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October - November 2006

Political News

From Far and Near: Topics of Interest

by Bhupendra Gandhi

Meteorite shower rivals monsoon?

The monsoon season in India is the harbinger of joy as well as sorrow. Gujarat has had one of the greatest or perhaps most destructive rainy seasons in living memory, with death toll reaching three hundred at the last count and still rising.

Rajasthan has suffered even worse, some places receiving a year’s rainfall in just two days and vast areas becoming submerged underwater, turning this vast desert area into an inland sea.

But the firework over part of Kutch, Kathiawad and Saurashtra was provided not by thunder and lightning but by hundreds of thousands of tiny meteorites varying from mere dust particles invisible to human eyes, a tiny stone weighing less than an ounce to football size rocks that would do serious damage if they fall on an inhabited area, even killing people with a direct hit.

Occasionally, once in a million years, a meteorite the size of a ten-storey building and weighing millions of tons does fall on earth, creating destruction that would wipe out most life in large areas.

Such an occurrence is blamed for the destruction of dinosaurs some one hundred million years ago. Craters created by such impact are still visible in Mexico and Siberia, although the long timespan has all but destroyed the scientific evidence needed to study and confirm the theory of the demise of dinosaurs.

The areas affected in Gujarat where the people were able to see this unusual spectacle, a once in a life time opportunity, were near Maliya Mayana district in Kutch, villages around Jamnagar stretching right up to the Pakistan border.

In some parts, the showers were so severe that utensils began rattling and roofs were punctured, tiles shattered and thatched roofs even caught fire, as the hot, burning meteorites smashed into their homes. But fortunately no one was hurt, as these meteorites were tiny and fell on sparsely populated areas of Gujarat.

The sky was suddenly lit up with bright light as if a million shooting stars were shining at the same time. The shooting stars hurtling to earth at the speed of well over thirty thousand miles an hour, burning up in the process, created a natural firework display. These rock-like meteors are from the cosmic dust that is trailing behind the passing comets with a tail a million miles long, containing billions of tiny rocks and dust. The earth so often passes through such a tail and as a result, the gravity of the earth sucks in hundreds of thousands of such tiny rocks. Fortunately well over 99% of such objects burn out in the earth’s atmosphere, before they reach the surface of the planet.

Again 99% of the shooting stars fall in ocean and uninhabited parts of the world. So human beings are spared the death and destruction that would follow if these meteorites fell on the densely populated cities like London, Calcutta and Tokyo.

But according to the law of averages, it is time for a large meteorite to fall on earth that may destroy human life altogether, as nothing significant has happened since the demise of dinosaurs. But there is nothing to worry about, as it may not happen for a million years, a long time span for humans but only a few seconds in the life of the universe.

The initial impact of meteorite may kill only a fraction of world’s population but the cloud of dust, water vapour and poisonous gases that such a collision generates may cover the sky and deprive the earth of life-saving sunlight and warmth of the sun for hundreds of years, thus killing all vegetation, depriving us of food, fresh water and heat, if not the air, the life sustaining oxygen, at least not in the beginning.

Perhaps by the time a huge meteorite thunders towards earth, science may have advanced so much that we may be able to predict it even when it is ten years away and destroy it with atom bombs and laser rays that generate an intense narrow beam of coherent monochromatic heat capable of destroying most asteroids and diverting others away from the earth that are too big to be destroyed. Such a technology will be available within fifty to one hundred years, if not earlier.

I wonder what the readers of this prestigious publication think and would like to share their views, opinion and knowledge with the rest of us.

Real Story Behind The Headlines

The English media in India and the Western press here, which are controlled by a few, who are indeed staunch Christians, but pretend to be secularists, are incredibly hostile to Indians, Hindus and Hinduism. I wonder whether it comes out of ignorance or is it a concerted effort to tarnish our good name on the flimsiest excuse!

They know that Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, who form nearly 50% of the world population but are involved in less than 5% of the trouble spots, are mostly kind, considerate, accommodating, peaceful and law-abiding citizens.

They educate their children to the highest level, integrate with the indigenous population, mixing with them like a lump of sugar that dissolves so easily in a glass of milk and provide a nutritious, healthy and tasty drink that is so beneficial for the good of the nation. Their adopted country provides them with jobs, education and economic benefits beyond their wildest dreams when they first set foot in this country.

In return they and their children work hard, pay taxes and are one of the few ethnic minorities that pay more into the nation’s coffers than they take out in benefits. Even prisons are devoid of these ethnic minorities and form less than 5% of the total Asian prison population.

Recently a tiny dargah was demolished in the town of Vadodara (Baroda) in the process of implementing Gujarat High Court order, directing the authority to remove all religious structures that were built illegally, on government land, public space and were obstructing the economic development, building of the infrastructure that is badly needed in the rapidly expanding economy of the state with 10% annual growth.

Gujarat has the fastest-growing economy in the world except China which is a totalitarian state where the state can demolish any structure, religious, historical or even people’s homes without a court order or compensation.

Under the court order, well over 1200 Hindu temples, 20 Jain derasar (temple) and 210 Muslim shrines, along with a couple of churches and one gurudwara, all roadside construction, more of a symbol than an every day worshipping place, built illegally on public land, were authorised to be removed as and when the land is needed for regeneration.

According to the latest information available, 43 Hindu, 2 Jain temples and 3 dargahs were demolished without any protest from any community; that is until the demonstration in Vadodara that resulted in the loss of four lives.

But most English media in India and here in Britain tried to paint the incident as a Hindu-Muslim conflict and the Gujarat government acting against the interest of the minority. Compare this to the action of the Malaysian authority who demolished a one hundred year-old grand Hindu temple built under permission and approval of the authority, while people were still worshipping in the temple?

The Malaimel Sri Selva Kaliamman Temple was reduced to rubble in less than three hours after the Kuala Lumpur city hall sent in bulldozers. A Hare Krishna Temple was similarly destroyed in the Russian capital of Moscow, under the pressure of the Russian Orthodox Church, again without a murmur from the Western media or the so called Indian intellectuals and MPs of Indian origin.

It seems the Western media is playing mischief to divide the people of India, who, to a large extent, live in harmony. The tremendous economic progress that India is making, taking away the jobs, first manufacturing ones and now service industry jobs, has become a thorny issue, a cause for contention, to whip India under any pretext, fair or foul.

As usual, the law abiding Hindus suffered in silence, preferring to redress this injustice through courts rather than taking the law into their own hands which would have resulted in deaths and persecution of even more Hindus.

At least the Russian government has promised a land and to help in the building of a new temple but away from the prime sight that the old building occupied in the centre of Moscow.

The State of Gujarat is making economic progress at a breathtaking speed. It is working towards reducing poverty, providing jobs and raise living standard of the people. It is for the benefit of all Gujaratis, irrespective of their culture, religion or ethnic orientation.

It is the duty of all Gujaratis to support such a development, be part of the vibrant Gujarat. By far the vast majority of Gujaratis that include Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Ismailis, Daudi Bhora and Ahmedia Muslims have all lent their support to the Gujarat Government and are reaping the economic benefit. It is heartening to note that in the local elections, BJP candidates triumphed even in areas where up to 80% of the voters were Muslims or Christians.

It is time for the rest of Gujaratis to unite, join forces and be a part of prospering Gujarat and at the same time advance on economic, social and educational front, giving education to both boys and girls on equal terms. As Gandhiji once said that if you educate your son, one family may benefit but if you educate your daughter two families will benefit. It is as true today as it was in Gandhiji’s time.

Bharat is a secular state which is a unique achievement in the area where religious strife and fanaticism abounds. Fortunately India is making a tremendous progress on the economical front that will benefit all her citizens.

It is the duty of everyone, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians to be loyal sons and daughters of this great country. After all there is no alternative to living, thriving, progressing and prospering together as Indian first and a Hindu, Muslim and Christian second.

Are we losing the art of cooking?

According to the connoisseur of good food, the people of this country are fast losing the skill and the art of cooking. For the first time, people are spending more on takeaway and eating out than buying food to be cooked at home.

This is at a time when our TV screens put on a number of shows dealing with art of cooking and we have more Michelin-starred chefs in London than in Paris, a one time gourmet capital of the world.

London has more high-class Indian restaurants than any city in India and more Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Greek, Thai, Japanese and Nepalese food outlets and top class restaurants than any city in Europe except the country of origin for that particular type of food, such as pizza and pasta from Italy.

London provides by far much more choice than New York, Paris, Tokyo or any other major city in the world. Once London was ridiculed, mocked and teased for our food, soggy fish and chips mushy peas, Sunday roast that was difficult to chew unless one has sharp canine and molar teeth to tear and grind leathery meat.

Those days are indeed in the past and our gastronomic friends across the Channel are looking at us with envy and appreciation at the choice available to us, the Brits. No wonder for the first time we are spending more eating out than eating in, visiting restaurants more often than at any time in the past.

According to figures published by the Office for national Statistics, we spent a staggering amount of some £88 billion last year. It has gone up by 102% during the last ten years. This means we spent £1.70 billion a week eating out compared with £1.65 billion on food purchased from supermarkets. No wonder so many supermarkets provide a good quality food in their restaurants attached to the stores.

But some supermarkets, albeit a tiny proportion, still live in the past and provide cold snacks with hot drinks. They are living in the past and unless they move with the time, they will be the dinosaurs of the food industry, as more and more shoppers, especially the elderly and the retired people visit such outlets while doing their weekly or even daily shopping. These are the shoppers with real money, with spending power that the younger generation, with mortgage and school fees to pay could not match.

On average, each adult spends a staggering sum of £1800 eating out or a weekly sum of some £35 a week. No wonder restaurants, fast food outlets and pubs and wine bars all bend backward to accommodate these clients, provide them with some of the most delicious dishes in the world.

While the skills of our chefs is developing fast with hundreds of trainee chefs gaining distinction, the industry is unable to keep up with the demand and thousands of well trained chefs are imported from Europe and the Indian sub-continent who are finding jobs in Britain with ease.

Even our Indian ladies, especially the young ones, are becoming daring when it comes to cooking Continental vegetarian dishes. Eating our traditional meal of roti, dal (lentil soup) vegetable curie of potatoes, peas and runner beans, khichadi and kadhi, day in, day out, is a dying tradition, eaten perhaps once a week, especially in joint families where elderly persons prefer such a meal.

For the younger generation, pizza, pasta, toasted sandwiches filled with exotic fillings, lasagne, chilli chips made from not only potatoes but also from mogo (cassava), vegetable grills, vegetable biryani, pilau rice and paneer dishes, not forgetting spaghetti Bolognese, sausages, burgers made from Soya pulp are more in line with their taste buds than the traditional thalis preferred by the older generation.

So I feel that although the old and the traditional cooking skill, especially in the sweet dish department, may be on the wane, in decline, our younger generation is fast acquiring a new skill, preparing exotic dishes that is favoured by our youngsters. So all is not lost as far as cooking skill is concerned.

We are just adjusting to the new challenge posed by the changing circumstances, as most of our young ladies also go out to work, holding responsible position and bringing in a wage that helps to pay the enormous mortgages required to buy a property in London and the South East. Unlike other ethnic minorities, we are changing with the time, with the circumstances instead of becoming relics of the past and going the same way as dinosaurs.

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