India's First Struggle for Freedom – 1857

With the 150th anniversary of the India's First Struggle for Freedom in the news, I remembered my visit a few years ago to the York Minster in York, England. There, inside this imposing church, was a memorial to the British soldiers killed in that struggle.

What we read in the history books under the “Indian Sepoy Mutiny” was real. We actually killed a few of the British! 😉 I don't know how many thousands of Indians died in the aftermath. Jai Hind!

A closeup of the tablet.

see also 's recent visit to York Minster, here.

Colva Beach – Serenely Beautiful

Colva Beach Goa sunset pics by Arun Shanbhag
On our visit to India in June, we paid a short visit to Goa. Starting on the early morning flight from Mumbai and after visiting the Ramnathi Devasthan, we arrived at the beach-front resort in Colva, early in the afternoon. We were so fatigued, both of us promptly fell asleep. The drumming of the heavy rains outside pushed us deeper in sleep. On waking up around 5 pm, and a leisurely coffee, we ambled onto the beach. The rains had stopped but the skies were still overcast.
Continue reading “Colva Beach – Serenely Beautiful”

Mumbai Local Train Journey!

All our family, relatives and friends are safe and well in Mumbai. Thank you all for your concern.

Considering my uncles, aunts, cousin brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, friends, and so many relatives take the local trains into and out of Mumbai every day, I consider myself lucky none were hurt in the 7/11 blasts! But for how long will we remain lucky?

Hunt the terrorists! Take no prisoners! Hunt them down!

This pic is from a few years ago. Late one night, many of our family took the local train from one of our cousin's home in the suburbs! Oh, what fun!

Vignettes: We excel at what we love!

First things first! This past saturday, I started the 18-week training program for the Chicago Marathon on October 22nd, 2006. I was antsy as I had not run since the Boston Marathon in Mid-April. Had been active in other sports: spinning, kickboxing, hiking, stairmasters, ellipticals and even pilates; but had stayed away from running to give my knees a rest. As I laced my shoes and hit the road for the 7-mile run, my trepidation melted away, and the miles flew by. I knew why I run: Coz I love it! I ran much slower than my marathon pace, but heck, my first run in more than two months and it felt good!

We are off to Toronto for the long weekend. My first invitation to give a (non-science) talk, “Konkani Temples in Goa: Strengthening the Faith” at the North American Konkani Samellan. The organizers had seen a couple of my blog entries on the Ramnathi Devasthan and the Mangeshi Devasthan and asked me to share my thoughts. While I have presented more than a 100 scientific presentations at international meetings, this one is making me nervous! Coz, its not science! Science is putty, temples are stone!

Our India visit was to attend M's youngest sister's wedding. Here's a pic of the three sisters at the evening reception. M is on the right.

Bengaluru City Tour

Kamta's Bugle Rock pics during Bengaluru bangalore tour by Arun ShanbhagAfter an early breakfast, my cousin had arranged for his car and driver to take us around the city. The driver (Linga Raj) was given a detailed list of places to bring us.

We started by visiting a few of the nearby temples: the Ganapati Devasthan, the impressive Nandi (Bull) Devasthan and the Shiva Devasthan. I loved the temples but hated the priests, at the Nandi and Shiva Temples. As we prayed, the priests stood in front of us with the aarti. Even after partaking the aarti's grace, the priests continued to stand in front of us, hoping we will put money on their plate. I intentionally side-stepped and put a tiny donation in the Hundi. NB: Money on the plate goes to the priest as additional tips; money in the Hundi (safe box on the floor) goes to the temple, and is used for all temple activities, including priest's salary.

For a second round of breakfast, we stopped at Kamat's Bugle Rock Cafe. Newly opened, very modern and very posh. This divli was well crafted and stood at the entrance of the restaurant. I wouldn't mind having this in my home.

A list of places we visited, in sequence. The ancient Kote Venkateshwara Swamy Devasthan, and next door, Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace. ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple; Chitrakala Parikshad; Vidhan Soudha and the High court; We took a lunch break at Kamat's Yatri Nivas in Gandhinagar – read more here) and a short nap. After a refreshing Kapi, we drove around MG Road; Ulsoor (sp?) Lake; window-shopped on Commercial St and bowed our heads in awe at the magnificent Someshwara Temple, Visroor. Our amazement continued at the temple of modern capitalism: The uber-posh Forum Mall with India's first Apple store.
Continue reading “Bengaluru City Tour”

Sare jahan se achha, Hindustan Hamara

Aug 15th: India's Independence Day!

Saare jahaan se achha, Hindustan hamaara
hum bulbule hai iski, yeh gulsitaan hamaara.

[Best in the Universe, Hindustan of ours
We are its nightingales, it is our garden]

Parbat woh sabse ooncha, hamsaya aasmanka
Woh santari hamaara, Woh pasban hamaara.

[The mountain most high, a neighbour to the sky
it is our sentry, it is our saviour]

Godimein khelti hain, Jiski hazaaron nadiya
Gulshan hai jinki damse, Raksh-I-jinan hamaara.

[In her sweet embrace dance a thousand rivers
breathing life in her gardens, outrivalling heaven]

Mazhab nahin sikhaata, Aapas main bair rakhna
Hindi hain hum watan hain, Hindustan hamara.

[Faith does not teach us to hate each other
We are all Indians, Hindustan is our homeland]

Excerpted from Tarana-i-Hind
by Allama (Mohammad) Iqbal

Ram Temple Attack, Schematic

An early schematic of the terrorist attack on tuesday morning, in relation to the temple grounds can be seen here. Note the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum, sacred womb) where the sacred murthi, representing the divine Ram is placed.

Helping Victims of Tsunami

Consider IDRF to make a donation to help the victims of the Tsunami.

Due to their excellent record in rural India, particularly empowering women, I have personally contributed to them for several years now. IDRF is run by true volunteers who are not paid any honorarium and the organization does not have an overhead. So 100% of your contribution goes directly to the organizations (NGOs) working on the ground. I have checked their financials for several years, and it amazed me that with the interest they earn on the money, they end up disbursing more than they actually collect in donations!

Veerappan: Like a hole in the head?

The notorious, cruel bandit had an early start in life. Following in his father's footsteps, he killed his first elephant at the age of 14, for the ivory. Since then he slaughtered 100s of elephants. Then he chopped down 1000s of sandalwood trees, selling the wood on the black-market. He graduated to kidnapping and murdering humans: 124 by last count! At the peak of his notoriety, he even held the Kannada movie legend Rajkumar hostage for 108 days for a ransom of 200 million rupees (~ USD 4.4M).

He thought he was going for a cataract operation (phony ambulance and all), but instead got a hole in the forehead. kaanoon ke haat bahut lambae hai

For all his brutality, you would assume the country would be celebrating: Think again! Nearly 20,000 people flocked to his funeral!

adapted from The Economist and other news articles!

Of Diamonds, Mehndi and the Girls Who Deserve it All

Of Diamonds, Mehndi and the Girls Who Deserve it All Arun Shanbhag
As I daydream of the foods to gorge on in Mumbai, M interjects my reverie – she needs a small diamond cluster earring. But you already have a beautiful pair, I remind, as if any woman can actually forget the glittering rocks they have. Those are too big; for work everyday I prefer something smaller. I wish she was a food gourmet, it’s less expensive.

And so, we’ll put together our list of things to get in India. Jewelry, salwar khameez and other dresses for her. Eating out, books and music for me.

One thing is certain, a day before we return, one of my cousin sisters will organize a mehndi session. They usually ask a talented lady to come home, and after dinner all my cousin sisters, sister-in-laws, nieces and whoever, get their hands decorated. Whenever I poke my head in, its a treat to see all the girls treat themselves in such a collective manner, joking with each other, giggling and sharing in the camaraderie. As one gets her left hand decorated, with her right hand she designs anothers. And so a whole chain of young women, little girls at heart, helping each other amidst a squealing cacophony. With both their hands covered with mehndi, they also relax knowing they wouldn’t be called to bring water, or make chai, or other silly things for the menfolk. I only wish such joys visit them always, and for the rest of their lives. For they who make our lives worth living, what are a few diamonds!

Socialists, Communists and Criminals!

Welcome to the New Indian Government!

A hodge-podge of unsavory characters. The ruling coalition represents 14 parties, 67 cabinet positions (doing what?), and 25 – 30 MPs have criminal records. BTW, no education, or governing experience is needed! Just promise free electricity to the poor and you are sure to be elected. Maybe even be a Cabinet Minister. Just ask Laloo. He is the new Railways Minister. Experience with dancing around trees is a big plus as well. Just check with the jumping jack Govinda. He is busy asking everyone, “What is your mobile number?” While the entire world seems to be embracing free market policies, indians are clamoring for the failed policies of socialists and communists, with the enthusiasm of love-struck teenagers.

With the frenetic pace of globalization, most economists would agree that the best role for government is to provide incentives and infrastrucutre development to alleviate poverty, rather than subsidies such as free electricity or water.

In the Aug 2003 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University and former Secretary of the US Treasury during the Clinton Administration editorializes, “the communist vision has been rejected; the socialist vision of government owning and directing the means of production has been discredited. To a large extent, the idea that government can pick and choose activiites and command industry is seen as outmoded at best and counterproductive at worst.”

Why then this new fascination for socialists, communists and criminals in the government?

The role of leaders is not to provide free electricity or water, but to harness the resources so that individuals by their hard work can participate in the local economy and thrive. Leaders need to convince the masses that the role of government is not to provide a free lunch, but to provide all workers an opportunity to work and earn their own feast for lunch and dinner. The mantra should be “sacrifices and hard work are required by all,” but unfortunately, the current government’s messages is, “Feast for All.”

What did you expect with socialists, communists and criminals at the till. Welcome to the New India Dimming!

Lets Keep India Shining!

The political events in India over the last ten days has led to a flurry of editorials and extremists opinions on all sides of the political spectrum. Here on LJ, you can see spirited opinions posted every where. Spirited, because we all care about one thing! That Indian development and reforms continue and lead to long-term economic growth. The fruits of development should be enjoyed by all, the business entrepreneur to the rural farmer. How we achieve this is being debated and implemented. Political parties in the ruling alliance are changing their positions to reach a consensus. This is democracy at work. With much peaceful debate, we will tweak the system to do it right, and the spectacular progress of the last 7 years will continue.

Now that we have a new Prime Minister, an economist to boot, it behooves all of us to put our differences aside and work shoulder to shoulder to help him succeed. Actually we will be helping India succeed. We need a stable government to last 5 years. Election money can be better spent on providing basic necessities such as clean water, food, shelter and some clothing!

Lets reach inside our hearts and aspire for noble ideals. We can do it.
Lets keep India Shining!

Indians enamoured by Gori Memsahib

If you have read the news over the last few days, you are surely ashamed of the antics of the Congress MP begging and pleading for a white woman to lead them. The rest of the world will wonder, “Wow! India wants to be a superpower, but they have to beg a white woman to lead them?” The complete bankruptcy of the Nehru and Congress legacy. These same congressmen, signing their names in blood, forgot their grandparents shed blood during the freedom struggle, to get rid of the British.

Read this outstanding article by Francois Gautier who talks about the subservient mindset of the Indians.

a few of his quotes:

“I am sure Sonia has great qualities, but are Indians so dumb, stupid and backward, that they cannot find among themselves someone intelligent enough, non-corrupt enough, to lead them?”

Obviously, colonisation has frozen the Indian mind in certain patterns and the British made sure, through Macaulay's policies, of leaving behind an enduring inferiority complex among Indians, by constantly harping on the flaws of Indian culture and inflating them. That is why today Indian intellectuals repeat like parrots what their masters had said before them: ‘Hindus are fundamentalists/Brahmins are exploiters/Gowalkar was a Nazi/Indians are corrupt and no good.’

India Shining!

The largest democracy on the planet. Majority of the billion people in India are uneducated and illiterate. They still live on less than a dollar a day. In the recent elections, 350 million ballots were cast. The incumbent party was humiliated. The people elected a foreign-born to lead the country. All this happened peacefully.

Compare that to the last Presidential elections in the US between two ivy-league educated individuals. In India, no chads were hanging; No lawyers were hired; No court decisions were required.

Imagine, Manmohan Singh, architect of India's economic reforms a decade ago and a shoo-in as finance minister, needs to calm markets by saying: “We are not against disinvestment if it is in the national interest.” Confirms that the mantle of economic reform has passed to the nationalist BJP. And the Communist Party leader advises that his party is not really against privatisation. Truly, economics trumps ideology.

With grace Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conceded defeated and called it a triumph for democracy. “My party and alliance may have lost, but India has won,” he said.

That is India Shining! Things worth living for.

Small hiccup in the market. In Monday mornings trading on the Bombay Stock Exchange, about $40bn of market valuation was wiped out (Added in revision: this is in addition to the $22bn wiped out on Friday). Does the market not have faith in Govinda, the Congress and its Communist Partners? Foreign funds net outflows this month total $357m. Notice is served!

WSJ – India is a favorite stock for Fund Managers

The Wall Street Journal (Feb 27, 2004; pg c14) reports today that Managers of International Mutual Funds in the US are raising their recommended weightings for india among other SE Asian countries. Apparently India is one of the most popular destinations for portfolio investments.

Before you rush out and buy an India Mutual Fund, be very cautious! I suspect people in the know have already bought the stocks. An article such as this only boosts the prices of the stock which they already own. You would be coming in fairly late and then the large investors dump the stocks and you are left with holding a high priced stock. This is what happened with the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000. The time to buy India stocks was three years ago.

I am also not a big fan of 'portfolio' investments. Here, the investors can cash out at a moments notice and drag the market with them (like what happened in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand in 1998). The better investment is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), where investors are actually helping grow the business by investing in expansion programs (and $$$ of course), bringing in new technology and developing a long-term marketing strategy with the management. In such FDI cases, they cannot just sell their entire plant overnight. FDIs are thus better indicators of long-term investor appetite. In this arena, India is getting its pants kicked by drawing in only about 10% of the $ 50 billion that China is attracting per year. Even Chile (a total country population of 14 million – the size of Bombay) is getting ~ $ 4-5 billion as FDI (slightly less than india). Ouch!

Now that is sobering!


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