Saturday, October 18, 2008

Congratulations Ganguly.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Good Ol Times Are Back in Bengal

My profound apologies to my nonexistent international readers. I could not resist commenting on this Singur-Tata-Mamata drama.

When I was growing up, this same bunch of people, who has been in power for an eternity in Bengal, opposed computers in particular and industrialization in general. They called it the US conspiracy to rob the youth of their jobs. We listened. After all, anything going wrong in Bengal was the fault of the imperialist Americans, when the central government could not be blamed. Again we listened. It felt slightly cliched when they supported the central government but still blamed them for all the ills. But then again, we were so used to it by then, we still listened. And of course the big bad Americans were sitting right there, staring at us, sniffing at every opportunity to harm the hard working Bengalis.

So how did they keep all these enemies away? By sheer people power, of course. Any thing you do not like, assemble a mob, pelt stones at random directions, set something totally unconnected on fire and block traffic for hours. It obviously worked, since the idea gained ground. Soon, we were swamped with gifted holidays (read strikes) and a chance to play cricket on the main thoroughfares of the cities. One has to notice how cricketing fortunes of Bengal improved from then on. The police never tried to stop any protesters (unless they were from opposition parties, who by definition were anti-people and pro-American) - and anybody even thinking about defying them, willingly or by some compulsion, met with violent consequences. All was well. How I miss those peaceful times.

Now this poor lady. She is only trying to learn from history. Only way to connect to the people of our state is evidently to cause chaos and disruption, and oppose industries grabbing land. And now, no wonder, she is being blamed as a part of a bigger conspiracy by Americans.

I do not know much about the exact details of the land acquisition process and fairness of the compensation. I do not know if it was good agricultural land.

But sitting in the land where Americans are still a majority, I do know this. Americans care a damn about whats happening in there. And I have a sneaky feeling they never did.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Tale of Walls

From the dusty grounds surrounded by the crumbling walls at the erstwhile Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, to a city still trying to come in terms to the fact that the wall is not there - my one day visit to Berlin was indeed exploring what those walls meant to the psyche of an entire generation of people.

Someone at Hamburg told me, by heart Germans are Communists. I am not sure if I agree with him, but Berlin is the closest I have been to a former Soviet territory. Today, all the symbols of a booming capitalist system are jostling for space with countless memorials and leftover nostalgia from the pre-unification days - and somehow I felt that robs Berlin from having a distinct character as a city. The wall is very much alive in the collective consciousness, from thousands of pieces (or so claimed) of it sold in every other souvenir shop, to "follow the wall" tours designed for history-thirsty tourists. It would probably take a while for the wall that is not there to become truly history, and before that Berlin would still be defined by that. The most popular landmark is the Brandenburg Gate, followed by a free climb upto the dome of the former Reichstag, from where again, you can see the Brandenburg Gate in all its glory and trace the path of the wall - going through the strangely constructed but eerily calm holocaust memorial at the heart of the city, all the way to Checkpoint Charlie, with people comically dressed up as commies putting commemorative stamps on your passport (for a few Euros, of course).

There is also this huge green patch at the middle of the city, somewhat of a New York city central park. I did not get enough time to explore all the churches and museums, some impressive looking, some not so. But where I did get a chance to go to was this concentration camp an hour away from the city. It was not as big or notorious as Auschwitz, but to see the barren grounds surrounded by high walls interspersed with watchtowers, houses with no windows, divided in how-can-those-be-called-rooms and the weirdly emotionless execution pit, the horrors of those days do seem up, close and personal.

The photos are, as always in my picasaweb album. I also had a chance to explore Hamburg, which is a nice harbor city, and Lubeck, which has a unique skyline with old churches and the castle-like entrance, and famous for Marzipans!

Germany - 2008