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Posts Tagged ‘mumbai

A Spanish approach won’t work

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Amitav Ghosh writes an op-ed in New York Times, continuing the western liberal media (mainly BBC/NYT) motif of equating India and Pakistan as equal sufferers of terrorism:

The choice of targets in Mumbai clearly owes something to the September bombing of the Islamabad Marriott, another high-profile site sure to include foreign casualties. Here already there is common ground between the two countries — for if this has been a bad year for India in regard to terrorism, then for Pakistan it has been still worse.

Ghosh isn’t as bad of an apologist as some of the other recent commentators, but his political opinions are equally naive. Ghosh recommends a Spanish-style response in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings:

If 9/11 is a metaphor for one kind of reaction to terrorism, then 11-M (as it is known in Spanish) should serve as shorthand for a different kind of response: one that emphasizes vigilance, patience and careful police work in coordination with neighboring countries. This is exactly the kind of response India needs now, and fortunately this seems to be the course that the government, led by the Congress Party, has decided to follow.

While Spain has suffered from internal terrorism at the hands of the Basque militants, I doubt if the the Portuguese are as single mindedly devoted to the cause of seeking destruction of its neighbor as ours. In the last 30 years or so, isn’t only Pakistan that India has had to face, but other neighboring countries like Nepal or Bangladesh haven’t been the friendliest either, often harboring suspected terrorist, if not providing a launching pad for them.

While a non-(military)confrontational approach might not be a bad idea itself (although, as I will try to explain in another post, some flexing of military power is probably good in order to force a political solution), hoping for a great deal of co-operation from our neighbors is bit far-fetched.

And I have much less faith in the Congress Party than Ghosh.


Speaking of political parties, Ghosh inserts a rather pointless descriptor early in the article:

The secretary general of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the leading Hindu nationalist political faction,

Now whether you agree with BJP’s political views or not,  you have to admit that it is a mainstream political party in India, and the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. Calling it a nationalist political faction, makes it sound like an Indian version of the BNP or Family First.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

December 3, 2008 at 9:11 pm

Mr Mishra, please STFU

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I have ranted before about Pankaj Mishra’s intellectual dishonesty, but his latest piece in the New York Times in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks, can only be described as the work of lunatic who has lost all sense of perspectives.

Indeed, the outrage in Mumbai is the latest and clearest sign that the price of India’s uncompromising stance on Kashmir has become too high, imperiling its economy as well as its security

Yes, Mr Mishra, it is because of Kashmir that a bunch of 10-15 odd religiously motivated psychos trained their automatics and hand grenades on unarmed civilians!

Unfortunately, Mr Mishra is not alone among the blame the victim terrorist apologist’ crowd. As David Aaronovitch says,

There is a branch of apologetics – which I take crudely to be the belief that the crime is the fault of the victim – that assumes a milder form, and which I’ll call explanetics. So the explanatists view of the Mumbai massacres last week is that the cause lies in what concretely has been done to, or in the vicinity of, the young, cool-looking men with the grenades and the machineguns. (link)

And, ‘outrage in Mumbai’ ? Excuse me, in an article which mentions the Indian police as having supposedly ‘brutally suppressed’ protests in Kasmir, the killing of 150+ innocents and burning up of landmark buildings over two days is just simply an ‘outrage’ ?

Someone please send Mr Mishra a thesaurus for a Christmas gift.

I could probably go on about the meaningless ramblings, the gargantuan leaps of logic,  the anachronisms, an almost pity-inducing political naivete (India in Kashmir and China in Tibet are equivalent?), a messianic faith in Obama’s  ability to solve  both India and Pakistan’s problems through Kashmir(!), not to mention the poor editing and  general daftness that pervades the article.

But I will desist – the need to conserve my own sanity is more paramount. Instead I do recommend a full reading of the David Aaronovitch Times Online article quoted above.

(Both NYT and Times Online articles via Rohit)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

December 3, 2008 at 12:07 am


with 2 comments

For the last two days, since the news of the terror attacks on Mumbai (which is still not over as I write), I have been through a myriad range of emotions – deep sadness, sorrow for the victims, horror at the widespread carnage, helplessness, depression……and anger. Anger that such an audacious attack could happen in India’s most precious city with the intelligence community totally caught unawares.

And then I am further pissed when I read things like this….

Sources said though the plane carrying NSG Commandos was ready by midnight, it could not take off due to the delayed arrival of a VIP, who wanted to accompany them to Mumbai, at the Delhi airport. Worse, the Commandos had to wait for a vehicle at the Mumbai airport until morning.

Pretty much sums up our lack of planned response for such attacks – even though recent history  shows that such attacks could happen anytime.  Last time in India, around August navigating the bureaucracy, I was frustrated by the ad-hoc , highly disorganized method of doing everything. We  as a people, in fact sometimes even celebrate the fact stuff actually gets done in spite of the ‘chalta hai’ attitude.  Unfortunately, the lack of organization is severely exposed at such times of crises.

I am also angry at the foreign media – which suddenly seems to have woken up to the wider problems of Islamic terrorism in India, mainly because westerners were targeted (CNN since last night is  droning on about the Jewish community – now nothing wrong in that, but you would think that only foreigners died in this terrorist strike)!

And the refusal of news outlets like the BBC to call a spade a spade, constantly equating India and Pakistan as joint-sufferers of terrorism (more here). Even after reports like this.

And the less I say about the insensitivity and ineptitude of the Indian media, the better.

I am pissed at idiotic articles like this, that provides an half-assed thesis relating the mindless brutality of religiously-motivated terrorists to the social dynamics in India !!!

But the highly symbolic attacks dramatise a much wider set of struggles: the product of growing wealth for some and a revolution in communications.

I mean, could it get more WTF than this ? Even Somini Sengupta would be hard pressed to come up with such a mindless pontification like this.


Perhaps it isn’t appropriate at this time to post rants like this.  Perhaps I should have waited for some healing to happen. But I need to get some of the feelings out of my system. And it is easier to write about these visceral emotions, than the much deeper sorrow that I am feeling at the moment.


Before I end, a quote from Amit Varma that echoes another train of thought:

People are calling this Mumbai’s 9/11. In the sense that this city will never be the same again, I agree. But in terms of what we do about it, I’m not sure.

Once it was clear that 9/11 was caused by al-Qaeda, the US went after them, not bothering with niceties like their geographical location. From the information available at the time of writing this, it seems that we can soon be equally certain of who’s behind this. So what will we do?


And finally, even though it may sound trite and cliched, a salute to those who fell during the counter-terror operations – Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte, Hemant Karkare, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, and other unnamed policemen (more about them here)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 28, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Posted in India, Rants

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Terrorists strike in Mumbai……

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Terrible, depressing news from Mumbai early in the morning. Terrorist attacks the city, again.

But this is different from the earlier bomb attacks – this was armed men with guns and grenades attacking innocent people in various parts of south Mumbai.

Video footages on the news channels this morning were surreal, it was like a war zone in Mumbai. Signs of carnage, the Taj Hotel burning……….its just crazy …..I feel pretty shaken up.

While reports suggest that most of the terrorist have been killed, my fear is how do we know there aren’t many more out there ?

Sky News report in the morning seemed to suggest that foreigners (mainly UK And US citizens) are being targeted.

More updates here, here and here.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 26, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Posted in India, Personal

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Lack of privacy, Breach Candy etc.

with 3 comments

The lack of privacy and personal space in India (even much of Asia) is well known and has been extesnively ranted on. Considering the population density, it is perhaps understandable to some extent.

Still,  our recent experience at Mumbai’s Breach Candy hospital regarding the privacy of patients,  or accurately, the blatant lack of it, was a bit shocking.

We had gone in for a mandatory health check-up, there were about 10 of us in  a room for the same purpose and barring the three couples, unrelated to each other. Yet the receptionist/nurse registering us asked about each person’s medical problems (date of pregnancy, any operations, illness etc) loudly in front of everyone with total disregard for  patient confidentiality. Personally I do not care if people find out I did not have chicken pox when I was young, but  you would think that details of someone’s pregnancy, operations, regular medications or illnesses since childhood should not be discussed so publicly.

Then again in a doctor’s outer office – a small area with a table being shared by two doctors – as we (four guys) waited to be called into the inner check-up room, there was one doctor discussing the chest and back pains of his elderly lady patient. The doctor even started poking around the lady’s back and chest looking for the source of the pains, much to my horror !

On the same note, I have to say I was quite disappointed with Breach Candy. Considering it is supposed to be one of the best private medical facilities in India, the general chaos,  unnecessary loudness and the haphazard manner of doing things is troubling. Most worrisome was how they were not using locked biohazard containers to  dispose of used syringes – these were being dropped into an open cardboard box!  I am not suggesting that Breach Candy reuses their syringes, but open syringes can be a  serious risk in the form of accidnetal needle injury spreading blood-borne pathogens to the persons trying to eventually discard them.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 27, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Mumbai moments….

with 8 comments

While I try to untangle the mess my work is in from three weeks of absence, here are some photos from Mumbai taken during the trip (click for full image).
(Previous nostalgia about Mumbai here)

A microcosm of Mumbai ? High-rises next to old buildings, monsoon rains, the sea……the choked traffic:

A man with a Mission (Keep the Queen’s Necklace clean):

Marine Drive from the Nariman Point end:

Gateway (there was quite a bit of construction going on by ASI to restore the structure):

Taj Mahal Hotel:

Won’t find the next three on any tourist route, purely personal:

Juhu Chowpatty – the cow was going beserk (something the eminent Varma-sahib said ?):

Chowpatty again, against the sun-set (such as is visible now-a-days):

The Main Attractions in Juhu 🙂 :

The famous Haji-Ali:

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 27, 2008 at 12:23 am

Kolkata bound (yet again) and Mumbai musings

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This hasn’t happened in the last decade: touching home base twice within an year, far less the same calendar year. It wasn’t planned, but so much in life isn’t.

So there it is……waiting in Singapore to catch the evening flight to Kolkata. Much business to be taken care of in Kolkata, involving lots of loitering around the passport office. Then to Mumbai, briefly, and back to Kolkata, hopefully finish the business there if not done already (the more likely scenario), then back to Mumbai for the main business(this is opposed to the original plans for staying in Mumbai all the time).

Question in my mind: will it be worth it ?  It is a sort of closure, so we have to go through with it. But, as a prominent blogger-friend asked, do we want it ? It is a philosophical question, answerable only after a few martinis.

Sorry about the vagueness, just in a mood for rambling….

Anyhow, hoping to meet up some people in Kolkata, and having fun celebrating a very close cousin’s birthday – last time was ten years ago just before we had left homeland and her age could be counted on one hand. Now she is into modeling and physics !!

Also looking forward to being in Mumbai after ten years.

Mumbai must have changed, although I might not even notice much difference as even while living there, I mostly cloistered myself within the Powai campus,  usually not hazarding a local train journey unless on weekends. But have fond memories of walking from VT to the Marine Drive, all the way down to Nariman Point. Or, catch a dinner first at Bengal Lodge  and then walk to Marine Drive. The best meories of Marine Drive was actually once when my train to Kolkata got delayed by 12 hours and I had to  roam around with nothing to do. The monsoons were on, it was windy, and the sea was spectacular.

Not so fond, in fact , nightmarish memories of the daily commute from Powai to Anushakti Nagar for about three months (summer internship). It started out well, there was a direct express bus right from the campus door-step, easy to find a seat and got there in less than 30 minutes. But wouldn’t you know, it got cancelled two weeks after I started commuting, forcing an additional bus/auto trip to get down the hill and then catching the dreaded Route 399. That was a bus that meandered all around town and took more than an hour (sometimes worse as the monsoons set in and traffic got worse). Sometimes I would spend about 4 hours a day commuting (which, to be fair, wasn’t as bad compared to what many Mumbai commuters face all through the year).

The pain of the commute was more than amply made up by the availability of government subsidized canteen food at BARC. The food was tasty too – hot jalebis with savory upma – try the combination sometime. And Friday lunch chicken biryanis – Rs 10 only per plate e my very second one in the city.

The worst Mumbai commuting story, however, would have to be my only second experience in the city. Again, this was monsoon season. It was my first visit to the city, and somehow I had managed to reach the Powai campus from Dadar Station without any adventures. Now, having finished the business at the campus,  I had to reach my cousin’s place in Thane, with no money for cabs, and a very vague idea of where Thane was located geographically or how to get there. Someone told me I could take bus and numbers such and such – so I stood at the bus-stop. Now this was when they had decided that no Arab numerals would be used on the front of the B.E.S.T buses,  only Marathi on the front.  So unless the bus actually pulled up, I would have no idea what route it was and where it was headed and this being Mumbai peak hour, by the time I realised I should step into a particular bus, it was either full or it simply rushed off. Took me a while, but I eventually learnt the Marathi numerals (which helped in future as well) in the two hours of waiting in the constant downpour that is the Mumbai monsoons. Eventually, I did find my cousin’s place, after reaching some place in Thane by bus, then wading through knee-deep water for a while to get to the wrong rickshaw-stand and therefore charged 40Rs extra (a princely sum for a poor student at that time), only to be dropped off at the wrong gate of this humongous apartment complex where people in one block of the complex did not know the location for a block at the other end and oh – it was still raining, and there was a power-cut, and hence quite pitch dark. I never loved the sound of my cousin’s voice nor found chicken curry so delicious after a hot bath as I did on that night.

Hopefully, I can avoid such nightmares this time around.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

Posted in Immigration, India, Kolkata, Life, Personal

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