Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009.....

Whenever no one has anything else to say about a situation, all they say is, "every event is a learning experience" and leave the lessons to be learnt for self study. Well, this year has been tumultuous, no doubt, as described in a few steps in the previous post. And I for one, have certainly learnt a few things this year.

First - too much of freedom, too bad for health. Look what happened to the future of i-banking. The highly egoistic, snobbish high power group of individuals who inhabited the penthouses of Manhattan (only to sleep) while occupying top floor offices at Wall Street, (Napean Sea Road, and Dalal Street, closer home), suddenly seem to be shrinking into self made holes. Heretofore proud of their occupation, to the extent of wanting to display i-banking as their profession, at any available place, even if they were involved in simply documenting deals, nowadays, many wish to try to stay as far away from the i word as possible. What a huge 180 degree turn, thanks to a free hand given by government to profit makers. We pushed capitalism too far, to the extent of excess greed. The result - a complete collapse of the i-banking world order. Total economic chaos. Some level of control in the form of laws and limits set by the government is very very much essential.

Second - The power of democracy is extremely fulfilling. To see a state that has traditionally been suppressed by terrorism go all out and vote for a government is exhilarating to say the least.

Third - Terrorism is terrible. I mean I knew it. But unless one sees it from so close, one cannot truly understand the pain the terrorists inflict. And clearly, no religion wants to inflict pain on innocent people.

Fourth - There is no end to dreams. And like SRK has said, "Agar kisi cheez ko dill se chaho toh poori kaayanaat tumhein usse milaane mein lag jaati hai." Case in point - Obama, India's Olympic gold, Nadal winning French Open, Wimbledon and an Olympic gold.

Hope springs eternal everyone. Cheers and hoping for a wonderful year ahead......

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 : The year that was

It is almost new year and for many, this is a year better, best forgotten. The world has been hit by one of the worst ever economic crises since decades, with no clear sight in view, about when the mood will begin to be bullish again. However, this has been a year that can actually be remembered for some good reasons as well. So while we do indeed have the bad news, we do have the good news as well.

The start of the year, for Indians began with a slump in GDP. Perhaps we should have taken a hint from that piece of news, but we were quick to reassure all and sundry that everything was fine. The months went on, and as America sneezed, everyone in Asia began slowly catching the bug.

Britney Spears went through an awful year swinging in and out of insanity.

The American Presidential election became prime time watch for people all over the world. Lipstick, pit bulls, war veterans and the bridge to nowhere became commonplace topics to talk about.

The Indian embassy in Afghanistan was bombed and 44 were killed and another 140 innocent civilians were injured. Terrorism still showed that it had the upper hand in the world.

Madonna divorced Guy Ritchie and paid a fortune in settlements!

The phenomenon called the Olympics happened. In China. People had finally awakened to China. The arrangement and the organization was phenomenal. The gross disregard for human rights was totally condoned. But this was China. How could anyone care?!? India as usual went in with a teeny tiny contingent, in gross discord. Not even a uniform dress code!

But who cared about Ms Mirza? We won one GOLD in shooting courtesy Abhinav Bindra and two bronzes. Boxing and wrestling - Vijender Kumar and Sushil Kumar, respectively. Consistency was missing, since Rajvardhan Rathore, failed to impress.

Consistency showed elsewhere, since Nadal won French open and an Olympic Gold. AND ALSO WIMBLEDON. In matches that can thrill generations of YouTube watchers, history was written. Federer displayed chinks in his armor, but still went on to win the doubles gold at the Olympics.

The Marriott in Islamabad was bombed my suspected Al Qaeda operatives with a truckload of RDX, killing foreign nationals, and destroying the building. PoK was shook by a massive earthquake that killed thousands. Zardari became President. (I don't know whether I can say elected, since democracy and Pakistan don't sound good together). Musharraf had to run for his life, (expected).

THE DARK KNIGHT RELEASED. A cult film by any standards, setting a new threshold for villainy in the late great Heath Ledger. A terribly underrated actor, who starred in Brokeback mountain and A Knight's tale, The Joker was a new high for him. Unfortunately another form of going high, killed him, and the world lost a fine actor.

Barack Obama became President. Racial prejudices went to the dogs. Analysts, bloggers, people all wondered whether America would be able to take a wise well-informed decision, and no one was ready to bet either way. The economy by election day was teetering on the edge and no one knew which way the scales would tip.

Michael Jackson became Mikaeel.

The world lost Lehman Brothers. Merill Lynch went to Bank of America. Bear Stearns was gobbled up by JPMC. AIG almost went kaput, only to be rescued by the government.700 billion dollars was earmarked as a TARP bailout fund. We still don't know how that will be spent. American auto manufacturers are now paying the price for not having been prudent by going green and small. They now beseech the American Congress to bail them out.

Lewis Hamilton won the F1 World Championship. I don't want to speak much on that, since I still feel that was unfair.

Mumbai was attacked by terrorists who actually ran amok wielding AK-47 weapons and killing innocent people in a train station, and in key five star hotels in Mumbai's posh South Mumbai area. This set into action a whole host of events right from restructuring by the government to key steps to up the security in the country.

Vishwanathan Anand retained the World Champion crown. Yay!!!

Thwarting appeals by separatists to boycott elections, a 62% voter turnout in J&K showed the triumph of democracy. I kinda feel proud of that. In spite of all kinds of nonsense, Indians still have the power to elect their own leaders.

Israelis launched an all out yet retaliatory attack on Hamas in the Gaza strip, in one of the bloodiest attacks of all time.

Ugandan rebels are being fatally tackled in DR Congo. Zimbabwe is going through an economic breakdown with a terrible attack of cholera debilitating the country. Almost all of Africa is going through a humanitarian crisis.

A student was accidentally shot dead by police in Greece, and riots are still on in Athens. I guess the simmering dissent just needed one tiny burst of the bubble to just erupt like a volcano. A youth was killed in Bangalore by army personnel in a case of mistaken identity. Nothing happened.

India beat the Brits in the test series that comprised an almost lost test match as well. Australia lost the Boxing Day test to South Africa in a thrilling encounter.

Bittersweet year? I guess. A great year for Obama, sport in general, and a terrible year for the economy, Africa, Mumbai (thanks to BSE and the terror attacks). How will next year be? Who knows! But what else can we do, except look to the new year with hope and anticipation for a new beginning. Happy New Year everyone......

Sunday, December 28, 2008

J&K Polls - what India reads into them

This whole year has been one of high importance for Kashmir. Rather Jammu and Kashmir. J&K has been in the news for all the wrong reasons all these years. And just as other issues in the country gathered a lot of momentum and edged the Kashmir issue into the sidelines (I am tempted to say that the issue calmed down, but the sporadic militant attacks and incursions by Pakistani terrorists cannot allow us to wish away the Kasmir problem), this year J&K was in the news again.

It all began with the Amarnath Land row, whose chronology can be seen here.

In the middle of all the ruckus surrounding the Amarnath Land Row, this year on the 15th of August, Separatists pulled down the Indian flag, soon after it was hoisted and flouted the Separatist flag amidst cheers by youth who had embraced the 'Separate Kashmir' issue. Till the end, no amicable solution could actually be arrived at.

So, J&K has been in the news for all the wrong reasons all this while, and suddenly, it was election time. Now, separatists had called for a boycott of the polls, and suddenly, as though delivering a slap on the face as happens in almost all Premchand novels, the people who are tired of the continuous tension, and harping of communal divide by partisan politicians, came out to vote, in drones, to get what a government should actually provide. BIJLI, SADAK, PANI, ROZGAAR. Electricity, roads, water and employment. The turnout in the turmoil-struck state was at 62%, showing that people and daily issues count more than ideology. Roads and peace mean more than religion. Employment and the ability to survive the next day means more than political ideology.

This year has seen the victory of democracy. Obama against racial prejudices, in favor of a change from further monotony and J&K voting against Pakistan, against separatists, against personal agenda - in favor of growth and development. Cheers to democracy. Hope the new government delivers.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing Week 2008

It's Boxing Week. Well, all along, I thought that Boxing Day (day after Christmas) held some historical significance in terms of the sport called Boxing, and hence is celebrated as such! Only later did I learn that Boxing day is when Christmas presents are to be unopened and kept / exchanged / returned. The 'boxes' represent the 'Boxing day'. Simple? Oh yeah! This whole week is Boxing week. All malls, shopping places run deals, good deals. Loads of discounts, since this week traditionally invites shoppers in hordes! There have been stories about stampedes outside malls on Boxing day, that apparently even killed a store employee! Now, people spend a lot before Christmas. They spend to buy presents for everyone. And Boxing week is like a bonanza, more like a ritualistic shopping expedition, as a means to add cheer to the white holidays. Basically, Boxing week is like shopping week, in a greater part of the Western World.

This year though, the story has been slightly different. Given the economic slowdown, analysts, economists, retailers have all been speculating on how the mood would be this year. Given the fact that people need to spend in order to boost the economy, the economy watchdogs were actually 'watching'. They wanted to see where the consumer would go, whether he would head to the shop or whether he would hide money under the mattresses. To lure customers almost all major shops advertised 50 - 70% discounts. They advertised freebies, and what not! Just to make the consumer come out and spend.

This time, with loads of people being laid off, mounting debt, lack of free funds to spend coupled with a general sense of uncertainty over where the economy is heading and when the bear would hibernate giving way to the bull, people were not really in a mood to splurge. No stampedes at Wal-Mart, only marginal queues. To make the crowds look bigger, some cash registers were closed off. Many people said that they had exhausted their budgets buying Christmas presents and so, did not wish to spend more in Boxing week. Some were prudent to keep aside buying a much wanted item like a pair of shoes or a bag for Boxing week, just because of the favorable deals. But that's it. No splurge shopping. Some were restrained because they did not feel right shopping when so many people were being laid off or were facing the brunt of the economic slowdown. The only contrasting report however was about Amazon reporting 73 deals per second on day 2 of Boxing week. Heartening to know. But a conspiracy theorist inside me asks whether this was a media byte to boost consumer confidence.

While some actually took pains to go and buy something, some others chose to window shop, for sake of the ritual. So Boxing Day actually took on the significance I first thought it to hold - Boxing... Only this time, fighting the urge to splurge in favor of a bit of prudence......

Friday, December 26, 2008

Of Christmas messages

Lots of people share messages during Christmas. Most of them are simple - Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho, whatever. But the message that many people wait for and look forward to hearing are the messages by world leaders.

This year too, leaders sent out messages. These were global messages, to be seen by the world as such. While the general mood underlying the messages was all to do with the economic downturn and how one must brace oneself for the worst, there were the sweeping messages (Pope) pointed messages (Canadian PM) and the doubted-intent messages ( Iranian President).

Perplexed? This post is my take on the messages along with some thoughts on the same... So here goes....

The Pope's message in a summary is here (courtesy - API). He has pointed out the key issues facing different nations of the world and has urged peace and solidarity amongst all people. Yup! the Pope has to show oneness with the world and tell people across the world - how to live. So the speech fits that theme.

Along similar lines, the Queen spoke from the Music Room of the Buckingham palace. In sharp contrast to the messages in the past, this year the message was more guarded, and clearly more concerned about the global economic fallout. She mirrored the sentiments of her subjects, when she said that occurrences across the world could have a serious impact back home, which it was. Her speech in a gist - here.

The Canadian PM, however, wanted to literally 'thank his blessings' (he could be ousted next month!!!), by urging all fellow Canadians to do the same. The Canadian dollar is still strong today as compared to the US Dollar. But the auto companies closing operations and laying off people is slowly becoming a reality in Canada as well, since Ontario houses the North American factories of these firms. Again the tone is one of guarded caution, albeit with a little positive touch. The gist is here.

The outgoing American President and the President-elect wished everyone a merry Christmas, while remembering their soldiers who were out fighting in alien lands! Why did you send them sir? Iraq? Ahem. Less said the better.

And finally, the Iranian President. In spite of loads of searching, I couldn't find all of the text of the said address. But the one quote that is spreading all over the universe is this - "If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over," Ahmadinejad said, according to the English translation of the Farsi-language speech.

Commentary on blogs on the Iranian address point out that this address is hypocritical, eyewash, playing to the gallery and what not! The presumption - that the 'warmongers' and bullies, refer to US and the 'Western World'. I don't really say that Iran is totally a benign nation - for that matter, no one in this world can be called innocuous. But if people are reading between the lines and making presumptions of assumed innuendos - I remembered the Slovenian proverb 'Speak the truth, but leave immediately after'. I also remembered what my teacher once said, " The deepest insecurity or point of guilt is that which tends to be covered up and aggressively defended.....

In summary - the themes were all similar - economy and terrorism. Some were general, as expected, while some, were pointed and some others - well, I don't know.... Merry Christmas everyone....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas - A jingle of the bell...

Last year I was forced to celebrate Diwali away from home, in an alien land where Indian festivals were unheard of. That, as I had mentioned earlier was what triggered in me the wish to start the 'Why rains in India make so much noise' series. Now, as the festive season almost draws to a close, with Christmas and New Year, the whole concept of festivities again provokes thoughts. There seems to be some providential arrangement by which Christ was born in winter, amidst snow and cold winds. The snow-laden blocked roads of the Christian world, if I may say so, effectively prevent people from getting out of the house. The effect? A warm coy Christmas around the fire place with the warmest people who love you the most - family.

What can one do if work causes people to stay away from family and friends during a festival season? It can be frustrating. It can be depressing. But during a time of a recession, when holding on to a job is a luxury, one cannot afford to relegate work to second place! What if one works as ground staff at an airport? Works in the night shift? Well, after the initial frustrations and depressions are dealt with, it is reconciliation! So what if Christmas cannot be spent at home? Just grab a Santa cap, and spread the cheer around. Celebrate Christmas with everyone around, every other soul who feels equally, if not more low!

At the end of the day, it is the cheer that counts.... Merry Christmas everyone....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How about a summary???

Freak thought - How about a summary of sorts? 'This week in the world' and 'This week on the lilac avenue' ?

Yet another adhoc resolution. But let me see how well I can keep the resolution. So here goes....

Well, a lot less happens on the Lilac Avenue than happens in the world. So Lilac Avenue, goes first.

A reflective Monday - where I spoke about how an imminent change can put things in an all new perspective under MOODY MONDAY, here

Then came a funny anecdote on tantrums here

And then, the relevance and importance of first aid, in a rather dramatic post titled ' It always is personal'.

On My workplace blog - Camaraderie at work.... here.

And now, THE WORLD...
India's Parvathy Omanakuttan came first runner up to Russia's Ksenia Sukhinova in a rather lackluster performance! In a gnarled stumbling wrong answer to a question ' describe your adventures around Joburg', our desi hadddd to quote Gandhiji, for God knows what reason! With such a start, the week must be fun!!

INDIA WON AN ALMOST - LOST CRICKET TEST!!! Historic, momentous, crucial, since India needed a shot in the arm, post the recent terror attacks.

Bush was in Iraq, and a journo threw his shoes at him. Oh yeah, not one, but both shoes. Thereafter, an Egyptian man offered him his daughter in marriage, and the woman was agreeable. There were murmurs of him having broken multiple bones, rumors of him asking for a pardon and what not. Eventually - it ended up being what it was supposed to be - a media circus!

Bernard Madoff was accused of a $50 Billion fraud. He was apparently apprehended before, and then let off. In what looks like a Firangi version of our own Harshad Mehta, he smoothly sauntered away with the said amount and he is being held under part-time house arrest or some such thing! It's like the timing is laudable, given that when the whole world is reeling under economic strife, there comes news of yet another - scam!!

Bailout galore - American auto industry - No one paid heed when Japan ventured into the fuel-efficient small car segment. They were instead pooh poohed! America held on to the juggernauts that could be driven at efficiencies like 2 kilometers to a litre and so on! Innovation in American automobiles? Was unheard of - still is! As the gas prices and pink slips soared, people threw away any plans of buying a car. Wham! The industry needed to be rescued from implosion. Canada stepped in as well to rescue, since most American car manufacturers have plants around Ontario. American Auto industry implosion means - Pink slips in Canada. Dole and what not! RESCUE!!!!!

Ah and now the world's favorite topic - terror and ping pong Pakistan. Civilian government said JeM chief was under house arrest. Foreign minister said yes, house arrest. Then later he said, nope! At large. Some alleged key leaders of LeT were let off one day, and when pressure mounted on the Pakis to reign in the miscreants, a finger was pointed at India's violation of their airspace!!! When Zardari, when addressing a press conference with Prime Minister Brown had said that the alleged intrusion was a technical one, while an Indian plane took a turn near the India-Pak border. What will happen tomorrow? I DON'T KNOW, and I guess neither does God!

India passed the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, almost unanimously, but not before Minister for Minority affairs attempted to scar the delicate fabric of inter-religious ties by suggesting a weird conspiracy theory. The NIA has been commissioned.

The Taj and the Trident opened their doors to guests today (21st December) for the first time after the terror attacks.

Theoneste Bagosora was sentenced to life in prison for the Rwandan Genocide.

That's it guys. I may have missed some events, but I am still learning... Cheers, and see you tomorrow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Random frustrations

I was cribbing as usual, to a friend, about my blogs. I expressed my insecurities, about whether anyone likes what I write, whether I write run of the mill stuff, or whether what I write really makes sense to anyone. I told her that when I see no comments, I really don't know whether anyone even skimmed through what I wrote, let alone read it! How am I to know whether my blogging is just a waste of time.

She said that she never commented, since there really wasn't anything else she could say over and above what I wrote. Sigh! What do I say? That I am happy that my post has effectively shut all chance of provoking a thought???? Yes, I am frustrated, since I feel a gross waste of time is underway!!! This friend then said, "Why bother? You write because you want to. You write because you like to, why not leave it at that?" For this, all I can say is, that it is really easy to think that way, but very difficult to dissociate myself with the response whilst I keep posting what I feel like!!

Frustrations? INDEED...........

Friday, December 19, 2008

It always is personal

They say that the full effect of any event hits you only when the event is personal. Yes, the Mumbai attacks are testimony to the same. Scores of people die each year in separate acts of terror. Yet when Mumbai was hit, that too the affluent, the moneyed, suddenly the country got up and took notice. Heads rolled, people were sacked, new 'leaders' were appointed. People took notice when the premier industrialist of India expressed disappointment over the system. The NIA was commissioned, and a new anti-terror law was tabled and in a rare display of unity it was unanimously passed by the house. It is always personal.

Last weekend there was a first aid course conducted for all of us at work. They taught us basic CPR, how to attend to an accident victim and so on. One comment the doctor made, had a lasting impact on me - 'The aim of first aid knowledge is to show you, how you can help save someone, and if not, at least to show you how you may not cause more harm to someone'. I have learnt about the life of a paraplegic air force captain in one of my class 10 English lessons. I learnt about how he had been in an accident and how he was moved without adequate neck support and how he was rendered paraplegic for the rest of his life. That story made me very sad. When the doctor described rescue efforts, I thought of the many injured who were moved out of these terror attack sites. Rescue operations have a certain mission, and remembering the fine points of safety and 'moving a victim basics' is difficult.

That is where passers by can help. If they only knew first aid. Just a thought - why not make first aid training compulsory in all schools in class 8 and 9? Every school has MCC, scouts, guides and what not. Some schools do include some first aid related inputs as well. But if every educated citizen can help at a time of crisis, imagine how efficient we can be?

And this idea struck me because I recently lost an aunt to a heart attack. She could have been saved, if only someone around knew CPR. It always is.... personal........

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tantrums : An anecdote

Three of us met after a long time the other day. One of my friends had dark circles under her eyes and she was visibly tired. Her kid was in the 'terrible twos' bracket. Over an Aztec coffee (she had 2 espresso shots), this friend of mine was discussing her kid's tantrums. ' He refuses to eat and wants to be out all day long! Now how can I keep taking him out all the time??? He know how to count, but will repeat numbers backwards because he doesn't want to, and because it makes me mad! He refuses to sleep at night, saying he wants to play ball!!! At 3 am at night!' At this another friend remarked, "I am lucky, I have a dog! Feed it, walk it, forget it. Obedient to the core, and extremely loving. Tantrums? How do you spell tantrums?", she said with a look of morbid triumph, as she sipped her iced tea.

Not having had a chance to experience either case, I kept quiet. But i began to wonder - 'why do kids throw a tantrum? They don't see either parent stamping their feet, or making asinine demands, or refusing to eat or sleep or engaging in any such mindless activity. So where do they learn the fine art of tantrumming and making parents' life hell????' I started homeward, lost in such thoughts. I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, I absently stared outside. A lady was crossing the massive road with a dog on a leash. The huge road was split into a two-way road by means of a divider. Both sides of the traffic were waiting for the light to turn green. She crossed half the road and reached the divider. She had a bulky shopping bag in one hand and the leash in the other. She started to get off the divider island and on to the road, and suddenly her canine refused to budge. She tugged at the leash. It didn't swerve an inch. She called out to it - Lenny, Minnie, something. Uh-huh - no movement. She bent down and spoke to it. 30 seconds on the signal timer. By the looks of it, the dog was a grown Pomeranian. She called to it again, but the dog refused to move. Finally in a wave of exasperation, she swooped the dog up like a child, and quickly rushed across the road.

And I thought - Tantrums ? They're in the air on earth.............

Monday, December 15, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday.... Of cricket, politics and of course a Monday...

1976. Magic number - 406. The opponents - Windies - then considered invincible. History was made. 2008. Magic number - 387. Against the Brits. Sehwag, Yuvi and Tendulkar went ahead and proved why they are feted across the world by anyone with an affinity to the willow! Till late yesterday, India was written off, in terms of drawing this test match let alone winning it. And what makes this victory even more special is the fact that the victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. I was kinda disgusted at the way we kinda squandered a victory toward the start, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the victory flag.

Cheers to the Indian team...

Bush was booted and rebooted!!!

Some Iraqi journo had the nerve to hit the most powerful man in the world with not one, but two shoes... Yikes!! I agree, Iraqis may be miffed with Dubya for whatever reason, but shoes????????????? This just goes on to show that democracy and civilization don't belong to the world of the barbaric!

And now the Monday moment - This Monday was mixed. I noticed parts of the workplace I had never noticed so far. I cherished my friends and our lunch in the 'training room' more than I did on other days. I looked at my terrace like I never had before. I walked an extra time on the terrace. I noticed portions of my commute I'd never paid attention to before. Kids in a playground, playing as usual - yet another day in their life, thinking, knowing that tomorrow would be similar. The school would remain, and so would the park. Somehow, Enya's 'only time', when juxtaposed with the contrast between what I saw and what I was going through, appealed to me, and stayed with me all day long. For the first time - Cheers to this Monday. I'll remember it forever..................

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The aftermath of the terror attacks - Eyewash Part 1

It's a lazy Sunday evening and as happens with all Sunday evenings, the mood is reflective. All said and done, tomorrow is a Monday, and tomorrow has to be spent at work. Along with a whole host of nostalgic thoughts that go to not too long ago, is a thought about where we as a country are going to go! It's a period of flux everywhere. Changes at work, changes in life, changes in actions, changes in my rocking city! It's change change everywhere. Do I like it? Well, whether I like it or not, I have to live with it.

For instance, soon after the attacks commenced on Mumbai's icons, I was downcast and angry for a very very long time. I had to attend a Sangeet ceremony of one of my close friends, but somehow did not find the mood or the mind to 'celebrate'. I confided in one of my oldest friends. I told her that I was so low, that I was in no mood to celebrate since so many of my people have been decimated, and all the city faces is political apathy and jeering on the world stage of the political circus. Her immediate response was, as usual - "Sindhu you think too much and you think nonsense". I was bewildered. She continued, " You think so much about political apathy. But will you or any one of our current generation who finds it appalling to handle office politics want to step into Mantralaya and run the state? No! You say so much about revamping the defence system, and internal security, did it strike you that almost everyone is thinking the same? Then why is there no action? Since there seem to be other more 'pressing matters' for our 'leaders' to handle. And now this mayhem has grabbed headlines, and these will stay till the next new media spectacle comes up for all to see."

At that time, I was aghast at her apparent indifference. But as time spanned out, look what happened....

Head politicians of the state resigned citing 'moral compulsions'. Can the new people deliver? Who knows? It will perhaps take them some time to understand the past ramblings before they decide to do something new, and by the time they deliberate and decide to do something new, it's poll time and poll jargon will start riding the airwaves. Then what? Back to square 1.

Pakistan has pledged support. How many times have they done that? And how many times has the world community been assured by the government of their unending co-operation? And is India so gullible? So immature to be treated like a weakling time and time again? Why? Are we not strong enough? No. How much should we put up with to prove our patience to the world? Granted, war is never a solution, but why try Satyagraha on hooligans??????? There has to be a better way to handle matters. UNSC certified terrorists are still at home under a farcical 'house arrest'. How does that help matters? A number of terrorist outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen, today's Times reports, have disbanded. Really? Perhaps only to regroup like how the LeT did as JuD. People who have committed crimes against our country are being provided a safe haven in a neighboring country, and India has to be patient and diplomatic. I ask, 'Would US be so patient, if Osama was in Mexico?' So going totally filmy, I ask...'Unka Khoon Khoon, aur Hamaara Khoon Paani?'

Yes, we have slipped up in places too. Perpetrators of the Parliament attack are still breathing thanks to the slow moving wheels of clemency pleas. Intelligence is perhaps not as smoothly connected as it should be - so say the papers.

At the end of the day, we have had young people who have laid down their lives so that we may see another day. And the army chief has said that even more number of brave youths are more than willing to step up to the challenge. But unfortunately, it ends there. Like in the case of the Parliament attack, where India's blood boiled for a while. Like in the case of Kanishka, where India seethed. For a while. Like in the case of the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai in '93, the Gateway bomb blast in 2003, the train blasts in 2006, where Mumbai was angry. For a while. But then the years would pass, and new issues would spring up, new communities would need to be given reservations somewhere, one religion's beliefs would need to be questioned, and all that would remain would be the lifelong gloom in the houses of the martyrs and in those houses alone......

Friday, December 12, 2008

Attention Deficiency Syndrome....

"I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide my car needs washing.
As I start toward the garage, I notice that there is mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mailbox earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first.
But then I think, since I’m going to be near the mailbox, when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only 1 check left.
My extra check’s are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking.
I’m going to look for my check’s, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over.
I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye–they need to be watered.
I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I will be looking for the remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.

At the end of the day:
—-the car isn’t washed,
—-the bills aren’t paid,
—-there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter,
—-the flowers don’t have enough water,
—-there is still only 1 check in my check book,
—-I can’t find the remote,
—-I can’t find my glasses,
—-and I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.

Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I’m really tired.

I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it, but first I’ll check my e-mail."

After a very long time, I got this forward again today. When I first got it, I laughed my head off. But today when I got it, I realized how identical I am to the narrator.... So I'll leave my blog here since I need to make a note of this in my diary - as a note to self to be more focused in future. But first, I'll check my email. Oh Leena's gettin married, I got the invitation on email. Lemme go call her, I'll write in my diary soon after. Oh! But I need to get that dress from the dry cleaners if I am to go for that wedding. Off I walk out the door. Oops, the lightbulb outside needs to be fixed, I'll just do that right now.........

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Green at the time of Global Warming....

Oh yeah! Global warming is a reality! News and the works go on and on about melting glaciers, polar fissures and so on. Sea levels are rising, and just the other day, there was a mention about tremendous water levels in Venice!!!!!

Can't blame anybody! The heat is everywhere. Global economic meltdown, Terrorism, explosions, violence, anger! The effect has to find an expression somewhere. And so the environment is taking the hit, I mean heat!

Emphasis is moving to greener energy and ecological conservation. One analyst had remarked that reformed banking and manufacturing as also sops for internal investment helped the west tide over the Great Depression. Innovation, and new ideas helped break the gloom loop. And now, in this molten economy, the analyst noted, the world looks to the West for innovation, for something new to tag on to. And the answer may lie in the 'Green Revolution' of a new kind.

Obama spoke of revolutionizing government buildings the other day and making them more energy efficient, more green. And now, British Airways has a section at the bottom of the booking page - Offset the carbon emissions for these flights
You can help minimise the impact of your flying by offsetting your carbon emissions. The total carbon emissions from your itinerary are X tonnes and the cost of offsetting your emissions is Y.
Your money will go towards UN certified emission reduction projects.
* Please be aware that once your carbon offset contribution is paid, it cannot be refunded.

Go Green???? Indeed!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cheers to K* friends ;)

The soft salty air of this city, the gentle lapping of the waves against the wave breakers, the strong sea breezes that leave a warm feel on your skin in spite of the comparative coolness around, the lovely driveway along so many kilometers of the Arabian Sea – part of the collective memory I will always hold about my city. And yesterday, an extra aspect got added to my seaside memory.

The fun of meeting old friends on the Katta by the sea side is a pleasure in itself. It almost feels like the warm-cool breezes try to etch the moments in your mind! And here, I must scream to the world that I am indeed humbled to have four K* (secret code word) friends who came all the way just to say hi and celebrate a moment.

Let me describe the full force of this meeting. Imagine a V. One of my K* friends lives in one corner of the V and works in another. Yet she came to a place at the center of the V. Two friends live in one corner of the V and work just 5 kilometers away. Yet they came to a place at the center of the V. Another, doesn’t stay in the V. He was here on vacation from another city. He stays at a point nowhere on the two prongs of the V. Yet he came to a place at the center of the V. I stay and work very close to the center of the V.

The banter, the talks on my ‘wonderful’ driving skills (I know to drive, so what if I say Yeh and Woh for left and right… if you don’t see me when I give wrong directions, its your fault), the talks of what Teepoo did to deserve the Shaque ki nigaahen of her household, and all such absolute nonsense are something I will remember word for word. But what touched me the most was the ‘cheers to Sindhu’s moment’ with 4 cans of Pepsi clanging against one another with feet dangling off the Worli Sea Face Katta. All I say is… Cheers to friendship – May we always stay the same… (Rohit and Davara, maybe you both could improve a bit…

P.S. I am not writing this out a sense of gratitude. I am writing this because the two crappy blokes made fun of my blog and jeered that I would post on our meet yesterday. SO THERE!!!! J

Saturday, December 06, 2008


I guess I've done enough of terroriting here.. Nopes, it isn't a spelling mistake. If you can have terror tourism like RGV with Mr Deshmukh after the Taj carnage, terror television, which was broadcast all over Indian news channels (terror TV was allegedly responsible for Mumbai's collective nervous breakdown... yikessss) then I sure can say that what I've been doing here is terroriting... Writing about terror.

I don't know if you are, but now, I am bored of writing about it :) So I take a break and decide to write smaller, shorter, happier stuff..... AMEN... or maybe AWOMEN... Wadever..............

Friday, December 05, 2008

An outrageously funny snippet in Pak media

Now, I can't really generalize about all of Pakistani media, but thanks to Youtube, I received a link to an outrageously funny take on the Mumbai terror attacks. Now, I am sure that neither the presenter - a bumbling, clumsy presenter by name Qudsia Qadri (let's call her QQ), nor the guests - some defence analyst and some member of the Pak Parliament would have intended to make the show akin to a sitcom, but the kind of things they said - hideously howlarious.

First, at the start of the show, QQ says that over 135 people are killed in the bomb blasts in Mumbai. Eh? When did that happen?????? Maybe Intelligence needs to take note!!! Second, she speaks about the death of two key people who were investigating the Samjhauta express blast, while they were at the Taj. ???? When did that happen????? Then she goes on about how Pak has been the victim of ire all the time, in spite of their innocence. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN???????????? Funniest of all. A passport size photo of Mr Ram Jethmalani springs up, and QQ quotes from a certain 'interview'. Mr Jethmalani apparently gave Pak a clean chit, she says. HAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. Now, how do we know whether the voice is indeed his voice - like a blogger noted. Second, the voice said that it did not understand the rationale of terrorists, since terrorists were just accruing global ire against Islamic nations. I didn't hear Pak or clean chit anywhere!!!! Even funnier??? This interview goes across the border, without any of us Indians knowing!!!!!!!!!! And like some intellectually profound thinker, QQ asks - '24 hours on, why couldn't the commandos kill the terrorists?' Ahem, QQ, I guess that's because there were HOSTAGES involved, who incidentally had to be rescued as well!!!!

Then came the guests. One defence analyst, who actually said that unlike in the case of the 9/11 attacks that had been deftly orchestrated by Amaaricans, Indians did a shoddy job in case of the terror attacks on Mumbai. Apparently we Indians tried to garner sympathy and made massive fools of ourselves! He went on to say that these attacks were the beginning of the end of the Indian federation! INTELLIGENCE... PLEASE NOTE.........Then he continued ranting about how the terrorists look Hindu, because one wore a saffron band - not worn by Muslims... Hello..... What about the huge rage amongst youngsters post the Lance Armstrong phenomenon???? Almost everyone wore some band???!!!???????????? AND WHEN HARD EVIDENCE, AND THE WORLD INTELLIGENCE ALIKE POINT TO THE LeT, how did they become Hindu???????The guy had the nerve to say that Indians have no brains!! Try telling that to Sabeer Bhatia, Vinod Khosla, Rajat Gupta, Ambanis, Azim Premji, Narayan Murthy, APJ Abdul Kalam, DR. MANMOHAN SINGH!!!! And all this while QQ says Ji Ji Ji... Hahahaaaaaaaa.. She reminded me of Johnny Bravo! Honest!!!

Then came some Maarvi Memon - MP, of PMLQ. She called Pakistan, India's peaceful neighbor. She spewed venom about how we, Indians, who did not know how to handle our own 'homegrown terrorists' kept training our guns on Pak, without looking at our own 'issues'. QQ spoke of our top 3 terror groups. ' Left Wing extremists', 'Left wing terrorists' and I guess she forgot to mention the third group. Or perhaps someone cut it out, cos it said - 'PAKISTAN'. Hello!! Madam, our biggest issue is on the left side of the Western border, not any other left whatever!!!

But at the end of it all, if this is the kind of crap that is fed to Pakistanis, I feel sorry for them, since the whole world is decidedly having a laugh.... Here is your dose of laughter.... for today....

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughtful Thursday : Who is to blame?

Still going with the topic of terrorism. The other day there was a description in the papers of the life of the terrorist (Kasab) captured in the Mumbai attacks.

He is the third of 5 kids. His father is a 'dahi puri' seller in Faridkot. His mother is a home maker. His elder brother is a laborer, and his elder sister is married. His younger siblings are still teenagers. Clearly not the perfect example of 'the good life'. He was made to break school, and then sent off to stay with his brother, since his father could not make ends meet, and over there, this young boy developed a dislike towards his brother's life of toil with no big money. So after a fight with his family, he went on to a path of petty crimes. Once while at a religious gathering, the LeT's political arm was distributing pamphlets on special arms training they wanted to give young people. Unsuspecting young man, went forth with the idea that arms training will help him further his career in armed robbery!

Brainwashing, incensed videos later, he emerged a hardened, insensitive terrorist. But post his tete-a-tete with the Lashkar, he was a venerated man in his village. Similar to the treatment received by Izmat Khan in the book 'The Afghan' after his brush with the Afghan war. Kasab's family was given a lac and a half as 'reward'. So when he unleashed venom on innocent civilians, he felt that what he did was correct.

Granted, no merciless killing of innocents is correct. But this chap was 21. 14 when he ran away from home, to be brainwashed. How mature could he have been? I remember the movie Aamir, wherein the protagonist decides to sacrifice himself when he comes to know that the box in his arms contained a bomb. His family had been taken hostage in the movie, but his conscience refused the killing of innocents for his selfish gain. But can a teenager be that strong-willed? I remember when I was in school, fresh after the Mumbai serial blasts of '93, there was an open question - 'What will you do if you become Prime Minister of India?' Many of us answered - anti-corruption, better roads, 3 days holidays in school etc etc (we were in school remember). But one chap said, "I would go and bomb Pakistan and wipe it off the map."

That was the degree of maturity. So can we really hold the terrorist responsible????????? When it is social censure, hunger versus conscience, the balance tips precariously against what is right. Who is to blame? Typical filmy answer would be - 'Woh bura nahin hai, haalaat ne use aise banaaya'. So merely clipping the leaves of the weed won't be enough. One needs to cull out the root of the evil. Yes, the breeders of terrorism are at fault. The terror camps, the religious fanatics there, the brainwashers who manipulate gullible, impressionable minds for their own morbid gain, all under the twisted guise of religion.

So we have only two ways out. Prevention or Cure. Cure would be - a global movement to root out all terror training camps - in religious strangleholds, or in inaccessible, ungovernable caves. This needs a co operation of all governments, who believe that terrorism is indeed an evil, and not a convenient armrest. With the present 'nature' of our 'peaceful neighbors', the cure option is a far cry. Which brings us to Option 2 - Prevention. Stringent protection of our borders. Cruel inspections at times, 'Nobody is a friend' attitude. Strong anti-terror laws, and prohibitive punishments. In an extreme fallout of such 'protection', we would begin to suspect every passerby on the road. At least that is better than not living to see another passerby on the road!!!!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Patriot just because it's cool

Today's post is influenced by an article I read in yesterday's Mumbai Mirror. It actually got me thinking about this whole young generation 'desigiri'. Yeah, only we'll call it desigiri and not patriotism or social consciousness. Almost all the points that the lady had written there seemed to make complete sense. After seeing the movie Rang De Basanti, my response was similar. That it takes a tragedy to affect one personally to actually take cognizance of a greater evil. And here, we were perpetuating that exact same truth! An RAF personnel reportedly remarked, that such hostage situations were commonplace in Assam and J&K. So such mass massacres by terrorists and extremists with 'twisted ideologies' (quoting Obama's words) happen elsewhere in India. But it has taken all of us so long to actually raise our voice against this nonsense.

I ask, " In what way is a Jaipur or an Ahmedabad or a Delhi lesser than Mumbai?"
I ask, " Why do 200 dead people scream louder than 20, 40 or 60 dead people?"
I ask, " Why do the dead at Taj and Oberoi hurt the conscience more than those dead at CST?"
I ask, " Why does a politician's conscience begin to hurt after 200 people die and not when there is a gross 'dereliction of duty'?"
I ask, " Why does 'patriotism' show up on Orkut, Facebook and Twitter when India faces a crisis and not otherwise?"
I ask, " Why does this 'patriotism' suddenly surface amongst Indians sitting in foreign lands while all the time they were in India, they associated India with filth and flies?"

Just rip this whole new wave of socio-political consciousness and look within. What do you see? NOTHING!

An acquaintance of Indian origin who has been living in a 'dehaati' (bucolic) part, if I may say so, of the US since the past 4 years, asked me 3 days after Obama was elected whether the news of his election had reached India yet. And now this very same acquaintance's heart bleeds and blood boils with anger at the gross neglect his city faces. How duplicitous can we be?????

Beauty is not skin deep. Likewise patriotism is not the solidarity you show on a social networking site. 'I was in the middle of the action, since I too commiserated with the city by tweeting' is by and far a terrible farcical show of fake 'solidarity'. It remains at best, yet another show of ostentatious desigiri - because it is uber cool to be desi in Firangiland.

Yes, I am angry at the slipshod security. Yes, I am distressed at the number of lacerations my city has been given by terrorists. But I am even more distressed at the bleakness of the situation and the gross lack of sensitivity displayed by the citizens of our country and the politicians alike. Yes, I am guilty of writing so much (for whatever it's worth) when Mumbai is hurt and only spending a quiet moment for the numbers killed by terrorists at various other locations in India.

Here is the article that got me thinking....

Pseudo-patriotism: Certainly not the action we need

Are we really patriotic? Do we care equally for victims of the CST attack as we care about those dining at the Taj’s Wasabi?


Newspapers, magazines, TV channels and even on-line forums are all alive with a newfound furore. Indians of all ages, economic groups and religions are suddenly talking about concepts such as solidarity and patriotism. All of a sudden, talking about starting a movement, all of a sudden so bothered with our government and our politicians. People who didn’t know Shivraj Patil existed are starting Facebook groups called ‘Sack Shivraj Patil’. Very ‘Rang de Basanti’ don’t you think? Being proactive, taking a stand, taking initiative and acting together are all positive decisions but only if implemented in the long term.
If only our country and our people actually believed and lived by the principles and concepts that they are currently obsessing over. It is delightful for anyone to see this sudden enthusiasm until you see through it and realise it is a farce of sorts. Why is it that it takes an event of this magnitude to get people to care? And if it is purely because of this event, as always the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ will make sure that the terrorist attacks will be forgotten soon, life will return to normal and with that, all the enthusiasm will also fade. The same people posting hundreds of notes and creating online groups will once again become blissfully unaware of the looming issues that our country faces and instead return their thoughts and focus onto more pressing concerns such as why the new Gucci collection is late to reach Mumbai.
It is amazing how many times I’ve heard “This country is crap. There’s nothing we can do to change that fact. So we want to leave as soon as we can and never come back.” And yet these are the same people who, to sound ‘politically correct’ talk about patriotism. When ministers and politicians try to gain mileage from this tragedy and sound ‘concerned’ and ‘politically correct’, we’re quick to dismiss it as ‘disgusting’. But when we do the same, it is somehow acceptable.
The people yelling their lungs out about patriotism don’t know a thing about it. Patriotism is not about standing up and showing support for the people of your country only after a terrorist attack. It is about loving your country to a point where you are aware and critical about its flaws; it is about being equally concerned about every citizen; it is about directing your pointed finger of blame towards yourself for a change rather than at politicians and policy-makers. Because in all honesty, are we really patriotic? Do we care about the pollution, bad health care, corruption and myriad issues that plague our nation? Are we even aware about these? Do we care equally for the victims of train blasts who were travelling in the second class bogey as we care about those dining at Wasabi? In our day-to-day lives, are we truly good citizens that behave in a way in which we not only cause no damage to the nation but also try and prevent it?
The dismal truth is that we litter the streets of Mumbai even as we speak about patriotism, we do not respect the hard-working BMC workers who keep our city clean and we ignore the crippling poverty that stares us in the face everyday. And it is also a sad truth that we did not come together this way during the train blasts or any other terrorist attack! It extends beyond our action. According to media reports, the families of victims of the CST attack were made to wait for hours and shuffle from hospital to hospital just to collect the corpses of their loved ones. And on the other hand, the families of the victims of the Taj and Oberoi attacks were not troubled at all and in fact assisted by senior police officers in finding the bodies of their loved ones. So why can’t we have uniformity?
It is an abuse to the whole idea of equality. Because in our heart of hearts, if we believed the lives of those dead in the train blasts and those killed at CST to be equal to those massacred at the Taj and Oberoi, our actions would have been different. It is an uncomfortable truth; one that defies our very constitution, which states that, our great nation is built on the idea of “equality of status and opportunity”.
The Preamble of our Constitution states that we are the “sovereign, socialist, secular democracy of India”. What sovereign nation allows outfits like the MNS to control our financial capital and get away without any judicial action? What socialist nation values lives based on bank account balances? What secular nation is besieged with communal issues so great that it is etched into our minds that this was an attack by ‘Muslim’ terrorists rather than an attack against our nation in its entirety? And lastly, isn’t it a perversion of democracy that we give propaganda enough power to brainwash a billion people and thus stifle our true freedom of thought and expression? If we want to take action, we must start by introspection. We can only act once we realise our own flaws. And when we do, we will be a force to reckon with. One that is united and patriotic.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We want answers

It's over. 62 hours later the ordeal is over and we are literally picking up the pieces. After being struck again and again, and bouncing back like a 'jack-in-the-box' we refuse to be treated like morons. We want answers.
  • How did the terrorists get inside these hotels? They came to India by sea. But the sea is away from the interior of the hotel. So how did the enter to wreak havoc? One of the terrorists has blurted out that they had booked into the Taj to store their ammunition. What happened to security? An airport screens bags and passengers all the way to the passenger's shoes and belts. So where was the slip up in this case?
  • Who is responsible for this mess and what will the government do to bring these miscreants to book?
  • Can someone guarantee that the captured and convicted terrorists at least this time will be dealt with immediately and not kept indefinitely in prison thus preventing a future hostage situation ?
  • What will the government do to protect us from future attacks? At least this time?
  • What will be done for police reform? Will the government protect those who protect us fearlessly?
  • Is the government strong enough to take a tough stance without worrying about political implications?
  • What will the government do to make us feel secure in our own city / country?
  • Why do our intelligence sources always say 'I told you so'! Who is preventing the flow of information?

As citizens, we demand to know, and we demand to see action. We have waited 15 years and now we are hurt, shaken and possibly stirred.

And while everyone talks about two iconic hotels that form the basis of India's affluent, I guess at least we, since neither the government nor the media wish to think about the numbers killed at the CST station, should give those people a moment of remembrance. Those deaths matter most to those families, since the cost of a meal at Tier one hotels is the monthly income of those families. They have lost breadwinners, families, households. They are Mumbai's poor. And they were sacrificed in drones. But who cares! Marie Antoinette moment? Yes indeed. Dear politicians, you just lost 50 members of your precious vote bank. At least you should care.....

The Disillusion

The blood stains have all been wiped away. The fires have been doused, only charred walls remain to remind us of the hurt, pain and agony we've suffered. The dead have reached peace but those left behind will need to hunt for peace for the rest of their lives. Politicians have provided terribly disgusting sound bites here and there, and the already disillusioned people are flabbergasted. Hitherto unknown celebrities want to 'burst into tears' and express their sorrow at the tragedy as long as a pouty picture of theirs will be published alongside. So called 'daredevil journalists' went ahead jeopardizing their lives and the rescue missions in an attempt to be a part of the action. Morbid indeed! In brazen acts of conscience-deprived politics, people are still fighting against the opposite political party, since polls are around the corner. And the poor common man on the street is feeling as scared, as insecure, as possible. Suddenly something akin to the 'Dark Ages' seems to have descended on us. We have no faith in the security system, no belief that the government will do something beyond political rhetoric, full belief that the terror attacks are a reality and can strike any time.

A terrorist is someone who is absolutely not amenable to thought, conscience or reason. He has no remorse or regret towards the mass murder he brings upon civilization. There is no use trying to reform such maniacs. The only way out is to prevent the mushrooming of such sociopaths. But you can be caught unawares once, twice maybe. But almost 20 times, in different parts of the country over the last 15 years? One must realize that before claiming that India is the next economic superpower, or a powerhouse of economic growth that would set the direction of world economy in the years to come, one must remember that no matter what the economic potential, no one invests in a war zone. What prosperity can you grant to a non-existent population? And what use is a government that can't protect its own population? Bashing the West and its stifling security policies is a favorite pastime in this part of the world. But at least post 9/11 touch wood, there have been no terror attacks there! In spite of scratching the wounds of the Islamic population in the Middle East. And here, we are a 'patient nation' who can and will put up with torture forever!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attack - What Mumbai feels

The attack has been thwarted. The sanitizing process of the Taj is on. Oberoi and Nariman operations are over. The full impact of the crippling attack is beginning to sink in. Mumbai has been hit.. Again... and in the worst way since ages. If one more person speaks about the 'resilience' and 'indomitable spirit' of my city, I am sure many of us would give that human being a slap on the face. The general mood in my city is one of despair and disgust. We are tired of being hit. We are tired of being taken for granted. We are tired of the inaction.

First - we are appalled at the shoddy infrastructure and equipment given to the police. My heart goes out to the fearless cops - many a time constables, who went with Lathis to counter AK 47 touting insane, conscience-less terrorists, unmindful of the consequences. The policemen have .303 rifles against machine guns. But the call of duty doesn't check for equipment and the men marched forth. Reminded me of our wars in the 1800s against the British - bows and arrows or swords against blazing guns. As a Mumbaikar, and I speak for all of us, we feel that before expecting the police to protect us, we would like to see the policemen better equipped. They too are human beings.

Second - we are appalled at the political apathy. Politicians politicizing such a grave situation, showing a lack of concern and unity in such a situation. Cliched statements using standard words like 'dastardly', 'heinous', 'barbaric' are surfacing over and over in the media, with such totally hollow, meaningless sentences being made by practically every politician. Some politicians are so brazen as to resort to election rhetoric in the midst of this crisis. 'We need not worry about those who have come through boat, but must worry about those who have come from vote.' - was one such horrifyingly brazen message during this time of crisis. As a Mumbaikar, I am flabbergasted, disgusted at such behavior.

But most importantly we thank the Commandos of the NSG, the army, the Marcos, the Air Force and the police for putting an end to this mayhem. Getting a fighter helicopter to hover over a congested residential area to air drop reinforcements, the commandos smoothly combing every floor and carrying out the rescue operations while minimizing, in fact totally avoiding civilian damage, the fearless cops responding to cries of help, and finally members of the law enforcement agencies performing the supreme sacrifice. What can I say. Thanks to them I can write this post feeling totally secure.

Tomorrow life will be back to normal. But the spirit of Mumbai has been shaken, but now, we will take no more. We no longer wish to be the calm, composed, all-enduring city to bear terror attack after terror attack with the patience of a grand mother. And now, we as Mumbaikars are angry, hurt and we demand answers and action.

Crises and Media - Part 2

'BREAKING NEWS'. Almost every statement becomes breaking news. Any statement - ratified or otherwise becomes breaking news. In the mad rush to be the first to bring news to the people, our newscasters broadcast anything and everything. Insensitive to the carnage at hand, with a mission to sensationalize everything they see.

Like I'd said before, why do we, the common people need to know full details including vantage points of the commandos in a rescue operation? I would exhort all news channel reporters to please read at least some spy novels by Ludlum or John Le Carre. That would suggest to them the degree of preparedness in terms of technology terrorists can get into. Forget sat phones. Everyone would have a cell phone. Is it difficult for an accomplice to send a message like ' Fourth floor - right corner'??? These news channels can be viewed all over the world, and the least the security forces can ask for, is the comfort of carrying out their operation in peace. But no. Our reporters treat a hostage situation like a Tamasha. They herd around the site of the attack and a handful of Rapid Action Force personnel are needed to control that crowd! Tomorrow, God forbid, if a stray bullet kills a journalist, there will be unending discussions on the callous behavior of security personnel!!!

Around noon yesterday news channels were blacked out here. There was a massive hue and cry on the same. Today's papers have carried a report on the same, wherein Ravi Singh, VP Cable Operators Distribution Union has said that this move was uncalled for, since the news channels were carrying vital information about hostages to their near and dear ones. He also said that the blackout was responsible for the rumors about renewed firing in other parts of Mumbai like CST and Marine Lines. As a resident aware of what was being broadcasted and what was actually happening, I would like to clarify that a couple of news channels went on air with the rumors and then the blackout was implemented. As for vital information to near and dear ones, save for a scrolling list of rescued hostages, there was no information forthcoming! Besides, what could they have relayed???? NSG didn't know the location of the hostages, how were these reporters to know? And messages from near and dear ones to the hostages? Hahaha, cable connections were cut in the hotels from the start of the operation.

So, the fact remains that media persons were out for their pound of flesh no matter what the cost. They wanted their face to be associated with gruesome images, heroic images, the cost to hostages and security personnel notwithstanding. Later in the evening, the Naval chief went on air to say that the terrorists had blackberries (d-uh, who doesn't these days???) and so they were constantly monitoring the media and perhaps media overexposure might have affected the mission. Vindication to my earlier post!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pakistan - our worthy neighbors

When was the last time we trusted Pakistan and they lived up to the trust? I can't remember a single instance. Lies, deceit and betrayal are almost second nature to the way that country deals with India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Every time India extended the olive branch, the tree was chopped down. And we have lost precious Jawans and army personnel while trying to counter the Pakistanis. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

We signed the Lahore bus pact and sent a friendly bus to Lahore. Then PM Vajpayee travelled to Pakistan. Musharraf visited India and took pictures with his wife against the backdrop of the Taj, and all the while silently a sinister terror plot was being hatched against India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Kargil. Infiltrators entered in hordes, captured major portions of Kashmir and jeopardized our sovereignty and all the while, we were believing the friendly gestures of our neighbors. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. We lost young men in the line of fire, and the infiltration was supported entirely by the Pakistani army. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Flight IC 814 was hijacked. A passenger was murdered. The hijackers demanded the release of Maulana Masood Azhar - a captured dreaded Pakistani terrorist. India negotiated, and finally gave in to the demands. Masood Azhar was a free man. He returned to Pakistan and started off with inflamed speeches against India, declaring Jihad on India. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. He floated the terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad which was responsible for the attacks on India's Parliament house in 2004. The terrorists were completely supported and funded by Pakistan. India's prestige and honor was challenged once again by Pakistan. Again we lost men to the Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Almost everyday families are attacked in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits have fled Srinagar ages ago and started life from scratch elsewhere, though they are free by constitutional rights to live in peace wherever they wish to in the country. Women raped, children killed indiscriminately by Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Impressionable Kashmiri youths are brainwashed on Pakistani training grounds and converted into terrorists - Fidayeen - suicide attackers. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

Mumbai was rocked by serial blasts in 1993. The perpetrators are hiding in Pakistan -say intelligence sources. Dawood Ibrahim, wanted for scores of underworld and terrorist activities in India, is in Pakistan - say intelligence sources. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation. Bomb blasts near the Taj Hotel in 2003, bomb blasts in trains in 2006 led to mass massacre of Indians. The attacks were all linked to Pakistani terrorists. Yet Pakistan is an honorable nation.

The current attacks on Mumbai - at the Taj, the Oberoi-Trident and Nariman house, sources claim, carry a Pakistani footprint. Pakistan vociferously denies any involvement. Because after all, Pakistan is an honorable nation.

The PM has asked the chief of the ISI to come to India to offer 'intelligence'. Maybe the welcome party must include the widows of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, top cops Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte and perhaps the loved ones of all those who have lost their lives in this attack. Since Pakistan is an honorable nation. And such a visit deserves such honor.....

Crises and Media - part 1

Crisis situations traditionally feed the continuous dope needed by the 24x7 news channels. You have daredevil reporters out on the streets covering the story 'in the line of fire'. Camera persons effortlessly zoom in and out of the actual site of action. Thanks to the all new powerful digital video cams of today' age, one can zoom up to a distance of over 100 meters even! So you have the journalists going non stop about the situation and lens-happy camera persons accentuating the stories with images. The result - UTTER IRRESPONSIBILITY.

I am sorry to be so blunt, but in the extreme enthusiasm to be the first to provide 'breaking news', people telecast images that showed commandos landing from helicopters, taking up positions and so on. Now, looking at the images, if I were around, I could have quite easily comprehended where they were landing and how they were moving. The terrorists are supposed to have satellite phones, and the mother ship that was hijacked is rumored to be very very well equipped. How long does it take to transmit information? In today's day and age, technology is so advanced and no one needs to be told that generally terrorists are wayyyyyyyyy ahead of the common man in terms of technology, and their crooked, deranged mind, operates in a sinister manner. So how difficult would it be to relay information to the terrorists, when it is clear that they are operating with cartloads of outside help???? And as citizens, why do we need to know inch by inch, what commandos are doing to save 200 lives? This is not a movie, 200+ commandos, army personnel and policemen are facing fire and grenades to save lives of civilians. And these are news channels, and not entertainment channels. But who cares!!! In spite of repeated appeals, the cameras never stopped. The result - during the crescendo of the rescue mission, all news channels were blacked out. Period.

The second pain - the reporters making their own conclusions and bannering those conclusions as 'breaking news'. For instance - one reporter was talking to the director of the NSG, Mr Dutta, on Thursday evening, who said that one terrorist at the Taj was injured and that the NSG was closing in. The reporter said, " So that means we have 2 terrorists captured alive." DNSG was quick to correct her saying, " We haven't captured the one at the Taj yet, but we hope to do so, soon". Within seconds, the news channel said - 'Breaking news - 2 terrorists captured alive'. This same second terrorist at the Taj kept up explosions and gunfire well into Friday afternoon and as I write this, there are reports of fresh violence from the Taj. Then in the extreme enthusiasm of being in the middle of the action - just as a commando operation was about to begin, one reporter caught hold of a passerby and asked him whether the operation has begun. The guy guffawed and said, "Mujhe kya maalum ???" and walked off. Perhaps most of these Indian reporters belive that they need to keep speaking non stop, describing the images one sees on their screens, as if the viewer is blind! or brainless. Unmindful of whether they make sense or otherwise, in order to prove their 'sincerity' in relaying the 'truth' they go on and on talking, making baseless guesses and speculating on the rescue tactics employed in the situation at hand. As a result the non stop chattering ends up getting on one's nerves. The reports keep swinging 'yes hostage, no hostage, mission over, mission underway', just because no one ratifies what one speaks. I have seen foreign media cover such crises and their reports cover direct accounts, analyses by experts, professors and policy makers in some cases, government officials and so on. Over here, never once has any reporter even provided an impassioned view about implications, methods, government actions and so on.

The third highly annoying part is the stupid questions part. Unmindful of the situation, some silly questions are - 'How do you feel about this whole mess?' I wish I could answer with a song - 'Time of my life'. Yesterday, when Ratan Tata, head of the Taj group fielded questions, he was asked a monetary evaluation of the extent of the damages and the amount he would spend on compensation for his staff. I was disgusted by the question, and I can only imagine the agony in Mr Tata's mind. Another stark case - One man was waiting for news about his brother at the Oberoi, and our reporter asked him how he was feeling. The poor chap could say nothing except a helpless 'What can I say'. I was told that on CNN a reporter accosted a passerby and asked - "When did Bombay become Mumbai?" If this was indeed true!!! Holy smokes!!! Another reporter catches a passerby who's walking, and asks him what he's doing. 'Walking', he says matter of factly.

The gross lack of responsibility in the media floats rumors, in a city already plagued by terror and uncertainty. The least the people with the power to reach a million others can do, would be to be responsible and try to help in solving the issue, and if they can't solve the issue, please stay away, and not complicate the lives of the law enforcement forces.

So while we have been watching this whole nefarious saga unfold, with the excitement and nervousness associated with a cricket match, the annoying chatar patar continues.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Is there peace anywhere? Or are there only pieces left to be picked up?

Hostages in The Taj, the Oberoi Trident and Nariman House in Mumbai. Gunfire and explosions at CST station, on roads and a hospital. The terror shows no signs of subsiding yet.

In Sri Lanka, fresh fights erupt between the government and the LTTE. More casualties. The situation hasn't calmed down in ages.

In DR Congo, historically animous Hutus and Tutsis are fighting again. God knows the numbers who will turn/die refugees.

Fresh attacks and fights in volatile Iraq. That place has not been peaceful in centuries!

Russia and Georgia are on a cold war over South Ossetia. When the cold war could get heated - who knows.

Iran conducted an exhibition of its nuclear prowess, while asserting that the technology is for civilian purposes only. Really? Who knows.

Inflation is terrrrrrrrrrribly high in Zimbabwe. The economy is still in shambles.

Kenya is still fighting over the botched elections.

American Economy is into recession.

Japan is already in recession - AGAIN.

And somewhere, Billy Joel sings....

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Mission Accomplished - for the terrorists that is...

A terror plan with global ramifications was hatched. The idea was to target scores of innocent civilians on Indian soil, but in key foreign tourist hubs, so that the carnage could be two-pronged. Disrupt Mumbai, while hurting the world. A Canadian newspaper has quoted a Canadian national who was in the Taj during this attack, saying that the terrorists selectively picked on Americans or Brits as their targets. The article further said that the Canadian's belongings were thoroughly searched to verify the fact that he was indeed a Canadian, and was let go. An Israeli soft spot - Nariman house was another target. Such 'islamic - historically' sensitive choices accentuate the conspiracy theory that there is a bigger, global, more sinister hand in this whole turn of events.

But look at what this attack has done. 125 people dead, and over 325 injured. Traffic was terribly thin all day. Schools, colleges were closed. Mumbai University cancelled all papers that were scheduled for today. Very few offices were open. Factories undoubtedly remained closed. Tourists hastily packed up, taking the first flight out of Mumbai, giving the whole Konkan coast holiday the boot. The one day India - England series has been truncated. (I am sure Kevin Pieterson is heaving a huge sigh of relief, since he is being spared the ignominy of losing in such a terribly embarrassing manner). The stock exchanges are closed. The Indian coffers have just been deprived of crores of rupees as revenue. The wariness of the global community towards India is slowly rising. If geographical regions were to be demarcated based on internal security levels, can India soon be joining the ranks of the Middle East? Morbid! And most importantly, the situation is still tense, with no fresh reports of the terror coming to an end. A handful of terrorists have managed to hold this city to ransom.

So while the rescue and elimination mission is still underway, as far as the terrorists are concerned - it is mission accomplished.

Mumbai Terrorized - the agony continues.....

The situation in Mumbai has unfolded a bit. At least now, we know something about the number of attacks and the locations of the attacks. The differences between yesterday's post and today's post clearly show how the informed guesses have metamorphosed over time. As of yesterday, there was news of explosions at some key locations like outside Metro Cinema, in the lobby of the Oberoi Trident and at the Taj Dome. But today, as it turns out, the hostage situation is of greater gravity. But what is even more worrying is the gross uncertainty. How many terrorists? How many hostages? Who are being held hostage? What are the terrorists' locations? What is their greater plan? How do we tackle such a situation. We know how to handle serial bomb blasts - search for bombs, diffuse them, alert people towards unattended things - end of story. But here, for the first time, we have a massive hostage situation - in not one but 3 places. The Taj, known for housing some of the most high powered business meetings and known to be the trave pitstop for most of the globe's celebrities when they visit Mumbai, The Oberoi Trident and Nariman house. What is the motive? Who are the targets? What do these people want? How many more are there? We can only speculate. As of now, the toll is 101 people comprising of 14 police personnel and 6 foreigners. Over 275 are injured. But since no one knows the exact location of these terrorists, one can't even say how long the carnage will last and how many more heads will roll.

But the fact remains that there is no cause so great as to demand the killing of innocents. The smiling pictures of the cowards on all newspapers is repulsive. How terribly insane can anyone get? And if they really feel that their cause is so strong, then why did they escape showing their backs? It is very easy to wreak havoc and run away. But cowards always take the easier route. It is very easy to put your tail between your legs and run away - like a jackal. But it takes courage to lead from the front. And courage comes when your cause is on the side of truth and is justified as being right. Courage comes when you are not afraid of the consequences to yourself, since you want a greater consequence for the greater good. Courage comes in the form of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, ACP Ashok Kamte and cop Vijay Salaskar. Courage is what is possessed by the police who boldly guide people out, make people duck, while themselves being unsure of messengers of death that can come out of nowhere. Courage is the fireman who hoists himself high up to douse a fire, with no bullet proof protection whatsoever, just because he wants to save the few caught up in the Taj Dome, without for a minute wondering whether the victims could indeed be the perpetrators. Without wondering whether the people stuck up there could be terrorists, who wouldn't for a minute flinch before downing a bullet through the fireman's skull. Courage comes in the form of the hotel staff, who tried to maintain calm amongst the hotel hostages by giving regular updates and directions on how to proceed, themselves unsure of which bullet would come whizzing by and deprive them of the chance to utter another word. Courage comes in the form of truth. Salaam Mumbai - once again.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terror in Mumbai - again

Terror hits Mumbai. AGAIN! As we speak. Bizarre! Gun firing and low intensity explosions. AGAIN!! The last time I checked, there were 5 instances, and now, as I write this, the count of attacks is 7. And still counting? I don't know. The attacks are at one of the most upmarket places in Mumbai - India rather. Shootings, explosions - typical of the barbaric acts of terrorism. To add on to the chaos, we have a hostage-like situation at the Taj, and there are terrorists inside the Cama hospital. At least 165 people are injured and the news is still coming in.

But as we speak this, the nagging question remains. A question for which there has been no answer. WHY? And WHY AGAIN AND AGAIN. We in Mumbai have the distinctive dishonor of having 'hosted' numerous terror attacks. Serial bomb blasts in theaters, crowded localities, the stock exchange, trains, trauma centers and so on. And now, in the Central Railway terminus and a number of key South Mumbai hotels. Why? What is anyone trying to prove? Does God welcome murderers and killers in through the pearly gates of paradise? Does providential justice never get dispensed? Do policemen not have families? Or are the lives of innocent people less important than religion or fanaticism? Why do we always resort to a reactive response to terrorism and internal security? Why do we always have news reports of disregarded intel coming in 3 days after a terror attack? Why only my city again and again?

They say that what cannot be cured, needs to be endured. So if we can't stop the terrorists, we look to the positive part of the city's spirit. We are now so attuned to a life of terror attacks that we treat every experience as a learning exercise, and treat the lost lives as an oblation to the anti-terror learning pyre. But we maintain that as a city we can never be cowed down. Tomorrow will be business as usual. A minute for the lost lives and then back to the jostling on the local train, the haggling with the rickshaw driver, the unending honking on roads that are perennially under construction. So, we hold the notoriety of having had the maximum number of terror attacks in an urban milieu, while priding ourselves on the fact that city is the epitome of Gandhian philosophy. If hit once, we show the other cheek and so on and on and on....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bail out to sail out....How much is too much?

Help!! SOS!!! Bail me out! These words resound all over the place. A month ago, the biggies of Investment Banking - Bear Stearns was the first to buckle. Then, Lehman, Merill Lynch and JP Morgan, saw the red. Black rock became DSP Black Rock. AIG was 'rescued'. Lehman became 'Nomura'. It was a massive bloodbath - so to say, with other global biggies clamoring to devour the spoils. There were talks of people wanting to purchase the hardware assets of Lehman - the servers, routers, cables, et al. Understandable, since IB needs a robust infrastructure, and so decidedly these 'assets' would fetch a lot more. Clearly that was true, since all said and done, these were tangible assets, unlike the banks' prized high priced assets called Collateralized Debt Obligation instruments - which actually brought about the mayhem. The economy showed signs of collapse, recession - of global proportions. The pillars of economic boom crumbled like a pack of cards. And before one could blink, the symbols of growth and economic prosperity were gone! At the threshold of B school, people dream of a job at Lehman or JPMC. And now, those entities are gone without a trace. The feeling is akin to that felt by one who flew out of NY on Sept 10, 2001 and came back on Sept 12, 2001.

So the banks are down and out, people are seeing the value of their real estate assets plummeting earthwards, the stock markets that hold a greater part of the Western World's hard earned money are going through negative uncharted territory, people are losing jobs, uncertainty prevails. Human nature - when it is uncertain whether I would have a job tomorrow, I wouldn't wish to go buy Jimmy Choos! Oh, well, I may wish, but I wouldn't get myself to go buy em! So no one wants to invest in investment bank funds and portfolios. They demand capital protection. They do not want 'negative' ROI - at least. So, when no one buys, who buys? Uncle SAM!!! The result - bailout packages for AIG, nationalization of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, 700 Billion dollars worth of taxpayers' money forms the Herculean backbone against which the crumbling pillars of the American (I'd rather say Western - Barclays was rescued as well) economy. Citigroup is the newest entrant into the 'Bhikmangoo' group, screaming, "Rescue me, I messed up!!" At the end of it all, it seems like Lehman and JPMC were not favored! But how long can the government condone 'overdrives', mismanagement and a gross lack of prudence?

Incidentally I seem to have overshot my credit card limit while I was busy being fascinated (read enchanted) by Louis Vuitton, and Jimmy Choo. Can the government bail me out as well? Please?