Saturday, November 21, 2009
One had heard and read a great deal about Egypt and its 5000 year-old civilization in the History and G.K. books. There was always a desire to experience the same. When an opportunity came my way in November, 1997, there was no rethinking. I simply grabbed it. On confirmation of air ticket for the Delhi-Dubai circuit, I was prepared to briefly feel the glory of this important ancient country. I was on the verge of setting my feet on the continent of Africa for the first time.
There is nothing of significance to remember about the Emirates flight to Dubai except that the generous air hostesses took photos of all the passengers and handed over a copy to each one of us. Another redeeming feature was, perhaps, the provision of individual T.V. even in the Economy Class. On arrival, it was a pleasant surprise to avail of the famous Lounge at the swanky arrival terminal of Dubai airport. Owing to the friendly atmosphere and excellent hospitality, we never knew that a good four hours had elapsed before we were airborne again. Not much of activity and interaction followed during the five hour second leg of the journey between Dubai and Cairo, located in two separate continents and time-zones.
By the time we made it to Cairo, it was already dark. My desire to have a look at the famous Pyramids and the Mediterranean Sea from sky, therefore, could not materialize. The airport building of the only mega city of Egypt looked organized. The presence of a large number of security men, however, did convey that all of us had to take care while moving from one place to another. It was, nevertheless, nice to meet an officer of Indian Embassy who came to receive our four member delegation. Not only the drive to Hotel El Gezirah Sheraton was smooth, the over all weather appeared pleasant. Layers of fly-overs on the way spoke of the volume of traffic. The round shape of the hotel, located on the banks of River Nile was well-lit and the structure stood out from the buildings in the neighbourhood, when I had a solo stroll following not so cumbersome check-in.
Around 23.00 hours, when I reached my allotted room on the 10th floor, the view of the river and the city was simply awesome. Before I hit the cosy bed, it was a surprise to see an armed guard in the corridor. While using a shoe shining machine, he greeted me with a smile. When I wished to interact, his poor English, unfortunately, became a stumbling block. The next morning, he showed me a safe area for walk and jogging. As if this was not sufficient, he did extend a helping hand in the evening when two of us decided to negotiate a Tonga-ride to the nearest market, purely for fun. Such a behaviour even after his normal duty hours could confirm his noble intentions. He also asked us, nonetheless, not to roam alone in the city.
The day one, as expected, was consumed in official deliberations with our counterparts and the connected offices located all over the sprawling city. One could manage, however, a glimpse of the dressing and behaviour patterns of local people, whenever we passed through a congested area. A visit to Pyramids at Giza in the evening could not be planned due to a logistic snag. To help us overcome our latent dissatisfaction, our hosts arranged a visit to the Cairo Tower and Egyptian Museum. Latter had an imposing façade. We were exposed to the varied facets of once vibrant Nile River civilization. It was amazing to hear the interesting deeds of the Pharaohs (Kings) and the importance given to the birds and animals. The art or the practice which, sounded most impressive was that of the ‘Mummification’, the meticulous preservation of the dead bodies. Shrunken and embalmed, many of them were lying in the Museum. Apart from the durable chemicals of that era, it was the resolve to preserve the body of a king or a queen or an aristocrat, which deserved to be taken note of. The funeral processions were also reported to be very elaborate affairs. Equally interesting was to learn about the country’s French connection.
Before we called it a day, we did not forget to try some spicy local snacks and purchase a few mementoes, such as, miniature stone and metal pyramids, Papyrus paintings and bust of kings and queens of ancient Egypt. The narrow lanes of the curio market were akin to similar settings in old Delhi or Bazars of Calcutta. It was same kind of noise as well as bonhomie. A black stone bust of Queen Nephratus, bought on the occasion, still sparkles in my living room. She was reported to have sacrificed her life for the cause of emancipation of women.
With a view to devote focussed attention to the pyramids, we drove to Gizeh (Giza) archeological site in the outskirts of the city fairly early, the following day. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was visible from a distance of approximately two kms. Cheops, Chephren and Micerinus, the three great pyramids were found arranged diagonally in such a way that none of them hides the sun from the other two. Cheops, the largest one, originally had a height of 146 metre with a ten metre square shaped platform on top.
It was learnt that a pyramid was constructed in tiers or steps. When the square shaped base (length of each side being equal to the height) was completed, the polished stone blocks would be lifted by a kind of crane made of short timbers onto the first tier. The cranes would be shifted up from stage to stage. When we got closer, we came across several of such triangular structures. After a round of three great pyramids, we were dropped at the entrance of Cheops. We could immediately notice the huge blocks of stones plastered nicely over each other. Subsequent to minute observation, it was the time to photograph the wonder from different angles. Soon, some of us managed to climb up the steep steps leading to the top of the pyramid. The inside view was simply fascinating. Before we make it to the summit, we are shown a large locked room that contained a ‘Mummy’ of an important king and his priceless belongings. The view of Cairo from the top was panoramic.
Next in our schedule, were a camel ride at the base of pyramids and a close look at the Sphinx, a seventy three metre long gigantic statue having face of a human being and body of a lion. Some portions of this mythical man-animal were found defaced, presumably by wind erosion. Needless to say, these also provided a good photographic opportunity.
We returned to Giza by dusk to witness a marvellous Light and Sound Show. It presented the glory of the vibrant and developed civilization of Egypt in a powerful way, something which could not be understood or visualized well by the hectic visits to the pyramids or the Egyptian Museum. The description about great human effort involved in getting huge boulders through the Nile river route for building the pyramids and surrounding structures over a period of eighty years was both convincing and incredible. The stones were brought without any mechanical support from hundreds of miles. At the end of the show I could notice some similarities between the Indus Valley and the Egyptian civilizations.
The next evening we availed of a cruise over the Nile river. A large boat managed and catered to by the Oberoi Group of India was beautifully lit. One after another, lovely performances followed-Spanish and English songs sung by a short, chubby Egyptian girl and an ethnic dance showing elaborate use of oversized colourful gowns and revolving umbrella kind of object. The performance which, however, left a mark in the true sense was the famous Belly dance enacted by a local slim artist. Her swift movements in the background of traditional music were simply amazing. Even after a fast half an hour session, she had all the energy and charm. The sumptuous dinner dominated by the Indian cuisine served on the deck of the boat did remind us that we had to herald our return journey at the end of the fourth day.
A relaxed breakfast session on the day of departure touched my heart. An old Egyptian Chef, a tall bearer and an alert front-desk boy, all spoke positively about the heritage and hospitality of India, they were exposed to, once. Not only I gave them a patient hearing, I also added to their information by mentioning something additional about my country which , perhaps, they did not know. They evinced adequate interest. As a parting gesture, I divulged that if I ever get a chance to visit a country again, it will be none other than Egypt.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Within an hour of our arrival at Port Blair, a pleasant surprise awaited us. Our host, the dynamic Tourism Secretary of the pollution-free U.T. informed that a steamer specially chartered for the Barren Island (located 135 kms northeast of the territory’s capital) was ready for departure. We were given five minutes for conveying a positive nod and another thirty minutes for arranging required things and eatables. S. Velu, our ever-smiling and pro-active guide helped us in buying some tasty snacks and biscuits. Later, on account of a long journey of eleven hours, we realised that what ever we had, proved insufficient, and that we had to virtually beg before the cabin crew for four meals at exorbitant rates. During the return journey, we almost starved for no fault of ours. But the following lines would reveal that starving was worth it.
The departure from the Phoenix-Bay jetty was a smooth affair. Nine to ten families together with a few bachelors boarded the steamer. The first fifteen minutes we had a good view of the sprawling port city followed by a look at the enchanting Ross Island. In no time we were on the main sea. Not only the seats were comfortable in the basement, the overall atmosphere too appeared congenial. Practically everyone was visiting the wonderful Barren Island for the first time. We were determined to enjoy every bit of journey spread over five and a half hours, one way.
The first two hours passed of easily. It was a pleasure to go up to the top deck and enjoy the memorable view of deep blue sea. Occasionally boats, steamers and ships would pass by. A few islands too would be visible on the horizon. The helpers to the crew, guides and liaison assistants would describe the charm of Jolly Buoy, Red Skin, Havelock, Neil and Barren Islands (B.I.) very well. Off and on, some local folklore in respect of the tribes endemic to the region and vivid description of multicoloured fish and mesmerizing corals would be also heard.
Though the famous active volcano of South Asia at B.I. was reported erupting from 1787 onwards, for nearly one and a half century, between 1852 and 1991, it had remained dormant. It was learnt that the volcano would be generally active for four to six months at a stretch. Following the eruption, a fresh layer of cliff, commonly referred to as caldera wall, would be formed around the island. Tourist arrival, would simply multiply during the period of ‘activity’.
A number of scientific teams would visit the island subsequent to cooling-off but no one ever dared to stay on the island, due to harsh and inclement conditions, therein. In view thereof, our steamer too was also going to be anchored at least half a kilometre away.
When the boredom of a long sea journey got on to our nerves, most of us exercised the option of a good afternoon nap. A couple of tourists did watch T.V. as well. To break the monotony, some one from the deck shouted that our cherished destination was soon going to be visible. Every one ran to the ‘terrace’ and parked him self/herself suitably. It was getting dark but the island was barely visible. Some fog over the vast ocean too obstructed the view initially.
Patience and perseverance ultimately pays. Around 19.00 hours, we got the first glimpse of the rare spectacle. It was once in a lifetime scenario. The speed of the craft was gradually reduced as we moved closer. Those of us having video or digital cameras, were fortunate in capturing the view well for posterity. I cursed myself to have carried an ordinary non-digital camera. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise. I could not only admire the beauty and ferocity of the volcano deep from my heart but could also instantly feel the sudden change in weather. S. Velu confirmed that sea water had warmed up due to our close proximity to the active volcano.
After keeping the steamer dormant for nearly half an hour, the captain took us to two different ends of the island. Its total surface area of ten kms.(3 kms in diameter) looked all ablaze. An otherwise dark sky was well-lit by this super natural phenomenon. Not only we saw gigantic flames from atop a 354 meters high peak but we were also blessed with the sight of lava falling and swiftly spreading in the surroundings. The flora on the island, in the process, would not only catch fire. The whole area, rather, would burn instantly.
It was once in a blue moon phenomenon. It was something which could not be elaborated in a few routine phrases. On seeing the eruption and bright red lava, my heart missed a beat. It was nothing but a rare sight, truly a miracle of mother nature. It had a humbling impact. The unusual spectacle honed my power of observation and concentration.
Monday, October 26, 2009
As I move closer, I notice hectic preparations by the youth and the old alike for the Chhath Puja. Their devoted work prompts me to walk down memory lane. I am vividly reminded of similar efforts by us as kids in the early seventies at the Hatania Talab in the vicinity of C.C.L. campus of Ranchi. Compared to that cramped up setting, the spacious bank of Brahamputra was offering a better choice to pay annual obeisance to the Sun God. As I move further, I see many more groups deeply engrossed in the said activity. After making steps to facilitate easy access of the Parvaitins, the Ghats were being meticulously decorated with the Banana trees & leaves, multi-coloured buntings and red flowers, real as well as artificial. Seeing the enthusiasm and the level of festivity, I could not believe that a regional festival once confined to Bihar and UP had spread to far flung corners of H.P, Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharastra, West Bengal, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Assam in two to three decades. The overall interest and popularity was amplified by introduction of Chhat Specials by the Railways and the dedicated programmes over T.V.
Being in a religious mode, I notice a glorious sunrise over the 3000 kms long river. I am tempted to meditate in a standing posture. Chanting of Hanuman Chalisa and Bajrang Ban turn out to be relaxing and refreshing experiences. I also try a few asnas of Yoga. When I ‘return’ to the mystical world, I find a few walkers and joggers struggling through the dirty sands. Soon I confront the stench of drain water and garbage generated by the lot expected to protect the mighty river figuring in the folk tales of the region.
As the Sun further ascends, the movement of boats too registers a rise. Very few of them are engaged in fishing. Rather, they seem to have become the only means of communication between the capital city and the neighbouring islands. I was shocked to know that a popular fish variety-Silver cap (Rs.40/-a kg) was being transported from the city ponds to nearby areas by boat, instead of being fished out from the gigantic river.
While an absorbing talk pertaining to the plan of action for the day between a father and his teen-aged son has the requisite potential to cheer up my mind, I get upset on seeing the patches of stool and cow-dung over a large area. The next sight of the noisy and bubbling fish market on the banks reminds me of the mess we seem to have created in the name of rapid urbanisation. On being exposed to such horrible sights and the impending time constraints, I turn back and begin returning to my temporary abode.
I take a note of the rise in the number of Ghats for the evening Chhath Puja, together with acts of collection of river water in the glistening copper vessels by the Assamese women adorning ethnic dresses. Presumably, it is for another religious ceremony. I also come across the stagnant steamers of the Inland Water Transport Department by the names of T.F. Ganesh, Janardan and Tamreswari. A Rhino painted afresh over the water tank of the last named craft attempts to interact with me in the following manner-‘PLEASE SAVE ME AND MY REVERED BROTHER BRAHAMPUTRA FROM FURTHER ONSLAUGHT’.
Within an hour I reach L.G.N.B. International Airport to fly back to Delhi to witness another act of sacrilege by the mankind, already facing insurmountable global warming. It is none other than the Yamuna River now being exploited in the name of an inter-country Games. It may not perhaps be possible to stop such acts of harming the free gifts of nature. But nature lovers can surely make a passionate plea for minimizing their impact in the interest of future generations.
On getting ready, he was reminded of his glorious past subsequent to the formation of ‘the’ Markhand state and the crucial role played by him as a close confidant of its Head of state. While going down the memory lane, he, at the same time, did not wish to forget his formative years as a young and dashing Federal Police Officer in West Hengol, followed by his crucial sub-divisional, District and Corporation level postings in the tough yet challenging state of ‘the’ Barihar.
With an inkling of the past, he was all set to undertake a brisk walk in the closeby Deer Park. An emotional call from a dear old colleague soon came as a soothing surprise. Before he could begin conversation over his latest Blackberry, Lugnu was drawn towards an unscheduled interaction with a female relative over her Nokia 6070. Talking and listening, in their flashy Nike shoes and designers casuals, they venture into the cool and secure confines of the adjacent eco-friendly park. It was gradually being filled with the joggers, slow walkers, genuine health conscious lots as also those having a fetish for occasionally responding to the demand of changing body contours.
Subsequent to a bout of long conversation, it appeared business as usual. While Kabindra desired to take a sharp right turn near the historic Hauz Khas, Lugnu, true to her love for birds and animals, was adamant in having a close look at the lovely ducks from an opposite direction. With an agreement being a distant possibility and more so, in view of variance in their respective abilities to stroll, both mutually decided to ‘break’ away, to meet again at an agreed point, close to the exit, say, after fifteen to twenty minutes. Apart from giving an opportunity to admire nature rather more intimately, such a break up provided them also a chance to indulge in gossips of their liking with some regular health conscious acquaintances.
The pleasant or a bit of cool October morning appeared warming up with their rising body temperature. The autocratic and all pervading Monarch of the day, too, was changing colours in addition to increasing slowly his generous heat content.
Half an hour instead of the agreed time of twenty minutes frittered away but worried Lugnu noticed no trace of ‘her’ Kabindra. There was no response, either over his cell despite her fervent attempts. She was compelled to jog, in the process, instead of a brisk walk. Though many more familiar faces passed by, she preferred concentrating on relocating her prized life partner of twenty five years standing.
At last, he was found in one non-descript corner. He won’t even acknowledge her presence. For, he was deeply engrossed in speaking to Mals over cell after a gap of good five to six years. He was not aware that latter had returned to Delhi earlier than him and was thus eager to have an interface in the evening. An interruption to indicate the convenient time of 19.15 hours with the express approval of the better half, takes place. Remainder of the time is spent in describing the guest for the evening hailing from the far eastern corner of India who, invariably preferred to swim against the tide.
A leisurely lunch follows in honour of Prachand, the elder child of the family. When they are half way through, the call bell rings, followed by an unusual banging on the door. While the mother is busy in giving some useful tips to her darling son to readjust in the Indian situation to play his changed role of an engineer of an M.N.C. to perfection, the father is greeted with a pleasant surprise in seeing Apeksha. She looked bubbly, childish and vibrant. She also possessed the power to draw everyone’s attention on her return after three months, on completion of her second year M.B.B.S. examination. While she had the option and the means to give an advance intimation, she had made up her mind to spring a surprise.
Whatever extra was available in the kitchen, was dutifully brought to the dining table by Kabindra in honour of his ‘little princess’. Same was supplemented by heating up and boiling some stuff from the family’s gigantic freeze. While he was a novice, as far as cooking and serving food were concerned, Lugnu would draw thrills of adventure, whenever Apeksha’s Daddy attempted to try his hand in their large modular kitchen. He would, however, muster full support of Dhania, the trusted and active maid from his cadre state. The overall soothing feeling of a family reunion proved a harbinger for a good nap in the afternoon.
Mals with Maulshree in toe in an attractive Kanjeevaram arrived eight minutes behind schedule in the evening. Delay was pardonable as it was attributed to the traffic restrictions owing to the hectic visit by the members of the Commonwealth Games Committee. The couple looked fresh and frank. The two families were meeting in a ‘family’ situation, almost after a decade. There was, therefore, plenty to talk and share. The only notable absentee was Tankoor, the only child of M&M, pursuing his final year of B.A. Hons. in Political Science at the rapidly improving Senky College.
Lots of notes about the bygone era were exchanged over the next one hour. The R.O. water, Sprite, Pakoras, Sweets and good leaf tea were graciously served by Lugnu. Her due care and attention brought back sweet memories of her being an excellent hostess. While the male members indulged in career related and office oriented talks, the non-stop conversation between the females was clearly dominated by the rising prices of vegetables and dals, latest bargains & discounts, some common friends and Emporio, the latest Mall to open at the upmarket Vasant Kunj.
The icing of the cake, however, came in the form of the unusual blog of Mals. While he took immense pleasure in logging on to the site with the help of Prachand, it was time for everyone to draw a chair to get closer to the Dell Lap top, kept prominently at a place, earlier earmarked for a desk top. One by one, lovely photos and the text of the mesmerising state from the Far East captivated the audience. Whenever needed, a short verbal commentary would fill the void. While the eager hostess and the attentive and disciplined children were glued to the screen, the less talkative host spoke fondly of his only visit to the place, more than two decades ago. Things had not merely changed, a certain degree of transformation appeared to have been recorded, according to him in the demographic, living and the overall infrastructural patterns.
No one noticed that two hours had passed off peacefully, duly providing not only a link between the past and the present but in also renewing the contacts and laying a road map for future interactions. The bond of two families was perhaps rewoven with a positive tinge.
It was twenty past twenty one hours, when the ultimate send-off materialised. Bidding good bye for an extremely rewarding evening, M&M drove swiftly in their Swift car to their abode in Kautilyapuri. K&L, on the other hand, had no option but to pack up bags for the former’s early morning flight to Chennai, a news not welcomed by Apeksha. “The life had to come to full circle, whether guests came or the Daddy proceeded on tour”, counselled the brilliant hostess of the memorable evening to the bright sleeping ‘kid’ of AB6/18, Hafdarjung Enclave.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
2. Even though the train is reported late by almost an hour, not even an iota of stress is visible on the faces of the prospective passengers-daily wage earners, Govt.servants, happy go lucky kind of students, power showing cops and responsible looking old couples. They appear enjoying this state of affairs in their own unique ways.
3. When the arrival of train became imminent, hectic pace of activity gets generated. As it came to a screeching halt, ‘rush-ins’ and ‘push-ups’ materialise on the expected lines. Once inside the crowded compartment, my instinct for survival is clearly spelt out. Afterall, I was in a journey mode for good fourteen hours. I was fortunate in grabbing a portion of an empty upper berth. Unlike my fellow passengers in the previous train, the ‘neighbours’ over here look to be spoit brats of the big shots or shall we call them Noveau rich ?.Needless to say, each one was fiddling with the latest Nokia mobile.
Within a few minutes I could confirm their fast, flexible and furious I.T. connections.
4. While the behaviour pattern of a middle aged and a young couple could be termed fairly decent and tolerable, the third ‘live-in’ kind of couple began displaying rather shamelessly, bold, beautiful and mischievous “fit for Bedroom” type of antiques at the drop of hat. They were lost, apparently, in their own fairy world, totally oblivious to the presence of the self-proclaimed conscience keepers like me. While some noble and tradition-bound soul attempted to smile, if not frown upon such an open display of emotions, the passengers in general decided to ignore the activity. Who does not relish this type of free bout of entertainment in a slow moving train? When a kissing and tight-hugging scene(straight from New York or Love Aaj Kal) was on the anvil, the unwelcome appearance of a fat and perspiring TTE took place. The bold show soon got transformed into a cold show. Matters became really worse when scores of passengers were found either ticketless or having exceeded the prescribed limits of a particular length of journey.
5. Having shown my ticket with a confident and beaming look, I look forward to ease myself. I do not have courage to undertake any discharge on seeing the filthy state of affairs of the Loo. Absence of water at the wash-basin adds to my woes. Nevertheless, sipping cups of tea and quietly breathing fresh air from the lush green jungles, in a standing posture near the gate, I ultimately manage to reach Gomoh.
6. Thanks to the misguidance of one of the irresponsible railway employees, I am compelled to go up and come down twice at this historic station, rechristened recently ‘Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Junction.’
7. Finally, one of the Paan-eating mischievous characters shows me the correct way to the make-shift taxi cum bus stand. No sooner than I realize that I was the lone passenger to be ‘catered to’ after the departure of the last train, I am surrounded by a gang of middlemen and drivers. Even though it was fairly early in the July afternoon, I was impelled to think that I had no option but to act according to their dictates pertaining to the high fare of taxi as the only bus plying in this ‘route’ had left for the day. A running non-stop commentary regarding the prevailing Naxal threat in the area further perpetuates the crisis.
8. A timely intervention by the Manager and his helpful colleague of Bank of India, Gomoh saw me in some safe and secure hands. I was left with no alternative but to consent to pay an exorbitant sum of Rs.950/-for a ride to Hazaribagh against the alleged ‘prevailing’ rate of Rs.1100/-.Once inside the comfortable, brand new Ambassador Diesel car, I begin dozing-off. When the car begins zooming off the beautiful highway, a man in his twenties makes an attempt to occupy the front seat. Mohd. Harry, the stylish driver introduces him as his ‘cousin’. I firmly resist and see to it that the fellow does not get entitled to travel with us.
9. The smooth and fast drive through the thick teak forest turns out to be very pleasant. We hardly feel the impact of summer or the humidity of Monsoon in the vicinity of a place called Bagodar, more so, on hearing some nice old hits from the bygone era.
10. The very opening song – ‘Tu Meri Janu hai, Main Tera Dilwar Hoon……………………………..’ from the superhit ‘Hero’ of 1980 reminded me of the innocent and cute charm of Meenakshi Sheshadri and tough and robust look of Jackie Shroff. A few other soothing numbers from the same film and some other chart-busters of that period keep me occupied for the next half an hour.
11. The lunch break at Tatijharia, 35kms short of Hazaribagh was an eye-opener. Before having a sumptuous and appetising lunch at a Brahmin Dhaba, I did not mind responding to the short call of nature in the open ‘bathroom’. As per local customs, cool water was poured over my hands from a sparkling Lota, followed by the free service of a cotton gamcha to enable me to wipe my face. I was simply amazed on being offered five types of green vegetables, a katori of dal, unlimited numbers of chapatis and a handful of rice for just Rs.18/-. More than low rates, it was the warmth of the bearer and his Dhoti clad master, which won my heart. While departing, I was advised to purchase some hot gulab jamuns. I had to politely decline, as the sweetmeat may not have survived for another week or so.
12. Back on the road, a few more pleasant songs from ‘box-office hits’ prevented me from taking a nap. The villages of Daru,Meru,Amritnagar,Singhani,Lakhe and Korrah look truly transformed and modern. The first view of the outskirts of Hazaribagh is possible as soon as the historic Canery Hill appears on to my right. It was the place that had witnessed the honeymoon of P.M. and S.M. in the early sixties of the twentieth century. Time and tide wait for none.They did not wait for him. They simply flew. Flew with a supersonic speed. P.M., after tasting considerable success, faded with the passage of time. His friends and well-wishers forgot him, sooner than expected. He was destined to confront economic hardships following his decision to give up a government job to explore the ‘green pastures’ of the then booming coal mine industry. He was misled by his own ‘firm’ calculations.
13. Instead of being a leader of his charming family, he soon became a disgruntled follower of his innocent, teenaged off springs. A decision of not giving up smoking and drinks led to the gradual loss of his strength and youth. It ultimately was instrumental in his withdrawal from the main team events. Instead of seeing the budding football talents (including his youngest child) to sprout and grow, he became a sort of vegetable. Frequent trips to Ranchi to seek specialized medical treatment could not also prevent him from further onslaughts.
14. His ‘D’ day came on 29th June 2009, when doctors advised his family members to take him back to his place, wherein not only he had learnt the A B C of football, but he also went on to play at the state level championships. Purely by grace of God, he survived for another three days. The miracle of Homeopathic medicine too contributed positively. A real life drama akin to the closing sequence of the popular Hindi film-‘Anand’ was enacted. He was in a position to regain some strength, gulp liquid food and speak to near and dear ones. I was lucky too to converse with him for a while on phone in the evening of 30th June.
15. On 1st July, the morning and afternoon gave him a ray of hope. The onset of darkness, however, proved fatal. He seemed to have slipped into a kind of ‘end approaching silence’. Though his eating improved, he could hardly utter a word. He left for his heavenly abode at 2.45 P.M. in the afternoon of 2nd July. While every available relative offered him spoons of water as an end heralding gesture, he surrendered, and rightly so, in the most comfortable and secure lap of his life companion. While some new P.M’s and S.M’s were thronging the cool confines of the Canery Hill, the end came slowly but painfully for P.M. Death is a harsh but hard reality. Everyone has to, or is compelled to believe it.
16. Thinking of all this, I gather enough courage to enter the abode of now “late” Phat Mama. His last few incomprehensible words spoken in the evening of 30th June still echo distinctly into my ears. True to my nature, I do not break nor do I lose heart. I meet Guria, Sonia, Nitin and Jeetu first. Thereafter, I spot Shiela Mami in a semi-dark corner of the house. Expectedly, tears begin rolling down her cheeks. I bow and hold her affectionately. Console her profusely. What else could I do in this hour of grief? Her cheerful and once vibrant life had come to a standstill. She was perhaps destined not to move on the main line any longer. Rather, she was to drift towards the side lines of life as per our wretched Hindu customs.
17. We should see to it that such fine persons are not ignored and confined to the dustbins of history. They were not to be loose-shunted. However, thanks to the possible preference and tantrums of her immediate relatives, life as a low profile person in a slow motion should be a safer course of action for her.
18. I whisper all this into my own tired ears while hitting the pillow in the erstwhile drawing room of Chotka Mama. Before closing my eye-lids, I stare at his garlanded portrait. Thereafter, I fold my hands to seek his blessings to take note of the hard fact that two more of his brothers and a sister-in-law had bid farewell to the mystical world in quick succession to qualify to give him company in heaven.
19. The next morning, snow-white Seine greets me through his wagging tail. Behind him is Babli, the epitome of selfless service. As expected, she is gracefully holding a glass of fresh, sparkling water for me. One person has departed, others have to carry forward the journey of life. Perhaps, she reminds me of that. While looking at the rising Sun, I see a glimmer of HOPE.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Health is supposed to be the key factor when it comes to sustenance and survival of a person. Not everyone is fortunate to possess sound health. It has been noticed that general well being of those below poverty line is not a cause of concern but the affluent lot invariably suffer from one disease or the other. When we have financial security, we do not attempt to solve even minor health irritants with the help of naturopathy our age old practices. Rather, we make a compulsive beeline before a physician at the drop of hat. It inflates our expenditure apart from adding to the stress and mistrust among near and dear ones.
Once in a blue moon, however, the almighty blesses a hand to mouth person as well with an infant with unusual or wrongly placed organs. They are left with no option but to rush to centres of medical excellence, located miles away from their dwelling units. Upon ensuring a referral after running from pillar to post, long and treacherous journey comes in stride, followed by groping in dark in a vast urban conglomeration, systematically infested with touts, brokers and quacks.
By the time the correct specialist or surgeon is located and approached, either the case is complicated beyond redemption or the patient breaths his last. There are few fortunate ones, like Chander Majhi, a labourer from Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
His baby boy was born with a rare disorder called Septicemia in the last week of August 09. In addition to his heart completely jutting outside the chest, the vital thymus gland, providing immunity for the first five years, was missing. The unfortunate gift of God too had under-developed lungs and that there was no cavity for heart. This new born baby with complete thoracic Ectopia Cordis and no protective lining for the heart, was destined to live with zero immunity, but for rare surgical intervention lasting three and a half hours by Dr. A.K. Bisoi, Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon of AIIMS, assisted by seven of his colleagues.
The tiny heart of the baby literally hanging outside and pumping furiously, was exposed to germ laden air before the outstanding surgeons initiated the unprecedented rescue operation. His diaphragm was mobilized to the left by almost sixty degrees anterior followed by gentle pushing of other vital organs, such as, lungs and liver to create adequate space. Then his ‘robust’ heart was carefully placed partly in heart cavity and partly in the cavity of the stomach. While this unusual shifting was in the process, nothing else was reportedly rotated or twisted.
It is for the first time in the world that someone survived a highly complicated beating heart surgery of this kind. Without resorting to the suspension of his essential body functions like brain and heart, the unnamed baby continues to be on the smooth, yet, critical path of recovery.
At a time when his condition is being closely monitored and that every moment appears crucial, let us give a big hand to Dr. Bisoi’s exemplary team in particular and the AIIMS in general for once again proving to the humanity that the downtrodden can look up to a Government run hospital for a world class treatment at a negligible cost.
Such referral institutes of excellence, nonetheless, need to carry out a cleaning operation both in terms of regulating manpower and improving the overall look and atmosphere. A large number of patients would continue to throng mainly those, offering a ray of hope amidst a situation of grief and uncertainty. A bout of sustained positive projection can perhaps do wonders to lift the sagging image of such actual public philanthropic units as opposed to the plethora of bye-pass and other factories mushrooming shamelessly in the capital.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
(2) If we are to elaborate further, corruption to this author means deviation or distortion from an established, expected or a desirable path. Basically, he would like to sound normative while making an attempt to analyse an inseparable dragon of this sort. Meaning thereby, what ought to be, becomes infructuous vis-à-vis what it is. This is why it becomes a difficult, if not impossible proposition to detect and pinpoint such an unfair means.
(3) It is said that corruption has become a non-issue. A thinking on these lines perhaps does not mean that one is in favour of corruption. It also refers to a kind of, or apparent helplessness about this all pervading, monstrous and cancerous malaise.
(4) Corruption, per se, may not only refer to a practice of giving and accepting money for a normal, day to day work. It also has a dangerous combination of cash as well as kind. In addition, there may be, or there are individuals, who neither take cash nor allow any perceptible flow of goods into their household but they may resort to a corrupt means of invisible kind. Still there are people who are different from the lot described. Such persons, by their ‘honest’ looking deeds may guarantee inputs in cash or kind to others, thus ensuring for themselves, a position or a rank not normally possible to get through the fair means. Besides, they also succeed to build a good, enduring and usable image.
(5) Another group of individuals may not be habitually corrupt but they definitely fall in the category of occasionally corrupt. By these parameters, I suppose, it would perhaps be impossible to locate an extremely fair and honest person. While one is ready to express concern against such an unworthy practice, it would be safe to state that both in developing and developed economies, corruption exists in some form or the other and that it would be difficult, if not impossible to uproot such a perpetual malady. One can, however, always hope to minimise its impact.
(6) If one digs into our glorious history, Kautilya’s Saptanga theory or the theory of seven elements of state threw sufficient light on the conduct of the Amatyas (encompassing the Ministers and the Officials). They were required to be Dharmopashuddha (morally and ethically pure), Arthopashuddha (honest in financial matters) and Charitropashuddha (of good and pure character). Some other virtues, according to Kautilya, necessary for a person to serve as a state official were- free from all vices, a person of infallible memory, friendly nature, wisdom, patience and endurance.
(7) On the other hand, Ziauddin Barani, a notable historian and political thinker of the Tughluq dynasty opined that the Sultan (king) must rely on the learned, experienced and well-wishing Wazirs (Ministers) and Counsellors. He has prescribed 24 Nasihats (advices) for an ideal Sultan. One of the Nasihats as given in his scholarly work, Fatwa-i-Jahandari, pertains to appointing just, honest, truthful, reliable and intelligent officers. He was of the considered view that the king should appoint officers who do not accept bribes or presents or accede to recommendations and that the revenue collectors will always refrain from misappropriation of revenue.
(8) Generally it is observed that corrupt people are by and large competent and the mere fact that they outnumber the honest, they are not only in a position to survive but they also thrive beyond imagination. When we make a premise of this nature, we do not mean to say that the honest persons are incompetent. But it is also a fact that those having an unusual mix of integrity and competence, by and large, are troubled and harassed in the most inconceivable ways.
(9) Apart from the mental and semi-physical torture, these ‘marginals’ are, many a time, denied access to the normal facilities, which may appear privileges or perks in the eyes of the ‘mainliners’. This is why, it is often said, good is bad in government or public domain and that rating such as very good and outstanding are more often than not managed by unfair means.
(10) It may not be out of place to mention the timely observations of the Supreme Court in Dev Dutt vs. Union of India & Others (2008,AIR,2513). The apex court ruled that “………………………………………higher posts which are in a pyramidical structure, where often the principle of elimination is followed in selection for promotion, and even a single entry can destroy the career of an officer which has otherwise being outstanding throughout. This often results in grave injustice and heart-burning, and may shatter the morale of many good officers who are superseded due to this arbitrariness, while officers of inferior merit may be promoted”.
(11) In bureaucracy, one also comes across a situation, such as, ‘you show me the person, I will show you the rule.’ As a result, rules and regulations are twisted and partially amended or some times changed altogether to suit a vested interest. When these things do not appear helpful, one indulges into a corrupt means by following the ‘safe’ path of interpretation or drawing inference. Also, oft-repeated modus-operandi is to suggest ‘to read between the lines’. Generally, I help you, you help me, kind of ‘brotherly’ phenomenon comes in the way of delivery of fair and impartial stands, decisions and judgements. AND the actually honest, fair, quiet and non-assertive types continue to suffer at the hands of the self proclaimed honest and competent superiors.
(12) Corruption is found in some form or the other in every sphere, in every country and social system. In a developing economy, it takes a manifest shape or face, in the economies of polar opposite scenario, it may be more prevalent but perhaps with a latent face. While the former may see the use of unfair means at every step, in case of the latter, a certain degree of sophistication may act as a cover, though the stakes may be much higher, involving risks of the bigger magnitude.
(13) No wonder, a country like Bangladesh which is at the lowest rung of development, figures right on top when it comes to the menace of corruption. This is despite the stupendous success of the micro-credit phenomenon triggered and guided by the Nobel Laureate, Md. Yunus. India, does not lag behind, either. The Transparency International in its latest release has considered the world’s largest and the most vibrant democracy as the 83rd most corrupt country in the world. This is unfortunately in the backdrop of the unprecedented positive impact of the Right to Information Act and more vigilant consumerism.
(14) While the country has a sizeable chunk of black money and soaring Hawala transactions, $ 1.5 trillion worth of deposit (seven times the size of the union budget) has been reported to be in the safe custody of the banks of Switzerland and other countries since the year 1947. A disclosure to this effect was made by Professor R.Vaidyanathan of IIM, Banglore while delivering the Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Lecture on “Tax Heavens and the Illegal Wealth of India” at Chennai on 29/8/09 (The Hindu, New Delhi, dated 30th August, 2009). Further,our populous country has allegedly lost more than $ 20 billion every year in this way during 2002-06 alone.
(15) Apart from the money that living tax evaders may have kept therein, a large amount cannot be retrieved because those who managed to open such ‘safe’ accounts (presumably by taking undue advantage of our lax tax collection machinery) have died without informing their family or heirs of all relevant details. Needless to say, with the passage of time, the bank in question freezes or swallows such deposit. There is also an apprehension that these tax havens are used as a source of funding for the spying, terrorist, insurgency and other undesirable activities.
(16) The prevailing practice of subsidized food grains, seeds, fertilizers, kerosene oil and other essential items not reaching the intended beneficiaries also causes overwhelming concern, apart from adversely impacting economic growth and giving a set back to the efforts to build a just, fair and equitable society. Also the pitiable and rampant habit of late submission of the progress and utilization certificates, diversion of funds for non-targeted spheres, plea for revised estimates subsequent to time overrun etc go on to consume a large chunk of our scarce resources which can be better utilised in many other priority sectors.
(17) Enough institutional mechanism is available in the country to prevent and check corruption, right from the Vigilance Cells and Anti-Corruption Bureaux at the state level to the Chief Vigilance Officers and the CBI at the Central level. Unfortunately, not all of them perform their tasks as per mandate and not every one is reported above board. In order to plug the loop hole, the central government has recently decided to set up 71 CBI Courts. Expected to function as model courts, these are to hold day to day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments.
(18) After so much of hue and cry, the institution of the Lokayukta has seen the light of the day only in a handful of states and not all of them are in a position to show their teeth. Either they are helpless, or rendered useless by non-cooperative attitude of the government of the day. The preliminary requirement of giving permission to prosecute a public servant takes months and years. The institution of the Lokpal, supposed to cover the PM also has not become a reality despite the frequent confabulations about it right from the date of lifting of the Emergency. In such a dismal scenario, the honest and dedicated officials toil and suffer while the corrupt and the inefficient continue to have a field day. Resultantly, the habit of corruption continues to pose a bigger threat to the country than external aggression or internal disturbance of the kind of the Left Wing Extremism.
(19) Corruption is something that captures the imagination of everyone but very little has been done to ‘catch the big fish’ in the opinion of our simple, learned and honest PM. Addressing the 17th Biennial Conference of the CBI, Anti-Corruption Bureaux and the Vigilance agencies recently, he called upon them to accord priority to the rapid, fair and accurate investigation of corruption in high places. They were expected to act firmly, swiftly and without fear or favour in view of the constitutional and legal protection available to them. He also called upon them to look at themselves critically and introspect deeply to fine tune the functioning of their organisations.
(20) The PM has also gone to the extent of admitting that the fear of harassment and damage to reputation makes the officials unduly timid and slow, thus rendering the whole government machinery ineffectual. Also expeditious conduct of trials was as important as was hastening the pace of the investigations. While on the one hand, one can see a glimmer of hope, on the other, clear sign of desperation is visible at a time when the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has submitted its wide ranging recommendations so that the poor are not disproportionately hurt because of corruption and carelessness.
(21) In addition, the Minister of State for Personnel, Administrative Reforms & PMO, while inaugurating a conference of secretaries of administrative reforms departments of states has also admitted that the Indian bureaucracy is inefficient and corrupt. He seems to have favoured a focused approach to implement the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission within a realistic time frame and also an amendment in the RTI Act with a view to ensure more transparency in public administration. Is it not ironical that the same “inefficient and corrupt” lot is expected to examine the recommendations for improving the efficacy of the system, reduce corruption and ensure transparency?
(22) Similar conduct is expected from the judiciary, if we are to follow the candid and meaningful write up of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in the Hindu (Dt.31st Aug.2009) on the stalemate over the issue of declaration of assets. According to him, ‘The best judge has nothing to hide and everything to discover without fear or favour and do justice to everyone, be he high or humble, without affection or ill-will’. He goes on to add that the real cause of the pathological arrear syndrome is the absence of accountability and transparency and that creation of more courts would result into more arrears and more lazy judges. To him, ‘one capable judge with sound social philosophy is a better instrument of justice than a dozen mediocre, indolent ignoramuses who will merely add to the adipose of the system.’
(23) The mere fact that the reluctant judges at last gave in to the public pressure pertaining to declarations concerning disclosure of assets and the ruling of the Delhi High Court (The Hindustan Times, New Delhi dated 3rd September 2009) that the judicial power was accountable to the Constitution of India, proves the logic and necessity of transparency in public life. The judgment in question is unprecedented as this is the first time that a High Court has decided on a matter involving the Supreme Court Judges. Thus it has been maintained beyond doubt that the office of the Chief Justice of India did not fall outside the purview of the RTI Act.
(24) The enormous power available to the Judiciary, Revenue collectors, Police, Municipal bodies etc. has not succeeded in reducing the might of the lower level officials bent upon behaving like extortionists rather than protectors and the regulators. The people in general and the captains of the industry in particular too immensely contribute to the mess by showing their ever willingness to pay at every step, while resorting to short cuts and thus undermining the compliance of the rule of law.
(25) The Officers in general not only suck systematically and consistently the mammaries of our welfare state during their long and eventful service career, they also do not refrain from locating and finding a lucrative position in some commission or the ‘public service’ body, subsequent to their superannuation. In this way, the phenomena of dismal performance combined with non-accountability perpetuates at the cost of the paramount interest of the poor, ignorant and toiling masses.
(26) It goes without saying that barely five per cent bureaucrats are honest as on date and that together with another ten per cent of their corrupt, yet efficient brethren, they ensure functioning of the system. Is’nt the time ripe to downsize the bureaucracy and to recognise and motivate the non-descript looking honest, hard working and upright bureaucrats with a view to weed out corruption and complacency?.
(27) One cannot ensure purity in the doldrums of the public domain. But one can always make an attempt to reduce or to minimise the use of unfair means. Or shall we believe an experienced, qualified and non vocal urban housewife when she says ”Corruption will end only when the universe will come to an end. Only God is honest. Everyone else is corrupt”?.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Many times down the history, it has been observed that taking a break or diverting from the main line proves productive. Even a thought along these lines has the propensity to provide necessary solace. With such a resolve, an attempt is being made to remember a recent anecdote concerning a popular means of transport that not only binds but also unites
I begin with the premise that too much of air travel followed by occasional journeys by fast moving trains in the artificial and air-conditioned settings had got into my nerves. An opportunity to avail of movement in a slow motion, therefore, turned out to be not only educative but it also had definite shades of a potential eye-opener. At the end of the day, one gained, recovered, felt satisfied as also rejuvenated.
When I got into the historic Darjeeling Mail in the evening of 7th July at the NJP station, the train was very much on time. Subsequently, it became ‘behind schedule’ by forty five minutes. One felt rather happy as the train was originally to reach my intended destination of Burdwan at the odd time of 4.00 hours. Rather isolated yet congenial atmosphere inside the A.C. compartment led to a deep slumber of roughly four and a half hours.
While I was in the process of attending a call of nature at the unearthly hour of 3.15, the silence of the fast moving train was suddenly broken by the desperate utterances of a middle aged Sardar Upjit Singh, who seemed to have over slept and missed, in the process, getting down at Malda between 2 to 2.30 hours. I could do nothing except to sympathise with him. Apparently, his business fatigue during the course of the previous day had taken its toll. He had, perhaps unknowingly begun cherishing life in a slow motion, some thing, I too had aspired for long.
We extend a helping hand to each other while getting down at Burdwan at dawn. My immediate hunch was to look for a connecting train for Dhanbad/Gomoh/Kodarma. Upjit’s immediate priority, however, was to move as fast as possible in the reverse direction. On getting the desired information I began pulling my bag towards the ticket counter on the rear side of the Platform no. 1. The ‘Maldavian’ Sardarji, however, appeared lost in the partial darkness of now crowded Platform No. 6, perhaps, not to surface again.
An irritating standing posture of twenty minutes in a que under somewhat unhygienic conditions, ensured me a ticket for Gomoh on payment of Rs. 28 only as compared to Rs. 400, I had paid for the preceding journey. Once again I dragged and lifted my bags to Platform No.3 and began my imminent wait in a slow and certain manner for the Shuttle scheduled to depart for Asansole at fifteen past five hours. In view of the fact that I had brushed my teeth inside the clean bathroom of Darjeeling Mail, I richly deserved a steaming hot Rs. 3 a cup of boiled C.T.C. tea. Some cookies packed generously by Dawney gave me the much needed company. I did doze off a couple of times while glancing through the morning Kolkata edition of the Times of India. I also learnt a bit about the glitterati of the ‘den’ of the Bhadra-Lok and the Babu Moshais.
Compared to the railway stations one had seen in the recent past, this one looked spic and span. The ramp connecting the platforms was a welcome development. It once again strengthened my resolve in the dictum “slow and steady wins the race”
Passengers in general showed exemplary behaviour when the daily Shuttle arrived at the scheduled time. Hardly any one ran helter skelter. Adequate time was available to refill drinking water bottles and procure pouches of Uncle Chipps, Kurkure or Lays to take care of the immediate needs of the tiny tots and the elderly alike. It was after a long gap that I was bestowed with an opportunity to avail of a short distance daily train having robust wooden seats. The non-A.C. compartment, in addition, had sufficient space on the racks above.
In no time, the train began moving. The view of green paddy fields having Palm, Mango and Pipal trees here and there, looked very soothing even to my sleepy eyes. My drowsy appearance received a lift on suddenly spotting the glory of the rising sun at the end of the horizon. It was akin to dark pink sight of the colour of a Flamingo which got transformed into a light pink, irresistible colour in a matter of seconds. The scenario was so pleasing that I desired to have a correct mix of the feeling it from within as also to capture the wonderful spectacle into my tiny Firang camera. A couple of memorable shots were possible primarily due to slow movement of train. I may confess honestly that I received unavoidable set back between the stations of Talit and Khana when the all pervading and unassailable monarch of the day (an ultimate source of all energies) played hide and seek in view of occasional emergence of the houses, trees and electric poles.
My photographic forays bore a distinct comparison with a similar encounter with the Sun God when I saw him emerging at Taki (North 24 Parganas) from the
I give myself a break to swallow a tablet and a capsule prescribed to regulate my ‘jumping’ heart and fluctuating B.P.. At Galsi Station (5.45 hours) an old couple make a quiet entry. Their innocent looks appeal to me. As a matter of courtesy I shift my bag so as to make them comfortable. My inquiry reveals that the old man by the name of Bamkin Chandra Chattopadhyay was to get down at Paraj Station (a 20 minute journey) while Konkana Sen Mukhopadyay, his decently dressed life partner was to continue upto Mankar. Latter was visiting her daughter who had recently become a proud mother of a chubby male child.
It further transpired that the public transport system in the area was available at cheaper rates but a journey by a train was considered more comfortable, relatively cheaper and was devoid of the Goondas and the Dadas who regularly throng the dirty and congested bus stands. Further, possibility of a theft and harassment was also less in the Shuttle, remarked a bubbly and youthful Aparna Sen before detraining in a 'filmy' style at Managarh.
On completion of an hour of a slow and congenial journey, the train touched the crowded platform of Rajbandh. A sizeable number of passengers pushed themselves into the compartment even though it was full to capacity by conventional standards. Nevertheless, the whole experience was becoming lively as I managed to pick up a tale or two concerning the establishment of Durgapur Steel Plant, located close by. Such ‘temples’ of modern and resurgent India set up in the Fifties of the Twentieth Century were the brainchild of a sanguine and dynamic Pandit Nehru.
A group of young and cheerful college students who supplement the account of
In the meanwhile, I divert my attention to catch a view of the moving train from outside when I notice a bend in the alignment. We are getting closer to Kali Pahari. I now notice that Sun has moved further up. It was no longer pink and soothing, rather it was hot and blazing. The gradual reduction in the number of passengers inside the bogie too gave an impression that our imminent destination of Asansole was to be reached in a matter of seconds. Sharp at 7.15 hours we manage to touch the Platform Number 3 of Asansole. Like at Burdwan, there was no hue and cry. Decent and polite behaviour on the part of poor looking passengers amply reflected the richness and magnanimity of their hearts. A few of them lend hand willingly when I attempt to lift my bags.
In retrospect, the whole journey was slow but rewarding. It refreshed and enriched as well. While carefully putting a piece of crisp Son Papdi into my hungry mouth, I begin preparing for the next part of journey by another slow motion, yet, lively Burdwan-Hatia Passenger. It is raining cats and dog when I make myself comfortable on an empty bench of the platform.Instead of exclaiming 'Oh it is raining!', I am prompted to utter- 'Aah, it is raining!'. This, perhaps, sums up my spirit.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
2. Though I was up and kicking by 6.30 a.m., owing to overnight stay of a guest (leading to unbearable pressure and a rush at the only loo of the house), I could establish the first contact with the ever smiling and jovial Mipin, around twenty past seven. He appeared sleeping to glory and apparently showed a relaxed attitude when it came to punctuality on a ‘Mother’ of Holidays- Sunday. Ultimately, we met under a gigantic Melia Indica near a ‘Three in One’ religious ‘shop’ in a non-descript end of one and only Nehru Park. The revised time of 7.40 a.m. became ten to eight in the true tradition of the IST (Indian Stretchable Time!).
3. The almost six feet frame of Mipin, in a youthful attire, was visible from a distance. He had added, however, a pouch to his once impressive physique due to what he claimed ‘the side effects of some unconvincing medication’ prescribed by a ‘renowned’ physician. We smiled, shouted like kids and blamed each other for frittering away time. Soon it was mutually agreed to settle the scores by gentle shaking of hands and hugging (not of 377 kind).
4. The ritual of meeting had a solid kick start with a visit to the religious place in question. It was a ‘joint’ specialising more in bashing of women, opium consumption and its shameless facilitation by the vagabond, self proclaimed priests as opposed to the expected spiritual or pretended religious activity they are supposed to indulge in, in view of the publicised ‘Prachin’ (ancient) status of the temple.
5. As soon as we begin our foray into a bout of brisk walking, a large number of singles, pairs and non-pairs duly guided/ misguided by their impulses, begin passing by. Individuals of various sizes, colours and heights wearing shoes and sandals of a wide variety were thronging this centrally located park.
6. While two groups of teenagers were seen practicing, fine tuning and adding value to their Karate skills, a group of youth drawn from both the sexes was busy in testing its athletic skills in the acute, partially sunny and sultry conditions of July. Not to miss the fanfare, some senior citizens were seen relishing laughter therapy in their own, impressive ways.
7. A further walk of a kilometre gave us a rare opportunity to see an old couple picking up blackberries under a thick canopy. It reminded me of my own sweet and carefree childhood spent in the cosmopolitan, summer capital of erstwhile Bihar. A Firang middle aged plump woman in her figure hugging dress (revealing more than covering) was seen struggling with her lovely Apso puppies. The usual muddy water in the central pool was conspicuous by its absence. Barely, six to eight lotus buds and flowers were adding to the ‘beauty’ of the adjoining pool.
8. Mipin appeared enjoying every moment of the described activities in his unique, unusual style. His joy knew no bounds and he seemed to have entered the hallowed premises of the elusive seventh heaven when I remarked that he had not changed even a bit since the bygone MHA days. Rather, he was successful in adding to his inimitable sense of humour,
if his immediate, impromptu utterances and bits of ‘philosophies’ gave any hint.
9. Sri Hibber, the tall, fair, handsome and not to be missed, retired IG of CRPF was first one to be stopped and greeted by us. Prominently displaying his thick grey moustache, he appeared in true high spirits. Afterall, without looking ‘here and there’, he had completed three rounds of the park situated in the heart of a heartless Delhi.
10. Mipin, thereafter, almost bumped into a dusky, petite and charming Bong eve, who was enjoying her every bit of gentle cat walking while wearing a pair of electric blue hot pants and a sleeveless, semi-transparent polka -dot top. While taking adequate care of her cardio vascular requirements, she looked deeply engrossed in listening to the latest Pop music through an imported ear phone.
11. Within no time, we came across a group of tall hefty men led by the PS to one Minister. Same was followed closely by another combination ‘commanded’ in true military style by the PS to the ruling coalition Chairman. Their ‘regular’ work out had not led to reduction even of a kg of flesh from their bulging waistlines. Nevertheless, Mipin burst into laughter when informed of the presence of a large number of such regular jokers, pseudo walkers or even onlookers in this vast green lung of the city. ‘Appearances are deceptive’, he added, however, without fail.
12. The presence of a Lenin statue in absence of one of Nehru in the park spoke high of our ‘foreign commitments’ years after the disintegration of the USSR and months after loosening of the grip of so called Leftists over the Federal Government.
13. Mipin in the meanwhile, began giving some unsolicited advice in regard to regulating heart and mind. To him, life was to be led lightly without assuming any responsibility. He reiterated his grand plans of getting ‘cleaning’ of his heart done at least twice at official expense, prior to superannuation. He did add that an Apollo Doctor had misled him five years ago to undergo a conventional angiography. In view of his happy go lucky approach, a blockage to the extent of barely eight percent was shown.
14. He claimed to have run away from the hospital sooner than expected at the dead of the night and vowed not to re-enter such high voltage ‘by- pass factories’. I was not shocked to learn that upon being discharged, he drove his vehicle himself. Probably, his life partner is yet to become aware of this interesting and nocturnal medical encounter.
15. Before we close the chapter of heart, we occupy a bench, otherwise reserved for bold and smart pairs. I am advised to take Craetegus Tincture, a Homeopathic drop twice a day. A regular intake of this drop had kept him at a long distance from any Cardiologist during the last five years, he claimed once again in an authoritarian voice. I decided to give it a try to supplement my daily yoga and brisk walk sessions spanning to almost two hours.
16. Having completed the ‘heart to heart’ talk, I enquired about the welfare of his ailing 89 year old mother. He updated me in his true jovial manner. He was heaving a sigh of relief for a few days as his brother, for a change, had reluctantly assumed the onerous responsibility of looking after the octogenarian, yet robust parent.
17. The much awaited icing of the cake came in the form of sudden appearance of Mipin’s well dressed and attractive maid servant(M.S.) when I agreed to have some water and tea at his ‘palatial’ flat. Though his ‘Home Theatre’ failed to live up to expectations, his collection of
books and curio impressed me. When I finished gathering some information pertaining to the educational status of his off springs, the MS walked in gently. She smiled and showed polite manners. In a spur of moment, I uttered a few Nepali words. It hit her well. She responded positively. She was perplexed to hear flawless Nepali from a dark plainsman like me. She believed me when I informed her of my North-Eastern connections.
18. In no time she brought three glasses of plain water for me. A glass of cold water was handed over to Mipin, who appeared ignored, if not ignorant in presence of two Nepalis having the same wavelength. Though I hurriedly finished the hot cup of tea offered in a bourgeoisie cup without even looking at the M.S.(I swear), Mipin, true to his style, narrated my alleged weakness for the M.S. to my ‘strict’ prima donna, who by chance, had managed to catch me on Mipin’s latest mobile. Though, for a moment, my mobility and agility came to a sudden halt, I regained courage to convey to her that the concocted stories emanating from an old ‘mischievous’ friend had to be heard by one ear, to be dropped off instantly by another. She gave an impression as if she was convinced by my explanation.
19. At ten to ten, Mipin made no mistake in quickly seeing me off. While passing through the exit, he showed his two prized pitchers with a sense of pride. He added that these were refilled thrice a day to quench the thirst of his family members. I was amazed to take note of the mutual co-existence of the ultra-modern Home Theatre and the ancient pitcher.
20. While I begin scribbling these lines for posterity in a safe, airy corner of the park under the soothing shadow of a Ficus Infectoria, two crows approach a pool of clean water.Both have a piece of bread stuck to their beaks. Rather innocently, they soak the bread pieces into water and quickly gulp the same. Having done this, they fly to the near by bunch of trees.
21. When I almost make up my mind to depart, the crows make a comeback, this time with a bang. They wet themselves and begin taking bath to beat the temperature of 38 degree celcius. They appear innocent and stress-free while performing the cleaning ritual in the lap of nature unlike the hypocrite creatures that invariably avail of route number 11.I curse myself of having not carried my camera today. But such rare moments need to be felt and enjoyed also, rather than being ‘shot’. I suppose, I should end now. As such, I am surrounded by five to six pairs, ready to take a ‘plunge’ in this safe and lover-friendly zone of the park.
22. By the time, I finally leave, the foot suspension bridge and the mango grove at the another end give a quiet, desolate look. Except for the noise emanating from a miniature grass cutter, the area has the necessary cross ventilation to cool my rising ‘thinking’ temperature. The carefree pairs of yesterdays are not there anymore. Yet it is rejuvenating.
23. My further thought process comes to a distinct halt once being reminded of the scores of heating processes of Macroni & Pasta breakfast, my ‘furious’ prima Dona has been struggling with. While she aspired to serve a decent and changed menu for ‘breaking’ the fast on a
Sunday morning, I once again prove beyond doubt that I am, at times, incorrigible as far as punctuality was concerned. While she gave an impression of being misled for a moment by the innocuous designs of Mipin, she continues to express full confidence about my non-slippery approach when it comes to dealing with individuals from the fair sex.
24. Having thought so, I resume brisk-walking. Soon, I graduate to jogging. Going past the well laid out green trees of Amaltas, Dalbergia Sissod, Tecoma Argentina and Ficus Religiosa, one after another, I gather the requisite courage to face the inevitable, friendly and justified bitterness of my better-half. .
25. To sum up, I propose to pose a question- “Who is not scared of his wife?” An ‘experienced’ person showing a sign of disagreement is certainly lying. He is, perhaps not reflecting the reality in the manner Mipin seems to have mastered over the years, given any situation.
POSTSCRIPT-Readers having sufficient patience, tolerance and perseverance are free to choose any of the following suggested titles for this ‘honest’ piece of prose. If not, they are at a liberty to suggest new ones.
· Happy Go Lucky
· A Breath of Fresh Air
· Sunday, A Fun Day
· A Fantasy Called Mipin OR
· B.S.D.W.(Biwi Se Darne Wala)
May God Bless You
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The place is Departure Lounge of Jaipur Airport. Flight number CD 492 for Delhi scheduled to arrive at 21.40 hours is nowhere in sight. I am the first passenger to have been given security clearance. I came here out of my own choice, so that I could relax, ponder over the marvellous paintings and hoardings to interpret the essence of Rajasthan and that I could also scribble a few lines about the mesmerising charm of the Pink City and its erstwhile feudal surroundings.
Waiting here, I am reminded of a word of caution by a dear colleague that I should not be surprised if I land up spending rest of the night in the irresistible Rambagh Palace Hotel, owing to further delay of the hopping flght from Bombay.
Each visit to this enchanting and planned city compels me to think about our rich cultural heritage and the sincere efforts to preserve it in view of the onslaughts of the so-called modern civilisation. Ever since I came here first in 1984, rapid changes have been noticed. Yet, it remains as attractive to a person from the East or West, as it was, may be, fifty years ago.
The time now is 22.15 hours, yet, there is no sound of the flying machine touching the quiet and serene run way of the Pink City. The solitude of the departure lounge is suddenly broken by an announcement that the passengers travelling by CD 492 are requested to proceed for the security check up. I heave a sigh of relief. Upon a visit to the 'rest room', it is a pleasing sight to see a beautiful young foreigner with her chubby infant making a hurried entry. Further, the appearance of a naughty boy in the que enlivens the atmosphere. Slowly and gradually, other haggard passengers (majority of them half-asleep) also follow suit.
A deafening noise draws the attention of all. It is 22.45 hours. The plane appears to have finally landed from the Mayanagari. Not to play further with the sentiments and sensibilities of the passengers, their friends and associates, a loud announcement confirms it. We all pick up our belongings and proceed like nursery kids in a straight line towards the tarmac.
The whole air-strip is beautifully lit. Its beauty is enhanced by the gentle and cool breeze. Getting fresh air is more than a welcome and refreshing feeling these days. It helps in overcoming the chronic fatigue syndrome inherited during the day.
Once inside the flying machine, one comes across the cold, immune and official reception of the hefty and heavily made-up hostesses.
When light is dimmed, I attempt a nap but I fail. An effort to browse through a newspaper and a periodical also is an exercise in futility. The flight to Delhi is a relatively short affair of barely thirty minutes. A walk down the aisle is, therefore, completely ruled out.
My boredom gets over with the sight of sparkling and twinkling lights of the historic city of Delhi. The Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Humayun Tomb, India Gate, Lotus temple, all present a marvellous and breath-taking sight. One wishes that the aircraft should not land and that my visual romance with the monuments, structures and flora of Delhi continues. An announcement in English, followed by an atrocious anglicised version in Hindi, however, shatters my wishes.
Once on the ground, it is a long wait for the luggage. There after, I begin searching for the vehicle. I find it ultimately but as expected, the driver is traceless. Who knows, he may be immersed in playing cards or smoking like a chimney!
It is well past midnight when I reach home. The call-bell disturbs the slumber of my wife, who opens the door with the usual 'sound and fury', while my son is found sleeping to glory. The element of displeasure on the part of my life partner is a momentary affair. She loses no time in quickly grabbing the sparkling flight dinner packet, which I often ‘save’ for her.
While she is fully engrossed in getting the gastronomical delights, I jump onto bed, touch my son, feel his innocent face, his quiet breathing and hit the pillow.
The stirring sojourn with Jaipur is over. One is reminded of the ‘black’ Monday after a well spent, cheerful and meaningful Sunday. I close my eye-lids while thinking of the inevitable encounter with the files, letters, faxes, endless telephones, demanding bosses (pushing you often in caught-in-cross-fire kind of situations), over-expectant colleagues, irresponsible peons and last but not the least, the defiant struggle of we DONKEYS, ‘fond’ of working in company of monkeys (of North Block).
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Not surprisingly, therefore, Sikkim has been attracting the visitors and tourists from all over the world. Guru Padmasambhava, the erstwhile Prince and a Tantric scholar of the ancient and distinguished Nalanda University of Bihar, is reported to have visited this Shangrila in the 8th century. He meditated in four of Sikkim’s caves, each located in it’s four corners. Having accomplished that, he delivered his sermons at Tashiding, the holiest monastery of Sikkim,
Sikkim was first inhabited by the Lepchas of the Rong Migyit race. In the 15th Century they interacted with the Bhutia tribe of the Kham area of Tibet. After some deliberations between the Lepchas and the Bhutias, a Blood Brotherhood Treaty was signed at Kabi-Longchok in 1641 in North Sikkim. It paved the way for the establishment of the one and only Namgyal Dynasty of Sikkim by the Bhutias during the period1642 to 1975.
Much water has flown down the Teesta, Rangeet, Rathongchu and Ranikhola rivers since Sikkim joined the mainstream of India in May 1975. From less than 50,000 tourists in 1993-94, impressive figures of 3.60 lakh tourists were recorded by March 2007.
Keeping in view the immense potential and prospects for the tourism sector in Sikkim and realizing its growing contribution to the state economy, a Tourist Comment Book was introduced in early 2005. This is regularly filled-in by the tourists who pen positive comments on the performance of the Department and the stakeholders, thus giving useful feedback for fine tuning and improvement. In addition, the Secretary and senior officers have an interface with the tourists in the Information Centres, Wayside Amenities, tourist hubs and the head office from time to time, to get first-hand opinions and complaints, if any. The Secretary, also occasionally holds a tourist “darbar”, A feedback from is regularly circulated to tourists, explaining certain do’s and dont’s, as well as maintaining safe distance from certain strategic locations and respecting the ecological vulnerability of the state. An attempt has been made recently to record and document the impressions of a select group of tourists.
Pratim Chowdhury of Kolkata, who came to Sikkim with his better half and two off springs, has visited the State about thirty times and would like to come again. He organized a Motor Rally in 1994 from Kolkata to Gangtok, visited almost all places, including Tsomgo Lake, and thoroughly enjoyed the Yak ride. The Chowdhuries found Gangtok soothing and comfortable. However,in their opinion, the conversion of Siniolchu Lodge into a Circuit House should not have happened.
M K Banerjee, who made a trip to Sikkim with P K Chakravarti and his family from Pune via Kolkata, met this author en route. He received help in getting discounted accommodation and transport, both at Darjeeling and Gangtok. This was his maiden visit to Sikkim. He has travelled all over the world but found Sikkim ,extra special. Among the places visited, they enjoyed Tsomgo, Tashi View Point and Hanuman Tok.
Dr.M P Gandhi,Physician of Sikkim House, New Delhi, visited Sikkim recently for the first time. He loved Tashi View Point for its sunrise and Nathula for its snowfall. He also relished Sikkimese food and relished his visit to Pastanga Village in the East Sikkim. Dr.S N Pande, Coronary Yoga Expert, Ministry of Health(AYUSH), came to conduct a Yoga Camp.He received such an overwhelming response from the people, patients, public servants and the tourists that he has already planned another such camp, along with his family.
Mrs. Vanitha Reddy, wife of Sridhar Reddy from Tarnaka, Hyderabad, visited Sikkim between 17 to 21 April for the first time, along with her husband and daughter. They visited the Valley of Flowers at Yumthang,Tsomgo Sherathang. Nathula Harbhajan Mandir Circuit in East Sikkim and also did some sightseeing in and around Gangtok. She was overwhelmed by the snowfall, rugged mountains and the clean, unpolluted air.
Mrs. Indira Ramakrishna, wife of G Ramakrishna of Koppikar Road, Hubli, Karanataka, has also visited Sikkim for the first time. She believes in bonding with the people. Between Yumthang and Tsomgo- Nathula, she enjoyed Yumthang. She found all the places absolutely neat and clean. What amazed her the most was the sudden and rapid change of weather after every few kilometres. According to her, the roads were very good, all facilities, including medical, were available and the Army and drivers were very helpful. This was her first interview, and that too, conducted by the Commissioner, Tourism, she added with a glowing face.
C Rajeswari, wife of Pawan Kumar of Uttar Para, Kolkata, originally from Andhra, also a first timer, had heard of Sikkim from her husband’s colleagues. She especially liked the footpath with the sturdy railing in Gangtok, the well regulated traffic and the friendly and helpful people, including the staff of the hotel in the Development Area. She also liked the momos and thukpa. She, in addition, was amazed by the unusual and enchanting pine-covered mountains of the Yumthang Valley.
Sridhar Reddy, G Ramakrishna and Pawan Kumar too enjoyed Sikkim in their own way. Rohan Agarwal, aged thirteen, in the same way, comes to Sikkim every year during the Summer and thoroughly enjoys the cool and pleasant climate.
Dr.Manish Sharma, though a native of Kolkata, was bestowed with an opportunity to visit Sikkim for the first time along with Smita, his wife, and one-year old son Kusagra. Meeting them at Nathula, Tsomgo Lake and subsequently at some popular spots at Gangtok, provided me with a good deal of positive insight about the state. They seemed to have liked every day of their six day stay, more so, the hospitality they received at Hotel Mount Jopuno, Gangtok.
Saikat Kundu, Usha Rani Guleria, B B Upadhyaya and forty others of St John’s Ambulance of Silliguri and New Delhi visited various exotic places in East and West Sikkim, including Nathula and Tsomgo Lake. They appeared calm ,rejuvenated and relaxed when they were contacted during their Yak Ride and Lunch-break opposite Tsomgo Lake. They would like to repeat their unforgettable experience of this small, beautiful and charming state.
To sum up, in the words of Nikhil Suratwala of Jalgaon, (Maharashtra).“Sikkim was the best tourist destination for the honeymooners”. When he was expressing so, his petite and beautiful wife, Mamta, nodded with a big smile. Giving them company in the serene surroundings of the Alpine Cafetaria at Tsomgo Lake, were their relatives – Sanjay and Anju Vijay and Rajesh and Dhwani Mehta, along with their charming little children. It would be interesting to note that Sanjay and Rajesh had returned to Sikkim after many years, not only to celebrate their eighth marriage anniversary, (which they did photographically and romantically), but also to give ‘useful’ tips on marriage to their freshly married relatives – Nikhil and Mamta.
So the honeymooners and nature lovers alike, pack up your bags, book your tickets and simply rush to Sikkim, the Destination of the Millennium.
Visual art is a valuable expression of the creative faculty of mankind. It is integral to every civilization. If literature can be mirror of society, art and craft follows literature, rather closely. It can be more expressive than the former, sometimes.
A man or a woman, while drawing, painting or for that matter, photographing, thinks profusely. He or she has a keen, observant and decisive eye. Resultantly, expression is possible through the powerful medium of sketch, cartoon or painting.
Apart from highlighting the hidden mysteries and treasures of life, super human powers, events, individuals, places, etc, an object of art provides necessary solace to the artist when he or she desires to share the same.
Art has been an evolving and never stopping phenomenon. Just think of the value of objects of Indus Valley and Vedic Civilizations, cave paintings and sculptors of Ajanta and Ellora or the variety of folk arts of our country, such as, Kangra, Kishangarh, Kalamkari, Madhubani, Thanka, or the intricate and elaborate carvings and paintings in the palaces, temples, mosques, churches and the monasteries.
In our lovely and awesome country taking right pride in unity in diversity, each region has a distinct art form. But not everything gets known or publicized, forget about ensuring a minimum and reasonable price for the hard and time consuming labour of the artist. In good old days, we had the Emperors and Kings patronizing the artists. Soon the Government took over the responsibility, followed by the NGOs and the corporate houses. Now we also have individual admirers and buyers.
Keats said long back: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” How many of us realize it? Perhaps,very few.
Let us maintain this kind of healthy tradition. In addition to recognizing and encouraging the artists, let us ensure adequate price for their products. These paintings reflect our heritage and rich culture. We should preserve and promote them. While doing so, let us exercise due caution. Let us guard against the imitated and fake products. These have no place in a civilized society.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Small and light weapons-guns, pistols, revolvers and shotguns, fired at short ranges, have been proliferating rapidly in an illicit fashion in the last fifty or sixty years. According to an estimate, about 750 million small weapons have become primary weapons for the criminals, guerrillas, terrorists, Left Wing Extremists as also the smugglers. New developments in science and technology and communication have led to up gradation of military and armament technology. The terrorists, because of their world-wide access and networking, coupled with plethora of funds emanating from drug-trafficking and money laundering, have been in a position to get hold of the latest weapons and technology.
Though small weapons are less destructive in comparison to the conventional ones, yet, they have proved effective and more lethal in perpetrating violence due to their light weight, portability, simplicity in use, low cost, and above all, increasing lethality. The technology of small arms has been improving day by day. Many of these weapons can be dismantled and reassembled even by the teenagers. No wonder, the wars sustained by the light weapons have taken a heavy toll of life, apart from causing grievous injuries to people and destruction of property worth millions of Dollars.
Over the years, India has remained a prime victim of Pak-sponsored small weapons trafficking. This phenomenon has been witnessed without any break in addition to the State-sponsored terrorism aided by them, first in Punjab and later in Jammu & Kashmir. Off and on, innumerable soft and vulnerable targets are hit either serially or simultaneously in the metropolitan centres. Although militancy in Punjab has been eliminated, the Pak ISI continues to provide sanctuary to the leftover Sikh militant leaders even outside Pakistan (Nepal and Bangladesh), with a view to revive and sustain militancy. At the same time, systematic training in the use of small arms and weapons on a massive scale to the misguided Kashmiri youth at the specially set-up training camps (more than 50 in number) has been a key feature of the support extended almost religiously by Pakistan. Mainly due to proliferation of small arms and ammunitions, in the State of Punjab alone, more than 12,000 innocent civilians and 1,700 security personnel were killed. Similarly, in Jammu & Kashmir, more than 8000 civilians and approximately 2,000 security personnel have lost their lives, as of now. In addition, a number of helpless civilians have been kidnapped, taken hostage and tortured. Latest naked manifestation of intimidation caused by the small arms was the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane, which led to 155 passengers being held in captivity in most inhuman conditions for a week, apart from the cold-blooded murder of one of the innocent passengers.
A huge quantity of small arms and ammunition smuggled into the country from across the borders has been recovered by the security agencies. In the State of Jammu & Kashmir alone, more than 7,500 pistols and revolvers, about 2,500 pistol/revolver magazines and not less than 28,000 rounds of ammunition for such weapons have been seized during the last decade. This goes on to show the astonishing level of up gradation of weapons in the hands of militants. The militants hiding in the country, continue to upgrade their weapons with the passage of time with the connivance of and the assistance they receive from the smugglers and infiltrators operating along the Indo-Pak and Indo-Nepal borders.
There is an urgent need to work for checking the flow of small arms by resorting to bilateral as also multilateral efforts. An unilateral approach may perhaps prove meaningless and ineffective in checking a phenomenon which has increased drastically in scale and scope. This is a phenomenon which has nearly replaced the conventional warfare and is fast emerging as a means of surrogate warfare. At the regional level, a beginning has already been made in the form of adoption of a Convention by the Latin American countries and circulation of a draft Convention against illicit trafficking in small firearms by India at a SAARC Summit in September 1997. Further, debate on the draft Convention needs to be carried forward, keeping in view the spirit of SAARC Convention on Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism adopted in 1987. The South Asian nations must realise that the unhealthy growth of small arms is not only detrimental to India’s Security but it will hit all of them also, in the long run, thus leaving an adverse impact on the security scenario of the entire South Asian region. Strong and effective measures, therefore, need to be taken against the illegal possession and trafficking in small arms by the countries of the region by carrying out suitable amendments in the relevant legislations. Regular exchange of information pertaining to the smugglers indulging in small arms and drug trafficking, is also very much called for.
At the global level, India has played a leading role in evolving a consensus adopted by the Non-aligned nations against terrorism and small arms proliferation. The NAM Summit held at Durban had also reaffirmed that all the member-States have an obligation to refrain from organising and assisting or participating in terrorist acts in the territory of other States. India has also proposed a Comprehensive International Convention against Terrorism. The 53rd General Assembly Session of the UN has agreed that a negotiation on such a Convention should be taken up on a priority. In not too distant past, G-7 nations had also announced their priority to fight terrorism.
A number of bilateral agreements on the question of terrorism have been signed, many are under consideration and many may be in the offing. However, in order to combat seriously a global problem, an unanimous global strategy would be necessary. All the double standards have to go. There has to be a determined and popular awareness campaign against the terrorists, smugglers, arms traffickers and money launderers. Not only conventions need to be adopted but measures of their implementation have to be also effective. There has to be a quick enactment of the enabling legislations and a continuous cooperation among all the Governments with regard to sharing of experiences and intelligence in combating terrorism and trafficking in small arms, drugs, narcotics and psychotropic substances.