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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Inner Voices and Autobiographies!

You know what? I think I'm gonna listen to my inner voice and avoid autobiographies ( penned by Indian politicians) like the Ebola virus!

Well, well, well...  this person called Natwar Singh, a so-called Nehru Gandhi 'loyalist', hung up his boots and then dashed off an 'autobiography', which he uses to hit back at Sonia Gandhi for not saving his skin in the wake of the Volkar report on the oil-for-food scam.

Sonia G, he says declined the Prime Ministerial Chair way back in the UPA one day because Rahul Gandhi, her son urged her not to become prime minister or she would in all likelihood be assassinated. It had nothing to do with any 'inner voice' that dictated a moral high road, the man says. It was self-interest, pure and simple.

Washing dirty linen, you may call it. And of course, I for one would expect the BJP and its spin doctors to throw some mud into  the washing machine, and they did , hogging media space and time on a non-issue.

Mrs G is nobody's fool. She didn't need Rahul's advice anyway. After the results were announced and Sonia Gandhi's party having the most seats at the time, would anyway be asked to form the government, and that got a number of 'nationalists' riled. Sushma Swaraj threatened to do a Sinead O'Connor. Purno Sangma and others clearly didn't want a foreign born prime minister and so on. It made brilliant political sense for Mrs G not to step into that particular hornet's nest. And in a brilliant move, she gave India its first Sikh Prime Minister. No doubt she listened to her 'inner voice', which astutely told her that if she wanted the Congress to remain in charge of the rather unwieldy coalition, she needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Which she did, brilliantly!

Natwar Singh - he's credibility challenged!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Hamasculation of Gaza

The Gaza conflict continues. More missiles. More Destruction. The death toll has crossed four hundred and counting.  When will the guns fall silent?  How many deaths will it take for Israel and Hamas to know that too many people have died?

This is barbaric, and the Hamas game-plan seems to be to instigate even more Israeli reprisals so that the death toll on the Palestinian side mounts so much that the international community will finally have no other option but to step in and stop Israel.

Doesn't the killing of hundreds of defenceless men, women, boys, and girls add up to a 'war crime?'

And the answers, my friend,  keep blowing in the wind.

The answers are blowing in the wind.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

In search of the Bodhi Geese with the golden eggs

Is this the State Bank- Mahabodhi Temple partnership to own 'Lord Buddha'? These blatant signs inside the Mahabodhi temple complex , photographed by Anagarika Dhamma Priya urge one to donate online to 'Lord Buddha'... is the State bank of India and the BTMC an unholy nexus that is misleading pilgrims? Is this to mean that other temples have no link to the 'Lord Buddha?'
 Kashaf Bin Shamim and his friends do not visit the Mahabodhi Temple any more. Neither do Arun Tirkey and Bajrang Munda. Nor do Anjali and Lily or Triratna Prasad. These people, aged 18 to 50 were once regular fixtures at Bodh Gaya’s historical landmark. You would find them walking quietly, feeding the fish, or showing off their world heritage site to awed relatives from other states. Once the town was placed on India’s ‘terrorist site map’ a year ago, the new-fangled security measures have sapped the spirit of camaraderie and harmony. The ten foot wall that surrounds the outer periphery of the temple, and the 200 strong police force and the new security measures are to blame.

 “It’s as though the death eaters from a Harry Potter book has descended on the Temple,” says 19 year old Felix Toppo, a tall and lanky lad. “Sometimes the cops at the gates can be quite rude, and it’s dangerous to talk back, or we guys may end up in handcuffs!”

The 7/7 blasts have scared away Bodh Gaya's geese  with the golden eggs: tourists of every hue and nationality, and there is tough competition as monks and merchants alike joust valiantly to snaffle the few unflappable visitors who do end up before the temple gates.

Triratna Gupta and Anagarika Dhamma Priya, who have lived in the town for decades say that the wall and security measures have driven away business, but there is a whisper doing the rounds that the Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee are in cahoots with the State government to load the dice in favour of certain unnamed business interests.

There is so much of frisking and inconvenience in the guise of security, that most visitors who visit the Mahabodhi once, are reluctant to go through the entire rigmarole for a second visit. "Before, the pilgrim would come back for a multiple darshans, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and remain there till quite late. These visitors would then take time to visit the surrounding shops and take in the local colour. Now that’s all finished.," says Triratna. The only organisation that seems to be unfazed about the dip in pilgrims seems to be the BGTC. The Chief Monk brushed off suggestions that this year there were fewer visitors around Buddha Purnima as 'unverified speculation'. It seems that the donations to the Mahabodhi temple weren't all that much affected by the tourist drought.

“A year ago suspected terrorists engineered four low-intensity blasts inside the main shrine complex. The Tregar Monastery of the Karmapa, Great Buddha statue and an empty tourist bus were the other targets. It’s strange that these explosions were about as powerful as very large crackers. The continued demands from the Temple Management Committee for more and more security measures, is intriguing, even though it’s quite evident that more policing brings about resentment and fear, not amity and harmony,” says Anagarika Dhamma Priya, a PUCL member, and one of the vocal critics of what is being perceived as the steady politicisation of the Bodhi Temple management.

 The harmony between different religious communities and congregations have taken a beating after the blast, and the dwindling flow of foreign visitors that jolted the hospitality sector hasn’t made relationships any sweeter. Business fell almost 70 percent, locals swear.

 Local Bodh Gaya inn keepers, lodge owners and hoteliers complain that the monasteries are nuzzling in on their turf. “It’s bizarre how these monasteries have added on rooms and are providing hospitality for a fee to more and more foreign pilgrims. After the blasts, the monasteries seem to be creating an impression that the regular hotels are unsafe, and they are in fact poaching on our trade,” grumbles Shamim, who runs a middle-of-the-road hotel not far from the main temple. “I wonder whether these monasteries are paying income tax on money earned from their guests?”

 People who own real estate are unhappy as well, because after the blasts they are not allowed to build upon, sell or transfer their holdings. “The blasts are a convenient excuse for the authorities to tamper and tinker around with the so-called Bodh gaya Development Plan, which none of us have really seen,” says Ali Asghar, a member of the local shopkeepers union.

 Prince Dwyer, and educationist and social activist is optimistic, though. “The government has its own perception of what ‘security’ is, and what it must do to assure the foreign visitors that Bodh Gaya can deal with any security threat. As for the drop in traffic, one year is a short span in memory. Let’s wait till October, and we may see increased footfalls and better days ahead. All of us have got to move beyond 7/7/13 ! ”