Saturday, December 13, 2014

I can’t breathe!

A humble casually dressed African-American man, Eric Garner, is approached by four casually dressed white officers. Garner cries out telling the officers, "Every time you see me, you will harass me. I'm minding my business officer. Please leave me alone." And all that was said in a cry-out for help. He didn't sound confronting at all. Two police officers grab him on both sides. All he says in response to that is, "Please, don't touch me." Garner doesn't attack the officers. Four officers then pull Garner to the ground, one holding him into a "chokehold." In less than 30 seconds into a choke-hold, Garner cries out "I can't breathe," (several times), but the officer who put him into a choke-hold press his head on the ground, without stopping the inhumane treatment imposed on him. And then, it was all over. Garner was no more in less than 3 minutes.

Mind you, that’s not a narration of another Hollywood blockbuster about racism in the United States of America. That’s something that happened for real on a sidewalk in New York. Like, I still can’t believe it. I need to pinch myself thousand times to be able to digest the way in which Eric Garner lost his life. And he didn’t die in the hands of some thugs which perhaps would be easy to grasp. And yeah, that piece of narration is not for folks like you and me who can decode visuals in the video, but for those critics who find it hard to understand why people across the length and breadth of America have come out on the streets protesting police violence and the legal decision to not indict the officers on any counts.  The visuals of that the video is brutally so difficult to watch that I find it difficult even to embed it in my blog post. 

Reports indicate that Garner was approached by officers for selling "loose cigarettes," but then, does anyone need to lose his life for selling loose cigarettes. Besides, it doesn’t begin and end with Eric Garner. Similar incidents revisit us again and again. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice are a few names that come to my mind as far as I can remember. And this mind is a stupid thing. It just seems to heal over time. It just seems to forget things over time. And I won’t be shocked if it would soon be business as usual again till another black man dies in a similar freaking way.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio was prompt to come out and openly address this tragic incident in the city. As a preventive measure, he was prompt to propose retraining and body cameras for police officers in the city. But then, when the video - that was shot by a person who happened to be there when Eric Garner was put into chokehold - didn’t do much, how would videos from those body cameras do anything to prevent violence. And retraining is sure good. But can anyone be trained to change a mindset? 

Just like I don’t understand royalty in the United Kingdom, where you have a Queen, a King to be, a princess and her charming prince for real, I will never understand racism in 2015 America. Isn’t America the most powerful country in the world? Yeah, I think that’s what the world says and that’s what I have been reading over the years. So how is this so-called power measured? Is it the GDP, technology (like the recent drone technology that will allow Amazon to drop packages at your doorstep), bullish stock market, the supremacy of our defense capability…or is it about people’s welfare, liberty, and equal rights? Wait, now that is a tough question no? I think only God has an answer to that. Hey God, can you send your guardian angel on earth again to give us an answer to all our problems…plzzzzzzzzzzzz!


Am so awe-awe-struck with this photo that I thought I should share it with you on this holiday and festive season. Isn’t she beautiful? Isn’t she sweet? Isn’t that the best smile ever. Happy Holidays folks have a good one.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fear-“Bola”, Fear-“State” grips the world

Runnnnnnn…its Ebola and runnnnnnn further ahead…it’s the Islamic State that is going to kill all of us. God what are you doing to us? Is the world coming to an end? Are we all going to die? Where do I go to save myself? Is there any place on earth that is safe? These are a few questions that people are still asking themselves. And to make it all worst, the institution that was established to give voice to the voiceless and keep people informed, went all out scaring people and already sending them to their death beds. Sections of the media went crazy over the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. They went crazy over the Islamic State threat in Iraq and Syria.  Calm down media fellows, breath-in and breath-out slowly, calm down! 

No doubt that the Ebola outbreak has wrecked havoc in West Africa taking the lives of more than 4000 people and infecting nearly 9000 people, but the breather to all of this is the virus is not air-borne and can only be transmitted through bodily fluids. Right now there is an urgency to contain the situation in Africa and help the people out there who already find it so difficult to live even under normal non-epidemic kinda conditions. More than the Ebola virus, poverty and hunger have wrecked havoc in Africa for decades. It’s time for countries all over the world to come together to lift Africans out of poverty and strengthen Africa's healthcare sector through affordable private investments, so that health scares like these are treated locally. West Africa’s weak healthcare infrastructure is the primary reason for treatment delay and confusion.

The Ebola fear has gotten so deep rooted that we can see the repercussions on our streets and subways. A foreigner who appears and speaks like an African is looked upon like a potential carrier of the Ebola virus. When people see an individual as a potential carrier, they cover their nose and walk miles away from him. Contrarily our media brethren surround him to churn out sensational stories for prime time news. It’s disgusting! It’s sickening! 

And then there’s that extreme-extremist group with three god-forbidden names – ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State –  that the world has gone hullabaloo about. More than ordinary people like you and me, sections of the media seem to have gotten obsessed with this group. Yeah, this satanic group has brutally killed so many civilians in Iraq and Syria and they need to be burning in hell. But the question to ask is who is funding this group? Who is supplying arms, ammunition and machinery to this group to fight this evil kinda war? Oh yeah, reportedly they seem to be using arms and ammunition that were left behind by nations who ended the many wars after invasions. May be next time when we end invasive wars, we should even bring back all our military equipment because they obviously will fall into wrong hands and obviously be misused. How strange it is that those so called ISIS-ISIL-Islamic State morons are fighting their kinda satanic war with our machinery. We certainly live in a crazy world, I tell you. 

Besides there are so many other ways ordinary people die every single day. Guns, drones, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, discrimination, inequality, mistreatment of the LGBT community, racism, and mental illness are some of those many ways people are dying today. But despite that, they still exist in our communities. No one seems to want to take a stern stand to eradicate them. They certainly don’t cause the bang-bang-bang quick death like ISIS and Ebola, but they surely kill slow-and-steady. And some of those vices have also become a part of our lifestyle. God save us. God save the world from this so-called fear-mania. Amen!

Post script
The United States of America recently named an "Ebola czar" to handle and contain the Ebola crisis. Like really wondering how would that so-called "czar" introduce himself to the world. Rather we need a virus immunization specialist, not a czar. And who or what is a czar? The word czar is so British naah :-)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One hell of a guy

On Twitter, “The Daily Show” bio’s itself as Jon Stewart and The Best F#@king News Team. I can’t agree more. The Daily Show is one blockbuster 30-minute show that has everything that an average person enjoys.  Personally as a news junkie and someone who enjoys comedy and late night talk shows, The Daily Show by Jon Stewart is everything I ever asked for, all three in one. All I need to do in tune in to the show and boom I get my dose of politics, comedy and talk show under one roof.

Of course newspapers, television, radio and digital media are great sources of news. But I need those 30 minutes of Jon Stewart in my life to help me clean up the news clutter in my head. It’s only possible to analyze a story once all of it is digested. Coming at a perfect time in the day, Stewart digests all that news absorbed during the day, throws out the impurities and gets the daily news in a more filtered, cut throat, too-the-point style. He makes all politicians carry their crosses right up to Calvary with his crude satirical style. And that’s what I really like about this hard core in-your-face satirist.

Critics mock Stewart as a liberal with one-sided tilt toward the Democratic political party. But if you really follow his show every single day and listen to it carefully critics can be proved wrong. Stewart is more of a moderate on his political and social views with a big conscience. Even the democrats are not spared by him for their stupidity. And that's what is insanely good about the show. You need to have a middle path in any kinda decision making and rarely does that happen in today's world. You can either be a blue or red supporter. There just doesn’t seem to be a middle path.

Stewart's brash style of delivering the show using those mind-blowing swear words makes the show more relatable. He doesn't drop English jargons, but rather drops F-bombs to convey his message. They say a comedian should be conversational. Well to be conversational with today’s youth you need to speak like them. So hell yeah it works. Stewart’s response to the Veteran Affairs mismanagement was the best answer to the mess –o-mania in the department. They say you need to vent out anger by yelling and shouting it out. But the swear-jar that Stewart has given birth to looks like a better option to vent out all that frustration and anger. I seriously plan to have my personal swear-jar very soon.


Stewart has been a role model for many upcoming talents for years. Even John Oliver who has recently become a big name with his own show on HBO “Last Week Tonight” owes a great deal to Stewart. If it wasn't for Stewart’s mentoring, Oliver himself admits that he wouldn't be where he is today.  And then, how can we forget the popular television Middle East satirist Basseem Youssef who is also popularly called the Jon Stewart of Egypt. Stewart must have earned a few enemies and haters because of his confrontational satire, but he never really got into any trouble because he poked fun at the government. But Youssef got into too much of trouble doing the same political satire in Egypt...yeah Egypt. Although the people of Egypt enjoy Youssef, the government labeled him as a traitor and forced him to take the show off-air.

And this is what happens when the two greatest comedians from two different parts of the world meet (Video).

You cannot draw a line in comedy and Stewart shows us just how that is done. He makes fun of anyone he feels like including himself. And that's what great comedy is all about.

Post script
It’s been two years since I've been watching Jon Stewart and over the years I've become one of his biggest fans. And seriously I would love to be a part of this Best F#@king News Team.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hashtag activism

Four words wrapped in a hashtag has brought the world’s attention to the abduction of more than 300 teenage girls in Nigeria. Although these innocent teenagers were abducted on April 14, it got traction recently after the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls showed up in tweets almost every single day. It’s outrageous that the whole episode was kept under wraps for more than two weeks, until some brave Nigerian activists launched an online campaign using the hashtags #BringBackOurDaughters, #BringBackOurGirls. These hashtag campaigns went viral in no time and pressurized Nigerian President Goodluck Joanathan to take action. 

After abducting the teenagers, those maniacs who call themselves Boko Haram had the cheek to come back into the city and abduct more girls right from their homes. And to add more to it, they sent videos of the girls they abducted. In those nerve-wrecking videos, some weird looking men dressed in military gear- supposed leaders of the group - vow to sell the girls as “wives” for $12 each. I mean what on mother earth is happening.

For those many mocking the hashtag campaign, I think you folks need a reality check. If critics just can't do anything, at least they should stop mocking people who want to save the girls. Because eventually it is the online campaign that has fired up the Nigerian government to act. Sure the hashtag won't bring back the girls literally, but it will stir up local pressure, increase international support and eventually something will be done to bring back our girls. 

The abducted girls remind me of Malala Yusofzai who in spite of knowing how dangerous it is to attend school advocated the power of education for girls.  The school in which these Nigerian girls went to had closed down because of threats from extremists who believed education is sin. But this school was only recently reopened so that the girls could take their final exams. Surely these are a few brave girls who had the gumption to get out of their homes to take their final exams. 

The group who call themselves Boko Haram, the name which nearly translates as “western education is sin” is terrified of education. So are other extremists groups, like the ones in Pakistan who shot Malala in the head for standing up for education. I don’t know where these young teenagers get that fighting spirit from. It also makes me wonder how we take our freedom for granted. Everything comes so easy to us. But not everyone has the same good fortune that we have.  

So it’s not guns or ammunition that can really kill evil. In fact looking at the way these satanic extremist groups heinously react to the very concept of education, highlights that education is the weapon that will ultimately thrash terrorism of any kind. So let’s keep the fight going. And hell yeah, hashtag activism works.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

India's Modi creates ripples globally

The largest democracy on earth concludes its five-week election cycle in which a whopping 537-million people came out to cast their votes. It was not only the voter turnout that was mind-boggling, but the results of India's 2014 elections swung in large numbers in the kitty of the political party called the BJP (Bharitya Janta Party). It already looks like the Indian voters have bid a firm goodbye to Gandhi-led political dynasties that have been governing the nation for decades now.With the 2014 election results, Narendra Modi from the BJP will be sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India. 

So when the majority of the 66-percent of eligible voters voted for Modi and his party, why do we have so many people – nationally and internationally - jumping the bandwagon concluding the gloomy fate of the minorities of India which accounts for 20-percent of the population. Well I belong to the minority population in India, but have never ever experienced any kind of disparity from that of the majority. It has always been a level playing field. 

Besides the inequality in India has never been about the religion that someone follows, but more between the haves and have nots. Some folks in India are counted among the billionaires of the world and they seem to only be getting richer while the majority of Indians still live in absolute poverty and this is the inequality that we need to talk about. The inequality of religion is a perception and perceptions never really change, no matter how much you try to change it. But the large divide between the people who live in glass houses and those who still live on the sidewalks need to be bridged. And “development” which is the theme of Modi’s agenda will not only create jobs but will help bridge the gap between the have-it-all and the have-nots. And right now, this is what India really wants. 

Modi has not even been sworn in as the Prime Minister of India. So why not allow this man to take charge first. Give him six-months into office and then perhaps we can shoot out our opinions and prejudices about the way he handles the second largest population on earth. And well, India is more than 60-years into its democracy and people have gotten used to being independent, are used to speaking their mind, and are used to pinning down and thrashing indecisiveness at the top, that’s even if it’s the prime minister of the country. Taking crap, was never and will never be our middle name.

The world is talking about India elections and I’m enjoying the perspectives and analysis of the world. But there was this one column that likened Modi to Putin that raised an eyebrow. But then I stopped worrying because Modi does not have that chiseled body to ride shirtless on a horse. So lets forget about it.

On a signing note I want to thank Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for being such a great guy. He must have not been an awesome orator or have a super-awesome personality but he is the guy who opened up the Indian market to the rest of the world and helped transform India. Singh is the king of liberal economics and we owe it to him. I just wish Dr. Singh a good life ahead. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is the Internet our bread-and-butter?

Today the world is celebrating the Web that has become an integral part of almost everything that we do. It was 25-years ago when the young, dynamic British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for the "global hypertext system" which then came to become the World Wide Web. Imagine a life without the 3W’s...devastating!

There was a time when we just walked up to the library to read, gather material, or simply to get answers to a question that is bothering us for days. But the Internet has changed all that. Today lounging in our pajamas we can find answers to things that we need to know. Simply key in the question in Google and boom you’ll find pages of information to choose from. Google is Batman (without that dark side). You are no longer what you say you are, but you are what Google says you are. That’s the modern technology enabled world that we fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately) live in. 

We surely are a fortunate lot who have the advantage of using the Internet every single minute and every second of the day. But is the Internet the bread-and-butter for survival and one of the basic human needs? Does it really count in the first three things that an individual needs to survive? Food, clothing, and shelter have been basic human needs for generations now. The Internet revolution in the 1990's changed all that in the 21st century. Today Internet connectivity is positioned as a humanitarian need. So much so that tech magnates like Google and Facebook are rolling out billion-dollar projects to connect the world to the Internet. Microsoft mogul Bill Gates says that to improve lives we got to first deal with basic things like child survival, child nutrition. He says PC's and the Internet are not in the hierarchy of human needs. 

So then why are we so dependent on the Internet. I can’t forget days when my roommate and I said re-connection prayers together when the Internet connection snapped for a few minutes. Whether it is work, study, or our day-to-day transactions, everything is connected to the Internet, making it impossible to do without it. But what about those you do not have access to the Internet, how do they survive? 

The 2013 International Telecommunications Union report states that out of 7.1 billion world population only 61-percent of the population have internet connectivity. This still makes 39-percent of the world without connection. That’s a huge digital divide and this really makes a big difference. The Internet may not be bread-and-butter for survival but it does give people access to grab those exciting political, social, economic, educational and career opportunities. It simply changes the way we think. 

Google has already initiated a project to bridge this global digital divide. Google wants to make internet access a basic human right and plans to spend $1.5 million this year to support computer science education around the world. The project "Google Fiber" is focused on connecting homes across America. The project is aimed to make internet access available to the poor, the elderly, and all those without internet access. Google has also launched "Project Loon" technology for gapping digital divide between the world's 4.8 billion unwired people and their 2.2 billion plugged-on counterparts around the world. The project involves releasing helium-filled balloons in the stratosphere, 20km above the earth. These balloons will act as a hub for users to connect to Internet service providers. And recently Facebook made an announcement that it is looking into buying a drone making company that makes bear-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. Facebook wants to use these drones to blanket parts of the world without internet access. And Mark Zuckerberg plans to kick-off the project in Africa.

These projects will certainly make that big difference. Wish we could launch balloons and drones for bridging that huge gap between the rich and the poor, to find cures for life-threatening diseases, to end wars, to end discrimination, to end terrorism. 

Post script
Whenever I was asked what the meaning of my name is, I jokingly said it meant “Mother of Pearl.” But guess what after a lot of Internet research done by a colleague, I now know the real meaning of my name. It's a French name meaning black bird. Now I got to decide whether it’s a crow or a falcon :-). And yeah thanks to the Internet for giving me that information.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A new pope star in the house

It is difficult to find a person who hasn't heard about the brand new Pope of the Catholic Church. Less than a year old in his papacy, Pope Francis is a well-known pope not only among Catholics but everyone irrespective of faith, religion, race, seems to be talking about him. He is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, but the only one who joins the ranks of pop star icons like Janet Jackson, John Lennon, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, who featured on the Rolling Stone magazine cover. But does Pope Francis set the stage on fire like people who normally are featured on this magazine?

Rolling Stone is a magazine known for its musical coverage and for political reporting. So what made the magazine have Pope Francis on its cover page? Did Pope Francis’ millions of Twitter followers draw the magazine to have him on his cover or is it the five magic words - "Who am I to judge?" - that did the real magic. 

"Who am I to judge?" said Pope Francis when he was asked by a reporter about the status of gay priests in the church. These five words uttered by the pope undoubtedly surprised the catholic world, but in the bargain the respect for him increased a thousand fold.

The Catholic Church is known to impose a set-of-doctrines on Catholics around the world. These set-of-rules has made many Catholics turn-away from the church. But the septuagenarian Pope Francis seems to have changed this with his statement that the church has become "obsessed" with abortion, contraception and gay rights. It needs gumption to make that statement. This certainly makes the pope appear like a people’s pope and not someone who wears a halo over his head. 

The young and the old love him. Like Pope John Paul II, Catholics might not nominate Pope Francis to become a saint, but would certainly want to emulate his style and personality. 

Pope Francis is featured smiling and waving in the Rolling Stone magazine. And I won't be surprised if very soon a fashion magazine will feature him sitting on his Harley Davidson. A pope owning a Harley, I mean really? I don't mind going to mass everyday if the head of the church comes riding on his Harley. Isn't that cool!

It’s not the first time that the pope has featured on the cover of a magazine. A few months back Pope Francis was named 'Person of the Year' by the TIME magazine. The TIME magazine justified its cover story looking at the way Pope Francis captured the imaginations of millions of people in a matter of few months since he took office. The TIME magazine officials say Pope Francis was selected by editors of the magazine who considered suggestions and inputs from the magazine’s more than 2-million Twitter followers. The magazine believes that pope has given hope to millions of people who have moved away from the church, and that’s what drove them to have him on their magazine cover. 

The pope unlike his predecessors has also not shied away from politics. Because ultimately, it is the decision made by world leaders that has an impact on world peace. Recently he met up with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr. Cool who loves hunting, shooting and fishing shirtless Mr. Vladimir Putin. And then in March this year President Obama is scheduled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican. 

So what's next on the pope's agenda? If recent reports are to be believed, Pope Francis has been invited to watch the Oscar nominated supposed anti-Catholic movie Philomena in a private showing. Would he watch it? Well I think he will.