A War Wound


A man on a wheelchair, no half a man really- he had no legs. His wife stood beside him at the Domestic Airport in Washington.

The woman wore a tee that read thus “Army-Wife”, the man wore a shirt that said ” We were winning when I left”.

Photo Credit: Luciana  Braga.

The chap must have been younger than I am, and I am only twenty three. I am speechless.

De-Stress(ed)


I’ve had a long and tiring three months across all fronts- personal, work-wise and so. Music has always helped me calm down, last night with a impending forty page document I took to reading music. I read one of my favourite songs after ages- The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. It goes thus;

I am just a poor boy, though my story is seldom told.
I have squandered my resistance,
For a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises.
All lies and jest.
Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy,
In the company of strangers,
In the quiet of the railway station, runnin’ scared.
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters,
Where the ragged people go.
Lookin’ for the places, only they would know.

Asking only workman’s wages I come lookin’ for a job,
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue.
I do declare there were times when I was so lonesome,
I took some comfort there.
And I’m laying out my winter clothes, and wishing I was gone, goin’ home
Where the new york city winters aren’t bleedin’ me, leadin’ me goin’ home.

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains, still remains.

….

Here’s what I thought. The Boxer is whoever and whatever you want it to be, your story and mine is the journey we make of it. I also thought of peace and justice and the value of going on. I’m now writing page 30.

V

Jesus Among the Neocons


            Had Jesus, the Shepherd of  sheperds,

            been a bodily traveler among us

            today, he might not have been able

            to ride any plane, or cruiser,  or bus

            into the United States,

            or to conquer any of its many hates.

            What with his Asiatic visage

            and sable skin,

            compounded by his Bin Laden beard,

            he would have had to dare

            more than the fates.

            Supposing he had entered the place,

            aided by some technical subterfuge,

            would he have recognized the New World

            as love’s haven, or christian refuge?

            The born-again, beefy giant

            at the check-point tray

            might have slapped the cuffs

            on him even as he made his pliant

            in unintelligible Aramaic huffs;

            and no sooner than you think

            he might have landed in Guantanamo Bay.

            Once  secured there, O Jesus,

            answer me this:

            would you have pleaded anew

            ‘father, forgive them; 

            they know not what they do?’

            Or, would you, more realistically,

            (as Luke has you say) express

            your wrench and anguish thus:

            ‘father, why hast thou forsaken me’

            in a glittering, golden wilderness

            from whence the reigning evil one

            decrees to demonise Creation

            with dirty uranium and white phosphorus?

___________________________________________

Easter thoughts in a lovely poem, forwarded to me by e-mail.

Subculture


The Kimveer Gill story is grim and not uncommon at all. It also doesn’t make the best breakfast reading on a thursday morning. The Dawson College shooting is old news now, septemer 13th is long gone. It is important though to dwell on Kimveer’s story for a wee bit longer.

Kimveer lived off the net, his blog here has pictures of him with arms. ‘The angel of Death’ as Kimveer liked calling himself, had found a safe place to talk, be anonymous and brag too at the same time. A sort of dark exhibitionism– a violent subculture growing unbidden and fast.

Way back in school, a teacher of mine had told us about subcultures. He said subcultures were a manifestation of human insecurity, a sort of herding– a coming together of a group that follows distinctively different patterns of social behavior and personal beliefs. True enough. Subcultures of course are not necessarily counter-productive or dark. Cult music through the ages is a form of subculture for example, as is Demoscene and Otaku for that matter.

Sometimes though it is necessary to define what kind of subculture you wish to be a part of, are you a rebel for a cause or a rebel because being a rebel makes you fit in with a particular subculture you or I consider cool. In Kimveer’s case, subcultures are confusing. While every age in history arguably has had niche subcultures– 2000 wards the Internet seems to have replaced the need for subculture as something that fulfilled the need for company. It is peculiar in that it provides viewership without compromising on anonymity. And unlike other subcultures– in its darkest and murkiest corners it is without rules. There is no one to watch out for you.

Interestingly the potential willingness to resort to violence in a variety of situations emphasizes this sort of chaos. But then, as Wolfgang said there is hope as long as the degree and extent to which an individual resorts to violence in response to provocation is dependent upon the degree to which he has adopted the cultural values associated with violence. The real challenge then is how does one embark upon a culture of peace? How does one pass on the idea that arms are not necessarily symbols of power, manhood or strength?

Alice in Nuclear Blunderland


Read this article at the greenpeace website. It is absolutely brilliant. Reproduced below in case you’re to lazy to click:

*********************************************

Vienna, Austria — Editor’s note: In preparing this article about the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, we read the news stories from all of the most reputable sources, we read the reports from all of the best institutions, we read the statements from all of the governments and agencies, but nowhere could we find a reasonable, rational, or plausible explanation of what was happening. We decided the only answer was the absurd.

Ever since Alice had slipped down the Rabbit Hole, the news had been getting curiouser and curiouser. She found herself at a very large table where the March Hare, a dormouse, a hippopotamus, and the Mad Hatter were having tea.

The Hatter was telling a story about how George W. TweedleDum had just got back from a trip to India, where he was promising to give away shiny new nuclear technology. At the same time, TweedleDee had been getting very red-faced at the United Nations about some shiny new nuclear technology in Iran that he wanted taken away. He broke off his story to wave an empty teapot at Alice.

“Would you like less tea, my dear?”

“Don’t you mean more tea?” asked Alice politely.

“No no no no. We don’t have any “more tea” we only have “less tea.” And it’s very rude to ask for what we don’t have. Now, would you like some more Peaceful Nuclear Technology and Less Nuclear Weapons to go with that?”

“Umm, yes please” said Alice, thinking this must be the correct answer and not wanting to upset the Hatter again.

“There you go again, asking for what we can’t possibly give you!” cried the Hatter, springing to his feet.

“How about some safe, clean nuclear power instead?” offered the dormouse helpfully.

“That sounds quite nice, I suppose,” said Alice with some hesitation.

“Wrong answer! No such thing!” the Hatter shouted with glee, politely adding “One lump or two?”

Alice was quite put out. “Isn’t it rude to offer something you don’t have?” asked Alice. “And even ruder to offer something that doesn’t exist? What kind of a tea party is this?”

“Why this is an IAEA Board of Governors meeting, my dear, and we’re having an NP Tea Party!” said the March Hare, glancing nervously at a very large watch which was chiming the hour by barking loudly.

“An NP Tea Party? What’s that?”

“It’s all very simple,” said the Hatter as he handed out slices of cake and then went around smacking everyone’s hand when they started eating it, “the NPT is a treaty in which the parties that have nuclear weapons agree to get rid of their nuclear weapons in exchange for the parties that don’t have nuclear weapons promising not to get nuclear weapons. As part of the incentive for not getting nuclear weapons they’re rewarded with the means to make nuclear weapons. Slice of Cake?”

Alice eyed the yellow cake suspiciously. She heard a distant voice shouting “Off with their heads!”

“Now, at the moment we’re discussing the case of Iran, which has signed the treaty and promised not to build nuclear weapons and so has been rewarded with the means to make nuclear weapons. But there are some people at this party who think that they’re actually using those means to make nuclear weapons as a means to make nuclear weapons.”

“Which they’ve said they don’t want…” said Alice.

“Oh yes, but as you of all people should know, my dear, saying what we mean isn’t always the same as meaning what we say. Saying that they aren’t making nuclear weapons is just what you’d expect them to do if they were making nuclear weapons. Proof enough.”

The Hatter took a slice of cake and pushed it into the face of the Hippo, who already had his mouth full. “You shouldn’t eat so much cake,” he sputtered.

George W. TweedleDum suddenly appeared. “Personically, I’d like to see less nuclear weapons in the world. Which is why I’m building more.”

“THAT’s the spirit!” cried the Hatter.

“But I don’t understand!” cried Alice. “If you can use nuclear power technology to make nuclear weapons, and you want to get rid of the nuclear weapons, shouldn’t you stop handing out the nuclear power technology?”

George W. TweedleDum patted Alice on the head. “You are an absurd little creature, aren’t you? Hatter, why don’t you explanify the Treaty thing?”

“The TREATY thing, yes yes, mustn’t forget that!” cried the Hatter as he absent-mindedly dipped the dormouse in his tea.

“Now you see on the one hand, Iran has signed the Non-treaty on Weapons Proliferation, and the Treaty on the Proliferation of Non-weapons Nuclear, and the Proliferation of Treaties on the Proliferation of Weapons, Non…”

“Which are all the same thing,” said the dormouse, yawning.

“So if THEY try to get nuclear weapons, that’s quite illegal and we must send them to the Queen of Hearts’ Security Council for punishment.”

“India, on the other hand,” said the Hatter holding up a second hand and dropping the teapot on the dormouse’s head, “has never signed the treaty, so their nuclear weapons are perfectly OK and they should be rewarded with more nuclear technology.”

“Pakistan, on the third hand,” and oddly the Hatter actually produce a third hand at this point, ” has never signed the treaty, but we’re not so sure about them, so we’re NOT going to reward them with more nuclear technology.”

George W. TweedleDum smiled broadly. “The lessonification here is never, never sign a treaty. That’s my motto. Lot of bother. I promise to keep my nuclear weapons and everybody else has to get rid of theirs unless I say they can keep them. That’s my kind of Treaty. I believe in maintaining high standards. I believe in maintaining high standards.”

“You said that twice.” said the Hatter.

“He has to say it twice,” said the dormouse. “It’s a double standard.”

The Hatter now declared it was time for a vote. “Now, who thinks we should send Iran to the Queen of Hearts? (“Off with their heads! came the cry from the garden next door again…) Everyone looked at the Hippo. The hippo started to raise his foot, and everyone in the party started to raise their hands. Or paws. Then the hippo put his foot down, and everyone in the party did the same. Then George W. TweedleDum took a large hatpin and quietly stuck it into the rather large backside of the Hippo, who jumped into the air with his foot raised, and everyone in the party followed suit.”

“There then, it’s settled, off to the Queen of Hearts with them!” sang the Hatter.

“Is that what you call democracy?” asked Alice curiously.

“Well it looks like democracy, but in reality the Hippo decides, and the Hippo just does what TweedleDum tells him to do” said the Hatter.

“Oh. I see,” said Alice. “I suppose then it’s not really a democracy at all, is it?”

“Well it’s just a very different kind of democracy, my dear. Some people call it a Hippocracy. Cake?”

Pakistan Diaries II


I spent most of the morning stuffing clothes, socks and bunches of paper on Belgium’s free trade status in to my suitcase. Somewhere mid-way I also washed clothes, dried them and yelled at the maid. Later that afternoon I took an auto to meet my co-delegates to Pakistan. We stuffed ourselves in a blue Indica– one on top of the other and arrived at the airport ten minutes past scheduled check-in.

 

Going to Pakistan is pretty exciting. Customs officials scrutinizing baggage, the millions of stamps… Except that when you get to Lahore you feel like the overdone ‘International Experience’ was well just to another part of India. Exactly fifty minutes after we boarded the flight, captain announced our arrival to Lahore. So we landed. Then there were several lines to stand in and broad smiles at the airport from officials who were extremely nice to us. The airport was warm, but the flight had been cold so we all rushed to the loo. 🙂

We were then bundled into a rather rickety bus, by the people who came to receive us. Lahore from the Bus at about nine in the night is well… Like Delhi. Or at least the good parts. Wide roads, lights, huge billboards; but I must admit with a definitive intellectual air to it. We arrived at Lahore University of Management Sciences. The campus is like three IITs put together. Its beautiful. The infrastructure is devastating to a Delhi University student. Three computer Labs with at least a hundred working computers each! 😀 Dinner was yumm…! Chicken et al…

We spent most of the evening wandering through campus freezing our butts off… But it was fun. The came the not-so-pleasant bit when we sat up and wrote our papers for the conference in the LUMS library (which, by the way is huge and has a cartloads of amazing journals on just about everything– bound in red leather with gold lettering) and the computer labs till the wee hours of the morning.

That’s how yesterday melted into today.

Pakistan Diaries I


Ok… So the title is a tad premature. I couldn’t resist it. Really. What is this about? It’s about a long awaited and much dreamt about trip to Pakistan coming true. Tomorrow evening at six I take a flight to Lahore to return after a good ten days later. Why am I excited? There is all the obvious stuff- I’m going there for a Debate of sorts, its a new country and such. Most importantly I get to see Pakistan. The much discussed, much abused and much questioned nation of people who a large majority of Indians hate for what they think is good reason. I had stopped feeling this way about traveling– in fact train trips were becoming more and more of a painful exercise in recent times. Not so this time. Aside of the fact that I’m going to fly this time around– the forgotten feeling of new sights, smells and adventure is invading my mind.Getting this trip together has been a disaster. What with our Visas not coming through until today evening, flights getting booked and then getting cancelled and having to scrounge for money and sponsorship. All well now though. So I’m off now…. Have much to do including four position papers to write. GRIMACE!

Posts over the next week shall be few and far between and will largely be about my trip. 😀

Delhi Bombs and Love


This happened. People have died. There aren’t too many ways to understand this, and either way you look at it its despicable. I went to Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini a day after the blasts. Both had excellent security (something that surprised me and pleased me as well), there wasn’t quite as much colour as one expects before Diwali, but the city is remarkably resilient. There are several reasons I dislike Delhi, one of then was a recent incident.While Delhi is a hard place both to live in and to be a stranger too, Delhi has its magical parts. Like being able to buy Salman Rushdie for eighty rupees, getting the most gorgeous Mehendi of your life that you wish would never fade, tastes and smells and sounds that speak of a great deal of colour and zest for life. Delhi’s with all its history and almost everything that one looks for. Music, theatre, museums, bargains and sometimes a rare coming together of people.Only a couple of days post a horrible accident, I am proud of Delhi again. I saw empathy. Its almost wonderful to see how auto drivers and car owners alike rushed to help the bomb victims. A friend of mine who volunteered along with me to donate blood were all smiles back from the donation camp– no it wasn’t the light headed feeling, just the happiness at seeing collective effort and action at so public and collective a tragedy.

Every city has its parts some good, some bad. Some ugly and some memorably beautiful. Its hard to believe that this is the same city where rapes are as commonplace as Saturday night parties. It is. It is Delhi. It is alive and capable of love.

Subliminal Messages



Lately I’ve been depressed, to help my mood get better I ventured out for the first time in a long while. I went to a rock show. The local rock show at the local collegiate fest. It was good, loud death metal that I could lose myself in till a band that called itself (Ironically) ‘Brahma’ (the creator, in Hinduism, the faith of the vast majority of India) came on stage. There was nothing wrong with the music, as a matter of fact they were till that point the best of the lot. Post three songs the main singer said this:

“… And this song is for that little country next to ours, Pakistan, and its people…. its called “Let’s bomb our neighbours”…”

I was shocked out of my wits, why? Because this is how much fascism and fundamentalism has pervaded the everyday consciousness of people. The musical genre of rock has a small following in India- it comprises mostly of people who live and breathe their music, dope, drink and have little or nothing to do with politics. I do not believe being apolitical is a virtue, however, being apolitical as opposed to being fundamentalist openly IS a virtue.

Daniel’s (the lead singer) words were greeted with a loud hoot of applause that I am rather sure had little do with music. This is what is scary and dangerous– the subliminal messages, the slow altering of consciousness, the slow acceptance of oft repeated words, the sinking in of rhetorical speech…The growth of the communal, fascist and militarist ideology.