Saturday, December 29, 2007

Benazir is dead - but what does it mean?

When I heard about her death on NPR yesterday, it reminded me of when I had heard on Radio of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination -- a sense of disbelief. As I have heard more on this on news, and from friends, it is clear that the people here are not clearly aware of the many aspects of the story.

Well, Amy Goodman clearly knows how to choose learned guests. Today on Democracy Now!, she had two guests talking about the situation. Go here to read/listen/see it.

Following this, I went to the blog co-written by one of the guest on her show (Manan Ahmed), and his excellent post on the subject. I must say I was unaware of the fact that the first attack on Pakistan's democracy came just three years after independence, with the assassination of its first PM.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Meri Christmas

Yeah.. I am kinda late in posting this.. but it is 10:50pm here on the 25th :-).

So here comes, a classic desi christmas video - 12 days of christmas - desi style

and for bonus.. one more - the desi origins of santa

!!!Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Top10 most underreported humanitarian stories of 2007

'tis the season to be jolly, but not for all...

As I have often said, I love independent media like NPR and Democracy Now!.

And today on Democracy Now, there was a report on the top 10 most underreported humanitarian stories.

Those wanting to do a quick fly-by in a photogallery form can click here.

Sad that the mainstream media here chooses to not cover these stories at all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The X-factor in Ganga jal

"The mughal king Akbar believed that the water of Ganga was the elixir of life, and carried it with him during his campaigns"

"Ganga-jal was the only water carried on British ships bound to Britain, since it was the only water that would not get spoilt"

So says NPR's latest post on the Ganga [Ganges for the english-speaking ones :-) ]. Their correspondent talked to a whole bunch of people to ask two questions:

1. Why does Ganga water hold so much more oxygen than the other waters?
2. Why don't we get water-borne epidemics although so many people bathe in its waters, esp. in occasions like the kumbh mela?

During my years in ITBHU, the ganga was always a big part of life, it being Varanasi and all, but I guess I have begun to appreciate it more when "outsiders" [read NPR] showed an interest in it. I still don't completely understand what their fascination with the river is -- maybe it is the X-factor?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ganpat [and Kali and Ram] on NPR

I love NPR, I really do, whether it is their reports on the presidential debates, or on obscure islands in the pacific, the reporters are not shy to [fairly] report on issues that are not covered by the mainstream media here.

Of late, Laura Sydell has been reporting from India on the media industry, and today's Morning Edition had two reports from her.

The first was about how Virgin Comics is now making graphic novel versions of the Ramayana and the story of Raktabeej and Kali.
Less than two years old, Virgin Comics has already published dozens of titles, with names like Sadhu, Ramayan, Uma and Kali. All of them are classic figures, and the staff here knows these stories from childhood.

The Virgin Comics illustrators work from a palette of colors and shapes that resemble those you'd find on the walls of a Hindu temple. Their long-haired warriors have narrow hips and robust chests; their voluptuous women drape themselves in colorful saris. Mostly, the stories are heroic journeys, and good generally triumphs over evil.

The Hindu demon Raktavija is the basis for a comic called Virulents.
A writer at Virgin imagined what might happen if you put Raktavija in the middle of the conflict in Afghanistan, and had a group of American and Indian troops discover a nest of the demons — and the result, as presented in Virulents, piqued the interest of filmmaker John Moore.
"It was based on a mythology that people knew little or nothing about," Moore says. "The movie staples have been well worn by now, you know, whether it's vampires or werewolves or guys running around in capes and tights."
I, for one, am happy that they are going to look at the rich Indian mythology, as opposed to the traditional egyptian and greek ones :-). Hopefully our desi filmmakers will also make some good movies [No, Naksha does not count!!] using Indian mythology.

And to end the India-update for the day, they reported on the hit song "Ganpat!". You've got to hear their report on this :-).

P.S. I saw the website of Virgin Comics just now. Check out their take on the Ramayana, and their photo gallery. I wonder how long before the Bajrang-Dal burns down their offices for sacrilege :-P.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Positive: A touching short film on AIDS

I came across this brilliant short film today on AIDS by Farhan Akhtar. (click on link above for full screen version)

Brilliant performances by all leading people. I think I should join the Shabana Azmi Fan Club now :-).
Two things went unanswered though: why did AIDS cause paralysis, and where exactly were they taking him in the end?

But yeah.. good movie... click on the "play" button, will ya!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Summons for a Darshan! [and NPR in Varanasi]

K sent me this BBC article today about a judge in Jharkhand who has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to court in a property dispute.

The reason:
The dispute [...] revolves around the ownership of a 1.4 acre plot of land housing two temples.

You failed to appear in the court despite notices sent by a peon and post
Judge Sunil Kumar Singh in letter to Lord Ram and Hanuman

The deities of Ram and Hanuman, the monkey god, are worshipped at the two temples on the land.

Temple priest Manmohan Pathak claims the land belongs to him. Locals say it belongs to the two deities.
So, the court duly summoned the gods, since letters sent to them went unanswered :P.

Interesting side-effect of having fast-track courts :-).

On another note, do take time to listen to this NPR report on the Ganga. Very nice.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jaywalking in Delhi - no way!

I came across this interesting article today, which talks about how police is enforcing anti-jaywalking laws in New Delhi.

First, the why:
More than 900 pedestrians a year fail to make it to the other side, killed by the city's lawless drivers. So police decided on Wednesday it was time to start enforcing a 27-year-old rule against jaywalking.
The, the how:
police officers grabbed jaywalkers by the arm, issued them tickets, and made them pay 20-rupee (50-cent) fines before explaining the idea of waiting patiently for the lights to change.
and then, the funny parts :) :
"How would a villager know about these lights? There are no traffic lights in their villages," said Constable Suresh Sharma, who thought that the widespread rule-breaking was partly due to Delhi's large population of rural migrants.
"Next time I'll be watchful," said Vasant Pant, a 20-year-old courier late making his deliveries. "I'll look to see if there's a traffic policeman before crossing."
"I don't have the money," pleaded Ankita Khurana, a nervous-looking 18-year-old student.
"Then you'll have to go to jail," the policeman replied. She suddenly remembered she had change in her bag.
Since I know some people who have gotten tickets in LA for the same "crime", I wonder what they feel :-).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Choosing pseudo-pride over real gains

Seriously, what is wrong with desi politicians? Why do they keep opposing the nuclear deal with the states, something which I personally cannot believe the US govt agreed to pass, given how lopsided it is towards India.

Rather, I should ask -- what is wrong with the Indian public, that their "elected representatives" can freely assume that empty slogans [think "we do not want to be America's b*tch"] can convince the public to oppose a sound deal.

Some weeks ago, I came across this open letter, written by a host of eminent people who have a deep understanding of national defence, urging the politicians to act smartly and not oppose the deal.

Their main thesis:
It has been generally expected ever since our Independence that India’s size, strategic situation, civilisation, not least the talents of its people, were bound to make us one of the most significant influences in the shaping of the modern world. A major obstacle to our full achievement of that position has been the denial of the high technologies, particularly those related to security needs, which have enabled some self-selected powers to forge well ahead of us. We will continue to be denied access to such technologies unless the international community agrees to remove the existing sanctions. In opening the way to such an outcome, what is formally a bilateral agreement between us and the USA is actually the basis for agreement with the international community.
Their main points:
1. This deal does not mean no more tests ever -- as with any deal, we are free to break out of it if we feel that the geopolitical situation has changed, as was clarified by our defense minister today in the debate.
2. Our PM has said that "we cannot agree to fissile-material cut-off unless they allow for our security concerns." This means that this deal does NOT stop India from having its own credible minimum nuclear deterrent.
3. Finally, to counter the argument made by the left and BJP alike ["this deal makes us subservient to America"], the authors say:
Without entering into the rights and wrongs of this view, we would draw attention to an objective fact: international relationships are shaped by strength, the stronger you are the greater your freedom of action. We believe India is more vulnerable to foreign pressures without this agreement than we would be by increasing our strength through an intelligent use of it to put through various development programmes which currently falter. To revert to our initial point, this agreement should be viewed as an instrument for making us that stronger power, confident of itself and of the respect of others, that counts more and more in the world, and can do more for its people.

Why am I posting about this today? because the recent debates in the parliament and the walk out today. I think the BJP and Left parties did not read the above open letter.

I personally agree with the defense minister when he said, as the walkout was happening, "They have no reason. They have no case.".

But seriously, what is the public thinking? Is pseudo-pride valued more than real progress?!

flabbergasted, and outraged,
P.S. I would appreciate comments [pro as well as con] from my dear readers on this topic. What do you think? Am I missing something here?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Wii will make you fit!

Video games make kids lazy and obese.. right? wrong!

First there was DDR, but this one truly takes the cake! Watch for yourself.

mmm.. Wii Fit.. Now to find some time and money for this one :-).