Friday, March 31, 2006

Condi Rice Visits Blackburn (UK) And The Best Blackburn Has To Offer Is Curry???
As I was driving in to the train station this morning, I was listening to BBC news on the radio. Sort of absentmindedly paying attention to the news, when this item got me smiling.
Condi Rice is visiting UK, and will be visiting Blackburn (near Liverpool) which is the British secretary Jack Straw’s home constituency. This is more of a return visit since Condi hosted Jack at her Birmingham, AL home. So the radio host was going on about what Rice would do there. He asked the reporter what Blackburn would have to offer to Rice. The reporter in his British accent says “Well Blackburn is really known for quite the wide and best assortment of curries that Britain has to offer and unlike curry houses that are open only till 11PM, the ones in Blackburn stay open pretty late (4 am?)”

Being of Indian descent I was plainly tickled by this really. I mean the American Secretary of State is visiting Britain and one of the main attractions the town she is visiting has to offer is Curry? LOL. They aren't really known for their food anyways.. with the exception of fish n chips..yum!

Another part of the interview that I found amusing was when the same reporter went around to a pub asking of they knew who Condi Rice was. Two of the responses for ya –
- Is she the American vice president? (That’s an upgrade from Dick “I shot a man in the face” Cheney).. Oh the tyranny of low expectations we have set for ourselves.
- Is she a secretary of some sort to the President of the US?

That made my morning. Clueless people abound the world over, it’s not just us Americans. But then being number #1 in the world does carry it’s own share of responsibilities, which I don’t think all of us here get.
Happy friday and have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Britney As A Role Model And Is This Art??? More Like Kitschy If Ya Ask Me..

I have really not had any kind of fascination with her or her music. I tend to cringe at following pop culture although I may keep an eye on it. I had read about this new sculpture by Daniel Edwards as a monument to pro-life. The pro life movement's obsession with all things "pro-life" are well known. The thing is their concern is only till the moment the child is in the uterii of the mother. Once the child is born, they really seem to vanish when it comes to advocacy for "health care/day care support of the mother in need of it or lifting children out ot poverty". They also do not approve of any form of birth control, with totally no regard for the fact that unplanned pregnancies do happen, and if there is a health risk for the mother or child an abortion may be needed. Anyways thats their view of things.

But there may be a salacious aspect to this sculpture for some, kitschy to some or art to others. From the progressive blog firedoglake the amazing Jane Hamsher has this funny take.
"The right may be good at reptilian brain doggedness but there is not a single artistic bone in their entire body politic. Good lord who thought a statue of some erstwhile Hooters hostess lying spread-eagle on a bearskin rug with a kid’s head popping out of her "
She goes on to say -
"I think it signals a crisis point in American sex education, the inevitable result of teaching "abstinence only" in our schools. The sculptor does not seem to realize this is the position you assume to give a blow job, not birth."
I agree with this sentiment. The abstinence only school of thought (if you can call it that) would indeed lead to a scenario like above, where people would be clueless or fuzzy about not just the act that leads to procreation but procreation itself.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What's A Bagel?

Since some of the readers were unfamiliar with a bagel, here is some information for them courtesy of wikipedia. More info about it -
"The bagel (or sometimes beigel) is a bread product traditionally made of yeasted wheat dough in the form of a roughly hand-sized ring which is boiled in water and then baked. The result is a dense, chewy, doughy interior with a browned and sometimes crisp exterior.
The dough may also be flavored to produce many varieties: salt, onion, garlic, egg, pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, whole wheat, multigrain, cinnamon-raisin, cheese, caraway, blueberry, and muesli among others. Bagels may be topped with seeds such as poppy or sesame, which are baked onto the outer crust."
The bagel is Eastern European in it's origin. More information here. People eat their bagels plain or toasted with butter, cream cheese, eggs, sausage, lox.
I hated eating the bagel at first but it probably was cos I had purchased it in th emorning and it sat in my backpack all day and was probably stale. Oh well all that changed with my second experience, and since then it has become a staple of my mornings. And yes I miss bagels when I visit India. Although as the following link or a google search would show you once can get them in India now, I can't wait to try one when I visit just to see how it compares. Although not sure if I would eat it like the way it looks below? But hey I am a foodie so why not!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Movie Posters That Did Not Make The Cut
It's almost bed time and I am tired, don't feel like typing a lot for a post. So here is something light..
Note: I thought I hit the publish button last night before going to bed. But obviously I had not, cos the post was missing this mornign. It had never published! So I Guess I really was sleepy..
I chose this one cos I adore Juliette Binoche...

Keanu "I don't have too many expressions in my repertoire" Reeves
Random And Silly 20 Qs -
I saw this on Keshi's blog and decided to put them on here too. So to my few readers.. have a go at it in the comments.

1.What time of the day is it at your end right now?
US 8:15 am EST...

2.What did you last eat?
A bagel with some butter ..

3.What are you wearing right now (hopefully you're wearing something ahemm)?
A shirt (red and blue checks) and khakis..

4.What was your weekend like?
Busy, friends from Connecticut visited us and a fun time was had by all.

5.Did you sleep well last night?
Yep, I usually a baby.

6.What's your favorite time of the day?
The moments when I lie in bed somewhere between wakefulness and sleep.

7.Who did you last kiss?
I kissed *A*

8.Did you see any cute guy/gal today?
Yup, I see this sweet woman with reddish brown hair on my train. We usually nod and greet each other, a bright point on my daily train ride.

9.When did you last speak to your mum/dad?

10.When did you last have an argument and have you patched up?
Yes, it was sometime last week.

11.Who/what cant you live without right now?

12.Are you in love right now?
Yes .. am always in love.. ;)

13.If you met me in real, what would be your first expression?
A smile and a hug...

14.Have you ever loved someone who's already taken?

15.If I came over to your place, what would you do?
Whatever it would be, it would be warm and hospitable...

16.How do you watch TV?
On the sofa for whatever little I watch...

17.What do you need right now?
A hug and a shot of a caffeine would be nice on this manic Tuesday...

18.What's your favorite sense?
Smell and touch...

19.Where would be the the ideal spot to be with someone you love?
Isn't being with the one you love ideal in itself?

20.What's closest to your bed?
It's usually *A* but there is the telephone too..

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Polar Ice Caps Are Melting Faster Than Ever... More And More Land Is Being Devastated By Drought... Rising Waters Are Drowning Low-Lying Communities... By Any Measure, Earth Is At ... The Tipping Point
We Are So Screwed!

Finally a major story about global warming from Time magazine. That global warming is a fact is widely accepted, except by a few nuts (read oil and energy companies) that seem to have allies in the Bush administration. The overwhelming evidence and scientific opinion is clear warming climate change is here. The only question may be are we at a tipping point when things will be on a path of no return or is it some distance away. In my opinion we are at the tipping point. The text on the accompanying image from the Time article states - "The photograph taken in 1928, above, shows how the Upsala Glacier, part of the South American Andes in Argentina, used to look. The ice on the Upsala Glacier today, shown in 2004 below, is retreating at least 180 ft. per year"

This is not just happening in the Andes, Alaska, Greenland or the Arctic. It's every where... here is a nightmare scenario... The glaciers in the Himalayas which contribute to the rivers that come down to the plains are shrinking. Can you imagine the millions of people there not being able to get enough water for drinking, irrigation and every thing else?

Please read the article from the link. It should make us all worried, especially for our kids and future generations to come. And there is no escaping the fact that all of us have contributed to this. I have not always been a huge fan of Time magazine, but on this one I have to say the issue is now out front. But I am not holding my breath, I don't expect us to change our behavior quickly enough. But it has to start now. Our small contribution to this effort is that we drive the Toyota Prius a (gas/electric) hybrid high mpg vehicle, instead of a conventional car or an SUV. I also take public transit for part of my daily commute and car pool. We are also using longer lasting lights for our home that consume less electricity.

I don't mean to depress the few readers of this place, but this is a fact and we will be talking about it from now on for a long time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Another Busy Weekend So Low To No Posting.. Again
It was house hunting last weekend along with house cleaning and stuff. That is out of the way. But we have friends from Connecticut visiting us this weekend. It's Dan and his girlfriend Cheryl.
It would be hard for me to find anyone who is nicer than these two folks. We met Dan via some other friends, and over the past 5 yrs or so have gotten to know him very well. He is one of the nicest and most upstanding people I know. We love talking football, politics, science and anything else that comes up. Dan in Cheryl has found the perfect foil. They are a great couple ...warm, fun and intelligent. Should be fun, havent seen them for a while.
Me and "A" have our differences over politics, culture and so on, some of our most spirited discussions have taken place when Dan & Cheryl have been around. I guess more of that will happen. It's kind of fun cos it always brings out again why I love "A" so much, the things that bind us together are not always the ones we agree upon. It's the things that we differ about that always provide a lot of the sparks that help keep things interesting.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lyrics Of A Song I am Listening To While Doing Some Boring Work - :-)

An empty shell seems so easy to crack
Got all these questions, don't know who i could even ask
So I'll just lie alone and wait for the dream
Where I'm not ugly and you're looking at me

-Pearl Jam from I Got Id

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We have been BUBAR'D -
That is what a viewer e-mailed to CNN on the Wolf Blitzer show.
BUBAR = Bushed up beyond any recognition.
Or as others have called it
BUBAR = Bushwhacked us beyond any recognition.

Any one have any more variations of that?

I really worry about my country, a press without balls on their knees and a democratic party cowering in the corner... Is there hope?

I might feel more cheery in the morning...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

After Conquering (or destroying depends on your POV) Main Street Walmart Moves On To China - My Morning Rant

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to hire up to 150,000 employees in China over the next five years, five times its current work force there, as it expands its number of stores, the company said Monday. WalMart has targeted China, which has long been a major supplier of its products, as a key region for its international store growth. It now has 56 stores in China with about 30,000 employees and plans to open 20 more stores this year.

I don't like Walmart, sure they sell lot of crappy stuff for cheap, but their warehouses are energy hogs, they have discriminated against their women employees, turned a blind eye to subcontractors employing illegal alines as workers, and don't pay some of their workers enough to even afford health insurance or offer them any. Not to mention the fact that shopping at Walmart is depressing. They have also driven out smaller retail and mom and pop kind of operations out of business with the efficiences of scale and all. With all the aforementioned I refuse to shop there.

I was listening to NPR on the drive home, and heard about the report that I link to. They had some analyst on saying people in China want cheaper prices, they don't care where and how that happens, so if Chinese mom and pop retail stores go out of business it won't be too bad as the people won't be too concerned.

WTF? Did he poll the Chinese people? Are the Chinese people so enamored with Walmart and their newly found ability to consume that they don''t care about the rather unpleasant sideeffects of a Walmart expansion? The other things that concern me is that it will be easier for Walmart to get away with it's anti-labor practices in commie China. Also what if the Chinese want cheaper stuff than what they get? Will Walmart start operations in the new Iraq (which our nitwit president keeps telling us is fine despite the little violence which we see magnified by the media)? I am sure it will be cheaper than China. ;-)

Rant over!

Monday, March 20, 2006

White Men Can't Jump And Americans Can't Program
That's what my buddy Chris B, said when I pointed him to the link I found below,

Bangalore: Significant chunks of the technology being described as the "new Holy Grail of games" that drives the world's fastest gaming personal computers, were contributed by Indian engineers — hardware experts based in Bangalore and software whizz-kids in Pune.

I may get flamed for this, but I wonder about this statement. One can look at it from several angles, if anyone wants to add more feel free to do so.
1. I think one can find competent engineers/developers in most places with a decent education system. Software development is not rocket science really.
2. Chris's response was funny, a lot of people (employers and businesses) will not go on record saying software development is also about cost savings. That is a big reason for work being farmed out.
3. I wonder if India as a nation after enduring years of colonial rule still suffers from a need for validation of it's abilites. I often read about how software whizzies did this better or that better. That is one kind of nationalism or pride or whatever you want to call it, in addition to how well a job may have been done. The reviews on outsourcing always working out well for all parties are mixed.
Another thing is when, strong strands of nationalism surface especially during coverage of sports events and not to forget wars. As an example we did kick Iraqi ass (shock and awe.. anyone?) after all didn't we? ;-) (ignore the fact thet OBL still mocks us from his cave or wherever he is..).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hell In A Handbasket -

That is the title and the cover of an upcoming book by the amazing Tom Tomorrow. Tom Tomorrow is the creator of the award-winning weekly cartoon of social and political satire, This Modern World, which appears regularly in approximately 150 papers across the country. In 1998, he won the first place Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Cartooning.
The cover and title aptly describe the bunch of idiots, incompetent fools that are currently in charge of my country, which they are bent on taking to hell.
Despite this misadministrations bets efforts, with a media and a democratic party that has no backbone the American public in all polls have overwhelmingly (60-70%) voiced their disapproval about this President and his policies. I am hoping this translates in to votes in the upcoming fall elections and in 2008. Only time will tell.
That book is on my wishlist/must by list for sure!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Low Or No Post Weekend -
Busy weekend coming up, house cleaning, errands to run. A's cousin from India who is currently in NY is visiting Saturday afternoon. So won't have much to say this weekend.
Have a good one folks!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Friday Geek Blogging -
Is this cool or just an added distraction for already distracted drivers?
Together with the graphics card manufacturer nVidia, a revolutionary new navigation system is being developed in Volkswagen's Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California. This new system uses data from Google Earth to generate 3-dimensional images of the route. Moreover, the navigation system can gather online data to provide the driver with important real-time information, for example about the traffic situation or weather.
Link here.

Something else that is cool although it's not for me I think.. not yet that is -

Cellphones are an indispensable tool for business people on the move, and the emergence of broadband services makes them even more valuable. However, small, light phones have a crucial limitation – the size of the screen. Mobile displays simply aren’t practical for many of the business-oriented applications enabled by broadband networks.
Contrast this with the convenience of a feather-light screen that unrolls from the phone or a tiny case to provide a larger, paper-like display that allows users to read content with ease. This is the power of rollable display technology. It completely transforms the experience of viewing content, so the phone becomes an even more versatile business tool. This in turn will drive consumer demand for ‘anytime, anywhere’ data-oriented broadband services, increasing operator revenues and opening the way to new application areas.

Link here
Scents, sights, sounds and memories.....
The inspiration for this post should go to chai anyone? and Enyur who originally brought up the question of what scents remind us of. Opinionated also talks about it. I left a comment at chai's place and it was long enough that I thought, might as well put up a post about it. What do scents, sights and sounds trigger in you? Obviously memories both pleasant and unpleasant. Here are some of mine....

1. smell of rain = bombay and the the green shayadris after or during the monsoons, where I would frequently go hiking to escape the city.

2. Smell of Batata vada (potato fritters?)and/or garlic chutney, of times spent grapping a quick vada pav on the streets on the way home or some days just for the heck of it cos it was good dammit!

3. Onion Bhajias, the same as above but always reminded me of having them on a cool rainy day in Bombay while watching that amazing, crazy city and it’s inhabitants go about their daily lives.

4. Songs from the movie Gaman almost always make me sad, and sometimes reminds me of the sense of alienation I might feel about certain things around me. Read Chai's excellent post on this and my comment (she talks about being a psycho magnet but the issues she talks about are heartfelt and important).

4. Scent of lit or burning charcoal .. of a evening a long time ago on a cold evening in Bombay at home spent with my dad baking papadams on a sigri (coal fired small stove) and going thru a whole lot of them and just generally talking about stuff like a father and son. We have not done a lot of that, he is a quiet person and not always communicative and neither of us are given to a lot fo that, but we hope we still say a lot without saying it in so many words thru our actions.

5. Dimples when a woman smiles. reminds me of my classmate Renu in school, who I thought had the deepest dimples I had ever seen on a girl. This was when I was just 11 or 12 and just waking up to the fact that girls were attractive. I was hopelessly smitten and at that point not quite sure what was happening to me.

6. Sounds of a sewing machine, reminds me of my mom, who ran a small business from home stitching womens clothes to help put me and sis thru school.

7. Sounds of a locomotive, reminds me of a childhood spent growing in a house close to the railway track, watching trains go by (explains my love affair with trains)

8. Sounds of fresh snow crunching below my feet, remind me of a day I went jogging after a snowfall, no one about and how the snow has a way of muffling all the sound around me. I recall it being so peaceful and quiet just the sound of me breathing and the snow crunching below my feet of being able to run better and longer then I ever thought was possible on my bad knee.
Sigh.. this is already too long. I could go on but oh well...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Dinner At The White Dog Restaurant In Philadelphia
The dinner was a few weekends ago, but I only managed to get the picture from the digital camera to the computer on Sunday night. Just been crazy busy or lazy. I like the digital camera (Nikon Canon Powershot A520) but am not getting rid of the trusty old Minolta SLR which has given us many great pictures and memories.
When we visit Philly and our friends B & M who work at the near by UPenn, it's often easy for us to go to the White Dog for dinner or a weekend brunch. As their web site "Known for our unusual blend of award-winning cuisine and social activism, the cafe presents numerous events throughout the year which please palates while raising consciousness." It's not just the food (which is great) but also their social activism that makes it a magnet for foodies. Their menu combines high quality, seasonal farm fresh ingredients purchased from local farmers. We had a most succulent, delicious steak, an excellent salmon and a veggie dish (B is a veggie). The creme brulee was good as what the choclate cake. Yum!
I do believe that to some of us have sort of lost the connection with food and the earth and the whole process of sustainable agriculture. A lot of the meat we consume today has been raised with animals fed an unnatural diet or hormones or pumped full of antibiotics.
It can be strange eating say cauliflower or lettuce coming from California in the dead of the winter here on the East Coast. As a personal opinion, I do find that eating some of the produce from half way across the country out of season just does not taste the same if it were grown organically and/or locally in season.
Ayways if any of you get a chance to visit Philly ( a city chock full of great restaurants) do go to The White Dog. Great food and cool ambience.

I have been tagged
by Opinionated In Jerzee to come up with 8 different points that would make up the perfect partner. So here goes -

1. She would have to be open minded and progressive. I cannot imagine being with a conservative or an ultra religious person especially of the types who believes that their way offers the only way to salvation.

2. Intelligent and aware of what is happening in the world around us and not materialistic.

3. Has to have a certain "it". I guess I would call it spunk and passion for life with a sunny personality. We all like our ideal partner to be "good looking" as thats the first impression but that is just the first impression, and it won't take me long to move past that. So for me it's mostly a great smile that reaches the eyes and lights up the person too.

4. Has to love trying out different kinds of cuisine (and I don't mean cook).

5. Can accept me as I am, for I would do the same.

6. Has to love going out for an occassional jog or a walk, in other words must love the outdoors and love sports.

7. Respect and an ability to empathize.

8. Someone who listens to what I have to say, but does not have to agree with me.

There I am done and I now tag -

1. Karishmatic Evolutions
2. Viewer
3. One Voice, Many Worlds
4. River's corner
5. Silly goof
6. Keya
7. Devil's Advocate
8. Scribble Pad

Sunday, March 12, 2006

MMMMmmmmmm Mangoes..
Yes it might appear if as if I am a bit obsessed with the thought of being able to eat Indian (specifically Alphonso mangoes) here in the US. But I am sure I am not alone. I post an op-ed piece from the Sunday NY Times by Madhur Jaffrey. She says it way better than I do, especially why the mangoes available in American grocery stores don't compare.

March 12, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
The Fruits of Diplomacy

WHATEVER anyone else might say, America's new nuclear and trade pact with India is a win-win deal. India gets nuclear fuel for its energy needs and America, doing far better in what might be called a stealth victory, finally gets mangoes.
Not those pleasantly hued but lifeless rocks that pass as mangoes in most American grocery stores. Definitely not the fibrous, unyielding, supersized Florida creations that boast long shelf life and easy handling and shipping but little else. They might hint at possibilities but provide no satisfaction.

No. What America will be getting is the King of Fruit, Indian masterpieces that are burnished like jewels, oozing sweet, complex flavors acquired after two millenniums of painstaking grafting. I can just see them arriving at the ports: hundreds of wide baskets lined with straw, the mangoes nestling in the center like eggs lolling in their nests.

These mangoes will be seasonal. Americans will learn to wait for them, just as Indians do. They cannot be pushed to grow in hothouses. Indian mango trees, many of them hundreds of years old (and some reputed to be thousands of years old) need to breathe the same free, fresh air Indians breathe and live through India's three main seasons: summer, the monsoons and winter. Only then will they deign to bear fruit.

They bear their pendulous fruit idiosyncratically, sometimes on one side, sometimes on another and some years, if they are so inclined, not at all. One generous tree in Chandigarh bore about 30,000 pounds of mangoes every year for 150 years until it was hit by lightning. Then it just fell over.

The mango season begins in early May (but alas, the bureaucracy won't move fast enough for us to get them this year). If they come in sufficient quantities, Americans might well learn to associate them with late spring. I can just see a sentence that my grandchild, or yours, might write: "It was the time of cherry blossoms and Indian mangoes ...."

Under this new arrangement, reasonably honest Indian-Americans will no longer have to turn into furtive smugglers to bring mangoes into the country. The one attempt I made was quite unsuccessful. A customs inspector, possibly noting my shifty eyes, asked me quite directly, "Are you carrying any mangoes?" Unable to lie, I had to reply in the affirmative. The mangoes were confiscated.

This would have been bearable had I not been able to peep through a slight crack in the customs office door, a few moments later. The officers were cutting up the mangoes and eating them. That hurt.

Mangoes seem to have originated in prehistory in the northeastern forests that lie near India's border with Myanmar. Buddha was known to have rested under their shady trees. Emperor Akbar (the third of the grand Moguls, ruling from 1556 to 1605), accelerated the process of planting and grafting by laying out a garden with 100,000 trees. The aim in India had always been to get sweet, melt-in-the-mouth, juicy mangoes with as little stringy fiber as possible.

And that is what India has now. Whether you buy the sweet-and-sour pale-skinned langras of Varanasi or the intensely yellow, sweet dussehris of Lucknow or the satiny, heavenly Alphonsos of Ratnagiri near Bombay, what you will be getting are mangoes that man and nature have perfected together. When these same mangoes entered Florida in the 19th century, they were mainly dismissed as "yard" mangoes. Too soft for shipping, they were considered lacking in commercial qualities. So all the fiber that had been bred out of them over thousands of years was bred right back, giving America the hard, pale rocks we see in stores today.

When you get your first Indian mango, perhaps an Alphonso, just hold it in your hand and admire its blushes of reds, yellows and greens. Breathe in its aroma, which will reach out to you through its skin. If it is hard, wrap it in newspaper and set it aside, unrefrigerated, until it yields very slightly to the touch. Mangoes are never "tree-ripened." The hand of man is needed to coax them to their peak. Wash them and refrigerate them. Then when you are ready, tie a napkin around your neck, peel, slice and eat.

So we wait another year, it will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

End of a long day post...
Don't know what else I can call it. Oh well the long day and a long commute (damn you road construction) was made bearable by the lovely and talented Ms. Rachel Weisz. No she was not on the train with me, well she was sort of (one can at least dream) as I watched The Constant Gardner on the laptop.
I have a rather long commute (should be a subject of a post by itself) and the part of it on the trains (yes I take 2 trains) is spent either snoozing reading or watching a movie. That being said, constant gardner is a great movie and I can see why Ms. Weisz won the Oscar over a very strong field. She is just luminous and amazing in this movie. I am also wondering why I haven't yet read a John LeCarre book yet. Sigh! That has to bre rectified soon, I wonder if anyone has any recommendations?
Talking about the strong field, a part of me was disappointed that the incredible Catherine Keener did not win an Oscar. IMHO Hollywood makes a huge mistake by ignoring talent like her. Noticed her first in Being John Malkovitch and then the 40 year old virgin and lately in Capote. Hope her star keeps rising.
Ack! It's time to turn in..later gators!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

All Your Uteri Are Belong To Us!
Image courtesy of feministing
Sometimes it often feels as if the world is going nuts. What's with the people of South Dakota and they crazy idea to take away the the right of a woman to choose?
More male power at work under the guise of religion. Leave women with the right to make that choice. It is not anyone else's business certainly not the state's. And hence forth, as the progressive blogosphere has said state of South Dakota will be known as the Coat Hanger state (referring to the practice of women using coat hangers or knitting needles to self induce abortions before Roe v Wade).
South Dakota recently passed a bone headed abortion ban that pretty much shuts out the rights of women from that state to choose. There are constitutional issues with this law and it certain to be tied up in court challenges for years.
That being said, it is quite obvious that certain religious, fundamentalist neanderthals ( I am sure the neanderthals are insulted with this comparison to religious zealots) are in the process of chipping away at the rights of women.
It is not going to stop with that, they would then move on to non-christians and any one who does not agree with their beliefs.
Sounds very Talibanesque eh?

Monday, March 06, 2006


Please go read their site and add your voice to those opposed to street harassment!
I found out about the blank noise project, while meandering around India related blogs. Curious as to what it was about, I started reading about it. Despite having left the country of my birth more than a dozen years ago the highly reprehensible phenomenon of “eve teasing” or sexual/street harassment that women are subjected to is something one does not forget.
Having lived in a country that is so different culturally from India, some phenomena (like eve teasing) never seem to occur here and one sort of tends to slot them away somewhere in the recesses of the mind and it becomes something one does not think about.
But one only has to visit India and one might see this kind of harassment of women in public places, especially in and around public transit systems and one realizes that it has not gone away.
I am sure a lot of other bloggers as a part of the blank noise project will offer different perspectives about sexual harassment or eve teasing. The complex factors that go in to it, issues of gender, power, cultural influences and so on. That being said this is a truly horrendous experience especially for the women who have to undergo it. It has to stop and that will start by saying NO!. This is not just saying no to the perpetrator(s) of it, but also to oneself that no one can be silent about it. If you see it happening, try and stop it, if you experience it say no whether physically or verbally, It’s a long battle but it must be fought, for no society will truly realize it’s self worth without the full realization of the potential of it’s women. Sexual harassment is one of the many impediments that must be removed to reach this goal.

As a male what do I have to offer? I am not going to give those standard reasons about how not all men are bad and so paint not with a broad brush. Instead I am going to attempt to offer why as a male growing up in India, I was able to be on the right side if this issue. One is often shaped by their experiences while growing up. Some of these are definitive experiences, episodes that remain seared in your memory forever. They stay with you and they shape your opinions and your world views. I will recount one such episode which happened when I was around 12 years old, that I witnessed when I was at home.

We lived in a building that was adjacent to a street that connected to a train station in Bombay. As such it was used by everyone who used the train including school kids. My mom had gone out with my sis and I was expecting them back shortly. We would often try to look out of the window to see them coming. It was a common thing for us to do, especially when my dad got back from work. So I was doing the same thing. It was afternoon and the street was quiet, when I saw this girl “Jane”, she was about my age. I knew her as she was the daughter of a shop owner close by, as we used to go to him to get our clothes stitched or even laundered.

As she was making her way back home from school there was this guy, probably in his 20s who was walking towards the station. As I watched in shock and then horror, he proceeded to grab her breast as he walked by. She was shocked and I remember her recoil in horror. The whole episode lasted for a couple of seconds. He then walked away as if nothing had happened towards the train station. “Jane” looked around, there was hardly anyone on the street, and then she looked up to see if anyone had witnessed it.

I am not sure if she saw me but I will never forget the look on her face. It was a mix of anger, shock, and revulsion. I knew what I had witnessed was wrong but I was shocked too and I seemed rooted in place. Though I did not know it right away but I had witnessed street/sexual harassment. I continued to crane my neck as she walked away towards her home. Maybe I was trying to make sure she got home safe. I also proceeded to look in the other direction praying that my mom and sis would not have to deal with the creep. I remember feeling a sense of relief when I saw them come home shortly.
I did see “Jane” a few times after that before we moved away from that part of Bombay. I don’t know what I could have said to her as a 12 year old kid who could barely comprehend what had happened. I still ask myself what could I have done that was different?
That is my 2 cents worth, I hope it helps in some small way in raising awareness and fighting street harassment.

Friday, March 03, 2006

“Nukes For Mangoes”
As I was having tea this morning, I watched a rerun of Lou Dobb’s show on CNN. He did a small piece on the recent US nuclear technology deal with India and he had a graphic calling the piece “Nukes For Mangoes” (Transcript).

From the transcript "In New Delhi today, President Bush signed a deal giving India access to sensitive U.S. nuclear technology. The deal is being haled as a very important arrangement between the United States and India. The U.S. will receive access, by the way, as a result of turning over that high nuclear technology to India, the United States will be receiving Indian mangoes. President Bush, eager to expand trade with India, today agreed to share our civilian nuclear power technology to help India meet its growing needs. In return, President Bush hailed an expanded trade agreement between the two countries. The president said, and I quote, "The United States is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes."
I started laughing, because as much as I like (qualified) Lou Dobbs for his stand on illegal immigration, the assault on middle class in this country and trade issues, on some other things I think he just does not get it.

While “Nukes For Mangoes” might provide a good sound bite (yea we Americans are so stupid we can only get news if it’s reduced to easy sound bites) the title is misleading.
Here is why, there are really no nukes changing hands in return for mangoes. This is a deal for nuclear technology for civilian use. Also the deal is subject to Congressional approval. Whether this congress which has served as Bush’s lapdog will rubber stamp the deal is far from clear. There is some bipartisan opposition to the deal. Not to mention that if Indians get more of their energy from nuclear technology, there is more oil for us murikans ;-)!

Now for the delectable part..mangoes. People from Asia and Europe may be familiar with Indian mangoes especially the Alphonso. This is arguably the best kind of mango. The only form it is available in the US is in canned form as a pulp. But absolutely nothing beats eating the fruit or tossing some cardamom in it and eating the pulp with the fluffy indian bread called puris. Yum!
I think the Indian version of this fruit would be a good addition to the American palate.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Of Hutongs And Chawls ....
Hutong Karma was the title of Peter Hessler’s letter from China that appeared in the Feb 13th – 20th, 2006 issue of the New Yorker magazine. Unfortunately it cannot be found online ( and trying to paraphrase the article truly does no justice to Hessler’s beautiful writing. (The images above look different but they both reflect a similar milieu that exists worlds apart)
The term Hutong is derived from the Mongolian word that in Chinese means alley (The author lives in a building that is close to or part of the Hutong in Beijing). The homes around the alley are single story brick, but what distinguishes them the most according to Peter are the connections and movements amongst the residents. Peter says – “Dozens of households might share a single entrance and maybe the individual homes may have running water. A few people may have private bathrooms, so public toilets play a major role in local life. In a hutong much is communal including the alley itself. The alleys are small so vendors pass thru regularly. “ The author goes on to describe how the sounds of the alley are so different than that of the city which it is a part of. He describes how he has learnt to distinguish the cadence and the rhythms of each vendor as they come thru the alley plying their wares. He talks about the freelance recyclers, who would pay for anything that you wanted to throw away (including human hair, it apparently goes in to making wigs here in the US). He goes on to talk about communal barbecues and also attempted matchmaking,
The author also dwells on how the hutongs are being transformed by the manic modernization of Beijing and China (not to mention the upcoming Olympics contributing to Beijing trying to make itself look like an Olympic host). The modernization begins with the building of new automated toilets and then moves to how hutongs are slowly being pulled down to be replaced by more modern structures.
This got me thinking about the similarities and differences between hutong like neighborhoods from a part of the world that I grew up in, which is Bombay. There are countless alleys or neighborhoods in Bombay, but the one that came to my mind were “chawls” (a chawl which in Mumbai means Room only and bathroom and WC outside). These are similar in many ways to but yet different from Hutongs. They may be multi-storeyed buildings, but they were more like mini worlds within themselves like Hutongs. They may have similar common entrances, apartments very close to one another, common toilets and very little in terms of privacy (esp. compared to the western concept of privacy as applied to being in and around ones living space). Pretty much everyone knows everyone else including about some of their private and personal matters,
Chawls were built mostly during the 50s or even earlier. These buildings are now getting older and appear to approach the end of their life they are being replaced by skyscrapers. A lot of these chawls were in neighborhoods that were right next to textile mills which were once huge in Bombay. But that changed following the textile mills strike in the 1980s which decimated the industry and along with that the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in these chawls, a lot of whom worked in these mills. The mills closed down never to come back to life as controversy raged and continues to do so over the land. The mill owners wanted to sell it off. A lot of the workers felt that they should be compensated for their loss of jobs from the land proceeds. The last I heard about it, the owners had managed to sell of the land for some of the mills (prime real estate in Bombay is extremely expensive even by Western standards). There are now high rises and swanky night clubs instead populated by the rich, the young and the hip who most likely are unaware of the tumultuous events that led to the rise of these impersonal edifices that stand on these lands.
Hutongs and chawls., located in different worlds so far apart yet connected in many ways, both affected by change that may leave them as mere memories of a past era.

Spreading freedom ?(freeance and peeance as fellow Atriots would call it)
Bomber Kills U.S. Diplomat in Pakistan-
KARACHI, Pakistan - A suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat in Pakistan's largest city, killing four people — including the diplomat — ahead of President Bush''s visit to Pakistan.
Bush condemned the attack near the U.S. Consulate and a luxury hotel in Karachi, and said "terrorists and killers" would not prevent him from going to Pakistan on the final leg of his tour of South Asia.

Brave words indeed! Wonder why he is only in Pakistan for a few hours? A few reasons -
  • Can't cozy up too much with the Pakis while they are wooing India.
  • The fundie base in US might not like it too much
  • Frankly the place is not safe enough for Bush or a lot of Americans

A lesson anyone coddling fundamentalists (of any religion) should take from this is that the monsters created may not always behave as one may want them to. History is replete with examples of these.. When is this going to end?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

From The Extraordinarily Prescient Tom Tomorrow
Tom Tomorrow:
The thin line between reality and satire
This cartoon was written two weeks after the start of the Iraq war in the spring of 2003. Note the final panel in particular, in which I attempted to portray what seemed like a ludicrously over-the-top worst case scenario.
Sometimes I frighten myself.

Tom Tomorrow above says it best. But then this maladministration is really predictable - bumbling, rumbling and stumbling it's way from one disaster to another. It's our generation and the ones that follow that will reap the harvest of their mistakes.

Me Cowboy...You Injuns!
The shrub in India.. The cartoon below from Steve Bell of the Guardian.
He may not be as stupid as the caricature but it tells ya how he is percieved around the world.