Sunday, 30 November 2008

Home Minister Resigns

Right, first off, I'm glad that our Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, is gone. What I'm not glad about is that he's off the hook so easily. There has to be some kind of accountability measure in place to ensure that he's done justice to his time in office, which I seriously doubt he has, and if that's the case, to ensure that he cools his heels in jail for a while due to incompetence. The same goes for all the others down the line who've failed in their duty to the nation. They need to have their belongings confiscated and sold off to pay off part of the damages from the terrorist attack. Also, I'm not happy that he's being turned into a scapegoat. Fingers need to be pointed in many directions, but right now, he's the only one in the blame limelight.

I have also found this blog, written by someone directly affected by the attack. Makes for interesting reading. I've been glued to a lot of blogs over the past few days. Blogs like John P Matthew, Gauravonomics, Desi Pundit, Death Ends Fun, Mumbai MetBlogs, and India Uncut have all kept me informed and opinionated.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Siege Over

The siege at the Taj, the only place which was still occupied by terrorists, ended this morning. More bodies have been found, and a total of 18 foreigners and 16 security personnel are now dead. No word yet on the number of Indian dead at the Taj, but the toll so far is 195.

Travelling to work yesterday was normal - the trains were packed as usual, though the usual banter and fighting was missing. Around lunchtime, rumours began to spread of fresh firing on the Central line, giving most people an opportunity to coax their bosses into letting them leave office early, resulting in me catching an almost empty train back home at 7.15, reminiscent of the train situation when there's a 'flood panic' on a really rainy day during the monsoon.

On another note, Gaurav Mishra has written a pretty informative post on the emergence of Twitter over blogging as an effective tool for citizen journalism using social media.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Terror Strike Update

As of now most of the anti terror operations seem to have come to a close and most hostages have been rescued. reports as of 10.17 P.M that the operations at Nariman House are over, with 5 hostages and 2 terrorists found dead. I'll bet that the Jewish hostages Israel were concerned about were among those 5. 15 policemen and 2 NSG personnel have lost their lives so far in operations across all sites, and fighting is still continuing at the Taj. The Trident has been freed, though the overall death toll has now risen to over 150.

The rescue efforts have not however prevented criticism (from Israel) and criticism about the Home Minister (from the U.S). The Home Minister seems to have also taken a well deserved beating on Rakesh Jhunjhunwalas's blog. I fail to understand a few things: One, how did just a handful of terrorists get into what were supposed to be well guarded locations. Where was security? Two, why are we so lax on terrorism. If the U.S can launch attacks on Pakistani soil, why can't we destroy terrorist camps in PoK? We're being ruled by a bunch of spineless politicians I'm afraid.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

Terrorists attack Mumbai

Terrorists seem to have attacked Mumbai again - this time at at least 9 different places. I first saw the news on T.V last night - hostages had been taken at the Taj hotel near the Gateway, and a fire seemed to be raging in one part of the hotel. Another attack (a shooting) took place at CS.T and there were reports of a blast at Vile Parle.

Woke up this morning to find that not much has changed. Despite some people being rescued, many still seem to be trapped both in the Taj and the Trident (Oberoi). Almost 100 people have been killed so far in shootings. The advisory today is stay indoors so I won't be going to work today. I'm feeling safe but also quite helpless.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Trek to the SGNP highest point

Went to the SGNP on Sunday for a trek to its highest point, organised by the BNHS. Met up with BD and PV at Borivli Stn. and walked to the park in time to meet the rest of the group at 7.30 A.M.

Took a few pics of these flowers near the entrance before boarding the BNHS bus to Kanheri.

With around 60 people attending, the bus had to make two trips, automatically splitting us up into two groups, ours being led by Sunjoy Monga, the other by Sanal Nair.

It normally takes two hours to walk to the caves from the park entrance; going there by bus only took us 15 mins. We were there by 8.00 A.M, long before the caves usually get crowded. At that early morning hour, we got to see the Kanheri caves as perhaps the Buddhists themselves saw them over a thousand years ago - silent and beautiful.

A quick brisk walk from the caves to a little hillock that comprised the halfway mark left us feeling quite refreshed. This is a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

The hill we were on consisted of black rock strewn with straw like vegetation, and was quite open, with a lot of breeze near its edges. We sat and rested here for a few minutes before looking around and taking pictures.

An interesting thing about the place we were on was that, from the end where we had climbed up, we could see the outline of the city bordering the park.

And from the other end, we could see both the Tulsi and Vihar lakes back to back.

There were a lot of Cacti formations on the hill.

This one had a spiders web on it.

We continued our way upwards, into what soon became a proper forest, with a canopy above us for the most part. Among the interesting things we saw here were many funnel spider webs.

A lone flowering plant that we couldn't identify.

And ant hills shaped like flowers.

We took a break in the forest before continuing onwards and upwards, at which point I managed to get a photo of almost the whole group.

Leaving the forest behind, and after a short walk through Karvi, we came to the highest point (486 metres), from where we could see 3 lakes (Tulsi, Vihar and Powai) in a row.

Rested here for a while before going back down. As it is with most large groups on a trek, descending invariably splits them up into smaller groups. BD, PV and I somehow deviated slightly from the original route on the way back down and ended up to the right of the caves. But we soon found our way back to the main path, despite the complicated maze like cave system.

There was some confusion getting transport to the main gate as our bus had parked in a clearing a little way ahead from where it had dropped us near the caves in the morning. Security wouldn't let them drive up to the caves in the afternoon, and most of the group, not knowing this, seemed to be waiting for the bus near the caves. We had already walked to the clearing and, tired of waiting for the rest of the group to figure out the situation and arrive, hopped into a BEST bus (they were running services that day because of a Buddhist meeting at the caves), which dropped us to the main gate, where we left the park, and went to a restaurant across the highway, whose power cut off the minute we took our seats. I had a chilled drink while my friends gorged on lunch Thalis; we then walked to the station and parted, promising to trek again soon.


Saturday, 22 November 2008


Stuffed myself with noodles for dinner on Fri night. MD and H happened to drop by and, after a visit to a local barber, we went to this lounge place in I.C. called Cosmic.

The place was terrible. The alcohol list didn't have any cocktails, but they agreed to make us a few after we asked them. Why would they not advertise something that they offer? Cocktail prices were really high as well. The waiter couldn't describe an item on the dessert list to us, inspite of the fact that there were just 5 items on the list. There was also some confusion over the type of Biryani they make. The food took a helluva long time to arrive, so long that the starters arrived at the same time as the main course. I'm not going back there.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fading Away

Great blogs don't die, they just fade away...

I've noticed that a few of my favourite blogs (that also happen to be very well written) have been winding up recently, with few explanations provided.

The first one to bite the dust was A walk in the Clouds. Meghalomania's last post was on May 2, after which she and her alter ego's have stayed mysteriously silent.

And the next one was
The Voice in my Head - Melody Laila shut shop on Aug 16 after some divine intervention.

Wonder which one's next.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Elephanta Trip

Went to Elephanta island on Sunday.

Woke up at 5.15 A.M. Left home a little before 6.00. Bought a return ticket to Churchgate at Borivli station. Took the 6.18 slow. Got off a Dadar at 7.00. Met PV and BD at 7.15 and took a cab to the BNHS office together, which we reached at 7.30, and registered. Walked to the Gateway with the group.

Took a ferry to Elephanta. Enjoyed the one hour long ride to the island. Being November, it was hot but the breeze that accompanied the ferry ride was quite refreshing.

Passed an oil tanker on the way to the island, and private boats as well.

Reached Elephanta and walked along the long wharf to the mainland.

Also saw some fishing boats.

The island is mostly made up of hills and we had to walk up a long series of steps to get to the top, where all the real action is. Traders were selling touristy wares on both sides of this path.

The point towards the top where the stairway ends is a sort of junction, with a left turn going into secluded forest area and the path straight ahead leading into the famous Elephanta cave complex. We, however, turned left to begin our birdwatching trip.

The path we took soon led us to a lake, where we saw a number of birds.

The path went on past a village and ended at the coast.

Where one of our guides, Vinod Patil, managed to catch this beautiful creature.

PV and I did go see the caves later, marvelling at the large and beautiful structures cut into the hill, and the amount of time and effort it must have taken to do that. Couldn't take any pictures unfortunately since my camera batteries were too low.
Had lunch at an MTDC restaurant on the island (average food, poor service) and finally took a ferry back to Mumbai at 2.30.

Friday, 14 November 2008

An Englishman in Mumbai

Visited this blog recently. It's written by a British man who visits Mumbai. As always, it's interesting to note the difference in perspectives between cultures. I especially like the fact that the blog isn't biased and is as fair as can be.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Movie Seen: The Last Emperor

Saw The Last Emperor at Zenzi on the 2nd. The movie, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and released in 1987, fits the definition of an epic, or a biopic, since it details the life of the last emperor of China, a man who was more or less a prisoner and used by other people, for their own purposes, for most of his life.


Monday, 3 November 2008

Life in Muscat

A recent bout of browsing through a number of Muscat centered blogs has encouraged me to write this post. I’ve noted down snippets, from my memory, of the first 17 years of my life that I happened to spend in Muscat (1983 – 2000), to remind me of what a great place it was.

Life in General

Living in air conditioned splendour 24/7. Air conditioning everywhere I went.

Looking out from a window in my air conditioned room at the land around me getting baked in the afternoon sun and p
utting my hand up against the window to get a sense of the heat outside while being grateful that I didn’t have to worry about it.

Travelling everywhere by car. Walking was rare. I think I only learned the joys of walking in Mumbai.

Travelling to any place by car in just a few minutes with no traffic jams. A far cry from the 1 hr 30 min average it takes to travel from one point in Mumbai to another.

Visiting the malls. They were the best places to meet up with friends, though I had to be driven there by my Father. Ditto for the cinema or any other place.

Reading 'Young Times', a youth magazine, whose subscribers used to constantly request posters of Michael Jackson, WWE superstars, and SRK.



Gorging on Pofac cheese bites and Chips Oman. We didn't like them all that much but everyone else was having them, and there weren't that many other options.

Vimto, Ribena and Tang.

Buying Suntop juice packs, Nabil wafers, etc. just for the stickers.


Watching cartoons, T.V series and late night movies on the one channel we had – Oman T.V.

Waking up in time to catch the morning cartoons during our summer holidays. This was usually in Arabic but we didn’t care.

Watching Takeshi’s Castle in Arabic during late mornings in the summer. These were the full episodes and not the heavily edited ones they show on Pogo.

Trying not to fall asleep in the afternoon so we could catch the afternoon cartoon or show, which was either in English (Tiger Sharks, Popeye, Sesame Street, Crystal Maze, etc.) or Arabic (Voltron, Captain Planet, The Smurfs, etc.). I’m probably one of the few people to see Captain Planet in 3 languages – English, Hindi and Arabic.

Being frustrated every time the afternoon English cartoon was abruptly cut off so that the next show on Oman T.V could begin at its designated time slot. We often missed the endings of the English cartoons this way, but it didn’t stop us from partaking in the same will it-won’t it agony every day as it was all we had.

Going to my friend's homes once a week to watch shows like Small Wonder, G.I Joe, etc. on Star T.V. because my parents chose not to subscribe to cable. As time went on, Star T.V turned desi.

Rushing in from my games in the evenings so I could catch the sole evening cartoon, then going outside to continue playing hoping my friends were still there.

Watching the evening English serial. I saw shows like That's Incredible, Guiness World Records, The Cosby Show, Perfect Strangers, Who’s the Boss, Charles in Charge, Misfits of Science, Open House, Night Court, Alf, Valerie, Bustin’ Loose, Benson, He’s the Mayor, Step by Step, Good Morning Miss Bliss, Adam 12, Dragnet, Empty Nest, Uncle Buck, Generations, Mission Impossible, Our House, Sidekicks, Road to Avonlea, You Bet Your Life, Webster, etc. In our case the best of the 80’s was broadcast during the 90’s.

Finally getting cable when I was in the 8th or 9th Standard. Being addicted to TNT (later TCM) and watching almost every old Hollywood movie they showed.

Watching the channels taking the digital and more expensive route one by one when I came back to Muscat for a holiday in 2001.

Using the VCR to record shows when we were away from home.


Going for Catechism classes and Mass every Friday Morning, carrying a crinkly noisy little plastic bag with a Bible, notebook and pencil or pen.

Feeling a tinge of pride walking into catechism class, the class levels being marked 4 grades higher than our school grades, so we could attend the 7th grade at school and the 11th grade at Catechism in the same year.

Getting a new Catechism teacher every year, some of whom also doubled up as teachers at our school.

Always being told interesting stories during catechism class and the children’s mass with a moral at the end.

Attending Youth Mass and Catechism on Thursday evening instead of Friday morning as we got older.

Being driven back home from church in stupendous heat every Friday late morning in a car with no air conditioning and wishing we could dive into the fountain roundabout that we drove around each time we left the church.

Always scoring well on a Catechism test…always, and wishing my school test scores were that good.


Feeling a tinge of pride at being part of the CBSE syllabus.

Seeing the same faces year upon year for 11 years of school.

Having my classmates faces imprinted in my mind, so that I still see them as little kids rather than the adults they are now.

Wrapping new books in brown paper at the start of every academic year.

Getting older student’s old textbooks before the start of a new academic year so we could save money by not buying new ones.

Excitedly leafing through at the upcoming academic year’s textbooks, reading all the stories in the English Reader and looking at all the pictures in the science books during the summer holidays before the new year began.

Pencil boxes that transformed into robots.

Making that switch from pencils to pens during the 5th standard. Cheap 'Hero' Chinese fountain pens.

Putting the ACs on full blast after coming in from PT.

Do you have any Gulf memories that you'd like to share?