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Righto. Back to one of my favourite topics: Sangh Parivar bashing. Two news items in consecutive days have made me feel ecstatic about the saffron brigade.
Doctors asking the Medical Council of India to deregister Pravin Togadia
In case you folks didnt know, Pravin Togadia (of the VHP) is an oncologist, i.e. someone who treats, diagnoses tumours, most of the time cancerous ones. I find it totally ironical that someone who treats tumours and cancers actually goes around spreading them through his blatant hatred for Muslims. The BJP shot itself in its foot by inviting him to a meeting of the party's minorities cell. Togadia lashed out at his favourite targets, saying "No one can protect minorities in the country. This can be possible only if they are able to get the love of the majority. But, love is not a one way traffic."
If nothing, it is blatant blackmail. Agree to our demands, else .... The same blackmail which the Prime Minister refused to allow become a negotiating tool. I wonder why on earth he was invited to the meeting. Was it a deliberate ploy from the BJP high command to make the Muslims in the party feel squeamish and agree to the demands?
Advani claiming that the Gujarat riots were an aberration
The deputy PM said that Gujarat's image had been affected abroad due to a "sustained propaganda''. He also criticised those who "knowingly or unknowingly'' brought a bad name to the State (and to India) with propaganda about the riots. The shocking admission that the riots were an aberration flies in the face of Narendra Modi's repeated claims (before the investigating agencies too, if I remember correctly) that communal riots in Gujarat had been a regular feature since the 1960s or so. Advani's argument takes the cake. Gujarat (and by extension, India) have a bad image not because of the riots, but because of the people (media, NGOs etc.) who exposed the politicians for what they are. This sums up the BJP's motto. You're a criminal only when you commit a crime and get caught, if you dont get caught, then you're not.
I came across this interesting link while hunting around for quotes.
Labels: gujarat violence 2002
Politics of Cricket
Ho hum. YAPTC happened this week. YAPTC stands for Yet Another Pakistan Tour Cancellation. Pakistan has been crying itself hoarse over the last year or so about how it is a very safe place to play cricket, barring bombings in cities where matches are scheduled. Over the last year or so, New Zealand took the first flight out after a bomb blast near their hotel, Australia and West Indies opted to play Pakistan in the sweltering heat of Sharjah rather than be targetted by possible Al-Qaeda bombers in Pakistan while Sri Lanka cancelled the series. That leaves us with England and India amongst the major Test playing nations. England aren't due to play in Pakistan until 2005. Assuming Pakistan still plays cricket then [you never know, what if Pervez is overthrown and the Taliban has a resurgence and takes over Pakistan?], it'd be interesting to see if England do make the trip. I'm sure as a willing ally in the war against terrorism, it'll be difficult to categorize Pakistan as a place Beefy preferred to send his mother-in-law to. And then there was one.
India's refusal to tour Pakistan because of political considerations and terrorism in J & K absolutely baffles me. It allows Pakistan to accuse India of mixing sports with politics. The ICC adopts a holier than thou attitude and says the same thing, completely missing the fact that England's boycott of its World Cup game in Zimbabwe was more political than security related. India's official stance against playing in Pakistan should be that it cannot risk sending its players and citizens to a place where there is a VERY big threat perception. As far as I can remember, none of Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka or West Indies have ever gone to war against Pakistan. India has. Four times. That doesn't include a 14 year proxy conflict in J & K and a 10 year proxy conflict in Punjab, which has thankfully ended.
In theory, sports and politics shouldn't mix. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, they do end up in one garbage heap. Look at the officials in the cricket boards/associations of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. You invariably find ministers or MPs being heads of cricket associations, if not holding positions in the cricket board per se. You also have sportsmen becoming politicians. These are the same people who talk of how sports and politics are not to be mixed up. History is replete with instances of sports and politics mixing up, putting just about everyone involved in a quagmire. Here's a chronology I could come up with.
I'm fairly sure there're more instances, particularly when it involves the USA, USSR, UK, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Readers are welcome to contribute more instances.
Players have also been targetted in the past. The hockey team which went to Pakistan in 1990 for the World Cup was heckled all the way through their tour. During their game against Holland, slippers were thrown along with generous doses of abuse. Even though the Dutch and the referee offered to abandon the game, the Indian team opted to play on and lost. It ended up with the fairplay trophy. As an aside, isnt this trophy given nowadays? At least in the 1990s we used to bring home this particular trophy regularly, in various sports, especially hockey. Even though the current team is good, we're just far too inconsistent and have a tendency to doze off in the last 10 minutes. The other thing we're consistently doing is beat Pakistan in the league game and lose to them in the medal playoffs, in the final few minutes. Anyway, onto the players. Srikkanth was nearly attacked by a chap who managed to escape the security during the 1989 tour.
With Ganguly and Tendulkar being targetted by the Lashkar-e-toiba for kidnap, who is to say they wouldn't strike in "home" territory? I know there're sceptics among you who say. 'Ganguly le le, Kashmir de de' or even rejoice at the fact that the allegedly non-playing captain's absence finally offers scope for Yuvraj/Kaif to play or India playing an extra bowler. Thats rather frivolous.
The point is that we should not tour Pakistan. Purely for security reasons. Nothing else.
I got back home on Saturday midnight. The journey back began with some hectic packing on Thursday night and Friday morning. Friday morning was essentially ctrl-z [that's undo, for the windoze users] of the previous night's packing. I arrived in the US of A with a suitcase and a travel bag, I was returning with 3 checked-in pieces and 2 cabin baggage pieces. Thats due to some shopping and some gifts received. I got dropped off at the airport around 11 am by my manager [again! THANKS A LOT!], well in time for the 230 pm flight. I checked in without any problems about the extra pieces of baggage (the weight was never going to be an issue). I did some chocolates shopping at the airport duty free shops and then boarded the flight. Thankfullty this time around, the movies were better than the ones shown on my way to SFO. From San Francisco to Frankfurt it was the Rowan Atkinson wacky spoofy comedy Johnny English. I had seen the movie earlier, so I slept through some of it. We landed at Frankfurt around 10 am local time. Since I wanted to get hold of some euros, I bought some chocolates. The problem was that there're no 1 euro notes. So I ended up carrying a fair number of euro coins, which would no doubt add to the weight of the aircraft. At Frankfurt, there was a ridiculous charade of asking all passengers [including those who had boarding passes] to stand in a line for a boarding pass verification. If the airline was so unsure about its boarding pass issuing processes, then why make the customers uncomfortable?
Bruce Almighty was the English movie on the Frankfurt - Bangalore flight. I'd not seen it before, so I tried to see all of it. It was funny in parts but it really did remind me of two recent Tamil movies - Baba and Anbe Sivam. The parts where Bruce questions the existence of God and then God manifests himself, gives him the boon to be God for as long as he wanted as long as he made agreed to some conditions, Bruce testing out his newly acquired powers and then realising that it was true and using those powers to make things better for himself, for others around him etc. ... these reminded me of Baba. The parts of the movie where God tells Bruce that there's a God in everyone, some of them know and most others dont realise it. Doing good deeds is one of the best ways to experience God etc. ... they reminded me of Anbe Sivam. The makers of the movie seem to have been "inspired" by these two Tamil movies. The other thing I noticed was that the movie also bore a strong resemblance to an earlier Jim Carrey movie - Liar Liar. The other movie on the flight was a pathetic Hindi movie, which I'd never heard about, so I chose to skip it and caught some sleep, anxiously waiting for the landing around midnight.
We landed just around midnight on Friday-Saturday. I managed to get through the immigration queue fairly quickly (I noticed that there were quite a few counters open, good to note that) and then went to the baggage claim. I waited for nearly 45 minutes for my 3 pieces of baggage. It seemed like a combination of Wordsworth and cricket. I was either saying 'Stop here or gently pass' or screaming to myself 'Not mine, yours'. Finally, at close to 1 am, my bags arrived - as the adage goes, when it rains, it pours. I got home around 130 am after failing to wend past an army of pre-paid taxi drivers, each promising the same rate. I wondered 'Guys, where's the competitive advantage? What about pricing strategy?!'. After some chitchat, I slept at around 230 am.
Got into work on Monday, found that my desk hadn't been setup yet [we're in the process of moving premises] and that just gave me another excuse to go home in the afternoon.
I know it has been a while since my last update, but I've either been too busy or too lazy. Last week was fairly uneventful. During the weekend, I managed to meet up with a school friend on Saturday and caught up on life. We had a nice buffet lunch at a restuarant called 'Passage to India', the variety of sweets on offer was really amazing. On Sunday, I went to the San Francisco zoo with cousin & her husband. The zoo was very good and quite huge. We saw giraffes, penguins, kangaroos, polar bears, cassowaries etc., so there were quite a few animals which were unusual in that environment. We also managed to attend a feline feeding session (lions and tigers). It was really thrilling watching the animals roam restlessly in the cage, where they had been brought into from the open guarded/moated area where they normally lazed around, waiting for their food, wondering why on earth they couldn't even eat in privacy. I wonder what animals think when they spot us humans in zoos, do they wonder why these puny weakling like bipeds are caged?
We returned to Emeryville around 8 pm and saw Kannathil Mutthamitaal (2nd time for me) on DVD. Most definitely a good movie, but one of the things that still concerns me was why the parents informed their adopted daughter about her origins when she had just turned 9. Why 9? Why not say ... 13?
Day before yesterday, a colleague treated us to dinner on his birthday at a place called Kokila's Kitchen [I know, its a rather shady sounding name!]. We then went to another colleague's house to watch a movie 'Phone booth'. Nice rivetting thriller, even though the fact that the pizza delivery man was never going to be the killer was pretty obvious.
I had to go back to Emeryville yesterday evening to collect my cameras which I'd forgotten behind on Sunday. The return to Santa Clara via Amtrak was absolutely painful. The train arrived 15 minutes late, then it had an unscheduled halt shortly after Oakland to let some other train service pass, because Amtrak uses some other rail service's network in this locality. Shortly after Fremont, there was *another* halt for nearly 1/2 hr. Meanwhile I'd managed to get in touch with a school friend earlier yesterday and we'd fixed up to meet for dinner. There were two problems: He did not know how to get to the Amtrak station and my train was getting delayed bigtime. Ultimately I landed up more than 1/2 hr late and we went to his place. He got married a few days before I did and I couldn't attend his wedding. So after dinner, we spent time seeing his wedding album. He'd already seen my uploaded album.
I leave for Bangalore via Frankfurt tomorrow at 2 pm local time. So this will be my last blog update from this trip to the US of A. Catch you later from Bangalore!
Oh, and before I forget: More photos uploaded: San Francisco and Sunnyvale/San Jose etc.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The scale of the functions organized to commemorate [is that the right word?] it is much lesser than last year, I hear. Yet, the shrill rhetoric by Bush and co. does not abate. Everyone is talking about the thousands of Americans who died in those attacks. The government talks about making sure something like September 11, 2001 never happens again and that it'd be better to face the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan than on American soil. Fair enough, except they forget that policies pursued in Iraq and Afghanistan are bound to rebound on them. You cannot enforce US/European style democracy on Afghanistan or Iraq [or Iran or Palestine or Syria or Pakistan ... you get the drift]. If you tried to do it, prepare for the retribution.
I've wondered for the last two years about how the formidable defence apparatus of the USA allowed the attacks to happen. Even allowing for the first attack happening too fast, it is difficult to believe that there were no fighter planes summoned up once it was known that not one but two flights were hijacked [it can't be difficult to figure that out, the weather was clear and the flights definitely went off course]. Michael Meacher, an ex-cabinet minister in the Tony Blair government has raised a few issues. I dont know if it was a publicity thing, but he does raise some pertinent issues.
Did the Indian government did something to remember the Indians who died in the WTC and Pentagon attacks? I'm fairly sure there were lots of Indians who died, some of them Indian citizens as well.
I got dropped off at Oakland Airport [well in time!] by my manager who, as you'd have guessed by now, is very helpful in matters of transportation [aside of course from the fact that he is really a good boss]. Didnt really have any hassles with the security, except I was asked if my shoes had metal in them. Seeing the quizzical look on my face (which actually meant 'What the hell are you talking about? I've never heard of shoes with metal in them'), I was let go. The flight journey wasn't really uneventful. Just after take-off, one of the passengers a couple of rows ahead of me fainted. I'm not sure why he fainted, but he did. A doctor was located in the passenger list and the patient was given oxygen and made to rest. I flew JetBlue airways, which doesn't give meals on board - just snacks. I'd eaten some cake at the airport, so I wasn't feeling too hungry. We landed in JFK airport around 530 am. I was picked up by my aunts and we went home. I was really feeling sleepy, so after informing folks in Madras that I'd arrived, I just crashed, hoping to wake up around 8 am. It was 10 am when I did.
After lunch, my cousin and I went off to roam around Manhattan. We took the train to Grand Central Station. It really does look good. We then walked to the Empire State building. There was a security check inside. We cleared the test and went off to the combo-tour: The skyride and the observatory. The skyride simulates an aerial view of NYC as if you're riding a helicopter. The seats move according to whether the screen is showing a turning to the left/right/swivel etc. Its quite enjoyable, but it was really short - just 15-20 minutes. I thought it could have lasted at least 1/2 hr. We then went to the observatory, which is nothing but the top floor [86th] of the Empire state building. The view of Manhattan and its surrounding areas was really good, in spite of some fairly murky weather following some showers.
Having done the observation, we walked through Little India and then took a taxi to Battery Park to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which I suppose is currently the only thing Yanks like to associate with the French. Because of security considerations, there's no docking on Liberty island, you only get to go past it. The harbour cruise we took was quite good. We went past Ellis island, Liberty island, parts of Jersey city and also under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The narration on the cruise was quite hopeless unfortunately. After alighting from the ferry, we walked to the World Trade Center site. It is MASSIvE, 16 acres apparently. You don't appreciate the actual area covered by the buildings because you're used to seeing just two very tall skyscrapers on TV, the actual area of the entire complex isn't too obvious. Work was underway for the reconstruction using the new model which has been approved. A history of the WTC as well as photos of how Manhattan looked right from the early 20th century till the inauguration of the WTC also can be found on the site. We then took the subway to Times Square. It is an extremely glitzy place, advertising hoardings all around the place. Dinner then followed and it was well past 10 pm when we got home.
The next day, we had lunch with Krithi's parents and her brother-in-law. There was a lot of chatting and good food. In the evening, my cousin and I went to a mall nearby to do some purchases. At night, we tried looking out for Mars. I dont think we quite got to agree on whether the celestial body we saw was Mars or not. It could have been Jupiter or Venus or even Saturn. Does it matter? Oh, I forgot to mention this in the last blog, but I managed to get a snap of Mars on Aug 28, the day after it was closest to the earth.
On Monday, I switched base to where Krithi's parents were staying, with Krithi's sister, brother-in-law and his mother. Krithi's sister has just given birth to a baby, so I took some photos of the baby. Then the usual chatting, food etc. In the evening, we went to a nearby Ganesha temple. It was quite impressive, spick and span. I wonder why temples cannot be maintained similarly in India. I dont imply that temples are unclean in India, but the fact that I didn't step on a single puddle is testimony to the fact that the authorities (obviously the laws of the land do come into the picture here) are ensuring cleanliness.
I caught my flight back to Oakland on Tuesday morning, this time it was uneventful. I landed at Oakland around 1030 am, was picked up by my manager (AGAIN!) and dropped off at the flat ... and that was the end of my 3 day weekend in NYC.
I've reorganized the photos section, by creating folders and using filenames which sound like captions.
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