Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Value of Blood

The dreadful terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai has left everybody stunned and outraged. Immediately after the successful conclusion of the three-day operations against the terrorists, one could see waves of public anger against the political establishment and sympathy for those killed sweeping across the city. News channels made hay as they flashed pictures of the gun battles between the terrorists and the commandos and images of the Taj hotel burning continuously over days. Notwithstanding all the outrage both on the street and on TV, one could sense a certain apathy for human life coming through rather conspicuously as the debates and the public protests rage on. If this tragedy is a test of character for our politicians, our citizens and our journalistic media, they have all failed the test insofar that human life has not been treated with the respect that it deserves. The terror attacks on 26/11 has once again brought one fact to the fore - there is a definite disregard towards loss of human life in India in some form or the other.

There is one group of people we call the politicians who seem to have absolutely no empathy towards human suffering and loss of life. They are completely unconcerned as to who is getting killed so long as it is not themselves or their kin. Their appalling attitude often spills out through their words and actions, although inadvertently. Nothing epitomizes this fact more than the remarks of R R. Patil, the former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra on the Mumbai carnage. He said “these incidents are common in big cities. There is nothing to be worried about”. The then chief minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, went a step ahead of Patil in showing his disregard for all the people killed in the attacks. He went on a “sightseeing” tour inside the ravaged Taj hotel along with his son and one film director, that too in full view of the country.

The public and the journalistic media too have been guilty of being “selective” in their show of concern for victims of terrorist violence. During the latest terrorist attack in Mumbai, the majority of the television channels focused on the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels while very little space has been devoted to the massacre inside the CST railway station. It is as if the media is very much concerned at the loss of “elite” lives in 5-star hotels and is relatively apathetic about the death of tens of “not so important” people in the CST station. Images of people lighting candles near the Taj flooded our TV screens day after day but the scene at the CST was forgotten almost as soon as it was over. There have been a number of terrorist incidents in various cities in India in the recent past. However, the media fumbles in even recounting specific incidents. For example, in most of the TV programs on the issue, the deadly serial blasts that killed about a 100 people in Assam on September 30th were not even mentioned in the list of terror attacks. The legendary playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar, came out with a statement full of emotion that she cried a hundred times for the victims of the Mumbai attacks. But the rest of the statement revealed her true feelings. She said that after Jaipur, she had inkling that the next target would be Mumbai. She forgot all about the Assam blasts that took place shortly after the Jaipur blasts. This reveals her actual sensitivity towards human life. She apparently feels that human lives in smaller towns and cities have absolutely no value.

Today, India is faced with the threat of external terror in a big way. Yet, the shock and outrage of massacre of innocent civilians fade out with time each time. It has taken an attack on two five star hotels for the government and the people to realize that it is high time to act against the evil of terror. It is only after “5-star” blood has been spilt that the government has woken up from its slumber to rev up the security systems in the country. Is the value of the lives of the rich more than the common man? Are the people living in small towns more dispensable than those in metros? The government and the people need to heed these questions and ensure that they never crop up again. India cannot expect to protect its people from the scourge of terrorism unless it gives equal respect to the lives of all its citizens, irrespective of their class and region.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Doves to The Slaughter

Over seven years have passed since those catastrophic attacks on the WTC towers. The paranoia that the holocaust had created in its immediate aftermath has long faded from the minds and hearts of Americans as the seven subsequent terror-free years have instilled renewed confidence in the security systems of that country. Contrastingly though, in India, attack after attack on the land and the people has managed to keep the fear of insecurity alive and has reinforced the notion that human life in India is more dispensable than ever before.

The impunity with which a handful of gun-toting and grenade-hurling radicals wreaked havoc on some of the prime landmarks of Mumbai, the Taj Mahal hotel, the CST railway station and the Oberoi hotel has exposed India’s security preparedness in a very poor light before the world. It is a humiliation for the entire nation. How can a citizen of a small city or town feel safe when a few young men with perverted minds come ashore unhindered on a fishing trawler, barge into some of the most prestigious hotels of the country and hold the most prosperous area of India’s most prosperous city to ransom for three long days? Does India not have the capability to protect even the heart of its financial capital from terror? How can a few terrorists occupy a hotel room for days at end, fill it with guns, ammunition and grenades, evading suspicion of the hotel authorities and security agencies alike? How can a couple of terrorists manage to kill three top police officers in cold blood at one spot? How can a few gun-toting men barge into the best luxury hotels of the city and move about so freely within the interiors without facing any kind of resistance? Why did it take 24 hours for the government to decide that special security forces need to be deployed? The answers to many such questions will continue to elude the common man in Mumbai and rest of India as long as the powers that control the safety and security of the country do not think of the nation and its people as their own. Everyone realizes but nobody cares that this horrific assault on India’s dignity is also an attack on its rising economic stature. Love for one’s own land is a trait sadly missing from the political circles. Politicians are busy devising hundreds of dirty strategies to garner as many votes as possible while terrorists plot to wreak havoc on the laity. Mumbai has seen the worst terrorist attack ever seen in this country freezing the entire city and the country as a whole into a state of shock. Yet, some individuals of the government have been treating it as just a one-off event. The statements by the various political leaders are enough to disturb the equanimity of the calmest of persons. Maharashtra Home Minister, R. R. Patil, has stated dismissively that such “incidents” are unavoidable in big cities. He calmly goes on to say that the terrorists had planned to kill many more people than they actually succeeded in doing so. What he means to say by these statements is that (1) the government cannot do much to prevent such “day-to-day” attacks, and (2) since the terrorists managed to kill “only” about 200 people (instead of 5000), the situation does not warrant too much concern. In fact, the minister just stops short of saying that the entire outcry over the incident is totally unwarranted and that “everything is fine”. The Prime Minister’s national address, too, has done little to boost the confidence of even his staunchest fans. At a time when people expected the PM to be aggressive in his response to the attacks and to outline a bold plan to counter future terrorist invasions of the sort, all he did was to mutter a few clichés from the government policy books – statements that contained the usual platitudes such as “we will have zero tolerance towards terrorism”, “we will not let foreign forces destabilize our country”, “I convey my codolences”, “I strongly condemn these acts” etc etc. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s comments do not even credit a mention. The total indifference of the political establishment towards the sufferings of the victims and their relatives only goes to show how hard core these politicians can be. It is a blatant exhibition of their insensitivity towards loss of innocent human lives. Raj Thackeray and his lot, the so called protectors of Mumbai, are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they do not see too much political mileage in commenting on such incidents. The honorable president of India, Dr. Pratibha Patil had nothing more than a sermon to deliver in response to the dreadful attacks. She hummed a few philosophical phrases like “we should realize that violence is not right”, “peace is the essence of life” and lots of ridiculous phrases of the kind.

Notwithstanding the incompetence and apathy emerging from the political establishment, tales of heroism and unselfishness galore has gone a long way in restoring the dented pride of our nation. The selfless acts of courage by civilians to save their fellow men, the brave police officers who fell to enemy bullets, the death-defying commandos who laid down their lives for the greater cause will all be forever entrenched in the minds of all Mumbaikars and Indians alike. Politicians who have created created hell for fellow Indians in Mumbai for their own upliftment will have to think twice before calling any Mumbaikar a “North Indian”, “South Indian” etc. Certainly not after bravehearts like commando Gajendra Singh and Sandeep Unnikrishnan gave their lives for the cause of liberating Mumbai from the clutches of the terrorists.

Apart from the few bright spots of valor and selflessness, there is little else to rejoice over. The sense of fear and insecurity in the country is proliferating fast. It is beginning to become more and more evident that the people of India have handed over the reins of the country to a bunch of weak-kneed louts. The country is in dire need of a strong-willed and intensely patriotic leader. We cannot wait and watch as the government continues to frustrate and the country continues to bleed. We have become a nation of sitting ducks for any Tom, Dick and Harry to kill and destroy as and when they wish. Drastic policy amendments, proactive security measures, crushing of divisive politics are the need of the hour. How long can we hope to stay safe when an impotent government talks of peace with its inimical neighbors when these countries take advantage of India’s softness to inflict injury upon injury on its hapless people? Subservient diplomacy with Pakistan and Bangladesh will continue to cost India dear unless it takes swift and decisive steps to neutralize its enemies, wherever they may be. The government spends thousands of crores of taxpayers’ money every year to arm itself against foreign attacks but it has been woefully incapable of protecting its people from the proxy warfare of neighboring nations. What is the use of such expense if it cannot ensure the safety and security of its citizens even in the heart of big cities? Why should India be any different from the US when it comes to protecting the security of its people? If the US can strike at targets in foreign lands on the pretext of American security, why does India go weak in its knees at the prospect of confronting its enemies across the border?
India needs to wake up to its threats big time. Its people must rise above all petty insularities and divisions and work as a mass against all factious elements, both at home and abroad. History has proven time and again that disunity and ineptitude have been the constant reasons for India’s defeat at the hands of foreign forces over the centuries. Today, India is again on the ascendance. We are again confronted with foreign invaders whose sole objective is to cripple our economy and shatter our unity. This time, the people of India will have to ensure that History is not allowed to repeat itself.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Bankruptcy of Faith?

It is said that whenever the going gets tough, the tough get going. However, the adage seems to be struggling to retain its validity at the present moment with the juggernaut of the economic meltdown threatening to leave no tough ones standing. The financial crisis has slowly morphed into a crisis of faith. The big financial institutions of the world, the providers of solace and security in times of monetary distress, seem to be fighting a stiff battle to keep faith in their own selves. People are running scared of the very institutions that they had banked on to secure their future. So far, people have relied on rating agencies and audit reports to gauge the health of any particular banking company. However, the implosions of banks and finance companies boasting of sky high ratings and infallible track records have left the common man in a tizzy. Today, he just doesn’t know who to believe. Sudden collapse of mega finance companies have become almost the order of the day. Panic has set in like never before as people scurry to banks and ATMs to withdraw excess money for fear of losing their savings at one stroke.

The reason for all this panic and chaos can be attributed to one big flaw in the entire world financial system - lack of transparency, and that eternal vice - greed. As it is, customers and depositors have started questioning the methods applied by the banking and finance companies to increase their profits. Yet, there are no answers to many such questions. All that people get are sugar-coated media statements insisting that everything is rosy. Such statements, however, do little to assuage the fears in the minds of people who have so far trusted banks with their life savings. A gripping paranoia that a bank or a finance company may declare bankruptcy overnight has overcome the laity. Although this wave of fear and distrust has wrought maximum damage mainly on the institutions in the western world, trepidations of the same have crept into India and the rest of Asia as well. In India, ICICI bank has recently been the target of “malicious rumors” as depositors made bee lines at its ATMs and branches to retrieve their money. Subsequently, the ICICI bank management and the government regulatory authorities came out in defense of the bank assuring investors of the “robust” health of the bank. Nonetheless, investors are a wary lot nowadays, and it needs just one spark to trigger their paranoia into panic reactions. In fact, the more the banks try to reassure investors, the more deeply the suspicion of something fishy afoot sets in the minds of the customers. The need of the hour is for the institutions in question to come out in the open about their investments and leverages and lay all the facts of their accounts bare before the public. Until that happens, though, this all-pervasive fear psychosis will continue to haunt the minds of billions of depositors and investors and the bankruptcy of public faith may well translate into an economic apocalypse.

Assam - The Enemy Within

The series of bomb blasts in Assam on the black day of 30th October only reinforces one emotion in the heart of the man on the streets of Assam – fear. Innocent civilians have fallen prey to yet another wave of carnage and death perpetrated by the merchants of death. Terrorism seems to have become an inextricable part of our daily life. The most disconcerting part of the whole affair is that even the government machinery looks helpless in the matter. The Police appear to have resigned themselves to terror as a part of destiny that cannot be changed. The press conferences and expressions of condemnation by the various political leaders have done little to enhance the confidence of the people. The statements emanating out of the government chambers are beginning to sound more and more like perfunctory monotones rather than expressions of any real intent or determination. Does this then imply that we can do nothing but be sitting ducks as a bunch of perverted minds continue to plot and inflict pain and suffering on our land and people, as and when they choose to, that too with disdainful ease?

Notwithstanding the fact that terrorism is nothing new for the people of India, the terror problem in Assam is distinct from similar situations facing the rest of India. In Assam, the people are afraid of speaking out against the terror groups. This is because the common man is easy prey to and within easy reach of the home-grown terrorists, chief among them being the ULFA. Recent investigations have revealed that the ULFA has been providing active support to all the jihad groups in Bangladesh plotting to inflict pain and suffering on the people of Assam. The ULFA was and to some extent still is part of the Assamese society. The ULFA had started as a social reformist organization in the eighties. At that time, they were the darlings of the Assamese society. Social nuisances such as eve teasing, drug trafficking and alcohol addiction were the targets of ULFA wrath. As a result, Assamese society suddenly found a saviour in the ULFA in that the society was being rid of all the inherent evils and women found themselves safer in the cities and workplaces. Sadly though, all that is a far cry from the ULFA of today. They have long reneged from their original promises and instead started using their power for the fulfillment of their personal desires. They started collecting “protection money” from local people at gunpoint and used the money to buy more guns and ammunition. The top leaders of the ULFA sought safe haven in Bangladesh and Bhutan and continued to spread violence across Assam. Initially, the targets of ULFA aggression were the governmental security agencies. Gradually, however, they became more and more unscrupulous. They started planting bombs in public places and passenger trains. The principles of the ULFA reached their lowest point when they joined hands with anti-India forces in Bangladesh and began plotting the destruction of their own land and people. In fact, they provide support to terrorist groups from across the border (read Bangladesh and Pakistan) in killing Assamese people. The ULFA leaders in Bangladesh enjoy the full-fledged support of the government of that country. In return for these favors, ULFA continues to extort money from the businessmen and salaried people of Assam and uses that money partly for satisfaction of their worldly desires, partly for assisting the jehadi groups in Bangladesh plotting against India and partly for developmental works in Bangladesh. In fact, the ULFA has been forced to ignore the infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam for fear of irking the Bangladeshi government. This is the reason why the ULFA maintains a conspicuous silence whenever the issue of detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis from Assam comes into prominence. They want to maintain a façade of patriotism while plotting against their own people in collusion with foreign forces.

In Assam, the ULFA has indirectly become the protector of the Bangladeshi migrants. It is the indigenous people of Assam who have become the target of ULFA violence today. The ULFA cadres have absolutely no qualms in killing their own people. The common man is fully aware that the government security mechanisms are totally incapable when it comes to protecting the layman from the threat of extortion and terror from the ULFA. The paranoia is so pervasive in the state that even politicians, who hardly ever venture out of their security cordons are scared stiff of speaking out openly against the ULFA. None among the journalistic fraternity are brave enough to stand up against the ULFA. Societal elders tread with utmost reticence whenever they mention ULFA in their statements and speeches. As a result, the only words of resentment against the ULFA are spoken in whispers among close friends. Speaking against the ULFA to a stranger is fraught with danger, as the person being spoken to may well be an ULFA member himself. I have yet to come across one sentence of vehement condemnation of ULFA’s activities or one statement renouncing the terrorist group by any individual, be it from the political circle or from the journalistic media. Even the All Assam Students Union and other student organizations prefer to lambast the government than risk saying or writing anything remotely insinuating against the ULFA. It is this paranoia that the ULFA is taking full advantage of. Under the ostensible objective of creating an independent country out of Assam, the ULFA leaders lead a lavish life in Bangladesh and are contributing to the economic prosperity of that country with money forcibly extorted from the people of Assam. It has become very easy for the terror groups in Bangladesh to operate in Assam with the help of the ULFA who know the terrain and the hideouts in the state so well. While all this continues to happen, no Assamese worth his salt can defy the ULFA in spite of the fact that ninety nine percent of Assamese are alienated from the ULFA and its evil designs. The prime reason for this is that the common people, the journalistic media and the business establishments are helpless. They would rather stand and watch than risk their lives, and maybe rightly so. Businessmen prefer to shell out money to these mercenaries than face their wrath. What then is the solution to this endless scourge? A mass revolution? Possibly. People will have to discard their fear and move as a mass against these terrorists, primarily the ULFA, because it is the ULFA who is responsible for providing encouragement and support to all the foreign terror groups to wreak havoc on Assam and its people. They (the ULFA) have taken refuge in the very country (Bangladesh) which has been the parasite in Assam’s flesh for decades. ULFA should be treated as all traitors should – without mercy. We will have to root out the evil from amongst our own people before we can tackle the external forces.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Coronation of Hope

Change has come to America in a big way this winter. Barack Obama has finally scaled the pedestal of power that is perhaps the most coveted in the world – the Presidency of the USA. He brings with him the hopes of the people of America, hopes of restoration of the golden times that existed in America prior to the onset of the threat of the economic Armageddon that is staring the country in the face today. Obama’s historic accession to the country’s highest office perhaps heralds the beginning of a new era in America – an era of true equality and opportunity for all, the very prescripts upon which this great nation was born 232 years ago. Americans have shown tremendous character in rising above petty racial prejudices in following their hearts to choose what is right for their country. Barack Obama has achieved what many would have thought unthinkable, in fact impossible just a few months ago. A man shorn of parental care at an early age and brought up in a society where blacks have always had to struggle to stand shoulder to shoulder with their fairer counterparts, Obama’s speedy progress to become a senator to being nominated for the presidential race and finally to clinch the most coveted seat of power on the planet with overwhelming numbers is nothing short of surrealistic. It is truly refreshing to see a member of a community which has long been the pariah on the lists of the privileged and which has always been on the fringes of a society dominated by whites embed his place so firmly in the hearts of millions of Americans, black and white, young and old. The rapid progress of Obama from relative political obscurity to occupy the highest office of the world’s most powerful country is truly akin to the stuff fairy tales are made of. Obama’s achievement is a also a victory for the vigor and exuberance of youth, and for the millions of young Americans who feel that America needs the vivacity and boldness of youth to bail the country out of the crisis that it finds itself in. However, the loudest cheer for Obama will definitely emanate from the decrepit ghettos and gloomy alleyways of America where millions of black people still endure the throes of neglect even as the rest of the country moved forward. In Obama, these underprivileged millions will look to find a messiah for alleviation of the iniquity and despondency that their lives have been cast into.
Whether Obama can live up to the enormous expectations that he has been burdened with upon his accession as America’s most important individual remains to be seen. Whatever happens, his magical ascent to the top reinstates the cogency one fact beyond doubt – that no destination is unreachable and no obstacle insurmountable so long as strength of resolve and self belief prevail. Obama’s accomplishments will without doubt inspire many an individual to rise above all odds to make a mark in this world. Let us hope Obama continues on his wondrous journey and succeeds in rescuing America and the world from the economic maelstrom that has engulfed one and all. Let us hope that the blacks in America finally get their rightful place in the hearts and minds of mainstream Americans. After all, the world lives on hope, and in Obama America has found a new personification of the same. Hope is what Obama has brought to his nation, and the nation’s hopes are what he will have to fulfill in his sojourn as America’s first gentleman.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mumbai's Trial By Fire

In India, as perhaps in any other country, the inhabitants of any town, city or village are usually very proud of the culture and characteristics of the particular place of habitation. When viewed by a neutral observer, however, the same values that are loftily vaunted by the local residents may not appear that attractive, and rightly so. In this context, the super large cities (or metropolises) of India have unique characteristics of their own. Residents of each city proudly boast about the distinct cultures of their cities. Again, a dispassionate examination of these cultures may leave a lot to be desired and may also be mildly repulsive in certain cases. For example, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, and Bangalore have grown into great centres of cosmopolitan culture. Yet, most of these cities have some peculiar and inextricable characteristics that may put a new visitor in a state of unease on certain occasions. New Delhi is infamous for its notorious cabs and treacherous streets. Kolkata’s raw ethnicity may cause one to feel at sea. Chennai is known for its dislike of people unfamiliar with the local language and culture. Bangalore, too, has still not been able to totally rid itself of the ubiquitous ethnic flavor. That leaves us with just one more metropolis– Mumbai.

Without any disregard for the other great cities of India, Mumbai is distinctly disparate and with a unique charm of its own. It has that nondescript magnetism that has left many a visitor longing to return to the city over and over again. As I perceive it, the aspect about Mumbai that makes it so uniquely lovable is the amount of freedom it allows every person to spread his wings, live a life of his or her choice in the city. Mumbai is a city of the Mumbaikar, in every sense of the famous euphemism. It is not unusual for a newcomer to feel a bit edgy in an alien city but Mumbai is one city that makes you feel at home immediately with its air of friendliness and hospitality. Right from the moment a traveler lands in Mumbai, he or she gets taken in by the inescapable air of enchantment that pervades this great city, from the friendly cabbies to the hurrying masses, the unique local trains, the gaiety in the beaches, eateries and pubs. The city is so unobtrusive that it makes one feel at ease almost immediately. It is a celebration of life in its truest form. A resident of Mumbai has always been proud to be called a Mumbaikar. People living in the city have long forgotten their roots and have embraced the Mumbai way of life in its totality, in keeping with the immortal adage, “once a Mumbaikar, always a Mumbaikar”. It is virtually impossible for a Mumbaikar to imagine himself as anybody other than a part of the Mumbai culture, irrespective of his ancestral roots. Therefore, the recent violence in Mumbai on the lines of racial origin has come as a total shocker to one and all. Mumbaikars and tourists alike have been subject to a kind of apprehension and fear that is so very alien to this gregarious city. Mumbai has always stood up with remarkable defiance against all anti-social elements attempting to spoil its harmony and vivacity. Not even the deadly serial blasts and cataclysmic riots had succeeded in disrupting its rhythm for long. Today, Mumbai is facing a challenge of a different kind – a challenge from its own people. Racial demarcations hitherto unknown in this city are at this moment threatening to divide the city into insular pockets. The footfalls on the sidewalks are still as brisk as ever but somewhere deep in their minds, people are a bit apprehensive of what lies round the corner. Each Mumbaikar is now being reminded of his or her racial origins. The streets of the city have never been so treacherous as they are today. The minds of its citizens are being deluded into believing that not all people deserve equal treatment. In short, Mumbaikars are falling prey to politics of the ugliest kind without even being aware of what all this might lead to – destruction of the very fabric of the city. In spite of everything, I am confident that my Mumbai will ultimately emerge out of this examination as a much stronger and wiser city. It will take much more than a few deranged souls to undermine Mumbai’s resilience. The citizens of this great city will have to ensure that the spirit of freedom that has made Mumbai the most lovable city in India is protected. Should they fail, India will have lost more than a city. Mumbai symbolizes India’s exemplary success in preserving unity in diversity. Impairment of Mumbai’s culture in any way will mean decadence of that image, and the country will be that much the poorer for it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cartelization of Cricket

Cricket is no longer a game of bat and ball that is played for the sake of enjoyment and entertainment. Today, it is being transformed more and more into a game of money and politics. The game itself and the players are being relegated to the background. The controllers of the game, the ICC (International Cricket Council) has attained the status of not just a manager of cricketing affairs around the world but the very owners of the game itself. The players have been reduced to slaves of the governing bodies. They are not allowed to play in any other match or tournament which does not have the blessings of the ICC or the domestic cricket boards. Any player who dares to defy the ICC risks losing his right to play cricket for his country. The right of the game to spread and flourish is thus being held to ransom by the greed of a few individuals who may well have difficulty in spelling the name of the game, let alone play it. The bureoning parallel cricket body in India, the Indian Cricket League (or the ICL) is out to provide more opportunities for cricketers who have otherwise been given the cold shoulder by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India). The emergence of the ICL has caused a major flutter in the ranks of the BCCI and the ICC. The BCCI is already having nightmares of having to share the spoils of cricket extravaganzas with the ICL. It also means that the BCCI and the ICC can no longer sleep on their money and let the quality of player welfare languish as they are now. With competition from a second organization, the players will definitely prefer the organization which offers better pay packets and better welfare. In keeping up with such competition, the BCCI, which has so far been enjoying an unquestioned monopoly over cricketing affairs in India, may well find itself in a position where it has nobody left to control. This nightmarish vision has unnerved the BCCI and the ICC and propelled them into action. Through an autocratic decree, the BCCI in collusion with the ICC imposed a ban on all players playing for the ICL. In their desperation to protect their monetary control over cricket, the BCCI in collusion with the ICC is trying its level best to nip the ICL in the bud. It has even resorted to egregiously cheap tactics such as stopping the pensions of retired players who have joined the ICL. However unjustified it may sound, the ICC and the BCCI have been allowed to get away with their inequitable stance thus far.

Now, the flagrant politicisation of the game by the self styled "lords" of world and Indian cricket (read "ICC" and "BCCI") makes one ask a few pertinent questions. Should the ICC and the BCCI be allowed to get away with such unwarranted high-handedness for their selfish ends? Should the right t0 play cricket for one's country be the preserve of solely the affiliate boards of the ICC? Should not the players have the right to decide who they play under and still retain the right to play for their country? Is it the birthright of the BCCI to decide who is going to play for India and who isn't? I am sure that the ICC or the BCCI won't have any answers to these questions but to everybody else, the answers are very obvious and simple. It cannot be the prerogative of a single entity to control the laws and the future of a game. The game is much bigger than any individual or organization. Every organization and individual of this country and for that matter, any other country, has the right to contribute to the betterment of the game. The game cannot be slave to the whims and fancies of a few tight-fisted individuals. The objective of every game is to progress and to attain more and more popularity. To achieve this, it is essential that more and more cricket be played and more and more players be given the opportunity to blossom. So, rather than try to obstruct the progress of the ICL, the international cricket fraternity should welcome the creation of the ICL. In fact, more such organizations should be encouraged to come up. Alas, greed for money has muddied the game with subversive politics and unscrupulous individuals. As of now, it seems that the ICL will have to fight long and hard before it can earn its rightful place in the cricketing world. Of course, what is right will definitely prevail in the end, and when eventually that happens, and the ICL gets its due, more such organizations may come into the fray, and the game may finally be able to spread its wings lot faster than it is today.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Invigorating Debate

I must say I have been pretty exhilarated by the response and the debate that has been generated in the William Gibson Forum on the questions I had raised in my piece In Search of God. Some members have labeled my opinions as anti-science statements while one or two have acknowledged the validity of my perspective. However, the ‘anti-science’ allegation has set me thinking. It is indeed intriguing that man is always so devoted to whatever ideology he subscribes to, be it Science or God. It will not be too wrong to say that there are fanatics in both classes of humanity, insofar that a person belonging to one ideological cult is sure to react sharply at any mention of the other. However much a devout follower of science may harp about rationality and reason, he is equally fastidious in his stance of apostasy as is a religious extremist in his posture of theism. Fact is, neither has been able to prove the other completely wrong. Human science still hasn’t got to the bottom of human existence and custodians of religion continue to base their arguments on untenable theories. It seems that this journey has yet to traverse a fair distance before we can declare this universe as either theocratic or technocratic. Maybe, with the passage of time, Man will find a way to merge the two into co-existence.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sequel To The Meltdown

The pitfalls of living in a centralized global economic system cannot be overstated. America has been the pillar of world economy too much and for too long. Now that this pillar is about to crumble, it threatens to take the world along with it. Since the fall of Hitler and the creation of the UN, America has been the undisputed guardian of the world, both politically and economically. It has been continuously and stealthily tightening that grip over the years, not too much to the dismay or mortification of any particular nation except, maybe, the Soviet Union.
Americans have been known to possess a tremendous propensity to consume, a trait that has been to the advantage of every country having a trade relationship with the US. However, that relationship may have been carried a bit too far, from the looks of the situation today. America’s mindless policies are now threatening to gobble it up, and the rest of the world is precariously close to the edge of the whirlpool that has been created. Europe is paying the heaviest price for its economic subservience to the US. This means that a major part of the developed world is on the verge of imploding under the pressure of the US financial crisis.

Asian countries had long prided themselves to be insulated from economic disturbances in the US. India was the foremost member in that club. A country deemed structurally strong enough to fend off shock waves from across the Pacific. The Indian capital market bought into that perception lock stock and barrel, which is eminently evident from the distinct sense of dismissiveness that initially prevailed in the market even as ominous signs began to show up in the American and European economies. Soon, the tremors spread to the Indian economy. First, inflation went out of control. Then the Rupee dived into a bottomless pit. All the cockiness in the markets vanished overnight. Now, the Indian capital market seems even more fragile than its Asian counterparts, which is ironic in the sense that all the other economic powers in Asia such as China, Japan and Korea should be much more susceptible to an US slowdown given the magnitudes of their trades with the US as compared to India.

Truth is that the developing industrial nations of Asia too have long been the feeding ground for investors from supersaturated western economies. Thus, indirectly we too have been held to ransom by western, more specifically, American money. Now that cash has become the most scarce commodity in the US and Europe, it is but natural that foreign investors would like to encash their profits in the highly leveraged Asian markets, chief among them being the Indian market. Be that as it may, India and the rest of Asia will have to learn to live without the west. It is time Asian countries re-aligned themselves to cope with the new world economic order that is about to emerge in the aftermath of the collapse of the West.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

High Time Americans Came To Terms With Reality

I was watching the Suze Orman Show on CNBC last Sunday. It was just a chance viewing as I was browsing through the channels hoping to spend my time a bit more fruitfully. The show interested me a lot. Suze Orman is an American dial-in show where the host advises callers on the management of their financial resources. As the show progressed, there was one aspect in the contents of all the incoming calls that bewildered me.

All the callers who seemed to be quite smug about their financial status had in fact very little to show in terms of savings. Almost every caller wanted advice on spending amounts on something or the other that cost more than they are capable of paying or are precariously close to the limits. One caller was especially interesting. She (the caller) wanted to buy dog food for her pet doggie at a cost of $600 per month when she was actually spending less towards monthly payout for her car loan. On top of that, she had hardly any savings to justify that kind of expenditure. Suze sensibly disapproved of the idea but it definitely points to a kind of ignorance and nonchalance in American society towards financial security that seems to be the prime reason for the state the country is in now. It gives one the impression that Americans have come to know only one way of life – the prodigal. The faith and belief of the American people in the bountifulness and infallibility of the country’s economy has over the decades created a population of mindlessly splurging, happy-go-lucky citizens who are yet to grasp the real meaning and usefulness of financial security. The depression of the 30’s is nothing more than a fairy tale now. The unregulated housing finance system which gives out loans just on the basis of the perceived value of the property being bought without any regard to the fiscal health of the buyers only reflects the anarchy that had crept into the main street of American economy. It is not that writings were not on the wall before this cataclysm. There have been many instances of companies tampering with their financial reports to project a false image of monetary soundness until the ruse falls flat and suddenly the company goes bust. The Enron and Worldcom disasters should have been enough to jolt the Federal Government to act on the flaws in the financial system. On the contrary, the government chose to ignore these instances as mere aberrations and refused to take notice of the signs of the big bubble bursting.

Now that the damage has been done, the government has no other option but to place the taxpaying American’s money as mortgage in an attempt to pull the nation out of this patch of quicksand. If this attempt succeeds, the US will have breathed a huge sigh of relief for retrieving itself from the very jaws of a terrible depression. For it to succeed, the American people will have to show a lot more patriotism and come out in support of the very institutions that have fed their way of life all these years and show faith in their country’s economy more than ever. Because, if this therapy fails – well, we rather not talk about that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Osama the Economist?

Even as the US economy appears to be tumbling towards the dreadful precipice of recession, a most unlikely personality comes into the context. Osama bin Laden. Yes, the very man who had vowed to terrorise America to its very end. Let us go back in time by about three years. The junior Bush was vying for a second term in the White House. The war in Iraq and his prodigal policies at home seemed to have eroded his popularity irreparably at that time. Just when all seemed lost, George W Bush found an unexpected benefactor in none other than his greatest adversary, Osama. Osama released another of his famous videos threatening to disrupt the peace in America once again. The video release worked like magic for Bush. Somehow, the American people believed that George W Bush was the best possible leader to have when it came to confronting the malevolence of Osama and his armies. The tables turned. Bush's popularity ratings soared once again. Americans showed an obvious preference for security over financial health. Bush stunned everyone including his staunchest detractors by occupying the most important seat in the US for the second successive time. Secretly though, Bush must have thanked Osama in his mind for turning the tables so dramatically in his favor, that too in the nick of time.

Given that Americans changed their voting preferences in fear of Osama, a few questions inevitably pop up. Firstly, did Osama actually time his appearance on TV for the benefit of the younger Bush? If so, why? After a lot of pondering, I have come to the conclusion that the answer to the first question might be 'yes'. The answer to the second may be found in the answers to more of the same. Osama had vowed to destroy America. Yet he remained in the oblivion of his secluded hideout all these years with no sign of activity. Was he in fact betting on Bush to do the job for him? Did he actually take advantage of the American president's impulsiveness and propensity for destruction to use him as an instrument of America's ruination? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Osama has to be a great analyst, nay, an economist, to prophesise America's downfall so precisely from the policies of George W Bush. It may just be possible that, at this very moment, the elusive terror chief is laughing his head off at America's misery.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Search of God?

Almost surreptitiously, in one corner of the world, deep underneath the ground, a massive idea has been taking shape. Today, everybody knows about it. The Large Hadron Collider, the ultimate particle accelerator, will be the instrument in Man's attempt to unravel the mystery of this universe. On the 27 kilometer long accelerator, buried a hundred meters under the ground, rests the hopes of hundreds of scientists to achieve the unimaginable - to find the origin of all creations in this universe. The search ends in a particle that forms the core of all matter, a particle hitherto unseen and undetected by Man but one that has shown all indications of its existence. This particle, the Higgs Boson, named after 79 year old physicist Peter Higgs, also called the "God Particle" much to the chagrin of Higgs, who is a staunch atheist, promises to unravel the mystery of the birth of the cosmos. Detecting this particle as soon as it is born is the prime objective of the biggest experiment in particle physics till date. It is believed that this mysterious particle was given out a billionth of a billionth fraction of a second after the Big Bang that created the universe. So, it is during this infinitesimal time period that this particle, if it does exist, can be "seen" or detected. Scientists expect to recreate the conditions that existed during that flicker of a second after the Big Bang with the help of the Large Hadron Collider. Two beams of protons, accelerated to hitherto unknown speeds (almost equal to that of light) by means of powerful magnetic fields will be smashed against each other to release a scatter of subatomic particles among which might possibly be the elusive "God Particle". This particle, physicists believe, is the missing link in the Standard Particle Theory, the missing link between matter and mass. As Particle Physics has established, all known particles that constitute matter have no mass of their own. If discovered, mankind will have found a lot of answers to this vast, ever expanding cluster of masses in orchestrated motion we have come to know as the universe. Scientists round the world will be training their sights on the aftermath of the monumental collision inside the LHC through hundreds of detectors lining the walls of the accelerator in a hope of detecting the God of all particles. It might prove to be the turning point in modern scientific research.

Now the question arises - do we really want to find God, or even move forward in that direction? Although physicists are eager to find the root of all existence, I am not so sure mankind as a whole would be better off solving this particular riddle. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if some would be more scared of this than the prospect of possible black holes emerging in the aftermath of the collision. Among others, the two things that have held this world together for ages are faith and belief. Belief in the supreme designer and creator of all matter in existence - God. As the mysteries of the universe are explained more and more, the fascinations that have held mankind in awe of the universe and the Supreme Power behind it may gradually disintegrate. There may even come a time when religion and rituals may indeed become irrelevant. Of course, the evolution of a final theory explaining each and every aspect of this universe seems far, even improbable at this point but anything even close to that will be enough to loosen the leash of the Supreme Authority on this world. As a natural consequence, lines that divide good and evil, God and Satan, honesty and dishonesty, virtue and immorality may gradually fade into nothingness. Is mankind ready to live in a Godless universe? A million dollar question, if there ever was one.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is India Impotent or Waiting for D-day

Time and again, terrorists have targeted innocent civilians in India by blasting bombs at public places. The blasts in Delhi have made one thing very clear. Terrorists can bomb any place in India whenever they choose to. In spite of continued inhuman acts of destruction and death, the Indian government can do little but stand, watch and release press statements condemning the acts. These events are now turning out to be nothing more than opportunities for opposition political parties to lambast the government and fodder for television channels. The need of the hour is to formulate and develop a consensus on an effective terrorism policy to prevent further loss of innocent lives. However, it seems that human life in India comes too cheap. A few days of sensational news and debates on TV and a few statements of condolence and condemnation from the political fraternity are all that result from these heinous attacks on human life and property. A similar threat to lives of citizens in the US has prodded that country to virtually comb the planet in search of the terrorists. After 9/11 (New York) and 7/26 (London), there hasn't been one successful attempt by these die hard fanatics on the lives of citizens in the west. Whereas in India, there have been three successive serial blast events in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi and we are still content to sit and watch with our arms folded. It is not that the Indian govenment does not realize the fact that the root of all terrorism in India is in Pakistan and Bangladesh. What it lacks is sufficient courage and will to go after these fiends. The pretext of respect for international jurisdictions is now obsolete. If the US can go after its foes anywhere in the world, what's keeping India from blasting the terrorists out of their hideouts in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Maybe it's fear. Fear of China, fear of losing Bangladesh's duplicitous friendship or maybe just plain fear. Even after so much carnage imported from across the borders with its notorious neighbours, the Indian government does not have the guts to seal its borders completely. Even today, any person can walk across with nonchalance across the India-Bangladesh border and with a little bit more difficulty across the Indo-Pakistan border. The country needs a leader of iron will to take hard decisions to safeguard the lives of its citizens. At present though, there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe we are waiting for the D-day. Maybe, human life in India has just no value.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chinese Chicanery

Finally, after a real roller coaster of a journey, India has managed to squeeze the Nuclear deal through the ensemble of NSG member countries. However, the passage of the waiver bid would have been much smoother than the stumbling finish that was achieved had China not played major spoilsport in the whole process. China had indeed played out its role of a surreptitious and pernicious party crasher to the hilt, with a devious intent to derail India's foray into the Nuclear community. Unfortunately for China (and fortunately for India), all of its backdoor politics came to nought in the face of an overwhelming support from the rest of the NSG members, and especially due to counter diplomacy by the United States. That China has proven to be the most untrustworthy friend as far as India is concerned, has been established beyond an iota of doubt. Untrustworthy and dangerous. Behind their friendly exteriors, the Chinese leadership was most definitely seething at the prospect of India emerging as a major force in Asia, which is why they lobbied so desperately to garner opposition towards India's bid. Now that the inevitable has happened, the Chinese are least likely to sit on their haunches and watch India prosper. In fact, disconcerting sounds are already emanating from the den of the Dragon advocating a similar Nuclear deal for Pakistan. The Chinese foreign minister during his visit to India a couple of days ago innocently refuted all allegations of Chinese opposition to the NSG waiver for India. Appalling. What this means is that China has not regretted its actions. What this again means is that China is getting more and more dangerous for India. China now sees India as a major ally of the US, and it will do all it can to undermine India's preeminence in Asia and the world. If that means empowering Pakistan with more Nuclear capabilities, so be it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

is the ULFA in Slumber or Just Plain Scared??

Even as the people of Assam are gearing up to have another go at the menacing problem of illegal infiltration across the border from Bangladesh, there is one group that has been very conspicuous by its absence in the whole build up that is happening in the state. The group in question is none other than the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam). The self styled "protectors" of the Assamese people are nowhere to be seen or heard at a time when the Assamese citizens are unanimous in their demand for an Assam free from the burden of illegal foreign migrants. It is indeed a big surprise. Where has all the patriotism in the ULFA gone? Where are our "brave soldiers" in our hour of need? Where are the guys who rant about Assam being only for the Assamese? Are they in a deep, convenient slumber? or are they infuriated that the Assamese people are up in arms against their brethren, the Bangladeshis? Are they too ashamed to speak now that their lie has been exposed? These are some questions that the ULFA can never find any answers to. Because the ULFA is well aware of the fact that if they utter even one word in support of the anti-infiltration movement, the Bangladesh government may boot them out of that country, stripping them of their homes, businesses et al. So, they are intelligent enough to realize that it is in their best interests to keep quiet and enjoy life with the money "collected" from Assam. The problems of Assam and its people can wait. Patriots indeed!! If at all they have any feelings that resemble patriotism, those feelings are for Bangladesh and the Bangladeshis living in Assam. They do not give a damn whether Assam lives or dies, so long as they continue to live, that too at our expense.

Assam - The Second Coming

There is something very interesting brewing in far flung Assam, in the North-East region of India. The perrenial issue of illegal infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals across the long, porous and thinly guarded Indo-Bangladesh border or more appropriately, the Assam-Bangladesh border into Assam is raising its head again. This looks to be the second coming of the AASU (All Assam Students Union) under whose leadership the first edition of the anti-Bangladeshi agitation took place. Although, this time too the AASU is in the forefront of the agitation, the nature of the movement that is silently simmering within the state is significantly different from the revolution that took place between 1979 to 1985. This time there is a distinct method to the whole process of protest as against the fractious and hyper-emotional surge in the 80's. This time, there has been a conscious effort to garner support from all sections of society living within the state, including even Bangladeshis who have migrated to Assam before the cut off year of 1971. What's more encouraging is that it is working. Bangladeshi muslims who had come to Assam before 1971 have openly come in support of the movement to deport post-1971 migrants. Again, this time round, the AASU has taken the ethnic tribes and tribal organizations into confidence in formulating every step of the movement. Even like minded political parties have been taken into the fold. These pragmatic measures have given this particular agitation a potential to attain a more redoubtable stature than any that have preceded it. The AASU has shown tremendous maturity and intelligence in dealing with the whole situation and my hat off to them for that. The present Congress-led Assam government, headed by Tarun Gogoi, has often been accused of protecting the interests of the foreign nationals from Bangladesh in return for votes. There have even been reports of the government agencies facilitating issuance of citizenship certificates to the foreign nationals in an attempt to create 'blocks' of guaranteed votes in the state. Now is the time for the Congress party to disprove these allegations. It is a golden opportunity for the government to prove its patriotism by joining hands with the AASU and its affiliates in formulating and implementing a foolproof plan for detection and deportation of all illegal migrants post 1971. If the government turns away from this situation now, the Congress party will surely be branded as a party of traitors in the eyes of the people of Assam. I am sure they do not want that to happen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Burning Valley

"A spark is enough to start a huge fire". Nothing perhaps has been more closer to this adage than the recent train of events in Indian side of Kashmir. What started off as a dispute over an ancient piece of land has snowballed into a major controversy; a controversy that is threatening to shake the very roots of India's integrity. Kashmir is surely afire, and how. To an observer from outside, any instability in Kashmir has always been viewed as the handiwork of Pakistan sponsored militants. This conception has been very true in most cases. This time round, however, the situation seems to be of a vastly different nature. The fast accelerating wave of protest around the state has seen the involvement of the common man like never before. People are out on the streets in their hundreds and are unfazed by the presence of gun toting security forces who have been authorised to use force if deemed necessary. Now, this is something that even the government may not ave been prepared for - a people's uprising. History has proven time and again that mass movements have not only been difficult but impossible to suppress. The Indian government has to act fast before the current protests gain more momentum. Because, the more these protests continue, the more public support they are going to garner and the more distant the Indian government will go from the minds of the Kashmiri people. Already, important public voices are beginning to speak out for the cause of the Kashmiris. Omar Abdullah and Arundhati Roy have even advocated independence for the Kashmiris. We may yet see History unfold in the valley, one way or the other.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Fall of a Dictator - Boon to Mankind

The exit of Pervez Musharraf from Pakistan politics is not only a relief for the people of Pakistan but it is an equal blessing for the world as a whole. It is no secret that Pakistan is the haven for all the terrorists of this planet. Musharraf has been the godfather of all these home bred as well as fugitive criminals who think of nothing but perpetrating violence and bloodshed in the world. Musharraf has finally got his due. He has been unceremoniously booted out of his seat of power. But I feel that he has been given far less than he deserved. He is the man behind terrorist activities in Pakistan (including the assasination of Benazir Bhutto) and India. He is one dictator who will continue to be dangerous as long as he is alive. Even the US, who has been his cautious friend, have shirked him now. I just hope he doesn't get an opportunity to carry on with his evil agenda from his next abode (wherever that is).

This Airline Suckksss!!!!

I have had a terrible experience flying aboard a JetLite aircraft from Visakhapatnam to Mumbai.I just cannot imagine the mindsets of these airline fellows. The aircraft is so stuufy that anybody can develop claustrophobia in it. The leg room between the seats is no more than than 7 inches. Within that space you will have to adjust yourself whenever the person sitting in front of you decides to recline his seat. I can assure you, you can smell the hair oil on his head if he does so. The quality of the food is next to horrible. There is nothing to read except the safety manuals and an advertisement magazine published by the airline company. The air stewards are fully aware of the shoddy conditions inside the aircraft. That is the reason that there are no feedback forms on board. At the end of the three hour long flight, I was glad to get out in fresh air.
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Bolt From The Blue and The King of The Blue

I feel very privileged to be alive in an era when the 29th Olympiad is taking place in Beijing. I feel honoured to be witness to the feats of two of the greatest sporting icons, not only in the modern era but maybe for years to come. The feats of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps in the month of August 2008 will forever be entrenched in my mind. Usain Bolt was simply a bolt from the blue for all the viewers and competitors alike. The way he streaked away from the rest of the pack was truly superhuman. And unbelievably unselfish. He wasn't thinking of the world record while he was running. All he wanted to enure was that he was in front. The moment he realised that he was way, way in front, he started celebrating even before he reached the finish line. Unbelievable. Had he not relaxed at that moment and had maintained the same speed upto the finish line, he would have clocked something like 9.60 secs. My hat off to a superb athlete.

What Usain Bolt has achieved has been matched equally, if not bettered by another incredible athlete, Michael Phelps. Phelps has simply toyed with the rest of the opposition all through this Olympics. To challenge the feat of a legendary swimmer like Mark Spitz and live up to it is nothing short of superhuman. What makes his achievement even more amazing is the fact that he hardly had to sweat for it. It was almost too simple for him. He has won 8 golds when a big country like India is struggling to get 2. For me he is the Olympian of all Olympians, the God of the pool, the king of the blue.

It is just difficult to imagine how much a human being is capable of. Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps has shown the world that Superman is real.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

USA up to dirty tricks again

It seems like George Bush (the junior version, of course) cannot get enough of poking into other countries' affairs. The disturbing state of affairs in Georgia mut certainly be the result of the US using that country as a shoulder to point a gun at Russia. This explains the deafening silence maintained by the US for so long after Russia invaded Georgia. Meanwhile, the Georgian president, who dared to take on Russia expecting to have the political and military support of US, was in for a rude shock when the US looked the other way until the war had done most of the destruction. What the naive Georgian president had not realised is that he had fallen prey to another of US' unscrupulous ploys. Certainly US does not want Russia to dominate Eastern Europe but since its mischievious plans to undermine Russia's military capabilities lie exposed, it felt that not interfering in the Georgia-Russia conflict would serve two purposes - one, the US will be able to justify its missile defence plans in Eastern Europe to its non-puppet allies such as France. Two, the more the destruction of Georgia, the more business for American companies in its reconstruction. As far as loss of innocent lives is concerned, Bush doesn't give a damn as long as Americans are safe. I just hope the Georgians are clever enough to see through this devious plan.

DD Sports is the SHAME of India

I feel like personally visiting the top boss of our very own Doordarshan and congratulate him for somehow managing to make the great Olympic games look like some kind of local village games. Every day, I turn on the TV expecting to see some kind of standard in the coverage by DD Sports but I am thoroughly disappointed every time. The hosts on the show are completely lack-lustre and do not seem to care a damn what viewers think. Today, the male host (Mr. whatsissname) was continuously referring to Novak Djokovic as "Yankovic". What's more, he looked very pleased with his "performance". I felt like kicking the TV screen. Then, every time the telecast is transferred from the TV studio to the stadium, there is no commentary for about 10 minutes, leaving me wondering what the hell is going on. Suddenly, a voice comes on. No, it is not the commentator. It is somebody talking on the phone to someone. He was completely oblivious (or just didn't care) that his conversation was being heard on the air by ALL OF INDIA. By the way, this is the fourth or fifth occasion this has happened. On two occasions, I had no choice but to hear out the entire conversation. On the other three or four occasions, the TV studio was kind enough to cut off the audio midway during the chit-chat. Doordarshan is making a mockery of the telecast of such an important event. Does being a government organisation mean that you can get away with just about anything? I think, it is time that this channel woke up t the fact that t is the worst presented channel in India today and still falling downward. Is somebody listening?

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...