Monday, 14 November 2016

The View From Without — Kashmir

Its nothing short of tragic when someone used to Delhi smog finds breathing in Ladakh difficult.

Cricket at 3,000m above the sea level

But this tragedy befalls the bikers on Leh's roads frequently — when the aging diesel Boleros and built to last (instead of being environmentally frugal) army trucks, in their struggle to mount the inclines of the hill roads, fire plumes of tarry smoke right at the bikers already struggling for breath in the rarified air. Thus, the last leg of ride to the historic Alchi Gompa felt doubly refreshing as I left behind the truck-riddled NH-1 which continued to meander along the Indus river towards Kargil on its way to Srinagar, and turned left to cross the iron bridge that connected the highway to the ancient village of Alchi.

The Indus as seen from the bridge. NH-1 visible on the right.

The mountains on either sides of the bridge on the Indus funneled the wind into gushes as strong as the violent river underneath. The helmet's straps struggled against my chin with each gust that swayed the bike away from the imagined straight-line in the middle of bridge on which I was trying to steady the bike. As soon as I crossed the bridge, I got down to take in the view of the river that had lent its name to an ocean, at least a couple of nations, and countless sub-cultures. The flutter of prayer flags on the bridge's railings matched the roar of the mighty river, as I stood at the inflexion in the middle of bridge — my surroundings making me feel small instantly.  As the only thing (if we ignore the iron of the bridge and bitumen of road) standing between the blue sky above and the muddy river below, I felt a reverence that I seldom feel for a river (except, perhaps the Ganges). I closed my eyes. The sounds went silent too. I wondered if I would have felt so small and insignificant in front Indus' twin - Saraswati - as well. I felt a pang of remorse for having lost this river to partition; to a culture that will never understand why we revere, fear and pray to the forces of nature. I reined in my thoughts and I opened my eyes. I could hear the deafening flutter again. I wasn't going to let the setting overwhelm me again, because...

....I realised I had made a mistake by stopping the bike with no kick-start and a faulty battery on the plane of the bridge. I cursed myself for being entranced by a river into stopping a bike with no way of starting it. Thankfully, I had chosen a Bajaj Avenger instead of the much heavier Royal Enfields. I pulled it up the slope, put it in gear and got the engine started by letting it roll against the slope on to the road towards the Gompa. With the engine purring again, my thoughts also sprang back to life as I crossed what looked like a cricket ground well over 3,000 metres above the sea level. Only this time, I was thinking about men instead of rivers — two men to be exact, whom I had met within the last hour. Two men from very different backgrounds and in very different stages of their lives, and with very different prejudices against their common punchball — Kashmir.

Continued...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Al-Qaeda’s offshoring to India aimed at staying competitive: Al-Zawahiri

Explaining the recent announcement of setting up regional jihadi development centers in India, al-Zawahiri, CEO – al-Qaeda, cited intense global competition as the primary motivator behind the tactical shift.
“We have to evolve our business model and hiring strategy in order to stay relevant in a dynamic market. We can’t forever rely on a brand name and cult image of our brand ambassador Osama ji alone,” he is reported to have told the industry analysts who have been surprised at this sudden change in the strategy by the erstwhile iconic exporter of terrorism, which has failed to find media space for any of its recent endeavors.
This downturn in the exports of the company’s brand of terror was accompanied by waning confidence in the Wahhabi investor community, which has seen the company’s valuations tumble as it faces difficulties in raising fresh funds.
Experts also attribute Zawahiri’s move to India to the meteoric rise of its rival spin-off – ISIS, on the back of a potent marketing strategy that has seen it consistently releasing newer promotional videos that have gained it visibility in the market and reaffirmed the faith of its Saudi investors.
With its traditional delivery center facing stiff competition by ISIS; and other low cost centers like Africa already captured by another disruptive innovator – Boko Haram, India, with its vast potential as a manufacturing facility, support center and a market, was a logical choice for Zawahiri.
The company is banking on the “make in India” slogan of the new PM Modi, to set up its factories in joint venture with regional players like India Mujaheddin Pvt Ltd. to consolidate the, as yet, small and fragmented Indian market.
Sorrow Bhatia, the spokesperson of Fasadwadi Party has welcomed the announcement and said that the Ulta Pradesh government has been actively seeking foreign investment in the sector and tried to wheedle the new government at the center to stay true to its commitment for skill development so that the Fasadwadi Party could facilitate the absorption of state’s sizable unemployed youth in the sector.
National Encumbrance party chief Barood Abdullah joined in the exhortations and demanded setting up of a delivery center in his state of Bomb-U Kashmir with an emphasis on free-flow of labor from across the border that epitomizes the free market politics of Modi and enhances productivity in a globally integrated terror market.
While the central government has not yet broken its silence on the proposal, Zawahiri is understood to be amenable to naming his Indian subsidiary as al-Qaeda Hindi Ltd instead of al-Qaeda India Ltd in order to gain a speedy approval.

This original post first appeared in The Faking News here