Why I Pray the IAF Disclosure Doesn’t Set a Poor Precedent

As I woke up in the morning today, the ritual of checking the phone was the first thing happened. And as I unlocked it, the first Google News flash appeared “Amid Calls For Proof, Air Force Shows Radar Images Of Pak F-16 Encounter” from NDTV. IAF held a press conference where they showed radar images and electronic signatures of the IAF aircraft MiG-21 Bison and the three F-16 aircraft of PAF, one of which went off the radar, indicating it being destroyed. This was further substantiated with the initial claim by the Pakistan armed forces as well as PM Imran Khan himself when they declared that two IAF pilots were captured but it turned out it was only one. The information about the other pilot was suppressed cleverly.

While the junta rejoiced at this news, as I could read from the Twitter reactions, my heart sank a little.

I just hope this doesn’t end up becoming a bad precedent set by IAF because now, for every operation in future, there will be proofs sought and this example will be provided to ensure the proof-giving-exercise happens every time. Information that should not be public, would be made public and that is not a good sign for national security. It pained me to see that we have reduced ourselves to a nation that is seeking proof from our armed forces of their heroism.

It is sad that, within India, we have people who are asking these questions under the pretext of questioning the government but their questions are essentially directed at the armed forces. Their worry is not the national security but ensuring that the slightest benefit of these actions do not end up benefiting the present government, even if it means helping the enemy state. This questioning comes at the cost of national security.

While, to the relevant international/foreign organizations and governments, IAF and the Indian government may still need to provide the proofs, it should still be an administrative and secured communication and not public. We may need to send the proof to Pentagon since the US made aircraft are involved in the whole episode but what is the need to distribute such information through a press conference?

Firstly, this kind of technical information hardly understood in it’s purest forms by the general public. Secondly, such information can expose our capabilities to unwanted entities, which is not good for our security. While, I am pretty sure IAF would take care of the second point, but as a citizen, I would still not want them to waste their time in ensuring only the relevant information is distributed. Thirdly, there is absolutely no need for any kind of information about the military operation specifics to be distributed in the general public. There is a reason why this kind of information is kept secret.

People say that it is their right to question the government. If they really want to question the government, the questions should be regarding the lapse in the internal security that led to Pulwama attack and what the government is doing to prevent it in the future? What did the government do and did not do to prevent the attack? Since when did the government have the information on the Balakot terrorist camp? If it was before the attack itself, what took the government so long to act on it?

Unfortunately, instead, questions that require sensitive information to be disclosed are asked because people know that when they will be refused they can easily mask military secrecy as something fishy which opens the doors for them to create stories that suit their agenda.

I would just want to end this by apologizing to IAF as we, the Indian citizens, failed to uphold our nation’s security to the highest levels. While we give sermons about freedom of speech, we fail miserably at the responsibility of speech.

Featured Image Source: Zee News

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O yes, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian Elections

Dear Hasan Minhaj,

Yes, brother, you shouldn’t have spoken on Indian politics! Absolutely not. I totally agree with that but not for the reasons that were portrayed in the first couple of minutes of the show.

During my stay in the US, I did observe a general lack of understanding of India and Indian politics among the majority of Indians who have settled there since decades and your show was just a proof of that. I am not blaming but then somewhere the NRIs refuse to accept that lack of knowledge and feel entitled to speak up just because there are platforms available and there are listeners.
It was just sheer incomplete information, no understanding of the core issues of Indian society + politics and an extremely one-sided view of the issues, organizations, and the leaders.

Through this blog, I am just attempting to bring in some perspective to the topics covered. I am not the epicenter of the knowledge or insights but having closely following Indian politics till date and having witnessed, in person, BJP’s administration and Modi’s leadership while growing up in Gujarat and living in India up until 2015, I guess I do bring in some level of credibility.

1. Balakot Attack
About the Balakot attack, you failed to mention that Indian media has recently provided enough details about how the targets were actually hit as the latest satellite images show (Indian Air Force collates proof of strikes at Balakot camp80% bombs hit target: IAF gives satellite images to govt as proof of Balakot airstrike, Balakot airstrike: 80% bombs hit target, says IAF in proof submitted to govt).
The portrayal of the entire incident as their word vs our word is quite naive. If you follow the news, you would know that Pakistan has continuously denied access to the international media to the site of air strike (Pakistan continues blocking media access to IAF’s air strike site, Why does the media have no real access?, No access to Pakistan religious school that India says it bombed) but just touring them around the forests. Pakistani PM was also caught red-handed lying on television when he said Pakistan had captured two Indian air crafts in the dogfight that followed a few days after the air strike when the fact was the second plane was Pakistan’s F-16 itself and the pilot was badly beaten up by the locals (and is said to have died in the hospital later on). Pakistan has also failed to acknowledge this – which is terrible for a soldier who risked his life for the country.
And saying that the Indian government was exploiting Kashmir for elections is also a totally idiotic. Indian army conducted operations in Myanmar in 2015 and then in PoK in 2016 (in response to Uri attack). Even in 2016, the same excuse was given by the anti-India and anti-BJP folks that due to elections in Uttar Pradesh, this was done. The fact is that, in India, every year some 4-5 (or even more) states go into elections to elect a state government. So, it is common and easy to portray any positive step of the government as an election hoodwink.

2. Jobs
You spoke literally just for 10 seconds on this topic to give out a judgment. The fact of the matter is that this is one topic where there is significant confusion (just read these two articles: The reason India jobs data is not credible and The sharp debate on jobs data shows govt may arrive at a process for understanding India’s labour market) and making any conclusive statement is absolutely naive. There are plenty of data sources giving a variety of information but none of them covering the entire spectrum. Unlike the US, the UK, and many other western countries, India has never had any credible source of employment information. While the larger estimates do not favor the government at all – more confusion in this matter will only be detrimental to the government.

3. Demonetization
You showed a CPI worker (AIKS cap, red t-shirt and CPI flag in the background) criticizing the demonetization – so obvious. If you don’t know what AIKS is and the equation between CPI and BJP – research a bit. You, spending just above 60 seconds on the topic to conclude it as a failure is an absolute injustice to the topic itself because it was a very carefully planned exercise which had other aspects too – which was obviously ignored in the video – like the Jan Dhan Yojana and the closure of shell companies identified due to this exercise. You may want to read the following:
Govt cancelled 2.24 lakh suspected shell companies post demonetisation, disqualified 3.09 lakh directors, 2.09 lakh companies deregistered; directors face action, Black money accounts frozen, 2-3 lakh shell company owners now face up to 10 years jail.

If you really want to know what failure of demonetization looks like – just read about demonetization in Venezuela.
And while you talked about demonetization, you failed to mention the largest financial inclusion exercise carried out before that – the Jan Dhan accounts. While India received independence way back in 1947 and bank nationalizations happened in the 1969 and 1980, it still excluded more than half of the population from the financial system. While the numbers vary slightly from sources to sources, even by 2014, half or less than half of the Indian adults had a bank account. And, from there the number up to 80% and still counting. Yes, there are arguments that many (maybe a majority) of these newly opened accounts are dormant. But one also needs to take into consideration that any behavioral change in society takes persistent efforts and time. People who are habituated to deal in cash for 70 years post independence will not move to transact through their banks overnight.

4. Disenfranchisement of Immigrants
You mentioned the disenfranchisement of immigrants in Assam but failed to mention that these were illegal immigrants. It was also surprising that you missed out on some very basic details on NRC

  1. It was first prepared in 1951 to tackle the issue of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  2. The current NRC exercise is a part of the Assam Accord that was signed by the then Congress PM in 1986, Late Rajiv Gandhi (you should have asked Shashi Tharoor about this) but was never implemented and
  3. The current exercise was mandated by the honorable Supreme Court of India on October 2013 (when Congress government was in power).

Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a monstrous problem for both, West Bengal and Assam. It is being portrayed as Muslim immigrants (as if a particular religion is targeted) but they fail to mention that the immigrants come from Bangladesh which is 90% Islamic. Many governments, including this one, have been trying to arrive at a solution and a part of the solution is to send the illegal immigrants back to Bangladesh.

Yes, when the first list of National Register for Citizens was created, it did include some actual citizens as well but that was due to lack of documental evidence and there was a time period provided to such citizens to submit the relevant documents. Ironically, this whole infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh (and Rohingyas from Myanmar) totally contradicts the perception that minorities are not safe in India 🙂

5. Hindu Nationalism is not anti-Muslim
BJP talks about Hindu nationalism but that speaks of Hinduism as a value system – not religion. Every single scheme of the present government has been targeted to every single Indian irrespective of religion or caste – be it Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjawala Yojana, Aayushman Bharat, Make in India, Awaas Yojana and many others. This government is also the first one to introduce reservations based on economic status, rather than social status.
So, calling the current government as communal or anti-Muslim is highly ironic especially when compared to the previous Congress government that stated that a certain community has the first right on India’s resources. Some of the most perceived right-wing leaders like Subramanian Swamy has a Muslim son-in-law. He himself is married to a Parsi. The PM, in his addresses, always iterates 1.3 billion Indians instead of using a collective of religion or caste or anything else that divides India. Unfortunately, he and BJP often gets targeted and accused as anti-Muslim because, unlike other parties, they are not in the practice of appeasing minorities for votes. You may want to read this:
PMO intervenes to end Kerala disabled boy’s fight for education.

6. Affiliation with RSS
Regarding his affiliation with RSS, if you know about the RSS in detail as most of the Indians do, it becomes a source of confidence and not a source of concern. RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) pretty much translates to National Volunteers Group – no reference to any particular religion or caste etc. Yes, the organization is primarily focused on the Hindu way of life and incorporating discipline into the Indian youth (the video that you showed of the physical exercises is essentially a part of inculcating the discipline). Having said that, RSS has been always forefront in carrying out relief work in any natural or man-made disasters – be it in Kashmir or Kerala. The organization has given some of the greatest and the most respected leaders India has seen post-Independence.
You might be surprised to know that RSS has many members from Muslims, Christian, and Sikh community and they understand the true philosophy of RSS. It also has a Muslim wing itself called RMM (Rashtriya Muslim Manch), a Sikh wing called Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (What brings Muslims, Christians and Sikhs to RSS? Why do they join the organization that is considered to be the antithesis of secular politics in India).
Time and again, the western media and public in general, has always failed to understand the Hinduism because they tend to see Hinduism from an Abrahamic lens. You should read the book “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines” by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

7. Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination
Regarding the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi – I know, for western media, Mahatma Gandhi is pretty much next to God – but research is required in understanding the background of the whole thing which the majority of Indian media and almost the entire of western media never took interest in and always talked about it in a superficial manner. I am not justifying the assassination – it was definitely wrong – but the reason for condemnation of assassination also matters as much as condemnation itself. I would suggest you watch this and try to get some perspective

8. Monk with a Gun
You mentioned “Monk with a Gun” but one needs to go back to understanding the history of India where this (weapons) was actually the part of the education. This is not something new. I have mentioned more about it here.
Regarding changing the names, it is not a change of the name per se. It is restoring the original names (not sure why nobody told you that). And it is not anti-Muslim for sure. It is anti-Mughal – the dark era in the history of India that was marred by systematic destruction of India’s vast natural resources, forced religious conversions, destruction of India’s agricultural strength, unjust and high taxes (including jizya), and many other atrocities by the Mughal invaders. Similar exercises have happened time and again. Just read here – Renaming of Cities in India. Again, it requires some good reading.

9. Lynchings
Regarding the lynchings, there are two major points. The narrative that it has been increasing since 2014 is wrong because 1) There is no credible data available that suggests that since 2014 there is an increase; 2) NCRB started reporting communal riots only after 2014 – so obviously there were no reported lynchings before 2014 since nobody was actually recording it; and 3) Mob lynching has been talked more since 2014 and has caught media attention but just because we come to know more about it now and not before doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist at the same scale earlier. Mob lynching is a result of a challenge that India faces in terms of law enforcement which is being tried to overcome since decades. I would suggest you watch this

You may also want to read this: Can Data Tell Us Whether Lynchings Have Gone Up Under Modi, And Should It Matter?

10. Democracy in Danger
When you say that Indians also feel that the “democracy is backsliding” – you show Yogendra Yadav who has been a classic anti-Modi person who will obviously say those things. If you don’t know the history of Yogendra Yadav, please read about him. Since 2014, there have been regular attempts to project that the Indian democracy is in danger under the present government (completely ignoring the fact that this is the government elected by citizens of India with a landslide victory – the first time in three decades. I would actually not consider 1984 because that landslide was driven by emotions rather than performance). Be it the award wapasi show, tukde tukde gang, intolerance debate or EVM drama. If you do not know about these terms, please read.

Again, I sincerely hope there wasn’t any agenda behind this episode. 29 minutes is a too short a time considering the breadth of the topics covered – which essentially meant quantity was prioritized over quality – and in this case misinformation or half-information was prioritized over a genuine talk.

If true, it’s sad that nobody from BJP opted to speak to you and you only received one-sided biased Leftist view of the Indian politics from Shashi Tharoor. He is a great orator but it was very sad to hear that he obviated corruption. But then it is nothing new – that has been the mentality of the Congress and many other parties since ages. When Rahul Gandhi was asked about dynastic politics at University of California, Berkeley, he just said “that’s the way India works” – in spite of having a present government that has not only opposed dynastic politics in words but also in practice. Just follow the news around the list of candidates they released for the upcoming general elections in India and the whole logic behind identifying the right candidate for the right constituency. They are demonstrating how democracy should actually work.

While talking about all other things, within one minute, you could have also covered this bullet point list:

  • India is the 6th largest economy (10th in 2012-2015) by nominal GDP (3rd by PPP) – World Bank
  • India jumped 57 places (134 to 77) in ease of doing business in just 4 years – Tradingeconomics.com | World Bank
  • The government went on to simplify the indirect taxation system by bringing everything under GST (Centre and State) and categorizing items to make some very essential items under 0% taxation.
  • The Indian PM received the Champion of the Earth from the United Nations for his bold environmental leadership on the global stage – United Nations Environment Programme
  • International Yoga Day was one resolution that received massive support (co-sponsorship) of 177 countries out of 193.
  • Sushma Swaraj was invited as a Chief Guest at OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) States – the first time since its inception in 1969 – and in spite of opposition from Pakistan – so much for the anti-Muslim government and the party.

Again, here, I may not have been able to cover everything in detail. I am not even sure if I spending so much time on writing this was even worth it. But this is something that ought to be done.

P.S. I also came across this video which has some brilliant points debunking myths spread around the western world about India. Great work by The Sham Sharma Show:

Say No to #SayNoToWar

Okay, the objective of this article is not to advocate for nor it is to say that war is good. Of course, war has always had a devastating effect on any country irrespective of whether it loses or wins. But still, it is to be fought nevertheless, when imposed.
I saw in the days following the air strikes by India on Pakistan’s terrorist groups, that the #SayNoToWar was trending in India. Now, I find it ironic that people tell India to say no to war. It is like telling Sachin Tendulkar, not to sledge.

If people know India’s history, India has never been at war by itself. It has always been imposed by other nations, mostly Pakistan. And if people know the world history, even the most peaceful nations of today’s times like Japan and the Netherlands have a history of territorial expansion and colonization. India has never ventured into those areas. So, when India should be the one teaching peace across the world, it is truly ironic that the country, having a bloodiest possible past and present, is trying to sermon India about peace. And it is unfortunate that some misguided people in India are falling for that.

Another point often made when asking India to be peaceful and tolerant of the things one should not be, is that India is the nation of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted to alleviate any kind of aggressive defense India shows when its integrity and sovereignty is threatened by external forces. History, designed by Nehru-Gandhi (not Mahatma Gandhi) family kept Gandhiji at the center stage of everything, especially education. It was often shown that India is Gandhi and Gandhi is India and that nobody else mattered. But, as much as this country belongs to Mahatma Gandhi, it also belongs to Chandragupta Maurya, Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mangal Pandey and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose (and numerous others).

Our education system also changed the definition of violence and non-violence based on Gandhi’s perspective. Self-defense and taking up arms to protect its citizens is not violence. People who think India has been traditionally non-violent in absolute terms, as always been tried to project, do not know about the history of India.

This is the country that has never hesitated in taking up arms to prevent wrongdoing. This is the country whose history teaches us to not even hesitate to fight against your own brothers for the protection of dharma. And when I say dharma, I do not mean religion. That is not the interpretation of dharma in this part of the world. In Hinduism, Dharma is righteousness. It is not religion. Dharma is essentially doing the right thing. It asks us to keep aside our biases and look at what is necessary for terms of action, which we call karma.
The post-independence education and policies of India essentially developed a misguided concept that nonviolence is absolute – a principal difference between Gandhiji and other freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh. That was precisely the reason why, after the initial years of Independence, Indian polity never really focused to build a strong army and instead just assumed that because we are a peaceful nation, nobody will attack us. That myth was broken by China within 15 years of Independence. Unfortunately, it came at a great cost of the precious lives of our brave soldiers who gave the supreme sacrifice in the war of 1962. India learned it a hard way that strength respects only strength.

People who know India’s history know very well that nonviolence can never be absolute. Even the saints in ancient India had knowledge of weapons and used them skillfully. They very well knew that as much as good exists in the world, evil does too. And it is up to the people, who do good, to eliminate the evil as well. And you cannot eliminate evil with non-violence. Lord Ram had to wage a war against Ravan. Even Lord Krishna had to wrestle Kans to kill him. The history of Hastinapur, today’s Delhi, would have been very different (in a negative sense), had the Pandavs not taking up arms against their own brothers in Kurukshetra.

Coming to today’s events, if we look at like what exactly happened, Indian Air Force specifically targeted the attack on the terrorist camps in Pakistan. Civilian areas and military establishments were carefully avoided. And even the attack on the terrorist camp was conducted because there was an apparent threat to India’s security. And even the rest of the countries of the world have acknowledged India’s right to protect itself from these terrorist organizations irrespective of where they are based. So, India essentially has waged a war on terrorism, not Pakistan.

And, instead of giving our opinion based on the minuscule amount of information we have compared to our armed forces, we should blindly trust, and I say it categorically that we should blindly trust, our armed forces to make a decision on whether to go on war or not. Just as advocating war is wrong, so is absolutely opposing it is.

Growing Up with Sachin

It’s been almost a week now that the greatest cricketer of our times, and arguably of all times, announced that he has decided to hang his boots. This was one of those rare occasions when every single Indian and every single person in the world, who knows this great man, had a strong reaction to the news. Media went berserk showing clippings of the master’s 24 years of illustrious career, right from the time he held his bat in the test match against Pakistan. Times of India dedicated a separate four and a half pages section on the legend, besides the front page. Everyone, from movie stars to politicians, had reactions around how un-crickety, cricket would become without the GOD. Quotes from cricket giants like Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, Waquar Younis and, the greatest, Sir Donald Bradman to politicians like Barack Obama, kept flashing wherever you go – TV, facebook, twitter, newspapers.

Sachin Tendulkar of IndiaWhile there is a generation of Indians who have seen Sachin rise from a 16-year old boy who played good cricket to the GOD of the game, there is a generation of Indians that grew up along with this 16 year old boy (who, by the way, is still of the same age at heart). My existence on earth was just 3 years, 4 months and 21 days before the little master made his debut against the killer Pakistani bowling attack of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir. My interest in cricket started from the 1996 World Cup, after watching Tendulkar’s innings against Sri Lanka in one of the league matches. Since then, I have identified the game with the legend. It is actually hard to imagine the Indian team without him when you have seen him in that blue dress ever since you started following the game.

Since then, I have lived my childhood around the great man, like millions of other kids in India during that time. Remembering each of his innings, distinctively brings in many other memories as well.

Desert Storm Innings at Sharjah:

Those were the times when cable TV was a nascent stage in India. We had only Doordarshan at our place and no cable TV as my father wanted me to concentrate on my studies. So, for matches outside India, I had to make other arrangements. There was a stationary shop near my place where there was a TV. In those days, many shops, especially Paan Shops had cable TV. It served them two purposes: 1) they could see the match while on their business, 2) TV helped them generate customers (and in turn, more revenue) as people who would want to watch the match – they would stay back and buy something while watching the match. Paan shops also became a meeting ground for the “sports experts” who had solutions for every single problem that Indian cricket was facing – right from who should become the captain to which batsman should go next in the order or which bowler should bowl the next over.

Sachin at SharjahI had made friends with the stationary shop owner as I frequently used to purchase stationary from him. Also, knowing the fact that the guy had cable TV, it made more sense 😉 . It was 1998 and Sachin had just shed the burden of captaincy. Azharuddin was brought back as the captain and things started turning good for India after winning the first Independence Cup in Bangladesh, defeating Pakistan. Next stop was Sharjah tri-series with Australia and New Zealand. Even before the series started, everyone knew that the competition was essentially about who will face Australia in the finals. With India and New Zealand even out in the two league stage face-offs, everything boiled down to net run rate in the final league between India and Australia. Sachin sailed India through to the finals. But the bigger day was yet to come on April 24th, 1998. Everybody expected Sachin to make his 25th birthday special by handing over the Coca-Cola Cup to Indian fans.

I had some concession at home for watching the match at the shop. Luckily, we were only 1.5 hours ahead of Sharjah, so the match would go till about 12 mid night, which was an acceptable limit for the owner to keep the shop open. The shop gathered more crowd as Sachin progressed with his innings. We cheered as Tony Grieg screamed “O this is high….whad a six….whad a six….way down the ground…its on the roof…its bouncing around on the roof” and danced as Sachin danced down the track to hit Shane Warne for the biggie. We hailed him when he promptly started walking after getting caught behind, without waiting for umpire’s decision in the qualifier and cursed the umpire when he was wrongly given LBW in the finals.

By the time I reached home, my family would have slept. Mom was not so much into cricket at that time. Dad would occasionally just ask me the match result, who played well and what’s next. My mood for going to school, the next day, was often dependent on how Sachin played last night.

Bullet: It is said that half of Sachin’s greatness, at that time, was because of Tony Grieg’s commentary 😉

Dismantling Pakistan at Centurion in 2003 World Cup

2003 World Cup had the worst timing for me. The World Cup started just before the 12th board exams. More than the Indian cricket team, it was an acid test for the students – maintaining balance between cricket and studies. It did not take huge motivation to skip a big part of match against Netherlands while the match against Australia went dead from the word GO. However, the most awaited match of the WC was the “mother of all games” (as Ravi Shastri puts it) – India vs. Pakistan.

TH29_SACHIN_514758f_HINDUI am sure millions of kids like me would have struck deals with their parents for this match. For me, in addition to my parents being already there, my paternal aunts (my father’s two younger sisters) visited our place on the day of the match and both of them are teachers (I don’t think I need to tell anything more here 😉 ). So, the deal was that I had to skip Pakistan’s batting and can only watch India’s batting. The whole idea was to minimize the match-watching time. Those days, the only thing mattered in India’s batting was Sachin’s presence. So, if Sachin gets dismissed early, I go back to studies, unless some miracle happens (that too, I have to wait till last 10 overs – if it is really a match winning position). Everyone knows what Sachin did in that match.

In the hindsight, I realize, that the only point of time, when parents in India would never say No to kids watching TV is when Sachin is batting. Even the most important life events can wait if Sachin is on the crease.

Fighting 175 against Aussies in Hyderabad

I had completed my MBA now and was working in a corporate for about six months now. My life underwent a tremendous change. I was no longer a student but a working professional. I was financially independent. My closest friends were now spread across the globe – although mostly in US. I had been away from home for more than 2.5 years. The world around me changed too. US had its first black President. India retained the mute Prime Minister. Government scams became more sachin 175sophisticated as they evolved from fodder to 2G. Hutch became Vodafone. Mittal Steel was Arcelor Mittal now and Tata became Tata-Corus. Lehman Brothers ceased to exist. Ramalinga Raju was out of Satyam.  Smartphones relieved us from the liability of being smart. Having internet became necessity. IT boom was now settling in. Google.com became answer to everything.

But for Sachin, time had stopped. 10 years back, he used to open the innings, hit bowlers for boundaries and sixes, be a nightmare for fielding captains, remove his helmet and raise his arms after scoring a century. 10 years later, he was still doing the same.

Hyderabad had been notorious for being a losing ground for home teams – be it India in international cricket or Deccan Chargers in IPL. Australia was looking forward to take the lead in the seven ODI series after being 2-2. As they amassed 350, memories of 2003 World Cup final rushed back. I reached home from office by the time India started the chase. The only person between Australia and the victory was – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. While the partners kept coming in and going out – the so-called match winners like Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dhoni – Sachin played his heart out to see India through. The prayers went on till he succumbed to team mates’ incompetency. 19 runs in 17 balls was the target GOD left for his disciples.

At the end, they said “India loses whenever Sachin scores a century”

Destroying Dale Steyn & Co at Gwalior

This was one of those insignificant matches that were made super special by the almighty. It was neither a tournament final nor a decider match nor was there a Mount Everest score to chase. It was like any other match to begin with.

Sachin 200

Millions of working Indians, like me, were having a regular day at office. Occasionally, pressing alt+tab to check Cricinfo for the score. Cricinfo had gained popularity over the last few years with the most appealing commentary written. It brought back the days of radio when we would imagine the ball bowled, shot played, fielder’s reaction and many other things based on what commentator described.

It was building up to be a regular match where Sachin scored a century and was toying with South African bowling attack – something not so new in his 21 years of career. It wasn’t until 37th over, people started realizing that something special is on its way from GOD. Sachin had reached 150 and 75 balls were yet to be bowled in the match. Cricinfo started gaining heavy traffic. The website slowed down as the overs progressed. By over 49, it crashed. I switched to cricbuzz.com and any other site which can tell me the score.

As the match progressed to last over, I was meticulously trying to get an update on score. Professionalism goes to gutter when Sachin is batting – to hell with office work. As my struggle went on, I heard somebody clapping. A second later, the entire bay was clapping. Two seconds later, the floor erupted with claps.

One year and nine months later, Virender Sehwag became the first human to score a double century in ODIs.

Face-off at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

It’s a semi-winter morning of November 1st in 2010. After a long holiday back home, I was returning to Hyderabad from Ahmedabad with connection at Mumbai. With two hours at my disposal, I wandered around clueless. CCD helped me kill about 30 minutes. After wandering around near security check, I made my way to the check-in area.

As I moved further, among hundreds of people lined up for check-in, I see two men coming in my direction with minimal luggage. One tall, about six feet, and the other one of average height. Their faces seemed familiar. The eyes refused to believe for few seconds. At the end, the reaction of people around, confirmed – Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag.

But little less did I knew, what was coming further – after about 10 seconds. Perhaps the greatest moment of my life.

If someone asks me, “Have you seen GOD?”; I would say, “YES!

Guns N Roses

So the first phase of my first Trans-Atlantic visit comes to an end. I thought of beginning to write this at Houston Airport but somehow the mood did not set in (all it takes is one COSTA coffee to do that). Sitting in the Dubai airport (watching 10 hours wiped away from my life – that too of a weekend – due to time difference), I try to sum up the things.

At the end of it, I still feel I do not connect so well to the country. Perhaps I don’t want to. It’s India where the heart is. But some innate tendency to always understand the place where I am made me take that step to understand the US – the politics, culture, people, traditions, problems, principles (Republicans and Democrats) and so on. I always enjoy it – to be a part of the place, to know it, to build sensitivity to the culture. This was probably the reason I had numerous conversations with my colleague and the project SPOC, Georgina, on different topics concerning the country. While we think that the US society is one of the most forward thinking, there is of course a certain extent of bias associated to it – mostly due to what media (not just news but also movies and televisions series) projects about these countries. But what I understood that just as India is not Mumbai, US is not New York. With topics such as Gay Marriage legalization creating such uproar, there requires a great amount of research to understand the basis of the two views (opposite) on the same and acknowledge them. I realized this after watching some of the debates around the same.

However, here, I would be talking about another topic that has been the talk of the town across US and has triggered a debate on the ideology that forms the basis of creation of the United States of America.

14th December 2012, brought a horrific day for the school kids and the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut as a lone gunman killed 20 kids and 6 adults with his two 9mm handguns. The gunman himself was found dead later on. This event triggered a debate on one of the fundamental rights that was incorporated in the US Bill of Rights (collective name for the first 10 amendments) and adopted since 1791. One of the amendment in the Bill says “right to keep and bear arms” for personal use and self-defense. This provides every American citizen, the right to possess arms for their own protection – the primary reason – and also for hunting. However, after the recent shootouts, the US polity is having second thoughts about it – especially the Obama administration.

Luckily, in this trip, I also got an opportunity to come close to an American family. A colleague, and now a friend, of mine – Arion – invited me over dinner. It was indeed a privilege considering that I had only spent three weeks in Houston and had only few interactions with Arion – mostly work related. It would have made the schedule hectic for me because it was Friday night and I was not able to start my packing (hadn’t finished the shopping as well) for the flight which was 24 hours later. However, I did not want to miss this opportunity (and in retrospection, I did the RIGHT THING – as Chinese would say it!). It was a typical American nuclear family but still complete. A beautiful and loving wife and two sweet and cute little daughters – what else a man can ask for? The next 3 hours, we all talked about everything from family to office to marriage (this devil won’t leave me alone anywhere) to life in India and Life in US. All these discussions also included Gun control.

Although opinion of two people might not be statistically significant to represent the entire state, but somebody born and brought up in Texas does carry weight enough to indicate the general thinking. Fundamentally, the genesis of the “right to keep and bear arms” is when Britishers left the US. Post-independence, the Constitution of the US was drafted in a way to protect the fundamental rights of the citizen – which included right to self-defense – not just against the criminals but also against the government. This is also one of the fundamental philosophies of the Republican Party.

So tomorrow, if any government actions violate the fundamental rights of the citizens, they are equipped to protect them. Also, the basic philosophy that allows citizens to bear arms is that “Humans Kill, Guns Don’t”. It is up to the person who decides how to use the gun. The principal argument against gun control is that while it will strip off the innocent people of their arms, the criminals will still get them one way or the other, illegally. This will make the innocent defenseless against criminals, which violates their fundamental rights. While Police is always there for protection of citizens, to put the entire responsibility of protecting you and your family on others does not make sense. Police has its own limitations – they will protect you only when they are informed and by the time they reach, the damage would have been done. Instead of imposing control on guns, controls should be imposed on gunmen.

Arion has a shotgun to protect his angels and is not ready to give that up and expose his family to the criminals. And, going by what he said, similar is thinking of all families in Texas. Why handing over huns to innocent works is because criminal will think twice before committing the crime since the other person is armed as well. Needless to say, that the debate is endless. If gun control actually comes into effect, agitations would be inevitable (mostly expected from Republicans and Republican dominated states).

Definitely, I couldn’t stop putting this into the Indian context. While dominated by Britishers since centuries, many of our basic principles are adopted from British way of democracy which puts significant power in the hands of government. Citizens also expect government to take care of them, including security. We blame government for high crime rates. We blame the police for not controlling rapes and murders. What if the girl, gang raped few days back in Delhi, had a gun with her? Could that have been avoided? Generally said, Indian laws are pro-criminals. While a person needs a solid reason to get a license for a gun, Indian government has even banned pepper spray that can be very handy for any women to protect her. But Indian government has no history of taking strong steps on women safety. We depend on the society to decide whether a woman can safely walk down the roads in the night or not. If it is Ahmedabad, Yes, if it is Noida-Gurgaon, No.

My discussion with Arion ended with his suggestion to hand over guns to every Indain to protect themselves against the terrorists. Not a bad idea! Considering that it took the complacent government 4 years to hand the person who, along with 9 other terrorists, killed 166 people in 2008. What if even half of those people had a gun at that time? Pakistan would think million times before launching such attack in India. That was the reason Japan quoted for not attacking US (“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto). That is the reason why there can’t be any emergency in the US. It is highly debatable topic. But it gave me a chance to understand the topic from an American’s perspective. Getting a perspective of American woman (two, if I include Georgina as well) removes a certain amount of bias as well.

It would be interesting to see how US tackles this menace.