Monday, June 30, 2008

A Soldier fades away....

Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw or Sam Bahadur as he was popularly known amongst the gorkha's of the 8 Gorkha Rifles, is probably one of the most honored and revered general in Independent India. Only one of the two generals to be awarded the title of Field Marshal, he remains one of the towering figure who had given the dignity and prestige to the Indian armed forces of today. Been in almost five wars through a span of forty years, his is a great service to the nation.

My father, having got the opportunity to work quite close to the general during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, still remembers the charm and personality of the gentleman soldier. My father and his colleague armed with a Nagra recorder and an Arriflex camera, were the few hand picked journalists by Doordarshsan assigned to cover the war from the front lines. On doing so there were several occasions where he had the opportunity to interact with the general. He remembers him to be known for his humility among his troops and would never fail to to give an encouraging pat to the deserving soldier. In spite of holding one of the highest rank, he was always considered as a fellow soldier amongst the troops. The troops could easily associate themselves with him, and he could do so with the troops. A joke once in a while would always be on the cards. It was his simplicity that helped him to motivate the troops and made them a force to reckon with. He also wanted the men to show good behavior and respect towards the enemy and civilians, which was obeyed diligently by the men. Not one instance of atrocity was reported against the Indians during the invasion of 1971.

His outrageously brilliant tactics and plans scripted one of the most glorious moments of the Indian Armed Forces when they routed the Pakistani troops and capture Bangladesh. Attempts by the Pakistan troops on the Western front was well anticipated and thwarted by the General. Thousands of Pakistani troops in Bangladesh surrendered putting an end to the conflict. A well planned ground strategy, combined with the coordinated efforts of the IAF and the Navy along with the contribution of RAW and the local resistance, the Indian Juggernaut was impossible to stop. When the Pakistani generals surrendered, he let his subordinates at the war front to take the honor. That shows the humility of the man. All the Pakistani POWs were well treated in the Indian jails, far better than how the Indian POWs were being treated in Pakistan.

He was a powerful man in the country at that time. So much so that the high ranks of the Indian politicians, including Mrs. Indira Gandhi, feared that he might take over the country. And with the amount of loyalty he commanded from the soldiers of the country, it was very much possible for him to do so. However he never wished to do that as he himself had disclosed it to Mrs. Gandhi when she asked about it. In fact he took a lot of liberty with the Prime Minster, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, calling her by the name of Sweetie. He always spoke his mind regardless of the consequences, and this had landed him in trouble quite a few times. He was gifted with a timely and charming sense of humor, and whether a soldier or the PM, he used to impress them all with it.

A smart general who always knew what he was up against, weighed well his chances, and did what it took to win. That was the kind of man he was. An outspoken and shrewd tactician with a sense of humor, that was almost too good to mask even the gravest of situations. As he passed away on the 27th of June, the whole nation mourns for the nation's hero. As he himself had quoted "A soldier does not die. He just fades away.....". Jai Hind..!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

1983 - The Lords of Lords

When the 1983 World Cup began, India was considered to be the underdogs. Not even given the slightest chance of putting up a a worthy challenge. But things were a lot different than what was expected. A dashing cricketer from Chandigarh, leading a group of young guys in their twenties, proved the world wrong. With the least bit of expectations on their shoulders, there was nothing but the game on their minds. The underdogs put up an inspiring performance that took the cricketing world by surprise. Indians had announced their arrival at the forefront of cricketing history.

In their league stages of the tournament, they won 4 out of their 6 matches. This, in a pool consisting of West Indies and Australia. Both considered to be strong favorites in the tournament. Zimbabwe in the same group was capable of creating some upsets too. Particularly Kapil Dev's brilliant 175 against Zimbabwe after coming down at 17/5, remains one of the most spectacular performances in cricketing history. Unfortunately it was not caught on camera as the BBC crew was on strike that day. A pity indeed.

After a clearly convincing performance in the league stages it was a contest against the English in the semis, who had had a great run in the league stage, having lost only one game. In spite of an inspirational run by the Indians, the odds were still stacked against them. However the spirited Indians chased down 213, and beat the previous year's runner ups by six wickets. In the other semis, the mighty West Indians thrashed the Pakistanis and won the game by 6 wickets.

At the final showdown at Lords, it was a battle between the menacing Windies and the young inspired Indians. India won the toss and batted first against one of the most feared bowling attack. The attack ripped through the entire Indian line up without much of a significant resistance, with just Srikanth top scoring with a 38 run stand. In the end, the Indians just managing a score of 183 runs. The writing seemed to be up on the wall. It appeared to be an easy enough score to chase down, for one of the best batting side of that era. However it wasn't to be. The Indians were not going down so easily. The Windies got bowled out for a total of 140 runs with the efforts of Amarnath and Madan Lal who took 3 wickets each. One of the most crucial and memorable moments of the game was the catch of Viv Richards, taken by Kapil, after running back a great distance. Amarnath was awarded the Man of the Match for taking 3 wickets and conceding just 12 runs.

Truly it was a time when cricket became one of the household term in India. India found a new passion for the sport. This was probably the spark that instigated such a die hard fascination for the game, in the years to come. The pictures and visuals convey a flood of emotions even after so many years. A momentums event indeed. On 25th June '08, 25 years after that day, the Lords of '83 went back to the venue for some nostalgic moments of glory, pride and passion. We at home can only imagine what it feels like to script one of the defining moments of Indian sporting history.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Crushed by the Barrel of Oil - Part 2

For how long can our dependence on fossil fuels go on like this? I think it is high time that we begin to give importance to smaller energy producing sources. The schemes that were suggested to be suitable only for small or rural settlements (like gobar gas, wind mill, solar) need not be looked with the same view any more. With so much energy available for FREE, its just a matter of tapping and utilizing it.

Instead of large corporations controlling and distributing energy, its time that we all took it into our own hands. Every house can contribute to energy production. May it be through, solar, wind, water or bio-fuel. Store and use what each each house requires and share the rest with others. I haven't done the math but i suppose its possible. This might seem quite imaginable at first, but it might work with a few sacrifices like judicious energy consumption, discarding Air Conditioners and so on.

As for mobility, i believe walking and bicycles will fit the bill perfectly. Not only is it clean and cheap, its healthy too. isn't that a great bonus? Even if motor vehicles have to be used then why not put in some more research into bio-fuels? Something which i have heard about 7-8 years back, but yet to see it in real action. Something as simple as car pooling or public transportation can be of great importance too. Solar and hydrogen powered vehicles are no more just in the pages of science fiction.

Well, to put it frankly, there is no other options. Either we peacefully accept the fact and switch over, or switch over after a lot of tantrums. The choice is yours. Either we use our heads to formulate our existence without oil, or get a one way ticket back to stone age.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crushed by the Barrel of Oil - Part 1

Oil or black gold as one calls it, has enslaved us for decades. We cry about its rising price, bicker about over dependence on it,complain about its harm to the environment, yet we cant seem to function without it. And as one had predicted it a very long time ago, it will get over one day.

And this, what we see today is just the beginning of things to come. Already a few wars have been fought over it, from time to time. Sometimes the reason isn't so obvious, but mostly it is. Soon enough, there will be more such brutal endeavors to take control of the ever diminishing resource. Up to a point when there is none to spare at all.

Thought there has been a whole lot of research and development (at least i assume so) in this field, we still haven't moved on to the next big step in energy sources. Other than probably nuclear energy for electricity production ( which is always under wide spread debate for various reasons ). For a country like India, which imports a large percentage of its fuel, wouldn't it be much cheaper and lighter on the economy to find an alternative to it? Especially after the two digit inflation rate and with no feasible solutions seen in the near future. Why should one commodity bloat the price of others and jeopardize the entire economy?

Blaming it on politicians is not going to help, because i believe they are helpless in this situation. Its time for the intellectuals and strategists to figure out the alternative solution to the world's demand for oil. be continued