Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Art of Influencing Elections

We've been worried. Then we laughed. We are now facing consequences. We're seriously worried!

We have been following US Politics ever since an orange headed billionaire stood for and then against all odds,  took office as the POTUS! A strange dysfunctional family moved into the White House. The fate of the world now lies ever so much on a person who knows nothing much about it,  whose actions could alter the face of the entire planet, if not wipe everything off it. And while we deliberate whom we should blame for this impending disaster of a choice, and it seems like the American people (who voted for him) are the obvious culprits, we are suddenly confronted by BREAKING NEWS.
It wasn't the Americans.

It was the RUSSIANS!!!

Television channels scream  of US accusations of Russian interference in the US elections.

The Russians effectively interfered and helped Trump win,  they convincingly claim.

The Russians actually were able to influence Americans to vote for Trump by discrediting the Democratic nominee.

Did they play mind games? Hypnosis? Abracadabra - Vote for Trump - How did they do it?

In search for answers, the US appoints a special counsel to probe Russian interference.

How the Trump electoral machine colluded with Russian hackers or internet manipulators to influence  the outcome of the US Elections.

The usage of Russian cyber whizes to influence gullible American voters and thus alter the fate of America..  and the whole world too  This did sound sinister and treacherous! 

Sinister and Treacherous?

If you've grown up in the era we have, you wonder? CIA & KGB and James Bond are the immediate thoughts.

And back to reality you consider the accusation - Regime change influenced in the US of A by the Russians.

Hang On! My 1963 born mind cautions me.

The Russians haven't invaded the US.
Did they parachute in. Were guns fired? Hope no Nukes or Chemical weapons were used!
How many Dead?
The Russians haven't sent cold war era type of KGB spies or infiltrators or hired double agents. No spy thriller here. 

The how did they do it -

They just posted fake adverts, targeted at "swallow-everything-you-see-on-Television" American populace.
They swallowed! And we're getting screwed""

WTF are we talking about here?

While Robert Muller goes about his task , lets retrospect a bit on Regime change.

And as we delve into history on the means used by this very same United States of America using force, politics, money and subterfuge to interfere in other countries political futures, we wonder, on what grounds are the Americans crying foul of Russian interference in their elections. 

Its almost surreal. they're spending billions of Dollars investigating the Russian influence. And they are upset their population swallowed these fake news articles strategically placed by a far more intelligent being. Whether cyber transgression constitutes regime change may be debated - but for a country that has performed surgical, aggressive, violent and blatant regime change for more than half of its being, to complain about something I would blame on the low IQs of the targeted audience, is ridiculous. I googled "Regime Change Efforts of The United States of America" and was quite 'amused' to read the Wikipedia article. I quote from several paragraphs here :- 

(Source : Wikipedia

United States involvement in regime change has entailed both overt and covert actions aimed at altering, replacing, or preserving foreign governments. In the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. government undertook regime change actions mainly in Latin America and the southwest Pacific, and included the Mexican-AmericanSpanish-American and Philippine-American wars. At the onset of the 20th century the United States shaped or installed friendly governments in many countries including PanamaHondurasNicaraguaMexicoHaiti, and the Dominican Republic.

Read ( A detailed list of US Military Interventions )

The first article goes on to detail every US Intervention , highlighting US Efforts in Russia, Cuba during the cold war era, to the more recent interventions against a falsified Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) search in Iraq, to a hunt for Bin laden in Afghanistan and Pakistan, regime change in Libya and more recently in funding an opposition with arms and a battle in Syria - the effects of which have been a complete destabilization of the entire region and the fall out in the refugee crisis in Europe and the Arab peninsula region. They have escalated the South China Sea dispute to one on the brink of a Nuclear war. All blatant Interference in Political outcomes of other sovereign nations. 

The second article simply lists the hundreds of military interventions by the US that resulted or attempted regime change through use of force.

And the irony of it all is that they are crying foul about a relatively effective, peaceful, insignificant No Guns, No Blood, No War cyber attack on the limited IQ of a few million gullible American voters via the Internet!!

Am I missing something here? 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

We must be Stupid

On Corruption, The Media -Social & Un-social, Religion and Politics - a Nexus?

Have been in India for a far longer duration than I've been before, and the more I try to follow the news and trends of Indian politics, the more I'm convinced that we, the people are plain Stupid, Dumb or CRAZY. Scroll down on your Social media app and try to peep into the world of politics and news, and it gets worse. 

We get 'stupider..if that's a word I can use. 

This is not about being pro BJP, pro or anti Modi, pro or anti the Congress or for that matter the AAP. 

This is about our being gullible enough to swallow all that's being spewed out by our politicians and our television channels.

I try and scavenge some logic with my old mates, and I find that were polarized too!! Extremely, at that. The debates among friends have become toxic. Quite often, the toxicity and depth of discussion, breaks up very old friendships!!

The politics in Tamil Nadu have always been cinematic, and that's the least one can say. But reality today is far more sinister and melodramatic than our script writers of yesteryear ever did script!! M N Nambiar and M R Radha seem like the fore-tellers, Nostradamus' warning us, in their celluloid days, of today.

The heights of blatant corruption that our politicians have risen to would make the Everest seem a molehill!

Scams of "Lakhs of Crores of Rupees" have literally become catch-phrases of the magnitude of corruption we have learnt to become numb to. How much is one Lakh Crore Rupees? 
1,00,000 x 100,00,000 gives me a figure of 10,00,00,00,00,000 Rupees.
I don't even know where to fix the commas(separators) anymore!! 

Maybe a conversion into the more conventional will help! 
1,000,000,000,000 Rupees is One Thousand Billion Rupees. 
If we do convert this astronomical figure into an international currency (No, the Rupee isn't there as yet, even though we claim we are among them!!), it gives us a figure of US$150,000,000,000 (150 Billion US Dollars).


And that's 1(ONE) Lakh Crore Rupees!!! 

With several scams  in our country, each qualifying easily, with several hundreds or thousands of crores Rupees,  and a few close to or even surpassing the magical ONE Lakh Crore, we, the people, must be really crazy to imagine that our politicians will ever let go without a slice of the cake.

We're the Worlds largest growing Democracy. This cloak of democracy encourages us to believe that we have chosen these leaders and thus they work for our ideals. The old adage that you get the leaders you deserve, resigns us to this, almost like Karma, that mystic future that you're destined to bear because of an even more mysterious past life!! We accept anything if a mystic spiritual explanation is offered. Just as we take bribing gods for favours to the next level when we do the same in our daily life.

This very ridiculous presumption that any political leader actually gets to perform only as his constituency wants is a dream that we will only dream about and never see in reality. If we believe that todays crop of politicians are our karmic payback, I or we must have had a very "sinful" or colourful past life!!

Where are we heading? 

Vote Banks? Note Banks! Reservation Cards!! Reservations were meant to uplift the downtrodden by giving them an opportunity to get on par with the rest of the country. The Opportunists (our political masters) have not only twisted the whole raison-d'etre of reservations into a monopoly of political and monetary gain, but have not just extended the duration of this Reservation, year after year , the scope of reservation, increasingly covers more and more communities, that very soon those not covered under reservation will become a minority.. All this while our nation regresses. 

We're literally watching as one of India's most affluent communities is fighting for reservation too, on the accepted pretext of having been marginalized for many years. The Patels, one of our most wealthy communities, with amazing financial success the world over, have recently joined the fray and fight for reservation in India. And the political bosses have immediately, jumped on the bandwagon, realizing that they command an affluent vote bank. Successfully disrupting lives and infrastructure, they are led on to fight for a cause that was created to bring those who didn't have, to par. 

Were lowering the bar to bring par down. Lowering the standard to accommodate. 

There seems to be a complete lack of innovation. Jugaad has become a national heritage rather than a drive to improve and create. 

Make in India will remain a slogan , just as Garibi Hatao only helped move the poor away than move poverty away.

The Minorities have become vote bank majorities. The Backward Castes and Classes have grown being fed by vote seeking politicians. The poor have become a larger group, the middle class is mesmerized and continues to grow. Our billionaires have only gotten further away. 

When will we wake up from this? How can we wake up and correct this ?

A paradigm shift is required.. in thought,, in politics.. and thus mass media is required  - but what does one do when the mass media itself is mired in this mess. Where media is a part or even possibly the root cause of the problem itself. 

Does Social media have the possibility to rally the common man? It may be too late. Social media started off as a watch dog on the main stream media. But ever since the idea to use Fake media to discredit legitimate social media has caught on, thanks to Donald Trump, social media has proven to be effectively disruptive and worse, un-controllable.

Raise an issue and you're trolled and in no time. You're the perpetrator. The publicity shy common man either is bought or is shoved out, hounded out until the movement is stifled in its path.Take the current debate on Television. On fake nationalism debates being virtually fabricated by the television channels. And the channel is now trying to make it a debate inviting radicals from all sides to make slanderous comments. The comments are then edited or carefully chosen to incite and scrolled as Breaking news segments flashing discotheque like on the screen...the debate turns into an argument. Voices raised, barbs are spewed out, and the negative comments then are highlighted by the same media as anti national comments. Violence spills out from the studios to the streets, giving them more fodder for the ever TRP hungry channels. 

A vicious cycle indeed. 

A political party. The laws say must have no criminal record. Yet one finds that come elections, rules are twisted and tickets given to tainted thugs. 

The Election Commission says No Sops before elections. Yet giving sops before elections is the national pastime. blatant misuse of state machinery for political mileage. And this is not just the current political dispensation. This has been a mutually accepted practice executed to perfection by every political party to some extent or the other. This has become worse than the doping scandal in cycling. Everyone cheats. 

And I wonder why, the moment I say 'çheat', I think of  religion!! Godmen have been in our news. for the deceit, sleaze and everything else that we were taught were the evils of social and civil behavior. And yet they thrive. The blind faith by multitudes, despite the exposes, is quite frightening, and is why I wonder if we're stupid.

We have learnt well from our British colonizers. Divide and rule was what we were taught was the manner in which the British kept us fighting among ourselves, hoping that we would forget about the colonizers and this ploy almost succeeded. 

Gandhi brought about a paradigm shift in the manner we reacted and thus we were able to achieve freedom. But no longer than our Colonizers left, did our politicians get rid of Gandhi and his influence dwindled. Overtaken by greed for power and money, we have once again sunk into the depths of the trap.

Will we find another Gandhi? Not one just in name (for heavens sake), but one in Principle. 

Until then, we remain regressive, puppet-like and stupid.

Ram Mohan
Depressed on the state of media and politics.
Chennai October 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Unanswered & Unasked Questions - Who Killed Hemraj?

The headlines have been blaring looking for an answer to Who Killed Arushi Talwar, and my brother in law Col. Muralidhar, while writing an article, asked, "What about Hemraj"? It hadn't really struck me earlier that these were actually two murders. It had always been all about Arushi-Hemraj, conjoining them or concentrating on Arushi alone, if you went by the news headlines!!

After 9 years, the Talwars have just been released (not exonerated, just released!) due to the lack of evidence and a botched up investigation. The TV headlines and anchors scream that they want justice. Arnab Goswami (ugh!) goes into his usual verbal diatribe (I'd say verbal-diarrhoea!), with 16 panellists, only there as a virtual noise contributing audience, listening to what he (Arnab) distastefully spews out. Some of the other channels are less outrageous, but the garish vulgar display of Breaking News Headlines and multiple screens hypnotise us as we try and concentrate and read the F1 style titles whizzing past making more noise than the real thing. 

Within this mayhem, a very sensible calm and composed interview (apparently a Saeed Naqvi) on one channel from 2011 with the Talwars gives them an opportunity to plead their innocence and argue some of the circumstantial evidence that virtually nailed them in what was more a Television Court in front of an "ever-hungry-for-sensationalism-Indian-audience".

Back to reality, here was a live version of Crime-Patrol. TRPs sky rocketing without even having to pay the actors or produce a serial. Anchors feasted on the liberty to fling insinuations, accusations and character aspersions with aplomb, almost like Sachin Tendulkar being given a fielder-less field against a bowler. The Talwars had absolutely no chance defending against this barrage.

But then the googly that my BIL bowled with his question had us skimming through the channels and articles, questioning the lack of questions and answers to "Who killed Hemraj"? 

Was the importance of the death of Hemraj any lesser than that of Arushi?

Why wasn't there a separate investigation?

This was almost as though conjoint twins had been murdered!

Another human beings' life was taken, within the same premises, and possibly in a similar manner as that of Arushi Talwar, and yet the media and the courts were investigating the murder of Arushi Talwar. Who killed Arushi-Hemraj asked some channels pre determining that it was a single investigation.

Hemraj seemed to be an incidental murder and thanks to the media attention, seemed to be completely side-lined.

Almost collateral damage.

Has a possibility that Hemraj killed Arushi and subsequently was killed by the Talwars been examined?

Were both murders committed at the same time?

Many questions remain un-asked, let alone un-answered!

And then the role of the first investigators at the crime scene? The botch up by the Police for not securing the scene.

Has the CBI or the High Court pulled up the officers involved?
Will they take action against them for not securing the crime scene?

In my view the mess up by the Police has created this situation, and to this lengthy pathetic exhibition on incompetency and thus lack of justice for the deceased persons.

The killing of Hemraj should have been investigated separately.

The Talwars have been released, and rightly so, due to the lack of evidence, from a legal point of view.

The CBI will no doubt want to absolve themselves of failure. They will have to go to the Supreme Court, prolonging this already prolonged agony, of all involved, irrespective of innocence or guilt.

In my opinion, the Supreme court should correct the mishaps conducted by the investigative agencies, rather than re-trying the case on the merits of a completely otherwise, erroneous investigation.

Question the Police and hold them responsible for answers on "Who killed Hemraj", and then probably we will have more light on who killed Arushi.

Chennai on a prolonged break
2017 October 13th ...a Friday the 13th.. Watching Indian Media Sensationalism on Television!

The Gambia Tourism Forum

Kumpo - Typical Jola Masquerade

The Gambia is a tiny country in West Africa. 11,000 Sq Kilometers, encompassed on three sides within Senegal, and the Atlantic Ocean on the West with a river (The Gambia, which lends its name to this lovely country that has become home to me and many others and friendly people.

The Gambia is a Tourist destination, primarily for Europeans escaping the harsh winters for the warmth of the beaches and river and people of The Gambia. Known for its beaches, friendly people and relatively economical tour packages rather than "Wild Life" that Africa is generally known for. The Gambia is a safe country, unlike most of the other destinations in Africa that are for the far more adventurous tourist. But there is a little hiccup to making tourism a wholly dependable revenue and year around employment avenue for The Gambia.

Tourism is seasonal.
Cape Point Beach - Approaching Storm

The multitudes of tourists disappear once the summer sets in, preferring the mild warmth in Europe to the humidity and heat or rainfall in tropical west Africa. Hotels as well as Restaurants, shut-down or run with skeleton staff as soon as the last tourist flight leaves. Employment drops, leaving scores of staffers looking for means to sustain themselves and families "off-season". 

I'd love The Gambia to become a year round destination... Its got so much more to offer than just traditional tourism.. Most visitors develop friendships and if I may say 'familyships' too!

The Gambia has the most 'Repeat' tourists who come year after year gradually altering their status from Tourist to Resident .. and the numbers, though rather insignificant in World Tourism Figures, are highly significant considering the size of the country and its per capita impact.

As a resident in The Gambia since 1998, I would love to see tourism figures ever increase. While first time tourists can have an insight into what to expect from The Gambia based on everyones experience, I do feel that just as each persons fingerprint or footprint leaves a different mark, each of your experiences would be different, and changes from person to person, and from situation to situation. I feel its all about expectations. the more we expect, the more likely are we likely to have experiences based on a pre conceived expectation!

Do gather all the information you want from Tourist forums, but try your best to have your own experience. The Gambia is a wonderful country with a wonderful people. Like any other country, you will have positives and negatives. Good people and not so good people. The Good in the Gambia by far outweighs the negatives. Come in with expectations and you will have let downs for sure.

Our endeavour here on Tourist Forums is to try and add to your experience and not to try and create or influence it. Were not the experts but are experienced. Don't hesitate to call on anyone here to ask questions when in doubt. We can give you an insight based on our experience, but would rather you came here and developed your own experience. As with every foreign destination, follow basic norms and you wont be taken by surprise. a few of them that come to my mind are
 -  understand local customs and cultures 
 -  try and learn and imbibe local culture rather than impose yours
 -  trust takes time and take time to develop your trust circle
 - the cheapest solution is not necessarily the best... and neither is the more expensive a guarantee of being good.
 - walk away from arguments 
 - Try and avoid flaunting anything (money, weight, exposure, knowledge....)
 -  if you'd like to be charitable, try and ensure it is compassionate but yet sustainable. What I mean to say is that do try and ensure it doesn't make anyone depend on your charity for life. Try and make them self supporting in the long run.

The above are from my personal experience, as a resident and having watched and observed tourists for over 20 years. We have over 40 staff members in The Gambia and have virtually only positive stories to tell.

Having said that, I personally am not in the league of tourists (to The Gambia, but do live here, and thus may not understand some of the nuances of your queries. There's no dearth of experienced tourists on this forum. I thank Kieran Roy Sudworth and the other Admins of the Gambia Tourism Forum on Facebook for this platform and in their own way contributing to Tourism to develop the Economy that The Gambia has so much more potential to grow.

Ram Mohan
October 13th, 2017
Chennai - waiting to get back home

Recent Travel Rewards - Meeting Friends and Heroes

I love my travelling. 

Over the years I have realised that while I may have enjoyed visiting new places, it's people and retaining connections with them that has meant a lot more to me. The joy of connection is 'aboundless'.

Meeting up with friends since our kindergarten days, brings about an intense satisfaction that I am unable to describe. Thus an affiliation with the Internet and social media has been evident. The world wide web has largely contributed towards reconnecting me with friends from an era that would have mocked the very thought of the advances that communication has made. 

What brings me to write about it now? 

I've just had another of those amazing 'connecting' trips while travelling from Banjul to Dubai and Chennai. Caught up with good friends in Mumbai and then in Dubai too. 

Yesterday, however, in Chennai was the icing on the cake! Having been invited for Lunch by Bharat and Bhakti, friends from The Gambia in 2001, was both thrilled and honoured to find myself as a co-guest with Shashi Tharoor and Vijay Amritraj. Both need no introductions.

I was first introduced to Shashi Tharoor by my father in 1992. When I say introduced, I'd have loved to have met him then, but it was one of his books that my Dad, an avid reader and professor of english, presented to me as I flew off to Africa. 'The Great Indian Novel', a hilarious satire, intertwining wit and humour into a narrative of the Mahabharata had me ( and my Dad) in stitches on several ocassions as we read passages together. I instantly became a Shashi Tharoor fan. I had been a book fan for years, devouring Enid Blytons, James Hadley Chases, Sidney Sheldons and Wilbur Smiths as I grew up. Sudden and Perry Masons wove westerns and court dramas with equal aplomb, into my imaginative pastimes. I met Paul Theroux and his son Marcel in Chennai, and my interest in his witty and often sarcastic travelogues garnished my reading apetite. I already was an avid fan of humour. Mad magazine had for long whetted a wildly humourous bent in me. Honed by Goscinny & Uderzos Asterix & Obelix, the adventures of TinTin and Snowy, the 'forever-thirsty-for-alcohol' Capt Haddock, and the fumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson, I imagine, characterised my literary interest as I grew up. The introduction to Shashi Tharoor in 1992 was in a way an awakening that Indians could write with flavour and aplomb too. A brief flirtation with Chetan Bhagat began with his Five Point Someone which was later filmed as "3 Idiots" and I recall a controversial debate followed. However, my interest in Chetan dwindled when I heard Chetan speak on television. I however found that character and language from his writing eloquence, magically disappeared the moment he spoke. I haven't been able to since convince myself that Chetan, the author, is the same Chetan, the orator or speaker. And this once again was when my admiration for Shashi Tharoor went up a few notches. I do remember continuing to pick books at random trying out newer authors and I must mention here that my most recent 'wide-eyed literary crush' has been for an extremely talented Roopa Pai, whose "Gita for Children" blew me away with her fluency and use of easy writing skills. I picked up this book purely by chance, for a friend recuperating in a Hyderabad Hospital. Her writing skills and wordplay with simple understandable language, reminded me immediately of a Shashi Tharoorish tact of flirtatiously inviting the reader to read the next sentence. The writers skills make you want to get to the last page without letting the book down. I have since made it a practice to acquire a number of copies of my favourite books and offer them as prizes or gifts to the kids of friends - and have found this practice far more redeeming than gifting anything else. 

My 'forever-interest' in Tharoors writing received a reward in 2006 when the African Union Summit Conference was being hosted by The Gambia. I, as Honorary Consul General of India was asked to make arrangements for a high powered team from India, who were backing a candidature for the Secretary Generalship of the UN. No guesses as to who that candidate was,  Shashi Tharoor himself, He had been invited to present his case to the AU Head of States Summit, along with the other candidates. Shashi Tharoor was an Under Secretary General with the UN. 

For three days, I enjoyed hosting Shashi Tharoor and the rest of our delegation. On the last day of his stay in The Gambia, just before he left, I learnt that my ailing father had passed away in India. I and my daughter flew off to India. It was ironical that the author Dad got me to read when I left india in 1992, was with me in The Gambia when Dad passed away in 2006.

Shashi, in my opinion, had easily won the AU vote with powerful multilingual speeches presented to the Heads of State.  I vividly remember him receiving a standing ovation for his presentation, while Ban Ki Moon made a very ordinary, limp, virtually read out presentation. The US probably vetoed their choice in exchange for proximity to North Korea. We can see where that has led us to in another blog here on US and its state of politics. I have no doubt that the world would have genuinely been a far more safer place with someone like him at the helm. His oratory prowess was something that I had just seen first hand for the first time. Unlike Chetan, I could easily connect Shashi the author and Shashi the orator as being the same person.

I had by then several of his books and before leaving The Gambia, had a personal autograph on my copy of "India - Midnight to the Millennium" which I treasure till today. A few months or a year later, Shashi Tharoor left the UN and joined the world of Indian Politics. He joined Congress party. And then to my absolute delight, he was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with direct charge of Africa. Just imagine my joy when our Foreign Minister invited all Honorary Consuls to meet in Delhi on the sidelines of the CII India Africa Conclave. I was over the moon.

Thereafter, there were occasional tweets and exchanges between Shashi Tharoor and  me. I got into blogging, convinced that even if anyone didn't read your writings, it helped you lay your thoughts out and your could revisit your thoughts anytime. I took to tweeting too, as did many politicians following the example set by Shashi.

Twitter Responses
Tweeting, unfortunately, and I add, an inability to understand his language and decipher his sense of humour within simple phrases brought about his tenure as Foreign Minister to a premature and unfortunate end. The very eloquence that made him a success in the literary world, became a thorn in his political world. I remember having arguments with friends politically aligned with the new powers in town tried to comment on how Tharoor wasn't someone with India at heart. He was a UN product and an elitist, they insisted. The comments were quite shocking for me, who having read Tharoors books long before he became a politician, knew more about India and its history. India, Midnight to the Millennium is enough proof of his love for India, Kerala and Cricket. I was very easily able to counter the argument that he was involved in cricket as a opportunist - Ever since I have known and followed him, he was and is a cricket buff and lover. I remember hosting him in Banjul at a reception for the Indian Community and while the large crowd was eager to speak to him and have photographs taken, he was more eager to check the score of an India cricket match that was playing live. The unfortunate and sordid aftermath of his wifes passing away, no doubt under a cloud, was already faulty in my opinion when many ignoramuses questioned his love for cricket and the country as possible evidence of guilt. I advise his critics, do read his writings, written long before he became a politician, before you try and analyse his personal life. 

with Vijay Amritraj
And here I was , In Chennai, speaking to dear friend Bharat Joshi, the very popular, effective and significant Deputy High Commissioner of the UK in Chennai, when he invited me for a lunch, with Shashi and Vijay. I still cant wipe that grin off my face and remain every thankful to Bharat for this meeting. Not only did we have a close chat with my literary idol, Shashi Tharoor, but I did get to meet a childhood sports hero and champion, The A of the ABC of Tennis from the 1970s. Easily the most sporting of sports persons that I have known, a thorough gentleman and a celebrity in today's world. Vijay Amritraj meets world leaders and presents a view of his encounters with them - from hours spent with Narendra Modi, to his proximity to the Bush family, and a long meeting with Donald Trump, his accounts on these memorable encounters could have taken hours if not days. And once again, a many years ago meeting, as a child in NDA, Khadakwasla, I recalled, standing in line to have an autograph from Vijay when he and his brother Anand played an exhibition match, way back in the 70s. Meeting him 40 years later on a one-to-one basis, this was an over-the-moon afternoon for me.

The Delicious Veg Gujarati Thali
Alas as all good things having to find an end, Shashi had to attend three more events before his departure back to Delhi. Vijay too had to fly out, back to the US. All this in the amazing setting of Cottingley House, a UNESCO property that houses the High Commissioners residence in Chennai We had one of the most delicious vegetarian Gujarati meals, we all agree, we have ever had. Bhakti and Bharat inform us that Cottingley House is 100% vegetarian. Bharat is British of Indian descent and he and the family are complete vegetarians. Thus irrespective of who the guest is, the food is always vegetarian. And this discussion on a British of Indian descent representing the Queen in India, led us to discus Tharoors latest book and the issues that it, "An Inglorious Empire" (Or "An Era of Darkness" as it is titled in other markets, covers. The book is a detailed argument by Tharoor on the attrocities committed by the British Empire, and the reluctance of the UK to ever acknowledge or teach colonial history to its citizens,  are discussed in an atmosphere of absolute amicability. The mood is refreshingly humorous as we depart. A British Flag car is dropping Shashi to his next appointment.

I still cannot just wipe the grin off my face. What a weekend.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Two Eggs... I had a dream!

No one listened to me.

I advised the world way back in 2016, "Ignore Trump" I said then and he wouldn't get the attention and get elected... He was headlines every day, gathered more confused and scared and racist supporters,

...and now see what you've done!

We're at the brink of a nuclear war with two idiots shooting missiles and messages off, with no one able to silence them, nor understand them.

Of these two, the one with the smaller hands and broader shoulders seems to be the bigger problem. 

Well, with Kim, we don't know him, have very little access to him or his thoughts, and thus hes like a ghost that keeps haunting the world... but hes not the dangerous one here.

The dangerous one is the leader of the worlds largest democracy, someone who shouldn't have been there, ever! #TheDonald #TheTrump, #Drumpf or as LeBron James simply called him "Bum", a billionaire, a bigot, a sleaze king, failure as a serious businessman, virtually despised by every respectful person on earth (including his spouse and a large part of his family), is the one we need to be careful about. 

He has polarised the American nation, insulted the very fabric of a United States of America. He has brought sleaze and dishonour into the White House. He has brought Fake media to the forefront and uses it to keep his followers energised and every growing by spewing out lies. His sidekicks like the Mouche, or Bannon, or the recently re invented Spicer, all have 'advertantly' or inadvertently admitted that they've been asked to lie by the white house. from the not so important crowd sizes at that fateful inauguration, or be it the impeachable offences on lies about ties to Russia or the use of official machinery to further private business, Trump has brought the whole nation to its knees, while he accuses sportspersons of disrespect while going down on their knees to protest at his divisive and racial discrimination. 

America, a country built by immigrants, led by one who's married to one, a country that has shunned its own natives for decades, racially used and abused people from Africa, now wants to shut is borders with a wall. And Trumps supporters are shamelessly following.

Where is this going to lead us to. One hopes it will disappear like a bad dream.

Wake up one morning and lo and behold, it was just a bad dream. Obama got a magical third term, Health care for all has become a reality and is affordable, Russia & China have " convinced" Kim Jong Un to adhere to world rules and have also convinced the US to remove all arms from regions that don't concern it! Iran returns to its glorious days and has the biggest Nuclear power stations in the region and distribute power to all its neighbours, including Israel. Bashar Al Assad rules Syria and jointly they have wiped out ISIS.

The World is at peace once more.

Donald now 90 years old, goes back to doing episode 7 of the Apprentice and has just made another unsuccessful attempt to buy Hugh Hefners mansion. Melania has remarried and runs her own English tutorials. Ivanka has migrated to China and her brand outsells every other brand. The Kucheners have moved with Ivanka. the Republican party former House Speaker Paul Ryan is trying the 497th attempt to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. Senator McCain, the only other Republican in the house, opposes the attempt at creating a Replace and Repeal Bill once again. 

Fox & Friends have shut down and been bought by Trump. Hes fired everyone and the only run re runs of the Apprentice.

What a lovely world we live in.
Would love to keep dreaming!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RIP - Epitaphs and Emotions

Rest in Peace

I don't know whether it's just me, or a far more common human tendency that afflicts others too.

These thoughts flood my mind as I read and try to conjure up an epitaph for Dr Selvi Jayalalita Jayaram, or Amma as she has been known in her more recent political rebirth.

There's no doubt that Jayalalita was an iconic politician. Surviving and thriving in the mayhem that makes Indian politics, virtually side-stepping and beating every charge and 'shastra' thrown at her, except that of an eventual medical condition, that despite all her political and financial acumen, she couldn't dodge.

There's absolutely no doubt that she was a master strategist; knew where she could fuel her campaign and evoke mass response. Her ability to be blatantly corrupt, beat the charges and use state machinery for benevolent political gain within the vote banks, would survive only possibly only in a nation that accepts corruption at the highest level of our inner selves.

We Indians have got so used to "bribery" towards our Gods, of offerings in exchange for favours, be it the 'the passin of the hat' or a 'hundi', we ask for unimaginable favours from our invisible Gods...  we seem to have grown to accept the same from our deified politicians.

As much as we despise corruption, we seem to participate in it willingly.

And as I read Facebook posts expressing sympathy on the passing away of one of the strongest women  in Indian politics, I wonder if these thoughts about corruption and the case she was frequently summoned under, the case of 'disproportionate assets', will ever be replaced by genuine sympathy.

As I sit and weigh these thoughts here in The Gambia, where we too have had an overwhelming change and result in the recent election, I hope I am not being insensitive to the feelings and emotionsof her supporters. All her life we have admired her and have yet abhorred her politics. But am somehow drawn to empathise on her passing.  

I don't know if I can understand myself anymore. 

Until I do
RIP Jayalalita