Malaysia’s IHH Healthcare to bid for Fortis

first_imgMalaysia healthcare group IHH Healthcare Bhd plans to make an open offer to buy shares in India’s Fortis Healthcare LtdAccording to a report in The Economic Times, IHH is readying $1 billion (approximately Rs6,499 crore) for deal.It has hired investment bank Citi to advise on the deal.Read it at Domain B Related Itemslast_img

Painting of Indian Trumpeters At Risk Of Export From Britain

first_imgBritish Culture Minister Michael Ellis placed an export bar Friday on a unique watercolor painting depicting a traditional musical performance in mid-18th century Northern India.The move will prevent the painting, considered of significant cultural interest, from being sent abroad to enable a British gallery or buyer to match the asking price of 550,000 pounds.Read it at Xinhua Related Itemslast_img

IIT Gandhinagar Hosts Overseas Indian Conclave on Feb. 22-23

first_imgIIT Gandhinagar is hosting an Overseas Indian Conclave on Higher Education on Feb. 22-23, 2019 at IIT Gandhinagar in Gujarat.The Conclave will celebrate IITGN’s overseas supporters and brainstorm on ways to engage more widely and deeply with overseas Indians and global professionals who are keen to advance India’s educational stature on the global stage.Read it at INEN Related Itemslast_img

My Tsunami Journey

first_imgI remember hallucinating about tremors in Ahmedabad long after the Gujarat earthquake had ravaged the state leaving death and destruction in its wake. Having personally felt the anxiety of a near death situation, I wondered why the Tsunami tragedy didn’t chill my spine or bring tears to my eyes. Then a sad realization dawned on me – the electronic age has so numbed us to the tragedies that strike today, that I too have become a casualty. We watch death and devastation on TV over a sumptuous dinner. We read about the anguish and pain of innocent people in the papers while sipping our morning coffee. Our movies create such horrific special effects while portraying human anguish and suffering on celluloid, that the evening news seems almost insipid in comparison. Sensational journalism and entertainment flood our psyche. We have begun to comfortably coexist with the deep horror of human suffering without missing a beat. We sigh, mourn a bit, feel helpless and move on.I began to wonder: what has happened to us? Is our compassion and empathy only for great people like Gandhi and Mandela? Their experiences, the pain they felt and saw brought out the best in them. Why do we shy away from similar experiences that could channel the pain we see around us into making us more sensitive as human beings.All these thoughts were making me very uncomfortable. Was I self absorbed and apathetic because the Tsunami did not directly affect me, instead of thinking of what it did to millions of people who were indeed affected by it? I rationalized my turmoil by telling myself it could be because my mind was preoccupied with other work. On Dec 26, 2004, I was traveling with 45 children and about 20 adults from India and Pakistan as part of “Beyond Boundaries,” a peace initiative. However important and ignored this much needed initiative may be, does it absolve me of the need to “do something for those devastated by the Tsunami”?Questions multiplied within as others posed their own to me. “So what are you doing for the Tsunami?” “How come you are not going to the affected areas?” “How much have you donated?” “Do you know anyone who has been affected?” “Are you going to celebrate the New Year?” etc, etcWell, I don’t really celebrate the New Year. Thankfully I don’t know anybody personally who has been affected. Should I go to the affected area to just uphold the tag of being a social activist that has been thrust upon me?In all honesty, apart from struggling with questions and trying to connect people with funds, I had done nothing at all. Yes, my conscience had begun to bother me.Then an invitation to go to Sri Lanka by a journalist friend and Red Cross staff member was extended to me. I asked myself, what help would I be, that too for just a week? Will I be reduced to being a mouthpiece for the Red Cross? Will I end up being a disaster tourist? When I shared these apprehensions with Bandula, he assured me that I would go there as an independent empathizer, to boost the morale of those who had been working tirelessly to bring order to the chaos.I wanted to believe that I had the capability and the empathy to make the impact they believed I would. As I shared my desire to go to Sri Lanka, with others, I was confronted with the questioning roadblocks of geographic and sectarian myopia, in spite of the fact that this was a disaster that knew no boundaries. Why Sri Lanka? Why not our own country, our own people?Well, what does define my own? I wondered: Are those in Nicobar, Kuddaloor more my own? I don’t speak the language of any of the three, and of all these places, I have only been to Sri Lanka! Strangely, in the United States, in a room full of white people, why does a brown person from Sri Lanka or Pakistan seem like my own, and why sitting at home in Delhi do I have to be apologetic about going to Sri Lanka? The rebel in me rose as I responded, “Why not Sri Lanka”?Why not beyond boundaries!So I went and soon here I was in Galle, in southern Sri Lanka, where more than 4,000 people had died and innumerable others left homeless. Having seen all those TV reports I thought I was prepared for what I would see.But what confronted me was eerie, ghostly and yet very real. I could not switch off the TV. I couldn’t walk away from it all. I was there exactly a month after the tragedy. All bodies had been cleared so that our weak hearts wouldn’t fail us. But the ruined coastline, (stretching more than a kilometer inwards), told its somber, heartrending story. People sat around with haunted, empty unseeing eyes, some tried to pick up the broken blocks of cement, where once stood a house.If only they could pick up the pieces of their lives as easily…Sitting in a café by the seemingly calm and comforting sea, it is difficult to fathom the wrath it spewed. The sea that was once a source of livelihood, its cool breeze serenading the days of summer, a playground for young and old … had so effortlessly turned into a harbinger of death and destruction.I met a child who screams with fear every time she sees water flowing, even in a drain. Many children wake up from the nightmare of the sea choking them and casting away their loved ones.The adults try to be brave and tell us (and themselves), that it surely cannot happen again. But, do they truly believe that? Or is it their way of dealing with fear? I wonder how an island living, breathing, depending on the sea continues as if life is normal again?I thought to myself, it’s not going to be easy for them to befriend the sea again. But this was my logical and conditioned mind assuming that the response to such a tragedy can only be that of anger or a sense of betrayal.But conversations revealed little animosity, and even no fear. The people explained it as an abused sea expressing her anguish. They had understood and they ought to apologize to the sea in all humility.Was this Buddhism speaking or the native wisdom of the islanders, I wondered!When we say we can empathize, I think we over-estimate our sensitivity, understanding and capacity to feel. I don’t think I can ever claim to know what it is to sit in the midst of rubble, with everything destroyed and still have a hope that this too shall pass.I learnt that tragedies are not only about sadness and grief but also about hope and camaraderie. Even as the devastation was overwhelming, so was the undying spirit of the people who had been engaged in relief work round the clock. I saw a wide range of volunteers, from young Sri Lankan students to white bearded American specialists. Their work could entail anything: from clearing cement blocks, pitching tents, distributing relief items to helping little children draw and color and also help out with the much needed psycho-social counseling to make those broken people whole again.The Indian Navy and the Army, trained to fire the canon and navigate big ships like the Taragiri, were seen with brooms and shovels cleaning up the debris. Their years of disciplined alacrity, stood them in good stead in conducting systematic distribution of relief items, reconstruction of broken bridges, running medical camps by their doctors and erecting hundreds of tents.These men from the forces who lead fairly solitary lives on the sea were deeply moved by the gestures of gratitude by the locals. They would often bring them tea and sweetmeats, precious and generous offerings in these troubled times. Wonder why nobody asked the Indian Navy why it was helping a neighbor and not its own people, like I had been!The cynic in me looked at the Red Cross symbols all over with some skepticism. But, then I realized that anything that restores faith in human goodness can only be reassuring and positive. I saw young local volunteers from the Sri Lanka Red Cross distributing cans, kitchen utensils, milk powder, soap, match boxes, sanitary napkins, mosquito coils – basic amenities that we so take for granted.I also saw the warehouse where relief material was coming from Red Cross branches around the world. It had maps, charts, data and a planner on its cloth walls and a couple of laptops on foldable tables. Some people counted the packets and pottered around to make sure it was all going to the right places, while others sat on their small collapsible chairs creaking under their American sizes, to plan the relief operations on their laptops.The next day we went to Heggaduwa. Here Kushil Gunasekara, who started community work 5 and a half years ago and later secured the support of Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralidharan, had succeeded in developing an with help from the local community.The people there told us unbelievable stories of the tragedy and the miraculous escapes from death some of them had experienced. Strangely their community center was the only building that had withstood the power of monstrous waves. I often felt reluctant to ask questions that would bring back the nightmarish memories. So we exchanged warm smiles and looks that said it all.On my way back to Colombo, my eyes were still hrefusing to come to terms withthe calamity as we drove past miles and miles of destruction. Long after you and I will stop thinking about it all, the work will have to carry on. How long would canned fish and milk powder sustain these lost souls? How much longer can they live in those tents? Is there cost effectiveness to the relief operation, or are we all responding arbitrarily to put our conscience at ease? How does one deal with a trauma that has been a life altering experience? Can a tragedy of this magnitude be handled by just relief camps and good intentions?With some questions answered and some still looming before us, we moved on. I was told that nobody in Sri Lanka celebrated the New Year. Not even one fire cracker lit the sky.The last day in the capital, I visit Sarvodaya a widespread grass root organization, launched by Dr. Ariyaratne. It incorporates the Gandhian approach to life and social work. The winner of the Magasasay award and a nominee for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, he is a simple and unassuming man. I looked on in awe as he gave me a tour of his headquarters, which was just one of the many centers from which the relief operation was being carried out.There was much to celebrate about the human response to this tragedy. To be sure, there was the down side too: mismanagement, corruption, looting and even rape have been reported in the devastated areas. I realize that while tragedies bring out the best in us, they also bring out the worst. But to walk the road with faith, optimism and hope is what will take us further, not cynicism and apathy. So I want to capture that positivism, that hope as much as I can.I returned to my own country, older by a whole week and full of emotions I didn’t know I would feel so deeply. I am in a strange position of neither being a relief worker nor a journalist.The only way I can bring a less selfish dimension to the trip would be if I can share some of my thoughts and experiences with you. No words can ever express what I felt, but while we cannot control tidal waves, if we try, we can work towards eliminating the hatred, the violence and the inhumanity we inflict upon each other.If we try we can restore peace and solidarity on this wounded planet. May be then it won’t take a tragedy like the Tsunami, to bring out our humanity and a helping spirit. May be then, we will reach out in a way that would transcend our narrow nationalistic boundaries.   Related Itemslast_img read more

Dark Shadows

first_imgBritish film and theater director Peter Brooks directed a play on The Mahabharata in 1985 (later filmed for TV) that generated widespread criticisms from Indian audiences. Brooks had assembled his actors from several continents, from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Far East. The five Pandavas in the play looked very diverse, including a Black actor in the role of Bhima. Indian audiences were rattled to see Bhima and Bhishma as dark skinned Africans. Defenders of the play argued, as did some Indians with a better awareness of themselves, that Indians do indeed come in a variety of colors, skin tones and body shapes. Those outside India know little of this diversity and most Indians are like frogs that never venture outside their pond, but imagine the world anyway. Indians live in a starkly conflict-ridden world of race, color and perception. Their mythologies and narratives of identity tell them that they are descendants of blue-skinned gods, while their older traditions praise the “luminous” qualities of dark skin. Their contemporary world, however, burdened with the weight of recent history, claims the superiority of lighter skin. No doubt, gender plays a larger role in this skin color bias, as darkness in women is particularly undesirable from the perspective of social codes. We may still covet the “dark, tall and handsome” man, but “pretty, fair ladies” are all the rage for our liaisons, permanent or otherwise. The culture that emerges out of this color-divide is complex, intriguing and often contradictory. Nevertheless, that ought to be a fertile ground for reading it. Consider that most celebratory of all rituals of Indian life, marriage. When one does not fall in love, an arranged marriage is the preferred option. And when “deals” are made in such marital arrangements, the color of the skin becomes vital in negotiations. The price tag for dowry, for example, is often determined by the color of the woman’s skin. We ought to realize that Indians must be the only people to have figured out a complex system of economic exchange that quantifies the tone of the skin. If the color of the skin of the bride-to-be falls in the darker tone range, or in most cases, is anything less than “acceptable” level of fair, her parents have to shell out more money and goodies to seal the deal. This fine gradation of skin tones that raises and lowers the price of a woman in the “marriage marketplace” is demeaning of course, but it is an ingenuous system of evaluating the value of fair vs. darker skin. The concept of the beauty of women is graded with very clear demarcations. The models in advertisements predominantly have fairer skins, with the Northern Indian concept of beauty overwhelming the “deep South.” This is much the complaint that African Americans have about magazines like Ebony and U.S. advertising culture. The models that pass for the “desirable” conceptions of beauty in commercial culture have not accommodated the wide range of appearances among Blacks. The shape of their bodies, skin tones and hair all dictate that the look-alikes of White Western women are the commanding standard of what is considered beautiful. Take a look at Miss World/Universe/India contests over the years and Northern, fairer women enjoy a commanding lead. On marital web sites such as Shaadi.com and Bharatmatrimony.com the categories for “skin tones” bow to the conventions of dominant skin tones that have held sway in lifelong decisions on marriage. Darker women are immersed in a culture that does not acknowledge them and in real life the obstacles against them are intimidating. The culture of the North is a fairer culture. This is for a whole set of complex reasons, including that fact that most who arrived in India from the North, the Mughals, the Aryans, etc. were fairer looking. The photographic culture, which later developed into cinema and spread with Bollywood, has been dominated by the North. Most films we see and narratives we watch are about Northern culture. It is their rituals, their symbolism, their language, their kinship and clan systems that are pronounced in wildly popular Bollywood films. Most prominent actors who have achieved stardom have come from the North and represent the Northern culture, enforced through the professed superiority of their skin tones. This is not to say that the culture of the South or the “deep South” is absent from Bollywood. But this is about hegemonic relations; the North dominates and passes for the mainstream. This is much like how Western culture and its concept of beauty dominate over “colored” people’s cultures around the World. The rest of the world, when it does come into play, plays the part of the exotic; what is unfamiliar in this case, becomes acceptable only as strange, out-of-this-world and exotic. Anthropology recognizes this widespread problem as “colorism.” There is no running away from it; except to transgress it in our own spheres, to deny the dominance of the codes where we can. It is a pernicious disease, only accentuated to deeper dimensions of cruelty on human dignity. Power thrives on the divides that skin tones offer. Commercial culture offers diversified products to appeal across the skin-divides. We haven’t quite figured out how to combat its power, but it is a shame to succumb to it.   Related Itemslast_img read more

Hafiz Saeed Petitions UN to Remove Him from List of Terrorists

first_imgLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed wants the United Nations to remove his name from the list of designated terrorists. Saeed’s lawyer also said that he filed for de-listing while he was under house arrest in Pakistan.His lawyer Navid Rasul Mirza of Mirza and Mirza confirmed that Saeed filed for de-listing, the Hindustan Times reported. “I cannot give details of the petition. I don’t have the permission of my client to speak on this,” Navid’s son, Barrister Haider Rasul Mirza, who is representing Saeed in the UN, told the publication.“I have been engaged by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (“the petitioner”), to submit on his behalf this de-listing request for the removal of his name from the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions list being maintained by the United Nations Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions…” the petition reads, according to the newspaper.Saeed was put on the list on Dec. 10, 2008 by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee “as being associated with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Al Qaida for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts of activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of” both entities,” according to Interpol.The UN sanctions list also said that his house is in Mohalla Johar, Lahore, Pakistan. He has been acknowledged as the leader of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba by the Interpol and the UN Security Council.According to Interpol, he “traveled to Afghanistan during the late 1970s or the early 1980s to receive militant training. There he came into contact with Dr. Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Usama bin Laden and other fighters in Afghanistan. In 2005, Saeed determined where graduates of a LeT camp in Pakistan should be sent to fight, and personally organized the infiltration of LeT militants into Iraq during a trip to Saudi Arabia. In 2006, Saeed oversaw the management of a terrorist camp, including funding of the camp. Saeed also arranged for a LeT operative to be sent to Europe as LeT’s European fundraising coordinator. He established a LeT office in Quetta, Pakistan in June 2006 to assist the Taliban in the conduct of their operations in Afghanistan.”He is considered the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. The three-day attack led to the death of 166 people.For de-listing, an individual has to furnish the following:explanation as to why the designation does not or no longer meets the listing criteria (through countering the reasons for listing as stated in the list entry for that particular individual or entity);the designee’s current occupation and/or activities, and any other relevant information, such as information on assets;any documentation supporting the request can be referred to and/or attached together with the explanation of its relevance, where appropriate.Saeed had been under house arrest since January and was released by a court in Pakistan last week due to lack of evidence. The United States, France and India criticized Pakistan’s decision to set him free.Saeed’s petition also comes in the wake of his political ambitions. A JuD member was reported to have said last week that Saeed could contest elections as the leader of the Milli Muslim League. Related ItemsHafiz SaeedPakistanTerrorismlast_img read more