Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic Revisited

Today the world commemorates the 100th year of the sinking of the Titanic, the ocean liner that set sail from Southampton in England bound for New York across the Atlantic. Boasted by its makers as unsinkable, Titanic steamed across the Atlantic in its maiden journey with 2223 people onboard. The rest is history or historical tragedy, a stuff worthy of Greek tragedies telling the story of man’s hubris and the resultant fall. It is a story as old as the story of man finding its parallel in the Garden of Eden and littered in its wake across the journey of man up to be present day.

I too have my yesterdays to revisit and remember of years back about quarter of a century when i thought i too was unsinkable and unstrikeable, a thought as foolish in Titanic proportions as my follies. Foundered and lying thousands of leagues beneath the sunlight, i recollect the days when i used to make paperboats and set them asail in the monsoon poodles in front of my house.

On this day of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, i am sharing here a poem named The Sunken Ships which i had written nearly quarter of a century ago, which i thought would be apt to see the light of the day today.

                                    The Sunken Ships                             

Deep beneath the raging waves,
Far beyond the silent depths,
All along the ages through_
Sleeps the sunken ships.
Once roamed the oceans five,
Centuries and millenniums past
But at last to their unmarked graves
Being dug on the ocean bed.

No sunny light would wake them up,
Or any sailors’ hand would steer them afloat
Nor an albatross dare guide them to land,
Or an astrolabe to guide by stars.

The mighty Bismarck and Titanic,
A few among the unnumbered
The castles built on ocean floor
Haunted by our morbid thoughts.
Battle ships and peaceful ones
Once a time when sea went rough_
Thus runs the stories tough
Tempests wild with anguished cries_
Like a stone dropped in waters still
Swayed deep into the mighty blue.
Sailors gay, many a youthful ones,
Hope we, live in mermaids’ zone
From a bubbling death to bubbling life_
                            All along the sunken ships.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Mouse that Belled the Cats!!!

Strange are the ways of the paradise, but stranger are the ways of the Internet hackers. Oftentimes they break into the privacy of Internet users and disappear with the booty without trace. But Julian Assange has a different story to tell. In the process of becoming a full-blown whistle blower from his erstwhile status of an Internet hacker, Assange has broken into the sanctum sanctorum of international diplomacy and is exposing its true color and character to the public to scrutinize.

Julian Assange
Yes, the WikiLeaks is taking the newsstands by storm around the world. It’s a new breed of investigative journalism that is destined to change the face of journalism once and for all. In the aftermath of the deluge of stinking classified documents that are open for public to gaze and scrutinize, the world of diplomacy and duplicity are at a loss as to what to do with WikiLeaks and its director Julian Assange for bringing the skeleton in the closet out into the limelight. It’s a graveyard of diplomacy. Yes, it’s a graveyard of whitewashed gravestones of diplomacy the inside of which is filling the world with stench.

Its certainly a time for introspection. It is a time for the civilized people of the world to take stock of what their elected leaders are doing, performing behind the scenes. In the meantime, the affected are licking their wounds and waiting for the great flood to subside. The positive outcome of the whole affair is that the Fourth Estate has send out a clear cut signal to the world leaders that however high you may fly we are watching over you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve; A Cool December

Feel the Christmas slip between the fingers,
In this cool starry night of a December,
While Jim Reeves plays the oldies in a whisper,
Bringing the gift of memories in its train.

Where are the joys and the busy labors,
Built around Bethlehem of a little crib?
Where are the little hands and nimble limbs,
That once prepared the manger for Mary’s child?

Full grown are they into a pair of tentacles,
Choking my two-year-old past by Herod’s orders.
Where can I hide of shame and of mortal pain,
For I hear God calling from the skies of Eden.

I passed a beggar hungry upon the street,
Unable to put up a smile upon this redeeming night,
But nevertheless I turned a priestly slip_
As once upon a time in the Jericho street.

I climbed upon the Christmas tree to kindle the star,
But the three magi would be lost upon their way.
Who will offer gold, frankincense, and myrrh_
To the infant Jesus who is to be born upon this night.

                                                 George Manjooran.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Faces In The Traffic

In the beginning was the Model T: a jukebox of a machine activated by a hand-operated lever carried along by the proud owner of the car. Self-igniting engines were not yet invented. Those were the time of the Victorian euphoria. The spirit of the English nation was ever than never high in spite of an occasional sinking of a Titanic or the burning down of a Crystal Palace by an inadvertent short circuit. However, inventions struggled to keep abreast of the spirit of well being and general prosperity.

While the conservatives still clung to the horsepower of the carriages, the neo-rich resorted to the new fangled automotives that spat out smoke like a dragon and raved like a male rhino. These were serious accusations indeed, but nevertheless, the automakers were determined to conquer the roads by a concerted effort. Sooner of later, filters and mufflers prevented the excess smoke and noise from polluting the surroundings. Those were the days that saw many a design classic roll out of the assembly line that could stand comparison to the handsomest coaches. From then on the carts went before the horses and the horses retired to the paddocks.

By the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, the automakers had more or less consolidated their positions. Many major innovations were also brought about and now what is known as the vintage cars were ready to make history. They were, in a way, bizarre creatures with their headlights projecting like the head and the roof of a tortoise. As to their colour, they came in a wide spectrum to choose from instead of with the earlier mandatory Henry Ford tag of “as long as it’s black”. When these new breed of cars came out of the factories in flying colours people began to flock to them as children to a toy shop.

While a few were tugged along by the rear view of the car the majority were captivated as a result of a head-on collision with the front view of these cars. Reading the popular imagination, the car designers were quick to respond. From then on much time and effort were expended to improve the “face value” of the cars. Accordingly, the slat space or the outline of the grills was carefully positioned. Headlights were placed in such a manner that along with two dots in the center they looked upon as two eyes or even more sensuous or sensual suggestions, depending upon the humour of the onlooker. As a whole, the relative harmony between the grills, the headlights, and the bumper gave an impression of being alive with expression.

Those were the times when an automobile was considered more than a mere vehicle of conveyance. There was something “domestic” about them that endeared them to the people. And not surprisingly they were subjected to regular care such as servicing and shampooed pamperings. Almost like a pet they seemed to compete with dogs and cats for the affection of the household. It is now interesting to note that some even came to admit their cars to then numerous “car clinics”. In the annals of motoring many a heart was broken when a car met with an accident that resulted in the bruising of paint and the denting of body with the sound of a bone breaking.

But these are the reminiscences from the album of an auld lang syne. Time has wrought much change today to the mould of a car and has transformed them into objects of utility and luxury. They no more possess the warmth of expression and puckish grins of their forebears that had once welcomed them into the intimacy of their proud owners. Instead, one comes across only sophisticated boxes on wheels in the form of a car.

They may be masterpieces of craftsmanship to adorn a showcase but sadly there is no more a face behind the mask, which gives life to a metal and a character to a vehicle. What meteor fell from the sky! or what asteroid struck the world causing the rapid extinction of such a species of vehicles that had inspired men to emotions! While roaming deep into the countryside, one might still come across a few old timers, like faces in the traffic, still serving their masters. But, who knows, for them, it might be a relief to die than live like Tithonus amidst a species who is on the brink of cloning their own genes along an assembly line.

                                                                                                                                 George Manjooran.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Great Indian Jungle

The Big Bang caused by the Swiss Banking Association 2008 report in recent days is showing signs of dying out. It sounds like just yet another sound and fury of "the Great Indian Circus" which signifies nothing but gaga and bla bla of the newspapers and the television media. But should that commotion be allowed to die down or shouldn’t the flames of it be fanned up high and wide and let the conflagration put an end to the death-like complacency of "We The People" (to borrow the phrase of the Indian Constitution which majestically guarantees protection to the person, property, and liberty of its citizens under its wings).

I am recapitulating here what the reader would have time and again read in other sources. To begin with, the report states that Indians have $1891 billions stashed away in various Swiss banks. Here are some figures and the enormity of which is startling.

Top 5 Depositors
India---- $1891 billion
Russia----- $610 billion
China------ $213 billion
UK-------- $210 billion
Ukraine ----------- $140 billion
Rest of the world ----$300 billion

When it gets down to brass tacks the fact is that out of the 180 or so community of nations in the world, India clearly comes out as the "black money champion" of the world. A title which should make every upright Indian's head be lowered down in shame. And that too, India is not an ordinary champion in the sense that when the grand total of the rest of the countries, i.e. $1473, is pitted against India’s $1891 it does not even come near to equalizing in the near future.

There are many mind-boggling facts associated with this Swiss Bank kumbakonam:

  •  The amount of $1891 is more money than all the money in all the banks in India put together.

  •  The amount is 13 times larger than the country’s foreign debt.

  •  The amount left after paying the foreign debt if invested in earning interest the resulting interest would be more than the national budget.

  •  Or, if the $1891 is distributed amount the 45 crores of poor people in the country (based on World Bank basis of those earning less than $1.25 per day) each person would get Rs.100,000.

So who is to blame for the plight of the nation? Just imagine how much more black money would be hidden away in other 70 or so called tax havens across the globe like Liechtenstein, St Kitts, Antigua, Bahamas, Isle of Man, etc., and how many fold more would be circulating through various financial institutions inside the country itself. In a country like India where crores of its people are unable to earn even Rs. 30 per day for their day-to-day livelihood, these facts would justify the case of even the meekest proponents of revolutions which had temporarily cleaned the dirty stables in other countries along the ages.

There are also talks about the Swiss bank authorities informing the Indian government that they would agree to handover the whereabouts of this astronomic money in its lockers provided the government requests through the proper channels. There are other dimensions to the Swiss authorities reluctance to handing over the required documents to the Government of India. Secrecy has been a byword with the Swiss banks for decades. If the bank has to do an exception to that rule the Government of India will have to do much spade work before approaching the bank for “name-fishing expedition”. And the bank had more than once warned the government to desist from “name-fishing expedition” without doing the required homework.

India government will have to painstakingly collect details and proofs of the whereabouts of the suspicious names that are associated with the Swiss banks depositing. Recently, the Swiss bank UBS agreed to hand over details of 4,450 secret accounts of US citizens to US Internal Revenue Service, but only after receiving solid proofs from the IRS. It is worthwhile to remember that earlier in this year, US government and IRS were pressing forward with criminal charges against UBS for conniving to defraud the US government. But before the charges could be moved further USB agreed to pay the U.S. government $780 million and admitted that it had conspired to defraud the United States by abetting Americans to hide money from the IRS.

On the other hand, a similar Indian Government request pertaining to an account of Hassan Ali Khan was turned down by UBS AG following submittal of forged documents. The case involved Hassan Ali Khan, the Pune based real estate consultant and stud farm owner who is accused by Mumbai income tax department of money laundering to the tune of $8 billions (39,120 crores) and depositing it in UBS AG.

In a shocking revelation by Transparency International India, Governement of India is in the dock for not showing enthusiasm to German governemnt's positive overture of offering to provide information free of cost about billions of dollars of unaccounted money which are held by people of India which is lying in Liechtenstein, which is a small German county. Whereas other countries like USA, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, U.K and Ireland whose nationals are also included in the same list are seriously collecting the information about their citizens.

But why is the government lackadaisical about taking such a step. One obvious reason for the lukewarm response of both the government and the opposition parties is the fact that corrupt politicians have found berths in all parties. Who would be foolhardy enough to stir the hornet’s nest upon which he is sitting comfortably or who would be suicidal enough the cut thread of the sword that is hanging over his head or in other words which politician would be a bumpkin enough to kill a milch cow for its meat.

Thus far for the technicalities of bringing the culprits to the book. But who is to blame for the sordid state of our nation where corruption continues to be the main evil among many others evils that plagues it. Who is bleeding India white? Is it the politicians or is it the fraudulent industrialists or is it the bureaucracy?

When the Brits were there in India all blame was shouldered upon them for the famines and every sort of maladies that occured in the country. Yes they were responsible to a certain extend. But now even after 60 years of independence who is to blame for not eradicating poverty. It is a question which every educated Indian ought to ask. It is high time that "We The People" do some serious introspection and take necessary steps to root out the evil of corruption from our soil.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Compassionate Prince

Lord Buddha continues to fascinate the imagination and thoughts of men across the globe even after nearly 2600 years of his death. His appeal cuts across religions, races, continents, castes, creeds, etc.

One of the finest aspects of Buddhism that has interested me, other than its noble tenets, is its unusual peaceful coexistance with the other faiths. One could hardly hear Buddhists getting embroiled in religious polemics whether doctrinal or other airy claims over the souls of men. This is a poem about Lord Buddha that I had penned during my college days, torn off and pasted here…

The Compassionate Prince

Show me a star,
I will follow it to its grave.
And I will scatter my days in the wind
To get a millennium of ecstasy in his company.

The state of nirvana is akin to death,
A comma yearning for a full stop.
A stony statue beneath the Bo tree_
Insensible to the sparrow at its benumbed hand.

But the days of struggle were steep and full,
Each moment charged with zeal and passion
And endless treasures of compassion
Of love, not blind as of a bouncing calf
But an all-seeing and all-embracing might.

An old man, a sick man, and a corpse
Are the triumvirs that shook your world
A court scandalized_
And a family of wife and child left behind.

Why for Siddhartha did you disown your world
To wipe our tears
For we have nothing else to drink _
In this parched up world.

But whenever the chariot of Ashoka
Goes brandishing past the Kalinga grounds
I hear your silent dharma at work from up the skies
Turning the wheel in a missionary zeal.

                                                   George Manjooran