03 December 2008

"Be the change you want to see"

A certain upright, principled, righteous, honest man said this many years ago. He had a dream for India and in many ways that dream lies in tatters. If only we had just 1 such leader amongst us today, just 1, the rest of the blueprint would fall into place almost magically.... but that's a debate for another day.

Be the change you want to see - i had often wondered what that means, what does it really, truly mean. What can I do that will make any difference at all? how does it matter what I individually do ?

I need to be a more law-abiding citizen and not cut corners wherever I can to get a leg up and get ahead of others. Each and every one of us needs to be less of a liability for the law-enforcers in our cities and our countries so that they can focus on doing what they are meant to protect us from lawbreakers. The police should not be policing us from ourselves and each other.

Each of us has inched our cars / vehicles those 2 extra feet onto the zebra crossing which requires policing... jumped the red lights late in the night etc etc.paid that little bribe to save ourselves trouble, save ourselves time...

The more of us that are law-abiding, the less of us need to be policed and the less of us need to be policed, the more time the police, the authorities have to protect US.

I'm not saying this will change the country or save us terrorism, but it will make a difference in attitude and that always goes a long way.

(the quote is by Mahatma Gandhi - for those may not know)

02 December 2008

A Crying Shame

It was an unending, mind-numbing, relentless 60 hours in the end. Almost every minute of it was unbelievable, I kept thinking it’s got to end now but it didn’t. it went on and on. I found out about the carnage within 45 minutes of it starting. The first reaction was déjà vu, “oh no, not a series of bomb blasts again”. Obviously had no idea that it was going to be worse, much much worse.

I could relive the entire horror and recount the series of events, and my reactions but I suspect they will be imprinted in my mind for the rest of my life. Seeing grenades go off in the lobby of the Trident-Oberoi, where I had spent a few hours just the day before, was a horror, it was shock to the power of 100. Watching the terrorists running around downtown Bombay like it was their playground was annoying, was shocking, was “…..” – the English language does not have the right word for the emotion. Gunfire from within buildings that I frequented and loved was a new feeling, a new emotion. I felt pain when the twin towers in New York went down because I visited there just 2 months before 9/11, it felt close because of that. But these were places I went to every other week. These places meant something to me, had become part of my life in the last 7 years that I have lived in Bombay and have come to love it like my HOME.

I must admit I had tears in my eyes at several times while watching the horror unfold in those 3 days, this can’t be happening. This is inhuman, how can we allow this to happen to people, regular people, people like you and me. When did civil society come to this?

The post-mortem and mudslinging has begun and while a lot of it is being done by the politicians, regular people and “imminent” personalities are not averse to it either. Emotions are running high and people are saying and doing things they will regret later. (Some politicians already are regretting it!)

And while it is completely natural for emotions to be uncontrollable and screeching voices are inevitable, it is also not smart to lose sight of the bigger picture. War on Pakistan cannot be the answer. The US waged war on Afghanistan and ostensibly Iraq to fight terrorism and we all know where that has ended up. Do we really want to trade innocent deaths for soldier deaths. And let’s not forget Pakistan, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, is a nuclear state. The problem of Terrorism is not something that came up in days, weeks or months. IT has been festering for years and unfortunately cannot be wished away or gotten rid of with quick-fixes. It will take years to rid ourselves of this scourge and the reality is that it is in many ways a war of attrition.

The other terrible trap that we must be wary of is peaking with our outrage and anger in the immediate aftermath of the attack which is bound to flame out. It is absolutely essential that the outrage be sustained and lasting. The pattern of the past has been that we have all reacted but not responded.

What matters is not that we have a solution, what matters is that we must make progress. What irks the typical Indian on the street and I count myself amongst those Indians is that we are not making progress against terrorism in India. What irks us is that we are getting worse in terms of safety and security against indiscriminate killing. Real concrete steps are required and while many (most?) have lost faith in the government, I for one have not. I believe change has to be driven through the establishment and not around it. Baying for politicians blood is simply futile and akin to axing your own feet. Hot pursuit of terrorists in camps in POK may be part of this plan but cannot and should not be the backbone of it. Action just for the sake of action is not the answer. Who will come up with this plan, certainly not me, certainly not the common Indian – we are neither adept not trained to do so.

It is our responsibility to hold our elected representatives responsible for their actions and most importantly for the RESULTS of such actions. Putting together action groups that can work towards doing this is constructive. Signing on-line petitions, lighting candles, changing facebook status to reflect our outrage, forwarding emails expressing shock, vowing not to vote will all help each of us to assuage our own anger but will it do anything else – I doubt it.

The need of the hour is to RESPOND not REACT.


11 September 2008

Ladakh / Zanskar August 2008

More Photos in slide-show, In the left margin

I'd never done something like this before and I must admit I was more than a little skeptical about doing it! Upping and going for a holiday by myself with a group of people of whom i knew none............................. but its the best thing i ever did and ended up on the holiday of my life!

I had seen some photos of he rafting trip (not too many, wanted to keep it a mystery for myself) and some of Pangong Tso... and Zanskar and Ladakh beckoned..

the start of the trip wasn't the best, our flight took off from Delhi, hovered over Leh but we DIDN'T land... poor visibility and the pilot couldn't sight the airstrip and so couldn't come in to land.... so we went back home with bags packed!!

Back to the airport the next day and the flight was delayed a couple of hours, finally took off and were over Leh again.... this time we DID land and what a landing it was... a complete U turn before the plane came in to land and loud applause from all us.... WE were in Ladakh!!
The first day in Leh was total rest - acclimatisation to high altitude - Leh is at 11500 feet. I'm glad I did feel breathless even simply walking around and while sleeping at night, almost felt I was choking a few times. We had to repack our stuff to minimise bags an load... took out 'unnecessary' stuff... if the aquaterra guys had their way i would travel with clothes on my back and a toothbrush.

The next morning we started the long 12 hour drive on the Leh-Srinagar highway to Kargil. Kargil is just about 4 kms from the Line of Control with Pakistan. It was quite an arduous journey and we couldn't wait for it to end... the scenery all along the way was largely brown, moonscape... very beautiful but a bit monotonous and dreary. We stayed in a hotel that night.. it was the last night in a bed for some time!
The next day's journey was to Rangdum which was an incredible camp-site, in a huge valley with a humongous mountains all around and snow peaks almost in touching distance. This was the coldest night of the trip added to by incessant rain... not the perfect start to sleeping in tents!

The next morning we drove to the next campsite we drove from Rangdum to Remala which was a campsite right by the River Stod - starting point of the rafting ! finally ! This drive took us through Pensi La (La is ladakhi for Pass) which is at a height of 14500 feet and past the Drung Durung Glacier which feeds the Stod and the Zanskar river.

The next morning - 14th August - we started our over-150 KM rafting expedition down the Zanskar.... it was a heady feeling, we had all travelled for 5 days to get to this spot to start this! There were 6 other people on my raft, Left to Right below.... Rama (she was so scared of the18-down rapid that she didn't know when we were through it), Vaibhav (O Captain, my captain - the boss of the boat), Me, Sanjay (1-2, 1-2, 1-2), Gayatri (who insisted on calling all the sights "gorgeous" in an oh-so-girly manner), Sejal (the airline pilot who wanted to be pilot of this boat too) and Richard (the maddest person on the trip... kept us laughing right through).

Before I go into telling you about the rafting and how amazing it was and what it FELT like.... a bit about the other people on the trip..... apart from my raft above..... Below, Ajay and KK - enjoying a game of domino's like their life depends on it!

Antje, the super-fit-woman from Germany and the 'snobs' - well not really - Priya (the editor) and Antara ! The super-efficient German sisters - Antje and Claudia....
Sachin (the problem solver, couldn't take care of the boxers though), Sanjay, Rama, Me and Richard....
THE BOYS - Sanjay, Richard, Ajay and Me
Now.. to the rafting.... The first day's rafting was quite mild (don't tell KK i said that, he fell out in the first 10 minutes - apparently "cooling up").... getting used to our teams and the river. Th water was freezing cold and best avoided. to add to it, it was an overcast day so even colder!

It was a relief to be on the river after days of travelling, just an amazing feeling... paddling on the Zanskar in the middle of nowhere.... The campsite at Karsha was a small one but right by the river. I was a bit ill at this campsite... fever and the shivers, so pretty much rested all evening to try and bounce back for the following few days of rafting.

The next we headed out from Karsha down the river to Honyo which was by far the best campsite of the trip - picturesque and truely breathtaking.

It was a relatively short run to Honyo which gave us a fair bit of time at Honyo to enjoy the surrounding area the campsite itself. The night at Honyo was a particularly enjoyable experience, an almost clear night with a full moon and the temperature was just right to enjoy the evening. and enjoy the evening we did !

The next morning we left Honyo for a very exciting day of rafting, a fair bit of Class III rapids through beautiful gorges and canyons.

At the end of a toughish day of rafting we reached Nyerak which was going to be our "home" for 2 nights, we were going to have a rest day there. Nyerak was a good campsite though a very very dusty and steep site. The campsite was good for the rest day as it had loads of trees to sleep under and a fresh water (though very cold) stream flowing by.... the first chance to wash up and shampoo our hair for days !

It was a very relaxing day with no distractions close to nothing to do all day long. Truely vegetative....

We began the 5th day of rafting from Nyerak down to Lamaguru with a bang, serious Class IV rapids just around the corner. IT was a really good day of rafting about 35 kms. The highlight of the day was the lunch site - next to a waterfall gushing out of a rockface. A walk under the fall was a really chilling experience, it felt like ice cubes falling on your head - pounding and cold at the same time.
The last day of rafting was a really good 40 km run from Lamaguru to Nimu. The campsite at Lamagur had a been a tough one to camp at...very rocky and shoaly. The tent had been a pain to set up. The morning started with a longish photo session, this being the last day of rafting.

The take-out of the rafting expedition was at Nimu, just past the confluence of the Indus and the Zanskar, a spot we had passed on the first day on our drive.

The trip had been very tiring but exhilerating... finally got a chance to have a shower and shave, valued the basics again!

10 September 2008

Ladakh extended

Following the rafting expedition down the Zanskar, I decided to stay on a few days in Ladakh to see a few sights.... I am so happy I did because I was able to see one of the most beautiful place in the world - Pangong Tso. The salt water lake with the clearest and bluest water I have ever seen in my life......

and the sand dunes in the Nubra Valley... a surreal sight in the mountains at that altitude...

26 May 2008

First Ever All-English Champions League Final - 21st May 2008

Manchester United had played 2 European Cup finals and won both... a good omen, for sure.
The night before the final.... I couldnt sleep because of sheer nerves (as if I was going to be playing). Its just that I follow Manchester United all year long, year after year, looking forward to the possibility of such a final. When it comes around, I want to hold on to the moment.

So I couldnt sleep and kept thinking... what if we won, what if.... how would it feel, what would it be like... how would I celebrate. So I decided that if we do win, I would have a party at home to celebrate with all my friends (a bit over the top, i admit, but what the hell!)... photos of the party in slideshow in left margin

I found it almost impossible to work all day because of the nerves, settled down to watch the game and realised for the first time (!) that it would be excruciating to lose to Chelsea in such a final. I hate the Chelsea blues.

Ronaldo scored and my reaction was a mix of elation and caution - hold boys, dont concede immediately. keep calm. United kept attacking as only United do... 3, 4, 5 guilt-edged chances... we were playing them off the park and should have put the game away!!

Unfortunately they did equalise just before half time and the game turned a bit... United hung on and it went through to Extra Time into the dreaded penalty shoot-out... Now it was a lottery, a lottery we HAD TO WIN.

Tevez, Ballack, Carrick, Belletti all score
The last person you expected to miss was Cristiano Ronaldo, but he did.
Lampard scores to put Chelsea ahead....... Hargreaves, Cole and Nani score too.......
Up steps John Terry.... I'm sure its all over, cant bear to watch, in fact I DONT watch the penalty..... I only hear that he's missed..... YES!
Anderson and Kalou take care of the first two
Up stepped, Ryan Giggs.. record 759th appearance for the club.. the most decorated footballer in the history of the sport. Coolly scores in the bottom right corner.

And then the magic moment... Anelka vs Van Der Sar.... VAN DER SAVES IT.....

European Champions again!!!!