Monday, August 27, 2007

Overwhelmed

There is so much going through my head right now! There is so much to think about, there is so much to feel about, there is so much to write about that I am actually overwhelmed and am not sure where to start. I guess putting this down itself has been not so easy. Anyways, with the headlines everywhere oscillating between the two Bomb blasts in Hyderabad and the discovery of several more throughout the city, I guess it is important to get your bearings right.

What is the objective of Terror?

The US Department of Defense defines Terrorism as
"the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

The League of Nations Convention (1937) defines Terrorism as
“All criminal acts directed against a State along with intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public.”

The European Union in 2002 defined "terrorism" as any act which results in
"destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country."

Section 3 of our own POTA defines a "Terrorist Act" as
"an act done by using weapons and explosive substances or other methods in a manner as to cause or likely to cause death or injuries to any person or persons or loss or damage to property or disruption of essential supplies and services, etc., with intent to threaten the unity or integrity of India or to strike terror in any section of the people."

The underlying theme in all these definitions in different words is "fear", "intimidation", "instability" and "terror" which more or less mean the same end result. A scared and broken down society. Let me ask myself this one question. After the blasts in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and now in Hyderabad, do I as an individual feel any of these? The answer is a big NO! I in fact feel very angry and hurt. Deeply. But terrorized? Definitely no. Now does my answer reflect the sentiments of the society, the larger population and the government. I would venture a YES.

What this is doing is uniting the different segments of our large social puzzle. We now have all leaders of the society and our political framework united in one voice. The voice which says we have had enough. We will strike back if we have to. Unfortunate incidents like these acts of "cowardice" unite us more than breaking us down or destabilize us.

I am venturing another guess. I say that the intelligence bodies in our country have a very good idea of who has done it. For what purpose they are not coming out in the open is best known to them. However, I am sure when the timing is right we will all know. Maybe it is time we pull out a leaf from the US Book on anti-terrorism.

Moving on to other things on my mind...

Massa won the Turkish Grand Prix; his first double whammy of consecutive wins at this very demanding track. Raikkonen came in a close second. It is quite heartening to note that Kimi now wants to finish races than foolishly challenge for more points against a strong opponent. Massa's and Raikkonen's rivalry is more fun to watch when they are equals on the track. Lewis is showing signs of crumbling under pressure. At least his tyre did! Alonso's Joy couldn't have been any more when he saw Lewis's car limping on his left when he overtook him. The fight for the 2007 Championship is so close that each one the remaining races is going to be crucial for these four drivers. To ensure that I don't miss out on any of the action I have subscribed to a Tata Sky connection couple of days back.

Moving onto cricket: The BCCI & ICL circus is heading nowhere. It is time to ask the Indian Cricket Players again. Do they represent the BCCI or the interest of Cricket and India. I only hope the Government steps in and creates another independent body which is regulated by the Parliament on the lines of the IIMs. It may not be very efficient but it will not be as one-sided as the BCCI.

India scraped through the second one day. Quite reminiscent of the beginning of the test series where they horribly lost the first test and nearly lost the second and then went on to win the series. A trend maybe? Les hope so.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

In good company

Hi there!

For those of you who visit my blog frequently, I have some interesting news to share. I had written a post just before this entry about the third and final Cricket Test in England recently. I was gladdened no end when I read "Shashi on Sunday" in the TOI today. Shashi Tharoor's thoughts and points were the same as mine. Not that it matters, but it does make me feel good! :)

Link to My article (Published on August 14, 2007): http://kartikagarwal.blogspot.com/2007/08/catch-22-or-was-it.html
Shashi on Sunday article (Published on August 19, 2007): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/S_Tharoor_Are_we_afraid_of_risks/articleshow/2291609.cms

Do post your comments and keep coming back.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Catch 22? Or was it?

My hearty congratulations to the Indian Cricket Team for winning the three test series in the cradle of Cricket. For the Indian Cricket fan, I have only my condolences to offer. Why? Read on....

What business did Mr. Rahul Dravid have to throw away his chance at a very possible win in the third and final test at the Oval? Why did he not enforce the follow on and go for the kill? A 2-0 series victory is better than 1-0.

After reams after limitless reams written on this subject here are my two cents worth.

Well, experts have asked this question in newspapers, on TV and on the Radio. Rahul might have a perfectly plausible theory on the "tired" bowlers and the "body language" of the team. Gavaskar, Shastri and a few other International cricketers that I heard on this topic were very blunt about what they thought about the decision!

Rahul went for safety and that's that. He was maybe afraid that England might erase the deficit, put on a few more runs and then make India bat on day 5 against the guile of Monty on a dusty & crumbling Oval pitch.

Would an Andre Nel or a Shane Watson not have jumped at the chance of going back and attacking a team 319 runs behind? What would Australia or South Africa or for that matter even Sri Lanka have done in the same spot? Enforce or not Enforce? England were down and out! Their morale was low. The Indians had bowled for just one day! What could have made them so tired? We had more bowling options than England did. Tendulkar was spinning the ball well. Ganguly was bowling well wicket-to-wicket! You had three quickies and one specialist spinner! Did Monty, Anderson and Tremlett not bowl their heart out on the fag end of day two? It was baffling to see India come out to Bat.

OK! even if we accept the logic of not enforcing the follow on, what was happening when we were batting? Rahul scored the third slowest strike rate of his entire career! The focus was making enough runs so that England cannot reach it. The batsmen did not seem in any hurry to pile on some quick runs and have more overs to bowl at the English. In the bargain, I feel India lost the plot. I don't know about Rahul but I definitely felt the pinch when the last session on Day 5 was going India's way.

I guess winning a Series has become more important than winning a game. I am sure it was the other way around in the good old days. Winning a series was incidental to you playing some great games and winning them.

Why do we accept this mediocre and risk averse approach from our National Cricket Team. On the eve of our 60th Independence Day I pray for all Indians to be blessed with some more gut and the freedom from being afraid of failure.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Discovery of Hyderabad 3.0

Wow!

After one whole day of visiting the Tombs and the fort we were ready for the Salar Jung Museum and the Chowmahalla Palace. Special guest for the day was Ravindra's son Rahul. :) He was looking forward to the trip as much as we were.

We first went to the famous Salar Jung Museum. The experience was mind-blowing. My last trip to this lovely museum was quite a while back. So long back that I had forgotten how exquisite and expansive the collection was. That too housed under one roof! It is still hard to imagine how rich this one dynasty was to have amassed so many wonderful things from all corners of the world!

Ketu was quite angry with the management of the place and the way some of these priceless treasures were left unprotected from the weather and hands of inquisitive visitors. After we saw the famous gong strike twice we left for the Chowmahalla Palace.

On our way was a brief stop at Charminar. Long enough to soak in the architecture of the old city and take some pictures of the Mecca Masjid, Nizamia Hospital and the Charminar itself.

Chowmahalla was as beautiful to watch in the day as it is in the night! My last visit to this palace was a few months ago and it was sheer splendour. I started clicking as soon as we reached the main gate. The pictures are in the slideshow below:



The walk through the palace left me speechless. The detailing, the royal luxury and the effort put in towards maintaining the Palace is quite remarkable. I will let you do the exploring yourself. The photographs say it all for me!

The saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words". Believe me in this case, I am not sure if a thousand words could do justice to any one of the pictures :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Discovery of Hyderabad 2.0

Starting from where I ended my previous entry in this blog...

We reached the Golconda Fort just before noon. Knowing it will help us in understanding the place better, we engaged a Guide this time. We were fortunate to get Shaik Nabi, whose family has been doing this for generations. He himself has been doing it for 35 years he claimed! Ketu was as eager as a beaver could be! I was still feeling strongly about the Tomb's fall from grace. We started our upward trek catching glimpses of the entire fort at various points. Nabi was an expert at his craft. He had a decent sense of humour as well. It was a pleasure hearing him interjecting current satire into his captivating tale of what happened at the Fort centuries ago.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable climb till we reached one third of our way up! From then on the lack of exercise started telling on me! The weather was perfect. I am sure we could not have any better conditions to make this climb up the Fort. We reached the top of the fort, admiring how the architects had come up with ingenious solutions for important problems! From supply of water up the hill to the flow of air in the royal court, it was marvelous to experience it all! Especially the first "telephone" without the wires!

We heard stories of how various kings and dynasties ruled the lands. The stories of love, betrayal and prosperity! It was a history lesson I loved revising. It made me feel proud of being a Hyderabadi all over again.

Amidst all this we kept passing one structure to another, capturing the essence of these places in our minds and our pictures. As usual, Ketu kept pointing and I kept clicking! :) I added a few of mine as well! By now I was beginning to get the hang of this. There were a couple of places where the stench of Bat feces was very strong but we had to bear it.

The climb down was much more easy on the tired legs. We were shown how the King and Queen came down the hill on special stairways built for their comfort. How the experts ensured that their palanquin or "Palkhi" does not tilt even when on an incline. The graffiti was prominent here as well but not as ubiquitous as at the Tombs. The Golconda Fort was much better maintained. We heaved a sigh of relief when we reached the foot of the hill on which the fort was built!

Ravindra decided to celebrate this with ice cream! A Kwality Walls vendor was conveniently located inside the fort campus and we gorged down one each sitting on the lawns of the Taramati Masjid. Lunch was an assortment of Samosa's, Lays and Soft Drinks hence this Ice Cream provided us with some more energy that we badly needed after this climb. The album of the pictures taken at Golconda Fort is embedded below:



After we finished the tour of the Golconda Fort, it was time for us to go to the Falaknuma Palace, which is now under the management of the Taj group of Hotels. After entry was denied, Ravindra made some calls and pulled a few strings and we were allowed a chaperoned visit to the outer parts of the palace. The Security officer in charge who accompanied us sweetly but firmly declined us permission to take any photographs. It was a day of Discovery! Re-Discovery of my beloved city of Hyderabad for me.

Discovery of Hyderabad

When my boss summoned me to his cabin yesterday; I ran up the stairs preparing for all the questions I thought he was going to ask me. What came at me was something I was totally unprepared for! He asked me to take our Architect Coordinator on a trip of the old city of Hyderabad. Show him the historical sites, palaces and tombs that dot the city. There was not much I thought about this trip; then or later. Today morning when I was driving to the office, I wondered whether things would be the same as I remembered them. After all, I was going to "see" them after a long while. 7 years to be precise!

Ketu (Architect), Ravindra (GM-Commercial) and I left office at around 10:30 and after a short discussion decided to go to the Qutub Shahi Tombs and the Golconda Fort first and then think about what we were going to do next. Once we reached the Qutub Shahi Tombs, we were greeted with a huge iron gate which was locked. Cars are not allowed inside anymore, they said. After the bomb blast at the Mecca Masjid in May. Anyways the weather was just perfect and we didn't feel the pinch. As we walked the first few meters, the first tomb came in full view. It was a magnificent sight! Greenery all around, birds chirping and a elegant tomb rising high above! Then the dismay crept in! What hits you at first is that you can see the wear and tear crying out for attention. Absolute lack of maintenance or restoration of Sultan Abdullah Kutub Shah's tomb was shocking. Then you had the graffiti artists show casing their art! Horrible. Anyways, we were quickly swept away by the grand arches, intricate detailing and charm of this building.

Ketu led the way, obviously engrossed, explaining to us about all the difficult and impressive things the masons and the architects of those times did! It was a lesson in architecture for us! We then went and saw the tomb of Hayat Bakshi Begum. This one was quite well preserved and looked in good condition. The graffiti though was present on every square inch of the walls! From proclamations of love to just guest book style entries, names were everywhere. We then saw a few other tombs and the mosque where Aurangzeb is believed to have offered prayers during his stay at Hyderabad. Ketu kept pointing and I kept clicking with the camera! The album is embedded below:



Once we were done with the tombs we then started for Golconda Fort. I left the Tombs with a feeling of awe and disappointment. Awe for the masterful skill with which these tombs were conceived and built. Awe for the materials used and their success in passing the test of time. Disappointment because of the general apathy shown by all of us; visitors and the government alike towards this heritage monuments. I can only hope we can do something to save them before it is too late!
Copyright © Kartik Agarwal - 2007