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By: Som Bhatta

Malala Yusafzai a slip of a girl, just turned sixteen. Yet, why does she remind me of these lines? mleccha nivaha nidhane kalayasi karavalamdhoomketumiva kimapi karalam

“You appear on earth to vanquish evil, you ride a white steed and carry the flaming sword of dharma, and you sweep down on the evildoers like a comet striking the earth.”

These are words from the poet Jayadeva’s dashavatara stotram – verses to describe the ten avatars of Vishnu from his magnum opus “Geet Govind” , or the song of Vishnu.

Kalki is the last of the ten avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu, and is yet to appear according to the legend. The mission of Kalki is to obliterate evil from earth. That is the exact impact young Malala has on the Taliban and their ilk. The spineless Talib commander who ordered the strike on her as well as the mindless pawn who carried out the strike – both hide like rats somewhere in the impenetrable mountains on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

By ordering and carrying out that strike, they firmly put the noose around their own pathetic necks. She was modestly known in her own domains in the Swat valley prior to the strike, but by that one act of cowardice the Taliban made her a global icon visible to all.

Malala does indeed carry the figurative sword of dharma the natural order of the universe. Anyone who speaks for universal education, peace and non-violence is the biggest sword bearer of dharma. This girl born in the ancient Yusafzai tribe is no mere Pashtun, or even only a Pakistani. She is a global treasure. Only utter fools or incurable bigots would deny her as not one of their own.

As an Indian, I am not mightily proud of the state of general education in my country, and the girl child s education in particular. South Asian society is determinedly paternalistic and the northern region is actively misogynistic. This is all too evident from the female to male population ratios, which according to official figures are: Uttar Pradesh, 908 per thousand, Punjab 893, Haryana 877, and the national capital Delhi and the ultra-modern Chandigarh leading the brigade at 866 and 818 respectively.

Even though all of those figures are an improvement over the 2001 census, still there are literally “miles to go before I sleep” . Concerted action is long overdue in this direction but apparently not forthcoming from the official machinery. In such a situation, child messiahs such as Malala are sorely needed even here in India.

It is unfortunate that the geopolitical situation in her native land has given rise to so many ridiculous western conspiracy theories. I certainly admire the deviousness of the subcontinental mind in hatching these stories. It does not take an Einstein to see the glaring holes in all these pathetic stories, which try to link Malala to CIA as a prop to carry on the drone attacks in Pakistan.

So let us dispense with the junk and call a spade a spade. Malala Yusafzai is an uncommonly brave youngster and one with an abiding vision a vision that shall not bow to a few cowardly Talib. Declaring her sixteenth birthday as Malala Day by the UN is a fitting tribute indeed. She will go far someday, and the neighbourhood hereabouts could certainly do with more like her.

As an Indian and even more as a human, I am inordinately proud of this young girl. And in passing, I envy Ziauddin Yusafzai. I wish I had a daughter like that.

The writer, an engineer working in the automotive sector in India, teaches operations management part time and blogs on subcontinental culture; som.bhatta@gmail.com

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