Oct 30, 2014

HAIDER : A SOLDIERS TAKE

A Soldier Reviews ‘Haider’ movie

October 19, 2014 By Agniveer

 I am an ex-armyman. I was stationed in Kashmir in mid-nineties. This was the same period when hordes of militants from across the border infiltrated in Kashmir to spread terror. Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and scores of other terrorist groups were having a free-for-all rampage in Kashmir. They would infiltrate from Pakistan, recruit cadre, take them to Pakistan for training, bring them back and perform heinous acts of terror.

This was the same period when half a million Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs were massacred and forced to flee the valley.

This was the same period when Kashmir burnt under fundamentalism. It was next to impossible to differentiate between a peaceful nationalist and a killing-machine.

Whenever a cricket match would happen between India and Pakistan, Pakistani flags would wave across the valley as if we were sitting in heart of Pakistan. Any minority voice who dared to wave the Indian flag would be silenced immediately by militants.

It was during such a reign of terror, that Indian Army had to douse the fire in Kashmir with their own blood.

If someone suffered most severe human-rights violation in history of mankind, it was the Indian Army in Kashmir. We left our families in different parts of India and survived under harshest of conditions. For days we would sleep over guns in harsh climate and remotest locations just to keep tab on infiltrating militants. Anyone of us could be bombed away in a sudden attack of fundamentalism. Innumerable among us lost our lives. I lost my hand like so many others who lost their limbs or eyes. To die in a bomb blast was considered lucky. Because if you chanced to be captured by the militants, you would be slowly and mercilessly tortured to death. Militants and their supporters took pride in this gruesome ‘halal’ ritual.

Remember Saurabh Kalia? He is definitely not as popular as Vishal Bharadwaj or Shahid Kapoor. Because he was not a film star who made money by exploiting national interests. He was a humble Indian soldier who gave his life for motherland. He was captured by fundamentalists along with 5 more soldiers. They were taken across Line of Control and tortured as a religious ritual.

Pakistan army tortured their prisoners by burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of the teeth and bones, fracturing the skull, cutting the lips, chipping the nose, chopping off limbs and private organs of these soldiers besides inflicting all sorts of physical and mental tortures and finally shooting them dead after twenty-two days, as evidenced by the bullet wound to the temple.

This made the killers “Ghazi” – who as per these fundamentalists gets highest number of most beautiful virgins in Heaven. All you need to do to be a Ghazi is to celebrate killing of a non-believer.

These five soldiers were after all the worst of creatures in world in eyes of jihadis. They were Indians, soldiers and idol-worshippers. What could be greater sin!

I was lucky because I could have been in Saurav’s place. Had I not lost my hand, instead of Saurav Kalia, I would have been ‘halal’ed to make someone Ghazi.

This was the same period when Indian Army made greatest sacrifice to save India and humanity from reign of death and blood.

And it is the same period around which the film “Haider” by Vishal Bharadwaj, Shahid Kapoor and anti-India jihadi writer Basharat Peer has been made and adored by “critics”.

No struggle for liberation in Kashmir

Everyone on ground knows that there is no struggle for liberation of Kashmiris in Kashmir. If that had been so, why native Kashmiri Pandits would have been massacred?

You need to spend just a few days in the valley to understand the true nature of struggle that lies hidden under this garb of Kashmiriyat.

It is simply a ploy to extend the reaches of Islamic fundamentalism. The same fundamentalism of Al-Qaeda and ISIS that is shaking the entire world.

Kashmiri militants are brainwashed to believe that they will go to Paradise only after India is conquered by an army of Jihadis. Listen to speeches of Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Muhammad. He talks of Ghazwa-e-Hind prophecy where Prophet made conquest of India a precondition for opening doors of Heaven.

In name of religion, the same poison is spread in minds of Kashmiri youth to make them militants.

Enemy within and outside

Yet Indian Army continues to face bullets from enemies and abuses from family. Today, on one side Pakistan is targeting Indian Army and minority locations in Kashmir with bullets. And around the same time, our own country-men create a film like “Haider” that paints Indian Army a villain.

On one hand, flags of ISIS are waved in Kashmir, and at same time, “critics” laud anti-nationalism of Haider as marvel of art.

Such co-incidences give ample evidence that somehow our enemies and certain elements from within our country consistently orchestrate great timing and coordination among each other that it is hard to believe that it was just a mere coincidence.

In Army, we are trained to observe such remarkable coincidences, understand what goes behind, and yet silently sacrifice ourselves for the mission of nation.

Haider shook me to core

I have myself faced irrepairable loss in saving motherland from anti-national militants. And my fellow armymen have made much larger sacrifices for the same cause. Thus the film Haider shook me to core.

It made me question for the first time – Whom are we fighting for? Whom are we defending? The same people who could make this film because of Army’s protection collude with an anti-national Jihadi writer to make a villain of Indian Army?

Is this the reward of our sacrifices that we continue to make? Are commercial gains and so-called artistic expression more important than motherland and humanity?

What if we had not fought terrorism by tooth and nail in nineties? What if we had not arrested the spread of terror to other parts of country through our own lives?

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

This is not a film-critics review. This is a review from perspective of an armyman, a lover of humanity and a son of India. A true secular who refuses to believe that God hates idol-worshippers so much that they will go to Hell. And aspires to fight against ideology that directly or indirectly nurtures such fundamentalist elements.

This is not rhetoric in jingoism

Unlike Haider, which is an experiment in fundamentalism, don’t consider the article to be a rhetoric in jingoism.

Yes, I love my country. I love my country more than I love anything else in life. I love my country not because I was born here or I am a native of this nation. It is not because I love the design of the map of India. It is because its timeless cultural and philosophical heritage that is built on core foundations of tolerance, acceptance and justice. So jingoism has no place for a nationalist and son of soil.

My nationalism does not make me aspire to conquer the whole world. It inspires me to enlighten the whole world. It inspires me to promote brotherhood across the globe and strive for “One World, One Family.” It inspires me to make India lighthouse of the world. I joined Indian Army not to conquer the world, but nurture and protect Peace that defines foundation of India.

I am not a movie-watcher. My mission never allowed me the luxury to fit movies or serials in my priority-list. But I made an exception for Haider.

Summary Review of Haider

While I will provide details later, let me state upfront – I find “Haider” to be a shameless commercialization of anti-nationalism.

No its not a rhetoric. This is the most “polite” way in which I can summarize the review of this film.

The more “practical” review summary is already being demonstrated by my Indian Army by appropriate retaliation to Pakistani misadventure of cross-border firing. Salutes to my Army for this. Am proud to lose my arm for you. And regret that I could not gift my life for you.

Lt Gen(Retd) Vijay Oberoi

Jul 22, 2014

GOLF AND NATURE

The game of Golf brings you closer to nature. As already brought out in an older post, ‘’Let’s talk Golf’’, It is played in the open air on some of the best real estate in the world. In certain Golf courses you get to see a variety of  wildlife, flora and fauna which include deer parks, water bodies with ducks, fishes, crabs etc. At times one comes across reptiles like snakes both poisonous and non poisonous ones, molitors and other species of lizards. Recently i got to see(for the first time in my life) a dancing peacock. Here is the picture shot from my cell camera.

The acronym for GOLF :
G : Greenery
O:  Oxygen
L:  Leisure
F :  Friendship


‘’Happy Golfing’’

Nov 20, 2013

The LowlandThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spellbinding! In her characteristic scrupulous prose, particularly her lucid description of human emotions as they manifest in immigrant Indian Americans, Jhumpa takes us through the rise of Naxalite movement in West Bengal and how it affects the life of the Mitras through three generations, shuttling between Rhode Island in the US and Tollygunge Kolkata.

Much better than her earlier novel 'Namesake'.

Must read the 'Luminaries' to figure out why Jhumpa failed to win the Man Booker 2013.


View all my reviews

Apr 11, 2013

SHAMNATH VILLA


Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ― 
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out

I consider myself most fortunate that I got the opportunity to stay at Shamnath Villa for four weeks recently. As it turned out this happened to be one of my most memorable stays outside of my own home ever. Wait..wait..wait, it’s not a holiday resort or a seven star luxury hotel ……….. It is a bed n breakfast hotel located in Civil lines Delhi, a place referred to me by my friend Sudhanshu, on whose recommendation I went through its reviews at www.tripadvisor.com and decided on giving the place a try. And what a decision it turned out to be.
The credit for my wonderful stay goes largely to the hosts, Mr Arun Shamnath & Mrs Shalini Shamnath, who have given hospitality a totally new dimension. Most other guests in the hotel were repeat visitors or those who chose the place through referrals.
I
Mrs Shalini Shamnath with other guests
Shamnath villa is located in Civil Lines, right next to the serene and picturesque North Ridge a.k.a Kamla Nehru Ridge, on Shamnath Marg, which is certain to be one of the finest localities in North Delhi. I had no clue that a place like this even existed in Old Delhi. Shamnath Marg itself is named after the erstwhile Mayor of Delhi who happened to be Mr Arun Shamnath’s father. The villa is replete with artefacts, paintings, marble statuettes and photos reminiscent of the bygone era. It also has a lot of history for the inquisitively inclined.
Mr & Mrs Shamnath
The warm welcome that I received from the hostess, the ever so graceful, polished, courteous, compassionate, knowledgeable and erudite and Mrs Shalini Shamnath(one of the most remarkable women that I have had the good fortune of meeting) set the pace for things to come. One cannot but be touched by her caring, thoughtfulness, warmth and spontaneity.  Mrs Shamnath thereafter, was to become a constant companion on the dining table, many a times along with other guests. The day, more often than not would begin with a stimulating breakfast table conversation with one or the other of the guests and would end with dinner table tete – a- tete with another……….. and each one of these guests more learned than the other in his or her chosen field.  So much so, that I would look forward to the next opportunity to meet and chat with these fine people .......... and of course one would never tire of talking to the hosts themselves. I got to meet and talk to Anthropologists, educationists, businessmen, tourists, historians and so on. It was amazing to see so many people from across the globe congregating in this awesome hotel, make it their temporary abode and mingle freely with other guests like family. It is this family atmosphere created by the hosts assisted by the most charming staff, that makes this place unique and sets it apart, as opposed to a regular hotel with their impersonal and businesslike demeanour.
Mr Arun Shamnath's mother(extreme right) and father(second from left) 

Thank you very much Mr & Mrs Shamnath, I hope I have made a friend for life and will always look forward to meeting you again and again and ……. again.


Eating, and hospitality in general, is a communion, and any meal worth attending by yourself is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ― Jesse Browner

Jun 6, 2012

FLIP SIDE OF GOLF



“Golf is a good  walk spoiled.”
-         Mark Twain
Golf is a time-consuming sport. Consider the average round of golf is four hours plus driving time which could be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, then add in some refreshments at the end of the round and you are now at the five or six hour mark. If there's a tournament, well then all the schedules are thrown out of the window, as some could take most of or even all of the day. Some people like me try to cheat time a little by teeing off around dawn on a Sunday morning and finishing in a little over three hours, be home by 9 or 10. One of my Golf buddies told me he is home before his wife even wakes up. This is clearly one way to manage it, but it is still is a great deal of time.
Then there is the aspect that golf is not a cheap hobby. A new driver(the longest golf club) with a hefty price tag of Ten to Twenty five thousand rupees, or even more is nothing to shake a stick (or a new putter) at. Walk into any golf store and the average price of new irons can easily approach seventy grand. Now you need to buy golf balls and pay an average of over hundred to two hundred bucks a day to get on the course. We have not even started to talk about lessons, training aids, gloves, a bag to put the clubs in and of course range balls. The only thing I can do for free at the golf course is take a walk. But the most expensive part could well be the club membership fees, which include club membership and the monthly subscription.
          Though its good exercise, if one is looking to burn calories, it is not by a long way commensurate with the time consumed. The same amount of time spent in the Gym or in a more taxing sport like Squash or Basketball would burn four times more in calories.
          But the most important of all is the massive infrastructural requirements for this game, which make it out of reach and elusive for most people.
          Look at a couple of Golf course pictures :






For me, the worst part of playing golf, by far, has always been hitting the ball.