Sunday, March 25, 2012

Confessions of a confused Pakistani youth

Sudden rise of Pakistan’s cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has been acknowledged worldwide. Although he himself calls it a tsunami of an awakened youth, many having the political know-how are still divided in their opinion. Some say that it is a continuation of Arab spring, where social and electronic media has made people aware of the wrongdoings of the seasoned politicians and establishment, by virtue of which they have turned to IK’s PTI. Others believe the refusal of mainstream political parties to play in the hands of military establishment to weaken the system has led the establishment to invest on Khan. While Khan remains a throbbing sensation for the youth even at his 60, for a person like me it is still difficult to decide which way to go. The problem is choice. Although Imran Khan is gathering points day by day, it is still not clear whether he is going to be a real agent of change, the one that will really be up to our expectations or not. A struggle between hope and fear is tearing me apart.

Suspicions of being a brainchild of cornered establishment have been raised and not without reason. Imran who failed to establish his party in last sixteen years has suddenly rose to fame, beautifully coinciding with the weakening of the strength of the invisible hands on national politics, allegedly because they ran out of options. On the contrary it is also clear that current is one of the worst times regarding national economics, electricity and energy crises and inflation which has added to people’s frustration, pushing them to look elsewhere. Difficulty is to decide whether crowds are being pulled or pushed towards him.
His party has pulled the largely dejected politicians from the mainstream parties, people who have been known for changing loyalties on the wishes of their godfathers. Yet they are the same people who lost in their negotiations with other parties and had no choice other than to join Imran, either for a future in politics (read Mian Azhar) or to improve their bargaining positions (read Marvi Memon) whether they were told to do so or not. Even some of them might have joined him with the hope to have their feet with those of the elephant.
A great critic has been raised about his allegedly fundamentalist approach and a soft corner for militancy. He can have the same respect for the bad guys as that of Aabpara people which will result in continuation of previous policies and future will not be much different. An important point here is, is it possible to ignore the religious factor when addressing the national politics in this country at this moment? I believe it is not. And the way he refused to comment on Salman Taseer’s killing, stating that he doesn’t want to hurt people’s sentiments, his line becomes clearer here. His stance on the war on terror has been unchanged over the last decade and is a considerably a realistic one when he talks about the collateral damage and rise of Pakistani Taliban. Right or wrong?
Many blame him for his double standards, dictatorial approach within the party, lack of awareness of the political situation, problems with his nomination and ticketing policies and many more faults. They are all potential mistakes which can lead to a disaster if he gets to the hot seat one day, without correcting them. Many of his political plans are too idealistic and far from reality to be implemented across the country. Our politics has a signature of nepotism which we can hardly ignore, and no plan will be viable without a change in brothery oriented people’s attitude. Take for example, his claim to free peasants from patwaris by computerizing the land data. But he forgets that while implementation of stuff like this needs to take on a whole mafia, which will oppose it to limit. Despite good intentions, some nice initiatives of the current and previous regimes have met such fate, which include computerized system for matriculation examination and results, NADRA records and free books for school going children. I, once, came across a private school providing free books to its students from Punjab government by secretly putting their names in a nearby government school, and charging them fees equal to other private schools. On the opposite, we don’t know if the ongoing Noora Kushti between PMLN and PPPP for next five years will bring any improvement? The obvious answer is NO. The politics of family hierarchy will not but strengthen itself, bringing the next generation of Zardaris, Chaudhris and Sharifs into power.
Continuation of a political process is healthiest thing one can imagine. It will lead voters to believe that they can bring a change with their vote. Once the voter has his belief in the system, he will start rejecting people with false promises and a better leadership will emerge. Continuation will lead to economic stability, solutions for the ongoing crises will be sought and implemented and institutions will be strengthened. Sticking to the mainstream parties becomes a definite and healthy choice. But here again, is voting for Imran Khan’s PTI not the continuation of the same political evolution that we think of? Why trying Mr. Clean instead of dirty politicians is a taboo? Should we, at least, try him as an opposition first and see what he is really capable of? I am confused whether by voting IK into power I will be strengthening the hands of those who don’t want democracy to prosper, or not voting for IK will strengthen those who don’t want a prosperous Pakistan at all. The troublesome point is that he may be the cleanest politician in Pakistan, but what if he is playing in the invisible hands unaware?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thanks and goodbye Mr Tendulkar

I am an ordinary fan of cricket and not an expert at all. Being honest with myself, I dislike Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (SRT) as a cricketer. The reasons are many, and being an Indian hero is not one of them at all. I don’t deny that I have adrenaline rush much higher when I see Pakistan vs. India as compared to Ashes, yet I never hate a sportsman for his nationality only. The reasons are quite diverse, but I feel better to realize that it is time finally to say good bye to the selfish cricketer and move forward.
Sachin has stayed in international cricket far more than he actually should have had. His career started sometime when I don’t even remember but after few initial years when I enjoyed watching him, I started getting bored with his presence. The range of shots, the foot work and the ever piling up of records, even the commentary started feeling sick in his presence. There used to be a fresh feeling on the other end, a new face, learning process, mistakes, new shots, and new milestones being achieved, cheered and cherished while there was nothing new on Tendulkar’s end, same aging face which was collecting getting more and more experience and other maladies of monotony.
Another reason for disliking him was his overshadowing of some of the greatest players of the era, for example, Rahul Dravid. Dravid has always lived up to the expectations, handled pressure situations far better than anyone else in the equipe and earned more wins to his country than Sachin, so rightly called the great wall of Indian cricket. Yet his presence has been over shadowed by the so called little master. A golden career came to an end, and the respect and honor that he deserved was lost in the wait of 100th 100 of SRT. His presence affected the persona of Sehwag, as he was always being compared to SRT.
SRT’s curse of centuries has also pushed me to his disapproval. Even his historical ton couldn’t bring India a win which meant that his percentage of match winning innings remain far less than other players of his time, both in tests and ODI’s. Take for example Inzimam-ul-Haq whose percentage of second inning centuries leading to a test win is 66%, Ricky Ponting has a percentage of 83 while Tendulkar has just 30%.
He accumulated so many runs that in the current era of domestic and first class cricket, no player will be able to beat it unless they make a debut at 16 and continue to play till 40. It is sickening as we will not see a player celebrating most number of centuries and runs in tests or ODI’s in a long time.
His greed for records has made the game look ridiculous. I mean, after scoring ton of tons, he will be expected to score his 50th century in ODI’s. I wish him luck but just look at what team India has got after replacing senior players, Virat Kohli, who has won them two difficult games single handedly.  The same can always happen if we let the new talent take over, at the right moment.
To me, the Tendulkar era has been that of a dictatorship, a monotonous period of cheap talent which only served to fill his personal bag of records and credentials, like a general of Pakistan Army on self-approved extensions, denying other talented officers their right to lead and forcing them to take retirement instead. He has damaged Indian and international cricket more than he served. What a lonely man in the dressing room he must be, it is time to bid him a good bye as I don’t see any reason for his selection after Asia cup. Good riddance Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Visit to the dead "Les Catacombes de Paris"

Photoblog is a different category of sharing which Clinical Hammer was never intended to be the one. Yet I decided to take an exception and share here my visit into the belly of the city of Paris, "les Catacombes de Paris". It is a tunnel museum thing with a huge collections of human bones, roughly estimated to be holding remains of six million people. The bones are bare to touch (although prohibited) and are not behind any kind of glass or other protection.

Due to inadequacy of burial place in and around the city of Paris in 17th century, a decision was made to relocate the bones of those who died long ago in a tunnel system originally related to stone mines. More can be found from wikipedia's link to The Catacombs of Paris.

Place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris

First entry to the dark inside

Better with camera

A building miniature

Stairs, probably leading nowhere

It was a cloudy Saturday when I got out of the subway station of Denfert-Rochereau. I was relying on my smart phone maps so it took me few minutes to find the obvious queue of people waiting to visit city's bone yard. And it took another 90 minutes and a couple of Paul's black coffees before I got my turn. I jumped a couple of times when it finally came though.

Stop, The empire of death starts here

Some historical details

No touching (of bones, obviously and probably other visitors as well) and no smoking
In the start, it felt like we have been cheated as there was an endless number of stairs going down to almost nowhere, and that nowhere was another system of poorly lit tunnels with no signs of the bones. Or perhaps I was impatient to get there so it felt a bit longer than usual. But it was surely scary, so much so that when my shoulder bag scratched on a nearby wall, the noise was enough to cause a little scream from a fellow visitor. Spiced by a couple of sculptures of some buildings, the tunnels finally lost their dullness and monotone and I finally came to stop at an entrance, told to be that of the empire of the dead. Few instructions of not touching stuff and not using flash were put up. And I entered the empire.

Struggling to fight the dark to fix the parameters of photography on my camera, I took some out of focus pictures. And then finally, I got a bit of solitude which tempted me to take photos with flash.

The one taken with flash (guilt???)

The state of bones varies. I spotted some skulls with holes, possibly from injuries or decay while others were in good state. Long bones of limbs were the most frequent finding. I remembered my initial days of medical school when I came across such stuff for the first time. I felt myself different from a layman visitor of this place as I had enough knowledge of bones already, and I didn't get any feelings of dead people getting up and attacking me either.

An HDR failure :)

Flash again

Quotations about the dead, the death and the hereafter were also placed matching to time and place. Different walls and corners of bone collections were stated to the graveyard they belonged to. Apart from the walls and corners built with bones, there was a great piller type place where you can make a round trip of the piller made with bones.

Reference to a graveyard where the bones belong to

Silence becomes deadly (my own translation skills)

Too long to translate

Corner decoration idea, for a drawing room :))

God keeps open his eyes to the just and ears to their prayers

The central decoration

Towards the exit, I saw a high curve and a better maintained tunnel although I frequently saw water tipping through the roof during this 2km long visit, which lasts on an average for 45 minutes. I was searched thoroughly for suspicion of stealing bones, like every other visitor. I wasn't given any special treatment though. A nice gift shop at the exit of the catacombs hosts quite some funny toys and miniatures for remembrance.

As a final note, it is not a horrific place at all, a nice contrast to the romantic image of Paris though. I wouldn't recommend it for honeymooners neither for babymooners. People who visit Paris for the sake of its historical richness and comprehensivity of its attaction will find this place a beauty.

An academic visit of human anatomical interest will be of lesser use as compared to an academic visit of history of parisien graveyards.
Towards exit

wet floor

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