Sunday, October 25, 2009

9/11: The Untold Truth

Close to a decade has elapsed since we witnessed those incredible visuals on TV of the twin towers in New York crashing down to earth. The henchmen involved in the attack have been taken for dead in the suicide attacks, save for their masters, long believed to be the hard-core Islamic terrorist organization, Al Qaeda and the man supposed to be at its helm, Osama Bin Laden. At the time the FBI declared Bin Laden as the mastermind of the carnage, their were more than a few skeptics with eyebrows raised in incredulity, and not unnaturally, at the deduction of the investigative agencies. It was simply hard to digest the fact that a few men hiding in the desolate mountainous terrains of an equally desolate country could gain access to the resources that were employed in the highly sophisticated operation. Anyway, the conclusion was arrived at, and accepted by the world at large, and gave the Americans the license to run over any part of the world where they felt the ‘suspects’ were holed up. Two wars and a lot of destruction and death followed. The American government rode on the world-wide sympathy wave that the 9/11 attacks evoked, and began to visualize Al Qaeda and Bin Laden in every place they coveted, but could not have otherwise invaded.

With the American citizen suitably pacified, the UN conveniently subjugated and the rest of the world persuaded to ‘see’ the American point of view, the world moved on. Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantamo Bay and all those weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq have all but faded from the senses and sensibilities of everybody except those caught in those dreaded areas, when a whole new version of 9/11 has sprung up in the news space and the internet. This time it is a theory that is more credible and more in consonance with the train of events before, during and after the 9/11 attacks. An article by Sean McBride (the author is a discussant in newsgroups investigating CIA involvement in drug-trade), “9 11: A Mossad False Flag Operation” that is all over the internet has injected new life into the 9/11 saga. According to this theory, the whole 9/11 operation was planned and conducted by the powerful Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, in collusion with high profile Jewish personalities in the US and the CIA. The most sensational revelation of all is that George W Bush himself was privy to the whole operation much before its execution. The article states that Osama Bin Laden is a high profile Mossad agent who was used in the guise of an Al Qaeda Jehadist, a perfect cover for the Mossad and their American confederates. The startling revelations continue to flow as the document states that the abductors on board the hijacked planes were recruited by Bin Laden for the job of just hijacking the planes, NOT FOR FLYING THEM. In fact, the hijackers were not even aware that they have been sent to their death on a suicide mission. The planes were directed by remote control from the ground into predetermined floors on both the towers of the WTC where special thermal explosives (to intensify the heat produced in an explosion) were already planted beforehand. This surely explains the precision with which the planes struck the towers. Controlling aircraft from the ground is nothing new for the Israelis and the Americans.

The Mossad angle of 9/11 fits in very nicely with a number of other facts that have relation to the event. Firstly, none of the planners or perpetrators of the ghastly attacks were ever caught post 9/11. Secondly, the then US President, Bush, showed no surprise on receiving the news of the attacks (very reminiscent of the lack of surprise on Indira Gandhi’s countenance when she was informed of Sanjay Gandhi’s death in an accident). Secondly, the US government seems to be deliberately toning down the importance of capturing Osama Bin Laden by labeling him a “pesky parasite”, a climb-down from the days immediately after 9/11, when he was declared Mr Satan. In fact, George Bush has publicly exhorted the American people to “forget” about Bin Laden. So, did Bush want the American people to forget the 9/11 attacks as just another “event”? Or, was the capture of Bin Laden about to bring forth dangerous revelations of the role of the US government and the CIA in the whole affair? Thirdly, the attackers made sure that no Jewish person was killed in the attack, although it later emerged that one Jewish person was killed among the hundreds that perished. One Jewish company shifted its offices from the WTC just ONE DAY before the attacks. All Israelis were informed of the attack through the internet TWO HOURS before it actually happened. Fourthly, and not the least of them all, hundreds of Israelis were seen celebrating on rooftops in New York City immediately after the attacks were carried out.

It is certainly no secret that the Jews unofficially control America, and it is no secret either that many of the top personalities in the US administration are of Jewish origin. Some of these personalities are definitely sympathetic to the Zionist agendas of the Mossad and other ruthless Jewish ethnic groups in Israel and the US. An operation of the scale and ruthlessness of 9/11 is definitely not beyond these people.

Now, the question that pops up is not whether this theory of involvement of the Mossad and the Israelis and the American presidential forces in the 9/11 affair is true or not. The question is, what if it is? The way the American government is repeatedly attempting to erase the memories of the event from public memory and the way the American investigative agencies are making all out efforts to scuttle any suspicion in the established and accepted theory of the 9/11 conspiracy, it certainly reeks of some rotten business afoot. There is hardly any doubt that, if proven, this theory would not only turn the common perception of the 9/11 attacks upside down, in addition to spelling doom for George W Bush and his cronies, but would also make an irreparable dent in America’s image in the world. However, if left under the carpet, such truths are going to cause more pain for the American people in the not-too-distant future. Americans have to come to terms with the hard truth that their security is being threatened not by a group of Islamists living in caves in some remote corner of the planet but by some of their very own in whom they have entrusted the safety of their loved ones.

The Peace Nobel: A Decadence of Nobility?

Consistency is not an attribute that can be strictly associated with all human beings, however emancipated those human beings may be. Whatever is noble can never be guaranteed to get nobler or, at the least, to stay as noble. It is unfortunate that the nobility of the Nobel Prize for Peace has been the latest victim of this fickle trait. There is no doubting the fact that puzzling rationale has often been applied in the selection of awardees for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, the choice of Barack Obama for the 2009 award surpasses many a farcical selection.

Barack Obama was rightly and pleasantly surprised (‘astonished’ might be more apposite) to have found himself a Nobel awardee one fine morning. The arguments of the Nobel committee in favor of the strange decision have been based on the premise that Obama has taken ‘decisive’ steps in the direction of attaining world peace. A hardly cogent argument that, considering that Obama is yet an infant in the field of world politics, still in search of his first major achievement in any direction. There is no doubting the nobility of Obama’s intentions, which are amply reflected in his honest and eloquent oratory, but noble intentions alone do not a peaceful world make, and that is one fact that should not have escaped the members of the Nobel Prize committee. On the one hand, elaborate (although utterly unconvincing) reasons have been put forward over the years for excluding Mahatma Gandhi from the list of awardees while on the other, specious arguments (again thoroughly unconvincing) have been made to suffice to award the prize to a person whose role model is none other than the great Mahatma. It is almost akin to awarding a gold medal to a player even before he or she has even played the game. It is difficult to imagine, even by stretching one’s imagination to its wildest limits, that Obama’s gesture of halting the European Missile Defence programme and a few speeches elucidating the need for communal harmony are greater than Gandhiji’s four-decade long, non-violent struggle for freedom from the autocratic and racist rule of the British. One is inclined to think that the 2009 awardee has been arrived upon either in a moment of insanity or with a thought to ingratiate the powerful head of a powerful state.

For long, the Nobel Prize has been considered the ultimate award for supreme human intellectual achievement. The award has attained its stature not because of its name or its value but because of its history of fairness and impartiality. The Nobel committees have to keep in mind the huge responsibility of preserving the nobility and stature of the award in making their decisions. In awarding a Nobel to a person just on the basis of his stature or popularity without any regard to his actual accomplishments will irreparably undermine the grandeur of the award. Flippant decisions on the part of a few frivolous minds were certainly not the purport that the great founder of this great award had in mind.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gandhi's India - A Vision Distorted

Visuals flashing across news channels today reminded me and many other Indians that the time has come once again to spare a moment of our lives to reminisce over the greatness of the Father of The Nation. As I watched the ceremonial homage being paid to the Mahatma by the various political leaders and their well-rehearsed speeches in praise of Bapu’s principles and values, I found myself unable yet again to ward off strong thoughts of cynicism from intruding inexorably into my mind. The bevy of political bigwigs making a beeline at Raj Ghat looked so much like a shameless exhibition of hypocrisy that the solemn occasion lost all its austerity in my eyes. Mahatma Gandhi gave himself up for the cause of an India free from the reins of imperialism. That he achieved his dream of living in an Independent India, that too without having to indulge in or abet any form of violence was an incredible feat in itself; a feat that should have heralded the beginning of a new India built on the foundation of the very values that secured its independence. Half a century on, the picture that independent India presents to the world is not one the great Mahatma would have envisaged. In spite of all the brouhaha over the surge in economic prosperity, a truer picture would be that of a rotting core lacquered with the glitz of development of an elite minority. The values of a country, which was borne of non-violence and unity in diversity, are being continually eroded by the unscrupulous and the ruthless. Politics and governance are steeped in crime and corruption like never before. Human life has never been so dispensable; religion and caste never so segregated; leaders never so insensate to the sufferings of the laity.

India has always been the source of great spiritual thought, starting from Gautama Buddha to Mahatma Gandhi (and many more in between). Barack Obama’s open admiration of Mahatma Gandhi and his principles bear ample evidence of the fact that the message of the Father of our nation is still alive in this world. Yet, the same noble values emanating from India that have been embraced and appreciated all over the world have been lost on the people of India itself. Today, truthfulness and honesty are regarded to be the assets of the timid. Non-violence is a principle that adorns the nostalgic discussions of people in the throes of their advancing years. Even the most optimistic of Indians will find it extremely hard to disagree that, peering through the flimsy veil of prosperity, one can see an India that is being continuously eaten away by a parasitic system. Selfishness, greed and complacency among the powers-that-be and the helplessness of the common man doesn’t augur well for the country’s future.

Mahatma Gandhi today is no more than a block of stone, a wall hanging or a statue of a stooping old man, a thing of display rather than of any relevance. The ostentatious show of remembrance and homage on this day every year is nothing short of mockery of everything that Mahatma Gandhi stood for. If only statues could weep, we would have seen quite a few droplets trickle down those stone-cold cheeks already.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Dutiful Is The Rain?

The rain Gods are no longer as benevolent as they have been for India. The writing is large and ominous on the wall. India can no longer afford to lie back and hope that the clouds from the South West will come knocking at our doors on the dot, year after year. El Nino is one explanation for the aberration this year, but there are sure to be other reasons that may crop up in the future for Mother Nature’s inability to quench our thirst. Politically appropriate statements from ministers and statistical jugglery from the meteorological department have never done anything, or are ever likely to do much to assuage the despair and despondence of the millions of Indians whose very survival depends upon the timely arrival of the rains. Agriculture is the very foundation upon which the economic and social well being of the entire country rests. To allow this foundation to be held ransom to the Monsoon winds, which are threatening to be more whimsical than ever, would be the undoing of this country. If there is one thing that needs to change with the metamorphosis of India from being a languishing third world country to one of rising global stature, it is our dependence on the mercies of nature for our daily bread. It is high time that erudite deliberations and histrionic political resolutions be speedily converted into effectual action. India cannot afford to ignore this disappointing Monsoon as a one off event. As long as industrialization persists on this earth without sufficient regard to environmental balances, global climatic conditions are only expected to worsen. And one of the biggest victims of such degradation of our environment will certainly be India. As international diplomacies would have it, a consensus and a resolute will to combat climate change at the expense of industrial development, especially on the part of the developed economies (the US of A being the leader of the pack), seems remote at this point of time. As such, India will have to develop its own means of protecting itself from sure economic crises in the inevitable event of the Monsoon rains misbehaving on a regular basis in the not-too-distant future.

Question is, do we have the will to secure our country from being converted to an arid waste in the future? Do we have the resolve to ensure the basic need of man – drinking water – for all Indians? Tough as these questions are, tougher still is the search for the answers. Yet, the task at hand is nowhere nigh impossible. India is a not a land starved of water, notwithstanding the fact that most of the water is still out of reach of the masses. The numerous rivers with their voluminous flows criss-cross the length and breadth of the country, but we are yet to find ways to harness their immense potential. The country waits in eager anticipation for the onset of the rainy season, and despair at its reluctance to move forward. Yet, when the rains do come in spate, we find ourselves in distress, unable to convert the surfeit of heavenly discharge to our advantage. Damming of river-water and harvesting of rain-water are two straight solutions to all our problems. Still, we continue to drag our feet in even taking the first step towards embarking upon the gargantuan task.

It is time we stopped looking heavenwards every summer for deliverance from the impending spectre of drought and starvation. It is time we started looking earthwards for ways and means to obviate situations of the kind. After all, even heaven cannot help those who cannot help themselves.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Panacea For The Soul

What does one do at the end of a fruitless day, inconsequential and mundane; when one is in the company of none but solitude, enveloped by the monotonous silence of mute confines; when one has to strive hard to prevent his or her spirits from being dragged down under a quilt of gloom. Moments like these can be frequent, yet always unwanted visitors in one’s existence. When I have had the misfortune be in the throes of such torment, my mind always sought refuge in the ever-faithful realm of music to battle my blues. Western slow rock and country music has always been very close to my heart but the lyrical gems of Hindi film music are in a league of their own, and the one can never be compared in relation to the other. I can never tire of listening to my favorite Hindi mp3 music on my laptop – a collection of priceless melodies from the days of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. It is amazing how the sublime poetic thoughts of the seventies and eighties, which was, without doubt, the golden age of Hindi film music, rendered timeless by enthralling scores and the magic vocals of great bards of romance, mirth and melancholy never fail to touch the deepest chords of emotion in my heart. Today, the air was replete with the kind of feeling that made me long for some soul stirring, dreamy, magical melody. The kind of music so soothing to the soul, the lyrics so touching and the vocals so passionate that a better cure for a despondent mind is yet to be known,

Dekha Hain Zindagi Ko
Kuch Itna Kareeb Se
Chehre Tamam Lagne Lage
Ae Ajeeb Se……

Kishore Kumar’s plaintive voice bores into your heart as his emotive intonation of a poet’s emotion engulfs the senses. The mind bonds seamlessly with the tunes and severs itself from the unfeeling world of reality. My soul gets inebriated with the soothing touch of the mellifluous verse; I can go on listening forever. The stream of melody continues to flow with yet another classic number,

Kya Khabar Kya Pata
Kya Khushi Hain Gham Hain Kya
Leke Asoon Jo Hasi De
Gham Ke Badle Jo Khushi De
Raaz Ye Jaana Usi Ne
Zindagi Kya Hain Zindagi……

And another,

Pyaar Hi Jeene Ki Soorat Hain
Sabse Badi Zaroorat Hain
Pyar Se Kya Darna…

And another,

Koi Hota Jisko Apna
Hum Apna Kehlete Yaaron
Paas Nahin Toh Door Hi Hota
Lekin Koi Mera Apna…

As Kishore’s dulcet rendition faded gently away, the silken voice of Lata Mangeshkar wafted into my being with all the tenderness of an angelic touch,

Rajnigandha Phool Tumhari
Mehke Mere Jeevan Mein
Yuhin Mehke Preet Piya Ki
Mere Anuragi Man Mein

The rhythmic cadence of unadulterated melody caressed the weary senses and made my mind drift into a sweet reverie. At the end of it, as I inevitably awoke to the somber environs of my dispassionate dwelling, which seemed even more so after my dreamy journey through the surreal world of soulful melody, I was filled with a feeling akin to bereavement from a loved one. Every time I let my mind swing to these captivating lyrics ensconced in lilting music, my mind yearns for more. Surely, this cannot be too different from the pleasures of heaven.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Sibal Revolution - Blessing or Curse?

Kapil Sibal seems to have embarked upon a route that might change the face of Indian education forever. On the face of it, the new reforms do promise relief for young minds stressed with the ever increasing burden of expectation and the pressure to perform. It will certainly ease the trepidations on an exam day and on the dreaded day of results. As it is, the race for higher percentages has already begun to undermine the actual purport of knowledge acquisition. The minimalization of the importance of the class X exams, the first big test in a kid's life, and the clubbing of percentages under the broader system of grades will go a long way in alleviating the pressures of modern-day education as also in preventing students from getting into an ugly rat race of marks.

Notwithstanding its obvious advantages, Sibal's innovative new reforms does have their flip side as well. There is hardly any doubt that, along with the moderation of stress, the fire of competition too would cool down significantly. As a consequence, the motivation to climb the pedestal of academic success in schools and colleges would mellow down considerably as the pedestal itself would be removed from the system. This may, to some extent, pose some difficulty in extricating the specks of brilliance within a sea of average to mediocre talent. However, no system can be severed of its innate weaknesses, and Sibal's scheme is no different in that respect. It is only a walk down that road that will reveal it true efficacy, or, for that matter, its inadequacy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Bigger They Are.......

As I watched the delirious celebrations of the English Cricket team after it outlasted the Australian team to win the Ashes, a certain amount of vicarious pleasure buoyed my spirits as well. Strangely, though, I also felt an unusual sense of pity for the Australian team members. The heady days of Australian dominance when they battered the wits out of every team on the planet are yet to fade from memory even as the team stood with forlorn faces staring at the excruciating result of a series that was purported to be one of sweet revenge. The arrogance and conceit that had made Australia the Bete Noire of world cricket with that undisputed aura of invincibility have suddenly been ground to dust. Ricky Ponting’s men looked just so vulnerable in defeat that pity was but a natural and spontaneous emotion that welled up in me at that moment. The Australian game of aggression, intimidation and mental disintegration had claimed many a foe with uncanny precision, and an innocuous English team was yet the softer of the many targets they have had the pleasure of impaling in their impeccable history of conquests galore. As the series gathered momentum, the Australians turned on the heat on their seemingly hapless counterparts, both on and off the field. Yet, wonder of wonders, they could do little to dampen England’s inexorable march towards destiny. The fear of failure dogged the great Australians more than the underdogs, and the desperation that is borne of such fear has, more often than not, presaged the fall of many a Goliath.

Life is indeed a great leveler, and cricket, in many ways embodies that great quality in its truest form. No team, no individual, has ever succeeded in rising higher in stature than the game itself. The Australians have chosen to learn the lesson the hard way. In spite of all its failings, we may yet see the great team rise from the ashes to mesmerize the world once again, but sans the traits that led to its fall, one prays.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Incorrigibles - Here They Go Again

No sooner had I got over my sordid musings about racists and racism by venting them out in this space (“The Color of Equality”, 14th August), I am confronted with more of the same. The news of Shah Rukh Khan being detained and questioned on suspicion of being a terrorist by the Newark police for two hours flashed disturbingly across TV channels in India. I am no great fan of SRK’s acting abilities nor have I been influenced in any degree by his charismatic sway over the masses. Yet, I found the news disquieting. It is just that the egregiousness of intent on the part of the American security staff is so starkly visible in the episode. The bristles from the impudent behavior of the staff of United Airlines’ flight to Newark towards our former president, Dr. Abdul Kalam are still fresh in the mind of every proud Indian when this new tale of White American arrogance made the headlines. Both the instances of effrontery were cleverly camouflaged under the pretext of “national security guidelines”, which gives the American security agencies the Carte Blanche to infringe upon the privacy, self-esteem and modesty of any individual on the planet. Strangely, however, no white man has ever had to undergo the humiliation of questioning and detention under the same security guidelines. The dignity and privacy of white people are considered sacrosanct and as such, cannot be defiled. Case in point is the guy (Mr Walker) caught in action fighting for the Taliban against the American forces during the post 9/11 war in Afghanistan. Even as thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters captured during the war were sent to Guantanamo Bay and other such inhuman confinements, Walker was sent home to his parents for “reform and rehabilitation”. The American security agencies did not have the heart to put Mr Walker through the same barbaric torture processes that are the order of the day for all non-white prisoners. The same “flexibility” in the security guidelines were not deemed necessary to be exercised in the case of well known Indian personalities such as Dr. Abdul Kalam and SRK. This is the newest form of racism, subtle and effective, that Americans, and many other white nations, have been taking recourse to, of late, to give vent to some of their pent up feelings against Asians, and Indians in particular.

The solution to such attitude lies in adopting one ourselves. If we can’t win them, we join them. Talking of security requirements, what is stopping the Indian government from putting Americans visiting India through similar security checks in the interest of national security? Are Americans considered above board so far as involvement in terrorist activities are concerned? Are terrorism and barbarity the sole preserves of non-white races? Is not the CIA responsible for much turmoil in many a foreign land? India has a culture laden with politeness, kindness, compassion and many such virtues that sometimes tend to weaken our resolve to act with professional toughness, especially when dealing with white westerners, who always seem to get away with wielding an aura of exclusivity that prevents us from even looking at them suspiciously, leave alone asking insinuating questions of them. Maybe time has come for Indians to change their attitude with the times. After all, India’s national security is no less important to us than America’s is to Americans. If that’s the game they are going to play, we must be good at it too.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bridled Independence

As an Indian, the completion of the sixty-second year of my country’s Independence evokes in me a mixture of emotions. The country has indeed moved on. From being an underdeveloped nation with an uncertain future, India today has risen in stature to be one of the powers to be reckoned with on the world stage. Industry and intellect have combined to transform a country of hope into one of fiery ambition to be a major protagonist in the affairs of the continent. Yet, I say a mixture of emotions because in spite of all the achievements over the last six decades, the nation hasn’t moved as far forward as is desirable. We have certainly freed ourselves from the reins of a foreign monarchy, but can we say that we are independent in the true sense of the term? How can a country gain Independence if it is still hopelessly dependent on the following?

DIRTY POLITICS: The biggest scourge of the country yet. Politics in its ugliest form has continuously deprived the laity of its fair share of education, nutrition, equality of religion and caste, freedom of speech and even the right to life and property at times. The poor are being trampled upon for the gains of a mighty few. How long will the politics of flagrant inequity rule our land?

CORRUPTION: The Late Rajiv Gandhi confessed that ninety five paise out of every one Rupee sanctioned for the needy is lost on the way due to corruption in the system. How long will it take to turn that same statistic upside down?

MONSOON: Every year we look up to the rain gods to save our economy from destruction. Just how long will this country be at the mercy of the monsoon clouds?

USA: Even today, we cannot dare to make a move against our cross-border enemies without the approval of the United States. We have to think a thousand times before we can develop our nuclear arsenal, lest we offend the Global Cop that is the USA. We dare not express our friendship for our natural and traditional friends such as Iran because such countries are on USA’s list of enemies.

CHINA: We cannot dream of speaking ill of China in spite of its excesses in Tibet and its incursions into Indian territory because China is one of our chief trade partners, in addition to it being a massive military power. Are we ever going to be free of China’s military and economic hegemony?

OBSESSION FOR ALL THINGS WESTERN: We continue to be attracted to anything with a western hue, so much so that we have developed a deep-rooted inferiority complex for western people, western merchandise and their lifestyles. As a consequence, we have ended up being copycats rather than aspiring to be trendsetters. How long is it going to take for us to be unshackled of our subservience towards all things western?

Are we ready to fight another war of Independence to rid ourselves of all the vices and evils that shackle us even today? If the answer to this question is anything other than an imperative YES, India’s dream of becoming an economic superpower will drift farther away than ever. Complacency will yet be the curse of the nation if it does not wake up to its deficiencies with utmost urgency. If and when that does come about, Independence will have arrived in its truest form.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Color of Equality

Close to two decades have elapsed since Apartheid was officially pronounced dead in South Africa. People of the planet rejoiced at the advent into this world of secularity and equality in the fullest sense. However, many wondered whether a political resolution and a declaration on paper would have sufficed to cleanse the evil of racial prejudice from the hearts and minds of countless people who believed themselves to be “better” creations of God thus far. As is evident from incidents reported with increasing frequency from various corners of the “white” world, racism is far from dead. It continues to thrive and prosper in the minds of fair-skinned egotists who still believe that the color of the skin supersedes every other quality in a human being. Even the most powerful of people are not secure from this deep-rooted evil. The case of US president Barack Obama is worthy of note in this regard. Obama minced no words in his criticism of a certain police officer who humiliated a well known Black professor by arresting him for some offence without any evidence. Obama rightly accused the officer of being racially prejudiced in the incident. The incident would have evoked reactions in support of the president’s emotions in any other country, maybe even in America, had the victim been a member of the more privileged White community. However, Americans were vociferous in their expression of sympathy for the “unfair” chastisement of a police officer who was merely doing his “duty”. Certain sections of the political class started out on a mission of revenge against Obama. Suddenly, a person no less than the President of the United States was confronted with vitriolic attacks from all quarters. Questions have been raised over the authenticity of his birth certificate. The “avengers” claimed that Obama was not born in America and as such, he automatically forfeits his right to occupy the office of the President of US of A. No doubt, the matter will be settled in favor of the President in the end, but it is hard to ignore the undertones of racial arrogance in the whole affair. This incident is only one among thousands that occur every day, in which humanity and human values continue to be desecrated by die-hard sadists who owe allegiance to the cult of racism. The recent attacks on Indians in Australia are just another case in point.

Racism has officially been denounced across the globe but it continues to exist and thrive in the minds of thousands as a morphed version of the original that is equally pernicious to the peace and harmony among fellow human beings. Such unholy prejudices can be effectually expunged from the human world if, and only if, coming generations of humans are bred in a culture of equality, goodwill and togetherness in the true sense of the terms. Easier said than done. Genetic evils do not disappear with the swish of a wand. It may take a few more generations and many more crusades before the superiority of color becomes a thing of the past. For the time being, however, colored people living and working with their white brethren will have to live with the fact that equality comes in various shades, and theirs is the lesser one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Travesty of Divine Justice?

I woke up to a dreary morning in the small town of Kakinada on the eastern coast of India. Everything this morning held up the promise of a Sunday not unlike any other in the recent past. I had an appointment to keep at a give-away function organized by my company for the distribution of free food packets to HIV infected children from nearby villages; an event that hardly conjured up any prospect to enthuse my spirits. However, I conscientiously regarded it my duty to be present at the function as I am one of the contributors to the fund that supports these children. With these thoughts of dutifulness and an inflated sense of nobility firmly ensconced in my mind, I set out for my destination with my friend and colleague, C N Wong. On our arrival at the site of the function, my spirits were bogged down even more at the sight of the dilapidated building and the gloomy confines in which the function was to be held.
However, when we finally emerged out into the open after more than two hours of the function, my mind lingered on in that dingy room; 0n the faces of the children and their parents and in the whole unfortunate situation that destiny has cast them into. I had expected to see a whole bunch of morose children with despondent countenances that implored for rescue from their state of misery. Such a sight might have justified the images that I had harbored in my mind. But what I saw and experienced was totally the contrary. As soon as we entered the room, we were greeted by sounds of excitement and chirpy laughter of a group of children in their early childhood, blissfully unaware of the dark uncertainty that has come upon their lives through a cruel quirk of fate. The way the little children pranced and jumped about in excitement as they played various games or the pure cheer on their faces when they were presented with gifts were sights that moved me deeply. They reminded me of my own fun-filled childhood days. All my sense of false nobility at my contribution for the well-being of these children evaporated in an instant, only to be replaced by a feeling of helplessness that filled my being at my inability to do more to retain the cheer in the minds and beings of these innocent souls for as long they desire; to defeat the forces of nature that are threatening to deprive them of a life as full of happiness and prosperity as any other child in this world deserves to have. The gay abandon, cheer and excitement with which the children talked, laughed and played only accentuated my feeling of sadness for their plight.

I cannot claim to be a die-hard follower of religion and all its associated rituals, but I have always had an unshakeable faith in Divine justice. Yet, I have always found it hard to justify certain events such as the cruel deaths of innocent children in riots, robberies, terrorist acts and accidents. Today, the sight of these innocent children being cruelly incarcerated in the clutches of fate revived in me my frustrations at the apparent inequity of Divine justice, and left me searching for answers to my perennially unanswered questions yet again. I can only hope that I will find satisfactory answers to my questions during my lifetime, and hope that, someday, the sight of the godly, uninhibited cheer in the faces of children will cease to be marred by the cruel machinations of fate.

I returned from the function with my mind a bit more burdened with thoughts of the incurable miseries of this world but certainly more enriched than when I set out. It has been a Sunday I will remember for some time to come.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Michael Jackson – Poesy of Innocence

The news of Michael Jackson’s death struck me like a bolt of lightning. To many, the happening has been a virtual non-event; but somehow, the whole journey of the enigmatic personality from his death to his funeral has been one fraught with poignancy for me.

As stories of Jackson’s life flashed incessantly on television, I wallowed in a pleasurable wave of nostalgia. Images of Michael Jackson’s dominance of the 1984 Grammy Awards flashed across my mind. I recalled my brother and I watching the nominations of the awards on Doordarshan late into the night on our portable black-and-white TV. At that time, music in video form was at its infancy and watching Michael Jackson performing in “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” on video was a heady visual delight. Memories of pavement slabs getting illuminated at his every step in the video “Billie Jean” remain etched in my mind to this day. We were truly fascinated by this slightly built, cute Black boy with his natural dance movements setting the screen alight. That day, Michael Jackson ignited in us a love for western music that was to stay in us forever. I am sure that there are many more like us who were charmed into addiction for western music that night.

Over the years, our admiration for the immense musical talent of Jackson diminished somewhat, maybe because we could not find the same rapturous delight in his later creations, although I must say that even his worst musical piece is better than most of the music of today. The “Thriller” album was so sublime in its musical and lyrical value that all the songs that came after that seemed to pale in comparison. Actually, songs like “Bad” and “Human Nature”, which I did not feel were up to the Jackson standard at that time, compares with some of the best non-Jacksonian compositions I have ever heard and watched.

However, notwithstanding the peerless musical and fleet footed genius that Michael Jackson was, it was the character of the man which has always fascinated me and was something I found to be most adorable. Michael Jackson was clearly in love with his childhood. We all are, in one way or the other, but Jackson chose bravely not to let go of it till the end. Even at the age of 50, the freshness of childlike innocence was markedly impressed on his visage. This might explain his obsession for the company of children and his fascination of fairy tales, playgrounds and all things that we loved as children. Jackson believed in following his heart as long as he lived. But the canons of human society demanded that he be an adult like everybody else, be a celebrity sex symbol and flaunt his private life for the consumption of the press and the public. The world would just not let him follow a life of his choice. Rumors of child molestation, questions ranging from the changing color of his skin to his plastic surgeries to his sexual propensities flooded the media in an attempt to goad him out of his confines. Yet, he chose to live in a world of his own, away from the glare of the public. He did not even bother to refute or comment on all the cruel rumors that threatened to trample his individuality and reputation into pulp. Instead, he withdrew more and more into his shell, revealing himself in all his innate brilliance only on stage. Towards the end, he was continually fighting a losing battle against his loneliness, his fears and insecurities and most of all, his failing health. Jackson did not seem to have any strength left to fight all the insidious forces of the world around him.

To his faithful fans, and to the more empathetic eye, Jackson’s innocence and simplicity were never ever in doubt. To all of them (including myself), Michael Jackson had a heart of gold, ever giving, never asking for anything in return. He was a man enraptured by his love for music and the fairy tale world of children. He just wanted to drown himself in his own, quaint universe and lose himself completely in it. His sole recourse from the woes of life was music and the stage. His human frailties, his childlike innocence and his love for dance and music shone through in his songs and videos. He did not deserve the cruelty meted out to him by certain sections of the media and the public while he was alive. Hopefully, they will realize their folly now that Jackson is no more. Maybe, these people just do not deserve to be mentioned in the same phrase as Jackson. Maybe, the world and the society of today do not deserve Michael Jackson’s greatness any more.

I will never ever forget the images of Jackson rehearsing for his marathon comeback show just a couple of days before his death. I was just amazed that he managed to look so enthusiastic and energetic on stage at a time when he was supposed to be in the worst state of health in his life. Indeed, Michael Jackson was no ordinary human being. He was simply God’s gift to the world of music. His passing away surely marks the end of a golden era of pop music, melody and dance. But, in my mind, Michael Jackson and his music will live forever, as he will in the minds of multitudes across the world. Rarely has anybody been such an embodiment of gift and virtue as was this incredible genius called Michael Joseph Jackson. Long Live The King of Pop.

Michael Jackson – Poesy of Innocence

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Sounds of Pure Gold. Whither Art Thou?

Lookin' back on how it was
In years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad
So much has changed.

It was songs of love that
I would sing to then
And I'd memorize each word
Those old melodies
Still sound so good to me
As they melt the years away.

All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry.
Just like before
It's yesterday once more

On a lazy Sunday, my mind lilted pleasurably to the haunting strains of “Yesterday Once More” by “The Carpenters”. This song never fails to transport me into my past and linger in my sweetest memories, very akin to a freewheeler inebriated in ade. Unfailingly, my nostalgia was stirred once again and it spurred me further on my journey into the bygone days as I dug out melody after melody from my MP3 album and soaked in the emotive notes of my favorite numbers once again. Soon, “yesterday Once More” gave way to “Always Somewhere” by “The Scorpions”, my all time favorite band. Next on the list was “Sutter’s Mill” by “Dan fogelberg”. Amazingly, this song invokes in me the same intensity of pleasure and emotion every time I listen to it. Every time, it transports my mind to America and the Wild, Wild West where cowboys scrambled and fought for their share of the gold nuggets lying hidden among the pebbles on the river beds. This also reminded me of the many fascinating cowboy adventures I had read in comic books during my childhood. Wild Bill Hickock, Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Roy Rogers, The Pinkertons and many other characters from the cowboy comics flashed into my mind. Even as the strains of “Sutter’s Mill” wafted my mind over the ranches, the saloons and the Apache ridden valleys of Cowboy land, the next number on my playlist jolted me back into reality. It was a loud modern number with all the characteristics of discordant lyrics and notes that today’s music has come to represent. I was in no mood to let my mind be dragged back into the crassness of modern pop. I quickly jumped to my next favorite oldie, “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper. I continued to bask in a wonderland of my own as the stream of the glory and mellifluousness from the past continued to pour in to stir and gratify my weary senses. The plaintive tunes of “Soldier of Fortune” by Deep Purple, the rocking lyrics of “living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, visions of the beautiful countryside in Lobo’s “You and Me and a Dog named Boo”, the lovelorn voice of Smokie in “Living Next Door to Alice”, pictures of a quaint country life by Glen Campbell in “Rhinestone Cowboy”, the glorious music and lyrics of “With or Without You” by the incomparable U2, the supreme melody of the Bee Gees in “How Deep is Your Love”, the rocking love ballad “Waiting for A Girl Like You” by “Foreigner” and many such songs took me on a pleasure trip to the surreal land of dreams.

Music has been always regarded as perhaps the most effective balm for a stressed mind. It soothes the senses and helps us forget all the worries of life during those few melodious moments. However, I find that most of the music of today lacks the smoothness and lyrical value of the music of earlier years. Today’s music is more a staccato version of the lyrical composition which fails to evoke any kind of pleasure or imagination in the mind. It is quite possible that I have lost tune with the fast changing times, but I still feel that my disinclination for modern-day music is borne more out of paucity of real quality than any petty prejudice. Perhaps, in an age of television wars, it has become imperative to lend more and more visual value to the songs even at a cost to the musical and lyrical content. Choreography and cinematography are of the essence today as opposed to the flowing and melodious music of the past. It is a big irony that music in this day and age is no longer a solace for the stressed mind. It has become a symbol of the loud and the boisterous mood of city life. This is perhaps the noisiest and most disjointed phase in the history of western music. All is not lost however. There are some singers and bands that still would not compromise the essence of music for the sake of slapstick video effects. Bands like U2 and Backstreet Boys, solo singers such as Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Madonna and a few others still regard the content and musical value of songs above all other considerations. But these are few and far in between. We can only hope that this age of noise comes to an end sooner rather than later, and everybody can again swing to the tunes of soul-clasping, mind-swinging music. Just as Karen Carpenter so beautifully sings -

……Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they'd gone
But they're back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they're startin' to sing
So fine…….

Monday, February 23, 2009

Beware of The Slumdogs

The massive success of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” at the Oscars has proven one point beyond doubt – India’s potential to rise like a colossus on the world scene can never be overestimated. Certain personalities of no meager eminence (I would prefer to call them shortsighted cynics) in the country have been quick to label the movie as a blatant exhibition of the muck that pervades Indian society. Superficially viewed, all these people may have a valid point, based on the flimsy logic that such a portrayal may undermine India’s progressive image in the world. Here, I am tempted to quote Shakespeare,maybe a touch incongruously – “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. Indians have to look at this picture of India through the eyes of the world. One has to understand that such a portrait, even if accepted as a deplorable-but-true depiction of India’s current social fabric, will also go a long way in showcasing India’s latent energies to the world. Although it would be irrational to discount the existence of persons and personalities outside India who would unthinkingly grab this instance as an opportunity to satiate their innate contempt for India’s inexorable march on the road of progress, only the greatest fool can afford to relax in that moment of mirth. The wise men of the world are well aware of the fact that the real future of India is pent up and raring to burst from amongst these teeming millions. These are the very people who have the potential to change the face of India and the world, forever. India is currently growing at the rate of seven percent every year. Yet, its average literacy rate is 60 % compared to a similar country like China which has a literacy rate of above 90 %. India’s per capita income is just above the 1000 dollar mark while the average Chinese earns at thrice the rate of an average Indian. Still, India’s economy is already showing signs of forging ahead of most developing countries in the world. Now, given the state of proliferation of education and basic facilities in India, that is not just amazing but unbelievable. One can imagine just how many bright and enterprising minds still remain out of reach of basic facilities and education It doesn’t require a great mathematician to calculate just how much India would progress once its literacy rate matches that of, say, China. What would happen to the competition when facilities and resources that only a small minority of privileged and emancipated enjoys are spread out to the remotest areas of the country? Not for nothing is India considered by the wise as the sleeping giant of world economy. Slowly but surely, the giant seems to be rising from its long slumber. The world would do well to see through the picture than at it. “Slumdog Millionaire” epitomizes the energy, the confidence and the verve of the common Indian who dwells in those dingy back-alleys, shanties and far-flung hamlets to prove something to the world - that impossible is not a word that is found in India. This is one phoenix that is raring to rise, and long before the world even realizes the magnitude of this upsurge, it will be a billion Indians who will be doing all the laughing. So, World, beware of the Slumdogs!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Reign of Black Gold

It was one of my numerous trips to an offshore rig drilling for oil in a vast watery wilderness far, far away from the humdrum of the world. The rig floor rumbled with activity as the Travelling Block moved up and down. The drillers, the roughnecks and the roustabouts strained themselves to enable steady progress of the operation. My shift was yet to start and I had come up on the heli-deck for a breath of fresh air. In spite of spending close to eighteen years doing the same job, I never cease to wonder at the sheer crudity of operations on an oil rig. Notwithstanding all the effort put in by the crew round the clock, there is no certainty that our efforts are going to bear fruit, that is, it is still impossible to prove the presence of oil inside the earth until we actually get to it. If one traces mankind’s footsteps over the past few decades, it will be observed that He has indeed made huge strides in certain fields of science such as Astronomy, Nuclear, Electronics, Computers, Telecommunication etc. Yet, Man has still to discover an efficient method of discovering the hidden pockets of oil and gas within the earth’s crust, located mostly at an average depth of 3 kilometers from the surface – a mere 5 percent of the average thickness of the crust. We still have to physically drill a hole all the way to the “prospective” reservoir to confirm our prognostications of the presence of any hydrocarbon within. Yet, Man still has to contend with only a twenty-five percent probability of striking oil at the start of drilling in spite of lofty claims of accuracy of the various techniques employed to pinpoint the ‘probable’ oil reservoir. Even after we have found a reservoir, it is still impossible to extract more than 30 percent of the total oil in the reservoir, that too after employment of all the ‘advanced’ secondary recovery techniques. In short, 75 percent of human effort and expense that goes into exploration of oil and 70 percent of the discovered oil itself goes waste. This is ample evidence of the lack of technological progress in the field of oil exploration in spite of the continuous evolution of mankind over the ages. Today, we can almost see the edge of the precipice. We are getting closer and closer to the inevitable – a world without oil. A possibility Man had never envisaged. Today, it is oil that make the world go round. Our industrial machinery, our power plants, our automobiles and ships, all need oil for their operation. In addition to that, thousands of items of daily use are made from the by-products of oil.

So, what then is the path to freedom from the stranglehold of petroleum for the world? Alternative sources of energy? With all the technological advancement that this world has achieved in the field of alternative power, it is difficult to imagine that we cannot build a vehicle or a plant that runs on, say, solar or wind energy. So, then, can we get rid of oil and switch over to an everlasting form of energy such as solar or wind? At the moment, the answer seems to be a definite “NO”. Changing over to an alternative form of energy will require overhauling of the entire machinery of the industrial world. The transition from oil to another energy form, if attempted in haste, will result in the collapse of entire industries first before they begin again from the scratch. The effect that such a transition will have on the world will be unimaginably cataclysmic. The transition needs to be slow enough to be smooth, perhaps over a period of forty to fifty years. Till that time, Man has no choice but to keep all developments of alternate energy within the confines of the laboratory and continue to depend on mother earth to lead us to its hidden reserves of oil. However, given the state of the technology as it is now, it looks unlikely that Man will win the race against time with ease. Man is caught in a trap of His own making. The driver has become the driven, the ruler the ruled. Today, the world is ruled by oil. Man must wrack His brains harder to continue to discover more and more oilfields before the current ones start to deplete. Easier said than done.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Burden of Greatness

Roger Federer must be cursing the day a certain youngster from Spain decided to take up playing Tennis for a living. Just that one lad has forced Federer to come round to the fact that the road to supreme authority in any field comes at a price. There will always be that one last, thorny path that has to be walked before one can lay claim to the ultimate pedestal of fame. In Federer’s case, it has been just one thorn, in the form of an indefatigable, never-say-die Spaniard called Rafael Nadal. Just when he thought that the going was all too easy in his journey to becoming the greatest Tennis player of all time, that one guy has always blocked his path with the stolidity of a stone wall. Try as he might, Federer has been unable to shake Nadal off his back, and off his mind.
Federer has always been the cynosure of all eyes in the male Tennis arena. The grace and equanimity with which he has been sailing through the toughest of moments in matches time after time had given him an aura of greatness and invincibility that has not been seen in the Tennis world since the days of one Bjorn Borg. Added to that, his eloquence and gentility in dealing with the media and the public have lifted him to the highest level of regard in the minds of his fans and critics alike. However, it is perhaps easier to attain such a level of artistry and skill than to sustain it. Federer has lately been falling victim to the burden of expectation within himself and his worshipping fans in his endeavor to keep his super-human status intact. In his attempt to prove that he is still better than anybody else, he has put immense pressure on himself to perform above his abilities. As a result, his mind and his psyche are superceding his physical skills to such an extent that he is performing at a level much below what he is actually capable of. Over the years, Nadal has emerged as the sole challenger to Federer’s claim to all-time greatness. Federer knows that the world will never recognize him as the greatest of all time if he cannot overcome this challenge. The fear of losing, especially when he plays against Nadal, is so overwhelming that his game breaks down in the face of the impregnable tenacity displayed by the gritty Spaniard. This has been in evidence again in the 2009 Australian Open. The confidence and audacity which have been the hallmark of Federer’s play upto the Finals, disappeared during his match against Nadal. Federer’s game in the Final was a mere shadow of his performances in the earlier matches. On the other hand, Nadal, in spite of being the number one player of the world, played with much more freedom, almost as if he were the underdog, while Federer still carried the burden of proving to the world that he is the best. Federer needs to admit to himself and his fans for once that he is the number 2 player in the world in every sense. He has to transfer the burden of expectation to the shoulders of Nadal and see how he copes with it. Only then can he ever hope of getting past the tireless machine from Mallorca.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Corrupt Global Cop

The world watches in muted attention as Israel continues to pound Gaza with all the firepower at its disposal, unconcerned about the danger of collateral damage to innocent civilian life and property. America’s dual policy in regard to world peace has never been more exposed. On the one hand, the US wants more restraint from India in its fight against terrorism from Pakistan while on the other it opposes a UN resolution for bringing hostilities between Israel and Palestine to an end. Once again the world is confronted with the danger of an irresponsible and unscrupulous power holding the reins in a uni-polar world. It is not so bad to have one superpower controlling the affairs of the world provided that the country in control is just and responsible in the dispensation of its policies. America certainly is not one such nation. It is hardly concerned about the loss of human life anywhere in the world and in any number as long as the lives lost are not of Americans. America is not a country that can be trusted, maybe even less than China. The sole reason for this is that the US feels that lives of people in Asian countries are more dispensable than American lives. Any relationship with America is centered around business and profit. America will be a friend of a particular country only so long as its business interests are served. Absence of any profit incentive makes any country and its citizens dispensable in the eyes of America. India should be wary of its developing closeness to the US. In fact, it should realign itself in the opposite direction before it falls into the trap laid by the US. Any country which advocates killing of civilians in another country to further the interests of a particular community cannot be a faithful friend. India has to act on its own justifications and its own resolve to thwart the nemesis of foreign terror. Depending on the promises of a corrupt global cop will do more harm than good to the long term interests of our country.

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...