Thursday, September 30, 2010

Japan's Finally Got Balls!

It seems Japan is finally burying the ghosts of its defeat in the World War II. Japan's new found assertiveness was on prominent display in the last few weeks, shedding its traditional, pacifist image.
The assertiveness was on show at the Senkaku Islands, which is at the centre of a three-way dispute between Japan, China and Taiwan, though the islands are currently under Japanese control.
A Chinese fishing trawler off the coast of the Senkaku Islands was ordered to stop fishing by the Japanese Coast Guard, when the trawler collided into the coast guard vessel. The captain was arrested and was released only after 2 full weeks of detention by Japan.
China did the predictable. It resorted to economic arm-twisting by restricting exports of critical rare earths for the Japanese electronics industry. Despite the release of the trawler's skipper, China has consistently demanded an apology from Japan, which is unlikely to be forthcoming.
And last week, Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev visited China - the agenda included energy security and a joint declaration to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, which ruffled Japanese feathers!
Medvedev was scheduled to return to Moscow via the Kuril Islands, which is at the centre of a half-century old dispute between Russia and Japan.
Japan did the unthinkable by issuing a terse démarche to the Russian envoy in Tokyo. That was indirect message to China - that even the possibility of Sino-Russian alliance is undoubtedly not kosher at all!
Japan has finally rediscovered its balls.
Japan's attitude augurs well for Asia, where a potential NATO-type alliance centered around South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and India can be an effective counterweight to Chinese hegemony till the next superpower-in-waiting, India, is ready to take global centerstage!

Friday, September 24, 2010

People Are What You Think They Are!

I must admit, over 18 months back, I was quite despondent when we shifted office from Churchgate to Bandra-Kurla Complex.
But, every change brings with it, some or the other pleasant surprise.
Now, instead of taking the train, I drive to work, and naturally FM has to be on, on the way. In the process, I have developed a particular liking for some programmes and some RJs, for the music they air.
One of them is Keisha, who anchors Break Free on Rainbow 107.1 FM.
As I have written often, Keisha always narrates a short inspirational story, some thoughts to chew on, in her programme. I have also posted quite a few of her stories here on Rajeev's World.
Today morning, again, Keisha was on air, on Break Free.
And true to her style, she had a story to tell.
The story was titled "People Are What You Think They Are!"
It was about an old wise villager, who used to spend his day under the tree, and watch travellers pass by.
One day, a traveller stopped and got into a conversation with the wise old man. He told the old man that he planned to leave his village to resettle in the old man's village. He said he was sick of his fellow villagers, they were sick, selfish, sly and wily. He asked the old man, "How are the people in this village?"
"Here also, the people are crafty and wily!", the old wise man replied.
A few days later, another traveller asked the old man a similar question. He said "My village is a great place, great, nice and kind people. But I am looking to shift for better business prospects. How are the people here?"
"The people are absolutely great here. You would have no problems if you shift here." the old man replied.
It's all all about perspective. If you look at the world from a positive perspective, all you would get is positivity.

It's because, people are what you think they are!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Personalities of World Leaders -- Dissected!

In July this year, I had blogged about some world leaders and whether Mars was to be blamed for global political instability.
Today, when I was reading a story on Nicolas Sarkozy in The Economist, an interesting thought came to my mind.
Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, all three were not born in the nations they lord over now. They neither come from the dominant political classes of their respective countries, nor did they have privileged upbringings. I realised that their upbringings could have had a role in shaping their policies of today.
Nicolas Sarkozy was born to stateless-Hungarian soldier and French Catholic - Greek Jewish mother. He and his mother were abandoned by his father, and he was greatly influenced by Gaullist grandfather.
Is there little surprise that France appears to have turned xenophobic in the last few months, with the Sarkozy government banning the burkha and deporting the Romas?
Perhaps not. His Jewish roots and right-winger Gaullist philosophies seem to be at interplay whilst shaping French policies of today.
A statement allegedly attributed to Sarkozy clearly shows where these influences come from. It is claimed that he said "What made me who I am now is the sum of all the humiliations suffered during childhood".
The machiavellian Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, who had been titled "The Australian Horse Trader" by The Economist, was born in Wales but had to migrate to Australia as she had a medical condition.
Now the Welsh are considered a bit sly and stubborn. It is also said - Never cross a Celt they say ......they have long memories! (You may call them stereotypes!)
Little wonder, she ruthlessly engineered a political (bloodless!) coup by ousting Kevin Rudd. Then, she called for an early election, in which the Labour barely scraped through. Calling for early elections, for a brief while, seemed like an act of bravado, political hara-kiri in retrospect.
But the feisty Celt slyly bounced back. She finally engineered her ascent to prime ministership by extracting support from three independents and one Green. How she keeps the Greens happy is another question, especially when the contentious issue of mining taxes comes to the fore. Perhaps then we'll see another round of machiavellian maneuvers Down Under!
Welsh blood, eh?
And now Barack Obama. Born to a Muslim Kenyan and his white American mother, he does not, at all, fit the typical black American upbringing. His parents divorced when he was young. His father rarely maintained contact with Barack or his mother. It is said Barack met his father only once after his parents' divorce came through.
His mother then married an Indonesian, and they all moved to Indonesia, where Barack spent a considerable part of his childhood, before trotting around the globe.
Having a Muslim father and growing up in an Islamic country, naturally, seem to have reflected in his sympathetic policies towards Islamic countries. Remember his address in Cairo and his address to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz?
Also, his well-talked about idealistic concepts seem to come from his understanding of his father (or the lack of it?) and the world that he had seen, as a child, which are very, very un-American.
Does that explain why he does, what he does? Perhaps, yes, perhaps not!

All these leaders were not a part of the establishment. Each of them resorted to something unique to survive - Sarkozy to xenophobic policies, Gillard to machiavellianism and Obama to appeasement. Will they succeed with a world-view constrained by their past is a question only time will answer.
At home too, if the lives of our politicians were well documented, one could come up with interesting inferences, like the conclusions Meghnad Desai had drawn on Gandhi's personality and character, in his very-readable book, "The Rediscovery of India".
Will our politicians let a dissection of their personalities ever happen?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 9

As we get ready to say adieu to our much loved, Lord Ganesh, tomorrow, I had to begin this post with Him, leading the way!
O really? Hangla's at Lokhandwala has the reputation of prioritising the orders of svelte and stylish women. I need to call 98204 38746!!!!

I always discover another India at Bombay Store, Fort!

A Tantra t-shirt on display at Bombay Store.... a lot less than all that defines the New India!

"Mom says no race,

Dad says no Babes,

But I have both craze!"

That perhaps is the newest India!

I knew of FedEx, but this was the first time I saw a ColdEx!

Hitching a ride!

That's what this lizard did, on my Kingliner's windscreen from home to Bandra-Kurla Complex - a good 12 kilometers!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Armageddon is just around the corner!

It's past the mid of September.
Ganesh Chaturthi festivities will be over by the mid of the next week.
It is believed that that Ganesh Chaturthi marks the end of the Monsoon season. But this year seems a bit odd. The dark clouds and rains keep coming back every day. Though the 22% excess rain has contributed to lakes supplying water to metropolis getting full to the brim, putting an end to our water woes, does this point towards a change in climate patterns?
At Yamuna Nagar, my home in the north, two barrages on the Yamuna River - Hathnikund and Tajewala were on the verge of a collapse, which could have disastrous consequences both for my hometown and Delhi downstream.
The recent cloudburst in Ladakh was disastrous.
Though I cannot have any sympathies for the Pakistanis and Chinese, they too faced the fury of floods recently, triggering a mass human migration, the biggest the Indian subcontinent has seen since 1947.
Here in Bombay, the cloudburst of July 2005 still lingers on as a painful memory in our minds.
Beyond the Indian subcontinent, Russia, this year has seen an unusually warm summer, which sparked off a series of forest fires, threatening the country's wheat harvest.

Europe had an unusually cold winter in the beginning of this year.

The Americas were also not untouched. The after-effects of 2005's Hurricane Katrina are still being felt and New Orleans is still limping back to normal.

The Chinese are scourging Africa in the quest for minerals, like the way the humans took to the Na'vi's planet, Pandora, in the 2009 blockbuster, Avatar. Undoubtedly, Africa will bear the brunt in years to come. By then, the Chinese would have walked away, the next stope being Latin America, perhaps.

Just yesterday, I was speaking to a friend from Delhi who had just returned from a trip to Canada and Alaska. He spoke in wonder about the beauty of the Alaskan glaciers. I thought to myself - for how long would these glaciers survive?

The sea levels are rising. That could trigger a mass human migration. The Pacific wonderland of Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Palau, Micronesia and Tahiti will all go. So will the Maldives.

Low-lying like nations like Netherlands and Bangladesh are also at risk. Undoubtedly, the Bangladeshis will take refuge in India, which will have a major security implication for us. Besides, demographic changes arising from such a migration could lead to a lot of social issues.

News has been coming in that some American oil and mining companies are camping in Greenland, lobbying to prospect beneath the ice-shelf. Would that be like opening a Pandora's Box?

Surely, signs of climate change are all over, around us. We are surely, our actions are certainly accelerating the process.

The human race claims to have made a lot of progress, but we are going against the grain of nature, which can have unintended and cataclysmic consequences.

If we don't pay heed now, Armageddon is just around the corner!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Balloon

After a long hiatus, I was listening Rainbow 107.1 FM on my Kingliner stereo, while on my way to office.
It was Breakfree, and RJ Keisha, true to her inimitable style narrated a nice, inspirational story called "The Balloon".
A young black child stood watching a balloon man at a fair. There were balloons in all colors. Suddenly, a red balloon broke loose and soared high up into the air.
Many kids were attracted to the soaring balloon and the balloon man thought that it might be good business to let another one go.
So he let a bright yellow one float off into the sky. Then released a white one.
The little black child stood looking at a black balloon. Then, the child asked, "Hey, if you sent the black one up, would it go as high as the others?"
Stunned, the balloon man paused for a moment and then replied, with an understanding smile, "Sonny, it isn't the color. It's the stuff inside that makes it rise."
Be good, be genuine and your rise will be inevitable, though it be delayed a bit!

Thanks, Keisha for another wonderful story!

Lord Ganesh - Let's Not Forget What He Symbolises....

This is that time of the year when Lord Ganesh comes to the city.

Ganesh Chaturthi marks a carnival of sorts in the city. It is hoped the coming of Ganesh would usher in good fortune and prosperity.

For me, despite being very non-religious, Ganesh always signified the coming of something serene and calm, a hope, something to look forward to in a new beginning.

That, for me, is my strong bonding with the Almighty, a strong inexplicable feeling, an intense personal feeling.

I am not alone in that feeling. Good fortune, good beginnings, that is what the city also hopes for in this season of Ganesh Chaturthi.

It is said that the festival used to be celebrated in the confines of homes till the advent of the freedom movement. When the British imposed restrictions on public assembly in the late 1800s, Bal Gangadhar Tilak organised public celebrations of the festival on a grand scale. It was a way to get around official restrictions and to foster nationalism.

Obviously, religion had been and will continue to be the opium of the masses. Bal Gangadhar Tilak used religion as a tool for greater good.

But religion can be misused too.

In over a hundred years since the public festivities started, the city has grown into a megapolis with over 19 million people. Now the lofty causes of nationalism have given way to rousing the rabble.

Anyone visiting Bombay now would find Ganesh pandals all over. The pandals invariably are emblazoned with images of Ganesh flanked by photos of politicians, of all shapes and sizes, of all colours and creeds, of all ideologies, some ignorant, some xenophobic, some outrageously corrupt, shamelessly smiling at the insignificant passers-by.

Now that should not be termed as a smile, a smirk would be more appropriate, for the politicians seem to have fooled the people by sponsoring pandals, while ignoring the real issues the city faces!

Frankly, politicisation of some of the pandals even puts election rallies to shame.

One's relationship with Almighty need not be displayed. It would always be there. But politicians ignore all that.

But here, we believe in taking out long winded, slow moving processions to the beaches for the customary immersion, accompanied by sing-song, impromptu dancing on the roads and bursting of crackers, perilously close to the moving traffic.

These juggernauts invariably lead to maddening traffic jams stretching out for kilometers. It is certainly not funny, when I say it could take an hour drive a kilometer.

Think of an ambulance carrying a critical patient to the hospital. Would the Almighty ever bless His frenzied devotees for the inconvenience caused to the hapless patient? Perhaps not.

But religion still remains, and will remain the opium of the masses. And our politicians will continue to rouse the rabble, to meet their own ends.

In the process, the virtues that Lord Ganesh symbolises, have and will continue to get diluted many, many times over!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 8

Early morning GF A330 arrival from Muscat at CSI Airport.

After Air-India shifts its hub to Delhi's T3, will Bombay remain India's aviation hub, that is a big question.

The Grand Old Lady of our megapolis stands there proudly, seeing the city go by!

Crawford Market, said to be a shopper's paradise. I have been in the city for nearly 7 years now, but still haven't been there. There's still a lot to discover....

Jhakas Khao Piyo Bindas - noticed this roadside eatery with this interesting name at the Dharavi Link Road quite a few times,but this was the first I could manage a reasonable photograph...

Lighting up India's economy - ICICI Bank Towers at Bandra-Kurla Complex!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 7

A greeny leafy in a concrete jungle called Bandra-Kurla Complex

The cute baby and her Dad play with a balloon at a dessert shop....

Love at first bite ..... that's how desserts make me feel....

Capacity: 3 Idiots .... Surely that is how autowallahs make their customers feel

I Saw The Morgans but did not like them..... advertising on autorickshaws ensures some revenues for pathetic movies....

Standing guard at Bombay Central....

Is that clean, green Delhi?

No, stupid, it's Santa Cruz!

Tahiti, 15548 kms, that's where I want to be! And not here at Gol Maal, Lokhandwala!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 6

Bombaypolis Moments is back with more!!!!

A stop for money at the HDFC Bank branch at Kala Nagar, Bandra (East)... interesting roadsign for a bank branch / ATM!

On the way to work, I saw this autorickshaw near the Santa Cruz station. The saying made my day - made me do the extra bit!

9 PM, Tanishq store at Inorbit Mall, the kid sleeps, while the mother goes bonkers over the glittering gold on display!

Saara Mumbai Shoppega .... That's the city's only viable recreational activity!

Interesting architecture at Powai.....

Powai Lake in all its splendour!

Sunset over NCPA, Nariman Point

Reflections.... at Cuffe Parade!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I Am Back!!!!

I am back!!!
I have successfully poxed out the pox in barely two weeks.
Two weeks of sedated listlessness was crazy indeed. I somewhere lost the orientation of time and space, knowing fully well that I had to stay put at home.
Now this is something I am looking forward to - getting back to the grind - the rushed early mornings, a quick breakfast, a dash to my Kingliner and a frenetic drive to office, with Rainbow 107.1 FM keeping me sane.

And I am raring to go, raring to get back to office.
Today, I finally took a bath, after a gap of two weeks - I had specifically been asked by my doctor to avoid it as it could rupture the boils, risking an infection.

Man, this is luxury - I said to myself as I had a bath today! The very feel of water gushing down my skin, carrying with it all the sweaty-ness was an uplifting feeling, a state of bliss.

I finally shaved my face today - it was something like a bearded fakir getting out of the jungle and getting civilised! Now I can finally caress my cheeks, without the prickly feel of facial hair!
I am back!!!!
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