Sunday, November 30, 2008

India's Heart Broken, But Not The Spirit

We Indians have faced several terrorist attacks in the past, some brutal as 1993 Mumbai blasts. We have had live coverage of the attack on our Parliament building itself. But the images of November 26th 2008 attack on Mumbai will stay etched in the memory of Indians for a long time. The images of indiscriminate firing from a van into thick crowds, the bodies strewn all over the street after an explosion, the injured at VT railway station dazed and bleeding profusely being helped by people, the funeral of the three top cops who were killed in action and the imposing red coloured dome of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel spewing out fire and smoke will stay with us for a long time. The terrorists have chosen the places of attack to have maximum death toll and coverage. While the taking over of Oberoi Trident Hotel and Nariman Point were to take hostage of maximum foreign nationals, it is evident that the taking over of Taj hotel and causing explosions in it, was no doubt to hurt the national pride of Indians.
It is now part of the Legend of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the patriarch of the Tata industrial Group, who has commissioned the Taj Palace Hotel building in 1900 after being refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy. The hotel was deliberately built with its rear to the harbour in an apparent snub to the British Monarchy, who entered through the harbor. Now the terrorists have snubbed all Indians by causing massive destruction to the hotel.

As the first pictures of the live coverage of events at Taj and Trident were beamed across a nation, it was a shock to watch the complete chaos. There was no unified command and policemen were simply running helter skelter, with everyone talking on mobile phones. On Mobile phones !! It was apparent that there was not even a unified communication system in place. As usual the combined forces of the Army and Navy along with NSG commandoes brought order to the chaos and fought hand to hand to kill the terrorists. But by then the damage was done. Over 200 dead and 500 injured.

As details emerged slowly, more shocks were in place. After getting information on a shootout at CST by terrorists, the top three cops of Mumbai together went in a van. Together !! And became sitting ducks. With all due respect to the dead, this singular act of travelling together to face the terrorists shows the lack of processes and professionalism. More shocking was the news that the NSG commandoes had flown all the way from Delhi but had to cool their heels at the airport for hours together as there were no further instructions. Detailed plans of the Trident and Taj hotels were found with the terrorists but the commandoes did not have one. We saw the Taj burning for hours on without any sight of a fire truck. One came in after three hours. It took our Prime Minister 20 hours after the attacks to convene a cabinet meeting. It took 60 hours to eliminate all the terrorists.

The worst shock was allowing the visual media to beam the live images of the commando action. Someone has forgotten that the terrorists too might be watching TV and alter their plans accordingly. Even the helicopter dropping off commandoes on the roof top of Nariman Point was also beamed live.

No sooner than the operation ended, the blame game started. The central intelligence agencies say they have forewarned the state which neglected the warning. The warnings usually are something like this, “ Terrorists belonging to X, Y or Z group are planning to launch an attack from land, sea or air on important landmarks and busy public places in the next three months.” Which state will heed to such warnings, when on an average, small or big, a dozen terrorist attacks take place every month in some state or the other in the country.

Revolting it was to watch the politicians give sound bytes, blaming the ruling party and the ruling party defending itself and pointing out similar attacks in previous government. With crass insensitivity, even before the dead were laid to rest, our politicians jumped in to take political advantage of the incident. We Indians act like Ostriches, burying our heads in the sand so as to not see the obvious. Ringed all around with six countries – Pakistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka- whose animosity and in some cases blind hatred towards India is open and whose support to several terrorist groups in India is an established fact, terror is here to stay for a long time. What we need is not statistics to determine under which party’s rule more were dead. What India needs is a strategy at the highest level to tackle terrorism. It might evolve this time, because the attacks on 26th were also directed at the mighty and powerful, who have been insulated from terror all along, as the terrorists always hit only the general public travelling in suburban trains, or shopping in crowded bazaars. There will be enormous pressure from this group on the governments to act decisively and plan thoroughly for the future.

For the time being Indians are heart-broken but strong in spirit as evident from the reopening of the Leopold café as a defiance within two days after the deadly attack on it. As news of its reopening spread, thousands descended on the café to show solidarity. Unable to manage the crowds, it had to shut down after two hours. Incidentally, the café is owned by a Muslim.
I pray to God to give strength in their hour of grief to those families who have lost their near and dear in the carnage. I salute the armed forces for their bravery and sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gals, Guys, Gays, Biceps & Buttocks

When does one realize that one has aged and out of touch with the world around. Well, when one doesn’t know how to react to a situation that appears normal to everyone around, but extra-ordinary to you, it is then you have aged. This revelation dawned upon me rather forcibly a couple of weeks back and reaffirmed a few days back. A couple of weeks back, I got into the office lift on a fine morning. A twenty-some girl also got into the lift and as the doors were about to close there was a flurry of activity outside and the door opened again. Another twenty-some girl came breezing in and in the same breath asked the other girl “ Did you get it done”. This girl started giggling and to my thorough panic and embarrassment lifted her shirt a few inches up to reveal a gold ring on the navel. Both of them immediately fell into an animated conversation and stepped out at their floor. I was completely flummoxed. Not with the act of showing off one’s navel’s accessory but for the fact that both these girls cared two hoots for my presence and didn’t even give a glance. I was thoroughly embarrassed for having invaded their private space—the office lift.
A couple of days back, another set of two girls and a guy in the twenties were having a chirpy conversation with a torrential non-stop flow with an equal mix of Hindi and English, which this younger generation seemed to have mastered. I was just a pace behind them waiting for the lift and tried to claw out some meaning. They were talking about a movie Dostana and “how John and Abhi pretended to be gays , locked their lips in a passionate kiss and how one of their mothers accepted it and John is sooooo cuuuute with his exposed butt”. What ? Butt ?!! Buttocks !! cannot be, I must have heard it wrong, I thought. At that moment, the guy turned his back to the girls, pulled the trouser down a good length to reveal his upper half of the butt. I was incredulous and could not grasp what he said and nearly got a fit when one of the girls gave a friendly whack at his butt and said, “ John’s is better.” As they were getting out of the lift, one girl turned halfway to me and gave that half smile may be indicating that all these Pats on Butts were common in their group and I was simply out of place. With an effort that would have got accolades from the very best poker players, with a dead pan face I smiled back in the same reassuring measure as if I witnessed these PoBs every day of my life. None of the others even glanced at me while walking out of the lift. I realized then that my aging was official.
As I mulled over this incident, I realized that the movie is the same whose poster I gawk at everyday while driving to the office to have my eyes full of the perfectly lipped ( no, no not a spelling mistake ) Oomph oozing, bikini clad Priyanka. My vision was so focused that I barely realized the two hunks on either side of her. I was in wonderment that two leading actors did not hesitate to act out as gays and even locked the lips. Amazing! More amazing is how causally these youngsters took to the movie and the concept. And above all butt bearing on the screen ! Over the years, I have watched the progression of the screen heroes move from biceps to triceps to six packs and flaunt the body sculpting in a song or a fight. But imagine someone going with a trouser half falling off, flaunting his butt. From now on, the screen hunks may also do all sorts of workouts to have a butt that is better shaped than his competitor. We may see a new breed of physical trainers and gyms with special equipment even for general Janatha. Anything is possible with these youngsters.
Same is the case with the latest Airtel mobile phone commercial with Sharukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan. With “I miss you so much”, groans by Saif boring deeply into the sockets of Shah Rukh’s eyes in the bath room and bed room, they give a gay touch. Actually, SRK is helping Saif to record a voice message to Kareena with a deep painful resonance , which he finally extracts from Saif with a blow at a strategic place. How times change ! And how much of change from Generation to Generation.
Sometime in mid 80’s, a Bombay Journalist has come out openly in an interview about his sexual preference which has created quite a stir. At that time even the elegant word Gay ( actual meaning is carefree / happy ) was not widely used and even the Press used to stick to the cruder version of Homosexual. Well, one evening I was nursing my drink in Hyderabad Press Club along with a friend when suddenly one of our common acquaintances walked to our table with a stranger. I got up, shook hands with the acquaintance and as he was introducing the stranger I began shaking hands with him. At the very moment his name and city were mentioned, I had this irrational urge to pull my hand back, rub the palm on to the trousers and just somehow not be there. However, with supreme effort and with a normal face, I completed the hand shake and indulged in polite conversation for a couple of minutes. Both of them noticed that they were not being invited to join the table even for a cursory drink and left. And that was me then, the liberal of the liberal belonging to Gen X. Any guy from this Gen Y would not have flinched and might have even hugged and kissed him.
I am astonished at this Gen Y gals, guys, gays for their obsession with biceps and buttocks and their amazing ability to convert instantaneously any space into their own private space.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Comedian-in-Chief of the USA

Recently when I was talking to one of my friends Radhe, he mentioned that he watched a few days back the deadly one-liners of Bush on YouTube and he almost split into half laughing. While it is such a disgrace to America for having elected someone like Bush for two terms, on hind sight one may feel it is a historical necessity for future generations for centuries together to take this as an example of whom to never elect. Coming back to the one-liners, I just searched on the net and compiled a score of them to commemorate and commiserate his two terms. Here they are. Straight from the mouth of the Comedian-in-Chief of the United States of America

Health Hazard caution: Some may cause you to be sick to the last bone.

  • This is an impressive crowd—the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite, but I call you my base.

  • For every fatal shooting, there were roughly three non-fatal shootings. And, folks, this is unacceptable in America. It's just unacceptable. And we're going to do something about it.

  • I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don't always agree with them.

  • I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.

  • I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.

  • I think war is a dangerous place.

  • I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here.

  • If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - so long as I'm the dictator.

  • It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber.

  • This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating.

  • I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain - I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being President.

  • Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we.

  • Do you have blacks, too? (To Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso)

  • When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.

  • You're free. And freedom is beautiful. And, you know, it'll take time to restore chaos and order - order out of chaos. But we will.

  • It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas.

  • I think we agree, the past is over.

  • And there's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail.

  • We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.

  • I'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama Creates History In A Nation That May Soon be History

My first reaction to the US presidential election results was “Thank God! McCain did not win”. This World is not ready to tolerate another uncouth, ill tempered person who is completely ignorant of world affairs a la George Bush. Neither were Americans. Barack Hussein Obama, whose Muslim father was from Kenya and mother from Kansas has assured himself a place in American history, by being the first non-white American winning the US Presidential election. By electing Obama, the New Age American people have proved that they have come of the age of racism. John F Kennedy during the last year of his life 40 years ago predicted that a black person could be the President of the US in 40 years. He was ridiculed then. He is proved right now. The reasons for Obama’s easy win are numerous. The US and the World has witnessed 8 years of unprecedented hypocrisy, blatant lies and the US administration acting like a subsidiary of big corporations. The poisonous foliage called Bush has brought down the prestige and credibility of America to abyss. The last straw was the implosion of economy. The American public has put behind them their color prejudices and voted decisively for the 46 year old Afro American.
U.S. politics has never seen anything like Obama. The 46-year-old senator from Illinois had a change-oriented message that resonated with voters and a personal history he calls a uniquely American story. In spite of initial media ridicule about his race, name and antecedents, Obama has surprised even his worst detractors with his tenacity and youth following. His emphasis on need to change has resonated well with the beleaguered America. Obama will be the first Black man to walk into the White House as its master.
So what will happen after Obama takes over on January 20th , 2009. Nothing drastic will happen. At least not in his term or terms. Why not, one may ask. Obama has played well to the gallery by emphasizing on need to change without specifying what and who needs to change. The public who have been sick for the last several years with the Bush administration and its policies and paranoid of their future after the unprecedented financial crisis assumed something else will change which would be for better. Very few of them have realized it is they who have to change. Let me list out a few items where change is necessary and see if this is possible in the near term of say 20 years from hence.
1. The US government living off its treasury bonds by selling them to foreign nations should change. Its current debt is close to 3 trillion dollars and a lion’s share of it is from dictatorial countries in Middle East and China. At any given point of time, these countries can bring down the dollar to such a hyper-inflation stage that the US will buckle on its Knees.
2. The Americans living off on debt with utter disdain for borrowed money just for a wee bit more materialistic comfortable life should change their life style in line with their actual incomes.
3. Americans constitute 5% of the world population but consume 25% of the total energy. This needs to change.
4. Americans consume 900 billion calories of food every day, some 200 billion more than needed. Enough to feed 100 million people. They need to change their eating habits.
5. Americans throw away 200,000 tons of edible food each day. Because the food industry provides umpteen varieties of the same food item in the name of consumer choice, which are thrown out when they near the expiry date.
6. About 80% of the corn and 90% of oats are fed to livestock. 60% of available land is used for beef production. About 100 liters of water is required to produce one KG wheat where as 10,000 liters of water is required to produce 1 KG of beef. Agricultural priorities need to change.
7. Americans are just 5% of the World population but own one-third of world cars and produce carbon emissions equal to the rest of the world. This needs to change.
Now we know why nothing will change in the near short term or near long term. For any drastic change to happen suddenly in societies, countries and the World a cataclysm of event or events should happen. It could be as simple as oil producing nations refusing to deal with dollars and insisting on a more stable currency like Euro. This will lead to demand for dollar collapsing and since the dollar doesn’t have the backing of Gold standard, it could simply turn into worthless paper.
when one reads world history what strikes forcibly is that the people living in those times could never believe that the end was near. No Roman had believed during the height or decline of the mighty Roman empire that it would cease to exist. No English man believed, even in modern times, that the mighty British Empire where the Sun never sets will be bankrupt and crunched to its original pea nut size in a matter of a couple of years. No country or power is an exception to this nature’s law.
I only hope that Obama will at least lay the foundation for this change and the future leaders and future American generations will change the destiny of this once great country for better. If that doesn't happen --------
Amen !