You can waste your life drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.

Category: World

Poor Billionaires!

Only in Zimbabwe can a person be a billionaire and still live in poverty. A hamburger in an ordinary cafe in Zimbabwe costs over 10 million Zimbabwe dollars!

Zimbabwe faces the world’s highest official inflation of an estimated 25,000 percent.

The Politician’s New Clothes

I had written earlier that I had begun to see nuances of better leadership in Hillary Clinton. What was I thinking?? According to the Drudge report, stressed Clinton staffers circulated a photo over the weekend in order to ‘smear’ Obama’s campaign.

The Clintonistas were probably addressing the people who still think that Obama is Muslim and hoped that this photo will give a glimpse of his ‘Muslimness’.

There is nothing wrong with Obama posing for such a photo. Politicians do that all the time. They are often seen donning the local garbs of the places they visit. George Bush seems quite fond of it himself-

US President George W. Bush (R) chats with Chinese President Hu Jintao (C) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) at the end of the Asian-Pacific leaders meeting in Hanoi, 19 November 2006. All 21 Asia-Pacific leaders wore dresses. But only the three women, pretty in pink, had the sartorial nerve to don the hats. Each year, the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum provides world leaders with an opportunity to strut their stuff in the traditional garb of the host country for the so-called “family photo”. AFP PHOTO / JAPAN POOL / KENICHI MURAKAMI

Hillary Clinton was seen wearing a  traditional Vietnamese hat along with daughter Chelsea on their visit to the country in 2000.

Even though the Clinton camp now seems desperate to try these dirty tactics they are a part of a good day’s work on the political battleground.

What I find absurd is how the media always links Obama to Islam and calls him a Muslim as if it were some sort of name-calling. As if being considered Muslim is a bad thing. As if having a middle name Hussein automatically links one to the infamous ousted Iraqi dictator. So, it is not a big deal if the future President of the United States had drug issues but it is outrageous if he had any kind of Islamic roots.

A Muslim Girl’s Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

A Muslim American Society (MAS) Girl Scout, Anwar Esam Omeish, was nationally recognized on January 21, 2008. She was one of the many who auditioned from across the nation to participate in the Oprah Winfrey Show’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day. Being selected for this honor came as quite a surprise to 11 year old Miss Omeish, a Libyan-American Muslim from Fairfax, Virginia.

Anwar’s Tribute to MLK on Oprah Winfrey Show.

The General who could not speak!

It was the most important Congressional report session after the Vietnam war. We were glued to our television sets to hear the top US military commander, Gen. David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker give their testimony and report the situation in Iraq. You could see the tension and stress on both their faces. That very morning the New York Times carried a full page ad calling the top US General, ‘Gen betray-us’. We could feel the high tension that hung heavily in that room, and more so over the General himself, even while sitting in the comfort of our own home. Facing not only the committee but thousands of US soldiers and millions of people in America and elsewhere, the General was about to speak on the conditions on Iraq and war strategies. All eyes were on him as he was signaled to begin his report, which by all means is controversial in the first place.  The albatross certainly hung around the general’s well buttoned neck. Then, when he was just about to reach for the microphone, he wasn’t able to speak!

Why?? Because his mic wasn’t working. So, much for the most important Congressional report session of the the past two decades! We did expect voicing of protests and loud demonstrations  (all of which were there) but definitely not the silence of the microphones.

The Little Known Mini Taj Mahal

We all know about the Taj Mahal commisioned under Shah Jahan, in memory of his loving wife. It has also been included in the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the World

The original at Agra

However, little is known about this Taj Mahal which was built in memory of a mother.

The Mini Taj Mahal at Aurangabad

The Bibi – Ka – Maqbara (or Mini Taj Mahal) was built in 1679, by Aurangzeb’s son, as a tribute to his mother Begum Rabia Durani. Obviuosly, it is a replica of the Taj Mahal at Agra. It is not as grand as the original nor does it figure in any ‘wonder of the world’ list. But, it was quite an attempt.

The only other known attempt to imitate the Taj Mahal (tell me if you know any other) was by Donald Tump at Atlantic City, New Jersey!

Nice Try Trump

Nice try Mr. Trump but, we shall prefer to go to India to see the the Taj Mahal!

A Tongue Twisted

“Isn’t Urdu the language of Muslims?” An obstinate question, also a shallow one.

If this were true then why are so many non-Muslim poets and lyricists masters of the language and use it as tools of expression. Further more, why wouldn’t Muslims in Kerela call Urdu their mother tongue instead of Malayalam.

It is because the evolution of any language is always a cultural domain and never a religious one. When has a religion ever been responsible for the birth of a language? Urdu was born in India and so is an Indian tongue. To better understand the dynamics that shaped Urdu let us try and relocate it in history.

Urdu comes from the word Ordu meaning army camp. It was created with the amalgamation of Persian and vernacular Indian languages.

Mostly all languages are classified according to their development from a single parent language. Urdu belongs to Indo-European language family. The speakers of this language probably lived around the Black Sea. As they moved and migrated from there in every direction the language changed around the way. All major regional languages in India as well as English, French and German belong to this category.

Many a times different languages use similar writing systems. It might seem surprising but Urdu and Arabic come from two different language families, despite having similar scripts.

The Urdu patois that was a result of the cultural diffusion between the native North Indians and invading Muslims from Central Asia later spread towards the deccan and as far as Hyderabad. So, what began as an unsystematic hodgepodge language in the 12th century acquired a status of Lingua Franca by the turn of the 18th century. Even the Mughal courts and ministries switched over from Persian to Urdu. Traces of the use can be found in the present day Indian jurisdictions. Words like “dakhil kharij”, “ jurmana”, and “muqadma” are still a part of the legal jargon.

So we are looking at a language that has a glorious and admirable past. The reason for this was the immense popularity of the language amongst the masses. With heavy morphological borrowings from Persian and grammatical borrowings from Hindi developed a language intensely lyrical in nature and apt in style. A language that deeply resonated the North and Central Indian spirit and vivacity.

It is sad that such a powerful language is not embraced with open arms as it was in the gone by days. It is said that if you pigeon hole a concept it dies of suffocation. In other words, strictly categorizing a language is like placing it on the fast track to extinction. This is exactly what is happening to Urdu today.

It is true that Urdu is more tilted towards Islamic lines and let us not be apologetic about it.

One major reason for the decline in Urdu speakers and learners today is the partition. After 1947 majority of the Urdu speaking populace migrated across the Indian borders. Pakistan declaring Urdu and India declaring Hindi as their national languages left the speakers of Urdu in India totally perplexed. This lead Urdu to suddenly acquire no man’s language status in India.

The truth, however, remains that Urdu forms a rich and essential constituents of the chronicles of Indian culture. Anybody trying to undermine its importance will probably find only a half-baked linguistic history.

We have cut, dried and neatly labeled Urdu as either a bard’s or an illiterate’s language…and more recently the terrorist’s tongue. There are only a few people who promote its learning and fewer institutions, which patronize it. The poise, diction and articulation of Urdu stand unparalleled. To make this point clear and sum everything above that let me quote a famous Urdu couplet.

Maazi ka ehteraam zaruri hai aaj bhi,
Yeh aur baat hai ki zamaana badl gaya.

In other words it means that to respect history is important even today when the entire world has changed.

Poetry by Bahadur Shah Zafar on an Indian Postal stamp commemorating the centenary of the Emperor

Color Me Right

The cognitive behind Indian racism is certainly enigmatic! For a country that has a history of being racially discriminated against Indians have certainly learned to manifest the beast in their lovely own ways. Not only that, they skillfully perpetuate it on others and even on themselves. The ugly footprints of the fiend can be traced in our daily lives. Sadly, the racist beast lurches in the Indian psyche and it is what makes fair North Indian make snide remarks about a slightly darker South Indian or fellow Gujarati call a Manipuri a “chink”.

Last month pictures of Shilpa Shetty, our very own Huckleberry Finn, were splashed all over tabloids and national dailies. When rude anti-racist remarks were hurled at her many Indian sentiments were hurt, TRP ratings went up, viewer ship increased and cash poured in the buck buckets of television networks. The point proved in the end was that, color of skin still remains to be a sensitive topic for Indians and one which must not be broached upon without caution.

Despite all this what surprises me is the hypocritical streak that marks Indian idiosyncrasy. We didn’t waste any time in crowning Shetty the new anti-racist icon. But, what happens when Indians themselves become racist. A Caucasian would always receive an extremely pleasant and even fawning response, while an African descendant would be entitled to no such luxury. A case of the tormented becoming the tormentor… who knows? One could find out only if one could delve into our collective mind scape, which of course is impenetrable. The only time a Korean friend of mine, living in London heard open remarks on the color of her skin were from a group of Indians there. Hold on, there is more…I can never forget how a Sudanese friend, who was in New Delhi last year on scholarship, could not walk the streets without receiving at least a few abrupt stares. And I can cite numerous incidents where Indians ridicule Indians on the basis of their skin color. It amuses me till no end to see fairness creams being lifted off the shelves from stores. Separate (of course) for men and women! Educated Indians would know that it is politically incorrect to call a black a black and would not shy away from openly abhorring apartheid but why do the statistics of Indian Matrimonial show that 98.8% of their customers make it a point to mention that they seek a “fair and “tall” spouse.

The real problem lies in our Anglo-American centric world view. Moreover our educational institutions don’t teach us enough about other societies. We all would know what Mark Twain wrote or what George Bush said in his last conference, know how and why Halloween is celebrated and just about any bright child can locate New York or London on the world map. But, how many of us know African literature or something about Brazilian politics or anything about Vietnamese tradition or even get close to spotting Tahiti on the world map (If they knew such a country existed).

Probably we should look towards the west for some sensible lessons to combat the racist brute, The new curriculum that is to be introduced in U K schools next year will dump traditional European biggies like WB Yeats, Foster and Pinter for works by Meera Syal. Moreover, British school children will now have the option to study non European Languages like Urdu, Chinese, Hindi and Arabic instead of just languages like French and German. This speaks volumes for U K’s multiculturalism. And if not the West we can look back to our own rich Indian tradition, where “sanvla” or dusky stands for beautiful. The popular Indian mythological God, Lord Krishna, was a dark skinned lad who is still known for his legendary beauty. Toady we talk of reverse colonization and how the colonized countries have now come into their own. With a global acceptance of people from such countries we can hope for a rational attitude towards them. Only greater awareness about their cultures can change attitudes and show us that the skin color really doesn’t matter. And if, as public memory has been said to be short, Indians have forgotten their own colonial history they should be reminded of it every time one of us discriminates just because the other is a shade darker than him.

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