Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vampirism, Intelligence Bureau and the President of India - spot the connection!

I was compared with a fictional vampire today, so I decided to write a post on vampirism. The three words in the title are closely connected to each other, and there's a very interesting story behind it.

The story goes like this. Once upon a time in ancient India there was a monster called Raktabija. The catch with this guy was, for every drop of his blood that would spill on the ground, one new Raktabija would emerge. This made him a nuisance and a headache for the Gods. Nobody knew how to kill him, so they went to the Goddess of destruction, Kali. Kali did something unprecedented to kill the monster. In order to ensure that no drop of Raktabija's blood was spilt on ground, she drank his blood and sucked him dry. Every last drop of it. This was one of the first known records of VAMPIRISM in Indian mythology.

It is said that Kali tore a piece of the yellow cloth she was wearing and made two large napkins out of it. She then chose two brothers, both her staunch disciples, gave them the napkins and asked them to strangle all monsters that they would encounter on the planet. Centuries later, a certain group of people started believing that they were the direct descendants of these brothers and they started strangling not monsters but innocent travelers to rob them. These people also worshiped Kali and came to be known as thugs. Because of their code of secrecy, not unlike the Sicilian Omerta, they were notoriously difficult to catch. In order to check the menace of these creatures of the night, a bright young British officer called Major William Sleeman established the Thuggee and Dacoity Bureau, which subsequently morphed into the oldest surviving intelligence organization of the world and is today known simply as the INTELLIGENCE BUREAU. Yes, readers. Our very own IB.

In order to catch these thugs, Sleeman created a force of strong and powerful warriors. The main requirement for joining this force was, every member had to be at least six feet tall. Why? so that the much shorter average thug would find it difficult to strangle the necks of such large-bodied warriors. This cavalry force eventually did defeat the thugs successfully but was disbanded later. After the independence of India, the descendants of the warriors of this force were tracked down and recruited for a new, special assignment: The formal bodyguarding of the PRESIDENT OF THE UNION OF INDIA. Yes, even today, the Presidential Guard is selected from the descendants of those warriors that defeated the thugs. There you have, as promised - a connection between vampirism, Intelligence Bureau and the President of India.

Nice story, isn't it? It's all true.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The future

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the future. The future of Asia, and perhaps, the world. Dark hints of what is to come can already be seen in Africa. The Eagle, the Bear and other sundry animals will observe with a keen eye. Great Game, version 2.0 has begun.
PS: The image has been shamelessly plagiarized.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm not hungry, but I'll eat anyways

A few days back I had a very interesting conversation with a close friend about mining in Orissa and other Indian states, the inevitability of industrialization and people's perceptions about the same. You can actually have some good conversations in a restaurant waiting for food. Mind you, neither of us claim to be experts on the topic, we don't even have all the facts. All I present to you is the conversation as I remember it. Like I said, the conversation is not as much about facts as it is about perceptions and point of views. Let us call the friend as "X" and me as "M".

M: So what do you think of Anna Hazare and this morcha thingy?

X: Dude, this is India. People may start something but they are bound to lose the drive mid-way. Has happened, will happen. Nobody's got the time or energy to do dharna all day, unless it's DU/JNU radicals. {sorry to all DU/JNU friends here, I am just trying to produce the conversation in its entirety and authenticity}

M: That's interesting. If I extrapolate that, you are saying that agitation against illegal mining in Orissa and Chhattisgarh is bound to fizzle out as well, along with Naxalism.

X: Obviously. Anyways what is anyone - especially a bunch of malnourished rural poor - going to do against companies that can buy out their entire state, let alone some sorry-ass 2 acre land of theirs?

M: You mean there's absolutely no hope for these adivasis to be able to live in peace in their own homelands...

X: Come on, yaar. Be realistic. Leave aside rare earth and aluminium, most people don't understand their importance. {For the slightly less jobless friends of mine, these are the minerals that Vedanta is trying to extract from the adivasi lands.} If you're staying on top of a Uranium or gold heap, do you think anyone will let you do that? Obviously not. We're talking about a national resource here, which we need desperately to survive in the global market. If some tens of thousands of aboriginals have an issue with it, so be it.

M: See. I don't deny the inevitability of industrialization. All I am asking is, isn't there something wrong with the way our corporates are going about it? We all know that this illegal mining has become the moral and philosophical justification for Naxalism in these areas... In fact, there are people who blame mining for the rise of Naxalism.

X: Don't bullshit me. Firstly, Naxalism did not start as a reaction to corporate "atrocities". You know that it was a response by some very misguided people to governance failure in the 60s and 70s. And anyways, isn't it you who always said that any violent movement is just blood-lust trying to pass itself off as self-righteousness?

M: I do abhor violence in all forms. I still believe that fighting elections with such a strong voting base of adivasis is a better option for those who are genuinely interested in the development of the area and I also maintain that neither Kishenji nor any of his minions have any interest whatsoever in the well-being of adivasis. What I feel is wrong, though, is that through their actions, these companies are giving Naxalism an excuse. How can you expect someone to support you if you are hell-bent on kicking them out of their pushtaini homes?

X: You're taking the old line again. Those metals are far more important than any cultural-emotional sensitivity or ties that these people may have with their place, period.

M: No point debating on that subject, there's simply no answer to it. Also leave aside the environmental issue. But should not the companies at least rehabilitate the tribals before they start mining ops? I mean come on, itna toh banta hain...

X: So who's saying no to that?

M: Nobody's saying yes to that either. Nobody rehabilitated the tribals in case of the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada. Even here, no company has, as of yet, rehabilitated any tribal. And don't tell me it is the job of the government. If a company wants to mine in an area, it has to look after the people it displaces.

X: That is a point I accept. That has to be done. Anyways, let's order an ice-cream. I'm not hungry, but I wanna eat it anyways.

M: (With a smile) That seems to be the problem, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Appointment in Samarra

You must have heard of (or seen on the big screen) the tales of Beedle the Bard. This is something far more interesting. It is an old Arabic story and goes like this:

There was once a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to buy provisions from the market and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.

She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city to avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he came to her and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

That was not a threatening gesture, Death said, it was only a start of surprise. You see, she said, I was astonished to see him in Baghdad today, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.