Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nuclear power Now

It is disasters that have made the human kind conscious about the importance of striking a balance between development and the environment.

One of them was an accident at Three Mile Island (Pennsylvania, United States) in 1979, apparently "the worst accident in US commercial nuclear power generating history". [See: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "fact sheet" -- note that this came out in 2004; and "What's wrong with the NRC factsheet"]

Seven years later, Chernobyl (Ukraine, then part of USSR) saw "the worst accident ever in the history of nuclear power". More than 30 people died on the spot, and the "Nuclear fallout" (the residual radiation hazard) spread to Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, Ireland and eastern North America.

After Chernobyl, the world has been going slow on Nuclear Power, that was once considered the final answer to all our energy worries. Many project proposals had to be shelved due to enormous opposition from the local people, scientsists and environmental activists. [There was one such proposal in Kerala about 15 years back].

Now we are turning to Nuclear Power once again. There has been opposion locally, but it is hardly making any news. The plan for the plant itself was kept away from media attention for quite some time, but the news is slowly coming in, thanks to Singur.

"West Bengal could be the site for eastern India's first nuclear power plant with a central committee recommending Haripur in coastal East Midnapore district as a possible location, an announcement which has already evoked protests by villagers there..", India e-News, Nov 20, 2006.

"The masses resist Haripur Nuclear power plant in Junput.." (Palash Biswas, on NDTV blogs).

Expectedly, the news is accompanied with anticipatory bails ["Scientist backing nuke plant project at Haripur", The Hindu].

The CPM seems to be confused. "Sitaram Yechury today said he was opposed to nuclear power stations as they were being eyed as potential customers by US firms that stand to benefit from the deal signed with the Bush administration.." (The Telegraph, Jan 8).

Even the country's safest reactors aren't so safe, according to its atomic regulations agency.

Can we afford another freaky accident? (We haven't recovered from that December Third yet..)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Between patriotism and sedition

Its funny. Going around killing politicians and ministers is patriotism (RDB style), but showing Lal Salaam is an offence.

I know-- Lal Salaam was no Oscar material. This film (that had Nandita Das in the one of the lead roles) was released way back in 2002 if I remember right, and hardly anyone noticed it. But if one can go to jail for showing a film that is cleared by cencors (and was released in cinemas), may be one should see it. (What about a re-release? RDB is supposed to have re-released this Republic day, don't know if it happened).

"Exhibiting this picture attracts the offence of "sedition" for which six Kui tribal cultural activists of Adva under Gajpati district of Orissa were sent to jail on 23rd Sept 2006.." [From a mail quoted in G P Ramachandran's blog, SEDITION-ORISSA STYLE].

Later in the mail it says,
"It is said by the police that the film is on the maoist activities, which is a banned organisation as declared under the Criminal Law Amendment Act-1908.."

Mm.. so no more "criminal activities" in movies.. no killing, no theft, no underworld..? It does not really seem so-- a certain RGV need not worry.

[I look up for the meaning of the word sedition, and find this: "1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government. 2. any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.."]

Well, so is it just that we have no more rebels?

Not quite. The message seems to be clear -- if you want to rebel it is fine, do it the apolitical RDB way. I guess even a Yuva would pass, as long as the concerns of the film does not disturb the power brigade that still consists of the feudal lords. Definitely no Lal Salaam!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Water in / RDB out

A scene from Water

Feeling some excitement with the Academy Awards after a long long time. Thanks to a "generation" that swears by RDB and a nation that disowned Water.

This time there was a short-list of nine films that came out a few days back. RDB didn't find a place in that list, whereas Water did. And now, the nominations are out, and Water, Canadian entry at the awards in the best foreign language film category, is among the top five contenders for the title.

I have not seen Water but my friends who have seen it (In India, at some festival) say it is a well-made film and the director has got even John Abraham to act. I hope they are right.

I also hope and pray that the film wins at the Oscars. Despite having no great respect for the way these awards by, for and of Hollywood are given away every year. (The two titles "Best Film" and "Best Foreign Langage film", and the restriction that a "foreign" country can send at most one entry are racist in itself. Even within Hollywood, it is often reserved for the feel-good, "American" variety, and a Pulp Fiction would not make it. An Exception to this was American Beauty that won in 1999.)

As a defeat of the forces that keep trying to shut the mouths up whenever someone tries to say something that does not please them. As a mark of shame on a nation where a film gets censored on its sets itself. And as a victory over a generation that "awakens" to illusions.

[Earlier post: Rang De Basanti Salaam!] [Image courtesy: Academy Awards page]


The winter is coming to an end. It is still cool, but it's a matter of a few more days now. I have already started feeling sad about it.

It's not just about the heat. All those migratory birds that have made the lakes here their home this winter will be going back to their spring-summer habitats. Ranging from Himalayas to the old Soviet republics.

I don't know their names, or I haven't really bothered figuring them out, but I have enjoyed spending this season with them.

Of course, there will be those hundreds of water-fowls and other birds that would stay back. Through the scorching heat of months to come. Or may be they will also decide to leave some day, as the weather is becoming more and more unpredictable. (It seems it rained very less last year, and the "rainy season" turned into an unbearably warm one. Whereas in some other parts of the country it was the opposite, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh faced floods).

Ok- we were talking about the migratory birds. I don't even have a photograph of them. I may forget exactly how they looked, but the joy of spending these days with them would stay with me.

[Also see: Lake and me, Towards a Language of My Own]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Maa: death, inspiration, unrest

On 17th December, I read this mail from Gargi that said,

"my grandma's sinking.

i'm not feeling anything particularly about it.
other than wishing her a good death

was feeling bad days before.

Me too hoped she had a peaceful death. Two days later when I reached Kerala, I realized that Maa died a day before I read that mail.

Now she writes on her blog (after a long silence):

"she left me without a void.
she fills me.
just fills me..

not as memories,
but as a kind of inspiration.
(she'd written in her diary
that was published somewhere
"inspiration is a mere reason
to hide your own emptiness.." )
i agree,
and i agree to this too
that i'm empty.
i need to fill it up.

wanted to write something about her.
she seems vast.huge.unfathomable.

True, she is such an inspiration. Ma for some, Comrade Mandakini Narayanan for some. I have been trying to read up on her, and every time I am left with a feeling of wanting to know more about her. More about this world. More about people. More about myself.

[News on Mandakini's death: Times of India; The Hindu story: A revolutionary to the core]

Monday, January 15, 2007

Guru Bhai's dreams

Sreejitha asks me as the movie begins-- "why would people be interested in watching this person's story"?

That sums up the feeling that this longish film leaves behind at the end of something short of three hours. Why should we be interested in watching this documentary?

So what if the technical crew have tried their best to get the right period look and make it technically sound (with exception of some camera effects that are painful, and the two dance numbers by Mallika Sheravat and Aishwarya that look completely out of place), what if Abhishek Bachchan looks a slim 20-something in his Turkey days and puts on a tummy as the character grows older (and richer), what if the actors do their best -- Mithunda and Junior B deserve very special mentions (Aishwarya should consider herself lucky to be cast in this film if she can't do better than this) -- unlike Nayakan which is more or less on similar lines, the film fails to hold one's interest. And worse, the viewers are forced to share the dream that the protagonist has. (Mera ek sapna hai-- does that ring a bell?)

Comparisons with Nayakan are inevitable, as the similarities are endless. So is this marking the change of times, from a hero who fights for the poor and the landless in the eighties to trying to convince the audience it is the big industrialists who are really doing something for the nation and its people? (Baradwaj calls it an unabashed ode to capitalism. He makes some other interesting observations as well).

[Image from the film web site]

Friday, January 12, 2007

Long Hair Blues

Growing long hair is not as easy as it looked. I'm learning it the hard way!

The hair strands get entangled often;

They collect all the dust and go wary when you're traveling;

If you don't apply oil it is difficult to manage;

If you apply oil it becomes even more difficult to manage;

You can not pick any shampoo-- you have to be very careful about picking the right shampoo;

Then you need a conditioner, and the right one (otherwise it worsens things);

Earlier I used to have bath and come out in three minutes flat, now it takes about fifteen minutes;

It takes another five minutes (at least) to comb the hair (and it is quite painful, untangling the knots) ...

I remember the days when I used to get irritated when mom (or other women at home) took time with their hair. I remember them with great respect-- unlike me, they didn't have much of a choice between growing the hair and keeping it short!

And I feel pity for those (short-haired) guys who have "long hair" in their concept of an ideal match:-) Unless, of course, they are looking for a mate who can manage things better than them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bloody Brahmaputra

Hindi-speaking population. Killings. Assam. ULFA, no "suspected ULFA". Fear.
Key terms right now.

"Dibrugarh, Jan. 5: Suspected Ulfa militants today carried out a string of attacks on Hindi-speaking people in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, killing 13 people and injuring 15 others. The slaughter revived memories of a similar carnage engineered by the outfit in 2003.." (13 kiln labourers die in Ulfa attack, The Telegraph, Saturday Jan 6 2007)

"Dibrugarh/Guwahati, Jan. 6: The maelstrom of violence unleashed by the banned Ulfa since last evening continued to churn throughout the night, with the death toll rising to 48 and a total of 23 others injured in the twin Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh.." (Assam reels under carnage, Sunday Jan 7)

"Jan. 7: The rat-a-tat of automatic weapons pierced the Assam air again tonight, claiming nine lives as the outlawed Ulfa carried its hate campaign against Hindi-speaking people to a third district.

After targeting migrant brick kiln workers, vendors and daily-wage labourers in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia on Friday night, Ulfa militants singled out Hindi-speaking people at two places in neighbouring Sivasagar district.." (Stench of death & fire of anger; More die in twin strikes, Monday Jan 8)

"Jan. 8: After four days of targeting hapless Hindi-speaking people, Ulfa militants triggered two blasts in the vicinity of an army cantonment today, as if to show that they can strike anywhere, anytime.

The blasts near the Narengi cantonment occurred even as the army was preparing to go hard at Ulfa for the relentless communal purge that has left the Hindi-speaking community shell-shocked.

Seven persons were wounded in the twin explosions at Satgaon market, barely 100 metres from the entrance to the Narengi cantonment.." (Blasts near base mock army; Ulfa kills two more migrants in Golaghat, Tuesday Jan 9)

And then, today's Guwahati newslatter says:

"Jan. 9: Former defence minister George Fernandes today met three Ulfa leaders in a Guwahati jail and came out carrying the message that the banned militant group is not behind the attacks on Hindi-speaking people.." (Fernandes plays Ulfa ‘advocate’)

I don't know much to comment about these attacks. But there are reasons to believe this is not so simple an issue. And it is not surprising that the target is almost always the daily wages labourers.

* * *

It may be just coincidence that this one piece of news about a new book also came on Saturday.

"Guwahati, Jan. 5: When Rita Choudhury won her first literary honour — the Asam Sahitya Sabha award — in 1981, she was not present at the ceremony to receive it.

She was in Dibrugarh jail with thousands of other political prisoners at the height of the anti-foreigners’ movement.

Over 20 years after that historic mass movement, Choudhury is ready with a novel that promises to tell the insider’s story of the agitation.

To be unveiled tomorrow at the Guwahati Press Club, Ei Somoy Sei Somoy (Now and then) has already evoked great curiosity, particularly because of the subject it deals with.."

(A movement comes alive in ink- Writer and activist documents the anti-foreigners’ agitation in Assam, The Telegraph Guwahati newsletter, 6 Jan 2007. See archives)

I would like to read this book if I can get hold of a translation. It may help us understand the tension in this state better.

[Earlier post: Blasts, Nov 6 2006]

Monday, January 08, 2007


Mailamma was directly affected by Coca-Cola's operations in Plachimada, in Kerala's Palakkad district. The water in her well (in Vijaynagar colony in Plachimada) had been so heavily polluted by Coca-Cola's operations that it has been deemed unfit for human consumption.

Mailamma was a central figure in the campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for water shortages and pollution in the area, and it was under her leadership that the community forced the Coca-Cola bottling plant to shut down in March 2004. The plant has remained shut down since.

Mailamma, a member of the Eravalar tribe, was the founder of the Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samiti (Anti Coca-Cola Struggle Committee) in Plachimada which has spearheaded the campaign against Coca-Cola. The Anti-Coca-Cola Struggle Committee has held a continuous vigil directly outside Coca-Cola's factory gates since April 22, 2002, demanding its permanent closure.

Mailamma lived with her extended family in Vijaynagar Colony in Plachimada, and is survived by three sons and a daughter.

[Mailamma was the recipient of the prestigious Speak Out award by the Outlook magazine and the Sthree Shakthi Award in recent years.]

Mayilamma passed away on Jan 6, 2007.

Thanks to Savad Rahman for sharing this news and the lady's photograph.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy new year and Id Mubarak!

It feels good being completely away from the web for more than two weeks.

Happy new year and Id Mubarak to all!