Monday, November 30, 2009

My travel diary

My current job ,demands traveling out of Delhi often. Though I have frequented many places a number of times, there are two places which I long to visit again.

Recently I was on an official tour to Agra. Amid the busy schedule I found some time to enjoy and laze around .It became a nice holiday rather. Since I had seen Taj Mahal before, I asked my colleague to visit the massive Agra Fort. I had no idea how was it going to be, but I swear I was speechless the moment I entered it. The huge monument still stands tall with pride and sets a remarkable example of perfect ancient architecture. Be it the Deewan-e-khaas , Deewan-e- Aam , Jahangiri Mahal,Sheesh Mahal or the entry gates for the Army, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the fort comprising a blend of white marbles & red sand stones. My colleague agreed with me that ancient engineering has no equals and nobody can reproduce the magic with the same grace and perfection. Some portions of the fort are not accessible to the public, of course for security reasons .The portions which are open for all, are masterpiece of creations.

I am too fond of sweets. So I hogged Agra’s pethas. I was surprised to see a huge variety like Angoori petha, Chocolate petha, colorful petha and so on…..I had a feast with pethas and hot kachoris with finger licking “aaloo ki subzi ” 

My official tour to Amritsar happened to be my first visit to Punjab. Visiting Amritsar was a wonderful experience, even better than what I had heard and read. I wonder why is the Golden Temple not one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Left spellbound again by the lovely construction of the Gurudwara, I appreciate the efficient management which controls the crowd so well and keeps it running 24×7. The Gurudwara also called Sri Harmandir Sahib is home to the shelter less and treats all castes-religions with equal love and request. I was touched to see physically challenged people working and helping the temple management since they believe that seva to mankind is seva to God.

From Golden Temple we headed towards Wagah Border the same evening. The place was overcrowded much more than what I had expected. The sunset ceremony which takes place daily is a spectacular event which I witnessed that day. The tall BSF rangers from India proudly walked at the gate while the audience hooted and cheered enthusiastically. The black uniformed Pakistani Rangers were seen walking with the same pride and attitude. Post the 1947 partition, Wagah village, controversially lies half in Pakistan and half in India. Both the countries host colourful functions on their sides. The flags are lowered at sunset and the rangers confront each other after the gate opens. It was a wonderful sight to watch. With the loud thump of the rangers, my heart was pounding loudly. I was full of pride for the nation and for the Armed forces who have left no stone unturned to keep the country’s honour.

Not to forget the people in Punjab- cheerful, helpful and open hearted. I couldn’t digest the amount of butter I was served with each meal yet I loved the local food.(Can never forget Phirni, lassi, sweets and parantha). I felt so safe in the new place which I never felt in Delhi despite having spent 6 years here. Such was the lovely connection I made with Amritsar in mere 1 day and the memories will be cherished forever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

26/11- Race against time

26/11- The naked truth of Valor and Shame
Hemant Karkare, Chief of Mumbai ATS, Ashok Kamte, IPS officer Additional Commissioner of Police, and Vijay Salaskar , encounter specialist & Senior Police Inspector ,are the three most remembered names of the black Wednesday ,in the History of Indian terror attacks on Mumbai 26/11/08 who laid their lives for the country . Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Hawaldar Gajendra Singh were the brave hearts of the NSG force who set a remarkable example posthumous for the one who serve the nation. This is an ode to the brave soldiers and their families for the sacrifices and impeccable valor.

I pray for those who lost their lives in this cruel incident and wish for the well being of their families.26/11 marked a shameful day in the milestones of the Indian History which pointed the weakness and flaws in the Indian “System”. 26/11/09 will be the first anniversary of the same day and the trials are still going on despite the clear CCTV footages and hundreds of witnesses.

A handful of terrorists (10 in number) went on a rampage killing people ruthlessly at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Oberoi Trident,the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe ,Cama Hospital, the Nariman House, the Metro Cinema,St. Xavier’s College. There was an explosion at Mazagaon, in Mumbai’s port area, and in a taxi at Vile Parle. The terrorists opened fire at the CST which claimed more than 50 people and left hundreds injured. It took Maharashtra Govt. more than 10 hours to communicate & bring in the NSG forces into Mumbai. By the time the commandoes took charge, most of the damage had been done.

Taj heritage hotel was damaged to a great extend including the main building burnt and the dome damaged. CST was vandalized. One bomb explosion took place at the Oberoi Trident and six at Taj. People inside Nariman House were tortured and murdered. Most of them were NRI’s. By 27/11 rest of the places in Mumbai were under control; however people were taken hostage inside The Taj and the killing game continued till 28/11.
The terrorists seemed to know the internal map of the Taj well hence taking advantage of their geographical position. Hostages were asked to switch off their cell phones and a number of them shot dead. Smoke, gunshots, blood, bullet marks, burnt buildings and crying faces was all which could be seen and heard as the aftermath of the D –Day.
My heart goes out to those who lost their precious lives. For those who were rescued or spared alive by the terrorists, their memories are still haunted by the horrendous day. The kilns of the deceased , shed tears silently even today, thinking of the bullets which hit them or the blasts which blew them alive.
People paid a heavy price with their lives, for the flaws which the Government had overlooked. The coastal areas are now under scrutiny since the terrorists had arrived from Karachi in a boat contacting their master planners continuously.

What had happened to the interception and Coastal Security then??
When the fishermen who raised an alarm, informed the police while the gunmen arrived, the police turned a deaf ear to the suspicions. An immediate action could have saved Mumbai that day.
Was the most alert Police team sleeping?
Hemant Karkare lost his life since he was not given a bullet proof jacket. He was shot dead on the spot.
Why wasn’t he facilitated with this amenity?

When the situation was out of control and needed to be given to NSG forces, it took 10 long hours for them to arrive from Delhi to Mumbai. It was here realized that NSG hub should be set up in major cities too.
The CCTV footage clearly showed the faces of Terror. Among them Ajmal Kasb was the only one caught alive. Shamefully, even Pakistan denied his Pakistani nationality. What has been the Government been waiting for? Long after Pakistan accepted the claims of his Pakistani Origin, our Indian Government is still in the process of winding up the trials!! The Taj and Oberoi are sill under repair constructions and NSG hubs have been setup since then in other major cities including Bangalore & Kolkata. Politicians were condemned for the blame game they passed on instead of ensuring the safety and well being of the sufferers and survivors. Lives lost cannot be brought back however we can make an effort to build this country a better place to live in.

MNS chiefs- hope you understand. There are better things to cope up with than taking a so called stand for Marathi Culture. An infant doesn’t arrive with a culture tag n this world. It’s we who teach him. Our prime culture should be to speak up for the common man and not make his life misery. Its our responsibility to see weather the authorities stick to their promises or not. In action of the inability to do so, we may use the democratic power to resolve the issue.

26/11 will remain a scar in the face of India and the politicians. Lessons learnt should help in future to combat terrorism.

Nov 24,2009