• Voices from Japan: Six months on

    This piece should really be called mera something hain Japani? After all, what is that talking point that runs off, just skirting our headline radar in a heavily mediated world? Something that often eavesdrops on our collective cynicism with its quieter can-do-ness. Leaving one with an exasperated wow from the confines of a busy day. Or reminding the journalists that a human interest story often begins with one  human, struggling to be so.

    The September 11 date, with its spate of  quiet and graphic remembrances, converged on another more recent anniversary. 6 months since Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear situation. While the media megamart chronicled it with a powerful sense of the phenomenal from ground zero (remember  NYT's before and after satellite imagery), I turned my distant empathy from Indian shores to a different sense of the interactive soon enough. Japanese voices that spoke compellingly of their own tribulations through these six months.

    There was a Osakan vegan

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  • Fast, Narendrabhai, deliver us unto Sadhbhavana!

    Vinutha Mallya

    After reading Narendrabhai’s letter to the citizens of his state, via his blog, I want to say: such expression is rare in a CEO of any state.

    It was 2004, not long after the riots. I remember alighting in the Ahmedabad station at 4:30 am, waiting for my usual defense mechanism to come up. It didn’t. For the first time in my entire life, in which I’d by then lived in four cities as an adult, and that includes London, here was a city where I didn’t feel the instinctual fear of being attacked because I was a woman.

    Gujaratis are usually warm, nice, well-meaning people, who look out for each other, and show far more respect to women in day-to-day life than I have seen in any other part of this country.

    So how did an entire state, in the capital city of which I’ve walked alone after midnight without any fear, become so full of hate one fine day?

    Maybe it was a temporary, collective loss. The loss of sadh-bhavana. This was in its karma.

    When the prime CM and prime

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  • Muhammad Ali never left the ring

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times.

    Before Parkinson's disease quieted Muhammad Ali, he made great copy. He still does, apparently, in retrospect.

    His taunting, his prophesying, his racist jibes, his questionable patriotism, his refusal to kowtow to Americana. He was a photographer's talisman: He made menacing eyes that popped back at the mob of flashbulbs with orchestrated, theatrical malice. His acerbic tongue inflicted damage equal in insult and injury to the blows that his padded fists delivered. He became, effortlessly, the most recognizable sportsperson in America, more than Joe DiMaggio, more than Michael Jordan and, arguably, more than Tiger Woods. Forget America, he is perhaps still the most recognizable sportsperson in the world, representing the glorious sunshine moment of a sport that has now fallen on dim days.

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr

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  • The arrest of an action hero for domestic violence has triggered a bizarre string of events in the Kannada film industry.

    Darshan, who stars in blood-and-gore revenge dramas, took his macho image too far when he assaulted his wife Vijayalakshmi and threatened to kill their infant child with his licensed revolver.

    The moment he was jailed, influential people in the industry rushed to the hospital where Vijayalakshmi was admitted, and succeeded in getting her to dilute her police complaint. She is now saying she sustained injuries after a fall, and not because she was battered by Darshan.

    Something inexplicable happened simultaneously: The Kannada Producers' Association banned actress Nikita for three years, saying she had created a rift in her co-star Darshan's marital life.

    For many, the action exposed the male bias in the industry, and a complete disregard for fair play. How could they ban Nikita without giving her any notice or seeking an explanation, especially when there was no

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  • 9/11 special: Is racial profiling wrong?

    "Racial profiling refers to the use of an individual's race or ethnicity by law enforcement personnel as a key factor in deciding whether to engage in enforcement (e.g. make a traffic stop or arrest)" is how Wiki defines the term. I haven't travelled much, so I cannot speak for all those who've been subjected to intrusive interrogation and security checks, but I do wonder sometimes - why does the term invoke a violently negative connotation whenever it's mentioned?

    Loathe as I am to cite the example of overbearing film stars like Shah Rukh Khan who kicked up his trademark fuss when he was detained at Newark airport in 2009 while on a promotional run for My Name is Khan, that is the most identifiable instance that comes to mind. The fact that it seemed more like a rather staged attempt at garnering publicity for the film aside, (I still don't believe his name/profile could turn up in an alert list - for hamming, maybe) that is when we actually sat up and took notice of the practice of

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  • 9/11 in verse

    In the early aftermath of whatever struck you about 9/11, the life math itself action replayed mind-numbingly. The body count, the bangs through the buildings, and the private and public aches of a stunned America. And the united colors of breathless TV studios. Shedding nationalistic heat on a moment that may have needed some light and a balm instead.

    One had to take a deep breath and find other ways of seeing.

    Thus, poetry.

    Wislawa SzymborskaWislawa Szymborska

    At that time, much of the poetry I read vacillated between American school assignments in cathartic mode to quick-fire book-length poems; all of them, of course, having their own coming-to-terms story. And then there was Wislawa Szymborksa's poem PHOTOGRAPH FROM SEPTEMBER 11.

    'They jumped from the burning floors—
    one, two, a few more,
    higher, lower

    The photograph halted them in life,
    and now keeps them
    above the earth toward the earth..'

    Wislawa Szymborksa. I did not know this Polish 1996 Nobel Laureate until then. She had continued to study underground during

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  • At least three organisations are claiming responsibility for Wednesday's blast in Delhi.

    The latest mail comes from West Bengal, and reportedly threatens more violence in Ahmedabad. The second mail was purportedly sent by the Indian Mujahideen from West Bengal.

    Terror groups are trying to confuse the police, and have succeeded so far. Even two days after the blast, investigative agencies have yet to report any significant breakthrough. The National Investigative Agency has announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for anyone providing information about who placed the suitcase bomb near the court.

    The powerful blast, near the High Court, killed 13 people and injured about 75.

    On Friday, Uttar Pradesh police arrested two men who resembled the sketches the Delhi police had put out of suspects. A day earlier, people raided a cyber cafe and arrested five men, including two suspected to have sent an email to media organisations in the name of the Harkat-ul Jehadi Islami. The arrests took place in

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  • Sarah McLachlan is to perform "Angel" at the dedication of Pennsylvania's 9/11 memorial as a tribute to the victims, families, friends, firefighters, and police whose lives were personally affected by the events of 9/11. A remembrance to those who died in the Twin Towers ten years ago, and how the events of that day unfolded and changed lives forever.

    This song also makes me remember of that very day in my life. I remember coming home and looking at my parents glued to the TV watching smoke rising from an explosion at the World Trade Center. I recall the shot of the sunny blue day, before the explosion. I remember observing the pieces of rubble plummet from the towers and, then learn that the rubble were actually people. I remember thinking, "how terrible it must have been up there to make jumping down from the tallest building in the world appear like the better option."

    I remember these things because they were permanently engraved into my mind and entwined into the cloth of America,

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  • Srinivasa Shreyas Ranganath's father refused to meet me, and that was understandable. To this elderly employee of Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, I was just another nosy reporter hounding down a story, and seeking my trophy — a byline. His 26-year-old son, on deputation with Marsh and McLennan in New York's World Trade Center, was among four Wipro employees and hundreds of others killed when terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the Twin Towers. One year later, I had tracked him down to request an interview.

    "For you it's just a story," he said acidly over the phone. Until he pointed that out, I must confess it was. Just the previous evening I was in Puttur in southwestern Karnataka to meet the family of his son's colleague Hemant Puttur, another victim of the terrorist attacks. Now, here I was in Bangalore hoping to make my trip worthwhile. I felt like a jerk.

    The New York City skyline on 9/11

    "Just a story."

    The truth in Ranganath's words tore into me like shrapnel. Shamed, I flinched. Then I steadied my voice,

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  • What I’d like to hear our leaders say

    Another day, another blast, many more lives lost, another day of constant bickering on TV, another day for indignation and hopelessness. Where exactly are we going wrong in our war against terror?

    For starters, I'd like it if we didn't have to hear the platitudes that our politicos insist on mouthing ad nauseum, thank you very much. Here's what we hear every time a bomb rips apart a place, a family, a city - and here's what I'd like to hear instead.

    What we hear #1: We strongly condemn the attacks.

    Substitute with: We're tired of condemning attacks; if we don't come back to you with the justice that you, as citizens of this country, deserve after trusting us to protect you, we'll add another amendment to our constitution that makes it legally possible for you to remove the expensive security that we're granted with your hard-earned money every time we use the word 'condemn' after an attack.

    What we hear #2: It is a cowardly act.

    Substitute with: How do we know it's a cowardly attack?

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