Sep 18, 2005

Election in Afghanistan

Today was Parliamentary Election Day here in Afghanistan. It passed off peacefully except for 3 or 4 rockets fired at kabul and a few candidates shot dead. This is considered very peaceful in afghan standards. I didn’t see so much army uniform and Tanks in all my life as i saw in the past 2 days. But Life was normal.Yesterday evening i went around kabul to get an idea of what democracy means here.Not bad i should say. Afghans are catching up. Posters of candidates everywhere. And surprisingly a lot of female candidates in the fray!
India did its part by donating 50,000 undeletable ink pens.

P.S: Iam leaving on the 21st of sept to India onvacation.

Sep 14, 2005

Afghanistan in love with Indian cinema

Bollywood eyes Afghanistan
and viceversa... (from BBC news)

Afghanistan in love with bollywood and why not?
Afghans follow indian Cinema so passionately that people voluntarily shut all mobile telephones for 10 minutes to mourn the demise of actor Amrish Puri earlier this year.

Sep 12, 2005

My Singing Debut !!

LOSA '92.The Cultural fest organized by TVS Lakshmi School, Madurai!
Many of my classmates will remember that it was the day our school missed the overall shield by a whisker. But More than that ,Iam sure they will remember the most hilarious embarrassment I put myself through on stage...

We had won prizes in Cartooning, pencil sketching, Ad act, cine quiz, rangoli, etc etc and were on hot chase for the overall shield. Our music team didn't turn up on the day. But in our desperate chase for the title, our guys decided to participate in light music competition. I never knew this. I was just coming out of the painting competition hall and addi or maybe chella dragged me to the back stage even before I could wash my hands and informed me that Iam singing. I don’t know how they were able to convince me. But the next moment I was on stage singing the infamous song ‘nila adhu vaanathu maelae’ and addi (on the drum) and shanta (on key board) were hearing the song for the first time in their life! Man! What a horrible situation to look back now! But that’s teenage guts I suppose.
Boy! If nedu could sing ‘manapaara manamadurai’ and manickam could sing ‘making melody’ in front of our class ,what’s the big deal for me I must have thought.
Anyway we didn’t do very badly till halfway. The crowd was clapping, dancing and cheering and I got carried away and OOPS! I didn’t remember the last stanza. You must be in my shoes to understand exactly how it feels. The closest comparison I can give you is this: You reach your office lobby and realize you forgot to wear your trousers!
I was repeating the same line over and over in different tunes and I even repeated the line once in chaste carnatic. Then I heard a voice amidst ‘boos’ and laughter form the crowd “dai..mavanae..eppadium keela thana varanum…”& the next moment I threw the mike and took off.
Several years later in Anna University, I sang the same song once again... and this time I remembered the last stanza! What a relief!

Sep 5, 2005

Indian P.M visits Kabul

The highlight of August 2005 in Kabul was the visit of PM Manmohan Singh and the future (?!) of Indian Politics Mr.Rahul Gandhi . And the ‘higher-light’ - yours truly was invited to the party hosted to the PM, as I am part of the elite Indian community living here :-) .
India had promised 500 million $ aid and the PM promised an additional 50 million and help in areas of health, agriculture and administration.
Man!- don’t believe if anybody says India is a poor country.
But anyway, I felt very proud of what India is doing for world democracy at the expense of its own poor citizens!

I met in the party a sardar who was a secretary to the minister of Broadcasting and Cultural affairs. He narrated a small anecdote that happened some time back when the Afghan minister for Broadcasting, art and culture visited India for the first time to meet his counterpart (at that time) Mrs.Sushma Swaraj. Mrs.Swaraj told the afghan minister to give her a list of things that he wanted help from India with his broadcasting station.When the minister came up with his list the next day…Mrs.Swaraj couldn’t control her laughter. The Afghan Minister had listed something hilariously similar to this: Sitar- 2 no.s, Tabla- 2 No.s, Keyboard – 1 No., Microphones- 3 no.s and so on…
Mrs. Swaraj was expecting the list to have something like new broadcasting stations, advanced broadcasting equipments, staff training programs, etc…but all that the innocent afghan minister could come up was a few music instruments. He didn’t even have an idea of what to ask! But anyway, our then Indian Minister understood the situation and made her own list and of course along with the list of musical instruments.
from my diary... sept' 2005

Sep 3, 2005


This amazing still stopped my breath.Its from Kamal Hasan's Sandiyar.
(renamed Virumandi due to vandalism by some goons )

Can't believe its a movie still.Just look at the eyes of these guys !
v a l o u r ? p a s s i o n ?
"Jalli kattu"- the 'man & bull' traditional macho game of the Tamils...

One of the most dramatic features of the annual harvest festival (Pongal) in Tamil Nadu -the bull-baiting (jallikattu/ manchu virrattu) events held in villages near Madurai. From miles around, farmers bring their prize animals to compete with hundreds of young men for pride, status and prizes which nowadays range from chicken to bicycles. Traditionally an indirect event to shortlist the stud bulls.

The most famous is the Alanganallur Jallikattu. Madurai avaniapuram and Paalamedu are other famous Jallikattu event locations. When a jallikattu bull is released into the arena it is up to the bravest (or most foolhardy) to try and 'tame' it by clinging on to its hump for a minimum distance, while it charges down the street.There are different versions of the sport in other regions. Unlike in Spanish bull-fighting, the animals aren't too seriously harmed; the same can't be said, unfortunately, for many of the human participants and spectators !
a scene from alanganallur

I am appalled to see the sport now a days!Jallikattu today is a degenerated sport... a Bedlam! an unequal fight between a frightened, tortured animal and a fiercely unruly mob with no rules and regulations to govern unfortunate bull, released into a `route', trying to run for its life while the groups of `adventurers' lining on either side subject it to untold suffering by raining blows on the helpless animal. As it tries to escape from these `men of valor', spectators become the unintentional targets for the `ferocious bull'. Absolute pandemonium prevails !

When a bull gathers courage, stops and starts staring back, the mob runs helter skelter resulting in a stampede... There is a mad adventure but no sportsmanship in this. What’s left is just chaos and confusion. The game of valor as i know it from Tamil history has surely lost its virtue.

absolute mayhem!

Today, Jallikattu has become a crude show of cruelty to animals resulting in unnecessary loss of lives or horn in the asses.Its a sport that even now attracts quite a number of foreign tourists, most of whom come hearing great stories , but go back seeing something like a mob riot.

It pains me that the true essence of the bull-fight is lost today. Its time the Tamil Nadu government took some serious steps to conduct this historic cultural sport of Tamils in an orderly manner in an arena with barricades to protect the live spectators. Strict sporting rules, organizing regulations and professional event management are the need of the day. The game should be declared a world heritage event ...otherwise its just going to degrade and disappear at some point.

Sep 2, 2005


Bollywood in Talibwood

The first thing that an Afghan asks when he sees me (or any Indian) is ‘Do you know Shahrukh Khan?’ Or ‘have you seen Aishwarya rai?’ If the Afghan is older, the essence of the question is the same but only the stars change to Amitab and Hema Malini.

Bollywood has given to Afghans what Bush or Kofi Annan can never give them with their dollars –REAL ECSTASY!

One can find posters of Bollywood stars everywhere in Kabul. Barber shops,
Butcher shops, Restaurants, Car wind shields, T-shirts and of course in the hearts of afghans! Taliban were so afraid from Bollywood than any other force on earth that they banned bollywood music & movies altogether. It was a crime that could have given you a punishment that would have made John Wayne Bobbitt feel lucky. But still the brave Afghans secretly traded photos of bollywood stars even when they openly traded drugs. But those gloomy days are over and the stars are back in limelight. Bollywood music rules the TV channels. And Bollywood CDs rule the streets.

Afghans talk about the shooting of Amitab’s “Kudha Ghawa” in afghan soil like the way we talk about the Indian Freedom movement or the‘83 Prudential cricket world cup. Its amazing how they have followed bollywood, in spite of their domestic turmoil all these years. Mark my words: Kabul has the biggest CD bazaar in the world!!! That’s what happens when you ‘entertainment-starve’ a society for decades.

Last month, when Sonu Nigam came to perform (the first stage live show by an Indian star), the frenzy it generated would have made the Americans here believe that Michael Jackson is performing a cabaret in Kabul. But the show got cancelled midway as the stage collapsed, shattering the spirits of all Kabul. Perhaps the Talibs sabotaged..hahaha!!! .But I’d rather love to blame Bush’s men (Bushmen sounds easier) who envied bollywood popularity.

I proudly walk on the streets of Kabul. I come from Hindustan, The land of “Bollywood”.
Fooh……In Life, You never know what you would be proud of one day!

Sep 1, 2005


the national sport
of afghans...

Blame it on a quest for adventure or perhaps a quest for dollars or even blame it on your testosterone. It’s still a mystery unsolved by science - why men sometime enjoy taking the crazy decisions that they take - like bungee jumping, like marriage or like coming to Afghanistan? Why I landed up in this God forsaken country- Afghanistan? God forsaken... Maybe. But certainly not ‘dollar forsaken’ as it seems right now .

After spending about 9 months in Afghanistan, I guess I am in a better position to discuss it than most of u guys. There are so many mysteries about this country that I fail to fathom. How can a country that gave India the Mughals (and of course the Taj) get stuck in Stone Age for the past 300 years? How can a country that was once a cornerstone of culture get itself reduced to tribal warfare and Taliban? How can a country that once had more Buddhists than China at one time become the battlefield of the world?

Afghanistan to its credit has never been ruled by a foreign power for long for just two reasons- the tough Afghan terrain and the tougher Afghan people. The British failed here. The Soviets had their worst embarrassment here. (The only other countries in history to have an embarrassment anywhere as close are the US in Vietnam and India in the Olympics) But forget the foreign rule. Afghans have never been ruled by themselves for a long time. Afghanistan was prospering well under the rule of king Nadir shah(?). I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that 30 years ago Kabul was more modern than Delhi and girls roamed the city in mini skirts & sleeveless tops.(I hope Kabul catches up with those good old days soon) But all were short lived as more than 2 decades of war has brought it to its present sorry state.

Most Afghans now feel “enough is enough and its time for us to move ahead ourselves “and of course with US dollars!

IF you travel and live in a country like Afghanistan or Somalia, you may even get a crazy idea that India is a super developed country. When I was in vacation in India last May, I almost got this happy delusion. Hey, forget the pot holes; we at least have roads I thought. Forget the power cuts, we at least have electricity. Forget Lallu Prasad Yadav, we at least have railways. Forget mosquitoes, we at least have medicines.

If Indian women think that they are curbed in a conservative Indian society, they should have seen afghan women under Talibs. I very much doubt they were allowed to remove their Burkas (Pardhas) during bath. I can understand someone punished for skipping school but here they publicly canned girls who tried to read secretly.
I was happy that I could commit the crime of talking to my wife in public without being stoned by Taliban. I was happy that I can sing and dance without being shot on the ass by Taliban.

By the way, I was actually happy that I was earning in Dollars, spending in Afghani and saving in Rupees.

Democratic India suddenly stood before me with a new meaning. And I must thank Afghanistan for making me realize that Demo-crazy is Bliss!
Jai Hind!

by the pool,
Kabul Inter

July 2005