Why does history repeat?

From the classic movie "The Battle of Algiers"

Few fictional films look more like documentary than Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers, and very few indeed which have this kind of socio-political structure and recount old, half-forgotten conflicts have achieved such lasting fame. Pontecorvo never managed to repeat the trick, though Queimada!, for which he hired Marlon Brando to play a British agent sent to the Caribbean to stir up rebellion against the Portuguese, was at least a partial success three years later.


The Battle of Algiers, however, remains the basis of Pontecorvo's fame - a model of how, without prejudice or compromise, a film-maker can illuminate history and tell us how we repeat the same mistakes. In fact, this study of the Algerian guerrilla struggle against the French colonialists in the 50s ought to be looked at not just as pure cinema but as a warning to those who seek by force to crush independence movements


Also, do not forget Vietnamization.

Post in honor of "Gillo Pontecorvo, the Italian filmmaker who explored terrorism and torture in colonial Algeria in the powerful and influential 1965 classic, “The Battle of Algiers,” died here on Thursday. He was 86. [Link]"



_40980348_screen203.jpgMukhtar Mai was once an anonymous Pakistani villager - but that was before she was gang-raped, apparently on the orders of local elders in a neighbouring village.

From then onwards she has been determined to bring them to justice, and her fight made her an international figure.

Some of the men she said attacked her were convicted, but then the appeal court in Lahore overturned their convictions, amid an outcry from human rights groups.

Now Mukhtar Mai, who is in her mid-30s, is writing her own internet diary, or blog, about her life and her concerns, as a woman from a remote village in southern Punjab.


Read her words on her English and Urdu blog hosted by BBC. Via Sepia Mutiny News Tab.

A boy who is a man all we ever will strive to be

On Sepia Mutiny News Tab, KXB has posted a haunting article from The Independent about a documentary movie "Floating Lamp of the Shadow Valley" that is about a nine year old boy Arif who supports his entire family as a boatman in a strife-ridden Kashmir. It is not only a heart-warming story made by a film maker who himself has felt the burnt of the tragedy of Kashmir but a tale of courage for a kid too young for such kind of things. Please read the article, and some excerpts for introduction:

"I have my roots," he says. "My heart belongs to Kashmir. I don't hold every Kashmiri Muslim responsible for the violence there. They too are suffering. I wanted to do something to show the world that the people are suffering. I first saw Arif in 2004. I had gone back to Kashmir on a shoot for another documentary. I saw this kid baling out his boat." [Link]

In Mr Jala's words, he is "facing challenges that have adults on their knees".

The film shows the two sides to Arif's life. At one moment, he is playing rough and tumble with his brothers, fighting over a toy gun, and crying when his mother scolds him. At the next, he is staring thoughtfully out at the lake and weighing up the family's problems like a grown man, trying to shut out the sound of his brothers playing. "I will educate my brothers and sister," he says. "We will get my sister married. I will fulfil my mother's dreams." [Link]

It is story of triumph both for Arif and Rajesh Jala. There is always hope.

A Mumbaikar's Pain

r675003645.jpgA Mumbaikar's puts it very poignantly:

Whom were you trying to target? The working class men who struggle for an inch of space in local trains? The working women who knit and cut vegetables in trains on their way home? Young, dreamy students discussing exams and love? The babies accompanying their mothers, smiling back at the women around them?

Darkness is fast falling. Its raining like it will not stop. Will the rains wash away the blood? Will tomorrow be a new day. Here's to lost lifes and broken dreams.


Explosions kill innocents in Mumbai 


An expat in China

I never been to China. I talk about changes in India often. However, from my readings I gather China is the fastest changing place on earth currently.

My friend is an expat in China. Read his blog, he and his friend have an interesting take.

What makes a story universal?

Often, I like to share the concept of "universal stories" and why it takes an incredible talent for an artist to produce such pieces of work. No doubt, every work of art has some universality attached to them. However, few of them distill the universal appeal for you much more than others. They become classics. We all cry, love, laugh, and die. Even then, some of us tell a story that makes us connect strongly - from Boston to Cairo to Bloomington to Cochin.

Sometime ago, I suggested Aranyi, a well-travelled cosmopolitan Mumbaiker to read "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez through blog comment conversations. She really loved it. I had read the book in early 80s and thought about for a long time. Recently, I read it again. I had missed a lot of meaning back then.

"Chronicle of a Death Foretold" is an universal theme of revenge, loss of virginity, family honor, guilt, complicity of the society for real inaction, the power and inevitability of fate set in South America. Simply put, you do not have be a South American to empathize. Marquez describes the fragile human soul no matter wherever they reside on earth. It is not at all an exercise in "exoticism".

Some selected quotes from the "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" are presented below to highlight my point. Right of "-" underlined is my viewpoint to the selected parts of the book.

"Don't bother yourself, Luisa Santiaga," he shouted as he went by, "They've already killed him." - We all feel for somebody who is doomed. We will always want to save.

"They're perfect." she was frequently heard to say. "Any man will be happy with them because they've been raised to suffer." - Women in any society are reservoirs of strength with infinite capacity to suffer.

"Love can be learned too." - Love is more complex than pulp literature makes out of it.

"When you sacrifice a steer you don't dare look into its eyes." - Brutality of killing.

"That day," she told me,"I realized just how alone we women are in the world!" - An universal sense of helplessness a woman might feel.

..listened to their parents in Arabic and answered them in Spanish - That is how immigrants assimilate.

Give me a prejudice and I will move the world.

"Shit, cousin", Pablo Vicario told me, "you can't imagine how hard it is to kill a man!"

Please leave a comment about your favorite universal piece of work. Especially, from non-English cultures that have been translated to English or paintings from lesser-known artists. This is not entirely my original concept -It has been around. It is a really old universal concept.

Note: This is not a review for "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" nor discusses the story. Neither, this is a critique on universal stories nor on Marquez's work - It is an attempt to highlight the power of a story, irrespective of your culture, experiences, and upbringing.

Once a while I only showcase

Once a while, I only showcase an issue or somebody's work. Usually, it is done with minimal introduction, analysis, copy a part of the text and a link. I get decent traffic and I want that person or issue a wider exposure through me. It is my way of making a small difference.

If you walk around the world, it is full of brainless hacks, jaded, and lacking imagination and that make us a little bit pessimistic.

But then, you do see a person a who has passion about something and full of hope. They are the ones who will make the difference. Let me please introduce you Sri, as a medical student from US who last year worked with Tibetan refugees in Bangalore (India) - his ancestral home and birth place. Without much ado, let me present a small piece written by Sri and a link to his complete article.

Sri's words in italics.

If a monk can show so much concern for the fate of a fly surely we can muster up enough courage to stop the death of those dying needlessly in front of our eyes. As my short month came to an end it became obvious that in this historical moment the requirements of being a real deal effective doctor goes up hundredfold.

Doctors must understand structural inequality and their underpinnings. We must understand the politics of funding projects, where the money comes from and where it is being funneled towards, and to what end? We must start one on one, patient by patient and expand out to include so many things we never thought were medicine. Poverty, race, class. World Bank funding practices. If only out of necessity, because our patients' lives depend on it. We must tell the stories again and again of who died and what commitment financial or otherwise could have prevented it. We must understand who is vulnerable and why? Who becomes sick and why? We must strive to be doctors and advocates. Doctors and organizers. Doctors and policy makers. Doctors and journalists.

Note: I found him through Sepia Mutiny and obviously Saheli - She finds good people.

Priates of the Middle East - The Curse of the Black Gold

From Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Gold

Jack Sparrow: Worry about your own fortunes gentlemen. The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.
[pirate grabs Jack's throat to reveal a skeleton arm]
Jack Sparrow: So, there is a curse? That's interesting.
Koehler: You know nothing of hell.
Jack Sparrow: That's VERY interesting

The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers. - that is the politics of oil and natural gas.

Fact 1: But do we know the hell of oil intrigue. President Bush promises US to wean-off of Middle East by 2025. Let's see what FACTCHECK.org has to say:

The President voiced a "goal" of replacing more than three-quarters "of our oil imports from the Middle East" by the year 2025. He did not mention that the US has grown more dependent on imported oil and petroleum products since he took office.

According to most recent figures from the Energy Information Administration, the US imported 60 percent of its oil and petroleum products during the first 11 months of last year, up from just under 53 percent in President Clinton's last year in office. Last year, of all the oil and petroleum products consumed in the US, 11.2 percent came from Persian Gulf countries, according to the EIA. That is actually down somewhat from Clinton's last year, when the Persian Gulf countries supplied 12.6 percent.

Whether imports from the Middle East can ever be "a thing of the past" is open to question. It is true that the US currently imports nearly as much oil from nearby Canada (2.1 million barrels per day last year) as it does from all Persian Gulf countries combined (2.3 million barrels per day), but that's still a lot of oil to do without.

Fact 2: On the other hand, it seems Middle East's role in energy equation will become more significant with time. Using EIA, Department of Energy analysis:

It is generally agreed that the location of proven world crude oil reserves is far more concentrated in OPEC countries than current world oil production. Note that estimates of reserves vary; EIA does not assess oil reserves, but does list several independent estimates here. According to one independent estimate (Oil and Gas Journal), of the world's 1.28 trillion barrels of proven reserves, 885 billion barrels (69 percent) are held by OPEC, as of January 2005. The non-OPEC reserves include Canadian non-conventional reserves. Not including Canada, according to this estimate the world's proven oil reserves are about 1.1 trillion barrels, of which OPEC holds 84 percent. In the future, the inclusion of non-conventional oil reserves for other countries may also significantly impact OPEC member Venezuela, as well as non-OPEC countries such as Australia. Non-conventional reserves are generally more expensive to produce than conventional crude oil reserves and may require special facilities and technologies. Because non-OPEC countries' smaller reserves are being depleted more rapidly than OPEC reserves, their overall reserves-to-production ratio -- an indicator of how long proven reserves would last at current production rates -- is much lower (about 26 years for non-OPEC and 83 years for OPEC, based on 2004 crude oil production rates). This implies increased OPEC production as a proportion of world production over the long term.

Oh!, Iran.

Fact 3: In the mix, India and China are the new players in the game of energy cloak and dagger with some added complication. From IHT article, you get the picture:

According to Worldwatch Institute, a research group based in Washington, if every Chinese and Indian consumer in 2030 were to use the resources that each Japanese consumer uses today, the two countries would need the entire planet for themselves. Since 1990, carbon emissions by India have risen 88 percent and by China 67 percent, compared with a 19 percent rise in the United States. China has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. Time for sustainable development?

Getting along: In the end, China and India need each another, despite their rivalries. This month they signed on to a joint approach to securing energy supplies, which could create a hefty rival to U.S. energy diplomacy. A road link could be next.

So, there is a curse? That's interesting. 

India and China - traditional rivals or friends or betrayers. Should they even listen to USA on energy issues?

My Question to you is:
Are American politicians being candid enough ?
Also, do Indian and Chinese leaders have long-term picture in mind or are just running around with a shot-gun approach.
Or as Jack Sparrow would say, That's VERY interesting.

Cross-posted @ Desicritics.org 

Open minds, A step in the right direction

I have very strongly advocated that scientific community all over the world, especially for countries like India and Pakistan should "think afresh" in start sharing the data in real time for natural disasters or for that matter most of the endeavors. Only, then there will be progress toward mitigation strategies and realistic first-responder approaches that will save millions of lives over the years. I have written about it in past too. I am encouraged to see that India is opening up for sharing data - it is not fully open yet but a step in the right direction. Excerpts from Nature, December 22 2005, India makes waves over tsunami warning system:

India has agreed to share seismic data from four of its monitoring stations as part of a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean. But its offer has left many unimpressed.

The warning system will use a maze of deep ocean sensors and tide gauges surrounding the fault that ruptured on 26 December 2004. This earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 11 countries. But crucial to the network will be real-time seismic data from stations in the region.

India has been averse to sharing its seismic data in order to keep information about its underground nuclear tests a secret. "The only station that is available to the global seismic network has a delay of about three weeks before data are disseminated," says Walter Mooney of the US Geological Survey, headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

India's offer, announced at the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group (ICG) in Hyderabad last week, is limited to data on earthquakes with a magnitude of six and above, along the coast of Indonesia and Pakistan. Signals from nuclear tests would be much weaker than this. "For the purpose of tsunami warning we think our offer should be quite satisfactory," India's science secretary Valangiman Ramamurthy told Nature.



A step in the right direction - let us not stop - let us keep moving. 

Brave new frontiers

hale1.jpgIn the words of Jimmy Carter, former President of United States:

"This is a time not for despair but for a global commitment to make the most of our scientific knowledge to address the problems of our age.”

 Let me introduce you the Institute for OneWorld Health:

The Institute for OneWorld Health, the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company in the U.S., announced that it has received a US$30 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to initiate and evaluate the impact of a pilot program to dramatically reduce morbidity and mortality from visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in the rural communities of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. [Link]

Read about them and their founder Victoria Hale, let them speak for themselves and their brave new frontiers - taking medicine to the poorest people.