Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Mayhem: Has India become an easy playground for terrorists?

The shocking terrorists attacks in Mumbai last night bring the number of terrorist incidents on major Indian cities , since the Bengaluru & Ahmedabad blasts in July-end, to six. Delhi, Agartala, Guwahati being the other three. Some important observations on the Mumbai attacks, that have already killed 100 (& still counting ) & grievously injured hundreds others are as below :
  1. Attacks have taken place simultaneously at ten places clustered around South Mumbai mostly.
  2. Two international hotels have been under grenade & firing attack with British & American tourists being reportedly seized as hostages in exchange for release of "Mujaheddin" from Indian jails.
  3. Attacks involved bomb blasts( taxi in Western Expressway), grenade blasts, firing from automatic rifles.
  4. Timing of attack : 10.30 p.m at night
  5. Attackers have come out in the open with their pictures splashed all across the media. One is shown wearing an expensive designer t-shirt.
  6. 3 senior police officers including the high profile ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) chief have been shot dead .
  7. Television channels in America & Europe have caught the news in prime-time since the attack started .
  8. Mumbai , which has been attacked, is the financial capital of India
  9. Hostages have still not been rescued from the hotels, even at the time of writing this post. By now, eighteen hours have elapsed.

These preliminary observations point the attacks to be the handiwork of one or more hardline , well-planned, daring & foreign (Pakistan or Afghanistan, possibly) terrorist groups who are seeking international attention for their support to "jihadis" in India & Kashmir. One hopes that this is not the ill-famed "Al Qaeda", who had threatened India with attacks earlier. A never-before group called "Deccan Mujaheddin" has sent an email (IP address traced to Russia) to a news channel claiming responsibility.

The ease with which the devastating attacks have been made can only once again point out to the complete failure of the intelligence as well as to the impotent Indian political leadership that seem to have given vigilance a "go by" & converted the combat mechanism of police forces a to a mere tool on paper.

India's tolerant attitude to gun-toting attackers (whether Maoists, Pakistani terrorists, ULFA ,LTTE , Bajrang Dal, SIMI & others ) has been time and again encouraged by vote-bank-hungry politicians (Mulayam Singh Yadav, Amar Singh, Lalu Yadav, Mamata Bannerjee, Prakash Karat, L.K. Advani, Karunanidhi, Arjun Singh etc. ) who have patronised such groups citing "achievement of 'historically-denied' social justice " as reason behind such violent behaviour. This had had a twofold consequence .

Firstly, the perpetrators have been given a perception that they can get away with murder & mayhem while the administration has been reduced to a bureaucracy of lackeys, who are more interested in protecting their jobs from the wrath of their uneducated, criminal political masters rather than patrol the streets of cities.

It is now obvious that international tourists & business travellers alike would like to avoid an "unsafe" destination such as India for months to come. One hopes that the genuine leaders among our politicians wake up from their slumber and act decisively to modernise & train our security forces in equipment, intelligence,vigilance, combat & legal justice before India reduces to another Pakistan , Bangladesh or Sri Lanka while family members of innocent victims of the attacks silently shed their tears for the departed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In a futile search for TRUTH

It was interesting to listen to luminaries & professionals, from varied walks of life, sermonising on the media at a National Debate organised by The Telegraph. The latter is a newspaper known to doctor news. The debate was being televised live by Tara TV.

The motion put forward by the British Dy. HC, Simon Wilson was " This house believes that the Media is misleading the masses."

Supporting the motion was pulp-fiction authoress Shoba De who blasted the media for selling out news on all pages to corporate houses & other interested parties. In her team was R. Gopalakrishnan, ED of Tata Sons , who is normally very well prepared but appeared uneasy today. It was quite difficult to accept R. Gopalakrishnan, a very senior executive himself, accusing the media houses of becoming business entities & focusing on maximisation of profit with zero accountability. Is he trying to say that profit-making necessarily compromises the vision & objectives of any business house? His other team mate Sandip Chattejee, a medical surgeon, eloquently debunked the media for presenting facts without context & knowledge. Finally it was left to Swapan Dasgupta, a media man himself, to bring out his best language & diction while expressing his anguish at media's tendency to paint any situation in pure black & white and not letting the truth rest in its gray overtones.

Opposing the motion was Rajdeep Sardesai who , attired like an activist, thought that those who support the motion actually find the "truth" dug out by the media unpalatable & hence are spreading calumny to change it. Mukul Kesavan , Rajdeep's teammate, opined that news need not be presented in its entirety like a novel with a beginning , an expansion of the theme and the end. More often than not stories about truth will appear like a torn out page. It is left to the readers to assimilate the same & make his own judgement. Ramachandra Guha utilised drama to entertain the audience & thought that accountability of media gets automatically taken care of by the next evolving form. Television reporting made print media more accountable while Internet & blogs hold television journalists accountable for their mistakes.
The guests at the lawns of Calcutta club , where the debate was being held, concluded the proceedings by voting in favour of the motion.

The truth about the media is that its become a circus in India with hundreds of channels & hundreds of dailies sensationalising every event in order to vie for viewers' attention.So much so that like a true circus it has become a form of entertainment which the Indian masses are lapping up like they lap up unrealistic bollywood films with their song & dance routines. The investors are putting their money in , the advertisers get a mass channel & the masses enjoy their relaxation amidst their dreary daily existence. Imaginitive & witty blogs on news such as this dot the margins of the spectrum of mass entertainment.

Where lies the truth then ?
Truth is like the Rashomon story of Japanese film maestro Kurosawa. There is no absolute truth in the world . Every situation will have multiple perspectives. Even a full picture will not be able to reveal what happened to actual truth if truth did not appear naked in the first place.
Consider an example of two brothers. One who squanders away his money & time after born losers and does not believe in savings while the other meticulously saves and spends judiciously. Over time as the first one runs out of money during his rainy days , his 'truth' about brotherhood will be linked to "valuable support & subsidy " from the other. While for the other brother which sees it savings dwindle month after month after his squandering brother, the truth about brotherhood will be linked to a hope for the subsidies to reduce progressively.
The only truth about 'Truth" is the fact that life on earth is a chance occasion. And that's because "Earth" itself is a chance organic creation in the vast emptiness of inorganic matter. Since we live life only once, the only absolute truth is death. Everything else can best be described as , "...that's interesting".

Truth Picture source : David Salaguinto's blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A million for Maradona to set foot in Kolkata

Fish & football are two passions , an average Bengalee can not do without.

You can take industry , industriousness & the "culture for hard work" out of his life but not fish & football. To stoke the electoral fire of the second passion, a communist member of parliament(MP) from Bengal has announced that international soccer star & present coach of Argentina, Diego Maradona will be felicitated in Kolkata next month. Maradona is also expected to lay the foundation stone of a football academy in the MP's constituency in Maheshtala . There are grand plans to send trained young players from the academy to the lower division Latin American leagues.

If cricket superstars like Jayasuriya & Shohaib Akhtars can come & inaugurate Durga Puja pandals , why not Maradona and that too for a good cause of kick starting a football academy in Bengal? So goes the logic of inviting Maradona.
So far , so good.

The cost of bringing Maradona to Kolkata is one million US dollars, as per inside sources. It would be interesting to watch the corporate bodies that are extravagant enough to sponsor and/or underwrite this "one-off" event at a time when corporate spending is low & even organisers of safe- bets ,like the T20 Champion league, are finding it difficult to get the lead & associate sponsors. Further, Maradona will not even take the field.

No comment has been made in the press release about the three-year project cost of such a football academy. That cost should be atleast five times the fee of Maradona . Will the underwriter of the academy-project be able to sustain their interest in the academy through-out the three years? The plans about the academy are so sketchy that one wonders whether this is the right time for launching it with soccer-superman Maradona or anyone else for that matter. Maybe, this is a pre-electoral gimmick of the ruling party to woo young voters, who top the demographical list!

It is expected, the publicity mileage will be cornered by the ruling communist government (as it so often happens in Bengal ) with the sponsors remaining high & dry. The recent felicitation of Oliver Kahn in his farewell match in Kolkata is an example where the sponsors, Peerless hardly got the credit while the state government basked in the glory of bringing the Bayern Munich star to Kolkata.
But when passions are carefully ignited even fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nagpur (k)Nockout: A NEW twist in the India-Australia Test Cricket series

In the deciding test match between Australia & India at Nagpur, India ; a lot many NEW events appear to be playing around this match.

  1. Pitch & Stadium : This is a new stadium & a new pitch with no guesses on its character as to how will it play through the five days. Even net practices for both Indian & Australian teams were not held here. Further there is hardly any information from even first class matches held in the past. Being grass-less , it is expected to break and aid the slower bowlers. Dhoni thinks reverse swingers will have an advantage here. Ponting wants to debut off-spinner Krejza in place of the economic pacer Clark.

  2. Opening Pair: Gautim Gambhir, the Indian opener in form , will have to sit out this match due to a ban. In his place debuts M. Vijay of Tamilnadu , who hit the jackpot when he scored a double-century against Maharastra in Nasik & simultaneously got calls from both the national test & ODI teams . Among the Aussies , Mathew Hayden will look to whack a century for Australia after regaining form in the last test at Kotla.

  3. Middle Order : Ganguly & Laxman both will want to reach new highs to commemorate their respective milestones. Ganguly, for playing his last test match & Laxman for playing his hundredth. Hussey & Clarke intend , on the other hand, to continue their stroke making from where they left it at Kotla. Ponting & Tendulkar are match-ready too.

  4. Captaincy : The edge remains with the new Indian test captain MS Dhoni as Australia appears defensive with Ponting reportedly looking forward to a lucky spin in the toss to rule in his favour .

Overall, the test promises an interesting but uncertain saga that will roll out from today at the new stadium of Vidarbha Cricket Association.

Picture Source : (Inserted on 10th Nov, at match-end )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Piper & the Princess"* in Kolkata

Ian Anderson of the British rock group "Jethro Tull" fame is teaming up for a series of 5 concerts with sitarist Anoushka Shankar in India. The concert kicks off in Kolkata on the 27th of this month.
I visited a Tull concert in Bengaluru three years back. Ian Anderson seemed to have lost his voice then , leaving out high-pitched vocals to give space to instrumentals . But the penchant for showmanship boosted by his indefatigable energy was still evident. Probably the latter makes his live concerts worth visiting .
A folk -rocker famed to have introduced the "flute" to the concerts, Ian is versatile with the harmonica & guitar too.
Anoushka Shankar , who carries a rich tradition of fusion music from her family, is a celebrated performer herself making this unique jam-up an interesting band to look forward to.
Kolkata has generally been out of the concert circuit for quite a long time while the big bands play their gigs regularly in Mumbai, Bengaluru & Delhi.
Hopefully, this Tull concert will set a new trend in Kolkata.

Listen to the clip below from the Kolkata concert.

Picture: A water color painting dated March'93 by Salty
*Note : "Piper & the Princess" is the title of the concert