Saturday, January 03, 2009

Frankfurt: Morning Hours

A Lufthansa Airbus in the morning hours, resting at Frankurt airport.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stray thoughts… from half way across the globe

My shoes require no polish here. The day was clear and sunny - just like in Hyderabad, but was unbelievably chilly – reminded me of Ooty. The ride at Metros is real swift and comforting – oh yes, I have seen the young offering their seat to the old. People, complete strangers, acknowledge your smile with a smile. The bus driver wishes me a good day everyday.

For Friday prayer, I went to the Embassy of Qatar – that was the nearest mosque some 1.5 miles away from my office. For breakfast it’s juices, tea, and Sara Lee’s Apple Orchids. For lunch – oh don’t ask!. For dinner, I have to cook for myself. And yes, I can cook well – thanks to Shan's Chicken Masala. The nearest “desi store” is right near my hotel. It’s called Halaalco – I like it because: I get halaal meat there, the staff is Urdu speaking, and also because its proprietor is a Hyderabadi (my first impression was that it’s a Pakistani store – but nay, it’s very much Indian).

Life goes on half way across the globe, but surely with some variations. Life’s good, Mashallah, in Washington - DC, USA.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Adam's Defiance...

" Baagh-e Bahist say mujhay hukm-e-safar diya tha kyon?
Kaar-e-Jahaan daraaz hai , ab meyra intazaar kar"

Why did you order me out of the garden of paradise?
I have a lot of work that remains unfulfilled:
Now you better wait for me!

This is Adam taking God in defiance, asking why in the first place he was asked to leave paradise (as in why Allah raised him from his primitive stage and bestowed on him some sense and intellect). And that when God has already done so and given the entire Earth to him to strive, grow and evolve, Adam is relentless, and wants to keep striving hard unceasingly. He’s in no mood to rest, and is not yet ready to meet his creator, thus asking his Creator to wait for him.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Stray Snapshots from Raipur

Feast at Muqaam-I-Mahmooda

The King of Good Times has recently launched a daily flight to Indore and Calcutta. After a rather long hiatus, Indore is once again connected to Raipur by air.

Once commonly called as the VIP Road, it's now officially named Rajeev Gandhi Marg, after country's late (aviator) Prime Minister. This road leads to Mana Airport. On a day with good weather, a drive down to this stretch of 9 KM can be real romantic.

The limits of Raipur municipality ends here.

I never imagined I'd be one day davouring "Prawn Biryani" in Raipur. Thanks again to Madrasi Hotel.

The good old Madrasi Hotel. They are pioneers of Mughal food in Raipur, and enjoyed a near monopoly for years. Now, Raipur does have a few more Muhgal eateries, but none that could compete with the Madrasi group. The above is their recently opened branch.

A quiet street of 150 year old Byron Bazar area on a dull Sunday afternoon. Yes, in Raipur cows are ubiquitous.

This was taken in a Byron Bazaar mosque. A notice asking people to turn off their mobile phones during prayer times. Unlike in other parts of the country, Hindi is almost a lingua franca for local Raipur Muslims. However, the spoken Hindi is more Urduized.

A "Nagar Nigam Raipur" water tanker being filled.

Something fishy...

A candid shot of a street of Raipur on a lazy sunday afternoon.

Raipur rivels Dhaka when it comes to cycle-rickshaws. For years now, cycle-rickshaw is "the" mode of local transport in the city, with no local busses or metered autos running. These rickshaws are pulled by the migrant labourers of Orissa.

Though it's almost end of summers in Raipur (the time is early June), you still see some earthern pots being spread out for selling. All shops are closed, as you can see in the background. It was a sunday afternoon.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Book Review: The Last Nizam

Hyderabad as a city, and as an idea, has always inspired and interested me. So while casually roaming around at Walden, when I bumped onto The Last Nizam on display, I knew it would the next book I will complete.

Written by an Australian journalist, John Zubrzycki, the book speaks briefly about the first six, and in a little more detail about the seventh and eight (also the last) Nizam of the princely and feudal Hyderabad.

It took nine month and a handful of treachery for the mighty Aurangzeb to break through the supremely guarded Golconda, and ransack both the fort and the Kutub Shahi dynasty. And along with Aurangzeb, came to Deccan the forbearers of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.

Asaf Jah I, also known as the Nizam ul Mulk, would in the due course settle down confidently as the governor of Mughal ruled Deccan. The great Nizam dynasty of Hyderabad would start with him; he was the first Nizam.

In the course of seven generations, Hyderabad would grow into one of the richest states of the world. But interestingly, people would recognize its seventh ruler, Mir Osman Ali Khan, as the miserly King who although owned the most grandiose treasure of the world (“his pearls alone would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool"), would smoke cheap Charminars, wear patched clothes, and would postpone buying a blanket for its cost won’t fit his budget!

Then one day, Operation Polo would happen and the feudal Hyderabad would become a part of democratic Republic of India, being led by an utter socialist Pt. Nehru. Osman Ali Khan would take this fact in his stride, and would start “expanding” his make-believe kingdom by adopting many of his subjects (mostly from his African Cavalry) as a family; these people still bank on the many Trusts the “Nizam Sarkar” created for their well being.

Osman Ali Khan nominated not his son, but grandson Mukarram Jah, to be the next (and last) titled Nizam of Hyderabad. However, as it would be revealed, Mukarram’s interest would lie elsewhere. Least interested in the affairs of Hyderabad and also slapped by a scurry of lawsuits filed by his extended family members for a share of the Nizam’s unlimited wealth, Mukarram found a welcome escape in the outback of Western Australia. Then onwards, he lived most his life here, which was dotted by episodes like his reckless passion for bulldozers and heavy machinery, his marriage and divorce to an Australian lady, Helen, who was infected by HIV virus by her bi-sexual boy friend, and the systematic collapse of all his business ventures. In brief, it was his enthusiastic but vain attempt of carving out his own flourishing kingdom in this part of the earth.

He attributes most of his financial losses to his over dependence on his set of managers and advisors, who all led to gross manipulation of jewelries and antiques he inherited. His financial health dwindled to such an extent that the Last Nizam had to simply leave Australia for Turkey, the country his mother hailed from.

You may like to read this book to know how the Last Nizam came down from numerable lavish palaces in Hyderabad to residing in a middle-class two bedroom apartment in costal Turkey. You may also like to read the book to know the glorious Hyderabad that once was, to know about the Nizams and their palaces; their wealth, wives, and concubines; about their escapades and their generosity, about the Jacob Diamond, and about the beautiful and confident Princess Durrushehvar; about the infamous extortions in the name of ‘nazar’ and about the fallen prince Azam Jah; about the alleged gross misappropriation of Mukarram’s assets by late Sadaruddin Zaveri…

Read about the rise and ultimately fall of the grandiose nation and notion of The Nizams.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Book Review: India Unbound, by Gurcharan Das

Book Review: India Unbound, by Gurcharan Das

It was the worst of times, a time of subjugation. It was followed by the nastiest of times, a time of clipped wings and lame accomplishments--until we had the best of times, the time of liberalization and encouraging growth. The time in which we live today.

That’s how Gurcharan Das portrays the three different economic eras India has had to encounter: pre-independence, post-independence till 1991, and from 1991 till present. In his book, India Unbound, Das has neatly chronicled the factors that influenced (or crippled) the country’s economic and business growth in each distinct period.

The book starts with the pre-independence era, when India was ruled by imperial masters. Surely, imperialism was never about facilitating prosperity and development in one’s colonies. So, we aren’t surprised to learn that under the Brits, India recorded dismal progress. But it was in the post-independence era where we really failed to realize our economic goals, and the prime reason for that, according to Das, was Nehru’s socialist-oriented policies. Profit is evil, is what Nehru promulgated.

If India was dismal, economically, under Pt. Nehru, then under Indira Gandhi, it was further wretched, with all manner of draconian controls being imposed on Indian industry. License Raj wouldn’t let companies expand or produce over a government-specified limit. Pricing was controlled. MRTP and FERA made business houses bleed. With no foreign competition, Indian companies cared minimally for the quality of their products or services. PSUs enjoyed monopoly in their sectors… Das pictures this era very intensely; perhaps he experienced it most intimately as the head of P&G in India.

Finally, the book reveals the new dawn, the golden year of 1991 when India had to – forcibly, I dare say – liberalize and deregulate its economy, scrap all the “stupid” controls, and open its market for foreign companies. The rest, as they say, is history.

Das also speaks about the magnates of Indian industry, who ruled in their respective eras. Be it Ambani’s all too familiar rags-to-riches story, or JRD’s (who use to pay a whopping 97% tax) meeting with Nehru, or the mention of first generation IT czars of India – Das describes them all very neatly. Insight into the personality and enterprising attitude of the Merwari community is also well-presented in a chapter dedicated to the community. Another chapter deals with the confident and burgeoning Indian middle-class, which is now the backbone of the Indian economy.

This book is a must-read for every Indian, and for anyone who wants to understand the factors that have and are shaping the contemporary Indian psyche, which, unlike the past, is now progressive, assertive, confident, and vibrant. And also because we should understand this age, the age in which India will be ushered towards awaiting glory.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pataudis: The Elegant and Spirited Nawabs

Though slightly old, this narration by Tiger Pataudi is really worth a read. After seeing his snap in the article, I was awed by the good looks the Nawab had in his younger days. Pataudi, the estate just outside Delhi, was just one of the many princely states of undivided India. However, its popularity stems mostly from the father-son duo: Iftekhar Ali Khan Pataudi and his son Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi.

Cricket lovers will remember how the Sr. Pataudi - in a very assertive and self respecting manner - refused his captain Douglas Jardine from fielding in the attacking position on the leg side. This field placement was a part of Jardine's unsporting "body line" strategy, which the Nawab didn't approve of. However, this gutsy decision cost the Nawab his position in the English side. (Though he later went on to lead the Indian side against the English team).

And the bravado of Mansoor Ali Khan can be gauged from the fact that even after loosing his one eye in an unfortunate accident, he still managed to play good cricket, and was particularly known for his agile fielding.

It's the grace of the duo that makes the clan of Pataudi count more than other erstwhile princes of British India.

And we thought that all Nawabs are laid back fellows -:).