Showing posts from July, 2008

Ms Uninterrupted

Outlook correspondent Seema Sirohi writes on the large number of Indian women heading diplomatic missions abroad. New York, Germany, China and Ghana to name a few.

Women in the Indian Foreign Service have decidedly broken through the glass door of paternalism and protection, shattering one of the last remaining outposts of male exclusivity to become India's ambassadors in capitals so far considered too important, too tough or too dangerous for them. From Beijing to Berlin, from Beirut to Doha, women are flying the Indian flag, facing challenges of war and staring down rivals at the negotiating table. The sari no longer means having to say sorry to difficult assignments.

Women are heading 26 Indian missions and consulates around the world—an impressively large number that includes the hitherto forbidden Arab world where even the West rarely sends women diplomats. Today, Nengcha Lhouvum is India's ambassador to Lebanon where she has seen bombs explode from her balcony (see Bullet…

Estelle Parsons

See here for this amazing 80 year old!!


A Turkish soap opera is being enjoyed in Gaza and throughout the Middle East.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Every evening for the past four months, a tall young man with soulful blue eyes has been stealing hearts across the Middle East, from the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip to the gated mansions of Riyadh.

But it's not just the striking good looks of Mohannad, hero of the hugely popular Turkish TV soap "Noor," that appeal to female viewers. He's romantic, attentive to his wife, Noor, supportive of her independence and ambitions as a fashion designer - in short, a rare gem for women in conservative, male-dominated surroundings.

"Noor" delivers an idealized portrayal of modern married life as equal partnership - clashing with the norms of traditional Middle Eastern societies where elders often have the final word on whom a woman should marry and many are still confined to the role of wife and mother.

Some Muslim preachers in the West Bank and Saudi Arabia have t…

Bomb Blasts in Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad

NYT reports the bomb blasts that are putting India on the edge. How fearful must it be, when the bombs go off at a trauma center and the emergency room, that is treating patients that have just been injured by bomb blasts. NDTV had a good analysis on WE The People and everyone seemed grateful and thankful that we did not have to see Godhra situation occurring again.

And, in the most recent attack, 17 back-to-back explosions struck shoppers and strollers on Saturday evening in Ahmedabad in western India, and then two blasts hit the very hospitals where the wounded and their relatives rushed for help, killing 49 people and wounding more than 200.

The targets seem to have nothing in common except that they are ordinary places that are easy to strike. In a country long familiar with sharply focused violence — whether sectarian or fueled by insurgencies in Kashmir in the 1990s — the impersonal nature of the latest violence is new and deeply unsettling.

Officials have said the attacks are att…

Shashi Deshpande

The Hindu literary section has a wonderful interview with Indian author Shashi Deshpande, about her new novel, Country of Deceit.

With eight novels, six collections of short stories, four children’s books, essays and translations from Kannada and Marathi into English, you are one of the few Indian writers in English with a corpus of work, and one who has successfully handled different forms. You have explored conventional feminist themes, as in your Sahitya Akademi Award winning novel That Long Silence as well as broader human concerns through your male protagonists, such as Gopal in A Matter of Time and Baba in Moving On. Tell us something about your forthcoming novel. Where does it stand in the context of your work and your concerns?

Each new novel comes as a surprise — one never knows what’s coming and where it’s coming from. This novel, In the Country of Deceit, has been a surprise for two other reasons. One is the character who brought it into being. Generally, once a novel is don…

The Briefing

Outlook posts Arundhati Roy's latest writting.

My greetings. I'm sorry I'm not here with you today but perhaps it's just as well. In times such as these, it's best not to reveal ourselves completely, not even to each other.

If you step over the line and into the circle, you may be able to hear better. Mind the chalk on your shoes.

I know many of you have travelled great distances to be here. Have you seen all there is to see? The pillbox batteries, the ovens, the ammunition depots with cavity floors? Did you visit the workers' mass grave? Have you studied the plans carefully? Would you say that it's beautiful, this fort? They say it sits astride the mountains like a defiant lion.

Even though this fort has never been attacked, think of how its creators must have lived the idea of being attacked, waited for it. Is this what this fort is...a testament to trepidation?

I confess I've never seen it. The guidebook says it

wasn't built for beauty. But beaut…

Daughters of Wisdom

I saw this wonderful movie recently about Buddhist nuns in Nangchen, a region in the isolated Kham area of Tibet. The women were praying, taking care of their Yaks and living a contented life, away from the misery and suffering of Sansara. The sounds of laughter and echoes of women's voices in the monastery were lovely.

For centuries, the women of rural Tibet have been relegated to subservient roles. Regarded as capable of little more than churning butter, bearing children and saying prayers, they have lived servile lives without access to education or the time to practice Buddhism to the same degree as men. In Daughters of Wisdom, the filmmaker creates a vivid, intimate portrait of the lives of these women, and witnesses their culture, a culture on the verge of positive social change realized through education and religious cultivation.

This from here.

Omar Abdullah

The U.P.A. Government had a vote of confidence in Parliament yesterday. Omar gave a rousing and strong speech. Listen to it and watch at the same time M.P.'s popping money out of their bags. A lot of commotion all around..

Here is the transcript.

'I Am A Muslim And I Am An Indian...'
'I see no distinction between the two. I see no reason why I, as a Muslim, have to fear a deal between India and the United States of America (USA)...' The speech that stood out -- it was short, but it was straight from the heart, packing its punches for maximum impact

Omar Abdullah

I think that it is a matter of great misfortune for parties like mine...I do not know whether the Rs one crore that was shown here is genuine or not. But I think that it is extremely unfortunate that if nothing else this Rs one crore is seeking to buy the silence of parties like mine who are not being given an opportunity to speak in a correct manner in this House

I have been a Member of this House for 10 ye…

Galapagos Ecuador Penguin


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson talks about Melas in London and describes his dancing at my wedding in Delhi. Watch the video, its quite funny the lightbulb lightbulb, motorbike motorbike description of Bhangra.

UK: London Mayor Boris Johnson "Struts His Funky Stuff"
Last week, London's new Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson made a pitch in support of the upcoming London Mela, a major festival celebrating British Asian arts and culture that some have called the "Asian Glastonbury." Speaking at the press launch for the festival, which will be held in early August, Johnson urged Londoners to "get on down" to the festival and "strut [their] funky stuff." He acknowledged that he had merely a "passing" acquaintance with bhangra and reminisced about his effort to learn some moves at a cousin's wedding in Delhi:

I was told you had to do "lightbulb lightbulb, motorbike motorbike." I practiced a great deal, and I had my kurta pajama, and my…


mistaken (by vikram seth)

i smiled at you because i thought that you
were someone else; you smiled back; and there grew
between two strangers in a library
something that seemed like love; but you loved me
(if that's the word) because you thought that i
was other than i was. and by and by
we found we'd been mistaken all the while
from that first glance, that first mistaken smile.

Fosamax users BEWARE

NYT is reporting how people on Fosamax for 6 years or more are suffering more bone fractures.

Drugs to Build Bones May Weaken Them
Published: July 15, 2008
New questions have emerged about whether long-term use of bone-building drugs for osteoporosis may actually lead to weaker bones in a small number of people who use them.

The concern rises mainly from a series of case reports showing a rare type of leg fracture that shears straight across the upper thighbone after little or no trauma. Fractures in this sturdy part of the bone typically result from car accidents, or in the elderly and frail. But the case reports show the unusual fracture pattern in people who have used bone-building drugs called bisphosphonates for five years or more.

Some patients have reported that after weeks or months of unexplained aching, their thighbones simply snapped while they were walking or standing.

“Many of these women will tell you they thought the bone broke before th…

in contemplation


Teach India

Times of India discusses special programs and inclusion for Learning Disabled Kids in India.

Aranya is eight and in her drawings, elephants can fly. She enjoys art and has a vivid imagination, but when it comes to her studies, she struggles with writing and concentration.

Aranya is suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a neuro-behavioural developmental disorder. The condition manifests itself during childhood and is characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention, forgetfulness, poor impulse control and distraction.

Often children like Aranya are labelled 'lazy' or 'dumb' although they are neither. "My daughter is very creative. She loves painting animals and working with clay. All she needs is a little more time to grasp her lessons. It is unfortunate that in the pursuit of high scores the power of the imagination is under-estimated," says Aranya's mother.

Every child is unique and has his/her own needs. While some need more…

The New Yorker Cover

The New Yorker cover is creating quite a stir. It would be a pity if the right wingers would benefit from it. The cover creates caricatures of Obama as Osama and Michelle as a black panther, both ideas created by the Conservative media and politicians in this country. Alternet reacts to the cover negatively.

The Bad Frame: Why Are the New Yorker, Salon and Other Liberal Media Doing the Right's Dirty Work?

By Don Hazen, AlterNet. Posted July 14, 2008.

This week's New Yorker cover image of the Obamas is shocking in the racism and gross stereotyping that is built into its supposed satire. Tools

The New Yorker magazine hits the news stands today with a shocking cover -- a caricature of Barack and Michelle Obama depicting the presidential candidate in a turban, fist-bumping his wife who has a machine gun slung over her shoulder, while the American flag burns in the fireplace. The cover is shocking in that it depicts the Obamas in bizarre caricatured images and associations which reflec…

Ingrid Betancourt

Buddha Diaries writes about recently released French Columbian politician Ingrid Betancourt and her Buddhist wisdom. She seems incredibly serene inspite of her torture and captivity for 6 years in a Columbian jungle camp.

... there is no room for hate." So says Ingrid Betancourt, out of the wisdom of her six years of captivity in Columbian jungle camps by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. "You have to pardon," she continues. I think that's the key of everything. We're human beings. We think different, we act different, but we are human beings."

I watched the few moments of her interview with NBC's Ann Curry that their morning show could spare, and was glad indeed to encounter her humanity. She spoke of the necessity for compassion not out of some philosophical belief, but out of a heart and body exposed to worst a human being might have to experience; extending it not only to those she loves, but to her captors, imprisoners, and torturers. There…

Fair and Lovely

Saja describes the Indian obsession with fairness and the beauty products and advertisements that come with it.

ADVERTISING: India's "White Beauty" ads and the fair skin fixation
According to The Independent, women's activists in India are upset about a television ad campaign pushing Pond's "White Beauty" cream. The advertisements, in the form of a multi-episode "miniseries," featuring Bollywood stars, has Saif Ali Khan choosing Neha Dhupia over the "dusky" Priyanka Chopra, who inevitably places her hopes for love in the cream's transformative power. The spot ends with a tantalizing offer: "pale white or pinkish white; you choose."

While the spot is laughably ridiculous, it's also racist, and a testament to the rampant hysterical colorism in South Asia (and amongst South Asians in the diaspora). One wishes the cultural confidence that economic power has afforded India would also help undo our colonially inspired fixati…

Ashrama Dharma in the Vedic tradition

Lecture by Dheera Chaitanya

Each society has its own idea of how people should live and interact with each other and live with others. In the Vedic Tradition this idea is also present. It is to maintain a certain degree of harmony. Is this topic still relevant? We are more modern now. Things evolve. Knowledge keeps growing.
But when it comes to do with oneself. How much has changed since 1000’s of years ago.

Valmiki wrote the Ramayan. He asked Narada who strides many worlds, is there a person who has gunas like right and wrong, is strong is a dharmagyani. Who is able to translate knowledge into actions? He is Satyavan. He is a man of resolve. People like to relate to him. People do not like to deal with people who are pains. He is not a victim of his own emotions. Someone who is non reactive, has conquered his anger and envy. All these qualities put together a person.

The positive qualities in a person have not changed so the age old Dharma Shastras are still relevant. Dharma Shastra is…

An Ideal Husband!

Maureen Dowd writes on the wisdom that a priest imparts to young women contemplating marriage.

This weekend, we celebrate our great American pastime: messy celebrity divorces.

There’s the Christie Brinkley/Peter Cook fireworks on Long Island and the Madonna/Guy Ritchie/A-Rod Roman candle in New York.

So how do you avoid a relationship where you end up saying, “The man who I was living with, I just didn’t know who he was” — as Brinkley did in court when talking about her husband’s $3,000-a-month Internet porn and swinger site habit? (Not to mention the 18-year-old mistress/assistant.)

Father Pat Connor, a 79-year-old Catholic priest born in Australia and based in Bordentown, N.J., has spent his celibate life — including nine years as a missionary in India — mulling connubial bliss. His decades of marriage counseling led him to distill some “mostly common sense” advice about how to dodge mates who would maul your happiness.

“Hollywood says you can be deeply in love with someone and then your…

Dara Torres

NYT writes on the amazing Dara Torres.

And with that, Torres grabbed her workout sheet, stuck it to the side of the pool and got down to business. The mood at practice was calm, and as Torres warmed up, her lean frame stretched out among the 16 other spectacular bodies, it was easy to forget that before last year nobody believed that a 41-year-old mother of a toddler, coming off a six-year hiatus, could swim this fast.

According to her coach, Michael Lohberg, Torres should feel less pressure than his other, younger swimmers. “What’s the worst thing that can happen to her?” he asks. “She goes home to her daughter and her partner. Her whole sense of self-worth doesn’t come down to tenths and hundredths of seconds in a pool.” But Torres doesn’t necessarily agree with that opinion. She takes seriously her new role: hero of the middle-aged. About an hour into the morning’s workout, all the swimmers gathered in the center of the pool for a much-loathed drill, vertical kicking. The task at ha…

Tariq Ramadan

Hindustan Times reports Tariq Ramadan's talk at the IIC in Delhi recently.

Forty-five-year-old Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University, is part-intellectual, part-reformist, part-controversial, but a full-on fundamentalist. “A fundamentalist,” he asks, “is one who relies on the fundamentals of what he believes in. So what’s wrong?” And fundamentalism — whenever it has come to mean something untenable — is not an Islamic concept at all, he argues, but a Protestant one.

So, just who is Ramadan and why is he as much liked as hated? He is a Swiss citizen of Egyptian origin residing in Britain, and who the Time magazine has named as one among “the 100 most important innovators of the 21st century”. His grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founded the fiercely anti-West Muslim Brotherhood, who many say sowed the seeds of the al-Qaeda. This, however, he denies.

Ramadan shot into limelight in 2003

after a fiery debate on national television with far-right French interior …