Saturday, November 29, 2008

A nightmare that lasts three days !!

Quite appropriately, Mumbai awoke to a dark and overcast Saturday morning. It was an apt reflection of the general mood in the city, and elsewhere, since for the third consecutive morning, we switched on our televisions to find that the nightmare that began on Wednesday evening was showing little signs of ending. Finally, at around 8.30am came the news that the last of the terrorists had been downed and thus, the encounter part of the operation was over. The final act of cleanup of each and every room in the Taj is still going on, as I write this. And, quite appropriately again, the sun has broken through the clouds to give us a sunny morning !!!!

Unfortunately, I cannot get myself to share the jubiliation that I saw yesterday at the Nariman House. The celebrations out there were as if we had won a decisive battle. We might have won this battle but we are nowhere near winning the war. Before I come to that, I want to comment on a couple of things about this whole episode:

a. I found it quite odd that the whole nightmare was reffered to as 'Mumbai's tragedy !!'. Mumbai and the Taj were just symbols. I bet that any Indian waking up today anywhere in the country feels equally unsafe. Make no mistake, this was much more than an attack on Mumbai. It was an attack on India itself. Today it was the Taj, tommorow it might be any other place in any other city. And therefore, I cringed when I saw senseless comments on 'where Raj Thackeray was at this time when his Mumbai was attacked'. Apart from showing the immaturity of the people making the comments (and these were not just some idiots writing on Rediff, even NDTV and a fellow-IIMBian have raised this question), it also reflects their complete lack of understanding the whole issue and its gravity. I would have hoped that atleast this time, we would refrained from these comments. But it seems that sometimes, people are ahead of the curve as compared to our politicians.

b. In many ways, this episode is quite different from any terrorist attack before. It is being called India's 9/11, but it bears not much resemblence to the twin towers tragedy. For the first time, terrorists have siezed (not bombed) iconic places in an urban megapolis for almost three days. While earlier, they used to plant bombs at key places with an express desire to cause as much loss of human life as possible, this time they have attempted something more daring and audacious. Almost as if to say to us : 'this is what we can do, can anyone stop us ??'. And sadly, as of now, we have no answers to that one.

So now, as the operations wind down at the Taj, Mumbai (and India) tries to come back to normalcy (whatever state that might be) and the heroes of the operation are given they send off they so richly deserve, the focus now shifts to New Delhi. And the governments (both central and states) will now have to fight a different battle, which is as significant as the one which is just concluding on the ground. The world will be watching them now.

~ Amit

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A must read for History buffs !!!

If you have a passion for history as I do, then reading cannot but be a natural hobby. A love for history and reading go hand in hand. This is because much of the love for history is realized by reading (and of course watching movies and documentaries to an extent). History, as a hobby, is obviously not something that can you can practise like, say, music or cricket. So therefore, the more of the great historical works you read, the more your love for history is intensified. The book that I am currently reading is definitely one of those works.

William Shirer's 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' gives a detailed account of the German Third Riech under Adolf Hitler. At a colossal 1040 pages, this book (in PDF format) is certainly a magnum opus in terms of size. It essentially follows the life of the German dictator, right from his birth and early life, then his rise in German politics and the formation of the Nazi party which further leads to his becoming the Chancellor in 1933. Then it talks about the change from Chancellor to Fuehrer (a word that I quite liked ;-) and of how he prepares his nation for a confrontation with Britian and France. Then in 1939 of course, WW II breaks out. And the book chronicles this great war in great detail, right upto the fall of the Third Reich in 1945 that signalled its end. The author uses a virtual mountain of captured German and Allied documents and his personal experiences (he lived in Germany at the time) to breathtakingly reconstruct not just the events leading to the war but the actual war as well. The great detail in which the events are laid down makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall of every meeting related to the war whether it be in Berlin, London, Paris or Moscow. One can almost visualize Hitler arousing German passions in one of his long speeches in his immitable oratorial style. Or one can imagine personally listening to Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons during the war. Also, the books has been beautifully arranged as well so that the reader does not have to flip back and forth between the pages. He can read the entire book in sequence much like a crime thriller. And this book is much better than any crime thriller !!. I have come to about 700 pages now, and each time I feel like finishing off the remainder of the book at one go. However, other duties come in the way ;-).

So for all history buffs, this is something not to be missed. Go ahead and grab a copy !!!!...


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Double standards, anyone ????

As a society in general, we like to instantly voice our dissaproval, anger et al at any perceived wrongdoing. Take racism for example. Everyone remembers what happened during the Indian team's tour to Australia last winter. The Indian media made it sound as if the whole country (not just Harbhajan Singh) was wronged against and therefore, it was made an issue of national pride (never mind that nobody till date knows whether Bhajji said 'monkey' or something else back at Symonds). But anyways this post is not about cricket or that stormy incident. The point I am trying to make is that while we made such a hue and cry about that incident (in which we were the apparent 'victims'), we have so shockingly overlooked a scene in a recent movie that shows racism and its stark reality.

I am talking about Madhur Bhandarkar's latest 'Fashion'. Everyone who has seen it will recollect the scene in which the movie's protagonist finally hits rock bottom in her fall from grace. And when does she realize this ? When she finds herself in bed with......... ??? Yes, a black man. Now the director could have chosen any stranger (Indian, white etc) in this case. But he simply played on the racisim that we, as a society, practise as well. So he chose a brawny but black man (and for good contrast, the sheets on the bed were white if I remember !!). As if trying to say that there is nothing more demeaning and disgusting in life than sleeping with a black man. And, answer me honestly, how many of you in the audience cringed when you saw that person besides Ms. Meghna Mathur ????.

Now, not for a moment that I am posing as a 'holier-than-thou' person. I admit that I myself was made aware of this when I read about the scene a couple of days back. So I am not at all distancing myself from the rest of the audience or society. But having read that piece, it has stayed with me since, And the more I thought about it, the more surprising it appeared to me that no one ever thought of that scene as objectionable. Neither our self-proclaimed guardians of morality, the media, and nor even the censors who otherwise were happily chopping away shots of cigarrette-smoking, drug use etc. Now substitute Fashion with a Hollywood movie, Priyanka Chopra with a top Hollywood actress (white, of course) and the man with an Indian-American actor. I am sure the media here would have bought the house down with their protests. But when our media does the same thing, no one even notices.

Quite strange, isnt it ??


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Li'l champs shift a gear !!!!

The fight of the Li'l champs is on in full swing and it has been a treat to watch !!!! Well, for the unintiated, I am referring to 'Idea Sa Re Ga Ma Little Champs', the Marathi singing competition show telecast on Zee Marathi at 9.30 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. The current season of this hugely popular (across all sections of Marathi households) show features young prodigies treating the audience to a feast of popular and classical Marathi songs. And as the show approaches its climax (with only 7 Li'l champs left), it seems to show no signs of viewer fatigue or waning popularity. An indication of its popularity can be seen from the fact that in Vile Parle, there is actually a board put at a busy street intersection exhorting the public to send as many SMS'es (the new-age way of judging talent ;-) as possible in favour of the local favourite. And Ms. Mughda Vaishampayan from Alibaug, one of the youngest contestants and certainly the cutest ;-), has already won over everyone's hearts. And all of this does not take away from their singing prowess. Some of the numbers rendered by them can put some so-called 'proffesional' singers to shame. And having got such a wonderful platform so early in life, they can only scale greater heights. One only hopes that inspite of the instant fame that this show has so deservedly bought to them, their feet remainly firmly planted on the ground.

Till them, we, as viewers, can just sit back, relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of these young little crooners performing to the best of their ability !!! May the Best Li'l Champ win !!!!