Friday, December 26, 2008

From Bangalore to Buffalo

I've been silent for a while as a result of a packed trip to Buffalo, Washington, and back to Buffalo for some holiday time with my family. Washington was great to see old friends and places, and feel a bit of hope with the incoming administration, despite the overall gloom everywhere. The Key Bridge was missing its usual holiday wreaths, and stores seemed empty, offering huge discounts well before Christmas. Then we came to Niagara Falls, flying into Buffalo in the middle of a snowstorm. Here are some shots:

Preparations for the inauguration:
This is the viewing stand for the parade in front of the White House.
Then to the snow in Niagara: Our street. That is Canada at the end of the street.
I forgot about getting stuck in the snow:
At least it was great, fluffy snow that was easy to shovel.
A big change from Bangalore. We return there in a week! Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Protests around India while PM Singh visits Bangalore

Protests are exploding all over the country -- some quiet and reflective, some scary calling for war with Pakistan. Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and even in Cubbon Park in Bangalore. Here are some (not so good) screen shots from Indian TV. The candles and prayers are wonderful, the bloodthirstiness is scary. What I can't capture are the debates between "we want war" and "we hate war" happening at these protests.
They want action, but what?
Signs that say "there is a limit to tolerance, it's time to fight back." Others are more direct "Bomb Pakistan". "No security, no taxes." "Worthless politicians."
Meanwhile, PM Singh has been visiting Bangalore for some science and research related visits at the Indian Institute of Science and a Research Center. Of course, that meant lots of signs on the main road.

Again, how much does this all cost?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Funeral in Bangalore

On Saturday Nov 29 (2008) (yesterday, as I write this), as the officials were ending the "sanitizing" process of going room by room in the Taj, the first funerals were held for the National Security Guard (NSG) officials killed at the beginning of the mess in Mumbai. One of the three officers killed, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, was from Bangalore, and we ended by driving by the location where his funeral was taking place. The pictures below capture some of the post-funeral scene, and the coverage of the press. Of course, there were the big posters, several along the road and then one in front of the crematorium (which is located right next to the nearest shopping center to us). Here was one on the road.
As an NSG officer, he received a military honor guard. His body was carried from the airport to the crematorium on this truck. Military funerals apparently don't allow the body to go home.
The scene outside the crematorium, with one of the big posters outside, and many people out to pay tribute.The media circus is an essential part of the process too, of course.

I wasn't able to capture the military band, but they were there too. There were soldiers all over the place, though.
While it is nice that this guy gets this treatment, and the other two NSG officers got it too, and their pictures are all over the tv and papers, but I wonder why we haven't heard even the names of the Mumbai policemen that died. I have to say that this is one of the times that the American approach to terrorist violence makes me feel proud -- the names and pictures of everyone, not just the elite few -- were shared with everyone, so that everyone could pay respects to them. I want to light candles for everyone that died, not just the top guys.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai terror continues

The nightmare in Mumbai continues. We are now in hour 48, although the Indian television stations have been announcing "the final offensive" and "the final push" for over 24 hours -- since late yesterday afternoon. The stations regularly have announced wrong information, such as "Taj siege ended" flashed from time to time since last night, when grenades continue to go off even tonight. The crowd near the Nariman House clearly thought the siege there was over, and the rescue attempt was "successful" and over, so all kinds of people mobbed the street, but then the announcement comes that all the hostages inside were killed, and finally the police attempted crowd control, which seemed like a good idea given that later there was shooting back and forth. While it seems morbid, and the coverage is so bad, I still can't turn off the t.v.

I've gotten lots of chances to explain about the Chabad Lubavitch and different strains of Judaism, as most of the Indians are fairly clueless, and don't seem too worried or focused on the Jews at all. The Hindu fundamentalists are far more focused on the Muslims to be worried by the Jews, and in fact seem to feel like they are the allies. So, of course, the role of Pakistan and Islamist radicals emerges more and more.

The parallels with 9/11 are many, although so are the differences. I'm too tired to write about it now, but it is clear that India has entered a new era. A sad one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai attacks

We are fine, far away from Mumbai, but the terrorist attacks throughout Mumbai (formerly Bombay for those of you looking at older maps and globes) are very disturbing. The Indian press is not particularly distinguished in non-crisis times, and although it tries to rise to the occasion and has some worthwhile pieces, generally does not provide great insight. As many of you know, even before this Mumbai has been the place in India that I had/have a hard time with -- it is just too disturbing on too many levels. Too much congestion, too much contrast of wealth and poverty, too much disregard for the environment and other people, and the list could go on and on. It seems like once upon a time it was a more liveable place. But despite my dislike of the place, watching the Taj on fire made me sad, as that was a real landmark, and a lovely one at that.

Recently, with the Hindu fundamentalists and the Shiv Sena provoking hatred towards not only non-Hindus but non-Maratis (Mumbai is in the state of Maharastra, and folks from there are called "Marati," as is the language they speak), even (maybe especially) Indians from other states, there is an awful lot of anger, frustration, and hatred to go around. As a result, figuring out who actually provoked and carried out the attack(s) will be hard. Also, it will be a long time before casualty figures are complete to know who actually was affected. So far, one of the policemen killed was a classmate of one of my colleagues here. Sadly, we'll probably see more personal connections once complete lists emerge.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pre-holiday shopping -- silk, bracelets, bags, slippers

A silk shop.
We ran into these Ecuadoran military officers taking a shopping break from their training here in India.
A kurti that is not too over the top.
In a few more colors.
Silk pieces.
Here are some shots of the factory where these silks were made.
A fancy sari store in a fancy mall. Note how the models all seem to be blond, definitely the typical sari-wearer.
Another blond mannequin.Now, let's change products. First, some bags.

Now onto jewelry, at the Cauvery Emporium

Below are some shots from the Forum mall, one of the larger and more upscale places. So many people. First, a Divali decoration (firecrackers) in front of the McDonalds.
An ad outside a department store.
The juxtaposition of two ads (and two Indias?) on the escalators -- one for a fancy sari store, the other for a complexion cream to help you get and stay "fair". I guess it is the flip side of the tanning lotions in the West.
A shot of the crowd.

Some slippers.