Ignited Minds: A review

image

I read this book on the sad and tragic event of the death of Dr. Kalam, one of the greatest and most respected sons of India. Within the pages of the book, I found a complete manifestation of the man himself, for the words were the undying and inexhaustible spirit of what Kalam was in real life. Within those words, I found the enthusiasm, the zeal, the passion and the vision that Kalam always talked about. Within those words, I found the pride, the fire, the wisdom, the responsibility of a true leader, a resolute patriot and a real teacher who has this unbounded faith in the potential of the country.

Kalam lived as he believed. Within Ignited Minds, he talks about his journeys, his adventures, his missions and his imaginations. He talks at length how he has complete confidence in the abilities of the people of India, he shares how with an unwavering focus and dedication, India can achieve the status of a superpower. He tells us how we can transform our advantage into our strength and how like an incense , we can remodel ourselves into a knowledge society and then spread our timeless wisdom to the world. Till his last breath, he was steadfast in his mission to encourage young minds of India to rise and shine and break the barriers of self-created obstacles to achieve their true destiny.

The book talks about many things. From his own convictions to his immediate experiences, Kalam filled in the pages what he observed and what he deduced. He expressed his sadness that inspite of being rich in natural and human resource we have yet not achieved what we deserve. Mired in religious, social, cultural  and economic conflicts, India is held back in imagining and realising a focused dream and goal. He beckons that until and unless we will think as a united  nation we will remain backward, exploited   and challenged.

The only drawback of the book was probably while describing his scientific missions, he goes into too much detail which is beyond comprehension, otherwise his unrelenting fervour oozes out from in between the lines and seepes into one’s self. Kalam in this book acts as a torch to ignite the minds of Indians, thus justifying the title. A ratna(gem) from the real Bharat Ratna.

Pakistan, India and Peshawar Attack: Divided by History United in Pain.

There was nothing unusual about the morning, 16th of December, 2014. The day began as usual for most Pakistanis, with morning prayers and breakfast followed by the same everyday maddening rush for work, bounded by the unpredictability and vulnerability of a regular day in the life of the nation. A kind of fear and anxiety engrossing everyone of something unforeseen and uncertain in the cracking and already profusely bleeding society.

On the other hand, just northwest from the heart of the country, some mothers were woken up by their usual routine, pushing to wake up their innocently sleeping kids, getting them ready for their school, packing their lunches with the wonted motherly concern that they must eat properly. Handing them their washed, clean uniforms, polished shoes and colorful school bags . The morning was marked by the customary  haste, eyes alternatingly watching the rapid ticking of time as their children got ready. Only a few words were exchanged. There were quick hugs and kisses and then the goodbyes!

Never would they have imagined, that it would be the final adieu. That the apples of their eyes, whom they had woken up from their peaceful slumber with their own hands would return back, just a few hours later, packed in shroud, their tender bodies brutally riddled with bullets, resting in eternal sleep, refusing ever to talk to them again, ever to throw their affectionate glances on them, ever to call them mother again…

It was the worst day of reckoning for these mothers who had sent their beloved children to schools just a few hours before

As world came crashing down for these mothers, the world at large stood in shock and terror as Pakistan witnessed one of its blackest day in history. The Peshawar attack in its wake terribly shook the entire country, as citizens watched their own younger brethren, being taken out of the complex, been ripped apart and bathed in their own blood. The green and white uniforms were more red than otherwise. Students, both young and old were being carried out by the paramilitary forces, horror and trauma stamped on their confused countanance . While some were lucky to see the daylight again and meet the loved ones, for others not so lucky, it was their tryst with the ultimate.

The operation carried out by the Army lasted only a few hours, but not before leaving behind 132 feeble, inculpable children dead along with the 8 other staff members. As it should have been, It was only a matter of time, before the entire country erupted in anger and mourning. The questions on everyone’s lips were Why? Whom? For what?. The administration, who for most part had remained incapable of protecting their citizens, managed the usual political mumble. But the discontent and fury could be seen everywhere. One of the first platforms where the people could be seen venting their anger were the social networking sites./

Many youngsters were seen changing their profile pictures to black on these sites. As the latest news came up, people poured their hearts out filled with disgust and outrage. Within a short time as the story spread internationally, people began to slowly get hold of the things. Many people sitting out in the remote areas of the world, tried to sympathise and empathise with the people of Pakistan. However, an unusual  trend, quite contrary to everyone’s expectations was the efflux of empathy by Pakistan’s not so close neighbour India.

Massive outpouring of support from India could be seen across various social networking sites

One of the first countries, to extend its hand and shoulder to Pakistan, the Indians were seen massively expressing their solidarity and support on the social networking sites. The virtual space, which at normal times, is filled with contempt and scorn from both sides, was surprisingly cordial and sympathetic. The more the passionate were the Pakistanis’ condemnation of the attack, the equal was every Indian’s sincerity in matching their voice with them. It was as if the attack has united the two otherwise competitive neighbours with a unique common bond, a bond that so disdainfully overlooked the divisions of religion, history and hatred that hitherto has kept the two nations apart.

This rare and exclusive outpouring of emotions amazed many as world took notice of the same. The BBC in its report on 17th of December published an article highlighting this uncommon trend in the Indian media(see the article here). It was surprising for many Pakistanis and Indians too, but the way Pakistanis acknowledged and responded to the Indian emotions showed clearly how tragedy can bring distant of the relations together and awfully withdrawn hearts closer.

The tweet by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his solidarity with people of Pakistan

The effect of Peshawar Attack was also seen on the Indian social and political life. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the citizens of the neighbouring nation as well as called his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to express his grief. He also directed Indian schools to observe a two minute silence in the memory of the departed souls which was accordingly done in the schools(see the reaction here) across the nation as well as in the Indian Parliament. Indian schoolchildren called their friends in Pakistan as well as wrote handwritten letters expressing their sorrow and encouraging them not get bowed down by terrorism. The trend #indiawithpakistan which was started on Twitter and Facebook, continued to receive entries from both the nations long after the attack.

Students across Indian schools observe silence for the kids massacred in Peshawar

Prayers were offered in schools across India for the children killed in Peshawar

Two minutes silence was observed in the Indian Parliamentin the memory of Peshawar victims

But as they say, every event brings with it a message from God which is directed to bring back man to his senses. The gelling of two countries, though over innocent blood, could well be a message from Almighty that peace between His creation is His only desire. This historic

opportunity and coming together of two nations should not be left to waste but instead should be zealously pursued from both the sides . Both the countries want peace and peace is the only way that will bring stability and prosperity for the people across the region, that will prevent the repitition of such horrific incidents.

We can presume that those children went away tying the two arch-rivals in a peculiar bond, a bond that now must be preserved against harsh memories of history and imprudence of later rivalries. Indeed, this loss cannot be recovered but it must be said, which is as well the call of time, that we should strive our best not to betray the sacrifices of those children!! 

“This post is part of MyVoiceUnheard initiative. MyVoiceUnheard is an online social campaign to bring forward the voice of ordinary individuals to the global community and use the power of expression to break the stereotypes. This initiative is under World Peace Caravan which is a global movement to promote respect, compassion and a greater understanding of one another in Peace.”

Click on the image to follow MyVoiceUnheard here

or visit their website at https://myvoiceunheard.com

Let’s Welcome Year 2015!!

IMG_0856

There is definitely something about the spirit of Christmas that puts you on a launching pedestal of festivity, a lively restlessness in the freezing cold and an upstart emotion that waits earnestly for a new year and a new beginning. Every time, during this time of the year we all look forward with a new hope, a new faith, a new expectation that coming year would be better than the year going by and that we all will emerge a better person with the world becoming a better place to live in. Of course, at the same time, it also remains the time of reflection of the events that happened and affected us during the foregoing year.

Although no year can be called totally good or totally bad as all years offers us mixed events. At one time they takes us to the heights of enjoyment and at other times pulls us down to the dales of sadness. The year 2014 in the same way presented us with a complex diversity of events. While at home, the nation sprung into action with a new verve of energy with the election of Narendra Modi to the post of premiership, on the other hand we saw some of the worst attacks on humanity in the form of brutal killings by the terrorists of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the unjustified killing of 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelites in the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Russian aggression in Ukraine. At one end, the threat of Ebola virus kept the world in confusion, on the other hand, the floods in Kashmir wreaked havoc in the subcontinent. We all witnessed the tragic death of Phil Hughes on field and at home the recent barbaric killings in Assam. But as we were closing on the year, a shocking incident occurred in our neighborhood in the form of the Peshawar Attacks.

The attacks that shook the entire world, brought before us a stunning example of the fact that a snake given birth and brought up in your backyard to bite your neighbor, nevertheless bites you in the end. The cold blooded Taliban attack on innocent school children was a rude wakeup call for the state of Pakistan, that hitherto were so happily harboring and feeding them, in their “obsessed to the sickening” quest for strategic depth against its alleged “enemies”.

But at the same time it was heartening to see the prompt and massive outpouring of sympathy and commiserative brotherly emotion from none other than the common people of Pakistan’s biggest “antagonist” India. An emotion which was equally matched in its acknowledgment and reception by the common people of Pakistan, was both historic and unexpected. In the wake of crisis, a surprising new trend emerged. Of people of younger generation of both the countries, tired of the burden of history forcefully imposed on them, wanting to move forward in a new direction that politicians have so far failed to achieve. Of course the haters on both the sides did their bit, but their usual trash of propaganda was more than overwhelmed and overshadowed by spirited quest of people wanting to come together and fight the scourge of terrorism.

The gruesome murder of 140 children was not the first of its kind in the history and unfortunately wont be the last either, but it did in its wake had a profound influence of changing of hearts on the both sides of the border. Probably for the first time in the bloodied relationship of the two countries, the common population realized that cutting across barriers, religions and nationalities, they all are but humans, full of errors and flaws, divided by ideologies and opinions but nevertheless bonded eternally by the fragile thread of humanity. May God give strength to this delicate relation.

An year brings with it so many emotions and feelings that as you sit down to write you quickly loose count of words and thoughts. Numerous events that make up an year comes before the eyes, stops and waits to get registered and then vanish as quickly as they come. As time slips, the memory fades and the year goes off taking in its bosom some happy, some sad, some curious and some surprising reflections. At the end of every year the painful and terrible frailty of human condition strikes us in face. Every time, we are awfully reminded that it is we who are subject to time, nature and circumstances and not the other way round. The more we try to push the limits of our human confines, more harshly the Providence cuts us back to our own.

But hope and will has kept alive the race of humans for billions of years and so it will be in the coming year and years to come. Without a slightest sign of fatigue, we again lodge our boats into unknown waters of 2015, keeping our spirits high, learning from our mistakes and wishing too see a new world full of happiness, justice and co-existence, a world that we all desire and have wished sometimes in our dreams. Happy New Year!!

A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India by William Dalrymple: A Review and My Thoughts

400BDFB0-6595-4984-BE08-8EB71729FC9C

A much needed essay comes from the eminent historian William Dalrymple at a time when the entire region is looking forward, with much anxiety, towards the withdrawal of American and NATO forces this year and the ramifications thereafter. What exactly is going to happen, nobody knows but one thing is sure that whatever is going to happen it is going to have consequences, not for the region or the players involved, but for the entire world.

The essay fills in necessary information to back the analysis concerning the future of all the countries of The Deadly Triangle. The changes that are taking place are in fact so rapid, that it leaves nothing but gamble dotting the course of foreign policies that India and Pakistan are going to follow. The withdrawal of American and NATO forces, the change of the Karzai’s government, coming of Modi government in India, signals of another internal conflict in Pakistan, the rise of Taliban, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and most of all, the presence of China in Afghanistan. All of these are going to have their own effect in the geopolitics of the region in the time to come. It has led everyone to be tightly bounded to their own positions and forced them to wait to see where exactly the situation takes them to. As we quickly reach towards the designated time, one thing is for sure, it will take a major review of polices of countries involved and a fresh look at the situation, in order to defend the respective interests.

India has and is investing a lot in Afghanistan since a long time. And although 76% of Afghans have favorable view of India, it is still not much to neutralize Pakistan’s aim of creating “strategic depth”, a policy that it is surely not going to abandon, even if they choose to distance itself from it for the time till its internal situation stabilizes. One the other hand, the presence of China( even though it is still a business enterprise there but nevertheless they will influence the politics in the time to come) neutralizes Indian interests and the Indian policy to contain Pakistan from creating any misdeeds against its soil. I fear that Afghanistan may not become again another platform for proxy wars, this time even China getting involved in it.

India only wants peace in the region and it is only investing in Afghanistan for this sole aim. As the author rightly pointed out that India is and never was any threat for Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India, as the world knows, is a peace loving country and the history is evident that it has gone to war only when the war has been thrusted upon it. This is the most crucial point that Pakistan Army must understand and internalize, for if they continue to follow the same policy what they have been following till now, it is never ending war.

And Afghans too must pay heed to where they are heading to. India would be very happy to leave Afghanistan to their own if it form itself into a stable, democratic and progressive country. Why do they even allow an “expansionist” China to muddle into their waters? Why cant they unite to have a stable polity at the center? Is Afghanistan has all remained to be a playground for proxy wars for a country like Pakistan or historically the Soviet Union or the US to use their population for their own interests and then throw them at will? Afghanistan was once a very progressive country. Now as the chapter of the American war( or whatever it was) against terrorism draws to a close, Afghans must look within and ardently realize that nobody is a friend in the international politics, that they must save their own home first, otherwise they will be continued to be abused for generations to come.

And lastly, Pakistan must understand that India is not and never will be a threat for them. The sooner they realize it, the better it will be for them. Being a large country and now a major player in international arena ,India may have a bit louder voice in the geopolitical region, but that does not mean that it is going to dictate the internal politics of any country. India loves democracy and respects sovereignty of any country and is firmly committed to it and only wants friendly ties and thriving trade with its neighbors so that prosperity abounds the region. I hope that not only the region but the world realizes this soon.

Arabian Nights translated by Richard Francis Burton and A S Byatt: A Review

20140730-160943-58183763.jpg

A spicy blend of wit, humour, fatansy, adventure, wisdom and thrill is what we have as Arabian Nights. The timeless stories, packed with the horse sense and creativity of the east have enamoured people since ages and I am no exception. The narratives takes you to the splendid world of imagination, where Kings, vaziers, merchants, princes and princesses, fairies, genii-all play a power packed, adventurous, daredevil and venturous acts leading the way to some of the most thrilling experiences that beholds your attention and keeps you glued to the book. Of course, the some stories are long and the book needs to be covered in parts, reading some portion of it daily in order to absorb the previous chunk. Nevertheless, these so called stories of the east give a peeping view of the culture, life, polity, commerce, society and history of the medieval Islamic world of the Middle East including in some part of India where influenced by Islam. As they were translated, these stories became a part of life of the people both to its east and west, evolving on the way as they went by, moulding itself as per the needs of the region in question. In my opinion, stories are an important part of life and it would not be wrong to say that stories are something that make us, shapes ourselves and defines our personality. That is why all important cultures chose stories, allegories, narratives etc. to pass on their wisdom to the future generations and in the way furnishing tremendous joy and entertainment to its readers.
A word about translation: The stories are translated in an excellent way, using simple english, thus making the journey seamless and smooth, enabling to focus more on the joy rather than getting lost in heavy-weight words and consulting dictionary again and again. Overall, a highly likeable experience and a must-recommended.

Significance of the New Year!

Image

Time again comes back a full circle, spirits are back on a roll and feet are tapping freely for its time for the New Year. Markets, shops, places, restaurants are all decked up with the excitement of bringing in the day of 1st January.

But, there is definitely a distinctive peculiarity about it. A sort of feeling of finishing something, leaving behind the mistakes and faults in veil of the year going by and starting afresh, looking forward, seeing the life with a new perspective. Of correcting the blunders, pulling up the socks and facing the challenges of life with a different yet stronger attitude and will. Seeing from a contrasting view, it might be just another day but it must be acknowledged without doubt that the day January 1st brings in a lot of emotions, an explosion of pent up feelings, of forgetting the time past and starting the journey of life on a new and fresh route.

Few days back I was thinking just what significance does the New Year holds? Why people attach so much importance to this day? Does it hold same importance to different people or different connotations to different sets of individuals? My search for the answers made me realize that for one thing New Year definitely holds a special place.

We all want to move on from our pasts, don’t we? We all commit mistakes, make blunders, do things which we want to hide under the carpet, say things which we should not have said. But doesn’t these mistakes, blunders, faults, omissions or misunderstandings essentially makes us human beings? Is it not that all these things actually defines life which is in reality full of imperfections, contradictions and conflicts? Well, may be we all understand it in our subconscious mind. We all know that behind that social visage of perfect, happy even splendid personalities, we all have weaknesses, vulnerability and flaws.

But nevertheless, it makes a fantastic reality that we all want improve. We all want be better human beings, we all want to give life our best shot. We all want to improvise on our relationships, our friendships, in our business dealings and the relation we hold with our work. Thats the other aspect of being a human being, the other side of the coin called life. And in this respect, deciding on a particular day to make a fresh start, to leave behind the negativities and bringing in the positivenesses doubtlessly makes sense. Although ideally we should no wait for any precise, singular or special day to begin with the good work yet the concept of the New Year in this respect is a brilliant idea.

It is imperative that we should all strive to be better. We should work hard to make each day worthier than the previous one. We should all work together make this society, this county and this world the best place in the creation of God. Wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Delhi: A novel, by Khushwant Singh Review

16671667

Delhi is quintessentially Khushwant Singh, The grand-old man of India. Delhi is a novel that quite surprised and delighted me, particularly the narration. The story of Delhi, from Sultanate days to 1984 Anti-Sikh riots has been told from the viewpoints of the important characters involved. The narration is its best part that is so exquisite that one almost feels the events taking place in front of his eyes. I specially liked the Chapters ofMussadi LalThe Untouchables Aurangzeb Alamgirand Meer Taqi Meer . It touches quite an emotional chord as one almost feels the live presence of the revered Nizamuddin Auliya, understands the bigotry of Aurangzeb,feels the helplessness of Meer Taqi Meer, the determination of Jaita Rangretta and Lakhi Rai to save the honour of their Guru, honesty of Ram Rakha and the fate of Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal Emperor. Of course as for humour or whatever one can say, there is a lot of explicit  content, which may not appeal to tastes of many. But this what Khushwant Singh is best at and known for. One needs a bit of patience and maturity for this part. But nevertheless, he finely captures the emotions, thinking and nature of an ordinary Delhiwallah. Before reading this novel, I never knew that my city has such a beautiful but most often such a bloody history. I have been to most of the places described in the book but never saw them with such a historical perspective. Being born in Delhi, I now feel quite a connectedness with its past. I was never so proud of my city as much as I am now. . 🙂