Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Arab Spring......... when will it blossom??

^        What an irony ! When the world was being swept away by
          the democracy storm, only the Muslim world, ruled by the
          Kings, monarchs and dictators, remained unaffected. Alas!
          the Muslim rulers took no lessons from the Autumn of Nations
          (fall of communism in 1989). 

^       The Arab Spring was waiting to happen. In fact, what's
         surprising is that it happened so late, perhaps by a decade or
         so. In this age of liberalization, the authoritarian rule has no
         place in any civil society. 

^      Though people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen got rid
        of the dictators, the civil rule is nowhere in sight. The new 
        rulers too fail the test of liberty and equality. 

^      The Spring has hit a roadblock in Egypt and Syria. Its success
        or otherwise in these two nations would decide the future of  
        1.6 billion people.  

^      Like other well-wishers, I'm waiting eagerly for this Spring to
        bloom soon. Let's all pray this Spring to bring flowers to our 
        Muslim brethren in those countries.

^      Amen !!!!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Muslims at the Cross Roads............


*  The world watches with abated breadth as the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberals in Egypt fight it out on the streets for establishing their supremacy.

*   Egypt is not alone. 1.6 billion Muslims the world over are divided into the hardliners and the liberals. Somehow the hardliners, called by different names in different countries, are not realizing that they, though in majority in some nations, are out of sync with the aspirations of the new and young generation of Muslim youth, who have not been taught in Madarsas but in modern schools and colleges and they are questioning the religious dogmas.

*    It's time the older generation realized this and allowed space for liberal thoughts and ideas to grow and prosper. The Muslim world needs democracy in which people of every religion live in peace and are given equal opportunity to prosper. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013


*    In these stressful times, we all seek tranquility. But like a mirage it eludes us. We seek it in music, writing, painting, etc. We seek it near the mountains, in the woods and at or on sea. We seek it almost anywhere and everywhere but within ourselves.

*    We are dreadful of walking into the dark corridors of our inner self. Like a reigning deity, the tranquility blissfully resides there and waits for us but alas! we fear to negotiate those dark alleys, created by us.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Teatime Tales..........the Second Tale

 Try telling your wife that the best cup of tea you ever had in your life was prepared not by her but by somebody else. Most likely, thereafter, you would end up brewing your own daily tea. But there are moments in everyone's life when one has a cup of tea, outside home, whose taste lingers on forever. I'm the fortunate one to have had such tea, not once but on three occasions and at three different places, separated by hundreds of miles. Their taste is still so fresh in my mind, in my   heart. And I wish to share this with you.

Second Tea

I had barely spent a month in my job when one day I got the orders from my boss to lead a survey team to Barmer, a desert district in Rajasthan. My task was to assess the requirement of launching a food programme there to tackle the child malnutrition. So, I boarded the train and landed up at the Barmer railway station on a wintry morning. 
        It was my first glimpse of the desert and there I was standing alone on that desolate dusty platform. The barren, dry landscape caught my attention and for a few moments I kept looking at the distant sand dunes and nearby houses made of mud and sandstones in bewilderment, and awe. I would have continued gazing at that scene had it not been for a man who broke my trance and told me that the vehicle was waiting outside. He had come to escort me to the rest house, about 80 km away, close to the Gadra Road, a small hamlet on the Indo-Pak border. 
        So, my second leg of journey began in the rickety jeep, which made funny noises. I'm sure earlier visitors to that city would vouch for having undertaken similar romantic trips on the bumpy border roads. Romance wasn't on my mind then. I was eager to reach my destination soon as my energies had been sapped by a rather long train journey. 
          Late in the afternoon I, along with my co-worker, reached the Gadra Road and alighted from the jeep. The rest house keeper, a middle-aged Rajasthani man, welcomed me warmly. I instantly knew I could rely on him. After tea he explained to me in detail about the grim situation in the surrounding villages where a large number of children died in their infancy due to lack of proper food. It did dampen my spirits a bit, because I had expected a better scenario. There was little I could do except to reconcile.
            We began our next day with early breakfast. As we moved round the villages, crisscrossing the dunes we found children playing in the sand. So we spent a few days walking in the sand and visiting villages. It wasn't a pleasant experience even during the winter as the day temperatures often became quite unbearable, though the nights were invariably pleasant. The tasty meals prepared by the rest house keeper rejuvenated our tired bodies at the end of the day and collection of novels was enough to kill our boredom during breaks. And we began our next day with early breakfast. We moved round the villages, crisscrossing the dunes. 
          After three days we at about three in the evening we sighted a man planting a sapling beside the road. It made us curious and so we went down to have a chat with him. He was a school teacher who had taken upon himself to plant as many trees as possible, on either side of the road, so that travellers could benefit from them.
            A humble man was on a noble mission. 
           We stood by and watched him complete his job. When he was finished he invited us for a cup of tea in his village, about a km away from there. Tired, we immediately accepted his request and moved with him. 
            Outside the village, he halted at a mud house and made me sit on a charpoy and then ran to his house, about a furlong away in the village. In the meanwhile we turned to our favourite topic, the senior-bashing. Our conversation was interrupted by the co-worker, who informed me that the jeep, which had broken down had been repaired and we should move now, lest it got dark. Delighted that our miseries were over, we completely forgot that someone had gone to fetch us tea and we started to move back. 
         After about ten minutes I heard a familiar sound shouting, ‘Sahibji chai, sahibji chai.’ We turned back and saw the teacher running frantically towards us with a kettle in one hand and mugs in another. I never felt as ashamed of myself as I felt that day. I apologized and returned to the hut.
          Arranging the mugs on the floor, the man spoke, with a smile of satisfaction, “Sahibji, I thought you both would go away without having tea.”
            “How could we?” I replied instantly wiping my eyes.
           The man poured us tea. It was so refreshing that it rejuvenated my body and mind. It touched my heart and soul. Its thought still does.
*                *               *        

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Stilwell (Ledo) Road... an engineering marvel.


       During the World War II, the Ledo Road was intended to be the primary supply route to China and was built under the direction of General Stilwell of the U.S. Army from the railhead at Ledo (Assam, India) to Mong-Yu road junction where it joined the Burma Road. Stilwell's staff estimated that the Ledo Road route would supply 65,000 tons of supplies per month.

       15,000 American soldiers (60% African-Americans) and 35,000 local workers built the road at a cost of US$150 million.  Thousands of locals and 1,100 Americans died during the construction. Since most of Burmese territory was in the Japanese hands, it was not possible to acquire information about the topography, soils, and river behaviour before starting the construction. This information had to be acquired as the road was constructed.

                Work started on the first 166 km section of the road in Dec 1942, a steep, narrow trail through territory from Ledo, across the Patkai Range through the Pangsau Pass, nicknamed "Hell Pass" for its difficulty, and down to Shingbwiyang in Burma. The road rose sometimes as high as 4,500 feet and passed over steep gradients, hairpin curves and sheer drops of 200 feet, all surrounded by  thick rain forests.

       In late 1944, barely two years after Stilwell accepted responsibility for building the Ledo Road, it connected to the Burma Road. It became a highway stretching from Assam, India to Kunming, China, 1736 km in length. On 12 Jan 1945, the first convoy of 113 vehicles, led by General Pick, departed from Ledo; they reached Kunming, China on 4 February 1945. In the six months following its opening, trucks carried 129,000 tons of supplies from India to China. 26000 trucks that carried the cargo (one way) were handed over to the Chinese.

      After Burma was liberated, the road gradually fell into disrepair. Since an improvement in relations between India and Myanmar, travel has improved and tourism has begun near the Pangsayu Pass (at the Lake of No Return). At present the Nampong-Pangsau Pass section is passable in four-wheel drive vehicles. The road on the Burmese side is now reportedly fit for vehicular traffic. 

     One of the toughest and most interesting road journeys in the world would remain a dream for the travellers until India and China shed mutual distrust. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Tam Dil..........The Lake of Mustard.

*       The Tam Dil (Lake) is located about  100 km from Aizawl, the capital of Mizoam in India.

*       The origin of the lake is shrouded in myth. Folklore has it that a married couple had a land in the valley surrounded by small but steep hills. The man unfortunately died leaving the wife to care for the crops. In the middle of the field was a robust mustard plant, bigger than other plants. One night the husband visited the widow in the dream and told her to take special care of the mustard plant as it was harbinger of good luck. Next morning, she did as told and the plant thrived well.

*      After sometime, the widow remarried but the new husband objected to anything that reminded of her deceased husband, and so he plucked the plant and threw it away. On the ground where the plant was thrown, it created a vast hole, which was soon filled by water and thus it  became an exquisite lake. It was called the Ṭam Dil (lake of the mustard).

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