Monday, December 31, 2007

Leave the Kids Alone!!!!

Its been some time that i have been moved by a Hindi Movie. But "Taare Zameen Par" exactly did the same. It tells the story of Ishaan Awasthi, a nine-year-old boy who suffers from undetected dyslexia The film potrays beautifully Ishaan's frustration of his disability to do things which a normal kid would have done and his lone struggle against the world (people around him). This movie is the directorial debut of Aamir Khan and he does justice to the story in true Aamir style.

Coming to the film - the direction has been exceptional. We have seen many Hindi movies (and many Indian Movies) where child artists looks quite horrible, Not in this movie. This is indeed a child's movie, Aamir Khan (who is one hindi superstar) come toward the interval. Actually he is just having a supporting role in this movie, so do all the grown ups. The hero of the story Ishaan Awasthi ( quite wonderfully potrayed by Darsheel Safary) is a easy go kid, who reminds all of us (atleast myself) of our childhood. Tisca Chopra and Vipin Sharma as Ishaan's parents were good. All the child artists in the film played their part perfectly. Ishaan has a reading problem and he cannot understand words. The first half of the film details the failure of the people surrounding Ishaan ( his parents and teachers) to understand his problem. Ishaan is made to look like an idiot by the system around him and he fights the system by some reactions which others term as by a spoiled naughty kid. Ishaan is shifted to a boarding school (obviously against his will as a punitive measure) where he meets a part time art teacher (Ram Shankar Nikumbh played by Aamir) who notices the child's problem. Nikumbh himself was a dyslexia person and could identify himself with Ishaan Awasthi. The rest of the film is how Ishaan with the help of Nikumbh overcomes his difficulty and suceed in life.

The film also describes the Indian middle class hangover with academic achievements. Ishaan's older brother Yohaan is quite opposite to himself. He is the type of child who cares of each lost marks and has been breeded to fight the great middle class struggle for existence. In contrast Ishaan lives in his dreams, he is fond of his paintings and has a mind which take notice of the simplest things he see.

The film came at a time when the rush for getting into IIM's and IIT's is at the worst. I work in a service industry and had my formal training in Hyderabad. There the above mentioned rush is at the worst. Children gets up at three in the morning and reaches their tution centres by four in the morning and from there they will go to their schools or colleges, they will be back in home by late 10pm or maybe further late. The next day the same schedule continues. In my childhood this rush for success I thought was at the worst, but seeing today's children I realised how fortunate was myself. Me and my parents never knew about IIT's and IIM's till I joined college for 11th and 12th, and it should be one instance were lack of awareness comes as blessing. Maybe in the future children in India will know their teachers and books more than their parents. Indian Government has passed a law which makes not taking care of your parents a punishable offence. Is the children to be blamed here, they hardly get to know their parents and bond with them, they are mostly attending tutions and classes. Without that emotional bond, a parent-child relationship is just another relationship.

There is a very destructive trend in India, children are trained and breeded to suceed in things the parents have failed. They are made to fight their parent's battle not their own. In the film the art teacher shows his frustration by saying "If they are looking for breeding horses for race ahead, then get a breed horse not a child". I have seen many instances where parents try to fulfil their dreams (which they could not achieve) through their kids. We train their mind for this and call this as discipline, we never let their mind fly free so that they fulfil your dreams. In the course of these, we create a generation with no dreams of their won.

Every parent wants their children to be Albert Enstein, but anybody wants them to be themselves? Albert Einstein once said "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." But in todays world we term the children's curiosity as stupidity and discourage them from expressing it. In National geopgraphic Channel a new show has started "My Brilliant Brain", if somebody can destroy whatever hope the future children have, Nat Geo just did that. One episode was about Albert Einstein, the Genius - that was good. Another was about a kid who can play Beethoven and Mozart at a age of eight. He has been trained from a very young age and "My Brilliant Brain" gives scientific justification in training kids at an young age. The kids mother complains that he gets frustrated in the company of other children beacuase they can't understand music, Mozart etc. Excuse Me!!!! Whose mistake is that. She has breeded her child like a grown up and now she expect other kids to behave like him? I never heard stories of Einsten, Edison, Newton, Hawking studying 10th standard science at age of 6 or 7. Their brains could have easily coped with that, indeed they could have exelled in that. What this program will instill in parents is another rush to train their children as young as possible, this feature could and will do more damage than good.

Angela Schwindt once said "While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." Are we listening.

NB: "There are two ways to live your life - one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein.
"You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself." - Galileo.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Weapons Of Mass Destruction

At 11:10 am on Tuesday, April 20 1999, Eric David Harris (18) and Dylan Bennet Klebold (17) arrived at their school – Columbine High School. Harris parked in the junior student parking lot and Klebold in the senior student parking lot at spaces not assigned to them. From then they went in a shooting spree across the campus – terrorizing and killing 15 and injuring another 24 before committing suicide. The amount of weapons and ammunition these two teens carried would have put Arnold’s Terminator to shame. They had Intratec TEC-DC9, Hi-Point 995 Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, Stevens 311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun and bombs made with carbon dioxide canisters, galvanized pipe, and metal propane bottles. Their initial plan was to detonate bombs in cafeteria and shoot at those kids who would be fleeing once the bombs went off. Their initial plans were changed once the bombs didn’t go off. Then they ran shooting all those who came infront of them. A detailed description of the massacre could be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre.

What prompted these kids to such a violent act was debated heavily in media all over the world. The massacre also provoked debate regarding gun control laws, the availability of firearms in the United States, and gun violence involving youths. Much discussion also centered on the nature of high school cliques, subcultures and bullying, as well as the role of violent movies and video games in American society. The shooting also resulted in an increased emphasis on school security, and a moral panic aimed at Goth culture, social pariahs, the gun culture, the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, violent films and music, teenage internet use, and violent video games.

But what really worrying is the amount and type of weapons and ammunition these kids got hold of. As Harris and Klebold were both underage at the time, Robyn Anderson, an 18-year-old Columbine student and old friend of Dylan Klebold's, made a straw purchase of two shotguns and Hi-Point 995 Carbine for Harris and Klebold. Two men named Mark Manes and Philip Duran were found to have supplied a TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun to the two boys. It has been estimated that had any of the bombs placed in the cafeteria actually detonated properly, the blast could have caused extensive structural damage to the school and resulted in up to 250 casualties. It is also worrying the delay that the law enforcement authorities took, if some of them were a little brave to put their life in the line of fire, the death toll would not have been this big.

If we examine carefully, this incident and similar incidents which preceded and succeeded this one (till Virginia Tech Massacre) – one thing is very clear that the easy accessibility to arms is one reason these massacre took place. The list of school shooting all over the world is following:

United States

* University of Texas at Austin massacre - Austin, Texas, United States; August 1, 1966

* Orangeburg Massacre - Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States; February 8, 1968

* Kent State shootings - Kent, Ohio, United States; May 4, 1970

* Jackson State killings - Jackson, Mississippi, United States; May 14-15, 1970

* California State University, Fullerton Library Massacre - Fullerton, California, United States; July 12, 1976

* Brenda Ann Spencer, Cleveland Elementary School - January 29, 1979

* Parkway South Junior High School shooting - Saint Louis, Missouri, United States; January 20, 1983

* Stockton massacre - Stockton, California, United States; January 17, 1989

* University of Iowa shooting - Iowa City, Iowa, United States; November 1, 1991

* Simon's Rock College of Bard shooting - Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States; December 14, 1992

* O. Henry Middle School shooting - Austin, Texas, United States; February 5, 1995.

* Richland High School shooting - Lynnville, Tennessee, United States; November 15, 1995.

* Frontier Junior High shooting - Moses Lake, Washington, United States; February 2, 1996

* Pearl High School shooting, Pearl, Mississippi, United States; October 1, 1997

* Heath High School shooting, West Paducah, Kentucky, United States; December 1, 1997

* Jonesboro massacre - Jonesboro, Arkansas, United States; March 24, 1998

* Thurston High School shooting - Springfield, Oregon, United States; May 21, 1998

* Columbine High School massacre - Littleton, Colorado, United States; April 20, 1999

* Heritage High School shooting - Conyers, Georgia, United States; May 20, 1999

* Santana High School - Santee, California, United States; March 5, 2001

* Appalachian School of Law shooting - Grundy, Virginia, United States; January 16, 2002

* Rocori High School shootings - Cold Spring, Minnesota, United States; September 24, 2003

* Red Lake High School massacre - Red Lake, Minnesota, United States; March 21, 2005

* Campbell County High School - Jacksboro, Tennessee: November 8, 2005

* Platte Canyon High School shooting - Bailey, Colorado, United States; September 27, 2006

* Amish school shooting - Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States; October 2, 2006

* Weston High School shooting, Cazenovia, Wisconsin September 29, 2006

* Henry Foss High School - Tacoma, Washington, United States January 3, 2007

* Virginia Tech massacre - Blacksburg, Virginia, United States; April 16, 2007

Canada

* Brampton Centennial Secondary School, Ontario, Canada - May, 1975

* École Polytechnique Massacre - Montreal, Quebec, Canada; December 6, 1989

* Concordia University massacre - Montreal, Quebec, Canada; August 24, 1992

* W. R. Myers High School shooting - Taber, Alberta, Canada; April 28, 1999

* Dawson College shooting - Montreal, Quebec, Canada; September 13, 2006

* C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute shooting - Toronto, Ontario, Canada; May 23, 2007

Israel

* Ma'alot massacre - Ma'alot, Israel; May 15, 1974

* Avivim school bus attacks - Avivim, Israel; May 8, 1970

Other countries

* Dunblane massacre - Dunblane, Scotland, United Kingdom; March 13, 1996

* Sanaa massacre - Sanaa, Yemen; March 30, 1997

* Erfurt massacre - Erfurt, Germany; April 26, 2002

* Monash University shooting - Melbourne, Australia; October 21, 2002

* Beirut Arab University shooting - Beirut, Lebanon; January 25, 2007

In most of these incidents, the perpetrator would have committed the crime with a weapon of his parents or close relatives. In most of the case the reaction is more of an impulsive manner than a planned manner (except in cases like Columbine Massacre, Port Arthur Massacre, Virginia tech etc). Unfortunately the life being lost in the planned massacre is very huge. It may be a rage over something for some time which acts as a catalyst here. The easy access to weapons increases the aggression many fold. I still remember some thing my late grandfather told me. He always advised us not to carry any king of weapons with us, however small it might be. His theory was that when you get into a scuffle with someone, there is a high chance that you might use those. Its not that you planned or thought about doing, but it just happens. One thing which is common is the ordeal through which the victims and their families that go through. This doesn’t change. Please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur_massacre_%28Australia%29 to read about the Port Arthur Massacre. This will give a picture of the pains the victims have to go through. My belief is that the easy availability of the weapons and the loneliness or bullying they have to face both is reason for these massacres. The idea of strict Gun control measure is the one way out of the problem. I don’t understand the logic on which people have to arm themselves. How can it be justified when the police force in most European and North American agencies are very efficient? Like some lyrics said “How can you hold a Gun and call you innocent?” How can you still cry for the victim when you are not doing anything to prevent it? In most places the reaction to these incidents are the same – “Everyone cried for better gun control and ban for some time” and after that everything subdued. Like the saying “People have a very short memory” these all incidents have slowly faded from our memory and will be awaken again when it’s going to repeat again. Then also every one of us will debate and then we will forget. We will not react unless tragedy strike us in the form of beloved ones, then it might be too late. Can’t we give our children a future where they are safe at least to go to school.

Until and unless we get up and do some thing, we can look for the next red rose to be placed in the memory of the next victim of another massacre, with a small prayer –“God, Don’t put me on the victim list”. A-bomb in Japan killed more than 200,000, but small arms kills more than 500,000 a year. When can we get rid of them? Stopping my article with a call for universal Gun banning (at least ban it from civilians) and in memories of hundreds of victims of school and campus massacre, especially in the memories of these two beautiful kids – Madeline Mikac and Alannah Mikac.Look at their innocent faces.

http://www.amf.org.au/

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sanjay Dutt and Us

As expected the sentencing of Sanjay Dutt has evoked a wide variety of response from all over India across all the community. There is a wave of sympathy for the actors fate, which is been contributed by the success of his movies(like Munnabhai). There is a huge section of media and celebrities who are drumming up that he has been given a raw deal by the Judge. There is accusation from one particular section that he (the Judge)is trying to enter the history books (Now thats a revelation - If by convicting a celebrity a person can make his mark in history, then damn that history).
Against this backdrop I would like to congratulate the Judge(Special Judge P.D. Kode) for a job well done. During delivering the verdict he never tried to hide the fact that he was a fan of Dutt and given enough encouragement to the convict. He never allowed his personal admiration for the convict come in between his duty and he has done a wonderful Job.
The celebrity circle and the useless Indian media is drumming up public emotions against the verdict and are successful to an extent. The reactions by the celebrities are quite extra ordinary. They all agree that he has committed a crime, but needed a more light punishment. The court has found him guilty of Indian Arms Act section 3 and 7.

Section 3 deals with possessing a firearm(he had a 9mm pistol without licence) without a license.

Section 7 deals with Prohibition of acquisition or possession, or of manufacture or sale of prohibited arms or prohibited ammunition(he had a AK-56 rifle which is prohibitted).

Under these sections Dutt was entitled to a jail term of 5-10 years, of which he got six years(the prosecution as usual asked for ten years). Now looking at the verdict we can see that the sentence in itself was a fair one. The convicts version that he obtained an AK-56 rifle for self protection itself is completely flawed. First of all AK-56 is classified as an Assault Rifle like its brother in arm AK-47. (Now that will explain why the prison term prescribed is between 5-10 years). At the time of arrest he was the son of an MP Sunil Dutt(I am a big admirer of him), and if a son of MP needs AK-56 for protection then we all better be dead. The justification given by his friends and media that he is a nice person to the core may not stand any judicial review. First of all, being a nice person does not give you protection from the crimes you commit. Secondly this nice person had many link ups with most of the members from Underworld.

Now from the reaction from celebrities circle, they want us to have two IPC one for common people and one for the high class celebrities. Maybe this is the way forward and we will be heading very soon to create two kind of citizenship

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Some Photographs that changed the World

Anne Frank 1941

Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. For many throughout the world, one teenage girl gave them a story and a face. She was Anne Frank, the adolescent who, according to her diary, retained her hope and humanity as she hid with her family in an Amsterdam attic. In 1944 the Nazis, acting on a tip, arrested the Franks; Anne and her sister died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen only a month before the camp was liberated. The world came to know her through her words and through this ordinary portrait of a girl of 14. She stares with big eyes, wearing an enigmatic expression, gazing at a future that the viewer knows will never come.

Biafra 1969

When the Igbos of eastern Nigeria declared themselves independent in 1967, Nigeria blockaded their fledgling country-Biafra. In three years of war, more than one million people died, mainly of hunger. In famine, children who lack protein often get the disease kwashiorkor, which causes their muscles to waste away and their bellies to protrude. War photographer Don McCullin drew attention to the tragedy. "I was devastated by the sight of 900 children living in one camp in utter squalor at the point of death," he said. "I lost all interest in photographing soldiers in action." The world community intervened to help Biafra, and learned key lessons about dealing with massive hunger exacerbated by war-a problem that still defies simple solutions.

Birmingham 1963

For years, Birmingham, Ala., was considered “the South’s toughest city,” home to a large black population and a dominant class of whites that met in frequent, open hostility. Birmingham in 1963 had become the cause célèbre of the black civil rights movement as nonviolent demonstrators led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly faced jail, dogs and high-velocity hoses in their tireless quest to topple segregation. This picture of people being pummeled by a liquid battering ram rallied support for the plight of the blacks.


Tatyana Nikolayevna Savicheva

Tatyana Nikolayevna Savicheva , commonly referred to as Tanya Savicheva (Таня Савичева) (January 25, 1930 - July 1, 1944) was a Russian child diarist who died during the Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Born on January 25, 1930, she was the youngest child in the family of baker Nikolay Rodionovich Savichev and seamstress Mariya Ignatievna Savicheva. Her father died when Tanya was only six, leaving Mariya Savicheva with five children — three girls, Tanya, Jenya and Nina and two boys, Mikhail and Leka.

The family planned to spend the summer of 1941 in the countryside but the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany on June 22 ruined their plans. All of them, except Mikhail, who had already left, decided to stay in Leningrad. Each of them worked to support the army: Mariya Ignatievna sewed the uniforms, Leka worked as a planer at the Admiralty Plant, Jenya worked at the munitions factory, Nina worked at the construction of city defences, and Uncle Vasya and uncle Lesha served in the anti-aircraft defence. Even Tanya, then only eleven years old, was digging the trenches and putting out firebombs.

One day Nina went to work and never came back; she was sent to Lake Ladoga and then urgently evacuated. The family was unaware of this and thought her dead.

After a few days in memory of Nina, Mariya Ignatievna gave to Tanya a small notebook that belonged to her sister and that would later become Tanya's diary. Tanya had a real diary once, a thick notebook where she recorded everything important in her life. She burned it when nothing was left to heat the stove in winter, but she spared her sister's notebook.

The first record in it appeared on December 28. Each day Jenya got up when it was still dark outside. She walked seven kilometers to the plant, where she worked for two shifts every day making mine cases. After the work she would donate her blood. Her weak body could not endure. She died at the plant where she worked. Then grandmother Evdokiya Grigorievna died. Then Tanya's brother Leka. Then, one after another, uncle Vasya and uncle Lesha died. Her mother was the last. That time Tanya probably browsed through the pages and added her final remark.

In August 1942 140 children were rescued from Leningrad and brought to Krasny Bor village. All of them survived, except Tanya. Anastasiya Karpova, a teacher in the Krasny Bor orphanage, wrote to Tanya's brother Mikhail, who was lucky to be outside of Leningrad in 1941: "Tanya is now alive, but she doesn't look healthy. A doctor, who visited her recently, says she is very ill. She needs rest, special care, nutrition, better climate and, most of all, tender motherly care". On May 1944 Tanya was sent to Shatkovsky hospital, where she died only a month later, on July 1, 1944.

During the Nuremberg trials, one of the documents presented by the Allied prosecutors was the small notebook that once belonged to Tanya.

Nina Savicheva and Mikhail Savichev returned to Leningrad after the war. The diary of Tanya Savicheva is now displayed at the Museum of Leningrad History and a copy is displayed at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery.

Breaker Boys1910

What Charles Dickens did with words for the underage toilers of London, Lewis Hine did with photographs for the youthful laborers in the United States. In 1908 the National Child Labor Committee was already campaigning to put the nation’s two million young workers back in school when the group hired Hine. The Wisconsin native traveled to half the states, capturing images of children working in mines, mills and on the streets. Here he has photographed “breaker boys,” whose job was to separate coal from slate, in South Pittston, Pa. Once again, pictures swayed the public in a way cold statistics had not, and the country enacted laws banning child labor.

Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968

With North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive beginning, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnam’s national police chief, was doing all he could to keep Viet Cong guerrillas from Saigon. As Loan executed a prisoner who was said to be a Viet Cong captain, AP photographer Eddie Adams opened the shutter. Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for a picture that, as much as any, turned public opinion against the war.

Kent State 1970

When President Richard Nixon said he was sending troops to Cambodia, the nation’s colleges erupted in protest. At Kent State some threw rocks. The Ohio National Guard, called in to quell the turmoil, suddenly turned and fired, killing four; two were simply walking to class. This photo captured a pivotal moment: American soldiers had just killed American kids. Student photographer John Filo won the Pulitzer; the event was also memorialized in a Neil Young song and a TV movie. The girl, Mary Ann Vecchio, turned out not to be a Kent State student, but a 14-year-old runaway. She was sent back to her family in Florida.

Hazel Bryant - Another Landmark Image

It was the fourth school year since segregation had been outlawed by the Supreme Court. Things were not going well, and some southerners accused the national press of distorting matters. This picture, however, gave irrefutable testimony, as Elizabeth Eckford strides through a gantlet of white students, including Hazel Bryant (mouth open the widest), on her way to Little Rock’s Central High.

Lynching 1930

A mob of 10,000 whites took sledgehammers to the county jailhouse doors to get at these two young blacks accused of raping a white girl; the girl’s uncle saved the life of a third by proclaiming the man’s innocence. Although this was Marion, Ind., most of the nearly 5,000 lynchings documented between Reconstruction and the late 1960s were perpetrated in the South. (Hangings, beatings and mutilations were called the sentence of “Judge Lynch.”) Some lynching photos were made into postcards designed to boost white supremacy, but the tortured bodies and grotesquely happy crowds ended up revolting as many as they scared. Today the images remind us that we have not come as far from barbarity as we’d like to think.

Galloping Horse 1878

Was there a moment midstride when horses had all hooves off the ground? Leland Stanford, the railroad baron and future university founder, bet there was—or at least that’s the story. It was 1872 when Stanford hired noted landscape photographer Eadweard Muybridge to figure it out. It took years, but Muybridge delivered: He rigged a racetrack with a dozen strings that triggered 12 cameras. Muybridge not only proved Stanford right but also set off the revolution in motion photography that would become movies. Biographer Rebecca Solnit summed up his life: “He is the man who split the second, as dramatic and far-reaching an action as the splitting of the atom.”

Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire 1911


The Triangle Shirtwaist Company always kept its doors locked to ensure that the young immigrant women stayed stooped over their machines and didn’t steal anything. When a fire broke out on Saturday, March 25, 1911, on the eighth floor of the New York City factory, the locks sealed the workers’ fate. In just 30 minutes, 146 were killed. Witnesses thought the owners were tossing their best fabric out the windows to save it, then realized workers were jumping, sometimes after sharing a kiss (the scene can be viewed now as an eerie precursor to the World Trade Center events of September, 11, 2001, only a mile and a half south). The Triangle disaster spurred a national crusade for workplace safety.

Tiananmen Square 1989

A hunger strike by 3,000 students in Beijing had grown to a protest of more than a million as the injustices of a nation cried for reform. For seven weeks the people and the People’s Republic, in the person of soldiers dispatched by a riven Communist Party, warily eyed each other as the world waited. When this young man simply would not move, standing with his meager bags before a line of tanks, a hero was born. A second hero emerged as the tank driver refused to crush the man, and instead drove his killing machine around him. Soon this dream would end, and blood would fill Tiananmen. But this picture had shown a billion Chinese that there is hope

Omayra Sánchez

Omayra Sánchez was a 13-year old victim of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano which erupted on November 13, 1985 in Armero, Colombia, causing massive lahars which killed nearly 25,000. She was trapped for 3 days in water, concrete, and other debris before she died. Her image was taken by photojournalist, Frank Fournier, shortly before she died. The image caused controversy due to the photographer's work and the Colombian government's inaction in working to prevent the Armero tragedy despite the forewarning that had been available, when it was published worldwide after the young girl's death.

Sudan 1994

" PULITZER PRIZE " winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine.

The picture depicts a famine stricken child crawling towards an United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away.
The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.
Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

Vietnam War



Kim Phuc was the subject of a Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph during the Vietnam War taken in 1972, when she was a child, running naked down a road, screaming in pain from the napalm that was burning through her skin. The photograph has come to epitomize the tragedy of the Vietnam War. Ironically, this incident did not involve any American participation, and their impact in Vietnam was minimal. In the United States, however, the impact of this scene was tremendous, and uniformly negative. Practically everyone old enough to have viewed the news during those years remembers this scene and others like them, with a combination of revulsion and disgust.

US Marines 2004


The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of "Cat," and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. "I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have wanted."

Rwanda 1998

Rwandan Hutu refugees with as many possesions as they can carry trudge along a highway near Benaco Junction in Tanzania. They had tried to flee further away from Rwanda, into Tanzania, but had been turned back by Tanzanian soldiers. Several of the refugees said they would walk all the way through Kenya or Malawi just so they could return to Rwanda.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Celebrating The Life Of Oskar Shindler

Celebrate The Life Of Oskar Shindler

Let me take the opportunity to wish this real human being a “Very belated happy Birthday”.

Oskar Schindler was born on 28 April 1908 in Zwittau, then part of Moravia, Austria-Hungary (Zwittau is now known as Svitavy in the modern Czech Republic). Like many in his times, Schindler was an opportunistic businessman – one who sought to profit from the German Invasion of Poland. Oskar Schindler arrives in Krakow as an unsuccessful businessman and was there to get benefited from the cheap Jew labor to do his business. Like many of us our entire knowledge of Oskar Schindler comes from the movie “Schindler’s List” and the book “Schindler’s Ark” by Thomas Keneally.

The life of Schindler has so much relevance in today’s multi polar world. He was no Gandhi or Mandela, nor did him resembled Christ or Buddha. Rather, he was a deeply flawed man. He was a Nazi and a war profiteer. A compulsive womaniser, he was frequently disloyal to his wife. After the war, he even abandoned her in Argentina to return to Germany. An incurable spendthrift,he lost millions in his pursuit of the good life. When he died, he was penniless... Yet, at a time when far more moral men and women had been caught up in Hitler's xenophobia or reduced to being mere spectators to what was happening by their own fear, this man answered the call of conscience. At the time, he had no crystal ball to tell him that his actions would make him the subject of an award-winning book and a celebrated movie. Nor could he gaze into the future and see that the grateful Jews he saved, Schindler's Jews as they came to be called, would be key to his financial survival after the war. In fact, the only reward he could have fathomed for his actions at the time was death by a Nazi firing squad in the event of discovery. Furthermore, in doing what he did, he spent his entire fortune in providing for the Jews he saved, while bribing Nazi officials to look the other way. His act was entirely selfless, which is what makes it heroic.

When asked about this He said The persecution of Jews in the General Government in Polish territory gradually worsened in its cruelty. In 1939 and 1940 they were forced to wear the Star of David and were herded together and confined in ghettos. In 1941 and 1942 this unadulterated sadism was fully revealed. And then a thinking man, who had overcome his inner cowardice, simply had to help. There was no other choice.” Oskar Schindler, 1964 interview.

This overcoming of the inner cowardice might sound very simple, but this is the point at where we all fail. Schindler did what he did, because he looked upon Jews as people, rather than through the prism of popular stereotypes. To that end, his friendship with two Jewish boys, who lived next door to him when he was growing up, was crucial. He could always hearken back to it, as well as to other associations with Jews, to retain his humanity towards the community, while disavowing Nazi propaganda that frequently depicted them as rats eating up the German nation. The most astonishing revelation of Schindler’s kindness comes from these words by Abraham Zuckerman - He recalls Oskar Schindler this way: "There were SS guards but he would say ‘Good morning’ to you. He was a chain smoker and he’d throw the cigarette on the floor after only two puffs, because he knew the workers would pick it up after him. To me he was an angel. Because of him I was treated like a human being. And because of him I survived.”

(Schindler's factory at Krakow in 2006)

In total Oskar Schindler saved almost 1,100 Jews. All of them been proudly addressed as Schindler’s Jews till date. This act of humanity would never have been realized without Itzhak Stern, his accountant. Always a ledger of survival for the affected Jewish people. Itzhak Stern died in Israel in 1969. In the films “Schindler’s List” there is a particular scene where Itzhak realizes that Schindler actually was paying for all these Jews whom he was freeing, I don’t know what was the feeling that was portrayed by Ben Kingsley. But I believe it was the most well made scenes in the film. There was this particular incident when 300 women, all Schindler Jews, were deported in cattle cars to certain death in Auschwitz, among them Marianne, now Manci Rosner. Oskar Schindler got them released - the only shipment out of Auschwitz. When the women returned, Schindler met them in the courtyard. Surrounded by SS guards he gave them an unforgettable guarantee: “Now you are finally with me, you are safe now. Don’t be afraid of anything.” Manci Rosner says:” I am so thankful to Oskar Schindler. We never would have survived it.” Schindler could have left them to their fate (but then he won’t be Mr.Schindler isn’t it) he took it as a mission to save as much as possible and to look upon everyone he knows as a human being.

Sometimes seeing all the unjust, cruelty and hatred in the world, I tend to lose my belief in humanity. But then you meet people like Oskar Schindler that belief just holds on. We celebrate the Birthday of all the great people in this world, but when will we celebrate Oskar Schindler’s? His life has to be celebrated as he looked as mortal as us and as immortal as a Christ or a Gandhi or a Buddha.

I am giving some references about Schindler’s Jews below in the end I have given a link to entire Schindler’s List.

(Schindler's factory at Brněnec in 2004)

Kuba and Helen Beck, No. 18 and No. 611 on Schindler's List - both were torn from their families as teenagers and sent to the Plazow concentration camp. In 1944, Helen was among 300 women routed to Auschwitz. She miraculously was rescued by Schindler. Only after the war, as she searched for her family, did she learn that she had lost six of her nine siblings, along with her parents.

Rena Ferber - today Rena Finder - was only 10 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. She later wrote: "I would not be alive today if it wasn`t for Oscar Schindler, my Mother survived and so did my grandfather. It's a tragedy that Oscar Schindler died young before the world could aknowledge his heroism. His country men considered him a traitor, to us he was our God, our Father, our protector."

Bronia Gunz was saved by Oscar Schindler. She remembers how Schindler told the prisoners to dig graves to deceive the Nazis. But he assured them he could save them and then he disappeared for days. "We were digging the graves and thinking: This is the end" Gunz says. Then Schindler returned. "One day this beautiful, gorgeous man shows up with a piece of paper, and he says: Saved, no digging anymore. He was for us like God ... "

Amon Goeth`s maid Helena Hirsch was saved by Oscar Schindler from a life of terror and humiliation and the certain death in the Auschwitz death camp - he outwitted the commandant of Plazow Goeth and "won" her in a card game. Today she lives in Israel.

Leib Lejzon - today Leon Leyson - says he was 'just a skinny kid' during World War II. But Oscar Schindler developed a fondness for him, nicknaming him "Little Leyson" and showing him many kindnesses: extra soup and bread; and when his vision began to blur from the factory work, he was excused from the night shift. The most important act was putting him on the final list. His two eldest brothers did not survive the war, but he, his parents and brother and sister were saved by Oscar Schindler.

Wiktor Lezerkiewicz - now Victor Lewis - was put on Schindler`s List on page 2, No. 108. He considers it a miracle - he was electrician in Oscar Schindler`s factory, though he knew absolutely nothing about the trade ... He emigrated to USA in 1949.

Edith Wertheim, then Etka Liebgold, recalls how 300 Schindler women were interned at Auschwitz:"One night they took us to the gas chamber. We were waiting the whole night - in the morning we found out: Schindler is here!" He had come to rescue them , bribing the Nazis to retrieve the women on his list and bring them back. Years later Oscar Schindler attended her wedding .

Stella Muller, today Stella Müller-Madej, owes her life to Schindler's list. She was 14 but registered as being 2 years older and as a metal worker - all so she could survive as essential for the war industry. Both she and her parents would not have survived World War II without it. Aided by notes, diaries and a vivid memory, she managed to capture her recollections of the wartime period in a book: Through the Eyes of a Child, which has been published in eight countries. The book deserves a place next to Anne Frank's Diary.

Puntierer - Murray Pantirer - lost both his parents, two sisters and four brothers during the Holocaust. After the war he built up a great fortune as a magnate in USA. He honoured Schindler in his own special way. Every time a new town district was planned and built, at least one street was named after Schindler ... In New Jersey alone there are 21 Schindler Streets, and even a Schindler Plaza.

(Oskar Schindler's grave)

Schindler’s List : http://auschwitz.dk/Schindlerslist.htm

The departing dialogue of Oskar Schindler in the movie Schindler’s List

Oscar Schindler: I could've got more ... I could've got more, if I'd just ... I could've got more ...
Itzhak Stern: Oscar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Schindler: If I'd made more money ... I threw away so much money, you have no idea. If I'd just ...
Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Schindler: I didn't do enough.
Stern: You did so much.

Schindler: This car. Goeth would've bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people, right there. Ten people, ten more people ... This pin, two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would've given me two for it. At least one. He would've given me one. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could've gotten one more person and I didn't. I didn`t ....."





Monday, March 26, 2007

Justice For Manjunath and Future of India


In a landmark judgment, the Lakhimpur Kheri Sessions Court on Monday awarded death sentence to Pawan Kumar, alias Monu Mittal, in the Manjunath Shanmugham murder case. The seven others have been sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to murder. On Friday, District and Sessions Judge S M A Abidi had pronounced the eight accused as guilty under different sections of the IPC. Manjunath was working as a sales officer with the Indian Oil Corporation when he was shot dead in November 19, 2005. The Indian oil corporation's sales manager had challenged Mittal about the fuel adulteration at his pump and was about to fine him. That was when Mittal and his colleagues shot Manjunath and then hid his body."Justice has been delivered. This is what we had hoped for," said I B Singh, Lawyer, Manjunath Shanmugam Trust.

Manjunath was murdered on 19 of November, 2005 for sticking to his principles. His shock death send cripples across the country. The entire IIML alumni stood up to fight for him. If it was not for the dedication of these Gentlemen, Manjunath's case would have been another example for the inability of our justice department. Today morning one of his friend and the main person behind the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust, Mr. Akhil Krishna was online in radio City. I was surprised to hear that they made it sure either one of them will be present in the court on every hearing. Lakhimpur Kheri , is about 135 km from Lucknow and to make sure that one of them were present in the court does take some inspiration. When Mr. Krishna was asked about what inspired him and his friend to take up such a fight - the obvious answer came "The Man Called Macha - Manjunath Shanmugam". When I heard about it for the first time, my initial reaction was " Ok, they did for their friend, even i would have done it". But thinking, saying and dreaming is one thing and doing it is different. If it was not for them and their efforts, Manjunath's death would have remained one of this country's most shameful events.

The response to his death and the fight for justice from all over the country, reminds us of the fact that we all crave for heroes like him. It was the unanimous solidarity by his Friends, Media and the People of this country, which made sure that his sacrifice will not be gone unnoticed. His friends set up a Trust in his memory - "The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust". They are planning to fight for justice for all the citizen of this country who are fighting against corruption or similar causes. They have set up a "Right To Information Act Helpline" for assistance for general public about the RTI act. The helpline number is 9250400100. They have also instated "The Manjunath Shanmugam Integrity Award" and the first recipient was Prof. R.P Singh, Vice-Chancellor, Lucknow University, for his courageous work in implementing Lyngdoh Committee recommendations and cleaning up Lucknow University, taking on the might of the entire state assembly.

The most aspiring fact of this trial is that the entire process was completed in 9 months time, which might be a Indian justice department record on its own. But there is some fallout if we look carefully into the matter. The entire trial was done properly because of the media and public pressure on this case. If you look at the two landmark judgments in recent time - "The Jessica Lal Murder Case" and "The Manjunath Shanmugam Case", both these case were pursued by the public and the media - more importantly the electronic media intervention made it a success. But is this a good trend. The electronic media tends to serve a very selected class of audience, because of that almost all the issues that are raised are concerned with that class of people. This has the fallout of that the "The Justice will only be served to the Privileged" or the poor of this country will not benefit from the new age activism that is sweeping the country. Now come the million dollar question "What is the solution for this problem?", the answer again is obvious - "The system needs to change", but how? In my humble opinion, we have to make the Law and Justice department accountable for what they are doing. Accountability will bring great change in the way official of these two departments work. Think about this if there is a provision to prosecute a Police officer for neglecting his duty (thereby helping the culprit) the corruption in these two departments will come down. For example - In the Jessica Lal murder trial, in the recent judgment the court observe its surprise that the lower court actually acquitted the culprit even though there was ample evidence to prosecute him. If the Judge was accountable for the Judgments he make, this would have never happen. Now the biggest question "How will we bring this accountability to these departments?" The answer is I have no idea, in this I am as clueless as those who are reading this article. Here is where we can have a discussion about. You are free to suggest your ideas in the comment box.

Always remember treating a disease is expensive, but preventing the disease is Wisdom. Let Manjunath's soul give us the will to fight to make this country a better place to live. Signing of with this song.....

Someday we gonna rise up on that wind you know
Someday we gonna dance with those lions
Someday we gonna break free from these chains and keep on
flyin



Monday, March 5, 2007

Polar Bear and Climate Change

Many organization and many individuals have been in the forefront of many battles won and lost in the history. But not in our so called illustrious history an animal has been in the forefront of a struggle. A struggle in which it is unknowingly dragged into, A struggle that will define its existence. The photo provided below taken by Dan Crosbie have sent cripples all over the world.

The picture looks like a Mother and cub resting in the top of a ice sculpture done by waves have sent cripples all over the world. Let me remind you that Polar Bear are extremely decent swimmers. But yet they may be in sight of being endangered. What makes them so attractive is the their cute and innocent face, which make them so lovable compared to their bear brothers.
Anything that is cute and innocent we humans have more affection to it. The traditional threats to the polar bear - hunting, toxic waste, offshore drilling - have been overshadowed by a new one: the ice around them is melting, and we are to blame.At the end of December, the US Secretary of the Interior revealed the US Fish and Wildlife Service was considering adding the polar bear to its list of threatened species.This is a more significant addition to the at-risk list than a rare gazelle or panther: it is an admission, after years of denial, of the existence of global warming. Every country in this world is coming to a point where they have to admit the existence of Global Warming and take necessary steps to reverse it. Otherwise may be in the far future we will have ourselves being listed in the endangered species. Some days before I was watching the construction of the famous Ice Hotel in the National Geographic Channel. Usually the construction of the Hotel will begin in beginning of November and end by end of December. Not the last time, it started after a delay of 3 weeks - because the outside climate was too warm for the construction of Hotel. The construction of Ice Hotel should not have any significance in common man's life but the shifting of the winter by 3 weeks surely going to have significant effect.
The impact of the melting ice on polar bear become more severe in coming years. Earlier melting of spring ice and the later formation of autumn ice has an immediate impact on their ability to feed. In some areas there is evidence that sea ice breaks up three weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago.More young cubs are found dead each year; adults have lost weight, from an average of 650lb in 1980 to 507lb in 2004; there have been instances of cannibalism; and in western Hudson Bay the polar bear population decreased from 1,200 in the mid-Nineties to less than 1,000 in 2004. There are thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears in the world, and all but one member of the PBSG(Polar Bear Specialist Group) believe global warming poses a critical threat to their long-term survival. The exception, quoted by contrarian writers, is Dr Mitchell Taylor from the Government of Nunavut, who remains sceptical about the climate modelling projections and their impact. 'I'm not sure I understand his logic,' Stirling says. 'However, at the last meeting of the IUCN PBSG in Seattle in June 2005 the group [including Dr Taylor] unanimously agreed to classify the polar bear as vulnerable.'
If we don't add quickly these cute and innocent looking creature will become a thing of past. These big creatures who was adopted by Coca Cola to spearhead their Cola campaign will become a very distant memory.The Cola Bear reinforced the notion that Coke was best served ice-cold, and it was a drink that spread the love: the bears, who made deep and reassuring guttural noises and never had seal blood on their fur, were represented in family groups playing with penguins and admiring the Aurora Borealis. There was no cuter or more deceptively cuddly anthropomorphism on the tundra - the little ones even wore red scarves - and merchandise followed; keyrings, soft toys, pencil toppers, now quite big on eBay. The only downside for the polar bears was they didn't own their image rights.

Written using Guardian Article as a reference.
Link :
Living on thin ice