Its been a week since I have been in India and already feels like a month. Small town India hasn't changed at all. Despite all the hype and hoopla over India's growth, its IT prowess and its rising influence as a world power in domestic and US media, it seems all that is just passing small town India by. The divide between middle class India and poor Bharat is just growing.
I have realized how much of a slave of technology I have become. Internet is the thing I am missing most. Internet to me had long passed the stage of being a mere necessity. It is now to me like dope for a junkie. I am really so badly missing the conveneince of ubiqitous internet in US . The dial-up connection through which I am writing is just a piece of bread to a month long starving Somalian. Cant wait to have my fill of the world of bits and bytes.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
"It is that wonderful time of the year", there goes this beautiful song on the radio. Sure," it is that wonderful time of the year", with joy all around, people rushing home to be with their loved ones on the eve of Thanksgiving. "It is that wondeful time of the year", when old relationships are reaffirmed, old bonds strenghthened, people go that extra mile to show how much they love each other. Oh, "It is that wonderful time of the year", when the holiday season is about to begin, christmas is only a month away, new year is on the horizon, the atmospehere is filled with anticipation, oh indeed "It is that wonderful time of the year". And yes "it is that wonderful time of the year" when everything is up for sale, people are jostling for space at the overcrowded malls, pushing and shoving each other for that hot item , yes it is a wonderful time of the year. "It is a wonderful time of the year", except when you are a lonely foreigner about 5000 miles away from home. Nobody is buying gifts for you, nobody is sending you a happy holidays card, you have nowhere to go for a thanksgiving reunion. "It is that wonderful time of the year", when your sense of isolation is getting reaffirmed, you are reminded that your friends & family are far away from you. "It is that wonderful time of the year" when you ask yourself what am I doing here, why dont I go back, this is not my country afterall. Yes, "It is that wonderful time of the year", when you are seized by thanksgiving blues, joy all around is bothering you, happiness of people around you is making you jealous and you are missing home that much more. Ah, "It is that wonderful time of the year".
What is the best thing to have happened in South Asia consisting the countries of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri-Lanka, BanglaDesh and Bhutan. International observers will be inclined to pick peace overtures between India & Pakistan , however, the best thing to have happened is the event which is at the genesis of peace initiatives. That event is elevation of General Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan's premier. This surely is going to strike as an odd choice to some especially to well-informed indians. Isnt he a hawk, a war mongerer who started the Kargil confrontation, a staunch opponent of peace? True, he is all that and he is not about to change but the way events have played out after his overthrow of Nawaz Sharif regime, his elevation has been a blessing in disguise for peace in Indian subcontinent and in Kashmir in particular. To illustrate the point, flashback to 9/11 , second day after that, on 9/12, US made it clear to all the world that it is no longer going to turn a blind eye towards Islamic fundamentalism & terrorism anywhere in the world. Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden became target number one for US and rest of the world. US gave Pakistan an ultimatum, be with us or be against us. Musharraf facing the music made the most rational choice, he sideded with US. US invaded Afghanistan, drove out the Taliban which till then were hand in glove with the General and were providing him with man & money power for "Jihad" in Kashmir. Imagine if instead of Musharraf it was Nawaz Sharif who were in charge of Pakistan. In that scenario, Pakistan would have been a sitting duck for an inevitable civil war which would have followed if Nawaz had sided with US(not siding with US was not really an option). The breakout of civil war could have started a full scaled war between India & Pakistan which could have turned nuclear. Musharraf being the president and the army chief at the same time allowed him to control the hawks in his government, clean up ISI and rid Pakistan of some of those Taliban terrorists. However, Musharraf did-not do that for free. He squeezed out billions of dollars in aid from Uncle Sam, some of which must surely have gone to him and his lieutinents . That aid money is one of the main reasons that Pakistan's economy is doing so well now (Karachi Stock index is up 100% in last one year). Subsequent events made it clear that Pakistan could no longer allow its territory to be used as a breeding ground for "jihadis". Musharraf carried out a crackdown on jihadi activities, cleaned up the Madrasas and made peace offer to India. Any democratically elected premier in Pakistan could not have done even a fraction of what Musharraf has done without throwing the country into chaos. Make no mistakes Musharraf is not a saint, far from it, he is a hawk but he is a smart & pragmatic hawk. His survival is dependent upon USA and US needs an ally like him for its war on terror. Musharraf is indispensable for both US and India. India have their best chance of peace with Musharraf at the helm. It is said that a man is a product of his circumstances, this could not be truer for Musharraf. History may still remember him as the man who brought peace in Kashmir. Irony thy name is Musharraf.
Monday, November 22, 2004
If anyone had any doubts about the genius of Roger Federar then those doubts should be put to rest forever after another awesome display from arguably the greatest tennis genius of our time. Playing against, merely supremely talented Leyton Hewitt , in the final of Masters Cup at Houston the genius once again showed how he moves into that extra gear when playing against a top 10 ranked opponent in a final. Case in point, in the first set, Hewitt apparently has total control of a point on his serve. He just hit a fine backhand which Roger did well to return. Meanwhile, Hewitt has reached the net and is in a perfect position to hit a ferocious forehand to an out of position Roger which is sure to get past him & earn Hewitt a well deserved point. He duly hit that ferocious forehand(or so he thought). Roger correctly anticipated the shot, got into position to hit a fatal counter-blow which sails past Hewitt , hits the baseline and score reads 30-30 instead of 40-15 which everybody thought it would read when Hewitt had hit that backhand one shot ago. "That is sick!", exclaimed the commentator, echoing the thoughts of Leyton, who was left bemused once again by the genius on the other side of the net. After that Roger made short work of the challenge from world no. 3 , showing him time & again, who is the boss around here. He broke him once in first set, twice in the second, took home a purse of $1.5 million and earned a well-deserved vacation to Maldives, into the arms of the Indian Ocean, with his girlfriend. In the meantime, he has ruined the vacations for plenty of top-ranked players who must be spending sleeples nights contemplating how to counter this Federar Express in 2005. Roger has ended the year the way he started it, with a bang . While doing this, he has rekindled the passion of millions of Tennis fans who would be eagerly anticipating every tournament King Roger will be gracing with his presence. " Thank you for Roger", proclaimed one banner in the Houston Tennis club. Thank you indeed, tennis fans have said in unison all over the world. For the players, however, its a different story.