Friday, November 28, 2008

Terror in Bombay -- A few unanswered questions.....

Twenty - twenty five years back as a kid, I recall flipping through The Illustrated Weekly, which carried photo feature on the best hotels of the world. The Taj Mahal was there. Papa who saw me flipping through the photo feature described the grandeur of the place to me, as I listened in wonder....

Today the Taj is in shambles. God knows whats happening inside the Oberoi and the Trident. All this is a sad testimony to the lackadaisical attitude of our authorities.
Bombay, a city that has fascinated me for its speed, attitude and iconic structures, is bleeding for the last 45 odd hours....

Are we so ignorant that we didn't know that this could have happened? The incident has opened a Pandora's box of questions that must be answered for the benefit of Indian citizens.

  1. Why weren't the Taj and the Oberoi-Trident complexes not stormed on Wednesday night / Thursday morning? Why did we wait for 8-9 hours despite the army, navy and NSG being called in? Why are we so soft on terror?

  2. Quoting a comment on Facebook on these terror attacks, that no matter how much pesticide you use, you surely get a few cockroaches. The key is to brutally and swiftly eliminate these cockroaches. Why are we so slow and casual? We have constantly been attacked, almost an attack a month, for quite long now. Was the government sleeping, all this while?

  3. I came across an interesting insight on Facebook today which said that India is the only democracy where the top three posts - Prime Minister, Home Minister and President are nominated by a person who herself does not have any mandate from the people! And at least one of these three people are surely ignorant and insensitive to the terror we are seeing, let alone taking any action. Mr. Home Minister has said that we need to show compassion to those involved and these arms and RDX laden guys are brothers gone astray. How stupid and insensitive. How long can we let someone have power without any accountability of any kind? Is there something murky over there?

  4. Security analysts have for the last 5 years have been talking of a marine threat. What have we done to boost our marine defence and patrol systems?

  5. What a slap it was on the face of the state government that it took Narendra Modi's visit to the Trident and Oberoi this morning to get Mr. Deshmukh out of his slumber. Where was Mr. Vilas Rao Deshmukh all this while?

  6. What has India done to curb Islamic militancy in our hinterlands? How long can we ignore this real and genuine threat in the name of secularism?

  7. As evidenced from the nuclear deal, India now has a strong lobby (both with US megacorps and the administration) in the US. Why can't we leverage on our new found strong relationship with the US and the rest of the Western world to pressurise the Pakistanis to curb terror?

  8. Why do we want to trade with Pakistan when we know they will stab us? Why did we support the financially bankrupt state of Pakistan in getting support from the IMF?

  9. Why can't we coerce Pakistan into clamping down on terror by strangling Pakistan economically - disrupt the shipping lines into the Karachi and Gwadar ports?

  10. Why can't we learn from the Israeli swiftness and brutality in dealing with such matters? Why can't we join hands with them in dealing with Islamic fundamentalists? If not all that, can't we get Israelis to train our commandos and state police forces to deal with these situations? How long can we be so sensitive to a certain vote-bank that we don't co-operate with Israel on these matters?

  11. Why don't we have a disaster management plan? How can we allow three top cops to travel together, thereby multiplying the risk of losing them all - this is precisely what happened when we lost the top three ATS cops on Wednesday night. Losing three ATS cops on the same night is strange. Is there more than what meets the eye or is it a mere coincidence?

  12. Last but not the least, I got an interesting text message this morning which went as follows: "The Navy commandos are headed by a Sikh. The Army operatives are headed by a Haryana Jat. NSG has been called in from Delhi. Taj and Oberoi staffers who heroically tried to save guests are mainly Punjabis. Where are Raj's Marathi Manoos?" Relevant I think - if he loves the city so much, if he loves his people so much, where is he? Why haven't we heard from him so far? Why aren't party workers assisting in relief efforts? When I sent this message across to most people on my cell's address book, I got an angry response from one of my contacts saying "we should not talk of all this and we should stand as one today". Surely we have been standing as one and that's why there has been a co-ordinated approach. But my question still remains - where are Raj and his Manoos gangs now? Why don't they help the authorities in hunting out the sleeper cells, instead of targeting North Indians?

Can the readers help me with some answers on these random questions on the terror of the last 45 odd hours?

As we wonder about these questions, we need to resolve to flush out and eliminate these cockroaches. We need to remember that our Motherland, India, is indeed incredible and we'ld better keep it that way. Jan Gana Mana....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saluting the Punjabi spirit...

About three weeks, while channel surfing, I chanced upon the movie "Pinjar" showing on World Movies. The movie Pinjar is about the ordeal of a young Punjabi girl, Puro (Urmila Matondkar), in pre-partition Punjab. And I bet I have never seen a movie that has haunted me, touched me and affected me as much as this one.

Despite being a movie that unsettles the audience, it is a must watch for all those who want to know the ordeals the Punjabis went through during the partition era.

When I spoke to my parents about the movie, they also told me tales about the partition that they had heard as kids and the problems their families faced after they migrated to India. Neeti told me similar stories from her side of the family. And it's not just our families that have stories to tell - almost every Punjabi family has some or the other painful story on the partition.

It is even hard to imagine the hell Punjabis went through in 1947. And after decades of patience, hard work and a never say die attitude, they came out of it as winners. Who could have imagined that the relatively infertile part of Punjab would be turned into India's wheat and bread basket? Or the belt from Amritsar to Delhi would be turned into a belt of unparalleled prosperity?

Our grandparents came here to independent India after losing everything in Pakistan with nothing more to lose but with a will to survive and succeed. And that will prevailed.

So coming to the Punjabi attitude that made it happen - of working hard, playing hard and of living life kingsize. This attitude has been unmatched in the rest of India - the rest of India which was unaffected by miseries of partition.

Often we get to hear of malicious comments on the ostentatious nature of Delhiites (read Punjus), but have we ever got to the bottom of what makes the Punjus of today what they are? Have we ever heard any Punju say that they don't accept any outsider in Punjabi majority areas of the North? Never till date, and never in the future - I can bet my reputation on that. Despite being proud as a community, the Punjabis have always seen themselves as Indians first - look at the contribution of the Punjabi community to the Indian armed forces.

My hypothesis is that all Indians secretly admire the attitude of the Punjus and aspire to be like them. The proof of this lies in Bollywood - almost 90% of all Bollywood movies show a Punju background, bringing out all the giggles from the audiences. Why? Because it sells. Why do these movies sell? Because Indians aspire to have an attitude like the Punjus.... Admit it or not!

But as they say 90% of the iceberg is below the water, this ostentatious Punju attitude is only on the surface. Deep below, there is a warm heart, waiting accept all with open arms and a deep sense of pain for all our Puros, who were left behind and snatched away from our forefathers in Pakistan.

I salute the Punju attitude and would love to be reborn as a Proud Punjabi!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will Obama rise to the challenge?

Hail Obama! The new president has been elected!

Obama has laid out his priorities very clearly - cleanse America of all its ills.

He has been riding a strong wave of popularity. And popularity brings with it a huge amount of expectations. And when the expectations are the highest, chances of under-performance are the highest, because there is and there always will be a big gap between the perceived expectation and the actual expectation on the street. Will he match the actual expectations and deliver is the big question... This gap is biggest cause of declining popularity of most rulers.

Obama has not had any administrative experience so far. And for being the head of state of any country - be it the United States or the Republic of Vanuatu, prior administrative experience is an absolute plus and a certain desirable. Obama does not have that at all.

And in politics, entrenched affiliations give the necessary leverage to take decisions that may often be unpleasant. Does Obama have that clout? I doubt it...

To make up for his administrative and political deficit, Obama is planning to appoint Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. Hillary is a power-person in her own right. Will she ever accept Obama's authority? Won't she be tempted to create a power center of her own, undermining Obama's agenda?

And then measures to alleviate the economic pain may not be too pleasant for US conglomerates, which have entrenched lobbyists at the Capitol Hill. Won't these lobbies undermine his administrative actions?

And we can't ignore the most powerful industry of the United States - the war industry!!! Won't the armanent and defence industry oppose any move out of Iraq. Similarly, energy firms which have landed lucrative oil and gas contracts in Iraqi Kurdistan, will go all out to protect their turf.

Obama may be thinking right. But thinking and talking about the right thing and doing the right thing are two very different matters. And whether he would be able to maintain his popularity and survive as a successful President is the biggest doubt I have.

But for me, I will always miss Bush for his Bushisms and his unflinching support for the Indian nuclear deal. I doubt whether Obama could have pulled it off at all.

Would Mr. Obama perform? Let's answer this question, let's say, in an year's time...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Africa Is Where My Heart Lies...

I can't describe the excitement I felt when I went through the slide show on Lake Malawi on The New York Times Style magazine yesterday. Was reminded of the day when flying down from Lusaka to Bombay that day in March 1987, when I gazed at wonder at the distinctive shape of the northern tip of Lake Malawi from a height of 35,000 feet - it was an awesome sight.
And yes the slide show of on Lake Malawi confirmed what I always thought - Lake Malawi is indeed beautiful.
But its not only Lake Malawi that is beautiful - the entire southern Africa is. I can never forget rolling savanna grasslands with the typical trees, the anthills, the clear waters of the rivers, etc. etc.
And the colourful culture - tribal customs, colourful clothes, soulful music and gleeful faces.
Nothing describes my feeling more truely than "Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba's song "Africa Is Where My Heart Lies..."

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