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Friday, July 15, 2011

Sir, Are you kidding me?

I was in "Maximum City" Mumbai just a week before. I recall a conversation with a cabbie who gave vent to his frustration mentioning " Saab, these politicians have no conscience. Wait and see there will be another blast and this time around it will just be a replay of the previous attacks"

He was so right.

On July 13, 2011, three separate blasts ripped across South Mumbai killing 18 people and injuring over a 150 innocent Mumbaikars.

Television channels went on overdrive trying to decipher, yet again, their coverage all too familiar, the questions all to known. I spoke to one of the leading TV anchors here and asked was it different this this terror strike. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

I really can't fault the media here. There are some excellent reporters in this country, but one witness beat all of then to it. He said what they could not mention.

He called for the heads of the Home Minister Chidambaram and RR Patil the Mumbai minister. If our elected government cannot give us the basic security, then they should go. This man was right. His frustration emanated from the fact that Mumbai has been the target for repeated terrorist attacks. A record of sorts as no city in the world has been hit three times.

However, blaming the security apparatus solely or the establishment is perhaps a little too harsh. No security in the world can prevent a terrorist strike. People cite the example of New York, where after 9/11 no attack has taken place, though several attempts were made and the culprits nabbed. The "what If" factor however, cannot be discounted.

What is dangerous is that the home minister went on record stating that there was no intelligence at all. So the question goes begging

" Sir, Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


After 10 harrowing months and living constantly staring at the barrel of a gun, 11 Indian sailors were finally released. The ransom paid $ 2.1 million.

Of late Somali pirates have practically held the high seas hostage as one ship after another is hijacked. One such incident, which involved an American citizen, a few months back ended in the American forces mounting a quick operation, rescuing the hostage and shooting dead the pirates. But that is expected of the Superpower.

Living abroad has made me into a proud Indian. However, when incidents like this happens, I cannot but help wonder why the diplomats churn out media savvy quotes like "India is a rising superpower."

Well a superpower, rising or not, does not conduct itself in a manner which acts like a dormant volcano waiting for the plates to shift for it to erupt. In the case of our politicians the "political will" is just not there.

Joint exercises are routinely organized by Indian Naval and US forces in different parts of the world. India's Navy has the expertise and the technology to mount an operation in the high seas to rescue its citizens, yet politicians cringe and the very thought of mounting such an operation.

Sources in the diplomatic community have confirmed to me that the US government had given the go ahead to India and also assured that the US Navy would be glad to assist.

Yet the Indian government chose in their own "wisdom" not to act. India's policy is not to negotiate with terrorists, yet it fails to to use the necessary force to counter such incidents.

Yet, ransom was paid by a Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney, to secure the release of our sailors.

In my opinion, though Burney meant well and succeeded in saving the lives of our sailors, a dangerous precedence has been set.

The Somali pirates will strike and strike again. The Indian sailors who have been released must be debriefed by Indian authorities and then intelligence must be gathered to strike deep into the hideouts of the pirates


Thursday, June 09, 2011

M F Hussain- RIP

I had an opportunity to meet this Picasso of India at a friends home in Maryland, a couple of years back. I found him to be very humble and sharp. During the course of our conversation he expressed regret that his own countrymen were treating him like a pariah. "I love my country, but people here do not understand that an artist has certain liberties and means no disrespect to any individual or religion."

Hussain Saab...Rest in Peace.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Spiritual Guru or "Oppotunistic Politics"

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!

Creepers! Jeepers! What a Sunday to be in India. Television channels played, replayed, played and then yet again replayed footage of "Baba" Ramdev's unceremonious eviction from the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi. Police swooped in the wee hours of the morning with a clear "order from the top" to clear the entire grounds of Ramdev's supporters.

I knew that this was coming. I remember interviewing the Baba at the National Harbor near Washington DC where he was invited to a convention organized by  The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin,

I began by asking him that he was  a regular visitor to the US and what was it that he had to say, this time around. He looked  at the crowd around us as if to hint that what he was going to state on record should be greeted with  thunderous applause. 

Devasish ji, he began "Mera yahi sangursh rahega ki main Bharat ka jo kala dhan hai bidesho main, main uske ke liye aandolan shuru karoonga" (I will start a movement to ensure that all the money stashed away abroad should be brought back to India.)

I paused for a moment and then blurted out. "Baba , you are sounding more like a politician than a spiritual Guru." I sensed a brief spurt of anger, quickly replaced by a wry smile as he said, "if politicians fail then I will have to step in." The chairman of my television station who is an avid Baba follower looked away reminding me of Richard Burton who looked away, grimacing with a cup and saucer on his head when Audrey Hepburn shouts "Move your bloomin arse" at the races. For the record my Chairman never interfered in editorial matters and the interview was broadcast without edits.

So when the Baba announced his fast unto death, I was not surprised, only amused. Like a news junkie, I was glued to the television set occasionally flipping channels to watch the unprecedented Satygraha unfold live.

I must admit that I am no fan of the Baba. He has his own private jet, an island in Scotland, a helicopter, a fleet of cars, owns a television channel and tickets his Yoga classes. The Baba has a following in lakhs and according to him all these goodies have been donated by them.

The early morning crackdown on Sunday was unjustified and unwarranted. Before resorting to firing tear gas shells and lathi charging the sleeping devotees, an announcement should have been over the PA system that Sec 144 had been enforced and that all present would have to leave within 30 minutes. Instead, the Delhi police chose confrontation. Not acceptable in a democratic country.

But again, the government's claim is that they had "credible intelligence" that there was a threat to Ramdev's life, hence the action.
This is being taken with a pinch of salt by the opposition which asserts that Ramdev's movement was a threat to a government which is going soft on corruption.

So now, we have the likes of Shusma Swaraj, Advani , Joshi and all BJP bigwigs going on a token one day fast at Raajghat and the fallout of the government action is that now India has an united opposition.

In another bizarre development Ramdev's right hand man Acharya Balkrishna who had earlier signed a deal with the government on the Baba's behalf has suddenly gone missing. Reports say that he is a criminal from Nepal and had obtained an Indian passport by dubious means.

Now the political bickering starts in a country seeped in corruption..but with a growing economy. India, now can ill afford to get distracted by a Baba and the government should pull up it socks and govern...and govern well.

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Diplomatic Immunity be Damned

She pleaded her innocence. She begged them and finally tried to assert herself by demanding Diplomatic immunity.

The New York police brushed aside her pleas, assertions and promptly handcuffed her, paraded her to the waiting police cruiser and whisked her away to jail.

The accused Kritika Biswas
He alleged crime: Cyber Bullying
The devils in disguise: NYPD

This incident took place in February, 2011 and the media got whiff of it only in May. This innocent 18 year old girl, daughter of the Indian Vice Consul at the New York Consulate  had in inadvertently committed an innocent crime. She was a girl of color.
Reports suggest that she was allegedly targeted by  teachers and principal as she was not white.

 It was yet another case of racism compounded with the misery Kritika had to go through. She was shoved into a jail with prostitutes, forced to urinate in front of fellow prisoners and asked to drink water from a fountain full of vomit.

Her very articulate and passionate lawyer, Ravi Batra demanded that Mayor Bloomberg present this 18 year old girl the key to the city of New York. What the lawyer should have first demanded was an unconditional apology from the NYPD and Bloomberg. Suing the city for a paltry  $ 1.5 million is like feeding a shrimp to a killer whale.

My good friend Prabhu Dayal, the head of the consulate in New York is an outstanding diplomat, but he should not be arm twisted by his senior colleague in Washington DC to step softly, lest it creates a diplomatic row between India and the US.

Now I hear Ravi Batra has approached Hillary Clinton to intervene. Please Mr. Batra, the Americans won't concentrate on winning...  only winning her the $ 1.5 million in damages and so that you care..please don't take a cut.

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Buck Stops with the Prime Minister

Of late, the UPA government in India has been rocked by one scam after another raising questions about corruption in an administration led by the most honest chief, Dr,. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India.

As the media went about its business, as it should do uncovering one scam after another, the minister of state for Telecom, A Raja was finally arrested. Raja who belongs to the DMK party a key coalition partner of the administration was interrogated by sleuths of the FBI and till date is still in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Raja was charged for allegedly manipulating the laws and regulations of 2 G spectrum. "Based on the facts disclosed so far during the investigations regarding their role in allocation of letter of intent and resultant unified access services licenses and spectrum to certain companies ahead of others, the CBI has today arrested the then telecom minister, the then telecom secretary, the then private secretary to the minister,"the CBI said issuing  a statement after his arrest.

The question raised incessantly by the media and the ever opportunistic opposition was "Why had the PM kept silent on this issue." 
The Prime Minister decided that enough was enough and today went live on television answering questions from editors of leading television channels.

Dr. Singh immediately clarified and said in not so many words that he was misled by Raja. 

"I wrote a letter to Raja on Nov 2, 2007. I listed a number of issues that you must look into and ensure they are dealt  in an equitable, fair and transparent manner. One of the issues that I asked him to look into was the possibility from the legal and technical angle of having an auction of spectrum," he told a gathering of television editors in an extensive media interaction covering all burning issues facing the country.

"He wrote back to me on the same day saying I had been absolutely transparent in dealings I will be so in the future and you have my assurance that I have done nothing and I will do nothing that will be consistent to the promise that I have made to you," Manmohan Singh stated.

Here is where Dr. Singh played dumb.  
to be continued

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tariq and Michael Salahi talk to me

Tariq and Michael Salahi (the infamous White House Gate Crashers) talk to me

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!

The Story of an Afghan Woman

This is the story of Maryam Khail who was emotionally, sexually and physically abused. Born to a violent man who took sadistic pleasure in raping her repeatedly and abused her constantly, Maryam divorced him. Her misery did not end there.

I try and find out in an exclusive interview with Maryam how she had the courage to stand tall in a male dominated society. Here is the link

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Disaster Strikes Kolkata

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!

Disaster Strikes Kolkata.

I had arrived only a day earlier in Kolkata…January 6, 2011. The next day my friend Arijit Dutta, a film exhibitor invited me to a premiere of a Bengali film “Bedeni”. I arrived a little early to catch up with my friend. As we started chatting, we were interrupted by one of his employees who shouted “Gooli Choleche” (there was firing). My friend immediately switched on the TV and there it was….The all too familiar caption “Breaking News.”  

Eight people had been shot dead in Lalgarh in cold blood. Lalgarh literally mean the “Red Bastion” which infers to the bastion of Marxists. In this case as we came to know later, that CPI (M) cadres had opened fire on a crowd who had assembled outside the local leader’s house protesting against demands made by Marxist armed cadre that they volunteer for night patrols and arms training, The fallout was a complete massacre as the cadres allegedly fired indiscriminately into the crowd killing eight villagers including one woman.

The Left front coalition which has ruled West Bengal for more than 4 decades was pushed to the corner. It is no secret that this coalition’s days are numbered. The Left front’s arch rival and challenger Mamta Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress and the present Railways Minister is rapidly gaining ground and in all probability will be the next Chief Minister of West Bengal. It is not that she is any better. Some are skeptical of her administrative capabilities and are afraid that more violence will follow if she is elected. Let us just say she is the “best of the worst.”
In this case, Banerjee showed immense political maturity in not calling a “bandh”. Instead she decided to go straight to Lalgarh to comfort the bereaved families and then led a silent March.
If Banerjee showed maturity, the media did not. Impromptu panel discussions were arranged which saw one political leader shouting at another, while the moderator superbly played “Narad” (mischief maker.
There is a sense of uneasy calm in Kolkata now..the question is how long will it last and at what cost to my fellow Kolkattans.

Next: Is Kolkata progressing

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kolkata: Don't Breathe- Part 1

Subhash Ghai presents NOUKADUBI, the most awaited film of the year. Watch it on Databazaar Media !!

By any standards, Kolkata still stands tall amongst its more prosperous peers like Mumbai, Chennai or Delhi.
But that’s just what it does. 

Stands Tall.

I returned to Kolkata in the wee hours of a January winter morning after a span of 12 years. I quickly passed through immigration and trudged wearily to baggage claim and waited for the conveyor belt to roll out my luggage. 

To my utter shock and surprise ..what I witnessed next got rid of my jet lag in a jiffy. A majestic cat entered through the luggage shoot and onto the conveyor belt, its movement deliberate, its eyes slit being woken up from its slumber. I stood dumbfounded as this cat walked by me and then suddenly yelped and jumped a few feet into the air as the conveyor belt started moving. I am sure I heard a giggle from the little girl who was nestled in her mother’s arm. I looked to my right and saw a fellow American passenger dismiss the incident with a raised eyebrow and the typical “American Shrug.”

I breezed through customs and the car which my office had sent drove me to the hotel in Salt Lake the IT hub of Kolkata. No complaints about the hotel. Well managed, courteous staff and great food. The Indismart hotel affiliated with Indian Institute of Hotel Management. I would definitely recommend it.

Weary from my 20 hour flight, I fell asleep almost immediately and then was instantly woken up rudely by one of the loudest noises I had heard in 12 years. The piercing blast of an air-horn (I thought they were banned) of a bus. As I nearly fell off my bed..Realization dawned on me …..I was home.
As the pace slowly picked up on the streets outside my hotel, I could hear the loud chatter making its way through the windows of my hotel room. Adjacent to the hotel, the giant cement mixer started whirling loudly, laborers with metal baskets on their heads waited in turn for the cement mixer as if they were in line for a hot bowl of soup in a community kitchen.
A quick shower followed with a sumptuous Puri Bhaji breakfast and I was off to explore the new Kolkata.
The Infinity twin towers stood tall as I walked up the steps to my office. After a quick hello, I decided to step away and explore my home town a bit. I hailed a cab and decided to visit my cousin in Alipore. Surely I could direct the cabby to the location. I was mistaken. Kolkata has changed. There is construction everywhere. Buildings, overpasses, traffic, traffic and then some more. The Eastern Metropolitan bypass which usually used to be a haven for speedsters was a mess. The middle of the highway is being converted and dug up for the metro and the two lanes on either side were bumper to bumper traffic.

There were clearly two lanes, but my cabby preferred to hog both lanes by driving in the middle. Busses whizzed past either side of my cab making me wince at the thought of an impending collision. My cabby ignored my discomfort and went on honking as he negotiated the traffic like a man possessed. The dust was all over. My hands were by now like sandpaper; my mouth was dry as I realized that I was actually breathing in the dust filled air. I could not even take a deep breath to calm myself down. The trees were covered in layers of dust, the green color replaced by a filthy color akin to mold which one sees in a restroom in America.

I wanted to shout out…Kolkata How do you breathe?

Next: Disaster Strikes Kolkata

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