Posted in Political, Women & Family

Pro Choice Vs Pro Life.

Pro Choice Vs. Pro Life, an Indian perspective

The raging debate in the US right now is on women’s rights on abortion. Its a very sensitive issue there where teenage pregnancies are not rare. And equally common are broken families, adoption, foster homes. The legislation expected could have political, social, economic ramifications. I never expected any nation to be so much alive and politically-socially conscious as the US, although I have been increasingly aware how mature and literate the American population generally is. And I am also surprised how the country is divided on opinion. Well balanced. I guess America has come of age. I respect the way they dissect a bill before it becomes a legal statute. The pro-life – pro-choice arguments are heated, and for reasons justifiable. How the population engages in healthy discussions and present counter arguments is interesting. There are campaigns, rallies educating masses and gathering support. Before the motion is brought to the floor of the house, the finer aspects are contemplated and analyzed logically in great detail leaving no room for misgivings. Witnessing the democratic way the entire construct is executed building momentum showed me how every voter’s or citizen’s right counts in democracy. I wish India is as mature, and not just the world’s largest democracy. We have to move things from grassroots level and our masses need to be well informed and opinionated. In coming months we shall come to know what will be the law of the land, but as of now the pros and cons are doing the rounds in the States.

I may be an outsider, but my family is American so it concerns me as much. I was not vocal on the matter during my recent visit to the US because, women there are extremely sensitive when it comes to women’s rights and issues especially when it comes to something as personal as women’s body. Precisely this is why I am Pro-Choice.

a question of quality vs quantity. don’t our unborn children have a right to dignity. https://vijiravindran.com/2019/03/30/when-law-needs-to-take-a-walk-medical-termination-of-pregnancy-after-20-weeks/

As a grandmother, as a mother, there is a lot I have seen in my life than the younger women of today who are raising banners for Pro-Life. They in all probability have no clue what they are talking about. How many of these women in twenties or thirties or still in teens will have the patience or mental strength to raise a spastic child or a Down’s syndrome baby whose birth could have been prevented. Leave alone the medical bills to foot. India has such Draconian laws that do not allow women to go in for Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) when the foetus is twenty weeks. I have known a case when the ultrasound scan and other medical test reports showed anomalies in the second semester when the pregnant mother was forced to carry on with her term against her wishes, expecting the birth of an abnormal child. The couple have been raising a boy physically and mentally handicapped since his birth and now he is eight years strapped to his baby cot, fed through tubes. How many women who shout slogans arguing for pro-life will have the devotion, courage, financial backbone and/or strong heart and mind to go through what these young parents are undergoing. Their happy life as they knew it long since vanished with one scan report years back. A simple MTP could have done everyone good. Only, the detection came a couple of weeks later. Laws that are outdated need repealing. In this scenario, I do wonder how mature societies like the US can actually go on and frame constricting laws that can do more damage than bring in welfare to the society.

The religious perspective adds fuel to the fire as we can see. The Catholic church is not for termination of pregnancies.

What about teen pregnancies. Illegal pregnancies appear to be rampant in the US in underage women which can be constituted as ‘rape’ (as in any other country). How can any legal statute try to legitimize the birth of a baby born out of such unholy nexus. How can any law enforcement agency reserve the right to deny these victims their fundamental right to abort what they do not want or deserve. How many babies are abandoned in the trash can every year? How many end up in foster care? Is this what the state wants for our unfortunate unborn children and their poor unlucky mothers.

It is not just the US, it is high time even India revisits the law governing MTPs. If abortions cannot happen for valid medical reasons on completion of twenty weeks of pregnancy, then the screenings for anomalies at any stage is pointless. Quality of life is worth considering than quantity of life. These were media reports stating that government was considering allowing legal abortions until 24 weeks although there is no update on the issue. There is always misuse in some quarters but this is a small collateral considering the larger benefit on anvil. Govt of India can weigh allowing MTP upto 24 weeks consulting a medical bench when the mother’s life may not be endangered. Asking for sex of the foetus is illegal in India punishable with a sentence. This is to prevent gender-based crimes in the garb of MTPs. It seems to be serving the purpose.

Posted in Political

What’s happening in our neighbourhood.

at this moment my thoughts and prayers are with Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s Karma: Imagine rendering homeless millions of Tamils, destroying their livelihood, killing entire family trees, dividing families, disabling/maiming the population, striking down their homes, systematically ethnic cleansing … how many thousands had to flee this tiny island country for safer havens. Here is an open secret: only Tamils will work, the lazy Sinhalese never can! You remove the Tamils, Sri Lankan economy collapse cannot be prevented. What an enterprising community is the Tamil population. Knowledge factory. Cultural ambassadors. Disciplined and hardworking. Balancing factor. Backbone of the Sri Lankan economy. An intelligent nation will capitalize the Tamil potential to full advantage. They are such a support system. A state of emergency has been declared in Sri Lanka. Humanity is suffering. My heart goes out to the aam aadmi in the elephant country. Prayers for the Tamil Sinhalese communities to stay united and come out of this crisis in better shape. With love from India.

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Horrendous stories coming out of Sri Lanka. So near, yet so far. No I haven’t yet set foot in the island nation – i mean barring a dozen times I switched flights there whenever I flew Sri Lankan Airlines. So my foray into the country is limited to mere Colombo airport. No power, food prices soaring thousands of times higher, essential provisions and groceries no more affordable, school final examinations postponed for lack of stationary among other reasons, no oil and gas, no transport, no medical service, public utilities shut down, etc., etc. What about the Sri Lankan currency. Rajapakse – the one man to blame, sold Sri Lanka to China and even we in India are surprised, this doomsday has arrived a bit too early than expected. Common man is suffering. The issue is, when as a Thamizh I write on Sri Lanka, I could be suspected of not being neutral. I have no prejudice in the matter really. We in Tamil Nadu resented the thoughtless Rajiv Gandhi assassination, but except for handful of plotters, rest of the island Tamils had no connection with it all. The massive ethnic cleansing of Tamils that took place has shaken us totally because, we are right here separated by a strip of sea watching helplessly what is going on there. The remaining few Tamils are not happy. They are hit the hardest. To thwart India, Rajapakse played right into the hands of China. India is the big brother. May be bossy, but will NEVER HARM the SAARC countries, as simple as that. For this majority Hindu nation, Akaand Bharat comprised of the Saarc countries even if they have fallen apart from us over time. We still hold a moral responsibility toward these nations. Sri Lankan nightmare started with Hambantota port that is now entirely Chinese owned. Too late for the country to make amends. I have never and will never support extremist organizations. Still the way the slain Tamil leader’s young son was shot at point blank by the Sri Lankan army has a lot to say on human rights violation in the country. The boy was mere 7 years of age. To offset India, Sri Lanka joined hands with Pakistan and China. It is China that is most nefarious. The debt trap for Sri Lanka was so very carefully laid. It will be mammoth task to undo it. Can India step in: Where Chinese presence is there, India will move with caution and patience. Guess, India is already helping. Now in times of crises like these, the Sinhalese will realize how blood is thicker than water. With India, the Sri Lankans whether Sinhalese or the Tamils, have the historic umbilical cord connection that cannot be severed for eternity. We are culturally bonded, racially the same. What is Hindu Dharma without Ravana’s Sri Lanka. Where is China in all this.

Sri Lanka must be a warning to other SAARC countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Bhutan on perils of getting entangled with China. Pakistan can forget Gwadar and the tract leading to the port city. Their own citizens must be personas-no-grata already in the region! Pakistan will see debt rising very soon and currency becoming worthless.

https://www.livemint.com/industry/energy/in-a-first-coal-india-sends-fuel-to-bangladesh-power-plant-11625477768944.html

Nepal is the other jealous neighbour we have. The Himalayan kingdom landlocked with access only from India and China will learn a lesson like Sri Lanka in near future. Nepal still has the time to climb out of the debt trap. Bangladesh too. Bangladesh is not yet however that much committed to China, because Bangladesh trusts India basically and that could be a life saver for the Bengalis. Maldives is also courting China and will be facing consequences far sooner than we may expect. Bhutan is generally India-friendly. We will have to wait and watch.

The current Sri Lankan scenario must be ringing the alarm bells already in Saarc capitals.

As for Pakistan, Imran Khan is still a man I respect even if he has made a complete fool of himself over time. He is clearly unfit, incompetent, and is not cut out for politics. He did handle things bad perhaps. From India vantage point it suits us!!! But he has been verbal against India (in UN etc.,) (except for in very recent times). All that cannot negate what he did for his country as a gentleman cricketer: from founding their first ever cancer hospital. I understand it is a super. I was a great fan of his and my husband is still his huge fan. He recalls the day he watched Imran bowl in Chepauk cricket ground in good old Madras as a spectator in the crowd. The masses erupted and applauded for the wickets he took not for the India batting he says. Of course politics is a different ball game altogether. But the love we feel for Imran is still there. Politics is a sewer. It must be left to dogs. Imran must have realized this by now. Hopefully he comes to no damage once he leaves office. We in India fear for his life (i mean we middle class Indians!). The alternatives to Imran Khan do not appear attractive.

Around us is this chaos. India is still sailing smooth. You open social media: you see how the communists and leftists and liberals are commenting on our PM Modi ji. However even they know, we are okay so far because the captain who is steering this big vessel called India in rough waters is Shri Narendra Modi ji. He does what is best for the country. The quantum of loans he has paid back to the international lenders like IMF! The debts he has cleared for India. How he has overhauled as much as possible the Indian economy bringing everyone under tax net. You just cannot hide – or hide with success for long – in India now. He has streamlined processes, regularized everything and has made everyone accountable. GST! This is what I love about him most. There will always be a collateral, who is denying. I know Modi ji is a tough bargainer and he gets us Indians the best deal in every front. His life is devoted to India. Enormous respects for this selfless man who lives and breathes only for Bharat Matha. Even his critics have to give him that. As a citizen of India, I feel safest and securest when India is under the tutelage of Modi ji. As an NRI I realize how better we are treated and the added respect and recognition that have come our way. Diplomacy, thy other name is Modi. How he handled the gulf crises with UAE, Saudi and my second home – only we know. Never antagonized any arab country but got them do everything for us. In this moment, I have to think about Smt Sushma Swaraj, the lion lady who personally engaged in diplomacy with the oil states.

But India’s stability to a large extent relies on the equilibrium we have in our neighbouring/SAARC countries. Their economies have to flourish for them not to disturb us! India is a very strong and reliable ally. Unfortunately we are denied an engaging role to play in each of the SAARC countries for fear of our hegemony. India can play a constructive role as we did in Afghanistan. Our work speaks for us. After the US forces left, we are still remembered. Nothing goes to waste. I can never imagine India behave like the Merchant of Venice (aka China). Sri Lanka is now waking up to this hometruth. India is willing and waiting to invest in all SAARC countries. Let us grow and prosper together!

Posted in Political

Ural country.

No, I have not been to Ukraine but I think it borders Georgia, of the erstwhile Soviet Union. From the Ural, we were shown the other side that was Ukraine. Vast, vast vestiges ran up to the distant horizons. Not many footfalls in this part of the world. Untouched mostly and unmarred by too much of human presence: this is what came to my mind as we made our way through the mountains to Gudauri ski resort. Normally you may expect the former soviets to be stiff and upright. But in total contrast, I met on the way rural Georgians who kept bees, gathering honey from floriculture and watched old row houses growing grapevines zip past in the countryside. My visits to Georgia and Azerbaijan gave me an idea of what the mighty Soviet Union must have been in some ways but disproved many other myths. One one side there were the so-called rundown block of flats but on the other were these snaking highways and gas pipelines as easily. Russian technology is different, not obsolete – at least in my opinion. I have not been to UK, but have visited the US although have covered only a fraction of the entire landmass, and I have been to a few European countries as tourist. So unlike others and in spite of all that I read in media, i have come to love the serene and calm environs of the former states of the USSR that are now republics on their own right. The engineering and technology are another level. Highway standards and automobiles are another standard but then I know that the first shuttle that flew into space was the Sputnik from the USSR. So I do have enormous respect for Russia even now. I don’t deny that communist regimes breed corruption as history has shown. More than corruption the autocratic rule is what can be truly oppressing. In Azer I even got a feeling that the public preferred being with Russia! Georgia however was different and was keen on joining the European Union at a future date. Georgians saw themselves as Europeans – a recent outlook only, even as the European governments have started flirting with George trying to establish business links. Azers felt closer to Turks and Iranis probably dictated by shared cultural ethos. Azer and Armenia have been historically at loggerheads. This is one more sensitive geographical spot so far as I can see that can blow up anytime, infused with hate and aggression. Mafia in Azer I understood was run by Russian thugs. Mafia in that entire region was under Russian control. Azers were of opinion they need Russian help to scoff at Armenia, the christian country that had tacit European backing.

In this scenario, I recall a visit from Kiev university of a professor of Economics (whose name I am unable to recall) to University of Madras. My major (in masters) was Econometrics and the year was 1990-91. He was a visiting prof who was on in the last leg of his lecture tour when he was in our campus. I guess I have blogged on this earlier but I will anyway do it again. The hindi picture ‘Brashtachaar’ was released starring Rajnikanth whose billboard he said, he happened to notice in every big city of India where he went for giving lecture. He said, when he understood that the meaning of the title was ‘corruption’ he was flabbergasted, because no way in the Russian dictionary this word existed! It was illegal and it could mean trouble. The professor was astonished at the range of merchandise and veggies and fruits that were sold across India. He said, he was taught that India was poor but the bountiful India came as a surprise to him. He felt, India was a very rich country, definitely better than USSR where the locals had to queue up even for buying bread. It was just before the soviet union came apart. Gorbachev was the president. He said, the USSR was breaking up anytime time and that he looked forward to it. I neither remember his face nor his name but the way he compared India with Russia – the gist, stays with me. He was all admiration for India. The visit was an eye opener to him. I did think of him Georgia and Azerbaijan. I realize the historic significance of his visit only in last few years. It was just the crux of time.

Since we have all read the book 1984 by George Orwell and we feed on the books fiction or nonfiction authored by writers from west steeped in capitalistic values, we also tend to underestimate the communists at the same time. To me Georgia and Azerbaijan came across as unspoilt countries, natural beauties not marred by greed and crass commercialization that plague Europe and the US. I wish both remain original to eternity. Life is tough no doubt, but it is tough for everyone, in every corner of the globe. Georgians happened to think that they have been held back from progress (read westernization), but they must know that they must count themselves lucky to have missed the bus. I hope Georgia doesn’t join the bandwagon of EU but rather stay different and outside the loop. But I agree the EU entry would open so many doors for Georgia.

Although the Russian technology is strange to us, being basically engineering men, my husband (civil & structures) and a family friend of ours (mechanical) could somewhat evaluate and compare their standards of engineering with others. They were very impressed with what they saw. Even the wine breweries and cheese I found to be the best in Georgia. Local cuisine was exotic and unlike anything continental. The entire experience for us was a novelty. Yet I was charmed by the old world laidback lifestyle of both Georgians and Azers. They could be poorer cousins of Swiss or Germany, but the peace and richness I found in these two countries was very reassuring. Churches and mosques were opened after the balkonization of the soviet union. Pristine environment. Tourists are already flocking to this part of the world as both the countries along with Ukraine, also opened their doors to the medical and engineering universities that are rated the best and could be at par with those in the US or UK. In another 10-20 years I have to admit sadly, that even these heavens will become regular thoroughfare losing their quiet magic. The precious gift they hold their citizens are not aware of. Instead they yearn for anything branded or imported from America.

I hope the professor is well and safe in Kiev. I have interest in Ukraine for this reason. All said, may peace prevail. We were only guests but the day we were leaving, our Georgian cab driver got us a bottle of red wine his wife had brewed with her owns hands and stocked in their cellar. It was well aged. That really moved me to tears. In Azer too, shook hands with very many kind rural folks. Human beings are the same everywhere.

Posted in Political

Hyundai India Controversy.

How can Hyundai India be held accountable or responsible for Hyundai Pakistan?

Following the outrage in India after Hyundai Pakistan tweeted in support of Kashmir Day, Hyundai India has issued two apologies to the nation distancing itself from the controversy. Indeed like rest of my countrymen I got carried away by the Hyundai insensitivity. But then my engineering boss (my hubby) explained to me how any two (or more) franchisees of the same multinational company based in two (or more) different countries, may have nothing to do with in common and how they are far detached, and function as two (or more) entirely different entities having been incorporated as per the local laws of the host countries. The only connection between the two different arms in India and Pakistan in this case could be the parent company who may pass on to them technology or the assembly line. In India’s case, production is undertaken in Hyundai plants and Hyundai India also has captured an export market. Hyundai India has nothing to do with Hyundai Pakistan therefore. Moreover, social media may be handled by independent agencies for the companies. Hyundai factory is in Tamil Nadu, located very close to Chennai, at Sriperumbudur. For over 25 years, Hyundai has had a quiet and steady growth in India. They procure their spare parts from small scale Indian industrialists, and they provide employment to locals. I have friends who worked for the company. They are pretty decent. Never have the south Korean expats or the company voiced an opinion on Indian politics or economics or culture as our Indian govt and media may note. Fellow Indian citizens also must take note of this crucial fact which is vital to arrive at any judgment. Hyundai Pakistan may have deliberately incited the disturbance. We Indians come out with typical kneejerk reaction for everything. Pakistan is still a banana republic whose annual GDP falls short of one day trading volume at BSE in India. Hyundai Pakistan sells a reported 8000 assembled cars a year as against 800,000 plus Hyundai sedans sold in India mostly entirely manufactured locally. This must speak about the capacity of both the companies and the economies. Hyundai HQ in Seoul must have been unaware of the developments. In truth, they may not even be aware of ground reality or political equations in the subcontinent. Hyundai India has still come out with two back-to-back apologies and that must do. In fact as I see, there is no reason for them to apologize at all. Lever India, Nestle India, Pepsi India etc., have similarly no connection to their counterparts be it in Pakistan or in another country in the world. MNCs or Companies incorporated in India are mostly public listed companies with stakes even held by retail investors. Some like Hyundai, Honda etc., may be privately held. The scene we have in India is completely different from what they have in Pakistan. However, the backlash Hyundai has received in India must be an eyeopener for global companies that want to do business with India. This is why Narendra Modi matters!

And how the floodgates opened!

Why this apology may be important: Hyundai India, KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Honda know of the ease of doing business in India as against a lawless country like Pakistan. Who is lining their pockets. Most of us NRIs do comprehend the dynamics of running-managing an MNC in different parts of the world. It is just next to impossible to do business without conflict of interests. The treading ground is treacherous. So sometimes, mistakes happen. In this case, what originated from Pakistan seems to be a well planned and coordinated INTELLIGENCE exercise, coercing the MNCs to issue statements in unison, not keeping with their policies. Very cheap stunt. Well, that has bombed in their own backyard now, so fellow Indians relax! What Pak would not have factored in must be this spontaneous Indian solidarity that made the MNCs in India buck down and issue apologies. Yet, admittedly it is a recurring practice that only Indian/Hindu sentiments are most disregarded. India is taken for granted by the MNCs who will never dare to repeat the chapter with China or Pakistan.

I opt to give the benefit of doubt to Hyundai India. I trust and keep my faith in them. Let us not judge them with one incident or rather one motor accident! They have a proven track record in India which is good. The Indian market for them is too precious to lose. It has been built for a quarter century with the goodwill of both the nations.

Once the dust settles on Hyundai matter, hopefully our PM Shri Narendra Modi ji will turn his govt attention to Netflix and Amazon Prime, the OTT platforms that India can do without.

Posted in Political

Love him or hate him, there is none like my prime minister Narendra Modi.

One moment he is in Manipur, one of the seven sister eastern states of India bordering Burma and Bangladesh. Shortly he surfaces in the western state of Punjab where the safety protocol for the nation’s most important man is brazenly breached. He is made a sitting duck with his convoy, jammed from every side in the highway with traffic freezing all around for over crucial and dangerous 30 min. Security lapse of highest order, perhaps pre-planned? The next morning Shri Modi ji is inaugurating almost a dozen medical colleges in the lines of AIIMS in the south virtually, alongside a classical language university. He is opening expressways and tunnels simultaneously in Jammu, the northernmost country and cutting ribbons for industrial complexes in the hinter heartland of India. Takes a break to hit Varanasi for a temple visit and rounds off the day addressing the business community/entrepreneurial sessions online. Diplomatic affairs are handled with equal finesse in the sidelines. Not to forget that the country lost our valuable COAS only very recently, that must be weighing heavily on his mind. A million issues crave for his attention. He is tugged here and there: but he goes with it all giving everyone and everything his hundred percent. That is my prime minister Shri Narendra Modi ji. I have not had a prime minster like him in my memory. My country India is the seventh largest and most diverse nation in the world. We are also the world’s largest democracy with a population of an estimated 1.3 billion. This is our busybee PM Modi ji, at70+, who hardly sleeps for four hours a day even in this pandemic, which is the reason we Indians are going to sleep in sheer bliss: we are in safe hands, that of our prime minister. He will see to that we have our peace and security as he stands guard over our nation even as we the citizens raise such a hue and cry ever since the Covid invaded our spaces in the year 2019. Through the intervening period, the man led the nation on an unparalleled campaign of administering over a billion corona vaccine doses, indigenously produced or made in India, all the same exporting the lifesaving vaccines to dozens of world nations. He just turned the country into missile exporting elite. He wouldn’t miss the awards ceremonies in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan honouring the unsung heroes of Bharat from all walks of life: from the noblest teaching profession in village to the native tree sapling planter. He neither forgets our sportsmen nor our army men, leave alone the artistes and artisans through the length and breadth of the country. From tribals to the enterprising youth and agrarian/pastural rural population, he engages with them all at every stage. Through all his busy schedule, our prime minister still finds time to address the children of the nation with his ‘Man ki bhath.’ He is an avid Yoga practitioner and a vegetarian. He is dynamism and hyperactivity rolled into one for his age! I am yet to come across a single young man as hardworking and driven as my prime minister is in his seventies. Touchwood. He is in my everyday prayer. After all, Shri Modi ji is in his retirement age already. He could have opted for the safer, easier way out. Modi ji is clearly the man on a mission.’ A follow-up of his You tube channel can let you know how this man born and bred for India, leading a frugal life, is easily one of the finest leaders India has ever had. It is easiest to criticize or point fingers. To achieve what he has, one has to have monumental mental strength and grand vision. My country is mammoth and chaotic. In all the chaos and confusion, India still has her character. To head my nation and propel us towards prosperity, encountering adversity at every step is no cakewalk even for elected parliamentarians. We are surrounded by China and Pakistan – our hostile neighbours. Border skirmishes bleeding us day in and day out are our routine. There are betrayers within our boundaries who would like to see us blown to smithereens. The stewardship of my colossal nation is therefore a Himalayan task literally. Anyone who does it bravely and surefooted like my prime minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and that too with his kind of elan, deserves a standing ovation. Clearly he is head and shoulders above most world leaders. It is unfortunate that the corona pandemic has to be dealt with in his golden period. Or perhaps it is a blessing for us Indians that we have dynamic leadership at this point of time. This is also the time for us to let him know how much he means to us Indians. As the delta variant and omicron are raging around us everywhere, let us take a moment to let our prime minister know how dearly he is loved and respected. May you be blessed with a hundred years Shri Narendra Modi ji! Take care, the nation is with you.

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 2: Food & Restaurant Industry

Every meat eater’s dream food is Shawarma, the smoked meat which is common sight everywhere in Middle east whether it is street food stall or star rated hi-end restaurant or food court in a mall. Even in India these days, after Biriyani, shawarma comes a close second for avid connoisseurs of meat as most favourite food. The meat in question here whether chicken or beef or turkey or whatever keeps rolling over pit fire or open lit oven roasted endlessly to deep brown perfection which means, the meat is just as crisp and juicy as the food lovers would want it to be. I have no idea frankly as a vegetarian from birth, but the men in my family simply loved shawarma (although they have left it now for health reasons) !

These days the grilled sliced meat dripping with greasy oil is kind of conspicuous by its absence! Or may be it is there but it is no more that brownish perhaps… Another change in restaurant food, fellow Indians must have noticed is that, not even our tandoori naans are that crispy or browned in recent times. We aren’t eating out much because of covid, but once a while we do dine out at restaurants that aren’t very crowded. So why are the tandoori rotis a bit soft? Have the chefs lost it? Have the chefs switched jobs? Is that the electric tandoor they are using?! This is what flashed in my mind when I saw that my rotis were no more flaky and looked kind of softish, with no browning in middle east. Normally I love the north Indian food here better compared to what is available in Chennai. The cuisine we have in restaurants are authentic with representations from Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai etc., and a few even used to have live music (!) Yeah my top pick used to be a restaurant that got artistes from India to render ghazals and Bollywood numbers! Fine dining thy other name is north India!

Weekend lunch today was at an Indian restaurant for us where we expected a welcome drink. We were told that the serving of punch was removed from menu after covid struck. I further learnt that, tandoori rotis are no more browned or blackened crisp for health reasons. Health inspectors saw to that this does not happen in restaurants, with due vigilance. Overcooking or roasting to deep brown meant carcinogen in our food that is linked to cancer. So now I understood why the shawarma is no more spinning so fancily to that brownish crispness over coal embers or electric oven! We have a meat eater nation in question; meat loving people who cannot do without it. But how such a basically beef consuming country so willingly adapts health safety protocol really impressed me. The locals have no issues. It means the food in the platter will be a little less tasteful than before, but nobody is complaining.

Smoked food linked to cancer for its presence of carcinogen is no latest news. But who would have given thought to stringent enforcements of health safety standards in food industry or restaurants.

In food industry we have something to learn from gulf countries. The discipline with which the residents accept the latest food reforms (i don’t know if ‘reform’ is the right word here) is impressive. A battalion of officers make sure that the health safety standards are adhered to with their thorough checks on restaurant kitchens. Barbeque eating places are admirably coping well sticking to new prescribed standards. One flouting of rules and regulations, and the business could get sealed for ever. No favouritism whatsoever. How every single small issue is accorded significance in arab countries really moves me. Welfare of the population is the government’s highest priority, the way it must be.

I am not averse to drawing the best from anyone or everyone. I think we all have to grow in whichever way possible and wherever and whenever.

Posted in Political

What India can learn from Middle East – Part 1: Economy, Banking & Telecom

When we Indians fueled by our mainstream and social media are gloating over Twitter chief coming from India, among other global CEOs born and schooled in India, it may also be time to point out some brutal facts to which we close our eyes and mind: that these top men are probably picked for the markets they may represent or market share they may help cultivate/retain. This can be simply a matter of management. Clever management. However, our Indian government has a lesson or two to learn from the Arab countries in Middle East who have viable economies outperforming ours. A quick peek here into the Arabian Gulf:

  • Google pay is banned in the richest arab nations. Only proper banking channels can be used for transaction purposes including for funds transfer. The phones assembled in the middle east do not even have access in Google playstore/Apple to download the app. Whereas in poor India, our banks are losing heavily to apps such as Phonepe and Googlepay and now even to Whatsapp pay. There is simply no Wallet concept in middle east. All financial profits belong with the banks that do not share a cent with the Google or any other nonbanking entity. Now you know why Google CEO is Indian.
  • No Whatsapp calls are allowed to go through in the oil rich arab countries. In some gulf countries, whatsapp calls are possible with vpn downloads. But in most arab nations, whatsapp calls don’t work even with vpn. Only whatsapp texting is permitted. Rule applies for Skype/Viber/Google Duo/Facebook Messenger calls or whatever with the telephone departments still staying alive and ploughing back profits. Ban on social media calls also is enforced strictly for security reasons. The encrypted calls are simply a big no-no. Transparency of highest order is followed in telecom sector.
  • No Amazon office is open in Middle east. Only old fashioned courier services like DHL and local ones cater to delivery line. Local businesses flourish not fattening up Jeff Bozos with many more million dollars as India is doing. In case you order something from a Facebook seller, then the delivery happens not via Amazon, that is the point. There is no local Amazon website that I find to be strange, but Amazon India or Amazon US is accessible (although you cannot place order for delivery within middle east).
  • No startup apps in the lines of Dunzo for local delivery or shopping. Orders have to be placed straight in the website addresses or over phone or via whatsapp and the business houses may take to deliver door to door the orders placed/received. Rare exception is the restaurant food delivery app (of Swiggy kind in India) that caters to the tastebuds of the arabs within minutes from multicuisine restaurants!
  • No subsidized broadband connection is possible in middle east. The charges may not be steep but not cheap either as in India. You cannot afford watching pictures in mobile or gamble as big percentage of ignorant Indian population is doing with their smart phones. Quality of internet usage is therefore efficient. Luckily the arab countries do not have an Ambani like from Reliance who their governments have to patrionize.
  • Phone call clarity is too good in middle east. Recently when I flew back to India, I noticed a strange phenomenon. The local calls made from my mobile phone were not clearly audible whereas my whatsapp calls were crystal clear. I inquired on this with my friends who confessed to a similar experience. When the phone calls even from our latest upgraded phones were not as clear as whatsapp calls, we were forced to switch to whatsapp to make our calls. Or was this the idea at all? Our calls are now commercial statistics for businesses. I wonder whether the purpose of muted or inaudible call owing to poor connection is deliberate. Are we Indian citizens discouraged from making regular phone calls from our mobiles? Are we subtly coerced to make whatsapp calls? Are we led to buy data packs from mobile operators? What about our privacy. For a fact I am aware, our local calls are more secure than the calls made through whatsapp.

So in short, all our Modi govt has to do is to boot out Gpay from India alongwith Amazon. Broadband rates need to be revised. Telecom industry is in dire need of a revival for which, the data packs must not be subsidized. Neither should broadband connections through private operators be.

Whether we really do ‘make in India’ or not, we can at least do something not to UNDO India. We can follow the Arab example to protect our local economy and save the domestic business community. Our small and retail traders and cottage industries need our government’s backing. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to multinationals. We cannot sell the interests of our nation for a pittance. China has lived without You Tube and Google for years. Social media and IT companies and multinationals have to work in tandem with out national economy. They must not be allowed to mint money at the cost of our banks profits. They should not be driving out of business our delivery services and small scale industries. Arab leaders are not talking much and giving sermons from the podium like our desi leaders do, but they are doing a wonderful job nevertheless. Here, the multinationals heed to the local laws or get kicked out. Now, that is patriotism to me.

Posted in Political

CDS Killed In Chopper Crash

Sad day for the nation as CDS General Bipin Rawal is killed in copter crash in the Nilgiris. Conspiracy theories will play out in this high profile air accident that has taken a heavy toll of 13 Defence personnel (with one military officer fighting for his life in hospital), the top military brass of the nation. Could it have been the joint project of China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans still have not learnt their lessons, for it is not even a week since a Sinhalese man was lynched and burnt in Pakistan. This is the kind of nexus they are seeking, keeping India out of the loop. Submerged in mounting debts against China, Lanka is at the point of breakdown. India has to be wary as China has surrounded us literally: buying out wholly Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and now even the Maldives. But one great advantage with India is that, we are battle-hardened. The chinese can manipulate us and win the battles, yet we shall win the final war if it comes to that. I will not underrate India against China. Neither has China passed the acid test of democracy. Someway along history this has to happen, and when that happens, China will break up. Meanwhile, India has to launch in-depth probe into the accident. Generals can’t die this way. To me, this is war against India. India has seen far worse scenarios: having had PM assassinated when in term, PM dying in office mysteriously in foreign tour, PM hopeful assassinated, director of atomic research station killed in air crash, scientists dropping dead just like that. We have survived every time and we shall, this time as well.

Posted in Political

The Antivaxxers Theory.

I don’t know about the antivaxxer community in the US. I guess, the men and women who refuse to get vaccinated in America are more bothered about violation of their physical body, not wanting unknown foreign substance in their system. The Americans are known for upholding individual rights or freewill. What about India. There seems to be a lobby working even here who are against vaccinations. One religious group in Kerala for instance reportedly have not been administering even polio drops to their infants. It is this group that is the fastest growing population in the entire nation with highest fertility rates. Imagine the damage that is waiting to befall on us should things go wrong. We have been believing, polio has been abolished from Indian soil. The same group could be a reason for unbelievable number of Covid cases in the state (refusing vaccines) although their communist government would like to shift the blame to gulf-returnees. The fact is that, every single expatriate working in middle east has been vaccinated far earlier than resident Indians. We may be going for a booster dose shortly. Chances of NRIs bring the coronavirus from Arab countries to India must be very slim. The ruling state government of Kerala probably would not want to point fingers.

India has had an ambitious immunization drive in the last few decades. There is an interesting angle to antivaxxers case in India. Most Indian adults of voting age have been brought under the tax net by Modi govt with Aadhar and PAN linking. Or in short, a lot of regularizing or streamlining of the Indian economy has been happening ever since the BJP govt took over for the first time in 2014. This means, individual identities can not be easily forged although this is happening in sporadic cases. There have been instances of procuring Aadhar in our north east sister states by illegal insurgents. Barring these isolated cases, there is no scope for hiding in loopholes denying your existence in India anymore. Every single Indian citizen is now brought under one legal umbrella where he/she is accountable for his/her actions. Accountable to every penny. There is still however a small percentage of our population who can escape the trap by filing form 15G etc., or not filing any returns at all. There are housewives (like me even) and small-salaried who do not pay income taxes (for earning nil or minimum untaxable incomes) yet. Then there are the jobless. There are the preteens from who we have a miniscule percent of juvenile delinquents. There are private practitioners of various professions, trades and arts. There is a burgeoning lower middle-class. There is this huge chunk of blue colour population. While all these may have their Aadhar identity, they may not necessarily have a PAN. Apart from Aadhar, India allows for numerous other IDs such as the Driving Licence (DL),Voters ID, Passport etc., for identification and address verification. A second set of IDs of secondary nature are our LPG bills, Phone bills etc., that we may pay for utility.

What the Covid vaccination does is, bringing into record the entire Indian population with their legal IDs. When I first registered for my first Covishield in India, I was asked to produce my Aadhar card. For my second dose, the first used ID was rejected. I had to necessarily flash my second ID for which I used my Voter card. I have now added my passport to my Vaccine certification. So in effect, three of my IDs have been effectively linked to my covid vaccine certificate by our Modi government! Very smart! An irrefutable proof of individual IDs or Indian citizens in this case is established. Illegal residents such as Bangladeshis in India will have to work double hard to sieve through this tight closing net. Any foreign national on the run in India cannot for long disappear. A main reason for anti-vaccine community to gain grounds is supposedly this, although our leftists would like to term it all yet another case of deprivation of individual liberty.

Number of conspiracy theories are doing rounds about covid vaccine records and stats. Sometimes even the skeptical me would wonder whether plans are afoot to depopulate Planet Earth!

Normally, I am opposed to vaccines. As someone born in late 60s, the only vaccine I took was for Small Pox which is long since eradicated from Indian soil. I vaguely recall my school giving me annual Malaria shots when it poured cats and dogs for successive monsoons in the early 80s. I haven’t even taken the anti-hepatitis shots although the men in my family have. Covid vaccine is my first serious vaccine really.

It is also true that not only is it in India, but in entire world the masses will be profiled undoubtedly with the vaccine information we provide to our governments. Our age bracket, our medical history, our indisputable IDs all give our sleuths voluminous material to grade us or track us. I just cannot dismiss the book 1984 by George Orwell out of my mind. I do feel like collared sometimes, tagged, like we radio-collar the wild animals in the bush or the cattle and sheep that graze in grasslands. Someone, our big brother, is watching. However, I relax in the thought that I have nothing to hide or lose. I am transparent and I have no reason to fear my government or law and order. I am not that worried about individual freedom that I wouldn’t want to comply with safety regulations which are for my own physical wellbeing. I have to stay alive to argue about suppression of human rights! Corona has me pinned to the floor. I have no choice but to go with my govenment.

The data that we file such as our vaccination records that carry our ID information and other private details such as previous medical history also is now going global as we fly to our destinations worldwide. We sign documents online and we register in various portals as we have to take off and land in different airports. We have downloaded covid apps in practically every single country and the bluetooth surveillance tracks our every move. We need permit to enter any space. Connecting the dots, I can hazily make out a global consensus on earth’s population. Classified data! Mindblowing stats which may otherwise be impossible to collect! How many inferences to intrapolate and extra-polate with all those jumbled figures! So what are they going to with all these numbers???

Sometimes I am glad that we have someone showing resistance at all to anything and everything. This could be a very small percentage but we need this kind of naysayers for our own benefit. We don’t know what lies ahead. We are instilled with a fear our parents and grandparents never knew in their lifetimes: the fear of the unknown.

As I blog this, the latest variant Omicron is hitting headlines around the world. One more story of negativity and psychological terror. Will we ever know normal times again? When will we achieve the herd immunity.

Many in India and the US criticize anti-vaxxers but covid vaccine is not in the same class as polio drops. There is a world of difference between the two. We need extensive research on certain issues that our media would not deliberately pickup. I am sick of the Indian tv channels that have become the mouthpiece of those in power. Real debates are not happening, what must be discussed is not spoken about.

Not even national security is strong enough reason to collect individual data the way world nations have been piling on since March 2020. Meanwhile covid is still here. How many more booster shots, nobody knows. How many more forms to fill and sign in, who knows. The only thing we haven’t affixed so far in our covid certificate is our right thumb impression.

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Why are Indian mothers worried. My friend’s healthy daughter in her twenties in India went for double shots spaced out. She was having regular periods until then right from her menarche. Ever since taking her covid shots, the girl is having irregular periods. Her second dose was months back. After 6 months lapse finally her cycle is falling back into regular pattern. First 3 months, nothing. So is there a connectivity at all with covid vaccine and fertility. Research in this area vital with figures collected for conceptions made by couples after administration of both doses of covid vaccine.

Posted in Political

Billion & Counting: India’s Covid Vaccine Program.

#latepost

I am in India after over six months. I left in the third week of April from Chennai and soon on my leaving, there was a deluge of delta variant cases in the second wave that caught the locals with a shocking agility, extracting a heavy toll. The picture was gory in international media as burning pyres make for sensational stories. Nations could consign their own pressing issues to the backburners and distract their populations with dastardly views from India, where masses were swept under by covid surge owing to ‘mismanagement by government’, which wasn’t their case. True partially. We Indians got carried away that the first wave did not hurt us, we overvalued our curry immunity and underestimated the deadly virus and we paid for our mistake dearly. We hadn’t learnt our lessons from the UK or other European countries that were under brutal onslaught from the second wave. And we could have still made it, had it not been for our election campaigns that saw crowds swelling throwing caution to winds. However, that was in the past. Now here I am in my hometown after a hiatus of six months, and I see none wearing a mask! A billion vaccinations India has managed to administer, entirely locally manufactured. Covishield may be from/for Astrazeneca, but Covaxin which is DNA based, is hundred percent local Indian brand made by Bharat Biotech now winning WHO approval. It is a Himalayan feat literally and India does not stop with vaccinating her citizens. India is exporting the corona vaccine to some ninety nations, and to many of them as aid on humanitarian basis. No wonder this is not going down well with Europe or America. Airports closed down on Indians but that has not deterred my nation from going for the vaccination in a big, big way. It is as if there has never been the virus. Touchwood. Well done PM Modi ji, what a stewardship! India’s population is 1.3 billion so one can imagine the monumental success of the vaccine administration program. I am bearing testimony to how well my country is fighting the virus. Having a near normal life here, a great blessing. Meanwhile cases are soaring in the US hitting millions and taking a heavy toll. No BBC or CNN ready to do a lead story. My request to our PM is to go for booster dose next. We will have to keep ourselves abreast of every situation for next four to five years. India is chaotic, not at all organized, but through all this confusion we are still ticking! Somewhere somehow something is working and keeps us going hahaha!