19 November 2007

quo vadis, India?

Is India progressing? If yes-what are the parameters? The economists in their preoccupation with various data and statistics see a flickering light on the horizon. Some optimists hope that the light will be steady by c. 2050. The signs are appearing visible at the sights of highrises, shopping malls, the increasing amount of money being invested in hospitality sector and the redoubtable Vijay Mallya’s announcement for Formula1being held in Indian track by 2010 etc amongst many others. The aspect of the number of poor being lessened down to a comfortable level will be taken up in the momentum of the process itself. But this is all about the physical health of the country. This is an index of how much and how many will able to consume in the system leading them ultimately to be consumed in the system itself. This is how the pigs and chickens are fattened and the measures taken to prevent them from viral and other infections so that they can afford to being consumed happily and hygienically. But there is an uncomfortable sense gripping me over at the sights of looks in the eyes of those, whom, I must have to identify as human beings, now waking at this dawn. It’s a sickening look of
avarice. I must enquire that whether the ‘light’ will enlighten also. After a long period of British rule-India, hundred years ago realised her identity and defined her longings culturally, politically, materially and spiritually. But like a superannuated mother she lacked the power and material strength required to reach her dream destination. There were glitters in her eyes in expectations that her children would redeem a future which was
rooted in the values of life as defined in the wisdom of this ancient civilization. Every collective community, as we find in history, when it progressed and attained its peak-the glory glittered through all that we consider as elements of civilization. The aspirations awoke and blossomed all over. Every awakening brought the attendant refinement in all fields of its life. Unlike the individual life a rich and wealthy nation can not be comprised of philistines. Is India heading towards a destination where she would wear an enlightened face? But a shadow is slowly catching up the refining light as the time is wearing on. Let us see the situation. All the cities of India have become havens of hardened criminals, of all sorts, protected by the administration. These criminals are the sources of sustenance for the police and the politicians. The police are supposed to save and protect the law abiding citizens and prevent the goons from doing mischief. But here in India in every police station the policemen’s only enthusiasm lies in finding opportunities where they can have deals with the perpetrators of crimes for consideration. The traffic police in the streets take bribe openly and whenever they need more income they threaten the honest drivers to pay; otherwise they are booked for violation of traffic rules. The Calcutta police in the British period was as efficient as to be compared with Scotland Yard. When Charles Augustus Tegart was the Police Commissioner during the period from 1923 to 1931, he was greatly admired for keeping the city free from crimes. However, he earned tremendous notoriety amongst
A man lost in pain. His story is very common amongst the poor of Calcutta. Having broken his leg in a fall, he was given improper outpatient treatment in a government hospital which resulted in his leg becoming gangrene, the rotting flesh permeating the corner of the dressing room he was in. He now risks losing his right leg, doctors at Talapark clinic sent him to another hospital shortly. This time his treatment will be paid for and supervised by Calcutta Rescue.
the freedom fighters of Bengal for being an obdurate opponent of Indian nationalism to the point of illegality and, for the ruthless torture of prisoners. But for this we are to blame the British rulers under whom Tegart served. Our point is that Tegart –however cruel and notorious he might be- was honest and sincere in his duty to maintain law and order-the most needed thing for both the ruler and the ruled. At least no high police officials in Lalbazar (the Calcutta Police HQ ) was ever recorded even unofficially as involved in criminal and unlawful activities. Now the IPS and IAS officers (equivalent to the ICS cadre of the British period) do not hesitate to violate the laws of the country for self interest. Ironically they are the most brilliant students from universities. Women, some years ago, were unsafe walking alone in the evening in some Calcutta and other city streets. Now they have become vulnerable even in broad daylight. Going by the news paper reports, one would come around the most uncomfortable belief that women are always and everywhere chased by a sex-hungry generation of modern India. They are not safe as patients in hospitals, teachers and students in educational institutions, devotees in temples, passengers in buses and trains and in every possible place they are the target of uncontrolled desires. The healthcare facility in India was never good and most often mainly from ignorance, people, especially in the villages and small towns, were afraid of being admitted in hospitals. But there was no single
instance of a patient being denied admission. Now in Calcutta, even the seriously injured ones by accidents do not find it easy to get admitted instantaneously considering the need of urgency in such matters, when they are brought to the hospitals. Private practitioners never visit serious patients on call in late night. Earlier the situation was not so; the doctors visited the patients in their houses at such odd hours. Medical profession was considered as a noble profession following British tradition and doctors were held in esteem in the society. But now they have been subjected to Consumer Protection Act as they seem to be no different than a trader or a contractor. The food supplied for the patients in government hospitals do not go to them. Most of the food is consumed by the canteen officials. The medicines supplied are sold out to the market and so the patients have to buy the prescribed medicines from the private shops. In many jails in India, the criminals may get extra facilities by bribing the warders. In some cases they enjoy as much facilities as were available to them in outside world. They keep cell phones and maintain contacts to the outer world. It is a widely known fact unofficially. No government cares to check corruption in jails. Teachers in the British period and in the early independent era are the most respected class in the society but they were the very poorly paid section. Now the teachers are handsomely paid. So when it is expected that this comfortable livelihood would help them to get more involved to their task of building the ‘future citizens’ –they themselves have become inclined to insincerity, avarice for money and irresponsibility. To become a teacher is to get access to the extraneous source of earning more by giving private tuition. They insist the students should pay money in their privately run classes if the they want to score more marks. The situation has become so unhealthy that the government has banned private tuition by teachers of government schools and colleges. But it continues as usual and not a single teacher has been officially punished for violating the law. It is because most teachers are activists under political parties. The government, following the suggestion of planning commission, grants sanctions of millions of rupees for improvement of primary education in the country. But much of this money goes to the pockets of the officials and the politicians. A renowned historian Tapan Roy Choudhury informs us that as a member of an education mission he found that the libraries of colleges did not have books for which large amount had been sanctioned by the University Grants Commission. He found that the money sanctioned was not used for lack of initiative. But to his surprise he found an exception in an institution where the library was well equipped with various books. On enquiry he came to know that the concerned librarian had a close relative who was a dealer of books. So it was a convenient situation for the librarian and the book seller to share money between them. The ministers and the members of the opposition parties quarrel with languages that can not be used openly in a civilised society. The general people are habituated to spitting on the streets. They, even the educated ones, find it convenient to urinate on the sides of the roads and streets in the cities. The public and the police equally enjoy violating the traffic rules. In spite of ruling of the Supreme Court against bursting crackers beyond permissible decibels –the young people enjoy bursting of violent crackers at every occasion of festivals. Here in India the government of a state openly criticises the governor-who is the official head of the same government because the governor accuses the government for its wrong doing by employing the goons and dacoits to kill and evict many villagers in order to rehabilitate the party cadres. In many states the parties use money powers to buy elected legislators to form government. There is virtually no democracy in India as all the institutions of this country are governed and headed by the party bosses. One great man once remarked that the parliamentary system of democracy for India was a bastard child of Westminster Abbey. In spite of all this India is fast growing to be wealthy enough to be one among the first world countries after five decades. But will it be enough for her to be poised in the dignity of existence? One is not born to ride a Bentley, to dine in a five (or more) star hotel, to travel in an Airbus A380, to live in a million- dollar apartment and to do all that a Mukesh Ambani or Bill Gates is capable of. The very nature of scientific activity is to be inquisitive. A scientist enquires everything to know the secrets of all; he does not like or accept things existing in hidden ways. So is the child also. Scientists unlike the child are different only in being adults and in their constant search for convenient living which India is going to acquire. But a man is born not to be only a scientist, a painter, a poet, an engineer, a businessman, a politician but basically to seek a truth and purpose of his life. I do not hold any opinion against science, democracy and comfortable living. But my point is whether India has really found her path which can lead her to the proper destination-her home in this world. In this context it reminds me the wisdom of ancient India when what Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalka told her husband. At the time when Yajnvalka was leaving for a recluse he told her, "Maitreyi, I am forsaking all and leaving home. If you so desire, I can make separate provisions for Katyayani and yourself." To these words of Yajnavalkya, Maitreyi gave answer, "If all my possessions were to fill the whole earth, would they bring me immortality, my lord?" Yajnavalkya had to reply, "No, that could never be; that would be impossible. But you could thereby have a life of enjoyments, like all other people who have wealth. But of immortality there would be no hope." There upon Maitreyi exclaimed, "What then am I to do with that which does not make me immortal?" I am yet to know the answer for my beloved land, India.
THE GATE IS OPEN BUT THE PATH IS BLOCKED

17 November 2007

Sri Krishnaprema (Richard Nixon)

Many years ago a book on Krishnaprema came to my hand. At that time I was passing through a bad time and was very much depressed. The book helped me to a great extent to gathering myself again in my normal optimism. What moved me most was his fiery love for his lord Krishna. But Krishnaprema was not an ordinary Vaishnav sannyasin. He was an intellectual and highly educated English man. His was not a sentimental, credulous and narrow Vaishnava mind that we are accustomed to see around us. He was rooted in his true and divine love. But I was personally attached to a single statement amongst many of what were quoted to have said by him in the book. This opening single sentence of his statement inspired me and also helped me to discover a truth of our life. The line was: “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees.” I am quoting below the whole text which begins with the above line. “The finest timber comes from the slowest growing trees. He who expects to blossom into a yogi in a few months or even in a few years of practice is found to be disappointed and had better leave the whole subject alone. He, however, who has the sincerity and courage to face whatever is in him, and the persistence to go on with his struggle in the face of obstacles within and without, and the humility to recognize that all that he has done is to take the first few steps on a tremendous journey, is certain to achieve something which he would not give away in exchange even for the whole world, for, as Sri Krishna teaches in the Gita, even the seeker after yoga goes far beyond the hopes and fears of ordinary religion and even a little of this dharma delivers from great fear.”

[AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE FOR FURTHER READING ON KRISHNAPREMA]

Richard Nixon was an English person and was a brilliant student of Cambridge University. He joined the British Army in his early twenties during the Second World War. Later he came to India as a professor of English literature. He taught in Benaras and Lucknow Universities. He was then better known there as Professor Richard Nixon. In India he came in contact with Yashoda Mai and became initiated by her in Vaishnavism. He took sannyas from his guru Yashoda Mai who renamed him as Sri Krishnaprema..He was deeply inclined in the traditional Bhaktiyoga of Indian spiritual discipline. In Uttar Vrindavana Yashoda Mai established an ashram and built a temple dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna. G. L. Janeja of Patna wrote under his article ‘Yogi Sri Krishnaprema-“Life in the ashram was extremely austere. They took only a single meal a day and even gave up drinking afternoon tea-when the ashram could not afford to serve it to the labourers who worked in the ashram fields. There was no hot water available, even though the winters were very cold with heavy snow falls. Krishnaprema slept on the floor on a single blanket, close to the side of Yashoda Ma, his guru. All the rest, including the occasional guests slept in their own apartments. Krishnaprema was a great guru-bhakta (devoted to guru) and believed firmly that nothing could take the place of personal service to the guru for quick spiritual progress. His devotion to the guru was something very rare in modern times especially for an ex-professor and an intellectual of such a very high order.” Dilip Kumar Roy a renowned singer and a devotee of Sri Aurobindo came in close contact with Krishnaprem and a friendship grew between them. Dilip K. Roy would often exchange his views and thoughts on spiritual matters with this English gentleman who was then living Uttar Vrindavan in Almora. Dilip loved to send his views on many things especially on spiritual matters to his guru-Sri Aurobindo. Once he sought his guru’s opinions on a matter related to Krishnaprema’s and after sending him one such letter, he received a reply from Sri Aurobindo on the question of faith and optism in the context of an experience of Krishnaprem. Sri Aurobindo wrote: “As for faith, Krishnaprem’s meaning is clear enough. Faith in the spiritual sense is not a mental belief which can waver and change. It can wear that form in the mind, but that belief is not the faith itself, it is only the external form. Just as the body, the external form, can change but the spirit remains the same, so it is here. Faith is a certitude in the soul which does not depend on reasoning, on this or that mental idea, on circumstances, on this and that passing condition of the mind or the vital or the body. It may be hidden, eclipsed, may even seem quenched, but it appears again after the storm or the eclipse; it is seen burning still in the soul when one has thought that it was extinguished forever. The mind may be a shifting sea of doubts and yet that faith may be there within and, if so, it will keep even the doubt-racked mind in the way so that it goes on in spite of itself towards its destined goal. Faith is a spiritual certitude of the spiritual, the divine, the soul’s ideal, something that clings to that even when it is not fulfilled in life, even when the immediate facts or the persistent circumstances seem to deny it. This is a common experience in the life of the human being; if it were not so, man would be a plaything of a changing mind or a sport of circumstances. I have, I think, more than once, written the same thing as Krishnaprem though in a different language. “If you understand this and keep it in mind, Krishnaprem’s experience and the image in which he saw it should be sufficiently clear. The needle is this power in the soul and the card with its directions the guiding indications given by it to the mind and life. The ship is the psychological structure of ideas, beliefs, spiritual and psychic experiences, the whole building of the inner life in which one moves onward in the voyage towards the goal. When the storm comes, a storm of doubts, failures, disappointments, adverse circumstances and what not, the crew – let us say, the powers of the mind and vital and the physical consciousness – begin to disbelieve, despond, stand aghast at the contradiction between our hopes and beliefs and the present facts and they even turn in their rage of disbelief and despair to deny and destroy the structure of their inner thought and life which was bearing on them, tear up even the compass which was their help and guide, even to reject the needle, the great contrast in their spirit. But when they have come to the point of drowning, that power acts on them, they turn to it instinctively for refuge and then suddenly they find all cleared,all the destruction was their own illusory action and the ship reappears as strong as before. This is an experience which most seekers have had many times, especially in the earlier or middle course of their sadhana. All that has been done seems to be undone, then suddenly or slowly the storm passes, the constant needle reappears; it may even be that ship which was a small sloop or at most a schooner or a frigate becomes an armed cruiser and finally a great battleship unsinkable and indestructible. That is a parable but its meaning should be quite intelligible, and it is a pragmatic fact of spiritual experience. I may add that this inmost faith or fixed needle of spiritual aspiration may be there without one’s clearly knowing it; one may think that one has only beliefs, propensities, a yearning in the heart or a vital preference which seem to be temporarily destroyed or suspended, yet the hidden constant remains, resumes its action, keeps us on a way and carries us through. It can be said of it in the words of the Gita that even a little of this delivers us from great danger, carries us to the other side of all difficulties, sarva durgani.” Krishnaprem held a great regard for Sri Aurobindo and once remarked that Sri Aurobindo who fought against the English rule gave the English the most wonderful thing in their language by writing Savitri in English. The language was enlightened to an uncharted height so far unknown to this language. I can not remind the exact sentences Krishnaprema used for his comment on Savitri –unfortunately but the sense was close to it. Sri Krishnaprem passed away on November 14th 1965. His last words to his beloved disciple; M Ashish were-“My ship is sailing”. For further reading on Krishnaprema and the life and sadhana of Yashoda Mai-the suggested book is: "Yogi Sri Krishna Prem " by Dilip Kumar Roy Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay -400- 007

13 November 2007

Honda creating home system for drivers to make hydrogen

Honda FCX Concept

Honda Motor, aiming to start mass production of fuel-cell cars by about 2015, is developing a system using solar energy for drivers to make hydrogen at home to fuel such vehicles.Individual production of hydrogen would let people refuel their cars without waiting for a network of stations to be set up, the company's president, Takeo Fukui, said.Automakers, under pressure to cut carbon dioxide emissions tied to global warming and tailpipe exhaust, are seeking alternatives to oil as prices approach $100 a barrel.Honda, Toyota Motor and General Motors have all said hydrogen powered autos are a long-term option, though they are costly to build and lack a refueling infrastructure."Our ultimate goal is to use a renewable source of energy as a source of fuel," Masaaki Kato, the president of research and development at Honda, said. "So we use solar panels to generate electricity and we use the electricity to produce hydrogen."Honda, the second-largest automaker in Japan, plans Wednesday to unveil a fuel-cell vehicle based on its prototype FCX sports car at the Los Angeles Auto Show.In 2008, the new car initially will be leased "to fewer than 100" people, most in California, Fukui said Oct. 23.While producing hydrogen from solar-powered electrolysis would cut carbon dioxide emissions, it is not yet possible to do it cheaply or in sufficient quantity, said a chemistry professor, Nate Lewis, who is also an energy researcher at the California Institute of Technology."You need to do that cheaply and scalably - neither of which we are even close to being able to do technically now," Lewis said.Honda began selling solar panels in Japan earlier this year to make electricity for homes.The panels, priced at ¥57,500, or $509, each, substitute a thin metal layer for silicone typically used in photovoltaic panels to reduce production costs and lower the energy needed to make them, Honda said.Honda has no "specific" plan to commercialize a home-based hydrogen-generation system, Kato said. Still, it could be ready for consumers within 10 years, according to Fukui."We believe this should bring a breakthrough in providing infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicles," Fukui said.Caltex income rises on fuel Caltex Australia, the biggest oil refiner in the nation, expects full-year net income to rise as much as 29 percent as fuel production increases.Net income, including the effect of changes in oil prices on the value of stockpiles, may rise to between 550 million Australian dollars, or $510 million, and 600 million dollars in the year ending Dec. 31, from 466 million dollars last year, Caltex said Thursday.Caltex, half-owned by Chevron, estimates its two refineries near Brisbane and Sydney will increase production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to 11 billion liters, or 2.9 billion gallons, this year, from 10.2 billion in 2006.First-half profit jumped 33 percent, buoyed by higher refining margins, production and sales volumes, the company reported.
In a world first, Honda last year delivered one of its FCX fuel cell cars to a private individual in the US. Now a glimpse of how a Honda production fuel cell vehicle might appear in three to four years' time is provided by the FCX Concept, which boasts a fuel cell system that delivers more power in less space, in a unique, low-floor platform. The sleek, premium four-door sedan's low centre of gravity and full-sized cabin offer the kind of driving pleasure and roomy interior previously unimaginable in a fuel cell vehicle. The FCX Concept also features a wide range of technology both for extremely efficient performance and to enhance the driving experience. Fuel cell vehicles must accommodate a wide array of equipment: as well as the fuel cell stack, there is the motor and hydrogen tank which have traditionally been accommodated by raising the height of the floor. The packaging efficiency of Honda's new compact V Flow fuel cell platform means that it has been possible to create the lowest floor in a fuel cell car so far.

11 November 2007

MY INTERVIEW WITH FRANCK

FRANK'S VILLAGE AT ALPS

I came to know Franck from his photographic show in a website. In the beginning I thought of him as an Indian-as almost all of his photographs are on India. And I also noticed that the photographer had a deep love and liking for India as was evident from the photos he had shot. As a photographer he appeared to have admirable talent. As I had some photos of mine in the site-I loved to comment on his photos. Naturally we knew one another through our photographs. I did not read his profile till then. But one day out of my curiosity I read it and came to know to my surprise that he was French and had been living in France. So I wanted to be closer to him as friend. As the friendship grew I requested him to write something on India and why he felt inclined to India. He complied with my request and wrote a brief account on his India tour and his experience while traveling in India. This was published in this blog under the title-“In India with love” and later under “More photos from Frank”. Recently, I have interviewed him with some questions. My questions and his answers are now published. Franck lives in the Alps, at the Italian border-near the city of Briançon. There are two national parks around his village. He wants to visit India third time again at the occasion of Maha Kumbh Mela. Franck is a highly educated person, and also being a son of France, he is cultured in the true sense of the term. I think many educated persons of India are not equals to Franck in his knowledge on India as is evident from his comments on various matters in Indian situation. If the Indian youth were as enthusiastic as Franck in his search to discover India –we would have been fortunate.
Q1. Before coming to India at the age of nineteen you felt for visiting India. Was it because of your readings, seeing documentaries etc India appeared to be an interesting place to visit? Generally we feel interested in many places of the world like the forests of Africa, the Antarctica, Egypt and the Middle East etc which are not less interesting places than India. So in what way India had a special appeal for you. Franck: Oh sure, I was also interested in other places; wonderful landscapes we see in documentaries, especially the extreme of Antarctica, and Amazon also; still, the Himalayas were my favorite landscape; but what happened was that I was also, at the time, discovering/searching spirituality, from atheism to agnosticism; first, I’ve read stories about eremitism (Milarepa chants, but also the books from Alexandra David Neel) then I found a book from an Indian guru and that book made me want to know more about Hinduism; I found some books about Upanishads which my father in law had with him and he loved those books. I learned about "holy men", met students in university talking about this country.. I think I was searching for a living spirituality, and it seemed it was in Orient, and more particularly in India and so I wanted to find the land; and, oh yes, this sentence from Ramakrishna, which influenced me much –which he had told in a simple way about the various paths of religions- "..all religions are ways to God, but the ways are not god". This was how he taught the truth of tolerance. Q2. Was there any pre- base behind your interest conceived idea or thought that had been formed as a? Franck: Yes that same idea that in India spirituality was alive; but I must say that I was also scared in my ideas on the third world countries including India. Q3.Apart from socio-economic and cultural variations from other Western countries –if there is other distinctiveness India stands for? Franck:The strength of family structure; the fact that the culture and religion is far more complex, all-inclusive; the fact it was the only colonised country that survived decolonization, notwithstanding her having suffered the consequences of partition; her vegetarian emphasis, and the presence of nature in the heart of cities, like cows, monkeys, the place and importance of trees (I loved to see these huge trees everywhere); the multi cultural and multi language composition of India; and a strong national pride and consciousness Q4. Do you think India's religiosity is responsible for her backwardness? Franck:It depends on what you call backwardness; if you talk about cast discrimination, dowry problems, abortion of girls, I think it is not religion that is responsible but the lack of political will of the politicians who benefit from ignorance and bigotry; and there is a major difference between religiosity and bigotry; but still, in a 1 billion-people country with 85% of rural population, education is not easy to spread.. Q5. You have said that people of India in general are spontaneously warm to be in relation even with a stranger the kind of which is not natural in Western countries. Do you think it is because people of India consider white-skinned persons are superior to people of their own country? And for that matter they have considered themselves privileged in getting related to you? Franck: I had these feelings sometimes, and it was quite weird; it depends on the people; while Brahmins don't care about us westerners (as they feel so much superior),.. it is true that skin color play a role in the way we are perceived; but what could I do? sometimes it upset me as some attitudes were too servile; but upon that, there was real interest, specially from youths and student, about western way of life; and soon even I discovered that western way of life was not very well appreciated, and often mocked; so I think it is balanced; and beyond that, I had so much good meetings.. Q6. Are the people of India open-minded? Franck: That's a tough question...at first sight, I may think yes, it's an open minded country, with all these religions living together, but soon I discovered how Brahmins were talking about Shudras, how Hindus talked about Muslims, and how Muslims talked about Hindus. I think it's not possible to answer such a question, as there are all kinds of situations; from the very open minded students in big cities to the old men in small villages...India is fast changing, and a lot of people are attracted by these changes, but social structures seem very rigid in some part of the country (like, when dalit cannot enter a temple or drink the water from Brahmin source-in a small village of Uttar Pradesh, and a woman died of thirst because she was not permitted to drink water) Q7. Is India conservative in her social outlook? Franck: Defin tely, even if cast system has been abolished, still social classifications are very strong and make it difficult for anyone to change one's condition; but here again, it depends on the places; rural areas are more conservative, while in big cities changes happen very fast. I heard a Bollywood producer saying "India is 15% of the country, and Bharat is 85%" justifying why there were not more kisses in movies; in villages, boys and girls cannot walk hand in hand, and have to hide when they want to meet while in big cities, it is not a problem; in villages, boys cannot imagine to refuse an arranged marriage.... Q8.Have you not felt anytime that India lacks vitality to rise above her present state? Franck: No the contrary, I felt there is plenty of vitality! you have the best high schools in the world, you have also the second silicon valley with Bangalore, and the new generation is full of dreams and will for success; all is progressing very fast, especially your economy; but I don't know if this rising (if it is only a following of western way of life and economical "science") may be considered as positively indicated. Q9.Have you experienced communal hatred/ill-feeling between her Hindu and Muslim communities? Franck: Yes, once in Jodhpur; it was during a Sufi festival, so the imam in the mosque was talking loud (over microphone) for hours, and we could hear him throughout all the old city; the family in which I was staying were very upset against Muslims, ("they are all terrorists, they make too much babies, poverty is because of them") and talked about fights they had made against Muslims. One month before, I was in palitana, and where Muslims and Hindus were working side by side, drinking chaï (tea) together. I think, as far as I know, that this hatred between Muslims Hindus is maintained by the politics (BJP) as they want India to be a 100% Hindu country Q10.Indian Hindus regard the river Ganga as sacred and they believe in the divine purity of her water. What do you think? Franck: From a western point of view, Ganga is the most polluted river in the world, with half burnt dead bodies in it, chemical pollution, etc...but scientist made one experience: they put cholera germs both in normal water, and in ganga water; in normal water, germs survived 3 days; in Ganga water, germs disappeared in 24 hours...as I’m not Hindu, it shouldn't have impressed me, but when I saw Ganga for the first time I had some peculiar feeling...weird , isn't it? Q11.Have 'Kumbh Mela' had anything special to you? Franck: It was huge! this gathering of million people was very strong! Emile Durkheim, one of the greatest French sociologist and anthropologist, had a word for this: he talked about "mana"; and defined it as "the feeling that is spread in huge gathering as structuring of social model, reinforcing common values and faith"; that is what makes you feel part of a group, of a society; India is full of diversity but throughout events like that, it unites in celebration, and there's nothing more beautiful; a very strong experience. In Hardwar, the feeling of communion was so strong...I felt like a foreigner, for sure, but also received a lot of good feelings Q12.Have you not felt it queer –the way the Hindus sees the cows? Franck: Not at all! Cow gives milk, butter, dahi, cream, cheese, and also means (from its excretion) to light fire..so it is comprehensible for the cows being respected; but nevertheless I found sometime that there was far less respect than I expected; I was surprised for the first time when I found someone beating a cow (to avenge for the loss of vegetables the cow’s having eaten them). Q13.India is a large country with people who are not culturally as homogeneous as the peoples of France and the UK. Indians speak in more than twenty languages. There is no similarity between a Tamil and an Assamese or between a Gujrati and a Bengali. How far it is true that as a nation India is one? Have you felt the quintessential India in all places you have traveled in that country? Franck: As I said, I felt there is a strong national feeling, except in people from coming for eastern states (like Arunachal Pradesh or Meghalaya); and the feeling is also there that this country is out of time; but to answer properly this question, I need to spend more time in this country.. Q14. If you have formed a perception on India-which state seems most representative of your notion? Franck: Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, for these states combine tradition, modernity, religious culture, coexistence of religions, holy places and developed cities and all the contrasts that India is living with. Q15.Which state have you liked most? Franck: As they all are different, it is very hard; I liked India as a global experience of alterity Q16. Did you have plans on visiting particular states in India? If you had –what determined your choices? Franck: Yes I had plans; I wanted to go to holy places, and also cultural places; but I also listened to people advising me; for example, when I was in Omkareshwar, some told me about Maheshwar, so I decided to go; then I heard about Hampi, and even I had not had prior plan to go, I decided I would (and I don't regret as -what a fantastic archeological place it was!) Q17.Have you visited W.Bengal and Tamil Nadu? If not-do you have any plan to visit the places that you have not covered in the last two trips? Franck: I did not visit these places, and regret it; but on a next trip, I’d like to go to Kolkata as it is of significant cultural importance, and it looks like a very attractive for that; I wish also to visit the eastern states, after encountering youth of Assam; Tamil Nadu also.. for it's new Shaibism, and also it is very interesting as there are lots of pilgrims places; I wish to travel also the char dham( char dham parikrama) once in my life (I come from mountains and love them). Q17. Indian Hindus believe in re-birth. If you are given the option-do you like to be born in India in your next birth? Franck: The principle of re-birth is that you cannot choose!.. but yes, why not? but not as a girl...! Q18. When are you coming to India again? Franck: I’ll go next time. I’d like to prepare myself for something more serious, may be to find some work in French high school or even primary school, to be able to stay for more long time; learn Hindi properly, to be able to understand and express more; go back in some places where I kept in touch with friends, and above all I wish to be in India for the next Maha kumbh-mela.

6 November 2007

Manmohan Singh makes a visionary statement

Manmohan Singh is widely acknowledged as a soft-spoken gentleman. But this quality of his nature has many a times been seen as his weakness in some circumstances when he should have been rigid on the face of his detractors. Many in the country including myself are of the opinion that it does not behove a Prime Minister to yield to the unjust, narrow and anti-national demands of the Communist Party of India (M) in respect of Indo-US nuclear deal. Mr. Singh is not a politician. He is an economist and he served best in that field as a guide to the late PM, P.V. Narsimha Rao as his finance minister in the process of economic reform. But the real genius of Mr. Singh lies in his vision of the future. No politician, while in office, in this world has ever dared to make such statement what Manmohan Singh did in his public statement yesterday. On the point of the Left’s allegation that the nuclear deal would be a compromise of India’s sovereignty he made a visionary and bold statement. None of his cabinet ministers and the members of the party he belongs to match him. He wondered “Whether the day is not far away when the concept of absolute sovereignty may itself come into question.” By saying so he has proved that he belongs to the Future where the World is One. Thank you Manmohan Singh. Tirthankar from Pondicherry comments Such vision, while too much for the man next door, is natural for any economist of the highest stature who sees the idea of one-world taking shape through the ever-widening economic and trading activities of mankind. Presently, the winds of amalgamation of the peoples can blow more freely over the broad expanses of trade and commerce, and in doing so, it will probably gather sufficient force to shake up the forbidding, narrow and stifled dwellings of politics.Market forces are already rubbing out national and regional boundaries and so it is not surprising that such a revolutionary statement should issue forth from the mouth of a person who is first and foremost an economist than from his parochial politician colleagues.This is an occasion for us to remember the elder brother of this harbinger of change - physical science and technology. In a world that was completely segregated into impenetrable compartments, trailblazing developments in science and technology had helped to knit the peoples closer."

3 November 2007

Flying Palace in the Air-Airbus A380

THE AIRBUS A380 , just completed its maiden commercial flight in the afternoon of 25th October, 2007 carrying 455 passengers including 11 Indians -the youngest was a ten month-old boy from Sigapore and the oldest was one 91-year old Californian, from Singapore to Sydney. The AirbusA380 is perhaps more than a palace. The passangers of its maiden flight were from 35 countries. The aircraft was as tall as a seven-storey building and half a football field long. It has put the great Boeing 747's 37-year supremacy in a dim second position. As far as India is concerned-none of her airports is capable of handling the super jumbo right now. When ready it will be Hyderabad to see the first commercial flight by March next year.Bangalore is next in the line followed by Delhi. Calcutta and Chennai airports are in the process of modernisation and they can follow suit as and when they are ready.Air India is considering to buy 10 of the RS 1267 crores planes for its most congested routes like Mumbai-New York. But it is most unlikely that A380 will be available to Air India before 2011 as the company has already got orders of 165 planes from international carriers. Kingfisher is expected to get by 2011 the first of the five A380s it has already ordered for its European and US routes. Kingfisher's contact with the Airbus specifies it has to be the first Indian airline to operate A380. So Air India will have to wait till the first A380 will have been sold to the Bangalore-based private airline. The A380 burns 17 per cent less fuel per seat than today's largest aircraft. This is the most significant step forward in reducing aircraft fuel burn and resultant emissions in four decades. Low fuel burn means low CO2 emissions. In fact the A380 produces only 75g of CO2 per passenger and per km, almost half of the target set by the European Union for cars manufactured in 2008. With the A380, which offers more space per passenger in all classes, CO2 footprint per passenger has never been so small. Low-noise characteristics have been a major design driver for the A380. As a result the aircraft is significantly quieter than other large aircraft and offers substantial margins in relation to the latest (ICAO Stage 4) noise limits. producing half the noise energy at take off and cutting the area exposed to equivalent noise levels around the airport runway by half. ...advantages: With its three decks for cargo, the A380F freighter version is able to carry 50 per cent more freight than its closest rival – and to fly a full 1,400nm further. Yet with its advanced technology and use of weight-saving composites – 25 per cent of its structure is made from composite materials – the A380F also burns 18 per cent less fuel per tonne than its rival. Now let us take an overview of the 'Flying Palace'-Airbus A380 which is largest aircraft on the planet. Fernando Alonso, chief flight test engineer and vice president flight test division, said the A380’s take-off weight for the first flight, at 421 tonnes, was the greatest take-off weight of any aircraft in the world. “In terms of systems everything worked fine,” he said. “It’s an extremely comfortable aircraft.

What will the A380 change for me as a passenger? The A380 will provide more comfort in every class. This is possible because the A380 offers 50 per cent more floor space but will typically carry only 35 per cent more passengers. Some of the benefits will come as wider seats even for Economy class, some as more spacious aisles and galleys areas to stretch your legs. Regardless of how airlines plan their seats and services, the design of the A380 cabin ensures low noise level throughout and up to 15 per cent more stowage space for your carry-on luggage.In addition, the cabin will benefit from advanced lighting systems and new standards of in flight entertainment, which will greatly enhance your overall travel experience.These advances in cabin comfort are particularly important for the long haul routes such as London-Singapore and Los Angeles-Sydney. How many passengers will I be flying with? The A380 is designed to carry 555 passengers in a typical seating configuration, including an Economy, a Business and a First class. However most airlines have actually indicated that they may have fewer seats than this. In any case, you will not feel crowded thanks to the width of the two separate widebody decks as each will provide more space for everyone. Which airlines have so far announced firm orders and commitments for the A380? To date, Airbus has received 154 orders and commitments from 15 customers. These are (in alphabetical order): Air France, China Southern Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Federal Express, International Lease Finance, Korean Air Lines, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways International, UPS and Virgin Atlantic Airways Is the A380 the most technologically advanced aircraft to date? The A380 combines the very latest technologies for materials, systems and industrial processes. It meets the most stringent international certification requirements. The A380 is not only the most spacious civil jetliner ever built, it is also the most advanced - representing a unique technology platform from which all future commercial Airbus aircraft will evolve.Each new technology developed, tested and adopted for the A380 has been carefully studied to determine its effects over the lifetime of the aircraft, and has been selected for its proven reliability and long-term benefits. Will the economy class also benefit from more space or will it be only for the business and first classes? The main deck of the A380 is wider than that of any commercial jetliner in operation today. Its extra floor space will benefit everyone aboard and will give airlines new opportunities to create innovative cabin arrangement for the greater comfort of all passengers. Regardless of how airlines arrange their seats and services, even the economy class will be wider. High capacity overhead bins and the latest generation of in flight entertainment will also significantly enhance passenger comfort

1 November 2007

I would cry out to our humanity, sinking deeper into our Iron age, that the Golden world is about us and that beauty is open to all, and none are shut out from it who will turn to and seek for it. AE (George William Russel)/AEON