Visit to Hiroshima : A soul touching experience

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The skeletal dome of city centre at Hiroshima today bears a grim reminder to the follies committed by leaders of big nations who while raising pitch of war cries and indulging into muscle flexing with arsenals of nuclear armaments  sacrifice lives of millions of innocent  men, women and children.The bombsite is dotted with memorials  for the victims of bombing.

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Hiroshima was one of the most vibrant cities of Japan when it was selected as a target for being bombed with a nuclear bomb by Allies in world war 2. On a bright sunny morning in August 1945 when city of Hiroshima was opening it’s eyes to a new dawn, a 4 yr. old  kid  Shinichi Tetsutani was out in garden with his tricycle which he passionately loved.

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A sudden flash in the sky with a huge orange cloud of smoke changed the world of young child and many others like him. His tricycle with his skeletal remains burnt out in aftermath of nuclear explosion over the city was discovered by his father and buried with his mortal remains only to be excavated several years later for being donated to memorial built to commemorate the sad events of world’s first nuclear explosion at Hiroshima.The nuclear explosion snuffed out life for more than half of the city’s population in a matter of seconds.Those who did not die immediately struggled with nuclear burns for several long years.

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While on a visit to Japan we spared a specific day for soaking into emotional experience of a brave city which rebuilt itself after losing more than half of it’s population in the nuclear explosion.Hiroshima has over the years rebuilt itself as  as a beautiful modern city surrounded with greenery and beautiful flowers and birds.

Monuments spread around bomb site convey message of peace.

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On the fateful day the bomb had exploded 600 feet above the city centre.The Japanese have chosen to retain the skeletal remains of the city centre as a memorial to the horrors of war.The clock at the city centre which stopped ticking at 8.45 am is preserved in the shape exactly as it stood at the fateful moment.

The museum built up in vicinity of the explosion site recalls with pictorial representations the horrible experience which the citizens suffered and shares several emotional stories of victims with the world. While a burnt wrist watch is shown with hands at 8.45 am. another moving story shared at the Museum is that of Koji Karo an engineering student who was given a special meal in his lunch box by his mother since it was his birthday on the fateful day.The mortal remains of Koji could never be traced but the burnt out lunch box bearing his name was recovered from the site where he was working.

Another clock at the museum has been installed to show the time which elapsed since the first as well as the last nuclear explosion serving as a warning against the enthusiasm for more and more nuclear tests.

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Barrack Obama who was the first American President to visit the Museum is reported to have been moved to tears on seeing pictures of devastation by the nuclear bomb.

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After offering an emotional apology Obama recorded appeal for giving up Nuclear weapons The Museum created a special section in the Museum for commemorating Obama’s message for peace.

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Hiroshima was also home to  Poet Meikichi Suzuki (1882-1932) who is known as father of Children’s literature in Japan. He introduced a new system of teaching for small children through poems and stories.Above is a picture of his memorial which is considered to be a symbol of Hiroshima’s recovery from devastations of war and Hope for world peace.Inscription on the monument says “I will always dream as I did in my boyhood and therefore suffer only little.”

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Hunar Haat at Delhi

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During month of  February Delhi weather gets pleasant with mellow sun and cool breeze, flower beds are blooming with new crop of winter seasonals and there is much improvement in air quality.If there is an opportunity for enjoying a tasty meal in warm sunshine and simultaneously appreciating some artworks there is a great temptation for going out and savouring the  great experience.The newly introduced Hunar Haat (Market of Artisans) at Connaught Place looked quite inviting with performing folk artists and lines of eateries offering cuisine prepared by master chefs from all over the country.

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The Haat turned out to be an event organised by National Minorities Development and; Finance Corporation (NMDFC) under Upgrading the Skills and Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD) scheme of the Minority Affairs Ministry. We were told that the  scheme aims to to encourage artists . For historical purposes -the first “Hunar Haat”,  was organised in November last year at Pragati Maidan, the one under progress at Baba Kharak Singh Marg  is the second edition .

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The sidewalk at Baba Kharag Singh Marg has been converted into a mini market for display of these skills .The items on display have an amazing variety of art ware besides the eateries offering Kashmiri tea to Lucknowi Biryani besides Dilli Ki chat.The show is appropriately titled  “Craft Aur Cuisine Ka Sangam”.The performance by folk artists adds another colourful dimension  to the event.

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As per the info provided to us  100 artisans and 30 culinary experts from about 24 states and union territories are participating at about 130 stalls .The highlight of the Haat is “Bawarchikhana” where various cuisines from different parts of the country are being showcased and the visitors can enjoy to their hearts content.

Delhiites were seen enjoying the great opportunity to savour the best of foods from all over the country which include Dal Bati Churma and Thali from Rajasthan, Sandesh and Rasogolla from West Bengal, Awadhi Mughlai foods from Lucknow, Malabari food from Kerala, Litti Chokha of Bihar, Dhokla and Jalebi from Gujarat, Kashmiri Wazwan from Jammu and Kashmir Puran Poli from Maharashtra, , Bhutte Ke Khees and Sabudana Kheer and Khichri from Madhya Pradesh.

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The Haat is expected to return to Delhi annually around this part of the winter.There appeared to be a promise that the  experiment will be a success and Delhiites  will continue to enjoy year after year.

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Getting nostalgic with Delhi Heritage Foundation

This New Year opened on an exciting note.Seventh of January brought a surprise invite from Delhi Heritage Foundation an organisation working for reviving ancient culture and preserving heritage of Delhi the capital city of India.The organisation conceived and promoted by certain prominent citizens of old city has brought together bunch of city lovers enthused with past glory of the Shahjahanabad and fired with zeal for preserving it’s cultural heritage and traditions.Going through the Facebook page of the organisation and impressed by the committed, crusading spirit of the dedicated citizen vigilantes we promptly lapped up the invite.

The event titled Tangible and Intangible Heritage of City of Delhi opened floodgates of nostalgia about the old city popularly known as the walled city, having been protected by fortification by Mughal Emperors over middle ages. Several participants having been born and grown up in the city and others having migrated in course of their formative years in life spoke emotionally  about the ways of old Delhi. While someone spoke about the artistic ways of traders and market men other speaker gushed over the culinary delights of Chandni Chowk the Central market which was in historic times, and continues to be  the nerve centre of commercial activities. For everyone  mention of areas covered by narrow lanes and bye lanes evoked passionate memories of having discovered the charms of the city on foot.

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Secretary Dr.GG Saxena interacting with audience

The tone for the evening was set by Dr. SY Qureshi an eminent ex civil servant and leading light of the organisation who in keynote address recalled the lost glory of the city and shared his vision for preserving and recreating the lost heritage of city of Shahjahanabad . It transpired that The Delhi Heritage foundation has  on it’s own initiated moves  for preservation of several historic monuments by coming up with the novel scheme of encouraging educational institutions to adopt a monument.

Another highlight of the evening were the narratives on Cinema theatres of Delhi which were succumbing to loss of business in hard times.Even mention of names of of picture halls had element of excitement for everyone bringing back memories of a Mughal-e-Azam or Pakiza and excitement associated with queuing up for a first day first show ticket outside Regal in Connaught Place or Golcha in Daryaganj.Every one felt the need  for re energising the picture halls located on prime places in the city with innovative techniques.

The myriad suggestions for recreating the lost glory of city poured in  from enthusiastic participants. The phoenix like ability  of the city to reinvent itself was best summarised by Chairman in a poetic rendering of Mir Taki Mir which refers to a stage when the city was passing through times difficult.It is recalled that master of Urdu poetry had introduced himself in a mushaira  as

” Dilli Ek Shahar tha Aalamein Intikhab ..rahne wale hain hum us ujde dayar ke”

It is a matter of historical knowledge that the city later on rebuilt itself to take pride of place in leading cities of the world.

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How hard is the hard posting ?

After initially working at Delhi for more than 2 decades I had to move to several other reigons  in the country  covering in the process  Goa,  Andamans and North East  . While the initial understanding was that I would return to Delhi in 2-3 years times , the ex Delhi tenure has kept on stretching. Since several of my colleagues managed to remain at Delhi for longer period and also got back to Delhi after short stints outside Delhi I felt cheated sometimes and wondered whether this banishment from Delhi was fair. However  after maturing through  several destinations away from Delhi I could see the silver lining (pun unintended) and started wondering whether the craze for sticking to Delhi is not an indication of a self centered  individual with an attitude which is not progressive .

Self centered because , although the  job offers  a possibility of rotation to various nooks and corners of the country but a group of people  consider it their divine right to be posted to a metro city , by all possible manipulations  or even if posted outside Delhi they would  try to get a place of choice , such as  one connected by land route  to the country ( so that there is possibility of an overnight train to Delhi!).These divine righted colleagues forget in the process that by cornering the comfort zones they have pushed out many other colleagues in the sun and  forced them to remain at the so called hard postings for longer period . The assumed difficulties of a hard posting would have appeared less uncomfortable and would not have been prolonged if all of us shared the hard areas on equitable basis.But for many mortals  a posting in Delhi injects a feeling of power and immortality which somehow  insulates them from grasping the essence of such mathematical analysis of  a social issue.

The other aspect is that of being less progressive or narrow minded. While moving out from Delhi one is give  subtle hints  that the concept of a true nation state is  also colored by feelings of regionalism in various parts of the country . However  an open minded and mainstreamed  person can easily understand  that even in Delhi  persons coming from other parts of the country need time to accquire respect and acceptability in their social circle. The same process of social acceptability can be expected at other places also . However once you move out and settle down the other benefits of being away from Delhi also become prominent.

First  and foremost is the clean air and relatively tension free work style which prevails at smaller destinations  . And then in due course of time one may (or may not) get to know a bunch of people who can be counted as selfless friends irrespective of their background. The quality and pace of  social life varies from place to place but still social networkings are developed with ample time available for the same without burden of  traffic related worries. The social groups though small ( sometimes very small in fact) are cohesive and homogenous and sometimes based on common interest in readings or movies (downloaded via internet). Natural beauty is always close on hand and if there is a good camera you can get submerged with flickr or Picassa. There is so much to learn about flora and fauna and lifestyle of tribes . And then there are so many opportunities  for water sports , chopper ride , snorkeling and diving which a  person  in Delhi can expect only once or twice in a lifetime as part of some heavily priced vacation.

But…even with all above virtues there will always be a bunch of colleagues who are counting their days for return to Delhi and in the process creating a morbid atmosphere for silent survivors.The best course is to avoid such tear jerkers. In fact with internet and broadband having infiltrated everywhere who needs non virtual friends now.

Visit to Lakshdweep :heady memories of a cocktail

Being an individualistic and self oriented person a  three day outing to an exotic   Island in group of nine persons with different backgrounds and different linguistic styles,  is not  my perception of  a dream holiday.  At a particular stage in life an outing is meaningful if it helps you in unwinding yourself. An isolated beach bed under the umbrella with periodical dips in the sea and your glass of beer by the side build up the true atmosphere for this kind of experience on an island. Long back when kids were small and we had a great eagerness to see every waterfall and mountain, sunset and sunrise point on the guide map then the outings used to be very hectic and different. But with passage of time we (meaning me and my wife) realised the importance of companion ship and solitude as the sole driving force for a relaxed holiday. But this time the chain of events was just beyond my control so this excursion to Lakshdweep group of Islands  happened to be different.

This  group of Islands located on West Coast of Indian Penisula are scattered in a rather haphazard fashion unlike other islands all over the world which are laid out from North to South. After an hours’ flight in a ten seater Dornier aircraft from Cochin we landed at Island of Agatti  which with presence of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines is  the only Airport in the Islands.  The Island also has a Govt Guest House with AC Rooms and excellent dining    facilities.

Agatti is a linear land mass of about 9 Km length and so narrow that one can see  sea waters on   both sides. One side has clear water and calm sea and the other side has uneven sea bed with     corals scattered all along. An enterprising  member of the group soon discovered the hotspots on Agatti which included a private beach with water sport facilities and boat ride for discovering corals on the sea bed. On this discovery everyone promptly marched to the destination. It was sunset time now and as the sun went down in the sea the skyline was painted with myriad shades of red and blue .Next morning was reserved for the boat ride to watch Corals through the fibber glass bottom of the boat . The half hour  bumpy ride in the   choppy sea was not without thrills. At one stage the motor boat engine stopped  and the operator appeared to be confused. His efforts in comforting us through the  information  that we shall not drown due to life jackets was in fact more frightening. Crisis situation was  however soon blown over and forgotten.

The Island of Kavaratti which has the Secretariat and District level offices and can be accessed through  a Pawan Hans chopper in a matter of 15 minutes was our next destination. Here we understood a bit of history and sociology. The Lakshadweep Islands are said to have been discovered when courtiers of Kerala king named Cherman Perumal ruler of Cannore came in search of the king who had suddenly disappeared from his kingdom. While the king remained untraced the incident opened up the Islands to the rest of the world, at a time even perpetuating an intense struggle for domination between Kings of various ruling dynasties. The Islands had a matrilineal system known as Maru Makkhatayam  for long and were ruled by Queen Arrakkal Bibi  for a long time with a firm hand.  The queen is understood to have prevented domination of other Kings and East India Company The Islands still seemed to have   spirit of the Queen hanging in the atmosphere since we had opportunity to interact with a fair number of dominant personalities from the fair sex. Kavaratti also has an aquarium with exotic fishes and a good fish museum showing collection of some fishes caught over the islands from time to time and some species are really interesting. The island has also started a new initiative for processing the sea water in order to make it fit for drinking by boiling it at low pressure.

Bangaram Island which is a great favourite with foreigners were not in our schedule. The Island is sought after due to water sports facilities and due to the solitude which it offers-the resort with six rooms is beyond the reach of upper end Indian tourists and the facilities for snorkelling and scuba diving are the same way too .Kadmat Island was our destination on the last day. A two and half hour ride in speed boat was a smooth experience in comparison to some disturbing predictions of sea sickness made earlier in anticipation of rough sea. The island does not have a jetty so we had to hop in another motor boat for reaching the destination. Kadmat has some air-conditioned tourist huts and inviting blue waters .However the option of swimming did not appear to be very attractive since there was only one more swimmer in sight and the sand appeared to be sinking below your feet all the time. Weather was really hot and an hours outing appeared to be enough for giving a tanned look even to the fairest members of the group.We returned to Kavaratti in late evening. Next day was our departure to hustle and bustle of city life. In the evening the beach was cool and the sunset was tantalizingly beautiful.

I dipped my feet in cool water and laid down on the sand with closed eyes .I seemed to have dozed off a bit while thinking of the islands past and the divine surroundings. It appeared that the pages of ancient history unfolded to my memory as I found myself with the courtiers looking for their lost king and then the ruler Arrakal Bibi charming but merciless ruling the small kingdom. The colourful pages of history dancing in kaleidoscope of natural beauty had a heady feeling. A once in  lifetime experience definitely.

Goa Tourism: Return of the Bikini Killer

Goa Tourism is again in news for wrong reasons. The violation and murder of a child of British  origin has  reopened  a host of issues on sustainable development of tourism sector specially in that small state.  NDTV  hosted a panel discussion  under screaming headlines  “Whether  Goa’s underbelly is exposed ?” . Despite of the fiery oratory of TV anchor  and some mini fire works from local  intellectuals during the discussion, the core issues were still left wide open.  

Goan beaches have for long offered attraction not only to the newly weds , courting couples as well as   lovers in suicide pact but also to criminals of various origins and tastes. Mention of crime on beaches brings   back memories of Bikni Killer days of mid seventies when a compulsive murderer Chalres Shobhraj  due to his serial killing  of unsuspecting tourists on Goan beaches had become an international icon in the crime world.  

 The NDTV panel discussion surprisingly included Ms. Bina Ramani whose involvement in covering up the famous Jessica Lal murder case was  topic of similar fiery discussions  quite recently . Her inclusion as opinion giver also highlighted the fact that the memory of our media is rather short and issues are dealt with rather superficially. More so because at the time when Bina Ramani was arrested at Goa , the local press was quick to condemn her along with all those so called dubious persons of her kind  who settle at Goa in the name of business. 

The queen of ceremony during the discussions was the mother of the murdered child seated in the centre and given the privilege of firing indiscriminately at all and sundry. The lady who boasts of eight children sired by her four male companions, innocently pleaded that the fourteen year child was not a drug addict but occasionally indulged into intake of marijuana. The lady it seems has all of a sudden developed  a very dim view of Goa Police and has been threatening to blow the lid off certain drug running racket but has apparently not done any thing in that direction so far.  T

he debate as always veers around  the issue as to how safe are the Goan beaches. A plump local politician boasted that he feels safe even while roaming around the midnight without any security guards. The funny statement was reflective of mind set of ruling Goan politicians and their  inability to appreciate humanitarian issues. Who would molest or assault a person of his bearing? Or whether he could be the target of harassment or cause of fear  for someone while roaming around the streets at midnight ? This  single comment thus  also gave some hint about  the real suspects in the game. 

The fact that on the very next day a female tourist faced sexual harassment in Pushkar and subsequently complaints popped up from Russian tourists at Mumbai regarding similar difficulties, indicated that the crisis is not confined to Goa alone. Fairly well known  incidents of ruthless killing involving persons of decent  origin like Shivani Bhatnagar , Jessical Lal and Nitish Katara  by well connected goons in and around Delhi and the case in which a Swiss diplomat suffered abduction and assault in broad daylight  coupled with the fact that the culprits are yet to be punished underlines the conclusion that such questions can be raised about the National Capital also. The long drawn series of murders of young children at Nithari and abduction and release of the child of an executive in a multinational at Noida bear testimony to the standards of safety of human life in adjoining areas. Clearly enough the underbelly Is exposed at a number of other places too. Then why single out Goa? 

The reason for this concern is that in Goa there has been an unprecedented deterioration in quality of life due to unabated influx of  semi clad, back pack  tourists. Who are these people and what is their special interest in Goa ? Where are they rushing in half naked conditions on motorcycles and scooters.  Certainly enough it is not only the Sun and Sand which draw more than two million tourists to Goa. Is it not that the benign attitude of upholders of law  and their unwillingness or inability to venture out in the field acts as a catalyst for facilitating inflow of tourists with  business interests of dubious kind. And could a system of such unprofessional standards have survived if the political patronage was not available ?  These are some questions which the Goan society would have to address to itself if it wants to reinvent the paradise that Goa was in the past. 

Jab Jodhaa met Akbar

In every civilized society which cares for individual sentiments there is some law for protection of certain heritage sites and buildings since these are considered to be the collective property of the humanity and there is a recognition of the fact that every one has a right to share the unspoilt beauty of an architectural monument or a natural formation in an unaltered fashion. Unfortunately there is no legal protection in respect of an icon of history whose image cultivated over generations is mercilessly butchered by a buccaneering film producer unrepentantly and with the simple excuse that it is merely a work of fantasy and has no historical basis!

Aushutosh Gowrikar of Lagaan fame has done precisely that to the image of Jodha Bai a Rajput Queen of middle ages and the Mughal King Akbar who is remembered as one of the few benevolent despots who have given this country a symbol of administrative reforms and spirit of religious tolerance .

Having failed to meet success at the oscar nominations for his period film Lagan , Gowrikar has come out with a more calculated assault on the Oscar battlefield through Jodah Akbar romance which the film claims is not reported in history ( the name of the princess and her relation ship with Akbar is also doubted) but the expensive film with lavish squandering on objects of visual pleasure appears to be attempting to become a historical magnum opus. Nobody wishes to join the issue of historical credibility with Mr. Gowrikar but pray Mr. Gowrikar why did you thrust this plastic beauty of Indian screen to wipe out the memories of Jodha Bai so powerfully projected by the legendary Durga Khote. And your Akbar…although young , but can he ever be expected to adorn the throne occupied by powerful personae of Prithviraj Kapoor in Mughal-e-Azam which is etched in the memory of generations of cinegoers .

A good documentary for Rajasthan Tourism or chalu stuff for a good tear jerker TV serial to be watched by Saas Bahus in the afternoon , or a modern presentation of Vikram Betal stories is what you have produced Mr. Gowrikar with so much fanfare. Your bundle of mini stories of religious hysteria , Saas bahu tussle ,wimpish Rajpoot princes , plotting brother-in-law, fanatic ulemas and incognito visits of young emperor to see the status of his praja could have created a long running TV serial because each episode is a mini thriller but not the part of a story of any interesting substance. The only tears which come to the eyes of an intelligent cinegoer are due to strain of spending 200 minutes in the theatre for witnessing your mediocrity.

And there was a feeling of relief after coming out of the hall for one more reason. That was for the realization that the romantic excitement of Madhubala, Dilip Kumar pair in Mughl-e-Azam would remain beyond the reach of producers for all times and the movie would remain the true Moughal amongst the movies as tribute to the genius of it’s producer and Director.

Madam Ashwarya Rai may now try her luck with some other fake piece of history because this one again seems to have floundered like remake of Umrao Jaan…despite the hidden support of dad-in-law by way of unworthy praise of a dance sequence filmed on Hrithik Roshan. Cinegoers having seen the Mughal movies like Anarkali and Mughal-e-Azam will have to recall the emotional thrill of “Pyar kiya to darna kya “ dance number performed so tantalizingly by Madubala and the Quawalis of the films produced in sixties when they want to think of a piece of art which is highly entertaining and also intellectually satisfying , while the likes of Aishwarya and Aushotosh will fade away from the scene in no time.

And now last but not the least, the latest news  reports say that Mayawati Ji Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has chosen this occasion to garner some votes from Rajput community by placing a ban on the movie (just two days after the MP High Court quashed a ban of similar nature and under full realization that hers would also be a short lived ban). The scenario is a bit  comical in the sense that Akbar the great warrior of middle ages has come to the rescue of another damsel in distress in modern times by helping her recover some popularity in Rajput community .