Tensing Carlos Rodrigues

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Timber Depot At The End Of The Rail Line

In Travels on February 23, 2013 at 12:08 am

IMG_0942Kathgodam was a small village in 1901 with a population of 375. Its importance grew rapidly after the railway line was extended to it around 1884.  It is still a small town. It is the last railway station if you are travelling to Kumaon region of the Himalayan Mountains. From Kathgodam, mountain roads lead to tourist destinations like Nainital, Bhimtal, Sattal, Mukteshwar, Ranikhet,Naukuchiyatal and Almora.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01But do not take the train upto Kathgodam. Get down at Haldwani, about 6 km earlier. It’s from here that you will get the buses going into the mountain ranges. On your return journey, however, do not go all the way to Haldwani; get down at Kathgodam. Most of the trains halt for a very short time in Haldwani, if at all they do; and there are hardly any facilities at the station.  

Kathgodam-HaldwaniKathgodam literally means the timber depot.

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Once upon a time on an island

In Politically wrong on February 22, 2013 at 10:53 am

Many years ago, as a young man, I had seen a play about the people on an island; and my blood had boiled with anger. The island was owned by a landlord; all the people on the island worked for him. And he was a ruthless landlord. One day a young man from across reached this island. He was shocked to see the exploitation by the landlord, and the misery of the people. He decided to fight. One day he freed the people from the tyranny of the landlord. He gathered them all in the marketplace and announced that from that day onward they were free; that they shall own the lands they plough; that they shall work and feed themselves.

As the young man turned to go, an old man, bent and limping, walked up to him, and said : “Lord, tell us what to do. We are at your service.” And the rest followed him to fall at the feet of the young man.

That was a fable, alright; but that seems to be about us. Sixty four years after gaining independence from the British and sixty one years after becoming a democratic republic, today we have set out to rewind history : to fall at the feet of a man called Lokpal – he who shall deliver us from all evils, he who shall protect our constitutional rights, he who shall decide whether we go to hell or to heaven. Just like the people on that fictional island. And my blood is once again boiling with anger.

I was born after India gained independence; I do not know what the British were, except for what my history teacher taught me. However I was fortunate enough to be born on that small piece of land that never became independent at the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947. We had to wait for another fourteen years, till our masters, the Portuguese, were driven out in 1961. I was only seven years old then.

But I was well over twenty and yet not too old when President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared a State of Internal Emergency upon the advice of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 26th June 1975. I did not know at the outset what emergency meant. But my father, who had experienced the midnight knocks under the Portuguese regime, told me it means you either piss in your pant or be ready to die. That was the wrong age for me to choose the former.

part-005Censorship was imposed. The leaders of all opposition parties and other outspoken critics of Indira’s government were arrested and behind bars.  On 5th August 1975 the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act was passed by the parliament. On 26th September 1975 the Thirty-ninth Amendment to the Indian Constitution, placing election of Prime Minister beyond the scrutiny of judiciary, was passed. On 9th January 1976 the government suspended the seven freedoms guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of India. On 18th January 1977 the President dissolved the Lok Sabha. The entire country was in a state of shock.

Fully assured that democracy had been finished for good in India, a jubilant Indira Gandhi declared elections; no one could dare imagine Indira’s gamble could go wrong. But it did. Indian democracy triumphed; the people asserted their sovereignty notwithstanding the consequences.

Today, once again my blood is boiling with anger to see a motley mob howling to finish democracy – a democracy that has proved its power time and again, kicking into dust leaders who have disdained it; the latest probably was the Left Front in Paschim Banga. But definitely that shall not be the last.

Guys, hands off democracy; we shall not tolerate even a “benevolent” dictatorship; call it Lokpal, call it anything. Just get lost.

Why Goa became “India’s Tourism Mecca” ?

In Goa at Crossroads on February 21, 2013 at 1:07 am

Goa at Crossroads

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“’Eight-finger Eddie’, the original American ‘freak’ who discovered and popularised Goa as a 1960s hippy haven, has died, aged 85.” reported The Telegraph at 6:05PM BST on 28 Oct 2010. “Yertward Mazmanian, an Armenian-American, arrived in Goa in the early 1960s, fell in love with its tropical beaches and lifestyle, and later established a flea-market in Anjuna, North Goa, which became a ‘Mecca’ for hippies throughout the world. … His role put the former Portuguese colony on the tourist map.”

EddieWhy did the beatniks and hippies choose to settle down in Goa ? As they drove down overland from Kathmandu “on bikes, beetles and magic buses“, ‘tropical beaches’ were all over the west and the east coast from Dwarka to Kovalam, and Puri to Nagapattinam; just in the close neighbourhood, and no different, were Shiroda and Karwar – that would very much fit the description “a tiny hamlet with a few tea stalls and houses dotting a pristine sandy beach“, that Mazmanian uses for Anjuna. But they chose Goa. The clue probably lay in the phrase one stumbles upon again and again in the literature about the advent of hippies : “a former Portuguese enclave”.

What did that former Portuguese enclave offer, that others did not ? The ease of communicating in an European language ? A culturally ‘at home’ feeling ? Familiar cuisine ? Or, was it the laissez faire attitude ? “They were in love with this place. And we fell in love with them, because of the way they lived.”, an Associated Press despatch for Oct 28, 2010 quotes a local, Dominic Fernandes, 65.

Goa’s USP of “yahan to kuch bhi chalta hai” has stuck on. No wonder Tarun Tejpal blurted it out at the end of the first day of the Tehelka magazine’s Goa bash, ThinkFest 2011 : “Now that you are in Goa, drink as much as you want, … sleep with whoever you think of.” It’s not just Tejpal; hordes of Indian tourists come to Goa with a lifetime dream : to experience the never before, never again.

Today we are caught in a time warp; what we let happen innocently or lazily, has become our distinguishing mark. Let me quote to you from a blog by Som Bhatta, I stumbled upon on a travel site. This is what he has got to say : “I’ve been there as a tourist, which makes me a part of a very large club. Goans are an easygoing and friendly people. They are also deeply religious in general, with a Portuguese Catholic background. The men tend to drop out of secondary school while the women keep studying. The men are content to earn enough money in a day for their heart’s content of beer and xacuti (Goan style pork or chicken) in the evening, and will typically work no more than that. And the roaring tourist trade makes that easy for them. Many more just immigrate to Portugal and onward to other places. As dual citizens, they have that right. Cost of living is moderate by Indian standards; neither cheap nor expensive. There’s not much industry in Goa to speak of, so most people depend on the tourist trade for a living. The local language is Konkani, a hybrid between Marathi and Kannada, the languages of the two adjacent states. The old people still speak Portuguese, but they are now a diminishing minority.”

FotoSketcher - bobNot only do others label us that way, and would like us to continue to be that, but we ourselves believe us to be so.  And we want to build our future around it. We now recognize tourism as the mainstay of Goan economy, along with, may be mining.

It may seem too late to stir up a debate on tourism or no tourism. Tourism in Goa is a big business today. It is not just hotels and restaurants, travel agents and boat cruises, curio shops and discos, casinos and New Year bashes. It goes much beyond that. Take the real estate industry for instance; Goa is the summer capital for some, winter capital for others. Or the drug trade. So many other things came with tourism, and have stayed.

The Call of Lanka

In Travels on February 9, 2013 at 4:12 am

VazPictureSancoale is a quiet village nestled between the hills and the river Zuari, inhabited by Saraswat Brahmins. Call it coincidence, or call it divine providence, two young men of the village heard the call of Lanka two centuries apart : Joseph Vaz, a Catholic priest landed in Jaffna in 1687 to minister to the Christians of Sri Lanka; Dharmananda Kosambi was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1902 in Maligakanda, near Colombo.Dharmananda

The fate linked the two men by more than just the village of their origin. Fr. Vaz preached Christianity across Sri Lanka wandering as a mendicant, bare foot and surviving on alms, in true Buddhist tradition; and celebrated his first public mass in the courtyard of the royal palace of Vimaladharma Surya II, the then Buddhist king of Kandy, which also housed the sacred relic of the tooth of Buddha.

Negombo 1Negombo is located on the west coast of the island and at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, in Western Province, Sri Lanka. It is the fourth largest city in the country after the capital Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna. Negombo is known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets, and nice sandy beaches. It is one of the most liberal cities in Sri Lanka with modern life style and it’s nightlife in luxury hotels, guest houses, fine restaurants and pubs. The wild cinnamon that grew in the region around Negombo attracted a succession of foreign traders and colonial powers for centuries. The shallow waters of the Negombo lagoon provided safe shelter for sea fairing vessels.

The first Muslim Arabs arrived in Ceylon in the seventh and eighth centuries and eventually came to dominate the east-western trade routes. Landing in the early 1500s, the Portuguese ousted the Moors, constructed a fort in Negombo and took over the trade of cinnamon to the West. It was during the Portuguese occupation that the Karawa, or traditional fishing clan of Negombo embraced Catholicism almost without exception. So successfully were they converted that today Negombo is sometimes known as ‘Little Rome’ and nearly two thirds of its population professes a Catholic faith; there are over twenty churches in the city. In Negombo, we found it difficult to believe we were not in Goa.

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Insider Trading or Outsider Targeting

In Politically wrong on February 8, 2013 at 3:57 am

I know what I am going to say is politically incorrect; but let me say it : Perhaps the biggest undoing of Mr. Rajat Gupta was the fact that he was an Indian.

I am not defending insider trading; and, for argument’s sake, I am ready to grant that the evidence against Mr. Gupta was conclusive. What I cannot agree with is the concept of wrong that forms the basis of Mr. Gupta’s conviction. There are natural wrongs and there are legal wrongs. Natural wrongs violate basic human rights to life and dignity; murder or sexual assault, for instance. Such acts are wrong, irrespective of what the enforcing authority thinks about them, or whether it acts against those who commit them.  As against this, legal wrongs are violations of a legislation enacted by a duly constituted authority. What is legally wrong at a given point of time may cease to be so at another point of time; it is all a matter of the same or a higher authority changing the legislation. And the intent of the authority with regards to the legislation is expressed not only through the formal process of enactment or repealing, but also through its choice to enforce the legislation. More particularly, discriminatory enforcement deprives the legislation of its justification. And by choosing to not enforce the legislation, the authority de facto repeals the legislation.

This is exactly the point that I want to make. US Securities and Exchange Commission defines insider trading as “buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security”. Any person who commits an act that fits this definition should be prosecuted under the relevant legislation. Countrywide Financial’s CEO Angelo Mozilo made $ 140 million by dumping his Countrywide stock in the 12 months before the company collapsed. And he went scot free. The SEC did bring a civil suit, accusing Mozilo of engaging in fraud and insider trading. He flicked that away with a cash settlement that hardly touched his personal fortune. According to a Congressional investigative report, he created a “Friends of Angelo” unit, which doled out discount loans to members of Congress. Under US law, “whoever directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official … with intent to influence an official act” is to be fined, imprisoned or both. Mozilo is still a free man.

money In SEC’s own words the basis of the legislation against insider trading is the fact that “insider trading undermines investor confidence in the fairness and integrity of the securities markets”.  SEC chose to ignore when after driving his firm into the ground, Merrill Lynch’s board of directors allowed Stan O’Neal, the CEO of the company to resign, and offered him $161 million in severance pay. O’Neal’s successor, John Thain, was paid $ 87 million in 2007; and in December of 2008, two months after Merrill was bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, Thain and Merrill’s board handed out billions in bonuses to themselves. In March of 2008, AIG’s Financial Products Division lost $ 11 billion. Instead of being fired, Joseph Cassano, the head of AIGFP, was kept on as a consultant for a million dollars a month. Was that not sufficient to “undermine investor confidence in the fairness and integrity” of the US corporations ?

Now the most scandalous of my contention : Mr. Rajat Gupta was targeted for being an Indian. Well, I have no hard evidence to back that; there probably will never be. But, from the time of my school days I have one question unanswered : Why did US drop the atom bombs on Japan, not Germany ?

 

Они приходят, они видят, они побеждают (They come, they see, they conquer.)

In Goa at Crossroads on February 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Goa at Crossroads

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Raymond Noronha, in his Social and Cultural Dimensions of Tourism (World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 326, April 1979), describes the stages of development of a tourist destination; and they seem to fit the evolution of tourism in Goa rather well. Noronha talks of three stages : (a) discovery, (b) local response and initiative, and (c) institutionalisation.

In the first stage “a few intrepid souls ‘find’ a new area”.  In Goa’s case these have mainly been the hippies. This stage, is largely beyond the control of the host population. The choice of the host polpulation comes in the second stage : the local response and initiative. We have already described earlier how the population in the areas where the hippies landed was predisposed to such an event, given its “outward orientation”. So its behaviour in the second stage was almost predictable. Note the subtle difference in the “reception” that was accorded to the hippies on the North Goa beaches and the South Goa beaches. The people of Bardez have traditionally been more outgoing then the people of Salcete. The popular response thus was spontaneous and instinctive.

Noronha’s description of growth of tourism in the second stage fits very well with what happened in Goa : “Tourism development continues to be spontaneous and generally uncoordinated. The needs of tourists are met through a differentiation of existing resources – for example, partial conversion of houses to guest homes or small hotels. The host population introduces small-scale technological improvements to accommodate tourists – refrigerators, motor boats, flush toilets. Nevertheless, the tourist’s adjustment to the host culture is almost as great as the host population’s adjustment to the tourist.

But where tourism begins to bite is in Noronha’s third stage – institutionalisation; he very categorically describes the radical shift that takes place in the third stage : “Institutionalization implies more than an increase in the number of tourists in the destination area. It usually involves standardised tourist facilities and services (Western style hotels, packaged tours), … loss of local control over the development of tourism, and increased economic dependence on individuals and groups outside the destination area. In the eyes of the local resident, institutionalization is the stage where outsiders (fellow nationals and foreigners) take over.” No, I am not describing what has happened in Goa; I am just quoting from Noronha !

MorjimIf you find that too realistic, realise how inevitable that is. Noronha goes on : “The transition to Stage 3 involves a decision by the national government (or other authorities and economic blocs) to intervene in tourism development in the destination area. … The most common justification for intervention in tourism development by wider political authorities is that it will increase foreign exchange earnings for the host country. Rarely does this intervention involve prior consultation with the residents and authorities in the destination area itself. Unless local interests are given a strong voice in decisionmaking, nonlocal interests take over further development of tourism in the destination area.”

 That brings us to somewhere around December 2011 – protesters marching in the city to demand that IFFI be shifted so as to not clash with the Feast of St. Francis Xavier ! And shouts falling on the deaf year. Or take the Sunburn. One young guy told me on the eve of New Year -“Uncle, it was very good. But it was all managed by upcountry people; our people where only paying to get in; to just park my bike for a little while, I had to pay two hundred rupees.” But better was the nonchalant response of the “upcountry” guy : “My foot; nothing can stop it. If police stops, police will be gone. If CM stops it, CM will be gone. Just forget it; come on, enjoy.” Noronha wrote that in 1979, when we were more or less in the middle of stage 2 ! But he was talking of those who had been there and seen it before us – Indonesia, Bermuda, Seychelles, Cyprus, Senegal, Mexico, Tunisia, Malta, Thailand, … .

In the local press : (Keshav Naik, TNN Dec 19, 2011, 05.13AM IST) “As the state celebrates the golden jubilee of its liberation, a new foreign colony is coming up on Goan soil. In a northern corner of Goa, the refrain is “Morjim is Russia” and you are even greeted by “Dobroe utro” (good morning) in Russian. … Vitthaldas Waddo in Morjim, with a large number of Russian restaurants, Russian speakers, and a distinctly Russian atmosphere has already been nicknamed Mini Moscow, and Morjim is on the road to being known as ‘Mini Russia’. Ask a taxi driver anywhere in Goa to take you to Moscow beach and he will drop you off in Morjim. … Anger, however, is building up and has led to brawls. One Goan has already fallen prey to Russian ferocity. Taxi driver Rohidas Shetgaonkar was killed by Russian national Constantine Alexander Borowski in February 2009. … The Russian invasion of Morjim started around 8 years ago, when tourists from the country began investing in businesses. Gradually they became major investors. The tourism and related business economy of the village is now governed by Russians.

From stage two to stage three is growing from adolescence to adulthood – fulfilling, but treacherous. In 1977, sitting on the steps of Susheela Building (where I was doing my first year of post-graduation) I was watching the first Carnival float parade. I was happy then, not just because it was something novel, but more because it had kept the neighbourhood ‘bekar’ youth busy, who would otherwise make public life miserable with their not so innocent pranks. Thirty five years later I say to myself : what a fool I was ?