Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Carnage at Cana

They say the entire Middle East is a sacred swathe of land. According to Bible -- Gospel of John – Cana is a place where Jesus Christ performed his first miracle. At a marriage ceremony, to which Christ was also invited, the family ran out of wine. Upon insistence Christ turned water into wine. Jesus' divine act saved the embarrassed hosts their day and perhaps firmly established the holiness of Christ for the first time. [Marriage at Cana: Source: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_at_Cana]. More than 2000 years later, an Israeli laser guided bomb, in the same village of Cana, established another milepost – that of Israel’s unsurpassed crimes against humanity. Pity, there are no Prophets these days and God, by the way, is on an extended vacation.

Let us stop taking sides for a while. Imagine the plight of ordinary people caught in the middle of a vicious vortex. I felt terribly bad for the poor children – including infants -- as neighbors scrambled to pick their contused bodies from the mangled rubble of the four-story building, razed by an Israeli air strike last night. If there exists a devil, it must resemble a Zionist fighter jet, I am sure.

Southern Lebanon is the most dangerous spot on earth right now. An aggressive, unstoppable, US-sponsored Israel is on rampage in the area. Like one of those mad Spanish bulls. It hits anything that moves. Anything that slithers. Anything on two legs. Six-month old babies in their mothers’ laps. Elderly women on wheel chairs. The people killed overnight at Cana could not afford to leave their old village. They all crouched together on the ground floor of the building, hoping they would be safe. They are all dead!

New York Times reports that the two extended families staying in the house that the Israeli missile struck — the Shalhoubs and the Hashims — had discussed leaving several times over the past two weeks. But they were poor — most worked in tobacco or construction — and the families were big and many of their members weak, with a 95-year-old, two relatives in wheelchairs and dozens of children. A taxi north, around $1,000, was unaffordable. Little did the poor folks know that a sinister Israeli bomb was going to gobble them up, very soon.

The strike was a precision-guided bomb dropped from the air, the same kind of bomb that destroyed a UN position in Khiyam last week, killing four UN observers. Writing on an olive green fragment of the munition which caused the explosion read: GUIDED BOMB BSU 37/B. A precision guided missile, mind you. In more advanced terminology, that means -- the bomb is programmed what to strike and where. If Israeli extends an apology now, taking the world public opinion for a ride, we can safely consider it a farce. [Laser Guided bomb: Source: The Guardian, London. www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1833884,00.html].

Mistakes happen once. Israel has a history of such blood-thirst. A 1996 Israeli artillery bombardment that hit a U.N. base in Cana killed more than 100 Lebanese who had taken refuge from fighting. That attack sparked an international outcry. Ten years later, the attacks didn’t come as a surprise. The same outcry? Ironically, in the context of America's war on terror, anyone claiming to be engaged in the fight against terror gets carte blanche to do as they please. We can see who is the culprit here. Can't we?

Not surprisingly, Israel was at pains to explain that -- one -- it asked the people to leave southern Lebanon and two -- there were rockets fired from near this building that was hit. The answers, I reckon, aren’t too difficult.

The road leading to the north has gotten a regular pounding by Israel, rendering it hugely unsafe. Ambulances and Red Cross cars have been taken down by the Israeli air force. The Guardian comments, Israelis blame mainly Hizbollah for using civilians as human shields. But a UN report noted many inconsistencies in the Israeli account and said it was "unlikely" the deaths were the result of technical errors (on part of Israel). It has infact been part of the Israeli propaganda factory to come ready with excuses much before it commits any of its heinous acts.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities, Voltaire, the great Frenchman once quipped.

Mrs. Hala Shalhoub, who miraculously survived the strike in Cana but lost two of her daughters, ages 1 and 5, has been moaning and rocking slightly in her hospital bed. “I want to see my children,” she said slowly. “I want to hold them.” No one attempts to console the poor mom. Let her cry, a sobbing relative says. She has after all – lost her whole world.
[Source: NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/31/world/middleeast/31scene.html]

Hope hate transforms into love. Isreali bombs into tiny ducklings.
We desperately need another miracle. Jesus!

Sameer Bhat

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Let's walk in Paradise!


The winds that on the uplands softly lie,
Grow keener where the ice is lingering still
Where the first robin on the sheltered hill
Pipes blithely to the tune, "When Spring goes by!"

Samy

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Summer Rains!

The darkness is rent by explosions. Shells are falling and the air vibrates with sound. The sound bellows, spits, comes in great stabs. The men move forward with sullen steps, helmets tilted over their menacing eyes. An officer howls a command and an F-16 jet pounds yet another family fleeing the ordeal. An old man limps his way out of the 'Summer rains'. Suddenly, behind him, the ground heaves and a fountain of black earth is thrown upwards. Shrapnel slashes the air and dust fills the man's lungs. The man screams, is screaming, again and again. No one listens. That is Lebanon for you. July 2006. 21st century.

The events in the current conflict are unfolding at a horrifying pace. The provocation: Two Israeli Defence Force (IDF) troops abducted by Hizbollah. The answer: Punish an entire country of four million. With shuddersome ferocity. Immediately. Israel style. Israel always fights its wars against the clock, rushing to achieve its objectives before pressure for a ceasefire becomes irresistible: So that explains the massive, unproportionate onslaught on the hapless Lebanese. Kill everyone, everyone running for cover. Children, women, elderly. What about bad press? World opinion? Worry not. The liberal press may holler a bit, we borrow the famous American euphemism: Collateral Damage. Job's done.

The Guardian says that Diplomatic communiqués can seem irrelevant and long-winded when rockets are flying and innocents dying. But if words are the currency of international relations, their meanings and implications matter. Not calling clearly for a truce at once could suggest complicity with what Israel is doing and the US is tacitly backing: using overwhelming force to defeat or cripple Hizbollah, whatever the consequences for Lebanon or the region. Given the humanitarian risks involved - with attacks on Beirut and Haifa and children buried under rubble - and a new generation of "martyrs" being bred, this is folly.

I don't want to join the trite theme: US allows Israel to carry on with the blitzkrieg. It is not about US. It is the current band of neo-cons at helm. From the sharp-talking Condi Rice to a stupid Bush, who was last seen giving a massage to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Not to be left behind, Ehud Olmert -- the incumbent Israeli Prime minister -- wants to show that he is equally tough -- read inhuman -- as his dying master, Sharon.

Meantime our machiavellian guys at the Whitehouse are clapping from the side benches. After a fortnight of the Israeli attack, Secretary Rice is finally in Beirut, the battered Lebanese capital. That temporarily raised hopes. The sole representative of the sole superpower on the planet was in the region. Hold on, guys: U.S. would not press Israel for a quick cease-fire, was all Ms. Rice offered. Was it a fancy-shoe sale in the ME? What was on Condy's mind when she landed in Beirut? It is all clear, Mr Olmert. Let the blood spill!

Associated Press adds, tangled knots in the negotiations meant fighting was likely to drag on just as the pace of Hizbollah rockets raining down on Israel shows no signs of letting up despite the massive aerial bombardment of its positions. Mideast observers say Hizbollah only has to remain standing — not beat Israel — to emerge victorious in Arab eyes. And the vicious cycle continues.

The situation in Lebanon is "very bad, and deteriorating by the day", said Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator. On Sunday he described the bombing of south Beirut as "a violation of humanitarian law". Sorry, I forgot to add. The UN may say what it must. The UN chief Kofi Anaan, a Nobel prize laureate, may declare in his baritone voice: Ceasefire, Ceasefire. The Arab league might hold yet another emergency session, calling for an immediate halt to the hostilities. Nothing works. No one matters. Israel cares a shit!

Only one man has the power to stop the blood-letting. Big Brother. You guessed it right -- George W. Bush. Right now, he is with the Israel camp. New York times reports that the United States is speeding up the delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel. Pity! A report issued by UN last night says that there is a huge lack of essential goods, with needs particularly acute in villages along the Israeli-Lebanese border, which have been isolated by the conflict. There are confirmed reports that food supplies in some villages have been completely exhausted.

In the whole cacophony, Bush's conversation with Blair was picked by a live microphone at the G-8 summit in St Petersburg last week. The cowboy was quoted as saying to the British PM, "Anaan wants a ceasefire in Lebanon. I don't like the sequence of it. " I reckon, sequencing is important in these war games. Sequencing must suit the relevant parties. Israel, the Jewish lobby in US, the neo-cons in the white-house. They decide when to stop the killing and when not to.

'Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind' John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the legendary 35th US Prez once remarked. Bush is no JFK and more importantly he doesn't care. The ever-poetic Israeli-war machine -- which calls the present operation Summer Rains -- has all but an element of compassion in them. And if you pick up today's newspapers and read that a red-cross Ambulance carrying a bleeding Lebanese family has been hit by an Israeli laser guided cruise missile, don't be surprised.

That is summer rains, folks!

sameer bhat

Friday, July 21, 2006

Censorship

The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.
David Ben-Gurion

I often wonder, What if I wake up one morning and find myself dumb? Unable to express myself. Gesticulating for a cup of coffee. Not being able to talk. That would be the scariest nightmare, the crummiest thing to happen. Gives me goose bumps. Yet I know such a thing may never happen. These irrational fears are only figments of one’s naïve imagination. Well…that almost happened! Nearly.

The largest democracy in the world nearly took the right of expression from thousands of its citizens, overnight. In what can safely be alluded to as ‘Censorship’ of the worst kind, a stupid Indian government order asked Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to several blog sites. The nervous ISPs blocked not only the websites but entire services. Reputed weblog publishing systems like Blogger owned by Google went blank, in a jiffy.

Now technology can at best of the times be misunderstood. The ISPs, in an ignorant gesture, pushed India in the same bracket as some communist regimes like China, North Korea, an autoritarian Russia, several repressive middle-eastern countries and so on. The infamous list is long and really infamous. We joined them briefly last week. At least a serious attempt was made to club India with all intellectually bereft nations of the world.

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. But India, being India, the media never let the guard down. Next quick phone calls went to the political leadership.

International attention followed. People began asking questions in US and Europe. India, many taken aback, banned blogs!! Are you serious, my American friends asked? "A lot of people are saying, 'Wait a minute. This can't be happening in India. China, yes. Pakistan, understandable' The Tribune, USA ran a headline. Across the Atlantic all major newspapers and TV channels carried commentaries. BBC world to New York Times. India was in news, for all the wrong reasons.

Half sleepy, the Indian government was clearly caught off guard. What is the noise? Suddenly some silly official realised the fallout of the stupid, incomplete order. Another swift order went: Lift the ban. We are the world’s fastest growing economy. Numero Uno investment destination. Mecca of Technology. LA of outsourcing. In a globalized world, how can we impose Censorship? Well, they say, you can cage the singer but not the song.

In a jiffy, the services were restored and your loyal blogger is back. I knew we are not North-Korea.

Long live India. Gosh, that was close!

Sameer

Monday, July 17, 2006

Attachment: The binding force

One has to have some level of attachment in life. With something real or unreal! When we are truly attached to something we realize that we still have some amore in us. Whatever miseries visit us, we can fall back on that something. That something can be a home, a pet, a friend, a lover or a crowded train. The past couple of days have been somewhat anfractuous. For us all. India on the whole!

The past week saw a series of bombs ripping through the local train system in Bombay. In a matter of less than 200 seconds, 200 innocent people were cut to an instant, cruel death. For no apparent reason. For an anger with no reasonable justification. In cold-blood. Just like that.

I flunk to understand the root of this madness. How can someone kill with such impunity? With such heartlessness. On such a murderous scale. I didn’t catch much of TV. There were only gory images on it. That – honestly -- puts me off. I despise Indian media for its naivety. Showing body parts. There is no dignity of the dead in this country. That is something we are yet to learn – or ape -- form our western counterparts.

Still the bridled tears linger. The sound of a million sobs. The initial scare may well be over but the scars remain. For five days on the trot, images of people hurriedly running helter-skelter --like alarmed ants after a micro-stampede -- filled the newspapers. Pictures of suspects. Stupid looking guys who look distinctly unlettered with a prominent rage-filled head.

I lay reading a book in my bedroom, the next night of the bombing. Suddenly I went flipping channels -- with the remote -- for World-space radio to give me the latest update. Frequency 342 -- BBC world, mid-night Asia: Western Railway resumes services, the lady-anchor gushed. I couldn’t help work up a tiny smile. That is resilience for you, mates! The human spirit.

People attached to a service that they feel proud to call their lifeline. Going back to work. To life. Workers furiously mopping up overnight bloodstains. Citizens of a great city returning to their beloved possession. The Local. The spirit never bends. The affections are just too strong. Like my Dad’s fondness for our home. Whilst all my friends’ families have moved on to newer locations and fancier homes. My Pops continues his romance with our cosy-old home.

The love of Dad’s life – my mom – lived here. I know the exact reason why the beautiful people of Bombay decide to take the same train, same track, and same bogies again. It’s their love for the journey of existence. Their bond. Their attachment.

God bless us all.

Sameer

Life's like that

Passing thought: Very funny... Peter!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Kashmir


Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.
~ Vincent van Gogh

Monday, July 10, 2006

The poem

Dikhaye diye yuv ki bekhud kiya
Hamey apse be juda kar chaley

Mir Taqi Mir – 1723-1810, one of the greatest Urdu poets ever,
Known for his literary style marked by brevity, imagery and musicality.


Transliterated –
Your appearance sends me in a trance
It splits me from myself

Sameer, 2006

A few hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. I can’t say if it was a silly dream or if I am being poetic here. I often doodle -- What could we beget were we to cross – a lot of love and a little heartache, some ecstasy and a dab of passion, handful of joy and layers of yearning – all at once. Indescribable. It is that impossibly enraptured feeling. In the middle of a harrowing summer, suddenly small, cold rains came. There was above us a crash of thunder and a fierce glowering of the sky. It got cloudy. There was so much beauty in the air. I could hear my soul hum. Quietly. Urgently. Rhapsodically.

I may appear vague. Can’t help it. Excuse my expressions. My trek was enjoyably strange. Nothing much mattered. Nothing mattered much. I have so many memory-imprints that they are all jumbled in my head now. Like a ferociously schooled kid, I was reading the most endearing eyes in the world. I am not sure, if I could. Only looking at someone can be satisfying at times. Like burgundy that is purled into the cut glass goblets. Completely. Fittingly.

The song came with flawless tenderness. It had the highest alto. Sung with the innocence of a damsel and pitch of an unmated nightingale. The muggy evening gave away to a sober sweet melody. Its luster heightened by the singer’s delay and distillation. Silence. I was flabbergasted. The fizz of silence took my breath away. Just like the song. I am not suggesting that others can’t croon better. My siren song was special. Sung for me with a tutting indulgence that was all mine.

The moments slowly wore off in a clamorous, compelling spell. There are times when you want to paint every inch of the nakedness with an ancient exquisiteness. As if we were making love in bright, flashing colors and the colors keep changing from one moment to the next, like some wonderful kaleidoscope.

You can love someone just by looking in those eyes.

Samy.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Byronic beauty!


But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth;
The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth:
Flowers in the valley, splendor in the beam,
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.

Samy

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Candid sighs

I've never touched somebody
Like the way I touch your body
Now I never want to let your body go
Bryan Adams -- Song: Let's make a night to remember

A time comes in our lives when we feel a sudden pleasing fluency in the myriad thoughts we think. As far as my memory goes back, I’ve always been a surmising type. Thinking about very naïve things -- like the alluring colors of butterflies in our kitchen garden, back in the serene yards of Kashmir. I would be fascinated for instance by the gooey cheeping of tiny-fluffy chicklings that mom used to raise. The tender shards of old folk-tales our ever-old neighbours' granny fed us. How did the wily wolf understand Urdu, I often wondered?

As I grew up, I found myself still pondering. Still curious. Still asking? All my education, upbringing and love for books made me some kind of a liberal. Thoughtful. Activist. Feeling for others. The downtrodden and helpless. The cruel travails to their drumming my car-pane at traffic signals. The world has been living with such extreme contrasts, I try telling my heart. Still their desperate eyes pike me at odd hours. If God is just, why does He let these kids starve, heart throws back.

I have stayed hapless on many counts. I could never cease to be a romantic. I could never shrug that innocence which love evokes. Love for nature, friends, kind souls and some. I still believe in unadulterated, unconditional love. Another matter, no one takes the call!


Then there is a humorous side to my musings. My pals will vouch for it. I believe a sense of humor... is needed armor. Joy in one's heart and some laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.

I will be candid. I have a heart which is simply: f**** caring. Now this means two varying things. At one level I have been compassionate and at yet another, I got hurt more than anyone else. Misunderstood! It is not that my choices have betrayed me. I think my stars go astray somewhere; I think I can’t align myself to anyone anymore. Like those gypsies. Nomads who wander. My heart wanders.


They say journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will-whatever we may think. I am glad that I’ve a candid set of scruples and I always – loved. With all my heart and soul and everything!

I don’t think many will ever understand me in this life. Anyways, I don’t believe in a second life. Afterlife – can’t say. A friend – who is a co-religionist – is hard trying to convince me that there is an after-life and people go to heaven or hell. He goes on, ‘Your mom was kind, she will be in heaven’, you don’t pray, you may go to hell’.

Hope they let me see mom for a while. Hope they allow brief reunions.

Samy

Monday, July 03, 2006

Love alarm!


Love is setting up early alarms
and melting into bracing arms
Little strokes on the hand
saving a solitary hair strand

When all blades in the meadow
and all pines in my clough
Despite their lavish lush
can't match your sweet blush

Sound of the summer rain
brings back your images again
Duck's quack or goose' honk
I can hear you in every cronk

Million maddening mysteries to crack
and only your memories to stack
Dreams locked away in glee
open only to your magical key

Love is waking up each nightly hour
to check on the mystic flower
to look at the alarm clock
and answer heart's tender knock

samy

Saturday, July 01, 2006

At Guantanamo, Dying Is Not Permitted

There is a sudden unpleasantness to it. Like many things in the convoluted world of ours, this too appears bizarre. Sick. No, not another spiel about Guantanamo. I will keep my focus strictly on the tragic human angle of this squalid issue. I’ll like to keep it crisp, since it appears beyond average human comprehension to withstand this level of inhuman capers.

Let me quickly deconstruct some important bits, often tagged with the world’s most hyped-up and notorious prison facility. Set in an obscure shore of the Cuban territory -- so that no US law applies to the hell-hole -- in 2002 to imprison some 460 alleged remnants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, the camp has now come to define the way US is perceived world-over. It is a microcosm of how America flouts every major international norm on prisoner-treatment. Ironical that US could bring no charges against 98% of the inmates. Only 10 chaps -- perhaps less -- were formally charged.

Last week the US Supreme Court came out with its judgment of first such trial. Illegal detention, the honorable court said clear and loud. The Bush administration lacks the authority to put Guantanamo detainees on trial before military tribunals, the order stated. In what can safely be attributed as the hardest slap on Bush’s kisser in his presidency, the court added a final injunctive, “We will not allow you to disregard the U.S. Constitution, circumvent Congress and violate international law."

Still there is nary a word from the Bush-led power-hungry white house about closing the facility. The Guantanamo ruling is a repudiation of their entire governing philosophy. Force-feeding detainees on indefinite hunger strike is now a standard practice in the modern-day Gulag. Each passing day. 365-days a year. Huge plastic tubes stuck up on teens. The influential Time magazine reports in its latest issue:

The facility's top physicians have also told TIME that prisoners who resist are subjected to especially harsh methods. In one case, according to medical records obtained by TIME, a 20-year old named Yusuf al-Shehri, jailed since he was 16, was regularly strapped into a specially designed feeding chair that immobilizes the body at the legs, arms, shoulders and head. Then a plastic tube that is 50% larger, and more painful to insert, than the commonly used variety was inserted up through his nose and down his throat.
Link: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1209530,00.html

In Gitmo, the US has systematically abused the Geneva code of conduct, regarding treatment of prisoners. It has also bypassed the code of ethics of the American Medical Association and the World Medical Association, both of which condemn the force-feeding of prisoners as an assault on human dignity.

The Bush philosophy has crashed. Failed. It's not only failed, it hasn't passed the critical litmus test of the Supreme Court. As the United States approaches its 230th birthday on Tuesday – July 4 -- it is important for Americans to remember that a country built on the concept of equal treatment to all does not humiliate what is at the heart of equality – the human life.

Incidentally, Time notes: a note scrawled in a detainee’s medical records put it rather succinctly: ‘You are informed that dying is not permitted here’.

So, kick him, strap him, and insert hard pipes through his nostrils. Keep him alive. Continue to bleed. Lacerate human dignity and independence.

Happy Independence Day, United States!

Sameer