Friday, April 30, 2010

He kicks my integrity. Everytime!

This lil dude always gets to me. I can watch this clip when I am sad, when I am mad, when I am stressed out, when I am sleepy, when I am depressed,...

.. he always moistens my lashes, kicks my integrity in the gut, and then leaves me all fueled up to 'make a difference'.

Truly an anthem, Sir!

Response: The Death of the Reasonable Indian.

This is my response to Suchitra Vijayan's blog “The death of the reasonable Indian ?”:

In my opinion (mark these words as you read further), in every human being,

[A] There is what we call national pride (clubbed with patriotism), and

[B] There is the will to make things better (nothing is perfect. is it?)

To some people, [B] gets sidelined because they refuse to admit to what is wrong under [A], and needs upheaval. This is what I call the ‘faux pride’, since it doesn’t make a progressive society.

To others, [A] causes them to notice what is wrong, to criticize it, and to make an attempt to better it. This is close to how I think too. You can’t improve something that you don’t even know is wrong.

Extremes of either would keep one tainted and away from performing a true citizen’s role. There has to be a balance. For example, bashing one’s nation always without providing the means to improve things would be a distortion of [B]. While neglecting everything that is wrong would be a distortion of [A].

In short, we are all different personalities, and love our nations in our own ways. Let us criticize what needs improvement, and leave personal opinions alone. So what if Radha’s thoughts are close to [A]? She has as much love for India as you do, would you not say?

The key is to not criticize each other so much, but criticize the system that led us to be this way, AND provide ways for improvement. With the risk of being blamed for over generalization, I would say that Indians (generally) love to criticize, without suggesting/providing means for a change.

Let’s first change this attitude, then we'll talk.

You may like to read a related blog on my website here.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Death of Common Sense.

I am sure you are aware of the recent incidents that led to the arrest and interrogation of an Indian IFS official posted in Islamabad for espionage.

My first reaction was: Oh God. Not again. Don't they get paid pretty well already?

On the second day of reporting, I was telling myself: Ok. She is naive, and we caught her just in time. No big secrets compromised. Not a big deal.

But today, as I am reading about the 'real' reasons, I cannot believe but bite my toes off! She did that for WHAT? TO GET BACK AT HER SENIORS?? She frikkin compromised national security to avenge her colleagues??

What else would you call that except the death of common sense? Or perhaps we are the ones who lack common wit and she really is smart enough to have done a big harm, and now knows how to avoid a life sentence?

But it just doesn't stop there, you see. Our intelligence was so darn smart they broke the identity of a senior RAW official posted at the same commission. And not only that, THEY DID IT JUST THE DAY BEFORE premiers of India and Pakistan were about to meet for bilateral talks.

You go guys!

Don't get me wrong. I am plenty patriotic. But cases like these make you wonder if we have the controls in right hands.

May God bless our motherland. Jai Hind!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hitler, Bose and a Common Enemy

Published CULTURE & LIFESTYLE | 11.08.2003.,,943230,00.html.

Subhas Chandra Bose, who raised an army in exile to fight the British, is revered as a freedom-fighter and patriotic icon in India. So why was Indian director Shyam Benegal shooting a film on Bose’s life in Germany?

The residents of Marquardt, a sleepy town near Potsdam west of the German capital, were rubbing their eyes in disbelief last week.
An Indian film crew had taken over the sprawling verdant grounds of their picturesque neo-baroque castle located on the banks of a lake. Vans full of technical equipment and costumes were parked in the driveway as technicians, actors and extra hands -- both German and Indian -- hurried around barking instructions and calling out to each other in German, English and a handful of Indian languages.
The fuss wasn’t about the latest glitzy song-and-dance movie churned out by India’s mainstream multibillion dollar Bombay-based film industry known as Bollywood. Rather it was the shooting of a weighty historical epic tracing the last five years in the life of Subhas Chandra Bose or Netaji (the leader), who set up the Indian National Army in exile to fight against British colonial rule during World War II.
Titled "Netaji: The Last Hero," the film directed by 70-year-old Indian cinema legend Shyam Benegal, throws light on a little-known, almost strange, chapter of Indo-German history. The shooting stint in Germany focuses on Bose’s two-year stay in Berlin in the early 1940s and his single meeting with Hitler when he requested the Führer’s help in the Indian independence struggle against the British Empire.
"It’s the story of a great adventure, of a flamboyant person who was obviously a romantic as well as a strategist, because who would think of leaving the country and trying to raise an army to fight for Indian independence from outside of India?" director Benegal, who is considered the pioneer of new wave Indian cinema, told Deutsche Welle.

The enemy of my enemy

Bose (photo), a revolutionary lawyer and leader of the Congress Party in India who stood in direct confrontation with Gandhi’s passive and nonviolent resistance methods against the British, escaped from India in 1941 following British imprisonment and made his way to Berlin, after failing to get himself smuggled to the Soviet Union.
Bose’s plan was to get Hitler’s help to stage a revolution in India that would distract British forces from the war against Germany under the motto "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." He calculated that in the process, Britain would lose the war against the militarily superior Germany and as a consequence, lose India as well.
"However things didn’t quite turn out that way," Benegal said. Though the Germans provided financial support for Bose to broadcast radio propaganda messages to India, it wasn’t until more than a year later that Hitler, allegedly impressed with Bose’s cause, agreed to hear him out.
But the much-awaited meeting on May 27, 1942, ended in disappointment for the Indian revolutionary. "In that meeting, he [Bose] asked Hitler to cut out passages in "Mein Kampf" dealing with Asians and [Hitler said] that it was better for India to remain under British domination. Hitler refused to help him," Benegal explained.
German history professor Johannes Voigt, who authored a book on India during World War II, said it wasn’t just Hitler’s strong theories of race that stopped him from helping Bose, whom he considered racially-inferior. "He was convinced that colonial rule needed to be upheld if Europe’s dominance was to continue. Besides India was too far away."

Indian POWS and a submarine escape

Benegal’s three-hour, four-million-euro epic also dwells on what is considered Bose’s biggest accomplishment in Germany – the raising of a 3,000-strong Indian Legion force, made up of Indian POWS captured by the Germans in the course of fighting in North Africa. The Indian community in Berlin was pressed into service to play the role of the troops.
Bose envisioned the force spearheading an attack on the British while the Germans swung through the Soviet Union and the Middle East to India. But that plan fell apart, too, when the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad in early 1943. "Bose soon realized it was pointless for him to remain [in Germany] much longer," said Benegal.
The Germans, however, provided Bose with the means to get out of Germany to Japan, where he believed he stood a better chance of organizing a large-scale Indian army. In February 1943, the Indian exile leader boarded the submarine U180 at the Kiel harbor on the Baltic coast, and traveled to the coast of Mozambique, from where he transferred to a Japanese submarine.
In the movie, the escape from Germany and the spectacular journey are filmed on site in Kiel’s harbor (photo).
After Bose’s departure, the Indian Legion Force in Germany came to a sad end. "Their fate remains largely unknown. They were absorbed into the regular German army and sent to fight in Normandy," said Professor Voigt. "After the war, some came back through southern Germany, many perished and some were sent back to India after the war."
A gravestone inscription, "five unknown dead, 4.5.1945" in Immenstadt in Swabia, southern Germany, is believed to be one of the last remaining traces of the Indian Legion in Germany today.
Bose himself finally raised an army in Burma and led the soldiers into India to fight the British, but he died in a plane crash in 1945 and never lived to see Indian independence.

A touch of romance

The memory of Subhas Chandra Bose’s mission in Germany isn’t just consigned to history books and archives. Bose married Austrian Emilie Schenkl in the 1930s during his first visit to Germany. The couple moved to Berlin where they had a daughter, Anita. Today Bose’s daughter, Anita Pfaff, is an economics professor at Augsburg University in southern Germany.
Director Benegal’s shooting at the Marquardt castle involves romantic scenes with Bose and his wife (played by German actress Anna Prüstel) strolling through the picturesque grounds, a mellifluous Hindi song playing in the background. Berlin actress Prüstel said it was amazing how few people in Germany were aware of Bose’s visit to Germany. "This whole cooperation with Hitler, Bose’s go-it-alone attitude is simply so unbelievable. I find it hard to understand how nobody ever used this material and got it out in the public," she said.
Scheduled to release in January next year, both in Hindi and English, Benegal’s action-packed film is expected to raise awareness of the revolutionary and his cause. The veteran director (photo, below), who has also made a film on Gandhi’s life, said he wants "Netaji: The Last Hero" to set the record straight on one of the most controversial political figures in pre-independent India.
"Among all the anti-colonial leaders in Asia, he [Bose] is the only one the British continue to claim was a traitor," he said. "But Bose’s idealism was free of any kind of cynicism. In that sense he had a simple, straightforward goal – to free India. That makes him a hero figure to me."
Sonia Phalnikar

Mild Peppers May Help Burn Calories

By April Fulton
We're liberal about piling on the hot chilies in our food, and science suggests there's even some benefit to the sweating we're doing when we eat them -- it burns calories.
But what about those people who just can't stand the heat?
Farmer holds up a handful of peppers
Chemicals found in mild peppers might help burn calories. (Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Getty Images)
Research presented at theExperimental Biology meeting in Anaheim, California, (namesake of one of our favorite peppers)shows that dihydrocapsiate (DCT) --a chemical found in a strain ofmild chile peppers -- has helped some people boost their metabolism without the tongue-burning side effects.
But don't stock up on mild peppers to lose weight just yet. The people in the very small study were already on a low calorie liquid diet for a month. More research needs to be done on whether consuming DCT would help people on more realistic diets, researcher David Heber of UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition tells Shots.
Hot peppers have been an integral part of the diets of Latin Americans and Asians for centuries. Who can imagine Szechwan beef or tamales without a bit of heat?
And several studies over the past decade have pointed to the chemical capsaicin, which gives peppers their fire, for its potential role in boosting metabolism. Capsaicin also been cited as a potential appetite suppressant, perhaps leading to its frequent starring role in a host of diet and detox products.
But while some people (like our blogger, Scott Hensley) pour hot pepper sauce on everything because they like the taste, many people just can't stand the heat. So Heber and his colleagues set out to see if capsaicin's calmer cousin, DCT, might also exert a calorie-burning effect.
They studied the before and after body weight and fat of 34 men and women consuming a low-calorie liquid meal replacement. Three times a day, a third of them were given a placebo pill, a third were were given a pill containing 3 milligrams of DCT, and a third were given a 9 milligram pill.
Those DCT doses weren't big, Heber says. They're like a generous sprinkle of seasoning.
What they found was that the people given the most DCT after a meal showed an increase in heat production and fat burning without the burning sensation. That is, DCT acted in their G.I. tracks the way hot peppers do -- boosting metabolism. And, the chemical structure of DCT is such that it doesn't fit the sensors on our tongue that detect pain, so no burning, Heber says.
They found that the 9 milligram, three-times-a-day dose helped the average-sized woman burn an extra 100 calories a day. No magic bullet, but a help, Heber says. (You can download the the PowerPoint presentation here.
Still, as boring as it sounds, an overall good diet and regular exercise are the key to weight loss. "If you have chocolate cake with your chili pepper, you're not going to lose any weight," he says.

The World of Greed and Debts

Greece crisis: Fears grow that it could spread

IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Khan: "We need Greece... back on track"
The head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that the crisis in Greece could spread throughout Europe.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that every day lost in resolving Greece's problems risks spreading the impact "far away".
World financial markets, recovering slightly on Wednesday, have been badly hit by fears of contagion from Greece.
Mr Strauss-Kahn was speaking at a news conference in Berlin after trying to persuade reluctant German politicians to back the terms of a rescue deal.
But even as politicians were trying to resolve the crisis, Europe's debt problems were flaring elsewhere.
Gavin Hewitt
 We now enter an uncertain period. Will the financial markets test Portugal or Spain? The Spanish economy is five times the size of Greece. Will other bail-outs be needed and would the German taxpayer revolt against helping out others? 
Gavin Hewitt, BBC europe editor
The Standard & Poor's ratings agency delivered more bad news by downgrading Spain's debt to AA from AA+.
The agency said Spain's growth prospects were weak after the collapse of a credit-fuelled housing and construction bubble.
Mr Strauss-Kahn's comments foreshadowed S&P's news. "What is at stake today is the economic situation of Greece. But it's more than that.
"We also need to restore confidence... I'm confident that the problem will be fixed. But if we don't fix it in Greece, it may have a lot of consequences on the European Union," Mr Strauss-Kahn said.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, and European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, were in Berlin to urge German MPs to agree to a rescue deal under which Greece would get billions of euros in loans.
Deeply unpopular
 For me personally, it's getting to be a real possibility that I may need to leave this country. We may see a new wave of people leaving, particularly young people, especially if our salaries decrease. 
Ioannis Matzavrakos, Athens
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that talks on the bail-out package must be sped up.
"It is perfectly clear that the negotiations with the Greek government, the European Commission and the IMF need to be accelerated," she said after meeting Mr Strauss-Kahn.
"We hope they can be wrapped up in the coming days," she said.
But many German politicians are opposed to the bail-out of Greece, and Mrs Merkel has herself been accused of offering only qualified support.
Germany is facing elections, and with public opinion against giving billions of euros to Greece, Mrs Merkel must tread a fine line.
As Europe's largest economy, Germany would provide the biggest single loan to Greece among the eurozone nations.
The aid package being offered by the EU and IMF is currently 45bn euros ($59bn; £39bn).
But support for the bail-out in Germany will not be helped by claims that the total cost of the proposed package could be up to 120bn euros over three years.
After meeting Mr Strauss-Kahn on Wednesday, the leader of Germany's Green Party, Juergen Trittin, said the aid could total "between 100bn and 120bn euros".
Risk fears
Financial markets continued to be hit, following credit rating agency Standard and Poor's downgrade of Greek debt to "junk" on Tuesday.
 The message that has been emerging from the markets this week is that a resolution to the Greek crisis needs to be found in the next few days. A failure to resolve the issue runs the risk of sparking contagion through Southern Europe 
Simon Derrick, Senior currency strategist, BNY Mellon
This means the rating agency views Greece as a much riskier place to invest, and increases the interest rate investors will charge the Greek government to borrow much-needed money on the open market.
On Wednesday, that interest rate hit 11.3% for 10-year Greek bonds - another all-time high for a eurozone country.
Interest rates on two-year bonds hit a new high of almost 19%, later falling back to 16%.
The euro hit a one-year low against the dollar of $1.3146.
European stocks also fell sharply on Wednesday, although they recovered some of their losses in afternoon trading.
Overnight Japan's leading share index, the Nikkei 225, closed down more than 2.5%.
The turmoil forced Greece's stock market regulators to impose a ban on short-selling, amid concerns that bank shares are being undermined by speculators.
Contagion concerns
Concerns about the Spanish and Portuguese economies also intensified following the downgrade by S&P.
Spain's deputy prime minister, Maria Teresa de la Vega, appealed for market calm, telling reporters: "We have a very serious plan of... deficit reduction. We have adopted an austerity programme.
"We are adopting all the measures needed to meet our commitments. So I want to send a message of confidence to the population and of calm to the markets," she said.
Probability of payback
With any debtor, there is a chance they will not be able to repay their debts. These figures in the above graph express the likelihood as a percentage called the Cumulative Probability of Default (CPD)
The figures express the probability of a country defaulting sometime over the next five years

Mr Strauss-Kahn also urged caution in the face of the downgrade. Ratings agencies "are reflecting what they are collecting in the market.... One should not believe too much what they say, even if they are useful," he said.
But even before the downgrade investors were turning negative on Spain. Yields on Spanish 10-year bonds reached their highest level - 4.27% - since the euro was launched.
Meanwhile, investors are demanding an interest rate of close to 6% from Portugal.
"If yields rise much further Portugal may, like Greece, be in a position where [borrowing] on the open market becomes just too expensive," warned Jane Foley, research director at currency trader
Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates spoke of "a speculative attack on the euro and Portuguese debt".
He said he would work with the opposition party to restore economic confidence in the country which also had its credit rating downgraded on Tuesday.
Time running out
The Greeks need to accept the pain that is the inevitable and foreseeable consequence
According to Simon Derrick, from Bank of New York Mellon, time is now running out for Greece to secure a deal.
"The message that has been emerging from the markets this week is that a resolution to the Greek crisis needs to be found in the next few days," he said, warning that delays risk "sparking contagion through southern Europe".