Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pain, Anger...

It couldn't have been a more ideal Sunday morning. I woke up to slightly overcast skies with a cool gentle breeze blowing across the creek. The most perfect morning one could say. That is till I picked up the newspaper. Now that the operations are over, the true magnitude of the losses are coming to light. Page after page was filled with reports of the casualties and pictures of the damaged interiors of the Taj and Trident. Stories of how people had been killed brought about an unexplained sadness to me. I didn't know any of them personally. But the manner of their death filled the heart with sadness. The losses have been huge. And the pleasant weather, providing a respite from the November heat, just seemed to mock everyone.
Afternoon brought the news of Home minister Shivraj Patil's resignation from the Cabinet. He has resigned on moral grounds. There have been a spate of serial blasts across various cities this year. It took over 200 deaths and a 60 hour seige of Mumbai for his morals to rise. Frankly speaking, he should have been fired long ago given his pathetic track record in the ministry. That the UPA government has finally become fully aware of the terror threat can be seen from the fact P.Chidamabaram has taken over in Patil's place inspite of the ongoing global financial crisis.
And speaking of politicians, every word spoken by them fills me with anger. Whether it is RR Patil's description of the attacks as a small incident, or Narendra Modi's antics during the crisis. Politicians cutting across party lines have at least this feature in common. At a time when people should come together, they are busy with their own political games. Disgust and anger are the emotions they bring to the mind.
So on one hand there is pain and sadness at what happened and on the other hand disgust and anger. Hopefully things will sort out soon and return to normal. Life will go on though it would never be the same for those who have had to personally face these harrowing experiences and those who lost their near and dear ones.

P.S. The last couple of months, one man had been virtually holding Mumbai hostage championing the Marathi cause. But has been keeping strangely quiet this time around. Wonder what are Mr. Raj Thakeray's of the current crisis?

Friday, November 28, 2008

A City Under Siege

The siege of Mumbai continues with reports of firing and explosions at the Taj still coming in. Though other attack sites have been seemingly liberated, all this has taken too long to resolve. So far I have not heard of anyone I know amongst the casualties but still cant be too sure regarding that too. Although I have had no direct involvement with the occurrences in the city, still there is a constant thought at the back of my mind. My mind keeps wandering back to the attacks and I have been checking the news sites throughout the day. Today morning while going to the office, i realized that though I had checked the internet for over an hour, I had totally forgotten to even check my mail. Had actually logged on to the news portals the first thing after waking up today Even in office the day was spent, checking the news sites with little work getting done.
However there are a few things about the current situation which have really sickened me.
Firstly the coverage by the television news channels. They have been relaying information to the world as they would for a cricket match. Headlines like "Operations headed for a dramatic finish" look good in sporting arena, not in real life where many people have lost their lives and many more are still in danger. Also the news channels have been openly discussing the operations strategy, showing live pictures of commando movements, talking to terrorists and worse spreading rumors. There seems to be no self-restraint.
Next on the list are the politicians who have already started the blame game, with the opposition calling for the government's head. The political game has begun with the eyes on the ongoing state elections and the coming general elections. And we have our home minister, Shivraj Patil discussing the movements of NSG commandos with the media.
And lastly the general public who have been following and watching these events like they would be watching a movie, except that this is real life. And are doing their part in spreading the rumors.
Confused, Angry, Helpless... These are the words which I could use to describe my emotions right now as i go to sleep
Hoping that the dawn brings better news.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


26.11.2008: A Wednesday (Is that any coincidence?)
Just as I was in the euphoric mood celebrating India's 5th consecutive win over England, a new alert flashed on my screen."Shootouts in Mumbai, 15 injured". Did not pay much attenton to it as it seemed to be some gang war going on from the description given alongwith. But soon the alerts frequency increased at an alarming rate. With eah alert painting a grimmer picture. The moment the words changed to "Terror Attacks in Mumbai", I decided to watch the streaming webcast of the news (No television at home, these are the times when you really miss it). I sat glued to the screen as the true magnitude of the events taking place about 40 kms from me came alive. Terrorists had attacked some of the most important locations in Mumbai including The Taj hotel and CST station. The pictures showed bodies being taken out of the Oberoi Hotel. And the details of the attacks at all the locations began to emerge. It was rivetting to watch but there was a sense of despair as I went to sleep. Just could not believe that this kind of thing could have happened.
Woke up today morning when the phone rang. It was a call from home. Soon there were a few more calls from relatives and friends. There was a general sense of shock among everyone I talked to regarding the events. On switching on the live streaming, more details emerged. The worst part was hearing about the deaths of the senior police officers involved in the operations. When I reached office, the mood seemed tense. The attacks seemed to be the only point of discussion with the work being put on hold. The entire day in office was spent reading the news and checking for updates. To see the pictures of the Taj Hotel on fire was specially distressing as it is one of the iconic images associated with the city of Mumbai. Anyways left office early when the news came in that everyone had been permitted to leave early.
Terror attacks have been carried out before in many places of the world. Mumbai has had to face serial bomb blasts in 1993 and 2006. There have been serial blasts across various cities in India this year, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Agartala... (seems to be an unending list). But the attacks in Mumbai this time have been different. Unlike earlier time when bombs were planted and serial blasts had taken place, this time seemed more like a raid, with terrorists with guns and grenades shooting, killing and taking hostages. They chose to attack the city's iconic locations like Taj, CST, Metro Cinema, Cafe Leopold, Nariman House... As I write this the attacks are still on and its been almost 24 hours now since they began. It has been one of the most planned terror attacks carried out.
There have been other repercussions of the attack also. The financial markets are closed. The England tour of India has been cut short. Chapions League has been postponed. (I support both decisions). Never before has there been such detailed coverage of Indian events across the world. Though this could be mainly due to the fact that there were quite a few foreign nationals amongst the hostages and those killed.
Now for my questions. I know there wont be any answers for this but still...
WHAT is the point of all these attacks? Does killing of non-involved people justify anyone's cause?
WHERE is our security mechanism to prevent these attacks? IF, we have any, that is?
And most importantly, WHY???????

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Cricketing Overdose

8 of the 10 ICC full member countries were playing international cricket today. Only Pakistan & West Indies were missing from action, though they had been playing in an 3 match ODI series in Abu Dhabi last week only. It was an interesting day's play across the continents. Here are some of the day's highlights.
Game 1: Australia vs New Zealand (1st Test, Day 1, Brisbane): Andrew Symonds scored 8 runs off one ball, which was not accepted by cricinfo software :). Meanwhile Australia suffer a batting collapse to be all out within the day
Game 2: India vs England (3rd ODI, Kanpur): India beat England by 16 runs batting "second" to take 3-0 lead in the seven match series. The bad light robbing chances of a close finish. The ICC should make necessary adjustments to the light rules to ensure such a farcial finish does not take place.
Game 3: Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka (1st ODI, Harare): Zimbabwe lose their last 7 wickets for 3 runs with the last six batsmen failing to score.
Game 4: South Africa vs Bangladesh(1st Test, Day 2, Bloemfontein): Bangladesh continue playing like themselves and stare at certain defeat.
Seems there really is too much cricket going on.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Colours of the Sky

Here is my first attempt at some serious photography. Pictures taken over the last couple of months by my phone camera.

The "skyscape" at the time of sunset. If you look closely you can see a plane flying overhead in the centre of the picture.

The setting Sun across the Thane Creek taken from my balcony. In the foreground is the swampy area

The one I like best. The rising Sun, taken from the window of a plane. I like the diffraction caused by the plane's wing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Victory

India regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the very ground they had lost it four years back. The expected clash of the titans did not take place, with India being the dominant side throughout. The Indian team registered huge victories in Mohali and Nagpur, while Bangalore and Delhi resulted in draws. The victory took India to the No.2 spot in the test rankings still 13 points adrift of the Australians.
The Aussies never looked liked the world champion team that they are. The loss of key players through retirement has severely depleted them. And with Hayden at 37, the team would be further depleted. The so called bench strength does not look that good at the moment. The batting is still pretty solid with Hayden, Hussey, Clarke, Ponting and Katich around but the bowling department never looked like being able to bowl out India. The absence of a spinner hurt them. They did bowl out India twice in the last test because of the most freakish debut of Jason Krejza, who took 12 wickets and got hit for 350 odd runs at an economy rate of around 5 an over! Also Ponting drew plenty of flak for his over rate problems and his strange decisions during the Nagpur tests. Australia look like a team in a bit of bother at the moment. And will have plenty to ponder as they go onto face their die hard rivals New Zealand next.
It was a good series for India. The batsman, with the exception of Dravid all scored runs. The bowlers all got wickets. The series also marked the retirements of two of the greatest Indian cricketers ever. Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly ended their careers with a final victory over the Australians.
Kumble will be remembered as a leg-spinner who did not spin the ball but still got over 600 test wickets and 300 ODI wickets. He will also be remebered for his 10 wicket haul against Pakistan at Kotla, the celebrations on reaching his only test hundred at the Oval, bowling with a broken jaw in the West Indies and most importantly the manner in which he carried the team after the Sydeny controvery. And he has probably contributed in more test wins than any other Indian cricketer.
Ganguly's list of memories would be even longer. A century on debut at Lord's, the big sixes of spinners, the Toronto series, waving his shirt in Lord's, his falling out with Greg Chappel and finally the comeback. And he left with a golden duck in his last innings after being in good form throughout the series. India's most successful captain, he was a fighter to the core. From the time he took over in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal, India also began winning abroad. And he never stopped fighting and making comebacks into the team.
With the retirement of these two legends there are voids in the team which need to be filled. Kumble the captain has been replaced by Dhoni. Amit Mishra has taken over the leg-spin duties. However Ganguly's replacement is not clear.Probably Badrinath or Kaif. Also Dravid's lean patch has just continued. He might be the next in the line, though being my favourite cricketer, I would not want him to go but I cant stand the torture he is going through at the same time. The other places all seem to be in secure hands.
Now its time for the series against England which begins with a 7-match ODI series starting from 14th. Given the fact that England were shot out for than 100 by a second-string Mumbai team and India's recent ODI form, this should be another easy victory for India. My prediction 5-2 or 6-1 victory for Team India.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The day History is made

Very rare are the days that one can claim to have said that history has been made. There have been events which have over the course of time proven to be of historic significance. But to call some thing as historic while it unfolds is a rare occasion. Well, with what little experience I have gathered about the world in general, I can safely say that Barack Hussein Obama's victory in the US presidential elections definetely comes into that category.
Well, on first look, at the surface it would seem an improbable victory. Obama's victory seems to have been written in the Hollywood studios rather than in any real life. Obama is of African-American descent. He is the son of a Kenyan goat herder who came to US on a scholarship. His middle name is Hussein (which also led to rumors of him being a Muslim). He is a first time senator with no foreign policy experience and was a virtual unknown even a couple of years back. Against him was John McCain, a respected war veteran and former prisoner of war, who had been in the Senate for years. Still it was Obama who emerged victorios by a comfortable margin.
The reasons for this victory has already been analysed the world over by political pundits. Most of them agree that McCain lost as a result of Bush's policies. And Obama won riding on the wave of a promise of change. Whether the change takes place or not, only time will tell.
However, the election results do justify one thing, i.e. the Great American Dream still lives on. An African-American president in a country which was racially divided not too many decades ago is a great event in its history. Race may not have been a issue any longer but the final frontier still remained to be covered.
And now we have to see what the future holds. Obama's presidency starts at a very tricky time. The world is in the grips of a big economic slowdown if not a recession. Also there are the various issues like Iraq, Iran, Korea and terrorism which have to be taken care of. The election of Obama has been greeted by enthusiasm across the world. Only time will tell whether he will live upto his promise of change.
But today certainly history has been made.