Monday, March 24, 2008

600 km to vote !!!!

Bhutan is a small insignificant country nestling in the eastern arms of the Himalayas and any event there does not capture the world attention. The current political changes happening there is no exception. Bhutan is holding its first ever general elections marking a transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
While this is insignificant for the rest of the world, it seems to be an event of great importance to the Bhutanese. They seem to be very enthusiastic about participating in this "historic" event. Their enthusiasm is perfectly captured by this news article that talks about how a 65-year old woman made a 600 km long journey by foot just to cast her vote.
Apparently she suffers from motion sickness and does not prefer travelling by car (which she has done only one before in her life). So, she undertook the 600 km journey to her hometown by foot. She walked for 14 days just to cast her vote. People all over the country have travelled to the different corners of their rugged & mountainous country to participate in this historic exercise.
Bhutan is a very small country that thrives on subsistence agriculture, cottage industries, hadicrafts and such. It has a very low per capita income of around US$ 1,321. In spite of this, it is supposed to have one of the happiest populace. They've used a term called "Gross National Happiness" to demonstrate that the population is infact much more happier than the "advanced" western nations and have emphasized that happiness need not be directly proprotional to the western notion of "development".
Compare the enthusiasm of the Bhutanese to the situation in its gaint neighbour. Most of us do want to walk to the polling booth in the next street and stand in a line to cast our vote. Instead, we ramble about our lack of faith in the democratic machinery and the insignificance of our single vote. Of course, this is the first time Bhutanese are tasting democracy. Let's hope that their faith in the new institution is reinforced and they continue to be happy and prosperous.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beautiful Moon

I was bored at home yesterday and was fiddling with my camera. The moon was shining brightly outside. I switched off all the lights at home and tried to take a few photos using the manual controls in my cam. Not too great, but felt they're nice.

Peeping out from behind a chimney :)

The bright shining disc radiating brilliance

The perfect disc !!!! The chimneys and wires are faintly visible

Finally, view through our blinds :)

Guess I'm totally jobless :):):)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fresh 'n' Colourful

I made a sort of a vegetable salad today for lunch. The sight of all the different vegetables inspired me to take these photographs. Felt they've come out pretty well.

The main ingredients

Beautiful tomatoes - Liked both photos. So here they are.

Now, some greens

Finally, the finished product

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Animal welfare vs conservation

This is a environment conservationist's main question. Where do we draw the line between conservation and over-protection ?With increased human activities, the ecosystems of this world are rapidly deteriorating. This has also given rise to various conservation programs around the world trying to save this planet. In our zeal to preserve the environment, we sometimes also try to stop the natural forces of change that has been responsible for life in this planet. There is always a debate among the environmentalists on this.

One good case is the conservation effort of South Chinese tigers. There are very few tigers in the wild. There are few others that have been bred in captivity. Now they're making an effort to teach these captive tigers, the basics of hunting in the wild. For this, these tigers have been loose on a ranch and have been allowed to hunt blesbok, a kind of antelope. Now other conservationists have objected to this saying that this is cruel to the blesbok. They say that it is not acceptable they are deliberately made the hunted in a simulated environment.

Now what is right and what is wrong here?
  • Can the tigers be kept in captivity all through their lives? This will totally remove the tiger population from the wild. Or can we just release the tigers into the wild? They do not have the instinct to hunt as they're bred in captivity. So, they cannot survive and even if they do, they cannot pass on the hunting instincts to their offspring.
  • Is it right to introduce the blesbok into the controlled habitat of these tigers? They may not have some of the advantages that they have in the wild. So their chance of evading predator becomes slim.

There are some questions where there are no Black/white answers? There are only shades of Grey.

Friday, March 14, 2008

World's worst airports

This is a time of huge infrastructural advances in India. I was reading about the inaugaration of the new greenfield airport in Hyderabad. The photos of the airport were quite impressive. The Bangalore airport is also due to open soon. These led me to think of the fate of our own Chennai airport. It has a very old building totally out of touch with the modernity and class of its peers around the world. It is already stretched to the limit and there are frequent build-up of passengers leading to chaotic scenes outside the terminal. The scene inside the terminal is not great either. The decoration is drab and the facilities are sparse. There are very few shop, just a couple of food stalls selling things like samosas and cakes and that too are way over-priced. We've been waiting for years for a new airport in chennai, but the plan has not progressed beyond the paper. Nowadays, Chennai is lagging far behind other Indian cities in terms of infrastructure development. The only things the government is keen on 'announcing' are the mini-flyovers.

Now this line of thought about the state of Chennai airport made me google for the world's worst airport. I came across this article where a number of foreign correspondents share their thoughts on the worst airports of the world.

A lot many of them have listed the delhi airport as one of the worst ones. But there are supposedly "world-class" ones in this list - Heathrow, Paris, Madrid etc. It all depends on the views and experiences of the foreign correspondents. Makes an interesting read :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

This 'Elephant' can dance

The 80s and the 90s were the decades of the Asian tigers (Korea, Taiwan, Hongkong & Singapore). The world then saw the rise of the Chinese dragon which is still continuing to sway gracefully and now the great Indian elephant has finally arrived on stage.

This is the often repeated story of the rise of the two Asian giants. But it is still good to read, that too in "Time" :) (as opposed to reading our own accounts in the Indian media),9171,1205374-1,00.html

We still have an extremely long way to go and we will go all the way to the top.

On a different note, I read this article about India's action (or rather the lack of it) towards the Myanmar Junta. We have shifted our foreign policy from one of friendship to pro-democracy forces to a relationship with the military junta. Like so many other rising powers, we've also become opportunists. Myanmar has crucial natural gas deposits which are very valuable to a power-hungry country like us. We also need the co-operation of the Myanmar government to tackle the insurgencies in the North-east. In situations like these, it is quite difficult to say what is right and what is not. Regardless of what actually goes on , this article stings. :(
And this article sharply criticises what the author calls India's "bumbling" foreign policy. Here's an extract,
"For those who have been following India's foreign policy, India's bumbling is not surprising. The nation has long clamored for a place on the international high table, citing its democratic traditions, size, and strategic geopolitical importance. In reality, however, its foreign policy is still immature. The problem of Burma (renamed Myanmar by the junta) has suddenly thrust an unprepared India into the field along with the professionals. "
"India's time—and credibility—may be running out. Meenakshi Ganguly, top South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, worries that if India does not take the initiative with Burma now, it could lose its sheen as a champion of freedom and democracy in Asia."

Grace to disgrace

Once again, an all too-familiar spectacle has happened in the Indian sports arena - but this time, this as taken the sport to an all time low. I'm talking about the failure of the Indian hockey team to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

The hockey team has been in a really bad shape for almost 2 decades now. Yet they've managed to at least qualify for the Olympics. So, this failure, the first in 8 decades has shocked so many fans across the country.

Actually I'm not a great follower of the game. I just catch a few bits and pieces every now and then.But of late, I felt that our team has actually improved on its performance. If I remember correctly, our team won a Champions trophy last year and also won the home series against Belgium. Even in this tournament in Chile, they performed exceedingly well. They trounced all the lesser teams and were a close second at the end of the league matches. It was the final crucial match that they've failed - the all too familiar failure script at the last hurdle. So, we cannot just blame team for the failure. These things do happen. But if only the team had performed so well in the 2006 Doha Asian games, we needn't worry about this single loss. But the entire sport needs a new burst of energy and a set of new leaders at the helm to revitalize the game.

As usual the blame game has started. Responding to the demands to have the IHF modified by the government, Mani shankar aiyar, the sports minister has stated, "We don't appoint a Federation President so we cannot remove him as well. We just watch and suffer.I took no credit for the fantabulous victory of our cricket team in Australia because the credit should go where it is due and here it was for BCCI and debit must also go where it is due which is, you can fill in the blanks" - an interesting statement !!!

Now so many political leaders have started talking against Mr.Gill. The coach Carvalho and the IHF vice president Batra have stepped down. Let's see if anything at all happens to help the game.