Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Advent of the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle and Libya.

Recently I read that the premier ship of the French Navy had left the French port at Toulouse on its way to the coast off  Libya. This ship the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle named after the great French soldier statesman is supposed to be a state of art warship with 29 aircraft and latest ECM and other paraphernalia.

I put on my thinking cap and racked my brain about the French Navy. Sadly through out History the French Navy has always remained second to the British and other Navys. During the second world war there contribution against the Axis powers was a big zero and earlier also the French Navy from the destruction of the Armada by Francis Drake and the Battle at Trafalgar against Nelson always came a cropper. So all the Hulla bulla about the French carrier moving against Libya  may be taken with a pinch of salt. The only saving grace is that there is no worthwhile opposition to test the French aircraft carrier and as such the  complement of 1800 personnel can reap a rich harvest of medals.

The French pride themselves as a great nation.I suppose they are but in Europe they have been repeatedly bested by the Germans and on the seas the Royal Navy has bettered the French. Thus I do not read much in the movement of the aircraft carrier to the Libyan coast. However the purpose of the movement  to control and overthrow Gaddafi has all my support. But by God, if Gaddafi had a strong fleet the French Aircraft carrier could have been tested.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Visiting Tarifa Beach in Spain * 74

 My friend  has married a  Portuguese girl and resides close to Lisbon. So I paid him a visit last year and he suggested a holiday at the beach resort of Tarifa. It is located in Spain and a lovely place. We drove by car to Tarifa  which also has a small old city. Can you imagine that the deep blue sea separates the continent of Europe from Africa by a mere 13 miles.

The place where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean is the location of Tarifa beach. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. The blue ocean beckons you to take a dip. You can spend your time watching dolphins and some stunning girls in bikinis.  For me it was a wonderful experience as I swam in the cool blue sea and also had my eye full of lovely girls along with the dolphins that abound here.Quite a contrast from an Indian beach. If you like water sports, surfing and windsurfing can be your cup of tea. For the adventurous and the not so adventurous its a wonderful place to relax.

 I will recommend a holiday at Tarifa. It is a lot different from most other places. But we had a problem with Indian food though we later discovered a small shack selling Curry, parotha and rice. Despite that definitely worth a visit. You may well ask what about the Portuguese gal who was my friends wife. Well she also loved Indian curry.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Pakistani to Admire- General Pervez Musharraf

General Pervez Musharraf was President of Pakistan for 10 years(19998-2008). He had joined the Army and appeared to be a man without political ambition. This was the reason he was made the Chief of Army Staff by Nawaz Shariff,by superseding 6 Generals. It is history that he overthrew Nawaz and became President of Pakistan.
Though Musharraf had not much of a distinguished record as an Officer in the Army, his stint as President was remarkable. In fact I will stick my neck out and say that after Jinnah he was the one man who gave a direction to Pakistan away from the path of sectarianism and Militant Islam.
I remember Musharraf speaking in a nationwide televised address after the attack on the twin trade towers in New York. It was  refreshing  to hear him say the why cant there be a jihad against poverty education etc ? These were brave words and the first by a Pakistani after Jinnah.
He also helped the fabric of Pakistan by insuring that the minorities were not trampled. It was during his term as President that a Sikh joined as an officer in the Pakistan Army. An unheard of proposition earlier. More important he advocated a solution to the Kashmir issue by saying that extreme positions of both sides( India and Pakistan) be discarded and a solution found. It is a pity that the Indian government failed to see the logic of Musharraf's idea. In fact this was the only way forward.
I have no doubt that Musharraf was the best thing to happen to Pakistan.It is a pity he had to go and Pakistan and India are the poorer for it. History will record that after Jinnah , Musharraf blew in a breath of fresh air in Pakistan and I certainly admire him for it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adultry, is it Inevitable ? * 76

Adultery is not condoned by any religion. For example in Islam sex outside marriage called Zinna, is punishable by death by stoning and both the Christian and Hindu religion do not condone adultery. What is Adultery ? basically it means having sex with another woman who is not married to you and is not your wife. Similarly a married woman may also have sex with a man who is not her legally wedded husband.
Adultery laws are thus framed to deter any individual from having sex outside marriage. But despite the general taboo sex by a married man with another woman is very much prevalent. The roots of this lie in the physiological make up of a man. A man is by nature a polygamous individual and no amount of laws can disguise this fact. It is inherent in a man to seek and have sex with another woman who may be either the wife of some one else or a single woman. Scientists have not been able to analyse why this physiological build up is there in a man.

 Religion  has its own way of dealing with it and Islam countenances plural marriage while Christian and Hindu religions now allow divorce. But in countries where Catholics are supreme this law is violated in the extreme. For example extra marital affairs are common in Italy, which is the bastion of the Catholic faith with the Pope resident in Rome, though divorce is almost impossible.
The question that one must ask is as to what is the solution ? Obviously marriage is a man made institution basically to identify a family. That is fine , but sex outside marriage can also be there . In fact it could be an antidote to a failed marriage and the man may come back. Generally sex outside marriage is a on the spur act and deep emotions may not be involved. But there is no getting away from this fact. Man is polygamous by nature and all one can say is that adultery will take place, because it is in the nature of man to be adulterous.
So what does the woman do ? I am afraid she is part of an adulterous act and thus must accept it. This is of course a harsh statement, but can anyone deny that a woman is always part of an adulterous act ?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Race to Kill- A Bizarre Incident that is Shocking

 With the Tsunami having devastated Japan, one is obviously in sympathy with the common Japanese people. But at the same time my mind reverts to an incident that cannot be done by a sane man. This is the race to kill and behead as many Chinese as possible between two soldiers of the Imperial army during World War II during the infamous occupation of China by Japan.
 The Chinese people have suffered a lot. First with the Opium wars imposed by the Western powers and later the Japanese. The occupation of China led to untold atrocities by the Imperial army, which a section of the Japanese intelligentsia deny. But Novelist Ishikawa Tatsuzo  in his novel  Iketeiru Hetai  after interviews conducted with troops which took part in the Nanking massacre  ( Jan 1938) has portrayed the atrocities committed by the 16th Division of the Shanghai Expeditionary Force in a decisive manner.

Worse  during the same period two Japanese Officers Lieutenants Mukai and Noda  of the Imperial Army  carried out a killing and beheading contest between themselves. One wonders how such a contest was allowed to be carried on.The like of such a contest has not been seen or heard anywhere. The sad part was that the contest was covered in the news papers  and regular updates were given. The contest involved as to which of the two Officers could behead more Chinese. It was a shocking contest the like of which was never seen before.
Though some historians and Japanese scholars opined that perhaps the story was a concocted one to raise the national fighting spirit, yet the facts as reported in the Japanese Press of that period cannot be brushed aside.  In 2005 a suit was brought before the Tokyo district judge by the families of the the two Lieutenants  to absolve the two of the crime. But the case was dismissed by the judge on the grounds that the two officers had themselves admitted that they were in race with each other as to who could reach the figure of 100 beheading first. For the record Lieutenant  Mukai had 106 killings to 105 of Noda. it was certainly a bizarre contest.The sad part is that that the Imperial army took no action against these officers. This contrasts sharply with the US Army's action in the MyLai massacre in Vietnam when the concerned Lieutenant faced a Court Martial.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake, Tsunami and Japan: Is it Gods Will ?

The Japanese islands are rich in folklore and have an ancient civilization. They have dominated the world and have also displayed a mean and cruel streak where ever they have gone. They profess to be followers of Buddha but have always glorified war and the sword. The Samurai warriors and the Sumo wrestlers are held in the highest esteem.

Thus to my mind the entire Japanese civilization is a dichotomy, a situation where they have adapted all the teachings to suit only their cause and  have never thought of others. This is in sharp contrast to the Anglo Saxons who did exactly the opposite. They looked after the people they subjugated and unlike the Japanese did not indulge in mass scale atrocities.

YOU the reader might wonder what is the linkage of what I have written with an earthquake and the Tsunami that has hit Japan. I hate to pen this thought that the Japanese have been at the receiving end of these natural disasters as an act of God for the atrocities and profanity heaped on the people they defeated and subjugated. One has only got to read of the Japanese occupation of China during the last century to understand what I have written. The Japanese occupation of China was a nightmare and even now no sociologist can explain what transpired in the mind of the Japanese to indulge in mass rapes, murders, butchery, torture and beheading for no reason at all.
The photographs of rape of Nanking are available  on Wikipedia and they are a  matter of horror. The mass scale slaughter in the Car Nicobar island and subsequent actions of the Japanese are simply hair raising.  In fact cruelty is ingrained in Japanese culture. No race glorifies a ritual death,Hhara Kiri, but the Japanese do it. The famous write Yushi Mishima carried out a ritual death. It is all against what the Buddha preached.i
May be this is Gods way of warning the Japanese race, but I sincerely pray that such  disasters  do not occur again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Era of Bravery is Not Yet Over- Admiral Sir Tom Philips

 Sir Tom Philips and his deputy

The Japanese Imperial Army had evicted the French from Indo-China and the British were aware that they would soon attack Malaya and Singapore. Thus a plan was drawn up to bolster the naval presence in that area. This was particularly vital after the Japanese carrier groups had annihilated the US Pacific fleet at Hawaii.

The Build Up of the Royal Navy

Churchill thus authorized the movement of one battleship (Prince of Wales), one battle Cruiser (Repulse) and one aircraft carrier to Singapore, which was the lynchpin of the defense of that area. The aircraft carrier could not go as it was grounded in the West Indies. The command of this fleet was given to Sir Tom Philips. He was an old fashioned naval officer who had the ethos of the glory of the  Royal Navy ingrained in him.
.The Royal Navy fleet steamed out along with a force of destroyers to intercept the Japanese fleet in the South China Sea. Admiral Yamamoto the Japanese commander in chief had in the meantime strengthened the air elements of the imperial force with more bombers. He planned to use airpower to attack the British fleet.

The Battle

The Japanese had already made a landing in Malaya and the ground forces were hard pressed. December 1941 was a hard month for the allies as the Fleet led by Admiral Philips scoured the sea to give battle to the Japanese fleet. But the much expected naval battle did not materialize and the British commander decided to turn back towards Singapore. However off the coast of East Malaya they were attacked d by Japanese bombers equipped with torpedoes. The planes used by the Japanese were the Mitsubishi GM 3 and 4. The attacks were successful and the British fleet devoid of air cover was almost decimated. The two capital ships absorbed direct hits and began to list dangerously and sank inside a short time. Though over a 1000 personnel were rescued, yet the Royal Navy still lost over 1000 seamen.

The crew of the Naval ships devoid of air cover fought bravely. The Japanese appreciated it  and after the battle a Japanese plane dropped flowers on the scene of the battle.

Last Word

 As the ships were sinking Sir Tom could have easily escaped, but he stood on the deck guiding   the sailors. He preferred to go down with the ship. This is the mettle of men who lead in combat. A similar case happened in the 1971 war when the Indian Frigate Kukhri was hit by a Pakistan submarine  torpedo and sank with loss of 62 hands. Captain Mulla preferring to go down with the ship.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Major Skorzany and the Dare Devil Feat of Rescuing Mussolini

What is bravery? It is an act of attempting to do the impossible. One such episode has caught my imagination. The man who carried out this act was a German Para Major named Skorzany. He was specially selected by Hitler for this act. A man of infinite courage and a dare devil, he was asked by Hitler to rescue Mussolini the Italian dictator from a mountain ski resort in Central Italy. The Italians who made Mussolini retire were aware that an attempt would be made to rescue Il Duce and so were shifting his residence every 2 months. However German Intelligence was able to pinpoint that Mussolini was held at the ski resort in Central Italy. Major Skorzany assured Hitler; he would rescue Mussolini and get him back to lead the Axis powers. In real terms Hitler was well aware that the Italians were just waiting to make peace with  the Allies and would also hand over his best friend to them.

Thus in September 1943 Skorzany made a daring plan to free Mussolini. It must be noted that the ski resort was only accessible by cable car and there was no road. So a decision was taken to land Gliders on the resort. The Major himself led the assault as the Gliders were airborne. It was a risky operation to land a glider on the small ground of the resort, but the German Para troopers did just that. Only one paratrooper lost his life in the landing. A master stroke was to take a senior Italian police official who on emerging from the glider shouted in Italian 'don’t fire... don't fire '.This sowed confusion in the hearts of the guards who were quickly over powered and Mussolini was freed without firing a shot.

Mussolini and his girl friend Clara were then whisked away by a small German light plane to Germany. It was feat without parallel in terms of audacity and bravery. Somehow this feat is not given much importance and Hollywood which has been making all sorts of war movies has conspicuously ignored this romantic saga of bravery. Maybe, because they would not like to propagate an episode of bravery from the Nazi era. But then Hollywood has never been known to be objective.

What about the famed Major ? He was arrested after the war, but escaped to Spain, where General Franco gave him refuge. He died in 1975.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Favorite Writer-Salman Rushdie.* 70

Salman Rushdie

The English language is now a global language and Indians have taken it up in droves. We now have a peculiar situation where there are more English knowing persons in India, than the entire population of the Anglo Saxon nations. I would say that the centre of gravity is shifting away from Anglo Saxon nations. I remember when an editor from the Blog site Triond wrote to me that  ' our clientele is mostly from the America and the UK'. But after Triond had introduced a Geo- distribution chart based on the latest technology, the stark fact emerged that over 50% of the clientele( readership) was from India.
I point out the above only to emphasize that Indians writing in English are masters of the language as anybody else, maybe even better. In this connection my favorite writer is Salman Rushdie. He is an Indian from Bombay, though settled presently in the UK. I would rate him a notch higher than the English writers from the UK and USA itself.
Rushdie deserves credit, for being a writer who has perhaps the most fertile imagination one can think off. His satanic verses is proof of his imagination.Though I may not agree with the contents of the book, yet it cannot be denied that Rushdie is a master story teller. Among his books Midnight Children, Shame and his latest offering Luka and ring of fire are excellent tales. Yes. Rushdie is not an easy writer to read, but then it does show that this man from Bombay can teach a trick or two about the English language to his peers in the Anglo Saxon world.
Sometimes I wonder why Rushdie wrote the Satanic verses.I learned about the Prophet from my Moslem Girl Friend. She told me that when the Prophet returned to Mecca in triumph he forgave all his former enemies.  But I read a blog by CM Naim, professor of Emeritus at University of Chicago and learnt that  a few people were in fact ordered by the Prophet to be killed, including two or three poets, one of whom was a woman.  I ask does this take away anything from his larger act of magnanimity? It does not. In fact it underscores his generosity by bringing it within human dimensions off conviction.

Hence I cannot agree with the Fatwa against him. He is a Moslem and yet not afraid to challange orthodoxy and obscurantism.  This is all the more reason to admire Rushdie. Lastly I would love to know the secret of Rushdie, having a string of mistresses and wives .I wonder what is the secret for him to be so successful  in this field as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sher Singh Attariwala and the Battle of Chillianwala

Recently a friend of mine visited Pakistan as part of the Jatha or Pilgrimage troupe. He visited the Sikh holy shrines and also made a visit  to Chillianwala. Where is Chillianwala? It is a small village about 85 miles north west of Lahore and was the scene of a bloody battle between the Sikh Fauj and the East India Company army. I asked him how he manged to go to Chillianwala, as Indians are not allowed to go to places other than the holy shrines. He told me that he had now a Canadian passport as he had migrated to Canada.
He told me that all that remained at Chillianwala were the graves of the fallen English soldiers. There  was also a small memorial to them, but sadly there was nothing to commemorate  the fallen Sikhs.

I wonder why the Pakistan Government does not build a memorial to the Sikhs.After all with a Sikh in the Pakistan army the Sikhs there are as much part of Pakistan as others. Coming to Chillianwala the name that crops up is of General Sher Singh Attariwala. He was the commander of the Sikh fauj. Sadly not many have heard of him. Sher led a force of almost 30000 soldiers and 60 guns against the English who were led by Lord Gough. Gaugh had more men in numbers as well as cavalry and 66 guns.

The battle fought on 13 January 1849 was a bloody affair.It is on record that in 3 days of fighting General Sher Singh held of theEnglish charge and more than 3000 British soldiers died that day. Sher Singh's army held a line 6 miles long and it could not be breached. Ultimately Gough called of the campaign and retreated. It was a bloody nose for the British.

The battle had its repercussions and Lord Gough was relieved of his command and replaced by General Charles Napier. Frankly it was not Goughs fault, as he had come up against an expert general in Sher Singh. I  for one salute this great soldier. Now that the time has elapsed I cannot help feeling that Chillianwala needs to be remembered, not as a saga of Sikhs but as a military article of bravery of the sub-continent. Will the Pakistan Government make a memorial there ?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Painting Nude Women * 85

My uncle  Parduman died last year. The sad part was that he died unsung and un heralded, though he was a painter of some standing. Sadder was the fact that he had left his family at the age of 80 and come back to Mumbai to paint. But he couldn't re-establish and died lonely. I wish I had been there to help him, but he was gone ere I came to know about him. My memory of him is of a vibrant painter who once took me to a nude painting class.
It was a wonderful experience as the nude model posed before some 14 artistes including 2 girls, as each sketched her. The nude model had her thighs crossed and I felt she was a little self conscious. But over the years I have been wondering why painters have been painting nudes.
While in school our art master Mr Paul once took us to an exhibition of paintings of the famous painter Roerich, a Russian. What caught my eyes were the large paintings of nude women that adorned the exhibition. Being an amateur painter myself, I did sketch one nude of a sleeping woman. Unfortunately it is perhaps lying in a loft at my house.
The charm of painting a nude woman cannot be described. It differs from a naked woman, which some how looks slightly distasteful.  But the Greeks and our own ancient artistes all brought forward the nude woman . Most of the Goddesses of the Hindus  have been sculptured nude in the temples, so I wonder what the fuss is all about Hussein's paintings.
The fact of the matter is that a nude woman is an object of beauty. Hence a painter will try to capture that beauty. One has to see the Paintings of Goya, Picasso and Dali to realise this. But remember nude paintings are not for the voyeur. They are  basically an expression of art. May be at some stage love and sex may also be a part of it, but that is what the Tantra and Acharaya Rajneesh have been talking about.
I for one respect the artistes point of view. My friend  an art  teacher at the Art School commented  ' Look its just an expression of ones innermost feelings.' I will leave it at that. However I have one last observation. remember painting a nude woman is something serious and perhaps that is the reason that all nude paitings never show women smiling. Ever thought of that ?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Forgotton Actor IS Johar (1920-84) * 66

With the present craze of the 3 Khans and their domination over the Indian psyche, people are apt to forget that there was one actor who put India on the world cinema map. He was IS Johar who has the distinction of starring in Hollywood movies; something the 3 Khans have not been able to do.
IS Johar was a revolutionary actor who was also a film producer. Originally from Punjab( Lahore), Johar made Mumbai his home and from here he acted in a number of Hollywood movies as well. Nobody can forget his role as the servant of Stewart Granger in 'Harry Black and the Tiger'. This Hollywood movie made in 1956 with Barbara Rush  was an adventure film where Johar stole the limelight. He was nominated for the BAFTA award and perhaps he would have won it, but for the bias against him as an Indian . I saw this movie twice as school student and later on the video. There is no doubt that the real star of the movie was IS Johar
He also acted in 'Lawrance of Arabia'(1962), Death on the Nile,(1978)North West frontier(1960) and a US TV serial Maya(1966). In all these films Johar did justice to his roles and it is to his credit that he could hold his own against actors of the caliber of Stewart Granger and PeterO Toole.
Johar was a non conformist and married 4 times, a pretty high number in India.  But for all of us he will remain the one star who put Indian cimema on the world map. The road to international fame for Indian cinema starts with IS Johar.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Did Guru Nanak Visit Mecca and Baghdad ? * 64

 The Gurudwara at Baghdad

Guru Nanak the founder of the Sikh faith is reported to have visited Mecca and Baghdad.  However a lot many young boys have asked me whether all this is just a myth or Nanak really travelled to Mecca.  One wise youngster asked me ' sir, how could nanak visit Mecca as he was Non muslim'.
 All these questions are relevant and need to be answered.

Firstly, I must mention that the Janam Sakhi’s ( life Stories) of Guru Nanak do mention that he visited Mecca. These are eye-witness accounts and though some stories have been interpolated later, they are a treasure-house of historical records. There are many versions of these Janam Sakhis, but all of them concur that Nanak visited Mecca. The fact that he was a non-Muslim is true, but Nanak wore the dress of a Sufi with a long cloak and could have easily passed of as a Pir or holy man and thus gained entry to Mecca. But the most important evidence of his visit is the gurdwara at Baghdad. This gurdwara was damaged during the invasion of Iraq by the USA and only now has been restored to a degree.
The gurdwara was discovered by Sikh soldiers who visited Iraq during the First World war. Guru Nanak is reported to have visited Iraq in about 1519.He came from Mecca and Medina along with a caravan. The gurdwara is proof that Nanak visited Baghdad. But sadly the shrine is almost destroyed by religious fanatics, who felt it went against the tenets of Islam. It is a pity that the Indian Government and the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee( SGPC) is doing nothing for the restoration of this historical gurdwara.
The account of Nanak’s visit is also accepted by Cunningham in his History of the Sikhs, which he wrote when he was in India during the late forties of the nineteenth century.  He had first hand knowledge of the Sikhs and Punjab at a time when the Sikh empire was disintegrating.
There is no evidence left behind about Nanak’s visit to Mecca. But the iconoclast attitude of the Saudi government has prevented any worthwhile study in Mecca.
The fact that a gurdwara has been discovered at Baghdad is proof that he definitely went to Baghdad and by inference one can surmise that he also must have visited Mecca. The travels of Nanak have been far and wide.Perhaps an independent study is called for to document the travels of Guru Nanak. But then the authorities particularly in the Muslim countries have to be open about it, which unfortunately they are not. I am sure an open research even in Mecca will reveal that Guru Nanak visited Mecca. This is popular folk-lore and certainly has some basis.