Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Remembering Bhopal

Remembering the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that left thousands dead and many many more injured. And some of them paying the price even after 24 years!

I was barely two when this disaster happened. But I had chose to write a review paper on it earlier this year for a class I was taking and thats when I knew details about the event. Even just reading papers about the disaster and the effects it had on Bhopal has made my stomach churn. After 14 years, we can only hope the new Dow chemicals plant in Pune is not another Bhopal waiting to happen.

Here is a link to some pictures immediately after the disaster. It also includes Raghu Rai's award winning photograph.

Update: Thanks bollyviewer for the correction. I dont know how 2008-1984 was 14 anyways!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Your God or Mine?

I wish the recent terror attacks are linked to radical muslims trained in Pakistan. Yes, I said it. For all of us who spent Wednesday to Saturday of last week glued to one news channel or the other, it does not seem a very unreasonable wish. After all, the terrorists came to the coast in boats, carried Pakistani IDs and all other such evidence that points to Pakistan. And like any self respecting Indian, I was quick to add that if it is indeed true, then India should attack the terrorist camps and use nuclear weapons if necessary.

Sometime during the course of the 60-hr drama in Mumbai, I checked Al-Jazeera’s website to see what they were saying about the attacks. To my utter disgust, they reported that the attack could be the act of India’s internal terrorist organizations while India blamed Pakistan in a knee jerk reaction. I yelled some at my computer screen, made some expletive noises about how there are no “internal elements” in India and gave up reading news for about an hour. Today, in an email conversation with a friend, in a fit of anger, I declared that all the Muslims in the world should be treated like terrorists unless proven innocent! (I hope you recognize the emotional rhetoric here). My friend immediately asked what makes me so sure that this was perpetrated by “the outsider” Muslims and not our own homegrown rogue elements like Bajrang Dal. I made some noises about how the radical Hindu organizations are not that indiscriminate and immediately changed the topic.

To me and millions like me in India who enjoy the luxury of being in the majority, it is comforting to blame “the outsider” as the enemy. I wonder if the entire terrorist attack episode would have been as sensational if it weren’t for the Pakistani angle in it. Aren’t we all waiting to hear that the FBI and Scotland Yard aided investigations will provide conclusive evidence against ISI?

Once I started reading more about the possibility that the attack might not necessarily be from outside India, I am scared than ever.

Being a Muslim in India is not easy. Most of us who belong to the majority, take this struggle for granted. We never stop to think how it is to live in India as a muslim. I do not have specific examples to cite but we all have heard stories about the muslim family that was refused an apartment in the building or the muslim household that struggled find domestic help etc. I am willing to believe that years of such oppression could have resulted in absolute hatred and intolerance towards the rest of us. That coupled with a country jealous of our progress (?), Kashmir issue, ties with US etc etc could explain the Pakistani trained terrorists’ theory.

But what if it wasn’t the muslims? What if it was our own Bajrang Dal that moved up the terrorism ladder? What excuse do they have apart from sheer intolerance to another faith? That is what scares me.

Like always, someone else has said all of this much better.

PS: Please excuse me if in any way I have conveyed that it is okay for people from one religion to kill. Obviously that is not what I have tried here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

And I am back!

Howdy y’all? Thanks for all the concerned comments and encouragement to write more frequently. Well guess what? I have taken your comments way too seriously. To compensate for the last 3 months or so of zero activity, I have taken up La Vida’s recommendation of a blog marathon. I will make a sincere attempt to post at least once every day whether or not I have something coherent important to say. It will be a challenge given that I commute about an hour and a half to work each way and am left with zero enthu to do anything once I get home. But, you asked for it people! So here we go.

So how have you all been? I have most of you on feed reader and have been reading your blogs stealthily at work while swiftly shifting between windows every time I hear footsteps (Thank God for keyboard shortcuts!). I haven’t been commenting much because I haven’t yet gathered the courage to log in to blogger from work. Any of you have cool tips on how to blog/comment while appearing to be busy at your desk? About us, the husband and I have quit being floating particles and have settled down fairly well in the Bay area (couldn’t resist the PJ). I flew across the country in September to see the husband talk about his work, thank his mentors, parents and parents-in-law, and bottoming-up 6 glasses of Champagne back to back. Needless to say he has no memory of what happened to him after that. Not that anything really happened, except that he was made to wear a really ridiculous looking hat and paraded around the campus in a shopping cart by his group members. And that was how a very innocent looking, baby-faced husband became The Husband Pee Etch Dee. After a week, the husband wrapped up in the University town and moved to California with me. So that was our September.

Most of October was spent trying to figure out what we will need to run an functional house, where to buy such stuff, buying the stuff and setting up the apartment. Now don’t let this simple statement trick you into believing that it is easy to set up an apartment from scratch. Actually buying the essential stuff is easy. You go to a department store and pick up a toaster, a microwave oven, a vacuum cleaner etc. The tough part is furnishing and decoration. In the process of furnishing our apartment, the husband and I became an IKEA couple like Broom once described. We were fighting about the fabric, color, design, pattern, size and you-name-it. If we agreed on everything, the damned thing was out of our budget. After numerous stressful trips to IKEA, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Linens n Things and such, we managed to put together a decent looking place. At the end of it, the effort seemed worthwhile when we sunk into the couch in our newly furnished living room sipping a glass of wine.

November has been a super fun month. We went to Napa/Sonoma valley to celebrate the husband’s birthday. We stayed at a little spa resort, got couple massages, had great wine and a lot more :) Before we could completely get back to routine, it was Thanksgiving and we had to do something fun again. We spent the weekend in Lake Tahoe and Reno. There wasnt much snow there for skiing but we manged to skate on ice and hike in the snow. Also did I mention that I met a super cool and lovely blogger in November? She is as interesting in person as she is on her blog if not more. She does have a great smile, she does wear her lipstick well, and she does have an amazing sense of humor. It was so much fun to meet her that I forgot about the sucking day I had that day. Wait, since this is a marathon and not a sprint, I will save up the details of that day for another post.

So overall, we have been exploring the Bay area and now let me please pause for a second to eat my words. Bay area is fun!! I did not like it in the first few days of moving here because I was alone, home sick and had to deal with giant humongous lizards which I knew were out there to get me. I have not seen those despicable monsters anywhere else except around the cafeteria at work (maybe they guard all the free food in the cafeteria). Mostly I love the Bay area because of the number of options it has for people to have fun. You like clubbing and night life? You have it. Want some quiet time at the beach? You have it. Want a good hike? You have it. OK you get the drift. That’s pretty much been my September, October and November in a nut shell. Eating good food, going out, having fun and in general having good time in life.