That thing called safety

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“Intelligence failure”. Words that are bandied about so easily. “New York and London saw ghastly attacks, nothing has happened since. Words all of us have spoken at some point in the last few months as blasts have rocked Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Malegaon. Why have we failed to monitor activities of suspicious people? Why cannot we patrol our borders and our coast lines? Why cannot we set up sophisticated databases monitoring the comings and goings of people. India has such a huge population, filled with intelligent, resourceful people? Why is it that these resources cannot be channelised and used in matters of gathering intelligence.

Reading this article is also shocking. Dry runs. Great so the police managed to nab these people who entered India. Yet no steps were taken to ensure that these entry points were manned? If the average layman in India is aware that the borders are so porous and if they can actually manage a “dry run”, what hope do we have against the terrorists who have access to extremely sophisticated logistic support and intelligence.

I’m not even getting into the handling of the terror situation on hand. Even as I type these words rescue operations are on and the NSG and the Army is battling it out in Mumbai. After the intial mistake of the Bombay police and the ATS taking on these terrorists with pistols, a reasonably quick reaction has happened. And sitting here far away from the ground realities, its incredibly unfair to pass judgements. And there is the matter of bringing justice. I know that is a vague sentence. What are we bringing justice to? Do the families of victims really feel vindicated when bomb planters and people with guns are thrown in jail or sentenced to death? Now I’m not even for a minute denying the fact that they deserved to be punished. But looking at the larger picture what good has it done? Is it serving as a deterrant to further attacks. Coming as it is some decades later (as in the verdicts on the 1993 blasts), most certainly not. Further the terrorists that we are dealing with are willing to pay with their lives. So punishment is not what is going to stop these attacks.

Once the actual rescue operations are out, the blame game will begin, calls for a POTA like law will be revived. Now I’m not too familiar with the provisions of POTA. But in the time that it was in force was there any terror attack that was thwarted? As far as my limited knowledge goes, I think it was only used to arrest people accused of carrying out terror. This article does provide some information on the Act, I’m really surprised that I’m not able to find any neutral information as such on the net on POTA, in terms of statistics and operations under the Act.

Did the POTA have provisions to strengthen intelligence. I really can’t say. More than focussing on laws that will punish the terrorists, we really need a concerted effort into improving intelligence. Our Intelligence Bureau laughably informed us in the wee hours of the morning of 27th of November that this was a terror attack on Mumbai. We simply refuse to learn from past mistakes. Ideally we should have had increased patrolling in the Arabian Sea ever since 1993. Or at least in the recent times fraught with tension where terrorism is so rife. Surely they knew Mumbai is a sitting duck for terrorists? It is very difficult to provide security as such to so many millions of people in public places. The Mumbai police in a hugely failed experiment tried to implement security checks for all passengers at the Churchgate station. I don’t know if this is possible to implement in lesser populated cities like London and New York. Given this background isnt being on top with respect to intelligence even more critical?

I really wish someone out there would stand up and take notice. Will these Mumbai attacks prove to be a jolt? These attacks are very different in the sense that so far we have been used to hearing news after all the tragedy is over. We have seen all the damage of the blasts, wreckage, bodies, wailing relatives. We were shocked no doubt but were able to move on. These attacks have unfolded in front of our eyes. We’ve seen terrorists hijack a car and shoot at standing people and journalists in front of a hospital, caught on camera. The hostage situation is taking place in front of our eyes. Freed hostages escape as we sit glued to our TV sets. Fire breaks out in loved landmarks, places we have been to. Roads where our offices are located, took leisurely walks in, caught trains from are cordoned off. My colleague cancelled all his meetings that were scheduled to take place at the Oberoi today. I really do think this will affect the psyche of the Mumbaikar, the Indian, indeed a World citizen in a different way. I am scheduled to travel to Bombay next week and was planning to drop in at my beloved Marine Drive and take a walk. I don’t know if I can bring myself to do that and if it will be the same. Coming back to the point I’m making here will these attacks galvanise us into action?

 Will bringing our intelligence up to speed cost us a lot? Yes most certainly. I am willing to cough up more in taxes if it will help towards ensuring that the average Indian on the road is safer. Does the corrupt politician who swallows up public money feel that way too? Is there guilt anywhere in the minds of those who are governing us. Ms Gandhi lost her husband to terrorists. It doesnt hit home any closer than that. I’m sure she feels pangs each time she hears of attacks and bomb blasts. Can she do anything concrete about it?

Intelligence failures happen. They did on 9/11 and on 7/7. But should they be happening repeatedly? With such an alarming frequency? Am I asking for too much?

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Thoughts on Bombay

Why?

Should the media not disclose that the HLL Board, MPs etc are trapped inside. Doesn’t it increase risk for them

Only now (at 11 15 am) have TVs been disconnected inside the hotels. Shouldn’t they have done this earlier?

NDTV reported last night that telephone lines were jammed and TVs went off at around 9 last night, just before the attacks. I wish someone had investigated that and put the hotel on alert. Learnings I guess for security system. How but can terrorists actually do something like that?

These roads on Nariman Point were where we took walks during lunch. The Oberoi and Hilton were where I have attended conferences and dinners. Hell I’ve even walked into The Oberoi to use the washrooms. The only medical store in Nariman Point is in The Oberoi. I’ve sat on Marine Drive just outside the hotels countless times. I took the train from VT everyday.

Its chilling to have to call colleagues travelling and those still stuck in office,checking on them, giving them info.

That its pouring here and that I haven’t left for work has reinforced the fact that things aren’t normal.

A friend’s colleagues were stuck in The Oberoi, but managed to get out. They’re still in shock.

The Israeli connection is confusing me? Is the media saying that they’re the hostages or are they the attackers?

Brave people these are the policemen and also the media persons covering the operations.

Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar, RIP. Didnt know that the top cops actually got into the real action.

OJ lives in South Mumbai and could hear the blasts and gun shots. I heard a huge blast on live TV…the look of horror and shock on Shaili Chopra and Shivnath Thukral..never seen anything like that.

God

Please let the madness end. It’s nearly 2 30 am now and I’ve been glued to my television set since around 10 30 pm.

At least 80 dead and 200 injured. Two hotels seiged. Top cops are dead.

I am numb…cannot bring myself to sleep. I just want to sit down and cry.

Priceless!

Thank god for sacrifices.

Please hop across to read what our could have been PM had to say at the Leadership Summit

I quote some gems (my emphasis):

“It is too early to say the economic crisis is contained. We believe in an open and not unregulated economy,” she said.

You don’t even have to understand Economics…English anyone?

“…said the financial crisis would affect the “most vulnerable” sections of society who had nothing to do with “fancy” financial instruments and had to contend with a hard day’s work.”

“Should they become victims of a few bankers greed? It is our duty to ensure what action we must take for them.”

Here we go again…blame ibankers and their fancy instruments. What ever happened to all the greedy people who thought that they could buy houses they just couldnt afford. Its really ridiculous to see this line bandied all over the place. Is it really possible for a bunch of evil ibankers to bring down global economies. To reduce magically manufacturing activity, to reduce demand? This is becoming insane.

“We will not be thrown off course by the winds buffeting us from abroad. No need for overreacting, let alone panic. No need for us to get back to the era of control over market. At the same time, we can’t allow things to go out of control.

Yeah I’m still laughing about that! Whatever is she trying to say?

Hair twin

Anybody remember that Friends episode where Joey has a hand twin?

Well I have a hair twin.

ishant-2

ishant1

In case these pictures don’t tell you the story, you could read this. (I even have a category named hair in anticipation of more cribbing!)

Edited to update:

This is sooo freaky! I put this post up yesterday and look what I find today! His styling has been done by Habib who has “given it a lot of thought”. Simpler way of getting there is years and years of neglect!

Experiments

So KT and I were watching this promotional show on NDTV for Dostana. A set a la Koffee with Karan, with Karan Johar playing interviewer / moderator, call it what you will and the cast of Dostana on the couches..they were having champagne though. It was largely entertaining, with the mandatory silliness from Priyanka and Karan. But man the guys were so witty and funny! Most of what they were saying cracked us up. That got KT and me talking later about how on earth Abhishek Bachchan ended up marrying that oh so silly, I’m so giggly Aishwarya Rai, I mean she’s gorgeous and all, but seriously how do they end up having any reasonable conversation.

Then K came up with this theory of a balance needed in the marriage, and it was better that one person is dumb and the other intelligent and that they won’t be fighting for every little thing like we do. We have these friends,  a couple where the guy is nice and brilliant and the girl seemingly has no mind of her own, I’m not saying she has no brains, but I’ve not really seen her use it. Its always open puppy like adoration that she has for him and he also takes very good care of her. They’ve been married happily for five years now.

So I asked him whether he’d have preferred me to be one of those dumb slave wives and he very smartly of course said that no just one of us needs to be dumb and that it could have even been him..a dumb slave husband to me! And then he came up with this experiment. Rules are as follows:

– Every alternative day we play dumb

– The person playing the smart one gets to take all the decisions as he / she is smart and is the only one capable of taking decisions, geddit? (Again very smart example for this that KT gave me was the PSP example. Now KT has been lusting after one for nearly a year. I’ve been vehemently opposed to it on two counts, one that I’ve already lost him to his Blackberry and we have a threesome going here, I really don’t want another person competing for our affection, both the Blackberry’s and mine. Two it costs Rs 8000 and that sounds like a totally expensive “other person”, when he can have these cheap one night stands from “I-am-bored.com”. So yeah now notice the tactical brilliance when he gives me the example, “On a day when I am dumb  and you say that I should not buy the PSP, I must listen” NOT “On a day when you are dumb, and I say I want the PSP, you must listen”

– No taking advantage of the person playing dumb

– No reversing the previous days decisions

– Being dumb does not equal being lazy (Here I tried to be a bit smart and failed. Well the friend I mentioned, she is not only dumb, she is also lazy..she has now given up her job, she also has a cook and maids and all..no kids too. So basically I really don’t know what plans she has for her time. And coming back to our little experiment, today is dumb day for me. So I told K that I’m not going to cook and he has to be in charge of the cooking and yeah that he needs to get the house cleaned up, do the laundry as well, keeping completely in line with the friend. And he not so gently reminded me that this was only dumb day and not be like friend day. Not fair i say. But the truth is here we have perfect balance actually. Not in terms of laziness but in terms of ability to do things. I am a complete morning so I am fresh and happy then and buzz around doing all the work. KT is a total zombie..and cannot even fix himself a cup of coffee. The night brings a completely different scene..I lose all my faculties by around 10 pm and KT is bright eyed and happy and is in charge of all the work in the night. So the only imbalance is in the intelligence levels!

Well so we start today and I am not betting on the success of this experiment! I love a good fight too much to let it pass by…may be one way of this working is if KT were to play dumb everyday..now that’s some thought huh?!

Vegetarian Nazis

I’m a vegetarian, have always been one and I don’t even like egg. In the sense that I am a vegetarian because we’re Brahmins and my parents raised me on a vegetarian diet and I just can’t bring myself to eating non vegetarian food now. As regards eggs I don’t eat them directly (boiled egg / omlettes and that kind), but am perfectly fine with eating them in baked foods or even putting it in my hair!

Now coming to the more sensitive parts, do I think non vegetarian food smells? Does it make me gag? Well I am extremely sensitive to smells, very strong smells like garlic, onions, some spices used in Indian cooking, deodrants, cleansers, indeed non vegetarian food affect me. I do eat out in hotels that serve both veg and non veg food and I find that in the finished form the food is fine, does not affect me except perhaps for certain ish based dishes. I’m not proud of this, but I can’t bear to even look at butcher shops on the road..hanging carcasses really repulse me. The smell of non veg food cooking also puts me off most of the time.

But the fact is that is my problem. Not the person cooking, eating or selling the food. Its food for the other person, the same way that I relish my potatoes and carrots. Why am I rambling about all of this? This post of Chandni’s and also a heated argument we had at my workplace.

People who have problems with living in Madras and some parts of Bombay find this to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks, finding a house to rent if their non Brahmins (read non vegetarians). I find it absolutely apalling. I mean its not like you as a landlord is sharing space with your tenant. It isnt as though the tenant is going to be rubbing chicken pieces on your wall or cleaning the floors with fish. What is your issue? Does a vegetarian’s presence make your house holy?

I really believed that such thoughts and beliefs were more in the minds of older generations and that the young people are more open minded. Turns out that I was wrong. My colleagues let’s call them G and S are both scouting for houses and happened to chance upon a property (a smallish unit with only 4 individual apartments) which was sounded good for both of them. They even went and took a look at it and they seemed fairly interested in the property. Then G came and suddenly announced that only one of them could buy the property. S is non vegetarian and G is this pure Brahmin who cannot breathe the air polluted by the smell of non vegetarian cooking. Well fine, go ahead and have such opinions, its really your problem, but in a public forum, your workplace at that, you really cannot afford to say things like “I cannot bear the bad smell”, ” Sunday afternoon vandha podum, veetliye iruka mudiyadu” (Sunday afternoons are the worst, I cannot stay at home). The decent thing to do would have been say this politely and back off, giving her the option to take the flat. But no, our man made a couple of noises about the dirty smells and proceeded to call up all his Brahmin friends to figure out whether they were interested in taking these flats. Now mild mannered S backed off, but this really got my goat and I tried arguing with him. I didnt have the support of even a single vegetarian in the group, I mean I was not even denying his right to feel that non veg cooking smells bad, but the least you can do it be a bit subtle about it and try not to hurt the sentiments of people who love to eat non veg food.

I basically gave him the example of agarbattis and me. I just detest the smell of agarbattis. The damn thing gives me a huge headache. But that is a nice smell, how can you not like it he said. Precisely my point dearie. Loads of people don’t think non veg food smells. But you do. Loads of people don’t think agarbatti smell is annoying. But I do. Now I can’t go around saying I won’t come to your house if you have agarbattis on can I? An wrinkle up my nose in disgust and say this is a nasty smell and that I’m repulsed by it? No sireee.

But he seemed rather unmoved and my guess is that not too many people who think that way are going to be moved either by what I have to say. And this will remain what it is, a rant. But the thing is that my guess is that these people don’t even realise that this is bad, uncivil behaviour..as bad as smoking in a crowded AC room, as bad as not offering a pregnant woman a seat in a bus.