an "a to z" of thoughts, conversations, remarks, observations,musings about

Monday, January 30, 2006

March 20th - the day of the armageddon?

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

- James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

March 20th is the national day of Iran. On that day they will start a bourse. An exchange where oil will be bought and sold. And it will be the first place where you can trade in oil, without having to use dollars. You can use euros.

Saddam tried something like this...and now he is paying for his impertinence. Now its the turn of Ahmedinejad and Iran. The US military machine is gearing up for the final challenge...the condi rices and rumsfelds of the world are trotting all over the globe telling scary stories about how iran is going to make a nuclear bomb and blow up the planet and the chinese and russians are pondering hard, whether they will be forced to take sides..... this is going to be interesting.

Friday, January 27, 2006

wedding card ...

a friend of mine made this...kinda neat isnt it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

my friend from syria

today i was suddenly reminded of an old friend who was in college with me. I was watching CNN and schwarzenegger was on screen soon after a story on israel. That reminded me of a cold night in a friends hostel room. " I dont like Schwarzenegger, I dont watch any of his movies." my friend had stated emphatically. This was rather curious, because Mohammed Yaqub Agha,usually was never moved to such emotion. He was a quiet man, devoted to preserving his peace of mind and body. He rarely bothered to rouse himself to be passionate about anything. Teachers tried in vain to evoke some response, his friends could never drag him to the playing fields and his parents no doubt tried in vain to get him to hurry up and finish his studies and come home.

He was from Syria, and looked like a syrian. A slightly overweight one, but unmistakably from west asia. "Why dont you like Schwarzenegger?", I asked mystified. "Because he is a jew" replied Agha. And then in vain did I try all lines of arguement. That Schwarzenegger wasnt a jew. That even if he was, how did it matter. And even if it mattered, why couldnt u watch his movies. At the end of it all, Agha was unmoved. He just didnt like Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger was jewish, the jews were israelis and he hated israelis. That was his position and that was what it stayed.

But now, thinking about it, I remember Agha and somehow feel he knew a great deal more than I did about this whole matter. After all he had grown up in Syria. Some of the issues were familiar to him. And now, when the voices will clamor for Syria to be bombed, I think, Schwarzenegger's voice will be there too. I guess, if that happens, Agha will be glad that he never watched a Schwarzenegger movie.

Agha was someone who was too clever for his own good. His scholarship enabled him to live a life of luxury in India. If he finished his studies fast, this comfortable period would end, and so Agha resolved to prolong his studies. The funny part about studies is, that you can prolong them by not doing them. Agha became very good at not studying. Generations of scholars graduated from our college having eaten dates in Agha's room. Agha stayed on and gradually the inertia took over. Having become such and expert in not studying, it was tough to shake off the habit. However, with curses and moan, squeals for help, manic scrambles for examination aids, he did manage and last heard is a big shot manager somewhere in Syria.

He had told me his versions of the stories I knew from my westernized education. He had told me about Palestine, Mecca, Jerusalem, Damascus, Riyadh, Dubai and Egypt. His versions were mostly like pamphlet literature. Very sure of themselves, very little scope for discussion, very definite in their opinions and facts. A take-it-or-leave-it version of history.

There was one question which I felt was at the heart of all this. Tell me, he asked once, how come the jews who were persecuted by the christians, and the christians who were persecuted by the jews, now get together to fight the muslims? Thinking of an answer to that one always made my head ache, and i would take the conversation off into different paths. Its a funny question, but I can understand the bewilderment the arabs must feel. The only answer that kind of fits the situation is that its all for the oil. Its so banal at the end of it all. Better to change the topic.

Agha would then tell me of the holy Quran. He would tell me stories from it. He told of the day of Armageddon and how its described in the holy book. The imagery is vivid. There is a great war..and after it, the fastest strongest eagle in the world would fly for seven days and seven nights and yet wouldnt be able to come to the end of the smouldering, decaying battlefield. He spoke of it as matter of fact. When I suggested it was just a story, he didnt agree. He said the Christians believed this too, and so did the Jews. The battle of Armageddon, he pronounced it Harmajdoon, was part of the beliefs of all these religions.

It is fascinating somehow. Three religions, all originating in that small piece of land. All with jerusalem as their holy city. All locked into a terrible struggle with each other. All believing in Harmajdoon. Whew.... that explains a lot. So much blood has flown in this terrible struggle. And my lazy friend's only protest against all this was that he wouldnt watch Schwarzenegger movies. May his tribe increase.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

the cold was the last straw

its a cold day here in the north of India at this time, temperatures hover around freezing point.....the cold winds blow down from the mountains and make things distinctly uncomfortable.

Last night, the guard at our office was telling me about the labour problem here. How the migrant labour from impoverished parts of india is flooding into Delhi and driving labour rates down. The government approved rate for a monthly wage for a labourer in Gurgaon is 2400 rupees. Thats about 50 dollars a month. Now this labourer has come here seeking work, so he can pull his family back home out of starvation. So saving money is a priority for him. Companies here, do not directly employ labour, but rather operate through private contractors.

These contractors, typically pay a labourer about 1500 rupees a month, about $30. The rest of the money stays with them as their profit margin. Its fair, I guess, since they too are in business, and need to make their money. In gurgaon, there are small villages on the outskirts where residents have built rooms. These rooms are about 8 to 10 feet long and wide with a window and door. There is no central heating or electricity apart from a fan and electric bulb. The doors do not fit snugly, the walls are damp, sunlight is rarely seen, air comes in through spaces between the roof and wall. In almost freezing temperatures, with a west wind blowing down as if straight from Afghanistan, this is not so much a room, as a cardboard box. And that too one with holes.

There is a common bathroom and lavatory which is shared by a row of rooms. The same landlord usually also has a grocery shop somewhere nearby. Migrant labour rents these rooms. If you rent a room with an asbestos roof, its 1000 rupees a month, if with a concrete roof its 1200 - 1500 rupees a month. Usually 2-3 labourers share a room. So out of the 1500 they get, they first pay off about 400 rupees as rent. They buy groceries and necessities from the grocery shop on credit and settle when they get their pay. So after paying the rent, they pay the storekeeper. By this time they are pretty much left with nothing. Then comes the task of surviving till the next paycheque. Also some money has to be sent home.

In such a situation, with sometimes the labourers not getting work everyday, things get pretty grim. There isnt much margin for error. An illness, a little indulgence, a theft of a bicycle, the wearing out of shoes or clothes ...all can throw your monthly budget out of balance. Things keep running solely on the amount of overtime pay you can get.

So considering this background, the story the guard told me was not unexpected or unusual. But it is a story, and a short one.

A daily labourer, from Bihar, worked the morning shift in his job. Then he worked the evening shift. He came back to his room at 2 am. Went to sleep. Never got up.

Turns out he didnt have a blanket.

Probably thought of buying one in november, but then that would cost him 300 rupees. So thought, will do it in December, when its colder. Till then lets manage with a couple of old bedsheets. And when it got very cold, it was the end of the month...and so on and so forth. Probably wasnt eating very well too, if u work 16 hours a day, money must be tight. And eating costs money. Since they buy groceries on credit, they usually are overcharged and cheated in terms of quality and weight of goods purchased.

Anyways, our brave little soul, one of the countless migrants to delhi, met a cold end. He didnt have a blanket.

He was a few miles away from my house....but he could have been in another world.

________ - X - X - ______________

an article about the cold and homeless in delhi

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Iran, the WTO and other topics of discussion.


What is your reaction to India's joining with the US/Euro side at Hong kong?
Also on the vote on Iran.


1. Oil is going to run out.
2. Energy is critical to development.
3. After oil runs out, what use is Iran to us?
4. Even if oil doesnt run out....its a big motherf*** drain on the economy.
4. After oil runs out, the US will surely think of something.
5. We need to piggyback onto that effort.
6. We have lots of plutonium or uranium or something like that reserves.
7. If they help us harness this resource effectively...this combined with our big dams and wind and solar energy and bio diesel can help us get by without oil.
8. Do we need cutting edge technology more or do we need oil more.
9. Ok we need cutting edge technology to enable us to make us energy self sufficient.
10.Please open up everything to us O America the center of scientific that Russian technology has been shown to be clunkier and looking increasingly vulnerable.
11. All our best minds are writing inventory management programs for lingerie stores in America.
12. There is no research worth its name in our so called institutes of technology....the best guys come out of there and head straight to MIT etc.
13. If we got access freely to all the research n stuff and became parthers of america . that would be our best bet for the future.
14. Why dont we homegrow our research...... yeah right.... and india is a glorious and vibrant nation and we can develop everything from scratch. When we do get something a rocket for instance...its such a miracle...we make that man the president.
15. Ok ..tell us what u want from us to give us the technology and a promise that you will take us along with you into the oil-less future.

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