Friday, December 29, 2006

The Killing Fields

Its ironic, as I flipped the channels from CNN tired of watching the death dance over Saddam, I came across the movie, "The Killing Fields" on HDNMV, a movie about yet another despot - Pol Pot - coming to power and maintaining power through ruthless killing of his own people. The world never seems to tire from producing such tyrranic despots.

Darfur, Sudan, Somalia, North Korea - how many more are we to go through?

Exactly What is Wrong With Death Penalty

CNN, BBC is reporting that those witnessing the hanging of Saddam Hussain were dancing around his body after his death. There is so much to be reviled about the dictator, but death of any human being deserves some degree of decorum and respect - otherwise there remains no difference between us and the vile dicator.

This is why I am not in favor of death penalty.

Death of Saddam closes one of the dirtiest chapters in the history of the middle east. Yet, his death is likely to change little in Iraq. Iraq is in a downward spiral, and this downward spiral can only be stemmed if the Iraqi people decide that religious differences between Shia and Sunni should be set aside in favor of Iraqi unity.

Not likely. Under Iranian "guidance" you are likely to see strengthening of the Shiias at the expense of Sunnis. Lets keep a close watch on Saudi and other Arab reaction to the Persian influence in Iraq.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shiiaites Gaining Ground (literally) in Bagdad

This is what the Saudis are afraid of...Sunnis being driven out of the power center district by district.

Meanwhile, the Saudis have a new ambassador to US, and apparantly, Prince Turki left because he did have a difference of opinion with Prince Bandar. Bandar advocates a go touch approach with the Iranians, while Turki would like to negotiate with them. The hawks are winning.

Meanwhile, the Saudis have convinced the US that its in our best interest to increase the troops, the Generals seem to capitulated. So soon we will likely have more US troops in Iraq, not less!

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is going to hell in a hand basket!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bigotry In This Season of Goodwill

Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill and faith. Yet despite the holiday season, national politics still seems to be laced with a certain degree of bigotry. NY Times reports a story - Virgill Goode the Republican congressman from Virginia - has demonstrated his disdain for Islam, and his own Christian faith and caused an outrage by criticizing the Muslim congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesotta for his choice of Koran as the religious scripture for taking the oath of office. The whole point of holding a sacred book in ones hand is to ensure that the person takes the oath with utmost seriousness, and no text can bring this seriousness into a person that the religious text they rever the most. How does one ensure this reverence if the individual is holding a book that holds no significance to him or her? You might as well be holding Rogets Thesarus in your hand.

Beyond bigotry though, Mr. Goode has also demonstrated a lack of tolerance for the America ideal - respect for the differences of our fellow countrymen. America is a melting pot where people of all faiths, religions, social and cultural background come together to make this nation strong. Mr. Goode's words must sting like barbs to all the immigrants who come from a non-christian religious background. In Mr. Goode's eyes, we may not be welcome here if we are Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist.

My hope is this was just an error and we hope to hear an apology from Mr. Goode soon.

Bigotry In This Season of Goodwill

Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill and faith. Yet despite the holiday season, national politics still seems to be laced with a certain degree of bigotry. Virgill Goode has demonstrated his disdain for Islam, and his own Christian faith and caused an outrage by criticizing the Muslim congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesotta for his choice of Koran as the religious scripture for taking the oath of office. The whole point of holding a sacred book in ones hand is to ensure that the person takes the oath with utmost seriousness, and no text can bring this seriousness into a person that the religious text they rever the most. How does one ensure this reverence if the individual is holding a book that holds no significance to him or her? You might as well be holding Rogets Thesarus in your hand.

Beyond bigotry though, Mr. Goode has also demonstrated a lack of tolerance for the America ideal - respect for the differences of our fellow countrymen. America is a melting pot where people of all faiths, religions, social and cultural background come together to make this nation strong. Mr. Goode's words must sting like barbs to all the immigrants who come from a non-christian religious background. In Mr. Goode's eyes, we may not be welcome here if we are Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist.

My hope is this was just an error and we hope to hear an apology from Mr. Goode soon.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Truth or Dare For Nepal

In NY Times today, Soumini Sengupta writes about the world of change Nepal has undergone since Kind Gyanendra gave up power. I wasn't a great fan of the King, and his absolute power, and I wasn't a great fan of Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal), the maoist gurrilla leader whose followers committed untold attrocities on the Nepali people who didn't agree with them. Yet, when the Maoist agreed to form a new government with the Opposition politicians, I applauded them.

It appears that so far things have been moving in the right direction. Recently Pushpa Kamal Dahal was in New Delhi trying to sell the Indians on how the Nepalese People's Army had laid down arms and were reconciled to peaceful co-existence with the Koirala government.

Now that the easy part of forming a government is over, the tough part of holding people accountable to the crimes begins. in this regard, I wonder what was given up by the opposition in bringing the Maoist to the table. As Sengupta reports. there is little effort being made to bringing the perpeterators of heinous crimes to justice. There is some talk about establishing a truth and reconcilliation commission similar to the South African experience, but the will seems to be lacking.

If the Nepali government cannot find the will to bring the criminals to justice, then despite all the progress, this will be a step in the wrong direction. It is up to the new Nepali government that the attrocities of the past 10 years do not go unaccounted. Its the least they can do to represent the poor and powerless they seem to want to represent.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Three Acts of the Drama In The Middle East

It looks like the other shoe is dropping on the Neocons. The Saudis have served the papers - US, you walk from Iraq and we will start a conflagration. It wasn't supposed to be this way - we were supposed to be welcomed into Iraq, and the Kingdom of Saud was supposed to be happy about us removing a major threat to its regime in the Mid-East. And now what do we have? Lets see...

  • Iraq is burning

  • Lebanon is smoldering

  • Mullahs in Iran have gone "nukilar"

  • The Saudis are threatning to finance a Sunni war against the Shias, and

  • Israel, fresh from the loss of face in Lebanon, is itching to put Iran in its place


  • Not exactly the kind of "democratization" we expected from ousting Saddam!

    How the hell did we get into this kind of holy mess? Where are the rosy scenarios Wolfovitz and his ilk painted for us when we were lied into attacking Iraq? To be fair, the Saudis were always a bit wary about the Iraq war. On one hand they were secretly happy that George Bush, in the process of avenging his fathers honor, was going to rid them of the Saddam menace, but on the other hand Saudis knew that the first Iraq war had practically neutered Saddam as a threat, and the real threat to their kingdom is from the extreme (and anti-Saudi) views being spouted out of Tehran. Their main worry, that Sunnis loss of power in Iraq might strengthen the Iranian hand seems to have borne out exactly. As bad as Saddam was, he was the one thing that was holding the mullahs of Iran back. With Saddam gone, the dominos appear to be ready to topple in the middle east.

    So is the Saudi threat a real one?

    Lets see... its no secret that a large part of the Shia-Sunni violence in Iraq today is being financed by wealthy Saudi Arabian patrons. But so far this financial support of Iraqi Shias has not been officially sanctioned. Dick Cheny went to Saudi Arabia to convince the King that he had to act to stop this flow of money, but instead of support, he seems to have gotten an ear full.

    The King is not worried about the cost of the war to US, he is worried that if Iran gains an upper hand, the war may cost him his kingdom. Its obvious that not everybody agrees with the King, not in the least, the Saudi ambassador to the US. The sudden resignation of the Saudi Ambassador early yesterday indicates that there is a tectonic shift going on in the Hashemite Kindgom. VariFrank has an interesting analysis on the resignation of Prince Turki, but its clearly seems to be related to todays announcement by the Saudis. Either Turki didn't see eye-to-eye with the King's decision, or the King didn't go far enough. My own assessment is that Turki was toeing the American line too much and the Kind decided that enough was enough.

    So where to from hither? My guess is, this is only the first act in the sordid middle-eastern drama. Lots of posturing going on right now...Israel making noises about Iran, Iran making noises about israel and US, Saudis making noises about Sunnis in Iraq, and Syria supporting Haezbollah in Lebanon.

    The second act will probably see a widening of the war. Iran will continue to cause havoc in Iraq, and try to bait Israel into attacking Iran. Hezbollah, with Syrian support will likely re-open the war with Israel. The Saudis will support the Sunnis against Shias making the situation in Iraq worse. Meanwhile, US can't do much about the wider war since we are tied up in Iraq. Only Israel can prevent this widening of the conflict by staying quite. And US can help. Prince err President Bush has his role carved out for him.

    At least Bush has woken up from the neocon dream of a democratic middle-east. Having overcome the denial stage, he needs to recognize quickly that we may be at the beginning of a quagmire. King Saud's threats not withstanding, the savviest thing we can do is, cut our lossess - divide Iraq into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish autonomous regions, and get the hell out of there. If US leaves the mid-east, it will be one less reason to unite the Shias and Sunnis against Israel and US. The Saudis should be happy with an autonomous reqion for Sunnis, and that'll calm them down.

    This is where we will enter the third act of the drama - consolidation of the traditional powers - the mullahs in Iran, the Sauds in Arabia, the Bathist in Syria and Lebanon, the Hamas in Palestine and of course, Israel. Once their territories are marked and established, the smouldering region can go back to being the way it has always been - a tribal society.

    The dream of democracy in the middle east is dead. Long live democracy!

    .

    ISI support of Taleban continues unabated

    Thanks to Pakistani ISI's support of Taleban and al 'Qaeda, the Asian neighborhood has always been a dangerous place. There is little doubt that ISI (the secretive security and intelligence agency of Pakistan) has been fomenting trouble in both India and Afghanistan for decades, but with the entry of US in the Afghan war there was hope that perhaps this lawless agency will be reigned in. Not so.

    As has been well documented in the book
    "Punishment of Virtue" by Sarah Chayes, ISI is very much continuing on with its support of Taleban.

    Yesterday, in NY Times there was an article about how
    the South Waziristan region of Pakistan has become a haven for theTaleban
    and foreign fighters.

    Today, there is another article on the impact ISI's support of the Talebani extremist elements on its own soil is having on Agfhanistan.

    So what do we do about this?
  • We continue with our unconditional support of Pakistani military, and

  • We are transferring more of our responsibilities in Afghanistan to
    our NATO allies.

  • Not a good strategy, if your objective is to eradicate enemy no.1, the al 'Qaeda. We ought to be doing exactly the opposite -
  • Pressuring the Pakistani military to reign-in the ISI and its
    support of Taleban, and

  • Putting more troops in Afghanistan so that the fledgling democracy in this nation has an opportunity to grow.
  • Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Hu Jintao to Visit India Today

    Chinese President Hu Jintao is slated to start his first trip to India, today. Indian TV channels are reporting that Hu is likely to be greeted with demonstrations and demands for recalling Sun Yaxi for his comments on Arunachal Pradesh. There are also reports that the forward teams of China have raised the issue of border dispute in their discussions with the home ministry. This must be an attempt by China to demonstrate to its displeasure to India over the passing the Nuclear deal in the US Senate. China is reacting swiftly to this increasing coziness between US and India. This blurb from BBC indicates just this!
    Beijing and Islamabad share close military ties and there are suggestions that President Hu will announce a major nuclear deal with Pakistan during his visit to that country, immediately after his India trip.

    So, after aiding and abeting Pakistan, the world's mother-of-all-nests of terrorism and terrorists, and setting back the clock of nuclear non-proliferation by decades, China is now once again, getting ready to help Pakistan. As long as it doesn't impact China, the Chinese are happy to trade and deal with the worst terrorists of the world!

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    China's Duplicitous Behavior

    Oh well, my fears weren't entire unfounded after all! After my last post I expected to be wrong, but it looks like China has already shown its true colors. This story seems to indicate that the Chinese Ambassador Yaxi has already claimed that the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to China!!
    We demand that the Government of India should ask the Government of China to immediately recall their Ambassador here," JD (U) President Sharad Yadav said in a statement here.
    Yadav described the Ambassador's statement that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh was Chinese territory as "timid, weak and highly disturbing".

    To say something like this right before Premier Hu's visit is bold if nothing else.

    On another note, it seems Premier Hu Jintao is offering Pakistan (more) cooperation on Nuclear front. More cooperation? Isn't it enough that their previous cooperation has led to a nuclear arms race around the world with North Korea, Iran and Libya getting their hands on nuclear materials?

    Talk about being strategic.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Indo-Chinese Cooperation - Time to Think Carefully

    The 60s experience should have taught Indians a lesson but the Indian leaders have not yet learned it. Well, its time China taught them a lesson once again. Case in point, here is a statement from a researcher involved in a Chinese think tank connected with the central government.
    China wants India to dissolve the Dalai Lama's government in-exile at Dharmashala, according to an expert at a state-run think-tank that advises the Chinese government on Sino-Indian relationship.

    In the early 50s era of Nehruvian utopia that followed the freedom struggle, the Indian nation was led to believe that India and China could be brothers-in-arms against the bourgeois capitalist west. This led to being blind sided by the Chinese political ambitions when the 1962 Indo-chinese war erupted wresting the control of strategically important Aksai Chin. Shamefully, India was totally unprepared for the war, and lost its sovereign territory to China, which it hasn't recovered despite its historic claim.

    Recent developments on the Indo-Chinese front indicate that China may have decided to set aside its political ambitions in the region vis-a vis India in the interest of seeking economic security. Chinese efforts to cooperate with India on oil deals, and the opening of the strategic dialog with the Indians may have lulled India into believing that indeed this is a historic opportunity for the subcontinent to rise above the regional differences and assume leadership on the world stage. But Indians should beware - China wants the leadership stage to itself, and is not likely to want to share it.

    A walk through any Indian bazaar will convince you that the Chinese have benefited tremendously from the opening of Indo-Chinese trade. Chinese trinkets and small goods are every where, often driving out Indian producers of similar products. My family tells me that in fact cheaper Chinese goods are driving them out of business. For example, if you are a producer of cotton fabric, you better get cracking for the Chinese have established a network to sell cheaper fabric than you can ever expect to produce. Look what has happened to the US textile industry? Its decimated. And because India does not have the anti-dumping protections that US industry has, India doesn't stand a chance!

    So, how has India benefited? Some say that Indians have opened fine chemical factories and pharmaceutical plants in China, Info-tech hubs in China and so on. But if recent experience of the west is any indication, the short term gain of capitalizing on lower Chinese cost of production will end up costing these companies big time in the long run. History shows that Chinese will often use these kinds of deals to build their own strengths (using these tech transfers for instance) up to the point where they are self sufficient, and then abandon the partner. Call me paranoid, but I don't see Indian industry benefiting too much from these deals.

    But cooperation between neighboring countries is good. So why am I worried? Indeed cooperation is good, and India and China should cooperate. But I worry that India is letting its guard down. I am worried because we are beginning to see the first signs of the resurgence of Chinese political ambitions.

    On July 6, 2006, India and China opened up the border region of Sikkim to Chinese trade. While this event was hailed as a great event of political rapprochement between China and India, I see it as a defacto recognition of the Chinese annexation of Tibet.

    Up until recent days, India had always maintained that Tibet is a sovereign nation, and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama is its sovereign leader. After China annexed Tibet, India provided shelter and political support to his Holiness in opening a Tibetan government in exile. This government-in-exile has been ever since trying to resolve this Sino-Tibetan problem but the Chinese have been absolutely unaccommodating. China has often criticized India for harboring His Holiness, The Dalai-lama, whom it considers a fugitive, but this criticism has been muted in recent years, as China has sought cooperation from India.

    But as this news article indicates, this may be changing.
    "The Tibet problem is a major obstacle in the normalisation of relationship between India and China. India made a mistake in the fifties by welcoming the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet. It is now time for correcting the past mistake and build real and sustainable relationship with China," he said. What happens if New Delhi really concedes to this request? "The Dalai Lama will become a political refugee. But the problems between India and China would get much closer to a solution than it is today," he said.

    Yeah right.

    Am I over reacting to a researcher's statement? Well, in China nothing happens without the approval of the central politburo, so pardon me if I over react.

    True, China still needs India in its race to modernize the economy and continue its growth. But at the same time, it does not want India to overshadow it. Hence I believe that this carrot and stick approach is likely to continue until China is strong enough to start imposing its political will on the region. And then all we will see is the stick.

    That day may not be too far. As a price of Chinese cooperation, India is likely to be asked to compromise on several issues of national importance, such as...
    1) Give up the rights to Aksai Chin
    2) Give up the rights to Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers as part of Tibet
    3) Agree to support China in its dispute against Taiwan
    4) Abolish the Tibetan Government in exile

    And don't put it past the Chinese to consider using force (they seem to threaten the Taiwanese with force quite periodically) to achieve their end. They have done it in the past in 1962, and they would do it again if they see India as a rising threat to their political ambitions.

    History has taught us that its better to be careful when dealing with the Chinese, and India better pay attention to its history as it embarks on the road to cooperation with the Chinese. If you want to embrace the Chinese dragon, better keep your claws ready. You never know when they may come in handy.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    Pakistan's ISI Involved in Indian Blasts

    So whats new. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (their Spy Agency) has been implicated (once again) in the blasts in India. This time, the Police Commissioner of Mumbai says, that he has arrested Pakistani nationals in the investigations that followed the blasts.
    Mumbai police Commissioner A.N. Roy said the attacks were planned by the spy agency and carried out by Pakistan-based Islamic militant group, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, assisted by the Students Islamic Movement of India, a banned Islamic group. Addressing a news conference to announce the completion of the investigation, Roy said 15 people had been arrested, including 11 Pakistanis.

    Pakistan's ISI is essentially an agency whose mission is to promote subversive activities in its neighboring countries. ISI was involved in promoting Taliban and bringing it to power in Afghanistan. ISI has been involved in training terrorists and sending them to Kashmir. ISI has been involved in the recent resurgence of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. When a state agency supports terrorism, isn't that state a terrorist state? So why is Pakistan being so actively courted by United States, and why are we supplying arms and munitions to Pakistan?


    Recently I started reading a very interesting book by Sarah Chayes called The Punishment of Virtue. Its a fascinating book that tells about the role of Pakistan and ISI in the coming to power of Taliban, and how Taliban has not been vanquished. Quite the opposite - with the help of ISI, Taliban is resurging, causing untold havoc to the innocent people of Afghanistan.

    The events unfolding in Afghanistan today could have been easily foretold if the world had recognized what a menace ISI has become. The bomb blasts in India, and resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan is a brutal reminder that unless the powers of the world recognize the sheer terrorist capacity of Pakistani ISI and decide to do something about it, world will always be an unsafe place for the innocent.

    The article on Indian accusations comes via NY Times.

    Water Crisis in India


    Growing up in the town of Dombivli, we used to live in a very small two room apartment called Chatre Chawl on Ayre road. There, each household had one tap as a water source, and communal toilets and bathrooms. Water came through the pipes once a day, in the morning, starting at 4AM, and lasted only until 7AM. Being that our home was at the end of the building, our tap would start dripping after every one else in the building had their fill of the water. So, Mom would wake up early and fill all the vessels she could. Buckets, Gourds, Matkis, even large vessels called Bhagonas would be filled with water. Afterall water had to last the entire 24 hour period! After all the vessels had been filled, she would wake us up one by one so that we could finish our ablutions before the tap ran dry.

    This was the ritual I grew up with and 24 hour water supply - well the thought of that never entered my mind at the time.

    Things changed a bit when my family saved up enough money to move to a three room flat. There, the building planners, anticipating the water needs of the residents, planned to put two tanks, one at the bottom of the building which would continue to fill up the entire day, and another at the top of the building. Water would be pumped twice a day from the bottom tank to the top tank so that residents could have the water accessible 24 hours a day! 24 hours! When we moved to this new home I thought that was a luxury I could never live without!

    While there were many like us who progressed on to live in homes with central tank water supply, there are millions of others who do not have such a luxury. For them it seems, things have gotten worse. When I go to India now, driving around it is not an uncommon site to see a water tanker with a line of people standing with empty buckets patiently waiting for their turn. Soumini Sengupta has articulated the large dimensions of this water crisis in a series of three articles for NY Times about the looming water crisis in India two of which have been just published. Here is the link to the first article...

    Water crisis - Part 1

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Paryushan Parva - Self Purification Festival

    Today I received a beautiful little poem from a Jain friend of mine asking me to be forgiven for any sins he may have committed against me during the course of the year. I had heard of "Paryushan Parva" but turned to my dear wife for more details and she explained that the Jain people seek self-purification during this festival. Wikipedia has this on Paryushan:
    At the conclusion of the festival, the Sravakas request each other for forgiveness for all offenses committed during the last year. This occurs on the Paryusha day for the Swetambara and on Pratipada (first) of Ashwin Krashna for the Digambara.

    What a great idea! Immediately I returned the email begging forgiveness myself for all of mistakes (known and unknown) that I might have committed against my friend!

    Politicisation of a beautiful song

    Like all good things, the beautiful song 'Vande Mataram' has become embroilled in controversy. The song, written by poet Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1876, is celebrating its 100th year anniversay of being sung at the Congress party's session - Congress Party being the party that led the independence movement in India.
    After some Muslim groups said it was against Islam to sing it as it was a hymn to the Hindu Goddess Durga, the government backed down and made singing voluntary.

    That led BJP, the Hindu party in India to declare that this singing the song is the only way to declare alligence to India!

    Such is state of the world. Innocent things get politizised for the slightest of reasons!

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Why Men Are Such Happy Creatures

    This email came to me via a friend, and greatly illustrates why Men seem so happy. What it doesn't explain is, if happiness is exelir of life, why do Men die earlier than women?

    -------

    Men Are Just Happier People ... What do you expect from such simple creatures?

    Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You can never get pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. Hell, you can wear NO shirt to a water park.

    Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress: $5000.00. Tux rental: $100.00.

    People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them. The occasional well-rendered belch is not only appreciated by your friends, but practically expected. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks.

    A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars.You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes.

    Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck. You can play with toys all your life. Your belly usually hides your hips. One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can "do" your
    nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache. You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24th in 25 minutes.

    Thursday, July 13, 2006

    Letter from Mumbaikars (Bombayites) in reaction to the bomb blasts

    This letter arrived in my email box this morning. Speakes volumes about the people who have had to bear the brunt of terrorism and natural disasters, one too many times in the recent past.

    Dear Terrorist,

    Even if you are not reading this we don't care. Time and again you tried to disturb us and disrupt our life - killing innocent civilians by planting bombs in trains, buses and cars. You have tried hard to bring death and destruction, cause panic and fear and create communal disharmony but every time you were disgustingly unsuccessful. Do you know how we pass our life in Mumbai? How much it takes for us to earn that single rupee? If you wanted to give us a shock then we are sorry to say that you failed miserably in your ulterior motives. Better look elsewhere, not here.

    We are not Hindus and Muslims or Gujaratis and Marathis or Punjabis and Bengaliies. Nor do we distinguish ourselves as owners or workers, govt. employees or private employees. WE ARE MUMBAIKERS (Bombay-ites, if you like). We will not allow you to disrupt our life like this. On the last few occassions when you struck (including the 7 deadly blasts in a single day killing over 250 people and injuring 500+ in 1993), we went to work next day in full strength. This time we cleared everything within a few hours and were back to normal - the vendors placing their next order, businessmen finalizing the next deals and the office workers rushing to catch the next train. (Yes the same train you targetted)

    Fathom this: Within 3 hours of the blasts, long queues of blood donating volunteers were seen outside various hospital, where most of the injured were admitted. By 12 midnight, the hospital had to issue a notification that blood banks were full and they didn't require any more blood. The next day, attendance at schools and office was close to 100%, trains & buses were packed to the brim, the crowds were back.

    The city has simply dusted itself off and moved one - perhaps with greater vigour.

    We are Mumbaikers and we live like brothers in times like this. So, do not dare to threaten us with your crackers. The spirit of Mumbai is very strong and can not be harmed.

    Please forward this to others. U never know, by chance it may come to hands of a terrorist in Afghanistan , Pakistan or Iraq and he can then read this message which is specially meant for him!!!

    With Love,

    From the people of Mumbai ( Bombay )


    Let us all unite in unanimously condeming this atrocity, and above all, let us show solidarity with the people of Mumbai by filling the blogosphere with blog-articles supporting them.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    EBay Will Continue To Grow

    This friday or saturday's Wall Street Journal carried an article about how Meg Whitman has work cut out for her at the up coming eBay investors day. She would have to explain how she will continue to grow the company at 35-40% clip year after year now that the new customer aquisition rate has slowed and the "auctions" model is peaking in US. Skype and Paypall have helped, but the real engine is eBay, and analysts are clamoring to know how she will continue to grow eBay. While eBay has its challenges, but I doubt that the "auctions" model is out of date or that it has peaked. Case in point - myself

    Call me a neanderthal, but fact is, until recently I had not used eBay even once. I did, out of curiosity, venture to eBay a few times before, but at the time, I found the experience less than satisfactory. The interface was cluttered, garish, and frankly intimidating for a first timer. Soon I gave up, and eBay did not enter my life until recently. These last couple of weeks I have been forced to deal with eBay, the reason being - my aging iBook.

    Recently my iBook's battery started dying and I needed a new one. I also needed a new charger with the old one starting to show signs of aging. New battery was around $100, and around $85 for a charger. My laptop itself is not worth much, so I figured I might buy a used battery and charger. I googled, and yahooed, looking around for a place to satisfy my need, but came up empty handed. Finally, I ended up in two places, Craigslist, and eBay.

    Craigslist was a good experience, yet problematic. The problem with Craigslist is that even though it is a national place to buy and sell stuff, the model is truly local. Each local area listed on the national Craigslist has a list of its own. The interface is clean, but you cannot search the entire national database. So, if you live in NYC, and want to see if someone in San Fran had a used iBook battery, you have to start the process of searching all over with San Fran Craigslist. This is very time consuming and irritating even though the process itself is free. Craigslist also does not have integrated payment processing system - so, how you pay the SF seller is your problem. Craigslist is, in my opinion, the true garage sale where the seller names his price, and you negotiate from there. But beyond that Craigslist frustrated me the most because more often than not, by the time I was able to reach the seller, the item itself was sold and I was left high and dry. Craigslist does not have any way of telling if the item has been sold or if it is still available. You have to email the seller and ask them if the item is still available.

    In comparison, eBay is much better. Not only is the list national (or international), it is well integrated with payment mechanism (which is a bit deceptive, but that is the topic of another entry), and capable of pointing you to the items that are currently available. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you have put in some time figuring the system, the process of bidding is rather easy. I was able to put bids on more than one battery at a time, and even though it took me several turns to learn the art of buying at eBay auctions, I have now not only purchased a battery, but also a charger, both from eBay sellers.

    So, while Wall Street analysts may not be wrong about the growth slowing down, my advice to Ms. Whitman is, there is no reason for the growth to slow down when you still have customers like me, who have hardly explored the services of your company. The challenge is, how to find guys like me, and encourage them to try out eBay. If Ms. Whitman can find ways to reach her new customers like me, eBay will continue to grow and grow and grow. So, while it is challenging, it is very much dooable. After all, all of us need odds and ends, that can often only be found in some body's garage or the attic.

    As for me, I need to learn how to sell some of the stuff thats been sitting in my garage on eBay! Mucha moolah await me.

    Saturday, March 18, 2006

    Mars Rover Wheel Stops Working - AAA Called

    According to news reports the wheel of Mars Rover stopped functioning. Immdiately NASA placed a call to AAA to get help to the Rover. The Sheriff's office on Mars is not commenting on this but have suggested that NASA move the vehicle off the highway so as to not obstruct other vehicles in the vicinity.

    We will keep you posted on the situation of Rover.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    India Uncut

    Today I came upon a fascinating blog "India Uncut" by Amit Varma, a journalist who writes about Cricket for Guardian and Frontline. He followed the Indian team to Pakistan and has provided an interesting view into the current Pakistani society that is hard to find. Unlike the stereotype of turban wearing mullahs, the Pakistan Amit brings to us is a modern, vibrant, liberal Pakistan not unlike the modern India we find in Indian cities.

    I am glad to have discovered India Uncut at this time, because as I write this post, Amit is returning from Pakistan to India. I wish I had discovered him earlier, but its better late than never.

    And, not to forget, India Uncut listed as the "Indi Blog" of the year!

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Nepali insurgent leader talks


    Charles Haviland has an article on "Puspa Kamal Dahal" or "Prachanda" as he is known, the leader of Nepal's Maoist insurgents whose rebellion has taken thousands of lives of poor Nepali people. The man who is responsible for indiscriminate violence that has plagued this idyllic Himalayan hindu nation, claims to be moving towards reconcilliation. Yet his rhetoric speaks otherwise. He speaks of executing the King of Nepal while talking about returning his movement to democracy! US and India better watch out. If this man gets in power, all bets are off. Allowing someone like Pushpa Kamal Dahal come to power will make a mockery of justice. I know that the King of Nepal is no democrat, and certainly the means he chose to come to power weren't the most ideal ones, but at least under him the Kingdom has seen some stability. India and US should work with the current Nepali government to transfer the power back to the elected leaders, while ensuring the criminals like Dahal get punished for their crimes.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Images of Old India of 18th Century


    I came across these beautiful rare pictures of old India of yester years on BBC. A sharp contrast to the modern metropolises that have mushroomed everywhere in India. Check it out. Click on the picture to go to the selection of pictures.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    Any Thing Goes In India!

    There is a saying in Hindi, "Chalta hai, chalane do" which roughly translates, "Let it go on, who gives a damn".

    This pessimist attitude is so pervasive in India that the rich and famous politicians take full advantage it. Take this story about Lalu Prasad Yadav. A colorful man who is currently the Railway Minister of India, is illiterat, corrupt and wields enormous power, has corrupted the system so much that it is amazing. One time, when he was the chief minister of Bihar, there was some scandal that resulted in him being booted out of the office. Not to give up so easily, he decided to contest by by putting his wife up for elections! The Bihari janta (people), duly elected the illeterate wife Rabri Devi to the post of Chief Minister and the Yadavs continued to enjoy the perks of being a powerful politician for aother 5 year term.

    Recently the Bihari's seemed to have suddenly gained wisdom, and ousted Rabari Devi and her party. Such is their sense of entitlement that when it came time to give up the perks the Yadavs refused to budge. It finally took a Court Order to get them to vacate the Chief Ministers bangalow!

    Meanwhile, how have they helped Bihar? Bihar is still one of the most backward state of India with one of the highest illeteracy rates, highest level of crime, political corruption; you name the problem, Bihar has it.

    Still the attitude in Bihar, as in the rest of the India continues to be, "Chalta hai, Chalane do". Read more about this story of Lallu's eviction here