Friday, September 30, 2005

Day and Night


This beautiful photograph was taken by the crew on board shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during reentry in 2003, during its last mission, on a cloudless day.
The picture is of Europe and Africa when the sun is setting. Half of the picture is in night. The bright dots you see are the cities' lights. The top part of Africa is the Sahara Desert . Note that the lights are already on in Holland , Paris , and Barcelona, and that's it's still daylight in Dublin , London , Lisbon , and Madrid .

The sun is still shining on the Strait of Gibraltar.The Mediterranean Sea is already in darkness. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean you can see the Azores Islands; below them to the right are the Madeira Islands ;a bit below are the Canary Islands; and further South, close to the farthest western point of Africa , are the Cape Verde Islands.

Note that the Sahara is huge and can be seen clearly both during day time and night time. To the left, on top, is Greenland , totally frozen.

Ah, the beautiful earth

sameer bhat

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

La citation du jour

Forget the futility of existence
Believe in the inevitability of sucess
Understand achievement and struggle
Kill boredom. Buck the trend.
Create your own cult.
Let a thousand weeds bloom
Change icons before they change you.
Learn to swim in life, with it!

sameer bhat

Kashmir: How it all started

Kashmir has had a bloody history. Independent for generations, the last king of independent Kashmir, Hari singh, acceeded to the union of India in 1947. Here is the letter, that the late Maharaja wrote in a hurry to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. This letter was going to change the course of history in Kashmir, Pakistan and India.

Letter from Maharaja Hari Singh to Lord Mountbatten on Pak invasion of J&K in 1947

My dear Lord Mountbatten,

I have to inform Your Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in my State and request the immediate assistance of your Government. As Your Excellency is aware,the State of Jammu and Kashmir has not acceded to either the Dominion of India or Pakistan. Geographically my State is contiguous with both of them. Besides, my State has a common boundary with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and with China. In their external relations the Dominion of India and Pakistan cannot ignore this fact. I wanted to take time to decide to which Dominion I should accede or whether it is not in the best interests of both the Dominions and of my State to stand independent, of course with friendly and cordial relations with both. I accordingly approached the Dominions of India and Pakistan to enter into standstill agreement with my State. The Pakistan Government accepted this arrangement. The Dominion of India desired further discussion with representatives of my Government. I could not arrange this in view of the developments indicated below. ln fact the Pakistan Goernment under the standstill agreement is operating the post and telegraph system inside the State. Though we have got a standstill agreement with the Pakistan Government, the Govemment permitted a steady and increasing strangulation of supplies like food, salt and petrol to my State.

Afridis, soldiers in plain clothes, and desperadoes with modern weapons have been allowed to infiltrate into the State, at first in the Poonch area, then from Sialkot and finally in a mass in the area adjoining-Hazara district on the Ramkote side. The result has been that the limited number of troops at the disposal of the State had to be dispersed and thus had to face the enemy at several points simultaneously, so that it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and the looting of the Mahura power house, which supplies electric current to the whole of Srinagar and which has been burnt. The number of women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed. The wild forces thus let loose on the State are marching on with the aim of capturing Srinagar, the summer capital of my government, as a first step to overrunning the whole State. The mass infiltration of tribesman drawn from distant areas of the North-West Frontier Province, coming regularly in motortrucks, using the Manwehra-Mazaffarabad road and fully armed with up-to-date weapons, cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Govemment of the North-West Frontier Province and the Government of Pakistan. Inspite of repeated appeals made by my Government no attempt has been made to check these raiders or to stop them from coming into my State. In fact, both radio and the Press of Pakistan have reported these occurences. The Pakistan radio even put out the story that a provisional government has been set up in Kashmir. The people of my State, both Muslims and non-Muslims, generally have taken no part at all.

With the conditbns obtaining at present in my State and the great emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so, and I attach the instrument of accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my state and people to free booters. On this basis no civilised government can exist or be maintained.

This alternative I will never allow to happen so long as I am the ruler of the State and I have life to defend my country. I may also inform your Excellency's Government that it is my intention at once to set up an interim government and to ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister.

If my State is to be saved, immediate assistance must be available at Srinagar. Mr. V.P. Menon is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and will explain it to you, if further explanation is needed.

In haste and with kindest regards,

Yours sincerely,

Hari Singh
October 26, 1947



Response from Lord Mountbatten

My dear Maharaja Sahib,

Your Highness' letter dated 26 October 1947 has been delivered to me by Mr. V.P. Menon. In the circumstances mentioned by Your Highness, my Government have decided to accept the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. In consistence with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my Government's wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people.
Meanwhile, in response to Your Highness' appeal for military aid, action has been taken today to send troops of the Indian Army to Kashmir, to help your own forces to defend your territory and to protect the lives, property, and honour of your people. My Government and I note with satisfaction that Your Highness has decided to invite Sheikh Abdullah to form an interim Government to work with your Prime Minister.

Louis Mountbatten

October 27, 1947

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


A Kashmiri lass carries crop home from her field
Pic Sam

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ah...me!

A woe crosses my heart
and limps to my eye
as words hurt and fall
and blue birds bid bye
Why it betides me
lovey-dovey ol' soul
in a land very hard
I find difficult to ward

My most recent composition -- Just that I was feeling a little melancholic!
sameer bhat

India shuns Iran

Politics is a dicey buisness. International politics is even more perilious. Till Friday, India was steadily in the developing world camp, fobbing off the intense US squeeze to put Iran's case of nuclear proliferation to UN security council for possible sanctions. India's vote against Iran in Vienna and therefore in favor of US [ applying the principle of With us; Against us ] amounts to a tentative victory for the Bush administration's efforts to isolate Tehran.

By a 22-1 vote with 12 countries abstaining at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, a resolution passed saying Iran is guilty of 'many failures and breaches of its obligations'. Russia and China abstained, while Venezuela cast the sole 'no' vote.

I was surprised at India's policy shift but surely not shocked. It must have been a bold decision for the Indian top leadership. Considering that India has a string of energy contracts and historical ties with Iran, Indian vote seemed audacious but may not be without its after-effects. In the past, India has favored Iran's right to pursue nuclear energy. India also has a large Muslim population.

What brought about India's foriegn policy about-turn and what can be its ramifications. I try to sum up:

Reasons:
* India wants to be seen as a responsible nuclear nation. Having recently sealed a civilian nuclear deal with US { yet to be ratified } and availing of similar nuclear concessions from the UK and Europe plus lately harmonising its export control list with the nuclear suppliers group, India wants to be seen as a powerful country really meaning business;
* Iran's demand at the UN that NPT be made compulsory to all nations. Though the Iranian target was Isreal, India saw red, not wanting to be incuded in the NPT.
* With Russia, China, Pakistan abstaining at the vote, India saw its chance of making most out of the deadlock.

Ramifications:
* India risks being seen as a US camp follower, having ditched a cornered Iran for the smirking US.
* May incite an Iranian backlash against oil and gas deals lined up by India in Tehran in the last few months. {delay in the ratification of the $18 billion deal by Iran for an annual import of 5 MMT of LNG to India}
* Damage to India's standing among the non-aligned and developing countries.

To cut a long story short, I think, it is plain US arm-twisting India in return of the nuclear sanctity it bestowed on the country -- and India's effort to shrug off the developing worrld tag and evolve as a global power, perhaps at a little cost.

sameer bhat

Saturday, September 24, 2005


God...It was close!
Caricature Sam

Near miss

Have you ever heard about close-shaves. No no. I don't mean those smooth shaves that we make each morning -- and every second morning -- in my case. Lather and foam! I escaped a falling tree this morning. It was both interesting and scary.

I was walking in the rain, around noon. I love these moments. When the showers are full and I am alone. I keep humming to myself and listening to the rain. Infact it has been raining since previous night. There was lightening and thunder in the night. I was woken up by a particularly menancing, loud thunder at two in the night.

I must have been a few yards past the fated tree. A loud crashing sound made me turn -- by impulse -- 180 degree. The huge tree was crumbling. Aged and loftly, it was perhaps weakened overnight by strong gusts of wind. The rain dealt a final blow and off it came, just missing me by -- less than 6 seconds.

I usually trust my impulses. I reckon, I would have run had the tree decided to obey gravity, the very moment I was underneath it. Split-second decisions. Rushing against time. All of us do that in times of adversity. It comes naturally. But...who knows? May be I might have come under it. Injured, Dead!

I thank God, anyways. One of those moments, He likes me.

sameer bhat

Thank God for those pearls. Love 'em!
Pic Sam

It's raining again

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

a langston hughes adaption
sameer bhat

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Go forth under the open sky, and listen To Nature's teachings.

Pic Sam

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Quote of the Day

Climate-change denial has gone through four stages. First the fossil-fuel lobbyists told us that global warming was a myth. Then they agreed that it was happening, but insisted that it was a good thing: we could grow wine in the Pennines and take Mediterranean holidays in Skegness. Then they admitted that the bad effects outweighed the good ones, but claimed that climate change would cost more to tackle than to tolerate. Now they have reached stage four. They concede that climate change would be cheaper to address than to neglect, but maintain that it's now too late. This is their most persuasive argument
George Monbiot
September 20, 2005
The Guardian

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Ruins of the parliament in Patara, considered the world's first elected government. Its semicircle of seats became a model for the Capitol in US.
Pic With thanks, NY Times

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Birthday Boy

Sep 18: My birthday.

There are times when I think I am a lucky chap. This is one of those days. I just turned 20-something. Right from mid-night, when the clock struck 00 hours and propelled me into my nth year of being, I started getting calls and texts from my friends all over the world. Hold on!!!I am not a celeb but as luck would have it, I have friends living across a wide geographical stretch.

Calls from Kashmir...Suhail was the first to give me a ring. Bleary-eyed the poor boy remained awake till 12 to wish. Can you ask for more? Selcuk, my Turkish pal sent a heart-felt note shortly after mid-night. I was humbled. Around that time, Kokes and Waseem and Navvy burst into a carol -- wishing me! Tanseer sent a text at one in the night. Moron! He had again gotten the Indian timings wrong. I love him for his capers! (Flight timings wrong, names wrong...the list is wrong, sorry, long!)

Gals...how can I leave them out. Or how ever can they forget me. Usuals, Manprit, all so charming and nice. Rang up from the serene shores of south India. Leera sent a belated text. Naughty as ever.

Hadi called up from NYC, Tanseer complimented with a call from Baku. Sweet texts kept trickling in. Selcuk with his flowing locks, who else! Doctor Uncle -- Tan's pops -- wrote a birthday text. I suddenly felt double-blessed.

I cut my cake at the french corner dubbed Patessiers'. Folks clapped. Kokes was too good -- loved his gifts.

God, I never want the world to love me. I just want my loved ones to stick by me. That is exactly what took place.

Bliss.

sameer bhat

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Tiny globs of rain: Through my lens
Pic Sam

Rain dance

The past few days have been utterly pleasant. It has rained and rained. Glinting silvery stripes of rain. The downpour has brought the mercury crashing down on her knees. What injustice to someone who has been so haughty all summer. Lady mercury -- also globally known by her cognomen HEAT -- made us sweat and fume. Not that we didn't fight back. I bought an ac-plant to keep her off but she was persistent with her swelter. Till yesterday!!!

As always nature came to the rescue. Where Bush flunks, nature prevails. So heavens opened up and it poured. I love rains. I am a compete romantic. I live for rain and snow and breeze and that delicate sunshine. Not Heat!!! There is so much of beauty in nature's elements. I love to walk in rain. Drench myself. Soak in the godly shower. And I walked in the rain yesterday. My slippers got wet, my hair-gel was washed off and my back was moist. I didn't care two hoots. I felt good and fresh.

The rain was incessant. It came in small and big torrents. On the rich and the not-so-rich, in the president's lush gardens and the tarapaulin roofs of slum-dwellers, on bird-less nests and concrete enclosures. In ponds, across roads, on the lamp-posts. For those magical rain moments, all city seemed to dance in the drizzle.

Happy worms swam in brown slush. From a distance bushlarks and parakeets cooed.

It is a interlude, one wishes goes on forever.

sameer bhat
sameershaban20@yahoo.com

Friday, September 16, 2005

Price of Freedom

It is difficult to reflect on this picture. This is Kashmir, Circa 2005. A lone mother sobs softly at her son's grave in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Her son, like thousands others, perished in the bloody strife that has plagued this beautiful glade on earth since the late 80's. I guess, it is difficult for parents to outlive their children.

What joy it is when a baby is born! Mothers' go through the pangs of motherhood, the kicks, the pain, the anguish and the pleasure to beget a life. She breeds the kid, brings him up. Educates him at her lap. Watches him crawl, babble and jostle for his drink.

Sees him go to school, imbibe words, croon rhymes. Blushes to see him grow his first face-hairs; does a quiet prayer when his tender voice turns hoarse. The sheer emotion that flickers to see him go camping. His band. His room. His books. The joy of being a parent. The bonds. The anxities, those parental dreams for him!

And suddenly a bomb! Gun shots! Dreams shattered!
Blood in runnels. Her son's!
Who got him. Gunmen, Army!
His grave. Mom sobs! Tears. The agony.

God, I can't stand this!

Sameer

I was in a heaven. This long-shot will tell you why I hate to tear myself from the place!!!
Pic Sam

Rouge apples dot my trees in our apple orchard.
Pic Sam

How I love rains!!!
Pic Sam

Pee Mr Prez


Prez Bush writes a note to his Sec of State Condy during the UNSC meeting in NY: I think I may need a Bathroom break? Is this possible? Go Mr. Prez. Pee!
Pic Reuters

Saturday, September 10, 2005


My fav doc-friend Mujib, in Philadelphia, PA
Pic Sam

Friday, September 09, 2005

US Shame


As the putrid waters -- that Hurricane Katrina brought with it in New Orleans -- start receding, a strong stench emanates. It comes from the ghastly rot that killed hundreds -- at the last count -- and exposed an incompetent federal government, which preferred to sit on its slaked arse while its poor populace drowned. Bush focussed on photo-ops as the salty water was still pouring in from those leaking leeves. America is now counting its dead. Shamefully, in mainland America.

Across the US coastline, 200 inmates at the in-famous Guantanamo' bay are in their fifth week of a hunger strike, in protest at the conditions in the camp and at their alleged maltreatment - including desecration of the Qur'an - by American guards. Fourty days without food. Is this 21st century America? Where are the coveted Civil Liberties? Is this a slow death of the famed American liberty, equality and justice, under an inept administration?

The Guantanamo' hunger strike is the second since late June. The first ended after the authorities made a number of promises, including better access to books, and bottled drinking water. The men claim that they were tricked into eating again. (Source: Hunger strikers pledge to die in Guantánamo September 9, 2005 The Guardian )

I don't want to take sides. It hurts me to see US engaging in such brutality. Treating prisoners like pig-shit. The Bush administration may like to call these reedy guys illegal combatants and continue to deny treating them as PoW's, which is what they actually are; but it defies all rationale and every basic norm of human dignity that their legitimate demands -- like clean water and books and an end to maltreatment -- are not met with. Surely, the world's sole superpower can spare some clean water and printed pages for its tapped out enemy.

Ofcourse an administration that refused to bulge fast enough to save its own poor -- down south -- can't be expected to show any respect towards an unfortunate lot held illegaly -- without any trial -- on an alien piece of land.

I hope the victims of Katrina find solace and peace to start their lives over again. I hope the victims of Bush find solace and peace to hold-off the immeasurable misery.
Amen!

sameer bhat

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Interview with God

Take a break. Click on my fav link and gently touch the view presentation button.
Don't tell me it did not make a difference to you.

Sam's highly recommended:
http://linux20230.dn.net/cgi-bin/pop/card.pl?8.29.064210.05

sameer bhat

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Gulmarg, some miles drive from my home -- And onto the Paradise we will go!
Pic Sam

The skies of my city, red and angry, perhaps this time!
Pic Sam

People ferrying in the Dal lake, Srinagar, Kashmir on Saturday!
Pic Sam

A lone Pigeon -- like me -- wets its tender feet in Shalimar garden, Srinagar, Kashmir.
Pic Sam

River Jhelum, Srinagar, Kashmir, at Sun-down
Pic Sam

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Kokey in an earlier picture { Don't be foxed into believing that he is thinking here, he never does that}

Pic Sam

Friday, September 02, 2005

Kokes

He is a small bundle of joy. One of my youngest students -- I'm not a teacher, but I love to tutor kids close to me; perhaps my youngest friend and a true heart-on-your-sleeve guy. Taukir features in the select list of chaps, I truly admire. He is at once stylish and frighteningly lazy. He is smart and instantaneous. I love to call him Kokes, thought I think Jug-head also fits him just right!

Kokes laughs in small interludes, almost incessantly. Although he rarely comes up with very many funny quotes himself but he sure has a funny bone. He laughs and giggles at every loud sylabble you utter. That keeps his cheek bones in action, all the time. 24 X 7. I am sure, if I prattle anything in the middle of a difficult situation, kokes is sure to compliment it with a smile.

However, the most enduring element is his sincerity. I reckon, the world around us is painfully short of such sincere, honest blokes and that is where my young pal scores.

Truthful and amiable would be the best two-words to describe Kokes.

sameer bhat

Oil Woes

In a world of high oil prices, the future looks hazy. What are the reasons for surging crude prices? What does it mean for an energy-hungry world? Where are we headed for?

Read-on: Sam deconstructs the economics of energy that governs the modern human sustinance

Oil prices have been skyrocketing over the past few weeks, increasing close to 45% in the past 3 months to an alarmingly record high of $70 a barrel. It seemed as if it was only yesterday -- or less than one year ago -- many experts claimed that $40 would be the highest, that oil prices could rally. Now, in retrospect, in the minds of many of those same fellas, $40 seems to be the lowest to which we could see oil prices fall once again. As a matter of fact, when energy -- read oil-- is available at low prices, the outlook towards growth is optimistic and vice versa. Crude oil prices have been rising continuously since 1998, when the price was $10 a barrel.

The rise in oil has made headlines across the globe for months now. Strong demand from China and India, the lack of ability by Saudi Arabia (and other OPEC countries) to increase oil production, as well as recent weather related -- Hurricane Katrina -- supply shocks have fueled the continual rise in crude oil prices. From our economics 101 textbooks, we remember that high oil prices act as a tax for consumers by slowing down consumer spending, which eventually takes a bite out of growth.

Some currencies stand to benefit significantly from rising oil prices while others suffer greatly. Traditionally we know that commodity currencies rally when energy prices increase because those currencies are from countries that tend to be net exporters of commodities such as crude oil. Therefore the oil producers within the country are simply reaping higher profits for the same barrel of oil. Currencies of countries that are net oil importers on the other hand face increasingly higher costs whenever energy prices rise. So taking a look at this from a net oil exporter / importer perspective, the currency pair that should be impacted the most by changes in energy prices is the Canadian Dollar and the Japanese Yen (CADJPY). That is because Japan imports 99% of its oil and Canada is the world's ninth largest crude oil producer

Since the mid-eighties, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has been acting as a swing oil producer of the world. That is, OPEC produces only to fill the gap between global oil demand and production by non-OPEC countries. Over the years, the swing production arrangement resulted in OPEC having a lot of idle capacity. This helped OPEC to gain control over oil prices. Whenever the inventory level of oil stocks in industrialised nations, particularly the members of Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) went up, OPEC reduced output.

This artificial scarcity that OPEC manages to create did not allow oil prices to fall.

The same idle capacity has been used to pump extra oil into the market to prevent dramatic price rises during times of unexpected supply interventions. Most of this idle capacity is in Saudi Arabia, the largest member within OPEC. The country has effectively used its idle capacity in the past to prevent any price increase during the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf War and the recent Venezuelan crisis.

But that situation seems to be changing now, with OPEC unable to control the surging global oil prices. OPEC members have been pumping oil as fast as they can with hardly any idle capacity left. Saudi Arabia is the only country that has some spare capacity left. The idle capacity stands at just 0.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) as against 3 mbpd few years back.

So even though there is no shortage of crude oil, the fact that there is no safety net, has made the oil traders jittery. This has led to them demanding a risk premium and so the high price.

Most of the known oil reserves are in one part of the world, i.e. West Asia (or the Middle East). The other major petroleum exporting countries are Russia, Nigeria, Indonesia and Venezuela. These countries have been politically unstable in the recent past and this has also led to the oil traders demanding a premium.
The main reason, however, for the oil price hike is surge in global oil consumption. The global consumption of oil went up by 3.4% last year. Most of this increase has come from China. China's oil demand grew by almost 16% last year. Although demand has not grown at the same rate this year, as China progresses and more and more people buy cars, China's demand for oil will go up. And the fact that China is a net oil importing country, its demand for oil will add to the world demand for oil.

But the consumption of oil in the United States remains the biggest reason for this sustained growth in the global oil demand. The US, which has just 5% of the world population, consumes one quarter of the global produce. The oil efficiency of vehicles in the US has now fallen to a 20-year low. Its energy policy does very little to ensure greater fuel economy in cars or sports utility vehicles.

Further, as developing countries keep improving their standards of living (China's oil consumption per person is around one-fifteenth that of America), and automobiles remain a symbol of aspiration, there is only one way where the oil price is headed: upwards.

Also what needs to be understood is the link between oil prices and interest rates. Interest rates the world over have been very low and this, in turn, has led to increased consumption. This, in turn, has led to an increased demand for oil and thus the increase in oil prices. If the prices are high because of high demand they will stay there for much longer.

This was not the case when the world went through supply-led oil shocks, where once the supplies were restored prices fell.

Speculation
Another reason for the northward movement of oil prices is speculation. Some oil experts have recently talked about oil prices touching even a high of $100. If something like this does happen, it will create havoc in the equity markets.

As oil prices go up, energy costs will rise and the cost of doing business will go up. This, in turn, will affect the profit of companies. So big equity funds the world over are investing in oil futures (buying oil futures to buy oil) to hedge against the risk of the value of their other investments falling. Pension funds have also made a beeline and have poured in a lot of money into securitised investments in oil. This has led to sustained high prices of oil. The fact that OPEC has reiterated time and again that it will not allow prices to fall has helped these speculators.

All the above reasons seem to suggest that oil prices are on their way up. How many dollars a barrel, only time will tell.

Sameer Bhat