There is No Fate But What We Make: February 2006

Sunday, February 26, 2006

How I miss good lyrics in bollywood songs!

I wonder why we stopped producing good lyrics in film songs now…. heard the song “Fazaa Bhi Hain Jawaan” on radio the other day … and my heart skipped a beat... the haunting, nasal and very melodious voice of Salma Agha is just awesome… not to mention that the film Nikaah is a very good film making a case for women’s liberation. For some reason, many films with strong women’s role and promoting women empowerment tend to have great songs (example: Umraao Jaan, Damini).

Anyway, enjoy the lyrics:

fazaa bhee hain jawaan, jawaan,
hawaa bhee hain rawaan, rawaan
sunaa rahaa hain ye samaa,
sunee sunee see daasataan

pukaarate hain door se,
wo kafile bahaar ke
bikhar gaye hain rang se,
kisee ke intazaar ke
lahar lahar ke honthhapar,
wafaa kee hain kahaniyaan

bujhee magar bujhee nahee,
na jaane kaisee pyaas hai
karaar dil se aaj bhee,
naa door hain naa paas hai
ye khel dhoonp chhaanw kaa,
ye kurbate, ye duriyaan

har yek pal ko dhoondhataa,
har yek pal chalaa gayaa
har yek pal firaak kaa,
har yek pal wisaal kaa
har yek pal guzar gayaa,
banaa ke dil pe yek nishaan

sunaa rahaa hain ye samaa,
sunee sunee see daasataan

Travesty of History

It's amazing how India and Pakistan are mirror image of each other in terms of falsifying history to suit the powers-that-be. I have hinted earlier in my blog how the historic accounts we read in books are misinterpretations at best, and fabrications and lies at worst. It was disappointing to read even Narayan Murthy uttering the clichéd lines of glorious first millennium in India while considering the second millennium as the dark age of "islamic invasions". The reality is anything but this black or white. However, the topic of history falsifications is a complex one and needs a book rather than a blogpost to elucidate. What prompted me to write this, is this news item.

"Kabul objects to Pakistani missile names
KABUL, Feb 22, 2006: Afghanistan formally complained to Pakistan for naming its ballistic missiles and other weapons after historic Afghan heroes, a minister said here on Wednesday. Afghan Information Minister Makhdom Raheen said that Kabul had recently sent a letter through its foreign ministry to Pakistan over the use of names of Afghan nation’s heroes, including Mohammed Ghauri, a 12th-century conqueror who ruled what is now Afghanistan and invaded areas in what is now India and Pakistan several times. A series of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles is named after Ghauri, including a 1,500-kilometre-range nuclear-capable weapon. “We asked them (Pakistan) not to use the names of great elders of Afghanistan on weapons of mass destruction or other war equipment,” Mr Raheen said. “These great elders played a major part in building national solidarity and in transferring science and knowledge from the homeland across southwest Asia.” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam refused to comment or say whether it had received such a letter. Afghanistan is also complaining about Pakistan’s use of the name of Ahmad Shah Abdali, an 18th century king who founded the powerful Durrani dynasty, on a weapon that Raheen did not identify. Abdali laid the foundations for the Pashtun tribal rule in Afghanistan. Mr Raheen said Pakistan was welcome to use the names but only for peaceful things like memorials, monuments, conference rooms and historical places. — AP

The reason the generals in Pakistan chose these names? Of course, to intimidate the Indians and psychologically browbeat them! Indians of course have their own twisted version of history that conveniently forgets to mention that Ghazni fought other Turkic and Uzbek powers much more than he did Indians. He fought and killed Turks, Persians, Uzbeks (all muslims) much more than he did Indians. These accounts also avoid any mention of the hindu rajput kingdoms of what is Afghanistan today. It was this kingdom (Anandapal, Jayapal etc) that Ghazni fought in his later career, as he usurped them and established his empire there. The complex maze of rajput alliances and counter alliances made Ghazni friend of some and foe of others. Anyone wonders why he only attacked a few rajput kingdoms again and again but never molested others like the chandela kingdom? The chandela kings made the Khajuraho temples which were never touched by Ghazni. Why Somenath again and again when there were many rich temples to loot Kabul eastwords. Indian history is also silent about the rajput/hindu generals and soldiers that fought on the side of Ghazni. It’s sad to see the travesty of history in Indian historic accounts, which see this complex series of events as a one-dimensional “hindu vs. muslim” colour. A mistake whose repercussions we see all the time in the bitter fruit of communal riots in south asia.

Now, back to the news item on dawn. Sure enough, there was an innocuous little response from a Karachi resident.

"Afghan demand
THE Afghan government’s demand (Dawn, Feb 23) that Pakistan should stop naming its nuclear-capable missiles after their heroes should be taken seriously by the government.
After all, Mahmud Ghaznavi, who had invaded our soil in the 11th century, Mohammad Ghauri, who had established Afghan rule in northern India in the 12th century, and 18th-century Pakhtun king Ahmad Shah Abdali, who led several incursions into India, were Afghan citizens. They had earned a lot of glory for their country by conquering our territories. But more than that we must correct our history in which these invaders are seen as heroes and defenders of the faith. Pakistan’s nuclear hero Dr Qadeer Khan had spent millions of rupees (enough to construct several dozen schools) on repairing of Mohammed Ghauri’s grave in Pakistan. The Afghan government never thanked us for that act. The Afghan demand is enough to underscore our ruling elite’s predilection for Central Asian and Middle Eastern history and distaste of their own past. Their distaste for this soil’s past and thinking of decorating invaders is evident. It was this policy under which the rulers disassociated themselves from the rich past of the country which inherited the Indus Valley civilization. They started tracing their roots to the Middle East and Central Asia. It is time to re-write history and see what is the best in our own soil and people.


Indeed, reading the history as presented to Pakistanis makes me sit up in horror. Not just because of the blatant and unfair anti-india and anti-hindu overtones. But because here’s a sad case of people celebrating rapine of their own land and people. Mohammad-Bin-Qasim, Ghazni, Ghori and above all, Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked, looted, committed Qatl-e-Aams in Sind/Hind, as they did elsewhere, but the brunt of these attacks were borne by the very areas that constitute today’s Pakistan. Pakistani cities like Lahore, Peshawar, Multan took beatings all the time from central asian and Afghan invasions. Given that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are NOT progeny of Arabs/Persians/Turks, and are of south asian stock, Pakistani history reading is basically celebrating the rapine of their own ancestors. I don’t know of such a case anywhere else in the world.

Reading letters such as the one above from Manzoor, leaven my hopes of eventual rapprochement between the two south asian nations.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Google says, "So long Dalai Lama, Hello China !"

Spot the difference ? Image Seach results for "tiananmen" in
and regular Google.

How's the "don't be evil" thing working out Mr. Page ?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Converting black money to white

Like every body else, I have relatives who are agents of LIC. You know the kinds who call you up and peddle high-premium insurance policies. I met one such relative during a cousin's marriage. He claimed he could give me any policy without any medical checkup. Not to mention the usual 50-50 split of commission. The commission splitting is very common. I was more intrigued about the "no medical test" part. So I asked how it was possible to do that when LIC clearly needs medical documents for underwriting purpose. He explained to me that he can get medical documents arranged with no difficulties. I was like, "hmmmmm...". What came next was a shocker. He explained to me that most of his clients were businessmen who bought single premium policies - where the one time premium is in lakhs. Mostly as an investment - not for insurance. I advocate term policies to most people. So I was interested to know why many businessmen would buy single premium almost pure investment type policies. My relative explained to me the whole process of how many businessmen convert black money to white. Let's say they have a black money of 1 lakh. They purchase a policy of 1 lakh single premium. Now LIC doesn't care or check about the source of the income. So they issue the policy bond. Now the person can sleep at ease because if Income Tax officials do a raid, they won't find the money. However, there is the problem of the policy bond. That can be found by the IT officials. Solution is simple and ingenious. The businessman would take a loan of a small amount (say, a hundred rupees) from LIC. Now, LIC would take the policy bond as a collateral. So in effect, LIC takes care of the safe-keeping of the policy document. The tenure of the loan will usually match the tenure of the LIC policy. So at the end of term (say, 5 years), the businessman gets back the bond which he then uses to liquidate the original investment. Now this money is white as it is the maturity proceeds of an insurance policy. Since IT officials can only dig through three years of paper, they cannot question on the source of funds of the insurance premium. Neat, isn't it ?
Here I am - suggesting simple things like term insurance and mutual funds. So naive !!!

P.S - This is not an advice or suggestion for an illegal transaction. I pay my taxes and do not endorse anything illegal. Loss of sleep and risks are not an adequate compensation for the gain by tax evasion. Just don't do it.

P.S 2 - The story could be apocryphal. Even if it is true, I am sure the IT department is smart enough to have caught up by now.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Somebody explain Bush's strategy to me

As Bush is going after Iran now, I can't help but wonder what a strange approach his has been. Before the advent of his "War on Terror", Iran was surrounded by enemies on both sides. The fanatic sunni Taliban hated the Iranian shia regime. Saddam Hussein's government fought Iran for eight years. If the war on terror helped any country become more powerful, it is Iran. As the US army destroyed both Taliban and Saddam's Bath regime, Iran not only got rid of its arch enemies, but also moved in to flex its muscle in Iraq and Afghanistan. As host to million plus refugees from Afghanistan, Iran had a legitimate say in what happens in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Herat region is awash with Iranian agents singing to its master's tune. Historically, Herat has always been under Iran's part or at least in its sphere of influence. Now that influence is very strong and is something US will find hard to shake off. Recent elections in Iraq brought decided Iran sympathesizers to the forefront. Never has been Iranian control so strong over Iraq. This has been a gift from US to Iran. Now if US goes after Iran, there will be repurcussions in Iraq too - which will surely get destabilised by Iran sympathizers.

US resources are stretched to the breaking point already. The last thing it can afford is to make its enemy more powerful before an attack. Having committed the mistake, US would be better off discussing a negotiated solution to the current Iran issue. However, I doubt US would like to leave Iran alone now. Having understood the extent of Iranian influence, US can hardly leave the region as an open playfield for Iran.

Crusades 2.0 ?

"Deus lo volt!" (God Wills It!). Said, Pope Urban II about a thousand years ago. This speech, delivered in central Gaul (modern France), started a series of attacks by Christian Europe on Middle East. The soldiers were mostly french but the armies included soldiers from almost all of european christiandom. The purported purpose of these attacks on middle east was to make the christian pilgrimages to the holy land safer. But soon it transformed into a general attack on Arabs and Jews in the area. These attacks, now called the "crusades" collectively, succeeded in planting a small christian kingom in the heart of the middle east. It took more than 100 years and the bravery of Saladin for the Arabs (+Turks+Kurds) to finally shake off this kingdom from their midst. But this series of wars permanently scarred the relations between the middle east and western europe. The mistrust and hatred, though may be under the surface now, has persisted to the modern era. During the height of western colonial era in 1920, as the french soldiers marched through the tomb of Saladin in Damascus, the words of the French General Gouraud were, "Saladin, we are back !"

So what's the relevance of the crusades now ? It feels that the world is hurtling towards another round of crusades now. Consider the events of recent history:
1. Western colonism over arab countries
This includes not only the middle east, but north africa too. Other regions that have arab influence and suffered from western hegemony, include Iran, central asian countries, south eastern asian countries. The colonial era was replete with economic exploitation and mass murders (eg: Algeria). The mass murders may be over now that colonialism is over. But western companies still dominate key industries (Oil, of course) and sustain tin-pot dictators and "kings". The western hypocrisy is so obvious when it talks about democracy and liberty when convenient and then hobnobs with regressive governments and gives strength and legitimacy to these. I dare say that without western props, many countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan may be having democracy now.
2. Breakup of Ottoman Empire
After the industrial revolution in europe, Ottoman empire started losing its power and started shrinking - first from europe, then in middle east itself. The WW-I was the final straw for the Ottoman empire. The loss of Khalifa was something many grudged back then (and started a "Khilafat movement" in India too).
3. Creation and western sustenance of Israel after WW-II
I always wonder if it is a coincidence that the map of Israel is almost identical to the crusader kingdom established a thousand years ago. No need to discuss what the creation of this country (and its later land acquisition in 1967) did to relations between the arabs and the west. We can read about the affects of this in the newspaper everyday.
4. East Timor independence
The world meditated independence of east Timor was seen by many in islamic nations as an interference and similar reciprocal interference is not there in cases like palestine, kashmir, chechnia etc. (These are not my opinions - but this is how many in islamic nations see it)
5. 9/11 and War on Terror
The hundreds of thousands of civilians that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the so called War on Terror started, pale the 9/11 casualties (with all due to respect to those who died in 9/11 - they certainly didn't deserve to). The US may find the war justified but the other side almost uniformly sees it as an unjust war doing more damage than good.
6. Cartoon controversy
Again, it is being seen as a general western attack on muslim sensibilities. While I am all for freedom of press, it is hypocritical to jail someone for an anti-semitic remark while allowing gross insult to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Keep a single set of rules for everyone on all issues. I am not condoning the violence conducted by protesters in Syria but western countries are not blameless.

My fear is that Bush administration and such other brainless western regimes will take the world towards another series of wars akin to the original crusades.

From India's point of view, she should hedge her bets. Like China is doing. Don't take any sides. Take advantage of this situation and start making deals with nations involved.