Mi Bodeguita del Medio

While my blog is named after a restaurant in Havana I hope to someday visit, here you will find musings, rants, political incorrectness, thoughts on Indian Nationalism, strong straight-forward opinions and tid-bits.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day. On the occassion, I'd like to share an interesting video I came across - How to be Green at work. We all know its good to recycle paper, not use plastic cups etc, but it has some other interesting pointers too. Its cute so do spend two minutes watching it :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rain

The crappy weather continues! Its been raining/cold non-stop for two weeks now, with a couple of sunny days in between. Doesn't bother my too too much as I'm usually indoors, either at work or home studying. But the weather has been re-confirming my suspicions that it does have a lot to do with people's humour.

To cheer up the grey days, here is a humorous attempt by the Spanish basketball team (awesome team btw!) that eventually turned out sour with the Left brigade jumping on them, for being "politically incorrect":

The Spanish basketball team doing the "chinky" at last summer's Chinese Olympics

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The Left Mentality - The Ant and Grasshopper

CLASSIC VERSION...

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house, gathering and laying down supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

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MODERN VERSION...

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house gathering and laying down supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

BBC, CNN, NDTV show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The world is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this poor grasshopper be left to suffer so? Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house. Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticize the Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support for the grasshopper. Opposition MP's stage a walkout. Left parties call for "Bharat Bandh" in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.

Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter. The ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government and handed over to the grasshopper in a ceremony covered by the BBC, CNN and NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it "a triumph of justice."

Abridged from http://arundhatiroy.rediffblogs.com/

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flamenco Class...

Chicas, compañeras de clase...y compañero... ¡aquí colgo los videos que grabé el otro día!

Stepping aside from my blogging exercise, I'm putting up my Flamenco class recorded the other day in order to practice at home, as I missed a couple of sessions while travelling. Due to popular demand from my classmates, here are two of the videos which feature my Flamenco teacher, María.

María is an excellent, brilliant, charismatic dancer, apart from being a wonderful person. Her moves are powerful, graceful and strong, and she drives the technique home, until you get it.

The first video is filmed while she's giving class, with the students behind. And the second one is a final performance at the end of class (the angle is a bit messed up). Yours Truly does not feature here as she is recording!

Enjoy!



Monday, March 16, 2009

The "Gypsy" Trail...

Some years ago (sometime between 1999-2001), when I discovered Flamenco, I became quite intrigued with "Gypsies" and carried out a year-long research on the Roma, their origins, their trail, and their status and lives in the countries they inhabit today.

The Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies, Gitanos (here in Spain), Tzigane, Sinti, Dom, Manush (man in Sanskrit and Romani), Kale (black in Sanskrit and Romani; name they called each other as a reference to their skin colour, perhaps) and many other names, are today united as Roma and like to be known by their collective identity - Romani. We know that they left India as a group of nomads around 900 AD, reached Persia in 950, and were in Egypt by 1230. Their arrival into Europe began in the mid 14th century. Today there are about 12 million Roma, and mainly inhabit Eastern and Western Europe, with some minor populations said to have migrated to the Americas. It is important to note that in the Second WW, along with 6 million Jews, 1.5 million Roma or Gypsies were killed in concentration camps (a fact that remains largely unspoken and somewhat taboo). Migrant Romani populations have usually adopted the dominant religion of their country of residence, while often preserving aspects of older belief systems and forms of worship (such as Goddess /Saint Kali Sara's worship in France).

The Romani language is a verbally transmitted language which traces its roots back to Sanskrit. As a Hindi speaker, when I watched the movie "Black Cat, White Cat," years ago, majority in Romani (filmed in in Eastern Europe), I was able to trace several words that sounded familiar to my ears, pronounced differently.

Modern day Spanish is rich with several words, expressions and connotations from Caló, the Romani language of Spain. Caló blends native Romani vocabulary with Spanish grammar, as Spanish Romanies lost the full use of their ancestral language. Gitanos used Caló to communicate discreetely in their internal dealings. When I read a sampling of Caló, I'm often amused by the several words I do understand.

The Romani flag, which is blue and green with a red coloured Ashoka Chakra in the center, denoting their common roots in the Indian subcontinent, united in its largest form under Ashoka the Great. Their slogan is "Opre Roma!" meaning Rise Roma.
"Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates the Romanies originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th century. The Romani are generally believed to have originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of Rajasthan, migrating to northwest India (the Punjab region) around 250 B.C. In the centuries spent here, there may have been close interaction with such established groups as the Rajputs and the Jats. Their subsequent westward migration, possibly in waves, is believed to have occurred between 500 A.D. and 1000 A.D. Contemporary populations sometimes suggested as sharing a close relationship to the Romani are the Dom people of Central Asia and the Banjara of India."
While the Romani people have remained marginalized and discriminated against for centuries, they have established a name for themselves in the Arts and Music. Last weekend I went to see one such Gitano in concert, who's carved a name for himself in Flamenco Fusion dance. His name is Joaquín Cortés. I personally do not much appreciate his style as I'm a fan of pure Flamenco. But the concert itself was worth seeing. His current tour "Calé" (meaning black or Gypsy) is a resumé of his previous works, now that he has reached 40 and may not continue dancing for very much longer. It was sprinkled with Gitano references, and at the end he made a little speech saying, "20 years ago, Gypsies did not identify themselves as such; but I always said I was one. Today, we Gitanos are proud to say we are Gitanos." And there was a standing ovation and cheering.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The "Great" in Britain

I just returned from a lovely weekend in the mountain-country of Andorra, a large ski-resort in reality, tucked away between the Pyrenees in Northern Spain.

On the way back, for logistical reasons, we stopped in a town on the Costa Brava for half an hour. This town, like many towns on the North-Eastern Catalan coast (Costa Brava) is a popular summer destination for many English, Dutch and other Northern European tourists for its offering of sun, sand and nightlife. However, in the month of March, when outside daytime temperature is still in the early teens (today about 15º), we saw a bunch of men walking on the sidewalk, wearing half-sleeved shirts and shorts. C and I, watched them for a few seconds, and then at once, instinctively said "pobres" or poor people.

I thought about it on the drive back. Just two hours away, we were in snow-covered mountains in 0º to 5º weather. Two - three hours South and you see these men in summer clothes trying to immitate warmth and coastal calmness. Truth be told. They probably come from a poor neighbourhood (possibly live in Govt funded housing) in one of the working towns of England. They probably cannot afford the exhorbitant summer hotel and airfares in Spain. They probably were using up some of their summer vacation to make an early, off-season visit out to good old Sunny Spain, and whether or not it is sunny here doesn't really matter. Mentally these guys are in their summer, or atleast in the sunniest region of Europe. If they don't make the most of it, or they fail to tell themselves that they are enjoying a sunny country (even though they may be in one of the most obnoxious, touristy towns on the Girona coastline on a deathly chilly morning) while what they really are doing is wander about a ghost-town (business and many restaurants are closed half the year) telling themselves how awesome it all is...

We really pitied them then and talked about their mental state. While any warm-blooded human feels cold in 15º weather, these guys were braving the cold winds in their shorts and t-shirts, just to go back to their dingy little island thinking they had a great time in a warm country. How pathetic and sad.

So, while Britain has called itself "Great" over the centuries - while it looted, plundered and massacred half the world, and funded its own industrial revolution at the expense of other sovereign nations - India’s share of world GDP went from roughly 25% in the mid 1700's to 2% in a century, and Britain’s went from 1% to 18% — see Angus Maddison’s The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective; India, the richest country in the world for a millennium and a half (per Maddison’s data from 0 CE to 1500 CE), was systematically plundered (of some $10 trillion in today’s money) and reduced to penury - its days, it is now quite clear, have ended.

Britain today is reduced its bunch of little grey cold islands; the former "Empire" is now plagued with high unemployment, a crashed housing market, low employee morale, falling currency (the GBP currently equal to the Euro), an "immigration" problem - due to the dozens of countries it conveniently left below subsistence levels, topped with an unparalleled economic recession and has recently even lost its freedom of speech - as it goes to its benefactors, the Saudis with a begging bowl.

Its only potential saviour is the "brand image" it has managed to create globally, but frankly, it is not even worth my tourism buck anymore - as there is so much more my Euro buys me (from Greece and Cyprus to Montenegro, Malta and more), than a visit to the over-rated Big Ben.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Murder of a Saint: A Plot to Murder a Civilization By Dr Indulata Das

A mere audience of a Sannyasi is the fulfiller of all desires, says the Padmapurana (Sadhunam darsanam loke sarvasiddhikaram param—Padma Purana 1.79). The Bhagavata goes much ahead and says that the Sannyasis visit the pilgrimages not to purify themselves but the pilgrimages are purified by the visit of the Sannyasis (Prayena tirthabhigamapadeshaih swayam hi tirthani punanti santah- Bhagavata 1.21.8). On Indian soil it is regarded as a great fortune to touch the feet of a Sannyasi. Smearing the dust of his feet on one’s forehead is a rarest opportunity that even great monarchs aspire to do. What to speak of the mortals even gods aspire for a holy darshan of a Sannyasi. Not only an audience or a blessing, even receiving a wrath of the Sannyasi is considered as a boon. Lord Vishnu, the God of gods considered it a great fortune to receive a kick from a Sannyasi (Bhrigu) on His chest and eternally bore the mark of the assault with great gratitude.

The civilisation of India was designed by great Sannyasis like Manu, Yajnavalkya, Vyasa, Valmiki, Parasara and Shankaracharya etc. India has never been denuded of Sannyasis through the ages. In every era there have been great souls, great Sannyasis on the soil of India to enlighten the society and to show the right path. The great centres of learning in India had been the hermitages of Sannyasis. Sannyasis have been the real pathfinders and real torch-bearers of the society. The sublime culture, the high value system and the grand traditions of India have been surviving because of the advent of great Sannyasis from time to time. And in return the land has been showing tremendous reverence to the Sannyasis which is only a small gesture of gratitude.

In continuation of the great tradition of dedicated Sannyasis the twentieth century saw a Sannyasi, a great Sannyasi having unmatched dedication for the protection of the country’s culture and tradition. The great monk is no other than the legendary figure, the incarnation of dedication Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. He was a person whose property consisted of a pair of saffron linens and a stick but he was in fact a monarch. Yes, he was the monarch of thousands of grateful loving hearts of the country in general and of the people of tribal districts of Orissa in particular.

At the prime of his youth Swami Laxmanananda left behind the boundaries of his home and transformed the whole world to his abode. He parted with his young wife and his toddler son only to embrace the whole humanity as his family. He renounced the worldly bondages at the age of twenty five only to be dedicated to the service of the human race.

He lived a secluded spiritual life for quite a few years in the peaceful milieu of Rishikesh completely dedicated to the exploration of spiritual wisdom of the scriptures. But it was not what he was divinely deputed to do. He was ordained to do something more to the motherland.

He learned of the dangerous drive of the Christian missionaries to create a ‘Christ-stan’ on the land of Orissa by coercive and forcible conversion of the gullible tribals. He came to know about their ugly measures to divide the peaceful Vanavasi (tribal) populace and create tension on the land by breaching the existent fraternity in the communities. He came to know about their nasty move to eliminate Indian culture by money pumped from outside.

He, with an iron will, entered the woodlands of Kandhamal to fight all odds single handed. He fought against the lavishly affluent missionaries penniless and faced murderous threats of life defenceless. He strived tirelessly for the over all upliftment of the local tribals. He established educational institutions, promoted women’s education, provided health care and means of lively hood for the poor and downtrodden.

He was not the type of Saint to sit on high pedestals and receive obeisance and gifts from devotees from a respectable distance. He became one with the tribals. He lived a life similar to the downtrodden and ate their humble eatables. As a result he secured a place in the innermost region of their hearts. He remained a cohabitant of the tribals for four decades till the last breath of his life which ended at the age of 81.

Among his miscellaneous drives to save the culture and the people from the clutches of the Christian missionaries his most powerful and fruitful measure was the ‘return-home’ movement among the tribals. People who were coerced to leave their faith and culture by the missionaries were educated how they are falling prey to the traps of the churches and moving away from their own traditions, how the missionaries are dividing people and creating tension in the community, how they are converting blood brothers into blood-thirsty foes by alluring a chunk from the community to change their faith and making them stand against the rest.

Having understood the reality and the ulterior motives of the missionaries thousands of converts came back to their original faith.

Swamiji’s activities put a rein on the otherwise unobstructed activities of the church and their plan to convert the woodland of Orissa to Christ-land. The pastors turned furious. As many as nine murderous attacks were attempted on the life of Swamiji. He escaped all the attacks miraculously. On December 24, 2007 it was the ninth attack. Swamiji was physically assaulted by a group of two to three hundred people but escaped due to some timely action of some of his follower fellow travellers.

Hardly after eight months there was the final assault. A letter of threat was sent to the Ashram which was received by the Swami on August 22, 2008. He immediately lodged an FIR and requested the administration to protect his life. But no. He was not saved.

The police did not feel the Saint’s life was worthy enough to be protected. Not a single extra police personnel was deployed to save the great soul. Even the personal security which used to accompany the Saint remained mysteriously absent on the fateful day. Within twenty six hours of his request for security the Saint confronted the unthinkably barbaric death. The holy land of Bharat, where washing the feet of a Sannyasi is considered to be a great fortune, was actually washed by the blood of a Sannyasi. In the evening of Janmastami a group of twenty five killers armed with modern weapons like AK-47s pumped bullets to the revered Saint’s frail body which killed him along with four other Sannyasis and Sannyasins of the Ashram.

The whole Orissa was traumatised at the brutal slaughter of the beloved Swamiji. Thousands of people with tears streaming from their eyes stormed to see the Mahatma for the last time. As many as thirty thousand people assembled at the cremation of the Sannyasi.

The next day the state observed a voluntary bandh (curfew), a unique bandh which nobody had seen before. The whole state came to a standstill. Then the anger erupted. And there was widespread agitation.

In the whole episode two roles were really unique. One is the role of the police and the second is the role of a section of the media (refer to my previous post).

With the very news of Swamiji’s gruesome murder every body could understand who committed it “except the police” which suffered from the syndrome of “deliberate ignorance”. Before arriving at the crime-location, and before beginning any investigation the police attributed the murder to the Naxals. But the public was not as ignorant as the police thought it to be. This misleading statement was accepted not even by a child of Orissa State and it received fuming criticism from the public and the regional media unanimously. The police lost its credibility.

And then the protecting role of the police was also unique. The police which did not find it necessary to provide a single extra staff to save the life of the great Saint, deployed hundreds of police personnel to protect every small and big church in the area after the death of the Swami. The killer was protected by the police, not the victim.

And then the role of a section of the media (refer to my previous post). While the print and electronic media of Orissa were overcrowded by the news of the murder of the Swami, all the national electronic media were conspicuous by their dead silence. The very channels who had untiringly telecast the death incident of Graham Stains round the clock did not utter a single word when the whole of Orissa was crying at the slaughter of Swami Laxmanananda. The media did not even report the unbelievable self-imposed bandh which Orissa observed for one full day. The same media which dedicates hours in telecasting even a suicide case of unknown citizens in the country was ghastly silent at the unbelievably brutal murder of the great Saint and the social reformer.

The silence of the media spoke volumes for them. The blatant anti-Hindu and unpatriotic character of the electronic media got a shameless exposure again. Graham Stains who was a foreigner and was dividing the people inside their community and ruining the culture of the country had received unthinkable propagation through the media and had become a super hero posthumously. But Swami Laxmanananda, the supreme devotee of the Motherland who dedicated every breath of his life in protecting the culture of his country failed to find a few seconds of telecast in the national media of the country. And the brutal killing of the Saint was very indirectly, lightly and indignantly reported as the murder of “an office bearer of the VHP.”

But the story did not end here. The silence of the electronic media was not a silence but a preparation for a pounce. It was like the tiger’s preparation to jump on the prey. The channels were eagerly waiting for the aggrieved Hindus to retaliate so that they would wake up to catch their throats. After all, the passive Hindus are their most favourite prey.

And their waiting came to an end with the first news of so called arson in a Christian orphanage. The eager media did not waste a moment in preparing a special report of half an hour on it. All the slumbering channels suddenly woke up not to telecast the inhuman slaughter of the Swamiji but the “plight of the Christians in the hands of the Hindus”.

Not only the media, but the “great leaders” of the country jumped to action because the minority vote bank had ripened now and had to be harvested without delay. Then started the series of statements, visits and other related favorite activities of the politicians.

For the anti-Hindu and anti-Indian units (Congress Party, Communist Party, Samajwadi Party) there was not a better chance than this. The pseudo human rightists came out of their hibernation to protect the “human rights of the Christians”. And the Pope conveyed his concern. It was a not a concern when the Christians killed the Mahatma, but it was a concern when the Christians were attacked in retaliation.

There was no urge among the people to talk about the great selfless philanthropist and the great humanist Swami Laxmanananda who sacrificed his life in protecting the culture and civilisation of the Motherland. His killers and conspirators were left scot-free. And the police chased the aggrieved Hindus. What a paradigm of justice! Had this unique system of justice been prevalent in the Tretaya, Shri Ram and Hanuman would have been hanged and Ravana would have been felicitated.

What has happened to this great sacred land? On the holy soil of India monsters played Holi with the blood of a Mahatma and were prized with concern and sympathy!

Murder of Swami Laxmanananda proved not to be a murder of a Sannyasi only. It exposed that the value system of the land has been murdered. It revealed that the culture of the soil has been murdered. It said that the civilisation, the greatest civilisation of the world has already been murdered.

[Emphasis mine]

This post is dedicated to a certain French colleague of mine, who like a parrot, never fails to bring up issues like caste system, Orissa violence, etc. each time India is mentioned. This is also dedicated to the nosy French president Sarkozy who dared to question PM Manmohan Singh on the Orrisa violence. Mind your own damn business Sarkozy. There are enough cops in France killing innocent Africans to keep you busy.