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Mother Teresa’s Legacy: Under a Cloud

January 31, 2013 5 comments

Why this strange acceptance towards Christian fraud and contempt towards ‘Hindu’ India?

Organized Religion, Organized Charity is Organized Fraud  |  Jeff Koterba Cartoon on August 30, 2010

Organized Religion, Organized Charity is Organized Fraud | Jeff Koterba Cartoon on August 30, 2010

Mother Teresa raised millions, if not billions in the name of Kolkatta’s poorest – and India’s poor.

From this exhibition of India’s poor and poverty, less than 7% of the total ‘take’ was spent on people in whose name this money was raised.

If any Muslim ‘missionary’ had done this, wonder what level of outrage this country would have felt.

But Indians have developed a strange acceptance towards this kind of Christian fraud and contempt towards ‘Hindu’ India.

Mother Teresa (Cartoon by John Spooner; Cartoon courtesy - http://www.chrysalis.com.au)

Mother Teresa (Cartoon by John Spooner; Cartoon courtesy – http://www.chrysalis.com.au)

For years now, there has been a malignant growth of Christian-Western NGO funding – known and documented for the last 8 years – at least.

Coming back to Mother Teresa.

Social workers all around the world have drawn inspiration from her work and commitment to her cause. Yet, today in her centennial year, her legacy has lost its shine and is in disrepair. Located in one of the lanes of Taltala, home to lower class workers in west Kolkata, it is calm and pious, a world away from the cacophony outside on the busy A.J.C. Bose road.

But the cacophony is threatening to spill inside the Missionaries. Followers and volunteers are questioning the quality of service given in the care centres. They feel the Missionaries’ care centres are allergic to using modern-day therapy and technology to care for the inhabitants. Often untrained volunteers are given tasks that would normally require one to be trained in medicine and therapy. Missionaries has always kept change at bay. But in a world where it is very difficult to hide behind secrecy, the number of disillusioned followers is increasing. Missionaries doesn’t keep a tab on the financial transactions that take place. No one other than the sisters knows where the money that is donated is spent. Donations continue to pour in but people are asking for transparency on how the money is used.

The discord is most pronounced in the first home that Mother Teresa set up in 1952 — Nirmal Hriday, the Home for Dying Destitutes. A former rest house for followers from the nearby temple of Goddess Kali, the Home is a perfect picture for the work that Missionaries is known for. Disabled, disfigured and homeless men and women, many of whom are living their last days, find shelter here. It presently has 99 inmates, served by six sisters and dozens of volunteers, mostly young foreigners. The poor are bathed, clothed and fed until they recover and leave, or die. “Over the years, 86,170 people have been admitted. Of which 34,815 died,” says Sister Glenda, the head of Nirmal Hriday. It was Mother’s favourite home.

It is the kind of work that inspired Hemley Gonzalez, who lived on the other side of the world in Miami, United States. A migrant from Cuba, Gonzalez had grown up in a poor neighbourhood and was inspired after reading a biography of Mother Teresa. Gonzales, who runs a real estate business in Miami, reached Kolkata in December 2008 and stayed for two months.

“I was shocked to see the negligence. Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care,” says Hemley. He narrates incidents of an untrained volunteer wrongly feeding a paralysed inmate, who choked to his death; and another where an infected toe of an inmate was cut without anesthesia. “I have decided to go back to Kolkata to start a charity that will be called ‘Responsible Charity.’ Each donation will be made public and professional medical help will be given,” says Hemley, who now runs a campaign on Facebook called ‘Stop Missionaries of Charity,’ and has over 2,000 members.

“We should remember that Mother Teresa was clear that Missionaries of Charity was not operating a hospital. The homes are to serve the poor and give them the basic needs,” says Sunita Kumar, wife of former India Davis Cup coach Naresh Kumar and one who has been working with Missionaries’ sisters for over four decades.

But this reasoning that has evoked harsh reactions. “What stops them from starting a hospital? Surely, money is not a problem,” asks Aroup Chatterjee, a London-based critic of Missionaries of Charity. Chatterjee wrote a controversial book Mother Teresa – The Final Verdict in 2002 and collaborated with British writer and well known Mother Teresa-critic Christopher Hitchens to produce a documentary called Hell’s Angel for Channel 4.
Apart from the hospital, volunteers also cite the need for a well-planned rehabilitation for the sick who go back to the streets once they recover. “Some were sent back to the streets of their own will, but some against it,” says a European volunteer who has been coming to Nirmal Hriday since 2006. She cites the example of an “old lady” suffering from diabetes and incapable of walking. “We were told she was sent to another centre outside Kolkata but just few days later someone saw her on the street close to our centre… We were worried but could not do much.”
Sister Glenda clarifies that professional help is never avoided. “Look at Buddhni Bakshi,” she says pointing to a bald teenage girl sleeping on a stretcher. “She was abandoned by her parents because the wound in her head used to stink badly. When she came here, we did tests at a local hospital that showed a tumour in her head. We spent Rs. 4 lakh for the surgery and now she is fine,” adds Sister Glenda. The initiative to get professional help, say former volunteers, is a change.
Gonzalez questions why money can’t be used to improve the service at the homes run by the sisters. “Even the inmates soiled and infected clothes are washed by hands. Why can’t they buy a washing machine?” he asks.
It has become a sensitive issue since 2005 when a British television crew filmed children at Daya Dan, a care centre, tied to their beds. Questions arouse about the “primitive practices and lack of using modern methods of teaching.” The incident forced Mother House to release a statement saying, “We value constructive criticism and admit that there is always room for improvement.” Volunteers, who come in dozens from countries like Spain and Italy, have separately narrated incidents about sisters resorting to “shaking violently” or “beating” to discipline the challenged children.
Recent developments though indicate a fresh thinking. “Hygiene has been an issue but has improved as sisters opened to better standard through volunteers from Western countries,” says Father Robin Gomes who has been working with the Missionaries of Charity for more than 20 years. At Daya Dan, which also runs a dispensary for the poor twice a week, sisters in apron and gloves (a change from earlier days) go about like trained nurses.
A bigger change at the centre is in the way the 60 mentally and physically challenged children are taken care of. “We now have speech therapists and physiotherapists coming in regularly who look after the children,” says Sister Karina, a Mexican nun who has been heading Daya Dan for one year. The therapists also help train sisters and volunteers and a few of them are sent to training institutes for week-long classes.
It is good news about some of the changes. Unfortunately, we are still in the dark when it comes to their financial records,” says Gonzalez. The donation issue first came up in the early 1990s when it was revealed that Charles Keating, an American banker known for the infamous “saving and loan scandal,” had donated up to $1.25 million to Missionaries of Charity. Amidst calls to return the money, Mother Teresa controversially chose to remain silent, an incident that is still sited by her critics who demand transparency.
In early 2000, Susan Shields, a former Missionaries sister who left the organisation “unhappy”, created a furore by saying she herself had “written receipts of $50,000” in donation but there was no sign of the “flood of money.” Forbes India talked to a volunteer in the Los Angeles office of Missionaries of Charity who admitted that “even when bread was over at the soup kitchens, none was bought unless donated.” A report in German magazine Stern, revealed that in 1991 only seven percent of the donation received at Missionaries of Charity was used for charity.
Former volunteers and people close to the Mother House revealed that the Vatican, home to the Pope, has control over the “monetary matters” ever since Missionaries of Charity came under its fold in 1965. The control got stronger after Mother Teresa died in 1997.  When asked about how much money the Charity gets annually, the then superior general Sister Nirmala in a rare media interview a few years ago remarked “Countless.” When asked how much it was, she answered, “God knows. He is our banker.” Forbes India’s request for details was turned down at the Mother House. Sister Mary Prema, the present superior general, did not agree to a meeting.

“To quote the Bible, she was “as cunning as a serpent and as innocent as a dove,’” says Father Gomes. “Like all organisations that were headed by famous people and suffer after they leave, Missionaries of Charity has a void. At the same time, the sisters at Missionaries of Charity continue the work that she had done. Every time you see the blue bordered sari, your remember Mother Teresa,” he adds.The association has worked well for Missionaries of Charity. The number of homes and sisters, despite a drop in those coming from India, has increased since 1997. Realising the importance early, the late Pope John Paul VI made sure that a council of sisters was formed before Mother Teresa died. That council, consisting of senior sisters, now runs the organisation and also recommends amongst itself the next head. This is then cleared by the Vatican. In its last meeting in March 2009, the council elected Sister Mary Prema as the new superior general of Missionaries of Charity. A German native, Sister Prema has been seldom seen publicly and few know her outside the Mother House. This, say observers, while keeping intact Mother Teresa as the face of the organisation even after her death, has also led to the disconnect with the local people. One indicator of this disconnect might be the almost complete absence of Indians among the volunteers.After her beatification, after which she is officially called Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the process is on now in the Vatican to bestow Mother Teresa with sainthood. In a 1989 interview with Time magazine, when asked about the future of the Order, Mother Teresa had replied that it was Jesus’ concern.Now would be the right time for God to take a closer look.

via Forbes India Magazine – Mother Teresa’s Legacy is Under a Cloud.


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The Corruption Dilema: Fall Of Activist Politicians

January 26, 2013 2 comments

Artificial conflict between ‘corruption-performance’ vs ‘clean-ineffective’ has riven Indian polity.

The problem with conflict of interest  |  Creative credits embedded

The problem with conflict of interest | Creative credits embedded

In the quest for ‘progress’ and development, Indians have come to expect greater speed and ‘efficiency. Any delay in ‘obvious’ cases of decision-making are see as signs of Indian ‘inefficiency.

Ignoring Appearances – Conflict of Interest

To overcome this tag of ‘inefficiency’ some Indian politicians have fallen into the track of ‘activist’ development. In such a framework, getting things done becomes genuinely more important than who does the job – or who benefits. Conflict of interest is seen as an artificial restraint – sophistry at best and lame excuses usually.

Falling On A Sword

One of the earliest such political leader in India was Sardar Pratap Singh Kairon. Chief Minster from 1956-1964, of the united Punjab, before the split into Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Kairon was a whirlwind whose governance motto was performance.

For instance, Pratap Singh Kairon, actively worked to introduce lichees in Pathankot, potatoes in Spiti and personally directed the development of a seed-less variety of table grapes, that was fungus resistant. This ‘brave’ tale of Pratap Singh Kairon, much written about, was narrated to me by an agri-business technologist, in Hyderabad.

Or behind the funding of Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat – the Bollywood tribute to Indian soldiers of 1962 war by China on India. To a nation traumatized by the 1962 experience, the Government turned to Bollywood for a healing narrative.

Prior to Haqeeqat, war films were unknown to viewers in the country. The morale of India was shattered after the hard-hitting defeat in the 1962 war with China.

Anand was passing through a very lean phase of his career in the 1960s, with almost no work. It was at this crucial juncture that Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon offered him finance and support to make a docu-fiction on defeated soldiers, with the 1962 Sino-Indo war as the backdrop. Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister, also promised help as he was keen that the betrayal of India’s respected neighbour be projected on celluloid.

Chetan Anand started working on Haqeeqat in an unconventional way.

via Celluloid war chimeras.

Corruption allegations is one good way to paralyze a government  |  Cartoon by TN Ninan

Corruption allegations is one good way to paralyze a government | Cartoon by TN Ninan

And those who wish to appear clean – are then portrayed as ineffective. This artificial conflict between ‘corruption-performance’ versus ‘clean-ineffective’ has riven Indian Indian polity for no real reason.

Except false moral standards.


Akbaruddin Owaisi – Hindus can keep their Ajanata Ellora Nudes

January 20, 2013 13 comments

India probably has the least monuments for each century of history. Most of monuments in India were built by India’s Islamic rulers – and later the British.

On a few things, I agree with Akbaruddin Owaisi.

Indeed, apart from a few monumental temples, what monuments has ‘Hindu’ India built?

Practically none.

India in the Image Of Desert Bloc

Most monuments in India were built by India’s Islamic rulers – and later the British. India probably has the least monuments for each century of history. From 2000-cities of the Saraswati Basin-Indus Valley without monuments – to modern India.

But Islamic and British monuments in India are grandiose, celebrating concentration of wealth. Of diverting attention – away from role that rulers have to play. These monuments are symbols of extortion, of loot and poverty. Of propaganda. Of false prestige.

Probably Pakistan built as many monuments in Pakistan – as India did.

Austere Leaders – Big Actions

‘Hindu’ rulers started monument building in India only in the last 200 years or so. Shivaji had a wooden ‘palace’ – that was burnt down in an accidental fire. Shivaji never built another palace – wooden, or otherwise.

Before Shivaji, was Rana Pratap.

Anyone seen an opulent palace used or built for Rana Pratap?

Owaisi is right

Islamic rulers did build most of Indian monuments. Though I agree with Owaisi, some other Muslims don’t agree with this thinking.

For one there was Chirkan (also spelt as Chirkin), the underground mascot of Hyderabad, a “poet” of dirty ditties.

Chirkan was the irreverent break from the feudal and colonial Indian mindset – before the Indian Republic. His rhymes on Qutub minar (a phallic symbol of feudal /colonial majesty of another era) have been repeated by every school child as his very own.

Chirkan was feted at cultural events – and was a legend in his lifetime. His “sher” on a princess (the Nizam’s daughter) is repeated by adoloscent schoolboys even today.  For his ‘crime’, Chirkan was not persecuted – but banished from Hyderabad.

Forgotten today by the mainstream, Chirkan’s books circulate in the underground. Chirkan’s rhymes and jokes spread to all of India. 75 years later, every teenager makes his rites of passage with Chirkan’s jokes. Most of Mumbai film industry’s dirty jokes are a take-off on Chirkan.

The other memorable anti-monument tirade was composed by Sahir Ludhianvi. A Muslim poet who migrated from a Muslim Pakistan to a ‘secular’ Hindu-majoity India, Sahir’s dismissal of the Taj Mahal (complete work at the bottom) is remembered more than 50-years later.

With Such ‘leaders’ …

An acolyte of Owaisi, Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri went further.

Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Syed Ahmed Pasha Quadri’s for his remarks about Mahatma Gandhi‘s statue inside the state assembly.

“The Nizams built the state assembly building in Hyderabad, but see what has happened. They have installed a statue of Mahatma Gandhi there. Who constructed it and who has been installed there,” Quadri, who represents Charminar in the assembly, told a gathering in Karimanagar district’s Jagityal town on Thursday.

He said “we” have built all significant structures in India. “What have you done?” he asked. “We constructed Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Mecca Masjid and Charminar. What have you constructed in Hindustan?”

Analysts said Quadri’s speech was planned and designed to revive memories of Nizam’s rule and the old Hyderabad state that is bound strike a chord with the region’s Muslims. “But his ‘us and them’ rhetoric is dangerous,” an analyst said.

via MIM leader in trouble over remarks on Mahatma Gandhi – The Times of India.

What is Gandhiji’s statue doing in a Nizam Palace, implies Quadri.

An austere saint in a brothel?

Further Quadri went and asked (reports The Indian Express)

“Today whatever there is in India are our signs, you tell us what your achievements are.”

Then again in the midst of slogan shouting he continued his ‘us’ and ‘they’ rhetoric saying, “The colour of Red Fort has been given by us, the height of Qutub given by us, the beauty of Taj Mahal also given by us, historic monuments like Mecca Masjid and Charminar are presented by us… what have you done in Hindustan?”

via BJP furious as Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA says ‘we built Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, what have you done?’ – Indian Express.

भैंस  के सामने बीन!

Many years ago, Owaisi’s predecessors had made similar claims – and demanded Pakistan. Making extravagant claims, Jinnah & Co., demanded and got Pakistan. We all know what is happening in Pakistan.

MIM has been running Hyderabad for more than 5-years now. If at all, Hyderabad has sunk deeper into a quicksand of bureaucracy, stagnation, public-sector sloth.

After Chandrababu Naidu reinvented Hyderabad.

But, I am sure, millions of Indians will join me in taking apart Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Charminar, Mecca Masjid – and send it with Akbaruddin Owaisi and Co., to wherever in the world, they want to go.

Free shipping. For now. Limited period offer.

The offer may soon be changed to compulsory shipping.

*  *  *  *

Sahir Ludhianvi, better captures the Indian attitude to slavery, pomp and grandiose designs.

ताज तेरे लीए एक मजहर-ऐ-उल्फत ही सही, तुझको इस वादी-ऐ-रंगीन से अकीदत ही सही

मेरे महबूब कहीं और मीला कर मुझसे, बज्म-ऐ-शाही में गरीबों का गुज़र क्या माने?

सब्त जीस राह पे हो सतावत-ऐ-शाही के नीशान, उस पे उल्फत भरी रूहों का सफर क्या माने?

मेरे महबूब पास-ऐ-परदा-ऐ-ताश हीर-ऐ-वफ़ा, तूने सतावत के निशानों को तो देखा होता

मुर्दा शाहों के मकाबिर से बहलने वाली, अपने तारीक मकानों को तो देखा होता

अन-गिनत लोगों ने दुनिया में मोहब्बत की हैं, कौन कहता है के सादिक न थे जज्बे उनके

लेकिन उनके लीए ताश हीर का समान नहीं, क्योंकि वोह लोग भी अपनी ही तरह मुफ्लीस थे

यह ईमारत-ओ-मकाबिर यह फसीले यह हिसार, मुतल-कुल-हुक्म शाहेंशाहों की अजमत के सुतून

दामन-ऐ-दहर पे उस रंग की गुलकारी है, जिसमे शामिल है तेरे और मेरे अजदाद का खून

मेरे महबूब! उन्हें भी तो मोहब्बत होगी, जीनकी सन्नी ने बक्शी है इसे शक्ल-ऐ-जमील

उनके प्यारों के मकाबिर रहे बे-नाम-ओ-नमूद, आज तक उन पे जलाई न किसी ने कंदील

यह चमनज़ार, यह जमना का किनारा, यह महल, यह मुनाक्काश डर-ओ-दीवार, यह मेहराब, यह ताक

एक शहेंशाह ने दौलत का सहारा लेकर, हम गरीबों के मोहब्बत का ऊडाए है मजाक

मेरे महबूब कहीं और मिला कर मुझसे.

– Abdul Hayee ‘Sahir’ Ludhianvi.

Translation by gyanputra

Even if the Taj for you is a symbol of great love, even though you prefer its pretty colorful setting
My dear, meet me somewhere else, what truck can the poor have with kingly courts?
The paths on which are seared the grandest Royal Arms, how can love-filled hearts journey on them?
My dear, behind the veil of this advertisement of love, had you seen the trappings of royal power and wealth
Instead of being beguiled by the tombs of dead kings, had you seen our dark homes
Uncounted peoples in this world have loved, who says their love was not true
But they did not have the means for advertising love, they were poor like us
This mausoleum, these decorations, these fort parapets, that the arrogance of kings considers symbols of Greatness
On the face of the world this is a decoration of floral vines, that has flowing in it your ancestors’ blood, and mine
My dear! they must have had loves too, those whose art granted this monument its acclaimed form
But those loves’ tombs are unnamed, untraced, no one has ever lit on them even a candle
This garden, this Jamna riverbank, this palace, these picturesque walls and doors, these pulpits, these arabesques
A king of kings aided by all his wealth, has mocked the love of us poor
My dear, meet me somewhere else.


Pakistani Soldiers Behead Indian Soldiers at Line Of Control

January 15, 2013 1 comment

For 60-years now, India and Pakistan have been trying to gain a better position at nearly 200 points on the LoC. What can India do now?

The India-Pakistan Line-of-Control (LoC) in Kashmir, has seen some military actions from both sides in recent weeks.

Media goes to war

The defining output from Indian media on the military action at LoC has been the following two stories.

It is a sign of India’s maturing media, that global media has used these two stories to figure out the ‘real’ reasons for this bout of border escalations.

While it may fit the Government of India objectives if passive sections of Indian media blames Pakistan, equally it would be aimless if the liberal-media blames India for the latest escalation.

India needs to indulge in show-piece talks for international diplomacy reasons. Who in Pakistan will India talk to? Is anyone in-charge of Pakistan?  |  Ajit Ninan in Pune Mirror on January 15, 2013

India needs to indulge in show-piece talks for international diplomacy reasons. Who in Pakistan will India talk to? Is anyone in-charge of Pakistan? | Ajit Ninan in Pune Mirror on January 15, 2013

War and Peace

Yes, as of now it is only an escalation – and not a war. War with Pakistan is the most unlikely outcome.

Like it has been pointed out in previous posts, Pakistan does not have the financial capability, the war matériel, leave alone India, to fight a war with anyone.

Except maybe Maldives.

Above all, it is highly doubtful, if Pakistan has enough soldiers, who have the stomach to fight a war against India. Remember, Pakistan could muster no more than one thousand soldiers to take on India in Kargil.

Over the last 35 years, Pakistan’s capacity to meaningfully wage war against India has degraded.

Phoren Maal

If there is a rape in Delhi, we need Saudi justice.

If we lose two soldiers at the India-Pakistan border, we need to learn from Israel.

Our so-called experts in mainstream media and dominant voices in social media display their rank ineptitude, when they can only respond with such empty statements.

Western war narratives have little relevance to India, as we live in a different context. It is received Western wisdom that nuclear powers do not fight wars with each other. Yet, India has fought five wars (1948, 1962, 1965, 1971, Kargil) and shares borders with two de facto nuclear powers – China and Pakistan.

No other country in the world shares a border with two nuclear powers.

So, What’s Going on?

Across the nearly 800-kilometres border in Kashmir, in some places Indian and Pakistani soldiers are less than 50 metres apart.

For more than 60-years now, each side has tried to gain a better position at more than 200 strategic points on the LoC. The most famous such position is the Siachen glacier – which India regained and now controls at tremendous costs. It is unlikely that either side will stop jockeying for better positions on the LoC.

So, low-level conflict will continue.

India must now be prepared for small petty escalations by Pakistans  |  Kirtish Bhatt on September 23, 2010

India must now be prepared for small petty escalations by Pakistans | Kirtish Bhatt on September 23, 2010

Indian Options

War with Pakistan is not needed – or an answer. Any war with Pakistan will quickly mean:

  1. International intervention
  2. Achievement of Indian military objectives, if limited
  3. Nuclear response from Pakistan, if India threatens Pakistan’s existence.

Aggressive actions at LoC will be enough. Since, Pakistan’s airforce is practically non-operational, a precision air-strafing exercise by Indian airforce will be ideal.

There will be a Pakistani response.

With a tit-for-tat bombing raid by Pakistan Airforce. Pakistan may also decide to use some of their HATF missiles. If an Indian missile defence can stage a shoot down of Pakistani fighter or a missile, it will be an ideal military response that will test Indian missile systems in real war conditions.

India’s development of air-response during the Kargil war, a first  in air-warfare, is going to be very useful to India.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region  |  Image source & courtesy - longwarjournal.org

Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Region | Image source & courtesy – longwarjournal.org

What does this mean?

With Obama on course to pull out troops from Afghanistan, there has been renewed threats being muttered from Pakistan.

Is this the time for India to make some points with Pakistan?

With Taliban making mayhem on the Pakistan’s North-Western Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), any actions by India on the Pakistan LoC, will keep Pakistan in check from meddling in Afghanistan – or in Kashmir.

This is also good time for India to rattle Pakistan, while China is preoccupied with Japan. While US is warm towards India, as it seeks to check China – and disillusioned with Pakistan.

Did anyone notice that this Pakistani provocation happened after the India-Pakistan cricket series – and after the Pakistan team reached home.


Indian Food: Centuries of Parallel Evolution, Now Converging?

January 13, 2013 2 comments

Indian cuisine has been regional for centuries. But, in the last thirty-five years, Indian food habits have undergone a sea-change.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Something very strange is happening across India.

Indian cuisine has been regional for centuries.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Rajasthan has a dry cuisine that concentrates on preservation. Konkan food is full of greenery, freshness and coconut. Andhra cuisine has an overload of chilly and tamarind. Some brahmin sects in Bengal and Konkan coasts, eat fish.

But for the first time in 5000-years of Indian history, India’s Bombay High Generation (1975-2000) changed that. In the last thirty-five years, Indian food habits have undergone a sea-change.

Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Dosas and Idlis are now a breakfast staple across India. How much have dosas penetrated? Seen at a corner atta-chakki (a house-hold size grain-flour mill), a Muslim householder, who wanted some dosa-atta to be dry-ground. Clueless on how to make dosa batter, the family had decided to go the dosa way due to children-pressure.

Punjabi paneer items are now lunch and dinner regulars across food tables in India. Modern Punjabi cuisine, perfected in the last 500-years of gurudwara-langar cooking has taken the country by storm.

Banarsi chaat has surely spread across the country. Remember, Banaras is the world’s oldest living city.

In all this, an analysis of the food composition will show a broad focus on two things.

  • One – A good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fat and fibre.
  • Two – Maximum variety and increasing the number of elements that go into any preparation, which is the bedrock of vegetarian cuisine.
Image source & courtesy - hindustantimes.com

Image source & courtesy – hindustantimes.com

Here is an interesting post by Vir Sanghvi on Banarsi chaat.

I’m finally coming to terms with something I’ve always suspected about myself: my favourite food in the world is chaat. Give me caviar, give me white truffles and give me the greatest hits of Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, and I’ll probably be diverted for a while. But after a briefflirtation, I will return to my first love: chaat.

One of my friends is a TV big-shot who prides himself on his foodie skills though he has a misplaced admiration for his local Bihari cuisine and little understanding of the complexities of Gujarati food! and even he and his wife were stunned by the quality of the chaat. The secret of good chaat, he said, is that UP has the best chaat in India but that it does not come from Lucknow as is commonly supposed but from Benaras. The thing about the people of Benaras, he added, is that they are naturally shy and reluctant to leave their city and show off their skills to the world.

I phoned Marut and asked him what he thought. He agreed that UP was the centre of the chaat world. But he thought that, within UP, there were many chaat traditions. He gave me the example of what we call paani-puri in Bombay. In Lucknow and Kanpur, they use the term ‘batasha’ or possibly, ‘gol-gappa’. In Benaras, on the other hand, they call it a puchhka and the taste of the paani is subtly different from the Lucknow version.

Marut thinks that there are strong foodie links between Benaras and Calcutta, which is why the term ‘puchhka’ is used in Bengal as well. He reckons that perhaps chaatwallahs from the Benaras region moved to Calcutta and seeded the city’s flourishing chaat scene.
He may be right. The more I thought about it the more chaat seemed to be a UP thing. The Calcutta tradition is essentially a morphing of Benarasi recipes to suit the city’s Bengali and Marwari clientele. This is why Calcutta’s puchhkas are tarter than the Benaras version. In Delhi, on the other hand, the chaatwallahs probably came from Lucknow and Kanpur and gave the city its own gol-gappa, which I regret to say, is easily the least interesting example of the genre.

Neither Marut nor I could work out which part of UP Bombay’s chaatwallahs originally came from. We know for certain that chaat was transported to Bombay by UP Brahmins, most of whom used the surname Sharma. (Take a poll of the chaatwallahs at Chowpatty and Juhu. You will find that most of the long-established ones are still called Sharma.)

It is a tribute to Bombay’s culinary genius that the UP chaat tradition was able to successfully mate with the Gujarati snack/farsan tradition so that a new chaat culture was born. The Gujaratis took the principles of UP chaat (something fried, lots of crispy things for texture, chutneys, dahi, potatoes, etc.) and created new dishes. The most famous of these is bhel puri but there are many others.
The Bombay dahi batata puri has its roots in UP chaat but is very much an individual dish in its own right. Ragda pattice is a Gujarati adaptation of that north Indian standby, tikki with channa. And Marut reckons that Bombay’s pani-puri, which is the local variant of the gol-gappa/puchhka/batasha chaat is probably the best expression of this dish. (I love Bombay but here I disagree with Marut: my money is on the Calcutta  puchhka.)

The more Marut and I talked about it, the more convinced we became that we could trace nearly all genuine chaat dishes to waves of migration from UP. This explains why it is so difficult to find a chaat tradition south of Bombay: the UPites did not venture further down the Peninsula.

It is funny, though, that at a time when every state is doing so much to put its cuisine on the map, UP takes so little credit for being the home of chaat. Kerala may brag about its spices, Goa may trumpet the virtues of vindaloo and so on, but UP seems to have surrendered all claims to chaat, which is now seen as a pan-Indian favourite rather than a regional cuisine.

The public image of the food of UP leads only to the Awadhi haute cuisine of Lucknow and to pots of steaming biryani or animal fat kebabs. I love Lucknawi food as much as the next man but I doubt if it has been as influential or as popular as chaat. And yet, the chaat geniuses of Benaras, Lucknow, Kanpur and other UP towns get almost no recognition at all. Their wonderful tradition is disparaged as being ‘mere street food’.

But India lives and eats on its streets. And that night as I turned away all the fancy food that Marut and the Michelin-starred chefs had cooked and stuck to the Benaras chaat, I pondered the injustice. In America, they celebrate the hamburger and the hotdog; pizza is Italy’s global calling card; and Britain is known for fish and chips. So why, oh why, do we in India not give chaat the respect it deserves? Why is it without honour even in its home state?

I say this not just because chaat is my favourite food. I’m sure that millions of other Indians are also crazy about chaat. So, for once, let’s give haute cuisine a rest and stand up for what we really love: the cuisine of the Indian street.

via Rude Food: the cuisine of the street – Hindustan Times.


Final Solution of Roma Gypsies: Hungarians Display their Racial Colors

January 12, 2013 1 comment

From Spain, across Italy, in Northern Ireland Europeans are targetting Roma Gypsy as racialism rears its head. Can Europe change?

Jobbik sparked an uproar by calling for Jews in the country to be registered. Jobbik supporters demonstrate outside a housing project with many Roma residents in October 2012.  |  REUTERS image, courtesy Der Spiegel

Jobbik sparked an uproar by calling for Jews in the country to be registered. Jobbik supporters demonstrate outside a housing project with many Roma residents in October 2012. | REUTERS image, courtesy Der Spiegel

I

t would be a mistake to think that the Roma gypsy will lie down and die just because Europeans have been trying to wipe them out for the last 500 years at least.

A little over 600 years ago, when Europe was under oppressive Catholic Church, it was the Roma Gypsy who probably liberated Europe.

People in modern India have little or no idea about the roots of Europe. A recent visitor from India, on a European holiday, ‘innocent’ of Europe’s past, came across the ‘real’ Europe.

Take a walk in one of the narrow, cobbled alleys that run round in a maze in the heart of the Jewish quarter adjoining the Mezquita. There is a little museum here, somewhat nondescript and often missed by tourists. What it displays stabs at your idea of a wondrous legacy. The Exhibition of Medieval Instruments of Torture is one of the most complete of its kind in Europe. It traces the 700 year history (13th-19th century) of refinement of torture methods used largely, but not exclusively, under the Spanish Inquisition. For the visitor, entering it is a free fall from the sense of grace and peace of the mosque-cathedral, a plunge into a den of madness. A reminder that the Middle Ages were not only about romance, knights and fair maidens, or ballads and religiosity, they were violent and bloodthirsty; that beauty and ugliness went hand in hand; that the most grotesque forms of cruelty lay just under the veneer of some of man’s most amazing deeds.

While torture was pervasive in all of Europe, it held a special place under the Inquisition, this ecclesiastical tribunal that rose in a response to what had been the multi-religious nature of Spanish society. It followed the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims (or Moors — the appellation is used in a general way) who had ruled over large parts of what are today Spain and Portugal (the capital Cordoba fell in 1236, Seville a few years later, while Granada held out till 1492). King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille — under whose patronage began the great discoveries of the world, mariners setting sail for new lands — including the voyage of Christopher Columbus (she ordered a fleet to be fitted out for him) — intended to replace Medieval orthodoxy with their own Catholic orthodoxy. The rule of Catholic Monarchs (as Ferdinand and Isabella are known), called the Golden Age, strove for religious conformity and for the final reunification of Spain. Thus began the story of forced conversions, expulsions, detentions/torture and expulsions. The last Moorish king, Boabdil, it is said, wept and sighed as he surrendered his beloved Alhambra citadel in Granada. His mother’s response to his tears was icy: “Don’t weep like a woman for the city you could not defend like a man!”

The jungle of torture instruments in the Cordoba Museum have a longer history. They hark back to the early Middle Ages and would be in use until the 19th century. Torture was a normal way of extracting confessions, discouraging dissent and intellectual freedom and persuading Jews, Muslims, Protestants and heretics of all hues to accept the Catholic faith. But it was also inflicted on those practising bigamy, sodomy, superstition and witchcraft. Sex, age or gender made no difference. Women, children and the aged were all its victims. The arrest of an individual, done stealthily, was the first step in a harrowing path. The trial, or a charade rather, took place in a whimsically formed court, propelled as much by differences of creed as gossip and envy. The collection of authentic instruments shows how ingeniously the human mind worked, and how the process of “finding out the truth” was as crafty as it was vile in the extreme.

Among the most famous of these devices was the rack. The victim would be laid on this rectangular frame that had a board. His hand and legs would be tied to the ends of the board while the turning of rollers placed at the ends of the board would yank his body in opposite directions till every joint popped. Guy Fawkes (better known for his ‘gunpowder plot’ in Britain), and the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Kyd suffered the rack before they died. So, I believe, did Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII.

The Water Wheel, set in a pool of water, had the victim tied on its rim. The wheel would be turned, dunking the victim into water with every spin and inhumanly stretching his joints and muscles.

The garrotte was an ancient Roman contraption. Astonishingly, it was around in Spain till as recently as 1974. In an earlier day, the victim would be tied to a pole. This was later replaced by a chair. A cord, a wire or an iron collar with spikes would be tightened round the neck, leading to both strangulation and the breaking of the vertebrae.

The Inquisition devised the sickening Judas Cradle or a seat, atop of which was planted pyramid-like metal device. On this, the victim would be impaled, the pyramid penetrating his/her anus or vagina which would then be turned inside the organ. The word head crusher speaks for itself. As the head got crushed by the bloody instrument, it had the victim’s teeth imploding in their sockets, the jaw bones smashing, the eyes popping out and bits of brain squirting from the ears.

I hesitate to describe more. The museum has an array of torture devices, one more merciless than the other. What, one may ask, is the point of listing them? I realised in Cordoba that the mind is truly unhinged by this sudden plunge from the surrounding glory to a den of perversity. And yet you are trapped in a kind of fascination-revulsion, a deadly thrall, as you might be if you were suddenly pitted against a wild animal. If the aim was to frighten the wits (and life) out of real or fake suspects, these devices certainly did their job. Drowning, starving, whipping, crushing (head crushers were admirably efficient), burning, disfiguring, maiming with as much pain as you could possibly inflict — all this happened

via Sculpting Tools of Death.

From Library of entertaining knowledge, Volume 13  By Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) - 1835 |   This has been particularly the case with the Gunpowder Treason The outlines of the transaction were indeed too notorious to be suppressed or disguised that a design had been formed to blow up the Parliament House with the King the Royal Family the Lords and Commons and that this design was formed by Catholic men and for Catholic purposes could never admit of controversy or concealment but the details of the conspiracy the causes which led to it the motives and objects of the conspirators the extent to which the knowledge of it prevailed amongst Catholics in England and abroad and the degree of encouragement it received from the Catholic clergy have been ever since the date of its occurrence to the present time subjects of doubt and dispute It be expected that the in

From Library of entertaining knowledge, Volume 13
By Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Great Britain) – 1835

The Hussite Wars broke the back of the Catholic armies –

never to regain their former power. As British power reared its head, in early 17th century, Guy Fawkes decided to blow up the power centre of Britain – the Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey.

In both these cases, the difference was gunpowder. Gunpowder and Roma gypsies.

From at least 12th century till a hundred years ago, for 800 years, the biggest source of gunpowder elements was India. The Roma Gypsies who trace their origin to India were the European experts in gunpowder.

Over the last 10 years there has been a rising tide of violence against the Roma Gypsy. In Northern Ireland, across Italy and now in Hungary.

Zsolt Bayer, a prominent conservative commentator, has sparked outrage in Hungary and abroad for comparing Roma to animals and calling for a ”

final solution to the gypsy question.” Criticism of the remarks is growing, but Prime Minister Orbán will likely keep silent.

Zsolt Bayer always pipes up whenever the Hungarian media mentions that Roma are suspected of involvement in a crime. The influential right-wing commentator then makes suggestions on what, in his words, a “final solution to the Gypsy question” could be. For example, he has written: “Whoever runs over a Gypsy child is acting correctly if he gives no thought to stopping and steps hard on the accelerator.”

ANZEIGE

Bayer’s most recent hate-filled tirade came last Saturday after a bar fight and stabbing on New Year’s Eve in which some of the attackers were reportedly Roma. Writing in the ultra-right-wing newspaper Magyar Hirlap, which has close ties to the conservative government, Bayer argued for what amounts to genocide. He wrote:

“A significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals. When they meet with resistance, they commit murder. They are incapable of human communication. Inarticulate sounds pour out of their bestial skulls. At the same time, these Gypsies understand how to exploit the ‘achievements’ of the idiotic Western world. But one must retaliate rather than tolerate. These animals shouldn’t be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved — immediately and regardless of the method.”

At the same time, investigators have yet to nail down all the facts surrounding the crime. What is known is this: On New Year’s Eve, a massive brawl broke out in a bar in Szigethalom, a town near Budapest. During the fight, two young athletes — a wrestler and a boxer — suffered serious stabbing wounds. The police arrested one Roma, and another suspect is still being sought.

Bayer isn’t just some random pathological Roma-hater. Instead, the 49-year-old is one of the founding members of the country’s conservative governing Fidesz party and a close friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Although Bayer holds no official position, he is known within the party as someone with the pluck to express uncomfortable truths

Cracks in the Party

In recent years, Bayer’s anti-Roma and anti-Semitic articles have sparked repeated outrage. But no one within the Fidesz party leadership has ever taken public offense at the commentaries of its former chief press officer — until now. Tibor Navracsics, who is both justice minister and deputy prime minister, has joined Roma organizations and Hungary’s Jewish community in condemning Bayer’s most recent column — and called for his ouster from the party. On the private television channel ATV, he said that there is no place in an organization like Fidesz for someone who considers an entire group of people to be animals. In fact, even Tamás Deutsch, a prominent co-founder of Fidesz and member of the European Parliament who has publicly acknowledge being friends with Bayer, called the article “shameful.”

This is already the second time in recent weeks that prominent Fidesz politicians have openly distanced themselves from racial hatred. On Dec. 2, Antal Rogán, the party’s parliamentary floor leader, spoke at a protest against anti-Semitism after Márton Gyöngyösi, a representative of the right-wing extremist Jobbik party, had demanded in parliament that “all Jews living in Hungary be registered” and that “Jews, particularly those in parliament and the government, be evaluated for the potential danger they pose to Hungary.” The demonstration against anti-Semitism was noteworthy for marking the first time in two decades that all of the pro-democracy parties in Hungary’s parliament jointly attended a single event.

‘The Party Speaks with Two Tongues’

Nevertheless, critics doubt that Fidesz — and Prime Minister Orbán, in particular — will distance themselves from right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and antiziganism, a term denoting racism toward the Sinti and Roma.

Kristián Ungváry, a historian who has just published a 700-page book on the interwar years of the right-wing extremist Horthy regime, describes the party’s policies as a “sham.”

“The party speaks with two tongues,” Ungváry says. “On the one hand, one distances oneself from right-wing extremism in order to maintain a good reputation abroad and because one notes that the political damage would be too severe. On the other hand, Fidesz pays tribute to anti-Semitic writers of the interwar period, such as Albert Wass and József Nyírö, or expresses right-wing extremist positions in regime-friendly newspapers.”

This is especially the case with Prime Minister Orbán, whose public statements started moving farther and farther toward the right-wing extreme some time ago. This culminated last September, when Orbán delivered a “blood and soil” speech about the values of the Hungarian nation during a dedication ceremony for a monument. “The archetypal image of the Turul bird is the archetypal image of the Hungarians,” he said, referring to the most important bird in the origin myth of ethnic Hungarians. “It is part of blood and homeland. We, the Hungarians of national solidarity, must squeeze all disunity out of Hungarian life. Strong nations stick together; weak ones break apart.”

On the other hand, Orbán refrained from publicly commenting on Jobbik’s call for registering Jews in Hungary. Indeed, it wasn’t until a few days later that Orbán distanced himself in parliament from right-wing extremism, though in very general way. At the same time, a law was passed that permits monetary fines to be levied on parliamentarians who make racist statements.

A Deed Likely to Go Unpunished

György Dalos, a prominent writer and biographer, doesn’t believe that Fidesz will fundamentally alter its two-faced policies. “Voters on the left run away from it on account of its restrictive social policies, so they need the voters on the right,” Dalos says. “And it will continue to attract them with the appropriate rhetoric.”

Attila Nagy, a political scientist at Budapest’s Méltanyosság Institute, admits that there is genuine outrage about right-wing extremism in some parts of Fidesz. “But,” he adds, “this part, which backs a clearer pro-European course, is currently not a decisive one within the party.”This, along with the fact that Justice Minister Navracsics has a reputation for holding little sway within the party, also makes it more likely that his call to have Zsolt Bayer ejected from the party will go unheeded. In any case, Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi made this clear during a televised interview on ATV last Monday. She said that since Bayer had expressed his opinion as a commentator rather than as a Fidesz member in the incriminating article, the party would not take a stance on it.

via Hungarian Journalist Calls for Final Solution of Roma Issue – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

 

Insider Trading: Why is the US-SEC going after Immi-grunts

January 10, 2013 1 comment

US-SEC seems to be particularly effective in convicting immi-grunts on insider trading charges – including some Indian-American immi-grunts.

Insider trading is such a vague concept that the SEC cannot win |  December 2011 Cartoon by Ed Stein; source & courtesy - usagold.com

Insider trading is such a vague concept that the SEC cannot win | December 2011 Cartoon by Ed Stein; source & courtesy – usagold.com

E

ffectively Rajat Gupta and Rajarathnam are the only people who have been convicted by US courts – based on the prosecution launched by Preet Bharara.

Travails With Yummrika

Rajat Gupta is an Indian – and Rajarathnam is a Indian by proxy. There is the less known case of  Ramesh Chakrapani, who was arrested, his career ruined – and let off with no sentence, and a sword hanging of a possible future prosecution over his head.

The case against Rajat Gupta was especially flimsy.

Vain Gains

If we go by value of ill-gotten gains, the cases against Ivan Boesky and Michael Milliken were far more grave. After benefiting to the tune of hundreds of millions in ill-gotten gains, Boesky and Milliken got away with minor jail terms.

The other element on which we can judge the seriousness of the insider-trading is to see it by the criticality of information. People like David Loeb, from the same Goldman Sachs or David Skol, from Warren Buffett‘s stable. Or see the case of Brothers Wyly (Samuel and Charles Wyly). The SEC quietly dropped charges against 3-company investment consortium (of Coudree Capital Gestion SA, Chartwell Asset Management Services, Compania Internacional Financiera SA) in the Lonza-Arch case.

SEC’s Gyrations

These and many more cases show a SEC that is blatantly blind, random and ineffective in its persecution – except when it comes to Indians, and other immi-grunts.

The latest is the case where the beneficiary and instructor, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen is not being prosecuted, but his employee Mathew Martoma, 38, is being prosecuted for probably following his employer’s diktats and directions.

US law-makers enjoy legal immunity; leading to rampant insider trading  |  Insider Traders in Congress-By RJ Matson, Roll Call; 16 November, 2011

US law-makers enjoy legal immunity; leading to rampant insider trading | Insider Traders in Congress-By RJ Matson, Roll Call; 16 November, 2011

StonePelters United

From Yummrika did the usual running down of India and Indians.

No debate, analysis on the case or the rising tide of disproportionate convictions and sentencing against Bharatiya-Americans?

Not a whit!

David Sokol’s escape from an insider-trading probe further fogs an already hazy law. Warren Buffett’s fallen heir-apparent was a prime investigation target for buying $10 million of Lubrizol shares shortly before Berkshire Hathaway acquired the company for $9 billion.

Yet, Sokol’s lawyer says the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) dropped the matter. Even with a broad insider-trading crackdown since the affair was disclosed almost two years ago, the crime’s contours remain elusive.

It’s illegal to trade on material, non-public information in breach of some duty. At least based on what was disclosed publicly, that would seem to be exactly what Sokol did. He bought Lubrizol stock a day after bankers pitched the company as a possible Berkshire takeover target. He sold those shares and then bought more after he was informed by bankers that Lubrizol’s chief executive would raise Buffett’s interest at a meeting of the lubricant maker’s board.

Sokol’s inside information may not, however, have been material. He couldn’t be sure Berkshire would offer to acquire the company when he purchased the shares. It’s also unclear whether he necessarily breached a legal duty of trust.

These weaknesses could be what persuaded the SEC to drop the case, though it’s hard to know for sure. The agency isn’t saying. What is clear is that the evidence wasn’t as strong as in, say, the prosecution of Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey boss and Goldman Sachs director. Sokol’s situation did, however, come off as similar to another insider-trading case the SEC has opted to pursue, against billionaire brothers Samuel and Charles Wyly.

On balance, the regulator may have saved some face by not pursuing Sokol if it wasn’t sure it could win. After embarrassing losses like last year’s acquittal of Citigroup employee Brian Stoker on securities fraud charges, the watchdog is probably wary of being too aggressive.

Despite scores of recent insider-trading convictions, many since the Lubrizol trades came to light, it’s still unclear what is and isn’t allowed. The bitter taste that lingers from the Sokol affair is that insider trading isn’t always what it seems.

via Sokol haze.


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