Category Archives: General

Migration Blues

Published / by Jehangir

Hey there!

Some pages of this blog are offline while I have to deal with migrating my websites from the over-rated BlueHost to the awesome FastComet cloud hosting.

This blog is being updated to WordPress and previous posts have to be manually added due to some incompatibility and some inability 😉 issues – so please bear with me.

Stay blessed,

Of Loss and a Teardrop Jewel

Published / by Jehangir

hisaab-e-umr ka itna sa goshwara hai….

Our flood-interrupted lives will stabilize, our house will again become a home, but these are irreplaceable:

~ Rare Books

~ Rarer Photographs

~ Original artworks by the likes of Santosh and Walli

~ An irretrievable part of Kashmir's history in the form of documents and personal effects belonging to the Last Prime Minister of Kashmir.

P.S:

One item earlier on this list has been crossed out – the manuscript of my unfinished historical novel representing years of imagining and a year of pushing pen on paper. Hope to see it in print soon.

Remembering Calvin and Hobbes

Published / by Jehangir

Calvin and Hobbes was a popular comic strip by Bill Watterson relating the escapades of Calvin, an impulsive daydreamer, and his stuffed tiger – the semi-imaginary Hobbes. For anyone else Hobbes is just an inanimate toy but from Calvin's perspective he is very much alive and kicking (pouncing).

In the strip which was syndicated daily from 1985 to 1995, Bill Watterson ridiculed the increasingly materialistic nature of society from the six-year-old Calvin's point of view. At the height of it's popularity the strip featured in more than 2000 newspapers worldwide before the notoriously reclusive Watterson hung up his crayons for good in 1995. 30 million copies of 18 Calvin and Hobbes book compilations have also been published.

Besides the comic being infinitely more worldly-wise, Calvin's cynicism and the smart-alecky Hobbes' penchant for getting him into trouble provided just as much enjoyment as my childhood favourites – the 'Just William' books by Richmal Crompton.

Some samples of wisdom from the strip:

Disclaimer:

The copyright of images used in this post rest solely with the copyright holders. They have been used here under the fair use doctrine solely to express my admiration of the art of Bill Watterson.

The Beautiful Game

Published / by Jehangir

Picture yourself lying sprawled on the ground with your chest heaving, heart thumping, lungs screaming for air and your muscles afire. The only emotion you can feel is pure unadulterated bliss.

That sweet mix of pain and joy can only mean one thing – you have just scored a goal !!!!

It is the second greatest feeling in the world and now you are hopelessly addicted to the Beautiful Game.

Football or Soccer in its purest form is simplicity itself. There is a ball at your feet and your natural instinct is to kick it. Like this:

The Best Goal ever:

And its carbon copy:

The Best Team Goal ever:

Almost as good:

The Best Header ever:

The Best Free Kick ever:

The Best Save ever:

The Most Amazing Play ever:

The Most Ridiculous Play ever:

The Best Team ever:

Update:

The Worst Penalty ever:

P.S

Just for the record:

Maradona > Pele

And finally, a timeless quote from Bill Shankly.

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude.

I can assure you it is much, much more important than that'.

Saving Water (and Ourselves)

Published / by Jehangir

In 1995, World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin said that the wars of the next century will be fought over water.

Here are some eye-openers:

– Only less than 1 percent of all water on Earth is suitable for use by humanity. The rest is either salt water or permanently frozen.

– 11% of the global population, or 783 million people, are still without access to improved sources of drinking water.

– Singapore recycles water from toilets and drains to meet its water demand.

The situation with bottled water is simply ridiculous.

– 3 liters of water is used to package 1 liter of bottled water!

– The bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes.

In the USA, Sustainability Engineer Pablo Päster of triplepundit.com controversially calculated the environmental cost of a single bottle of Fiji Water thus:

'the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons) .849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or .26 gal) and emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds)'

While clean and safe drinking water is scarce in most of the developing world, Kashmir is blessed with generous water resources.

Fortunate as we are, we still waste too much of this precious resource. It is our responsibility as concerned individuals to reduce the wastage of water.

Rainwater harvesting is a simple method that can have a huge impact by reducing the demand on water for outdoor activities.

As per experts, 1 mm of rain on 1 square metre of roof area provides 1 litre of water.

Since I am metrically handicapped, this would mean that, if my calculations are correct;

1 inch of rain on 1 square foot of roof will provide 2.36 litres of water.

As per NOAA data, Srinagar receives around 28 inches of rainfall per year.

The potential to harvest rainwater for my house which has a roof area of approx 2500 sq.ft can be calculated:

28 inches X 2500 sq. ft = 70000 litres per year

How awesome is that? Seventy thousand litres a year or approximately 200 litres of pure rainwater every day absolutely free.

While I was designing my home, I took care to construct the roof in a manner that would make it easy to collect and store rainwater.

Instead of an overdesigned roof, I have four simple valleys that act as virtual quarter funnels channeling rainwater to four collection spots where I can easily store or divert rainwater.

This 1000 litre tank waters my garden.

This 1000 litre tank maintains my lily pond.

The two other downspouts recharge my tubewell and will also be used to water my vegetable garden and to wash my car once I have the filter system in place.

Since most houses in Kashmir have a 'parnala' or rainwater gutter system, all we have to do is to divert the downspout into a storage tank and we can enjoy an abundant supply of fresh water for sustainable gardening plus the warm fuzzy feeling of being a concerned socially responsible citizen.

The responsibility of saving the world should not be limited to beauty pageant contestants only 🙂

A Life Lesson from Balraj Sahni

Published / by Jehangir

Balraj Sahni was one of my favourite actors of Hindi cinema. I feel all his roles had a kind of compelling sincerity.

Many people may not know that he was a noted progressive thinker and award-winning author with a strong connection to Kashmir.

An excerpt from his biography:

'Balraj's association with Kashmir, starting from the early thirties, was to become deep and intimate. Kashmir became for him a kind of second home. He revelled deeply in its idyllic surroundings, long hikes, long swims in the lakes, and mountain-climbing. Kashmir was to become for him a place of deep personal attachments. It was here that he wrote some of his charming little poems and stories. It was also to become a field for his cultural and literary activities in the years to come.'

In the same book, Bhisham Sahni also relates how his brother stunned an audience unsympathetic to the Kashmiri freedom struggle by the following comment :
'Why, all the purse-strings in the state are either in the hands of the Maharaja or the Punjabi traders who do not belong here and who exploit the local inhabitants.'

An incident in Kashmir made a lasting impact on Balraj Sahni. He describes it in this excerpt from his convocation address at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1972.

'I'd like to tell you about an incident which took place in my college days and which I have never been able to forget. It has left a permanent impression on my mind.

I was going by bus from Rawalpindi to Kashmir with my family to enjoy the summer vacation. Half-way through we were halted because a big chunk of the road had been swept away by a landslide caused by rain the previous night. We joined the long queues of buses and cars on either side of the landside.

Impatiently we waited for the road to clear. It was a difficulty job for the P.W.D. and it took some days before they could cut a passage through. During all this time the passengers and the drivers of vehicles made a difficult situation even more difficult by their impatience and constant demonstration. Even the villagers nearby got fed up with the high-handed behaviour of the city-walas.

One morning the overseer declared the road open. The green- flag was waved to the drivers. But we saw a strange sight. No driver was willing to be the first to cross. They just. stood and stared at each other from either side. No doubt the road was a make-shift one and even dangerous. A mountain on one side, and a deep gorge and the river below. Both were forbidding. The overseer had made a careful inspection and had opened the road with a full sense of responsibility. But nobody was prepared to trust his judgment, although these very people had, till yesterday, I accused him and his department of laziness and incompetence.

Half an hour passed by in dumb silence. Nobody moved. Suddenly we saw a small green sports car approaching. An Englishman was driving it; sitting all by himself. He was a bit surprised to see so many parked vehicles and the crowd there. I was rather conspicuous, wearing my smart jacket and trousers. "What's happened?" he asked me.

I told him the whole story. He laughed loudly, blew the horn and went straight ahead, crossing the dangerous portion without the least hesitation.

And now the pendulum swung the other way. Every body was so eager to cross that they got into each other's way and created a new-confusion for some time. The noise of hundreds of engines and hundreds of horns was unbearable.

That day I saw with my own eyes the difference in attitudes between a man brought up in a free country and a man brought up in an enslaved one. A free man has the power to think, decide, and act for himself. But the slave loses that power. He always borrows his thinking from others, wavers in his decisions, and more often than not only takes the trodden path.

I learnt a lesson from this incident, which has been valuable to me. I made it a test for my own life. In the course of my life, whenever I have been able to make my own crucial decisions, I have been happy. I have felt the breath 'of freedom on my face. I have called myself a free man. My spirit has soared high and I have enjoyed life because I have felt there is meaning to life.'

So there it is. A life lesson from Balraj Sahni.

Biography : Balraj, my brother (National biography series), by Bhishma Sahni. National Book Trust, India, 1981.
Autobiography: Link
1972 JNU Convocation Address : Link

Motorsport in Kashmir

Published / by Jehangir

The Jhelum Valley Cart Road from Kohala to Baramulla, then famous as 'the most wonderful mountain road in the world', was completed in 1889 and was extended to Srinagar in 1897. Prior to the advent of the automobile in Kashmir, circa 1915, travellers to Kashmir made the journey in a two-horse four-seater tonga or a single-horse two-seater ekka.
In 1922, public transport was allowed on the Banihal Cart Road, which connected Srinagar with Jammu.

Traffic across the Banihal Cart Road

It was the Maharaja's of Kashmir (surprise, surprise) who owned the first cars in the Valley. During the 1920's Maharaja Hari Singh put together a collection of custom-made Rolls-Royce cars including a 1925 Barker Tourer, 1927 Windovers Limousine and a 1929 Thrupp & Maberly Tourer.

In the late 1920s, the Northern Motor Company, headquartered in Rawalpindi, opened a showroom in the Ganda Singh Building in Lal Chowk. They sold small four-cylinder Chevrolet tourers to local customers for a few thousand rupees.


Chevrolet Tourer on the Jhelum Valley Cart Road

From an endurance point of view the greatest motor adventure was the 1931 Citroën-Haardt Trans-Asiatic Expedition. The achievement of crossing the Himalayas between Srinagar and Gilgit over a pony track across the Burzil Pass (13775 ft) will probably never be surpassed.


Georges-Marie Haardt and his team set out for China from Srinagar on the 12th of July 1931 in specially designed Citroën Kegresse half-tracks. This expedition marked the first motorised crossing of the Greater Himalaya range.



This famous photograph from the Citroën-Haardt Expedition has inspired book covers and movie posters.


Here is a video of the expedition on YouTube. Watch out for 2.15:

More motor stuff next time. Enjoy !

The Prayer Of The 13th Warrior

Published / by Jehangir

Two movies I watched on HBO recently featured muslim characters.

In the 'The 13th Warrior' Antonio Banderas plays the role of an Arab traveller who gets mixed up with Vikings and neo-neanderthals. His role is in itself a rarity – a positive muslim character in a major Hollywood film.

Morgan Freeman playing Kevin Costner's friend in 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' is another such role that comes to mind. Usually the stereotyped muslim characters you see in every other mainstream Hollywood movie play the roles of 'islamic' terrorists.

Since it's a Hollywood movie, 'The 13th Warrior' has errors like the scene where Antonio Banderas as Ibn Fadlan prays not to 'Allah' but to 'Holy Father' in true christian fashion.

In the climatic prayer scene before the final battle, the Antonio Banderas/Ibn Fadlan character recites a hollywood-ified version of the following prayer:

For all that we should have thought
and have not thought;
For all that we should have said
and have not said;
For all that we should have done,
and have not done;
We pray Allah for forgiveness.

For all that we should not have thought
but have thought;
For all that we should not have said
but have said;
For all that we should not have done,
but have done;
We pray Allah for forgiveness.

Thankfully, the director does not show a muslim character being cremated – as happens onscreen in 'The Ghost & the Darkness'. That blooper apart, TG&TD is one of my favourite films. It's like Jaws with claws !

Unlike the majority of film adaptations, both films surprisingly complement the books they are based on – Michael Crichton's 'Eaters of the Dead' and 'Man-eaters of Tsavo' by John Patterson. Since both these films are based on actual persons/events, muslim characters were essential to the plots.

How hard can it be for Hollywood to do a wee bit of research and portray characters belonging to a particular religion accurately?