Sunday, 30 November 2008

Mumbai Terror Attacks - Why And How and Its Effect

How devastating is the Mumbai Terror Attack to the Indian psyche?

Mumbai terror attack is the culmination of a long year of terrorist strikes in India. Terrorists have struck at will from Bangalore to Jaipur to Guwahati, in fact all corners of India. Given the resilience of the Indian people, it has devastated some but the majority of Indian people have gone on with life as before. The Mumbai terror attack is different. Terror has struck at the soft underbelly of the Indian landscape – the moneyed, the powerful. A bank’s chairman captured and killed, the Hotel’s GM’s family murdered. A newspaper editor still missing. These are killings the press will remember. If the Press will remember, the country will remember. And with elections approaching – The Govt. will have to do something about it. The terrorists however have been kinder to their Muslim brethren in this country. I dread the type of retaliation that would have been fuelled and abetted by the ultra right politicians, if the terrorists' attacks had just been on Hindus.

The terrorists reportedly were looking at British / US passport holders and attacked a Jewish house. That brings us to the agenda of the terrorists. There is no doubt it was funded by international agencies and planned abroad. Their view was to gain international attention. Maybe it was a double-edged sword. They wanted international attention and to get the support of the anti- Indian, Kashmir groups, local support so to say, the indiscriminate strikes at public places happened – to get back at India. The developed World has been quiet. How does Al-Qaeda and its supporting arms like LET keep the terror army motivated? Where do the terrorist funding come from if the boys being trained on the high mountains of Pakistan do not get a job? India is always an easy target. But with so many strikes another strike doesn’t really catch the country’s attention. Hell, they have even got away with shooting in the Indian Parliament (the common man’s refrain at that time was – God, why didn’t they kill the lot – truly). So the international flavor to the strike. Through India – maybe crippling Indian growth and setting it back 2-4 years. The purpose is solved – anti-kashmir terrorists get back at India and Al-Qaeda training and funding purpose solved with attacks on Jews, US and UK tourists.

However I feel another purpose of the terrorists could not materialise. Taking hostages and negotiating. The Indian Army and Police with their chaotic handling of the situation ensured that there was no scope for negotiations. They created enough confusion for any demand for negotiation to be lost in the mayhem. The police had lost their top brass – so maybe they didn’t care any longer for lives lost. Anyways when already 100 people had been killed how could 20-30 more lives matter – the commandos job as I can gather from news was to capture or kill the terrorists – at any cost. Actually, this might be the only positive that might have come out of this strike. The nation still cringes at the memory of a smiling Jaswant Singh handing terrorists crores of rupees plus releasing a top terrorist during the Kandahar hijacking.

So will India get back on tracks – you bet. That means people will continue to travel and move as before. The country’s growth will be affected. That means there will less jobs and more unemployed – this will lead to more unrest. I just hope this part of the World doesn’t become one more Afghanistan. It will be a difficult time for the World – the next few years, India included.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Play Mario Online - Mario Widget

Here's a nice little Mario Game anyone will love!

Ten Toys We CAn Make - Home Made Toys We Have Forgotten!

As I look at the toys being advertised, the shops being crowded, the rush for popular toys, I am reminded of the toys we had when we were younger. Toys were so simple then. Do children really play with all the toys they wish for? Why do they mess around with glue, clay and colours when the latest gizmo occupies pride of place on their table? Isn't it just part guilt, part affection, part "keeping up with the Joneses" that make us give them the latest and the best, year after year. How would you and by transference the child feel should a $100 Toy break in a day?

Children love simple stuff. However they are hardly exposed to simple joys these days! I am listing here some toys every child will love. You would enjoy making them, getting your hands dirty or getting them from the store. They are replaceable but most of all they are FUN. Kids from 2-7 years will enjoy them. And sadly most of them have been forgotten.

A Wireless Set
- Just a piece of string with cardboard boards at the end for earphones (maybe you can do it better!)

Marbles - Oh, the joys of playing with marbles!

Stitching
a new dress by hand - not with the sewing machine.

Kites

Water Colour

A Clay Set - Try digging the clay from the yard, making shapes and then putting it on the stove to fire it!

Plastic spoons (generally found in formula milk)

Collectibles like bookmarks, stamps, labels, pencil stubs

A Homemade Book of Quotations

Picture frame

Little boxes, bottles to play stack, or glued to form monuments or just mess around with!

Paper planes, Boats!

I remember clearly two sets of precious toys I had in my childhood that I never tired of - one a little doll not more than 6 inches in height and another a clay kitchen set. I guess they are too frugal for today - but we could still make a start and bring simplicity back to our children's lives!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Anil Kumble - India's Greatest Cricketer

The retirement of Jumbo comes as a shock to me (well not really, considering the way he has been hounded the past month). And my admiration for the man goes up by one more notch. Here's why. He is the captain of the team, in the midst of a winning series against the World's No. 1 team. The next team India would play is England at home. Tailor made for Anil Kumble, right? Jumbo doesn't think so. Without any dramatics, long farewells, emotional press conferences, he just says - thats it. That's Anil Kumble for you. That's Jumbo - a man with a jumbo sized heart and humility and very little ego or drama. He didnt play well, he quit since he wasn't getting any younger at 38.

But he doesnt lack in emotion, he just doesn't care to wear it on the field. Look at the venue, where he decides to announce his retirement. Feroze Shah Kotla - the venue where he has taken 10 wickets in an innings.

Many may not agree with me here, but I would rate Jumbo among the Top 5 bowlers ever and the Best Cricketer India has produced. Let me just state a few statistics to establish my claim. I am not talking of his unique spirit here in bowling with a broken jaw, a bandaged finger, of the statesmanship shown on India's last tour of Australia. All these together would catapult him into the best cricketer ever league!

Anil Kumble has 619 wickets in a career spanning 18 years in a highly competitive sport like cricket! Remember the careers of talented spinners Sivaramakrishnan, Hirwani, Maninder Singh, Venkatapathy Raju? Of course you remember them! They are all over TV and in the selection committees! Now you understand where Kumble stands! He was definitely never touted as talented as any of them! He just quietly played 18 years, took 619 wickets over 132 Tests and spun India to victory after victory at home and abroad!

Its not just the longevity of his career that makes him the greatest ever Indian cricketer. Heard of someone called Shane Warne? Joking. Shane Warne is treated at par with a legend in Australia. There is no doubt of his standing in Australia or World Cricket. Look at his statistics. Warne has 708 wickets from 145 Tests. Mightily impressive, wouldnt you say? Of course it is! Now look at Anil Kumble's statistics. 619 wickets from 132 Tests. Just 89 less wickets from 13 less Tests!

Kumble is a legend not just for the length of his career or the wickets he has taken. Its for the wins he has given India. And its not just at home. Of course at home Anil Kumble was the King. But he was instrumental in many of India's memorable wins abroad after 2002, wins at Headingley, Adelaide, Multan and Kingston. He took 20 wickets at Australia to be the highest wicket taker there in the last tour to Oz. Winning 43 of the 118 he played, he was undoubtedly India's greatest match-winner. Before 2002, he never had a score to bowl to abroad. Its only after 2002 after Rahul Dravid started his golden run, Kumble could bowl his bouncers and googly with aplomb. And the results were for all to see. Here are some of Kumble's match winning statistics.

Career Statistics Here

For me some of the greatest Kumble moments were his leading the side to win at Perth (India were supposed to be blown aaway there!), his century at Oval (Murali and Warne havent got one!), his ten wicket haul versus Pakistan at Delhi, his playing with a bandaged broken jaw at West Indies...

For me he is real God of Indian cricket!

My Grandparent's House - A Ghost Story

(This is purely a work of fiction - any resemblance to any story, place or person is maybe intentional, maybe not!)

This incident happened to my father’s friend, Chandu Da. He had been to our ancestral home at Puri, a popular destination for Bengalis. Father had suggested he stay at our empty place during his trip there. The house had been occupied by my uncle (father’s cousin) until his death, recently. My father, his four brothers and their family always went there on holidays and special occasions like Rath-Yatra.

Let me just describe the house. Its on the outskirts of Puri. Having been built some centuries ago, it stood, a grand house amidst a huge coconut grove . It must have been the only property of its kind in the locality not having fallen prey to real-estate developers. The caretaker stayed with his family in a small out-house. The house itself was built traditionally with rooms around a central courtyard and an encircling verandah. My uncle’s room was the one occupying the central place. It had a huge bed, a rickety ancient easy-chair, an old fashioned bookcase. There was a faded portrait of my uncle’s when he was young (it was painted after his graduation, as was the norm in those days). Over the bookcase were his specs, which no one had the heart to remove, and an old wall clock, the kind which had a pendulum. There was a closed window facing the adjacent room and another opening outside into the grove.

This was Chandu Da’s story…

He returned home late, after work, dinner and some time on the beach. It was quite a distance from the gate to the house. Chandu da was immersed in his own thoughts when suddenly he became aware of the silence of the night. There was very little moon. The coconut trees swayed and there was the faint smell of the gangaseuli, a local flower. Feeling rattled by the eerie silence, he hurried into the house. He fumbled with the lights, then switched them on. By that time, after his walk through the empty grove, he was already uneasy with little idea what was in store for him that night. He thought of waking Raghu, the caretaker, but could not think of a reason, since he had already had his dinner and had asked the man not to wait up for him.

After washing up, Chandu da settled down to read in bed. He had retrieved some book from my uncle's bookcase. My uncle was a war aficionado and there were literally hundreds of books on World War 2, 1971 Bangladesh war and more. Chandu da stayed awake for some time aware of the squeaking of rats, rustling of coconut leaves and maybe an odd creaking noise. The uneasy feeling, which had assailed him since he came in, became overwhelming. He got up and closed the window. The only noise was the old Grandfather clock ticking and the pendulum swaying like in movies. Suddenly the portrait of Uncle seemed to take on a lifelike aspect. Not being able to tolerate it any more and feeling exceedingly foolish for feeling so terrified, Chandu da switched off the lights and tried to go to sleep.

The noise of the rats wouldn’t let him sleep. He could distinctly see one huge member of the species go up the clock. It happened such that after some time he became conscious only of the rats. They refused to go away. He felt their whisperings in his ears, their squeaks, their scurrying, all with increasing clarity. He must have dozed off then, for he dreamt of huge rats, my uncle, father, the coconut grove all in a kaleidoscopic medley. When he woke up next, he felt a tugging at his trousers and the first thing he thought he saw, was my uncle sitting on the easy chair at the foot of the bed. He shouted. Then he realized, it was just a rat, a huge one, on the easy chair. The one, which must have tugged at his trousers. The rat refused to budge. Chandu da must have dozed off again, for he again dreamt of my uncle gazing at him from the easy chair. He woke up. The rat was still there at his feet. He chanced to look up at the portrait. He saw the stern face of uncle there. He then looked back at the rat and started. There was the same stern face. Looking back and forth from the portrait to the rat he kept seeing the uncanny resemblance, then gradually before his eyes, there was my uncle sitting directly in front of him on the easy chair – appraising him. Chandu da fainted. That was how the housekeeper found him when he let himself into the house early the next morning...

Well, we couldn’t make much of this incident. It was our house and our uncle. He was a kind man, when alive. Maybe, that was his way of keeping an eye on the house and strangers? Anyways, guests these days always sleep in the guest room, only the family go into Uncle’s room and they have no problem other than a feeling of warmth and happiness and being home…

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Barack Obama Will Be 44th USA President - Here Is His Victory Speech

Obama has won the Presidential Elections to be the 44th President of USA, the first Black President, after a gruelling two year campaign where he first fought a hard bitter battle to beat Hilary Clinton to the Democratic Party nomination. Starting as an outsider (he was initially almost 30 percentage points behind Clinton in polls), he fought a hard, steady often acrimonious battle to wrestle the Democratic Party nomination against the powerful Clintons. Then followed a battle against McCain which he won with a better grass root level mobilisation of workers, efficient and often record breaking fund raising helped by a general disillusion of President Bush's policies and a staggering economy. In the final months of the race, McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as VP seemed to have helped him too.

The victory speech of Obama has been like his campaign - gracious, with a moderate tone and inclusive. Hats off to America "where all things are possible!"

Here's the link to the transcript of Obama's acceptance speech in his hometown Chicago.

Here is the transcript (from Fox News)
"BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Chicago.

(APPLAUSE)

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

(APPLAUSE)

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

(APPLAUSE)

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton...

(APPLAUSE)

... and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

(APPLAUSE)

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years...

(APPLAUSE)

... the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady...

(APPLAUSE)

... Michelle Obama.

(APPLAUSE)

Sasha and Malia...

(APPLAUSE)

... I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us...

(LAUGHTER)

... to the new White House.

(APPLAUSE)

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

(APPLAUSE)

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe...

(APPLAUSE)

... the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

To my chief strategist David Axelrod...

(APPLAUSE)

... who's been a partner with me every step of the way. To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics...

(APPLAUSE)

... you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done. But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy...

(APPLAUSE)

... who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

(APPLAUSE)

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

(APPLAUSE)

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

(APPLAUSE)

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

(APPLAUSE)

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

(APPLAUSE)

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

(APPLAUSE)

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see?

What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America."