. This puts the U.S. in a difficult position. “China supplying nuclear reactors to Pakistan is more a strategic move than a commercial one, sort of a mirror image of the US move in the context of the nuclear deal with India,” says Sukla Sen of the India-based Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace.

According to Sen, under the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. wanted to build up India as a tactical counter to China and other potential challengers in the region such as Russia or Iran. “Commercial benefits would be an icing on the cake.” India’s nuclear enrichment pact with the U.S. in 2008 evoked strong displeasure from China, however, which views Pakistan an important asset in countering India. According to the Wall Street Journal Asia edition, it induced Beijing to send the message that if Washington played favorites, it would as well.

“There is news that Pakistan is improving its weapons and increasing its stockpile. It is also believed that after the deal, India can use its domestic uranium for more bombs, while it uses imported uranium for its civil reactors,” Sundaram says. “So concretely, South Asia is entering deeper into abyss.

“Also, the international atmosphere – delegitimization of nuclear weapons as called by President Obama – will have its impact on the region. There has to be a South Asian initiative for a nuclear-weapons-free region, and obviously that also will have to include China. I feel that is what makes it tricky for us.”

ANALYSIS

China’s strategic relationship with Pakistan started in the mid-1950s, but reached serious thrust after the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed an agreement honoring Chinese control over portions of Kashmir to which India has long laid claim. The ties have run so deep between China and Pakistan that Chinese President Hu Jintao once characterized the alliance as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.”

As recorded by Pakistan’s nuclear patriarch, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Sino-Pak nuclear relationship is likely the only case in which a nuclear-weapon state, despite its signing of the NPT, has given weapons-grade atomic material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear-weapon state. Once upon a time, Islamabad sought a similar nuclear pact with Washington along the lines of the India deal. However, the Bush administration made it clear that given Pakistan’s unfavorable nuclear proliferation record – and its alliances – it didn’t trust Islamabad to play it straight.

“We have an ambitious agenda with India. Our agenda is practical. It builds on a relationship that has never been better. India is a global leader, as well as a good friend,” said former President George W. Bush upon his visit to India in February 2006 after pandering to Pakistan during the war in Afghanistan. “We’ll work together in practical ways to promote a hopeful future for citizens in both our nations.” Needless to say, both Pakistan and China felt jilted.

“The chickens are coming home to roost,” Sen says of the current situation.

After May 18, 1974, when India carried out its “peaceful” nuclear test, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, proclaimed that the country’s citizens would “eat grass if necessary” to make a nuclear bomb. Twenty-four years and ten days later, Pakistan delivered on its own nuclear explosion. Once again, after feeling rebuffed on its demand for the same treatment as India, Pakistan is making its own deals for legitimacy. “For India, the nuclear deal meant a prestigious re-entry in the club of nuclear nations as a de-facto nuclear weapons state,” Sundaram says. “Pakistan’s weapons were seen as a trouble internationally for being prone to sabotage/use by terrorists. Now that Pakistan is also getting a similar deal, that feel-good in India is gone.”

What will make the feel-good return? “Before its own nuclear tests, India used to take a radical peace-disarmament position internationally. It used to call for comprehensive disarmament and to protest the current global order that is divided between nuclear haves and have-nots.

But India has drifted from its principled stand and now thinks its own nuclear weapon posture is ‘responsible’ while that of Pakistan, Iran or N. Korea is ‘dangerous’,” Sundaram says. “When we talk of Indian people, there is a strong tradition of Gandhian non-violence and leftist anti-nuclear movements in India, but for these voices to be heard, there has to stability between India and Pakistan; also the politics of nuclear pride and jingoism have to end.”