Mysore Dussehera

Friday, September 26, 2008

Four hundred years after the royal festival first began, the occupant of the golden howdah is the 24 carat idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari.

The chief participants in the festivities are no longer kings and queens, but politicians and government officials.
Today, Mysore's Dussehra has become a people's festival
The highlight is the procession held on Vijayadashami, the tenth and final day of the festival.
The procession is led by caparisoned elephants carrying an idol of the Goddess Chamundeshwari seated in a golden howdah.
In the days of the Wodeyars, the king used to sit in the howdah.

Considered to be the mother of all poorams, the Thrissur Pooram is a cultural highlight par excellence, celebrated in the Malayalam month Medam (April/May).

The two century old festival of spectacular procession of caparisoned elephants and enthralling percussion performances in a never ending succession is an 36 hours marathon event of incredible beauty, a feast for the eye and the ear, unfolding between 6 am to 12 noon the other day. Different from the usual temple festival, Thrissur Pooram is participated and conducted by people across all barriers of religion and caste. Adhering to the medieval Peruvanam tradition, the festival is confined to the temples of Devi (goddess) and Sastha (divine combination of Shiva and Vishnu

In Mysore, Dussehra is easily the most popular festival. It is celebrated on a grandiose scale here. Elephants are decked up with robes and jewelery and taken in processions through the streets of the city.

In fact, many people visit Mysore from all over the country to watch this colorful event. There is also a floating festival in the temple tank at the foot of Chamundi Hill and a procession of chariots around the temple at the top.The Dussehra of Mysore or Mysore Dassara as it is famously called is a 10-day long festival. On the day of Dussehra, a procession of caparisoned elephants carrying the idol of goddess Chamundi is taken through the city. The festival is celebrated in a grand style with scores of cultural performances in the great Durbar Hall of the Maharaja's Palace. On Vijaydashami, the 10th day of the festival, a colorful procession featuring caparisoned elephants winding through the gaily-decorated streets of the city, mark the occasion


Tackling workplace inequality

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The International Labour Organisation’s year-long campaign to promote gender equality at the workplace launched recently assumes particular significance in the current context of increasing participation of women in the labour force, largely in the informal sector, and emerging issues of inequity in their employment-linked status. The latest initiative is intended to raise public awareness ahead of a discussion on the theme to be held at the ILO’s highest polic y-making organ in June 2009, coinciding with its 90th anniversary. According to the ILO’s report on global employment trends for women, despite the entry of over 200 million women into the labour market in the past decade, the rate of female unemployment remains high at 6.4 per cent, in comparison with 5.7 among men. Moreover, globally, the employment to population ratio in 2007 for women was a mere 49.1 per cent, as against 74.3 for men. It is inconceivable that the international objective of increased economic output, as a means to better redistribution, can be realised when such a large segment of the population remains outside the productive workforce. Although evidence suggests that women have adapted themselves to the changing employment scenario from agriculture to the services sector, persisting disparities in levels of attainment in education and vocational skills systematically undercut their chances for employment and career mobility in the long-term. The continuing exclusion from productive employment is perhaps the most fundamental cause of gender inequality at the workplace, as it could in effect serve to undermine rights to association, remuneration, quality and hours of work, protection from gender-specific occupational hazards and overall economic freedom and social empowerment. Moreover, women’s income per hour is on average 75 per cent of that for men.
The relevance of the latest campaign cannot be overstated, especially in relation to developing countries, which consequent to the ongoing transformation from traditional agrarian to market-oriented economies, have necessarily to grapple with the manifold challenges of striking a balance between work and family. Recognition of the family responsibilities of employees, flexible working hours, reconciling the productive and reproductive roles of women and paternity are among these issues. The attempt to mainstream a gender perspective in legislation, public and corporate policies and programmes could serve as a useful beginning in the right direction.


Clearing the air

The Supreme Court’s judgment upholding the Constitution 93rd Amendment enabling the government to reserve seats for “other backward classes” in educational institutions and the subsequent Act providing for a 27 per cent quota in Centrally run institutions should clear the air in time for the admissions set to begin in June. The decision itself is no surprise and is in line with the Mandal Commission case that upheld reservations for the OBCs in government service but the reservation scheme that was to come into effect last year has been delayed by a year. The government’s plan of accommodating the reserved category by expanding the institutions rather than by cutting into the places available for the unreserved category was eminently reasonable but it still failed to halt the protests, particularly from the medical students. The exclusion of the creamy layer still remains a contentious issue and, despite repeated judicial decisions, political establishments of many States have been reluctant to even identify the creamy layer. The Supreme Court has now ruled that for Central institutions, the categories excluded from reservations would be on the basis of the 1993 order that would include: children of constitutional office holders such as the President, judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts; Class I officers; army officers of the rank of colonel and above; professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and chartered accountants; persons earning incomes of over Rs.1 lakh; and large landowners. It cannot be anybody’s case that such categories are socially and educationally backward, and any caste as a whole can be considered backward only when they are excluded.
An earlier Supreme Court judgment had barred the government from appropriating or reserving any seats in unaided private educational institutions but the subsequent Constitution 93rd Amendment enables the state to extend reservations to them as well. This has not been done though, and without a challenge, the Supreme Court has left the question open. The exclusion of minority institutions from the ambit of reservations, however, has been upheld on the ground they are governed by a separate constitutional scheme. The uncertainty of the past year had probably slowed down the preparatory work in Central institutions for taking in larger numbers but now that the Supreme Court has given the go-ahead, they need to make sure that the new facilities are in place. Reservations would seem politically popular as shown by the unanimous passage of both the Constitution Amendment and the reservations bill, but whether the UPA Government will derive any electoral advantage from the Supreme Court’s go-ahead is unclear, given the opposition from some vocal sections to the very idea of reservation.


Quest for life on Mars

A NASA artist imagines the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity look like this on the Red Planet.

For well over a century, the prospect of life on Mars has been the subject of feverish speculation among scientists. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli reported seeing “canali” on Mars through his telescope and thought that the dark areas he noticed on the planet were the result of vegetation. By 1894, Percival Lowell, a wealthy American astronomer, who established the observatory that now bears his name, was asserting that in the Martian canals “we are looking upon the result of the work of some sort of intelligent beings.” What those Martian beings might look like and how they would behave towards neighbours on planet Earth have been the subject of much science fiction writing and films. It is no wonder that humans began sending probes to study the Red Planet almost as soon as the space age began. Just three years after Sputnik went into space in 1957, the Soviet Union attempted to send the Korabl-4 but the probe did not even reach the orbit around the earth. Since then, close to 40 spacecraft have been despatched to Mars, but over 60 per cent of those missions also ended in failure. It was Mariner-4 launched by the United States that sent back the first close-up images of another planet as it flew past Mars in July 1965. Finally, the Viking-1 lander, again from the U.S., touched down safely on its surface in July 1976, and it was followed by the Viking-2 lander a few months later. Both Viking landers were sent to look for signs of life. When the planet appeared to be barren, so great was the disappointment that it eroded political support in the U.S. for further Mars missions.
But interest in Martian life has revived. If such life exists — or existed in the past — it is likely to take the form of tiny microbes, not little green men travelling in flying saucers. There was an uproar in 1996 when a team of U.S. scientists reported in the journal Science that a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica carried telltale traces of primitive microbial life. Although that interpretation of the traces found on the rock is now not generally accepted, the possibility of life on Mars is not discounted. Space probes have discovered signs that liquid water was present on the planet in the past and that water in the form of ice is still plentiful below the surface. Where there is water, there may well be microscopic life. The Phoenix Mars Lander, which has landed safely in the far north of the planet, joins three other spacecraft and two robotic rovers that are currently examining Mars in unprecedented detail. The objective is not to look for life, but to determine if the Martian arctic soil could support life. Let us wait and see what it finds.


Art of the Deal

WHEN THE COUNTRY'S best-known painter, Maqbool Fida Husain, inked a deal to sell 100 canvases for Rs.100 crores, he concluded the biggest transaction in the history of Indian contemporary art. The significance of this humungous deal — which gives the rights of a series of paintings on the theme "Our Planet Our Earth" to a Mumbai-based industrialist — goes well beyond the interests of the two parties involved in it. A transaction of this scale can provide the much-needed impetus to the market for contemporary Indian art — one that has been growing steadily over the years but, in global terms, still very much in its infancy. It could help in establishing new benchmarks in the pricing of Indian art, which is undervalued in the global market, and provide a further dash of confidence to dealers, art collectors and others who want to dabble in what is an emerging market. Significantly, the Mumbai industrialist, Guru Swarup Srivatsava, who has agreed to buy the paintings, had an eye on nothing but the bottomline. He is not an art collector but an investor in the futures market; someone who has admitted to perceiving iron ore and art in the very same way and who apparently showed an interest in the latter only because he felt it was better to put his money into "intellectual property rather than land."
Art markets around the world are driven by such cold commercial calculation rather than airy sentiment. It is much too premature, and possibly erroneous, to conclude that this transaction will raise valuations of Indian painting in general. But it will certainly lead to greater international attention being paid to the country's contemporary art — a rich tradition that dates back to the painters of the so-called Company School such as Raja Ravi Varma, the revivalists of the Bengal school who breathed new life into painting such as Abanindranath Tagore, and the more recent and contemporary crop of artists who draw their inspiration from varied sources and belong to diverse genres. The value of contemporary art has been closely linked to international interest; prices of canvases by Indian painters surged after international auctions were launched in the mid-1990s. The entry of auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's has fuelled considerable interest and prices of works by some major painters have shown a sustained increase, sometimes as much as by 20 per cent annually.


American terror

Monday, September 22, 2008

YET another attack by the United States Air Force on suspected Taliban hideouts has resulted in the death of innocent civilians. In one of the worst atrocities witnessed so far after the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, at least 90 civilians were killed in an air strike on Azizabad village in Herat province on August 22. The victims had gathered there to commemorate the death of a local leader, and according to the government of Afghanistan, 50 of those killed were under the age of 15. Reports said the attack was carried out by an AC-130 gunship.
President Hamid Karzai was quick to condemn the killings. He accused the U.S. forces of “martyring at least 70 people, most of them women and children”. On many occasions earlier, when U.S./North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces had killed civilians from the air, an anguished Karzai had asked the U.S. to exercise caution. A spokesman for the Afghan Army said officials had counted 60 children and 10 women among the dead. Karzai tried belatedly to douse public anger by sacking two top Afghan military officials who had initially claimed that all those killed in the air attack were Taliban fighters. Taliban fighters are now operating virtually at the gates of Kabul. Despite the presence of more than 70,000 Western troops, the Taliban has managed to gain territory in Maydan Shar, the capital of Wardak province, which is less than 40 km from the capital. Since July, the Taliban has also stepped up attacks on the

At the Guder camp where Pakistanis fleeing the fighting in the tribal areas near Bajur, believed to be hideouts of the Taliban, take refuge. More than 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes and have ended up in camps such as this in Peshawar and other places in Pakistan.

Kabul-Jalalabad road, the main supply route for NATO forces.
The Western media have reported regular attacks in recent weeks on truck convoys carrying materials for NATO forces heading for Kabul. The road from Kabul to Kandahar is also very unsafe. Vehicles can only move if they are protected by units of the Afghan Army. In the third week of August, the Taliban killed 10 French soldiers in Sarobi, 50 km from Kabul, on the Kabul-Jalalabad road. French President Nicholas Sarkozy had, under pressure from Washington, agreed to dispatch 700 more soldiers to Afghanistan this year, sparking a controversy in France. The war in Afghanistan is unpopular in France and the other European countries that
An attack by the U.S. Air Force in Azizabad village in Afghanistan’s Herat province on August 22 killed family members of this woman as also of many others. It was one of the worst air strikes since the U.S. occupation of the country in 2001
have troops on the ground in Afghanistan. As the Taliban advances stealthily, Washington is ratcheting up the pressure on Islamabad to crack down with full military force on its tribal areas. The Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was summoned by the Pentagon for yet another top-level strategy meeting in the last week of August. Kayani had earlier met senior NATO and Afghan military officials in Kabul. The meeting, held on board the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, was attended by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and other senior American officers playing key roles in the anti-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.Of the 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 19,000 operate directly under U.S. Central Command. The rest are part of the 40-nation force led by NATO, which operates under a U.N. resolution. With the occupation force unable to stem the Taliban tide, the Pakistani government, under pressure from Washington, ordered its Air Force to target relentlessly the tribal areas where Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters are supposedly holed up. Admiral Mullen told the media that the U.S. and Pakistani militaries must intensify efforts to crack down on insurgents. According to reports in the Pakistani media, the NATO command will identify the areas of resistance and the Pakistani Army will target those places on its behalf.


Blend of Faith

Brahma, Adinath temple, Khajuraho. The Hindu and Jaina temples in Khajuraho, the capital of the Chandella kings from the early 10th to the 12th century, have a shared style that has no sectarian differences. In fact, there is a profuse depiction of Hindu deities on the walls of the Jaina temples here.
IN western India, the 2nd century B.C. ushered in one of the greatest periods of Buddhist art when, in about a thousand years, more than 1,200 caves were hewn out of the mountains of the Western Ghats. Most of them were sculpted profusely and painted in the Buddhist tradition.
The first phase of the prolific excavation continued until the 3rd century A.D. Great Buddhist prayer halls and viharas for the residence of monks were made during the rule of the Satavahanas and the Kshatrapas. Though these kings revered Hindu deities, they patronised all religious establishments.Such was the cosmopolitan culture that continued from the earliest times in the Indian subcontinent. Scholars such as Guru Padmasambhava and Santarakshita, who were responsible for spreading Buddhism across Asia, are known to have studied here.
There are no gods in the early philosophic vision of India. There are deities: deities that are the personifications of concepts and qualities. The qualities are within us and by responding to these deities brought to us in art, we awaken those fine aspects within us.
In ancient India, people were free to adore the deity of their personal choice. Within families, husbands, wives and children often followed the path of different deities.
In the Gupta period, the effort was to create deities, in a human form, that rose above themselves. It was not a human being caught in the web of the material world. It was an embodiment of that which was eternal, that which was still, undisturbed by turmoil and cravings. Meditating upon such a form, devotees awakened the best within themselves. They rose above the pains created by their desires and confusion.The magnificent rock-cut caves at Ellora near Aurangabad mark the final stage of the development of cave-temple architecture in western India. There are caves of three faiths here, of overlapping periods. The Buddhist caves date from the mid-6th century to the mid-8th century A.D.; the Hindu caves date from the 7th to the 9th century; and the Jaina caves date from the 9th to the end-10th century. These show again the simultaneous patronage of monuments of more than one faith.
Xuanzang wrote enthusiastic accounts of his travels in India. These are written from a pilgrim’s point of view. Nevertheless, they provide much in
Bahubali, Jaina Cave, Badami, 6th century. The Jaina saint Gomatesvara, or Bahubali, is believed to have meditated in a standing, still posture for so long that creepers grew about his legs and snakes and other creatures gathered around him. The play of light in the rock-cut cave enhances the experience of the sacred interior
formation about ancient India. The traveller was greatly impressed by King Harsha of the 7th century. Owing to the ruler’s generous patronage of Buddhist establishments, he descri

What remains of Nalanda University, Bihar. This internationally renowned Buddhist university flourished under the rule of the Gupta kings, most of whom revered Hindu deities. The courses of study covered Buddhist philosophy as well as Hindu shastras.

bes him as a “great Buddhist king”. However, Harsha’s own inscriptions show that he was a devout Hindu worshipper. Harsha’s dramas, written on Buddhist ethics, are performed in Japan even today.Joyous worshippers and musicians

Indra riding the elephant Airavata, his vehicle. Carved on the veranda of the vihara Cave No. 18 at the Bhaja Caves of the 2nd century B.C., this is one of the earliest-known representations of the deity. The style has similarities with the terracottas of the Sunga period. Indra continued to be popular in Buddhist art in subsequent centuries. He is also depicted as the one who, along with Brahma, receives Siddhartha on a cloth when he is born from the side of Queen Mahamaya.
are seen everywhere in the paintings of Kashmiri Buddhist monasteries. It is this sense of lyrical joy that is the hallmark of the ancient art of Kashmir. We are reminded that one of the greatest Indian philosophers of aesthetics, Abhinavagupta, lived in Kashmir in the 10th century.
Parihaspura in Kashmir was a great centre of Buddhist and Hindu worship in the 8th century. Stupas and chaityas made here would have served
The red sandstone cliffs of Badami in Karnataka offered a spectacular setting for the excavation of four caves, three Hindu and one Jaina, in the 6th century A.D. during the rule of the Chalukyas.
as the models for the Buddhist art of central Asia. The site had a Buddhist chaitya as well as a Vishnu temple dedicated by King Lalitaditya. In that cosmopolitan culture, Parihaspura also had an impressive stupa made by the king’s Tocharian minister.
In the spiritual climate that continued from ancient times, there were no boundaries between faiths in the early medieval period too. The same person is most often described as a devotee of different deities, depending upon the occasion. Examples of this are numerous. Such religious divisions are a later construct by scholars who have tried to understand Indian history from a vastly different perspective. At an international seminar on Asian religions in 2007, a message was read out by the Secretary to His Majesty King Rama IX, in which it was said: “Court Brahmins and astrologers were a fixture of the court as they were integral to the timing of auspicious days for the holding of Hindu rites for the divine God-like-kings who were personifications of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma; but at the same time being Buddhist kings. The Brahmins officiated at the ceremony of coronation whereby they opened the gates of heaven for the Hindu gods to descend and thus make the person of the king God-like and empowered with dignity and grace.”
In Buddhist Japan, after the Buddha, the second-most revered deity is Saraswati. There are many temples dedicated to her in Tokyo, as well as numerous images of her in Buddhist temples. When the great Daibutsu (Big Buddha) temple of Nara was to be dedicated in the 8th century, they could not find a suitable learned Brahmin priest for the task in Japan. Therefore, a priest was brought from Myanmar. Images of a vast range of Hindu deities are seen in the temple complex. The early Buddhist caves of China have paintings of Krishna, Siva and Parvati.


Hidden side of 123....

FOR the proponents of the India-United States nuclear deal, it could not have been worse. And from the perspective of the opponents, political and otherwise, it was just perfect. The letter sent on January 16 to the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee for Foreign Affairs, Tom Lantos (who, unfortunately, died soon after in February), concerning congressional review of the India-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement (123 Agreement), became public on September 2, two days before the crucial second round of the meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to consider the proposed relaxation of its guidelines that would enable India in nuclear trade.
The letter included replies from the U.S. State Department to 45 questions that the House Committee had asked on October 5, 2007, seeking clarifications on the various provisions of the 123 Agreement vis-a-vis the Hyde Act, the enabling U.S. legislation for civil nuclear cooperation with India passed in December 2006 (Frontline, July 18), and the U.S. Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954, in order that Congress was fully informed of their implications when the agreement would come up for its approval through an up-down vote.
Although the letter contained only unclassified information and was by no means “secret”, it was kept under wraps until now on instruction from the administration. For, as the administration’s spokesperson had said, it could be

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reading out to the media the statement on the NSG’s waiver, at South Block in New Delhi on September 6.
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar is seated by his side.
“diplomatically sensitive”.
Indeed, the letter caught the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government completely unprepared. It has caused the government considerable embarrassment and has once again created a political turmoil, providing fresh ammunition to the opponents of the agreement, in particular the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While the Left has charged the government with lying to Parliament and misleading the public and demanded its resignation, the BJP is seeking to move a privilege motion against it. As soon as the news of the letter (from The Washington Post’s story on September 3) reached the government, it immediately summoned all the Indian interlocutors to provide a quick response to the contents of the letter in a bid to contain the increasing outcry against the nuclear deal.
The government put on a brave face and issued the following statement: “We do not, as a matter of policy, comment on internal correspondence between different branches of another government [and] we will be guided solely by the terms of the bilateral agreement between India and the United States, the India Specific Safeguards Agreement and the clean waiver from the NSG, which we hope will be forthcoming in the meeting of the NSG on September 4-5.” U.S. Ambassador David Mulford too put in his bit in a statement to the media. He said that the letter did not put any new conditions on the 123 Agreement. In a television interview, Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), said there was nothing new in the letter.
Queried on what it understood by “corrective measures” that India sought to invoke in case of fuel supply disruption and whether it involved removal of safeguarded nuclear material from safeguards, the administration merely noted (Q. 25) that the Indian government had not provided the U.S. with a definition of “corrective measures” but hoped that the safeguards agreement with the IAEA would clarify this aspect and also that it expected the Indian government to implement “in letter and spirit” its commitment to “safeguards in perpetuity”. SOVEREIGN RIGHT TO TEST
The Indian government has always maintained that the agreement in no way constrained its sovereign right to test. The Prime Minister said on August 17, 2006, in his response to questions raised by some nuclear scientists: “We are very firm in our determination that the agreement…no way affects the requirements of our strategic programme…. Nuclear weapons are an integral part of our national security, and will remain so…. Our freedom of action with regard to our strategic programme remains unrestricted.” He told Parliament more specifically as recently as July 22, 2008: “I confirm [that] there is nothing in these agreements that prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns.” Technically, of course, he
Howard Berman, Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committe.
may be correct in saying that India’s sovereign right to test has not been taken away, but the price of such action, thanks to the AEA and its implication on the 123 Agreement, would be a major restrictive factorHowever, we now know that even the safeguards agreement concluded in early July did not explain what the phrase meant. The Indian government has not elaborated either and has since merely maintained that it was India’s sovereign right to decide what corrective measures would need to be invoked depending upon the situation.
4. Reprocessing Rights: One of the assertions of the Indian government is that it has secured the right to reprocess spent fuel of U.S. origin, as against merely consent in principle as a correct interpretation of the agreement would imply. This consent will be translated into a right only if the subsequent “arrangements and procedures”, which have to presented to Congress for review (as per Section 131 of AEA), pass muster there. On August 13, 2007, the Prime Minister said: “A significant aspect of the agreement is our right to reprocess U.S. origin spent fuel. This has been secured upfront….This…has been met by the permanent consent for India to reprocess.”
The following is the U.S. administration’s contrary position. In answer to Q. 30, the letter said: “[The agreement] provides that the consent does not become effective [emphasis original] until the U.S. and India consult and agree on arrangements and procedures…” Answer to Q. 29 states: “Section 131 of AEA provides explicitly for review and execution of subsequent arrangements related to reprocessing of U.S. origin material [in a dedicated reprocessing facility]. However, if proposed “arrangements and procedures’ for reprocessing involved changes to provisions to provisions in the…Agreement, an amendment to the Agreement would be required [involving full 90 days of Congressional consideration and approval].


State of Muslim Women

THERE were stories of exploitation and neglect, first-hand accounts of mindless violence, and resentment at government apathy and injustice at the hands of community elders. And, of course, there were the familiar stories of police harassment after every terror attack. Over 800 Muslim women from across the country attended the All India Democratic Women’s Association’s (AIDWA) national convention of Muslim women on August 27 in New Delhi. Their testimonies defied stereotypes of the passive victim as they spoke of neglect by government agencies, of their appalling living and working conditions and of the experience of living in a patriarchal society that is insensitive to their concerns.
The convention’s charter of demands sought recognition for India’s Muslim women as equal citizens with adequate access to education, health care and employment and asserted that their welfare was the concern of not just the community but the government as well. AIDWA president Subhashini Ali said that while Muslim women felt insecure in the context of rising communal violence, there was also an increasing awareness of their entitlements as citizens.
Among the delegates were elected women representatives, home-based workers, self-help group (SHG) workers, victims of riots and of dowry harassment, and women who had had to deal with police harassment after terror strikes. There were, too, women who had been the victims of decisions made by their own community leaders.
Shakeela, whose seven-year-old son was shot in the head by the Gujarat Police in 2002, broke down as she spoke. Mujibibi, 35, from Davangere in Karnataka, had worked for 20 years as a beedi roller, and very little in her life had changed in these 20 years. She rolls out about 1,100 beedis along with the others in her family in a day, makes Rs.45 for more than 12 hours of work, and enjoys no benefit under the special statute for beedi workers. In Harapanalli taluka, her hometown, scores of Muslim families are engaged in beedi-making. She often gets a “burning” sensation in her face, eyes and chest, an occupational hazard associated with tobacco. “I have to do it, otherwise how will I survive? I do not want my children to go through the same thing, so I have to work,” she said.
Ishrat, from Kanpur, broke down several times while narrating her story. Her husband, a former textile worker, was jobless. Like many other poor Muslim women, she lives in a cramped two-room tenement. Municipal workers, she complained, never visited “Muslim” areas.
Increasing poverty levels among Muslims in the country have led Muslim women to explore avenues to supplement family incomes. However, it is home-based work that most of them are forced to take up. This unorganised employment makes such women dependent on middlemen and a chain of employers. Naseem, a resident of Old Delhi, has worked as a handicraft worker for 22 years. In every other household in her neighbourhood, there are women trying to make a living out of zardozi work and by making envelopes, rachis, bindis and even machine parts. She herself works eight to 10 hours a day. “There are women who have been working for 35 years, and now they earn about Rs.300 a month,” she said. (The minimum daily wage in Delhi is Rs.140.) Malka, a zardozi worker from Lucknow, said she was unable to afford an education for her daughters because of the dwindling returns of the trade. “The chikan kurta sells for thousands of rupees, but we get next to nothing,” she said.


Memory Lane

Friday, September 19, 2008

Was walking down memory lane,

Was walking on the beach,
Throttling the feelings of pain,
Keeping doubts out of reach.
Had a look at the sands of time
The hours when time itself stood still,
Could hear distant bells chime,
And I was walking while I still stood still.
Felt the heat of the sun beating,
Could sense an awe that the past left,
Saw the sheath of life fleeting,
Glimpses of what was there were best.


Are we prepared

Ideally, terror strikes should not occur. However, we do not live in an ideal world. It is almost impossible to foil every terror conspiracy in a country that is as vast and populated as ours. Which brings us to the question: How prepared are we to deal with the aftermath of a terror strike? It is imperative that the stocktaking exercise currently underway — on how to tackle terror — includes evaluating the effectiveness of our emergency services. Right now, restructuring our security agencies, better equipping them and adopting tougher laws are dominating the agenda. These are certainly important issues. But we should not also neglect the aspect of preparedness to respond to terror attacks, when and if they happen. There are any number of examples to underline this fact. After each violent attack — be it in Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur or Varanasi — emergency services have proved to be less than adequate. The number of ambulances available to transport the injured is woefully short in most of our cities. Hospitals, especially those run by the government — where the majority of the injured are rushed to for medical attention — struggle to cope with the demands of such situations. Often there aren’t enough beds and life-saving medicines are in short supply. The national capital is relatively better equipped than other cities, but even here there has been a shortage of anti-gangrene serum to treat the victims of the recent bomb blasts, which is baffling. In advanced countries, the damage wreaked by terror strikes is mitigated by efficient response mechanisms. A good example would be how London’s emergency units handled the 7/7 bombings. We would do well to learn from such examples. However, for that to happen there must be political will and accountability. It does not help, for instance, to have a Union health minister who devotes time to prior commitments even as the capital is bombed and its medical care machinery struggles to cope. Anbumani Ramadoss has time and again proved that his priorities are grossly misplaced. He would rather urge chief ministers to quit smoking and move with mercenary zeal against colas and fast foods, instead of putting in place frameworks that enable our states to shore up the public health system. Always, the good minister has an excuse to explain the abysmal state of our health-care infrastructure. There can be no more excuses, sir; the country cannot afford it anymore.


Let it Fall

One more anti-hero worshipfrom the depthsof some enigmatic fool
that left the suburbsfor the open fieldsof post modern flight from hell.
No, not from the quakesor the rumblings of racism,
that stench we all tendto want to get rid of,

but the fact that therewere just too many things wrong.
So off I went to the lastjourney of my youth,
through the pubs and alleysof Los Angeles that servedmany nights of reckless talk
and the establishment be damned.There goes Happy House,

Screamand all those open up at 10 pmparty houses,
where you paid 5 bucksto drink yourself to life,
and walk out Saturday morning at 6 amlike the kind demons we were.
And dance the pain that we hadkept for the weekand wonder what 30 would be like

and if the Virgin Pruneswere right about"If I die I die".
But then, that love in your soulthe one that makes you write
and pour out those false indignities that caress your heart
and mindfor after all we've been throughstars have their moments and then they die.


Have you ever felt?

Have you ever felt,
the cold and lifeless hand of an infant,
gazed into their unblinking eyes,and observed the face of death,
when masked in bittersweet innocence?
Have you ever touched your dreams,
and felt the simplistic joy,
of feeling them become reality,
only to abandon them,for reasons you cannot explain?
Have you ever watched your family,
who once shared the greatest of loves,
suffer an unforgettable and unforgivable tragedy,
that will slowly, painfully, and inevitably,tear them all apart?
Do you know, firsthand,
the evil that resides deep within the heart of every man,every woman,
and every child?Have you seen its face as it randomly seeks,
a soul to torment and destroy?Do you know the darker side of life,
the one that awakens you,in the still of the night,
crying to the unknowable God's,‘Save me from myself. '?
Does your heart constantly question,
whether humanity is obtainable,
in a world corrupted with suffering,and where war,
is the favoured solution for peace?
If you really want to know me,
and understand the forces that compel me to move on,
then take these questions,and take this pain,for this who I am?


Bank on Fear

We live in an age of anxiety, where the only thing we can bank on is fear. With the Delhi bomb blasts still reverberating, amplified by the threat of future explosions in the capital or elsewhere, comes the shock wave of the US financial crisis, which has sent ripples of panic not just through Dalal Street and Indian financial markets but through middleclass households across the country. Like terrorism, finance today has a global footprint. And, like it or not, India is included in it, often with baneful consequences. Is it just coincidence that the recent bomb blasts in Delhi, and the warning of more to follow, took place shortly after India won its triumphal nuclear waiver at the NSG meet in Vienna? And the buzz on the grapevine was that the Bush administration, backed by American commercial interests, was trying its hardest to push the Indian nuclear deal through the current session of the US Congress, whose nod would signify that this country had indeed emerged as a potential ‘strategic partner’ with the world’s sole hyperpower? Are the attacks on India in any retaliatory way connected to the US military assaults on jihadi camps on Pakistani territory? The answer to such questions is a possibly paranoid ‘Perhaps’. With the proviso contained in the saying: Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. In the globalised world of finance, as that of terror, we are, willy-nilly, karmically tied to US policies and actions, as has been made painfully evident by the so-called subprime crisis which is grabbing prime-time attention in the global media. Thanks to the financial profligacy of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — major US moneylenders who out of feckless greed doled out home mortgages to subprime, or high-risk, borrowers who then defaulted, bankrupting banks who had bought these loans — an estimated 25,000 Indians, mainly in the outsourced IT sector, stand to lose their jobs. Though India Inc is not in danger of overnight becoming India Sink, the economic impact of the US crisis will be felt through all sectors, from bourses to the property market, where employment insecurities compounded with high interest rates deter buyers. With FIIs pulling out funds to stave off debt disaster, the rupee has fallen sharply against the dollar, making imports costlier and further fuelling domestic inflation, which at over 12 per cent is ruinously high, particularly for those who are already living on the outer margins of economic survival. If the poorest of the poor are fearful that their next meal might be the last they can afford, young career-makers in the services sector live in dread of looming pink slips. After a lifetime of work, retirees agonise whether their arduously accumulated savings are safe or will irretrievably be sucked into some financial black hole, leaving them destitute in life’s twilight. An audit of our anxieties might go something like this: We better not go to the market today, just in case there’s a bomb blast. Just as well, in a way. Because if we did go to the market, we’d spend money, which we can ill afford to do seeing as how any day we could be laid off from our jobs. So the thing to do is to keep saving. But if we all save and save, and don’t spend at all, won’t people stop making things since no one’s buying them, and if no one makes things, and no one buys things, won’t there be a recession and we’ll all lose our jobs any way? Never mind, we’ll still have our savings. Where was it that we put them, which bank? Uh, oh. Wasn’t that the one that went bust yesterday? Perhaps gallows humour is the only answer to our age of anxiety. Like the man who told his friend that the financial crisis was keeping him awake at night. Can’t sleep because you’ve lost all your money, is it? asked the friend. No, said the man. I haven’t lost my money, and that’s the problem — it’s stuffed under my mattress which has become so lumpy that it keeps me awake all night.


World Without You

I can never fathom, A world without you,
I only see your Kingdom kissing me, I love the success we shared,
You and me, Eventually I found redemption of you,
Me and you, Where I perceive nature's beauty,

This is the revelation, World without you is insanity,
World without you is sadness, World without you is no world,
World without you is all ugly, World without you is foolisness,
World with you is Beauty Unfathomable,
World with you is their envy, World with you their hatred,
World with you is their cofusion,
World with you made them raise hell,
World with you we are even more than conquerer's.


Lap of Luxury

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Luxury products have two cores. One is their outstanding functional and aesthetic quality. That is why the appeal of a luxury product is innate. It cuts across all cultural and socio-economic barriers and speaks to everyone who beholds it. The other core of luxury products defines their marketing. It is to do with the sense of entitlement that a luxury brand infuses and resonates with. This aspect of luxury lies in the consumer of luxury and not in the luxury product or service itself. In the West, the cult of luxury is the cult of the individual. The sense of entitlement to luxury is derived in western culture from real or perceived individual achievements and luxury, therefore, is a matter of private consumption. I found myself discussing the issue of luxury brands with a couple of Japanese friends from the advertising world in Tokyo last summer. They told me that though the market for luxury brands in Japan is as large and deep as it is in western societies, there is a key difference in purchase behaviour. The Japanese consumer feels the need for the sense of entitlement to be endorsed. Since over more than two generations now family ties in Japan have weakened, this endorsement comes from one’s circle of friends. Many a luxury brand has floundered in the Indian market because its makers have assumed that the sense of entitlement here is the same as in western or East Asian markets. In India, the sense of entitlement to luxury has unique roots. In the not-sodistant past luxury belonged to the royals and a function of royalty was to provide to the commoner, from time to time, the drama of luxury. Both of them consumed luxury in the same sense that both the actors and the audience consume a play. Indian society has acquired a veneer of modernity but if you strip away the layers, what has changed are only the definitions. The royalty today is the cult of celebrity and the durbar is replaced by the glare of the media. In Indian society, being a celebrity is primarily an elevation to a role that represents to the community at large the fruits of success and riches. Outstanding individual achievement is just one of the pathways to this elevation which often comes from being part of a celebrity dynasty and the ability to project oneself as a voracious consumer of the symbols of success. The idea of luxury being an item of social and shared consumption, which is often channelled through a celebrity, has key implications for marketers. The first one is with regard to celebrity endorsers. In the West, the endorsement seeks a transfer of values between the endorser and the brand. In India, it has to be the projection of the quality and the rarity of the product that the brand represents made real to its potential buyer through the medium of the endorser. In India, the social and shared consumption of luxury has another sanctioned context. It is the consumption of luxury on occasions of shared joy like weddings and festivals, and other such ‘traditional’ occasions. Luxury products sanctioned for consumption on these traditional occasions include the Banarasi brocade, the Kanjeevaram silk, the Jaipur jadau, the shahtush shawl or the gold-leaf mithai. What makes these occasions important for luxury brands is that there is social sanction to splurge on these occasions. While the Indian sense of thrift frowns upon the individual who splurges to the beat of some private drum it looks up indulgently on the family which goes near broke in satisfying the ‘needs’ of traditional occasions, especially weddings. For luxury brands to succeed in India, they must build brand equity in towns beyond the metros where there are several high net-worth individuals. Selfemployed and successful businesswomen and women professionals constitute a rapidly growing consumer base for luxury products. India is ready to be one of the largest markets for luxury brands right now provided that the luxury marketer tailors his marketing and promotional plans to the unique context of luxury consumption in India.


Time to get tough

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Terrorism seems to have the entire country in its grip. There is hardly a state which is not affected by the terrorist menace, though the shades may be different. There is ‘ethnic terror’ in the north-east, ‘Naxalite terror’ over vast swathes of central India and there is the ‘Islamist terror’ which, starting from J&K, has spread to other parts of the country. Of these, the last one is undoubtedly the most devastating by virtue of its linkages with the forces of global jihad. Their objectives may be different — separatism for the north-eastern rebels, new democratic revolution for the Naxals, and azadi for the militants in J&K. But, in practical terms, these boil down to creating communal disharmony, disrupting the economy and destabilising the political structure. A grim scenario is building up which calls for a comprehensive strategy. The salient features of the terrorist threat need to be clearly understood. First, it has today an all-India sweep, from Kashmir to Kerala and Mumbai to Manipur. Second, the terrorists, with their sophisticated weaponry and expertise in the use of IEDs, pack an enormous punch. Third, the frequency of these attacks is now anybody’s guess. Earlier, it was one major incident every quarter. Now another incident could happen tomorrow or just any other day. Fourth, while the Naxalite movement is more or less entirely indigenous, the north-eastern insurgents and the Islamist terrorists have a significant nexus with external forces which enable them get weapons, ammunition and explosives from our neighbouring countries — apart from access to sanctuaries, training facilities and guidance. Are we capable of facing the threat of terror? The answer is an emphatic yes provided we show the political will, chalk out a comprehensive plan and extend necessary legal and administrative support to the states irrespective of the governing party. There are three outstanding examples of our success against terrorism. Punjab offers the best illustration. The state witnessed what was one of the most lethal terrorist movements the world has seen, and yet it was vanquished. In Andhra Pradesh, which had become the epicentre of the Naxal movement in the country, the state police have been able to clear the affected districts of the Maoists, who have since fled to the neighbouring states. In Tripura, the security forces have been able to break the backbone of the ATTF and the NLFT, the major insurgent groups operating in the state. There is no reason why the central and the state governments, working in tandem, cannot contain the terrorist threat we face today. We should, to start with, define our antiterror policy in unambiguous terms, and make it clear that the country shall not compromise in its battle with terrorism under any circumstances; that it shall be dealt with sternly and at all costs. At the same time, the state must give an assurance that legitimate political demands will be met and that genuine socio-economic grievances shall be addressed. This policy will have to be backed by appropriate structural changes in the law enforcement machinery. A federal investigating agency must be set up in view of the fact that terrorist crimes have interstate or even international ramifications. The state police agencies, with their compartmentalised approach, would not be able to do justice to such cases. The state police units, it must be remembered, are our first line of defence against terrorism. These must be energised and motivated. The police stations should be strengthened and the system of beat patrol revived. Unfortunately, we have allowed the state satraps to politicise these forces and blunt their striking power. In a couple of states, the ruling parties are using them virtually as their private militias. The Supreme Court directions on police reforms should be implemented without any further delay. The apex court itself would have to crack the whip against the recalcitrant states. The investigation and law and order work must be separated in the metropolitan towns at least. Intelligence must be insulated from political influences and revamped on the lines recommended by the Saxena committee. There is a Money Laundering Act on the statute book, but it needs to be made more stringent because the terrorist outfits continue to indulge in hawala transactions in a significant way. The UN Security Council Resolution 1373 lays great stress on choking the financial sources of terrorists. A stringent anti-terror law is a must. The argument that the existence of TADA or POTA in the past did not finish terrorism is juvenile. Notwithstanding the existence of the Indian Penal Code, we still have incidents of murder and rape. Does it mean that the penal sections relating to these crimes could be abolished? Besides, if a particular law is misused, the answer lies in incorporating safeguards and ensuring that those overstepping the limits of law are suitably punished. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is no solution. We are a nuclear power. We aspire to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. But we are looking pathetic and clueless in the face of recurring terrorist attacks in our cities, including the national capital. A determined and firm response is called for. Veerbhogya Vasundhara (the brave shall rule the earth), say our ancient texts. The terrorist threat can surely be contained, if not demolished, once we decide that national security shall take precedence over all other considerations.


Race against time

This is a race against time to prevent a global financial collapse, and on Tuesday, the clock was ticking louder than ever. Markets went into a tumble — with Wall Street slumping more than 4%, its worst loss since the immediate aftermath of 9/11, seven years ago. Policymakers went into a huddle. And investment bankers gathered in droves — on social networking sites and at offline watering holes — to rage against the seismic change in their fortunes from ‘masters of the universe’ (to quote bestselling author Tom Wolfe) to a tribe living in fear of the pink slip. Already shaken by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the sale of Merrill Lynch, markets tanked further as major credit rating agencies downgraded US’ largest insurer American International Group (AIG), leaving it fighting for survival. The company, whose stock plummeted 61% to $4.76 in New York on Monday, is such a big player in insuring risk for institutions around the world that the prospect of it going under raised fears of a cross-border meltdown.The London and Tokyo markets tumbled more than 4% on Tuesday, hitting their lowest levels for more than three years. Central banks hit back, with the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of England and Bank of Japan together injecting $210bn into money markets. But the Fed stunned the market by holding interest rates steady, dashing rate cut hopes and sending the Dow sliding again. The Dow had earlier steadied on hopes that the government would bail out AIG and that Barclays would buy some US assets of Lehman. In India, AIG has two insurance joint ventures with the Tatas — Tata-AIG — one for life and another for general. IRDA on Tuesday said according to accounts on March 31, 2008, both companies ‘‘have satisfactory solvency margins which are adequate to meet their liabilities’’, but following the US crisis, it has asked them to submit reports. The fear of a global slowdown drove oil prices to below $90 a barrel, down almost 40% from the record high of above $147 per barrel in July. Unfortunately, the declining rupee means this benefit is unlikely to reach consumers.


Blank Screen

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ever since our cities have been rocked by serial bomb blasts in the past two years, the issue of making them safer from such terrorist outrages has been in the forefront of public discussion. Besides technological upgradation, a number of systemic reforms have to be implemented. Among these are the institution of a federal agency which would coordinate inputs from the various central and state level agencies; beefing up the number of police personnel; inducting more cyber security experts; increasing the budget for informer and surveillance networks; and expanding and modernising forensic laboratories. More than 36 hours after the blasts, the people of Beadonpura’s Gali number 42 — which lost 11 of its residents — had their first meal on Monday afternoon, courtesy a former Congress politician. Since Saturday, they have been living on biscuits and water, that too arranged by the local RWA. They hadbarely slept during the period. Now residents who ferried the dead and the injured on their own, without any help from the government, are at the end of their tether.


Up,Up and Down

Contrary to predictions that the price of oil would touch $200 per barrel by the end of the year, crude traded at below $100 for the first time in five months last week. On Monday, crude traded at around $97 per barrel. This is nearly a 30 per cent drop from a record high of $147 per barrel in July. The steep drop in oil prices in three months could be due to several reasons. One is the possibility of speculation which is not always easy to quantify. The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which has just released a much-anticipated report examining the activities of large index investors and so-called swap traders in the commodity futures markets including crude oil, has said as much. The problem is that the available data does not differentiate between speculative and legitimate hedge trading activities, it said. But the rapid speed with which oil prices have dropped probably indicates that speculators might now be trying to get rid of stocks before prices fall further. Two, the slowdown in the demand for oil, particularly in the US, caused by spiralling prices has had an effect. Finally, the prices have fallen because of the strength of the US dollar.


Grow Up now

As Delhi recovers from the shock of the terrorist bombings, it is apparent that India is under sustained attack. Weak governance, an intelligence failure and police bungling are the reasons the chatterati ascribes to the incident. It is almost as though they are inured to the random loss of life on the capital’s mean streets. The real failure lies in the divisiveness of the political class. From Bangalore, where the BJP is holding a convention, saffron grandees have pitched in with vicious criticism of the government. Nobody has come to grips with the real issue: a political consensus is vital in a modern nation state. Certain issues of national interest are beyond partisan politics. The civilian nuclear deal with the United States was one such issue. The political bickering over it showed very clearly the lack of maturity in the political class. On September 6, 2008, the Vienna-based Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a consortium of 45 countries that seeks to control international trade in nuclear materials, technology and equipment, issued a “clean waiver” that exempted India from its own denial regime. The effort was spearheaded by the US government and supported by most of the original seven members of the NSG. Where the global community rose to admirable heights to transcend its domestic political concerns, in India, the saffron and red opponents of the deal plumbed new depths of chicanery. Instead of closing ranks with the government, they dug in their heels and refused to acknowledge the importance of the NSG waiver and the potential it offers to transform India’s standing in the world. Concomitant with the rise in India’s global status, its political class needs to come together on key issues such as the NSG waiver and terrorism. The opposition parties could play a constructive role in achieving this. Clearly, nobody expects the Left to sign up. The formation is an ideological dinosaur that opposes the deal because of its irrational anti-American mindset. As is now clear, it is China’s cat’s paw. But the BJP could definitely play a bridging role. Its over-the-top response to the nuclear deal was based on the fear that the government has given up our right to test nuclear weapons. But the NSG waiver was to allow India the opportunity to do civilian nuclear commerce with the world. There is nothing in the agreement that talks about weapons testing. The waiver in Vienna is an overt acknowledgement by the world that India is a responsible nuclear power.


सीख रहे हैंहँसना

Monday, September 15, 2008

सूरज पर प्रतिबंध अनेकोंऔर

भरोसा रातों परनयन हमारे सीख रहे हैंहँसना

झूठी बातों परहमने जीवन की चौसर परदाँव लगाए आँसू वालेकुछ

लोगो ने हर पल, हर दिनमौके देखे बदले पालेहम शंकित सच पा अपने,

वे मुग्ध स्वँय की घातों परनयन हमारे सीख रहे

हैंहँसना झूठी बातों परहम तक
लौट गई हैंमौसम की बेशर्म

कृपाएँहमने सेहरे के संग बाँधीअपनी सब मासूम खताएँहमने

कभी न रखा स्वयँ कोअवसर के अनुपातों परनयन हमारे सीख रहे हैंहँसना झूठी बातों पर


Uncertain justice

Who will judge the judges?
That’s the question increasingly being asked against the background of proliferating allegations of corruption relating to the Indian judiciary. While the apex court, by and large, is still held in high esteem and often seen as a proactive paladin of common citizens, protecting them from the many sins of omission and commission on the part of venal and inefficient politicians and bureaucrats, the lower judiciary’s image has been tarnished by mounting charges of malfeasance. Hard on the heels of the Centre’s move to impeach Calcutta high court judge Soumitra Sen who has been accused of misappropriating Rs 24 lakh, come reports of as many as 34 judges (including one in the Supreme Court) implicated by the UP police in cases involving illegal withdrawals from pension funds. There has also been the instance of money having been delivered to the ‘wrong’ judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court. Despite the great public outcry made at the time, the case of Justice Y K Sabharwal whose directives on Delhi’s sealing drive putatively helped his sons’ construction business has been given a discreet burial, RIP.


Delhi serial Blasts

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Five bombs have ripped through busy shopping areas of India's capital, Delhi, within minutes of each other, killing at least 18 people, police say. As panic spread, mobile phone connections were jammed and shops immediately downed shutters. The Metro rail service paused for a few hours and prominent markets were evacuated. Two blasts each at Greater Kailash and Connaught Place occurred soon after the first bomb exploded in Karol Bagh at 6:10 pm. Two bombs were diffused at CP.As police secured the scene, investigations into the cause of the blasts got underway The Indian security establishment believes that Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) and SIMI are behind IM. Some security analysts believe that IM is a group of ex-SIMI cadres, rather than HuJI-B. Others say that IM is a fake organisation designed to misguide investigatorsFive bombs have ripped through busy shopping areas of India's capital, Delhi, within minutes of each other, killing at least 18 people, police say. As panic spread, mobile phone connections were jammed and shops immediately downed shutters. The Metro rail service paused for a few hours and prominent markets were evacuated.Nearby property was badly damaged.Glass pieces lie scattered after bomb ripped through CP, the heart of Delhi The Supreme Court, on an appeal from the government, continued the ban but only till October 2. After that date, the court will review its order.Intelligence sources say one Abu Subhan, believed to be the mastermind of the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts, may be involved in today’s attacks. Intelligence agencies had warned the government recently that SIMI was planning BAD (Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi) serial blasts.Islamic militant group Indian Mujahideen (IM), believed to be a front for Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), today claimed responsibility for the five bomb blasts in three crowded Delhi markets. At least 100 people had been injured at the time of going to press and more than 20 had died.The bombs were placed in dustbins and in the boot of a CNG-fuelled autorickshaw, an action replay of Gujarat and Jaipur blasts earlier this year. The credit for these two was taken by IM in emails, the authenticity of which has been confirmed by the Intelligence


What is Death

Friday, September 12, 2008

What is this horror
Its name is Death
It hunts and prowls
It kills and destroys
It takes what is not its to take
It wounds the soulIt destroys the love of life
And the link of love
But little does it knowDeath has a peer
A greater powerA stronger force
And Its name is LifeAnd as death is a theif
Life is a blessing
Life gives
Death takes
And just as Death
Devil prowls and sneaks
Searching for a foothold
A weak spot in the soul
But little does it know
The Devil has a peer
And as Life gives
The Lord protects
Closing up the footholds
And Sealing the weakness in the soul

What is the definition of Death?Death is when a plane crashes into a desert with no one around you seeyou crashDeath is when you crash your car into a ditch knowing that you are goingto die alone with no one to hear your last dying wordsDeath is when you are on a bicycle on the side of the road and a drunkdriver crashes into you leaving you mangled on the side of the road withno one around to see that you are all rightDeath is when you are walking along side of the road in broad daylightwhen a vehicle hits you and leaves you for deadDeath is when you are running in a race with everyone behind you and youfall landing on your face knowing that you have to get back up beforethey will trample you deathWhat is the definition of Death?Death is when you are about to die a horrible slow death alone with noone to comfort you in the last moments of your lifeDeath is when you are old and you are in the hospital alone by yourselfin a strange place hoping your family will come to see youDeath is when you are at home alone and you have a heart attack knowingthat if you do not reach the telephone you will die in your own homealoneDeath is when you are old and dying and you have Alzheimer’s disease andif you do not get home someone will try to take your wallet and you mightdie because you resisted to be robbedDeath is when you have a slow terrible disease that has no known cure andyou want to tell someone else besides yourself but if you do the peoplethat you told them what you had all they did was make a funny face andrun away from youWhat is the definition of Death?Death is when you see countless millions of people die every day becausethey have no food to eat or anything to quench their dying thirstDeath is when the head of household gives away their food to his childrenor his wife to eat so that they can survive while he dies of starvationwhile they grow stronger each day while he grows weaker each dayDeath is when you starve yourself to the point of death knowing that youshould eat the food that is available to youDeath is seeing the people you love and cherish most die slicing theirwrists so that they do not have to face their peers at school or seetheir siblings againDeath is when you see a poor human being walking by in a ragged coat andjeans that can be used as rags thinking nothing but what is he going toeat tomorrow once today’s food is all goneWhat is the definition of Death?Death is when the army is shooting at other people on the T.V. while youare safe at home eating your favorite foodDeath is when countless millions of people suffering because the armykeeps ruining all their buildings that they used to live inDeath is when countless millions of innocent people die because they gothit by a stray bullet walking down the street?Death is when the army sneaks into building and opens fire only to findout later after they had killed everyone in the room that is was filledwith women and childrenDeath is when the army bombs a village killing everyone including the menthe people they wanted to kill including innocent women and childrenWhat is the definition of Death?Death is when you are alone in your bedroom hurting because someone hurtyou and your only solution you can think of at the moment is sitting onyour lap with your hand on the trigger knowing if you put the gun to yourhead the pain will stop but your family’s pain will never stop because ofwhat you didDeath is when you are walking down an alley with cash in your pocket anda person comes along with a loaded gun in their hand and wants some moneyknowing that if you do not give him the money he will shoot you and leaveyou her until you die alone in a dark alley with no one around to hearyour dying wordsDeath is when you are cashing a check that you feel that you have earnedfrom a good paying job when someone comes in with a gun in one hand and a bag in the other telling you to put everything in it that you own knowingif you do not comply he will shoot youDeath is when a person you love is dying and they ask you to shoot themso that they do not have to suffer any longer knowing if you do not shootthat person then you will disgrace his memory because you did not honorhis final wish of youDeath is when you are desperate for some money so that you can eattomorrow and you rob a bank so that you will have food tomorrow but yougo to jail insteadWhat is the definition of Death?Death is also one word that can send people crying their heart out. Whydo people cry when they hear about Death? They cry because someone theyare close to die and they did not say goodbye to them or did not even saythat they love them before they passed away from this Earth. Death isunavoidable. Why do people run from it when they know it is pointless torun away from it? The people that are running away from it spendcountless millions of dollars for research so they can postpone the dayof their Judgment. If they succeeded in postponing Death then everyonewill want to have for themselves because they do not want to die yet. Ifeveryone gets hold of it then the population of this Earth will no longerbe contained. If people will not die then many fathers will go hungrybecause they want their children may have a chance to stay alive to seeanother day. I know that is sad to hear but it is true. Death is also abalance of Life. Life is a delicate scale. If that scale tips a littlethe wrong way then Life will cease to exist as we know it.


Nano Ride

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WATCH OUT FOR BUMPS: It’s small, cheap, cost-effective and eco-friendly, and it isn’t the Nano. As this photo of policemen hitching a ride back from the Nano plant site at Singur shows, the Tata car isn’t the only example of innovative Indian automobile engineering at work . Now, if only this makeshift personnel carrier had a roof...



Monday, September 8, 2008

When a woman cries out foul, she isn’t always speaking up against the tyrannies of patriarchy. Sometimes, she is faSection 498A of the IPC, meant to protect a woman being harassed by her husband or his family, particularly for dowry, is increasingly being used to blackmail unsuspecting families. Priya Hingorani, former VP, Supreme Court Bar Association, while alarmed at the misuse, believes that the percentage of ‘con women’ is still miniscule: “There’s no point in making sweeping generalizations about a law that has protected a lot of distressed women.” She does, however, suggest that the offence be made bailable, in order that innocent families don’t unwittingly suffer. Like an unfortunate Rohit (name changed) did, when his wife converted a dowry harassment complaint into an FIR. “I went crazy running around for anticipatory bail,” he recalls. Rohit, a 31 year-old who got married in 2005, felt his wife’s greed surface during their honeymoon in Singapore, when she, eager to shop in the malls, taunted him with comments like: “Tum mujhe kya shopping karoege (One can hardly expect you to shop for me).” When the insults piled up and threatened to overcome the middle-class engineer completely, he called for a heart-to-heart with her parents. “It was pointless; she obviously wanted to marry a rich guy and her parents twisted everything I said to insinuate that I wanted dowry to keep her happy,” he says of the meeting. Rubbishing her claims that she was physically tortured by her in-laws, he vehemently asserts, “My parents are old and weak, one look at them and you’ll know they just don’t have the strength to beat up a young person.” king it — manipulating the law to cover up for her extortionist tactics. Neil (name changed), a 38-year-old post-graduate from IIT, also faces a similar predicament. When his wife started behaving erratically after the birth of their child in 2004, he attributed the cause to postpartum depression. But then she left for her parents’ home one year later and “kept withdrawing money from my accounts.” Despite that, he attempted to restore his marriage under the Restitution of Conjugal Rights provision. She however, threatened his entire family with dire consequences, unless he settled for Rs 50 lakhs.


New Nawabs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time was when Indian maharajas would commission bespoke products, such as Hermes saris and Louis Vuitton luggage emblazoned with a peacock. But bespoke means something more for India’s new Raj, the growing club of super-rich people. It’s not just Dior with a desi twist but the rarefied world of bespoke banking with discreet wealth managers rushing to counsel India’s rich set on where to park its millions. The advice can range from investing in stocks to that million-dollar purchase of a private jet. It can extend to newer assets, such as art (that painting will look great on your wall and get you fabulous returns if you sell) or sport (invest your megabucks in an IPL team.) But such a service comes at a price and small change won’t do. If you can’t afford that customized Rolls Royce or at least a mid-range BMW, chances are you don’t qualify. Most private banks offer these services only to those who are, in industry jargon, ‘‘high-net-worth individuals’’ (HNWIs) or people with fortunes of at least $1 million. That’s just investable income; it excludes land and jewellery. With India booming economically, the number of dollar millionaires stood at 1,23,000 last year, according to a recent report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. That’s a staggering growth of 22.8% over the previous year, making India the fastest-growing dollar-millionaire country in the world, ahead of China and Brazil. As expected, India’s wealth-management market is attracting high-profile global players whose business is solely to cater to the super rich. Some of the entrants refuse to take on clients with fortunes below the $10-million mark.


The joy of effortless living

While attending the intermediate course of paragliding many years ago, i remember taking a short flight from the top of a 600-feet cliff and truly loving it. I recall marveling at the effortlessness of the 45-second flight – before gravity took over – and wondering how some of the experienced paragliders managed to stay up in the air for hours. As i learnt, it was their ability, like the migratory birds, to find progressive air thermals that allowed them to stay up and even travel long distances, sometimes up to a thousand kilometres. Were those long flights enervating for them? Never, they were always effortless and exhilarating, as they soared, in complete harmony with nature. Comparing that scenario to the way we live our lives, i often wonder why there is so much struggle to our existence. There appears to be this constant underlying stress all around us and the innumerable choices that we are surrounded with — products, services, careers, gadgets, leisure and so on — instead of empowering us, leave us feeling deprived. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way to make our lives more effortless, balanced, and peaceful? A way to free ourselves from our daily dilemmas to creating a life where making choices were much easier, where we experienced minimal effort to move forward, and where we were fully supported by nature in all our pursuits. The key to this lies in gaining clarity about the purpose of our own existence. Why are we here and what are are we aiming to do? I do believe each one of us on earth is hugely gifted and has a special purpose — but do we take the time to discover it in ourselves; or are we just on a treadmill of activity going almost nowhere? Do you want to be more successful or do you want to make a more significant contribution? Do you want more money or greater happiness? What’s the role of family and friends in our life? What’s our commitment to community and environment? If you had to make a real choice, what’s that one thing that you would like your life to be about? On your deathbed, what is it that you would feel most proud about your life? I have reflected a lot on this and coached a number of people on this. Interestingly, some of the most powerful statements of purpose tend to revolve around an absolute and an inner goal — absolute in that they are not set relative to others and inner in that their progress is not measurable by external parameters of evaluation like career, money, fame, achievement.


Of Body & Soul

Since each of us is a physical and spiritual being at the same time, everything in our life has a physical and a spiritual aspect to it. Even those things that seem simply physical in nature, such as our bodies, are in truth also spiritual. It makes sense then that if we go deeply into our relationship with our physical self that we will soon find ourselves in the realm of spirit. At the root of everything lies our relationship with God. We find Him wherever we look, even when we look into our bodily self as we struggle with weight. A spiritual approach to any pursuit — even one as seemingly mundane as weight loss — always brings us to a deeper truth. Some people who have an aversion to God are drawn to this deeper truth, while others who profess to be spiritual are secretly avoiding the truth. We can be in denial of the existence of God or of truth, but that doesn’t diminish the existence of either. The crucial thing to realise is that the realm of spirit is the realm of truth. Here, we can’t pretend to be something that we are not — we can’t be in denial of our choices and the fruits they bear. Being brutally honest with ourselves is standing naked before God. As long as we stay hidden in our proverbial clothes or avoid the scale, the truth-teller, we can’t have a close relationship with our creator. Physical truth: Mrs X’s most urgent truth was that she was making poor eating choices. Emotional truth: Acknowledging this truth led her to her next truth: that she eats for comfort when she is stressed. It was necessary for her to face the things that triggered her stress, allow herself to experience the stressful emotions she was escaping and learn to process them. Mental truth: This brought her to memories of verbal abuse that had stripped her of her self-esteem. Spiritual truth: Once we lifted the veil of shame and pain the belief had created, she saw the low self-esteem of her perpetrators and that she had been their scapegoat. The wound was exposed. She had been blamed for the worthlessness of others and had carried it as her own. She also saw that she was abusing herself with food. She had designated her body as her scapegoat. Standing naked before herself and God she requested love, forgiveness and healing. She saw the truth and was able to forgive her perpetrators for how their pain had come through them and onto her. She emerged more loved, and empowered with wisdom, understanding and compassion that she can thrive on. This is fulfillment at its best. When we let go of false beliefs about ourselves, space is opened in our hearts and minds for God to fill with love and truth. We no longer need extra sweets to make up for a lack of affection, fatty foods to cushion potential blows from abuse, or carbs to stifle our passion. We see our feelings as fuel for growth and healing and learn how to use them to experience God at work in our lives. Walking this path allows us to witness how our relationship with our world is divinely orchestrated based on our intentions rather than random and chaotic as we once thought. We can adopt new eating habits that nurture our new state of being. Once the real issues are addressed, eating healthily is easy and fun because there is no longer a purpose to unhealthy eating choices. And if we do find ourselves in some other struggle in the future, we know that it is just a heads-up from the universe, a signal that it is time to confront a truth that will bring us into even deeper intimacy with ourselves and God. When we make choices based on fear or shame, we are likely to avoid God, the source of truth and light, just as we avoid the scale. We don’t want him to see us; we flee from the truth as we avoid facing up to our own behaviour, whether it’s late night snacking or secret stashes of junk food. We tell ourselves we’ll talk to God when we are in a better place, just as we postpone pursuing our desires (buying that dress, seeking that relationship) until we lose a little weight. But avoiding the truth just prolongs our agony while it immobilises us.


Of Zardaris ,Bhuttos & Musharaffs

Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a controversial politician with little experience in governing, was elected president of Pakistan on Saturday. Describing his victory as “another step towards the transition to democracy”, Zardari said at in iftar hosted at PM Gilani’s residence: “I reiterate parliament is sovereign. This President shall be subservient to the parliament.” Flanked by daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa, he said, “We (took) revenge on the dictators in the form of democracy. She (Bhutto) taught us how to live, how to do politics...” Results from voting in the two houses of parliament, and three of four provincial assemblies, showed that Zardari had easily prevailed over his closest competitor. Zardari, 53, who spent 11 years in jail on corruption charges that were not proven, succeeds Pervez Musharraf, who resigned as president last month under the threat of impeachment. The elevation of Zardari to the presidency, where he will have great powers, including the ability to dissolve parliament and name the head of the Pakistani army, comes with the tacit approval of the United States.


India Nabled

The deal is done. And it’s a big deal for India. It has gained unique status as the only nuclear weapons power to be allowed global nuclear commerce without signing either the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, until now a precondition for entering the elite nuclear club. When the NSG ‘‘adjusted its guidelines’’ for India on Saturday, after 76 hours of high drama, it marked a delicious irony. It came into being 34 years ago as a response to India’s 1974 Pokharan test and yet, on Saturday, the NSG was bending its rules to accommodate India’s nuclear ambitions. The NSG’s approval was also Manmohan Singh’s moment. The Prime Minister, who had quietly worked out the architecture of the Indo-US nuclear deal with US President George Bush, made history on Saturday by salvaging the agreement, while staving off the threat to his government and political career. Singh described the NSG waiver as a ‘‘forwardlooking and momentous decision’’. Bush praised Singh for his ‘‘strong leadership’’ in ensuring success at Vienna. Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said the waiver gives India access to full civilian nuclear cooperation with the rest of the world. The text of the waiver is yet to be made public. The deal will not just give India access to nuclear fissile material and technology to mount a credible nuclear energy programme, it will also open up certain key high-tech industries such as pharma, IT, space and defence. But the implications go much beyond energy and technology. In strategic terms, it now brings India closer to the US and several key European countries. At the same time, it might bring a certain frostiness to India’s relations with China as expected after Beijing’s sudden objections in Vienna to the waiver. Even so, Beijing formally welcomed New Delhi to the nuclear club after the NSG finally nodded it through. The NSG’s exception for India did not come easily but happened because of recognition for India as an emerging power with a stable democratic system, growing market economy and business appeal. India’s earlier unilateral moratorium to nuclear testing — made by the Vajpayee government and cited by foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday morning — helped winning over the last naysayers. WHAT IT MEANS? UNIQUE STATUS: Ends 34-year nuclear isolation following 1974 Pokharan test. India now gets N-technology, keeps its nuclear program, doesn’t sign NPT, CTBT N-MAINSTREAM: India can carry out nuclear trade, gets options for nuclear power and access to sensitive hi-tech that serves industry but is also used for nuclear technology; will help sectors like IT, space, pharma, defence, manufacturing RISING POWER: Shows India as an emerging power. Waiver also came as India seen as a stable democracy and growing market economy STRATEGIC SHIFT: India comes closer to the US. As also France, Germany, UK, other European countries, Russia, Japan, Australia. Indo-China ties could get frosty GREAT DIVIDE: De-hyphenation with Pak complete. India now in category of responsible N-powers with impeccable non-proliferation record WHAT NEXT? US Congress expected to take up Indo-US 123 pact when it meets on Monday. It must be approved by Sept 28, when the session ends Bush expected to ask Congress to skip mandatory 30-day period required for putting up pact for approval. Would like to see it through without re-look Both sides may sign pact when PM goes to US at month’s end. India will then sign similar pacts with other N-suppliers POWERING AHEAD ALL EYES NOW ON US CONGRESS Vienna: With the NSG crossed, the scene will shift to the US for the final ratification of the Indo-US nuclear civil cooperation agreement by an up-down vote of the US Congress which meets on Monday. The Bush administration is expected to persuade American lawmakers to pass the pact before the session ends by September 26 by not insisting on the mandatory 30-day session period required to present the agreement for approval. If all goes well, Manmohan Singh will sign the agreement with President Bush in Washington towards the end of the month. Back to the NSG’s decision, it came Saturday morning after two days of bruising diplomacy that saw the last of the conscientious objectors wilting under sustained US pressure. Six of the last objectors — Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Netherlands and Switzerland — relented after India went the extra mile to reassure them about its nonproliferation commitments, and the US, France and UK leaned on them. Until Friday night, when the NSG sat, exhausted through round after round of talks until 2.30 am, two things happened. A modification was made in the waiver text that had been circulating for a week, but with which some countries still had problems. Here, India’s statement earlier in the day came in handy, and a link was made between India’s commitments and the adjustment of the guidelines.


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