Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kabul Bombs deliver clear message to India: Pack bags!

  • Pulling off the attack in central Kabul — in one of the most secure neighborhoods in Afghanistan’s most secure city — was designed to send a message that the Taliban is not intimidated by the stepped-up military offensive
  • “They’re trying to up the pressure and send a message that you guys aren’t defeating us,”
  • “No matter what the coalition does, it can’t win, “It’s a very smart strategy.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and New Delhi – A coordinated attack early Friday, which killed at least 16 people and targeted a hotel and guesthouse in central Kabul, underscored the shifting tactics of Taliban insurgents and their keen understanding of geopolitical implications.

Three assailants struck at 6:30 a.m. on the first day of the Afghan weekend, when few people are on the street, in the prosperous Shahr-e-Naw residential area. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombings, the first attack in Kabul since January and the capital’s deadliest in months, police and Interior Ministry officials said.

The destruction started with a car bombing that leveled the Arya Guesthouse [...], city Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahman told reporters.

After the blast, one of the militants set off his explosives vest in front of the ruins while the two others entered the Park Residence guesthouse across the street, which was soon surrounded by police and military. A second assailant then blew himself up, killing three policemen, while the third attacker hunkered down in the basement and was killed about 10:30 a.m. by police gunfire.

Among the dead were six Indians, four Afghan civilians, an Italian diplomat, a French filmmaker and three police officers, officials said. Some bodies were so badly burned it will take time to identify them. At least 36 people were wounded.


Early morning television broadcast images of a plume of black smoke rising from the area, shattered glass lining the streets and broken windows in shops and homes. Afghan police crouched behind traffic barriers as the remaining gunman remained holed up in the guesthouse basement.

Analysts said the attack appeared to be a well-planned operation aimed at achieving several political objectives.

Pulling off the attack in central Kabul — in one of the most secure neighborhoods in Afghanistan’s most secure city — was designed to send a message that the Taliban is not intimidated by the stepped-up military offensive in the southern city of Marja and can bring the battle to the doorstep of its adversaries.

“They’re trying to up the pressure and send a message that you guys aren’t defeating us,” said John Harrison, a research manager at the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore. “And they’re showing they can penetrate the city and stand awhile.”

The early morning timing on a weekend probably made it easier to get the attackers, vehicles, weapons and explosives into position since security forces presumably would be less vigilant; an early start also gives recruits less time for second thoughts. And with streets largely deserted, the attackers are less likely to kill civilians and more likely to find their principal target — foreigners — still sleeping. The insurgent group is wary of a backlash from the Afghan public over civilian deaths.

As suicide bombings have become nearly routine, the combination of a car bombing and suicide blast followed by an armed standoff carries more shock value, providing more of the attention that militants seek. Having armed insurgents stand their ground also sends a message that the fighters are more ideologically committed than some drugged, brainwashed, poorly educated teenager pulling a detonation cord. The combination, with its drawn-out suspense, also gains better TV coverage.

“It prolongs developments, adds to the chaos and brings more publicity,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “With a suicide attack, you blow yourself up, that’s it. This has much more impact.”

The choice of the Shahr-e-Naw neighborhood frequented by foreigners and affluent Afghans sent a not-so-subtle message: foreign occupiers and those who follow their profligate ways must be eliminated.

And that the militants targeted a guesthouse serving Indians is probably no accident, analysts said. At one level, the attack is a direct challenge to President Hamid Karzai, who has closely allied himself with India and whom the Taliban opposes for his pro-Western policies and support.

The attack is also a bid to further drive a wedge among Western coalition member countries in the hopes that other nations will follow the Dutch in leaving, as they appear likely to do with the recent fall of their government.

Targeting Indians [...] — coming on the heels of two attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in the last two years — [...] who hope to reduce India’s influence in Afghanistan as the region prepares for the likely power vacuum after the U.S.-led coalition leaves.


“Pakistan is deeply resentful of India’s footprint in Afghanistan and would like to see it reduced,” said Sadanand Dhume, an Asia Society fellow and author of “My Friend the Fanatic,” a book on radical Islam.


If tensions rise again between India and Pakistan just as the two have resumed formal talks after a 15-month hiatus following the 2008 Mumbai attack, it could keep more Pakistani troops on the Indian border and away from the Afghan border, where the U.S. would like to see them. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban could gain more freedom to operate along the porous border.

“If you get India riled up, you divert Pakistan troops,” Harrison said. “The jihadi community is trying to relieve the pressure.”

Finally, there’s the spin that militants put on the attack.

Analysts said that when Afghan police respond to an attack, [...] foreigners are putting Afghans in danger while avoiding it themselves. If coalition troops respond to an attack, [...] that the coalition doesn’t trust locals and views them as lap dogs.

“No matter what the coalition does, it can’t win,” Harrison said. “It’s a very smart strategy.By Mark Magnier and Aimal Yaqubi February 27, 2010. “mark.magnier is a special correspondent.



Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Inspirational Story

An inspirational real life incident that teaches how a boss (manager) can inspire and gain trust of his employees (co-worker) and result to an successful project that world looks on to. That’s Dr A P J Abdul Kalam (ex. President of India and a father of Rocket Science in India)

Here’s the story:
Scientists at the Rocket launching station in Thumba, were in the habit of working for nearly 12 to 18 hours a day. There were about Seventy such scientists working on a project. All the scientists were really frustrated due to the pressure of work and the demands of their boss but everyone was loyal to him and did not think of quitting the job.

One day, one scientist came to his boss and told him – Sir, I have promised to my children that I will take them to the exhibition going on in our township. So I want to leave the office at 5 30 pm. His boss replied – O K, , You are permitted to leave the office early today.

The Scientist started working. He continued his work after lunch. As usual he got involved to such an extent that he looked at his watch when he felt he was close to completion. The time was 8.30 p.m Suddenly he remembered of the promise he had given to his children. He looked for his boss,, He was not there. Having told him in the morning itself, he closed everything and left for home. Deep within himself, he was feeling guilty for having disappointed his children.

He reached home. Children were not there. His wife alone was sitting in the hall and reading magazines. The situation was explosive, any talk would boomerang on him.

His wife asked him – Would you like to have coffee or shall I straight away serve dinner if you are hungry. The man replied – If you would like to have coffee, I too will have but what about Children??? Wife replied- You don’t know – Your manager came at 5 15 p.m and has taken the children to the exhibition.

What had really happened was the boss who granted him permission was observing him working seriously at 5.00 p.m. He thought to himself, this person will not leave the work, but if he has promised his children they should enjoy the visit to exhibition. So he took the lead in taking them to exhibition.

The boss does not have to do it every time. But once it is done, loyalty
is established.

That is why all the scientists at Thumba continued to work under their boss even though the stress was tremendous.

By the way, can you hazard a guess as to who the boss was????????
. .

He was DR. A P J Abdul Kalam
ex. President of India and a father of Rocket Science in India


Indian Stock Market Reaction To Indian Budget :)

Indian stock markets, reacted positively to the budget, with a benchmark index breaking free to close 237 points higher than its previous weekly close. :)

The 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) moved up 237.92 points or 1.47 percent to end Friday at 16,429.55 points, 237 points above its previous weekly close at 16,191.63 points.

The broader S&P CNX Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) too posted gains to end the week at 4,922.3 points, up 77.4 points or 1.57 percent.

Broader market indices, however, ended the week in the red with the BSE midcap index closing 0.54 percent down and the BSE smallcap index 1.67 percent lower.

“Though it is not possible to keep everyone happy, the finance minister has done a commendable job. This was evident from the way markets reacted to the announcements,” said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, the equity head for brokerage firm SMC Capitals.

“The budget did help in breaking from the side-ways movement, but it is not going to help much going forward. A lot of the budget news has been factored in and one should not expect a major rally,” he added.

The top gainers during the week included Hindalco (up 7.7 percent), Maruti Suzuki (up 6.8 percent), L&T (up 6.2 percent), Hero Honda (up 5.5 percent) and ICICI Bank (up 5 percent).

Among top losers were ITC (down 6.5 percent), Reliance Communications (down 2.8 percent), Tata Power (down 2.2 percent), Hindustan Unilever (down 2.2 percent) and Reliance Industries (down 0.6 percent).

Data with markets watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) showed that foreign funds were net buyers during the week, having bought scrips worth $313.56 million.

Benchmark indices in the US ended slightly lower this week with Dow Jones industrial average dipping 0.8 percent, the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index 500 down 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq composite falling 0.3 percent.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Cow, Bad Cow

Good Cow

Bad Cow

I don’t have long to write this blog because my life is in jeopardy.

Its 8:15 pm in Jodhpur India and I am sitting outside my hotel room on an antique chair, of which the seat rests only 6″ from the ground. Yes, my knees are at my chin. My computer is perilously resting on one knee, held by one hand.

The other hand is 1/2 the time “typing”…with only one hand I think that would be hen pecking actually. The other 1/2 of the time I am swatting mosquitos. It is feeding time for the mozzies and they want me for dinner. For an appetizer they have already had a few bites from the tops of both my feet. That really got the appetite going and now they are dive bombing from all angles. Its mayham. From afar, if you were another hotel guest and were watching me, you would think I was a truly MAD individual who was swatting insanely in every direction in between her own kamakazee strikes at a keyboard. I guess this would be a good time to tell you I have never had a malaria shot. Thus the life in danger.

“Well get your a– inside!” Yes that is good advice. However, this is how dedicated I am to sharing my adventures with you. The wireless only works outside the walls of my room. Its a long story and it makes me cranky but lets leave it as a perfect example of the trials and challenges of technology in India.

That was a mouthful so now I will just leave you to “see what I saw” today. Oh and just for a little added salt to the wound, the traditional “evening dinner buffet on the lawn” entertainment has begun and not so far from where I am perched. The musicians are belting out some Top 100 traditional songs of Rajasthan right now.  Interested in their greatest hits CD? I have to finish this post before the puppet show starts or truly I might just lose what is left of my sanity. Ha, you think I am making this up! Check this out and then send your condolences to room 28.

Told ya.

This was lunch yesterday…street food at its finest… Garlic butter naan.

Naan Bread Dough

Garlic Butter Naan

What I gave up for Lent!

Sugar, pure Sugar

My Ride…                                                                                            My better judgement…

Heart These

One Bite, yum - Two Bite, porcelain god

A snapshot of Heather at work.

At Work...

At Play...

This is not Disney Delhi. This is my hotel pool. Yeah. 4Realz.



If you don’t see a blog or FB or Twit in the next 12 hrs…send for help…the mozzies have tied me down and are feasting…


Aboard the Indian Railway

To my utter disappointment (and Kevin’s delight), by the time we figured out how to buy train tickets online to Jaipur, the only class left was Sleeper– typically the last and cheapest option for foreign travelers. However, to look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t Second Class: “how India’s poorest people travel…the concept of overcrowding really is taken to a new level..not recommended for long distance train travel in India”. 

Sleeper Class is described as “quite crowded, fairly grubby and basic”, while three classes up, 1AC (prices comparable to flying) is “spacious, carpeted, and lockable..with washbasin..all necessary bedding is provided”. Air conditioning was not so much a concern (it gets surprisingly cold at night), as was privacy, cleanliness, and safety. 

Privacy went out the window right away, as we boarded the appropriate car and found our assigned ”berth” (bed) numbers– situated across from each other, with one middle and one lower berth below each, along with two more horizontally near our feet, for a total of eight berths per compartment. 

Looking down from the top "berth"

Cleanliness was as expected; the stained vinyl beds were similar to those of the sleeper bus we’d taken a week earlier (our sleep sheets have been coming in handy more often now) and the ceiling fans were coated with a sheet of dust. 

Enjoying the ride from Udaipur to Jaipur

As for safety concerns, when reserving online I had purposely selected the top berth after reading a post on A traveller had recounted his train experience in India where he witnessed the middle berth falling on the bottom, injuring a 7 year-old  (he also noted there was no First Aid kit on board to treat the head wound). I’m sure this isn’t a common occurence, but we’ve been told more than once to “be safe!” so I wasn’t taking any chances.

I was still a little nervous, as I’d made the mistake of recently reading Q&A (the basis for Slumdog Millionaire), where the author talks of common-place train robberies in India (fictional, yes, but enough to make me think twice). As it turns out, though, I actually felt better sleeping among the locals than in the higher-class tourist cars, which, I told myself, thieves were more likely to target. 

After settling in we were able to drift off and sleep surprisingly well. I was even able to laugh at the situation and how funny we looked curled up with our bags, a couple feet from the ceiling, surrounded by non-English speaking locals. So, if you were expecting some dire tale of our overnight adventure, sorry to disappoint. But, it’s still early… 

Kevin "spooning" with his backpack


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bargaining Plus A Bonus

In three continents over three decades and may it never end. Every experience remembered like it took place just last week.

The second of this three segment story WAS last week (February 2010) and it triggered a desire to document a special feature of our travels.

The experience is entering a souk or bazaar with the intent to buy. I have chosen scenes that took place in Morocco,Syria and India.

Initially I was intimidated by the souks. The eyes of merchants catching your entry into their small sphere of influence is felt. A glance their way is interpreted as permission to cast their line for the fish. And quite a line it can be.In their serpentine alleyways with foreign sounds,aromas and the unexpected, the bazaars and souks seemingly place me on the set of a foreign movie with 1001 characters milling about like agitated bees in a hive.

A significant, calming and reassuring transition happens when one leaves the milieu of uncertainty mentioned above and enters a merchants shop within the bazaar or souk. Particularly, if it is your intention to make a purchase. No longer are you the fish in the ocean; no longer is the scene foreign with so much apparent Brownian movement. In a way,outside you were an extra in that movie; now you become a principal character.This is the intention of the merchant and he facilitates the fantasy well. No popcorn today, but may I offer the reader a cup of mint tea and the following.

1. In 1983 we made our first visit to Morocco. A trip through the souk there is a must. Diane wanted to purchase some Berber jewelry for her shop in San Francisco so there we were around 10:00 A.M. in Fez sipping tea while sitting on beautiful carpets on the third floor of a gracious merchant’s shop. He chatted with us while three assistants progressively brought out more stunning pieces for our inspection. Diane had a spending limit and the merchant of course had a price limit.

On and on the process went with counter offers and the switching of candidate jewelry. After three hours and lots of tea the exchange was finalized. A djellaba for me was also thrown in. But that was not the end. The merchant hugged us both, congratulated us for choosing such quality and being so astute in bargaining and proceeded to invite us to his home. It was around 10:00 P.M.or twelve hours after first entering his shop when he took us home. His wife had prepared two meals for us all while we watched videos of their recent wedding (the entire wedding celebration lasted a week).

2. We left San Francisco for the Middle East in January 2010 with measurements in hand for a new hallway carpet. It was our intention to purchase a new runner in either Syria or Iran.

We were at the fringes of the Aleppo,Syria souk,(which, by the way, is one of the oldest such shopping areas in the world) when Phillipe Hassan Martini walked towards us. He and a colleague were fishing for customers. By a happy coincidence for him, we were heading to his store anyway because of a prior recommendation.

Phillipe, with his fluency in English and Italian (along with Arabic and other languages) impressed us with his intelligence, interests, courtesy and general demeanor. He certainly was different than most with his Italian and Syrian/Jewish heritage. And his smile would melt an iceberg.

His shop is small with eclectic choices ranging from jewelry to textiles to various assorted antiquities. That day, however, we wanted to just get acquainted. A trip upstairs to view his carpets was to come about two days later. In the meantime, through his recommendation, we arranged for a driver to take us to some wonderful archeology sites the following day.

When we did go upstairs two days later Phillipe’s business partner also came along since carpets were his forte. The two of them were exchanging comments in Arabic as Diane and I began looking around. This time, a purchase was made within an hour. Did I say a runner? Well, we bought two. The fish were hungry that day. No need to elaborate on the purchase details but they were complex.

It was the wonderful friendship development between Diane, me and Phillipe over the ensuing five days that made this encounter special. We shared many,many hours of dialogue over the course of four evenings with not only him but with his partner and mother of his son,as well as with his closest friend (Hazem Akil) who is a well known Syrian painter, and his wife Jamana. Our tastes in history,architecture,politics and so many other topics were also exchanged on long walks through the old and new cities of Aleppo. The discussions were both serious and humerous.

In the beginning of this segment I mentioned the dialogue in Arabic between Phillipe and his partner when we first bartered for a carpet. Phillipe later told us that they had been heatedly discussing whether to bargain (Phillipe’s preference) or stick with a fixed price. For us, bargaining was more enjoyable even though we know that merchants never lose on these “deals”.

3. It was 2000 and warm that afternoon in Jodpur,India when Diane and I took a taxi to buy bedspreads in the central bazaar. I had trouble exiting the taxi because a cow was standing right outside my door. The whole area was crowded with families looking at what the street vendors were showing and it took us a while to find a store with the proper selections.

Shortly thereafter we were sipping tea on the second floor while sitting upon a three foot assemblage of carpets and listening to the owner describe the benefits of various choices of stunning bedspreads that his three assistants were displaying.

To this day I still am uncertain if what then ensued was spontaneous or designed. I will never know and it doesn’t matter.

We liked one particular bedspread but the price of this plus one other was too high. After offering some unacceptable alternatives the store owner asked me, “What can I offer you for your lovely wristwatch?” I was momentarily speechless but soon told him that it was a fake Rolex that I had purchased for less than $10 that year in Hanoi. He said he did not care because such watches are not available in Jodpur. After telling him “no” I thought a bit and quickly changed my mind. I decided that I really did not have any particular affection for that timepiece.

Off came the watch and the owner lowered his price and the most charming scene then occurred in that showroom. I looked up and the owner was admiring his new watch while his first assistant proudly put on the owners now former wristwatch. The next assistant acquired the first assistant’s and so on. The room was full of four men with new watches and a couple with the bedspreads they wanted. Just another day at the bazaar.


Khalistan: KLA – KZF Sikh separatists’ bid to gang up again

Security around top leaders and vital installations in Indian Punjab has been increased following intelligence reports of Sikh separatist groups trying to recruit youth from the US and India to revive liberation of Khalistan.

KhalistanReports of a meeting between officials and Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) chief Wadhawa Singh in December have raised concerns among security agencies in the state.

A top-secret intelligence communication from Punjab Police to security agencies last week states: “To execute this task, Wadhawa Singh is making efforts to mobilise volunteers from Punjab as also from the US, who could be made to travel to India via Malaysia or Singapore.”

Following this, security agencies have been asked to take appropriate security measures to protect VIPs and important installations across the state. The VIPs said to be in the target list of the terror outfits include Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.

Bittu, who is the Punjab Youth Congress president, is the grandson of former state chief minister Beant Singh, who is credited with wiping out Sikh’s in the state in the early 1990s with ’super-cop’ KPS Gill. Beant Singh was assassinated by a human bomb here Aug 31, 1995.


The intelligence report says that Bittu is particularly being targeted by the Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), Khalistan Liberation Army (KLA). Another intelligence report from Punjab Police has said terror groups could target shrines in Amritsar as well as the Nangal Dam and railway stations at Ropar, Ludhiana and Pathankot.

“We will not let any of these groups revive terrorism in the state,” Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said in Chandigarh. “We are taking the intelligence inputs quite seriously. We do a day-to-day monitoring of things. Security is being stepped up as required,” Jalandhar Inspector General of Police Sanjiv Kalra said.

In the last two months, Punjab Police have found explosives, grenades and weapons outside vital installations at various places in the state. Several kilograms of explosives were found Jan 19 outside an Indian Oil LPG bottling plant near Nabha town in Patiala district. Two grenades were found five days later outside an Indian Air Force (IAF) establishment at Zirakpur near Chandigarh. A car laden with explosives was found last month outside the IAF station at Halwara in Ludhiana. Two people were arrested in Patiala on Sunday. Eight kilograms of explosives and 40 gelatin sticks were recovered from them.

Though the secessionist movement for Khalistan was comprehensively defeated in 1993, there remain a handful of terrorist outfits chiefly supported by NRI Sikh groups who continue to propagate the ideology of Khalistan. One of the most prominent among them is the BKI, among the oldest and most organised Khalistan terrorist groups. It is headed by Wadhawa Singh, who is reportedly hiding in Pakistan. Mehal Singh is the deputy chief of BKI. Both of them are among the 20 terrorists whom India wants.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Something happened on the way to Kabul

Something’s in the air in AfPak. A major offensive in Hemland, which in of itself is not surprising. US drone attacks killing one of the dreaded Haqqani brothers in North Waziristan. Again, great news but hardly a surprise that we should be trying to do this. The interesting news is Pakistan’s arrest of Mullah Baradar. Pakistan is the critical cog in this wheel so whatever they do has a purpose and a meaning. In fact, Pakistan is the key to unlocking the war in Afghanistan. It is also the major world jihadi threat (not Afghanistan) and so must be dealt with in its own right also.

It appears that Baradar might have been willing to talk with the Americans. It makes sense then that the ISI would want to pick him up as they dont want to be excluded from any negotiations. The fact that they found him in urban Karachi (like they did with Khalid Sheikh Muhammed) and not in the wild badlands of the frontier suggest that they knew where he was from the get go and could have picked him up years earlier.

It used to be that Pakistan would conveniently “find” Al Qaeda leaders “on demand”. Now they are doing the same with the Afghan Taliban – people they used to (and for the most part still do) regard as strategic assets. There must be a powerful reason that they are cashing in these chips. And no reason can be bigger for Pakistan than India.

With over $1 billion in civilian assisitance already invested in Afghanistan and a high popularity rating among the Afghan public, the Pakistanis will do anything to stop further Indian “encirclement”. They even prevented fortified Indian biscuits from reaching Afghan children lest it boost India’s popularity.

Hopefully, Washington is playing this right. The smart thing to do is not to tell India to stand down. But to tell it to stand up in Afghanistan. Force the Pakistanis to play ball or face the alternatives. They will not listen to pleas about human rights or peace. They didnt care while the Taliban were turning Afghanistan into a medieval prison and playing host to 9/11. They dont care now – at least their army doesnt. But they do care that they have a seat at the table at the end of the day. And they especially care that India does not.

The only way to make them play ball is to deepen Indian engagement in Afghanistan – particularly with regards training and integrating the warlords into the new Afghan Army. Keeping India in is the way to make Pakistan play ball. Take India out, and the double dealing starts again. It is India that keeps Pakistan honest. Not American pleas. This is not rocket science, but then Washington has never really known how to deal with Islamabad.

In the great chessboard that is Afghanistan, news moves are being played. Hope we learn from our mistakes. Don’t undercut democratic allies or believe military dictatorships. Do the right thing, and the right result will happen. America needs to play smart – and tough.


A life in the day at Rainbow House

Rainbow House (RH) is El Shaddai’s residential home for girls aged 8-13 (when they’re aged 2-7, they live next door, at House of Kathleen, and there are two similar homes in the area for boys) and is currently home to 51 girls, including my sponsored “daughter” Renuka. The children sleep in bunk-bedded dormitories and are cared for by four full time staff plus Stella,  the manager.

(One thing I always have to remember when thinking about what to buy Renuka is that each child has relatively little private space in which to store things;  they each have a small, cube shaped locker and access to a hanging rail for their clothes,  and that’s it).

The children are organised into groups and Stella tells me that this is to help to teach them teamwork, responsibility and leadership. The teams are named Love, Joy, Peace and Kindness and each team has a colour which they then wear as part of their school uniform.  Renuka is in the “Love” group and their colour is red,  so she wears a red polo shirt for school and always tries to choose red clothes from the communal pile in her dormitory.  Most recently, I’ve seen her in a red Bayern Munich t-shirt and a red swimsuit bearing the Welsh flag …

Part of the way in which the charity aims to teach responsibility is by making the children part of the routine of the home; for them,  it’s more than just a boarding school environment – they are part of the very fabric of the place. And they have a long and busy day,  Monday to Friday: this is their daily routine irrespective of age.

5.45am                        Alarm call and wake up.

6.00am                        Morning prayers; apparently, these are non-denominational and mostly consist of saying “thank you” to an unnamed god or presence.

6.15 – 7am                  “Duty” – this means undertaking chores of various sorts: cooking, cleaning, laundry and so on. Each group is part of a rota and will do different things each week; one evening when I visited,  Renuka emerged from the kitchen covered in flour, as the Love group had evening duty – making chapattis.

7.00 – 7.30am             Breakfast – as prepared by that day’s duty team, who will also have organised the tiffin (lunch) tins too.

7.30 – 8.30am             Wash and dress for school; the uniform is either a pleated skirt or shorts,  topped off with an appropriately coloured polo shirt, and sandals.

8.30 – 8.45am             Medicine: many of the children have ongoing medical issues due to their previous itinerant lifestyles and poor nutrition,  so Stella lines them up at this time and gives them their medications.

8.45am                        Uniform check: are you neat and tidy? Is your hair brushed? Then off you go to school! The children travel by mini-bus, as donated by a British based charity.

9.00 – 4.30pm             At El Shaddai’s own private Shanti Niketan school,  the children are organised into groups on the basis of ability rather than age – so Renuka,  for example, aged 9 and good at maths,  is in a class with children of 12, 13 and 14. All lessons are taught in English,  which is the common language; the children end up in Goa from all over India and many have other languages as their first tongue,  but school work is always done in English. 

At 12 noon,  they break for lunch,  which they eat, seated, from the tiffin tins.

5.00 – 7.00pm             The children arrive back at RH and evening duty commences for the relevant team.  This is also visiting time for sponsors and interested tourists,  so there’s always a stream of people calling into both RH and HoK, sitting on the veranda and playing with the children.

7.00 – 7.30pm             Prayers, followed by dinner.  This is usually vegetarian food (rice and dal, or a vegetable pullao) but they have meat once a week for those who eat it. They sometimes also have laddu, a very sweet Indian pudding; Renuka told me proudly that she is “the very best” at making this.    

7.30 – 8.00pm            More duty – washing up!

8.00pm                        Homework

9.00pm                        Bedtime; lights out by 10.30pm.

At the weekends,  the regime is a little more relaxed,  although the children still have “duty” in the morning; yesterday,  they were washing sheets.  However,  in the afternoon,  it’s the highlight of the week,  when they all pile into the mini-bus for a trip to the beach; they absolutely love this and it’s truly wonderful to see them have a chance to be children.

El Shaddai set up camp on the beach, and,  with a great flair for strategy, take the charity to the people. They have very cleverly realised that the children are their best ambassadors and so simply seeing the kids playing on the beach and splashing in the sea (as opposed to begging or selling jewellery) can give people an awareness of how different life can be with the assistance of ES and other charities.

The afternoon follows a loose structure. Having blown up numerous pairs of armbands and rubber rings, we all charge into the sea and play in the waves (at one point,  I had three small girls hanging off each of my arms). Then it’s out onto the sand for a bit,  with some organised races (relay running,  bunny hopping and so on) and a sand castle building competition. 

The staff then chop up some of the huge pile of fruit donated by the visitors and the children dig in to slices of pineapple and chunks of watermelon;  there’s usually so much left that all four homes can have fruit for the rest of the week.

I was particularly pleased to see so many men joining in and playing with the kids,  as these children really need strong male role models; many of them have been abandoned by their fathers,  or mistreated, victims of neglect, violence and alcohol. And whilst they don’t lack for love and care from the (mostly female) ES staff,  there are fewer men around to provide an alternative view of masculinity,  so the work that these guys do is hugely important, I think,  for both boys and girls. They need to know and see that men can be kind, gentle, playful and fun – all qualities in great abundance at the beach.

Finally,  it’s one last play in the sea – much shrieking of “the big wave! The big wave!!” – before we get dressed, pack up toys, equipment, leaflets, banners and fruit and return back home.

Great fun – and I get to do it all over again today.  I had planned to pack to come home,  but Renuka had remembered that my flight back is actually on Monday and so could see no valid reason at all why I shouldn’t come to the beach on Sunday … so that’s where I’ll be.  Can’t wait.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

India restaurant bombing toll 'rises to 12'

Now another previously unknown Islamic group of dirt bags has been organized, at least these are the people claiming to have set off the bomb referenced in the article. As I’ve stated before, there is no end to this madness. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AFP) – The death toll from a blast that ripped through a packed restaurant last weekend in western India, which was claimed by a previously unknown Islamist group has risen to 12, a report said Saturday.

The explosion at the German Bakery restaurant in the city of Pune was the first major attack on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai massacre in which 166 people died.

The latest fatality was a 26-year-old Sudanese student, Amjad Elgazoli, who was studying at college in Pune, the Press Trust of India reported.

His death in hospital late Friday brought to three the number of foreigners killed in the February 13 blast at the neighbourhood bakery in which at least 60 people were injured.

The other two foreign victims who died in the explosion, which authorities said was caused by a bomb concealed in a bag, were an Italian woman and an Iranian man.

The report of the latest death came as students in New Delhi held prayers and lit candles on Saturday to pay tribute to victims of the blast.

Four men have been detained by Indian police for questioning in connection with the explosion, which came a day after India and Pakistan said they would resume peace talks in New Delhi.

A hitherto unknown Islamist outfit, which said it had splintered from a larger Pakistan-based outfit, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call earlier in the week to the Indian newspaper The Hindu.

The Hindu said it was contacted by someone claiming to be a spokesman for a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi which said it had carried out the bombing at the German Bakery, located near the Osho Ashram, a yoga and meditation retreat which draws visitors from around the world.

The caller said the attack was in response to India’s “refusal” to discuss the disputed region of Kashmir, claimed by Pakistan and India, in the peace talks that are due to resume between the two countries this Thursday.

The caller said Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi had split from the larger Lashkar-e-Taiba because the latter “took its orders from Pakistan’s intelligence agency”, The Hindu reported.

The banned Lashkar-e-Taiba is blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai that led to a suspension of dialogue between India and Pakistan.


Join the Save Tiger Campaign !

For our life depends on them !

Save Tiger Campaign !

Only 1411 tigers left in India. It is our prime duty to join the save Tiger Campaign.

If we still remain behind this then Our beloved animal will extinct in the near future.

So goto and join the movement !

Enjoy !!!


Thursday, February 18, 2010


Yellow Pages refer to a telephone directory of businesses, categorized according to the product or service provided. But Today, Yellow pages are more than just contact databases. They act as an effective bridge between consumers and service providers. While customers can find and locate appropriate shops, advertising in yellow pages can draw more and more customers to a shop. They are seen as effective publicizing and showcasing portals.

With the advent of Web2.0, internet based directories or databases have become more and more popular. Internet has added a lot of features to yellow Pages. Dynamic databases, interactive route maps, user recommendations and Search optimization are some of them.

The next step to optimize the use and utility of telephone directories is to bring it to mobile platforms. This is simply because mobile communication is replacing landline phones almost everywhere [reference]. While we try to bring yellow pages effectively on mobile phone, we have a lot of examples, a lot of issue in those examples, a lot of new thoughts and a lot of challenges ahead. Well!! We do have planned our way.


Primary Research/Literature Study:

  • Reading about all the existing mobile directories/databases –, m-yellow pages for Singapore, etc. These  examples differ in many aspects:

Users, they deal with

Markets, they are made for

User Interfaces and also

Technology, Platform they are built with

  • Figuring out the revenue systems associated with each service (as it may affect the design)
  • Figuring out the technology behind working of these applications- exploring various platforms
  • Studying other similar services like Just dial, that may serve as an alternate to Mobile directories
  • Previous research in similar projects, their methodology and research findings

Secondary Research/Field Study:

It’s important to understand the context we design for. Secondary Research would include:

Ethnographic study of the Indian markets, users and shopkeepers.

  • Understanding the markets

Markets in different countries or different places may differ in:


The way they are organized or grouped in a location (product wise, revenue wise, etc.) or they may be random

Nature of shops (may contain single or multiple kind of products, wide or close price range, branded and local products, wholesale or retail, etc.)

Browsing through the market (infrastructure)

  • Understanding the customers (buyers)

People in different economies and societies may differ in:

Preferences (correlation between Quality, Price and location)

Societal relations

Belief in Trust and recommendations

  • Understanding the Shopkeepers

Shopkeepers may differ in:

Nature of information offered for a product

Emotions and societal relations


Expenses (infrastructure, duty, tax, location, transport)

Building User Persona(s):

Working out what kind of users (depending on income, age group, location, etc.) would use our application.

Building scenarios:

We would consider different scenarios for shopping.



It’s just another end of day,

But it seems so stranger.

Reddish orange sky settling to black,

Kite flying, breeze chilling and spongy.

So stunning, so vibrant. 

It’s just another end of day,

But it seems so stranger.

Echo of ajan from far away,

mixed with chaos of child play.

So pleasant, so refreshing.

It’s just another end of day,

But it seems so stranger.

Odor of cuisines from kitchen,

And aroma of moist dust,

So hungry, so healthy.

It’s just another end of day,

But it seems so stranger.




Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dork: The Incredible Adventures Of Robin Einstein Varghese by Sidin Vadukut

This book’s popularity is spreading like fire. If you are even vaguely in touch with the world of books by Indian authors, there is no way you could have missed this book. The Dork, Sidin Vadukut’s debut novel, is about Robin ‘Einstien’ Varghese’s transition from a B-school graduate to an associate in a business consulting firm. Einstien is a typical naive-and-stupid guy who can be found in every batch of every single college that exists on this earth. He is the kind of guy who sports thick framed glasses, has oil dripping down his hair, has a stupid grin stuck on his face all the time – you know who I am talking about, right? This guy can be found in every movie ever made on college boys and girls. BTW, that description is entirely mine, Vadukut does not give us a glimpse of how Einstien looks like.

The book takes the form of journal entries by Einstien. He has a habit of writing down the activities of the day where he treats his Diary as a confidant. He pours his heart out, bears his soul and is totally honest with his Diary. Through his journal entries, we get a glimpse of how Einstien’s world is, through his eyes, of course. The book starts with the journal entry for the day when Einstien gets a job – Day Zero job, mind you. It then goes on to show how he manages to goof-up at every point in his life, how utterly unaware he is of the world around and how innocent and naive he is. We have some hilarious incidents which include alcohol, a huge plastic duck and some puking. Another such incident has Einstien trying to solve the storage space crisis to store one lakh ball bearings. There are some smart-ass characters who are Einstien’s bitter enemies and some who he sympathizes with because they are not as smart as he is. Bring in a love interest and we have all ingredients for an interesting dorm story.

I bought this book after I read about it on Jai Arjun’s blog. His thoughts on the book:

Shameless plug: we both enjoyed the book hugely. The trope of the unreliable narrator is something I usually associate with serious literary fiction, but Sidin pulls it off very convincingly in a fast-paced comic narrative. His protagonist Robin Verghese is magnificently clueless about what’s really happening around him.

I have always found his reviews very helpful. I read We need to talk about Kevin after I read his review and I am grateful to him for introducing me to this book. But, this book…. I don’t know what he is saying. Unreliable narrator? We see through Verghese the moment he opens his mouth, I mean his first journal entry. The reader knows that what Verghese thinks about himself is not necessarily true. Is that what he means by unreliable narrator?

I am confused about this book. If it is supposed to be hilarious, then it is not. I probably laughed just once while I read the entire book. Satire?I think not. Are we supposed to laugh at Robin Verghese? I don’t find him funny, but irritating. Are we supposed to sympathize with him? I can’t because he irritates me. A literary master-piece which is disguised as a light-weight book? If that is so, then I totally don’t get it. There are quite a few positive reviews, so it must be just me.


Intimacy With Christ- Getting to know Jesus

Matthew 4:17

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 

Intimacy With Jesus Christ means ultimately getting with His program. And- getting with His program was ultimately getting with God’s program- 

1 Peter 1:21 

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. 

(Here Peter wants his Jewish friends to know that by putting their faith in Jesus Christ they had not strayed from a faith in God. Putting their faith in Jesus Christ was God’s program.) 

Being like Jesus means that in some sense the believer is “on the move”– in this verse Jesus– after having been baptized and having gone into the wilderness– he went immediately into motion regarding His calling in Life. Jesus didn’t find a nice big chair to sit on with servants fanning him because of the “great things/teaching” coming out of His mouth with multitudes coming just to hear His wisdom. No. He didn’t immediately come out of the wilderness to seek the top leaders in town to find some kind of position with their organization because He was so smart, knew the scriptures so well, and could string them together like a pearl necklace- giving the sense of “great authority.” He sought not his own comforts– rather God’s path.  

Jesus– basically headed on the move into the towns and villages as a servant-man. A preacher. Not a castle builder. A preacher. Not a- take advantage of the land deals. A preacher. Not an arm-chair theologian just picking people to pieces. No– a preacher for the people. You see– for us being on the move involves the left of us and the right of us– to be disciples, intimate with Jesus, and his true followers– we latch onto the plow of “faith working through love” and simply use what measure of light or talents God has given to us to move straight forward– just like Jesus. Elisha—after being told not to follow Elijah several times- had gotten rid of his farm equipment just to “follow.” He moved like Jesus– straight forward in God’s Kingdom work. 

It’s interesting– the Lord Jesus didn’t walk into town with politically correct words, with a smooth and easy way to be “spiritual” or having a “beautiful” religion that didn’t cut across anyone’s character. He used the word “Repent.” The same word John the Baptist had lost his head over on the chopping block. Jesus was not afraid. As He went straight forward in His mission to preach He didn’t seek to please or tickle his audience’s ears. To be Intimate With Jesus Christ we can’t find ourselves getting caught on a nail on the fence post. Rather, we too must be resolute in whatever we do to the glory of God if that’s what God has called us to or if that’s what “faith working through love” means to Him. We’re just not hear to please everybody and the minute we become “friends” with that kind of thinking we’re out of Sync with the Father, Son, and the Spirit of God. Jesus was ultimately- by starting his “negative” message of letting go of what God hates- letting them know that that comes prior to turning to God. To consciously sin and then to remain in that and “come to God” in some sense is not to have come to Him at all since God is light and in Him is no darkness. Jesus preaching was getting the folk in a “heart” attitude of cleaning things up and as part of that– turning their lives over to or back to God. You see— it had been some 400 or more years of Israel not having any prophetic book written since the last book– “Malachi.” So, things needed to be mopped up a bit and God had Jesus and before him John the Baptist do the mopping through the preaching. Here we see to be Intimate With Jesus Christ we must be willing to hold a mop. 

These days I hear the word “kingdom” off and on and off and on. To a lesser degree than a greater. But, here- Jesus was preaching sermons on the Kingdom of God which was now after several hundred years of kinda not hearing from God through prophets (God took that long to perfectly set the stage of the nations for Jesus Christ to come and be crucified and rise again.) You see folk—- it’s about a Kingdom– God’s. He’s not at this moment just snuffing out all things that have nothing to do with that Kingdom– rather—He’s using the foolishness of preaching to establish the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth. Though we may see pockets of His Kingdom here and there– it is actually universal– but, not brought to a head as it will be at what’s called the “Great Judgment.” So, finding out what it is to have Jesus over us as King, to be in Sync with God’s very own Kingdom coming down to earth— means that we must stay close to the Lord Jesus so that we can be about Kingdom work with and by Him in all we do whether it’s welding to God’s glory or as a blind person writing poems or songs to His glory- doing Kingdom work.

When Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom being near me thinx He has in mind several events that kinda really “kick-off” the Kingdom like His cross, resurrection, the Holy Spirit coming with Power onto His church/people, and His appearances to many as alive from the dead, and finally His ascension into Heaven so that once again there’s a relationship as it was between Heaven and earth and that is “Heaven coming down.” In the verse below it kinda summarizes something that the people Jesus was preaching to may have already known as many of them had scripture memorized. So, the concept of God being “near” meant moving into a place of humbly bowing- finding Him while He’s offering to be found. Intimacy With Jesus means that our life in some way emanates the urgency of the need for those around us to “draw near to Him” – even now.

Isaiah 55:6

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. 

Father God, I pray that we’d be more like Jesus in that we look not to the left nor to the right and take up whatever it is You have set before us whether in our eyes small or great. The Lord Jesus took up preaching and we have been given gifts, talents and abilities to take up the cause of “faith working through love.” So, Lord– help us to continue seeking “The Kingdom of God”/”Intimacy With Jesus” as Jesus sought You Father and taught You. Help us to show discernment of what our audience needs to see or hear as they needed to hear the words “Repent” in this passage (Change your heart about the direction it is going away from God perhaps in many ways.). They needed to hear that You had put Yourself in their path or way just as Jesus Christ has been put in our path or way that we might turn to Him. Father, help us every day to turn to You. Lord God, with You as King over man again through Jesus Christ– help us to understand what kind of King you are. You are a King of Mercy, Love, Compassion, Grace, Forgiveness, Hating anything that violates Love- for You- and Love for our fellowman, Beautiful, All everything in the sense of knowing, power, seeing, and being. Let us through reading this verse become a little more like Jesus and so, more Intimate With Christ. AMEN. 


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sorry VW, That came up short

A new $10 million VW campaign was chiugging along fine in anticipation of the new Polo. This week they started off the Touareg, which is a delicious piece to look at and admire in a long ad story campaign which would again keep TV18 occupied on Sunday. But the ad comes up really short in storyline and presentation for whatever percent of the 17000 TV spots ( Get their media agency and office speak here from Storyboard ) The campaign is spread across 47 channels and I got to see it on Neo, when India got back on track on Day 1 of the SA test in Kolkata

While the characterisations are half shod and quick done, the story is patchy and school-boyish, far from the soul of the car you’d imagine to see. The print ads of course are also packaged as can’t do wrong , go along with the media splash and if the ad recognition comes negative you’d be in a bit of a leek soup at Volkswagen..

I have just been inspired to remember Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka from that ad watch. How would that make you feel in a $50,000 Car/SUV



When Ian Chappell expressed his doubts over the standing of India as the best test playing nation in the long run, there was widespread disbelief. Motives were attributed to Chappelli and the familiar white vs. black debate got started all over again especially among the followers of the game in India who are more addicted to the chaddi cricket(T20).

In his analysis, Chappell talks about the bowling and the batting talents that are required to sustain the No.1 ranking over a period of time.

The first test between India and South Africa exposed brutally the chinks that were visible to most real followers of Indian cricket.In the absence of Dravid and Laxman, the batting resembled a bunch of weekend cricketers against a professional outfit, barring the knocks of Sachin and Sehwag.Forget what Dhoni might had to say after the trashing on swing bowling-conventional or otherwise, the fact remains that the batsmen were just not equipped to deal with the likes of Steyn. It is true that most teams now look very ordinary when facing good bowling, particularly of the faster variety.The most successful batsmen of his generation, Ricky Ponting made to look ragged by Kiemar Roach.

Laxman talked about the lack of bench strength in the spin department.The Nagpur loss showed how true the concerns of Laxman were. The premier spinner in the team Harbhajan Singh just did not have a clue on spin while Amit Mishra spun a few balls in his first spell on the first day. That the Indian batsmen struggled to find their feet against Paul Harris is another story.

THe selection of the team made one pull out hair in dismay. Why was Saha in the team as a batsman when Manish Pandey and Virat Kohli had better credentials to offer?

It is often said that one needs to run faster to stay at the present position. The INdian team just could barely walk and going by the happenings in the second test, it is very difficult for the team to stay at the top.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Our Fundamental Rights

Our constitution guarantees us a series of basic rights. Without fundamental rights, any democracy is meaningless. They are meant to secure social, economic and political justice for every individual in the nation. When India was under colonial rule, Indians were denied any civil, political, social or economic right. With independence it was expected that we will be ensured these basic rights which are essential to live a fulfilling human life. Sixty years after independence, it will be a worthwhile exercise to look how many of these rights do we actually enjoy. More than that, what recourse is available to us in case these rights are violated?
Broadly speaking we can break rights into political/civil rights and liberties and socio-economic rights. While our civil-political rights have been largely secured, we are subject to daily violation of our socio economic rights by the state. Tragedy is while we can go to courts if our civil-political rights are violated by state, there is no such recourse available to us in case of violation of socio-economic rights by state. The Independence is incomplete when it comes to social and economic rights. These rights are denied to majority of the population, or are violated with impunity by the Indian govt.
Social and economic rights in India are recognized as inferable from Right to Life, but are not explicitly recognized. This is done on the excuse that these rights are not very essential for human survival and neither as crucial as civil and political rights. They are seen as needs that society or government might provide if resources are available, but which are not justiciable. These are the rights like right to work, right to choice of employment, right to own property, right to adequate standards of living, right to access to education, right to social security, right to social and medical assistance, right to adequate nutrition, right to social welfare benefits etc.
The incapability or the indifference of the constitution and the state towards these rights means that violation of these rights sometimes leads to violation of the basic rights guaranteed by the constitution. These rights are violated when a school is not constructed in a village, when starving families are not issued BPL cards and their quota of rations, when people die to lack of healthcare in villages, when a woman in labor dies on her way to a distant hospital on a kuccha road, when hawkers, rickshaw pullers etc are unable to get a secure livelihood due to rapacious bribe-seeking officers, when farmers are forced to commit suicides due to lack of appropriate lending mechanisms and crop failures, when people are forced to pay exorbitant rates for basic necessities like water. These rights are violated daily in many other instances due to inaction, inefficiency, indifference of the state. The state has tried to take over all important aspects of our lives by promising us to deliver a socialist republic and to secure ‘social, economic and political’ justice for everyone. It has run 60 years of a controlled economy and failed in all its objectives.
Its failure is apparent in millions of hungry starving mouths, uneducated children, unemployed masses, people suffering from malnutrition and disabilities, rising naxalism, pathetic state of our infrastructure and now in its inability to provide relief from rising food inflation. The state has succeeded to a significant extent in securing civil and political liberties, but has been a mute spectator or sometimes even a perpetrator of violation of social and economic rights. Large numbers of these violations are often due to the indifference of state, since the constitution does not require it to ensure these rights in similar manner as are other fundamental rights.
60 years of Independence is a sufficiently long time for a nation to mature enough so as to guarantee these basic rights. These rights should be explicitly made part of the fundamental rights. Their violation should be addressable in the courts in the similar manner as are the other fundamental rights. Exceptions can be made to cases where the state simply lacks the resources and the ability to ensure these rights, but in all other cases where violation takes place due to indifference and inaction of state it should be bought before the courts. Corrupt officers who delay crucial infrastructural projects, absentee teachers and doctors, bribe seeking policemen, hoarders from FCI (Food Corporation of India) who deem it better to let the stocks rot rather than distribute them all of them and sundry others, whose indifference violates social and economic rights of Indians on a daily basis will be brought to justice.
Time is ripe to start a movement for recognition of these rights, subject to certain natural resource constraints, as fundamental rights who are very crucial for living a decent and worthy life as a human being. Only once these rights are treated in such manner will our independence be complete.


Pakistan Supports Sovereign Palestine State with Al-Quds as Capital: Gilani


Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Friday said Pakistan has and will continue to steadfastly support the total withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories.

We support the full realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people including the establishment of an independent State, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.

We demand that the illegal Israeli settlements and construction activities in the West Bank and atrocities and repression must come to an end, forthwith, Gilani said while speaking at a banquet he hosted in honour of President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine here at the PM House.

Besides the members of Palestinian delegation, the banquet was attended by a large number of federal ministers, parliamentarians, diplomats and senior officials. Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan will also continue to play its due role at the United Nations in supporting the legitimate demands of people under occupation including the people of Palestine.

To all Pakistanis and people striving for the right to self-determination the peaceful struggle of the Palestinian people is inspirational. We are confident that the Palestinian people will achieve full Statehood through their legitimate and peaceful struggle, he added.

The Prime Minister said the Palestinian struggle for statehood and for the right to self determination finds resonance in Pakistan, adding; Our brothers in Kashmir face a similar occupation and are also struggling to realize their right to self-determination.

He recalled that Pakistan hosted the 1974 OIC Summit under the direction of our Leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. That Summit was aimed at developing collective wisdom on issues concerning the Muslim World particularly on the Palestine issue and to establish linkages with the international community to resolve them in the interest of peace, security and progress, world over, he added.

Prime Minister Gilani said the 1974 Conference recognized President Yasser Arafat’s leadership role in promoting the just cause of the Palestinian people.

President Arafat is not amongst us today, he said, adding; President Arafat was, as Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed had said; the symbol of Palestinian identity, nationhood and its struggle for a separate homeland for the Palestinian people.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived Islamabad Friday on an official visit’
Federal Minister for Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Palestine ambassador and senior officials received the Palestinian President at the PAF Base Chaklala.

A contingent of PAF presented salute to the dignitary.

President Mahmoud Abbas is accompanied by Palestinian Foreign Minister and a team of political and economic advisors.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hindu Open Air Cremations

On the 26th of March last year I reported on the case of Davender Ghai who was challenging a British 1930 Law which prohibited the burning of bodies in the open air. His case rested on his religious beliefs as a Hindu, and the inevitable ‘Human Rights”. Needless to say, he has won the right to be cremated in the open air when he dies. All you need to do these days is mention ‘Human Rights’ and your case is won for you. The case was reviewed by the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and three other judges. In their opinion, Mr. Ghai’s request could be “accommodated within current cremation legislation”. At the time, I said that this sort of thing should not be allowed, and today I stand by that. It is common practice in India for all Hindu’s who believe it is the only way for the soul to leave the body and enter the ‘afterlife’. Another ‘quirky’ religious tradition among so many invented by people of all faiths. However, I feel there is a limit on how far a western democratic nation should go to appease immigrants. Especially when it is so one-sided. So what now! Has this appeal court opened the floodgates for all Hindu’s to be cremated in the open air? Are we now to see Hindu funeral pyres in the fields if we go for a drive? I guess the next thing will be the setting up of ‘official Hindu cremation sites’ in town market squares across the country at the tax payers expense; forget not that Hindu cremations are public affairs in India! It is the thin end of the wedge my friends. The British Labour Government, with its ‘multi-cultural’ mania is steadily handing over control of the country to the immigrant population at an ever-increasing pace. This is just one more move in that direction. Pretty soon the British People will have no say whatsoever on affairs in their own country. With this case we open the floodgates to all non-conformists and idiots who only have to scream the words ‘Human Rights” at the top of their voices and get whatever they want. Will we be forced to respect the human rights of some obscure religious group who protest it is essential for an animal or human sacrifice to be made so the spirit may leave the body? I do not blame Mr. Ghai for this, it is not his fault. He is only trying to depart this life in accordance with his religion. No, the ones that are at fault are Gordon Brown and his cohorts, and the British legal system for pandering to immigrants who are slowly taking over control of the country. The rights of decent British families are being pushed to the side to accommodate the more base needs of immigrants who come to our country and expect business as usual and never mind the original inhabitants. How far down this road is the Labour Party willing to go? I leave you to ponder this question! Roy


In Memory of Friends | Bhagat Singh


IN MEMORY OF FRIENDS documents the violence and terror in Punjab,
India – a land torn apart by religious fundamentalists and a repressive government.

After examining the political turmoil of the late1970s and rise of Sikh fundamentalism the film concentrates on the legacy of Bhagat Singh, a young socialist hanged by the British in 1931 at age 23. Singh has since become a legendary figure. Today the State eulogizes him as a nationalis while Sikh separatists portray him as a Sikh militant. In fact, Singh was neither. Just prior to his death he wrote a book which he entitled Why I Am An Atheist.

A band of brave Sikhs and Hindus carry Bhagat Singh’s secular legacy from village to village. In the religiously charged countryside ideas of internationalism now carry a price. (



Watch the Full Documentary Now


[ Full Screen ]




Tuesday, February 9, 2010

January 28, 2010 On RIM Press Release page: Airtel and RIM Launch the BlackBerry Bold 9700 Smartphone in India.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 Smartphone is also called BlackBerry Onyx, has all or even better functionality then BlackBerry Bold 9000.

One noted difference is the navigation tool. BlackBerry Bold 9000 uses trackball while BlackBerry Bold 9700 uses touchpad with optical technology for navigation.


Loving the tiger to death

On February 14, Valentine’s Day to most, starts the Chinese Year of the Tiger. This will mean, say those watching the tiger poaching trade, that demand for wild tiger parts — the skin of a tiger tacked on a wall, and balms with tiger derivatives — will shoot up. But what does it really mean?

Last year, the World Bank, under its two-year old programme to save the world’s wild tigers — the Global Tiger Initiative — organised a meet for officials from tiger range to tackle the issue of tiger extinction. A second meet under the same GTI aegis was held for Asian (environment) ministers in Bangkok last month, a first of its kind attempt. A third meeting will be held in September in Vladivostok, Russia, for heads of states from tiger range countries. And India will hold a separate “Global Tiger Summit” in Ranthambhore tiger reserve, to talk about how tigers can be saved. The language has started to sound uncomfortably close to the rhetoric on climate change: in Thailand, a “target” of doubling tiger numbers in Asia by 2022 was adopted by the tiger range states.

Apart from the conference lights, the World Bank is also attempting to provide loans for tiger conservation. India is crucial to this plan as half the world’s tigers are here: twice, the Bank has discussed proposals with the Indian government, and twice it has been turned down. In 2008, ahead of the launch of the GTI, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then holding the environment portfolio, turned down the loan offer. This year, while the environment ministry has asked the Bank for a loan to clean the Ganga river, it has once again nixed a loan for tiger conservation.

Opinion is divided on the wisdom of India distancing itself from the GTI — but this debate has also served to sideline the real problem ailing our reserves. While many projects in general may scream bankruptcy, for tiger conservation, the real problem has been utilising the money.

Central assistance for tiger conservation projects goes to the state government, which has emerged as a bottleneck as far as budgetary expenditure goes. Consider this: of the 13 states with tiger reserves in India, only five have asked for a second instalment of funding, though the financial year will soon draw to a close. This follows a trend seen every year: tiger reserves are just not spending their money on time, and sometimes, not at all.

Now, a new system has been put in place to make funds go directly to tiger reserves, under a tripartite memorandum of understanding system. Under this funding strategy launched last year, a memorandum of understanding has to be signed between the state, the Centre and the field director for flow of funds. The funds for tiger conservation will now go to a dedicated tiger conservation fund (TCF) and not the state government. But while tiger states have signed on the dotted line, not a single state has authorised its TCF to receive money till date.

So while money is offered to India and then turned down, the real question still burns bright: what are our levels of commitment to responsibly using existing conservation money? The question here, ironically, is not of a lack of money, instead it is one of putting in place systems that square accountability with expenditure.

And what really do the Year of the Tiger, tiger campaigns by corporate honchos, cards, blogs, endless seminars and flashy joint statements mean? Nothing more than goodwill, if our tiger reserves don’t work. Several activities within our tiger reserves are cyclical, and years of work can be undone through a month of neglect. The most obvious is poaching and vigilance: tiger reserves have to ensure guards are fed, paid and given medical attention on an unflinching basis. This year, five tigers have died and one tiger skin has been seized — proof enough that new years and new conservation starts mean little for poachers.

Before India gives a nod for more fuzzy goodwill created with tigers as mascots, the Centre and states have to take a hard look at their own systems: something it can no longer afford to neglect. Yahoo India


Sunday, February 7, 2010

India successfully tests nuclear-capable missile

A country arms itself, in theory, to protect itself from neighboring countries. Of course, the neighboring countries are doing the same thing to protect themselves from their neighboring countries. Where will it all end? Who will be the first to push the button? It’s only a matter of time… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By MUNEEZA NAQVI, Associated Press Writer Muneeza Naqvi, Associated Press Writer

NEW DELHI – India again successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable missile Sunday that can hit targets across much of Asia and the Middle East, a defense ministry press release said.

It was the fourth test of the Agni III missile, the statement added. The first attempt in 2006 failed, but the last two tests were successful.

“The Agni III missile tested for the full range, hit the target with pinpoint accuracy and met all the mission objectives,” the press release added.

India’s current arsenal of missiles is largely intended for confronting archrival Pakistan. The Agni III, in contrast, is India’s longest-range missile, designed to reach 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) — putting China’s major cities well into range, as well as Middle Eastern targets.

India’s homegrown missile arsenal already includes the short-range Prithvi ballistic missile, the medium-range Akash, the anti-tank Nag and the supersonic Brahmos missile, developed jointly with Russia.

The missile was launched from Wheeler Island off the eastern state of Orissa on Sunday morning.

The test appeared unlikely to significantly raise tensions in the region.

Nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan usually notify each other ahead of such missile launches, in keeping with an agreement between the two nations. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

The two sides began talks aimed at resolving their differences over the Himalayan region of Kashmir and other disputes in 2004. India put the peace process on hold soon after terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, which India blamed on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

India recently offered to restart peace talks, though Pakistan has yet to formally accept.


Kellogg's in India

Kellogg’s cereals were consumed around the globe with around 40% of the US ready-to-eat market. Kellogg’s had over 20 plants in 18 countries worldwide, with yearly sales reaching above US $6 billion. However, Kellogg’s was under pressure with competition from General Mills and other close rivals. The cereal industry had been stagnant for over a decade and Kellogg’s looked beyond its traditional markets in Europe and United States.

Kellogg’s decided that India is a suitable target for its cereal products. Kellogg’s thought that even if they can manage a two percent market share in India, they will have 18 million consumers, a market larger than the US itself. However, we Indians were not too used to this style of breakfast. So apart from marketing the product, Kellogg’s had an extra challenge to market this style of breakfast to Indians.

Initially, the sales figures were decent which indicated that the Indians are responding well. However, it soon became apparent that many people had bought Corn Flakes as a one-off, novelty purchase. Another big issue is its price, the product is too expensive for the Indian middle-class. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s didn’t reduce the price and decided to launch other products in India. Indian cereal buyers were introduced to Chocos, Rice Flakes, Wheat Flakes, All Bran, Honey Flakes and few other line extensions where none of them have managed to really succeed in a big scale.

Acknowledging its poor performance in India, Kellogg’s decided to sell biscuits as a strategy to establish its brand equity. Kellogg’s biscuits are produced only in India and there are six flavors – Chocos, Glucose, Chocolate Cream, Badam, Pista and Cashew.

Kellogg’s tried to bring in new breakfast habits to Indians, but the price of the product still restricts consumption to the urban consumers and affluent house-holds. Meanwhile Kellogg’s is trying hard to establish the company’s brand equity in the market. So it is to be seen if Kellogg’s experiments(like moving into snack food ) to strengthen its brand equity will be fruitful or not.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pathan’s double ton achieves successful record run chase

HYDERABAD: India’s Yusuf Pathan lashed a double century to help West Zone record the highest successful fourth-innings chase in first-class cricket Saturday.
All-rounder Pathan smashed 210 not out to help his team overhaul a target of 536 set by South Zone and win the five-day final of the Duleep Trophy regional competition by three wickets.
West finished with 541-7, Pathan scoring the winning runs with his 10th six, beating the previous record of 513-9 scored by Central Province against Southern Province in Sri Lankan domestic cricket in the 2003-04 season. – Agencies


रंगों की होली

आज तू बंदूक से बारूद को फूँक दे
इस बदनसीब को थोड़ा तो सुकून दे
अमन के बुझे चिराग को आज तू
अपनी ही दोस्ती से रोशन कर दे..

तेरे झंडे का सफेद में ही हूँ
मेरे में भी तू हरा होके लहराता है
तेरा मेरा छोड़के आज हम मुल्को को मिलाते है
सरहद पार आज हम इन रंगों की होली खेलते है

मिल्के एक दूसरे को पिछले दिनो के
वो किस्से सुनाते है
मज़हबी लकीर के बनाए
वो हिस्से मिलाते है

तू एक बार इस पार आके तो देख
अरे तू दोस्ती का पत्थर उठा के तो फेक
तब तक फेक जब तक तेरी भूंक नही मिटती
फिर में देखता हूँ के नफ़रत की काँच कैसे नही टूटती..


Thursday, February 4, 2010

My fair lady..

Skin whitening products are beyond me. As far as big brands go, they don’t make ‘em any shallow-er. This is perhaps the only product in the world that so openly insults its customer base. It tells women that they will be judged on not only their looks, but the color of their skin. Inviting them to a whiter looking skin in less than six weeks, it very openly convinces them to reinforce the very barriers that the girls face in today’s big bad superficial world.

That this product continues to sell in our ‘enlightened’ times is mindboggling. It would make sense if one day they came out bold and said “Women want what they want. And if we want fair skin, nobody has the right to stop us from being like snow white!” This would really give a women’s empowerment angle to the product and maybe save grace. But no, the communication for this brand continues to be apologetic and passive.

Furthermore, on the other side of the globe, white women are going to tanning salons to get darker. Damn marketers, they’re such a sneaky bunch. They don’t sell brands, they sell unsatisfaction. First they convince us that we have problems, and then they convince us to buy the solutions. That’s supposed to be good news for me and my profession.

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced.

Image Credit: Big Fish Magazine


Is this The End Of India?

India with Blind govt, Deaf Army chief, militant groups and hushed masses battling to be a super power……

K Singh – a renowned journalist world wide & recognized as Nom Chomsky of India, in his book “The End of India” predicted about the total destruction of India into diminutive parts.

He cautioned not only govt but all stake holders of Indian so called secular society that they should not only forget the partition of India but also accept presence of Pakistan and all Muslims inside and outside of India with open heart. He further suggested that India must accept equal rights of others, do justice with minorities, discourage extremism grouped with militancy and  forget to eliminate the low caste Hindus from the society by degrading and disregarding their presence in millions. But unfortunately, since the publication of his book all these evils have unprecedented increase in Indian society.

It was a few days back when two famous news publishing groups of Pakistan (The Jang) and India ( Times of India ) hoisted a flag for peace in the subcontinent. It was really very lovely on their part because this is the time when poor masses of the region are looking for respite so that economic activities can burgeon in the area. Probably people are now fed up from wars and arms race. The masses now want that governments must spend money on their welfare, health, education and comforts of life. Each one having little knowledge and vision of future, looks towards European Union countries, how they have resolved their skirmishes and now are focused on scientific advancements and economic growth of their people. But when one of the two countries is India, in a peace dialogue with Pakistan, results are always pitiable as India never responds positively to peace process. The theme “Aman ki Aasha” is a good beginning. Peaceful people of Pakistan responded well and it received warm welcome in Pakistan side of the border but it was not acceptable for the militant minds and extremist groups having deep roots in govt, Indian army and society as well.

It was really interesting to see the influence of politicians getting lead from extremist groups on the sports event IPL, being conducted in India. At this time, Indian media kept quite and never pointed what all was happening. It was really terrifying to engulf that every one in India had gone bonkers. When poor people of the two countries just started dancing under the flag of “Aman ki Aasha”, the Indian wise strategy makers same as of their previous record, stabbed the peace process by influencing IPL franchises for snubbing Pakistani players at auction. The mind planning this all, was really cunning and insightful that successfully pierced the hearts of ordinary cricket lovers. Actually, extremist elements of India being supported by Indian army and agencies want to escalate the war between two countries. This time they tried a way which is never used anywhere in the world ever. They polluted the sports which are always above politics and players are ambassadors of peace. But it was a typical Hindu mind who at one end never hesitates to damage Pakistan and on the other sabotaged the peace efforts. This was really a right move to hoist the public sentiments.

Time and again, India by its actions has proved its enmity with Pakistan and people of Pakistan and govt must take a serious note of it.  India showed its true colors with this one action when Pakistan cricketers were ignored and humiliated by IPL franchises at the player’s auction in Mumbai, India on Tuesday. With this snub, no Pakistani cricketer will feature in the third edition of the IPL to be held in India in March 2010. It was not only players who went under the hammer but the hearts of millions of cricket lovers across the region. Let us see how this Aman ki Aasha floats in coming days with the Indian extremist’s desperate efforts to interfere with it. As far as cricket is concerned, it is really funny on the cricket management part that no player of the world T20 champion team will be playing. It seems from the sports point of view that India has probably slapped its own secular face by showing this drama to complete world.

New Year is exposing India in front of the world with each passing day.  New Year started with millennium statements of the Indian army chief who either talked of nuclear war or attacking two nuclear neighbors simultaneously and was boasting to defeat both. In the same month while visiting the test fire, the chief himself admitted Indian army’s armored debacle and expressed concern about the force’s night blindness in the area of armored corps and mechanized Infantry. As per Indian Tv, it also revealed during test fire that army chief was deaf from one ear and will be the first army chief to retire on medical grounds. Seeing the health, statements and action of the general, I am afraid that opinion of some other health check specialists may also be solicited. It’s really high time for Indian people as their state apparatus is dancing into the hands of extremist groups and international power brokers. With its actions govt seems totally blind and dancing for the goals which are never achievable.

See also:

  • Indian Army Chief’s outrageous admission of Armoured debacle stuns the world
  • Half of India’s defence equipment outdated: report
  • Cry for hegemony

When Indian policy makers and highest officials are talking of wars with nuclear neighbors, humiliating the peace process and battling for becoming a superpower through short cuts; the situation inside country is alarming. India’s Maoist rebels are now present in 20 states and have killed more than 900 security officials. People are coming on the roads for price hike and in a recent protest Malaiam Singh Yadev, the leader of Samaj Vadi Party was arrested by the police. Deepening stark inequalities and raucous role of militant elements are harnessing India towards a self triggered tragedy which will not only destroy India but the region also.

See also:

  • Naxalite insurgency spreading like wild fire
  • Indian Maoist/ Naxal insurgency
  • India: Triggering Mechanism of Self Destruction

At this critical juncture of time, India requires a policy and leadership who can comprehend the future challenges. Other than falling into the hands of international power brokers and extremist groups from inside, India will have to hold firmly its secular image with real implementation. India will have to address the grievances’ of people from with in and will have to regard the rights of its neighbors.  Extremist militant groups have deepened their roots in Indian society and armed forces as well. India will have to eliminate them by discouraging such thought process. 21st century is an era of peace, prosperity and mutual trust where all nations can live with equal rights and comforts. If India does not regard the will of the people, none in this world be able to safeguard its integrity and she will break from inside. India at the moment is at the cross roads of its existence and any adventure will take it to turmoil. (

K Singh

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Brown Bread Bakery, Varanasi, India

Quite frankly, if you are in search for good German bread and food in India, the subcontinent can be considered quite a disappointment. Although  “German bakery” signs are abundant in India’s touristy places, the likelihood of encountering real German bread is very slim (unless you consider croissants, cookies and soft white bread typical German).

Leibspeise therefore was quite happy to find the Brown Bread Bakery in Varanasi. This bakery / restaurant was opened by German Michael Schmid in 2008. Michael is not really a baker by trade, but he spent quite some time learning how to bake in his uncle’s bakery in Mühlacker, Southern Germany (This is probably why you can find such dishes like Spaetzle and Fondue on the menu). The Brown Bread Bakery is committed to offer as many organic products as possible and formed  relationships with local farmerswho produce organically grown fruits and vegetables. The bakery also sells different cheeses that come from the mountainous areas in India’s North and South.

At a breakfast visit in Varanasi’s old town, Leibspeise tested two “belegte Broetchen” (see picture), one with organic cheese and the other with salami (yes, even in India this is possible as the salami is imported from Italy). Both bread rolls were served on organic brown bread and were quite nice. If you enter the bakery and walk up to the first floor (shoes off), there is a very cosy restaurant where you can relax and chose from the restaurant’s enormous menu. In addition to the typical India backpacker menu  items (including Italian, Thai, Chinese), you can order such German delights like Schnitzel, Cordon Bleu, Kaesespaetzle, Bratapfel, Laugenbrezel. Leibspeise didn’t want to have a Schnitzel for breakfast, so we can’t tell if it tastes nice, but if you happen to be there, please order it and let us know!

As another project, Micha also runs the Charity Learn for Life that works to provide free education and medical assistance for the poor in Varanasi. 20% of the bakery’s profit goes to this NGO.

Finding the bakery is a relatively easy task. Just open your eyes when walking through the small streets or along the gaths and look for the “Brown Bread Bakery” sign on the walls. Also see our map for the exact location. The bakery is close to the Dashaswamedh gath.



Journalisn in India: The good, the bad, the ugly.

Saw “RANN” yesterday. Needless to say, the script is well-written and very aptly describes the role, media is playing currently. The obvious thing was irresponsibility on their part. There is nothing in the movie that is unpredictable.

Rann is a film that simply reiterates something you always knew. That, news is not always credible. That, the fine line between hard news and frothy entertainment is fast blurring. That, news is not brought to you by news hounds alone. There is a politician-businessman-news baron nexus at work that reduces the actual news reporter to a puppet on a chain. Not always, only sometimes. And `sensationalism’ isn’t only the new buzzword in the business of news; it’s fast becoming a synonym for it. Yes, you knew all that. And Rann doesn’t really want to tell a different story. It’s the way of narration that appeals. More importantly, it’s the performances that pump life and blood into the characters you recognize, lock, stock and barrel.

Anyhow this article is not about the movie but about the dark truth that is shown. This planning and plotting of news has set me thinking.

  • What if this is not just an exaggeration of the script?
  • What if media personnel are involved in high end politics?
  • Is media responsible enough in carrying out its duties?
  • Should there be a law to restrict the surging powers of media?

I remember a dialogue from movie Spiderman: “With great powers, comes great responsibility”. This phrase is not only applicable to super-humans but to every other person also who is able. What started as a revolution in journalism is now a powerful entity in itself and more importantly independent.  Now it is their responsibility to report the news and not the views. With the channels going on air 24X7, its hard to sustain with news only leave alone the matter and content. They have burdened themselves with competition of being No 1, which is not healthy anymore. Their vision is blurred with power and money. The credibility of sting operations they do is doubtful. Their ways of reporting everything quickly sometimes go bizarre. No proof is sought after; the news in crude form is presented to the viewers. Both the fact and fiction is aired and it becomes hard for us to differentiate most of the times.

Many a times I see them airing the videos that are downloaded from or like and making it a matter of discussion. What a shame? Is this the level of journalism in India? What’s been shown in Rann is very much likely to happen in reality or who knows if it’s already happening. I have always criticized the way media is behaving and misusing its powers.

I have my friends in media circle (I prefer not to take names) to whom I always give the feedback but they say it is not possible to rollback now. It’s a one-on-one competition now. It they sit back others will takeover. So in short, they are also playing dumb-ass and are o-k with it. What can anyone do if they do not want to be responsible towards journalism, towards India, towards self? One interesting fact is that there show is watched by the society also. People like to know the gossips, their future. My own mother refers and follows the astrologists who come on different news channels and predict the future and even tell your future if demanded. Hotline, SMS, email; all sort of technological advancement is applied to make sure the availability and awareness of shows to masses.

Is this what India needs? Spreading superstition saying people want it is no way of getting away from wrong.

  • What should be done to wake them up from this siesta?
  • Is there any law which governs the flow of news and its authenticity?
  • How can we make them feel responsible for their action?

These are a few questions that need to be answered and a proper solution be implemented before its too late to handle.

Note: The photographs have been modified. If they are registered or voilating some copyright, I would request the concerned authority to please contact me.